Thursday, September 27, 2012

Jenny's Book 9.12: The Blind Assassin


I thought I'd read Cutting for Stone this month, but I ended up picking up The Blind Assassin instead. You may be wondering why I changed my mind. Well, one night Darius and I were reading together and I was too lazy to go downstairs and get Cutting for Stone and so I picked up The Blind Assassin instead. Darius said, "Hey, why are you reading a book about a blind Asian?"


So far so good, I'm about 60 pages in. This book was part of the 1book140 characters series at the Atlantic. It's where they sponsor an online book discussion on Twitter. This sounds very annoying to me, but I did read this totally kick-ass blog entry on just the first line of the book. I personally am not much of a Twitter person. It's one of those tech things I just "don't get." I mean, I technically get how it works and why people use it, but I personally don't enjoy using it. I can't even imagine being in a Twitter book club. It just sounds awful.

I don't remember when or why I bought this book. I'm sure it was just that I like Margaret Atwood.  I think The Handmaid's Tale is one of the most astounding books I've ever read. Actually, now that I've grabbed an image, I also am going to guess I picked it up since it won The Booker Prize.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Kelly's Book 7.12: Double Fold

Dear Jenny,

I'm nervous about getting through this one. While I love Nicholson Baker, I remember starting this book once before and not being able to get into it. It's a non-fiction book about the fact that we, as a country, have scanned our newspaper archives onto microfilm and destroyed the originals.

Which, I'll admit, doesn't sound like a great idea (microfilm? that crap?). But... does it merit a whole book's worth of discourse? Not so sure. Also, there are a buttload of endnotes, which is going to make me unhappy.

And... it was written in 2001. Sooo ... I'm not really sure how topical it is at this point. Is anyone still using microfilm?

Of course, if we've destroyed the originals, there's no way to re-scan now with better technology. I'm going to guess that's part of Baker's point. We'll see.


PS -- Interesting note: My copy is signed! :)

Completed: The Venetian's Wife

Dear Jenny,

Well, I burned through that one -- lots of illustrations, as well as letters and "diary entries," so it was a quick read. As with all Nick Bantock books, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. His illustrations are mesmerizing and I love his quirky stories.

Briefly, here's the plot: Girl gets hired to reunite pieces of an ancient personal art collection. As it turns out, the guy hiring her died 500 years ago, but his spirit has been surviving via electricity, then electrical wires, then phone wires, and he is now able to communicate via the Internet. Handy!

Soo... it's actually his own collection that he is trying to get back together, although we're never 100% sure why. Something about reuniting with his wife, so... does bringing the collection together somehow bring her back to him? Or allow him to disappear to join her? It's unclear. She was some kind of sorceress and set the whole thing up. It all works out in the end, so yay.

This story (um... slightly more complex than my synopsis, btw) is communicated entirely through email exchanges, diary and travelogue snippets, historical artifacts, images of the lost art pieces, and a few asides from the Ghost in the Machine himself. All of that is beautifully done -- it's an epic romantic story and, of course, a visual treat.

Having said that, I think that I am hyper critical of these TBR books, knowing that I have to write about them later (Does this happen to you? While reading, I find myself thinking, "What am I going I say about this?" I don't think that about non-TBR books. But maybe it's good for me. You know. To think. Or something.)

So what are my issues? Cause ya know I have them. Well, at one point about midway through, the Ghost basically tells the girl that she is some kind of descendent of his. And she... does not react to this at all. I had to re-read the line several times.

He says to her: "The collection will come together, you will inherit your birthright, and the drum will beat again." Just... out of nowhere! Why would that be her birthright if he is not her ancestor? Am I misinterpreting that? I read that and thought, "What?!" but she didn't react at all.

So I thought that was strange.

And then... while the whole book has the potential to be squirm-inducing (for me) with its "erotic art" talk, it managed to not make me squirm at all. In fact, even the most "erotic" art in the book is quite lovely and not at all grody. Until the very last image in the book! Seriously?!

It's sort of a closeup of a sculpture of some lady parts but... the proportions are weird. It's like... she's pulling down her waistband, but things are... I don't know! In the wrong place or something. And the worst part is, I keep staring at it, because I'm like, "What the hell is going on here? Is that a piece of meat on her lap?!" So then it's making me even more squirmy. I'd take a photo of it, but it's... ugh... I don't want to look at it any more or share the weirdness. Just trust me. Such a bummer to end on that image, you know?

To alleviate the squirmy talk, I've put some awesome images from the book into this post:
1. Gorgeous letter A
2. Mail art + Elephant = Yes.
3: My Palace! (I was so happy to see it)
4. The Ghost in the Machine himself.


Friday, September 21, 2012

Doing the math...

Dear Jenny,

I have looked at the remaining books I have, eliminated the two longest ones, added together the pages of all of the other books and divided that by the number of days left in the year.

My golden number? 20 pages per day. That seems doable, right? Assuming I don't miss a day and have to do 40 the next, of course...

What's left.
I'll probably tackle Double Fold next because it has a shit load of end notes, which slows my reading down more than anything else. Then I can re-calculate once I'm done with that puppy.

Meanwhile, The Venetian's Wife is going quickly (yay for illustrations) so that should help.

Sometime last year, I told someone about this TBR challenge and their response was that they didn't like the sound of "reading just to get reading done." I have never felt that way about this challenge, even *now* as I count up how many pages I need to read per day for the rest of the year to complete it.

Isn't that what a "challenge" is about? Maybe this person just didn't like the idea of reading as a "challenge" (versus a "pleasure" or a "pastime")? Hrm. What do you think?


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Kelly's Book 6.12: The Venetian's Wife

Dear Jenny,

I am shamelessly choosing these books in order of length, starting with the shortest. I am sure I will regret this in December, but it serves my purpose now, so... I'm in.

I love Nick Bantock, best known for his Griffin and Sabine trilogy/series (remember those?)  His art is mesmerizing and his story telling is so magical.

I have read most of his books and loved them all, but I particularly enjoyed a non-fiction work of his called Urgent: Second Class. In it, he discusses how he makes his art in great detail -- it's so inspirational.

I know very little about this one, other than... it's a fictional story, interlaced with Bantock's beautiful illustrations and [flipping through it now] ooh! Looks like some letters, too! Yay!


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Completed: The Mermaid Chair

Dear Jenny,

Go, me! I finished a TBR book! I started it 10 days ago and it's done and I'm already posting. Yay! Of course, it turned out to be a quick and easy read. But still -- I'm gettin' it done! (Okay. I'll stop patting myself on the back for reading a frigging book now...)

I'm not sure what to say about this book because... I liked it and it was kind of fluff. Sooo... what is there to say? Good characters, a fine story -- even a little bit of a "mystery" that carried through to a pretty satisfying end. Plus, it's set in the South and I have a weakness for southern lit, so... thumbs up!

I only had two little problems with it.

1. Some weird copy on the book jacket. This is not the fault of the author, but I almost rejected the book totally when I read this: "Few novels have explored, as this one does, the lush, unknown region of the feminine soul where the thin line between the spiritual and the erotic exists." First of all: Ew. Secondly: Really? Cause I feel like plenty of novels have "explored" that territory.

Again, not the author's fault, but it was seriously grody talk for what turned out to be a pretty good "self-discovery" novel (without much of the ickiness alluded to in that copy).

2. This is not an uncommon writing device, but I still do not like it -- frontloading the book with something that is going to happen later. I always feel like it's kind of a spoiler. And, while I actually don't mind "spoilers," I feel like they should have warnings.

The opening line of the novel:
"In the middle of my marriage, when I was above all Hugh's wife and Dee's mother, on of those unambiguous women with no desire to disturb the universe, I fell in love with a Benedictine monk.
"It happened during the winter and spring of 1988, though I'm only now, a year later, ready to speak of it. " [1]
It takes over 150 pages for her to hook up with that dude, but... you know it's going to happen the whole time! She already told you! Meanwhile, that was in a Prologue. Re-reading the first line of Chapter 1 now, I feel like it would have been a stronger opening to start with that.

More does happen after the hookup, so not everything is spoiled, but I still can't help but be a little irked.

As a random note... this book was apparently made into a Lifetime movie, the poster of which is to the left there. And... yeah. It's also pretty spoiler-y with Kim Basinger's come-hither look and the cross on that guy's neck. (Psssst! She's going to have a forbidden love affair with this here monk!!)

Overall review: Quick, enjoyable story. Decent chick novel/beach read.



Saturday, September 8, 2012

Kelly's Book 5.12: The Mermaid Chair

Dear Jenny,

Well, it's the month 9 and I'm only picking book 5, so I guess I'm 4 months behind. The move took waaaay more out of me than I had predicted (probably a good thing I didn't know before I did it, though). The last time I did this sort of thing, I was a lot younger. ;)

At any rate, I haven't given up! So here I am, choosing book 5. Mostly because I am getting on a plane on Monday and it's the smallest of my remaining books to haul around with me.

I've also been reading other (not TBR! Gasp!) books and I struggle to read more than one book at a time. But I'll power through -- I need to get on top of this darned list!

I know absolutely nothing about this book except that it was written by Sue Monk Kidd, who also wrote The Secret Life of Bees, which I loved. I just read the jacket description and, while it started strong, I did have a bit of a WTF moment towards the end. Sooo... we'll just see.


Monday, September 3, 2012

Heavily Skimmed: All the King's Men


Um, yeah. This one wasn't for me.

My friend Lori lists All the King's Men as one of her favorite books, which is what inspired me to pick it up on sale a few years ago. It's also one of those great American classics that is supposed to be amazing. It's a novel about the rise and fall of Louisiana politician Willie Stark, loosely based on the life of famed politician Huey Long. The narrator is his aide and ally, Jack Burden. (Even the heavy-handed names got on my nerves.) It's structure reminds me of The Great Gatsby, in that it has a narrator telling of the rise and fall of a powerful and complex main character.

On the plus side: it's beautifully written. The author, Robert Penn Warren is a poet, and it shows. The language is sumptuous. And reading a story about politicians in an election year was also sort of interesting. I found myself marking a few pages with particularly pithy statements about politics.

Here's my problem--the novel's language totally eclipses the action. In the first chapter, which runs 80 some pages, the following events happen: Jack and Willie visit Willie's hometown. Jack ruminates on his first meeting with Willie. A judge in a neighboring county publicly states his disrespect and lack of faith in Willie. Jack and Willie visit the judge at his home and essentially threaten to blackmail him if he doesn't back down. I'm sorry, but it shouldn't take 80 freaking pages for inciting incident to unfurl. Ugh. I wanted to shoot myself. This is one of those few books that makes me wish I would have just watched the movie!

I tried to read it all very carefully, but the truth is I skimmed prodigiously. I hate it when I read a classic and feel so miserably disappointed. Perhaps it's just bad timing, because mostly I just didn't feel in the mood for this one. I'll keep it and read it again at some point. It just wasn't what I was looking for this summer.