Thursday, September 29, 2011

Kelly's Book 9: The Sea-Wolf

Dear Jenny,

As I mentioned my last post, I have read and listened to several books in the past month. Have you read Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children? I don't want to talk about it if you have not read it, but if you have... I really do!

Do you ever listen to audiobooks? I have recently gotten totally hooked on them, as they are the perfect crafting (and doing-stuff-around-the-house) companion!

I frequently play a movie when I am sewing, but it always has to be something I'm very familiar with because, of course, the sound of the sewing machine drowns out the sound of the dialogue. But audiobooks! Yes! They can be heard through ear buds, so they drown out the sound of everything else. Also, they're totally portable, so while I'm doing chores around the house, I can continue listening to a book! Being read in my ear! Yay!

I was skeptical at first, but I am now totally hooked. I started with The Help because several friends of mine raved about it. Different actors read the different parts, so it was almost like listening to a play, which I loved. After that, I tried Bossypants, read by Tina Fey herself. Hilarious! I was laughing so hard one day while folding laundry that Bill came into the bedroom to verify that I was okay. So. Great.

After that, I listened to Ready Player One. Decent book, although the ending made me say, "Wait. Is this a YA book?" I looked it up and I guess it's not, but the ending is a little weak. I mean, it's kind of the only good way to end it, but it was a little too "tied up with a bow" and with a really heavy hand, if that makes sense. But overall, I liked it.

After listening to all of these books while puttering around my house for the past month (loving Sabbatical Life, btw. I could continue to do this forever!) I suddenly realized, "Oh, shit! I need to read my TBR book for September!" And, Jenny, at that moment, I made a decision. A decision that has been called "cheating" by Every. Single. Person. I have told. I... bought the audiobook of The Sea-Wolf.

And dude? I am loving it! Cheating question aside (and I'll come back to that in a moment), this book is awesome. I don't think I've ever read any Jack London and now I know why he is so beloved! His prose is like poetry! It's incredible! Also, the story is absolutely riveting. Every day, I'm dying to fire it up and find out what's happening! I've been telling my mom all about it along the way and every time I talk to her, she asks, "What going on now? What's happened?" It's like a soap opera!

Have you read it? Are you planning to? Would you like a blow-by-blow report on the story? I don't want to ruin it for you or anyone else with spoilers, but if you'd like the Kelly Translation of The Sea-Wolf, I can post it here with warnings. Or read it yourself, because the writing is truly magical.

Or... listen to the audiobook.

Because it is a-MAZ-ing, Jenny! While I have been listening to it, I have rewound several passages just to hear them again. I have also picked up the actual book to re-read (is it a "re-read" if I heard it the first time through?) parts of the book for myself. And I have got to say -- I would not be getting as much out of this book if I had read it myself.

The narrator (after reading several reviews and listening to the clips, I went with the one narrated by Frank Muller. It's an older version, but it's fantastic) brings a life to the words that I am sure I would not have brought to them on my own. The writing is so lyrical and I find myself skimming books more and more lately. Even when I re-read passages in The Sea-Wolf, I find I have to force myself to sloooow down and take it all in, word by word. But with Frank reading in my ear, he takes care of all of that for me!

During my sabbatical, I have been doing a ton of stuff around the house, as well as taking daily walks. And while doing all of those things, I have also been inhaling books, which has been great.

So... what say you? Audiobooks: TBR cheating or not?


Completed: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom

Dear Jenny,

Wow. Fell into a time warp for the last couple of months and have just been completed checked out. I cannot believe October is almost upon us!

After finishing July's book (The Master and Margarita) halfway into August, I chose Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom for my next book because it was short and I was hoping to complete it before the month was over.

Aaaand... I ended up finishing it before that weekend was over! Needless to say, it was a quick read.

I should have posted about it right away because now it's been over a month and since I burned through it, it didn't really stick with me. I have also read and listened to several books since then, so it's all a bit murky. I do remember generally liking it.

I've never been terribly good at writing these book reviews but, "I can't remember the book!" has got to take the cake here for Most Boring Review.

Let's flip through it again and jog my memory...

Ah, yes. The future and the "Bitchun" Society. That may have been one of my biggest hangups with the book. I guess that's a play on words (when folks say, "That's very Bitchun" to one another, it must sound like, "That's very bitchin'," right?) but it was a snag for me when I was reading this. "Bitchin', duuuude!" rang through my head on more than one occasion. I'm sure that was the intent, but I didn't really like it.

Other than that, I thought the book was pretty tight. I liked the vision of the future where we, as humans, are basically ruining everything (because, well, we are) but at least we are doing one thing right: the world's currency is one's reputation (or "Whuffie," which is another word I did not love, but did not hate like "Bitchun").

Bill has a phrase that he frequently uses: "Most of the world's problems could be solved by a little common courtesy," (or "common fucking courtesy," depending on the situation...) and I have to agree. The future painted in this book also supports that theory and I enjoyed seeing how that played out in this imagined future.

After reading this book, I found I had Harry Potter Syndrome: where I wish (and maybe even expect, depending on how immersed I have been) that what I have been reading about is real. In HP's case, it's magic. In the case of this book, it was Internet and phone access inside of my head. I want it.

Did you end up reading it that weekend too? If so, what did you think? Maybe we could get a discussion going!


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Jenny's Book 9: Love


Well, my reading mojo seems to be completely gone. The combination of grief about my Grandma and the start of school means that watching TV has replaced reading as of late. I just find that it's harder to concentrate, especially if anything even remotely sad happens in a book. (This could explain why it took me 6 weeks to read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.)

Being that I'm already behind, I picked the shortest book left on my list: Toni Morrison's novel Love. It's a very tidy 202 pages. This will no doubt end up a pyrrhic victory, because 202 pages of Toni Morrison is probably equivalent to thousands of pages in a lesser writer. I find her work to be compelling and difficult. Beloved is my favorite of her novels, and I've read it several times. The first time while I was in college. I doubt I even "got" half of it. She's the kind of author that demands re-reading. I don't think I've read Beloved since Darius was born. Honestly, I'm a little afraid to. I can only imagine how much more brutal Sethe's choice would seem now that I am a mother.

I'm really wanting to get to Jose Saramago's Seeing, but I'd like to reread Blindness first. Clearly, that ain't happening this month. I'll keep you updated as to my progress.


PS. This is not the cover of the book I'm reading. I have a hardback---I found the Amazon receipt inside. It was shipped to my house in Oakland, and I placed the order for it on October 31, 2003! I love finding the receipts inside of books---knowing the "where and when" of the purchase is strangely satisfying.

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee


It is no exaggeration to say that this was the most brutally depressing book I have ever read.

The book is subtitled "An Indian History of the American West." It covers roughly 1860-1890, when the last remaining free Indian tribes were harassed, killed, arrested, rounded up, forced to surrender, and moved to reservations. Often those reservations were nowhere near their original homelands. Basically every single promise and treaty made with the Indians was broken in the course of opening the Western territories to white settlers.

I really don't know what else to say about this book. The stories are heartbreaking. And it didn't matter if the Indians fought back, agreed to peace, tried to escape, or fled across the borders. The might of the United States government was brought to bear upon the tribes. Literally...literally...there was no way for them to win. They were attacked no matter what, and sooner or later they were all forced into reservations. Guess what happened there? They were starved, and eventually reservation lands were stolen from them, too. Anyone who tried to help them was removed from his position. The policy of the US Government was simple: remove the Indians from any valuable land, kill any Indians that resisted or held positions of respect, and then strip away their Indian identities by teaching them to adopt white ways.

While reading Bury My Heart, I did find myself ruminating on the state of the world today. I'm a bleeding heart liberal, and I like to think that people can be good to each other. I'm often appalled by the violence in the world, especially that perpetrated against the most vulnerable and poverty stricken citizens. (At one point, Sitting Bull travels around the country with Buffalo Bill's Wild West show, but he donates all of his money to the urchins that follow the show. He said, "The white man knows how to make everything, but he doesn't know how to distribute it." That's a fairly accurate comment even today, when our poverty rate is soaring while the rich control more and more of the country's wealth.) But books like this make it pretty damn clear that people are more predisposed to evil than good when it comes to other people. I think that's why it was so depressing. If people really are good, there isn't a whole lot of evidence to support that assertion. Maybe I should be less surprised at the state of the world?

Anyways, the photograph above is of Red Cloud, one of the last, great Sioux chiefs. He was quoted in his old age as saying, "They made us many promises, more than I can remember, but they never kept but one: they promised to take our land, and they took it."