December 23, 2010

Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert

December 23, 2010 0
I picked up two more books at the library yesterday: Freedom by Jonathan Franzen and Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert (the follow-up of sorts to Eat, Pray, Love). I read Committed in one sitting last night. I really enjoy Gilbert’s writing style. It reminds me of Carrie Bradshaw’s voice from Sex and the City…Carrie is a favorite character of mine. Committed tells the story of how Gilbert makes peace with a necessary second marriage to Felipe (the man she meets in Bali toward the end of Eat, Pray, Love) while taking an interesting look at the history and theory behind the institution of marriage itself. Liz and Felipe have no desire to marry again, although they have committed a lasting fidelity to one another; however, the US Department of Homeland Security has other plans for this happy couple. Here are some of the more interesting thoughts that I came across in the book:
·        People of our generation value our freedom of choice; however, “all these choices and all these longings can create a weird kind of haunting in our lives-as though ghosts of all our other, unchosen, possibilities linger forever in a shadow world around, continuously asking, Are you certain this is what you really wanted?” The consequences born from our freedom of choice are something from which we are never free…how ironic, right?
·        One of Gilbert’s single friends shares this: “Wanting to get married, for me, is all about a desire to feel chosen … that I am precious enough to have been selected by somebody forever.” This is really what relationships, of any kind, are all about…validation of personal worthiness.
·        And my favorite quote from Gilbert: “This is intimacy: the trading of stories in the dark. This act, the act of quiet nighttime talking, illustrates for me more than anything else the curious alchemy of companionship.” I love this because it speaks to how intimacy is not necessarily about sex, but about any of the private moments that any two given people chose to share…to how two people build their own private story that will never belong to any other two people.
Well, enough rambling I suppose…on to reading the Franzen…J

Comments Glitch...

Jillian was just nice enough to let me know that she was not able to leave a comment on my blog because of a problem with the word verification requirement...that I was not even aware that I had set up. I have removed this requirement from my settings and was wondering if someone would do me a huge favor and see if they are now able to again leave a comment on my blog without any issues?? Thanks so much!

December 22, 2010

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

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After finally finishing Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women for the first time as an adult, I am feeling rather “bi-polar” regarding my feelings for the book. In turn, it both delighted and irritated me. This was one of my favorite books as a child. In retrospect, I think I found it so endearing because (as the only child living with my grandmother) I longed to be a part of a family like the Marches. As a child, I don’t remember feeling the sometimes over-bearing morality of the novel, but only the lovely warmth exuded to me through the sister’s lives and adventures. At times, I still found this novel comforting. The sort of book that is best read aloud so the words can wash over you as you read. However, at other times I found myself rolling my eyes at the utter “sappiness” of it all. Even Beth’s death was sugar-coated for goodness sake. Perhaps this is just a testament to how times have changed since Book 1 of Little Women was first published in 1868 and Book 2 was published in 1869. After all, it was commissioned as a children’s book and children’s books at the time were mostly morality tales. As Jo says, when first trying to sell her work in NY: “but, Sir, I thought every story should have some sort of moral…” Little Women was also autobiographical in nature and proved a sharp contrast to the more racy adult stories that Louisa had previously been writing for various publications to earn her living. In Harriet Reisen’s biography, entitled Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women, Louisa is quoted as having said this about the novel: “Not a bit sensational, but simple and true, for we really lived most of it; and if it succeeds, that will be the reason.” It certainly did succeed.

Louisa May Alcott

My favorite character is, as it is for most, Jo March…in who we find Louisa May Alcott herself: literary, unique, sassy, lively, independent, ambitious, yet sometimes low and lonely. Consider the following, one of my favorite scenes in the novel (reading as an adult):
“Jo was alone in the twilight, lying on the old sofa, looking at the fire, and thinking. It was her favorite way of spending the hour of dusk; no one disturbed her, and she used to lie there on Beth’s little red pillow, planning stories, dreaming dreams, or thinking tender thoughts of the sister who never seemed far away. Her face looked tired, grave and rather sad; for tomorrow was her birthday, and she was thinking how fast the years went by, how old she was getting, and how little she had seemed to have accomplished.”
Of course, Louisa never marries and Jo finally does. Although I liked the match of Jo and her Professor (once I got over the shock of her NOT marrying Laurie), I can’t decide if I would have preferred Jo stay unmarried and so more true to the character of Louisa. In this passage I truly sense that Louisa is speaking directly about herself:
“Don’t laugh at the spinsters, dear girls, for often very tender, tragical romances are hidden away in the hearts that beat so quietly under the sober gowns, and many silent sacrifices of youth, health, ambition, love itself, make the faded faces beautiful in God’s sight.”
In Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women, we learn that Louisa would have preferred that Jo remain single, but that the demands of the majority won out: “Publishers … insist on having people married off in a wholesome manner which much afflicts me. “Jo” should have remained a literary spinster but so many enthusiastic ladies wrote to me clamorously demanding that she marry Laurie, or somebody, that I didn’t dare refuse, and out of perversity went and made a funny match for her.”

Bronson Alcott

The moral that stands out to me, among the many preached in the novel, is that money cannot buy happiness. Jo says this in the novel after an outing: “I don’t believe fine young ladies enjoy themselves a bit more than we do, in spite of our burned hair, old gowns, one glove a piece, and tight slippers that sprain our ankles when we are silly enough to wear them.” Transcendentalism is my least favorite period in literature. I do not find favor in Emerson, Thoreau, or for that matter Bronson Alcott, also a Transcendentalist. He strikes me as a man who meant well, but in truth was selfish and altogether odd. The Alcott family suffered the challenges of profound poverty due to Bronson’s failure to provide for his family and I find myself wondering if Louisa’s younger years could really have been as happy, despite it all, as she depicts them through Little Women or if this was the way she simply preferred to remember it. We often remember the bad with more clarity than the good, but after reading Reisen's biography the opposite seems to be true in Louisa’s writing of Little Women.  Maybe that is the true moral of the story…that we should cherish the good rather than the bad and move forward to even better days.
Abigail Alcott...Marmee

Anna Alcott...Meg
Louisa May Alcott...Jo

Elizabeth Alcott...Beth

May Alcott...Amy

December 20, 2010

January Read-A-Longs...

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Information about Allie’s read-alongs:
"There will be two times to post on the following days:
  • January 14-17, 2011: This post will focus on the first half of the book (roughly 190 pages, or chapters 1-15)
  • January 28-31 2011: This post will focus on the second half of the book (roughly 190 pages or chapters 16-27)"
"There will be two times to post on the following days:
  • January 14-17, 2011: This post will focus on the first half of the book (roughly 300 pages or so)
  • January 28-31 2011: This post will focus on the second half of the book (roughly 300 pages or so)"
"We will have four posts covering the following:
  • January 15, 2011: The first check-in will focus on volume 1. In my edition it is about 295 pages.
  • January 31, 2011: The second check-in will focus on volume 2. In my edition it is about 306 pages.
  • February 12, 2011: The third check-in will focus on volume 3. In my edition it is about 332 pages (the longest section).
  • February 28, 2011: The fourth check-in will cover volume 4 and the 2-part epilogue. These sections are about 282 pages in my edition."

December 14, 2010

Checkin In...Bookstore Adventures...

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“The weather outside is frightful” in upstate NY! It was 12 degrees on the bank clock when I ran out to the library this morning. It is certainly a good time to curl up with a book! Tomorrow, I have to go for my third colonoscopy in four years so the specialists can take a closer look at the current status of my Crohn’s disease. As this procedure requires that my intestines be “cleaned out”, I will most likely be curled up near the bathroom! J At the library, I picked up The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot which I have been interested in reading for months now. Some of Henrietta’s cells, now known as HeLa cells, were taken from her cervix without her knowledge and continue to live on by the millions although she passed away almost sixty years ago. These cells have been used to research things such as the polio vaccine, cancer, viruses, cloning, gene mapping, and in vitro fertilization. Hopefully this book puts a real face to the famous cells and will be an interesting look at the value of ethics versus that of scientific research.
My thoughts about Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love have finally been posted. I am not sure that I have done the book justice. I have always been a fast reader, but it seems that blogging about the books I read may force me to slow down and begin reading in a different way. However, I am still struggling a bit with remembering the thoughts I have while reading and then transferring those thoughts into words for the blog. I am also not a multi-tasker when it comes to reading and writing. I really almost never read more than one book at a time. I may have two books listed under my "currently reading" section, but that means I will be reading them back to back not reading from both at the same time. Posting on my blog may be at a slower pace than some are used to because I find that I have to read one book and post on it before I can move on to start reading the next. I have never understood how easy it is for some people to be reading two or three books simultaneously.
Hence, I am really nervous about my plans for January. I am going to be participating in Allie’s read-alongs over at A Literary Odyssey for War and Peace, The Woman in White, and Rebecca. Saturday, we had to travel about two hours for one of Alexa’s indoor soccer tournaments. On this town’s main street, I spotted a charming little bookstore and found a cheap copy of The Woman in White. Sunday, I popped into Borders because I had a 40% off coupon and $15 in free Border’s Bucks. I ended up getting two CDs that Alexa wanted for Christmas and a copy of Rebecca all for $10…what a deal!

I must confess that I have cheated a bit and read the first few chapters of Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier, out of curiosity. Although I am sure that the writer is using a technique to build suspense, I find it troubling that we know so little about the narrator (Mr. de Winter’s second wife). We don’t even know her name and I am having a difficult time picturing her in my mind’s eye.
For the rest of December, my only other plans are to finish up Little Women. I hope you all are having a happy holiday season!

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

In choosing my reading list for my “classics” project, I wanted to explore not only standard adult and children’s classics, but also a few contemporary books that I hope may be read years into our future … “pending classics.” Eat, Pray, Love fits into this category for me. Eat…Pray…Love…three ways in which we are nourished. Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir, her honest yet humorous voice is nourishing. It reads like a novel even though it is a non-fiction selection. In some ways this is a chronicle of a spiritual journey, but the reader does not ever feel “preached at.” The book is well written, smart, funny and insightful. It causes one to contemplate one’s own life journey.
Liz really starts this journey on her knees, on her bathroom floor, praying to God. I have been on that bathroom floor. I find myself identifying with this woman immediately. If only I could back out of my life for a year and travel to Italy, India, and Indonesia looking for my authentic self. After being depleted by a divorce, an ill-fated love affair, and depression Liz begins healing in Italy. She will spend four months there contemplating pleasure: the pleasure of eating delicious food with no feelings of remorse or guilt, the pleasure of learning a beautiful language for no reason other than just because. I took five years of French in school and thought it was the language of love, but I was mistaken…Italian is that language. There is something very seductive about Italian.
Although Liz is certainly keen on Italy and has an amazing experience there, she feels as though there is something about herself that does not quite fit with the city of Rome (where she actually lives during her stay). One of Liz’s Italian friends proposes the following interesting concept: “Every city has a single word that defines it, that identifies most people who live there. If you could read people’s thoughts as they were passing you on the streets of any given place, you would discover that most of them are thinking the same thought. Whatever that majority thought might be-that is the word of the city. And, if your personal word does not match the word of the city, then you don’t really belong there.” What is your word? I am still contemplating mine…
Next, Liz travels to India to an Ashram to contemplate devotion, mostly through the art of meditation, for four months. There she meets Richard from Texas…a brash man who says what he thinks when he thinks it. He doesn’t have a whole lot of tact, but he is full of interesting insight. I especially like the advice he imparts on Liz regarding the idea of soul mates: “Your problem is you don’t understand what that word means. People think a soul mate is your perfect fit … but a true soul mate is a mirror … the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life … they tear down your walls and smack you awake … but to live with a soul mate forever … too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then they leave … your problem is, you just can’t let this one go." I think Richard is her true Guru; not the woman whose Ashram she is visiting.

Finally, Liz travels to Bali in Indonesia to search for the balance between worldly pleasure and spiritual devotion. There Liz spends time with an old Balinese medicine man: Ketut Liyer…a man who seems like the little, old grandpa for the entire world; a man whom I would love to meet. Although I was fascinated by all of the people Liz meets while traveling, Ketut is my favorite character in this story. I love his mind, his insights, his toothless smile, his broken English, the was he pronounces "Liz" as "Liss." She also meets Felipe and eventually falls in love. This is the first time that Liz is able to indulge in a relationship without completely losing herself…her identity. She is no longer broken and can give of herself as a whole, balanced woman.
Although the book is almost always better than the movie, Eat, Pray, Love the movie lands a close second. I read the book and watched the movie at the same time and recommend anyone do the same. The movie brings the different cultures and people from the book alive in a very enhancing manner.
Favorite Quote: “We have hands; we can stand on them if we want to. That’s our privilege. That’s the joy of a mortal body. And that’s why God needs us. Because God loves to feel things through our hands.” – Elizabeth Gilbert

November 24, 2010

Checkin In...Happy Thanksgiving!

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1. After reading a recent post over at Jillian's blog, A Room of One's Own , I have been wondering if I, too, should have made the intent of my blog more clear. My blog is a journal that follows my reading project. I am not an official book review blog.

2. I am finished with Part One of Little Women and will be starting Part Two! So far, reading this as an adult has been a much different experience than I remember it being as a child. Did anyone else feel this way?

3. Playin along with Jillian... a "book quiz": (Play along with us!)

1) What author do you own the most books by? Jane Austen...

2) What book do you own the most copies of? I only own 1 copy of each book...

3) Did it bother you that both those questions ended with prepositions? No, although I suppose it should since I was in college to be an English teacher...

4) What fictional character are you secretly in love with? Rhett Butler...Scarlett was such a damn fool!

5) What book have you read the most times in your life (excluding picture books read to children; i.e., Goodnight Moon does not count)? Probably The Bridges of Madison County by Robert Waller or The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks...

6) What was your favorite book when you were ten years old? Little Women and the Little House series...

7) What is the worst book you've read in the past year? Drood by Dan Simmons...this is a fictional tale about Charles Dicken's obsession with Edwin Drood as told by the author Wilkie Collins, but it is just super dark and bizarre...not at all what I expected...

9) If you could force everyone you tagged to read one book, what would it be? A New Earth By Eckhart Tolle...

10) Who deserves to win the next Nobel Prize for Literature? ????

11) What book would you most like to see made into a movie? I don't know...the book is almost always better than the movie anyway...

12) What book would you least like to see made into a movie? Drood! Ugg...I cringe at the thought!

13) Describe your weirdest dream involving a writer, book, or literary character. I don't believe I have ever had a dream of this sort...

14) What is the most lowbrow book you've read as an adult? Although I don't consider it to actually be lowbrow...some I will say The Twilight Series...I loved it!

15) What is the most difficult book you've ever read? Faulkner or Joyce...

16) What is the most obscure Shakespeare play you've seen? I have never seen Shakespeare on the stage!

17) Do you prefer the French or the Russians? For literature? The Russians!!!

18) Roth or Updike? I have never read either...

19) David Sedaris or Dave Eggers? David Sedaris...

20) Shakespeare, Milton, or Chaucer? Shakespeare...

21) Austen or Eliot? Austen...

22) What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading? I have not read much history or science fiction or poetry...

23) What is your favorite novel? ????

24) Play? A Long Days Journey into Night...

25) Poem? I am fascinated by Sylvia Plath...

26) Essay? ???

27) Short story? Anything of Poe's!!

28) Work of nonfiction? I love it is hard to chose one...but I love biography/memoir...

29) Who is your favorite writer? I really don't have just one...yet...

30) Who is the most overrated writer alive today? J.K. Rowling...sorry Harry Potter fans...

31) What is your desert island book? Maybe Gone With the Wind...

32) And ... what are you reading right now? I just finished a collection of letters written between Julia Child and Avis DeVoto...As Always Julia...Julia Child has such a unique and delightful voice!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!! I can't wait to have turkey dinner at my Mom's tomorrow!

November 16, 2010

Blubber by Judy Blume

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Judy Blume was the “rock star” of children’s/YA literature when I was growing up in the 80s. I read quite a few of her books, but I don’t recall having read Blubber, published in 1974. I purchased the book for my daughter who, like the young characters in the book, is currently involved in the 5th grade experience.
Let’s take a look at some of the principal characters:
Linda – Although she is not the chunkiest kid in the class, Linda’s classmates bestow upon her the name “Blubber” after one innocent, but ill-fated oral report on whales.
Wendy – The class bully who orchestrates each new plot of terror against “Blubber.”
Jill – The main character of the book that does not seem to necessarily agree with what is happening to Linda, but who would not dare to risk her current social standing by not participating in the harassment…until one day she does take a stand and the tables are swiftly turned in her direction.
Blume does a decent job of showing how arbitrary peer relationships and acts of bullying can be at this age, how the most benign and seemingly simple things can land a child in the midst of horrendous harassment, and how transient and ever-changing friendships and social standings can be. The reader comes away knowing that sometimes these changes can be a positive thing. However, I was disappointed in how the teachers and parents handled the situations of bullying in the book. Granted, their reaction was quite realistic. Most adults tend to shrug this stuff off because they know that life does get better, that in the great scheme of things what happens in middle school hardly matters as an adult, and that children have been picking on each other for hundreds of years in school. Still, I wish just one of them would have really taken a stand. Bullying is a serious matter for the child who is experiencing the pain and humiliation and is not able to stand back and have the same perspective one can have as an adult.
It will be interesting to see how Alexa relates to the book. I know that she will not understand some of the more outdated cultural references in the story like I did, but I think that the theme itself is still extremely relevant today. Perhaps I will share some of her thoughts when she reads it. I really wanted to like this book, but honestly I am on the fence. I guess there just wasn't enough of an anti-bullying stand.
Most disturbing part of the book: The girls are lined up and sent to the nurse’s office to be publically weighed each fall and spring! Can you imagine? Did this really happen in school in the 70s?
Favorite Quotes:
“You can tell a lot about people by staring into their eyes.” – Tracy Wu
“My teacher is Mrs. Minish. I’m not crazy about her. She hardly ever opens the window in our room because she’s afraid of getting a stiff neck.” – Jill Brenner

Bookstore Adventures...

Sometimes I can roam around a bookstore, have nothing jump out at me at all, and leave empty handed. However, I can return to that very same bookstore a few weeks later, see interesting selections at every turn, and suddenly find my arms filled with possibilities. Such was the case with my trip to Borders last night. I found like six books that I wanted to buy in the biography/memoir section alone, but money would just not allow that. I did leave with the following three selections though:

I couldn't wait for Christmas...

Looks like a must for those who loved My Life in France...

And, of course, one from my project list...

Alexa also made two independent selections. Much to my dismay, she has never been that fond of reading, but today she announced that she is going to start reading when she is bored. We will see how long this lasts.
My next bookstore outing really needs to be to the one and only used bookstore in my area to stock up on any of the selections I am missing from my project list. But, I was also wondering any of you have any gently used copies you would like to get rid of/sell? I am looking for numbers 9, 12, 17, 20, 25, 34, 38, 44 and 47 on The Reading List.

November 14, 2010

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

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Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, first published in 1953, has sat on my shelf for a couple years now, unread. Most likely this is because I have not read much in the genre of science fiction and I had a preconceived notion that I would not enjoy it. I was wrong. Right away I was surprised by the language of the novel. Bradbury’s prose was insightful, striking, lovely…exquisite really. Secondly, I was surprised by what I found to be the true premise of the novel. Yes, this is a tale that deals with the censorship of books; however, I feel that Bradbury is more specifically asking us to consider the importance of critical thinking in any society.
Guy Montag lives in a fast paced (cars routinely travel at up words of 100mph with the possibility of a ticket for traveling under the minimum of 55mph), homogenized future world in which books no longer belong because they do not promote happiness. Books produce thought and thought is supposed to be the root of all unhappiness. Accordingly, at some point society simply stopped reading, reading books became illegal, and burning of books began. Montag is a fireman, but firemen no longer put out fires (all houses have been fire-proofed). Instead, firemen are in charge of burning books and the houses that contain them. On the way to one fire, the fire chief says: “Here we go to keep the world happy, Montag!” In another conversation Chief Beatty states: “You ask why to a lot of things and you wind up very unhappy indeed.” When exposed to an impromptu, illegal poetry reading by Montag, his neighbor Mrs. Phelps becomes very distressed and Mrs. Bowles exclaims: “You see? I knew it … I knew it would happen! I’ve always said poetry and tears, poetry and suicide and crying and awful feelings, poetry and sickness … now I’ve had it proven to me.” Could this really be true? Is thought really the enemy of the happiness we all pursue? Do books really betray us as Beatty points out: “What traitors books can be! You think they’re backing you up, and they turn on you.”
Or is Montag accurate when he thinks: “There must be something in books … to make a woman stay in a burning house … you don’t stay for nothing.” Of course, you can guess on which side of the argument Bradbury and I lie. We hear Montag wonder: “How do you get so empty … who takes it out of you?” Without independent thought, the world becomes a society left numb and empty from their Seashell ear buds (IPods?), their interactive living room walls (Wii, the Internet, reality TV?) who no longer interact in person (e-mail, texting, Facebook?). Hmm, how was it that Bradbury was able to envision 2010 so clearly from back in the early 1950s? Of course, I enjoy the benefits of our current technology and indulge in the therapeutic benefits of entertainment for entertainment’s sake, but critical thinking (and books) still exists to provide a necessary balance…for now…
Favorite Quote:
·         “… how many people did you know who refracted your own light to you … how rarely did other people’s faces take of you and throw back to you … your own innermost trembling thought?” – Guy Montag

November 11, 2010

Checkin In...

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It is just my luck that I would launch my project and all heck would break husband hit a deer so we are down to one vehicle for a few weeks and I have been experiencing a horrid Crohn's flare and ended up in the hospital. Needless to say, I have not accomplished much in the reading department since finishing Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. But, I plan to get back on track in the next few days...right along with getting house cleaning caught up as well. I am looking forward to exploring censorship with Fahrenheit 451, especially in light of the "scandal" involving Amazon that was making waves yesterday.

October 27, 2010

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl

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I think that Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl was the perfect choice for me to begin my reading project. I feel sort of the same way about starting my blog as Anne felt about starting her diary: “It’s an odd idea for someone like me to keep a diary; not only because I have never done so before, but because it seems to me that neither I – nor for that matter anyone else - will be interested.”
As I began reading, the first thing that jumped out at me was what I thought to be various inconsistencies in Anne’s writing. I am not sure if this is due to an issue with translation, editing that her father may have done, or even editing that Anne herself may have completed. I have read somewhere that at some point Anne went back and began re-writing portions of her diary when, during her stay in the annex, she had decided that she wanted to become a serious writer and had begun to hope that she could publish the diary after the war.
Although Anne Frank is most notably a young Jewish girl in hiding in Holland during the profoundly horrific times of the Holocaust and WWII, I was struck by how first and foremost Anne is simply a teenage girl. And that, I feel, is the true value of the book, any inconsistencies aside. Since studying to become an English teacher, I have built a sense that literature can be used as an amazing tool in the classroom for teaching the concept of tolerance…more specifically the idea that we must learn to accept our differences, but also find the similarities in those differences. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl suites this purpose well, in my opinion. Specific setting and circumstances aside, Anne could be any adolescent girl…Jewish, Christian, Muslim, white, black, from the 1940s or the new millennium. Anne states the following on November 7, 1942: “It is only that I long for Daddy’s real love: not only as his child, but for me – Anne, myself.” Isn’t this validation, this idea of truly being heard what all teenagers, and for that matter all humans, are searching for?
Throughout the diary, Anne struggles with standard adolescent issues such as body image, raging emotions, finding her own identity as an individual and relationships with the opposite sex. Anne also experiences the typical problems that many teenage girls encounter at some point in their relationship with their mother. Granted, these feelings may be exasperated by living confined to such close quarters with such limited contact with the outside world. On January 30, 1943, Anne writes: “I’m boiling with rage, and yet I mustn’t show it. I’d like to stamp my feet, scream, give Mummy a good shaking, cry, and I don’t know what else, because of the horrible words, mocking looks, and accusations which are leveled at me repeatedly every day, and find their mark.” Then on December 24, 1943: “each day I miss having a … mother who understands me.”

But here I must stop and discuss the following “creep-out” alert as by this point Mr. Dussel has already joined the group in the annex. Anne and her sister, sixteen year old Margot, were initially sharing sleeping quarters, but upon his arrival it is Anne and Mr. Dussel who are arranged to bunk together while Margot is moved to a cot. I found this arrangement of a thirteen year old girl sharing a room with a fifty four year old man very strange and almost appalling actually. Why wouldn’t Anne and Margot continue to share the same room while Mr. Dussel took the cot??
It seems that by the end of 1943, seclusion has taken its toll on Anne. She appears to be having bouts of anxiety and depression (which good god who wouldn’t be?) and she writes about being given Valerian pills. I was unsure what these were, but internet research revealed that Valerian is an herbal remedy often used for anxiety, depression and as a sleep aid. She just seems to be on a natural roller coaster ride of emotions and to top it all off, she has quite suddenly become infatuated with Peter, the young son of the Van Daans who also share the annex with the Franks. I think Anne best sums up this point in time in her entry from March 12, 1944: “When shall I finally untangle my thoughts, when shall I find peace and rest within myself again?”
During the spring of 1944, the diary reveals the blossoming relationship between Anne and Peter. I enjoyed this period in Anne’s life, perhaps because I already know how her story ends and it made me glad to think that, even at fourteen, she was at least able to experience this sort of relationship with a young man once before her life was to end so abruptly. Her connection with Peter certainly seemed to slow her bouts with anxiety and depression. I think I also enjoyed her writing during this time because she seems to be growing into such an amazing young woman despite her circumstances. She is more confident, independent, and yet more thoughtful and introspective. She knows that she wants to be something in this world, to make a contribution through her writing, and to be more than a housewife.
In her April 4, 1944 entry, Anne says: “I want to go on living even after my death! And therefore I am grateful to God for giving me this gift, this possibility of developing myself and of writing.” Little could have Anne imagined how prolifically she would indeed continue to live on after her death in a German concentration camp in the spring of 1945.

Favorite Quote: “You only really get to know people when you’ve had a jolly good row with them." Anne Frank

October 24, 2010

Bookstore Adventures...

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I stopped into Borders today and just had to purchase the November issue of Vanity Fair as the cover featured Marilyn Monroe and promised a look into her personal diaries. Sam Kashner's article, "Marilyn and Her Monsters", contained excerpts from a book that is being published this fall entitled Fragments: Poems, Intimate Notes, and Letters by Marilyn Monroe. (This will certainly be on the Christmas wishlist...if I can wait that long.) The article also revealed a beautiful photo spread of Monroe and of various pages written in her own hand. Kashner detailed that she was often photographed with her books such as in the photograph below:
I only wish I had been able to actually read the titles of all the books on her shelf; however I did see a copy of Tolstoy's War and Peace. In any event it appears that books, reading, and writing may have been a refuge for the haunted star. As someone who wrestles with insomnia I was drawn to this excerpt...Monroe, reported to have also suffered from insomnia, writes:

on the screen of pitch blackness
comes/reappears the shapes of monsters
my most steadfast companions...
and the world is sleeping
ah peace I need you - even a peaceful monster.

I also picked up a copy of Colleen McCullough's The Thorn Birds. This novel was published in 1977 and was a huge bestseller. I think I may add this to my challenge reading list.

Now...I am off to read some more Anne Frank...

October 19, 2010

The List...

October 19, 2010 1
I have posted a list of 45 selections to begin my challenge. As the challenge moves along, I may elect to lengthen the list...perhaps to 100. A few books that I would have included are not listed because I have already read them (in the last couple years) for college courses I was taking: Robinson Crusoe...Daniel Defoe, The Scarlett Letter...Nathaniel Hawthorne, Emma...Jane Austen, The Red Badge of Courage...Stephen Crane, Uncle Tom's Cabin...Harriet Beecher Stowe, The Awakening...Kate Chopin, East of Eden...John Steinbeck, and
A Prayer for Owen Meany...John Irving.

And yes, I love vintage and otherwise interesting book covers! Who doesn't, right...right?

Anyway, I think I am going to make Little Women and The Diary of Anne Frank my first two selections from the list. I have had a strange affair with books relating to Louisa May Alcott this year; starting with Harriet Reisen's biography: Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women. I have also read March by Geraldine Brooks and The Lost Summer Of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O'Connor McNees. I remember that in fourth grade our teacher purchased books from the Scholastic Book Order and then allowed us to each pick one from a table for our Christmas present. I was an avid reader as a child and so I, of course, picked the thickest book on the table: Little Women. I haven't read this book since I was a child and am wondering if I will enjoy it as an adult as much as I did back then. As for The Diary of Anne Frank, I must confess that I have NEVER read it, although I have seen the movie.

October 18, 2010

My First Post...

October 18, 2010 5
So, as I stated in my "About Me", I am challenging myself to a book project and corresponding blog. Really, this was inspired by Allie at A Literary Odyssey:
Thanks, Allie!
I am going to be choosing a list of "classic literature" to begin reading. My reading list will contain many (of what I consider to be) standard classic titles along with some children's literature classics as well as a few more contemporary selections that may be our future classics. The blog will follow this reading project; however, since I also plan to continue to read outside of my list now and then (such as books from the biography and memoir genre that I love), from time to time the blog will comment on other reading and perhaps life in general.
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