Angela's Ashes: A Memoirby Frank McCourt became an almost instant bestseller when it was first published in 1996, and has won the Pulitzer Price, theAngela's Ashes: A Memoir by Frank McCourt became an almost instant bestseller when it was first published in 1996, and has won the Pulitzer Price, the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Royal Society of Literature Award (amongst others). I think I watched the movie years ago, but I can't remember much of it.
Finally picked up the book though, and it is beautifully and lyrically written, funny and heartbreaking at the same time.
When I look back at my childhood I wonder how I survived at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood. People everywhere brag and whimper about the woes of their early years, but nothing can compare with the Irish version: the poverty; the shiftless loquacious alcoholic father; the pious defeated mother moaning by the fire; pompous priests; bullying schoolmasters; the English and the terrible things they did to us for eight hundred long years. Above all - we were wet.
Born in New York in 1930 to a mum from Limerick and a dad from the North, his family was forced to move back to Ireland because of his dad's alcoholism and the poverty it caused. Things didn't get better back in Ireland though:
...On our way to school Leamy's boys laugh at us because the tire pieces are so thick they add a few inches to our height and the boys say, How's the air up there? There are six or seven barefoot boys in my class and they don't say anything and I wonder if it's better to have shoes with rubber tires that make you trip and stumble or to go barefoot. If you have no shoes at all you'll have all the barefoot boys on your side. If you have rubber tires on your shoes you're all alone with your brother and you have to fight your own battles...
I think my father is like the Holy Trinity with three people in him, the one in the morning with the paper, the one at night with the stories and the prayers, and the one who does the bad thing and comes home with the smell of whiskey and wants us to die for Ireland. I feel sad over the bad thing but I can't back away from him because the one in the morning is my real father and if I were in America I could say, I love you, Dad, the way they do in the films, but you can't say that in Limerick for fear you might be laughed at . You're allowed to say you love God and babies and horses that win but anything else is a softness in the head.
We go to school through lanes and back streets so that we won't meet the respectable boys who go to the Christian Brothers' School or the rich ones who go to the Jesuit school, Crescent College. The Christian Brothers' boys wear tweed jackets, warm woolen sweaters, shirts, ties and shiny new boots. We know they're the ones who will get jobs in the civil service and help the people who run the world. The Crescent College boys wear blazers and school scarves tossed around their necks and over their shoulders to show they're the cock o' the walk. They have long hair which falls across their foreheads and over their eyes so that they can toss their quiffs like Englishmen. We know they're the ones who will go to university, take over the family business, run the government, run the world. We'll be the messenger boys on bicycles who deliver their groceries or we'll go to England to work on the building sites. Our sisters will mind their children and scrub their floors unless they go off to England, too. We know that. We're ashamed of the way we look and if boys from the rich schools pass remarks we'll get into a fight and wind up with bloody noses or torn clothes. Our masters will have no patience with us and our fights because their sons go to the rich schools and, Ye have no right to raise your hands to a better class of people so ye don't.
But somehow McCourt manages to mix the tragic with the comedic, so half the time you don't know whether to laugh or cry:
We ran to the church. My mother panted along behind with Michael in her arms. We arrived at the church just in time to see the last of the boys leaving the altar rail where the priest stood with the chalice and the host, glaring at me. Then he placed on my tongue the wafer, the body and blood of jesus. At last, at last. It's on my tongue. I draw it back. It stuck. I had God glued to the roof of my mouth. I could hear the master's voice, Don't let that host touch your teeth for if you bite God in two you'll roast in hell for eternity. I tried to get God down with my tongue but the priest hissed at me, Stop that clucking and get back to your seat. God was good. He melted and I swallowed Him and now, at last, I was a member of the True Church, an official sinner.
I look out the back window to make sure the evening sun is drying my clothes. Other backyards have lines with clothes that are bright and colorful and dance in the wind. Mine hang from the line like dead dogs. The sun is bright but it's cold and damp in the house and I wish I had something to wear in the bed. I have no other clothes and if I touch anything of The Abbot's he'll surely run to Aunt Auggie. All I can find in the wardrobe is Grandma's old black woolen dress. You're not supposed to wear your Grandmother's old dress when she's dead and you're a boy but what does it matter if it keeps you warm and you're in bed under the blankets where no one will ever know. The dress has the smell of old dead grandmother and I worry she might rise from the grave and curse me before the whole family and all assembled. I pray to St. Francis, ask him to keep her in the grave where she belongs, promise him a candle when I start my job, remind him the robe he wore himself wasn't too far from a dress and no one ever tormented him over it and fall asleep with the image of his face in my dream. The worst thing in the world is to be sleeping in your dead grandmother's bed wearing her black dress when your uncle The Abbott falls on his arse outside South's pub after a night of drinking pints and people who can't mind their own business rush to Aunt Aggie's house to tell her so that she gets Uncle Pa Keating to help her carry The Abbott home and upstairs to where you're sleeping and she barks at you, What are you doin' in this house, in that bed? Get up and put on the kettle for tea for your poor uncle Pat that fell down, and when you don't move she pulls the blankets and falls backward like one seeing a ghost and yelling Mother o'God what are you doin' in me dead mother's dress? That's the worst thing of all because it's hard to explain that you're getting ready for the big job in your life, that you washed your clothes, they're drying abroad on the line, and it was so cold you had to wear the only thing you could find in the house, and it's even harder to talk to Aunt Aggie when The Abbot is groaning in the bed, Me feet is like a fire, put water on me feet, and Uncle Pa Keating is covering his mouth with his hand and collapsing against the wall laughing and telling you that you look gorgeous and black suits you and would you ever straighten your hem. You don't know what to do when Aunt Aggie tells you, Get out of that bed and put the kettle on downstairs for tea for your poor uncle. Should you take off the dress and put on a blanket or should you go as you are? One minute she's screaming, What are you doin' in me poor mother's dress? the next she's telling you put on that bloody kettle. I tell her I washed my clothes for the big job. What big job? Telegram boy at the post office. She says if the post office is hiring the likes of you they must be in a desperate way altogether, go down and put on that kettle. The next worst thing is to be out in the backyard filling the kettle from the tap with the moon beaming away and Kathleen Purcell from next door perched up on the wall looking for her cat. God, Frankie McCourt, what are you doin' in your grandmother's dress? and you have to stand there in the dress with the kettle in your hand and explain how you washed your clothes which are hanging there on the line for all to see and you were so cold in the bed you put on your grandmother's dress and your uncle Pat, The Abbot, fell down and was brought home by Aunt Aggie and her husband, Pa Keating, and she drove you into the backyard to fill this kettle and you'll take off this dress as soon as ever your clothes are dry because you never had any desire to go through life in your dead grandmother's dress. Now Kathleen Purcell lets out a scream, falls of the wall, forgets the cat and you can hear her giggling into her blond mother. Mammy, Mammy, wait till I tell you about Frankie McCourt abroad in the backyard in his dead grandmother's dress. You know that once Kathleen Purcell gets a bit of scandal the whole lane will know it before morning, and you might as well stick your head out the window and make a general announcement about yourself and the dress problem.
If you haven't read it, I suggest you put Angela's Ashes on your list. As for me, I'll be digging into the sequel 'Tis next.
I LOVED this book. You have to take it for what it is, it's young adult, not fine literature, but it was really enjoyable, and for once we have a femaI LOVED this book. You have to take it for what it is, it's young adult, not fine literature, but it was really enjoyable, and for once we have a female lead character who's worth admiring.
The Hunger Games is the first book in The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. I already finished the second book,Catching Fire, and started the third, and last one, Mockingjay. All in less than a week, they're THAT good. I have, however, decided only to review the first, The Hunger Games, as reviewing the second and third would mean revealing spoilers.
The Hunger Games take place in a near-distant future, where the US no longer exists, instead there's Panem, where 12 Territories are controlled by the Capitol. There used to be a 13th Territory, but during a rebellion, that territory was destroyed. In order to keep the rest of the territories under control, the Capitol hold The Hunger Games each year. Each territory must submit a boy and a girl between the age of 12 and 18. The Games are televised live, and there's only one rule: kill or be killed. Last person standing wins.
Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen volunteers to take her twelve-year-old sisters place, when her name is drawn, not realizing she'll have to fight to the death against the boy who once saved her life when she was eleven.
One of the things I love so much about Katniss is that she's flawed. She's deeply flawed, and so, she is deeply human. She's strong, intelligent, distrustful, suspicious, scared, caring, loving, she's flawed, but she's human and real....more
No god but God bý Reza Aslan gives an excellent, thorough insight to the history of Islam. Reza Aslan is an Iranian-American scholar of religion an inNo god but God bý Reza Aslan gives an excellent, thorough insight to the history of Islam. Reza Aslan is an Iranian-American scholar of religion an in this book he gives a comprehensive view of Islam in the past, and draws parallels to today. This book is a must read for Muslims and non-Muslims alike....more
This is my third Murakami book and also my favourite so far. It is beautifully written, subtle yet direct, underplayed and intriguing. It explores theThis is my third Murakami book and also my favourite so far. It is beautifully written, subtle yet direct, underplayed and intriguing. It explores the confusion and complexities of relationships and personalities....more
Beautiful, dark, surrealistic story. Reality and dreams are intertwined and half the time you're not sure whether the story is taking place in the reaBeautiful, dark, surrealistic story. Reality and dreams are intertwined and half the time you're not sure whether the story is taking place in the real world, a dream world, something in between or something far beyond either....more
Patrick Süskind described smell to me in a way I'd never thought about it before, the book really got under my skin. I haven't yet seen the movie, soPatrick Süskind described smell to me in a way I'd never thought about it before, the book really got under my skin. I haven't yet seen the movie, so I can't say how it compares to it....more
"Did you know that every brain begins as a female brain and that it only becomes male eight weeks after conception? This is when excess testosterone s"Did you know that every brain begins as a female brain and that it only becomes male eight weeks after conception? This is when excess testosterone shrinks the communication centre, reduces the hearing cortex and makes the part of the brain that processes sex twice as large." - from the back cover. [Image] The author of The Female Brain, Louann Brizendine has a degree in neurobiology from University of California, Berkeley and graduated from Yale's School of Medicine. Post-graduation she has worked at University College London, completed her residency in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and has since worked at University of California, San Fransisco's Medical School.
This book captured me right from page one, it details all the stages of a woman's life - and how her brain is affected and changes throughout these stages. It helped me to understand so many things about myself, that I had never fully understood before. Why my moods change so much throughout the month, why the week after my period is when I feel the best. Our hormones are literally changing daily, and these hormones have a huge impact on how we feel.
This is a book I think every woman should read - and ideally, every man too.
I borrowed this book from the library, but it's going on my list of books I need to own....more
Udmærket bog som giver et godt indblik i hvordan det er at vokse op og være splittet imellem to kulturer, men også hvordan man med respekt og forståelUdmærket bog som giver et godt indblik i hvordan det er at vokse op og være splittet imellem to kulturer, men også hvordan man med respekt og forståelse kan komme videre....more
Excellent overview of a neck training program that can help you deal with sitting all day. I had my own physiotherapist look it over as well, and he rExcellent overview of a neck training program that can help you deal with sitting all day. I had my own physiotherapist look it over as well, and he recommended I use it daily. ...more
A complex, surrealistic story with intriguing, believeable characters. Only complaint is the ending that seemed slightly hurried compared to the attenA complex, surrealistic story with intriguing, believeable characters. Only complaint is the ending that seemed slightly hurried compared to the attention paid to the beginning....more
Despite the 1000 pages I read The Wise Man's Fear in just over a week and thoroughly enjoyed it. Once again Rothfuss has written a tantalizing follow-Despite the 1000 pages I read The Wise Man's Fear in just over a week and thoroughly enjoyed it. Once again Rothfuss has written a tantalizing follow-up to the first book, full of magic, love, wisdom, power, knowledge, adventure, music and stories. This book has a little more sex (although nothing explicit) than the first one, but I didn't think it was over the top. I've mentioned previously that I don't read fantasy too often, but I really love this book. It's more Lord of the Rings than Harry Potter, and absolutely fascinating and enjoyable reading. ...more
It is the first book in a trilogy, with the second book coming out in March this year. It is the story of Kvothe, a young, intelligent man and talenteIt is the first book in a trilogy, with the second book coming out in March this year. It is the story of Kvothe, a young, intelligent man and talented magician. It is the story of love, evil, history, terror, childhood, loss, knowledge, myths, magic and all other great things. Patrick Rothfuss draws you in, and I found myself incredibly fascinated and intrigued by every turn and twist. If you like diving into an alternate universe every now and then, I greatly recommend it....more
Absolutely amazing book, asks interesting questions about times and our definitions of when someone is good enough - or when they're almost good enougAbsolutely amazing book, asks interesting questions about times and our definitions of when someone is good enough - or when they're almost good enough, but never quite cut it....more
A few weeks ago I read Ender's Gameby Orson Scott Card. I had been told I absolutely must read it - and it was even bought for me.
I must say it was muA few weeks ago I read Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. I had been told I absolutely must read it - and it was even bought for me.
I must say it was much better than I expected, it has become a classic for a reason. The book is science fiction, set a few hundred years from now in a future where people live in perpetual fear of "the buggers" who once almost destroyed humanity. This fear has kept a fragile peace on earth between the different countries, as everyone are focused on preparing for a - hopefully - last fight against the buggers.
To improve their chances against the buggers, all kids are watched and the most suitable are sent to special military training schools.
Ender is one of these gifted kids - potentially the most gifted of all. Passing through the system quicker than anyone before him - partly because of his talents, partly because he must.
It is hard to explain Ender's Game, to do it full justice. I highly recommend it. It is a rather short book, but very thought-provoking and enjoyable.
"The sister is our weak link. He really loves her." "I know. She can undo it all, from the start. He won't want to leave her." "So what are you going to do?" "Persuade him that he wants to come with us more than he wants to stay with her." "How will you do that?" "I'll lie to him." "And if that doesn't work?" "Then I'll tell the truth. We're allowed to do that in emergencies. We can't plan for everything, you know."
The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley is such a powerful book. It ought to be a must read for everyone today. It tells about the powerfuThe Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley is such a powerful book. It ought to be a must read for everyone today. It tells about the powerful transformation that Malcolm X went through, from a criminal to a racist "Black Muslim" to true enlightenment and hope for a true brotherhood. It dispelled so many of my ignorant beliefs concerning Malcolm X. I had been taught that he was basically the "opposite of Martin Luther King", which, for a while, was true. But we are not taught about how he turned around, and were brave enough, to change his beliefs. Not many people are that brave, most will stick to what they know, go the safe way. Quite probably, Malcolm X's courage, were the cause of his assassination. He broke with the Nation of Islam, and by the end of his life he was not violent enough for some, and not pacifist enough for others. But, altogether, he was an amazing man, who we could all learn so much from, and his story deservers to be told and heard by everyone - his story NEEDS to be told and heard by everyone....more
I really really enjoyed this book. It is easy to read, funny and very thought-provoking and inspiring. Through three easy, simple rules Michael PollanI really really enjoyed this book. It is easy to read, funny and very thought-provoking and inspiring. Through three easy, simple rules Michael Pollan tells you how to eat a healthier diet. Without telling you what to eat (he believes you are clever enough to make those decisions yourself). The three rules are: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.
From the back: "This book is a celebration of food. By food, Michael Pollan means real, proper, simple food - not the kind that comes in a packet, or has a list of unpronounceable ingredients, or that makes nutritional claims about how healthy it is. More like the kind of food your great-grandmother would recognize."
I would greatly recommend it to anyone who has any kind of interest in what they eat, in their own health and well-being. In this book, Michael Pollan explains the dangers of fads, nutritionism (the obsessive focus on one nutrient instead of focusing on the synergy and wholeness of foods), industrialism and the way we have completely lost touch with what we eat. I also really like the way he is very thorough with his references - but in an unobtrusive way. There are some footnotes throughout the book with references to specific studies that he mention, as well as some 25 pages of sources ordered by chapter.
I may not agree with all of his premises or conclusions, but he makes many good points, and more importantly, provokes you to think for yourself....more
One of the main things I took away from The Ethical Slut is that I have, at least emotionally, been stuck thinking about life in terms of so-called "starvation economies", i.e., the idea that life is a zero-sum game and that if someone else has something that means there is less for you. While there are a few things in your life, e.g., time and resources, that are indeed limited, most things are not. There is no set limit of beauty, intelligence, sexiness or love.
Another important point is learning to trust yourself, that you do have the skills to look after yourself and that you don't need to (and in my opinion shouldn't) rely on another person to take care of you. Learning to ask for what you need (but also knowing and respecting that that doesn't necessarily mean getting it, or getting it when you want it), daring to be brave and vulnerable by opening up to people, setting and respecting boundaries, knowing yourself and owning your own feelings.
When you respect your own limits, others will learn to respect them too. People tend to live up to your standards when you are not afraid to set them.
To truly know yourself is to live on a constant journey of self-exploration, to learn about yourself from reading, therapy, and, best of all, talking incessantly with others who are traveling on similar paths. This hard work is well worth it because it is the way you become free to choose how you want to live and love, own your life, and become truly the author of your experience.
A basic precept of intimate communication is that each person owns her own feelings. No one "makes" you feel jealous or insecure - the person who makes you feel that way is you. No matter what the other person is doing, what you feel in response is determined inside you. ... The problem is that when you blame someone else for how you feel, you disempower yourself from finding solutions. If this is someone else's fault, only that person can fix it, right? So poor you can't do anything but sit there and moan. On the other hand, when you own your feelings you have lots of choices. You can talk about how you feel, you can choose whether or not you want to act on those feelings (no more "the devil made me do it"), you can learn how to understand yourself better, you can comfort yourself or ask for comfort. Owning your feelings is basic to understanding the boundaries of where you end and the next person begins and the perfect first step towards self-acceptance and self-love.
Perhaps the most important step in dealing with problems is to recognize that they will happen and that it's okay that they do. You'll make mistakes. You'll encounter beliefs, myths, and "buttons" you never knew you had. There will be times when you'll feel pretty awful.
Knowing, loving, and respecting yourself is an absolute prerequisite to knowing, loving, and respecting someone else. Cut yourself some slack.
Everybody feels bad sometimes, so you are in excellent company. And when you have the courage to be open about a vulnerable feeling, everyone around you gets permission to be open with theirs.
Actually this book is so quotable, my copy has many many yellow highlights. In this review I have chosen to focus on the parts that I believe are applicable to everyone (and I honestly do feel like everyone could gain something from reading it), it does also have plenty of information on ethical/consensual non-monogamy (in all its variations), as well as safe and safer sex practices....more