Penguin Classics: On a Date

Penguin Classics has a cute mini-movie about a date who gets an education in the 10 Essential Penguin Classics.

[Sorry – was trying to embed the video but it just wouldn’t work. You’ll need to visit the Penguin site to see it.]

It’s a bit cloying and I’m pretty sure my date with this guy wouldn’t have lasted long….I’ve read all ten of the classics listed. Jane Eyre and Pride & Prejudice are favorites of mine.

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesday: The Satanic Verses

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along!

Just do the following:

– Grab your current read
– Open to a random page
– Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
– BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
– Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Chamcha’s room struck the sleepless intruder as contrived, and therefore sad: the caricature of an actor’s room full of signed photographs of colleagues, handbills, framed programmes, production stills, citations, awards, volumes of movie-star memoirs, a room bought off the peg, by the yard, an imitation of life, a mask’s mask.
~ p 180, The Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie


Bookspotting: September 29, 2009

Spotted on the morning bus:

Two copies of The Lost Symbol (possibly three, but no dustjacket on that one and spine printing looked about right)
Library copy of Lorraine Bracco’s On the Couch
Terry Pratchett’s Reaper Man
A book about making baby food, but I didn’t catch the title
Several note packs for “Foundations of Clinical Practice I”
Some loudmouth complaining about his greedy “baby-mama” to what sounded like his momma (seriously, shut up because no one wants to know you’re a lazy deadbeat dad)

And what was I reading? The Satanic Verses

Banned Books Week

If you ban it, they will come

It’s Banned Books Week again in the USA starting September 26 and ending October 3 (I’m a little late on my opening post, sorry). I’m not going to discuss the semantics of the word “banned” and whether or not we actually “ban” books or “challenge” books…it’s the spirit of the thing. Some of my favorite books are ones frequently challenged in schools and libraries. I was allowed to read very liberally as a child; my parents always knew what I was reading, occasionally directing me toward or away from a book as they saw fit, and encouraged me to ask questions if I didn’t understand something I read.

And you know what? I’m not a crazy ax-murderer, I don’t worship the devil, and I’m not an unwed teenage crack-addict mom. I read a lot of books with extreme themes and I’m still well-adjusted. On the other hand, I did know kids with parents who tightly controlled their reading and, while those kids turned out OK, too, you could tell that sometimes they wanted to join in on the class discussion of Brave New World rather than read yet another Shakespeare play to pass British Lit. To my knowledge, we never had successful challenges to books in my school district but I will say that the administrators and teachers were also very willing to work with parents if there were curriculum concerns (maybe everyone in my district is special, who knows).

The ALA has posted the 100 most frequently challenged books from 1990-1999 and I thought it would be interesting to see how many of these titles I read; a number of YA titles were published after I finished high school and since I read above my reading level, particularly after middle school, I probably haven’t read as many recent YA novels on this list (books I’ve read are in bold).

1.Scary Stories (Series), by Alvin Schwartz
2.Daddy’s Roommate, by Michael Willhoite
3.I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
4.The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
5.The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
6.Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
7.Forever, by Judy Blume
8.Bridge to Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson
9.Heather Has Two Mommies, by Leslea Newman
10.The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
11.The Giver, by Lois Lowry
12.My Brother Sam is Dead, by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier

13.It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris
14.Alice (Series), by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
15.Goosebumps (Series), by R.L. Stine
16.A Day No Pigs Would Die, by Robert Newton Peck
17.The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
18.Sex, by Madonna
19.Earth’s Children (Series), by Jean M. Auel
20.The Great Gilly Hopkins, by Katherine Paterson

21.In the Night Kitchen, by Maurice Sendak
22.The Witches, by Roald Dahl
23.A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle
24.The New Joy of Gay Sex, by Charles Silverstein
25.Go Ask Alice, by Anonymous
26.The Goats, by Brock Cole
27.The Stupids (Series), by Harry Allard
28.Anastasia Krupnik (Series), by Lois Lowry
29.Final Exit, by Derek Humphry
30.Blubber, by Judy Blume
31.Halloween ABC, by Eve Merriam
32.Julie of the Wolves, by Jean Craighead George
33.Kaffir Boy, by Mark Mathabane
34.The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
35.What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Girls: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Daughters, by Lynda Madaras
36.Fallen Angels, by Walter Dean Myers
37.The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
38.The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton
39.The Pigman, by Paul Zindel
40.To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
41.We All Fall Down, by Robert Cormier
42.Deenie, by Judy Blume
43.Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keyes
44.Annie on my Mind, by Nancy Garden
45.Beloved, by Toni Morrison
46.The Boy Who Lost His Face, by Louis Sachar
47.Cross Your Fingers, Spit in Your Hat, by Alvin Schwartz
48.Harry Potter (Series), by J.K. Rowling
49.Cujo, by Stephen King
50.James and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl
51.A Light in the Attic, by Shel Silverstein

52.Ordinary People, by Judith Guest
53.American Psycho, by Bret Easton Ellis
54.Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
55.Sleeping Beauty Trilogy, by A.N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice)
56.Bumps in the Night, by Harry Allard
57.Asking About Sex and Growing Up, by Joanna Cole
58.What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Boys: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Sons, by Lynda Madaras
59.The Anarchist Cookbook, by William Powell
60.Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume
61.Boys and Sex, by Wardell Pomeroy
62.Crazy Lady, by Jane Conly
63.Athletic Shorts, by Chris Crutcher
64.Killing Mr. Griffin, by Lois Duncan
65.Fade, by Robert Cormier
66.Guess What?, by Mem Fox
67.Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
68.Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
69.Native Son by Richard Wright

70.Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women’s Fantasies, by Nancy Friday
71.Curses, Hexes and Spells, by Daniel Cohen
72.On My Honor, by Marion Dane Bauer
73.The House of Spirits, by Isabel Allende
74.Jack, by A.M. Homes
75.Arizona Kid, by Ron Koertge
76.Family Secrets, by Norma Klein
77.Mommy Laid An Egg, by Babette Cole
78.Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo A. Anaya
79.Where Did I Come From?, by Peter Mayle
80.The Face on the Milk Carton, by Caroline Cooney
81.Carrie, by Stephen King
82.The Dead Zone, by Stephen King
83.The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain
84.Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
85.Always Running, by Luis Rodriguez
86.Private Parts, by Howard Stern
87.Where’s Waldo?, by Martin Hanford
88.Summer of My German Soldier, by Bette Greene
89.Tiger Eyes, by Judy Blume
90.Little Black Sambo, by Helen Bannerman
91.Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett
92.Running Loose, by Chris Crutcher
93.Sex Education, by Jenny Davis
94.Jumper, by Steven Gould
95.Christine, by Stephen King
96.The Drowning of Stephen Jones, by Bette Greene
97.That Was Then, This is Now, by S.E. Hinton
98.Girls and Sex, by Wardell Pomeroy
99.The Wish Giver, by Bill Brittain
100.Jump Ship to Freedom, by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier

I’ve read about half of those. Not bad. I need to figure out why A Light in the Attic is on the challenge list – that one really strikes me as odd.

Banned Books Challenge · stuff I read

Banned Books Challenge Day 28/American Psycho

I’ve not done so well on this challenge the major problem being I was out of town for most of two weekends (which is usually when I get most of my weekly reading done) and I was knitting a cardigan (stay tuned for a knitting post). So I haven’t read nearly as much for this challenge as I should have. I know that I do have two days left in the challenge….but my books are pretty thick and I have to work. Boo. So I have only hours left to read nearly 700 pages (The Satanic Verses and The Naked and the Dead) by the end of September. Oy.

Day 28: I’m having a little trouble with The Naked and the Dead for some reason; it’s not holding my interest which is surprising to me because it feels a little like Catch-22 (a book I love) but in a journalistic style. Maybe it’s the ironic voice that I miss. In any case, I’ll probably work on The Satanic Verses the rest of the month; although the writing is not nearly as linear I love Rushdie’s prose and imagery.

From this point in my post, I will be reviewing American Psycho and I will have to drop some spoilers in order to adequately process my thoughts about this book. Also, I’m probably going to swear more than normal. If you really plan to read this novel at a later date and are spoiler-sensitive I’d suggest not reading the rest of this post; to review this in a one-liner, Ellis’s book has really messed up subject manner but an interesting style and probably shouldn’t be read by the faint-hearted.

I finished American Psycho yesterday.

Patrick Bateman is one sick fuck and that’s an understatement. I knew that before starting the novel and it still gave me pause. The level of violence and objectification perpetrated on women in general over the course of the novel is nauseating (Bateman does nasty things to a few men, too, but the overwhelming majority of victims are women). Leading up to the first major sex/rape/murder scene, Ellis drops only a few hints as to his main character’s extra-curricular activities. A mention of an axe or mabye a bloody coat or a random line about someone’s head in a freezer. It’s enough to let the reader know something is very wrong with Bateman but really doesn’t prepare one for the level of brutality of the scene…hmmm…brutality isn’t quite the right word, neither is psychotic…it’s really a sadistic savagery. That sounds like a bad line from a pulp novel. Take the Marquis du Sade and ratchet it up about a 1000 times, throw in a lot of drugs, and add some cannibalism. Then that’s about right for that first scene. Hannibal Lecter was a gourmand but Bateman is like a coked-up hyena.

After about three seriously fucked up scenes Ellis eases up on the specific description of the murders. After that Bateman will refer to a girl’s hands, or brain, or whatever-body-part he’s got decorating his apartment – the reader is no longer really party to the act itself (which is fine because I’d more or less started skimming the graphic scenes). The change in description got me to thinking, because I watch a lot of Criminal Minds, about why Ellis had a main character who was not just killing but torturing and eating his victims as opposed to the violence itself (over kill). Patrick Bateman has a lot of rage (again, understatement) which is directed for the most part at women (but only some women because some of his close female acquaintences remain unscathed) and at non-white/non-yuppie members of society but I think that Bateman also victimizes those who objectify him.

This is not a completely thought-out theory. I feel that the emphasis on things – labels, styles, colors, fashion houses, brands, gyms, etc. – creates a shell around Bateman. He’s bat-shit psychotic on the inside but on the outside he’s Richie Rich. People seem to want to be his friend/want him for his name, money, family, where he went to college but in reality none of them can remember who the hell he is. The bums and ethnic-minority business owners only want his money because he’s another rich guy. He’s frequently called by someone else’s name and this point was driven home near the end of the novel (major SPOILER approaching). After a police chase (because Bateman really lost it and shot a bum while a squad car was passing) Bateman makes a phone call to a friend (lawyer?) and confesses everything to the man’s voicemail….but nothing happens, no one comes to arrest Bateman; when Bateman later mentions the lengthy voicemail to the recipient the man believes Bateman was someone else, accusing Bateman of all those murders as some sort of joke. So Ellis demonstrates that Bateman isn’t real, he’s not authentic, no one is authentic because all the depraved acts committed by Bateman really don’t matter and no one really seems to care. At all. Bateman’s anger at being marginalized within his own tribe finds an outlet in extreme violence but even a confession fails to make those around him see him and so the cycle continues. I think seeing Bateman as himself is what saves Bateman’s secretary, Jean, from becoming one of his victims when she shows that she thinks there’s a real person inside Bateman – one who is considerate of others and kind, even though the readers know otherwise in the extreme – and never mistakes him for another cookie-cutter yuppie in a designer wool suit; she gives him some sort of identity.

This is a pretty rambling analysis/review (sorry) of a book that uses a lot of elements to tell a single story. The fastidious descriptions of what each character is wearing at each point in the novel, down to the dollar amount or the meals eaten and paid for or the obsession with stuff in general probably says more about what was going on in the book but I’m having trouble shaking the violence out of my head (which was probably the point of all the violence, but still). I did like the novel but Ellis made my hair stand on end and freaked me out to the point that I had to read about Harold Bloom’s Falstaff/Hamlet obsession in order to go to sleep. American Psycho was made into a movie and as sick as this sounds I really want to see what the filmmakers did; this book done straight is easily an NC-17-level film so I want to see how it was adapted.

stuff I read

The Good Thief

I started eyeballing Hannah Tinti’s debut novel, The Good Thief, when it released last year but I had so much to read at the time I had to pass it up. Happily, it just released in paperback. It also happens to be the staff recommended title at my store….so it looked like a good time to read about Ren and his thieving ways.*

Ren owes a great deal to his Dickensian predecessor, Oliver Twist. Both boys are orphaned as infants, both are initiated into a circle of thieves, and both are reunited with a natural family member by a seemingly miraculous twist of fate. Tinti’s novel seems gloomy, set on the cold New England coast, and opens on St. Anthony’s Orphanage. The monks of St. Anthony’s attempt to care for the foundlings left with them until either adopted or the age of 14 when the young men are conscripted into the army. Ren’s chances of adoption are slim because he is missing his left hand, the arm ending in a mass of scar tissue; the source of this injury, and that of Ren’s parentage, is completely unknown but a mysterious stranger, Benjamin Nab, comes to claim Ren and so begins Ren’s adventure.

Ren is innately talented as a thief but also attempts to retain a sense of right and wrong as he enters into the world of the con artists and swindlers. The story unfolds through Ren’s perspective and because Tinti makes him a child who is still young enough to dream, but old enough to be realistic about his world, Ren is a welcome departure from the angelic Oliver. The cast of characters in Tinti’s novel would do Dickens proud – Tom the ex-schoolteacher, Brom and Ichy the orphaned twins, the gentle giant Dolly – and they lend a lot of color to the simple tale of an orphan in search of a family. I enjoyed how Tinti played with the Dickensian motifs but gave the story a realistic edge. There is a lot of humor in this novel as well, a little slapstick, too, so this was a fun book to read.

*Since I finished the novel September 24, I noticed that I used it for two Teaser Tuesday posts and somehow managed to pick two passages only a few pages apart. Haha.

new books (yay)

D-i-e-t is such a downer

I need to put my bookshelves on a diet (Swapna’s challenge should help with that). I should also avoid accumulating more books. Easier said than done.

I’ve done pretty good with book-buying avoidance so far this month. Instead of the normal number of “many, many books purchased” I’ve only bought four so far and received another two in the mail. I’d say that’s pretty good for book-aholic old me.

Books bought:
The Annotated Wizard of Oz (Centennial Edition)
The Short Novels of John Steinbeck
Say You’re One of Them*
Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall

Books acquired in other ways:
The Postmistress (for B&N First Look Book Club)
The Lacuna

Not bad, huh? However, I will have to buy another book this month….I found a new reading guide to Proust and finishing Swann’s Way is definitely on the list for the next year/this year/anytime I can finish it in my lifetime.

Current books-in-progress: The Naked and the Dead, The Satanic Verses, and American Psycho (I’m a little behind on my first challenge)
Current knitted item: Cardie is completely knitted, must visit fabric store on Saturday to buy 16 buttons, what to knit on now…I do have another sweater pattern/yarn for pattern in the drawer….
Current movie obsession: Sleuth and I’d really like to see the original Fame again before the re-make comes out (ps, have you seen the tie-in product for the re-make?? It looks like some sanitized, High-School-Musical, Noxzema-commerical crap and I really hope it keeps at least some of the grittiness from the original)
Current iTunes loop: Reading playlist

*Did not buy this because of Oprah, just FYI

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesday: The Good Thief

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along!
Just do the following:
– Grab your current read
– Open to a random page
– Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
– BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
– Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

There were three sets of gates – entry to the yard, entry to the inner yard, and entry to the hospital itself. The boy was not sure where to begin.
~ Hannah Tinti, The Good Thief, p 128