Sunday, January 3, 2010

Some Changes

With a new year here, deep thinking on various issues has inevitably occurred - even to me.

I have decided not to use this blog any longer. Instead, I will report on my reading, if I so wish, in my writing blog. Reading & writing are intermixed. A good writer reads a lot, and many of those who thoroughly enjoy reading write.

I thank everyone who has followed this blog, or even read one entry. It meant a lot to me.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Ramblings on a Quote

“In the center, in a large fountain, a smiling marble angel ceremoniously urinated water into a shallow birdbath, to the delight of frolicking marble swans and nude nymphs.”

Margaret Cronin Fisk and Alan Fisk. The Paradise Rehearsal Club. New York: Summit Books, 1982. 289.

I recently finished a book entitled The Paradise Rehearsal Club, from which the above quote was derived. I think that that quote sums up the book fairly well, and I like the quote, so voila! Introduction. ("voila" needs to be read with a nasally male voice, by the way, even if you're female like myself...)

To characterize the quote, I would say it's slightly profane, paints a funny picture, and most importantly, is FUN.

Spongebob and Plaketon - Fun - The most amazing videos are a click away

To characterize the book, I would say it's a historical fiction set in New York in the 1920's, peopled with gamblers, boozers, and scammers. This novel deals with corruption as something that everyone participates in, as a normal part of life in that time period, as something fun and exciting.

You'll note, careful reader, that I've used the word "fun" twice now. That's not just because I need a thesaurus.

I was thinking about this blog earlier today. I named it "The Literary Gathering," and planned to write and post essays about the works that I read, literary and otherwise, occasionally. I named it "The Literary Gathering" to help spur me to read more works that have withstood the test of time, because they are both well written and because they deal with themes that humanity will always have to deal with in a beautiful manner, whether being positive or cruel about those themes.

Judging from the lack of essays as well as the shortage of reporting on older literary works, however, I think it's clear that this blog is not what I initially intended. I've learnt two things about myself as recently as this morning:

1. I don't want to write essays. It's not because I can't. I wrote essays frequently in my four years at the University of Michigan, and received what I consider good grades on them. There were times when I finished an essay and was proud of what I had written, liking the ideas I conveyed and how I conveyed them. I know how to write an essay, I just don't want to. I believe I am still burnt out from school, believe it or not, despite having graduated over a year ago.

2. I like to have fun while I'm reading. I like literature. I do. I adore Jane Austen and The Picture of Dorian Gray and Euripides' "Medea" and Jane Eyre and the work of Henry James and I could spend all day listing authors that I like. I have found, however, that I feel a need to intersperse my readings of such literary masterpieces with frivolous works that I don't need to think too intensely about, that doesn't make me question my worth or my ideas about society in general. I like works that are easy to read, that are fun to read.

Sometimes, I like to think. More often, I like to read about ridiculous monstrous water fountains with peeing angels and perverted birds and mythical creatures watching, voyeurs before the existence of the video camera.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Response to a New Moon Review

I know what you're thinking - don't I have a novel to write? And you're right. I might possibly be procrastinating a little bit.

BUT I had a problem with some of this review of New Moon.

I'll be the first to admit that I'm not the biggest Stephenie Meyer fan, and I haven't seen the film adaptation of New Moon, as of yet. (I'm not really sure that I want to.) So I'm not commenting on what the review says about the actors and the plot-line and the subpar directing. Maybe the reviewer feels as I would, maybe not.

What I had a problem with came from reading this:

"The film's objectionable suggestion is that it is acceptable to make major life decisions when one is barely out of one's teens."

This statement doesn't exactly apply to me - I have been out of my teens for awhile. Yet I resent the implication that people shouldn't be allowed to make decisions about their own life when they're "barely out of their teens." Doesn't being "barely out of one's teens" make "one" an adult? I know that a lot of parents seem to think that it is their job to protect their child from making "wrong" decisions, but there comes a time when a person has to take his or her life into his or her own hands.

Making poor choices is a part of life. People in their late teens and early twenties are going to regret some of the choices they make...and so are people in their forties and fifties.

This argument has been used for other purposes, but a person is allowed to join the army at eighteen. That's a major life decision.

A person is allowed to choose a college to attend - another major life decision.

What the reviewer really seems to have a problem with is a person who doesn't want to conform to what people generally accept as "the next step" in life's journey.

If a person isn't ready, or just doesn't want, to go to college, then that person wasn't ready to make a major life decision.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The New Audrey Niffenegger Book

I picked up Her Fearful Symmetry the day that it was released. Like many others, I was a fan of The Time Traveler's Wife, but I had also already heard a snippet of this latest book 4-5 years ago at an appearance I snuck into on the second floor of U of M's Angell Hall.

Honestly, I don't know why I went. My major was undeclared (and wasn't English, anyway), I hadn't read the book, I just saw a flyer, and I went. And it was fun.

I'm a person who loves hearing people talk about things that they love. I used to watch the show Nigella Bites just b/c you can hear Nigella's love of food coming through her voice. It's great to hear people being passionate, and this is why I love to go to author appearances (not that I've been to many lately...stupid West Lafayette, Indiana & busy schedule).

So this snippet of Her Fearful Symmetry which I heard years and years ago was so intriguing that when I saw, in my Borders e-mail, that her book was soon to arrive, excitement grew all over me again.

I was slightly disappointed with the ending.

Overall, though, if you like literature, if you like reading for the sake of reading, for the sake of enjoyment, if you like characterization, give this book a read. I suggest doing so ASAP, as it's a pretty creepy book, therefore making it a good October read... (seriously, who doesn't love Halloween? Dressing up and being scared when there's no real danger is fun.)

What I loved about Her Fearful Symmetry is the writing. I like Niffeneger's writing style. It's got a very classic feel. Even though I kind of felt like she was taking forever to get anywhere sometimes, I wasn't bored. Even if nothing much was happening, I liked reading this book.

I wasn't a big fan of the ending, but it made sense in the context of the book, and some people will undoubtedly think it felt right.

So if you're looking for a pleasurable read that meanders a bit, that takes you on a fun, winding journey, rather than an out-and-out suspense novel, give Her Fearful Symmetry a try.

P.S. The cover is shiny. This surprised me when I first purchased the book, but is a stunning visual effect.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

I wasn't sure if I wanted to read this work "By Jane Austen and
Seth Grahame-Smith."

The dilemma arose from how the author herself, whose work I adore, would perceive her literature being changed from something that upholds the virtues of common sense and prudence, to sensationalistic material.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and Maureen Johnson's inclusion of zombies into one of her former blog posts, strikes me as people saying, "Pride and Prejudice is boring, and I'm making it more interesting."

But I don't think Pride and Prejudice in its' original form and glory is boring. I like the character development and the way that I get wrapped up in the story despite the relatively small world of which Jane Austen wrote. It takes talent to make the ordinary, everyday interesting, and Jane Austen accomplished it.

Initially, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is amusing. By initially, in my own case, I am referring to the first few pages. It's kind of funny to see someone re-work authentic Romantic material to include the walking dead. After a few pages, though, I think the premise can begin to wear a bit thin.

I am, however, biased.

See, I'm not a big fan of zombies. To me, they're just...gross and relentless. Maybe that makes them realistic-ish, and I admit, I have a fairly strong stomach, but I just prefer more seductive undead creatures (and no, I'm not talking about the kind that glitter in the sun).

My biggest problem with the book Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, however, is that it takes a well-known, well-loved book, and changes the well-known, well-loved characters in that book. Spoilers will ensue.

Elizabeth and her sisters are zombie hunters, who have been to Asia to learn martial arts. Charlotte Lucas becomes a zombie. Mr. Darcy's aunt is some legendary zombie killer.

And, too often, where Ms. Austen's succinct prose and excellent ear at dialogue betrayed things about characters in a way that was not overly heavy on narration, in this "enhanced" edition, the author sometimes feels the need to go into explanation.

Basically, this book takes a book that is well-written and beautiful and turns it into a story that is not as well-written and farcical.

So, if you didn't like Pride and Prejudice in all of its nineteenth-century, wholly Austen-written glory, you might want to give this novel a try.

If, on the other hand, you're like me, and really enjoy Jane Austen's work the way that it is, already, I suggest allowing the opportunity to read this novel pass by.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Teenagers, and Angels, and Psychopaths, Oh My!

When I was a teenager, I became entranced with Elizabeth Chandler's writing when I read her Dark Secrets series. If I recall correctly, the books centered around the same location, but each book had its' own flavor, its' own strong, different female character.

I adored the Dark Secrets series and eagerly snatched up the latest book (there were four that I know of) when it was published. Then, I saw another book series by her, with pastel covers and romantic, off-putting titles (I don't tend to be a fan of pure romance). I picked them up and checked out the back cover, and found out it was romance with... angels. I declined buying the books. They sounded fantastic and ridiculous - and sappy.

Then, just a few days ago, I forgot to bring my book to work to read on lunch break, and had to go to Sam's Club to get something for home. Perusing the books section, I discovered this:

That's right. The Elizabeth Chandler Kissed by an Angel trilogy. I decided to give it a chance.

I wasn't sure what to expect, but I really enjoyed reading it. And since it's a romance, I decided to use this review as the last one for the Romance Reading Challenge I joined last December.

To begin with, I was glad I purchased the omnibus edition, rather than having to wait every few months for the next book to come out. The first two books ended on cliffhangers that made me eager to see what was going to happen next. A good marketing ploy to get people to keep buying the books, but kind of annoying for the reader.

The fact is, I did enjoy continuing to read, and I did want to know what happened next; thus, providing evidence that Chandler did a pretty good job creating suspense with this trilogy.

With regards to characterization, some of it was a bit scanty and stereotypical, but I think that, particularly concerning the main characters, Chandler portrayed different sides of some of the characters, sometimes so that the reader got to know the character(s) better, sometimes, to keep the reader wondering about the character.

The main character, Ivy Lyons, on the other hand, while pretty and smart, was too perfect. Of course, there were the standard myriad of guys drooling over her, and she was pretty, while not really seeming too aware of either fact. She was likable, but I kind of wanted to see more romance for other females in the books. And the fact is, when a girl builds a wall around herself such as Ivy does in the novels, the stand-offishness doesn't make guys want her more, it makes them give up even if they are interested.

I loved the character Beth, a romance writer - I was curious if that was how the author was, herself, as a teen. The character made me feel a bit bad, actually, being fictional and still more productive in her writing than I am.

The angels part of the books was essential, but not really too annoying. It was actually kind of nice - and since I'm pretty cynical, it must have been pretty well done, or I would let you know it was a cop-out/stupid/etc.

The books had an "old school" young adult feel to them – by which I mean that the story was interesting and well written, but it didn't feel like as much work had been put into the book as would be put into an adult novel. There is definitely humor and passion and suspense, but the romance feels unbelievable. Especially the "I love you"s. The reader doesn't really feel much of the romantic relationship between Tristan and Ivy. The reader experiences the chase, the first kiss, and a bit of the falling, but it feels like the two characters are "in love" in a “forever and ever” sort of manner way too fast.

I think this book definitely had its' moments, and I'm happy to say I still enjoy Chandler's writing, but if you're going to read it, don't expect a miraculously good book - though you can expect some miraculous happenings in the books.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Romance without much, well, ROMANCE

I realized the other day that I still have two more books to review for that Romance Reading Challenge (I *might* possibly sometimes be a little scatterbrained), and decided to blog about the disappointment that Daphne du Maurier's The Parasites recently provided.

The back of the Parasites copy I recently picked up at a used bookstore claims that this book is "ONE OF THE MOST DAZZLING SAGAS OF LOVE EVER WRITTEN." Much like Maureen Johnson's utilization of capitals, this statement is greatly exaggerated (and slightly humorous).

Before I begin talking about its plot/characters/etc., however, perhaps I should first write about why I picked up this book in the first place. This is the second du Maurier book I have read. And while I didn't much like this particular book, I greatly enjoyed reading du Maurier's Rebecca. When I am talking about my opinion of romance (I can be quoted as saying that a lot of romance is glorified pornography, which I discuss briefly in this blog), I almost always cite Rebecca as an example of a well-done romance. With regard to my high opinion of Rebecca then, and the large amount of smut on the romance market, I would say that Parasites is actually like neither. It's kind of just...vacuous.

The author knows how to write, but I wouldn't say The Parasites is well written. The three characters whose point of view we are given have led interesting, eccentric lives, but the reader is not extremely interested.

I don't know if du Maurier was trying to fulfill a contract, or a bit desperate for money, or [insert third option here], but I feel like she was burnt out. It is also possible, of course, since I have only read two of her works, that she only wrote one work of high caliber. I will be nice, however, and assume that when she wrote the work which I am currently discussing, she was under duress of some kind, and so it is not an indication of the general skill evinced in her writing.

I will finish with a brief summary - for there is always a reader out there for every novel, and just because I didn't like it doesn't mean you believe me when I say it's not that good, and hey, maybe you'll even like it, and I've probably been running on this segue long enough -

The Parasites involves a life-changing moment in the lives of three (kind of) siblings who have been relying on each other a bit too much throughout their entire lives. The children of famous parents, two of them have achieved fame themselves, and one has generally been concerned with more practical manners, and has never developed her own talent. All three are unhappy in their own way, and this life-changing moment prods them into dissecting their sordid past, and ultimately, trying to figure out what pursuit would lead them to happiness.

I feel impelled to say that for a love story, the book is remarkably lacking in love.