Thursday, February 28, 2008

Schuyler's Monster (by Rob Rummel-Hudson)

Reading this book was a crazy experience, since I first started reading Rob's blog just before Schuyler was born. I remember all the events in the book...and lots of events that didn't make it into the book! I'm so, like, totally inner circle.

I wasn't sure how this book would read, but I found it to be a level beyond what Rob has done in his blog. More sophisticated and more restrained, on the whole. I think Rob and his editor really made the right choices most of the time.

I really am curious to know how the book reads to people who haven't read Rob's blog for all these years...if the People review is anything to go by, probably pretty positively! Not that I'm surprised--his story is incredibly compelling.

Good job, Rob! Remember I knew you when!


Lives on the Boundary (by Mike Rose)

Read this for class; discussing with my students. Will get back to you!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Pnin (by Vladimir Nabokov)

I know; it's absurd that I hadn't read this book, Pale Fire's precursor and cousin. I can't wait to read the criticism of it, especially how it relates to Pale Fire (I noticed lots of overlap--solus rex, butterflies, reflections, and autobiographical details of Nabokov's life--and of course Pnin the character makes a cameo appearance in Pale Fire). It appears to be, at face value, a charming character study of the sympathetic titular character. But of course, there's a narrator--and to what extent he is unreliable remains to be seen. He seems to be an unsympathetic version of Nabokov himself... very intriguing.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Helping Me Help Myself (by Beth Lisick)

Yep, this is the third book I finished today! It was fabulous. There's a whole thing in there about coincidences and I experienced it firsthand a few days ago as I was reading the book. I was composing an email to the author in my head and debating if I should or could send it to her, and then I picked up the book and read about her agonizing about sending an e-mail to someone she'd bumped into backstage at a show... anyway, I still haven't sent the e-mail. Read the book.

Catherine the Great (by Virginia Rounding)

Yes, I finished two books today! I've been reading this one for a while. Not as absorbing as Antonia Fraser's books, but Catherine is certainly a fascinating figure. On the whole I ended up admiring her quite a bit, and it's interesting to read what was going on in Russia while Marie Antoinette was living and dying in France. Also, one of her granddaughters was Queen of the Netherlands!

I don't have anything thrilling to say about this book. A serviceable book about a very interesting and admirable woman.

A Handful of Dust (by Evelyn Waugh)

Also on both the MLA and Time lists, and a remarkably quick read, really. To tell the plot would be to give too much away. It starts off as a sort of comedy of manners (British society between the wars) that's very funny, and then ends up... in quite a different place. There's a whole lot of literary allusion going on here, as the central figures form a King Arthur-Guinevere-Lancelot triangle, which adds interest and poignancy and depth. The ending is unexpected and yet adds dimension to the whole book.

Still, I'd have preferred the novel to stay as a small social satire, rather than going in that different direction. As I'm typing this I realize I wanted a Henry James or Edith Wharton type of novel, where nothing fantastical has to happen in order for it to be meaningful. At any rate, it's a good book, but as far aw Waugh goes, I prefer Brideshead Revisited. And as far as literature goes, I prefer Age of Innocence and Portrait of a Lady.

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I'm Not The New Me (by Wendy McClure)

I hadn't read the book when it first came out, and I loved it the second time around. I read it for the Elastic Waist book club and here's what I said:

Part one:
I dug up my copy and am having a great time re-reading it--I haven't read it since it first came out, and I was very caught up in the surreal nature of having something like a JournalCon written about in a book.

A lot of things struck me, but one I wanted to mention in response to your second question is the depiction of other "fat chicks" (like Evelyn at the wedding) that seem to have something the author does not, something enviable. Since it's not thinness, I think at this point, the narrator has shifted from wanting to be thin to wanting to find whatever it is Evelyn has. I don't know if I'm right, but after part one, that's my theory.

Part two:
It was in the second half of the book that I really started to notice the fantastic metaphors. I wrote down "Russian nesting dolls" and "Star Trek transporter" as my two favorites.

I loved how caught up I was in the story, I loved the no-easy-answers ending. Fantstic.

I don't have anything particularly exciting to add, but I don't think I wrote about this book when I read it the first time. So here it is now. Thumbs up!


Friday, February 01, 2008

Portnoy's Complaint (by Phillip Roth)

Another book that is on both the MLA and the Time Magazine list. God knows where or javascript:void(0)when I read this on my recent travels; I think I was in Colorado. I've been meaning to read this for years, since on the cover of my copy of Sheila Levine Is Dead and Living in New York, it calls it the "feminine rejoinder to Portnoy's Complaint." Finally having read it, I totally get it. The ending is a little "hey-yooooo" and the book in general is a little... I don't know, one note? But it's pretty funny and entertaining. I suppose everyone thinks Roth is so brave for writing about Oedipal stuff and whacking off a lot. I guess I enjoyed it but I'm not necessarily all jazzed up about it. It's probably my penis envy talking.

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