(edited from a paper I wrote in college about the book)
In 1986, when Margaret Atwood published The Handmaid’s Tale, Ronald Regan had declared “Morning(edited from a paper I wrote in college about the book)
In 1986, when Margaret Atwood published The Handmaid’s Tale, Ronald Regan had declared “Morning in America,” and society was going to renew itself by returning to the old values. The Christian right, in its infancy at the time, was rising in reaction to the Free Love, and the horrors of AIDs. The 1984 election gave us Willie Horton, and a reminder about how violent and evil society had become. Finally, even though Chernobyl happened shortly after the book was published, the Union Carbide disaster in Bopal, India was still fresh in the headlines—a reminder that even the air is not safe. It was not hard at the time to extrapolate the ultimate end that this cocktail of fundamentalism, conservatism, violence, disease, and disaster would bring, but what Atwood could not know, is how much of her novel would become reality in the world.
Amazingly, twenty years after it was written, there are elements of the story that have become true—perhaps not in the United States, where the story takes place, but throughout the world. The most obvious first connection is with many of the issues regarding women’s rights and religious fundamentalism that are taking place in the Middle East. It was shocking to read in the book that the initial attack on the US Government was blamed on Islamic Fundamentalists, though the story was written after the Lockerbie Pan Am bombing, and the massacre at the Rome airport. While this kind of terrorism was only in its infancy, Atwood’s insight is almost prophetic in the book. When the Murrah building in Oklahoma City was bombed, the initial reaction by the media was to blame Islamic terrorists, when in fact—like the novel—the terrorism was homegrown. The scale of the attack that took out the US Government in the novel is also eerily similar to the attacks of September 11, 2001. Reading this novel in the post-9/11 world can send chills down one’s spine: the novel includes suicide bombings at checkpoints, restrictions of rights in the name of safety, blind patriotism, and an overwhelming belief that there is only one true religion, and deviants from this should be killed.
While George Orwell’s 1984 is often referred to as an insightful perspective on modern society whenever someone puts a video camera on a street lamp, or the government begins referring to negative events with positive doublespeak. Orwell’s world never materialized in full, and likely never will materialize to the degree he created. Instead it is Atwood’s distopia, seemingly outrageous at the time it was written, that became reality. This novel should serve as a cautionary warning about the result of any extremist view taken to its logical conclusion—the Taliban is proof that society cannot dismiss the notions of this book as outrageous and extreme. They have proven in the last decade, a plausible end to the error of letting fundamentalism in any form guide one’s society.
Each time I read this book, a different “universal truth” jumps out at me. When I was younger, I pondNotes from an academic discussion about the book:
Each time I read this book, a different “universal truth” jumps out at me. When I was younger, I pondered the themes of prejudice, kindness, and dignity that run through the book, but now that I’m considerably older, what stuck out to me this time were the themes of innocence, and loss of innocence running through the whole book.
This reading I was particularly caught by the child-like perspective that the book gives each of the events. From the kids all thinking anything that touches the Radley property is poisoned, to Scout’s minimal understanding of the words used in the trial, but her complete understanding of the concepts. Likewise, with the exception of the trial, throughout the book innocence trumps experience. A particular example was when Scout first finds the goodies in the Radley tree. She finds the gum, ponders its origins, and decides that she’d like chewing the gum better than being all grown up about it. Jem, who always represents a more mature (but not much more until near the end) perspective, and he makes her spit it out when he finds out where she got it from. In the end though, Scout’s innocence let her get a good chew out of a wad of gum.
I think the fact that the book takes place over three years helps show the contrast between the innocent time at the beginning of the book, when Scout was six, and Dill, Jem and she played as relative equals, to Scout’s first day of school where Jem begins to brush her off as the “little sister.” By the end of the book, when Scout is nine, she may be physically older, but it seems that she is even more sheltered by Jem, who thinks the concept of the trial may be too grown up for her. He moves through the story from her equal to her protector, which only helps to keep Scout innocent through the book.
In the end though, the book really proves that there is something magical and golden about innocence. There is a purity and truth in innocence—whether it’s a dignified response to an unfair world, or simply an acceptance of things even if they are strange and different.
Those of you who remember my review of A Game of Thrones will remember that I recommended it with misgivings, mostly having to due with some personalThose of you who remember my review of A Game of Thrones will remember that I recommended it with misgivings, mostly having to due with some personal issues and especially because of the way women were portrayed in the book.
Many MANY people, not the least of which is the guy I'm married to, asked me to give the second book a shot, that Martin's portrayal of women has a purpose, and that I would understand *WHY* if I got through the second book.
Unfortunately, about 10 or so chapters in the book. about where there was a graphic description of the rape of a 13-year-old girl, being described as "bobbing up and down like a floppy rabbit," that I damn near put the book and the series down for good. While certainly there is more depth to many of the female characters, especially Cersei, Sansa and Arya, I still find that the other side... where every woman is simply something waiting to be raped, is just as unnecessary as it was in the first book.
Still, despite this, I enjoyed the book. Midway through, I realized that I was holding the book to the standards of great works of fantasy fiction, and so long as I hold it to that standard it will always be a disappointment. However, if I hold it to the standard of a good read, a decent page turner, and nothing more than a soap opera in a fantasy universe, I found myself actually liking the book quite a bit.
The book picks up where A Game of Thrones left off. Westeros is in shambles, the seven united kingdoms divided amongst several kings, and each planning war. The book is more about political intrigue than battles. As a matter of fact, I found the major battle in the book to be nearly impossible to follow, though I believe that was intentional.
Interestingly, I might have a different comment about this particular aspect of the book if I hadn't have started another book last night. I've said a few times that this is a work of fantasy, and as such, does not have to exactly follow the rules of medieval society. However, I just recently started a book that is supposed to take place in 17th century London, and I'm finding myself picking it apart because of it's lack of accuracy. I've found that with the new perspective, I appreciate the accuracy, because when there are fantastic elements, such as magic and dragons and the like, they seem far more believable when the world they inhabit has a familiar baseline.
So in the end, I guess it was better to go for the more accurate depictions of life than not. In this case, as I said before, if you're at all familiar with European history, especially British history from the War of the Roses on through the Reformation, you'll likely be able to see where Martin drew his characters. You'll also likely be able to predict some of the plot lines and twists.
Though, I am happy to say, the princes in the tower did not end up as I expected....more
Anthony Bourdain is very much the punk rock rebel of celebrity chefs. The chef who isn't afraid to refer to Emeril as an Ewok, and poke fun of culinarAnthony Bourdain is very much the punk rock rebel of celebrity chefs. The chef who isn't afraid to refer to Emeril as an Ewok, and poke fun of culinary-school trained cooks, when at the same time, he is a celebrity chef, and a culinary school graduate. He knows this, and it's not a problem for him.
Kitchen Confidential is part memoir, part how-to, and mostly about sex, drugs and rock-n-roll. It's basically a history of Anthony's obsession with food and drugs from his days as a young boy, until he finally landed a steady job, and got off the heroin. This is not the book you should read if you don't want to know who is cooking your food. If you'd rather be ignorant about what exactly is being served at Sunday brunch, skip this book. You may never eat fish on a Monday again.
In his typical style, he speaks his mind, sometimes harshly about the food industry. His cynicism and sarky nature are evident on every page, sometimes, honestly, it gets annoying. That may be due in no small part to the fact that I was reading this book as the new season of No Reservations started, so I might have just been on Bourdain overload.
I wanted to enjoy this book more, but as much as it was full of great writing, excellent imagery, and unique insight into the world of restaurants, I just found myself more annoyed than excited by the book.
I guess part of it was the fact that Bourdain seems to think that working all hours, miscreant geniuses, machisimo, and locker room humor are the sole province of kitchens. I guess it's a blessing that he's never worked in technology--especially in break-fix arenas. It's another place where calling someone a "cocksucker" means you like them, where even if you're a woman, you need to have a dick, or talk like you do. I guess I just felt like he wasn't giving me any new information. Get a bunch of guys together in a high stress, service environment, and you have to be abrasive, just to survive the night.
Anyhow... It wasn't a bad read. I do know now I never plan to work in a kitchen (the book also made me realize just how many cooks/dishwashers etc. I have known over the years, maybe another reason this wasn't such a revelation for me).
Anyhow, I'm going back to fantasy fiction for a while....more
The book is the first in a series -- A Song of Ice and Fire. It is hard fantasy, and follows characters who are all members of several noble houses, aThe book is the first in a series -- A Song of Ice and Fire. It is hard fantasy, and follows characters who are all members of several noble houses, as they vie for the Iron Throne. The story takes place in a fantastical world (think: dragons and zombies) after the overthrow of the Targaryen family. The two surviving children live in exile, while in the homeland they never knew, the remaining houses use intrigue, appointments, marriages, and murders to control the throne.
People who are well-versed in English history will quickly see references to the Wars of the Roses, and the rise of the Tudor dynasty. Even the names aren't too far off (the main houses are Lannister and Stark). Those with even more subtle knowledge may even catch similarities in family lines (get Henry VII's family tree and compare to the the King's in the book). Anyhow, I do not think it is a bad thing, I actually found it entertaining, like an inside joke between the author, and people who knew the history.
Despite the historical kernel at the heart of the book, do not expect the plot to follow the history. The whole thing starts off in a jumble of characters, places, names and events that are, at the beginning nearly impossible to follow. You have no idea who is good or bad, or even worth the effort to consider a protagonist. I found myself a few chapters in thinking, well, everyone sucks, so why should I bother.
But I did read one, and once you get the hang of the families, places and characters, the book does indeed get intriguing. Unlike most books, where winners and losers are determined on a battle field, this book uses politics to advance characters.
Trust no one.
It is a little slow paced at the beginning, but it is only setting up for an avalanche at the end. When you finish, you will have forgotten about the slow pace at the beginning, knowing that it was intentional, and meant to help you understand all the events at the end of the book.
I would recommend this book, but with misgivings. I had some *serious* issues with the book. The first is a minor, personal, issue. I really hated the names in the book. All the characters had "uniQ" spellings. "Eddard" instead of "Edward," "Jayson" instead of "Jason."
It just grated on me.
The one major issue I had, however, is a little more serious. I had major issues with the way women were portrayed in the book. I haven't heard anyone else have the same objection, but it seemed to me that every woman in the book fell into the following categories:
Power-hungry sexual manipulator whore ideal housewife (meaning trampled on fuck cushion)
There were three exceptions to this (the "strong" women). I tried to brush off the feeling I had as the author writing within the context of the times (when women WERE chattel), but I couldn't shake the feeling that, the book didn't need to go there. The plot could have been equally intriguing without gang rapes, and whorehouses.
Since this is the first in a series of books, I will be optimistic, and hope that perhaps these incidents exist to prove a point about the characters, groups, etc that participate. I guess I can hope.
I don't want to end on a negative note, because this was a good book, if you liked intriguing plots, a well-crafted, thoroughly-created fantasy world, and zombies, this is worth the read, it just has some parts that made me cringe, perhaps intentionally, though I still contend that the book would have been stronger WITHOUT the whores, the rapes, the demeaning way in which the women characters are treated, and the fucking for writing about fucking's sake....more
This is what happens when you have a babysitter, and can browse your local book store without your wee one tugging at your skirts begging for the lateThis is what happens when you have a babysitter, and can browse your local book store without your wee one tugging at your skirts begging for the latest Sandra Boyton book.
Do not be fooled by the well written dust jacket description of this book, for it is a far better read than the book itself. It seemed so intriguing: a book set in early 18th century London. A girl finds herself pregnant, and at the mercy of a mad scientist. You would think, what a good read.
This is why you should never buy books after a few cocktails.
The book started off like a bad paperback romance novel. Really unnecessary, and frankly, was the first time I thought about putting the book down for good. It got worse from there. The main character, a girl named Lize begins as a hollow waste. She hates her mother, she hates her fetus, she hates the simple maid she's been stuck with, she just is not very fun.
The book is supposed to cover her change of heart, from this cold hateful girl into a caring woman. It certainly does this, but offers no context. One days she hates Mary--another victim of the mad scientist, and a chapter later, she's trying to save her life. There's some thread through the book about St. Paul's dome, but it never amounts to anything important.
I didn't get it. What was her motivation for changing? Was she ever really good? I really didn't care. Don't get me started with the bodily functions. Do I really care about how 18th century Londoners took a pee? Not really.
That all being said, I kept reading. I have no idea why. I think it was the "I want to see where this train wreck goes" attitude. In the end, the last dozen chapters or so are, even I can admit, good reads. I think in the end, if the entire first half of this book were cut, it would have gotten a a much better rating from me.
This is a short story gone horribly awry, and I really can't recommend it. It only got two stars because I read it the whole way through....more
I am a tertiary member of The Network. I followed Charlotte's story from the beginning. Although I never had a chance to meet Charlotte in person, herI am a tertiary member of The Network. I followed Charlotte's story from the beginning. Although I never had a chance to meet Charlotte in person, her amazing grace and charm reached across the pixels and affected everyone who knew her. My fellow Mommy friends invited me to follow Charlotte's story and I was always touched by the honesty, humor and eloquence with which Roger and Rachel chronicled Charlotte's story on her Caring Bridge site.
This book is no different. Rachel's writing style makes you feel as if you're sitting down with a friend chatting about things. The style is breezy, but honest, sometimes heartbreakingly so. By laying herself bare, holding back nothing: good or bad, Rachel has written something that should be a textbook in any social work class.
They have turned a tragedy into something good, turning around and helping others who are going through similar life circumstances. They are extending a hand, if just to say, we know it sucks, friend, which after reading this book made me realize that's sometimes what someone needs most. ...more
Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire
Firstly, this book came *HIGHLY* recommended by several people whose opi Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire
Firstly, this book came *HIGHLY* recommended by several people whose opinions about books are something I really respect. It was a must read from them.
The book did not live up to the hype for me, and I feel I need to explain why. Back in the later years of elementary school, I fell in love with The Wizard of Oz and many of its sequels (I never got around to reading all of them before the obsession wore off), but it is a series near and dear to my heart.
So I had a hard time with this book, because it took place in a world that I immersed myself in as a child. So I kept on nit-picking things. Throughout the whole first half of the book I found myself more annoyed than anything, completely bored, and sometimes even angry.
Then somewhere around the third section of the book, I decided to forget that the story was supposed to take place in Oz, and I stopped looking for familiar characters, places, things, and took the book on its own without reference. All of the sudden, the book turned into something interesting.
I found myself enjoying the last half of the book, and even when the story lines between Wicked and the original Wizard of Oz crossed, I didn't find myself nearly as upset as I was when I started the book. By the time you get to the final section of the book, you're more than ready for that perspective.
So, in the end, I recommend this book, but with the caution that if you are a fan of Baum's works, that you forget that this is supposed to happen in the same universe, you will enjoy it so much more....more
To sum up this book quickly: it's good potty reading. In the forward Farquhar explains that he avoids the entire 20th century (with the exception of aTo sum up this book quickly: it's good potty reading. In the forward Farquhar explains that he avoids the entire 20th century (with the exception of a few stories about Wallis Simpson). He basically points out that the "scandals" of the 20th century are nothing compared to let's say ordering a small cache of boys to swim naked with you, so they can nip at the treat between your legs. Marrying a divorcee just seems milquetoast in comparison.
Anyhow, it was an enjoyable read. Sad at times, sometimes even disturbing, but for the most part is written with a witty dark humor that will make you laugh at even the most sickeningly, depraved noble. While Farquhar sticks to European royalty for the book, he does include an entire section on Roman Caesars, and early Popes, all of which easily out-deprave the nobles the rest of the book is about.
Each story is short, a sort of Cliff's Notes. This is especially true if you are familiar with some of the stories. For the stories I already knew, his facts were accurate, if a bit summary. This is good, because each tale is bite-sized, making the book good for niblet reading here and there.
The tales Farquhar chooses to tell are sometimes hits, and sometimes misses. I particularly did not see how the detailed accounting of the murder of the Romanov's really fit with some of the other stories, for example.
If you like a good scandal, need some quick reads for here and there, or have a fascination with the excesses that unbridled power brings, this is a book worth checking out at the library....more
The stories take place in a fantasy world based on ancient Japan. The stories follow a boy, Takeo, as he is thrust into a warrior-based society afterThe stories take place in a fantasy world based on ancient Japan. The stories follow a boy, Takeo, as he is thrust into a warrior-based society after his family is slaughtered. It also follows the tale of Kaede, a beautiful, but cursed girl who becomes the love and passion of Takeo's life.
The stories are derivative of many boy-hero books, you'll see hints of Lord of the Rings, and even Star Wars if you look carefully enough. While the book relies heavily on this style, it doesn't take away from the fact it remains a good and delicious adventure of a read.
The story ends up being not as predictable as it seems on the surface. Just when you think you know what's about to happen, things will pop up to throw you for a loop and keep the books in your hands. Be warned, these are impossible books to put down. The prose is light and breezy, but the story is heavy. There are things that happen in these books that will rattle around in your head for days.
I only had a few complaints about the books. Many times the symbolism was extremely easy to pick up on. I also found several of the passages, mostly dealing with the sexual encounters of the characters to be unnecessary or just painful to read. Then again, I've rarely found a prose description of sex to be anything other than forced and awkward sounding. This book, unfortunately, was no exception.
But barring those minor complaints, these books were *good* Go out and read them....more