29 March 2012

My favorite "book" store :-)

Look at this nifty stack.... just $25 and change!
  • Marina Fiorato, The Botticelli Secret
  • Philip Roth, Deception
  • Michael Chabon, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
  • Chris Bohjalian, Skeletons at the Feast
  • Kate Mosse, Labyrinth
  • Caleb Carr, The Alienist
  • Dennis Lehane, Mystic River
  • Eric Abrahamson & David H. Freedman, A Perfect Mess
  • Louise Bates Ames, Your Ten-to-Fourteen Year Old
  • Mary Sheedy Kurchinka, Raising Your Spirited Child
  • Garden Ideas: Creative Design Solutions

 I know, I know, what am I doing with MORE books?!  But at that price, how can I go wrong?!  Yep, my favorite bookstore... GoodWill.  I win, they win, everybody wins!

And the Dennis Lehane is a FIRST EDITION!  Whoo hoo!  (Which then raises the question whether I'll read this copy, or just admire it on the shelf ;-)
Pure delight....

23 March 2012

A Good BFF is Hard to Find

I recently started following MWF Seeking BFF.  Just like Rachel, all my college BFFs are far-flung around the country.  Forget about A Good Man (thanks Flannery!), a BFF is really hard to find (but it is possible ;-)  I appreciate that Rachel is bringing this struggle out into the open!

How does this relate to books?  Well, some of the latest "strong female leads" of the last decade do not have BFFs.

Read more here: It's Hunger Games Day!

But I don't think this is a new problem.  Throughout literature, few women or girls have BFFs.  Alice.  Dorothy. (Sure, she had Scarecrow, Woodsman, and Lion, but none of those are women/girls.)  Jo in Little Women.  Elizabeth Bennet in Pride & Prejudice.  Laura in the Little House series.  (Sisters, yes, but no BFF - it's different.)  Emma.  (She treated her women peers as projects more than friends.)  Certainly not forlorn Jane Eyre (her BFF tragically dies early in the tale) or Daisy Buchanan (Great Gatsby), or even Hermione Grainger.

I have to think about this some more.

If Helen of Troy had had a BFF, would she have run off with Paris?  Did Penelope (of the Odyssey) have a BFF (would have made all that weaving a little less tedious, I think)?

Why can men in literature have a "Band of Brothers," or even just a "buddy" (a la Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) but it's rare among female literary characters?

19 March 2012

"Panem et Circenses"

Panem et Circenses: "Bread and Circuses" - the techniques used by the Roman Empire to keep the population docile. We won't rise up if we're not hungry, and we're adequately entertained, especially at the (gladiatorial) expense of others.

THAT is what makes The Hunger Games so frightening to me.  Its proximity to reality, giving me the sneaking suspicion that contemporary America is kept quiet by a certain amount of panem et circenses.  We are unlikely to question authority or even take much civic action.  Not when we have Taco Bell and Burger King and Doritos, and professional sports (in which the fans riot and loot after both major wins & losses) and Survivor and American Idol.

But the converse is also scary - a significant number of Americans carry concealed weapons because they do not trust authority.  That I read last week that in one state (I can't remember where), civilians may kill police officers who "trespass" on their property (for more of this concept, check out Indiana's new law - ugh).  That many in the Far Right believe and fear that the Feds want to control us through social welfare programs. Want to keep standing militias.  Expecting and preparing to repel a major Federal Takeover is no less terrifying. 

I don't want to be part of the Capitol and the Peacekeepers, nor one of the Rebels.

There's so much being written about The Hunger Games trilogy right now, with the first movie debuting this weekend.  It's a relevant time to reflect on what this narrative says about our world today.

Last week my friend asked me if she thought Hunger Games would be too violent for her 10-yr-old daughter to read (my 10-yr-old son has read Book 1, and loved it).  

If a book is too terrifying, you can always put it down.  Sadly, you cannot put "real life" down.  You can turn off the TV, but real life atrocity is still there.

Today, every 10-yr-old child has existed in an era of continuous war.  With an awareness of the Taliban.  People in authority who sexually molest children.   Terrible violence against women in Afghanistan.  Buildings collapsing and burning in lower Manhattan.  North Korean gulags.Haiti and Japan after the earthquake, South Asia after the tsunami.  Joseph Kony, atrocities, and child soldiers of sub-Saharan Africa. 

Is The Hunger Games, a work of fiction, more or less shocking than real life?

Let's play Peeta's sanity game: real or not-real?

Update: Check out this "Letter to the Editor" published by Time on April 2: "Children are already exposed to violence" - my thoughts almost exactly.

13 March 2012

Where the heck have I been?

When I launched this blog, I promised myself that I would stick with it.  So where have I been this last month?  Well, reading.... a LOT (and knitting a lot, but I digress), but not ready to blog about some of it.
I finished Flannery O'Connor's Wise Blood in February.  I gave it one star on GoodReads. I didn't like it, no, I did not.  All the characters were unlikeable.  The physical self-mutilation was horrifying, the emotional self-mutilation was just plain sad.  And there was a certain squishy, clammy realism about humanity that was kind of nauseating to me. 
I can't understand Hazel Motes' "Church of Christ without Christ" - what is the POINT??  Is he an atheist?  Is he reacting against the evangelical Protestantism and itinerant preaching of the South?  Reacting against World War II?  The loss of his home & family?  All of it??

  I loved O'Connor's A Good Man is Hard to Find in the early 1990s.  Maybe it's a better book (short stories, really) or maybe I am different now.  Anyway, I wouldn't have been as wild about Flannery if I'd read Wise Blood first. I admire that it was likely a radical book when it was first published in 1949, but I just didn't enjoy the Southern Gothic existential malaise.

Finished Jeffrey Eugenides Virgin Suicides a couple of nights ago.  I think Eugenides is quirky good.  I liked Middlesex when I read it a few years ago (almost 6 years ago!  Time flies!).  This one wasn't quite as gripping somehow, but let's face it, it was his debut book!  I think the author is completely fascinated with the lives of women and girls... especially the hidden aspects of life.  The "narrator" of this work is a male peer of the girls.... the desperation of wanting to know, to SAVE the girls is palpable.  I think Eugenides wants to know everything about women.  By Middlesex I think he allowed himself to become one, if only in his imagination, but vividly so!  Are we really that interesting and mysterious?

This book was pretty angst-y too, I mean, they all kill themselves (no spoiler there... note the title), but it wasn't just the girls giving up on life, it was their house, falling down around their ears, and even the elms, dying on their street.  The girls were prisoners to their parents' over-protective behavior.  Perhaps it's a morality play: Mom & Dad hold onto their daughters so tightly, they crush them to death.  Making Lux burn her records won't stop her from loving rock 'n' roll; keeping her locked in the house won't even keep her from finding a long list sexual partners.  One CAN'T control another person.  There might be the temporary appearance of control, but eventually it will end - and quite possibly, BADLY.

I've read four books that I'm not ready to blog about yet: "The Hunger Games" trilogy (I'm on Mockingjay, Book 3 of 3), and Dennis Lehane's "Kenzie & Gennaro" mysteries (on Book 3 of 6).  I know I'm always late to the party, but WOW.  I read A Drink Before the War and Darkness, Take My Hand in about three days each.  Each of these series is all of a piece, so it makes sense to treat them as such. 
Bear with me between entries!