I enjoyed this one. It was given to me by a friend, and she thought it was wonderful. Seeing the world from any immigrant's eyes is always interestingI enjoyed this one. It was given to me by a friend, and she thought it was wonderful. Seeing the world from any immigrant's eyes is always interesting, and I thought that the pacing was really good. ...more
For those of you who do not know, AHWOSG is a first person true narrative that was nominated for a pulitzer prize two years ago. It reads like a novel For those of you who do not know, AHWOSG is a first person true narrative that was nominated for a pulitzer prize two years ago. It reads like a novel, and it feels like a novel, but it's mainly just a memoir.
There have been a lot of things said about the book by a lot of people. The New York Times book review raved about it, and the reviewer who wrote about it there is not known for giving raves. Some people scoffed at it, saying it was self-indulgant and too self-referrential. Others said that he was capitalizing on the misfortune of others. The book has sold phenominally well (aside from the fact that you can only get it at independent bookstores and, for some reason, Amazon). The movie rights have been sold, and I think that Nick Hornsby is writing the screenplay.
Anyhow, I was curious about it because I'd heard so much about it. I didn't know much about Eggers except that he was a writer, and that there was a lot of discussion about the book. The book starts off in the early 90s, when he's maybe 21 years old and it's the winter break in his last year of college. He's the third of four children, aged 23, 22, 21, and 7. His father died of some sort of cancer during the Thanksgiving holiday, and his mother is about to die of stomach cancer in a few days. His oldest sib, a brother, is living and working in DC, and his sister deferred law school for a year to be with his parents during the last days. So, when it comes down to making arrangements, he and his youngest brother move to Berkeley with his sister when she starts law school. Because of the stress of law school, two households are set up, and he becomes the primary parent for his brother. One of the main themes of the book is his struggle with being a parent and a brother and twentysomething goof off.
There are a lot of literary things that I could say about the work, how in some ways it reminds me of reality television (and the Real World plays a minor role in the book) and how forums like this one, where ordinarly people talk about their lives in a self-conscious, self-referential way, and hope and pray for readership. Hope and pray that our lives, and our talking about our lives is interesting enough for someone else to pick up and read and find as fascinating as we do. But for me, it's the relationship that I have personally with the experience that I think is fascinating. The first half of the book really had a particular draw for me, because he and I practically had the exact same flight path in moving to Berekeley. He started off in a sublet in the Berkeley Hills, and struggled to find a permanent home for the family. Eventually, he and his brother ended up in the flats, near Gilman Street. He talks a lot about living in Berkeley, naming specific streets, talking about the grocery stores that we shopped at, the kinds of people who live there. Also, most of the time that I lived in Berkeley, I lived with my youngest sister, and while we were much closer in age, and my responsibilities to her were not as great, I still felt the pull of being the older one, the one that had to look out to make sure she was ok, the one that people looked to when answers weren't coming from her. When I left Berkeley, the hardest part was leaving her, and I think that my relationship with her was amazingly strengthened by our time in Berkeley together. I found myself relating to the book in a fairly unique way, and I think that it probably colored the rest of the book for me.
The book itself, outside of the heartbreaking parts, is fairly difficult to pigeonhole. Like I said, it reads like a novel. It's laugh out loud funny, and at times it can be self-depreciating. I keep thinking that I'll have to read it again later on, when I am able to digest it further. The relationship that the author has with his brother is a wonderful one, and his relationships with the rest of the world are much more complex. It's hard to look in someone's life like this, to see them practically naked. To what extent he omits stuff, I do not know, but he does put very, very difficult things in there. At times when I realize that I'm reading a true to life account, I feel like I'm reading someone's private journal, that I shouldnt' have access to these thoughts. At other times, I understand that I'm taking only so much as he is willing to give, and that I have full permission to take from this. This feels much more real than watching someone's life on television for a month on a reality TV show, even though it may possibly be as artificial. There's something about the written word, and the talking to people physically on the other side of the written word that makes it easier to lay open your wounds for all the world to see. That the book is true to life makes it more interesting than a novel, even though one could change the names, and a few facts, and present the book as a novel.
At any rate I picked up Towelhead, by Alicia Erian, after reading the inside jacket partially because it was set in Houston. When I checked out, the gAt any rate I picked up Towelhead, by Alicia Erian, after reading the inside jacket partially because it was set in Houston. When I checked out, the guy at the counter gave me a copy of the the New York Times Book Review of the book, and he mentioned that the author would be coming in a few weeks to read/sign. I read the review and discovered that this first novel has been optioned by Alan Ball of "American Beauty" and "Six Feet Under" fame.
Towelhead is a novel written from the point of view of the 13 year old Jasira, who has been sent from Syracuse to Houston to live with her Lebanese father after some mishaps with her mother's boyfriend. It becomes apparent early on that these strangers don't really know what to do with each other. Jasira just wants to be the center of someone's universe, and her father has preconceived notions about girls that don't really mesh well with reality. Set during the first Gulf War, the novel is racially and sexually charged, and the characters are all pretty well rounded, to the point that you can see good in people you absolutely hate. Central for Jasira's universe are her next door neighbors the Vuosos, especially the father, a reservist who may be called up for the war; Melina and Gil, younger neighbors up the street who are expecting their first baby; Thomas, a black kid who becomes Jasira's boyfriend; and Jasira's mother and father.
It was a very quick read, at around 315 pages. A lot of the novel is dialogue, and the author does a really good job in staying focused on the point of view of a 13 year old. You get frustrated, sometimes, reading her and knowing that she has no idea what she's talking about. But that's a success of the novel, not a drawback. Her point of view can be extraordinarily misguided, and I kept on wanting to yell or explain or otherwise try to convince her that she was taking the wrong course of action. It's funny in a lot of ways, dark in others, and pretty dmaned moving. It's a sort of hard novel to read, but exceptionally good. ...more
Another of the Cherryh books that I read in January 2007. Very good, indeed. I like how she examines different parts of the universe she's created, soAnother of the Cherryh books that I read in January 2007. Very good, indeed. I like how she examines different parts of the universe she's created, so as to make it much more complete. ...more
I love Douglas Copeland books, and I still think that Microserfs is my favorite, though I do have to say that Girlfriend in a Coma was bloody good. II love Douglas Copeland books, and I still think that Microserfs is my favorite, though I do have to say that Girlfriend in a Coma was bloody good. I wasn't really expecting it to veer in the way it did, though I was delighted to be taken for that particular ride. The characters are rich and engaging, and as in most of Coupland's books, I could identify with them readily, especially Wendy and Richard. There's a sort of post apopolyptic feeling about the novel, but it's not terrible and gloomy. I think the book ends on a rather high note, but many others may not read it that way. ...more
A few nights ago, I finished a book called A History of the Wife, which was part historical documentation and partI'm about two or three chpaters in.
A few nights ago, I finished a book called A History of the Wife, which was part historical documentation and part sociological/anthropoligical review. It was a walk through the evolution of (Western) marriage over the last 4,000 or so years, and the last hundred have been particularly revolutionary.
Frankly, fuck traditional marriage. I don't want to be in a subservient relationship with my spouse. I don't want to have financial and social decisions in my and my family's life made by someone else. I don't want my primary responsiblity in life to be the household. I don't want to be bought and sold by my husband and my father. I don't want the basis of my relationship with my spouse to be procreation and whatever it is that he deems proper.
What's pretty amazing about the book, though, is how strongly it demonstrates the way that marriage has changed in this last half-century or so and how much we're on uncharted territory right now. It's hard to pinpoint any particular catalyst--education, westward expansion, evolving property and political rights, evolving family law--but I'd think that women beginning to demonstrate economical independence from their spouses really got the ball rolling. Women started working for pay en masse in the 1800s, but usually they'd stop working outside the home once they got married. WWII seems to have changed that. Wives were asked to pick up their husbands jobs, and they didn't really return to the kitchen after that.
What it means to be a wife in 2009 is very, very different than what it meant in 1909. A wife is likely to be an essential part of the economic well being of the family. She can vote. She can buy and sell her own property. She can leave her spouse. She can make determinations about her marriage based on love and sex rather than stability and the likelihood that her husband will provide for her.
An interesting subplot to the book that didn't get explored as much as I would have liked (though I asssume there are other sources I could go to if I wanted) is that traditional gender roles are looser in upper classes than they are in lower classes. Upper class males (at least according to the data cited in the book) aren't hung up as much on proving their masculenity by sticking to traditional gender roles as lower class males. I wonder, though, if that's changing too. ...more
(bought in moment of extreme weakness at Bookstop 10/29/08)
I really liked this book quite a bit. It was one of those books that I stayed up late to fi(bought in moment of extreme weakness at Bookstop 10/29/08)
I really liked this book quite a bit. It was one of those books that I stayed up late to finish. It takes place mainly during the Blitz in London, though there are parts that are more modern day. I enjoyed the characters immensely, and it was beautifully paced. Good thriller and mystery. ...more
Finally, Feed. I picked it up without really knowing what it was. I saw the National Book Award finalist sticker on it, read the back, and figured whaFinally, Feed. I picked it up without really knowing what it was. I saw the National Book Award finalist sticker on it, read the back, and figured what the hell. It turns out to be a novel for young adults, though I didn't really feel like I was too old to be reading it. Again with the sci-fi, though I guess it'd be more accurate to say that this is a futurist novel. Many elements from the movie version of Minority Report seemed to appear, though it also sort of had an "All Summer in a Day" feel to it. ...more
I read this over the course of a year and a half. Like many collections, there are strong points and weak points, but on the whole, I found it to be qI read this over the course of a year and a half. Like many collections, there are strong points and weak points, but on the whole, I found it to be quite enjoyable. It's a great book to read in bits and pieces, and I found myself hit with the travel bug when I read it. Having travelled solo in the past, I found myself agreeing with many of the women's accounts: freedom vs. loneliness. ...more
I liked the story of this book, though the writing was a little overwrought at times. It's a pretty interesting accou(bought on 1/16/2008 at Bookstop)
I liked the story of this book, though the writing was a little overwrought at times. It's a pretty interesting account of a guy who builds schools in Pakistan (and now Afghanistan) that educate boys and girls in a region of the world where education isn't at a premium. Everything about this guy is written in the superlative, and that gets a little old over the course of the book. What he's doing is laudable and pretty damned awesome, but I came away from the book thinking that I wouldn't want to have anything to do with him personally. That said, it's a pretty good account aboug a part of the world that gets a lot of attention from Americans who are really uninterested in actually understanding what's going on over there.
I finished Po Bronson's Why Do I Love These People? over the weekend. It was a fairly quick read about 19 families. Divorce, death, different culturesI finished Po Bronson's Why Do I Love These People? over the weekend. It was a fairly quick read about 19 families. Divorce, death, different cultures, keeping in touch, pushing away. The book sort of discusses how families stick together, make it work. It's looking from both the point of view of the family that you came from and the family that you're making.
I think the main thing that I came away with from the book is that over the last 150 years or so, we've been given a lot more choice in how we relate with family and with that choice comes a lot of stress. Husbands and wives, daily, are given the choice as to whether or not they're going to stay together. Adult children have a choice in the type of relationship they have with their parents and siblings. A lot of the expectation of family that sticks together has deteriorated over the last few decades.* There are, of course, the economic, legal and societal benefits and pressures on being married, but the fundamental structure of the family has changed dramatically in the last 150 years.
What's also new is that the basis of marriage has become romantic love. The economic pressures are still there, as are societal and familial pressures, but for the most part, when two people get married these days, we expect them to be in love with one another. That's not historically been the case. And romantic love, as anyone who's ever had his or her heart stomped on knows, is not necessarily a stable, everlasting thing. ...more