Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Emerging Official 9 for '09 List

Long: The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Free: Possession by A.S. Byatt
Dusty: Kiss & Tell by Alain de Botton
Used: Kindred by Octavia Butler
Letter (R): Glamorama by Bret Easton Ellis
Strange: The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene
Cover: The Quiet Girl by Peter Hoeg
AN: Juniper Time by Kate Wilhelm
Distance: Spring Snow by Yukio Mishima

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Books, books, books

I'm thinking about books today because I'm tackling the 9 for '09 challenge this year. And nine books in nine vague categories means that I'm thinking about said vague categories. Official decisions will be made this weekend. So, here are the categories and my ideas:

Long: I would guess that on average I read books with about 300 pages in them. And so, there are three real options for me: The Brothers Karamazov, Middlemarch, and Catch-22. The first two are long in ways that long isn't an adequate adjective. The third was a book I read a part of in high school, but never finished because it was too long to fit my freaky high school schedule. So, it's up for consideration.

Free: Two options...High Fidelity and Possession. There are others, but those are the two that leave me with layers of guilt. Poor Suzanna is still missing her copy of Possession because of me.

Dusty: Yeah, um, there are a lot of book in this category, so, well, um, this will require thought.

Used: You know, I'm thinking that the recent used book purchases are going to qualify. And because I've been thinking about Octavia Butler a lot lately, I think Kindred might be the winner, unless The Girl at the Lion d'Or sneaks in for a surprise.

Letter: Yeah, again, many options, much thought. But I think my letter is R. I've always felt that it's the dominant letter in my name.

Strange: A genre outside of my normal range? Non-fiction, anyone? My sister is going to be in charge of this one, because she reads non-fiction and I recoil from it, and she knows me enough to know what I can and cannot take.

Cover: Prettiest or ugliest cover? That requires time again.

AN (Alive or Not!): You know what? I'm jumping in on this one. Kate Wilhelm is awesome and hard to find. So, Juniper Time by the Hugo award-winning author will represent her.

Distance: Another why-the-hell-not option...Yukio Mishima's Spring Snow. Yes, you read that right. Yukio Mishima for the girl who usually hangs out with the SF world. Mishima and I got along tons in high school, so it's time to remember and refresh. And it takes place in Tokyo.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Friday, December 19, 2008

Things I learned trapped in a freak snow storm in Victorville, California:

1) Driving in snow in May in Wyoming is not really driving in snow, unless the snow is from a freak Arctic blast that everyone said wouldn't do anything but make things cold.

2) Snow's pretty when you don't have to do something. Like all of that snow I witnessed in school, that was pretty until I had somewhere to go, like class and discovered the streets could turn into rivers. So, while sitting in the safety of a hotel room, it's pretty; but when trying to figure out roads you don't know in heavy snow when the freeway has shut down and cars are driving towards you on said freeway, snow is menacing.

3) One should do one's best not to get sick when a freak snow storm hits, because no one knows how to drive in it, which makes the roads too treacherous for you to go buy cough drops and bottled water (because Southern California tap water gives me a headache like daffodils give me a headache).

4) Steel-toed boots in snow are evil. Fiberglass-toed boots are the way to go. Waterproof, preferably.

5) When driving on a freeway in near blizzard conditions (okay, white out conditions) in Southern California, all traffic rules are null and void. I left the freeway on an on-ramp, I'm still amazed that my straight-laced self could do it and not start hyperventilating.

6) The Tempurpedic-like beds in the Hilton Garden Inn take a few nights to get used to, but when you're used to them, you sort of regret leaving them. Although, Marriott beds remain the best ever.

7) There's never anything good on TV when you are too sick to be able to focus on reading and trapped in a hotel due to snow. And House, The Closer, and Law & Order are strangely perfect TV shows in hotel rooms (although, I already knew that).

8) Not even being snowed in can help you with your gift-making list and the time you need to complete it. (Things still unfinished: two hats, two bags, one sweater, and one scarf.)

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Wonder Spot and being all sorts of angry on a Friday night

Me again. This time about a book, and about a book I feel has been slighted.

I must admit up front that I haven't read anything by Curtis Sittenfeld, I just don't feel in anyway drawn into the plot summaries for her books. And that I'm sure is a sin in Ms. Sittenfeld's world, for I should be able to read beyond a book's cover and flap jacket. But really Prep is so not my thing even if I did go to school with kids who went to prep schools, and American Wife just sounds like I'd fall asleep. It's possible I could like her stuff, except I have to get beyond the summaries of her stuff.

But over the last few days, I've been thinking about my tiny list of books read this year and I was surprised to discover that I think my favorite is The Wonder Spot by Melissa Bank. Now, this would seem to go against all of my professions of love for Neil Gaiman, but it doesn't. I love Neil and his books, but when I think about it and let myself feel an answer instead of just being logical, I realize that it has to be Bank's book. It's the simplicity of the story; it's the so very Jane Austen-ness of the story; it's the honesty. It's not a book that will shock you, it won't even ask you to look at it, it's a wallflower. It is waiting for you to see it and notice it and its intrinsic value. It's waiting for you to let it be everything it can be. And it's the most human book I read this year.

So, what does Sittenfeld have to do with The Wonder Spot? This. I just found it, years too late to be relevant, but it pissed me off. And not because she's calling Bank a chick-lit author because, damn it, chick lit is not the worst thing to happen to women's literature. It's this, from the end of the review:

"Undeniably, there were times when I laughed or winced in recognition as I read; I understood exactly what Sophie meant, and that's when I liked the book best. But this, ultimately, is the reason I know 'The Wonder Spot' is chick lit: because its appeal relies so much on how closely readers relate to its protagonist. Good novels allow us to feel what the characters feel, no matter how dissimilar their circumstances and ours. 'The Wonder Spot' contains real meaning only if we identify with Sophie enough to infuse it with meaning of our own."

Now, did she just say that in order for a novel to be good, the character's circumstances need to be unlike my own? Really? That's what divides a good novel and chick lit? Seriously? How do you determine that?

See, I get that a good novel should allow us to feel what a character unlike ourselves feels. There's a reason I loved The Road. But just because I walk alongside a character in a number of experiences doesn't make a novel less worthy of being called good. And I'm fascinated by this sense of worth as defined by "learning." I think it's a myth. Is a Jane Austen novel good because I learned about Regency England? Hell no, it's good because of the content, the characters, the humanity, the honesty, the humor. So, to say that a novel isn't really a good novel because she, the character, and I probably have similar life experiences is silly. And then to essentially say that The Wonder Spot would have been good if the protagonist had ended up alone is horseshit. It would be daring to some degree, but not necessarily honest for Bank's protagonist. It's a bolder statement to defy the convention that she would be accepted for one thing and marginalized for another.

So, Ms. Sittenfeld, you're wrong. Maybe you didn't love the book, but the book defies you with being wonderful...And yes, I know I need to read more, but I don't have the luxury of not having a day job, and more than that, I have other things I like to do too.

On other topics: there should be snow on my mountain tomorrow morning! And I think my new literary crush is going to be on Brian K. Vaughn.
Sometimes, my adoration for people and things gets a little out of hand. For instance:

xkcd...things like this and this make me wonder if you can chart Randall Munroe's relationship status and quality. And sometimes, I want to chart out his themes to see if there's a pattern.

Then, there's Michael Schaub. I started reading Bookslut back in 2005. That was when I was obsessed with book blogs (an obsession that appears to be coming back). But something happened in 2006: Michael Schaub vanished from the ranks of Bookslut. Now, Jessa posted something in 2007 about Michael being gone and people missing him, but there's been nothing since. And I'm not alone in missing him. Where is Michael? I have been scouring the internet for clues, all to no avail. Michael, where are you?

Monday, December 8, 2008

all because I want a book

I learned a couple of weeks ago, because it took me that long to realize that something was wrong, that the film version of The Road will not come out for another year. To ordinary people, this means that another depressing movie is just coming out a year later. To the weirdos who live and breathe post-apocalyptic stories, it's a depressing fact.

It's not that I believe that the film will surpass the book (although, can I say, Alfonso Cuaron kicked ass on Children of Men and took a book I thought predictable and made it exciting), it's that sometimes you need a fresh fix. There's the doom and gloom that surrounds the economy and the world, but that's a different batch of depressing, that's the reality side of the house. What I need when I say I need a fresh fix is something not real, something that's separate from reality even if firmly standing on reality. What I need is a flight of fancy into a dark world that could be ours. I need a cautionary tale. I need a speculative look at our lives. I need the post-apocalyptic, the dystopias. Sometimes, it's the weight of it. You feel it in you, it makes you want to change things, it makes you want to do things, and if it's good enough, you do good things, you change things. The land of dystopian and post-apocalyptic stories is a land of hope and inspiration because you have a chance, you can effect change on your world, you can see the warning and the hope the creator has for you, and you can use it. It's sort of like with Duchamp's Fountain, he's daring you to step up to the plate, he's daring you to challenge him, he's daring you to be something more, he's daring you to think about the mundane. Dystopian literature does that. It dares you to be better, hope more, and smile often. It's not doom and gloom, it's the genre of hope.

And now, I wait until 2009, probably late 2009.

Otherwise, a perfect book.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Things that a bad movie reminds me of:

1) The book was so very much better. It's usually the case, but with the last movie I loved based on a book, I actually loved the movie more. And I'm sorry Neil, but I really did love the movie Stardust more than the book, and that's not just because I love Charlie Cox.

2) Sometimes, special effects are just silly and useless.

3) An attractive actor does not make a movie. An attractive actor can't overcome a silly script with silly direction, and really something that just didn't translate. (I keep trying to explain to my sister that the book was just so intense, the urgency of first love was so honest and true, and the movie left us with nothing more than a plain love story.)

4) Good acting isn't easy. Good acting can be created on its own (see Edward Norton in Primal Fear), but I can only really think of one or two of these instances. People making movies cannot assume that just because the movie is based on an intoxicating book and there are a few pretty actors that smart moviegoers looking for real entertainment will be fooled. And so, when the second movie comes out, I'm pretty sure I'll avoid it because the characters I love will likely fail to be as charming.

The movie that was such a letdown is Twilight. And now, all I can think about is how much I miss Lost and how much I need to see Coraline right now.

One more reason to love

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die