23.3.08

I'm much better now!

After a slight Bad Patch (reading-wise, that is), I rebounded with two books that I can highly recommend... when they actually get released, that is.

One is I am Scout, a biography of Harper Lee. The other is The Host, by Stephanie Meyer. The first doesn't need much selling, does it? I mean, you either like biography and/or want to learn more about Harper Lee (for, say, a paper on To Kill a Mockingbird), or you don't. But the second?

In my GoodReads review, I mention that there's a little too much "chick stuff" in it to appeal to my boy readers -- romance isn't going to cut it for them. I can understand that. Some "boy" books don't appeal to me, so why should the reverse not be the case? It is a huge issue for librarians: how do we hook boys into reading? This book has other things to offer, but for them, the sticking point will be the "ucky romantic stuff". Had Meyer stuck to the issues of what makes us human, and the idea of fighting an invasive, parasitic alien species, they'd be all over it.

I got an ARC of this book at ALA Midwinter, and promptly let a colleague read it. This was at a time when grading/progress reports were due. The next day she told me I was evil. Evil, evil, evil. Why? Because the book was that good. It's been here waiting for me to read for a couple of weeks now and, well, I stayed up waaaaaay past my bedtime to finish it.

Tired? You bet. But happy? Ditto.

21.3.08

Bad Patch

Unlike some, I usually don't pre-plan my reading. It's all in jumbled piles and boxes and on shelves, and I grab one, read it and grab the next. Generally this works out quite well -- different styles, genres, topics and minimal boredom.

The last two books I've read were different in style and genre, but equally bad. The first was a children's/YA book that felt, well, like I'd read it before. There was nothing new here for me, either in terms of plot, motif, character, whatever.
Disclaimer: I am the sort of reader that would flunk English classes at MPOW. I don't care about literary theory. It's too much work to think of heroes and archetypes and allusions and What This All Means. My definition of a good book? Have I escaped into another world for as long as the book's pages allowed? Am I secretly participating as Mallory solves another case? Am I on patrol with Sgt. Vimes? Is Mrs. Danvers creeping me out, too? That sort of thing. Non-fiction should be equally entrancing, not Hitting Me Over the Head with the Point of the Book. Bad books do none of this -- I'm easily distracted, I start to think about where I've heard/read/done this before, and I just don't care.
I mentioned this in my GoodReads review and lo-and-behold, the author comments that clearly I've gotten it wrong, these are timeless themes. Timeless perhaps, but I shouldn't feel that he's borrowed from different books. Boy may very well meet girl, but I shouldn't be thinking "oh, yeah, it's just like in _____ book". Good may very well triumph over evil, but if I can name four other books/movies in which the action took place, the author is merely rehashing old stuff. A colleague had also read the book and her thoughts were that the characters were 2-D and the entire thing read like a role-playing scenario. Mr. Author, pffft.

The next book was supposed to be Literary Fiction/Mystery. I'd gotten it as an ARC from our book vendor, which should have sent up red flags right then. In this book, the author was just too in love with the "sound" of his own words. Adjectives and adverbs abounded, and not in a good way. The whole thing felt forced, and again I felt that there were obvious influences on the style and plot.

I've asked before, and I'll ask again: where are all the good editors? Why is the world of Children's/YA Lit so desperate that they're publishing utter crap simply to put product on the shelf? AARRGHHH.

My next read is a biography. If this one is also badly written, I may have to give up reading for a while to totally cleanse my palate!

15.3.08

10,000 novels and counting

I read this (รพ: Literary Saloon) and wondered the same as Mr. Henderson -- are there really that many novels worth reading?

It depends on your definition of "worth", doesn't it? If you are a true biblioholic, it's a compulsion, so worth becomes meaningless. You just read. Full stop. And there are novels that are more interesting than others, or more meaningful than others, but that doesn't matter: you need to read.

While I may be a biblioholic, I'm not confined to novels (although neither are the gentlemen of whom Henderson writes). Thanks to my job, I read a lot of YA Lit -- do those qualify as novels (TTYL, I'm talking to you!)? Novels are supposed to be more "highbrow" than genre fiction, so Ink Exchange (the last book off Mt. Bookpile) doesn't qualify. Ditto Death of a Dormouse.

Still, this comment from Literary Saloon
Obviously any judgment depends very much on the novels -- five Tolstoys (and equivalents) a week is one thing, five of the novels Hensher was presumably reading when he was five quite another. As to whether life's too short for this sort of commitment ... surely that also depends on what the alternatives are. But if we make our way through less than five novels in a given week we feel we've missed something .....
sums it up. Except I'd edit it to "if we make our way through less than five books in a given week...". Wouldn't you?

12.3.08

How do you thank someone?

Years ago (almost 30!), a friend of mine and I listened obsessively to "To Sir, With Love" and thought about our years in prep school and one man's influence on our lives. Today I learned that man died last week. I'm in shock.

This was the person I'd decided I absolutely had to learn from, that no matter what, I would get into that school and take classes from him. This was the first person outside my immediate family that made me feel smart and accepted, rather than an outsider with bizarre ideas. This was the teacher that taught me to think critically, who introduced me to new ideas and who taught me Philosophy. This was the most important influence of my high school career. At last year's, and this year's, Book Fair at MPOW, I urge students to read Mishima's Sea of Fertility quartet, just as he urged me to do. This was also someone I was unafraid to joke with, or pull a prank on (like putting lemon juice in his coffee), or argue with about the difference between a door and a window.

He's gone now, and it feels like a part of me has also gone. I'll never again hear his voice saying "Good morning, philosophers". I'm proud to have known him, prouder still that he considered me, even at the young age of 15, someone worth knowing.

9.3.08

Indie film alert!

Last night Thing Two and I went to see The Band's Visit in Rhinebeck. It's one of those quiet films, with not much happening and no great Purpose. What I mean is, you don't go away thinking "shit blew up good" or "wow, I really need to think about this". You do go away having enjoyed yourself, however. The humanness of the film, those moment that make you want to laugh or nod in recognition, is what did it for me (I even got the initial problem, that of confusing "Beit Hatikvah" with "Petah Tikva" -- if you've ever traveled on NJTransit east, you've heard the "Newark Penn Station"/"New York Penn Station" confusion, usually solved with an irritated ticket collector asking which state do you want???)

I just looked up Beit Hatikvah, and learned the irony of the name in the movie. Hee.

Thing Two didn't enjoy it as much, possibly because there was a scene with watermelon (he's a melonophobe, don't ask me why) and a scene with Greek toes (he's the 'close friend' mentioned here). But I'll let him comment on his blog, or here, if he so desires.

6.3.08

I can't be the only one

All the entertainment blogs I read and not one has taken Toyota to task for their new Corolla commercial - a clear rip off hommage to SNL's classic Royal Deluxe II commercial (which was itself a satire).

3.3.08

Notable Quotes

Kate thought about the words that had brought her to Ethiopia. Take the water. Harper had taken the line from a favorite poem: "Sometimes a human's clay is not strong enough to take the water." The three words had become something of a mission for Kate, a riddle to solve, a path to finding herself.
Footfree and Fancyloose, Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain