It’s been a weird year, you guys. I bleached my hair blonde again, and if I haven’t mentioned it before, people say the most ridiculous stuff to blondIt’s been a weird year, you guys. I bleached my hair blonde again, and if I haven’t mentioned it before, people say the most ridiculous stuff to blondes. It’s crazy. It’s like people are standing in line to make idiots out of themselves if you have blonde hair. Blondes, you guys have to dye your hair brown for a while. Just do it to see what life is like on the other side. It’s real different. You can go places and not have people be asses to you. Samples of some of the weird things people have said (and these are not even close to the worst):
1. I was walking down a hall and a security officer in his fifties or sixties was walking towards me. I realized that I needed something back at my desk, so I turned around. As I was walking away, the security officer said, “Are you ticklish?”
I turned around, and thinking I must have misheard him, said, incredulously, “What?!”
“Are you ticklish?” He repeated.
“Huh,” I said, and walked away. Then I spent the next week trying to figure out if there is another, totally normal meaning to that question. People have not been able to tell me one, so if you know of anything, pass it along.
2. I was judging oral arguments at the law school last spring. I was wearing a judge’s robe and sitting on the bench in the school’s classroom that is set up like a courtroom. There were two other judges in robes, and the professor of the class was there. To provide context, when I was in school, oral arguments were the most terrifying thing I did.
The topic of the oral arguments was an allegedly illegal seizure, and one of the issues was whether the discovery of a warrant against the defendant, in the words of the Supreme Court, “purged the taint of the illegality of the initial search.” So, we had questions written out for us as suggestions of what to ask the students. I had to ask this one question about the warrant issue, and I was trying to say it in my own words, but I was stumbling. The student interrupted me, said he knew what I was trying to ask, and answered the question.
Then, as he was leaving the room, after his argument was done, he said in a low voice, but still TO A JUDGE IN A ROBE AND IN FRONT OF HIS TERRIFYING PROFESSOR, either, “Gotta purge that taint, huh?” or “I’ll help you purge that taint.” And he didn’t do it in so much of a come-on way, as much as he did it in this way like that was why I had stumbled over the question and we were sharing an inside joke.
We were so not sharing that joke.
So, those are just a couple of the less-lawsuit-material, less-totally-dehumanizing experiences I’ve had with this blonde hair business. I bet, at this point, you are seriously wondering how I am going to wrap this idea around to relate to the book. Here’s how: I think having blonde hair makes people associate me as a child, so they feel more free to say inappropriate things and show terrible judgment. And Jeannette Walls is so amazing at telling stories of what assholes people are to kids. She is a genius at telling these gut-wrenching stories without being maudlin. And lord knows I can’t handle the maudlin. So, like the people in Byler, I am left thinking that if some skinny kids can stand up for themselves in this way, I can. It was, you know, inspirational, without being sickly heartwarming.
The Silver Star is the story of two sisters who just experience life kicking the shit out of them, like ya do, and respond by being these brilliant, scrappy heroes. This story is not accusatory, and it is unflinching, and it’s not exploitative of the victimization of children, but it touches on just about every hideous topic possible. I guess something I love about Walls is that she isn’t writing for middle-class comfort, and to me that makes her stories more true and less manipulative than most. And this book touched on almost every hot-button issue: civil rights, Vietnam, corporatization, child neglect, and sexual assault, so it was rife with opportunities for me to get mad about exploitation and privilege comfort. But, Walls knows how to tell that stuff.
It seems like, at least on some level, this book is a response to The Help. Maybe Walls had this crisis of conscience and thought, “Eeeesh, someone needs to show this unfortunate Stockett woman how to write with a little humility about experiencing the South in the Civil Rights Era.” And this is how you do it. You know your own perspective, and you recognize that not everyone admired you. Not that this book is even really about racism, other than in a peripheral way, but that is what seems appropriate to me. Walls isn’t black, so she can only give the perspective of a white girl and her black friends, to the extent they tell her their perspective. But, Bean’s friend Vanessa had more dignity, in her small appearances in this book, than the whole of the black maids in The Help. And, good lord, these kids made some excellent points about To Kill a Mockingbird.
This was a lovely novel, and I appreciated all of its purposefulness and structure. This was how you should tell a Social Topics story. I would say I did not enjoy this, in a page-turning way, as much as I enjoyed The Glass Castle, but I did enjoy it, and the end really paid off. I know Walls is not for everyone because, where I experience beauty the most as overcoming and conquering evil, some people experience beauty as finding peace or reinforcing principles, or you name it. But, to me, these were wonderful, human characters. I’ll also say that a lot of things in here were weirdly reminiscent of my college days – from the baby left on the top of the car to the word-playing, to the emus. Just weirdly striking associations that make me look behind me to see if Walls is watching. Hopefully, instead, she is just breaking a path for me because I want to be her when I grow up....more
It is a joke of a cliché to talk about the indefinable nature of love, but it is also obviously one of those things that is cliché for a reason. It isIt is a joke of a cliché to talk about the indefinable nature of love, but it is also obviously one of those things that is cliché for a reason. It is so mysterious how love can suddenly appear in our lives and then, just as suddenly, disappear. I am a big believer in accurately and honestly defining relationships according to what they are, not what we wish they would be, and so I might be even more baffled than the average person by the relationships around me. How do some people cultivate and maintain long-term love in their lives without even seeming to try? How do others live with people whom they hate and who hate them? How do people use the words of love to describe what looks like contempt or addiction to me? Language isn’t enough.
I have a friend playing the part of Emma in The Language Archive in Seattle, and she suggested a couple of us read it and talk about it, so I read it. And I really loved it. For me, it is about the indefinable nature of love, and, maybe obviously, about language – how language is too broad, and not broad enough, to describe what love is. Maybe it is more centrally about how love is always about communication. George communicates through the study of languages, but struggles to actually express any emotion. Mary communicates through bread. Alta and Resten save English for their fights and speak in their native language when talking of love. Emma struggles to communicate at all.
It is not a long play. Mary and George are married; Emma works with George at the Lanugage Archive. Alta and Resten are a couple that has been married for years, and they come in to the Language Archive to record their native language, which is dying. Mary leaves George, and Emma struggles to tell George she is in love with him.
The rest of what I’m going to talk about is a spoiler, but I’m not going to hide it because, even though it tells you some of how the play turns out, I don’t really think that ruins the play. I think the play stands alone, regardless of whether you know the ending.
So, Mary leaves George, which devastates him, but which the play makes pretty clear is a good choice. They have this conversation at one point where George says to Mary that her leaving means that their whole language is dead. He says that sometimes one of them could say, “Did you take the garbage out?” or something like that, and it could mean many different things from, “I’m really angry that you never do housework” to “I couldn’t live without you” and those types of varied meanings created their language. And he asks her if she knows what he means. She responds that she doesn’t and that she’s never known what he’s meant. She says, “Here, have this bread and you’ll understand,” and the bread is meaningless to him. I think it is a simple, but beautiful, way of showing that they’re wrong for each other, that they could never understand each other.
And then, Emma and George communicate perfectly, but Emma tells the audience in the end that George never falls in love with her. So, that is something I keep coming back to. What does it mean that George and Emma communicate perfectly and work together for years, but that he never loves her? How does she know that? Does he know that? Was he actually in love with Mary, as he says he is, when he couldn’t understand or communicate with her? How is that love? It would be simple if you could say, well, he wanted to have sex with Mary and not with Emma, ergo . . . but that obviously makes no sense for defining love either. So, I keep wondering, over and over, and thinking about the relationships of these couples and the non-fictional couples I know.
It seems to me that every relationship exists outside of the naming of it, even though naming it can cause the relationship to change. People can be committed to each other in some sort of eternal way without calling it marriage, and people can be married without any kind of love or commitment. People can love each other without ever naming it, and people can hate each other and call it love. Even though the naming of it interacts with the experience of the relationship, I don’t think it creates the relationship. But, I don’t know what creates or maintains a relationship, and the way the naming of it molds and bends the relationship itself is a mystery to me, too. I have known so many couples where the woman told the man they were in love, and he believed her, and so their love existed. That is a mystery to me.
Because Emma tells us that George never loves her, and she tells us believably, I do believe her, but I don’t understand. If he had said he loved her, would that have made it so? Because he said he loved Mary, did that make it so, even though he never really saw her? I can’t wrap my mind around those ideas.
There is that monologue Nick Cage delivers so beautifully in Moonstruck, here. The play put it into my head, and it is something I understand about the play and about love, and it is something I love about love. It is something about love that you can sink your teeth into. It goes like this:
“Loretta, I love you. Not like they told you love is, and I didn't know this either, but love don't make things nice - it ruins everything. It breaks your heart. It makes things a mess. We aren't here to make things perfect. The snowflakes are perfect. The stars are perfect. Not us. Not us! We are here to ruin ourselves and to break our hearts and love the wrong people and die. The storybooks are bullshit. Now I want you to come upstairs with me and get in my bed!”
Maybe George just needed to hear a speech like that, and he would have snapped out of it. Maybe not, though; I have no idea....more
I hope Tom Wolfe has gotten so laid because of this book. I hope women have put down this book, thrown on some lingerie, and walked over to his apartmI hope Tom Wolfe has gotten so laid because of this book. I hope women have put down this book, thrown on some lingerie, and walked over to his apartment – unless Wolfe is gay, in which case, I hope men have done the lingerie thing. I hope women (or men) invented a time machine to travel back in time and lay young Tom Wolfe because of this book. I hope Tom Wolfe has gotten anybody he’s ever wanted – x-ray, lemon tart, girls with any shade of lipstick imaginable, men with impressive sternocleidomastoid muscles. Anybody! Not that I’m recommending everyone start stalking him. Consent first, of course. But, I wish on Tom Wolfe a lifetime supply of sex and ice cream because of this book. I’m pretty sure he’s gotten it, but just in case, my wish is out there. The idea of writing such a beautiful book kills me. How does it happen? How does someone put something this perfect together? And I don’t even want to know. I just want to read it over and over again, mystery intact.
This book made me scream and gasp and stop, sit, and stare. This is one of the audios I listened to while I walked to work, so the neighborhoods of Eugene had the dubious privilege of waking to my shrieks and hysterical cackling for many mornings in April because of Tom Wolfe. Towards the end, I had to listen in private, so that my sobbing wouldn’t embarrass the neighbors or lead to a meltdown at work. Mixed results.
Wikipedia told me that Wolfe modeled his writing after Thackeray and Dickens. It seems so obvious after you say it, but rather than realizing that, I just kept thinking, I've never read anything like this before. It was something entirely new to me. And it is because it is a book that feels so current and urban, while it clearly has classical structure and the involved plotting of Dickens and Thackeray. When I started, I thought it would probably be too dick-lit for me because it was clearly shaping up to be so hardboiled and because I think of Wolfe being in a whole gaggle of male authors who want to talk about how tough it is to have a penis and be so emotionally unavailable. Boo hoo. I have very little attention for that type of thing. But, this, this. This was wonderful. And it was dick-lit, but it was not in the least self-indulgent. It was even cruel, it looked so hard, and so carefully, at masculinity and cowardice. But, the structure of the plot was like a machine, just in the way that the plots of Thackeray and Dickens are. I could feel the sweat and grease of the writing process on the page, or, rather, hear it in the audio track. This book lives in the foundries of humanity; it is crafted from the fires and steel of the human heart.
For the most part, this book looks at three horrible men and how their egos and senses of puffed-up worthlessness control and destroy their lives. There are a few brilliant recurring themes in the book that I could not love more – the white whale, the Masters of the Universe. This book actually uses He-Man as a recurring metaphor to this beautiful moment where a character, steeped in his own awesomeness yells out in his head, “I have the power!!” So, so, so, so, so, so, so wonderful.
And the courtroom scenes!! Oh, the courtroom scenes. Devastating swoon over those. They made all the hairs on my body stand on end. How can a person describe what happens in a courtroom? Like THIS! This book is what happens in courtrooms. This book is what happens in criminal justice. It got everything just right. The belts and shoelaces, the defendants demanding rights, the defense attorneys running in late because they were in another courtroom, the hot jurors, the underpaid DA. And oh my god, Kramer’s sternocleidomastoid muscles! Remember that?? It made me die laughing every time that came up. I swear to god there is a DA like that in Lane County.
And the part where Martin and Goldberg have to give Sherman his rights. Oh my god. So wonderful.
So, I have nothing insightful to say about this book because . . . just read it. Practically the minute I started reading it, it made me think of a dear friend of mine because of its urban steel and fire, so I will say something about that association because I can clearly only swoon and sigh and flail about when it comes to the book itself. Like the men in this book, there is something strikingly normal about my friend when you first meet him. He is white office shirts, a neat haircut, and clean hands. He is success: a house in the suburbs, two blond children, and a wife who, with a stern hand, makes the family take annual pictures in matching clothes. And then you talk to my friend and find out that he is an evil genius, who has an opinion about everything and a hilarious story about everyone he’s ever met. But, you also know that the suburban thing, the normalcy, is true, too. The layers of his personality include fire and steel, and also funfetti cake, white office shirts, and Kraft singles. I think this book captures something of that kind of layered humanity in Sherman’s office decorum, American aristocratic habits, and bloody knuckles. It shows Kramer’s powerful sternocleidomastoid muscles with his shopping bag and running shoes, Peter’s head in an egg and landing of the white whale, Reverend Bacon’s noble speeches and greedy maneuverings.
I think what I’m trying to say is that it struck me recently, probably at least partly because of this book, that the characteristics we show the world are us, and are not us all the same. None of us are inherently suburban or aristocratic, but our choices to appear those ways reveal something about who we actually are, who we are in the caves and recesses of our souls. Sherman is equally the shallow, self-involved Master of the Universe and the jungle fighter, but he is neither of those. My friend is urban fire and steel, and he is suburban success, and he is neither of those. Wolfe writes the show of humanity in a way that hilariously stages the show, and then digs and hammers into the caves and fiery core of who people are beyond it. Are we the dog trained to fight or the social x-ray in a party hive? The little girl sculpting a rabbit or the little boy commanding an office? Yes and no to all of that. Who we are is something different entirely, but always there, underneath the show - the force behind it. And the way Wolfe builds it all and then tears it all apart - I would never ask so much of a writer, but I am so glad this exists....more
I find this entire series very unenjoyable, but I appreciated what I felt were academic analyses of consent and power in the first two books. BecauseI find this entire series very unenjoyable, but I appreciated what I felt were academic analyses of consent and power in the first two books. Because this third installment failed to present any academic point, there was really nothing for me here. The attempt was clearly to say something about how, traditionally, women have actually fought in wars, not stayed on the sidelines fainting and tending to wounds like, I don't know, some people expect, but really the story was more about how cool women want to be BFFs with Blomkvist and have sex with him. I didn’t really get anything out of the interjections about the Amazons, which appeared at different intervals throughout this book. And I don’t happen to care about who wants to have sex with Blomkvist – I find Blomkvist abominable – so this was terrible. I know that all of the books have been about how the chicks dig Blomkvist, but they also offered something smart and academic that this one lacked.
The other thing up in this ol’ book was that just about every five pages this conversation would happen:
“Remember how awesome book 2 was?”
“Yeah, that was so cool. We were so badass. Remember how you were all Aaaaaack, and I was like neeeeeeer, and then it was like whoooooaaaa, and bang bang?”
“Yeah, then my favorite part was like hacking computers and taking down the system.”
“Totally. And it was like, mystery guys and punching and guns and stuff.”
“Do you think the prime minister knows how cool book 2 was?”
“We should definitely tell him. And we should tell like chiefs of police and ambassadors and other important people.”
And then everyone goes off to describe book 2 to important people, and they all have that conversation OVER AND OVER. Like, whoa, dudes. You are so cool. But mostly Blomkvist is cool because badass warrior chicks want to have sex with him and it doesn’t even bother him that they are stronger and smarter than him. Yeah, what a man. Big pat on the back from this corner that you’re not offended that women are cool. His fucking humility is really why he’s so fucking cool.
What a douche.
And Lisbeth Salander is hanging out in bed this entire book.
And then, in the end, there’s a “trial,” where they re-tell book 2 for the eleventy millionth time, and there is ONE hearsay objection, which happens basically the ONLY time a statement isn’t hearsay throughout the entire “trial.” And after the objection, no one reacts, the judge doesn’t rule on it, and the questioning just continues like nothing happened. I object to that.
Here’s the thing about the crappy trial: I know that Larsson has the capacity to do research and not be a total moron about technical matters, so there’s really no excuse for what goes down there. And it was so out of control that it was painful to read. Not that ALL OF THE REST OF THIS SERIES wasn’t, also, COMPLETELY PAINFUL to read, but at least most of it wasn’t stupid. This was stupid.
My Cousin Vinny and Legally Blonde do a better job at adhering to trial practice rules, AND are more entertaining.
Ugh, and then there’s this tacked on ending-ending where Lisbeth goes to Blomkvist’s house to make up and be BFFs again (or he goes to her house, I can’t even remember). And they make up, awwwwww. Whew, too, because that was what I was really worried about in this book about slavery, rape, and oppression. I was REALLY fucking worried that one of these women wouldn’t want to be Blomkvist’s friend. Because that’s what rape and slavery stories are mostly about: douchey guys getting the hugs they deserve.
This sucked. I hate all of these idiot people. I’m so glad it’s over....more
I think an alternative title for this book could have been something like Women and Love or What Women Mean When They Talk About Love. Something likeI think an alternative title for this book could have been something like Women and Love or What Women Mean When They Talk About Love. Something like that. It was so beautiful in this delicate, fine-art way, and I was so surprised at this book’s beauty, that I feel totally inadequate in trying to describe my reaction to it. It is that type of beauty I feel when I think about the improbability of our bodies being alive or of Michelangelo’s ceiling in the Sistine Chapel or of microscopic images of snowflakes. There is no way the universe could conspire so delicately for those things to work in such a way that their beauty is not so improbable as to be obscenely contrived, but somehow it does work. It is beautiful.
And now that I’ve compared this book to the Sistine Chapel, there is no way anyone could go into it liking it. It’s like that time this douchey guy told me that Bright Eyes is the new Bob Dylan. I mean, Bright Eyes is not great anyway – talk about being in love with your own mysterious allure – but, compared to Bob Dylan, Mr. Eyes is just embarrassing. So, here I am ruining this book for you like that.
At the same time, after reading this, I understood a lot more why someone would write a book like Olive Kitteridge, using multiple, somewhat unrelated, perspectives strung together by a common theme. While that one just seemed ridiculous, this one soared for me, and I can see how, as an author, you could want to aim for this kind of delicacy in weaving together stories.
I listened to this on audio, and it was like hearing someone describe every way a woman’s love can be beautiful and painful, harsh and delicate. Some books will make me cry, but this book brought me to tears, which is the same thing but more elegant because of this story’s elegance. The reader’s voice was lovely, and the only fault with listening to this on audio was that there was so much I wanted to hear and follow that I know I missed a lot. I usually choose audio books based on the idea that it won’t matter if I space out during the book (because I space out a lot while I’m walking to work and listening to them), so I normally choose a book that I’ve read before or something I don’t think I’ll love that much. I was surprised at how much I loved this one and how much I felt I missed by listening to the audio. It is not a difficult book, but it definitely contains subtlety and passages that I would probably have read over again if I were reading it on the page.
This is not a very exciting review, I think, because it doesn’t contain an exciting story. I have the most wonderful job in the world right now, at which the most amazing things happen, but I can’t talk about it on the internet. And, no, my job is not Fight Club. If I could, I would tell you about how this has probably been the best year of my life so far, and about all of its beauty and fullness, and about how pain is as much a part of the beauty as comfort or wonder are. And I would tell you about the women I have seen and the ways they are with the love in their lives. But, instead, I will just be vague, and say that this book resonated with me both in the year I have had and in the life I have had. It talked about the right things and in the right way.
And, of course, it was about a book, which I imagine is the universal symbol of love....more
There are many facets to the experience of reading a book beloved by a friend. There are probably others that these, but the ones I can think of rightThere are many facets to the experience of reading a book beloved by a friend. There are probably others that these, but the ones I can think of right now are the friend, the friendship, society, the book itself, and the reader. The experience of reading seems tied up in all of those parts, but also, I think they are all individual experiences. I read this book because it is beloved by a friend, and I love the way it lets me know that friend better and what it says about our friendship that she would want me to read it. So, when I talk about this book, and how I did not enjoy it, I’m really only focusing on my experience with the book itself. I felt like I needed to make that clear before I start tearing up the dance floor.
This left me with a feeling of . . . huh. It was partly magical, partly sad, and above all else very, very troubling. Reading this book reminded me of this time when I lived in New York, and one of my roommates said to me, “Is everyone in Oregon like you, or are you weird there, too?” It was very alienating and, again, troubling. This book tells the story of a girl who, most of all, more than anything else, struggles with her weight because the people around her are obsessed with her weighing five pounds more than the normal weight for her age. There is also a fox in here, and maybe the fox has PTSD. I found it . . . really odd and, again, troubling. There is a 95% chance that I didn’t get it.
The basic plot of this story, like I say, is that everyone around Abigail Walker is really, really mad about how much she weighs, she meets a magical fox with PTSD and a man with PTSD, and then she learns to ride horses, cast off her fears, and be happy. But, there are a lot of things that happen along the way that were (if I haven’t already said this) really, really troubling to me. And there are some other things that were just confusing. I guess I’ll talk about the confusing things first, then the troubling things.
1. These are my awards, Mother. The PTSD man explains to Abigail that he met his ex-wife in Peace Corps, and then he decided to go into Army because he thought it would pay for college. But, you have to have an undergraduate degree to go into Peace Corps, and I’m pretty sure that’s been a requirement for a long time, so that was weird. And it kind of undermined that whole character to me. Why did that guy really go into the army? And why did he say he was in the Peace Corps if he didn’t have an undergrad degree? Suspect.
2. Bread makes you fat??!!. Abigail’s family is emotionally abusive about her weight, which is 105 lbs. and appears, from the internet, to be five pounds over the normal weight for girls her age. FIVE POUNDS! So, we’re not talking unhealthy, even. But, the parents are so creepily fixated on it that her dad doesn’t take pictures of her anymore and stares her down across the dinner table. So, the one time the family eats dinner in the book, Abigail’s mom makes pizza.
(Sidebar: that is another sub-level of confusing for a mom who is a history professor and always lost in her books and detached from the reality of the family, but, whatever, maybe she also loves to cook and isn’t just trying to be more stepford-creepy than she otherwise appears to be, despite being educated and scholarly. I don’t object to the idea of a professor being a Stepford wife, but I kind of wanted more description about how that actually worked. Also, I’m not meaning that cooking is creepy, just that the mom is kind of creepy in, well, A LOT of ways. “Don’t fight, now, kids! Fighting bad.” “You MUST go to the mean girls’ house, Abigail!” “Your father just yells at you about dieting because he loves you!” brrrrr.)
Anyway, the mom makes cheese pizza for Abigail and sausage pizza for the rest of the family. And it’s like the part in Silence of the Lambs where he keeps saying to the girl in the pit, “It rubs the lotion on its skinnnnn.” The whole family fixates on her, warning her away from even reaching for a regular salad dressing. It eats the cheese pizza and no other pizza!!
But, that’s weird, right? Because how much healthier is plain cheese pizza than sausage pizza? Answer: not at all healthier, and they have basically equivalent calories. So, chill out, Mom and Dad, you creepy assholes!
3.How am I supposed to get into Harvard if I have no wilderness skills?! After Abigail ditches her creepy friends, who also want to watch it rub the lotion on its skinnn, she makes friends with a nerdy computer girl. There is this confusing subplot about how Abigail needs to research all of the animals Lewis and Clark saw on the Oregon trail for the PTSD man, and the nerdy computer girl helps her. Mostly, the nerdy computer girl helps her because Abigail is incompetent at googling. The nerdy computer girl warns her, however, that she will NEVER GET INTO COLLEGE if Abigail doesn’t learn how to google from said nerdy computer girl.
Okay asshole: again, chill out. You are in SIXTH GRADE!! You might get into Harvard, even if you have no wilderness skills. If not, I’ll take you upstairs, throw you out the window, and if you catch the branch of a tree, I’ll be your witness.
So, those were the things that made me feel like, who are these creepy assholes??? Confusing. Next, I’m going to talk about the things I thought were actually troubling, not just confusing.
I don’t have fancy gifs for this part. This part is just about how the overall premise of the story seems somewhat messed up.
1. Bullying. I remember once, in fourth grade, I didn’t want to be friends with this girl anymore because she would only talk about boys, and because her dad freaked me out. I, being a fourth grader, didn’t deal with it really well, as you might imagine, and at one point the situation culminated in a group of girls sort of making a wall around me and telling my friend that I didn’t have to talk to her if I didn’t want to. I remember feeling both like, “This seems accurate. I shouldn’t have to talk to someone if I don’t want to,” and also like, “This seems really mean and extreme, and I don’t know how to diffuse this situation.” The girl was so upset that her parents talked to the principal about it, and I think my parents ultimately got called into the school because of it. Years later, I would run into her every once in a while, and I always wanted to apologize for that, but, does that make it any better? We were really mean to that girl, even though to us there was some kind of self-preservation aspect to it, but it wasn’t really okay. But, what do you say to apologize and does an apology only make it worse?
I’ve been watching Buffy with my roommate, who is a PhD student in early intervention in special education. When Cordelia first came on the screen, my roommate commented that it’s so funny how TV always shows characters like Cordelia, when, in real life those situations don’t ever really happen. Like, people who have as little social inhibition as Cordelia probably have Asperger’s, and probably don’t have a lot of social power. But, in Buffy, Cordelia is such a great character because she is a shorthand for a mean girl, but also she is a caricature, so her mean-girl power is completely undermined. I think that creates a really great social message because, yes, it sucks to have someone be an asshole, but assholes only have as much power over our lives as we give them, and the Buffy gang doesn’t give Cordelia any power.
So, partly I think it makes sense to simplify an experience of bullying, but that was not what I felt was going on here. (I have to admit, though, that I read A Monster Calls right before I read this one, and I thought the way that discussed bullying was so beautiful it made my brain self-destruct, and I am making an unfair comparison between the two books, my own experience, and Buffy.) Nevertheless, in Abigail Walker, it felt like the mean girls were some kind of physical manifestation of a person’s own self-loathing thoughts. All the lurking and skulking around Abigail’s house, and then the weird plan to videotape Abigail eating candy. It was so weird and pathetic that I’m struggling to really wrap my brain around anyone being scary who was stupid enough to want to do that. I mean, the girls are creepy little assholes, but all of the threats seemed like things that would be scary when you thought them in your head, but if you actually said them out loud (or wrote them down) you’d realize how stupid and not scary they were and how uninterested everyone ever would be in watching a video of a girl eating candy.
My point is that I don’t get these bullies. They don’t seem like characters to me, and to the extent they are physical manifestations of somebody’s personal demons, I really don’t like the idea of giving them so much voice in this story. I mean, everyone has to fight their own monsters in their own way, but giving your monster the dominant social voice in your book seems like a way to nurture your monster, not fight it.
2. Being Normal. Probably the dominant theme of this book is that it’s okay to not be normal, which is a wonderful theme. The way it was executed, though, was another troubling thing to me. Abigail feels like she is not normal because she is five pounds over the normal weight for her age. So, that in itself is tainted with all the creepy assholes around her and seems super creepy in itself. She makes friends with the PTSD man’s son, who also feels not normal. The boy feels not normal because his dad keeps him on this farm and won’t let him leave the boundaries of the farm for any reason because he might get hurt. He is homeschooled by participating in the great Lewis and Clark study.
At one point, the son compares his situation to Abigail’s. He says that Abigail's mom is wrong for saying she’s not normal because she’s too fat. And then he comments that maybe his own mother is similarly wrong for wanting him to be in a school instead of being homeschooled in the country with his mentally ill father. Sooooo . . . . That raises a lot of issues for me. Like, this kid’s mother was a Peace Corps volunteer, and somehow in a custody battle her mentally ill husband got custody of their son? What is up with that? And, like, really? It’s the same to be five pounds overweight as to be trapped in the country acting as a caretaker for a mentally ill person??? This is kind of outrageous to me.
I realize it is a kid who makes this statement in the book, but the kid has a pretty strong voice within the story and is sort of built up to be wise. When he says maybe he and Abigail are actually both okay even though they are not normal, you can tell that statement is supposed to carry the weight of wisdom. I just have a big problem with both the comparison and the idea that it is okay for this kid to be trapped on a farm caring for his father. Very stressful.
3. Weight. I guess I kind of want to talk more about weight, but I’ve probably talked long enough. Maybe all I will say is that I think this book perpetuates the idea that being fat or thin is based on a mindset or emotional change. Abigail walks up the hill to the PTSD man's house the first time, and she huffs and puffs. The second time, though, she is less sad and self-condemning, so she can just run up the hill with no problem. I feel like that is a really negative message to perpetuate. I think that taking care of our bodies is like taking care of anything else and involves responsibility and eating enough food for our bodies, not just eating less food. I feel like the idea is not rare that if you have a healthy sense of self, being athletic and thin will become easy. That really bothers me both because it's clearly false, and because I think it creates this idea that good people are thin and bad people are fat, which is a very troublingly false idea, as well. Also, I've been using the website myfitnesspal.com to lose the weight I gained in school, and I've come to believe that with people who perpetually gain weight, overall it's probably not so much that they eat to much food, but probably more that they eat too little, sending their bodies into storage mode for when they eat too much. That has at least turned out to be true for me. The way the entire world in this book only wanted Abigail to eat less, not for her to be healthy, was really troubling.
I think those are all of my issues. I found this story very distressing to read. While Abigail seemed to have a somewhat strong sense of self despite the creepy monsters around her, I couldn’t really get where that sense of self was coming from. She clearly had no adult or peer support, so when she would make some kind of self-possessed statement, it always felt shaky because how does a sixth grader resist wanting to punish her body when everyone around her clearly does? A lot of this seemed like the written manifestation of imaginary monsters, and that freaked me out not a little. I don’t generally enjoy an author exorcising demons through writing, and doing so in a children’s book, in a way that felt more like nurturing than exporcising, makes me feel even more uncomfortable. This one was not for me.
_________ The publisher provided me a copy of this book, but I did nothing in return....more
This was like if Hannah Montana tried to write an erotica novel.
The popularity of this book makes me need to move t
This was like reading a jackhammer.
This was like if Hannah Montana tried to write an erotica novel.
The popularity of this book makes me need to move to a different planet. I am making the assumption that it comes from people not actually liking to read, but liking to have their self-destructive cultural values reinforced. Girls don’t like to eat. If you do whatever he says, he’ll turn into a handsome prince. It’s not his fault he’s abusing you, it’s only because mommy was mean. To have good sex, a girl has to start out not wanting it. Women have to teach men how to be human.
If that’s not what it is, then maybe this book is an outline of a fairy tale and the sex scenes are what people are really looking at. Poor girl is asleep; rich prince is an asshole; they kiss and it wakes her up and turns him nice. We’re so used to the story that we don't need to hear any actual story again, but a shorthand is enough to awaken all of the comforting memories of being taught that if we stay with our abuser, he will change. It’s like this Jack Handy Deep Thought: “I remember the first time I ever saw a shooting star I said, ‘What the hell is that?’ But nowadays when I see one I just say, ‘What is that?’ I leave off the ‘hell’ part. Maybe when I'm old I'll just say, ‘Whazzit?’” Fifty Shades of Grey is the “Whazzit?” in a long line of stories about girls learning to be brainless to please their abusers.
So, maybe the Whazzit story has become so common that it is a neutral color and a reader who enjoyed this book would really be focusing on the sex scenes. But, then, is the sex really worth focusing on here? It uses the annoying euphemisms of typical romance novels and still manages to be even more prudish than usual about descriptions. I hate the “apex of my thighs” business, but that’s common enough. But, “he touched me There”??? That is just dumb. Another reader pointed out to me that if you search for the word "cock" in this book, it is never used to refer to a penis, but used about forty times to describe someone "cocking" their heads. It is used so much, and so oddly, that Ana even comments on all the head cocking that goes on. Not a super sexy use of a cock.
Also, the sex scenes are very logistically difficult to follow, which does not make for hotness in my book. I had no idea what happened during the one with the plastic tie. She somehow hooked her wrists on a bed post? Was she suspended away from the bed post? So confused. But, the weirdest one to me was the first bathtub scene. So, they’re in the bathtub, and she gives him the A+ blowjob, wherein we learn that she has no gag reflex. But . . . how much water was in the bathtub? How did this actually happen? Did they just have a couple of inches of water in the tub? That doesn’t sound very relaxing. If they had a normal amount of water, did she have to do an underwater bj? Did he have to float while she gave him the bj? Did he sit on the side of the tub??? If I don’t even know what’s going on, how am I supposed to consider whether it’s hot or not?
Even aside from being confused by the sex scenes, for me, most of this story was strikingly repelling. And I’m talking, like, I think even Pleasuring the Pirate was hotter. I imagine this can’t be true, but it’s possible that this book hits every turn off for me:
(1) “Baby.” Don’t ever call me a baby, unless I am actually being a baby. Also, never say “laters” before you say “baby.” The words “laters” and “baby” should never be used individually, and certainly not in the same sentence. Also, never say that like a million times and then discuss how original it is to say it. That makes me puke.
(2) Stick insects. Christian Grey appears to be some sort of stick insect with freakishly long tentacle fingers. I am not attracted to stick insects.
(3) Contracts. Not hot.
(4) Bossiness. I loathe bossiness. Why can’t people just do what they want to do, and also avoid being jerks? Why push everyone around? Unattractive.
(4) Boring snobbery. I just can’t abide it. It makes my skin crawl. If you want to be a snob, be a snob about something interesting, not wine and classical music and cars. Be a snob about stage makeup or teacups, or something. I don't know what. Be a snob about your own thing. Why is it cool to be a snob about boring things and nerdy to be a snob about something different? Wine/opera/cars snobbery is so expected. Plus, wine snobbery is impossible to listen to. I like wine, don’t get me wrong, but when people turn their nose up and start to talk vintages in a fake British accent, it is obnoxiously ridiculous. This didn’t actually do that, I imagine because James might ultimately know very little about wine, but it gestured at it as though she wished she could talk bouquets and oaks and vintages.
Those are the turn offs I can think of now, but I’m sure there are more. Oh, sitting in a bathtub of menstrual blood is, it turns out, a turn off for me. I knew about the tampon scene, and whipping a tampon out to have sex does not freak me out the way it seems to freak some people. One of my friends got totally freaked out by a part where something similar (though more clearly and eloquently, and also maybe a little more creepily, described) happens in The English Patient, and I remember finding it a little haunting and creepy, but sort of beautiful, there. BUT THEN, in Fifty Shades, SHE DOESN’T PUT A TAMPON BACK IN!! And they go and hang out in the bathtub for a little while. So, that’s disgusting and unnecessary. I am not in favor of hanging out in pools of things that come out of my body. Turn off.
Oh, seeing life through the POV of an anorexic – turn off.
Locality annoyance: say, “I-5.” “The Interstate 5”? Please.
I’m not even going to talk about the subconscious and inner goddess because that is just facially crazy talk. And annoying.
Setting aside all of the distracting writing and the way my personal lady parts shrivel up and hide at all the details of this story, it really is the fact the relationship here that is the worst thing. People have talked this to death, but much of the sex and violence Ana experiences are sex and violence she acquiesces to because she’s too scared to lose a boy, not sex and violence she asks for because she wants them. That is very, very annoying to read about. It’s like listening to a nauseatingly long restraining order hearing while knowing the whole time that it won’t be granted. If you want to sacrifice your life with the hope that a man will change, it’s your life. But, don’t whine to me about your stupid choices.
It has been previously mentioned once or twice that Olivia is my favorite. It is true. Olivia rules.
In this one, my particularly favorite part, otherIt has been previously mentioned once or twice that Olivia is my favorite. It is true. Olivia rules.
In this one, my particularly favorite part, other than the end, which is awesome, is the Martha Graham page. Also, good use of the words "corporate malfeasance." And Ian Falconer's drawings are, as always, amazing.
1. Olivia And The Missing Toy. It has the fold out page, including the surprise, and that is difficult to beat. Plus, it has a premise that is compelling to for all ages. Or, maybe just me because I lose stuff all the time.
2. Olivia. A classic. Especially the parts where she moves the cat.
3. Olivia and the Fairy Princesses. This is ranking at a high third! Congrats, fairy princesses! Again, a compelling struggle, use of outstanding extra-textual art, and good vocab! Also, the use of additional characters as Olivia's audience is always really genius. Like, at the beginning, when Olivia is depressed, the way the cat and dog are watching her, concerned, really creates the sense of depression I think Olivia is looking for.
This is where I get a little fuzzy. I think my next rankings are:
"saves the circus" and "forms a band" are mixed up in my head right now, though, so I am having trouble remembering what happens in them. Christmas is a good one, and I think there's another page in the middle that folds out, which is always a win with me. "Goes to Venice" didn't have the pathos of the others, in my view.
Olivia is the best. ________________________ I received a free copy of this in exchange for nothing. Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah, me!...more
Har har, puns! Although the phallic image on this cover has to be the male equivalent of vagina dentata. Brrrr.
I feel two ways about this book. First,Har har, puns! Although the phallic image on this cover has to be the male equivalent of vagina dentata. Brrrr.
I feel two ways about this book. First, it's a good idea, and there are some cool patterns in here that are more masculine than you see in your typical knitting book. Most pattern books clearly live in active fear that you will fall into that tired sit-com stereotype and knit something awkward for your boyfriend. Look at these patterns, they say, they are 1920s themed or have kittens! Do not show them to a man, for their eyeballs will melt.
Anyway, this has some decent ideas. I really like the beer cozy idea, though I haven't made it yet:
I also like the Not-So-Rugged Scarf, but you will have to look at this book to see pictures of those because I can't find an open copy on the internets. Most of these patterns assume that any man who would use this book is more than 50% gay. And, fair. I made this manly scarf for my office-mate who is approximately 83% gay:
My only real issue with this book, other than the vests, is that the directions are not immensely clear, especially if you are a new knitter. They use a lot of abbreviations that did not seem to be well indexed in the back, and some stitches that were not explained in the front of the book. That seems like a bummer if this is supposed to be, as it is billed, "a hands-on guide." At least youtube can basically translate really clearly and easily any stitch you are confused about, but I did have to reference youtube a couple of times while making that scarf. Sometimes, I sadly wonder if knitting books are a little obsolete and blogs or knitpicks.com aren't really the way to go for patterns. Merry Christmas, my 83% gay office mate!...more
Resumes are possibly my least favorite thing to write or read . . . or maybe my second least favorite, after cover letters. It’s so difficult to landResumes are possibly my least favorite thing to write or read . . . or maybe my second least favorite, after cover letters. It’s so difficult to land in the right place on the scale between unqualified/disinterested and fake/braggy, so I always aim for straight accuracy. Did I do that thing? If yes, then I will include it. If it’s a stretch, I’ll probably leave it off. I have definitely swung from one side to the other as I’ve tried to navigate the spectrum of resume writing, but I feel most comfortable if I just aim for accuracy. As resumes go, Argo landed a little closer to the fake/braggy line than I like.
Ben Affleck, as you probably know, made the main story in this book into a movie recently. I haven’t seen it yet, but I imagine it was somewhat more successful than this book is. I got trapped in a room with an older lawyer the other day, and he backed me into a corner telling stories about his legal practice. Listening to this book kind of felt like that, too, except it’s an old CIA guy telling stories about doing CIA stuff. Ultimately, in the last 10% of the story, he goes to Iran and saves some Americans who were hiding out during the hostage crisis that lasted from 1979-1981. It seems like that would be more interesting than it was, just like it seems to me like an older lawyer telling stories would be more interesting than it typically is. And the thing that always kills them for me is the fishing for an ego stroke that goes along with a lot of those stories.
The stories go like this:
I was sitting in my office smoking and looking like Don Draper, but above all being very humble and never telling anyone about the amazing work I was always doing. Suddenly, my manly secretary (not manly because of her attitude, but manly because she was a spinster) came rushing into my office with a telegram. It said, ‘The world will end unless you solve the rubik’s cube.’ I recalled that Stephen Hawking worked down the hall from me, in the office next to Jesus and kitty-corner from Shakespeare. When we weren’t saving the world, we liked to taste scotch together and goof around. Jesus was always asking me for fashion advice, and couldn’t tie a tie to save his life – that rascal!
Also, at that time, they were doing construction on a new wing of our office building. It’s the wing that Batman works in now. You’ve heard of Batman, right?
So, I walk down to Stephen Hawking’s office, and I bring my rubik’s cube. I walk on the linoleum that used to be in all of the office buildings. It was a brownish color. People now are too young to remember the brownish linoleum in office buildings, but it was installed by linoleum installers. They were salt-of-the-earth men with muscles like the rolling hills of Africa.
Because Stephen Hawking and I both speak twelve languages, the only trouble in solving the rubik’s cube was what language we should speak in while we solved it. As I pointed out to him the final move we needed to make in order to solve the grand puzzle, I noticed a glint of respect in his eye at my superior intellect.
Shakespeare came to the door and said, "Let me tell you a joke: knock knock."
"Who's there?" I responded, understanding the common exchange in a "knock-knock joke."
"Fuck you!" Shakespeare yelled. And we laughed and laughed, forgetting our worries about the end of the world and enjoying the camaraderie of the moment.
Then, many women ran to me and kissed my feet, and the President of the United States asked if he could take a picture with me. I don’t like to tell this earth-shattering story because I am so humble, so you’re welcome.
Wow! You know Batman, Mr. CIA? I bet you have one million Aston Martins and just as many fleshlightsbimbos, er, 'girlfriends'!
This book is actually even more humble-braggy than that, but it sort of gives you an idea. I know a girl who can’t stop name-dropping and reciting her resume, as well as the resumes of her mother and this federal judge she knows. Like, she is in some kind of perpetual tailspin of resume reciting. And sometimes I wonder if that is a mental disease many men contract as they get older. The saddest part to me is that there are probably a lot of good stories underneath all that humble-bragging, but I can’t hear them because I am too annoyed. I mean, if you just think of reading a book about a CIA agent saving Americans during a hostage crisis, it seems like it would be a fun story. But, this wasn’t.
Mendez deserves any praise he gets, I’m sure, but I just can’t abide fishing for compliments. Ego is the easiest way to interfere with any good story, whether the ego takes the form of showy humility or bragging. Argo seemed to be some kind of extended, convoluted resume, and I think it would have been a better policy to just aim for accuracy rather than getting so caught up in the accolades Mendez deserved or didn’t deserve. Humility and arrogance both make a story about ego, rather than about the story, and ego ruined this one for me.
Also, the reader’s voice was strikingly nasal. I would say this is the second worst audio book I’ve listened to, after Three Cups of Tea....more
Oh, Kristin Cashore, I would trust you with my life. This series breaks my heart and patches it all back together again. This book was so different frOh, Kristin Cashore, I would trust you with my life. This series breaks my heart and patches it all back together again. This book was so different from the first two in pace, but somehow, and I say this almost reluctantly, that made the end more meaningful to me. I am all about editing in stories, and for the first half of this book, the redundancies seemed unnecessary and boring. But, I don’t actually think they are now. I think they had some purpose, though I don’t know that I could articulate it for you. I was wrong in what I thought this ending would be, and I’m glad I was wrong. It was so much more brutal than I expected, but more meaningful in that way. Are there more of these? Are you going to write more books for me, Kristin Cashore? I love your people, the evil and the good, the sins of our fathers and frailty of our mothers. I love them.
This story picks up with little Bitterblue, now the queen of her empire. If Graceling borrows somewhat in spirit from Aliens, Katsa is our Ripley and Bitterblue is Newt. And now Newt comes into her own with the responsibility for a nation that was totally fucked by her father, by the lies he told and his control and manipulation. She doesn’t even know how fucked her nation is because after you’ve lived in lies for so long, how does anyone know what the truth is? And is the truth more dangerous that willful ignorance if what you’re ignoring is an abomination? Ugh. Beautiful, awful choices. And forgiveness! And stories! Oh man, beautiful. Just the idea of figuring out how to repair a nation from violence and lies is beautiful.
But, anyway, and Katsa/Ripley has taught Bitterblue/Newt how to fight and protect herself, and where Graceling pointedly tells the story of a woman fighter, a survivor, Bitterblue makes no point of Bitterblue’s completely human, normal ability to defend herself. She just can kick an ass if she needs to, and other times she can’t. Her strength is not a super power, it’s just human power.
This book, in contrast to the first two, felt more high-fantasy to me. It uses the conventions of alternate languages, involved descriptions of coded communication, and a lot of walking (which, to be fair, the walking is in the other two as well. Fantasy, man – bring your Nikes). It is not actually high fantasy, I’m sure, so don’t get all excited if that’s your thing. It is not my thing, but the incorporation of those conventions seemed fun to me, not annoying. It kept enough of a super-hero feel that I tracked.
Now I’m going to talk about where this series really resonates with me. I always think, you know, women are raised that a man on a white horse will come, swoop us up, marry us, and that marriage will magically solve all of our problems. When that doesn’t actually happen, we think, Oh, it’s because if we have children, that will actually solve all of our problems. When having children doesn’t solve all of our problems, we think, Oh, if we run off to an exotic island and have a romantic Eat Pray Love affair, that will solve all of our problems.
I think men are in basically the same position – if he finds the right girl and marries her, she will decorate his house, and always be there with a smile, a hug, and a plate of cookies, and that will solve the problems. Then, when that doesn’t work, it’s basically the same with the children and the affair. But, in the end, we are always left with ourselves. Marriage and children and lovers don’t take us away from ourselves and fix us the way the stories promised.
I love the way the Twilight saga exaggerates those promises to the point of absolute absurdity, but I love even more the way this series exists entirely outside of those promises. This series doesn’t try to deus ex machina our guilts, doubts, and shame away, but it presents characters working through them, living with grief, and learning about their power.
I think it is a second-wave feminism phrase to say a woman is empowered or disempowered, and I’ve been thinking about the use of that word lately because someone I’ve been around a lot routinely uses it. I kind of don’t like the word “empowerment,” I think. It seems somewhat inaccurate to me, even along the lines of the promise that our problems can be magically solved by some kind of social convention. “Marriage didn’t magically solve your problems? Well, then, empowerment will magically solve them.” I don’t think everyone means that when they use the word “empowerment,” just like I don’t think everyone who gets married or has kids thinks that will magically solve their problems, but I think both avenues can lead to that expectation. The idea of empowerment or disempowerment just sounds to me like somehow you can subscribe to something outside of yourself that will magically take away your problems. It indicates that the power wasn't there all along, but if you follow the treasure map right, you'll find the magic problem-solving solution.
But, along those lines, I love the message in this book, like in The Hunger Games series, that we need to discover our own power - that it was there all along, and that life was never about finding a magic that lets us take the easy way out. In Mockingjay, everyone around Katniss reminds her of her power until she recognizes it. Here, similarly, this story is a journey of Bitterblue realizing her power. It is beautiful. It is the work that we all face that is bigger than marriage or children or politics or career. It’s the self that we are left with when the world is on our shoulders and we have no shoulder to lean on ourselves. This story is full of so much hope and so many dreams. I love it. ...more
This was TERRIBLE. Terrible!!! Why are you here book??? Why do you exist?? Why do you suck SO MUCH??? Ugh!! I was listening to this while walking to wThis was TERRIBLE. Terrible!!! Why are you here book??? Why do you exist?? Why do you suck SO MUCH??? Ugh!! I was listening to this while walking to work in the morning, and I’m pretty sure I was waking up whole neighborhoods with my loud, “UGGGGHHHHHHH”s because I could not refrain from reacting to what a bitch this book is. This book is such a little bitch. It is not SO bad to start out with, just your normal Anita Blake bitchiness, like, “girls shouldn’t wear pink; girls shouldn’t shop; girls shouldn’t be feminine; girls shouldn’t like boys.” And then the boys like her sooooo much because she is such an asshole. So, don’t worry, slatherings of male approval if you don’t wear pink.
OH MY GOD. UGGGGGHHHHH.
And THEN, after you trudge through Anita’s complete lack of personality and LAME sense of humor, why not throw on some racism, homophobia, and a huge helping of ableism? WHY THE FUCK NOT?? UGGGHHH. I want to punch this book in its smug little curly-haired kisser. It makes me figuratively puke.
According to people who have read beyond this book, at some point, Anita starts having sex with random monsters, which . . . whatever. I don’t even care about that because she is so obnoxiously prudish in these first two books. And, the thing is, if you don’t want to have sex with a vampire, more power to ya girl. But THEN the simpering self-congratulation about it. It makes me crazy. You suck so much, Anita Blake. You are everything wrong about anything to do with gender.
I figure there are numerous ways women can react to sexism when they realize it is there, so I’ve made a little chart to illustrate my thoughts on the matter:
As you can see, in my mind, all choices except doing whatever the fuck you want lead to a woman’s life being basically sacrificed to sexism. And this probably works the same with masculinity, too, obvs. I feel like I've forgotten another manifestation of women accepting sexism that looks almost like feminism, but I can't think what it is. And Anita Blake, all through this stupid book, is calling herself a feminist. You know she's a feminist because all the boys think she a spunky little hottie. Puke. This fake bullshit is such an easy justification for people saying they aren't feminists. But, how can you say anything is feminist that hates women and only seeks male approval? Puke.
On the one hand, I am so grateful to the women who came before me and forced people to recognize their skills and abilities so that hopefully in the future this stupid conversation will never even happen. So grateful. On the other hand, I think it is disgusting that the lives of capable women are sacrifices to either some kind of awkward attempt to be men or to a fight for the mere survival of girls because they are girls. I would consider someone like Lisbeth Salander an example of a woman who is painful to read about because her life is totally sacrifice to the mere survival of women. I don't think that's bad on Lisbeth's part, just depressing. I would consider Anita Blake a grotesque caricature of a woman trying to prove she is a man. Ugh. So uncomfortable to watch and annoying to hear about. Dude, just let girls wear pink if they want to wear pink. Pink is just a color, so dislike it if you want; but, also, pink is our childhood. And girlhood is not bad, so to the extent pink symbolizes women at our most innocently feminine, it pains me to hear women criticize it with the weight of rejecting their own innocent femininity. Again, like or dislike pink. Whatever you want. But, there is nothing noble or professional about hating the decorations of girlhood.
Aside from that, oh my god, the ableism in this book is absolutely disgusting. There is this whole section about a prostitute in a wheelchair, and Anita is like, “OH MY! KINKY! That is disgusting that anyone would want to have sex with a woman in a wheelchair!” No, you are disgusting, Anita Blake.
This is totally just a personal pet peeve, but it also really, really annoyed me the way Hamilton imagined being hardened to crime. Anita is hardened to crime here, so that means that she tosses around body parts at a crime scene and dares police officers not to puke in a room where the carpet is soaked in blood.
(Sidebar: it only really bothers her when she sees the dead bodies of children. Which, okay, I agree that it is, for whatever reason, exponentially more disturbing to hear about violence to children than adults. In a room soaked in blood, however, it strikes me as weird that she would not be bothered at all by a police officer jiggling a boob attached to a bloody rib cage, but a child’s hand would make her swoon.)
I have been privy to some pretty hilarious I-work-in-the-criminal-justice-system jokes lately, and, here, Hamilton did not even come close to what those sound like. Because they are only funny if they are respectful, if they have some kind of hope that some good will come of all of the criminal justice bullshit. This was so disrespectful. Not even close to funny. This link is totally NSFW, but it is How You Do criminal justice system investigation comedy. Hamilton's jokes are stupid, and her protagonist is stupider, and her snotty attitude about everyone who isn’t a 5’3”, 107 lb., curly-haired sprite is stupidest. Gross. UGGGHHHH. I hate you, book.
The audio reader was still good, though. I don't know how she managed reading this whole series. Voice of steel. Ugh, puke again on behalf of the poor reader....more
This book is very valuable insofar as it has taught me to respect the society of men the way I would respect the circle around a chained-up rabid dog.This book is very valuable insofar as it has taught me to respect the society of men the way I would respect the circle around a chained-up rabid dog. Usually it seemed like the men were always criticizing each other behind one another's backs and this usually arose from something like “he has slightly insulted my honor or friend, perhaps unintentionally, I'm not going to find out, I'm just going to list off and exaggerate every one of his faults because it will create a deeper bond between me and my brother or friend try to kill him.” This book profoundly depressed me. It helped to destroy any hopes I had of ever having a happy relationship with a man.
JUST KIDDING! But, this book did take me on a stroll down recent-memory lane. In case that comment gets somehow deleted, here it is:
(view spoiler)[ Justin wrote: “This reminds me of what I started telling people about this book after I first read it. ‘It's very valuable insofar as it has taught me to respect the society of women the way I would respect the circle around a chained-up rabid dog.’ I don't remember who Elinor was but I remember scene after scene playing out like what you describe. Although usually it seemed like the women were always criticizing each other behind one another's backs and this usually arose from something like ‘She has slightly insulted my sister or friend, perhaps unintentionally, I'm not going to find out, I'm just going to list off and exagerate every one of her faults because it will create a deeper bond between me and my sister or friend.’ This book profoundly depressed me. It helped to destroy any hopes I had of ever having a happy relationship with a woman. Luckily, it taught me to avoid mistakes in the future. It taught me the rules to a game that no one had ever taught me but which women consider all important and it suddenly made sense of all the times that whole swaths of women would suddenly turn against me after being so nice to me. I guess it should be praised for being true to life. just like in real life, the people in this book don't try to communicate with those they have a grievance with. They just take pleasure in the grievance. World War One? All of humanity througout all of human history. Anyway, it doesn't seem like anything gets resolved through the hard work of communication which real relationships require. Things just get accidentally discovered about Mr. Darcy, making him oh so attractive, because if he had tried to straighten things out directly he would have looked arrogant and insensitive. I like how sensitive he was to people on the big issues at the end, but all those hoops that had to be jumped through in an empty, empty game....why? Human selfishness. Self and selfishibility.” (hide spoiler)]
I was wondering about whether it meant that I have some kind of hatred of men that I’m not aware of, and it was belied by the fact that, while I was listening to this book, I kept thinking about Justin’s colorful expression of hating women. But, no, I don’t think I hate men. That I know of. Just sometimes y’all can be a little hypocritical in your descriptions of why you hate women. But, who isn’t hypocritical sometimes? I hate bananas, but I love banana bread. Humanity is so complex.
Master and Commander made me think a little about how some sorts of interpersonal interactions are the same across genders, but they do feel different, somehow. This book was a lot of kicking up heels at a sleepover and obsessing about what somebody meant when he dropped a random hint at an accusation, gabbing about the nature of feelings, showing off about clothes and food, and gossiping about how to manage social status while dating. Since I’ve tolerated, or even enjoyed, those happenings in other books, I took to thinking about why this book was so shockingly boring to me. The obvious answer is that it was men who were doing those things and that somehow just the very nature of someone different than me doing them bores me. That would be so weird, but MAYBE TRUE! Could it just be the fact of the different appearance that makes the interpersonal deathly dull here, where it is immensely compelling in Austen?
There are at least two things definitely going on here, other than just the failure to provide a physically identifiable character for me, that made this book astoundingly boring. The first is the prevaricating about emotion and the interpersonal. The second, of course, is the women.
On the prevarication point, it’s just not very interesting to listen to someone be like, “IDK, maybe I like him, maybe I don’t” for HOURS. You know? I don’t care if it’s a man or a woman saying it. “Maybe I want to challenge him to a duel; maybe my sense of honor can’t reconcile with my position; maybe I was too brave or not brave enough!” Good golly. Somebody tell a joke!
One time, I posted this Virginia Woolf quote on facebook. It was from her writer’s diary, and it referred to these established male writers, friends of hers, who were critiquing her work. They didn’t care for it, but their critiques seemed to have missed something very basic in what she was saying. I don’t remember exactly what the quote was, but it said something like, “It is so difficult for the genders to communicate that among these very wise men, sometimes they will say things, and I can’t help but think that it sounds very similar to stupidity.” The day after I posted that quote, a man I know came up to me and expressed that he was offended I would post something that was so clearly anti-men on my facebook. And I couldn’t help but think him saying that so took the quote to mean the opposite of what it actually means that it sounded similar to stupidity. So, maybe there is something similar in my reaction here, where all of the interactions among the men in this book seem so See Spot Run that it is difficult to be interested. But, I am probably missing something.
On the unfortunate women point . . . well, there’s not much to say about that. This book has no very good opinion of women, black people, or homosexuals. It doesn’t like us, folks, so we best move along. I think it is fair to bring stuff back around to Austen at this point. She doesn’t write her books about the men folk, so her male characters do have a tendency to be somewhat flat and act as props for the women to grow around. I think she loves her men, though. I love her men, at least. But, this. Wheeeuuu. Not a fan of the women. They’re either morons who basically speak in gibberish, or whores who ruin men’s lives. We are not welcome. And the gays get shot, but, you know, you had it coming. Black people . . . well, you can be useful at times, but no one understands your speech. So, you best walk on by. Oh, man, I am so tired of talking about people who hate people for dumb reasons. Start being more interesting, you guys!
Point: it would be interesting to jump into the skin of someone who could have identified with any of this to see if I would then have found it interesting. But, I wouldn't want to live in that skin.
Anyway, I don’t feel . . . angry . . . or really anything about this book. It is just boring. I wouldn’t say there is any objective redeeming value, but apparently some people like it. They made a movie of it. It might be saying something, but to me it sounds a lot like stupidity. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This was another . . . book. Things happened in it. And, as a rule, I am in favor of things happening in a book, especially when keeping in mind the aThis was another . . . book. Things happened in it. And, as a rule, I am in favor of things happening in a book, especially when keeping in mind the alternative. This series seems like it is probably Sookie Stackhouse’s cool aunt, whom Sookie fiercely wishes she could be. Meaning, I like Sookie even less after reading this book. Not that I am in love with this book, but I didn’t hate it at all, and there were a lot of fun things about it. Anita’s hard-boiled-detective attitude was fun. It was nice that Kirsten Dunst showed up for some of it. I’m somewhat underwhelmed, but I didn’t dislike it.
Consistent with my general egocentrism, I think my favorite books and movies are those that make me think of things about my own life. This one didn’t make me think of anything. It wasn’t because it was so particularly unique that it didn’t make me think of things, because it mostly seemed like a mash-up of Interview With a Vampire, Alias, and Sookie, and I don’t care that maybe all of those came after Anita. She has to live with the fact that I saw them first. Anyway, it might have been because it was so structured that it didn’t make me think of things – maybe formulaic?
Whatever. This is one of those instances where I don’t feel like I have anything to explain about how I feel about it because I didn’t really feel anything. It was a book. It had vampires. Sometimes, they were sexysexy; other times, they were baaaad. It had murrrrderrr, but it basically reveals the murderer in the middle of the story. So, that happened.
Oh, one thing. It was interesting how this was pretty girl-power, except when there was an overweight girl, and then it got super catty. What was up with that? Not that I really care. If Laurel Hamilton (Lauren?) wants to be an idiot, who am I to stop her? Overall, this story was not terrible or fabulous. Blah.
This was a good audio. I really like the reader.
Also, approximately ten seconds after I started the second book, this one got one million times worse in retrospect....more
Culture imposes on women constant indoctrination of the idea that our vaginas should make us small, weak, and incapable of caring for ourselves or othCulture imposes on women constant indoctrination of the idea that our vaginas should make us small, weak, and incapable of caring for ourselves or others.
"A woman could obviously never be a fire fighter, for example." "We couldn't send a woman to do that military job because what if she got her period? She couldn't take a week off when she's there!" "There are just some days in the month when a woman diplomat wouldn't be able to do her job." "I wouldn't watch women's sports because women aren't as strong as men, but I guess the clothes are hot." "But, if we hire her, she'll probably want more time off because she has a kid, so she won't be able to do her job." "Sure one 'woman' did that, but she isn't like real women, and she's probably a lesbian."
It is easy to internalize that thinking, even though it obviously makes very little sense. Plenty of men are short and women are tall. Plenty of women are athletic and men sedentary. Gender has very little to do with physical strength, abilities, or athleticism. And, of course, plenty of men experience indoctrination that they are weak or lazy, and plenty of women, thankfully, live in families that undermine these stereotypes, so I'm not talking in specifics here. What I'm talking about is media and culture and the gendered expectations they impose as a sort of zeitgeist based in gender. That spirit is still that femininity is weak and masculinity is strong, and even where we see it making no sense, it is easier said than done to untangle right from wrong.
This second installment of the adventures of Lisbeth Salander looks very academically at appearances in basically the same manner as Girl With the Dragon Tattoo analyzed consent. It has Lisbeth with dark hair and light, tattoos and implants. It sizes her, the smallest of small girls, up against the most giant of giant men. It is also clever, in the same academic way that GWTDT was with consent, in easing the reader into comparisons and becoming more extreme, developing the idea to its furthest, as the book goes on. The boxer takes on the giant; Lisbeth takes on the douchey biker: Larssen eases us into the comparison of sizes and appearances. And the idea is this: appearance and size do not dictate our successes and failures; they should not dictate who we are.
I think the idea of Lisbeth getting implants early on in the book is interesting. The feel of the way it plays out with her seems . . . off, but I still can appreciate a sort of contrast between my instinctive reaction to Lisbeth altering her body with tattoos to my reaction to her altering her body with implants. On the one hand, I do think my aversion to the idea of implants is valid because of all of the women I’ve known whose implants have become infected or calcified. It’s just a bad health decision in most cases, in my opinion, in a way that I don’t think tattoos are unhealthy as a rule. On the other hand, I can see how altering your own body, in any way, can be experimental and interesting and give a sense of ownership. So, to the extent I start to judge the choice to get implants as succumbing to an oppressive social idea of women’s bodies, and getting tattoos as valid and empowering, I don’t think I’m being entirely fair. I am cool with a woman doing what she wants with her body, and judging a woman based on plastic surgery ultimately seems as dumb to me as judging her based on her tattoos.
Still, it seems unlikely to me that a woman who had a bad day would run herself a Jacuzzi bath and sink to the bottom of it, pinching her nipples really hard, even if she had just gotten a boob job she was super excited about. That seemed weird. It also seemed weirdly simplistic to me to describe how pleased Lisbeth was with her implants and how they made her feel attractive. I don’t dispute the idea that implants could make a woman feel attractive, but that seems like a shallow emotion to describe compared to other, underlying feelings that go along with it. Maybe it is not true for every woman, but when I drastically change my appearance to look more like a magazine and get a lot of positive feedback for it, there is always a feeling of betrayal I have that goes deeper than the flattery. I look more like a doll, and what people want from me is that I be a doll. But, I know that is not who I am or want to be. It also reminds me that people are suckers for media. So, while I don’t think those are universal feelings, I do think that Lisbeth and I have similar enough outlooks that it throws me off that she would be so single-mindedly pleased with her boobs.
Also, I will tell you right now that blond hair is not a good disguise. You go from dark hair to blond and you immediately get a lot more attention. Not that I think people would have identified Lisbeth, because I think they would have just been looking at her hair and boobs, but it is not a good disguise.
So, I appreciate the academic comparisons of appearance, but I felt very disengaged with this story and these characters overall. Blomkvist is such a douche. Every time he said something, with his simpering patience, I wanted to punch him. The letter he wrote to Salander. Oh my god. I hate that guy. What a manipulative, selfish martyr.
What was with Larsson being totally cool with Salander’s statutory rape of the island kid? Oh wait, huh, did he say later in the book that the age for statutory rape in Sweden is super young? Nevertheless, why was Salander okay with that? Everything that happened at the beginning of this book was very disorienting. In GWTDT, you could have cut the first 100 pages, but in this, you could have cut the first 200. Not looking forward to the first 300 pages of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest.
I don’t hate Salander at all, but I do feel somewhat indifferent about her. At the end of this one, when (view spoiler)[she dies and gets buried, I was like, “Huh, that is a bold move,” but I felt no emotion about it. And then it is made less bold by her rising again, but whatever (hide spoiler)]. Partly, regardless of what happens to her, I think Lisbeth’s life is already forfeit to this war she is fighting, so it is difficult to have hopes for her. She isn’t really a person, with her own dreams, because that isn’t possible for her - she is a sort of slave to fighting hatred of women. That is important, and I love that about her character, but at the same time, it’s not very human. It’s not emotionally complex.
Or, maybe it is ambivalence I feel about Lisbeth, not indifference, because in this one, like in GWTDT, there was a moment where she quoted something I recently said. It came about three-fourths of the way through the book, like it did in GWTDT, and it was sort of like a slap in the face. Like watching a robot take on my personality. Weird. I feel connected to Lisbeth through those things that she says, but it still always feels like Larsson was following me around, saw me say something, and wrote it down. And seeing me from the outside didn’t really tell him what was behind the thing I said. That’s how I feel about Salander – like Larsson couldn’t crack through her character to tell me what was inside. Those are the things I want to know about a character: the guts and innards. I want an author to take them apart and show me the character’s beating heart. That is not Larsson’s skill, so I end up feeling disconnected.
It is interesting that so much of this seems so purposeful, but an almost equal amount of it seems like a waste of space. After the first 200 pages, I was with the story, but until then I was doing some serious sighing and eye-rolling. I think it is a good policy to read these books in one sitting, and probably not while you’re reading The Iliad, which is what I did. The Iliad is like a bowl of rich chocolate mousse, where you can take one bite and be satisfied for days. This book is like what I imagine a Billy’s Pan Pizza to be: something sort of tasteless to rush through for the satisfaction of feeling full in the end. There is nothing to savor, but it has its place.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Kristin Cashore has this way of taking a rough stereotype of a woman and still talking about her in a full, human, contradictory way that such a stereKristin Cashore has this way of taking a rough stereotype of a woman and still talking about her in a full, human, contradictory way that such a stereotype would feel if you lived in it. She simplifies the telling and complexifies heroine. In Graceling, she tells the story of a badass warrior woman, a survivor, an Ellen Ripley. In Fire, she tells the story of a beautiful trophy girlfriend, an aspiring homemaker, a super model who loves babies, a monster combination of Joan Harris and vampire Bella Swan. Our girl, Fire, is from a race of what the story cleverly calls “monsters,” and I like that both Fire and her society adopt that word as accurate. Her body is exactly what I would think of as a monster. I approve.
Briefly, for if you don't already know, in this story, our people live in a land where monsters are these sort of magical predators who crave blood and flesh, but are so beautiful and colorful that they mesmerize normal humans and animals just by their looks. They have mind-control powers, and when they are in human form, the mind control powers are stronger because, you know, humans are brainy. Fire got her name because she is a ginger, but a monster ginger, so her hair looks like fire, and she has to wrap it up because when dudes see it, they basically try to rape her and when animals monsters see it, they try to eat her. Hair is such a problem.
Now I am going to talk about my ruminations on the conflict between what our bodies are and what our essences, or souls, or whatever, are. Sometimes, I sit around and think about how disconnected I feel as a person from the way my body looks, regardless of the specifics of how I look at that particular moment – fat or thin; white, red, brown, black, or purple hair; strong or weak. Or maybe I feel disconnected from the way people react to my body; it is difficult to say for sure. It makes me think that before we are born, we are floating in the sky as some kind of disembodied essence, and we choose our bodies through a series of escalating dares. I wonder what made me choose this one.
Say, before you were born, your essence had these cards laid out on the poker table of body choices: you could be a gorgeous black woman in the 1950s in the South; the youngest, scrawniest brother in a family full of white coal miners; a rich, white sorority girl; or the son of the first Korean-American President of the United States. You know, say, that you, your essence, is a light, delicate thing, something that hates conflict and loves hot cocoa and hearth fires. Do you go with the safe bet or give yourself a challenge? Does that obnoxious other soul in the corner antagonize you into choosing the black woman in the 1950s just because it doesn’t think you could take it? Or do you go with the possibly safer, but more depressing, sorority girl? Could your delicacy and conflict-aversion handle living inside a man’s body in a society that shames delicate men?
Whatever you decide, you’re all, “CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!” and you fly off into the horrors and joys of the body you chose. But, the rules are that once you’re there, you can’t remember how you got there in the first place. You have to fight that battle blind because otherwise the battle isn’t testing your instincts and you’re not as invested in the game.
Or maybe there’s some bureaucrat in the sky with a giant spreadsheet. I don’t know.
Fire made me think about who we are in essence and the way our bodies shape us because I think Cashore articulately describes the powerlessness of beauty and how, while we might aspire to that, it might not be something we really want. Fire's horrifying monster beauty and her horrifying X-Woman skill of mind control, and the shame she felt over those parts of herself were interesting. On the one hand, there is a little bit of a poor-little-rich-girl about the story that I think Graceling also had to some extent, but it doesn’t really dwell in it. There’s so much straight action and Fire is so heroic that it only nudges against the border of maudlin. I don’t think it really crosses over, or at least not often. But, I think that it illustrates how having a body, whether it is the body of a monster or not, is hard. Dealing with social reactions to a body is hard. But, it is worth it.
I think girls often have a sort of out-of-body experience of someone assuming a lot about our personalities from our appearances. Probably men experience that, too, though I wonder how similar the experiences are. I have dimples, so people often don’t expect me to be as much of an asshole as I am and feel extra betrayed by my bitchiness. Fire is kind of like that, too, in that her personality is not what the stories told people to expect from that body. Regardless of what the false expectation is, because it is probably different for us all, there is still that sense of being out of place in a body. I think it is an identifiable female sentiment, and maybe identifiable because there is so much media propaganda about female bodies being wrong. But, at the same time, I have this instinctual sense that I am lucky to have a body at all, and that I should take care of it, and I get the feeling that most people have at least a sliver of that same instinct.
Anyway, I found this beautiful. I liked these people and animals. I liked Fire and I also liked the use of fire as imagery and its association with mourning and cleansing. At times, I found the light use of somewhat courtly language awkward, but that’s not a big deal when action is going down. I’m bumping this up to a five-star rating because I think it is ballsy to write a sequel that is only loosely connected to the first, and I thought that was a well-executed ballsy move. Addressing the stereotype of a beautiful, affectionate woman was smart after having told the story of a survivor in the first book.
I want to be Kristin Cashore’s friend. She is a bold woman....more
Oh my god, I love this book!! I love histories of women that make me freak out, and this one does that. This gives me goose bumpOH MY GOD!
oh my god.
Oh my god, I love this book!! I love histories of women that make me freak out, and this one does that. This gives me goose bumps. The descriptions of the conflict these women felt between wanting to be good girls and realizing that being a good girl means becoming a shell and disappearing are so beautiful and told so well. Povich is brilliant, and it’s clear that she has so much compassion and understanding for women who reacted very differently to the discrimination they all felt.
And look at that cover! That cover alone makes me freak out. AAAAAAAAAHHHHH. I am reduced to inarticulate babbling because of my love for this book. I love you, book! I love you and miss you! Don’t be over, book! I neeeeeed. I think this book is going to have to take out a stalking order against me.
Rather than only inarticulately freaking out, I will tell you something of what this book is about, I guess. It tells the story of the women who worked at Newsweek in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s filing class action lawsuits under the recently passed (1964) Civil Rights Act (Title VII). Mostly, though, it draws out all of this intense humanity from the internal and external conflict surrounding the women’s decision to sue and the reactions from the magazine.
It gets the sentiments from both sides so right, and it is compassionate, while still being direct. Povich starts the story with a few girls working at Newsweek in 2009 and waking up to the discrimination they were experiencing, and then it tracks back to the parallel story of the women in the ‘60s. You never want to hear a story like this told in a way that villainizes one group or another – the women or men or the advocates for racial equality, etc. – and this one so gracefully conveys nuance in the reactions from all sides. Oh my god, how is this story not well-known American folklore???
So, the women at Newsweek ultimately filed two class actions with the EEOC. Their attorneys, a pregnant Eleanor Holmes Norton, and, later, a pregnant Harriet Rabb, kicked negotiation ass. It is so painful to read men saying, “Well, we are trying to not be racist anymore. Isn’t that enough for you?” as though the main consideration of anti-discrimination efforts is to make white men better people. And it is painful to read women disappearing to accommodate society, but Povich tells both of those points of view smartly and compassionately. Of course, though, she includes Eleanor Holmes Norton responding to the men by saying, “The fact that you have two problems [race and sex discrimination] isn’t my concern.” And she also tells of the women she knew advocating for each other’s skills and abilities and truly creating a sense of sisterhood and comradery, once they dropped their mutual suspicion, that is true to my experience of women working together.
Povich is also really interesting about the interplay of race and gender for the black women working at Newsweek. Ultimately, the entire group of black women opted out of the class action because of the tension between advocacy for racial equality and gender equality. As I understand it, there has always been that pressure on black women to be loyal to race above gender, as though they are mutually exclusive. And the sense that white women are complaining about a gilded cage, while the black women experienced a dank, rat-infested torture chamber, overwhelmed any sense of identification with the white women who first thought of the lawsuit. Povich, also, though, very articulately describes Eleanor Holmes Norton’s take on race and gender advocacy, and that was absolutely brilliant to read. Oh my god, read this book.
When I first started law school, I was really surprised by a few of my women professors who were very competitive with women students in my class. I had just come from a male-dominated law firm in which women were relegated to a secretary ghetto, but most of the women in that ghetto were very supportive of each other. The more I thought about it, though, the more the competitiveness made sense to me. These women, becoming professionals in the ‘60s and ‘70s, fought tooth and nail to be where they are today. One of the professors who has been most competitive with me tells this story of how she was first in her class at law school, editor in chief of the law review, got the highest score on her bar exam, and she couldn’t find a job after she graduated because she is a woman. Women are not welcome in society. So disgusting. So, it totally makes sense to me that when society sets it up that there is room for one token woman in a company, you would turn against other women. And it is impossible for me to feel angry at a woman who experienced that kind of discrimination and successfully retained a professional status. That is incredible, and even if it has, at times, resulted in a bad experience for me, it is the discrimination, not the women, that I blame.
Every time I talk to a woman, I hear stories like those in this book. Every woman has these stories, and they are incredible. I love them. I do not, of course, love the way discrimination dehumanizes women, but I do love when it turns us into warriors and when it makes us think of the women who will come after us and hope for a better life for them.
Thank you! Thank you, Lynn Povich, for writing this book! Thank you, women, for living bold lives. Thank you for being good girls, but thank you, also, for giving up that idea for those of us who would come after you. It makes us more willing to give that idea up, too, and stop lying to ourselves about who we are and what we want. Seeing you advocate for yourselves and each other makes me feel like, I, too, can be a real human with a life and a passion. Oh, gush gush. Read this freaking book, women, if you want to hear stories of people like you! Read this freaking book, men, if you want to know about women. People, read this book!
____________ I got a copy of this book from netgalley....more
Well, I hate to be negative, but I think there might be some factual errors in this book. I don’t think a book that is about “World War 2” should failWell, I hate to be negative, but I think there might be some factual errors in this book. I don’t think a book that is about “World War 2” should fail to talk about the Great Depression in America because that is what readers can really relate to. I also thought it was incorrect to say that they found a spirit bridge without having to answer the three questions of the spirit bridge keeper, the Holy Ghost. I’m not saying the author, whom I believe to be a communist and possibly from Iran, like Barack Obama, needs to apologize to me about this because I haven’t written a bestseller, so who am I to talk? I am just saying that he should probably self-deport himself instead of taking hard-earned taxpayer dollars that I built to publish this spiritual self-help book. Other than the un-American parts of this book, I liked the more accurate parts, so I will tell you about them and hopefully you will love my “review.” LOL.
I like how there was a lot of good advice in here about how a woman can use her womanly powers to please men. I know that a lot of smart, sassy ladies wear their heels during sex, like the woman scientist in this story does, because, you know, it enhances the curvature of our calves and also because Jesus wants us to. The Eldridges describe the story of Ruth from this book called the “Bible” to tell us about that kind of thing. I’m just going to quote from the original work because it reminds me so much of the deeper spiritual message of Winged Leviathan.
Ruth, as you’ll remember, is the daughter-in-law of a woman from Judah named Naomi. Both women have lost their husbands and are in a pretty bad way; they have no man looking out for them, their financial status is below the poverty line, and they are vulnerable in many other ways as well. Things begin to look up when Ruth catches the eye of a wealthy single man named Boaz. Boaz is a good man, this we know. He offers her some protection and some food. But, Boaz is not giving Ruth what she really needs – a ring.
So what does Ruth do? She ‘inspires’ him. She arouses him to be a man. Here’s the scene: The men have been working dawn till dusk to bring the barley harvest; they’ve just finished and now it’s party time. Ruth takes a bubble bath and puts on a knockout dress; then she waits for the right moment. . . .
No, I do not think Ruth and Boaz had sex that night; I do not think anything inappropriate happened at all. But this is no fellowship potluck, either. . . . A woman is at her best when she is being a woman. Boaz needs a little help getting going and Ruth has some options. . . . She can badger him . . . [, s]he can whine about it . . . [, s]he can emasculate him . . . [, o]r she can use all she is as a woman to get him to use all he’s got as a man. She can arouse, inspire, energize . . . Ask your man what he’d prefer.
I am quoting Stasi Eldridge’s book of quotes from John Eldridge because this book has a lot of the same values as that, LOL. And, it is proper for a woman to quote a man about spiritual self-help. Some “feminists” (LOL, I mean “man-haters”) might say that the story of Ruth is not about that at all, but that it is about two women survivors protecting each other in a world that hates them. But, feminists are probably going to hell, LOL. They also probably think people care about ovaries or something. And also I heard that they want to kill babies. So, you should love babies and buy American.
The other thing I liked in this book was the funny jokes about duct tape. And I liked how the main character had problems with his dad, but they got to work them out through a spiritual journey. I also liked the funny jokes about the Leviathan’s butt and how the soldiers didn’t listen to the monks at the castle because they were probably atheists, LOL and prayers for them!
I didn’t like how there weren’t enough characters who turned out to be alive after we thought they were dead, but maybe they will be alive in the next book in this series. And how the main guy didn’t get married because he really needs one woman to arouse him. Amen....more
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 leScott 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....more
This is the worst book I’ve ever read. Worst. The worst book. I’ve read The Sword of Shannara and Skye O'Malley. This is the worst book. I can’t evenThis is the worst book I’ve ever read. Worst. The worst book. I’ve read The Sword of Shannara and Skye O'Malley. This is the worst book. I can’t even believe this book exists. It is about . . .
Well, imagine if Effie Trinket wrote a book about Bella Swan that took place in David Lynch’s brain, using as literary reference the Harry Potter series and the Uglies series.
It is bad and somewhat horrifying at the same time. And while both Skye O’Malley and this book had some creepy abuse of women and girls, Skye had panthers on leashes.
What. The. Fuck?
A friend informed me that the word SMIZE means to smile with your eyes. I don’t know if that makes me hate this book more or hate it less. I actually think it makes me hate it more. Oh my god, the mutilation of the English language in this book is pure sadism. The alliterative synonyms!!! Can't unsee.
I looked at all of the pages in this book, so nobody better give me any bullshit about finishing the damn thing. I got all the way to the miserable end.
There is a part where the chosen models go on a “catwalk,” which, in Modelland, means they walk down a hallway full of cats, which are possessed by the spirits of other models, and get clawed by the model/cats. Tookie . . .
that is the protagonist's name . . .
Anyway, her romantic interest, Bravo . . .
I can't even - the words: they are not enough for how stupid this is.
So, Bravo is always casually sticking his thumb into Tookie's mouth, and there are elaborate descriptions of how manly his thumb tastes. How does that even happen? This book is so bad.
I kind of like watching America’s Next Top Model on a marathon – or at least I did like six years ago. I haven’t done that in a while. At the same time, I am sort of left with the same feeling I get when I watch the movie Stomp the Yard - that it is not about anything. Like, the girls get weird pictures taken of them, then Tyra Banks yells at them in a snotty voice, and then people cry. I don’t totally get it. In Stomp the Yard, too, there is a set of standards that I can’t imagine is real. People jump around, and then other people yell, and it’s like, awwww yeeeeah, somebody won. But did somebody really win? What were the rules? Was there a German judge? I don’t get it. It is not very fun to watch or read something that is so far removed from my reality that it is only confusing.
At least now I know Suzanne Collins was modeling the Capital in Hunger Games on ANTM. I guess that’s some kind of redeeming takeaway.
Karen sent me an autographed copy of this, too. So, that continues to be spectacular....more
Maybe to some people character soup is funny on its own without any kind of actual cleverness? It seems like aI was told this would be funny . . .
Maybe to some people character soup is funny on its own without any kind of actual cleverness? It seems like a pretty lazy form of humor, though, if that is actually humor. Is that humor???
THIS IS A MYSTERY, not a comedy. And a somewhat lame mystery without any comedic elements I could identify. I mean, I haven’t been that big of a fan of mystery story since I was like 10 and read most of the Agatha Christies. I think that was the same year I ate a tuna fish sandwich almost every day. I learned my overdose lesson for the most part that year, but I still gag a little when I smell tuna. And I lost the suspense you’re supposed to have at a mystery. It got replaced with boredom. But, also, this was a REALLY obvious mystery.
I like mysteries like Gaudy Night or the Sarah Caudwells, where it’s more about the story than the mystery. Those are great. I have a slight sense that this was supposed to be about the characters, too, but that didn’t make it enjoyable to me. I don’t get this thing of taking fairy tales and going, “What if we made all of the characters super unpleasant?! People will love it!” Why? I mean, I guess there is a sort of a Dina Goldstein motivation of saying, this is how fairy tales work out in real life.
But, Dina Goldstein is a goddess of concise, poignant visual impact. This story just didn’t have the same immediate resonance, and I don’t necessarily think it was trying for that. It mostly just seemed like it was going for making characters unpleasant, not necessarily more realistic. It floundered, and then in the end it seemed to somehow have actually been mostly about how (view spoiler)[the big bad wolf has a crush on Snow White (hide spoiler)]. I don’t get it, and whatever it is, it was not funny. It was totally not horrible, though.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Old posts are in spoiler tags below, so you don't have to see them every time I write something new. But, don't worry, I'm not spoilering the outcomeOld posts are in spoiler tags below, so you don't have to see them every time I write something new. But, don't worry, I'm not spoilering the outcome of the book. YOU'LL NEVER GUESS WHAT HAPPENS! Okay, if you want to know: (view spoiler)[she gets skinny again (hide spoiler)].
(view spoiler)[I read this years ago on loan when I worked at Barnes and Noble, and it had just come out. It is not at all bad. A lot of it is just staple advice, like, "taste your food and don't eat food that is tasteless," or "portion control," or "don't obsess about how you look," etc. So, all good advice, and maybe deserving of its own book, but I'm not totally sure.
BUT, it has this cleanse recipe for a leek soup cleanse that I've always wanted to use, and I am going to tell you how it is after I do it. When I get super stressed out or out of my element, I get kind of scarily bloated. Or scary to me - but actually also scary to pedestrians and children, I'm pretty sure. And puppies. Not good. So, this happened to me studying for the bar exam. I ate a diet that was mostly peanut butter, hard boiled eggs, pickles, pizza, coffee and beer. Surprisingly enough, I feel like crap right now. So, it is finally time for the leek soup. I will not be providing pictures, I think, because it will look like boiled leeks and me. Use your imagination. Also, think of the puppies. No one should see pictures of me right now.
That is all I have to tell you about until after the magical leek soup experiment. It starts Saturday night.
(view spoiler)[Okay, I boiled the leeks to make the broth, and I checked all of these websites to see if it's okay to start the magic at night, or if it needs to be in the morning. It looked like morning is the better way to go, so I got everything set up. A few things to note: boiling leeks will make your house and fridge smell like boiled leeks. Also, the recipe says boil them for 20-30 minutes. At first, I went for 20, but then I thought maybe it needed a little longer, so I went for 30. I probably should have gone for a middle ground or stuck with 20 because they're a little mushy now.
Also, the recipe says to chop the ends off the leeks and cover them with water. It was confusing to me that the recipe didn't call for me to chop them until they laid flat at the bottom of the pot and cover them with water. Ultimately, I don't think this is a big deal, but I think I have too much leek broth.
Finally, a lot of the websites say women felt kind of sick after drinking the leek broth, so they gave up. On one website, there was a comment from this woman who was like, "OMG, I could NEVER do this because I MUST have my double skinny carmel macchiato with a sprinkle of cinnamon and extra foam every morning!" (paraphrase) That was annoying. But, I do have coffee every morning, so I decided to make some green tea iced tea with caffeine, and drink that. Just, you know, FYI, that will be sullying my experiment. (hide spoiler)]
Sunday, July 29, 2012:
(view spoiler)[You'll notice that I'm not following the prescription in the book to start this magic on Saturday and finish on Sunday night. Because I have all the days off right now!!! That's why! Every day is my weekend!
Okay, so I drank 1 cup of the leek broth and I ate 1/2 a cup of leek. I also am drinking a glass of my cheating green tea. Oh, I forgot to say that one of the girls who posted on a website I saw said she still drinks a cup of black coffee when she does this, but I feel like she was the same girl who said her stomach feels crappy in the morning after doing this. Hint: black coffee on a stomach full of leek broth might do that.
Anyway, the leek was, as promised, actually really yummy. I am a super grumpy morning person, and I don't like to eat things that have too much flavor or odor in the morning, so when I opened the fridge and smelled the leek smell, I'mma be honest, I was not excited. But, then, I . . . sauteed the leek? It says to drizzle it in some olive oil and lemon juice or salt and pepper, so instead I put some olive oil in a skillet and heated the leek up that way and then put a little salt on it. I feel like the word "saute" says to me that I mixed it around in a skillet in oil, but that is not really what I did. It was more like a slab of leek that I browned on each side. So, anyway, it was really good. Now, I am sitting and writing this. I don't feel nauseous, but I am sort of lounging on my couch, which is usually an easy cure for feeling nauseous, so I'm not sure if I'm really giving it the chance I should give it to make me nauseous.
I will say that it did not give me a burst of energy. I wasn't expecting one, but I think that's why it's a good idea to do this when you can set aside some time where you're not running a marathon or spending a long day acting in a network television show, or whatever you normally do that would be draining. (hide spoiler)]
Monday, July 30, 2012:
Friends, there is a happy ending to this tale of leeks. I was pretty good all day yesterday, and I drank my leek broth as prescribed, and ate my little leek patties when I was hungry. And, I'll tell you, they were actually good - both the broth and the leeks themselves. But, here's the thing, the boiled leeks stink to high heaven. So stinky! Once you actually get them cooked, they smell really good, but until then, double yuck and a sprinkle of yucky yuck. Plus gag.
Anyway, I started feeling a little funny and light headed last night, and I was going out to my favorite sushi place with one of my best friends from law school who is leaving FOREVER on Tuesday, so I ate some sushi. It was damn good. Because it was full of the same stuff that is part of the alternative recipe in this book for if you hate leeks, I don't think it was technically that much of a cheat, but then when I got home I realized that I couldn't open the container of stinky leeks again. I am a lightweight. So, I officially stopped the leek thing after one day, not the two commanded to me.
BUT, I actually do feel less bloated, and I could already feel that yesterday, so that was really nice. Also, the green tea did ward off the caffeine headache, so I think that was a good solution. Overall, it ended happy because it ended with some yummy sushi, mission accomplished with the bloating solution, the stink is out of my house, and my love of leeks remains in place. Moral: I'm glad I didn't kill myself trying to do both days of the leek broth.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["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
YA writing often lives on surfaces: the girl with the blue eyes fights with the dude with the grey eyes, car chase, change of clothes, somebody dies,YA writing often lives on surfaces: the girl with the blue eyes fights with the dude with the grey eyes, car chase, change of clothes, somebody dies, blue eyes and grey eyes kiss, to be continued. I find some storytellers exceptionally good at that type of writing. For example, Kristin Cashore knocked it out of the park with Graceling; Veronica Roth hit it with Divergent; and, of course, Suzanne Collins took that story, shook it all up, turned it upside down and used it as a mirror for the brokenness of humanity in Hunger Games. All of those authors talk in surfaces, but they still convey something I love. The prose does not stand alone, but the action does. As with anything, that seems to be a specific skill, and I’m sad to say that I think Moira Young is out of her element in that type of story but has decided to turn Saba’s adventure into that anyway.
To be fair, there was some thoughtful subtlety of relationship plot in this that I appreciated. It is so common to see male protagonists get seduced by a femme fatale and then go back to kicking ass, but you don’t really see that with female protagonists. You don’t see female protagonists (view spoiler)[making mistakes with sex, worrying about pregnancy, betraying the right guy but still being noble in heart, doing much but ultimately monogamously committing to the right guy (hide spoiler)]. I have a lot of respect for Young’s introduction of more nuanced and complicated choices on Saba’s part. At the same time, though, I think there is a reason we don’t see female protagonists like that – because it is as douchey to listen to a girl talk about being seduced by a homme fatale as it is to listen to a man being seduced by a femme fatale. And I don’t really care if the douchiness is induced by a Discovery Channel orgasm – still douchey. (view spoiler)[It was tough to watch a kickass girl, who I loved so much in the first book, be so douchey in this book. I don’t feel like it was more tough than watching Harry Potter be douchey in the fifth HP, or, say, than watching a friend say something douchey, but, nevertheless, Saba has some seriously douchey moments in this book, and it was itchy to read that (hide spoiler)].
Digression about douchiness: it is really fun to watch TV shows in which douchey people get punched in the face a lot. For example, one of the best things about How I Met Your Mother is how you get to see Barney Stinson, the douchiest guy on the planet, get punched in the face all the time. Likewise, Vampire Diaries is fun because you get to see the Dawson’s Creek characters get eaten by vampires. I struggle with watching characters I love become douchey, though. While, in real life, we probably all have our douchey moments, and maybe a slice of douchiness adds some realism to a story, I do not go to YA fantasy for realism. I would rather see stories with male protagonists lose the douchiness (or save it for the characters getting punched in the face and eaten by vampires) than see stories with female protagonists pick up the douchiness. I know you can make a good argument about it validating girls making mistakes, and that’s fair, but I just don’t find it very entertaining in either male or female protagonists. And here I am now, entertain me.
Even though Saba was an asshole in the first book, I could get behind that. My friend has this rule that if you are more funny than you are mean, you are okay. For me, too, if your amount of badassery outweighs your assholiness, you are okay. And, in the first book, Saba’s badassery was crazy high, while her assholiness was moderate. In this book, she has very little badassery, and her assholiness was gone but replaced with douchiness. In the roshambo of unfortunate character traits, douchiness can only be dominated by a punch in the face. Sorry, Saba, but I would stand in line to deck you or smash you with a cream pie. I would put a banana peel outside of your tent just to watch you slip on it. For your own good.
My point is that I think I figured out why the first half of Blood Red Road was so beautiful, and the second half fell so flat. The first half lived in cracks and dwelt on Saba. Saba did things: she discovered the land and people around her and defended herself, but it still had a good balance of dwelling in moments. It was magic to me. It was not in the typical style of surface-action YA, and there was only loose plot, but I loved that about it. I think the ability to pause and consider and dig deep into a character is more valuable than the ability to plot, though I do appreciate both. So, when Young captured that in the first part of BRR, it really knocked me out more than YA typically does.
Once BRR stopped digging into Saba and her surroundings and started skimming the surface, though, it got boring and kind of lame. This second book continued with the skimming, and that is not Young’s talent in my estimation. She doesn’t pull it off as solidly as Cashore, Roth, or Collins. Even in this book, for the brief moment when Saba dropped the other characters, the story got really interesting. For the most part, though, it was scattered and the plotting seemed simplistic, while at the same time it made very little sense. There were loose ends, dangling characters, and fuzzy motivation. I’ll always have a special place in my heart for the first part of Blood Red Road, but Rebel Heart is not the series I married anymore.
Also, I want to kick Lugh so hard in the balls that he sees stars until this whole series is over. ______________________________ The publisher provided me with a copy of this book. Also, fun fact: it took me exactly the time of my flight (with one stop) from Portland to Chicago last week to read this book. I started reading when the first plane took off, and I finished when the second plane prepared for landing. High five on that, book. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I was reading Within a Budding Grove recently, and the copy I have is an older one, the dust jacket worn and ripped in places. I like to read hardcoveI was reading Within a Budding Grove recently, and the copy I have is an older one, the dust jacket worn and ripped in places. I like to read hardcovers of books the best, so I can use the dust jacket as a bookmark, and so I feel like the book is solid and less likely to get creased and broken by my reading. But, this copy was delicate, and every time I touched it, I could feel it crumbling in my fingers. The book itself was a beautiful, delicate thing, like the writing and ideas on its page, like the vulnerability of its narrator. My touch was too rough and solid.
I went out and bought supplies, and made a cover for the jacket, and pasted it all back together again, so that the book would be protected from my awkward pawings.
I loaned a hardcover to a friend once, a cheap hardcover of New Moon, even, which I had bought at Target for maybe $6. The friend forgot it was mine, and by the time I discovered it in her house again, the dust jacket was lost and the pages dog-eared. I couldn’t help but feel my friend had beaten up someone I loved. And, clearly, it was an inexpensive copy of a book that is ¾ abysmally boring, but it’s not about which book it is. It is a book. If you can’t be trusted with a book, what can you be trusted with?
Books are a dream of fireplaces and hot chocolate on a snowy day. They are a vision of seeing people as they really are, of understanding what the world is and who we are in it. They are family and love and friendship. Books are small packages that contain all the possibility in the universe. Books are my favorite. And I love the pages and binding and covers as the presence of magic in the physical world.
A book holds the world of a story, but it also holds the world of our reading experiences. For years, I kept the copy of Crime and Punishment that my friend gave me, saying, “Here, I know it is good, but I can’t finish it.” It is and old, broken paperback, and I held it in my hands while I jumped at shadows and knew that at any moment a murrrrdererrrr could sneak up behind me and catch me unawares. I kept that copy of the book, even while I had other copies because the book itself absorbed my experience of reading. Last year, I gave the copy to a younger friend who hadn’t read it, a friend who was the same age I was when I read the book. Giving her my copy of the book was, for me, also giving her that experience from my life. Look at the magic these pages contain: they are Raskolnikov disintegrating at the brutality of life, they are me warily eyeing my friends at a coffee shop because they may have been planning to kill me.
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore is a sweet little picture book about how books are all that matters in life. It is about how these little packages contain something about the essence of who we are and what we experience.
“’Everyone’s story matters,’ said Morris. And all the books agreed.”
This is a lovely book, just as the animated film made from it is lovely. It is the kind of premise I resist, maybe because it sounds too generalized or precious about The Things That Matter, but its execution is really beautiful, and I love it. Books are important. They contain the magic of other worlds and lives and the magic of our experiences living in other worlds and other lives. _________________________________ I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for nothing....more
I spent most of my childhood riding my bike in the suburbs around Seattle. There was a hill I could speed down, a blackberry maze I could pretend to gI spent most of my childhood riding my bike in the suburbs around Seattle. There was a hill I could speed down, a blackberry maze I could pretend to get lost in, a witch’s house, and a speed bump that was perfect for popping wheelies. When I was eight, though, we had to move to a farm in Oregon, and, for many reasons, it was a watershed moment in my life. It wasn’t until years later, when we had to move again, that I could finally appreciate the beauty of the Oregon farm and the jagged, friendly little mountains I could see from my bedroom window.
Eva of the Farm is a sweet story about moves, changes, and losing a childhood home, but to some extent losing the farm is a broader symbol of losing childhood. While it was very sweet, it still confronted a lot of not-sweet injustices and bitterness. Eva is a thirteen-year-old poetess who lives on an orchard her family owns in Eastern Washington. Her beloved grandma recently died, and her best friend moved to Seattle. Eva’s family learns they might lose their farm to foreclosure because of a bad apple crop, and Eva has to deal with all of the loss she faces.
The story is told as a poem, and Eva’s poems punctuate what happens in her life. At first, I thought the poem format was slightly distracting from the story, but by the end I really liked it. It expressed a certain simplicity and deliberateness about the story that I thought was sweet and beautiful. I think a larger theme of the story is Eva’s transformation from seeing life as black and white, evil and good, to seeing her own influence in the world and power over it, as well as the complexity of people’s reactions to life and how that affects our own complex reactions.
I would say the message of this story is that change is bad, but we can be stronger than change. I can get behind that. Though I have now moved many times, no matter how many times it happens, no matter how many times I lose a friend or face death of someone I love, it always seems bad and like it displaces my soul for a little while. The way Eva gathers the greater powers around her seems like good, comforting advice.
__________________________ I received a copy of this from the publisher, but I gave nothing in return....more
I want a puppy so bad!!! But, I think if I had to go through all the drama of this book in order to get a puppy, that might not be worth it to me.
ButI want a puppy so bad!!! But, I think if I had to go through all the drama of this book in order to get a puppy, that might not be worth it to me.
Sad puppy wants its own girl:
Like Mark, I can’t have a puppy right now. Unlike Mark, I do not spend every waking hour researching puppies. I don’t think I have the devotion or sense of responsibility that Mark seems to have, but maybe when I grow up, I will, and then my mom HOA will let me have a puppy.
This story is in verse, and it is very sweet, and (SPOILER ALERT) it has a happy ending. It seems like it would be a fun book for a new reader who also has a new puppy. Probably not a good book to get a kid if you don’t want to buy said kid a puppy. There’s that Shel Silverstein poem about Little Abigail and the Beautiful Pony, where Abigail says she’ll die if she doesn’t get a pony, and then she doesn’t get a pony and she does die. I think this could be a similar experience, where if you’re a kid and don’t have a puppy, you might die after reading this book. Just a warning for concerned parents. _______________________ I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for nothing. ...more
I do not love being in the desert, but I think I do love reading about other people being in the desert. Is that schadenfreude? I guess I kind of likeI do not love being in the desert, but I think I do love reading about other people being in the desert. Is that schadenfreude? I guess I kind of like reading anyone who really has the feel of a setting, and I think Nancy Farmer has that here. This was desolate and full of desert flowers, and just enough mystery and elusive environmental contamination to set the scene for a lovely dystopian world. This was a wonderful, scary, heartwarming, chilling, inspiring story.
While I was reading this, I kept wondering if maybe I was experiencing some of the pleasure other people get from Wither. Like Wither, this one had that genetic-manipulation future, with redesigned geography, and some gadgets, but still a mostly familiar setting. But, this one wasn’t stupid; it was really smart and amazing. It questions science, religion, politics, the nature of friendship, the nature of power.
This book follows the main character, Matt, a clone, through his childhood, as he experiences isolation, torture, rejection, lavish gifts and education, friendship, mentoring, and daring adventures. A lot of books feel like the author thinks her audience is an idiot, so she slooooows the character’s perception of the world down and throws in neon arrows with every reveal. This didn’t feel like that, and it was refreshing to read. Matt was smart, and he caught on to what went on around him quickly, or if he didn’t, it was because he was purposefully, and justifiably ignoring it for emotional preservation. Even if he wouldn’t acknowledge what was happening, Farmer still expected the reader to be in the know. And we were. Most of the time.
Although I have to admit that a couple of times I was like, Wait WHAT??? Ohhhhhh!!!! But, that only made it more fun.
I only have two complaints, having to do with the reductionist political messages I think are here in two places. First, there is a part where the eeeeeevil drug lord, El Patron, (view spoiler)[takes the brains of clone babies and Science inserts them into his brain to help him live longer (hide spoiler)]. That felt like a cheap dig at stem-cell research, to me. The book doesn’t dwell on it or make it a big point, but I feel like that is a complex issue, and it was a simplistic way to address it.
My second complaint is somewhat similar. Many people have complained that the last section of the book feels like an odd tack-on to the rest of the story. I agree to some extent, and I think it could have just as easily been its own book and worked better (like, if House of the Scorpion ended at Tam Lin taking Matt out, and the next book started with him at the oasis). But, I don’t really have a problem with it because, even though it was slower, I still really enjoyed it and all of the characters and the friendships with the boys. The thing I didn’t care for was the reductionist eeeeeevil of the socialist Keepers. That seemed a little easy and silly.
With both of those complaints, I feel like the topics are serious enough that they deserve a more complex characterization. Like, if you characterize your enemy as a moron, doesn’t that in some way reduce you to your enemy’s level and make you a moron, too, just for arguing with a moron? But, especially with new scientific and political problems, I think it benefits both sides of an argument to see the value, or at least the complexity, in an issue.
Anyway, those things didn’t really bother me that much, they were just minor issues. Overall, the story and characters were just wonderful. Cecelia and her bedtime stories, Tam Lin’s spelling, Maria’s Saint Francis, Chacho’s sympathy, Ton-ton’s slow reasoning. I loved them all. This was a really brilliant story. Straight, edge-of-my-seat fun. ________________________ I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for nothing.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Okay, dudes. I’m not gonna lie. This was pretty good. I know I’m not the audience of this book because I’m not a 7-9 year old boy, but . . . it was prOkay, dudes. I’m not gonna lie. This was pretty good. I know I’m not the audience of this book because I’m not a 7-9 year old boy, but . . . it was pretty funny. It dragged a little in the beginning to middle because I wasn’t quite sure whether there would be total zombie apocalypse or just middle-school apocalypse, but then it picked up some momentum. The place where it went from three to four stars was when there was a surprise (view spoiler)[double rainbow joke (hide spoiler)]. That was just a good one. Also (view spoiler)[the very end where he’s saying he didn’t throw the game, and Janine is like, “Sure, whatever, but I still would have kicked your ass.” (hide spoiler)] That part was pretty funny.
I imagine this is something like Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Though, really, if you’re wimpy because of zombie virus, but secretly you’re a pro gamer, how much more compelling is that? Well, more compelling than what I picture Diary of a Wimpy Kid to be like, anyway, with no actual knowledge of the book. I’m sure it’s lovely, though.
Anyway, the zombie story is done pretty cleverly here. There is a dramatic father abandonment in the beginning, and then mom – because of her job as a human test subject – contracts zombie virus. There are some great stories that talk about mothers who are present in body, but absent in soul – Atonement, Goodbye, Lenin, Hamlet – and for me this was an effective representation of the disconnect of a parent who has too much emotional trauma to really be there for a kid who is going through crazy body changes and cruelty at school. It was simple, but well done.
And all of that carried through for the representation of our kid as a zombie adolescent. There were some decent fart jokes and a good zit moment and horrors of gym class. And the whole book is basically about video games, so that seems right. I thought it was really clever. If you’re the target audience of this book, I would think you’re going to end up feeling both like you have a leg up from this kid (because really zombie virus and adolescence? Sucky) and like there is something to look up to in his motivation to waste the other gamers.
_______________________________ Oh, and I got this on NetGalley because sometimes I need something else to do so I don't fall asleep while I'm listening to lectures about civil procedure and wills and trusts. Get over it.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I don’t even LIKE hobbits, but I would so live in that houseI LOVE TINY HOUSES!! Look:
snowboarder tiny house:
Lighthouse tiny house:
hobbit tiny house:
I don’t even LIKE hobbits, but I would so live in that house if it’s as cool on the inside as it looks on the outside. And if it has hot running water.
This book is pretty fucking cool. It has a bunch of rad tiny houses and floor plans for them. It has a house made out of wood pallets! WHAT?! And instructions on how to make a house like that. It has a bunch of adobe houses with hay bales for insulation. So, that seems like a major fire hazard, until they tell you it’s adobe. Still, don’t play with matches in that house.
It turns out, though, that I am not as big a fan of tiny homes as I am of tiny houses. Homes, it turns out, includes people who built geodesic domes on top of their cars, and people who drive around with a log cabin on the back of their truck like in Arrested Development. And BOATS! I mean, come on. I love boats, but I want my tiny house books to have tiny houses in them, not boats! I am a tiny house purist.
I will admit that I hadn’t realized before this particular tiny home book how the whole tiny house phenomenon has a pretty serious hippie and hillbilly element. But there is even some unexpected full-frontal hippie nudity in here. And I’m not gonna lie, if I was as hot as that girl, you’d probably see me posing nude in more tiny house books. More than none.
Rated R? Can you rate something PG-13 with full frontal nudity?
When I worked at Barnes and Noble, I used to stop by the art and architecture section sometimes and look at the tiny house books (and there weren’t even naked people back in ye olde tiny-house-book days). Mostly the seemed like freakishly cool Japanese and Swedish inventions that sparkled from the inside and had amazing nooks and crannies to put books in. But, now I see how they can be made to look like barns and geodesic domes. Thanks a lot, America. But, that is okay, too. My love of tiny houses continues. I have a tiny house myself, and I love how everything fits together in it and there is no wasted space. Tiny houses rule.
_______________________ I downloaded a copy of this book from NetGalley, and I get to keep it for 55 days, which is exciting and weird at the same time! But, if you download one for yourself, make sure you have a way to look at it in color because it’s mostly about the pretty and weird pictures. (If you’re just going for the naked girl, though, those are in black and white anyway, so don’t put too much effort into the color download.) Helpful tips....more
Whaaaaa? I don’t even know how to react to this because I am so caught up with the locale description. This is set in Eugene, you guys. This book is sWhaaaaa? I don’t even know how to react to this because I am so caught up with the locale description. This is set in Eugene, you guys. This book is set where I live! Only not. These people . . . and the places . . . so weird. Most of this takes place in a diner. A DINER! How weird is that? Have you even BEEN to Eugene? A diner called Dixie’s? Where the owner was part of the mafia? That crazy Eugene mafia. WTH? And it is open all night? I am lost to what you are trying to do here.
AND WHAT GRAVEYARD IS THAT??? It looks like Pioneer Cemetery, but I don’t think they bury people there anymore. I mean, this is what the book was to me. Extreme cultural dissonance.
And one guy works at the tower retirement home where they have, or at least used to have, the old-people-crossing sign, but in this book, it’s called Whilamut Retirement, or some shit like that. Seriously??? That's not a place, right?? RIGHT?? Don’t do that. And don’t tell me people pronounce that word right when you spell it that way. Maybe I am being totally un-PC, so sorry Eugenians if I’m missing something (and definitely correct me), but people can learn to pronounce the word without a new transliteration. And I feel ya on the retirement home being the tallest building in the city, but it is NOT a shiny new glass building. Is it?? Do I not know this city at all?! No. I don't think it is. Keep dreaming.
And these people are walking around wearing clothes from Deb, and there are no college kids, OR even any rasta stoners, OR even bikers with giant plugs, or ANYTHING. Which, I’ll give you that is not the sum of the culture of Eugene, but seriously, these people are going to a DINER to drink coffee. What? What is happening?
So, there is also a story that happens in this book, I think, but I’m not totally sure because these people are going to a DINER to drink COFFEE in EUGENE! I am just as appalled as you are. I don’t know. These people must actually live in Springfield or Creswell is all I can imagine. And that would explain the importance of paintball. Not that I have a problem with paintballing, but it’s not exactly the essence of Eugene culture.
Generally, I think I like the idea about supernatural beings having a soul mixup. That was pretty good, but I am mostly concerned about where there is a diner in Eugene that is open all night, and what kind of coffee they serve.
My friend Kay gave me this book for graduation, which was awesome of her. Kay, did you know this was set in Eugene(ish)????!!!! Crazy. And what is the deal with "Whilamut"?...more