Scott Pilgrim is so how I see the world. I’m sure it’s because of the years of doing almost nothing but playing Mario Bros in my childhood, but the le...moreScott Pilgrim is so how I see the world. I’m sure it’s because of the years of doing almost nothing but playing Mario Bros in my childhood, but the levels and energy bars and coins, etc. as applied to mundane life things are so perfect to me. Also, the characters. Oh, the characters. Scott Pilgrim is such a rad character because he is so douchey, but still somewhat sympathetic, and everyone spends the whole story pointing out his doucheyness. I just really love a story that calls a douche a douche.
This volume only gets so far as Scott fighting Ramona’s first evil ex. Scott is a little more boyish in this and a little less emo than Michael Cera, and I think both versions are pretty fun. For the most part, the movie follows this volume exactly, though the movie adds a few things that I think are hilarious – like Scott and Knives at the arcade, Scott’s story about Pac Man, and the way Scott describes Ramona’s hair. Maybe the arcade stuff happens later, but I could see how that would be easier to pull off on film than in a graphic novel.
I’ve been reading a lot of graphic novels lately, mostly because people have given me a lot of them for some reason. This is one of my favorites because I think it is so clever. I don’t know if I would like it as much if I hadn’t seen the movie, but it’s hard to say. I think one of the things that I find sort of subtly hilarious in this story is how these insane male wish-fulfillment dreams will get fulfilled in the story, and Scott only reacts in a somewhat douchey way, but nobody freaks out. Like, battle of the bands is literally a Street Fighter-style cage match in which the music turns into monsters that fight each other, and Scott returns to the old, “Well, I knew I rocked, but I was not aware that we rocked collectively,” attitude. So brilliant. Is this because I have a little brother? And Scott reminds me of my little brother? Is that why I think this is so funny? Because all of Scott's conversations with his sister are so hilarious to me.
Digression: I saw the movie two or three times in the theater. One of the times was when I dragged my brother to see it, and he fully appreciated its genius, as I knew he would. Both (all?) times I saw it, the theater showed a preview for that movie Devil, and as the preview was showing people (including me) were like, "WTH??? What is this movie about? Oh my god, this looks so ridiculous," and then it would show M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN across the screen, and the whole theater would go, "Ohhhhhhhahahahaha!" American zeitgeist.
I don’t really think graphic novels are my thing. Maybe Persepolis is my thing, but in general I find them kind of boring. This wasn’t boring, but I don’t know if that was in large part because I knew what jokes were coming up.
I love Kim a lot. I must watch this movie again soon. _______________________ I received a copy of this from Netgalley.(less)
I’m at a loss. I honestly don’t know what to tell you all, but this book was . . . good. It was like, good, you know? Like, when you are reading a boo...moreI’m at a loss. I honestly don’t know what to tell you all, but this book was . . . good. It was like, good, you know? Like, when you are reading a book that is mostly about girls looking for penises, but you want to know what happens next? And you don’t even want to throw it across the room a little bit? And then unexpectedly hilarious slapstick comedy ensues, but doesn’t lead to the most boring Scooby Do mystery resolution ever? No? You’ve never had that experience? Me either. It was disorienting. And I’m at a loss as to how to rate this. I mean, I have to give it five stars because I Laughed Out Loud at almost every page, and even though most of the laughter was in a WHAAAAT??? way, I don’t even really think that was unintentional. It was funny. I am going to have to watch Jersey Shore. You are here for a show-changing moment in my life.
To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, I’m going to spoiler one of the storylines. Let’s be serious though, once the characters come on stage, pretty early on in the story, you basically know how this storyline is going to go. So, one of the main characters, a kickass aerobics instructor, who took karate all her life, is named Bella Rizzoli. This creepy, asshole, voyeur Abercrombie guy latches onto her and his name is Edward Caldwell. . . . right??? RIGHT???
Yeah, so she kicks his ass in a pretty hilarious (and elaborate) way.
Mostly this book is about a coupla girls hittin’ the beach for the summer looking for some juicy guido gorilla juiceheads. It seems like simple quest, but it turns out life is never that simple. These girls have to work and work out issues with their families and kick the asses of people who have self-loathing body issues.
It’s my impression that people’s problem with reality TV, aside from the troubling voyeuristic aspect of it, is the shallowness of the people who make fools of themselves for our entertainment. That’s fair in some ways. And this book plays to a lot of that shallowness. There is a lot of funny stuff about tanning and shoes and fake eyelashes and cleavage. But, ultimately, I feel like it is a more complex issue than shallowness = bad. I am about to mount an obvious feminist soapbox, so be on alert.
I know we’ve talked about this before, but I have a problem with the idea that the accoutrements of femininity are shallow, while the accoutrements of masculinity are respectable. I think that interest in makeup trivia and interest in sports team trivia is not different, whether the person having the interest is male or female. Maybe it is shallow in the sense that it will not solve world hunger, but very few of the things any of us do every day solve world hunger. And sometimes world hunger needs a break, and we need to chill out and be okay with talking about dumb things we are interested in. So, my point is that even though there is a striking focus on pink fuzzy slippers in this book, that is something that I really like about the book, not something that makes the book itself shallow. Pink fuzzy slippers, cleavage, and four layers of fake eyelashes are a style decision, not a soul-changing decision. You could hate it, and I don’t have a problem with that, because WOW, but it seems unexpectedly shallow to make a judgment about another person’s shallowness based on their eyelashes and slippers.
Anyway, this book addresses both female and male body image, family dynamics, date rape, acceptance and rejection of personal weaknesses, and navigating the different expectations for women and men when it comes to career choices. And, seriously, it does it in this really respectable way. Of course, these girls are not wearing monocles and smoking jackets and explaining tautologies, nor are they having tautologies explained to them. They are mostly partying, scoping out guido gorilla juiceheads, and kicking ass. They are passing the Bechtel test. They are talking like girls talk and being friends to each other. I don’t know if this book went through a genius editing process, or what, but if I saw a high school girl reading this, I would be happy. The writing is not complex. It is more like reading a blog of silly quotes from teenagers, but let's be honest: I would read that kind of blog. It is sparkly, but addresses important issues without apology, equivocation, or lectures. It entertains, and ultimately has some really positive, thoughtful messages. I can’t think of what else I look for in a book.
This book was given to me by the publisher, and while I did promise to review it, I think we can all honestly say we thought I would rip it to shreds. Unexpected bonus for all. (less)
Another stupendous installment of the madcap adventures of the gang at 62 and 63 New Square! This time, the mystery has the same background story as J...moreAnother stupendous installment of the madcap adventures of the gang at 62 and 63 New Square! This time, the mystery has the same background story as John Grisham’s The Firm, but it is deeeelightful, instead of being kind of dark and boring. Again, what I find wonderful about all of Caudwell’s books is that the unraveling of the stories are so light and fun, but the denouement always has a sense of insight into the depth of misunderstanding and tragedy of which humans are capable. These characters resonate with me, and I love them whether they are slipping on banana peels or prying into the heart and mind of a murderer.
I listened to this one on audio, and I must use the word “splendid” about the audio because it was so British in its greatness. I highly recommend it. This one has more Cantrip than some of the others, which I loved because I think Cantrip is a hilarious character. There is a joke at the beginning about how he learns to use the telex machine (I know, quaint! I am still not positive what a telex machine is, but it seems like sounds kind of like a cross between email and fax), and he suddenly has to send telexes to everyone he can find a number for. He’s, like, one of the original trolls. Brilliant. I love all the lawyers, though. Julia’s wonderful tax planning advice is great, and Selena’s advocacy, and Ragwort’s disapproval of it all. Why do people read stupid Grisham and Ludlum and the like? Sorry, fans, but I cannot abide those people and their boring redundancy. Caudwell kicks their asses.
I guess she does basically hit everything I love in every book: law, literature, gender, slapstick, melodrama. Really the only thing missing is the characters bursting out into a Whedon-esque song and dance. Otherwise, it’s all in there. And she doesn’t really repeat on the sex and gender stuff, either. It seems different and new in every book. I’m going to copy for you this really wonderful exchange that Caudwell uses with artistry that I think is genius in this book:
”There is nothing to worry about,” said Julia, with an excess of confidence which I found in itself alarming. “I have worked out a strategy for dealing with him. I intend to model my behaviour in all respects on that of my Aunt Regina. My Aunt Regina, so far as I can discover, doesn’t believe that men progress much morally or intellectually after the age of six, and she treats them accordingly. She always gets on splendidly with men like the Colonel – two of her husbands were of just the same type.”
“My dear Julia,” said Ragwort, “your ambition to deal with men in the same manner as your Aunt Regina is very laudable. From the point of view of realism, however, it is somewhat similar to your deciding to play tennis in the style of Miss Martina Navratilova.”
“The trouble is,” said Selena, with a certain wistfulness, “that you and I, Julia, have been brought up in an era of emancipation and enlightenment, and we have got into the habit of treating men as if they were normal, responsible, grown-up people. We engage them in discussion; we treat their opinions as worthy of quite serious consideration; we seek to influence their behavior by rational argument rather than by some simple system of rewards and punishments. It’s all a great mistake, of course, and only makes them confused and miserable – especially men like the Colonel, who have grown up with the idea that women will tell them what they ought to do without their having to think about it for themselves. But I’m afraid it’s too late to put the clock back.”
Incidentally, if you listen to the audio of these books, you realize that Julia’s Aunt Regina’s name rhymes with vagina. . . . So, that was a pleasant surprise. Last night, inspired by this book and the Oregon legal community, I spent some delightful hours with friends talking about the potential of someone named Regina Sarcombe sizing us up.
Anyway, I love the way this book both lightheartedly and tragically shows relationships between men and women. It shows how people are very silly and very passionate, in just the way I see people as silly and passionate. I read something on wikipedia about the series - that it suffers from being too detached, or something? I agree that there is a beautifully British ironical detachment in the right places, but where the stories should be compassionate and touching, they are that as well. These are wonderful books, and I’m a little sad that I gave the first two to a friend. I will have to find new copies so that I can have a complete set. Oh, but it looks like there are some very tempting hardcovers out there. I resolve that I shall wait until I get paid, but after that there are no guaranties that my hardcover collection won’t get a little fatter. (less)
Possibly this was my favorite of the Tamar series. It is lovely how this series gets better and better. I had to go back and give them all five stars...morePossibly this was my favorite of the Tamar series. It is lovely how this series gets better and better. I had to go back and give them all five stars just because they don't drop off and get terrible by the end. This one has hokum and euphemistic professions and an evilly helpful girl, and finally we meet Julia’s dear Aunt Regina (pronounced . . . well, you know). And, of course, murrrrderrrrr. I listened to half of it on audio, but then I was so impatient to read the rest that I sat down and read it in my room on a beautiful, rainy evening with candles and soup and peonies blooming just outside my window.
Caudwell tells her readers just the right amount of things. She’s not always going off about the wood somebody made a cabinet with, or the clothes everybody is wearing, unless I actually want to know about those things. I mean, there is that hilarious part in one of these – I think it’s in the Sirens – where Ragwort tells Julia that he thinks her dress was made for someone with broader shoulders. That gives you just the information you need to know about Julia’s dress, and it establishes Ragwort’s talent for euphemism at the same time. Anyway, the clothes and furniture and whatnot that Caudwell describes establish the characters, unlike some books, where the author is just taking up my precious time to prove she researched what the kids were wearing and storing their dishes in back in the day. So annoying.
This one also had some interesting stuff about insider trading and inheritance. Mostly, the characters were once again brilliant. The only tragedy (other than the story) is that I have no more of these to read. I will have to start the series from the beginning again. (less)
You should probably read this book because it is pretty hilarious. If you don’t want to, though – if you’re a wuss about page length and the words Wat...moreYou should probably read this book because it is pretty hilarious. If you don’t want to, though – if you’re a wuss about page length and the words Waterloo and Wellington aren’t enough to overcome it – there are some acceptable alternatives about which I will gladly tell you now. While the feature film was TERRIBLE, COMPLETELY SPOILED THE STORY, and didn’t pay attention to ANY of the jokes (shaking my fist at that ruiner, Mira Nair!), the A&E miniseries is really good. Like, really, really good. I could watch it over and over - and have. The other, perhaps even better alternative, however, is the modern retelling of Vanity Fair, The Real Housewives of D.C., starring Michaele Salahi as Becky Sharp.
I mean, really all the Real Housewives are retellings of Vanity Fair – they all tell the same basic story – but D.C. is the only one that implicates all the grandeur of aristocracy and national security, so I think it’s the one that’s so similar it makes me pause for a moment at its awesomeness. I was horrified to hear that there is talk D.C. will be canceled, so I invite you to prevent this tragic wrong and start catching up on all the D.C. Housewives you can get your hands on. Or, you know, write a letter to your local Bravo TV rep, or whatever you do to save a show.
Anyway, for those of you who want substantive information, the story of Vanity Fair, the story of the Housewives of D.C. (and all the Housewives, for that matter), is that somebody throws a party and doesn’t invite one of the girls, and then that girl crashes the party anyway. Then, people fight. The cool thing about the D.C. Housewives is that the crashed party is at the White House, and the people-fighting part involves a congressional hearing. Vanity Fair is the same, but the people fighting are at the Battle of Waterloo at one point. In VF and D.C., the uninvited girl is the truth-challenged social climber, and both have pretty poignant commentaries on wealth and credit, imo.
It's been quite some time since I read this book, to be honest, but I remember vividly that once, while reading this book, I had to put it down and sit for a minute because I was laughing so hard that I couldn’t see the page anymore at this situationally hilarious joke. I still remember the joke, and I still think it is so funny. The Housewives are pretty much like that too. It is tragic that probably the traditional Vanity Fair crowd and the traditional Housewives crowd don’t mix more often. Stories about social climbing are so fun! Even if they are both really long taken in one sitting. They are serials! Don’t try to cram them if you don’t want to. But if you like to hear stories about people who, like, really like to party, these two are the same, but both worth checking out. I guess it depends on whether you feel like picking up a “classic” or saving a show from extinction. Or, if you don’t have a lot of other things going on, or a lot of parties of your own to crash, you could do both! You won’t regret it.(less)
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 app...moreIn 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"]>(less)
Proper British lawyers + orgies = win! I love these ladies like they were my legal sisters. My sisters-in-law, if you would. Bah dum tsss. Thank you f...moreProper British lawyers + orgies = win! I love these ladies like they were my legal sisters. My sisters-in-law, if you would. Bah dum tsss. Thank you folks, I’m here all week. Anyway, they are so wonderful. Instead of hilarious Shakespeare jokes, like the first book had, this book has some impressive Homer references. I wouldn’t really say they’re Homer jokes, but it’s possible I’m missing some of the hilarity, not being the Homer scholar that I wish I was. It’s more like Homer wit. Like the first in the series, this is just a perfect book. No complaints that I can remember. Again, I can’t give it five stars, but this is a really, really, really high four stars.
You can read this one as a stand-alone. You will not know as much as you should about Julia’s clumsiness or passion for beautiful profiles, but I think you’d still be able to catch up. Likewise, you will not have a background in the particulars of the rest of this Scooby gang, but I’m sure you’d figure them out really quickly. The stories only build on each other slightly. And, if Homer’s more your man than Shakespeare, this one would be perfect for you!
Funny note about these books: the women lawyers are called by their first names and the men are called by their last names. I get this. We all have to call each other Mr. This or Ms. That in our first year in law school, so some people I still call by their last names. I wouldn’t say I tend to do this more with girls or guys, but I bet it was more natural, back in the dark ages of the 1980s, to call women by their first names because if they married, they would change last names. It is difficult to start calling someone a new name when you’re used to an old one.
Law is a difficult field for women, though, imo. I was talking to one of my women professors last week, and she told me that when she graduated, I believe in the 1970s, she was first in her class, editor of the law review, and passed the bar with the highest score, but she couldn’t get a job. That totally sucks. Even now, I think law is pretty entrenched in some insidious hierarchical ideas that the rest of society doesn’t necessarily buy into. So, there’s also the option that women were called by their first names as an unconscious disrespect. That would be sad. It’s not distracting in the book, though, because these ladies are seriously amazing. I really love them.
Seriously. A lot of people should read these books. Especially people on goodreads.com. These books are, like made for us. If there were LOL Cats in 1985, there would be LOL Cat references in these books, I’m pretty sure. Classical literature and comedy . . . AND! Even tragedy! And sweet political commentary, but in a funny way – not heavy handed. Come on, people! Why are you not reading these books more?! I know there aren’t faeries or vampires in them . . . but maybe there are!!! You don’t know! And there are hilarious stories that are mysterious, but have a point in the end. I am such a fangirl for Sarah Caudwell. If I’m ever a lawyer, I want to be just like her.(less)
David Sedaris is such a fudging ray of sunshine. I’m using the uncomfortable word “fudge” in this review as much as possible because I find it extra-o...moreDavid Sedaris is such a fudging ray of sunshine. I’m using the uncomfortable word “fudge” in this review as much as possible because I find it extra-obscene and sweetly domestic at the same time. Kind of like Sedaris. (Also, weirdly, I just found out that amazon.com will allow "fudge" as a replacement for "fuck," though to me there is a more obscene quality to "fudge," despite the fact that it is a yummy desert.) Anyway, I never realized before that it could make Sedaris' stories even more hilarious to anthropomorphize some animals in them WITH IAN FALCONER ILLUSTRATING. Holy crap. Warms the fudging heart. The O’Malley family basically nailed it when they said this is a book of fables about a bunch of assholes. It gets pretty touching and complex on the asshole theme. Especially for something that takes, like, two hours to read. I’m not saying this is better than his other books, because that would probably be a lie, but I think it’s at least as good as most of them.
There are so many things in my life to free associate with these stories because he got it all so fudging right, but I’m going to narrow it down to just a couple. First, Sedaris obviously understands what sociopaths bunnies are. The bunny story was so so true. So so true. And something that people need to know about.
Second, childbirth. I have never born a child, so my opinions about child raising and childbirth have more to do with observational studies than actual experience. One of the stories in Squirrel is about a crow, and she’s a mom who’s not in love with the job. Then she meets a sheep, who is also a mom, but a mom totally impressed by her own momness. This is something I’ve seen happen. So, the sheep mom reminds me in many ways of a dear, dear friend of mine, who I totally love, and who is a sometimes goodreader. I feel pretty okay making fun of her about an incident that happened with us because I’ll make fun of her to her face about it, and because I knitted her a bunch of baby sweaters, so that's gotta count for something. This story is probably going to horrify you, though. Consider yourself warned.
So, the sheep mom in Sedaris' story explains to the crow mom that after her child’s birth, she ate her placenta because it promotes bonding with her child. Now, I know that this is not the reason for eating placenta after childbirth – the real reason is that it contains natural opiates, so if you’re bummed out by childbirth (and, really, who isn’t?), it makes you feel better about the whole ordeal. I guess that promotes bonding, though, so maybe the sheep was right. How do I know this information? Because one of my dear friends cares a lot about people eating placenta. Like, she cares a lot. Granted, she was a midwife in India for a while, so it makes some sense. Still, though.
A few weeks after my friend had her first baby, she had worked her way through the placenta pills that the midwife made for her, and she sent me the email below. The subject line was, “does she ever kiss luke?” I have another friend, who is a non-placenta-eater, but who has a son named Luke. I thought it was from that friend and was freaked out right away that she was asking me if someone was kissing her son. The rest of the email made no sense in or out of that context. She said,
I really only called you to tell you to marry that guy who likes pam, get pregnant and eat only organic foods, no drugs (meaning like advil) and then give me your placenta....I only have 6 pills left...what to do otherwise?
I will start the Common Reader today.
Do we need to renew the library books?
I finished the color of water.... [signature]
PS Do Luke and Lorilie ever get together....it is killing us!!
I realized after I stared at the email for a while that all of the people she mentions are characters from TV shows that I had loaned her. I told her, though, that if I ever see her down a dark alley, I’m putting a stake through her heart. No questions asked. Anyway, this story came up during semennacht, and I told Elizabeth I would tell it sometime. So, there you have it.
This friend just had her second baby, who is just as snuggly and adorable as the first, and now her thing is that she’s not going to use diapers, but she’s going to constantly monitor the baby, learn her signs, and hold her over the toilet when she has to pee. Again, I love this friend, but that seems really inconvenient. When she reads Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, one of the things she will probably realize that doing silly, inconvenient, and gross things for her child does not necessarily make her a better mother. But, if she thinks it’s fun, whatever. I think it’s fun to write book reports, so who am I to judge?
You probably already know by now if you like David Sedaris or not, so I’d be silly to try to sell him to you. My strategy here has been more to embarrass a personal friend while kind of grossing you out. Making his style my own, if you would. If you haven’t already read Sedaris, my advice is to read Me Talk Pretty One Day first. I think that’s the best intro to him. This one has taken its place as one of my favorites of his for fudging sure, though. (less)
Anyone who can tell a pretty hilarious Shakespeare joke is okay in my book. And this book is full of really hilarious Shakespeare jokes. Poor Desdemon...moreAnyone who can tell a pretty hilarious Shakespeare joke is okay in my book. And this book is full of really hilarious Shakespeare jokes. Poor Desdemona. Oh, man. L, as they say, OL. And the slapstick. Oh, the slapstick! She gets it just right in that dry, British way, where you feel like she’s describing something really elegant, but actually it’s almost grotesque. This book was wonderful. I totally love it. I would give it five stars, except my undying devotion for Gaudy Night is making it impossible for me to do that. It’s completely unfair because this book is so perfect on its own. But . . . there is still Gaudy Night, which makes me tear up from how much I love it. So, the star system is cheating Caudwell in this instance. (Edited: I had to go back and give them all five stars after finishing the last one because they are all so wonderful.)
I know I’ve said it before, but I’m not, as a rule, a fan of mysteries. I don’t have a sense of suspense, so when suspense drags on for too long, I just get bored and stop caring. Mostly, though, it bothers me when I feel like you the author actually had nothing to say, but just picked out some random things, had the sleuth notice them, and then brought those things around in the end to be randomly the solution. I don’t know why I’m reading that because they could be any facts. Like, the lipstick-stained cigarette, or the broken nail, or the powder on the lapel, or what. ever. It seems like machine-generated stories, where the author really has nothing to tell me. This book is the opposite of that. In this book, when the mystery wraps up in the end, the solution is the meaning of the story. It is why to read the book. I mean, the rest of the antics are great, but the solution is the purpose. I like that.
Oh, and the art law! Yay! The art law! It is just lovely. Art law is so fun. Most of art law has to do with inheritance and cultural artifacts, like it does in this book, and I think it is such an interesting topic. Don’t worry, this book is mostly about cute boys and the silly antics of crime-solving lawyers and funny Shakespeare jokes, but the art law is super interesting and absolutely correct, if you’re into that kind of thing.
I read this over spring break, lying by a pool in Palm Springs, and it was just perfect. There was a cute baby there, doing cute baby things, and good friends, good food, good book. So perfect. This is a wonderful beach read. It’s put-down-able, but also pick-back-up-again-able. I wanted to know what was going to happen, but I didn’t feel like if I put it down, I would be unable to hear the words of my friends trying to talk to me. Sometimes, with a beach read, I don’t like to have something too engrossing because then if I start reading outside, I get sunburned because I forget I’m outside. Or, if I’m inside, I never see the light of day. Those books have their three-in-the-morning moments, but they are a commitment. They’re like a friend who I really need a play-break from after a little while. Too much energy. This is like a perfectly lovely, reliable friend, who I hope to be more like someday. I have passed to another friend the copy that Elizabeth passed on to me, but I’m pretty positive I will read this book again someday, if only to remember all the funny Shakespeare stuff. (less)
It seems very authentically Jewish to write smart and funny social commentary about exploring spirituality through following obscure rules. I don’t kn...moreIt seems very authentically Jewish to write smart and funny social commentary about exploring spirituality through following obscure rules. I don’t know if such a thing as being “authentically Jewish” exists (versus everyone who is inauthentically Jewish, right?), and I hope I don’t offend by that phrase, but what I’m saying is that I don’t think Moses and Isaiah and all the boys would kick A.J. Jacobs out of their club. In fact, I think Jacobs comes closer to meaningful Bible commentary than any contemporary Christian writers I have read. I was worried when I started the book that it would be like my experience with the Will Farrell movie Blades of Glory: without much substance beyond the weirdness of the concept. Instead, The Year of Living Biblically was an adventure, and I feel it would be very thought provoking and entertaining for readers of any religion or spiritual persuasion.
Jacobs’ purpose in following the Bible as literally as possible is to prove that each of us, regardless of our specific beliefs, makes choices as to what constitutes Scripture (or holiness, or what have you) and what doesn’t. Specifically, Jacobs looks at interpretations of the Bible (2/3 Old Testament, 1/3 New Testament) and tests how relevant, or even manageable, they are today. He goes about this with the earnestness of a little kid memorizing statistics on his favorite baseball team or learning how to take apart a car, and I think that enthusiasm is what makes this book charming rather than obnoxious. For example, when he finds two prevailing interpretations of how to live a biblical rule or principal, he does both. He gives thanks both before and after a meal, and when deciding who he should stone, he looks for someone working on both Saturday and Sunday (failing to observe both the Jewish and Christian Sabbaths). I mean, if you have to stone someone, it’s better to cover your bases, right?
If it is not already obvious in what I have said thus far, A.J. Jacobs is unabashedly weird. I don’t get the impression that the weirdness is a show, either, but that the show is some kind of natural part of his weirdness. I think that makes this a compliment. Regardless, his weirdness brings out the weirdness in others enough to make the cast of characters in The Year of Living Biblically as hilarious and horrifying as a Dickens novel. The book is not a circus, though, and Jacobs treats all of his characters and their beliefs with respect, whether he agrees or disagrees with them. He is very honest about his own skepticism and willing to say when something seems hateful or unlikely, but he is also very open to the views of others.
His blog is updated pretty frequently, and while scanning through it, I came across this selection, which gives a pretty good sample of his writing:
Tuesday, April 11, 2006 The Other Moses
I got a note from a reader saying that I shouldn’t ignore the ‘hanging curveball’ thrown by Gwyneth, who just begat a new son named Moses.
It’s a rich topic, to be sure. Though as a guy whose real name is “Arnold,” I don’t think I can really make fun of other people’s names.
But...I will say that if the Paltrow-Martins are trying to form some sort of Biblical theme (Apple from Genesis, Moses from Exodus), they should know that most Biblical scholars do not think that the unnamed forbidden fruit was an apple.
The more likely candidates, they say, include pomegranate, fig, apricot, wheat and grape. One source said it was a banana tree, but that might just be crazy talk.
I hope that people will not dismiss this book before they have read it. It is possible that people on the right and will expect it to be hateful mockery and people on the left will expect it to be irrelevant. I don’t think it is either of those things, but rather, as I said, thoughtful and smart. Often he discusses debates over Scripture similar to the passage above in that his ultimate conclusion is that the very nature of the debate is a little loony tunes. I found his reflections on the value of faith and family, however, very insightful. Hopefully, we can learn his more profound lessons without having to forsake mixed fibers and carry a Handyseat for a year, but it is a comfort to have A.J. Jacobs out there on the front lines of literalness, taking the bullet for the rest of us.(less)
Get Your War On ties with The Daily Show as my favorite experience from election season 2008. David Letterman, Tina Fey, and . . . well . . Barack Oba...moreGet Your War On ties with The Daily Show as my favorite experience from election season 2008. David Letterman, Tina Fey, and . . . well . . Barack Obama are really close seconds. This book was no disappointment, but I must admit I didn't get all of it. It generally covers the period 2002-2004, with a brief look at early GYWO from the '80s and some insightful commentary from 1861 on Confederate currency. Apparently, it is true (just as I suspected): David Rees is immortal. I peaced out of politics for a couple of those years, due to the general depressing state of politics or not being alive yet.
My first experience with Get Your War On was animated (as in talkies as opposed to comic strips - I'm not really sure how to make that distinction), and they really speak for themselves (pun intended), so I thought I would post them here. I'm not sure if it's possible to embed them, so I'm just going to post the links I know take you to my two favorites at this point. The language is . . . um . . . "not safe for work", as David Rees says on his website ( http://www.mnftiu.cc/ ).
I read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy in high school and remember thinking it was very funny, but I actually think I enjoyed it more on audio. S...moreI read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy in high school and remember thinking it was very funny, but I actually think I enjoyed it more on audio. Stephen Fry, who apparently is Jeeves in the BBC series Jeeves and Wooster, is hilarious reading this book - this has become one of the million reasons I must watch Jeeves and Wooster. I had always thought Hugh Laurie, who I also love, was Jeeves, but I guess he's Wooster. Anyway, I thought Fry's voice for Marvin, the depressed robot, was particularly funny. Fry is clearly a frood who really knows where his towel is.
Wikipedia is also telling me that Fry is the voice of the Guide in the movie adaptation. While Wikipedia may not be a reliable source for some information, I would think it was created as a tribute to the Hitchhiker's Guide. So unless I am mistaken, and they actually consider each other competitive sources for questionable information, I'm trusting Wikipedia as the definitive resource for information about this book, including all adaptations. It does, however, bring up the important point that Wikipedia could benefit from a good "DON'T PANIC" banner over its pages.
The audio version also made me realize how Monty Python Douglas Adams' humor is. I have never been able to make it through this entire series, as the humor gets stale to me after a while. It is similar to The Holy Grail in that it was funny at first, but after it had been retold and over-quoted to me enough times, it was hard to remember why I liked it in the first place. As my friend, McKenzie, would say, it's like when people do impressions of Jim Carrey. I needed the 10-year break I took from it to be able to re-visit it and laugh again.
The concept, aside from obviously being silly and weird, actually struck me as rather smart this time. If you take away the funny names and reverence for afternoon tea, the creation myth that the story develops seems to have just as much validity as any other explanation of how our planet got here (because when it comes down to it, I think Adams would say, you weren't there and you don't know), and how irrelevant that actually is to a genuine search for meaning (or "Life, the Universe, and Everything", if you would). Adams does an excellent job showing how ridiculous, petty, and small people really are, and I think he's only part joking - maybe not joking at all. (less)