I was planning to give The Handmaid's Tale five stars, but the last few chapters lost me a bit. The majority of the story avoided clichés and genuinelI was planning to give The Handmaid's Tale five stars, but the last few chapters lost me a bit. The majority of the story avoided clichés and genuinely surprised me -- I loved not knowing what to expect next. But I felt that the way Offred's relationship with Nick developed was a little too trite and not in keeping with the rest of the tone.
Still, I really loved this book, largely due to the complexity of the characters and the way Atwood constructed the world of Gilead. More than any other dystopian I've read, the world depicted in The Handmaid's Tale felt fully realized and three-dimensional. There was never a question in my mind as to what the environment looked like, and I love that Atwood was so attentive and detail-oriented in her world-building. This is the first novel of hers that I've read, and now I want to read another!...more
My feelings about Written on the Body are identical to my feelings after seeing The Tree of Life earlier this year -- the story is really nothing specMy feelings about Written on the Body are identical to my feelings after seeing The Tree of Life earlier this year -- the story is really nothing special or even interesting, but it's told really beautifully.
I picked up this book because I'd heard that the reader never finds out the narrator's name or gender, which is pretty cool. And it works. It's refreshing to read a book where gender, ultimately, is irrelevant to the story. It wasn't enough to keep the story fully engaging for me, but it's a neat storytelling device.
Written on the Body is worth reading for the language itself, not the story. But don't read it at all if you don't like reading continuous declarations of love. If overly romantic stories make you roll your eyes and gag, this is not for you....more
Pictures at a Revolution is an incredibly well-researched history of the five films nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1968. Harris aPictures at a Revolution is an incredibly well-researched history of the five films nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1968. Harris argues that this particular class of nominees represents the shift in power from Old Hollywood to New Hollywood. His point is made strongest (and most interestingly) when he analyzes the ways in which Bonnie and Clyde and The Graduate challenged the Motion Picture Production Code and the differences between In the Heat of the Night and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner treatment of race and civil rights issues. I also appreciated learning about the influence of the French New Wave and the ways in which the work of Truffaut and Godard impacted the visual style and critical reception of films like Bonnie and Clyde.
The problem I had with the book was that I felt, at times, it was too detailed. While the stories about Doctor Doolittle's disastrous production are very funny, they felt out of place in the book's thematic narrative. And while many of the book's characters are fascinating (Sidney Poitier, Warren Beatty, Dustin Hoffman, Mike Nichols and Arthur Penn are particularly compelling), the degree to which the book discusses each actor, writer, director, producer, editor and director of photography is a little tiresome. Certainly, there are great stories to be told about each of the films discussed, but Harris exhausts all of them and then some.
When reading about film, I tend to enjoy theory and criticism more than history. It's a matter of personal taste, and I'm not going to argue with Pictures at a Revolution for being what it was. It's a history book, not a book of film criticism or theory. That said, there are a few moments where film analysis is brought to the forefront, and those moments are great. One of my favorite parts was learning that Mike Nichols now sees The Graduate as a film about Jewish identity in an assimilated world. I feel like an entire book could be written just about that, and that might be a book that would appeal to me more. But, for what it is, Pictures at a Revolution is quite good....more
This is one of the most well-researched books I've ever read. It goes far beyond the aspects of the Church that are commonly talked about in the mediaThis is one of the most well-researched books I've ever read. It goes far beyond the aspects of the Church that are commonly talked about in the media -- Tom Cruise, Xenu, etc. -- and explains the full history of Scientology and how it transitioned from an alternative to psychiatry to a religion. Also, because Reitman is a true outsider and has never been a member of the Church, it's a truly objective, balanced account. Inside Scientology is a must-read for anyone interested in the topic....more
Palestine was a really challenging book for me to read, which is exactly why I'm glad I read it. Because it's an excellent book, and an important one.Palestine was a really challenging book for me to read, which is exactly why I'm glad I read it. Because it's an excellent book, and an important one. I anticipate it's going to take me a long time to fully digest this one. I hope to come back and write more about it later, once it sinks in more.
One thing I will say, though, is that I love how terribly Sacco presents himself. Though he's obviously sensitive to the traumas he's witnessing (he couldn't have written the book if he wasn't), he often portrays himself as incredibly cynical and opportunistic. He believes that, as a Westerner, he is doing Very Important Work, and it's refreshing when he realizes that most of the Palestinians he interviews don't think he's doing anything very special at all. It takes a smart, talented writer to be that self-aware and critical, so I applaud Sacco for that....more
I think that part of the reason that I didn't love this book as much as I had hoped is because it's a bit outdated. It was published in 1998, and certI think that part of the reason that I didn't love this book as much as I had hoped is because it's a bit outdated. It was published in 1998, and certainly the queer and gender equality movements have changed dramatically over the past decade. Had I read this book closer to when it had been written, it may have resonated with me more.
Female Masculinity is incredibly well-researched and includes a lot of fascinating information about the history of female masculinity. Several chapters focus on pre-twentieth century female masculinity, which I found particularly interesting, as most of the information in those chapters were completely new to me.
My favorite chapter is the second to last chapter, which explores masculinity as performance and the drag king culture. Halberstam did an excellent job of highlighting the differences between the ways that masculinity and femininity are performed and how these performances are illustrated in drag culture. I've always been a fan of drag, but I am much less familiar with the drag king world than I am with the drag queen world, and reading about "kinging," as Halberstam calls it, has made me very interested in learning more.
It's also important to mention that Halberstam's writing is very approachable, and, as a whole, Female Masculinity is one of the most accessible academic texts I've ever read. It's very theoretical, of course, but it contains much less jargon than other books I've read on similar topics.
My biggest problem with Female Masculinity is that it exclusively explored masculinity in queer women. While the relationship between female masculinity and lesbianism is critical and worthy of extensive examination, I was hoping to read about a more diverse assortment of female masculine identities. One of my biggest pet peeves is when gender identity and sexual orientation are conflated, and I felt that the exclusive focus on lesbianism perpetuated that kind of conflation. The implication that only queer women are masculine is incredibly problematic, and though I don't think Halberstam meant to imply that, it does come across that way at points.
I was also troubled by the way Halberstam compared butch female identity with trans male identity. Again, I don't think Halberstam meant to imply that masculine-presenting women and transgender men have the same identities and struggles, but there are moments where the arguments come across that way. Since trans men are men, and not masculine women, I felt the comparisons between trans men and butch women to be oversimplified and not entirely accurate.
Overall, I enjoyed Female Masculinity, but it is not the definitive text on the subject I was hoping it would be. I am curious to see what else has been written on the subject since this book's release....more
My husband first recommended this book to me six years ago. I've seen it on our bookshelf for years, and I always meant to read it, but I never got arMy husband first recommended this book to me six years ago. I've seen it on our bookshelf for years, and I always meant to read it, but I never got around to it. Until now. And I'm so glad I did, because it's one of the best novels I've ever read.
Chabon's attention to historic detail is incredible, and the characters of Sammy, Joe and Rosa are wonderfully defined. It's a long book, but it never drags. I highly recommend it....more
This was one of my most-anticipated books of 2011, and it did not disappoint. Kaling is hilarious and insightful throughout, and there is never a dullThis was one of my most-anticipated books of 2011, and it did not disappoint. Kaling is hilarious and insightful throughout, and there is never a dull moment. Great for a fun, quick read....more
This is the first book by Didion that I've ever read, and I was impressed by her writing. At times, I got the sense that she fancies herself to be a bThis is the first book by Didion that I've ever read, and I was impressed by her writing. At times, I got the sense that she fancies herself to be a bit more profound than she actually is, but I can't deny that she's a skilled wordsmith.
The emotions in this book are incredibly raw, and I would have difficulty recommending it to someone who's recently experienced a loss for that reason. But at the same time, I wish I had read this two years ago, when I was dealing with the loss of a loved one. She captures the experience in a very honest way, much more honest than people tend to be when talking about loss.
And yet...despite Didion's honesty and her beautiful prose, I found her story difficult to relate to, at times. She focuses a lot on details that speak to her celebrity and privilege (the famous people who eulogized her husband, her expensive home, her extensive travels, her glamorous work opportunities), so much so that, at times, it took away from her otherwise universal story about loss and grief. It's a shame, because her story is a valuable one, but the constant reminders of her exceptionalism make it harder to connect with the more human and ordinary moments of the book -- and those are the moments which are most interesting, anyhow. ...more
Blue Nights is essentially a sequel to The Year of Magical Thinking, so reading them back-to-back worked well. Though Blue Nights suffers from the samBlue Nights is essentially a sequel to The Year of Magical Thinking, so reading them back-to-back worked well. Though Blue Nights suffers from the same problems that I had with The Year of Magical Thinking, I liked Blue Nights more, perhaps, in part, as I now know what to expect from her writing. I particularly appreciated the way she wrote about her daughter's adoption. Adoption is something with which I am personally familiar, and it's rare to see it written about well (or at all, for that matter), so I loved the way Didion talked about it, even though our experiences with it are quite different....more