Friday, January 31, 2014

on book 6.

book 6 of 60: love is a dog from hell by charles bukowski

date started: 1.12.2014
date completed: 1.30.2014

i'm a poetry snob, and you should know that right away.  i studied the classics--everything from homer and virgil--up through the greats of the renaissance like wyatt, spenser, and sydney.  i have a soft spot for metaphysical poets like donne and for whitman.  poetry is something i revere and cling to.

bukowski is a terrible, brilliant poet.  i want to hate him for the terrible things he does to verse, but i just find myself intoxicated with the solid reality of his poems.  his bitterness and condemnation of love and life are--well--awesome.

i want to hate this type of poetry because it flies in the face of all the poets i have studied, loved, and respected, but i kind of love this, too.  and why not?  at the very least, it's good fun.

probable next read:  BZRK by michael grant

Sunday, January 26, 2014

on book 5.

book 5 of 60: country of the pointed firs by sarah orne jewett

date started: 1.20.2014
date completed: 1.25.2014

while i don't generally enjoy american lit, i do have a soft spot for post-civil war american colorists.  sarah orne jewett intrigued me back in undergrad when i read a short story of hers.  this book did not disappoint.

it's a quiet text, serene and lovely.  jewett paints a beautiful landscape of the coast of maine.

while the plot here is quite unimportant (jewett focuses on creating the world and making the reader appreciate it), there is some substance.  the narrator's relationship with mrs. todd develops and strengthens over the course of the narrative, and it's quite nice to experience this friendship along with them.  

all in all, this is a quick, lovely read.

probable next read:  harry potter and the sorcerer's stone by j.k. rowling (my first re-read of the year!)

Thursday, January 23, 2014

on book 4.

book 4 of 60: night film by marisha pessl

date started: 1.13.2014
date completed: 1.23.2014

pessl is a fine writer. not great, just fine. this book received high critical praise, and it was entertaining and downright creepy in some spots, but all in all it let me down.

the book excels in the creepy factor. devil worship, black magic, voodoo, masters of gore cinema, elusive pop culture figures, black market internet sites--you name it, it's here, and somehow it all seems to work.

pessl fails to develop her characters in any sort of substantial way.  each character is like a shadow figure--a placeholder for the fully crafted, three dimensional characters that an audience craves.  mcgrath, for all his investigative prowess, is inept at realizing the circumstances of his own life and those close to him.  he does manage to figure things out, but it seems he's always last--we'll behind the reader. nora and hopper are more like caricatures than "real" people.

the end of the book left me hating it (kind of). i understand why pessl needed to leave the ending vague  (which i won't disclose here for sake of spoilers), but, given the sheer quantity of interesting conclusions available in this text, the chosen one feels like a cop out.

all in all, this book wasn't bad, it was fine.  and that's ok.

probable next read:  birthmarked by caragh m. o'brien

Saturday, January 18, 2014

on book 3.

book 3 of 60: mary poppins by p.l. travers

date started: 1.9.2014
date completed: 1.17.2014

after seeing saving mr. banks, i was left with the desire to read the actual mary poppins text.  i must admit i'm a bit indifferent to this text.  it was good.  it was entertaining.  it brought back many a happy childhood memory.

but it was also very austere.  travers' poppins is rather cold and, well, stereotypical "British".  this isn't a bad thing, it's just a different thing.

i teach a comparative class on film and text, and using the definitions i demand in the classroom to avoid such comments as "the book is better," the film version of this text is a fairly radical translation.  parts of the book are directly translated into the film, but many of the characters are rather different sorts.  there are many parts of the book i would have loved to have seen included in the film.

these differences are not good or bad--they're just different.

had i read this book as a child, i would certainly have loved it.  as an adult, it doesn't contain the magic or power needed to overcome my childhood love of the film version.

probable next read:  county of the pointed firs by sarah orne jewett

Sunday, January 12, 2014

on book 2

book 2 of 60: the ocean at the end of the lane by neil gaiman

date started: 1.5.2014
date completed: 1.9.2014

i freaking love neil gaiman.  this book is so rich in themes: loss, reminiscence, longing for childhood, getting what you need exactly when you need it--not on your own terms, sacrifice,

more than anything, i loved this book for the style.  gaiman is so very good at creating worlds and the vivid characters who inhabit them, and that is especially true of the book.

also interesting is that the book functions as a frame narrative, something you don't see very often these days.  this format is beautifully woven together with the frame.

the book is absolutely beautiful and is full of riches.

probable next read:  night film by marisha pessl  

Monday, January 6, 2014

on book 1

book 1 of 60: the circle by dave eggers

date started: 1.1.2014
date completed: 1.5.2014
i really want to like this book. it's an interesting topic--very relevant today as tech becomes increasingly ensconced in our daily lives, so i was hoping that the book would live up to its timely subject matter. unfortunately, the whole thing just fell flat for me.

while there are some parts and the book that are extremely relevant--mae's incessant sharing, crowd sourcing, etc.--the whole thing feels a bit underdeveloped.

the ending was predictable. the completely overworked symbolism of the shark and stenton was a giant snooze-fest--very heavy handed (the kind of thing even a beginning student would notice and think was too much).

add to this interesting, but completely unnecessary scenes--like with mae and the older couple on the boat--and you get the impression that this author had no idea of where the book was going. the scene between mae and the older couple feels like it should mean something; at the very least you expect to revisit these people later in the book.  it feels important, but eggers never revisits the scene or this couple.

most troubling is the characterization. mae is a flat character, static in her lack of thought. as a reader, you never care enough about mae (or any other character) to be affected by their decisions or thought processes. she is passive rather than active, a character upon whom things are carried out but who never takes initiative of her own--until the very last moments of the book when you are absolutely beyond caring.  i think the previously mentioned scene on the boat was meant to show mae's "edginess"--that she's willing to take risks and break the rules, but it did the opposite for me.  she had an opportunity in that moment to break free of the circle's tyranny, but she caved to the pressure, choosing to leave on time, return her rented kayak, and drive herself back to the circle's compound.  she is no more "edgy" than today's ubiquitous hipster.

while it might be easier to chalk this whole book up to social commentary on the surface level communication that now exists due to internet activity like social media, i think that's giving eggers far too much credit.  his characters don't work--they and the very plot of the text--elicit no emotion from the reader.

this book was an absolute struggle to get through.  i spent the entirety waiting for a profound, jaw-dropping moment that never came (and which should have, given the timely subject matter).  this book pushed no boundaries and wins no praise from this reviewer.

probable next read: the ocean at the end of the lane by neil gaiman (a book that most likely won't let me down!)

Sunday, January 5, 2014

on books and challenges.

so it begins: a new book challenge for 2014.

i’ve been a member on goodreads for a few years now, but have only recently begun actually using it to track what i’m reading.  i hate that i don’t have an accurate list of all the books i’ve read in my life—i would love to be able to look over that list.

so for this year’s challenge, i have set a goodreads goal of 60 books.  that is, i will read a minimum of 60 books this year.  this number seems small to me, and i initially started at 100, but given the months of sometimes complete and utter attention my job requires, 2 books a week doesn’t seem feasible at all.

the list is malleable--i don't know what exactly i'll read.  there will likely be some fresh new stuff, some classics, narrative nonfiction, and some re-reads.  it doesn't matter what i'm reading, as long as i'm reading.

so i will read a minimum of 60 books this year and will blog about them here.  book reviews, random thoughts, analysis—whatever i am left with at the end of a book will be posted here.

while this challenge may not be as difficult as the book buying ban, it is a goal that i must work towards, and that’s something i can benefit from. 

not to mention—think of all the great books i’ll get to explore!