Growing up, my mom tried to do the Asian mom thing and ban TV during the weekdays. So of course, I binge watched trashy daytime TV during holidays whiGrowing up, my mom tried to do the Asian mom thing and ban TV during the weekdays. So of course, I binge watched trashy daytime TV during holidays while she was at work. The TV was basically on from the time she left to an hour before she got home -- you know, so the TV would be cool to the touch if she was inclined to check. From 12-3pm, I watched All My Children (RIP), One Life to Live, and General Hospital. General Hospital was the only one I ended up watching regularly.
I loved the wealthy and ruthless Quartermaines:
the hot but evil Cassadines:
and the lovable, All American Spencers.
Remember, this was the era before Wikipedia so the only backstory I knew was that Luke and Laura Spencer's wedding was the most watched daytime event in history and Elizabeth Taylor even made a special appearance. Imagine my shock when I found out that the Luke and Laura story began when Luke RAPED Laura. You know, because he loved her and wanted her SO much. Apparently in Port Charles, first comes love, then comes rape, then comes the baby in a baby carriage.
Vigdis Gunnarsdatter is beautiful and headstrong. Her doting father welcomes two men into their house. The younger man, Ljot, is tall, dark, and handsome. He quickly falls for lively, intelligent Vigdis and asks for her hand in marriage. Vigdis is also smitten but, feeling unready, she asks him to wait for her answer. Soon after, Vigdis's childhood friend Kaare, another dashing Viking specimen, comes by and shows up Ljot. His pride injured, Ljot reacts brashly and suddenly assumes the worst about Vigdis and Kaare and her noncommittal answer to his proposal. Still, he wants to marry her and asks her again for her hand. She responds,
"You cannot have loved me so much either; no sooner did you hear evil spoken of me than you believed it and spread it abroad."
So then, because he loves Vigdis as much as Luke loved Laura, he rapes her. After he's done, he assumes Vigdis will want to run off with him and become some Scandinavian Ljot and Laura. Vigdis throws a rock in his face. Finally, a proper reaction.
However, in addition to the physical and emotional pain of the rape, Ljot leaves Vigdis with one more thing -- she's pregnant with his child. This is really where the story begins, and it is a great story. I picked this book up after scouring my local bookstore for authors whose name start with "U" for the A-Z Author Challenge, and I nearly gave up after the first page (I mean, really, FOUR footnotes on the FIRST page?!?). Fortunately, I stuck with it and was pleasantly surprised by this very readable story. Sigrid Undset manages to write an epic that deals with vengeance, consequence, family, and love in a scant 200 pages. And this book, published in 1909 and set in the 11th century, deals with the issue of rape in a way that leaves modern writers in the dust. Undset follows the lives of both the victim and the perpetrator after the rape, but Vigdis refuses to live victimized. She is up there with Evanjalin in terms of female characters who kick ass. Ljot is also not your stock villain, and he regrets what he did, but Undset and Vigdis refuse to romanticize or condone him. He also lives with the consequences of his actions and has the most beautifully twisted line towards the end of the book.
Books like this are why I do random reading challenges. They're not what I would normally pick up, but they end up being worthwhile and rewarding. I highly recommend this short saga. It's no wonder that Sigrid Undset ended up winning the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1928. Gunnar's Daughter is a stunning debut novel....more
Zazie Lalochère is my hero, or perhaps antihero. Both? She's a preteen-teen (her age is never stated) from the French country who gets dropped off witZazie Lalochère is my hero, or perhaps antihero. Both? She's a preteen-teen (her age is never stated) from the French country who gets dropped off with her uncle, Gabriel, in Paris for two days so her mother can spend time with her new boyfriend. Immediately, it's obvious that Zazie is a character. When she finds out that the metro she so desperately wants to ride is closed due to a strike, she cries, "Oo the bastards!" But the moment she wins my heart comes a few pages later when she declares she wants to be a teacher. Her aunt and uncle are suitably impressed and say teaching is a good profession with a good pension. Zazie responds, "Pension my arse." The reason she wants to be a teacher is actually: "To bitch up the brats."
Everyone in this book, from Zazie to Gabriel to the landlord's parrot, is actually kind of an asshole. The landlord calls Zazie a little slut, Zazie spits in his face and accuses him of being a pedophile in front of a crowd of people. Hijinks ensue. But as the great Ms. Clairee Belcher once said:
The book is really just a series of random scenes punctuated by smartass dialogue and the occasional man-napping and attempted rape.
The dialogue might also be annoying at first because a lot of it is written colloquially.
"I'll ksplain," says Gabriel.
Usually went someone sends me a text like that ("Wot r u doin 2day?"), I want to kill myself. However, Raymond Queneau isn't some undereducated teenager. As explained in the Introduction, this was a linguistic experiment and parody by the man who co-founded the Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle, "a literary workshop whose raison d'être was the invention of fiendish linguistic constraints." Basically, Queneau was having some fun with Zazie. And that's why, despite the seeming randomness of plot and phonetic dialogue, Zazie in the Metro works for me. It's not meant to be highbrow, though it's written by someone in the highest echelons of French intelligentsia, and it doesn't seem like it wants to be anything. Yet, thanks to Zazie, it's still memorable and entertaining. It just feels very French. That may not be a strong enough reason to read this for a lot of people, but it was more than enough for me and I thoroughly enjoyed it....more
This book sat on my desk for six weeks before I decided to pick it up. Initially, I was put off by the length (450+ pages) and dystopias in general. IThis book sat on my desk for six weeks before I decided to pick it up. Initially, I was put off by the length (450+ pages) and dystopias in general. I've read too many blah-to-meh ones recently (Exhibit A: The Maze Runner, Exhibit B: Divergent), and the idea of starting another series -- because God forbid a dystopia not be a trilogy! -- was off-putting.
After some encouragement from Noelle, who promised some fun ass-kicking, I decided to give it a try and I'm so glad I did! First, don't be scared off by the page count. This is an easy, fast read. Second, this is a well-written, easy, fast read. Third, this book, like the cheese, can stand alone. After finishing it, I immediately searched for when the next book would be released but even without a sequel, I would be content with this book. Saba, the main character, is awesome -- prickly and willful, but fierce and independent. The author creates a memorable, visual world but doesn't have to spend pages and pages describing it. This is the most I've enjoyed a dystopia since, dare I say it?, The Hunger Games. ...more