Yes, I have pretty much disappeared from the blog-o-sphere for the past several months, I admit. Lots has been going on, but I have mostly been lazy. My grandfather passed away and I got rejected from a couple of jobs I thought I would be a shoe-in for, so that was rather depressing. Then, of course, came Hurricane Sandy. My house was inches from being crushed by a giant tree, I have had no power for a week, and I just had to take a sponge bath out of a bowl. I am drafting this from a shelter.
Anyways, enough personal junk. That’s not what my blog is really about. Reading! I have indeed been doing a lot of reading. An insane amount. I finished the behemoth, 11/22/63 By Stephen King (I have linked to the book’s site, which is pretty cool. Definitely go for the “1963” version rather than the “2001” version if you are going to look at it). It was intense. I had to alternate it at times with other books because it was just so long and involved. For those who do not know, 11/22/63 was the date of the JFK assassination and the novel is about a man from 2001 who goes through a time-travel-portal and attempts to stop the killer before he strikes. I now know more about Lee Harvey Oswald than I really ever wanted or needed to know. Originally, I started reading the book because I was so surprised that Stephen King had written this tome of historical fiction. I knew him mostly for Carrie and The Shining. Well, this book is indeed a departure – impeccably researched history, deep philosophical moments about the merits of messing with the past, and three dimensional characters that you truly came to root for. Even King’s version of Oswald has his moments. But the book did embody some of that good old Stephen King creepiness, with a “Jimla” monster haunting our hero, Jake, and constantly reminding him that his presence in the past is unwanted and dangerous – the butterfly effect, if you will. Eventually, Jake must make an impossible decision between love and his sense of duty. The book was moving and frankly, just a straight up masterpiece. Plus, the inner cover of the soft-cover edition has a fascinating hypothetical newspaper front page for the scenario in which JFK escapes assassination. Who doesn’t love a good historical what-if chock full of romance and adventure?
While reading 11/22/63, I occasionally took breaks to read Thinner, also by Stephen King, though published under the pseudonym Richard Bachman (Yes, I was on a bit of a one-author binge. But, hey, if you need to pick one…). This book was a much thinner volume… (oh hahaha I am so punny). It was about an overweight lawyer named
English: Stephen King signature. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Billy Halleck who accidentally kills an old gypsy woman with his car and is cursed by her father to become “thinner”. At first, the random weight loss seems like a blessing…but then it keeps going…and going…and becomes a nightmare. A chilling, quick read – would be great for a vacation or to read in chunks on your commute. And who doesn’t love a good gypsy curse? In the words of Penelope Garcia from Criminal Minds, “God bless you for making my life into a Cher song”. (P.S. Watched the movie version AFTER I finished the book, as this is very important to me. Entertaining but ultimately not very good.)
Next, I read I Was Told There Would Be Cake, a book of personal essays by Sloane Crosley. I generally don’t read memoir-type books (why read about real life when you are forced to live in it all day every day??), but my library had a table of humorous books and I thought hey, I am depressed, let’s have a few laughs. And I did. I laughed a lot. She is very relatable to myself, a twenty-something year old trying to make her way in life, date, and get an entry-level job. She deals with a wide range of topics, from weird neighbors to bosses with anger management problems to serving as a maid of honor. I recently bought the book for a friend for Christmas. I would recommend it to female lovers of David Sedaris or Dorothy Parker. Really funny stuff.
BANNED BOOKS WEEK!! September 30-October 6. So, since I am just posting this now,
Banned Books Week Banner
you missed it. BUT, still read a banned book. My personal favorites are Alice in Wonderland and Lolita. But, as I have already read those (I basically worship Vladimir Nabokov as a deity), I picked some different ones off of the banned books display at the library. Side note, the librarians are staring to think I don’t have a life. Anyways, my first selection was The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. This is a rather horrifying futuristic-dystopian novel about a society (post some sort of nuclear fallout that rendered more women sterile) where the few fertile young women are basically used as walking, talking incubators/sex slaves. The cruel regime that maintains control through mystery and fear is reminiscent of Orwell’s 1964. I was glued to it for days but ultimately found the ending unsatisfying – I am sure that was the point, but it bugged me. The novel had good thoughts and warnings but not much that I hadn’t read in other dystopian novels.
Speaking of that, my second banned books week selection was A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. This book is fabulous and probably the most original, innovative book I have read in a long time. Burgess creates an entire “dialect” of English, if you will – Nadsat, the coarse slang of the teenagers of this dystopian world. At first, I found it difficult to read because there were so many made-up words. I used the Nadsat Glossary on SparkNotes for a while, but eventually realized that it was ridiculous to stop and look up every unfamiliar word. Eventually, my conclusion was to memorize the meanings of some important words, like droog (friend), horrorshow (good, great), untraviolence (rape) etc. and simply gloss over others or figure them out from context clues. The book follows Alex, a boy growing up in a society where kids are violent and brutal beyond their years. He is eventually arrested and put through a “rehabilitation” program. The book is truly thought provoking and philosophical, asking serious questions about morality – if one is incapable of committing violent acts or thinking evil thoughts, is he truly good? Do his moral actions mean anything? Is he even human anymore? Most of all, I love love loved the symbolism of the clockwork orange itself – it looks natural and wholesome on the outside, but on the inside it is manufactured, a machine. It is unnatural and a bit creepy. Love it. Want more insight?? Check out THIS New Yorker article about the book written by the author himself.
Next, for Halloween, I read Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley. I was looking for some spooky fun – our lights have out due to the Hurricane so I needed entertainment and something creepy to read by the fire to make up for the fact that my town cancelled Halloween. What I got was a seriously depressing book. You know the sort of iconic scene with the lightening coming in through the roof and jump-starting the creature’s heart and Dr. Frankenstein laughing ominously and shouting “It’s alive!!” ? Yeah, that doesn’t happen in the book. The creation of the monster is dealt with extremely briefly and the rest of the novel wrestles with morality – what it means to play God and what dangers and responsibilities that carries. Ultimately, Frankenstein gives his creature life and abandons him to the cruelty of the world. They become each other’s worst nightmares and downfalls. Basically, I should have gone for some Poe.