Bibliophile:

 

“The world is changing, but I am not changing with it. There is no e-reader or Kindle in my future. My philosophy is simple: Certain things are perfect the way they are. The sky, the Pacific Ocean, procreation and the Goldberg Variations all fit this bill, and so do books. Books are sublimely visceral, emotionally evocative objects that constitute a perfect delivery system.”

~Joe Queenan

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Anne Shirley: Ass Kicker

 
I am an L.M. Montgomery fan.

As in,
I believe I’ve read every single book she wrote,
and loved them all,
in spite of their flaws
(orphan syndrome, sometime suffering from Victorian effusiveness,
similarities in plots).

That caveat aside,
I was doing some serious thinkering today about common heroines
in current YA literature,
and comparing them to Anne Shirley from “Anne of Green Gables”.

And?

They just don’t match up.

Let’s take the current contender for the most popular/well-known
heroine of today:

Bella Swan

She is:

  1. Two dimensional.
  2. Nondescript.
  3. Mediocre.
  4. Places all of her worth on a boy/man/Sparkly Pants McVampire.
  5. Is an ass to her dad without cause.
  6. Apathetic.
  7. Places her intelligence consistently and constantly below everyone else.
    (especially GlitterBoy).
  8. Does not grow.
  9. Ever.

(The Oatmeal says it best…he usually does)
 
 
Anne Shirley, on the other hand?

  1. Comes from a background of poverty and abuse, and rises above it.
  2. Refuses to play the victim card.
  3. Works her ass off for everything.
  4. Is dramatic and often temperamental, but does everything she can to exert self-control over this.
  5. Does not place her worth on a man.
  6. Ambitious.
  7. Ridiculously intelligent–but this is developed through the books–she doesn’t start out as a genius.
  8. Goes to college, succeeds through hard work and determination during a time in which higher education was NOT approved of for women.
  9. Marries Gilbert not because he completes her, but because he makes her want to be a better human being.
  10. Marries a man who loves her for her intelligence, beauty, character, and because she makes him want to be a better human being.
  11. Never loses herself when she has children (which is a truly awesome trait that Montgomery invests in her, especially in light of the Victorian Era in which Anne was created).
  12. Her relationships with Marilla, Diana, and Leslie Moore are beautiful
    and real–they have disagreements, fights even, but they come out of them better. There is no cat-fighting bitchery here.
  13. She grows up.

Through seven books, Anne continues to mature and develop as a fantastic heroine–she is the kind of woman who would come running if you needed her.

(Honestly,
a character created in the Victorian Era is a better speaker for the rights of women
than a 21st century “liberated” teenager.)
 
 
Let me put it this way:

Who would you rather have on your side in The Zombiepocalypse?

Bella Swan would be too busy crying over Pretty Fangs O’busive Boy
to actually, you know, wield something useful, but then again,
she claims to be clumsy–easy Zombie fodder with one simple untied shoelace.
 
 
Anne?

*pssht*

She saves babies from croup, man.
I have no problem believing in her ability to wield a shotgun
all over some zombie ass.

"He called me carrots! So I blew his head off."

 
 
(also? I TOTALLY have rights to the Zombie version of “Anne of Green Gables”. Just sayin’.)

More Bookity Books:

But probably without blurbs.
Because it is late.
And I am le tired.

Finished:

Julian, Gore Vidal

Bor.ing. I need to find out why Vidal chose to write this way,
instead of in the far more interesting and engrossing fashion of “I, Claudius”,
or most other historical narratives.
I mean, if Julian was that much of a dull turd of a Roman Emperor,
…maybe Vidal was a stickler for authenticity?

Atonement, Ian McEwan

Got considerably better in the second half of the novel.
I found the actual atoning to be both satisfying and poignant.
It’s still a rather detached story in many ways,
but I’m okay with that as a style when it comes to books set in a time of war
(Corelli’s Mandolin, for example, also does this at certain points)–
it’s accurate.

Master & Commander, Patrick O’Brian

Still needed that naval dictionary.
But loved the book overall, in spite of that.
O’Brian manages to make his readers feel like they are a part
of the sea, sky, ropes, flying jib, watches in the night,
even if they don’t know a belaying pin from a poop deck.
Jack Aubrey is a great character–
so flawed, so wonderful.
I wanted him to succeed, even though he is a rake and a scoundrel–
takes a good writer to do that.

Stardust, Neil Gaiman

One of my favorites of his.

Perfume, Patrick Süskind

Creepy–and so very Germanic.

The story centers around a man named Jean Baptiste Grenouille,
who is born without any smell.
Not any sense of smell–
but no smell, period.
Süskind paints Grenouille as an unnatural being;
one who is brought up without love,
and grows up without a moral compass.
He also has a preternatural sense of smell,
and becomes obsessed with making the perfect perfume–
for which he will commit any crime to form.

I love scents, and I love the art of perfume,
so I had an interest in this book from the outset,
which helps, I think.
There are several gross events,
particularly towards the conclusion
(which I felt failed to forward the narrative),
so reader beware.

The Maltese Falcon, Dashiell Hammett

Solid, grim, noir.
Good story, good prose.
If you’ve just seen the Bogart film,
give the book a read–
particularly if you can read it on a rainy day
in an old coffee shop.

Currently Reading:

Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Mary Wollenstonecraft Shelley

Hugo Award Winners Short Story Collection, ed. Isaac Asimov

The Known World, Edward P. Jones

White Teeth, Zadie Smith

Thematic Essays from The Metropolitan Museum of Art on Art History, Various
ed: Knew I’d forget one!

The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje

 

I am totally this girl. ...Well. Except for the shy thing. And the enormous Anime boobs.

(26 27 books and counting for 2011, kids!)

More Book-ity-Books:

I was trying to remember what all I’ve read in January and February,
and I know I’m coming up short by two or five books.

But here’s what I’ve got so far,
with blurbs on the books that needed blurbing:

 

January:

Faithful Place, Tana French
A continuation of her Irish detective series (In the Woods, The Likeness),
French delves into the history of a secondary character–Frank Mackey–
from those novels.
Her prose is, per usual, well-crafted, but I found myself wishing for the authenticity of the female narrator in The Likeness instead.

We’ll Always Have Paris, Ray Bradbury

The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexander Dumas

Best American Short Stories, 2007, ed. Stephen King
A fantastic collection. King knows how to pick compelling stories.
His introduction, which is actually a defense of the short story
as a lasting literary form, is pure genius.

Savvy, Ingrid Law
YA fiction, and quite enjoyable. The characters are true and sympathetic,
and the small romances that blossom in the narrative completely avoid schlock,
which is refreshing from a YA author.

Dust of 100 Dogs, A.S. King
Meh. A great initial idea–a young female pirate is cursed to live the life of
100 dogs before returning to her human form–
but the idea gets lost in repetition and tired, quasi-feminist rants.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, Aimee Bender
So very lovely. And so very sad. The essential concept is that a young girl can detect emotions through food–
whatever the cook was feeling, she can sense it.
Which makes for awkward high-school lunches.

The Writing on my Forehead, Nafisa Haji

Unexpected Magic, Diana Wynne Jones
Her short stories were a bit of a letdown
after the magnificence that is Howl’s Moving Castle.

Best American Short Stories, 2002, ed. Sue Miller

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, Safran Foer
Man, I dislike this genre.
It’s this dreadful combination of confessional, solipsistic over-sharing that sometimes feels like the author just slapped his LiveJournal into a bound book.

That said, there are moments of greatness. Foer has two parallel narratives running in this novel, and all the best bits are from the story of the protagonist’s grandparents. Through their marriage, they begin dividing up their home into sections of existence and nothing–their unwillingness to be open with each other is what leads eventually to their grandson wandering off on a ridiculous quest throughout New York, looking for an answer to why his father died in the WTC towers on 9/11.

The protagonist himself, a nine-year-old flea named Oskar, is a pompous twit,
and frankly, everything he does is boring.

That’s really all I can say about him.

Foer also thinks it’s clever to have pages and pages of numbers instead of text, as seen when the grandfather loses his ability to speak.
(that may have been interesting when Coupland did it in 1995’s Microserfs.
It’s just laziness now. )

Foer is liberal, elitist, Jewish-when-it’s-convenient, and boy, does it show;
the story is not about poor Oskar Schell and poor ignorant Americans
and how innocence is lost and we are all insignificant, alas!
It’s about Foer and his desire to be an Important Writer of Important Writings.

Raised by Manhattan Progressives, indeed.

(My opinion may be a bit controversial, but I promise, it ain’t just me:
Extremely Cloying , Terror Comes to Tiny Town )

February:

The Mermaid Chair, Sue Monk Kidd
Disappointing.

Magic for Marigold, LM Montgomery
Montgomery is my go-to for days when everything is bleak.

Boy, Roald Dahl
Remind me to never send my children to a British boarding school.

Horns, Joe Hill
Man, he has style.
Hill is always a compelling read, and like his dad, Stephen King, he manages to touch on philosophical/theological debates without preaching.
I don’t agree with the particular philosophy he presents (that good and evil are the two halves of a coin, or in this case, a person),
but that doesn’t change the fact that this is a good novel.

Currently Reading:

Julian, Gore Vidal
Interesting history. Floppy prose.
Seriously, if it takes me more than a month to read your 400 page novel,
you are doing something wrong.

Atonement, Ian McEwan
So far, not terribly impressed.

Master & Commander, Patrick O’Brian
I need a naval dictionary.
No, really.

Well. This Could Work, Too:

From Bookshelfporn

Or help me fill them. Which the Boyo does.

Books! *glomp*

Walked to the library today
(first, feast on that: I walked to my library.)
(that’s so COOL!),
picked up a few things to make my still unpacked bookshelves feel less lonely:

Villete, Charlotte Bronte
The Handmaid’s Tale, Margret Atwood
Mere Anarchy, Woody Allen
Wifey, Judy Blume
Dream When You’re Feeling Blue, Elizabeth Berg
The Aleph & Other Stories, Jorge Luis Borges
Puro Cuento, Sandra Cisneros
Durable Goods, Elizabeth Berg
Summerland, Michael Chabon
Wonder Boys, ” ”
Gentlemen of the Road, ” ”

I’m most ‘specially excited for the Chabon novels–
I keep starting them in bookstores,
inevitably, fifteen minutes before closing.

*pssht*

As if your need to go home is greater than my need to finish a book,
Barnes & Noble employees.

I anticipate several afternoons at Beantown and Jameson Brown,
or even a wander down to the Sierra Madre cemetery,
to sit under an enormous cedar and read stories to ghosts.

They’ll appreciate the company, I’m sure.

Sometimes, I read:

One of my favorite things about being unemployed
(besides the choosing between which pajama pants to wear, oh rapture)
is the free time to read read read read read.

I love books, people.

When I lost my job in August, I started haunting the Inglewood library–
just went through the stacks,
grabbing classics,
authors I love,
authors I’ve never heard of,
titles that just grabbed my attention…

It’s lovely, really.

I haven’t explored the Sierra Madre library yet,
mostly because Laura’s books have been around.

But….she’s moving out. To get all MARRIED. And STUFF.
And her BOOKS,
the BOOKS that I haven’t gotten my HANDS ON YET?

They’re going WITH HER.

LauraJane.

What are you thinking?!?

So, Sierra Madre Library?
Pasadena Library?

Watch out.

I’m coming, and I’m taking your good fiction with me.

***********

I’ve been keeping a semi-regular list of books I’ve read since August–
Have you read any of these? What were your impressions or criticisms?

1) A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith

Sadder than I expected. Blunter than I expected. Well-written. A good time capsule of New York before World War II.

2) A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley

Hi, Jane, your bitterness against Christianity is showing…

3) A Pale View of Hills, Kazou Ishiguro

4) An Artist of the Floating World, “”

5) The Promise, Chaim Potok

6) The Gift of Asher Lev, “”

7) A Man in Full, Tom Wolfe

“Bonfire of the Vanities” is a much better version of a similar story; felt like Wolfe was repeating himself in this novel. However, it is a still intriguing condemnation of the current meritocracy and those who live in it.

8 ) O. Henry Memorial Award Short Story Collection

9) Ya-Yas in Bloom, Rebecca Wells

10) Pandora, Anne Rice

11) Dance, Dance, Dance, Murakami

12) Sputnik Sweetheart, “”

13) The Inimitable Jeeves, PG Wodehouse

14) Darkness at Pemberly, Daphne DuMaurier

15) The King’s General, “”

16) The Glassblowers, “”

17) Classics of the Macabre, “”

18) Great Stories of Mystery and Suspense, ed. Reader’s Digest, 1981

19) The Optimist’s Daughter, Eudora Welty

20) 55 Short Stories from the New Yorker, 1940-1950

21) Rising Sun, Michael Crichton

22) Bless Me, Ultima, Rudolfo Anaya

23) Woman Hollering Creek, Sandra Cisnero

24) Duo & Le Toutounier, Colette

25) The Last of the Mohicans, James Fenimoore Cooper

Great adventure, lousy prose. Telling someone to duck should not take a paragraph of speech.

26) Daughter of Fortune, Isabelle Allende

27) Falling Angels, Tracy Chevalier

28) The Adventures of Robin Hood, Creswick

29) Carrie, Stephen King

Got him published for a reason. Powerful, horrifying, and sad.

30) The Girl who Loved Tom Gordon, “”

31) A Live Coal in the Sea, Madeline L’Engle

32) A Severed Wasp, “”

33) Pearl, Tabitha King

34) Vanity Fair, William Makepeace Thackery

35) Inherent Vice, Thomas Pynchon

Ugh. BOO. Who decided that Pynchon is God’s gift to America? His prose is dreadful, his characters floppily nonsensical, and his plot fails to take off. Ever. Yuck.

36) Tortilla Flat, John Steinbeck

Oh, Steinbeck. You’re so much better when you’re not writing about drunks.

37) Saving Fish from Drowning, Amy Tan

38) The Bonesetter’s Daughter, “”

39) Outliers, Malcom Gladwell

40) Blink, “”

41) Stories Not for the Nervous, compiled by Alfred Hitchcock

42) Stories for Late at Night, “”

43) In the Woods, Tana French

44) The Likeness, “”

I have never wanted to enter a world so badly since reading the Narnia books when I was eight. Tana French is a genius.

45) The Thief of Time, Terry Pratchett

46) Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez

47) Enchantment, Orson Scott Card

Ben bought this for me after a very disappointing viewing of Wes Anderson’s “Fantastic Mr. Fox”. We discussed the need for good faerie tales, and for Anderson getting over his father-figure issues. “Enchantment” is a lovely retelling of “Sleeping Beauty”, set in Russia, complete with the eminently terrifying Baba Yaga.
I can’t wait to read this one to my children.

48) Peony, Pearl S. Buck

Interesting language—very formal in style. But I like it. It doesn’t have quite the same pull as “Good Earth”, but it’s still intriguing, and Buck is excellent at painting characters.

49) Disobedience, Naomi Alderman

Follows the return of an ex-Orthodox Jewish woman to her British hometown after the death of her Rav father. Was fantastic until Alderman decided to turn her book into an ode to lesbianism. Lost focus about halfway through novel—do we discuss Judaism? Feminism? British-ness? The Torah? A bit of a let-down, really.

50) Secrets of a Fire King, Kim Edwards

A lovely collection of short stories, but they are all tragedies. I appreciate Edwards’ iced-tea prose, but I do wish girlfriend had put a few bits of sunshine into these stories.

51) Velocity, Dean Koontz

Meh. The usual fare. Scary, but the fear never gave me nightmares. Two dimensional characters don’t have that penetrative ability.

52) Correlli’s Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres

Lush. Gorgeous. Heartbreaking. The first third is a bit confusing, but de Bernieres pulls all of his loose threads together with a masterful hand. I had no idea that Italy invaded Greece during WWII; the love of a conqueror for the conquered is an old story, told beautifully here. I was a bit off-put by the ending; a tad abrupt, but still wonderful.

53) Passage to India, EM Forster

Makes me think I should read “Kim”. Oh, British colonialism, would we have any stories without you?

54) The Purity Myth, Jessica Valenti

Oh, good Lord. Valenti has a soapbox, and she’s not afraid to use it; namely, she feels that the “purity myth” is solely the fault of WASP men, and that blaming “the patriarchy” is an effective method of getting her point across. Some parts of the virginity debate do need to change—for example, girls should not have more weight placed on their purity than boys. Valenti misses her opportunity to have a honed argument—she chooses to bludgeon her reader with rants against men and purity balls (she reaaaaaally hates these) instead.

55) The Power of One, Bryce Courtenay

I love this book. I was first introduced to the film in 9th grade English by the marvelous Mr. Chessman, and I never forgot the beauty of Africa portrayed in it. The book follows the life of an English-speaking child in South Africa, just prior to Apartheid, who makes it his ambition to be the welter-weight champion of the world. Courtenay’s writing is sweeping, glorious, and hard.

56) Pigs in Heaven, Barbara Kingsolver

Had a hard time with this book. It’s a continuation of the poignant “The Bean Trees”, which is not a bad plan, really, but I simply couldn’t agree with some of the philosophies in this novel; namely, that a Native American tribe has the right to take a child away from her adopted mom, simply to keep the child in that tribe. I’m just…not okay with that notion.

57) The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

58) The Return of Sherlock Holmes, “”

59) Secret Windows, Stephen King

Stephen King is a good writer of fiction. He is an *astonishing* writer of essays. I love his looks into the psychology and art of writing; I love his critiques of other horror/sci-fi authors; he is concise, insightful, and brilliant in these essays (this book also includes one of the first stories he wrote when he was a kid…whoa).

60) The Red Tent, Anita Diamant

An interesting take on the very, very brief story of Dinah in Genesis 34. Diamant is a decent writer, and I love imagining the stories behind the undetailed Hebrew narrative of the Old Testament, but I do take issue with her blatant misrepresentation of Joseph in this book (there were *some* good men during that time period; there’s no sense in re-writing their characters in order to make the women of your narrative look better in comparison).
That said, still a good read.

Re-Reads
(at least, the ones I can remember…):

Emma, Mansfield Park, Persuasion; Jane Austen

Generation X, Shampoo Planet; Douglas Coupland

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare

Angela’s Ashes, Frank McCourt

Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver

The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd

Anne of Green Gables Collection, LM Montgomery

Matilda, Esio Trot, Roald Dahl