Some books, like The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death and Pippi in the South Seas, appeal to my childlike love of mischief and weirdos. My MotheSome books, like The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death and Pippi in the South Seas, appeal to my childlike love of mischief and weirdos. My Mother's House & Sido took me to a different place from my childhood, completely dreamy, sensual and romantic. I loved Colette's love for the provinces, with their basket-fulls of suckling kittens, hyacinths and foxgloves, and melted chocolate for breakfast. I loved her strange siblings who read books in trees and made up epitaphs for fun. And then there is her mother, the mesmerizing and seductive "Sidonie," who seems a little like the Tarot-Empress with her uncanny intuition about all things natural and living.
Of course, this is chock-full of great, melancholy quotes about the relationship between mothers & daughters:
"At the mere sight of her mother's hand the Little One starts to her feet, pale, gentle now, trembling slightly as a child must who for the first time ceases to be the happy little vampire that unconsciously drains the maternal heart; . . . the warm sitting-room with its flora of cut branches and its fauna of peaceful creatures; the echoing house, dry, warm and crackling as a newly-baked loaf; the garden, the village. . . Beyond these all is danger, all is loneliness."
In many ways, this is the most true book I have ever read about what it feels to be a dreamy pre-adolescent girl. Leticia seSo mysterious, so evasive~
In many ways, this is the most true book I have ever read about what it feels to be a dreamy pre-adolescent girl. Leticia senses a strange sort of power within her, but she's also overwhelmed with confusion, uncertainty, unnamable longings~
This is a good but sad book; I don't think I'll be ruining anything by telling you that Leticia's strange powers are killed, restrained, by the adults in her life, who actually force her into a life of submission when they think they are protecting her.
Maybe the trouble is that I had too many expectations about what this book would be before I ever picked it up. I thought I would be reading another dMaybe the trouble is that I had too many expectations about what this book would be before I ever picked it up. I thought I would be reading another dreamy narrative of an adolescent girl, full of her own warmth and sensuality. And I suppose that's what I wanted to read. In some ways "The Lover" gave me this -- the narrative is wholly unconcerned with beginnings and ends, or any linearity in between; and she is haunted by so much in her young life: a murky, barely-revealed conflict between her two brothers, her realization of her own mother's madness, her desire for a beautiful classmate at the girls' school...
But while I lose myself inside the dreams of H.D., Colette, Chacel, Woolf ~ I felt completely detached from Duras, like I was on the outside looking in at this strange, cold and hard little French girl in Vietnam. And why should I expect a 15 year old girl to be warm and sentimental? I suppose I admire the lack of sentimentality in other female writers, like Doris Lessing, Iris Murdoch, Flannery O'Connor. But they're so wry and cheeky, whereas Duras just seems distant and, in a way, arrogant. Anyway, in spite of its occasional beauty, The Lover left me simply strange and cold....more
Wow, what a gorgeous graphic novel & story. I haven't read many graphic novels (or even traditional novels, for that matter) that are so rich in sWow, what a gorgeous graphic novel & story. I haven't read many graphic novels (or even traditional novels, for that matter) that are so rich in symbolism or so tightly crafted. As full of literary allusions as this story is, maybe it wouldn't appeal quite as much to someone who isn't a total book-nerd. But I loved the way Bechdel uses Joyce, Proust, Camus, Colette, etc to build her own story about her relationship with her father, family and home. She's trying to negotiate a space between illusion and reality in order to understand these two halves of her own self. Which is, I suppose, especially important to do if you're someone living in the margins -- and might be the key to why she survived as a queer person living in a "straight" world, while her father sadly didn't. This book was just really amazing....more
I really really liked this book. I know that, at one point in my life, I would have absolutely loved this book more than anything ever, and it makes mI really really liked this book. I know that, at one point in my life, I would have absolutely loved this book more than anything ever, and it makes me just a little sad that this book didn't even exist then, when I was 14 or 15.
This book is the dreamiest of the dreamy, and creative, and melancholy beyond belief. Good for kids & grown-ups who still have an extra soft spot in their hearts for things like that....more
I can see why John Green's main female character might annoy some people. And it's true that all the characters sound like over-educated creative writI can see why John Green's main female character might annoy some people. And it's true that all the characters sound like over-educated creative writing professors. But I really liked Looking for Alaska anyway. Maybe its because my teen-self identifies with the longing and earnestness of the anti-hero Pudge. But mostly I just thought it was a pretty great story about adolescent loss, crushes, and hijinx....more
How, at age 20, does an illiterate high-school dropout decide to become the next great writer? CrazyLoco Love tells that story, beginning beneath an oHow, at age 20, does an illiterate high-school dropout decide to become the next great writer? CrazyLoco Love tells that story, beginning beneath an old pepper tree on the eve of the author’s sixteenth birthday, and ending four years later at a bookstore in Montana where he clutches a copy of James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man in his shaking hands.
Victor Villaseñor is a man of shockingly disparate narratives. On the one hand, he grew up the rich kid of first-generation Mexican immigrants, living in the paradise of their multimillion dollar California ranch and honoring his Yaqui grandmother’s cultural history. Yet outside the protective arms of El Rancho, Villaseñor’s peers and educators cruelly abused and humiliated him, perpetuating ugly stereotypes about his Mexican-American heritage until he gradually came to believe them for himself. In CrazyLoco Love, Villaseñor describes how he wrestled with that self-hatred as a teenage boy, eventually realizing that he felt a personal calling to rewrite the Mexican-American narrative--even though he’d never fully learned how to read or write. In this way, CrazyLoco Love is a journey, a coming-of-age story, a quest for manhood replete with dreamlike walkabouts through the jungles of Mexico and the deserts of the American West.
For some, Villaseñor’s language may feel too raw. He writes candidly about his early experiences with love, desire, and religious doubt, evoking the intimate terrain of a pubescent boy’s risqué imagination. For others, though, these rough qualities are exactly what make the book a near-masterpiece. Villaseñor’s Spanish-English blend has a gorgeous lilt, and his love of CAPITALIZATION conveys a youthful exuberance that will make you laugh! His playful braggadocio might come across as cocky or even arrogant, but it’s this reclaiming of his cultural worth that makes this story so special. At it’s heart, CrazyLoco Love is a spiritual tale, exploring the balance between masculine and feminine energies as the author sheds everything he’s ever been taught, looking instead for his elusive center....more
I can understand why The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake gets mixed reviews. It's not for everyone, and it might not even be for you.
It's a very weirI can understand why The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake gets mixed reviews. It's not for everyone, and it might not even be for you.
It's a very weird book, with a very weird premise, and it's hard to know what exactly even happens. On the surface, it's a story about a disaffected little girl whose parents grow distant via an extra-marital affair, and an older brother who disappears one day. You could get away with leaving it at that, and say there's just a little derivative magical realism sprinkled in for good measure, and you'd be kind of right. "She can taste other people's emotions in her cake. Big deal."
And so maybe it's just the mood I was in when I picked it up, but the fact is that I couldn't have loved The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake any more. For me, the bizarre magical elements take a mundane little story about teenage girl angst into the realm of the inexplicable, the confusing, & the sublime. I won't give away what happens to her brother -- it's so weird! -- but the thing is, even though what happens is physically impossible, it still feels a real way that I've felt before. In dreams? In small, secret places....more
In the past year I’ve read books that are smart, strange, sad, funny. Yet Mary O’Connell’s teen novel The Sharp Time takes the cake for "loveliest."
FiIn the past year I’ve read books that are smart, strange, sad, funny. Yet Mary O’Connell’s teen novel The Sharp Time takes the cake for "loveliest."
First, there’s the heroine’s name: Sandinista Jones. Next, you’ve got the frothy sweet vintage couture she wears to her job at The Pale Circus. And did I mention her teenage crush on the boy with a tiny crucifix tattooed to the pad of his thumb?
Much has been made of the fact that O’Connell is a graduate of the same Iowa Writer’s Workshop that produced Kurt Vonnegut and Flannery O’Connor. And sure, it makes sense when you consider how tightly each phrase of The Sharp Time is written, and the quiet poetry of seemingly inconsequential details like the fermented bottle of organic carrot juice that Sandinista keeps in her fridge to remind her of her recently killed mother. But the part that seems so un-workshoppy is the punk rock vibe of the heroine’s salty inner monologue. Witness Sandinista on applying for a new job: "I was about to go all Marcel Proust on his ass."
Then there were the parts that surprised me – the monks and the saints, which shape the whole story in a sense, but in a way that will satisfy both believers and non-believers alike. These religious, saintly figures serve as a parable for O’Connell’s core message that mercy and compassion exist, even for punk rock girls in vintage couture with dead moms: “I can tell you’re full of sorrows. But the sharp time passes.”
But my favorite reason for loving The Sharp Time is the sweet, magical little universe O’Connell has imagined on Kansas City’s 38th Street – The Pale Circus vintage clothing store. The Second Chance? pawn shop. Erika’s Erotic Confections. The Trappist monks up the hill who make raspberry jam. If you blink, you might miss it, but partway through the book O’Connell reveals that Henry Charbonneau, the impeccably dressed vintage connoisseur, and Arne, the rough-around-the-edges pawnshop proprietor, are in a book club together. They’ve been reading the poem "The Monk’s Insomnia" by Denis Johnson: "A boy sets out like something thrown from the furnace of a star."
I love The Sharp Time mostly because I want to go to 38th Street and sit in on Henry Charbonneau and Arne's book club. Then I want to head over to Erika's Erotic Confections for one of Erika’s eye-popping banana curry chocolates. But I'll avoid her pale green frosting. You would, too, if you'd already read The Sharp Time....more
Knowing I was #137 in line for The Interestings at the library, a good friend lent me his just-finished copy and it almost went straight to the bottomKnowing I was #137 in line for The Interestings at the library, a good friend lent me his just-finished copy and it almost went straight to the bottom of the stack on my nightstand. But something made me take a quick peek inside, and everything else got instantly demoted.
The Interestings is War and Peace without the war — like Leo (but with more sexy bits), Wolitzer uses a cast of unlikely childhood friends to explore the ways fortunes change and relationships shapeshift against the backdrop of sweeping social change. Three boys and three girls sneak into each others’ teepees at an artsy New England summer camp in 1974, and the rest of the book kaleidoscopes in and out on all the time between then and now, with enough rivalries and love triangles to make papa Tolstoy proud. And everything else is there, too: Nixon, the folk scene, acid, Reagan, AIDS, even The Moonies.
For me, The Interestings was unputdownable....more
Holy crap you guys. When this book came out last summer, I felt like the general reaction was "Ohmigod, there's, like, a time warp in this book and itHoly crap you guys. When this book came out last summer, I felt like the general reaction was "Ohmigod, there's, like, a time warp in this book and it's totally cooooool.” I skipped right past it on the shelves, and SHAME ON ME. The Age of Miracles is like a haiku, deceptively simple and profound in how the story unfolds. Walker writes without many quirks or tricks, adopting a speculative premise to explore the basic human experiences of loss, disillusionment, and coming of age, all while dropping poetry and wisdom on your ass. I cried at the end, and books do not make me cry (unless they’re by Rob Sheffield). Emily Janice Card narrated this one brilliantly, absolutely nailing the tone of wide-eyed teenage Julia -- and her bitchy friend Michaela, too. I think this is my favorite audio performance of any novel, ever. Anyway, I can’t even. Just go listen to it already. ...more
Tell me you've got a dark and twisty book about an angsty teen, and you've got my attention. Jenni Fagan is a Scottish writer who got her start in poeTell me you've got a dark and twisty book about an angsty teen, and you've got my attention. Jenni Fagan is a Scottish writer who got her start in poetry, and I'm totally smitten with her debut novel, The Panopticon. Our star, Anais Hendricks, is a 15 year old drug fiend; damaged goods; a thieving orphan who beats up other kids and pulls their hair. She kisses boys and girls and prances around in her undies on acid. When she lands herself in a group home for problem teens, weird dystopian things start happening and Anais' reality starts to unravel. Jenni Fagan's rare and special blend of poetry and potty-mouthed dialogue is a little tough to tap into at first, but give it a dozen or so pages and you'll fall right into the pocket. The Panopticon wasn't just fun or entertaining, but also beautiful, complicated, and cutting — long-lasting — which is why it's one of my favorite reads of the year....more
What I'd heard was: "Dickensian!" "Art theft!" I was hardly prepared for a book so beautiful, mysterious, dark and strange; one that made me laugh andWhat I'd heard was: "Dickensian!" "Art theft!" I was hardly prepared for a book so beautiful, mysterious, dark and strange; one that made me laugh and ache.