Number of times the word "desire" was used: 4,503 (this is an approximation)
Number of times characters gazed with longing/desire (usually desire) whil...moreNumber of times the word "desire" was used: 4,503 (this is an approximation)
Number of times characters gazed with longing/desire (usually desire) whilst other characters stood around and pretended not to notice: 56,467. In chapter one.
Number of times you will throw the book across the room because of the gross, gross historical inaccuracies, and then have to defend yourself from fans because "it's fiction so IT'S OK:" 254, 346, 432.
Finally finishing a book you only trudged through for the chance to laugh at some of the purplest, purplest prose this side of Twilight? Priceless.(less)
You guuyysss, I hate to travel. Not just like the process of being on a plane or train and smelling that recycled air and being told that I have to tu...moreYou guuyysss, I hate to travel. Not just like the process of being on a plane or train and smelling that recycled air and being told that I have to turn off my Nook like I'm an infant (though I do, in fact, hate those things), I hate being in places that aren't my house. I don't like not knowing where the closest Chipotle is. I don't like places that don't have Chipotle. I don't find New York magical and fun, I find it too big and everything is annoying and I just want to go home. Replace New York with any other place that isn't my townhouse in Richmond, Virginia, and my feelings are the same.
But I do like travel memoirs? They do exactly what books should do: transport you somewhere without you having to put on pants. And I love Bill Bryson, having read A Short History of Nearly Everything, so I expected this to be pithy and great and it was.
STILL consists of reflections by an Episcopalian academic whose mother recently died and whose marriage has ended. The author considers what it is lik...moreSTILL consists of reflections by an Episcopalian academic whose mother recently died and whose marriage has ended. The author considers what it is like to experience a crisis of faith where you begin to feel distant from God, doubt that you really know Him, or even doubt that He's even there.
It's a topic that not a lot of Christians are willing to address- we generally don't want to admit that we have moments of childish doubt ("bad, first-world things happened, so God must not love me, wah wah wah"). There are moments in the book where the author's doubts about God's love stem from her own immaturity (I'm bored, this lavender ice cream is boring, church is boring, someone entertain me)- but she admits it, and really, we all have those moments.
Anyway, I found this to be really insightful and far away from more popular modern Christian writing, which takes a less thoughtful, self-helpy, How To Be A Smiley, Happy Fellow in 10 Easy Biblical Steps That Ignore Most of Reality For Everyone. Winner is heady, she's a reader, she's very academic- her contemplations and ponderings of theological questions are are things I think are missing from the evangelical church world in which I practice my own faith. It's an excellent theological selection for those who are sometimes wearied by Christian pop-culture, where "relevance" is made more important than any sense of awe or ritual (not a criticism, I think it's important to be relevant, but at the same time I think we're missing something that Winner obviously has).
And the writing is really fantastic. It's short-form essays (think CONTENTS MAY HAVE SHIFTED, Pam Houston), a form I really enjoy. It's clear and beautiful. (less)
Pros: China Mieville's brain is one odd, odd place full of weird, weird things. It's worth a read just to experience the kooky crazy wackitude that is...morePros: China Mieville's brain is one odd, odd place full of weird, weird things. It's worth a read just to experience the kooky crazy wackitude that is his underground London.
Cons: The writing is the purplest of purple. He never describes something with a declarative sentence when continuous exposition, complete with a million sub-clauses and unnecessary thesaurus-diving, will do. The climax doesn't happen until the last 20th of the book, so by the middle you've lost steam and are continuing solely based on nerdy Goodreads reviews. Also, it's really just a trap Mieville creates so he can make a tired point about Darwin vs. fundamental religious belief. Like, when I realized what he was up to, I literally swore out loud. It felt like I had been tricked into committing to a date with someone who looked really charming and fun but really just wants to lecture you about how silly creationists are when you were expecting to go bungee jumping and eat crazy sushi.
I would still say it's worth reading just to experience Mieville's odd brain, but I hear his other stuff is much better. It's disappointing when such a carnivally-fun world turns out to be a cheap trick used to disguise an almost teenage-level philosophical agenda. (less)
I LOVE THIS BOOK. I don't often read contemporary literature because it makes me shake in my boots with post-modern dread, but this was great. No post...moreI LOVE THIS BOOK. I don't often read contemporary literature because it makes me shake in my boots with post-modern dread, but this was great. No postmodernism. It has plot! And characters! And dialogue separated by quotation marks! SWOON! There is a lot of inter-texual stuff going on, but it's with comic books, so who cares! Anyway, it's beautiful and heart-breaking and funny and tragic and awesome. And I don't even like comics.(less)
I was really interested in reading this book because my mother was raised in the South by a black maid, and my mother's family was Very Racist- old No...moreI was really interested in reading this book because my mother was raised in the South by a black maid, and my mother's family was Very Racist- old North Carolina plantation owners. Mom's maid (nanny?) was named Goldie, and my mother loved her, but can't really tell me much about Goldie's personal life. Anyway, I've been itching for a look into that world, so I was glad when THE HELP was published.
I did go into the book with a few reservations. I've heard it being accused of Blindside syndrome- you know, White Lady Comes to Help Black Folk, ain't it grand. First of all, I really hate that attitude. As if all white people are racists and the ones who fight injustice are only doing it out of condescension. That's bullshit. And this book is not that. Stockett was raised by a black woman who had a family of her own, and she's indirectly writing about an important person in her life who she loved, and in doing so is talking about the racial tension of Mississippi at that time.
It's a thoughtful and dignified exploration of the relationships- good and bad- between domestic help in the south in the 60s and their white employers. The book does a great job of showing the naivete and ignorance of much of the white community. The voices of the main characters are well-drawn. Stockett treated the topic with respect, and it was an enjoyable and heartbreaking work. (less)
You know you read too many old books when seeing the word "iPod" in print gives you a conniption and you have to recover with hot tea and cat snuggles...moreYou know you read too many old books when seeing the word "iPod" in print gives you a conniption and you have to recover with hot tea and cat snuggles.
Anywoot. Magical Realism! Oddly uncomfortable romance! PEACHES EVERYTHING SMELLS LIKE PEACHES which = ghost?
I mean, whatever. It wasn't revolutionary. I picked it up for a reading challenge. It's a quick, sort of mindless read that is a combination of DIVINE SECRETS OF THE YAYA SISTERHOOD and LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE. Seriously, there's a cook who changes moods and it's sort or magical. And real. Haha, get it?
I've been reading this book since January, mostly along with the Classics and the Western Canon group on Goodreads (though I did go ahead and finish a...moreI've been reading this book since January, mostly along with the Classics and the Western Canon group on Goodreads (though I did go ahead and finish a bit early because I just. Had. To. Be. Done.). I initially thought the two-books-a-week pace would allow me to wallow in the poetry and really soak it up; instead, it just felt like Chinese water torture. TO SUMMARIZE: The Iliad is about a period of the Trojan War wherein Achilles (warrior of epic proportions) gets in a disagreement with Agamemnon (other Greek guy) while Hector (Trojan) tries to defend his city. There is much killing.
Since I'm already bitching here, let's start by talking about the experience of reading this thing. It (the experience, not the book) was gut-wrenchingly, maddeningly, eye-rollingly awful. One of my top ten biggest slogs of all time. First of all, it's repetitive to the max. Everyone is "Hector, breaker of horses," or "Achilles, son of blahdeblahblah," or "Aphrodite, laughter-loving," I REMEMBER HE WAS THE BREAKER OF HORSES ON PAGE ONE CALL HIM SOMETHING ELSE. There's a practical reason for this- if The Iliad really was an oral poem, the insertion of those descriptors made the lines work, and possibly served as space fillers which the reciter could remove and replace with something improvised. But knowing that didn't really make it less maddening.
There are also long, long, long sections of "this guy, son of this guy, fought this other guy- they exchanged some trash talk (which may or may not include recitations of one or the other's lineage [honestly, is this a battle or what? Who has time to exchange pleasantries in a war?]) before someone got a spear in the nipple and then the other guy stole his armor." Rinse, repeat. Again, the formula probably served the reciter well, but it makes for less-than-pleasant reading. With all the lineage recitation and all the deities interfering in warfare it was VERY MUCH like reading certain books of the Old Testament over and over. And over. And over. (And over).
So there's that. It's slow moving- which makes sense, I mean hey, this war had been going on for years and the principle actors were obviously feeling the inertia- but again, THE READING IT IS NOT FUN.
And then there's the war bits. This is the machoest book that ever was macho. Achilles is a bit YOU STOLE MY WOMAN, ME MOPE FOR WEEKS WHILE FRIENDS GET KILLED TO PROVE POINT, ME BIG MAN STAB STAB. Women are only here to serve as plot-points (Achilles needs a reason to bow out so some real fighting can happen, though one wonders: if he was actually such a warrior of kick-ass proportions capable of slaughtering dozens of men a day, why has this war been going on for ten years?), war chattel, and mourners. This isn't surprising- it's an ancient war epic and that's what women surrounding ancient wars did, but it certainly makes reading it as a woman a bit...unrelatable? The motivations of the characters are largely war glory, at the expense of their own lives and the lives of their friends and family. This is hard for me to wrap my brain around- the language of modern war is generally wrapped in defending one's borders (which makes the Trojans more sympathetic to me), protecting one's families, spreading democracy, etc. War for the sake of "glory everlasting" is hard to stomach.
I've read in a few places that Homer did this on purpose- machismo-ed the characters to the max in order to show that war for glory's sake is a negative, not a positive, but I didn't really get that (and I don't know how much sense that would make in reference to a time period where war was a career and honor was a thing people killed for). To whit, "Of men who have a sense of honor, more come through alive than are slain, but from those who flee comes neither glory nor any help."
THE POETRY I don't have much to say about this except that there are some DYNAMITE GEMS OF GENIUS here, but they can become buried in the boring, boring, repetitive and boring war scene formula. More than once I was lulled into a sort of reading trance, moving over words like "bronze spear" and "brains dashed" and descriptions of Achilles' slaughter, only to be stopped short by some brilliant metaphor or poignant line. Also, for such a violent and descriptive piece, there are some truly intimate and heartbreaking scenes. When Hector says goodbye to his wife and infant son, EGADS, THE HEART IT BREAKS. When Priam (the king of the Trojans) crawls on his knees to beg Achilles for Hector's body, see again: heart breaking. JUST READ THIS:
Honor the Gods, Achilles; pity him. Think of your father; I'm more pitiful; I've suffered what no other mortal has, I've kissed the hand of the one who killed my children.
CAN YOU IMAGINE? I know it's very girly of me to be all "the war stuff, it is le boring, but the LOVE bits- oye, I REND MY GARMENTS," but there it is. I dig character-driven stuff, what can I say.
I've already prattled on a good bit, but I should add that fate and destiny are major themes here (including some interesting scenes when Zeus, the highest of high gods in the Greek pantheon, refuses [cannot?] act because he would be changing someone's fate). So there's WAR and HONOR and DESTINY and GRIEF and RAGE and lots of killing and mixed in there are soul-splitting scenes of individuals and small families. If you can slog it, I recommend slogging it- after all, it's not to far a stretch from Homer's glorification of war to Sir Walter Scott's romantic version of it, a version that Mark Twain ultimately blamed for the entirety of The Civil War. In the history of the portrayal of war in literature (a portrayal that has profound effects on reality), The Iliad is a vital starting point.
Five stars out of your mom. Yes, even though I hated reading it.(less)
When people say "chick lit" and mean it as an insult, what they really mean is "it's written like THE FRIDAY NIGHT KNITTING CLUB." Vapid, unbelievable...moreWhen people say "chick lit" and mean it as an insult, what they really mean is "it's written like THE FRIDAY NIGHT KNITTING CLUB." Vapid, unbelievable characters, self-help lines written as old-lady wisdom, cliche, cliche, cliche. (less)
**spoiler alert** I like my magical realism a little more "she turned into a mermaid and flew away" and a little less "her tears gave everyone food po...more**spoiler alert** I like my magical realism a little more "she turned into a mermaid and flew away" and a little less "her tears gave everyone food poisoning."
Also- and this is totally a personal foible- I find these sort of romances SUPREMELY irritating. You couldn't get it together enough to get over your sister's husband over a 20 year period? I realize that her sister went into the marriage knowing that her husband was in love with the main character, but it's never pointed out that the sister didn't have a choice. The mother would've beat the shit out of her just like she beat the shit out of Tita when she disobeyed.
And then- even though they've been sneaking around together for years and years- the last time they have sex it's for some reason SO AWESOME SAUCE that the guy up and dies? Really? She's been your mistress for 20 years and NOW you die?
But whatever, I liked the recipes. The rest was eye-rolley.(less)