Tuesday, July 01, 2008

June Reading: One Dozen!

Middlesex -Jeffrey Eugenides. Go over and read Sam's review of this book. I echo his opinion. I will add that I liked it much MUCH better than The Virgin Suicides.
My Life And Hard Times - James Thurber. I remember reading a couple of these humorous incidents when they were assigned in school. Thurber is a master with the English language, and has superb control with his comic pacing. I can see how David Sedaris was influenced by Thurber. The cleaning ladies speaking in dialect made me squirm a little, but this device was commonplace back in 1933, when the book was published. If you can get past that, it's a highly entertaining read.

High Sierra - W.R. Burnett. I've *got* to read more of Burnett's novels. He's as good as James M. Cain. He's my exciting discovery for June!

The Little Prince - Antoine de Saint Exupery. You probably won't believe this, but I have given my students the Korean translation of this story and next week, we'll read the English version together in class! Whoo!

Caught By The Sea - Gary Paulsen. Paulsen discusses his love of sailing and how he worked his way through the learning curve, sometimes in life-threatening circumstances. I love his almost -Hemingway-esque prose.

The Executioner's Song - Norman Mailer. Imagine In Cold Blood on steroids.
Heart-Shaped Box -Joe Hill. It's too soon to tell, but Cousin Joe might be even better than Uncle Steve. I liked two things in particular: the combination of wit and horror and that he knows when to end his story.

Fat Girl - Judith Moore. I think Moore intended to keep the reader at a cool remove during this memoir of growing up in the 1940s and early 50s, unloved by most of the adults around her. Her petite mother was especially furious with Judith over her size, and would put her on crash diets and abuse her verbally and physically when the number on the scale went up or stayed the same. The father, who Judith resembled, was absent in her life and went on to a new wife and child when Judith's mother threw him out. Moore also writes about her life as an overweight adult and shows the reader that her bitterness and self-loathing knows no bounds. She died of cancer soon after this book was published, and it's obvious that it was written while she was feeling the full effects of her illness and the grueling treatments that would eventually fail her. I think if she'd been healthy, she would've framed this book differently. Fat Girl book reminds me of someone in my family who also grew up fat with a svelte mother who was determined that she should be thin, and, like Moore's mother, wasn't very subtle or supportive and even to this day still comes out with unfeeling comments. This relative and Moore even have similar names. Reading Moore's memoir left me incredibly sad.

Grizzly! Real-Life Animal Attacks - Allan B. Ury. Life is a banquet, and sometimes humans are the main course. It's nothing personal, though.

Persepolis - Marjane Satrapi. Marjane Satrapi's story of growing up in 1970s and 1980s Iran as the Islamic government tightened their fanatical grasp on the people and the war with Iraq began was painful to read at times -- it was difficult to see if the worse enemy was within or without. The stark black-and-white art is incredible. If you haven't read this, please go find a copy! I read the first part, and now I want to read part two.

The Witch Of Blackbird Pond -Elizabeth George Speare. Making Kit from Barbados was a neat trick because Speare got to work in all that research about Puritan and colonial America very smoothly. I didn't realize that Quakers had such a reputation for troublemaking among the Puritans. The courting stuff reminded me pleasantly of Jane Austen -- in spite of myself, I got interested, hoping that each girl would end up with the suitor who suited her best. Although Goodwife Cruffe was harsh, judgmental and just a terribly unpleasant character right from the beginning, I hated the bit about the henpecked husband rising up suddenly and putting her in her place in front of the whole village -- it seemed like a moldy old device often used in 1950s movies or TV shows.

Monday Mourning -Kathy Reichs. The choppy sentence structure hurts my eyes, and I'm really bored when Tempe Brennan is talking about her personal life, but when she's at work, she's brilliant; I was riveted to the page.


Anonymous said...

wow - there's a lot here! and I'm intrigued by all. I must buy myself The Little Prince (I loved Wind, Sand, and Stars btw) and I'm off now to go explore who Judith Moore is... OH! and Persepolis is going on my Xmas wish list.

raidergirl3 said...

re: cousin Joe. Exactly! It's like he has the editor I always wished Uncle Steve had. It's not that King's aren't good, they are and I love them, but I always wondered what they would be like a little tighter. I just read Heart-Shaped Box, and now I know.
Also, Middlesex doesn't even feel like it is from the same author as Virgin Suicides.
And, Persepolis was awesome.
Great month of reading!

Eva said...

Congrats! I loved Hill's book way more than I loved any King books. But then, I only read about five kings during middle school, lol.

Bookfool said...

You had a great month. That copy of High Sierra looks like a treasure. I haven't read Heart-Shaped Box, but I was quite enamored of Joe's style in his book of short stories (which is, in fact, on the keeper shelf). I love Gary Paulsen and sailing books; what a great combination. I'll have to look for that one (after I go back to remind myself of the title, oops, old lady memory).

firstlinefiction said...

I love The Little Prince! I first discovered it in French class in high school and still love it.

Jeane said...

I didn't know that Judith Moore passed away after her book was published. I wish I had; I might have judged the book more gently. At the time I found the incessant negativity towards herself in the pages almost exasperating; and now I feel badly for that.

Susan said...

i've read mixed reviews of Moore's book -mostly people have disliked it, because of her negativity towards herself. I'm going to have to get this book - I grew up with overweight women, and now I've joined that group. I blame our Polish genes! and/or middle-age *sigh* I'm putting off reading the book because it will bring back bad memories of how my mother treated my sister growing up, but it was because my mother was big also and wanted my sister to not be like her. It's all painful stuff, isn't it? Just sad that Moore couldn't get to like herself at all before her death.

Susan said...

oh, and I agree with what raidergirl3 said about Uncle Steve and Joe. Exactly!!! but I have to read Cousin Joe now!!

Les said...

Isn't Heart-Shaped Box great?!! I loved it. I also loved Middlesex. Now I wonder if I should bother with Virgin Suicides...

Bybee said...

I want to read Saint Exupery's nonfiction stuff about flying.

I can hardly wait to read Cousin Joe's book of short stories. Did you see the movie of Persepolis?

I went through a horror stage in 1974-75, and that's when I first encountered Steven King's Carrie. I thought his writing style was beyond strange.

Now I'd like to read Paulsen's book about that famous sled dog race...what's it called? Old lady memory, indeed! Isn't that High Sierra cover a dandy? I had to have it when I saw it..cost me four bucks, and the cover price was originally 35 cents when it was issued in 1950!

French is so beautiful-looking on the page; I bet TLP is fun to read in the original language.

I also linked to an article/obit where one of her daughters was interviewed and they said she was such a wonderful, loving mom, and her friends said that she wasn't skinny, but she wasn't at all the monster she made herself out to be. I never say this about books, but I'm not sure that manuscript should have ever seen light of day in that form.

I'm sure that those who like Moore's book praise it because it's "so honest"...but is it really? It was like she wrote it perched in the funhouse at the carnival staring fixedly into those warped mirrors.

I think you'd be disappointed with TVS. It suffers from having the wrong narrative viewpoint.

Anonymous said...

You love The Little Prince. Admit it.

I still have not forgiven Uncle Stevie for "Carrie". The nerve. Have to check out W R Burnett. Is that the basis for the Bogie movie?

Tara said...

I am one who loved Middlesex. Interesting to read the differing viewpoints at Sam's review. I read a nonfiction book about the same topic - botched circumcision, so parents changed him to a girl. I don't remember the details in either book, but I'm guessing if you've lived your entire life feeling like something is wrong, as though you are somehow not right, finding out the truth could be so freeing and you could immediately accept it. my 2 cents.

Bybee said...

You must've gotten a lot of crap about that in school, right? Same as a girl I knew -- Christine.

Yes, it's the novel the Bogie movie was based on, so that added to my enjoyment of the novel.

I'll never forget Middlesex -- many of the scenes are quite vivid in my mind...which is a compliment to the author. I was thinking about that creepy doctor the other day, for instance, and his report which said something to the effect, oh well Callie won't feel much sexual sensation, but so what? She'll conform; she'll be fixed! Shudder.

Unknown said...

High Sierra looks like fun. Just the sort of thing for summer reading.

Thanks for entering my contest. Thisredhead was the winner.I hope you enjoyed the read-a-thon.

Stop by my blog again for more contests.

Bookfool said...

I can't remember the name of that sled dog book, either, but I've had it on my wish list at paperback swap for . . . oh, about 18 months or so. I think I've been first on the list for a year. Nobody wants to part with it. Sigh.

Chrisbookarama said...

I'm saving Heart Shaped Box for the fall. I'm glad you liked it!

GFS3 said...

Executioner's Song is on my top 10 list of books. It is just a powerful read -- and while long it zooms by at rocket speed.