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 do...so 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 nonfiction...so 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 this...do 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 loose...my 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.
 
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