What I’m Reading:

 

Courtesy of the Fug Girls and Atlantic Monthly:

Fantastic Journalism

 
 
(The first piece about hospital suppliers will probably make your head fall off, by the by)

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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.

I’m Going to Kick Ass at the Nursing Home:

Social Dance Study
______________________________
‘The 21-year study of senior citizens, 75 and older, was led by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, funded by the National Institute on Aging, and published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Their method for objectively measuring mental acuity in aging was to monitor rates of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.

The study wanted to see if any physical or cognitive recreational activities influenced mental acuity. They discovered that some activities had a significant beneficial effect. Other activities had none.

They studied cognitive activities such as reading books, writing for pleasure, doing crossword puzzles, playing cards and playing musical instruments. And they studied physical activities like playing tennis or golf, swimming, bicycling, dancing, walking for exercise and doing housework.

One of the surprises of the study was that almost none of the physical activities appeared to offer any protection against dementia. There can be cardiovascular benefits of course, but the focus of this study was the mind. There was one important exception: the only physical activity to offer protection against dementia was frequent dancing.

Reading – 35% reduced risk of dementia

Bicycling and swimming – 0%

People who played the hardest gained the most: For example, seniors who did crossword puzzles four days a week had a 47% lower risk of dementia than those who did the puzzles once a week.

Playing golf – 0%

Dancing frequently – 76%.

That was the greatest risk reduction of any activity studied, cognitive or physical.

Quoting Dr. Joseph Coyle, a Harvard Medical School psychiatrist who wrote an accompanying commentary:
“The cerebral cortex and hippocampus, which are critical to these activities, are remarkably plastic, and they rewire themselves based upon their use.” ‘

_____________________________________

Essentially,
as long as I keep reading like I do,
and dancing like I do?

This bitch is going to go to her GRAVE with all mental faculties intact.

Um…Yes:

Professional Weaker Brethren

I don’t even think you have to be a Christian to appreciate this article–
forcing others to walk on proverbial eggshells is a character trait found in humanity at large.

I know I do this.

And, ohhhh, I need to knock it off.

As a Christian,
adhering to the faith I believe in is one thing;
getting my panties in a knot about issues or behaviors
that are not declared a sin according to the Bible is entirely another.

If I’m made uncomfortable by someone’s behavior,
is it because it is offensive to God?

Or,
more likely,
is it just offensive to *me*?

(and even when it comes to sin, I have to be gracious in my response. ‘Coz guess who else is a sinner? Yep. This girl. Right here.)

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