Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Ten Years Ago -- 1998

Eager to jog my memory about when and where I'd first encountered Nick Hornby, I started going through my reading journals -- all 2 of them. Finally found what I was looking for in the 1998 reading list. My first impression of Hornby was favorable, but I have to smile at who I compared him with.

Now that I've dusted off the list, I'm compelled to share the whole thing on my blog. Aren't you lucky?! [ear cocked for dubious snorts] Comments in quotes are the ones I made back in 1998.

Not a bad year for reading. Nonfiction beat fiction that year for the first and last time!

1. The Silent Woman - Janet Malcolm [a critical biography of Sylvia Plath. Thoughtful and reflective about the nature of biography.]

2. Our Noise - Jeff Gomez ["A novel about 20-something slackers, alternative music, zines, coffee houses, and thrift stores. I really enjoyed this!"]

3. Lady Chatterley's Lover -D.H. Lawrence [I was housesitting/kidsitting/petsitting for my friend Grace. She had a copy of this book. I read it during that week at night, lying in her waterbed. Everyone should read this book in a waterbed. The two just seem to go together.]

4. In Cold Blood - Truman Capote ["Capote's writing is so delicate and the subject is so horrific. Harrowing reading."]

5. Look For The Woman - Jay Robert Nash ["Here's the subtitle: 'A Narrative Encyclopedia of Female Poisoners, Kidnappers, Thieves, Extortionists, Terrorists, Swindlers and Spies from Elizabethan Times To The Present' "]

6. Birthday Letters - Ted Hughes [Ted Hughes' poems about Sylvia Plath. "These poems aren't like his other poetry; they're written more in the confessional style, like her poetry."]

7. Reviving Ophelia - Mary Pipher, Ph.D [The main thing I remember about this book is that we should get adolescent girls interested in volunteering or deep into sports or a hobby. If their minds aren't focused, they're more likely to develop low self-esteem, which could manifest itself as precocious sexuality, using drugs or developing an eating disorder. I also remember being glad to have a son rather than a daughter.]

8. Wasted: A Memoir Of Anorexia And Bulimia - Marya Hornbacher [I have a vague memory of Hornbacher recounting how she puked so much at a relative's house that she caused the pipes to break. She uses this incident to also mention that pipe breakage for the same reason happens all the time in sorority houses and girls' dormitories.]

9. Cold Mountain - Charles Frazier [I've got five stars and an exclamation point after this title. "I liked the modern prose coupled with the old-fashioned words."]

10. A Patchwork Planet - Anne Tyler [Barnaby is one of Tyler's few male protagonists. Approaching 30, he's calmed down a lot since his wild younger years, but he's still the despair of his well-to-do Baltimore family because he's working for an hourly wage at "Rent-A-Back", a service that runs errands for senior citizens.]

11. nixoncarver - Mark Maxwell ["A strange little novel that portrays an alternative universe where Richard Nixon and Raymond Carver hang out together. It made me like Nixon a little better...well, maybe not like, but feel more sympathetic towards him."]

12. Fasting: The Ultimate Diet - Alan Cott, M.D. ["DUH!" The title made me snicker, but Cott goes into all the different kinds of fasts people can do without completely depriving themselves of food.]

13. High Fidelity - Nick Hornby ["This guy reminds me of a cross between Martin Amis and Barrytown-vintage Roddy Doyle. REALLY GOOD novel! Characters talk about music, Elvis Costello songs...can't go wrong there!"]

14. Backtalk: Four Steps To Ending Rude Behavior In Your Kids - Audrey Ricker, Ph.D and Carolyn Crowder, Ph.D. [What can I say? My son was 13 years old and had inherited his mother's wiseguy mouth! His father read it first, then enthusiastically recommended it to me. Common sense advice.]

15. Fasting: A Neglected Discipline - David R. Smith [This 1973 book tied Christianity and fasting together.]

16. Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary Of Faith -Kathleen Norris ["I liked how Norris addressed the issue of Christian vocabulary -- how it's often used as a battering-ram and can have the opposite effect that communication is supposed to have."]

17. The Everlasting Story Of Nory - Nicholson Baker ["Not his best one. Even so, it's better than a lot of other novels by a lot of other authors. I'm gonna look for his nonfiction book U and I."]

18. Helen and Teacher - Joseph P. Lash [In the following year, 1999, I would go on to read a biography of Helen Keller by Dorothy Herrmann that I liked better. It explored Keller and Sullivan's life together more in detail. In retrospect, this one by Lash seems bound up in restraint and reverence for its subjects. And it's oversized! Not a great combination for a biography.]

19. The Fermata - Nicholson Baker ["And everyone thought Vox was dirty! It's like Baker's giving everyone the finger, saying, 'Dirty? Let me show you dirty!' "]

20. Fool For Love - Sam Shepherd ["I can't believe I used to like reading plays! zzzzzzzz."]

21. A Widow For One Year - John Irving [I'm sure I liked this novel, but I have absolutely no recollection of reading it or what it was about. No clues in the reading journal.]

22. Becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder: The Woman Behind The Legend - John E. Miller ["A little boring. It's like he stuck in a bunch of facts about geography to make the book bigger."]

23. Genie: A Scientific Tragedy - Russ Rymer [In my "Introduction To Linguistics" class, the professor showed the class a film about Genie (a pseudonym). After seeing this horribly sad film, I ran to the library and got the book. Born in 1957, Genie's family life was a hellish situation, especially for her. Genie's abusive father strapped her to a potty chair and left her alone in a bedroom for most of her life. The rest of the family was forbidden to speak to her. The way he communicated with her was by growling and making animal noises. In 1970, Genie's mother finally contacted authorities, and the children were placed in foster care. 13-year-old Genie weighed very little and couldn't speak. There was a lot of infighting over who would get custody of Genie -- linguists and scientists wanted to study her. Rymer seems to think that she would have learned more speech if she had been in the care of people who wanted to help her rather than observe her. Finally, her mother got custody of her again (the father shot himself soon after the children were taken away) and everyone lost track of Genie. She now allegedly lives in a home for developmentally disabled adults. The film about Genie is heartbreaking. In looks, she resembles photos of Anne Frank. In her movements and actions, she's curiously birdlike in the way she continuously tilts her head, the noises she makes, and the way she walks -- skittering, with her arms out to the side.]

24. Anne Sexton: A Biography - Diane Wood Middlebrook [The only thing I remember about this book was the brouhaha over Sexton's psychiatrist letting Middlebrook use his notes and tapes for the biography.]

25. Interlanguage Phonology: The Acquisition Of A Second Language Sound System - Georgette Ioup and Steven Weinberger, editors. [I hadn't had much experience reading academic research, so it was like reading in a foreign language!]

26. Approaches and Methods In Language Teaching - Jack C. Richards and Theodore S. Rogers [There's a reprint of this book that includes some new discussion of methods. The one I remember best is Suggestopedia, because it was funny and wacky. I wouldn't mind going back and reading this again, now that I have some background in language teaching]

27. The Multilingual Self: An Inquiry Into Language Learning - Natasha Lvovich [For one of the classes, we had to choose a book relating to second-language learning and give a report to the rest of the class. This was a relief because Lvovich's "inquiry" was more about the psychological, emotional and mental implications of learning a second language. The tone is autobiographical rather than theoretical. Lvovich's first second language was French, which she loved but felt that she only learned superficially, because most of her conversation had to do with art and culture. English was to become, in her eyes, her true second language because she immigrated to the United States, and dealt with the language on all levels. At the end of the book, Lvovich briefly explores her grade school daughter's multilingual self, especially her increasing reluctance to express herself in Russian, which was the language Lvovich insisted on at home, presumably to keep up the kid's bilingual skills.]

28. Marry Me - John Updike ["Updike does infidelity again. He's good at that, but he did a much better job in Couples."]

29. How Languages Are Learned - Nina Spada and Patsy M. Lightbown [Another one I'd like to reread now that I've got some background in EFL/ESL.]


Remi said...

High Fidelity was a book I just stumbled across in some sale bin. What a great great find it was.

J said...

I've read a couple of these...I'm a huge Laura Ingalls Wilder fan, so I've read that...you were right, just OK. I read "Wasted", which scared the crap out of me, as I have family in that same situation (who read my blog, so I do NOT talk about it there). And I read Widow for One Year, which I remember as being very, very sad, and that a couple had to sons, who died in a head on collision with a snow plow or something like that, and they decided they wanted a child to replace the sons, so they had a baby girl, who grew up to be the widow in question. Of course, the story is much more about her life, but that's the part that stuck with me all these years later.

Remi said...

A Widow For One Year is my favourite Irving and one of my favourite novels of all time. But, yeah, Irving really doesn't pull any punches, which makes it sometimes harsh.