When I was teaching 8th grade English in the mid-eighties, one of the books students read on their own and then were tested on was House of Stairs byWhen I was teaching 8th grade English in the mid-eighties, one of the books students read on their own and then were tested on was House of Stairs by William Sleator. While the characters are one-dimensional and the dialogue stilted, I was drawn to the dystopian metaphor of five "throwaway" children (no parents to interfere) being transported to a "house of stairs," a "building" with no floor, just never-ending staircases and small landings and narrow bridges. There is a machine that dispenses food pellets and a toilet that is also the source of drinking water. At first the food dispensing seems random, but then it begins to reward particular behaviors.
The clunky underpinning is that it's a scientific experiment to create for the President his requested "group of young people, an elite corps, who would be able to follow unquestioningly any order given to them, no matter how . . . uh . . . distasteful or unnecessary it might at first seem; and who, furthermore, would be so cautious and so later that they would be very unlikely every to be interrupted or . . . well, to get caught."
I can see Trump being delighted with or requesting such a cadre.
While it wasn't a book I enjoyed, I thought of it from time to time and decided I wanted to re-read it. It took me a while to relocate it, because I wasn't sure of the title and I had no memory of the author's name. Periodically, I would think about it and try to describe it in a way that Google could show me the title. Eventually, I was able to put it all together and ordered it from Inter-library Loan because I was pretty sure I didn't want to own it.
And I don't. But I think I've become a more incisive reader over the last 30 years, and the concept of brainwashing through positive and negative reinforcement has never seemed more real to me than it has with our nation's current disdain for facts that interfere with what are now political fantasists.
The book showed that three of the five were only too willing to be manipulated by the machine in order to receive the occasional food pellet. But two refused, and their different reasons for that resistance are overtly drawn for the reader.
I was struck by certain parallels to the television show, The OA. In both, the prisoners are observed for their behaviors, dispensed food pellets and their water source must be used for drinking and waste disposal. And in both cases, synchronized dancing is rewarded.
The book is still quite thought-provoking. And I will end this by quoting an Amazon reviewer, who also read it 30 years ago and had to search it out: "I work in a prison and many of our supervisors are "by the book" with no heart and one step away from being a prefect [sp] Nazi German death camp guard. I have given out a copy of this to one of them....so far [as] I can she has not read the book."
I can't say this is a well-written book, but there is something compelling about it nonetheless. I am sure I will be thinking about it within the context of our political times for some days to come. ...more
Leaving Time is the story of a missing mom told by her daughter, a psychic, a former detective, and the elusive mother. It is riveting, but the surpriLeaving Time is the story of a missing mom told by her daughter, a psychic, a former detective, and the elusive mother. It is riveting, but the surprise at the end so disconcerted me that I am not sure how I feel about it now.
The missing mother's story is deeply enmeshed with the wild elephants she studies, first in Africa and then at an elephant sanctuary in the US. While this is a novel, the anthropological insights are non-fictional and offer fascinating insights into elephantine behaviors and natures.
Still struggling with the ending, but not the fact that I devoted a lot of time and attention to the novel. It deserved every moment....more
I am, oddly, not a fan of Jane Eyre, yet I have read and passionately love two modern retellings. The first was Re Jane by Patricia Park, and the otheI am, oddly, not a fan of Jane Eyre, yet I have read and passionately love two modern retellings. The first was Re Jane by Patricia Park, and the other was Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye.
Re Jane is a revisioning of Jane Eyre through the eyes of an immigrant of Korean descent during modern times. Jane Steele's modernity is instead melded within the framework of the 19th century, and includes the cruel school and the treacherous options for all women, but especially independent ones.
The narrator is, indeed, akin to Jane but not Jane, who doesn't commit murder despite sufficient provocation. Whether Jane Steele is a righteous killer will be different for different readers, but I rooted for her always. There is an entire swath of the novel devoted to India, the Sikhs, and England's treachery in dealing with them, but seamlessly interwoven so that you don't feel you're getting a history lesson (even though I did).
Obviously, the storyline differs from the original, which might just be why I read it with complete immersion and fascination. I plan to track down other books by this author, as well. ...more
Trust Ferrante to write a children's book like no other. It is more real and unfiltered than what I'm used to and some parents might not want that forTrust Ferrante to write a children's book like no other. It is more real and unfiltered than what I'm used to and some parents might not want that for their kids. But I found myself feeling all the feels for the abandoned doll, and the odds of that were slim indeed....more
I read this in one day. It was like reading a book by Lorelei Gilmore--witty, charming, warm, and quirky. So why only three stars? I could even add twI read this in one day. It was like reading a book by Lorelei Gilmore--witty, charming, warm, and quirky. So why only three stars? I could even add two more positive adjectives: authentic and intelligent. Am I a judgmental, controlling Emily?
I guess I am judgmental. I expect more, just as Emily did of Lorelei. I enjoyed every word while I was reading, but it isn't a memorable or substantive book. It's like a large, tasty potato chip--pleasurable, but not remotely filling. It contained nothing that will stay with me, no profundities or wise insights or even hilariously memorable anecdotes. Quips out the wazoo, yes, but I can't give a memoir more than three stars if all it did was entertain me briefly with rapid-fire humor.
For more stars, I demand a deeper dig.
However, if you're looking for warm, bright and breezy, you could do far worse if you're a Gilmore fan than read I'm Talking as Fast as I Can.
ETA: I saw this is categorized as a book of essays, not a memoir, and wondered if I could upgrade the book because of that. I love humor. But for me, even zippy essays have to offer me something more than warmth without resonance. I hate being so critical, because I adore Graham's persona and want to simply praise and hug her. My Emily transition is complete--because I simply expect more of her. I am pressing my lips together disapprovingly as I write. But I hate myself a little, too....more