After a couple of nightmare slogs, it's time for some comfort food.
My brother is moving to New York in a coupAfter a couple of nightmare slogs, it's time for some comfort food.
My brother is moving to New York in a couple of weeks, and it breaks my heart more than a little. I totally love that guy, and New York will be lucky to have him. It’s really far away, though. I went to pick him up in Bend a few weeks back so that he could use my car for a weekend, and I got the audio version of this book at the library on my way there. I picked it up because I totally freaking love this book, even though none of the book makes that much sense if you think about it for, like, two seconds. I have even loved this audio experience, though it is just about the worst audio in the whole wide world, and the reader does maybe every single thing that bugs me. Anyway, there are some books I could read whenever: Wuthering Heights, Our Mutual Friend. I can’t defend myself about this, but I think The Host is in that group.
Meyer’s people all live in some kind of graphic novel, with their gaping, grimacing, hissing, eye bulging, and clenching of teeth. I know, no one hisses, do they? And then there is the problem about the first person narrator always being able, somehow, to see the nuances of people’s emotions through their eyes, no matter how far away the person is standing, or how little blocking sense that actually makes in a given room or tunnel or cave. And we won’t even talk about how awful the names are. I know about that, too. Whatever, haters, I don’t care. I totally freaking love this book.
The audio book is, and I’m not kidding, 23.5 hours long. I’m not even done with it. I’m actually still listening to it right now, but I know how it ends because I've read it before, so don't get up in my grill tautologically about the inherent worth in the work itself and my duties as an audience. Anyway, the reader of the audio book really savors every word. Very dramatic, you know. She totally kills me. I missed a lot of the first half because my brother listened to it over the weekend when he had the car. He came back gaping, grimacing, hissing, and generally making fun of it. His eyes really bulged and glinted with mirth, and all that. We listened to it together, driving back to Bend, and there was a lot more clenching of teeth from his side of the car.
I don’t know. We’ve all talked to death the problems with the Meyer writing and the Meyer love story and the Meyer world building. I realized, though, that in all honesty Meyer does write something that really touches me: families. I think her families are so comforting, even in their conscious mish-mashiness. True, her heroines want to kill themselves so you’ll be happy, and that’s weird. But in this book, for example, the heroine’s (heroines’?) love of her brother and her adopted family is something genuine and something that I totally dig.
I mean, obviously, this book is awesome because it has sweet, cuddly body snatchers, and that allows for a love triangle with only two bodies and then, later, a love quadrangle with only three bodies. No funny business, though. All PG here, gang. And, the love geometry stays pretty polite the whole time; no obnoxious LOST stuff going on. The other kind of cool thing about this book is that it passes the Bechtel test because there are, like, two girls stuck in one body and they chat about things. They’re not Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton hatching women’s suffrage, or anything, but I’m not too demanding.
Anyway, family. Don’t tell my brother, but I’m a little torn up about him moving away. Very excited for him, but a little torn up. It’s been nice to listen to all the descriptions of how much this girl loves her brother and her adopted family in these extreme situations, where she has to run through the desert and battle renegade cave-dwellers for them. Don't get me wrong, it's ultimately pretty tame, but it's extreme in a sentimental, hearth-and-home way. I don’t know; it’s comforting. I don’t really care that it’s ridiculous in so many ways or that it’s broken up with tedious descriptions of food and every other little thing. Sue me. I think this book is probably Meyer’s best so far, just in a technical sense. It stands alone, which is a relief, and none of the characters are supposed to be perfect. The main character is a little annoying, in a doormat kind of way, but I’m still okay with her.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not telling you to read it. You’d probably freaking hate it. I was just getting sentimental about family, and so was Stephenie Meyer, so I thought I’d come here and tell you about it. ...more
Who are your gods? Whom do you worship in actions, and whom in words? Charles Dickens waggles his finger in my face, the finger of a crone, of a maideWho are your gods? Whom do you worship in actions, and whom in words? Charles Dickens waggles his finger in my face, the finger of a crone, of a maiden, of a businessman. The polished finger of a marquis, the calloused finger of a knitter. He makes his point with the appropriate number of adjectives and with enough humor to break through the polished shell of morality and reach something true. When you dress your Good up in robes and worship it, maybe what you truly worship is Death. And Dickens graciously bows his way out of the room.
It is confusing to talk about successes and failures in A Tale of Two Cities because what doesn’t really work for me actually does, and there’s something beyond what really does work that I can’t quite get at. Maybe on my fourth or fifth reading I will have nestled into what I can’t quite get, but until then, I will have to rely on something contrary to my instincts. The thing that puts me off, but then, ultimately, makes the story what it is, is this image of the shy, humble nuclear family – the blond girls named Lucy and the unassuming, faceless father. The easiest shorthand for goodness, the celestial, angels.
That is not my god, and even though I mistrust it, deeply – I mistrust it to whatever marrows up the marrow of my bones – it makes sense for what it is in this story. It is a symbol for something not grasping about humanity, a symbol for something that wishes happiness, not destruction, on people, and that does seem like a symbol of Good to me, even if its trappings are soaked in the suspicious. Where to me the Darnay-Manette family is code for abuse and for valuing security over integrity (the apologetic wife who so desperately craves her husband’s affection that she pretends helplessness; the husband who grovels to his father-in-law and otherwise has no remarkable personality traits), for Dickens it was not that. And I can see it and respect what he was doing here.
I don’t know, maybe I don’t think a hopeful family has been written, just like I haven’t seen a real-life family that would fit me right. But, where the girl action hero is a symbol of hope to me, I can see how Lucy Manette is a symbol of hope in reverse of that, but not in a bad way. She is a symbol of, “What if people were generous?” And she does not really have enough contrast to be an interesting character, but she, in herself, is a contrast. Because is this book about her or is about Madame Defarge? Really, it is about neither and the one is only a contrast to the other. Madame Defarge is more interesting to me, knitting revenge, but Lucy is still functional, and she still has meaning. She is the innocence that a person saves if we can.
But, back to our gods. The various choruses running through this book of sacrifice and resurrection, execution and revenge, wove together with the worship of the gods cleanly and in a way that resonated with me and made me think about how our actions reveal what gods we worship, if we, today, could call our gods by the helpful, honest names of the ancients – Wine, Beauty, Love, War, Freedom, Death, etc. The refrain of liberte, egalite, franternite, or death rings through the story like “my husband, my father, my brother, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, hush.” It is about the hopelessness of the death penalty, and it counts down from resurrection to death.
It questions all of our gods, with the goddess Liberty riding on a chair over a blood-soaked, rioting crowd; the sacrifice of Christ made by a dissipated drunkard; the British bank seeking execution, like the French aristocracy and serfs. None of us are safe; none of our hands are clean. In the words of the Biblical Christ, “Those who live by the sword, die by the sword.” Even honest tradesmen.
We know our gods, not by the names we attribute to them to make sure we have VIP access to the coolest back-stage events with our friends who call their gods by the same name. We know our gods by our own actions – how we act to ourselves and how we act to others. The revolutionaries in this book chant, “Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite, or Death,” and Dickens makes it clear that the people worship “or Death” even while they name it Liberte. In that same way, when we destroy our bodies and souls in the name of love by starvation, mutilation, or cultivating mental illness, we are not worshiping Love, even if we name it that. Today, for example, girl who starves herself, and a man who wins on steroids, do not worship Beauty or Strength through those actions; they worship Self-Destruction, Death. Because when beauty and strength are gone, that is the monster, the god, who thrives on your sacrifice. Be the best version of yourself, this book pleads, and if you cultivate self-destruction, at least let your sacrifice be voluntary and for something noble, not blind and hungry. Know the god you worship. But, do we ever? And how can it be anything but sympathetic when we do not? Because this life is all of our crazy mess, with all of our gods wearing halloween masks of another god.
As with any Dickens, the best parts of this book are in the common people. Mr. Cruncher and his honest trade of resurrection, and the good Ms. Pross and her noble work as executioner, are the best moments. The good, rough English folk are where Dickens truly shines. But, the political commentary of this book is very strong, as well. The parallels of London and Paris; the executions in both cities, by the rich and the poor; the self-descriptions of Mr. Cruncher and Mr. Lorry as honest businessmen, honest tradesmen, are all powerful statements about thinking of any class of society as subhuman – the poor, the rich, criminals. Everyone is someone’s husband, brother, someone’s father, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, hush. We may talk about our wrongs as though they were the “only harvest ever known under the skies that had not been sown,” but they are ours, sown by what we have worshiped. Or so judges Dickens . . . and he is a just executioner....more
I was visiting an old friend for the past few days, and she showed me this cover of Atlas Shrugged I made for her when we lived in Ukraine:
[image erroI was visiting an old friend for the past few days, and she showed me this cover of Atlas Shrugged I made for her when we lived in Ukraine:
It was a necessary repair, but it pretty much proves I should be a cover designer. _____________________________________________
I think Francisco D’Aconia is absolutely a dream boat. This book’s like blah blah blah engineering, blah blah blah John Galt, blah blah blah no altruistic act, blah bla- HE-llo, Francisco D’Aconia, you growl and a half. Also, there’s a pirate. So, what’s everyone complaining about?
Okay, it’s not that I don’t get what everyone’s complaining about. I get that Rand is kind of loony tunes of the Glenn Beck variety, and some people (maybe?) use her to justify being assholes, but I just don’t like to throw the bathwater out with that baby. Warning: I think, to make my point, I have to refer to Dostoyevsky a lot, which I seem to always do because he really is some kind of touchstone to me. The point I’m trying to make with all this blabbering is that the debate over Atlas Shrugged brings out something that I might hate more than anything else (more than weddings and kitty litter even). It makes people say that ideas are dangerous. People on all sides of the spectrum do this about different stuff, and whatever the argument, I don’t like it. If an idea is wrong, say it’s wrong. But genocide doesn’t happen because people put forward too many ideas. It happens because people put forward too few ideas.
Anyway, back to the book:
First, story. The third part of this book is super weird. It’s definitely not the actual ending of the book, I’ve decided, but more of a choose-your-own-adventure suggestion. It’s kind of fun that way because any end that you, the reader, come up with will be better than the one Rand suggested. My favorite part of her ending is how John Galt gives the most boring speech possible, and it lasts for about a bazillion pages, and you have to skip it or die. Then, at the end, Rand’s like, “The entire world was listening, ears glued to the radios, because Galt’s speech was the most brilliant thing they had ever heard.” No. Nope. Nice try, liar. So, that’s super lame, I agree, and you should just skip the third part.
But people don’t get as mad about the epilogue in Crime and Punishment. Why? That’s the same situation, where it kills all fun, and you have to ignore that it happened. Is it just because it’s shorter, and it’s called “Epilogue”? Maybe that’s enough. But, on the other hand, maybe people didn’t read all the way to the end of Crime and Punishment. Maybe, because it was written by a crazy Russian man, not a crazy Russian woman, people think they’ll sound deep if they say they like it.
Second, writing. People complain about Rand’s writing, and I always think, “When was the last time you wrote a 1000 page book in a second language and pulled off a reasonably page-turning storyline?” The woman spoke Russian for crying out loud! It most certainly would have been a better choice for her to have written the books in Russian and had them translated, but, I mean, most native English speakers couldn’t be that entertaining. It’s at least A for effort. I’m not going to make excuses for the unpronounceable names she chooses for her characters, but I’ll just say Dostoyevsky again and leave it at that.
I know it made a huge difference in my reading of this book that I was living in a Soviet bloc apartment in Lozovaya, Ukraine at the time and had forgotten a little bit how to speak English. I’m sure a lot of weird phrasing didn’t sound weird to me because it makes sense in Russian. But, also, I feel like I’ve read a lot of translations of Dostoyevsky and other Russians that feel really weird in English. You know, everyone’s always having some kind of epileptic fit or whatever with Mr. D. But, we allow for the weirdness because we picture the stuff happening in Russia, where the weird stuff typically goes down anyway. I’ll tell you right now, Atlas Shrugged takes place in Russia. No joke. She might tell you they’re flying over the Rocky Mountains, or whatever, but this book is a Russian if there ever was one. Just so it’s clear, I LOVE that about it. That’s no insult, only compliment.
Third, philosophy. Maybe I told you this story already, so skip it if you already know it. When I lived in Ukraine, I had the same conversation with three or four people of the older generation who grew up in the Soviet Union. They would tell me, “Things were really wonderful in the Soviet Union, much better than they are now. We had free health care, free housing, and now we have nothing. I mean, every once in a while your neighbor would disappear, but it was completely worth it.” This was really disturbing to me, because it gave me this picture of the people around me – that they were the ones who ratted out the neighbors who wanted a different life. Sure, Rand’s vision is narrow and sometimes inhuman, but I think it is because she was really terrified of this equally narrow and, as far as I’m concerned, inhuman vision. I want a public health care option real bad, and my neighbor has some really annoying Chihuahuas, but if forced to choose between them, I’d probably still pick my neighbor.
Admittedly, the problem with this argument is that it sets up a dichotomy where our only choices are the prosperity gospel and Soilent Green. From what I know of Rand, though, she had seen her neighbors and family thrown out of Russia or killed for being rich. She was fighting something extreme by being extreme. Unfortunately, in America, this rhetoric turns into the idea that having public services = killing your neighbor. To me, this comes from people taking her arguments too seriously on both sides. Dostoyevsky has ghosts and devils coming out of every corner, and people take his stories for what they’re worth. We don’t think that liking his books makes us mystics and hating them makes us inquisitors. Why is it different with Rand?
Fourth, women. I’m not going to lie and tell you that there weren’t other badass female characters when Dagney Taggert came around. All I want to say about this is that the most valuable thing I got from this book was the idea that one person being unhappy doesn’t, and shouldn’t, make other people happy. I think, in this way, it was particularly important to me that the protagonist was a woman. I see a lot of women complain about their lives and families, but say it’s all worth it because they’ve been able to devote their lives to making their husbands or children happy. I’m paraphrasing, I guess. Anyway, that kind of hegemony really creeps me out.
When I read this book, I was just realizing that I had joined Peace Corps with a similarly misguided motivation. I wanted to go to the needy and unfortunate countries of the world and sacrifice myself to save them. It might sound more nasty than it really was when I say it like that, but I think it is a really arrogant attitude to have. We might have hot running water in America (for which I am forever grateful), but if somewhere doesn’t have that, it’s probably not because of a problem a silly, 23-year-old English major is going to solve. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Peace Corps, and it was maybe the best experience of my life so far. But I love it for the things that I got out of it, and if someone else benefited from my being in Ukraine, it was dumb luck.
I don’t know about other women, but I was raised to believe that the more selfless (read: unhappy) I was, the better off everyone else would be. I think it’s a pretty typical way that women talk themselves into staying in abusive situations – that their lives are worth less than the lives around them. This would be the Hank Rearden character in the novel. I love that Rand sets up characters who destroy this cycle of abuse. I love that her female protagonist lives completely outside of it.
So, not to undercut my noble feminist apologetics, but really Francisco’s just hawt, and I think that’s the reason I like this book. There are lots of other reasons to read Rand, but most of those get into the argument about her ideas being dangerous. I just don’t think they are, or should be. I think ignorance is dangerous, but I think it should be pretty easy to fill in the gaping holes in Rand’s logic. Yes, she conveniently ignores the very old, very young, and disabled to make a specific and extreme point. I don’t think her point is entirely without merit, though (in the sense that our lives are valuable, not in the sense of “kill the weak!”). I also think that if we give a “danger” label to every book that conveniently ignores significant portions of the population to make a point, we wouldn’t be left with much.
Anyway, read, discuss, agree, disagree. I’ll be making up some “Team John,” “Team Hank,” “Team Francisco” t-shirts later. I hear in the sequel there are werewolves. ...more
For a long time now, I’ve wanted to rewrite my review of The Hunger Games so that I could tell you why I don’t just love this series, but why I also tFor a long time now, I’ve wanted to rewrite my review of The Hunger Games so that I could tell you why I don’t just love this series, but why I also think it’s important. It is beautiful for the unflinching way it shows you, as a reader, your own willingness to disregard people who are different from you - how you are the Capitol audience. But, it is important as a story about girls. I had not initially thought about articulating that point because it seemed so obvious to me, and I am bad at recognizing my own assumptions. Lately, though, I have seen so many people, both men and women, acting as though this remarkable book is a piece of fluff that I realized maybe what I love most about The Hunger Games is not as obvious as it seems. To me, this series is important because it is a landmark departure from the traditional story about girls.
Sidebar: if you are inclined to now google the word "fleshlight," I encourage you to consult the urban dictionary definition here before doing that, as the google results will probably be NSFW and also NSF those of you whose parents might check your browsing history. Do parents know how to do that? Sorry for the sidebar, I am just intending to make an explicit point, and now I am feeling uncomfortable about what that explicit point might mean to the target audience of this book. Girls, you are probably badass like Katniss, and you are definitely not a fleshlight.
So, in all of those links, I have tried to include books written by men and by women because I think that women think of ourselves this way almost as often as men think of us this way. The link from The Ugly Truth, for example, shows both a man and a woman treating women like fleshlights. I have also included both books I love and books I hate because, ultimately, I do think girls adopt this story about themselves, and I also think we can pretty easily identify with a male protagonist and disregard female characters who look nothing like humans. For example, The Sun Also Rises is one of my favorite books in the whole world, even though it does not contain any women who resonate with my experience of humans. And I don't think it's necessarily bad that I can enjoy stories where women are only fleshlights, as long as I can still be whoever I want to be without a positive role model. I think it's good to enjoy stories and take what we can get from them, and so I don't regret that I love The Sun Also Rises.
In seeing some male reactions to The Hunger Games, I am reminded that most men do not identify with female protagonists the way women have been trained to identify with male protagonists. This seems like a huge disadvantage for men to be in, to me, and if you are a man reading this review, I would ask you to check out your bookshelves. How many female authors are on your shelves? How many of the books those authors wrote have no central male character? If you have a minute after that, check the shelves of a woman you are friends with and see how many of her books were written by men or have no central female character. Odds are the results will be pretty different.
The Hunger Games is such a groundbreaking and deliberate example of a woman’s perspective on war and family and even men that it floors me. I think it partly floors me because, other than Buffy, I can’t think of another example of a female character who really fights for herself in such an obvious and hopeful way. Katniss is strong and broken, and powerful in her brokenness. Collins’s image of a woman’s perspective is not, admittedly, as effortless as Moira Young’s in Blood Red Road, but its deliberateness has its own value.
It is not an accident that the story shows Katniss’s emotional growth and that Peeta, as a more emotionally whole person, facilitates her emotional growth. It is not an accident that the story does not discuss the effect Katniss has on the erectness of Peeta’s and Gale’s penises. The first is not an accident because in reality, men do not have to be the emotional cowards that the stories I’ve linked to above make them out to be. Masculinity does not have to mean emotional cowardice. The second is not an accident because the story is not from Peeta and Gale’s perspectives. Despite widespread rumors to the contrary, it is my experience that women pretty seldom think about their effect on men’s penises. Hopefully, we never think of our primary purpose in life, in the way so many stories think of it, as making penises erect. Hopefully, we never think of ourselves as gadgets that are super fun for other people.
There are so many reasons I love The Hunger Games series, and all of this is one I wouldn’t have initially even thought to say. I saw this Eleanor Roosevelt quote earlier this month, and it said, “It is better to light one small candle than to curse the darkness.” I think The Hunger Games is a candle in the overall dark narrative of girls’ perspective on life. Yes, it is also a poignant critique of reality TV and Western callousness about the catastrophes caused by industrialization in the developing world, but that, too, resonates with me in many ways because of its remarkably feminine voice. It absolutely makes sense to me that this book is not for everyone because of its violence, but I still think that it is objectively important because it shows a perspective that seems authentically feminine to me – that talks like a girl, not like a sexy, fancy gadget. I’m not saying that in my opinion girls don’t or shouldn’t ever think about being sexy or erect penises, I’m just saying that it is my experience that we think and care about many, many more things than penises, clean houses, and food, and very, very few stories are willing to tell you about that. The Hunger Games is one that does, and it does so in way that is beautiful and important. ...more
I went to see Inglourious Basterds a couple of times this past month, and there is that scene where Eli Roth and Omar Doom are in the theater, and theI went to see Inglourious Basterds a couple of times this past month, and there is that scene where Eli Roth and Omar Doom are in the theater, and they dress themselves up to look like waiters and then whip around the corner and kill the two Nazi guards to some funny Ennio Morriconi(ish?), spaghetti-western sounding music. And everybody in the theater laughs, and then the film cuts to Hitler laughing, watching a movie of a Nazi soldier killing Americans. It’s one of those great story-telling moments where I’m nice and comfortable and morally superior, until I realize that actually I’m exactly the same as someone I think is Evil. There was a moment when I first saw Merchant of Venice that was like that, and I was depressed for a month after I read Notes from the Underground because of the same type of experience. I don’t know where you get that brand of story-telling ability, but Suzanne Collins has it coming out of her ears, in the sort of young adult variety.
Catching Fire was maybe not as striking as the first book in this series, The Hunger Games, in making me disturbed about myself, but it definitely had its moments. Also, I was in my second week of law school and had just gotten back from an exhausting wedding when I read it, so I might not have had the capacity to self-reflect that I normally do. If you don’t know already, even though you should know, the premise of this series is a that in the future, post-apocalyptic world of the super-badass Katniss Everdeen, one rich city controls twelve poor-to-starving cities that produce all of the goods for the rich city. In order to keep the poor cities in fear, the rich city requires each of the poor cities to send one teenage boy and one teenage girl as tributes to play the Hunger Games. In the Hunger Games the kids have to kill each other until there is one survivor, who gets to party for the rest of his/her life but never really feels like partying because everything’s so fucked up. Usually they go crazy, if they didn’t start out that way. It’s very Lord of the Flies, and yes it is the same premise as Battle Royale, but not as determinedly nasty as those two books. Also, girl action hero!
Anyway, a couple of days after I finished this book, I was spacing off instead of briefing cases, and I started thinking about the description of the capital city that controls the other cities. There is a part where Katniss and another character have to go to a party at the capital, and there are as many amazing foods as they can imagine. It’s a big party, and they’re celebrities, and everyone loves them. They have one bite of every kind of food, so that they can taste everything, but unfortunately they get full. One of their entourage explains to them that there are puke closets, so that everyone can keep eating for the whole night, and our two characters suddenly step back from the party and remember their families and neighbors, who are starving while the capital lives in decadence. I was thinking about that and how the shallow people in the capital city were just as culpable for the evil in their society as the military that imposed starvation on the cities, and then, suddenly, I realized, duh, she’s talking about me. This story is really about the global economy, and (passive, consumption-driven U.S. citizen that I am) I’m not the hero.
So, that’s about three times this month that I’ve been on the side of terrorists. I don’t know whether that means story-tellers are gettin’ pretty tricky, or if it just means I think there’s a problem with the way stuff is. Or that, like, I’m becoming a rager, or something. (FBI, if you’re reading this, JK about this whole paragraph. LOL!)
When I was working my 8-5 job last year, I started listening to some iTunesU classes while I was doing my work so that my brain wouldn’t die. One of them was given by Carolyn Marvin at Stanford, and it was called “True Colors: Myth, Magic, and the American Flag.” The premise, to summarize very briefly, was that for any culture to stay together, the culture requires a blood sacrifice. This article goes into more detail about nationalism and blood sacrifice. She really convincingly pointed out how, civilized though we think we are, blood sacrifice in modern Western culture is not really significantly different than tribal human sacrifices. It’s a seriously creepy theory, but I’m not kidding when I say that she’s right. Really, listen to the lecture. So, I’ve spent a lot of time in the past couple of weeks doing a mental compare/contrast of the U.S. with this futuristic dystopia. We don’t come off looking too good, guys.
Obviously these are really complicated topics, but nothing seems as simple as “violence is not the answer” or, on the other side of the argument, “destroy civilization.” I’m not positive what the right answer is, but I’d like to find out. I think Suzanne Collins’s books should be taught in high school social studies classes, so maybe we could get some young brains working on this problem. How do we effectively refuse to benefit from universally destructive and dehumanizing trade practices, but still live healthy and productive lives?
So, go read everything Suzanne Collins ever wrote (including the episodes of Clarissa Explains It All because that show is awesome) and reflect on international trade and the global economy. I don’t know if you’ll be a better person for it, but I think so. Maybe after you do all that reading you can help me figure out some way for us not to be Evil. ...more
I need to never run into Scott Westerfeld down a dark alley, or during a Civil War reenactment, or at Charlton Heston's house, or wherever. My deep deI need to never run into Scott Westerfeld down a dark alley, or during a Civil War reenactment, or at Charlton Heston's house, or wherever. My deep desire not to be arrested for murder would have an epic battle with my need to reach for a weapon when I see his stupid face. In all fairness, as you see, I coughed up three stars for this book, so I will clarify that my empty threatening is really directed toward Pretties and Specials (books two and three in this series). I'm posting this review on the link for the first book in the hopes that it will inspire people to put this book on their list of books never to read. If you read this book there is the danger that you may want to continue with the series, but trust me, you really don't.
In listing what I don't like about this series, I'll start with EVERYTHING from the characters to the plot to the worldview that I imagine would inspire a story of this kind of depth and breadth of ambivalence. The premise of Uglies is that in the future when kids reach puberty, they all have mandatory plastic surgery to turn their bodies into a perfect standard of beauty based on human brain reactions to visual stimulus. Unfortunately (and this is a slight spoiler, so my apologies, but it really is an element that is pretty obvious from page one, though not clearly stated until later), when the kids are having the surgeries to make them pretty, the surgeons change their brains, too, to determine their decision-making abilities, capacity for independent thought, and even sense response. Basically, the pretty surgery makes most people stupid, unless the occupation that the government determines for them requires intelligence. So far so good - it's your basic government-takeover dystopia. Yes, kids, if you let the government give you free health care checkups, it's only a small step to the day they start chopping up your brain.
Luckily, said ugly teens (particularly our protagonist, Tally, through her bff, Shay) discover that if they flee to the wilderness, they will be able to live a life of freedom and romance. Oh, what's that? Did I say "romance"? Thanks again Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Ralph Waldo Emerson, et al. Sometimes when characters go out into the wilderness . . . I don't even know. Does the phrase "it's been done" even begin to cover my feelings on that topic? Thus begins the cat-fight between Tally and Shay that is the uniting thread of this entire series. You see, there is a wilderness boy (imagine my surprise), who is quite a catch even though he's "ugly", and there's some jealousy and betrayal and kick-ass hoverboarding. You get the idea.
Let me clarify the problems I have listed so far:
1. Suspicion of the city, using a retreat to the wild as the solution to social ills. It's a tired premise. 2. Cattiness of the female protagonist and portraying the central female character as mostly driven by her current crush and competition with other women. That is a huge pet peeve of mine.
Those, however, are small, forgivable wrongs compared to the basic disingenuousness of the moral arguments Westerfeld makes. While he on one level criticizes the idea of basing society on a hierarchy of physical looks, the characters repeatedly interact within that hierarchy, calling each other "pretty" and "ugly" at every turn and defining "pretty" people very specifically. Even the repetition of the words "ugly" and "pretty" undercuts any message Westerfeld might have against pigeonholing people. I found myself seeing people in the grocery store and evaluating whether they met the "evolutionary definition" of pretty as according to this series. It's creepy and annoying. Westerfeld can be as showy as he wants about how it is limiting to judge people based on their appearance, but I argue that he is actually encouraging that same shallow judgment if only by instruction and repetition. For example, it's like saying, "kids, don't shoplift, but here's how to shoplift if you ever want to do it. And here's a catchy shoplifting song to sing with your group of friends, who really should have a name. Hey, we could call you guys the 'shoplifting gang'! Don't shoplift, though." What's the real message there? Ultimately, the arguments of the government that requires the pretty surgeries, also, make a lot of sense in the stories. The surgeries solve anorexia, bring world peace, and save the environment. Plastic surgery sounds fun, too, and Westerfeld literally makes no compelling arguments against body alteration. At the same time, I'm left feeling that Westerfeld thinks it is a bad idea, though he is not convincing.
If Westerfeld's discussion of body image wasn't enough of a travesty, the point in this series where this backwards arguing makes me want to wipe him off the face of the planet is when he introduces cutting. By "cutting" I'm not talking about skipping school. If you are not familiar with cutting, it is a form of self-mutilation that has been growing in popularity with teenagers over the past few years (I'm going to go ahead and say it's been growing in popularity since 2006, when the book Specials was published). In Specials, our catty female protagonist and her buddies discover that by slicing up their arms, they experience a particularly satisfying high, and all of their senses are strengthened. Ultimately, they randomly decide that this is a bad idea, but Westerfeld only implies their reasoning for that decision, and again I'm left with the feeling that probably everyone should be a cutter because in the context of the story it's pretty badass. I think that was the point where I started yelling and throwing things around my house.
Unfortunately, some parts of these stories are actually engaging (not seriously engaging, but passably), and for a while I wanted to find out what happened to everyone, even while I wanted to burn the author's house down. The truly unforgivable wrongs are his wolf-in-sheep's-clothing discussions of teen body image and self-mutilation issues. His characters never develop deep self-respect or intelligent motivation for their actions, and even when their decisions seem healthy, Westerfeld makes a better argument for the unhealthy decisions. Now I realize that I didn't even talk about the uber-annoying slang language he develops for the Pretties and Specials. I'll just say that these books are not "bubbly" and leave it at that....more
Everything about this book makes me throw up a little bit in my mouth. I say again, "yuck yuck yuck," both to the absurd violence and the shallow emotEverything about this book makes me throw up a little bit in my mouth. I say again, "yuck yuck yuck," both to the absurd violence and the shallow emotion of this story. Every time the plot turned toward something interesting, it was quickly replaced by a turn toward Lame. I get why SO MANY people compared The Hunger Games with this book (which is the reason I picked Battle Royale up in the first place) because of the basic Lord of the Flies, kids-will-be-kids premise. I, however, found Battle Royale nowhere near as disturbing or thought provoking on a personal level as The Hunger Games. The violence is ridiculous, and even from the first chapter the plot is so obvious, even the way various characters will meet their tragic ends is so obvious, that the only conflict it caused for me was whether to give in to my stubbornness about finishing books or just give up after the first hundred pages.
I'm not prepared to defend the violence in The Hunger Games, or comment as to whether I thought it was cheesy or not, but in that book it is not the sole focus of the story. I think the violence is basically boring in both, but in the Hunger Games there is at least less of it, so I have less to be bored with. For me, the value of the Hunger Games is in presenting a model of a girl action hero who is genuinely there as a female perspective and not ultimately an object of male desire like most female characters who are set up as being girl action heroes.
I think that is why the comparison of the two doesn't seem very valuable to me. Battle Royale obviously does more with the violence, so if that is something that is a draw to a reader, that reader will definitely prefer Battle Royale. Hunger Games does more for changing the narrative of female protagonists, so if that is a draw to a reader, as it is to me, that reader might prefer Hunger Games.
The descriptions were very anime, which makes me think that if the writing had been beautiful, or if any of the emotion had seemed deep, I may have liked this book. The end was plot-twist after plot-twist (you thought they were dead?! No! Alive! No, wait, dead. Like that part in Eddie Izzard, Dressed to Kill), and half of the twists gave me hope that they would redeem the story. The other half killed those hopes. My advice is that if you think you feel like reading this book, maybe you actually feel like watching Cowboy Beebop. I don't think you'll regret it....more
I took a survey pair of classes in college called History of Women in the U.S., and they were two of my favorite college classes of all time. I had alI took a survey pair of classes in college called History of Women in the U.S., and they were two of my favorite college classes of all time. I had always had a love-hate relationship with history. Some of it is so fascinating, and it is always interesting to me to see how current culture and politics echoes the culture and politics of the past, but, on the other hand, sometimes history seems to be all wars and generalities. It is often zeitgeist and statistics, rather than subtlety and story. But, my History of Women classes were different: they were letters and stories of all kinds of women living in North America. Women who cared centuries ago about things I care about now. It was brilliant. I thought, this is what history has been missing for me: women. I’m sad to say it, but this book proved me wrong.
I started following Gail Collins’s op-ed columns in the New York Times during the 2008 election because she is very witty and sometimes hilarious. I think she is a lovely, smart woman. This book, however, failed overall for me. It was full of the generalities that bother me in so many history books. Like, “Women watched this television show,” “Women wore this clothing,” “The U.S. wanted this or that,” “People felt this way.” It just rubs me the wrong way. I feel like if historians continue to live and breathe these sweeping observations about culture, people in the future will assume I am just like Brittany Spears. Not that I really have a problem with Brittany Spears, but I am not very similar to her. I like history through individual eyes and stories.
And this book didn’t really even succeed for me when there were individual stories. Collins would pick out a notable woman and briefly summarize her story, but the scope of this book was too huge to do anybody justice. For example, she discusses Margaret Sanger twice, but, unless I missed it, did not touch at all on her racism or advocacy of eugenics. From one standpoint, I think her legacy obviously goes far beyond eugenics, and Sanger was an amazing woman in so many ways and an incredible advocate for voluntary birth control. But, to ignore her advocacy of eugenics seems suspect to me. Does it come from an assumption that someone with one so awful an idea could not do anything good? Does it come from a fear of even raising the topic? Is it just because there were so many people to cover in this book and so little space to do it? And, maybe she did mention it and I just missed it. But, if she didn’t (and I double checked and couldn't find anything about it), it seems like an example of a missed opportunity to talk about the nuance that exists in any cultural activism.
Also, I am big on citation. I am big on deliberate, meticulous, and transparent citation of sources, and I was not satisfied with how citation works out in this book. First, I prefer footnotes to endnotes, but having said that, I thought the endnote citation in Dead Man Walking were excellent, so I definitely see how endnotes have their place. I haven’t gone through all of the endnotes in this, but from having skimmed them, they appear not so much to be citation as further reading recommendations. They are not linked to the text through endnotes at all, but rather are cited to pages through quotes from the pages. So, what I’m saying is that the only real cited information is the quotations, and then there are other sources listed for further reading. That drives me crazy. Like, you can’t just say, “Women liked to make out in Model-Ts” and not cite me to your source. Who gave you this information, Michael Moore? Your neighbor across the fence? A dream? Grease? A lot of the information in here about the early part of the twentieth century, for example, seemed to come from the Gilbraith family, which is fine, and I like them, but it’s not exactly a survey of diverse sources. And, as with Michael Moore, it’s not so much that I think the information actually is overall inaccurate; it’s just that I appreciate a well-timed citation.
Maybe some of my complaint comes largely from the fact that this book isn’t Early American Women or Modern American Women, which are AMAZING. Maybe it’s not a fair standard to keep, but I think history books should be that blend of primary sources and analysis. I freaking love those books. This one wasn’t terrible but it was a resounding meh. It was a really long B+ recitation of generalities about American women. I am totally bummed and disillusioned to not be jumping off the walls about it because this is the first time I have failed to jump off walls about a book on the history of women, and I think it is signaling a certain crotchety-ness in me. Oh, no wait, there was that eye-roll HBO production about Alice Paul. That was annoying, though it wasn’t a book. Anyway, I could see assigning this in a high school class, but I couldn’t really see going beyond that. And why not watch Ken Burns’s wonderful documentary Not for Ourselves Alone, read the American Women books, or read one of Jeannette Walls’s books instead? Those are fucking amazing. People should freak out about the history of women, and the zeitgeists and famous people this book summarized just failed to make me freak out....more
I can understand why this is an important book, and I honestly think I am giving it two extra stars just for that. I don't want to become complacent iI can understand why this is an important book, and I honestly think I am giving it two extra stars just for that. I don't want to become complacent in losing my liberties any more than the next girl, and I think it's great to write a story that would (I guess???) appeal to high school kids and get them to think about what freedom really means and how easy it is to get swindled by the government. However, while I am completely willing to admit my own geekiness, this book is a different kind of geeky than me, and possibly because of that it was off the charts on my geek-o-meter. I recognize that it may be my aversion to the XBox (am I capitalizing the right letters even? Xbox? XBOX? X-Box? Oh, how little I care . . .) speaking. One of the promotional blurbs on the back cover is from Neil Gaiman, saying, “It made me want to be thirteen again right now and reading it for the first time.” I agree. If I were a thirteen year old Neil Gaiman, I think I would have enjoyed this book.
I got the feeling that Marcus Yallow, the hero of Little Brother, lives in a different world than me (and not because of the post-apocalyptic nature. That was not very far-fetched). He lives in a world where all the kiddos love D & D and anyone who doesn't is a pawn of the Man, where it really is interesting to talk about "crypto" and "armphids" and "ARGing" and "LARPing" and whatever the hell other stuff that I still don't understand or care about. I think my brother has a couple of friends who live in that world, and they are just as foreign creatures (and just as uncomfortable to be around) to me as this book. I think I would have been happier hearing Cory Doctorow say, "Ron Paul '08!", and never hearing about how sexy he thinks math is. It's not that I'm against math or computers, and The Matrix still has me sold on the idea of the badass hacker, but to me both math and computers are more necessary evils, or means to an end, than anything else. I'm glad other people are interested in them, but I guess I'm not fascinated by hearing about it from YA fiction.
Doctorow was very conscious of sending positive and constructive messages in this story, and he gets 10 points from me for including the condoms in the sex scene. I might take away those points for his repeated use of the phrase “horn-dog”, but I’m willing to acknowledge that as personal taste. I see so many YA authors sabotage themselves by the use of the first-person narrative, though, and Doctorow is no exception. It just seemed so unlikely to me that a 17 year old boy in San Francisco would genuinely think that it was so unquestionably cool to play fantasy games on the computer and that the only villains would disagree with him. Maybe it’s the villain in me coming out.
Now to display my own geekiness. In terms of the story itself, this book is what I imagine the movie Casablanca would be if were told from the point of view of Victor Lazslo before Rick Blaine comes into the picture (i.e. with no sexual tension or moral complexity). Even without Humphry Bogart, I felt like the girls, who were falling over themselves for Marcus, probably could have done better. I felt, once again, the tragedy of Ilsa’s choice in the end. If nothing else, this book made me like Casablanca more. ...more
This book is cool 'n' stuff. I don't know what to tell you about it. It's about a teacher. He goes to people's houses and talks to them about homeschoThis book is cool 'n' stuff. I don't know what to tell you about it. It's about a teacher. He goes to people's houses and talks to them about homeschooling. The structure of the book follows Kunzman's interviews with various homeschooling families that live in states following all of the different regulating schemes available in the U.S., from zero regulation to required standardized testing and reporting. Some parents are good teachers; some parents are bad teachers. Some teachers are good teachers; some teachers are bad teachers.
I had an eclectic education. I went (in chronological order) to a private school owned by a cult, a Montessori school, a Seventh Day Adventist school, and a public high school. Before and between all of those, I was homeschooled. Probably, the public school was my best experience in terms of education. Above all, though, I learned almost everything I know from TV. I can sing O Come All Ye Faithful in Latin, so homeschool was good for that; I read The Catcher in the Rye in public school, so that made everything worth it; but, mostly my educational masters were Darkwing Duck and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
I'm doing some research on homeschooling regulations in Oregon, and I came across this article that talks about the traditional parens patriae obligations of the State. Basically, parents have rights over children, and the State has rights over children (called parens patriae) because children have almost no rights of their own. So, that's the theory under which the State can take kids out of the home in situations of physical abuse. But what about educational abuse? Is there such a thing? Most people agree that it exists, but almost no one agrees about what it looks like. It strikes me that any educational system, no matter how public or private, could be guilty of educational abuse.
The largest subset of homeschoolers is made up of conservative Christians. According to Kunzman, the documentary Jesus Camp puts the figure at 75%, but that is likely an exaggeration promoted by the Home School Legal Defense Association (p. 2). I have seen statistics in other articles that range from 72% to 86%, but it is undoubtedly a large number. All of the families Kunzman interviewed in this book were conservative Christians, but they each had different strategies for schooling and seemed to be in different economic classes.
Homeschooling gained popularity after the 1972 Supreme Court Case Wisconsin v. Yoder, where the Court held that members of the Old Amish community could take their children out of school earlier than a state statute allowed. It became the interpretation of Yoder that parents have the sole right to direct the education of their children, though that right can be regulated by the state if it shows a sufficiently compelling interest.
Apparently, according to the parens patriae article (which I believe was written by a Canadian, so take it with a grain of salt), the attorney who defended the Amish in the Yoder case (and who got the Court to significantly limit the State's parens patriae rights), William B. Ball, was buddies with Michael Farris, who co-founded the HSLDA in 1983. So, the conspiracy theory, as I understand it, is that they're part of that Falwell/Reagan/Schaeffer group that turned American politics into the fundamentalist Christian slumber party it is today. It's an interesting theory at least. That's not really part of this book, though the book vaguely hints at conspiracy theory in more of an, "OMFG, how did this happen?" way.
What Kunzman does talk about, and I think it's absolutely fascinating, is the relationship between support for the homeschooling movement and racial integration of public schools. Although right now, African Americans are said to be the fastest growing subset of homeschoolers, "[t]he 2003 NCES data suggest that 77 percent of U.S. homeschoolers are 'white, non-Hispanic,' compared with 62 percent of the rest of the K-12 population" (p. 160). So, the idea is that not only is homeschooling a conspiracy theory, but it's also a racist way to avoid desegregation of schools.
Probably, almost no one now would say that they were homeschooling in order to be racist. But it is interesting to me that the roots of homeschooling sound as dramatic and plotting as an episode of The Real Housewives of D.C.. Okay, maybe not that dramatic. Actually, Kunzman is not very critical of the choice to homeschool. It's obvious that he comes to the issue with skepticism, but he's very generous to the families, and it seems to me that he manages a great deal of objectivity in reporting their methods of education and contrasting them with his experiences as a public school teacher. The book ultimately has that ambivalent feel that I see whenever I read studies of socially stigmatized political minorities. He doesn't really advocate a solution in the end but more asks whether the social stigma is based in an overreaction of stranger danger, or actually based in bad education choices of homeschooling parents.
It strikes me that a good solution would be for states to develop a definition of educational abuse that could be attributed to any type of educational system. It could have definitions of literacy, numeracy, and other vital educational goals, and ages by which children should achieve those goals or be tested for learning disabilities. A lot of the home v. public schooling debate involves playground finger pointing that basically comes down to, "No YOU'RE worse!" I think that the focus of regulation should be on actually educating TEH CHILDREN, not where the kids are sitting when they get educated....more
!!!!! This book kicks my ass. Moira Young has gotta be the Beatrix Kiddo of y/a writers. She comes in here, probably blindfolded or some such, turns t!!!!! This book kicks my ass. Moira Young has gotta be the Beatrix Kiddo of y/a writers. She comes in here, probably blindfolded or some such, turns the conventional rescue story on its head, and then writes it all out in solid, beautiful dialect because that’s just how badass she is. The effortlessness alone is enough to make me think we’ve arrived in some new country of storytelling. Suddenly, we’re in the middle of it, and I didn’t even realize the tour bus could go there.
I don’t even want to talk about all of the incredible women in this book because the telling of it is so nonchalant and so free from politics that it seems a shame to freak out about it. Even though it does make me freak out. We should have been talking about women like this the whole time. These girls are so legit. They talk to each other like girls talk. They kick ass the way girls kick ass. They are smart, but they’re not trying to throw it in your face. They’re just incidentally as cool as actual girls.
I won’t tell you much about this book because I don’t want to spoil all the transitions from one kind of beauty to another. I don’t want to spoil the easy absence of agenda, the genuine relationships, or the well-timed action.
As I said before, this book kicked my ass, so I’m still in the fetal position, spitting blood and reflecting on the wussiness of my life and writing. However, I will pull myself together enough to reflect that, aside from being a post-apocalyptic story about how to be a sister and how to be a woman, this book is incidentally also about power and slavery.
Don’t get me wrong, though. This story is not allegorical in the way the Hunger Games is. (I really don’t want to compare the two books, though, even though they are somewhat similar. The comparison really annoys me because I feel like it comes down to the scarcity of books with truly badass female characters. Comparing the writing would be like comparing Zora Neale Hurston and Willa Cather. Why would you? Both are wonderful and wonderfully different. It seems vulgar to compare authors only because they talk about women living in similar settings.) I am reading in a message about slavery here because, while this book contains slavery, it is ultimately about adventure, not about slavery or morality or politics.
I am studying slavery in Zanzibar right now, though, so I’m going to comment on it. Estimates say that there are about 30 million slaves in the world right now – more than all of the slaves in the 19th century trans-Atlantic slave trade. Most of them are women and children. They process our sugar and coffee and chocolate. They work in fields and in brothels and in homes. They live all around us. The Oregon State Bar estimated that in 2006, slave traffickers made more money than Nike, Starbucks, and Microsoft combined. Slavery doesn’t just exist in post-apocalyptic dystopias. And, as this book gracefully illustrates, it is perpetuated by both men and women. Young does a lovely job of showing the grotesqueness of feeding off violence and humiliation. She also shows the beauty of revolution.
My only complaint about this book is that I think the second half loses steam. Spoiler alert? There are many excellent parts still, but it doesn’t have the magic of the first half. It felt like the plot got heavy, and she sacrificed some of the story-telling to a checklist of what characters needed to die to fulfill y/a requirements. It didn’t feel as careful as the first half. I think I would have preferred to leave more unanswered questions than to tie the plot up so neatly and formulaically. **End possible spoiler alert**
I’m not sure I’m even complaining about that, though, as I still enjoyed it. If I had loved the second half as much as the first, I think this would have become my favorite book of all time. As it is, this book is still probably in my top 10.
_______ (I read this as an ARC on my Kindle that a friend gave me before I went to Zanzibar. Thank you, friend!!!)...more
In most ways, this book was absolutely written for me. It is LOST + Miss Congeniality + Susan Faludi’s Backlash. Sarah Palin and GW stand-ins make appIn most ways, this book was absolutely written for me. It is LOST + Miss Congeniality + Susan Faludi’s Backlash. Sarah Palin and GW stand-ins make appearances to be generally villainous. It has lovely, lovely girls, lots of action, and some pretty hilarious jokes. Oh, and hilarious jokes in the footnotes. (Because why use endnotes, people? No need to be coy.) There is one about putting dolls on a pedestal that is my favorite joke in the book, if you want to know. The odd thing about the book is that it mixes slapstick detachment and satire with some pretty touching, beautiful moments. Sometimes that is jarring. Sometimes the girls are caricatures of social stereotypes, and other times they are breathtaking hope for the future. It was difficult for me to transition between the two, but in general, I really loved both moods of the story.
So, this is not going to be a fair review. I’d say it’s even going to be borderline hypocritical. I did a lot of sputtering about a feminist critique of Bridesmaids because WTF, people, does everything have to be the ideal feminist mantra? Sometimes a story about girls is just a story about girls. The tough thing about this book is that I feel like it was making some pretty purposeful feminist statements, so I think it opened itself up to more criticism because of that. It’s not really fair that I feel that way, and I found the things it did really thought provoking, but the book’s going to get some extra scrutiny over it.
First, I love Mary Lou. I love love love her. Even though I will not get over my bitter disappointment about pirates this easily, I love her story. I think the writing is electric around her. I love her.
I love the other girls as well, but Mary Lou is special. I think each girl in the story represents overcoming some kind of stigmatized female experience. Maybe Mary Lou’s experience was more real to Ms. Bray because I found it absolutely vivid, where the others seemed researched. In the way that all the girls are reactions to misogyny (and by that I don’t mean sexism from men. I like how Bray is clear about how women perpetuate misogyny, too.) the story made me a little sad. I always look for those beautiful female characters who are not reacting to anyone, but just being wonderful in who they are. I like seeing women who aren’t putting on a show. I think it would be easy to compare these girls to Elle Woods in Legally Blonde, but I really think Elle remains herself throughout the movie. She doesn’t have a moment where she turns on herself and says, “Oh wait. I am an idiot because I care about pretty things.” That is who she is in the beginning and it saves the day in the end.
I also love how Adina talks about girls looking to romantic relationships for self-definition. If someone desires us, it makes us desirable. It makes a relationship more than it is, and something it shouldn't be. I love how she identifies it and says that it is not how she wants to be.
A few things that troubled me, though. This book starts with the premise that a girl would only do pageants because of a social or emotional disturbance. As the story unravels, the girls reveal, one by one, the social or emotional wounds that led them to be in the pageant. I don’t know how I feel about that assumption. I like the idea that pageant girls can kick ass, too, but I don’t love the idea that being pretty is the sign of psychological disturbance. To be fair, on a few occasions, Bray does very consciously make the point that it’s okay to like being pretty, but the assumption is still there, underlying the whole book.
The other premise that shows up in the book is that girls need an island to overcome what we're socially trained to be. That's more of a thesis of the book, as Penny very correctly points out. I'm not totally down with that idea either. It has this kind of hopelessness, like culture is so entrenched in unhealthy expectations for girls that there is no room for real girls in culture. That idea bums me out, and I don't think it's true. There is an Awakening quality to it that I hope strong female writers get past, and that I think some have gotten past. We are here! The world is for us too!! Don't give it up, girls, and retreat to your own private islands. I mean, I love The Awakening and I love The Yellow Wallpaper and The Bell Jar, but I think there also needs to be room for girls in culture. There need to be elbowing and kidney-kicks to people who try to tell girls that the world isn't for them. I don't think floating away to an island is the answer for girls becasue it is aka suicide, for those of you who are not up on your hopeless women writers. And that is not the answer.
Anyway, back to the girls. I don’t want to spoiler who all the girls are for you, because some of the reveals are pretty fun. None of them are surprising, but they are pretty fun. Unfortunately, I think that the way the girls end up is really important to the way I’m looking at the book, so I’m going to hide a little bit of my discussion of it. I’d really say go read it for yourself before you read my spoilers because what I’m saying will probably get into your brain in a way that will make your reading of it less fun. So, come back once you’ve read it, and we’ll discuss.
(view spoiler)[It was a little troubling to me that it seemed in the end like the girls mostly settled down, had two and a half kids, and then drove them to soccer practice. (I know only one really did the soccer thing, but I feel like that idea was there for a lot of them.) It was just a little anti-climactic.
But, Adina and Taylor actually really made me sad. I am reading this book Motherless Daughters – because that is what I am – and it is a devastatingly poignant book for me. Those two girls are the motherless daughters in the book (Taylor from physical abandonment, and Adina from emotional abandonment), and it made me really sad that they were still so lost at the end of the book. I know there is a sort of power in the way they are lost, with Taylor as the jungle queen, and Adina refusing to sell her soul for emotional affirmation from men. Still, though, they made me sad. They were that stigma of the motherless daughter, the thing we can’t talk about because it is too devastating. What if all of our mothers left us? It doesn’t seem fair to me to think of those girls as being unable to emotionally connect with other people in a sane and mutually giving way.
And Shanti and Nicole felt a little funny to me in that way, too. The book goes into how marginalizing the token ethnic friend thing is, but just because you’re recognizing it doesn’t mean you’re not doing it yourself. It was just slightly uncomfortable. I mean, those girls were lovely, and I really like them, but I felt like, rather than be the sassy ethnic friend, they were only a reaction to the sassy ethnic friend. They didn’t have much more dimension than that.
Jennifer and Petra were a little better than that, I thought. They both had more humanity and specificity, even thought they were so purposely put in the book so that there would be one of each. I’m okay with that, though. Again, I liked the girls. (hide spoiler)]
It’s tough because there were a lot of characters in this book. It was difficult to give them all humanity and depth, I’m sure, and so some worked out better than others. There were a couple of points where, if I had put the book down for a little while, I would come back to it and forget who Miss New Mexico or Ohio were. There was a lot going on. Still, though, it was really fun and funny, and tear-jerky at a couple of points for me. It will definitely not be a five-star book for everyone, but I had a beautiful day out in the hammock reading it, so it is giving a halo to the experience. Also, as I guessed from the moment I first saw its cover, I am the intended audience for this book.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I have long been a fan of dreams: talking about dreams, working out the interweavings between dreaming life and reality. I almost scare-quoted realityI have long been a fan of dreams: talking about dreams, working out the interweavings between dreaming life and reality. I almost scare-quoted reality there, but then I realized that this review is probably going to be douchey enough as it is without adding a scare-quoted reality to it. Anyway, Ursula LeGuin’s worlds are typically not my worlds; when I’m reading her books, I tend to bump into walls and trip over furniture, where other readers intuitively know the lay of the interior decorating. And, that is just the way reading goes, I think. Neither bad nor good. Sometimes an author puts the couch were we would like to sit, and other times not. This book, though. This is the LeGuin for me. This book is lovely in a way I can understand.
I grew up in a sometimes-fundamentalist home, so for those who didn’t, this comparison might sound like an insult. Please know that I don’t mean it that way. It strikes me that in some pretty superficial ways, The Lathe of Heaven is to Daoism what Narnia is to Christianity. In making that comparison, I am really comparing two things I love, even though they are both representing two very different value systems. I think that both present an emotionally symbolic world in which the roots of a belief system can grow in a simple and understandable way. I think both do a really good job of not sacrificing story to allegory, but still forming a perceptible spiritual message.
The other preliminary thought I have is a spoiler about Heather, so I’ll hide it. (view spoiler)[It strikes me as really interesting that Heather starts out as a femme fatale, swings over to being a domestic goddess, and then winds up somewhere in the middle. I don’t have anything profound to say about that, but it did make me think about how any woman can play those parts and it would not be informative of who she really is. It made me think about how it is easy to adopt caricatures and difficult to know who we really are. It is easy to play a role, but difficult to be human. (hide spoiler)]
But, that is really only about the structure of Lathe, and what I really want to talk about is dreams. In Lathe, George Orr has “effective” dreams that change his reality. That is the basic premise that you find out at the opening of the story, and I will try not to spoil the plot beyond that. Joel was making the point that the story is a reflection on writing, which I think is an interesting, but narrow, reading of the story, and honestly was not how the story resonated with me at all. I think it is a good point, though, and worth noting. A writer re-creates the world, and in that way probably also shapes other people’s perceptions of the world. I think in many ways, though, we all do that, writing or no writing.
I guess the way the story resonated with me was more literal than Joel’s reading. I do think that any of us can have a dream in the Martin Luther King, Jr., sense, and that dream can guide culture, but I also think that literal dreams can do that, and maybe that is more where the book fascinated me. In college, I once went to sleep with no interest in a boy in my class and I woke up with a crush on him that it took me months to get over. And all that happened was that, in a dream I had that night, he looked at me a certain way. Dreams seem mysterious and mysteriously powerful to me. I had a dream like that this week, and the content of it is not very important, but there was a snake in it, and the snake was also human, and the dream changed something to me, so I thought of this book. I’m not sure what it changed, but it was just different than other dreams.
Once, in college, my best friend from high school had a dream in which we were both preparing for her wedding. About a year later, I had the same dream but from my point of view, which I didn’t realized until later that night I started describing the dream to her and she knew all of its details before I told her, but from her own point of view.
In my part of the dream, after she got married, I went to help an ex-boyfriend move his things into a new house and there was a soundtrack in that part, which is something I don't think I've had in another dream. After I woke up, I was walking to work and I put the Velvet Underground Loaded CD into my discman (I had bought it the day before). “Who Loves the Sun” came on, I realized it was the song in my dream, and I looked up and saw my ex-boyfriend sitting in front of the house he had moved into in my dream. The whole day was off, with the people I cared about in my dreaming and waking life crossing over.
I don’t have a moral or a lesson to that story, but it was an experience I had that made me wonder whether my dreams were creeping in to my reality, like they do with poor George Orr. And I do think many dreams can shape the world in a way I don’t understand, in a way that makes me small and brittle. I think LeGuin captures that literal power of dreams very gracefully, without creating a heavy-handed allegory, leaving room for many applications of the tone and texture of the story. I also love what she does with George and his therapist, and the yin and yang of their personalities, though I can't think of more to say about that than just stating it. I’m glad I found a LeGuin that is for me; I’m glad somebody wrote a story about dreams.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
In some ways, maybe, both love and destruction come to us, seek us out, and we are powerless to pursue or avoi (Painting of Swann, by David Richardson)
In some ways, maybe, both love and destruction come to us, seek us out, and we are powerless to pursue or avoid them. I tend to think that is not the case, but I am often wrong, and I am too willing to make grand pronouncements about life to be unwilling to be called wrong. Or, as my friend says of herself, I am never wrong because if I hear an idea that is better than mine, I change my mind to that idea, and then I am right again. Anyway, in Swann’s Way, Proust writes a museum of love and, the other side of love’s coin, abandonment, of comfort and loneliness. Every human relationship in this story is linked to some form of art, and I think the narrator gestures at this when he says,
If only Bergotte had described the place in one of his books, I should, no doubt, have longed to see and to know it, like so many things else of which a simulacrum had first found its way into my imagination. That kept things warm, made them live, gave them personality, and I sought then to find their counterpart in reality, but in this public garden there was nothing that attached itself to my dreams. (p. 565)
There is an inevitability to all of these art/human interactions, as though what is pre-written cannot be resisted.
I am going to talk in spoilers in this review, I think, but my own personal read of this story held most of it to be largely predictable, and purposely so. The beginning of the story is the end, and the end of the story is the very, very end, and all of the telling is wrapped up together. I don’t think I’m going to hide the spoilers, then, because the narrator tells you early on what becomes of M. Swann, and then he develops it carefully and delicately so that you know just how it should be told and how he has seen it unfold. It doesn’t seem to me that what I have to say will ruin any of it, but I like to come to books fresh, so I respect that, and if you feel the same, now is the time to exit.
Proust’s characters see life translated through books and paintings and music. In that way there is a sort of self-reflexivity in the story, but also something that feels resonant today. If we have seen it done before, if someone has recognized it before, we can do it ourselves. For example, the narrator’s Oedipal relationship with his parents comes to a peak (sorry) just before his mother’s censored bedtime read-a-loud of Francois le Champi. The narrator then develops a passion for the invented author Bergotte, and when the narrator learns that M. Swann is personal friends with Bergotte, he thereafter sees the Swann family through a Bergotte-colored monocle. He falls in adolescent love with them, the way he is in adolescent love with Bergotte.
Swann, likewise, uses art as a touchstone for life. Like men, or really both men and women, now, often justify a woman’s beauty, not by their own preferences, but instead through some expectation that Heidi Klum and Jessica Alba are the framework of beauty, Swann acknowledges a women’s beauty by association to painting. Swann’s kitchen-maid can be beautiful because she is Giotto’s Charity:
He finally reconciles himself to Odette’s beauty when he realizes she looks like Botticelli’s Zipporah from The Trials of Moses:
M. Swann’s very relationship with Odette becomes embodied in the little phrase from M. Vinteuil’s sonata. We ironically know from the story of Combray that M. Vinteuil died of heartbreak at least in part, presumably, because of his own “intense prudishness” and in reaction to his daughter’s lesbian tendencies – ironic, obviously, because M. Swann’s deepest disappointment with Odette is that she has ever been with a woman. Towards the end of Swann in Love, I kept picturing M. Swann's relationship with Odette as Love the Way You Lie. I wonder if the sonata sounded like that.
Swann handed over his preferences regarding beauty to painters like we hand over our preferences to movie producers and modeling agencies. M. Swann reconciled himself to owning Odette as a mistress while they both slept with other people, but if Odette slept with a woman, that was betrayal. Today, we can handle adultery, abuse, marital rape, and bride purchasing, but if gay people get married, that will undermine the institution. People never change.
Or maybe we change, but we change as individuals. This book made me love Proust. I think he captures all of this with the awe of adolescence and the cynicism of adulthood. I also love him because he reminds me so incredibly of one of my best friends from school. My friend, whom I am calling Marcel below because, you know, privacy, matches his polo shirts to his argyle socks every day. He is always on gchat, and some of us were planning to start a blog where we posted our gchats with him because we think they are so hilarious. Anyway, I am posting some of them below because I think they are how a modern day Proust would be. In our first year of law school, a lot of people thought that Marcel was a snob. But, I don’t think he is. Or, technically, he is, and his snobbishness might stand out more because of his money, but aren’t we all snobs about something? He is a snob about BMWs, and I am a snob about coffee and middlebrow literature. So, when people say Proust is a snob, I’ve started to feel a little defensive because, sure, but aren’t you? He is also sweet and witty and shy. And has more weird allergies than anyone you’ve ever met – or at least my friend does. Seriously, who is allergic to lettuce? But, now I am mixing up my Marcels. And, oh Marcels, why do you get so taken in by other people’s rules about beauty? If you think a girl is ugly, think she's ugly. And if you like her anyway, like her anyway! But, don't get so taken in by other people's ideas and expect them to be universal. But, ah, you do, and I love you anyway.
Some cattleyas for the bitches:
And the Marcel gchats (keep in mind that this person is like twelve years old):
Day 1: I'm including this one because it is probably Marcel's favorite, but I also really love it.
12:49 PM Marcel: our sea of whirly twirly lamps is a little too organized right now
12:50 PM me: i was thinking that too
12:51 PM Marcel: much better
1:17 PM Marcel: Rosamond wants me to be facebook friends with Octave and his girlfriend so she can creep on them that makes me uncomfortable
me: yeah, don't do it she will regret it later too
1:18 PM Marcel: i don't think i'm much of an enabler anyway i mean i wouldn't want that on my resume or anything
1:19 PM me: yeah, i hear firms look for "passive aggressive" before "enabler"
1:20 PM Marcel: i'll have to work on that then i'm not sure i'm good at being passive aggressive unlike some people...
Day 2: This is really more expressive of him as a person.
9:40 AM Marcel: this dude in front of me in admin law spends his time in class looking at assault weapons on his computer all class
9:42 AM me: whoa that is not good who is the dude?
Marcel: disturbing Albert something 2L
9:43 AM me: ohh, Albert Bloch?
Marcel: that sounds right
9:44 AM me: yeah, that guy is pretty weird. he dated mlle Lea all last year he's a big republican or, like, maybe just last spring
9:45 AM Marcel: crazies attract
9:46 AM me: so true
Marcel: i mean you should see the people i've attracted over the years i sadly mean that jokingly and seriously
9:47 AM me: same 9:48 AM literally, one guy who liked me went running through the streets of seattle naked because he made a deal with god that if he gave up everything, including his clothes, god would get these friends of his back together as a couple. He was a nice guy, though. 9:49 AM and, you know, that was a really good deal for god.
9:50 AM Marcel: you can't call someone crazy for believing in god joke i'm intentionally missing the point
9:51 AM me: bah dum tss
10:10 AM Marcel: i don't think i'm very comfortable with the expression that's how the sausage gets made
me: it's like "flesh it out" bad visual
10:23 AM Marcel: if norpois or cottard were in admin law i would actually skip this class but we still get bontemps so it's tempting to skip
10:25 AM me: who teaches that class?
10:26 AM Marcel: Mme. Verdurin i think i don't like her 10:27 AM but i'm not positive
me: huh, interesting i have never had a class with her, but she has always been nice to me
10:29 AM Marcel: i think she just annoys me in class and so far it has been unrelated to her red hair at least consciously
me: yeah, it is tough to separate that
Marcel: but maybe i've been seeing her red hair and just not liking her bc of that
me: definitely possible and not unreasonable
10:30 AM Marcel: i'm not sure where i picked up my default of strongly disliking redheads until i get to know them like gilberte and saint loup are great
me: true, but they might just be an exception to the rule
Marcel: fact 10:31 AM one of my business partners has red hair and i appreciate greatly when he wears a hat
me: "one of my business partners." please say more words about that.
Marcel: well one of six others 10:32 AM they're certainly not all redheads
10:33 AM me: "business partners." please say more words about that.
10:34 AM Marcel: Beta Cascade Ventures, LLC we're an investment company with focuses on philanthropy, education, and networking
10:38 AM me: huh 10:39 AM that is very 1% of you
10:40 AM Marcel: our logo is a sailboat
me: o m g
10:41 AM Marcel: i'll have to show you sometime...more
I love propaganda. I love its extremeness and enthusiasm, even when that enthusiasm is applied to some of the weirdest ideas. I mean, propaganda has cI love propaganda. I love its extremeness and enthusiasm, even when that enthusiasm is applied to some of the weirdest ideas. I mean, propaganda has come up with some great images for women. There’s our girl, Rosie:
And then I’ll always love this one, which I think was one of my first avatars on goodreads:
And, then, we’ve got this whole bodice rippers dare going, so karen sent me this half-rad half-disturbing collection of pulp covers. Thank you, karen! It is pretty awesome as a collection of crazy propaganda, but also I had to stop reading it halfway through because I got too depressed. So, I just finished it a couple of minutes ago.
This book is pretty much a collection of cultural fears about women finding some kind of autonomy, or worse . . . making money! Or worse . . . LIKING OTHER WOMEN!! Terrifying, I know. I’m not gonna lie, the quoted parts are pretty amazing. This is one of my favorites:
She lay back, breasts floating, hair swirling in soft eddies around her beautiful face. “Be big,” she pleaded. “Be – be a seahorse with a beard of Neptune and the strength of a shark! Hurt me, Brent! Oh, make me scream with hurt and want and hurt again!”
Like ya do. V.D. Burns is pretty pissed he didn’t come up with that description. Also, when you try to google what that would look like, it just gives you a bunch of scary images of sharks, so don’t do it.
This is my favorite of the covers:
What is wrong with that girl’s butt? The quote about that cover is, fittingly, about spanking. But, obvs, the girl is doing the spanking, which seems like a missed opportunity, but what are you going to do with bad girls?
Also, these books are racist. I’m sure you’re shocked about that....more
One of the nice things about YA novels, and also one of their faults, is that they, almost universally have the skeletal feel of a story resting solelOne of the nice things about YA novels, and also one of their faults, is that they, almost universally have the skeletal feel of a story resting solely on plot. You’re almost never going to have a moment in a YA novel where you have to stop because the beauty and subtlety of the writing is too much. This is not absolutely true because I’ve read coming-of-age novels, and those probably count as YA, where I have had to put down the book for its beauty, but these genre-type stories are usually a rush of plot – kisses, deaths, revelation, and identity discovery. Divergent is no exception to that, and I have to say I like it for that. I like that type of story, even though it is not exactly beautiful or subtle. I kind of want Roth to go back and fill in the characters and dwell on the moments and even take out a few fights if she needs to in order to make the ones she includes more potent.
But, ah well. It’s still good.
There is one part in the book where Four says to Tris that another character, a sweet character, was cruel to her because he wanted her to be weak and frightened, but she was strong instead. I thought that was such a lovely thing to say. It was a brilliant way to explain violent cruelty, and I thought well done. You know, it is such a cliché in action stories for the characters to remind each other ask, not whether they have the guts to do something violent, but if they want to be the person they will become as a result of it. I thought this book did it well, though, and that it is an important thing to ask. Like, don’t ask, do you have the guts to kill, but do you want to be a killer. While the book addressed the idea of violence being cowardice pretty straightforwardly, it didn’t feel maudlin, and I liked it.
It was kind of funny the way the factions were set up in terms of good and evil, though, and the message felt very small-town American conservative. I think, actually, there is a note at the beginning that Roth wrote this while she was in college, so maybe her hatred for intellect is more bitterness about doing homework, but it felt very Republican “army good, college bad” at a lot of times - both Salvation Army and the military. But, then, with piercings, so more badass. And then there was the “If only they’d return to the founding documents” message that seemed like a good idea for them, but is troubling if we want to extrapolate it to American politics. Maybe I’m just mad because I for sure think that ignorance causes the most problems in the world, so I would probably be in the Erudite faction, and I DON’T WANT MY FACTION TO TURN EVIL!!
Anywho, it was a super fun read, and I read it late into the night. I thought the relationship between Tris and the boys was great, and all the characters felt like I could fill in actual characters, even though they were just skeletons. It has a lot of factual similarities to Harry Potter, but a spirit of its own. Really fun....more
A wise woman, while brushing her hair demurely in front of a mirror, once mocked another wise woman saying, “Remember that time I wrote a book with aA wise woman, while brushing her hair demurely in front of a mirror, once mocked another wise woman saying, “Remember that time I wrote a book with a conceptual spoiler?” Well, Laini Taylor, I now picture you in that room with the other wise authors chatting each other up about your conceptual spoilers. Because, holy shit. How do you even talk about this book?
I’ve been marinating in it for a couple of days, while getting caught in apocalyptic electrical storms, losing luggage, stumbling around airports and homes and streets trying to get ready for school to start. In the midst of this busyness, I’ve been letting the story sink into my brain, but really I keep coming back to the fact that all of this story, the whole crux of the character development and plot of the entire thing, is in the last, maybe, three pages of the book. That may sound bad to you, but I’m telling you, it’s completely genius. That’s just my opinion, but it’s true.
The first page of the book says, “Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well.” And that lovely beginning, a thesis really, which tells you the entire story in two short sentences, echoed through my head the entire time I was reading. Well done. Just masterful. That is the way you should give away your story.
And I’m not saying that the 400-whatever pages that precede the pivotal last three aren’t enjoyable – they are absolute fun and action packed for the most part. They were strangely ordinary, though. When you read the book, you’ll laugh that I said that because they are very un-ordinary looking in most ways. But, there is a lot of furniture and clothing and staring-into-smoldering-eyes and yearning for completeness, and other things u see in ur romance novels. After Lips Touch, which is three sharp kicks to the gut, the meandering descriptions and sudden brainless passion were weird. I still think there could have been less “their hearts were so one that they didn’t need to communicate with words” business. Like, you know, “she knew by his sideways glance that he had eaten a peanut butter and jelly sandwich earlier, gotten heartburn, decided to drink a glass of water, and then felt better, after which he watched TV for a little while and then took a walk.” I mean, at some point, the silent communication of soul mates is just not entertaining to read. Even after the last three pages, I think you could have cut some of that, but I could actually be dead wrong. Maybe you need all that to get to the end. Anyway, it was so worth it to me when I was done.
Also, the clothing and furniture were good. Like, usually, everyone’s walking around in damask and chemises, or, like, jean skirts and velour jogging suits, or whatever, and it’s itchy and boring. And all their furniture is so uneventful. Here, I kind of wanted to know what Karou’s furniture was like and what she was wearing that day. Plus, blue hair is almost always a good idea. I had blue hair for a while, and it was very pretty. I’m sure Karou’s is, too. It might be petty, but I think it’s worth a wish.
The other . . . criticism? . . . I have is that I’m not totally positive who this narrator is. Taylor wrote the book in a very distant, omniscient third person, but that raises some questions for me because the narrator is obviously from Earth and American. The dialogue is American slang, even though, when the characters are even on Earth, they are in Prague, speaking Czech. Also, the devils in the book are part human, part animal. But . . . the only logical conclusions from the way the characters discuss the devils is that Earth is the reference point for their species. For example, a half-human, half-wolf dude is called that. A hummingbird with moth wings is called that. But, if you only grew up with a hummingbird with moth wings, and you had no reference-point in Earth, would you know that it’s wings belonged to something else? Wouldn’t you get to earth and say our hummingbirds are weird? So, at certain points, when characters were staring into each other’s eyes, I got to thinking about how the narrator is this teenage American girl behind the curtain. I just wanted her to out herself and be like, “I’m off shopping at a thrift store on weekends,” so that I could orient myself to the source of the story. That is over-analyzing, I know, but there were narrative pauses to think about stuff like that.
I loved how this book undermines. I love the fantasy and romance mythos that it breaths and destroys. I love that it looks straight in the face of what angels and devils could be, what they are, and what love is, in a cultural sense. I agree, but also disagree, with Taylor about one of the fundamentals of her world, but that is kind of a spoiler – I disagree that (view spoiler)[the source of magic is pain (hide spoiler)]. But, in the way that magic is commerce in this story, and the way that is just factually true of industrial capitalism, I have to agree with Taylor. It is not a lecture in the way she presents that reality, but it is fundamental to the story in a respectable way. And I am left, days later, turning that fundamental over and pondering both sides of it.
So, you are obviously going to read this anyway, but I am here to tell you that I think you will not regret it. It’s got style and action, and then a kick to the gut in the end. Some of you will get hives from the middle of this book, and some will get hives from the end, and I think that is because the story is luring and elusive, but, really, only because it is actually being rather brutal the whole time.
I read an ARC copy of this, and it was lovely although the cover leaves something to be desired.
P.S. Ethnocentrism is no good, kids. Don't try it at home.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
**spoiler alert** My high school U.S. history and economics teacher had this cardboard cutout of a monkey that said something like, “ARE YOU THE HUNDR**spoiler alert** My high school U.S. history and economics teacher had this cardboard cutout of a monkey that said something like, “ARE YOU THE HUNDREDTH MONKEY?” The monkey was looking very Uncle Sam in his pose, so it felt imperative that you either be or not be the hundredth monkey. So, there was a kind of underground movement in the class to find out what the hell that meant. It turned out that the teacher would tell you eventually if you pestered him enough about it. The cutout was based on the book The Hundredth Monkey – shut up, we didn’t have google then, so we had to do a lot more hard-hitting investigation to learn random stuff. In college, I found the Hundredth Monkey book at Goodwill for $2, so I had to buy it. It is about some monkeys eating coconuts on a beach from what I remember. One of them figures out how to eat them without getting mouthfuls of sand and then they all start eating coconuts with no sand.
So, that’s what this book is about, too. But, then, in this book the other monkeys kill the one that doesn’t want to eat sand. There’s also some stuff about the Bible and Rome, but that's mostly a red herring, I think. ...more
This book is like if the best book in the world had a lust affair with the worst book in the world, and that affair resulted in the birth of two childThis book is like if the best book in the world had a lust affair with the worst book in the world, and that affair resulted in the birth of two children, a brother and a sister. Then, those children had an incestuous affair with each other, which resulted in the birth of two children, a brother and a sister. Then, those incestuous children had an incestuous affair, which resulted in the birth of twins, a brother and a sister. Then those incestuous, incestuous twins had twincest with each other, which resulted in the birth of a child whom they named Quasimodo for no particular reason. Then, Quasimodo, the incestuous, incestuous, twincestuous child, committed bestiality with a giant, alien crab; and then the seed from that mating read a blog about oil shortage, watched Jurassic Park, and decided to write a book. In other words, this book is spectacular.
The funny thing about this book is that almost everything in the entire story seemed like an error, but nothing seemed like a mistake. So, goes toward proving what a waste of time this entire book is. I like that.
One of the best parts:
Axis[, chief warrior of the raptors,] stood on the hill overlooking the village. So many lives, all his responsibility . . . . [A] pyre was burning nearby, the bodies of raptors and Skjerdals piled high, a thick black column of smoke rising up. Looking at the column, Axis imagined he could see the faces of all those lost lives in that smoke: the face of Asnyllo, a good childhood friend. The face of Blasdij, a girl he once dated. He thought he saw some horses, too, and a clown, but it was the faces of all those dead raptors that really bothered him. And maybe that clown a little bit.
That quote would be akin to a spoiler if there was a plot in this book, but there is not a plot, so don’t worry. It’s all pretty much random stuff like that. And a lot of wild sex.
The rape was interesting in this book because it was mostly not rape in that it was sex with a blow-up doll who did not want sex, but begged for sex, and then strangely morphed into a “warrior queen” who begged for sex. So, that raises the question of whether prostitution can ever be voluntary and answers it with a no. There is also that . . . other rape scene . . . with the giant mole rat. So, there’s a lot of rapey, non-rapey sex with creepy blow-up doll people.
Also, there is a homosexual biologist, whose scorpion tail pusses and spurts ineffectually and who is a homosexual.
(view spoiler)[AND THEN AT THE END V.D. BURNS WRITES A BOOK CALLED BLOOD LUST ABOUT ME FALLING IN LOVE WITH A WEREWOLF VAMPIRE!!!!! So, surprise ending. Probably the coolest thing anyone has ever done for me. Thnx, Mr. Burns. (hide spoiler)]
Basically, this book is either the best or the worst ever, or some kind of incestuous spawn of the two, and scientists will study it for eons to come. I enjoyed reading it fully as much as I enjoyed reading Twilight, though I’d have to say I got more out of Twilight because this book probably is to dude culture what Twilight is to the ladies. I am not a dude. Also, there is no real, continuous story in Gods of the Jungle Planet, so there’s that. I probably laughed harder at this one than I laughed at Twilight, but that’s difficult to estimate. I laughed pretty hard while I was reading Twilight, but it does not have a part with a clown.
V.D. Burns, kids. Get tested; use protection.
A kindle version of this book was forced upon me by a lizard-like being with a scorpion tale protruding from his head. He was asking for meatloaf.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more