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.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Internet Reading That's Worth Screwing Up Your Vision For

There is an author named Catherynne M. Valente. I'm not going to lie - I have not yet read any of her books.

But I am slowly making my way through the work she is posting on the internet.

C. M. Valente is falling on some hard times, and is offering this work basically free, though she is asking for donations, if available, and if you think her work is worth it.

Trust me, her work is worth paying to read. The story is a delight. It's got an older, Victorian fairy tale sort of feel to it.

Unfortunately, my own financial straits at the moment are such that I really cannot afford more than a couple of dollars, but everything helps, and a couple of dollars from a lot of people would add up.

So, if you're interested in helping another human being and reading a great piece of literature, click here.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Why I'm Glad Shaman Drum Closed

As far as a normal bookstore goes, Shaman Drum was cool. The store had a lot of interesting books, and displayed reads that weren't fluff, that weren't heavily advertised. The store had readings from well-established, and beginning authors. It was at Shaman Drum that I heard Elizabeth Kostova read poetry, and was too shy to talk to her, even though she's written one of the most amazing pieces of literature I've ever read. (I might be biased, having been a history major, myself...)

As far as a normal bookstore goes, Shaman Drum was a great place to browse, to while away a free hour. Yet I'm still glad it closed.


Because I was an undergraduate student at the University of Michigan, and I was forced by many professors who felt it their duty to support independent bookstores, to get my textbooks from Shaman Drum.

While Shaman Drum was a cool, independent bookstore for pleasurable purposes, it did not do very well serving the U of M community for school purposes.

I cannot tell you how many times my peer scholars or myself went for weeks without a required text because Shaman Drum didn't order the amount of books that the professor said would be necessary. 

Or the times that a book was out of print, but Shaman Drum neglected to tell the professor who was relying on said textbook for class discussion. I took one class, in which the professor ended up making a coursepack of all of the poetry she wanted us to read from the book which, she discovered during the first few days of class, was out of print. The coursepack sold at Shaman Drum for around $60; I found a used, hardcover copy on Amazon for $12.

The textbooks sold at a more expensive price at Shaman Drum because it was a small store. And the employees and management did a poor job of procuring the books necessary, or of at least informing the professors when it was impossible to procure the books necessary.

I'm all for supporting independent bookstores. It's good for the community, and the people who work at them are often avid readers. People who really love books.

I just didn't want to buy my textbooks there. And it's nice to know that now, Michigan students won't have to.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Sci-Fi Thriller I Could Have Done Without

I recently finished Gray Apocalypse by James Murdoch. I have not been a habitual reader of thriller novels for several years now. I read them often in middle school, a bit less in high school, and now, very rarely read them. I thought I would give this read a chance, but you need to read this review from the perspective that I am not the hugest thriller fan, anymore.

Part of the reason may be that I think I now am more interested in identifying with the characters than with plot. Thrillers are about suspense, and a lot of times, you kind of take it for granted that you should be rooting for the good guy, and throwing popcorn at the bad guy. In this book, that certainly feels like the case.

It's not that I wasn't rooting for the good guys - in this book, the fate of the world kind of depends on them. Well, not kind of. It does depend on them. I guess I just didn't care about them much otherwise. The love story lines in this book kind of felt like they came out of nowhere and were ridiculous. Don't get me wrong - if I thought it very plausible the world might end, I would definitely want a good screw. I don't think it would cause me to fall in love with someone, though. And you definitely cannot fall in love with someone because you see their picture.

Love is magical and inexplicable, but part of it comes from knowing a person. Understanding what makes them tick, and sharing jokes, and...not from a picture.

Anyway, overall the plot is interesting. There's definitely suspense, although the story might be a little slow in the beginning. Basically, the idea is that there really was alien interaction in the fifties, and the American government entered into a secret contract with these aliens, who claimed they wanted to help humans, but are now about to crash an asteroid into the earth and kill all of us.

The biggest flaw in this book is the ending. But, I don't want to give that away in case you want to read it.

It definitely isn't a horrible book, it's just not the book that I'm going to gush about and say is a "must read." It is a debut novel, however, and as far as first novels go, it's nothing to be ashamed of.

If you're interested in reading it, or in at least checking it out, here's the Amazon page.

Happy reading!

Friday, June 26, 2009

An Author to Check Out

I have lately come across the Twitter feed and livejournal of Sarah Rees Brennan, an Irish YA author who recently released the novel The Demon's Lexicon.

I have yet to read her book, though I want to. (Lack of financial resources, and bills to pay are resulting in few to no books being bought at the moment, however...) I can say that what I have read shows her to be funny, clever, and good at writing.

What I really want to bring to your attention, however, is the promotion she's started. Every week that the sale of her book does well, she is going to post a short story on her Livejournal.

I think this is a great idea, for it rewards her steadfast readers, as well as gives people who are just discovering her a way to glimpse her writing before paying for it. (I hate buying a promising book to be disappointed by poor writing.)

The first story is up. It deals with some of the characters and settings that are in her book, but she promises it isn't filled with spoilers.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Teaser & Question

First, watch this:

I'm curious - does the idea of meshing Austen's beloved characters with supernatural horrors intrigue you, or enrage you?

Austen made it clear that she thought gothic novels could be taken too seriously in Northanger Abbey. So what would she make of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Mr. Darcy, Vampyre?

I am inclined to think that she would disapprove, as her novels tend to support the value of thinking sensibly and clearly.

Yet, I like horror novels, so I'm tempted to try reading one or both of these novels.

What are your thoughts?

Edit: The author, Amanda Grange, is giving away a free copy to people who advertise the contest she is holding. Interested? Here's the link.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Purporting to be Austen

I recently read Charlotte, Julia Barrett's continuation of Jane Austen's last written work-in-progress, revolving around a place called Sanditon. If you are an avid fan of Austen (and if you're not, I kind of have to assume you have no soul; (shrugs) sorry), I do not recommend this book.

This continuation is an ambitious project. While Jane Austen only wrote six complete novels during her lifetime, each of those novels is beloved by many, each of those novels is distinct, and a work of art. The beginning of the novel Jane Austen tentatively entitled The Brothers is a promising one, and causes the reader to want to know what happens next, and to be further saddened that Ms. Austen was taken from this world so soon. To ruminate on where the story might have gone, and publish those ruminations for other Austen fans to read takes courage, imagination, of course, and I admire Julia Barrett for sharing her thoughts with the world.

The manner in which this book is packaged, however, led me to believe that Julia Barrett's writing is supposed to resemble that of Ms. Austen's. The transition from Austen's writing to Barrett's is not at all seamless, but is instead rather abrupt. The first sentence of Barrett's, in fact, changes the attitude of the main character.

One thing I did like about this book is that Julia Barrett re-formatted Ms. Austen's writing so that it reads a little bit more like a more modern novel. This re-spacing was done, undoubtedly, to help make the transition to Barrett's writing less distinct.

Another thing evident in the book is that Barrett obviously did research on the time period. She also writes using archaic vocabulary, and really does try to make the reader feel that they are reading about people in the nineteenth century.

The difference between her writing and Austen's is evident, however, perhaps because Austen is writing from the vantage point of someone living in the nineteenth century. Rather than the point of view of someone looking back on that time and trying to recapture its essense, Austen WAS part of the nineteenth century, herself.

Barrett does research, and has some interesting ideas as to where the book was heading. Personally, I don't agree with her. I feel that Barrett changed some of the characters too drastically too fast, and while certain parts of her storyline seem accurate, many of them do not, to me.

Thus, while I congratulate Barrett on her thorough research, and for the mere fact that she attempted to complete a novel by such a famous author, I do not think that this book does justice to the story that Ms. Austen's fragment begins.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

My First Laurie Halse Anderson Book

I finished Anderson's book Speak today.

This book has been around for ten years. I've seen it in bookstores, I've seen the Lifetime movie, and it was the movie which made me think, "I need to read this book."

It is well written. It is interesting, and it sounds like a teenage girl (named Melinda Sordino) with some issues.

It has touched a lot of people, but I don't think it's a book that everyone needs to read, necessarily. It's a good read. It's intelligent, and it shows the journey of someone who's been through something horrible, and is slowly dragging herself out of the muck and dealing with a frightening issue.

The scene which was sort of a let down, however, for me, was the scene which involves what it is that happened to Melinda. It was horrible, but I felt like the author toned it down a lot. It didn't have the impact I was expecting, the impact that the movie had. A scene towards the end, where there is a threat that the horror will be re-lived is very vivid, and I felt like I was there. The memory, on the other hand, felt kind of flat. It lessened the horror a bit, because the narrating was sort of bland. Kind of like reading a history book - a person can be talking about really amazing, interesting things, but the manner in which it is related (usually dry) makes it harder to realize how impressive or horrible the past has been.

And another thing that got me is how much Melinda is an outcast. You see, I was an outcast. I still am an outcast. In reality, I do not have any friends. I have my family, I have my boyfriend, and I have me. That's it. I'm not exaggerating. I'm bad at socializing. I don't know the right things to say and do. I'm not charming. I'm not pretty. I'm just me.

The character of Melinda kind of made me feel bad. I don't think that was Anderson's intention, at all, but it's how I felt. You see, Melinda doesn't have any friends because of her horrible past, and misunderstanding, and because she's dealing with all of these issues. And nothing even close to the caliber of what happened to Melinda happened to me. I feel like something that horrible should have happened to me, to cause me to be in the same situation - but since nothing did, I feel like an impostor or something. It's stupid, but while I recognize that this is a good book, I don't like this impression that I received. This impression wasn't implicit in the words or anything, though, I think it's just something my brain came up with to torture me. Yet it's still there.

Anyway, to quickly summarize: it is a good book, and I recommend it for people who like YA, or stories about people who live through something and get through an issue, where you are experiencing the person discovering herself and her life again.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Thing to Do

With National Poetry Day out of the way, of course, a new, literary fad is going to be pushed down your throat.

Today is the day you're supposed to "Buy a Book from an Independent Bookstore."

There are all of these really great reasons you're supposed to do this - b/c, like many small things, indie bookstores are cute, it helps stimulate the local economy, blah, blah, blah. You can read someone else's (probably better) blog to discover REAL excuses.

I say, it's an excuse to buy a book, and feel compelled to point out that today is also the technical release date of the paperback of Maureen Johnson's 
Suite Scarlett.

Coincidence? Or marketing ploy? See, it doesn't matter. Now, if you don't know what to get today to do good for your local economy, you're going to have to buy it, because I pointed it out.

Avid fan of Johnson? You need the paperback AS WELL AS the hardcover version, of course.

Never read Johnson's work? Now is the perfect time to start.
Already own a copy of 
Suite Scarlett? It also makes a great gift. (Look at that prettty cover!)

Don't read? You should start. But you probably won't, so now is the time I'm going to point out how many OTHER uses books have:

*They make you look smart. Even if you haven't actually 
read the books in your living space, if you have a bookshelf with books on it, people are all impressed and whatnot.

*They prop up coffee tables rather well. This has been proven in countless movies, cartoons, etc.

*Are you considering not participating in the day of buying indie b/c you don't want to seem like a hippie? Books are made of PAPER. If you buy one without intending to read it, you're wasting paper, killing trees, and making long-haired freaks everywhere cry.

Obviously, you NEED a copy of Suite Scarlett.

So, I'm just going to stay here, and keep saying the name of the book until you go out and buy it.

Suite Scarlett
Suite Scarlett
Suite Scarlett
Suite Scarlett
Suite Scarlett
Suite Scarlett
Suite Scarlett
Suite Scarlett
Suite Scarlett
My energy is unflagging.
Suite Scarlett
Suite Scarlett
Suite Scarlett
Suite Scarlett
Suite Scarlett
Have you left? Good.
Suite Scarlett
Suite Scarlett
Suite Scarlett
Suite Scarlett
I can't stop!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Religious Book "Not Intending to Prove Anything"

I recently received this book in the mail:

In case you're having trouble reading the cover, it's entitled: Who really goes to hell? The Gospel You've Never Heard: What a Protestant Bible written by Jews says about God's work through Christ (A book for those in the church and those offended by it), and it's written by David I Rudel (with a foreword by Rev. Edward Hopkins).

Basically, even the title gives an indication of what this book seems to be aiming to do - show that the modern interpretation of the gospels is flawed, and offer a viable alternative.

Those who know me personally are aware of my views about Christianity - let's just say, I'm not a fan of the religion. If you believe what the Bible says, and do your best to follow it, you'll be a good person. That's cool. If it gives you comfort, that's great, and I envy you. I, personally, however, have done much thinking on the matter, and I am not a Christian, nor can I force myself to be one, nor am I going to pretend to be one.

This book didn't change my mind.

Yet, I'm going to be honest - I can't bring myself to finish it. I read up through page 20, which is the first chapter of part 1 ("Questing").

The following will be, step by step, some of the problems I had with the chapter that I read:

*On page 10, the author claims that Matthew Henry's Commentary is wrong with the interpretation of Luke 10:28. Yet part of the commentary which he seems to think is a problem is explicitly in my battered King James Version. In my version, it specifically says that the questioner asks the second question to "justify himself." Concerning this, the author states: "That commentary then says his second question is an effort at looking for a way out."

The manner in which the author's sentence is phrased at least indicates that he does not agree with the commentary interpretation. Yet, according to my KJV, that's not even an interpretation, but a statement of facts.

Now, Rudel is not using the KJV for his scriptural quotations. He's using one of those newer interpretations. So maybe his version is phrased differently, and takes out the connotation that the questioner is trying to flatter himself that he's still all right.

This possible difference brings us to an important concept, for me, however: translation.

We all know that if you translate something from its' original language, some of the original understanding is lost. The New Testament, specifically the gospels, were written in ancient Greek, later translated into Latin by St. Jerome, and later still, translated into English during the reign of King James. So, unless you're going to learn ancient Greek and read the gospels in the earliest form that you can find, I don't really think that you can look at the tiny differences between modern English bibles, pick the version you like best, and go, "See! I have a point!"

*On page 12, Rudel writes: "Evangelists today can sketch out their message in five minutes; you'd think if it were an accurate depiction of Christ's work, each writer would clearly write it somewhere in his gospel."

First of all, this passage is extremely rude. I really don't think that most modern Christian holy men are setting out to mislead people. I think that they have had a lot of theological training, and have read the gospels closely, and are trying to pass on the knowledge that they have gleaned. I assume Rudel is referring to a sermon, in which many pastors/preachers/etc. summarize the main points of their lecture. Still, Rudel's wording sounds very close to a personal attack. I don't see why anyone with an orthodox view of Christianity is going to read this book if Rudel's going to talk about the views they grew up with with such disdain.

Secondly, why? Why should the gospel writers have a clear interpretation of the overall message? When I read the Bible, it sounds authoritative in that it sounds like a primary source. And when you're talking about history, primary sources are to be read avidly, critically, and with interest. You can't get a better glimpse of history than from someone who says, "I was there. And this is what I saw." The disciples claim to be faithfully depicting the actions and at least the gist of the words that Jesus spoke - kind of like a memoir. Or maybe, more like a play, in which the reader/audience member sees the actions and hears the words, but needs to find meaning in the play him- or herself.

*Again on page 12, Rudel writes: " is hard to understand why they would not affirm the modern gospel (if it were true); instead they chose (or the Spirit chose for them) to relate teaching after teaching that chafes against it."

This statement is pretty broad, and the author has not given us evidence showing "teaching after teaching that chafes against it."

*On page 13, the author writes: "It appears the Greek version of Matthew we have today might come from an earlier Hebrew version written before the Gentiles were welcomed into the church." He says this to make a point. Well, if that's the case, then why should we consider the gospels reliable at all? It says that Matthew is a tax collector. As a government official for the Roman Empire, Matthew, if he's literate at all, is most likely to read and write in Greek or Latin. And considering the area in which the gospels are set, most likely to read and write in Greek.

And don't you think that it's kind of odd that Matthew isn't introduced in his own gospel until chapter 9 verse 9? Everything that is related before we, the readers, meet Matthew is therefore heresay, rather than something Matthew witnessed himself.

*On page 13, Rudel quotes Matthew 5:19-20, the beginning of the sermon on the Mount. "Jesus says, anyone who breaks the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever obeys them and teaches others to do so will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness goes beyond that of the experts in the law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."

He uses this passage to point out that many modern Christians deny that being a good person and doing the right thing gives you favor in God's eye. I don't know that that's true, exactly, but many modern interpretations of the gospel claim that people are ONLY saved through faith and the grace of God. Which means that it doesn't matter what you do, because you will never be perfect like God, and so can't gain eternal life without his help. I don't think, however, that most Christians are like, "So do whatever you want b/c good works don't really gain you shit," which is kind of the impression Rudel is giving me.

I also find Rudel's interpretation of the passage not simplistic enough. That sounds odd, I know, but since he's claiming modern views are wrong b/c they've strayed from literal interpretations of the gospels (which, considering how often Jesus spoke in metaphor, doesn't really sound that weird to me, but whatever), I kind of expect him to pull apart these passages that the church generally interprets "wrong" and explicitly show me how he interprets them differently. But he just kind of makes these general statements that I don't even usually agree with.

I'm skipping ahead to page 19, which has one of the worst lines, in my opinion: "Nothing here is meant to prove anything, just indicate why the modern gospel does not seem the natural conclusion from Jesus' teachings for a number of reasons."

Way to wuss out. If you're not trying to PROVE that the modern interpretation is wrong, and offer a viable alternative, why did you write this book? And why should I read it?

So I'm not.

Title: Who really goes to hell? The Gospel You've Never Heard: What a Protestant Bible written by Jews says about God's work through Christ (A book for those in the church and those offended by it)
Author: David I Rudel
Publisher: Biblical Heresy Press
Copyrite: 2009
Website that goes with book:

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Another Look at Twilight

I have a long, tangled history with the book Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer.

Meyer's book had a great marketing team. They got her to change the title of the book from the less appealing Forks to a less obvious title, and they picked really visually appealing covers. I read young adult quite a bit, actually. I browse that section of the bookstore, particularly when I was looking for a less mentally demanding book to read for fun (because I picked a major that forced me to do a lot of dry reading, and a lot of analysis; sometimes, I needed a break). My eye was caught many times by the book with the black cover, and the pale arms, with hands cupping an apple. I noticed the cover, I read the back cover, and I put it back on the shelf. Frankly, those famous "three things" Bella's "absolutely positive" about make it sound like the protagonist is an airhead. Not that that's a bad thing, but I have a kind of intolerant attitude with regards to idiocy, and I didn't think I would like this book.

Well, then the trailer for the movie came out. The trailer looked pretty interesting, and I was like, Okay, I'm going to suck it up and pay eleven dollars to read this book. That clever cover was right - this book is interesting.

And then I read the book, and was very underwhelmed. Not at first, but at the end.

See, here's the thing. The book starts out okay. Excluding the epilogue, it ends okay, too. Yet for 500 pages, this book doesn't pack the punch I'm aiming for. If we are an S&M couple, I'm bent over, expecting to get smacked hard, and I feel a tap. I want to be sore for a week, and am instead only slightly irritated for a few seconds.

I know this book has a lot of fans. That's great; Meyer got lucky with this book series. And have you seen her interviews for The Host? She might not realize how lucky she got with this series, but she is appropriately humble about her writing skill. She says she was kind of "raw." I appreciate that she isn't acting like the greatest writer who ever walked the earth because some obsessed girls say it's true.

(Also, I would like to say, I like Meyer much more after seeing this interview. What a bitch! She refers to her readers as "girls," when I know there are some boys, middle-aged moms, etc. who rave about these books. Then, while she said she's got cool fans, she still puts them down, insinuating that they're not open-minded when she says they might just throw the book on the floor because it doesn't have Edward in it. While she's got a clear view of why many of her fans like the Twilight series, it is still deliciously evil to call them out on being love struck ditzes.)

I'll ignore the inconsistencies in this book - suffice it to say, they exist.

I won't go into detail about the abusive relationship, because many others have discussed this, and I doubt I can do better than they have. I would like to say that Bella is afraid of Edward many times, though, and that any impressionable people who read this book and happen to stumble upon this review, please keep in mind, if you're scared of your significant other, that is wrong. Don't date someone you're scared of, physically or otherwise.

I didn't mind reading the book as much this time around, but I'm definitely not going to rave about it.

Bella gets kind of whiny, kind of annoying, and says some really stupid things. She's a teenager. You know what? She sounds like a teenager most of the time. Meyer did a good job of capturing that phase of life. I like reading about teenagers who are more intelligent.

The big problem with this book for me, though, is that a lot of the dialogue is really shitty. I'm sorry, there's no way around this. Around page 206 (and remember guys, this book is FIVE HUNDRED FREAKIN' PAGES LONG!), the dialogue just starts to get ridiculous.

Let's put it this way - when I watched the movie with my boyfriend, he was guffawing at the dialogue, and actually said, "This dialogue is terrible!"

My response: "It's from the book."

Sometimes, the narrative writing gets a bit saccharine, too, at least for my tastes. An example of this can be found on page 257: "I tried to keep my eyes away from his perfection as much as possible, but I slipped often. Each time, his beauty pierced me through with sadness." Now that is just bad writing.

Still, while there are a lot of dopey moments, Meyer has some good writing in here, too. There were times I giggled, and believable moments. I would not call this a good romance, though.

If you like your reading to be witty and clever, I say skip this one. It is Meyer's first book, and the writing might get better later in the series, but this book's pretty rough.

(P.S., this book counts towards the 2009 Romance Reading Challenge I'm doing.)

Sunday, March 1, 2009


I'm currently re-reading Twilight. I'm giving it another chance. We'll see if I like it better this time around; so far, I like it about the same.

See, I didn't absolutely hate it the first time. But about halfway through, I was getting antsy, and saying, "I'm ready to be done. I want to move on to reading something else!" Of course, since I have ADD, this reaction isn't as large an indictment as it might at first seem.

We shall see - and should anyone want to read my Emma essay, I'm taking a break on that. I was ill for awhile, and now I seem to be tired a lot of the time. Maybe I'll force myself to work on it some tomorrow. Regardless, it will take some time to materialize.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Possibly Cheating

At a library book sale (an entire paper grocery bag full of books for $2.oo; I was ecstatic), I picked up a book called Joy in the Morning by Betty Smith. I was drawn to the book because of its cover (pretty yellow, with a flower), and the author. I couldn't place it at first, but as most people probably know if they've read it, Smith is the author of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Great, great book. So I figured I would give this new book a try.

It was GREAT!

Seriously, I think more people need to read it, and it deals with a married couple, thus fulfilling the romance component I need to review it for the Romance Reading Challenge, so I decided to write a review for this in place of 13 Little Blue Envelopes.

In her book Joy in the Morning, Betty Smith relates the lives of Carl and Annie Brown, two young individuals who have been in a romantic relationship since their early teenage years, who decide to marry at the tender ages of 20 and 18 (respectively). The romance in this book is realistic and sweet, and I think it gives the reader hope that romance can occur in real life (some of us have grown rather cynical, by which I refer to myself, of course).

What makes this book great is the characterization. Smith manages to succinctly convey the characters' personality in this book. While the most fully fleshed-out character is Annie, the reader gets a feel for nearly all of the characters who appear in the book.

The main problem with this book wasn't a problem at all for me, really. Yet some people might not like the dated feel of this book. Written in the sixties, it is set in the late 1920's. Some of the language might seem a bit silly to a modern audience. I didn't have a problem reading it, though I might have giggled once or twice; overall, I felt that the original intentions of the author shone through clearly, and the language wasn't an impediment, but an enhancement. To me, the language helps me feel like I'm a voyeur in a different time period.

Honestly, I didn't want to put this book down. I am very glad that I picked this book up at the library sale, and I encourage people who are looking for a new, older book to read to give this a try. Smith's writing is a delight.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

An Austen-Affiliated Novel I Didn't Hate

As part of that Romantic Reading Challenge I joined this year, I read Karen Joy Fowler's The Jane Austen Book Club.

I was worried, upon embarking on the journey of reading this novel. I had heard, from a therapist a few years ago, that this book wasn't very good. I believe her words were, "They just read Jane Austen books. It was boring."

And then the movie came out, and it looked cute, so a friend and I rented it and watched it. I liked it, and this caused me to consider reading the book.

There was one more factor that caused me to be reluctant at the idea of reading this book, however: its affiliation with Jane Austen.

I love Jane Austen's books. Every single one of them is enjoyable - witty, realistic, romantic. Unfortunately, most of the more recent books that have been published by fellow Austen-enthusiasts have been horrible. I realize that it is difficult to write a book worthy of the great author from the nineteenth century, and authors who try deserve credit for their endeavor, but I don't like being repeatedly disappointed, either.

In this case, I wasn't. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The characters are all interesting, and described in a captivating way that makes the reader want to avoid putting the book down at all costs.

The one thing that was kind of weird about the book was the narration style. Primarily told in the third person, the narration tends to focus on one, or only a couple, of the characters. There were times, however, when a plural second person point of view was used. So I, as the reader, felt as though I was being addressed by one person in the group, talking about everyone in the group, but in actuality, it was the narrator, who was not in the reading group. It felt kind of voyeuristic, stalkerish, and wrong.

But the novel, overall, is very good. It's one of those magical books that just makes you feel good, even when it recounts bad things happening. It reminds me of Alice Hoffman's books, which are permeated with fantastical creatures and those realistic magic moments that are in our lives.

Since Jane Austen's novels all involve love and courtship, the characters, through reading and discussing the six books Ms. Austen wrote, realize issues in their own love lives. The reading of Austen's books are healing, and feel like a healing balm to the reader, as well.

This book is great, and I strongly recommend it to anyone who has read Ms. Austen's books, is interested in reading Ms. Austen's books, or who loves love. The book is, perhaps, a bit esoteric - it is definitely easier to follow if you HAVE read Ms. Austen's books. But there are summaries of the Austen books, if you haven't read them.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

This is Not the Emma Essay

Instead, I bring forth a book review and a rant, both of which are inspired by Christopher Moore's soon-to-be-released book, Fool.

For those of you who have never heard of this book, it comes out February 10th. Only four days before Valentine's Day (and was, in fact, my early Valentine's Day present, and I don't even like the holiday).

For those of you who have never heard of the author, GO. Stop reading. Walk, run, swim, drive to the nearest bookstore (because you'll be wanting to give him royalties, of course), and pick up one of his books. Any of his books. I started with Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story, which was devoured in a manner of hours despite my being sick at the time (plane travel does not agree with me).

All right, then. With those little necessities out of the way, I suppose I can commence my review. Fool is a re-telling of Shakespeare's telling of "King Lear," with the court jester narrating. I think this is a great idea, and eagerly awaited reading this novel, particularly as I anticipated Moore's comedic style. And it is a fun book. The problem with anticipation, of course, is that it's hard for anything to measure up completely, and I think that's what happened here. There were definitely laugh-out-loud funny moments while I was reading this book, and I am glad to have had the experience of reading this book. The book was not quite as enjoyable as I had expected, however. A large part of this, I think, is due to my initial and recurring distaste for the court jester narrator. He had moments of sweetness, but overall, I kind of thought he was a jerk. I didn't necessarily want him to have a happy ending, though I did feel for him at moments. I'm the type of reader who likes to like the protagonist. So while Moore did his research for this book, and used British slang, and told jokes, I didn't find his book as engaging nor as humorous as I tend to find his writing. Much of the book felt a bit flat to me.

It's not that I wouldn't recommend reading this book at all. But I am glad I didn't buy the hardcover copy, which is useful as a weapon, but is not as kind to my decidedly small pocketbook.

On to the rant!

As someone who previously lived in Michigan, and now lives in Indiana, I look forward to those small pleasures in life, chief among them, hearing authors whose work I enjoy speak. Christopher Moore generally spoke somewhere in Michigan, often at Ann Arbor, "the deuce" being a rather literary place and all. So I was eagerly looking forward to seeing Mr. Moore this year, and hearing him talk about Shakespeare and jesters and Medieval Britain and whatnot.

Yet, to my heartbreaking eyes, from the website of Mr. Moore, came the news that not only was Mr. Moore not going to be in Ann Arbor, his publishers had decided the man couldn't come to the Midwest at all!

I rejoice for Mr. Moore, who can now avoid freezing his balls off in this hell-hole I am forced, for the moment, to call home. But I've got to say, his publishers blaming this shitty economy kind of angers me.

As if I don't suffer enough for living here! I had to grow up in this shitty weather, where the cold seeps into my bones, and every year, I expect that one of these days, I'm just not going to wake up, I'll just freeze in my bed, and be undiscovered for days like that homeless man in Detroit (who, technically, didn't freeze in a bed). The Detroit area being where I'm from, I don't have any good sports teams to root for, and even the Michigan Wolverines let me down this year. I come from an area SO BORING, the only thing we kids could do was get drunk, get stoned, or go bowling.

There's already NOTHING to do here, and you're going to punish us more?

You can fly the man all the way across the country, from California to New York, but you can't make a pitstop in freakin' Chicago?

If the economy's that bad, then why not just cancel the tour altogether? You can just send signed books off from a bookstore in Mr. Moore's local area, and do a few YouTube videos and call it a day. If we in the Midwest have to suffer and suffer, then why do the lucky people on the coastlines get everything? They've already got the ocean within easy driving distance, and better weather, and not being surrounded by hicks! They've got better museums, and more money.

I feel slighted. Not personally, but as a community. I don't know how many people in the Midwest have actually thought about this, but I do know plenty of people in this area who read, and I just think it's a shame that now this area is being slighted in visiting literary talent, as well. Especially since a lot of literary talent grew up in the Midwest.

Friday, February 6, 2009

A Bit of Talk About An Upcoming Essay

I recently re-read Emma, one of those famous novels by that famous novelist, Jane Austen.

I love this book. Actually, I love all of Miss Austen's novels.

And so, coming soon will be an essay focusing on one of the characters in this novel (I don't want to tell you which one - you have to read the essay to discover it; I'm a fan of the evil cliffhanger - in my own writing).

I'm really posting to say, that while I doubt that anyone reads this blog with anything approaching a regular basis, while I'm sure that most people who glance at the words published here on this humble webpage accidentally stumbled on the site and then had their eyes physically held open by a sadist, the essay I am about to write is going to be full of those odious spoilers.

When writing an essay, as it is necessary to give examples from the literature I read for evidence supporting my viewpoint that the essay strives to prove is correct, spoilers will be inevitable throughout this blog, except, perhaps, in the occasional review.

So this is your warning: If you haven't read the book that I am writing about (in this case, Emma), don't read my essay, lest the surprise and wonder of the book be spoilt by my poison-tipped pen/keyboard.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

So, I Read 13 Little Blue Envelopes

It's not going to count as one of my "Romance Reading Challenge" books.

I'm glad I read it. It was full of adventure, but in a realistic way. The main character was kind of annoying, but she began to grow on me, and was likeable by the end of the book.

It was not, however, a romance. The book had romance - adventure & love. But a romantic relationship was not the point of the story. The story actually dealt with the protagonist's relationship with her aunt, and self-realization.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Way, Way Back, Many Centuries Ago

I have to admit, when younger, I was obsessed with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Thus, the not-exactly-literary title of this post. But the title does refer to something literary - my relationship with Melissa Walker.

Back when I still had a MySpace, Ms. Walker sent me a message. I had taken a picture of my backyard, which at the time, was in the basement of this shitty old house on W. Huron in Ann Arbor. The backyard had this pretty, ethereal look to it, though. It was the setting that a child-like imagination such as mine half-expects flittering, glittery fairies to appear in. Magical.

So, Ms. Walker sent me a message about how it was cool, or pretty, or something generic. Basically, she'd seen me lurking in some of the YA pages, and wanted me to check out her books.

I'd heard they were good (from her fans, who are admittedly a biased source). And I really wanted to like them. Ms. Walker worked/works for fashion magazines, something I wish I could do, myself. Except, you know, that would never happen because I don't have fashion sense and I don't think I could make it in New York city, which is, I believe, the crux of the fashion magazine world. I was intrigued by these books about a girl who becomes involved in modeling, one of those "discovered talent" books, especially as it was written by an inside source in the fashion world. How could I go wrong, right?

Wrong. Ms. Walker seems like a sweet person, as can be seen from her Myspace, her blog, or any of the vlogs she's done recently, but I didn't like her book Violet on the Runway.

For me, the book was predictable, and the writing, while not bad, just wasn't done well enough to save the book from being slightly boring. My favorite thing about the books? The name of the protagonist - Violet. I think that name is beautiful. Way prettier than mine. But sadly, a name does not carry a book.

Violet on the Runway is the first book in a series, thus far containing three books (I'm not sure if more are intended or not). The second two books might be better, but I plan to just steer clear, as I wasn't too fond of the first book. Others were, such as the person who gave this cute, rambling review. But I wasn't.