Friday, August 5, 2011

Book Review: The Breaking of Eggs

The Breaking of Eggs, Jim Powell
This book barely squeaks by the dialogue test, of being being able to differentiate between who's talking without looking at their names. After fifty pages, all I could think was that the book had an overlay filter of pretension and snobbery, almost elitism, that radiated from the main character--who's (almost?) ironically communist/leftist. I keep going back and forth between wether the tone is intentional or if the author lacks control.

I can't quite determine if the book is obnoxious because the main character is intentionally narrow-minded and pretentious, and the author loses control over the tone, or if the author himself isn't aware of how redundant his themes are. Either way, I committed to finishing it, but I didn't like it that much. The book needed to change fairly drastically in order for me to like it, and unfortunately that just really didn't happen.

Basically, the book could have been summarized with one or two quick statements.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Book Review: Footnotes in Gaza

Footnotes in Gaza, Joe Sacco

Wherein I reveal my somewhat unpopular, but strongly held, political values concerning Palestine.

I'l admit, I was curious--almost skeptical--about the format of this book. Is graphic cartoon style reallyt ht most appropriate medium for a book about a very violence and controversial piece of the Middle East's history? It really only took me 80 pages to be completely convinced that the answer is a resounding YES. Yes it is the appropriate medium.

I've been blown away by how raw the art is, and by the structure of the visual components. It's written incredibly informatively, and I think the way he creates the profile of the people talking is way easier to follow than memorizing only a name.

This book is really good. It's also really hard to read--but it should be.

After finishing Gravity's Rainbow, I needed to immerse myself into something immediately afterward, but this book ended differently for me. This time, anything else would feel inferior.

The entire book was incredibly raw. I have a lot of respect for how Sacco handled being upfront about the types of information he had, his decision-making process for including interviews, and his portrayal of his own personal experience. It was handled very well.

This book--this topic--is one that makes me want to rage and scream at the injustice of it all, and I feel the shame of my privileged position. it makes me want to get my hands dirty or something. Something.

I really loved this book. I also really liked how he wove his current-day experiences and politics into the story--it really brough home the "why" for the book.

"Because in 50 years, you'll want someone to tell your story"

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Book Review: Gravity's Rainbow

Gravity's Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon
5.7.11 -- 8.2.11

It's been a long time since I've spent three months reading one thing (that wasn't a textbook). I recorded my notes by parts, because by the end of the book I knew I'd be completely incapable of summarizing the first (or second. or third.) part.

Part 1
So many characters! It's impressive if he manages to keep them all straight, but also super irritating.

" is the poet singing back the silence" --173
"You go from dream to dream inside me. You have a passage to my last shabby corner, and there, among the debris, you've found life. I'm no longer sure which of all the words, images, dreams or ghost are "yours" and which are "mine". It's past sorting out" --177

Part 2
So much easier to read. It helped that the majority of it was from only one perspective. It's nice to see a plot finally forming. I have a hunch that part three will be impossible...

Part 3
I was correct. Reading this part made sense only in fits and spurts; it was like those hellish dreams where you can only open half of one eye at a time. My method alternates between overthinking and underthinking (dare I admit to skimming at times?), but I suspect I have as solid a grasp as I'll ever get on this damn book. I gave up following along with Wikipedia in Part 2, but just that much helped quite a bit. Should probably have kept up with it, but it was really exhausting.

"The minute he put on the head.... he knew himself. He was the wolf" --390

Part 4
I feel like maybe there were some characters who had two names or something, but it feels like I missed a twist. An important one.

Most books, upon finishing, requiring no other books or distractions after, to help me clear my head. Not this one--jumping immediately into another was the only way my brain settled enough to even write a recap of part four.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Book Review: In Our Strange Gardens

In Our Strange Gardens, Michel Quint

My sister is one of the few individuals whom I trust to give me a reading recommendation. She had a piece of paper tucked into this novella with a bit of background information about the man on trial, as well as some very thought-provoking questions about the characters' motives So instead of a review, here are the notes I jotted down in response to her questions. **Possible spoilers ahead*

Why did Andre become a clown?
-I feel like the book used enough references to penance to make that a possible answer, but still I wonder. Why the poor charade? I sit penance, or is it a statement? Or a thoughtful reminder? It it even possibly just a happy reminder, like giving praise?

How would you describe Bernd?
-Someone caught up "on the side of evil" as he said. The question makes me recall an early quote in the story (the dedication, in fact) "to my father... who opened me wide to the memory of horror, yet made sure I learned German, because they knew how foolish it is to see history in terms of black and white". It's tempting to assume he was helpful because he regretted the side he was on, but the whole point of this story seems to highlight the possibility that maybe Bern was just compassionate, while still believing in the side he fought on.

Do you agree it's "inhuman to choose a sacrificial victim"?
-I feel like the answer is less active and more passive--it shows you've been placed in an inhuman position. Do I think it's inhuman to allow someone to chose to be a sacrifice? No.... To be the one choosing? If it's not yourself, then yes. He means it as a statement of compliance, though, which I think is a super complicated topic. Although it makes me (as nonreligious as I am) point out that God chose a sacrificial victim, and in almost eery definition he is pretty inhuman--though not in the way implied by the quote.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Book Review: The Invention of Hugo Cabret

The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Brian Sleznick
I've had this book for years, but due to countless excuses I've never gotten further than 60 pages or so. After seeing the movie trailer at the HP7.2 release, though, I knew it was time

I enjoyed it for the artwork, but if I'm being really honest, it's a very simple, basic kid's tale. The medium is fabulous, but the storyline itself feels pretty generic. I could also definitely do without the Professor A___ component. It felt forced.

Despite those critiques, it really was a great storyline and a really fun dread. It takes forty minutes, tops, to read, but the artwork is something you can spend countless hours appreciating. A worthwhile little nugget in my collection, I think.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Book Review: A Visit From The Goon Squad

A Visit From The Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan
7.7.11 - 7.11.11

"He looks so tired--like someone walked on his skin and left footprints" --57

After reading nothing last month, finishing this book so fast was much more reassuring than it probably should've been. Also, though, this book was amazing and intense. Throughout the entirety of Part 1 I was swept away, and at the end of every chapter I had to pause to catch my breath.

K & I talked about character types a while ago, specifically regarding Hunger games. She talked about how well-designed the characters were--perfectly written/created, in a way that (without it being negative criticism) made them unrealistic. "Because who wants to read about real people? They were perfect and super and more interesting than normal people" was how K logicked it.

That's how these characters were written--so perfectly complex and interesting. But not even a little bit contrived. So for every ounce of raw intensity that Part 1 was, Part 2 was the painful, necessary and sometimes unpleasant healing process that stitched together all the elements introduced previously.

God it was just so good. My first Jennifer Egan book was The Invisible Circus, which always felt like my gateway into "interesting" books. The non-conventional ones that you don't always hear about (at least, for me, at that point, for my twelve-year-old self). This one surpassed it brilliantly.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Short(ish) Break

So it turns out when you're studying for the GRE, you just plumb run out of time for extended reading. I finished Dead Souls a few days ago, but since I take the GRE this Saturday (gasp!), the typed review of it will have to wait. And I'm about 4/5 of the way through Gravity's Rainbow. Which has very consistently alternated between a mindfuck headache and enjoyable. Which reminds me of Dhalgren. But I'm pretty pretty sure Gravity's Rainbow came first.

Anyway, I'll be back soon. AFTER SATURDAY!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Book Review: Dead Souls

Dead Souls, Nikolai Gogol
6.10.11 - 7.3.11

"But we have begun talking rather loudly, forgetting that our hero, asleep all the while his story was being told, is now awake and can easily hear his last name being repeated so often. He is a touchy man and does not like it when he is spoken of disrespectfully. The reader can hardly care whether Chichikov gets angry with him or not, but as for the author, he must in no case quarrel with his hero; they still have many a road to travel together hand in hand; two big parts lie ahead--no trifling matter." pg 251

"Rus, where are you racing to? Give answer! She gives no answer. Wondrously, the harness bell dissolves in ringing,; the air rumbles, shattered to pieces, and turns to wind; everything on earth flies by, and, looking askance, other nations and states step aside to make way."

I wish I had known before I started that chunks of the second part of the manuscript were missing. Finishing the book while a character is literally mid-sentence is an incredibly frustrating experience.

That said, I completely loved this book. I thought it was funny, sassy and interesting. I was so blown away by how Gogol seamlessly dove in and out of the fourth wall in such a manner that didn't feel remotely contrived or forced.

The biggest letdown of the book was really just that there wasn't more of it to read.

When Chichikov was pleased and started to praise himself using loving pet names, only to stop when he remembered he was in public, I literally laughed out loud. This book doesn't betray it's age in the least--the whole novel is so quirky and light.


Monday, May 30, 2011

Catcher in the Rye

Catcher in the Rye, J.D Salinger

Bought the book on a whim to participate in the Young Adults Fiction book club at my local favorite bookstore. The book after this one is The Book Thief, which I'd love to sit in on, but I decided to test them all out with this one first.

I read the entire book on Sunday. There's such an amount of success that accompanies finishing an entire book in one day, even if it's technically a "kid" (young adult) book (although Wikipedia pointed out to me it's a novel that was originally intended for adults). When I started it, I remembered that it was the only (assigned) book I read between junior and senior year (I was an angsty high schooler, I'll admit), and my best friend expected me to really like the book. She thought it'd resonate with me, but instead it really irritated me. I couldn't explain to her why, at the time, though.

I think I can now, but first: this time through, I really liked it. Okay. Now I think back then i didn't because first off, the narrative style irritated me--I couldn't get into the stream-of-concious flow back then. Also, I couldn't lose the awareness that an adult wrote the book, and if felt strange to think an adult wrote that book, and from a kid's perspective. And lastly, the book did resonate with me--and that was part of the problem. I understood what he meant, about "phonies" and the masks people wear and how frustrating it is to watch people, even (especially) yourself, act so fake. I think the thing was that while he found certain people redeemable, I hadn't gotten to that yet. And because I resonated so strongly with Holden back then, the ending was so bitterly disappointing.

I haven't lost that perspective, and there are days where the Holden in me just can't stomach it, but I feel like I've rounded out a lot more since high school (thank GOD), so while his observations are right, it doesn't meant hey tell the whole story. And when the picture gets a little bigger, it includes happier (more acceptable, tonic-like) components in it.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

An Interesting Timeline of Russian Authors

So I was studying with my siblings (sister and brother in law, but I've known that guy since I was ten), and they kept distracting me and we kept joking around, and I ended up making this. I was super intrigued by the results.

Note the symmetry :-)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Book Review: Moby Dick

Moby Dick, Herman Melville
3.218.11 - 5.17.11

When I started this one, I was super intimidated. Having to actually record my "start" time was intimidating, since I knew it'd take me a while to finish. I should really be less cowed by these authors...

But I did it! I really did it! I felt so accomplished at the end. I took about six pages of notes, writing down references and words I didn't understand, and I feel like at the end of it, I did my best to get the most out of this one.

I think I liked it. His structure--the references--were really well done. The story line itself feels so classic it's impossible (for me) to critique, but I guess I'll try. Some plot points felt like they weren't carried through to the extent that they should have been. A if, after embarking on a 200-page tangent about whale physiology, he forgot the original point he was trying to make.

He sets certain characters up as main players, then it turns out others are much more poignant. I liked the sense of poetic, dark humour he maintained with the names of the chips. I feel like if I was raised at the time of his writing, with a Christian-religion upbringing, it would have been even more entertaining.

Oh and lastly, the footnotes gave a strong impression of not like Melville at all. There were comments that could almost be described as snarky. Some even so far as biting. Which I think skewed my reading a little, but nothing too damaging.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Book Review: My Boyfriend Wrote a Book About Me

My Boyfriend Wrote a Book About Me, Hilary Winston
5.13.11 - 5.15.11
*lent from a friend

Alright, so I hate when friends recommend books, because it usually feels awkward--as if they're asking me to validate their own literary choices. And 8.5/10 of the time, their recommendations suck (harsh, I know, but also true).

This book was funny on a mediocre level for the first 9/10s (I'm totally digging fractions today, can't you tell?). She's a good writer, but I didn't care a lot about her story. Then the last chapter happened, and she talked about her "exit interview" with the ex who wrote the book about her--how by writing it, he killed their future. She talked about being embarrassed by emotions she still had for him, and hopes and fantasies regarding him, and she did it in a way that made it okay.

My friend was right--I needed to read the book. Not so much for its literary value (it was a good book, don't get me wrong, it just wasn't my cup of tea), but for the message. I needed to hear that it's okay to fantasize about reuniting with exes, about wishing for happy endings. And I needed to read that even when those fantasies don't come true, even when reality sets in and your ex one-night-stands-you or tells you they've never liked your sister, or writes a mean book about you, or any one of a million things but mainly, when they don't fulfill their end of the fantasy, that it's still okay. And it doesn't take away from what you two had.

Not working out for forever doesn't make what was there any less special, or less meaningful.

It was a really good, comforting reminder, and as cheesy as it was, it made me feel a little less alone and ridiculous.

**Oh and also, she wrote the best description of testicles ever. EVER. Known to mankind. It was so spot-on! And still makes me laugh.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Book Review: Great House

Great House, Nicole Krauss
4.29.11 - 5.5.11
*library book

"And though I hadn't had more than three or four relationships, I already knew that each time the thrill of telling another the story of yourself wore off a little more, each time you threw yourself into it a little less, and grew more distrustful of an intimacy that always, in the end, failed to pass into true understanding" -134

I love when I can find a passage in a book that completely summarizes my attitude towards whatever I'm currently experiencing. The ability of books to universally speak without sounding trite is quite the talent.


There's a part towards the end where one of the main characters, an older gentleman, talks about re-reading his favorite books with the awareness that it may be for the last time. Lines like that make my awareness of my own mortality flicker brightly, if only for a moment.

I remember how caught up I was in The History of Love, the other book by Krauss that I've read, and this was no different. The only slightly sour note was the ending. I understand why she crafted it the way she did, but I felt like there were a lot of loose ends still needing to be cleared up. I think that to get the type of ending I wanted, she would have had to have written another hundred pages or so.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Book Update: Moby Dick

That's right, I'm not finished but I'm still going to talk about it. I'm actually super surprised at how long it's staking me to get through this book. I made a joke about it being my white whale (but not really, because I was certain Pynchon was my biggest white whale), BUT OH MY GOD I MIGHT BE WRONG.

This book is taking a long time. Longer than I've spent on any book (apart from maybe Tolstoy's short stories, but that's different, because I was reading other things as well) in a long time.

It's a good exercise in patience, I suppose. A reminder about it being about the journey, rather than the destination. The goal isn't to have read Moby Dick, it is to read Moby Dick.


I don't think I like this book. I'm halfway through and really? Not so much. I'll stick with it, but better believe I'm rewarding myself with some awesome (and ahem short) Russian literature after this.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Book Review: The Reasons I Won't Be Coming and Other Stories

The Reasons I Won't Be Coming & Other Stories
Elliot Perlman
4.12.11 - 4.24.11

Going through the record of my impressions of these short stories was like the best validation for why I should record my thoughts. I really liked seeing how my opinions have changed. I still need to do a re-read of Perlman's Seven Types of Ambiguity to make a final decision, but I'm leaning towards a "yes" when it comes to Perlman. At least, I'm definitely making my sister read these stories!

Good Morning Again: I can't decide if Perlman is self-depricating or just a smug pretentious jerk. But this story made me sad for all the right reasons.

In The Time of the Dinosaurs: So far, during his stories, it's like you can see the movie version. The narrator in an interview chair, talking, with occasional glimpses into the scenes he's describing. I don't say this about fiction often, but I think it'd be better if it was real...

Your Niece's Speech Night: "We never completely lose our childhood appetites; we just add to them, and in doing so, they become a little less conspicuous" For 98% of the story, I liked it. And I really don't want to be anything like his characters. Then I got to the very end, though, and realized I didn't understand this story. Apparently. The ending, to me, screamed "go back and read this over". So I will probably do just that (but I haven't yet).

The Reasons I Won't Be Coming: The reference to the all-ordinaries, a theme in Three Dollars, was like an inside joke of a reference, a nod of approval to his fan base. I think I like these stories. Falling into the cadence is comforting, but also leaves me with a slightly strange feeling that I'm not sure quite how to describe.

Manslaughter: Oh man. I was pretty ambivalent about this story until the last few pages, when it focused on the widow. Intense and strong finish.

The Hong Kong Fir Doctrine: This is possibly the best "break up" short story I've read. I read about half of it aloud, and it felt so perfect.

I Was Only In A Childish Way: His stories grow better every time. This one was my favorite so far. So disjointed...

Spitalnic's Last Year: This one seemed to branch out from his others somehow, but I'm not quite sure how.

A Tale in Two Cities: First one with a female narrator. Intense story. He loses his rhythm with this length, but Jesus did he get it back in the end. The end was so incredibly, amazingly intense (And, side note, reading ANYTHING about Russia makes me itch to get to the Russian parts of my reading list. Can I just whine for a second that Moby Dick is taking waaaaay longer than I thought it would? And not in a good way!!)

Book Review: Howl's Moving Castle

Oops! I forgot to post this a while back when I finished it.

Howl's Moving Castle, Diana Wynne Jones

4.9.11 - 4.10.11

I asked my friends on Facebook for a "happy" book recommendation. Chrissy suggested this one. She said to not bother with the movie, though, that it was pretty horrible. I was super curious because I really liked the movie... I'm actually a really big fan of that director in general.

Having read the book, though, I can see how the movie would be a big letdown after the book. Any film by Miyazaki, I've been trained to suspend my need for complete answers. I've accepted that his worlds don't make sense and that's fine. This book, though, explains so much of that movie. So if you read the book first, it's clear to see that you'd be bitter at how much the movie left out.

I'm very happy with my order, though.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

(Extra Extra) Mini Bucket List: Take TWO!

So I'm only like a month behind in posting this, but here's my list of books to read before July 1st hits. I won't lie, guys, I think this might be too ambitious. I've been hesitating to post it, because I'm already waaay behind schedule. I don't think it's going to happen. But whatever, right! The point is more to eventually read them. It'll happen. I'm excited for all of them.

The Books: (two aren't pictured, because they were in my backpack this morning. Because I'm reading them.)
  1. Moby Dick, Herman Melville
  2. The Reason I Won't Be Coming & Other Stories, Elliot Perlman
  3. Woman: An Intimate Geogrpahy, Natalie Angier
  4. The Portrait of Lady, Henry James
  5. Tales of H.P. Lovecraft
  6. Lost and Found in Russia, Susan Richards
  7. The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov
  8. The Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie (this will be a re-read)
  9. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
  10. The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, Victor Hugo
  11. The Breaking of Eggs, Jim Powell
  12. The Yiddish Policeman's Union, Michael Chabon
  13. Gravity's Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon
  14. White Noise, Don Delillo
I get a little exhausted just looking at that list. But it's all good! There are also a couple of maybes that I'll be checking out from the library. But those are maybes (they are books my sister wants me to read.)

Oh and I'm supposed to reread Seven Types of Ambiguity, by Elliot Perlman. I read it forever ago but remember nothing, and my sister just finished reading it while we were on vacation together and became almost physically violent when she realized I remembered nothing and therefore she couldn't discuss it with me ( longest sentence ever? I think maybe so!).

What I Wore 4.20.11

That's not Waldo, that's a decoy!

It's true. When I first saw this dress, I was with my (somewhat conservatively dressed) sister. She said it would be horrible, that I'd look exactly like Waldo. H&M was too crowded, so I grabbed my size and paid without trying it on (scandalous and brave all at once!). We got back to the hotel we were staying at, I tried it on, and it was love at first sight. Even my sister (grudgingly admitted that she) loved it.

That being said, when she picked me up from the train the other day, I was wearing it and she laughed. She said it still makes her think of Waldo. I told her I like that quality about the dress (it's true!). It makes walking downtown Seattle so much more interesting.
Dress: H&M
Collar: I made from this tutorial
Sweater: my sister's closet (shhh)
Tights: Fred Meyers (woot, they were a gift from my Aunt & Uncle)

Everytime someone looks at me, I imagine they're thinking "I found Waldo!..... Oh, wait, no. She's just a decoy...."Here's a close-up of the collar. If I had to do it differently, I'd use an actual ribbon like the tutorial told me to do. I thought I was being clever using cording, but I wasn't. I was being silly, and the cording doesn't like to stay knotted. I'm super in love with it, though, but it does point out how I don't have any normal, round-necked shirts to wear with it. Guess I need to get me some!

Also, do you like the make up I'm wearing? I never wear make up, but I may have a date tonight... Shhh....

Friday, April 15, 2011

Book Review: The Lovely Bones

The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold
4.1.11 - 4.5.11

I started this one at the bookstore, but I ended up checking a copy out from the library.
Maybe I just need to come up with a better genre description, bu this felt more in line with "experimental writing" fiction--like, some dreamed-up concept at a writer's workshop was developed into a full-fledged novel. I'm not sure how I feel about these books on the whole. Take away the main catalyst, and would I still care about reading it? I'm not sure.

I will say, though, that I think the writer is a strong one. It may be due in part because I read the book while PMSing, but there were multiple scenes throughout where I was very near to tears. Which implies a talented writer (or a hormonal reader... Either way...).

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

I Love My Coworkers (And I bought a book...)

For my birthday, my coworkers gave me a very thoughtful and sentimental card along with a gift card to my favorite (local! woot!) bookstore. It was pretty exciting to indulge in some random book-buying (although not so random that both books I indulged in weren't already massively on my Need To Have list!)

I have a list of books that are my April-May-June list. It's exciting. I'll share it soon (you can read along? if you like? if "you" exist?)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

(Extra Extra) Mini Bucket List: A Recap

The Books I Want To Read Before I'm Twenty Three Years Old
(I told you it was extra extra mini)

  • [X]Dhalgren, Samuel Delaney
  • [X]The River Why, David James Duncan
  • [X]Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy (trans. Richard Pevear & Larissa Volohonsky)
  • [X]A Blade of Grass, Lewis DeSoto
  • [X]Doctor Zhivago, Boris Pasternak (trans. Richard Pevear & Larissa Volohonsky)
  • [X]Freedom, Jonathan Franzen
  • [X]The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen
  • [X]Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
  • [X]The Death of Ivan Ilvych and Other Stories, Leo Tolstoy (trans. Richard Pevear & Larissa Volohonsky)
  • [X]As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner
  • [~]The Heartbreaking Work of a Staggering Genius, Dave Eggers

Since I decided to most certainly nix The Hearbreaking Work of a Staggering Genius (I feel like that will get me some angry looks. I get that it's a huge deal for some people, but I tried reading it three times and each time fell flat on my face. It was boring. There, I said. Boring. To me, at least), then I have most certainly, definitely completed my (extra extra) mini bucket list!

Which is exciting, since I turn twenty-three this Friday (April First. Awkward, I know). I have a new list for the months of April, May and June. It'll be exciting. What's even more exciting, though, is that I finally finished posting all my back-logged book reviews! Yay!

Well, except my reviews of the Steig Larsson books. Those will take some time, since it was kind of a process.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Book Review: Three Dollars

Three Dollars, Elliot Perlman
3.21.11 – 3.22.11

Again, a book that felt more like a writer’s exercise (three in a row! Unfortunate). Well, that’s not entirely accurate. I think I might just be in the wrong mod for the particular genre, but it felt like all the author did was enjoy listening to the sound of his own (figurative) voice. He does remind me of Jonathan Franzen, a bit, in his attempt to capture a generation through a selected handful of people.

His protagonist was too perfect—he literally did nothing wrong, and he didn’t initiate anything. He would not stand up to [my friend]’s character screen wright test. The main protagonist was the center of the book, and yet he wasn’t an active character—his name was merely a placeholder for events to revolve around.

Now I have to re-read Seven Types of Ambiguity and determine if it’s any good, beyond its plot. TO see if the characters have any substance, that is.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Book Review: Her Fearful Symmetry

Her Fearful Symmetry, Audrey Niffenegger
3.20.11 – 3.21.11

This book was less enveloping than her other, The Time-Traveler’s Wife. I think it is because this one had less sympathetic characters. I liked reading it the way I liked watching Matchpoint—sometimes, there’s a morbid thrill in watching the bad guy get away.

That being said, the book felt more like a a writing exercise than a complete novel. She even wrote in the author interview afterward that it was put together more as a challenge, of combining various clich├ęs and seeing what type of book came out of it.

Also, this is the book I bought and was afraid I wouldn't finish reading before my rule of one month was up. I proved myself wrong (always exciting when that happens!)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Book Review: The Unincorporated Man

The Unincorporated Man, Dani & Eytan Kollin
3.19.11 – 3.20.11

My brother-in-law mentioned this book after we talked about The Wind-Up Girl. He hasn’t read it, but had it recommended to him. The main weakness, I think, is that the book settled definitively on a right and wrong. I think that Bacigalupi’s treatment of his topic was a lot more, if not open-minded, then exploratory.

But I suppose it asks the question—are there concepts, or moments, where having black-and-white definitions of right and wrong are important? The book answered yes, in regards to individual freedom. It declared that freedom and initiative is more important than a successful economic system.

I was also disappointed by the introduction of sentient life apart from humans and the complete failure to do anything with it. That storyline had a very Orson Scott Card-inspired feel, but then after two scenes I think the writers forgot about it. Or maybe they had a whole separate storyline, and then it was chopped in the editing process and they forgot to remove those two scenes. But I guess that’s life.

This book felt, the whole time, like a pilot for a book, rather than a book itself. It had the air of a project that was a little bit forced, and not particularly organic. Or it was as if it was written by people who, as imaginative as they are, are not in the least writers.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Book Review: The Selected Works of T.S Spivet

The Selected Works of T.S Spivet, Reif Larsen
3.14.11 – 3.19.11

I had to get beyond the dislike I felt for the author (he felt so smug in his picture!), but once I did, the book was fabulous. It was sporadically unfinished in some parts, like the entire train of the story dealing with his mom and her work of fiction, but other than that, I really enjoyed it. I think having unfinished story lines within complex novels is the trademark of overly-ambitious authors, but what can you do? (Nothing. You can do nothing). I loved the use of the illustrations, and a lot of them made me laugh out loud. I like the innocence that the kid maintained throughout—remind the adults in the book that of course he can’t answer questions like that, he’s just a kid!

I feel, though, some doubt about how real his character could be. I get that he’s a genius little cartographer, and his prodigy status isn’t what pops the bubble of fiction, but rather, the whole setting and his upbringing and his responses to that upbringing felt bizarrely out of touch with the real world, but in an almost-perfect way. Like the author was trying for realism, but failed, rather than if the author had just umped straight into creating a fictional world.

I feel like incorporating the modern world with things like internet and cell phone is [proving to be a hard task for authors, and I’m not entirely sure why. It seems to clash with novel structures in some way. I wonder if it it’s a problem every generation of writers has when it comes to including technology, or if we’ve grown advanced enough in such a short amount of time that it sounds too much like science fiction. I think, in retrospect, that it’s one of the reasons I liked Franzen’s Freedom so much. He seemed to do it somewhat effectively.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Book Review: Equal Rites

Equal Rites, Terry Pratchett
3.16.11 – 3.17.11

The gentleman from my favorite used bookstore gave (not sold, but gave) the book to me after I told him I’ve only been reading depressing, heavy fiction.

His recommendation proved solid, and I enjoyed it for the entertaining evening it provided. It’s not my kind of book—at least, not for what I’m into right now. I might check them out from the library on occasion, but I don’t really want to make a financial investment in a book that felt on par with a bag of Skittles. Not if the book costs more than a bag of Skittles, that is.

As fun as the book was, and as renowned as Terry Pratchett is, I didn’t think it was a god, strong story. The humour was strong, and I laughed hard, for sure. But the plot felt so unfocused that when it finally reached the climax, I didn’t know what had happened. It was as if the story was so obvious to Pratchett that he never realized he didn’t actually type it out.

It did make me, quite literally, laugh out loud, though. And it cured me of my literary-induced depression.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Book Review: Death of Ivan Ilyich & Other Short Stories

The Death of Ivan Ilyich & Other Stories, Leo Tolstoy
2.23.11 - 3.16.11

Art is "that human activity which consists in one man's consciously conveying to others, by certain external signs, the feelings he has experienced, an din others being infection by those feelings and also experiencing them"

-The Prisoner of the Caucasus
Tolstoy claims this is his only (fiction/short story?) that fit in the definition of Good Art, as the second type: "universal art, which conveys the simplest everyday feelings of life, such as are accessible to everyone in the world". It seems like one of the plainer, parred-down even "boring" pieces he's done--the beauty of art is in the superfluous details, the artistic embellishments and interpretation, I think.

-The Diary of a Madman
I like that th etitle was almost The Diary of a Non-Madman, to make clear the point was his sanity--courts even ruled him sane, he said in the beginning. But because he didn't share what he felt was the truth. Which was?

-The Death of Ivan Ilyich
I really think Tolstoy is just so purely, simply genius. His prose has that simple cadence, it just captures small details in very intentional, or at least purposeful, ways to build a picture.

-The Kreutzer Sonata
This story struck me by its similarity to the relationship between Gary & Caroline in Franzen's The Corrections. It's really depressing, especially considering that means the relationship dynamics that make people that unhappy have persisted through the decades.

-The Devil
Also in line with the theme of hopelessness and crushing inevitability that seems to be the theme of all the books I've read lately. I like the two alternate endings, especially that Tolstoy made clear that regardless of who the character shoots, the point is that he isn't insane--his struggles are the same struggles as anyone's, that he is tormented less by what he does and feels, but more by his awareness of its larger impacts. In the end, his morality and repugnance at the situation is what gets misconstrued as insane. Which is a very strong, very sad social commentary.

-Master & Man
This one I'll have to think about some more. I feel like there are some very topical metaphors present, but also probably deeper ones buried in the text that I'll have to go hunting for. Most of this short story, as well as in his others, I feel like Tolstoy doesn't like people--that he doesn't find them, by and large, to be redeemable creatures. But I think, maybe he feels like societal influences--namely, wealth accumulation, is the root cause--that when faced with the bare bones, with mortality, they can be the best of themselves.

This story also confirms the suspicious I had in Anna Karenina, that Tolstoy uses muzhiks as symbols for inner peace and morality. He respects them so much more than the upper class.

-Father Sergius
Tolstoy's opinions of people baffle and elude me. The main character's biggest sine was awareness of his sins. Self-awareness is painful, and yet, he was punished for it. I understand the morality tale, but I disagree with the price of his sin. It's too high--it's as if he gets no credit for trying.

-After The Ball
Men (people) have more in them that is bad than is good, and it is the self-aware who suffer the most from this.

-The Forged Coupon
Felt more like a writing exercise than a short story, but it was interesting to read where Tolstoy deviates from his norm. I enjoyed it. Very moral-filled, though. Also, this was the first time I think I've ever read Tolstoy refer to muzhiks in a negative context.

-Alyosha the Pot
Annnnnd back to idealizing the poor. Good ol' Tolstoy

-Hadig Murat
This felt so very different from his other short stories. I feel like if I went and read War & Peace again, they would be in similar veins. What struck me the most was that throughout the story, Tolstoy waxed lyrical and he deviated from his normally dry descriptive prose. He might not consider it art, but I certainly do.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Book Review: The Corrections

The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen
2.17.11 - 3.15.11

This book is taking longer than I anticipated. It's also growing abundantly clear that Freedom is better.

I feel like a month is much too long to spend on a book, but I have to factor in a couple of details. First, I didn't read it for the majority of the month, but rather I finished it in only three or four sittings. Secondly, I didn't read it consistently because I just didn't enjoy it. The whole book--the plot, the characters, and their interactions, were just so depressing.

It felt like the thing that was good in Freedom--that the characters were incredibly, convincingly real, was the downside in The Corrections. I don't want that to be real. There were no moments where he fixed messy ends, and while I understand that isn't how it works in real life, I'd like to argue that it's the entire book in books. I felt like The Corrections existed solely to remind you how unfailingly, unchangeably depressingly life is. Which was clearly not what I was in the book for!

This is the second time I've read the book, though, and I didn't like it the second time any more than I remember liking it the first time. i think he just didn't have his focus as clearly in his first novel, and it felt like a more unpolished version of his writing. His book Freedom was a better-donne version of The Corrections.

That being said, I'm pretty sure that I would gain a lot if I discussed this book with other people. It's the kind of book that I have really strong blinkers on regarding, and other perspectives would be nice.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Confession: I bought a book

**Update: Totally finished it! Woot! It helped that I was super bogged down with a cold for almost a week. Gave me plenty of time.

That's right, I bought a book. And I have two (three, if I don't give up on Staggering Work) before April first. The likelihood of me finishing this one, too? Slim.


It was at Costco, for super cheap, and I've been waiting for it to come out in paperback for a while. Audrey Niffenegger's Her Fearful Symmetry. And I'm super excited about it. So we'll see. Maybe I'll squeeze it in on a quiet Sunday.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Book Review: The Crying of Lot 49

The Crying of Lot 49, Thomas Pynchon
2.27.11 - 3.4.11

[Everytime I go to Oregon, I get bit by the "want to read Pynchon" bug. Won't like, though--I'm intimidated. He scares me the way James Joyce scares me]

That I finished this makes me feel vastly more accomplished and proud that I should be.

There's a certain style of writing, a particular attitude that various authors have and I lump them together and analyze them with a particular lens. Vonnegut, Palahniuk, Pynchon. Danielewski. They all have this raw, unpolished attitude in their writing. That they might not be anarchists is true, but I'm sure they are all in love with the notion, and of chaos.

They all require readings to be understandable, they require a type of familiarity with the material that borders on memorization in order to see through the gauzy curtains of their literary chaos. It is clear to see why they have cults created around them. I enjoyed this book, most certainly. Finishing it make sme feel mildly more confident in my decision to add Gravity's Rainbow to my next batch of reading assignments.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Edit the (Extra Extra) Mini Bucket List?

I started reading The Heartbreaking Work of a Staggering Genius, but I'm really not sure I even want to finish it... Maybe I'll change my mind soon. I only have one more month (my deadline is April 1) to finish my reread of The Corrections and The Death of Ivan Ilyvich (of which I've finished four stories).

I've also brainstormed my next batch of books that I will have until July to read (my exorbitant amount of free time will most likely decrease drastically in July, so I figure I should utilize that time while I have it).

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Book Review: The Wind-Up Girl

The Wind-Up Girl, Paola Bacigalupi
3.1.11 - 3.2.11
*library book

I've been waiting to read this book for months, and I've been on the library's wait list for almost as long. I followed my sister's example and bought this book as a present for a friend's upcoming birthday but I read it before I wrapped it up. It was to make sure she would like it (she will, I'm pretty sure it's right up her alley).

When [the friend] and I went for pHo the other day, we were talking about books and what makes strong characters. She said that with screenplays (she graduated with a degree in theater), you cover the names of the people speaking and figure out if you can tell who they are. I kept that in mind with this book, and it passed the test. All of the characters (literally all except one) had their own personalities, agendas and motives. It made for a fascinating read.

The story itself was what I was the most excited about--I've definitely had an ongoing, growing fixation on post-apocalypse worlds. The story-line was a bit of a let-down, though. I think the author spent so much time developing the characters and the word that he had little energy left over for the plot.

It also felt weird that the entire novel is named after a character who plays such a small (albeit important--crucial, even role. And I liked that the main character was presented in two perspectives. Is he bad? Evil? Sympathetic?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Book Review: The Lady & The Panda

The Lady & The Panda, Vicki Constantine Croke
2.22.11 - 2.23.11
*library book

I was reading this for a book club at my local (awesome) book store, but I think I'm skipping the book club, because I'm grumpy. The book itself was good--I immediately, as in, within the first thirty pages, recommended it to my mom. The author clearly has an enormous, almost excessive, amount of adoration for her subject matter, but that didn't detract from the book in the way I initially feared it might.

The subject matter was interesting, and made me ask a lot of questions--she devoted her life (successfully) to pandas on what seems like a whim. I also wonder about the "successfully" adjective--I wonder how much of the zoo system she actually changed, or influenced. Reading about her releasing the panda felt like reading a fiction novel, which I really enjoyed. Reading about her ongoing depression and bouts of isolation was also really interesting--the author captured all the elements of her subject matter, not just the ones that made for a pretty little story.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Book Review: Winkie

Winkie, Clifford Chase
2.20.11 - 2.21.11
*library book

An old friend from high school recommended the book. I didn't like it. The ideas and the concept were all very good but somehow the execution fell flat. The important parts felt hurried and rushed and there were a lot of lulls in the novel where it felt like the story dragged on endlessly.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Book Review: As I Lay Dying

As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner
2.12.11 - 2.20.11

"And Cash like sawing the long hot sad yellow day up into planks and nailing them to something" -- 26

I can't say I enjoyed this one a whole lot. The sentences were just a little too long for my taste, I suppose. I read a character summary in the beginning to help me keep track of everyone, and that helped more than I feel like should be necessary (had the book been written better).

My dad was the one who recommended the book to me. It was while I was in high school. I was in Borders, talking to him on the phone, and I was going through a pretty hard time. He said he had read the book in high school when he was going through a (albeit much milder) rough time, and it helped a lot.

Usually his recommendations are pretty decent. Still not quite sure why I didn't like this one--I can't think of an articulate critique, so I think I'll have to read The Sound & The Fury before I make up my mind about Faulkner.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Book Review: Frankenstein

[The Original] Frankenstein, Mary Shelley (w Percy Shelley edits)
2.10.11 - 2.12.11

"I have no ties and no affections, hatred and vice must be my portion. The love of another will destroy the cause of my crimes and I shall become a thing of whose existence every one will be ignorant. My vices are the children of a forced solitude that I abhor, and my virtues will necessary arise when I shall receive the sympathy of an equal" --p172

I just read the version with Percy Shelley's edits, not the newly released "pure" version. Some of (most of) the footnotes were clearly aimed at people who've read it a million times, and it meant there were spoilers. Which is unfortunate. It's difficult to figure out which books you need to have someone hold your hand through with extensive footnotes and editor comments and which are better to explore on your own. Doctor Zhivago, by going it alone, I know I missed a lot. Frankenstein had too much hand-holding.

The novel itself was incredibly intriguing, though. I can see how it's stood up to the test of time so well. The practically constant transition between where your sympathies are pulled was rather thought provoking. Maybe it's due to all the cultural history surrounding the story, but I felt so much sympathy for both the monster and his creator.

Pity for the monster, because he truly is pitiable, is easy--how awful to be designed as something horrifying, and then thrust into a word where everyone reviles you. He's fairly easy to pity.

Frankenstein, though, I more pity for being a man who clearly made a mistake, and continues to pay for it. My sympathy for him is more rooted in knowing what it feels like to be trapped by your own bad choices.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Book Review: Doctor Zhivago

Doctor Zhivago, Boris Pasternak
1.21.11 - 2.10.11
"Art is inconceivable without risk, without inner sacrifice; freedom and boldness of imagination can be won only in the process of work" --Pasternak, speech

While reading the introduction, it talked about his style and how he followed Tolstoy's style of the novel, to create a concept of Russian life. it makes his novel make much more sense than I think it otherwise would have had I not read the introduction. The seemingly random jumping around feels less random and more intentional.

I haven't read the poetry yet. I feel like I missed a lot of poignant, essential foreshadowing. Such as the moment with the candle on the table--I didn't make the connection that it was the same candle for Zhivago and Larissa. I think if I had caught more of those subtle moments where their lives intercrossed, the romance would have been much less surprising. I remembered at one point wondering if their's was to be a great romance, but dismissing it. They both have happy marriages. Maybe Larya's less so, because of the distance her husband puts between the two after she reveals her secret, but Zhivago and his wife are two halves to a whole. Interesting concept. And Zhivago had three "wives" total--the first, his other half. The second, his great romance. The third, a nice woman with whom he pops out two children.

I want to reread, but I think I'll wait a few months until it is winter again. Call me bizarre and obsessive, but I think wintertime is the best for Russian novels.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

My (Extra Extra) Mini Bucket List

The Books I Want To Read Before I'm Twenty Three Years Old
(I told you it was extra extra mini)

  • [X]Dhalgren, Samuel Delaney
  • [X]The River Why, David James Duncan
  • [X]Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy (trans. Richard Pevear & Larissa Volohonsky)
  • [X]A Blade of Grass, Lewis DeSoto
  • [X]Doctor Zhivago, Boris Pasternak (trans. Richard Pevear & Larissa Volohonsky)
  • [X]Freedom, Jonathan Franzen
  • [ ]The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen
  • [X]Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
  • [ ]The Death of Ivan Ilvych and Other Stories, Leo Tolstoy (trans. Richard Pevear & Larissa Volohonsky)
  • [X]As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner
  • [ ]The Heartbreaking Work of a Staggering Genius, Dave Eggers
Now, I'll admit, it seems like it's cheating to already have some books knocked off the list as I publish this, but it has been my list since I graduated--I've only now gotten around to posting it. There will be some backlog book reviews to enter (I'm recording them all in a notebook, with a good old fashioned pen, so it's really a matter of me overcoming my laziness and posting it online).

Using What You've Got

I have this really big problem with books. That is, I have this really big problem with buying books. That is, when I'm working part-time for a non-profit and have very very limited expendable income (as in, none), I have a big problem with not being able to afford my book addiction.

[enter New Year's Resolution ideas, stage left]

I made a joke about my New Year's Resolution being a commitment to not dating for an entire year (which, while made tongue-in-cheek, elicited enough laughter that I'm considering it for reals, but that's a very different story).

Since one can never have enough tongue-in-cheek Resolutions, though, I thought about tacking another one on. First I thought about proclaiming to the (blogging) world that I wouldn't buy a book for an entire year, but that just.. hurt. Physical pain at the thought of not buying a book. That, and I know it would make my family and friends laugh at me even more than they already do (in a loving way, of course).

So here it is: [drumroll, please...]

I will read ever book on my shelf. I will record my findings. And I will (try) to blog about it.

First I had to make a list of ever book I own, which took a fair few hours. The final count is somewhere around three hundred. Then I have to type up that list (in progress), and then determine which ones I've already read (I'm guessing somewhere around 65-70%).

Then I shall systematically read the rest. If I'm incredibly unwilling to read it, then by god into the trash it goes! (And by "trash", I of course mean sold off to a used book store or donated to my local library)

If I can't stand it and really need to read something not on my list, I can check it out from the library. If I really need it, I can buy it. BUT I must then read it within the month.

Currently, I have a stack of goals to achieve before my 23rd birthday (April first). I'm about halfway through, which is good progress.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Book Review: Freedom

Freedom, Jonathan Franzen
1.21.11 - 1.29.11

Franzen is one of the few authors I know capable of creating not merely characters, or even deep characters, but entire people. His books are these fascinating case studies that manage, inconceivably, to deal with all the relevant social and political issues of the period he's writing in. I'm not just in awe of how he writes, but there's actual shock that it is possible to deal with the entirety of a decade, and the viewpoints in it, in the way he does.

I've heard of authors, who, during interviews, respond to the question "did you know how the story would end before you wrote the ending"* or some such question, respond to it by saying they merely created the characters, and the characters created the story. I can't imagine Franzen giving any answer other than that one--his characters are so real and complete, I have a hard time imagining them doing anything Franzen asked them to, unless they originally wanted to.

I'm really excited to re-read The Corrections. Also, the last twenty-one words of this book make me feel sucker punched, and I'm almost started crying right there in the coffee shop where I finished it. That is a rare response to a book. For me, at least.

*Confession: my mom asks this question every time she goes to an author event, and I think it's a super interesting question. I also think that the way my mom interacts with her books is super interesting, but that's a totally different blog post.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Book Review: A Blade of Grass

A Blade of Grass, Lewis DeSoto
1.15.11 - 1.20.11

"Did you intend for A Blade of Grass to be more of a social and political commentary or a reflection on the inner lives of your characters? If a story unfolds in a country torn by conflict, is it possible for it NOT to be political?"

That was a question from the reader's guide in the back of the book. Good question--resonates, and I'm sure I'll ask it for other novels as well. It feels unavoidable, though, that politics will enter into the dialogue. Tembi's character was the most interesting to me. It felt, when reading her decisions and choices, the most apparent that it was written by a white, male South African. It was mostly the way the white woman, Marit, always knew more than Tembi, or how she always seemed to act in a morally superior way, despite the intentional parallels in their journeys.

It seems like that can't be explained by the novel being a character study. How inherently racism enters into someone raised in that environment, I really don't know. But it seemed like the author felt Tembi had a lot more to learn, both socially and emotionally, or at least had a much harder time learning it, than Marit.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Book Review: Anna Karenina

Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
trans. Richard Pevear & Larissa Volohonsky
1.4.11 - 1.17.11

Rereading. Finished it so fast. The first time I read this, I was a freshman at Western, for a class taught by Professor Margaritas, about whom much is debated, particularly the origin (and authenticity)of his "accent".

He was an excellent (albeit exacting) professor, and this book was one of the five that we read (four? four and a short story?). I felt like I truly learned a lot from the class and felt I had a comprehensive (though far from complete) understanding of the novel. I read War & Peace on my own later on, and hoped I'd reread Anna Karenina before I died. I'm so pleased with (and proud of, truth be told) myself for getting to it three years later.

The parts that particularly struck me, aside from those that were the same from my initial reading, in particular were the ways Tolstoy described Levin in important moments--namely, with the preparation for his wedding and the birth of his son. I was so impressed with how he captured the bubble Levin was in, and he did it so sensitively and gracefully you knew immediately (without all of the indicators) that Tolstoy identified with him the most.

The other thing I noticed, or suspect, is that Tolstoy used the muzhiks intentionally, and the way Levin thought about them, as in, to work with them and understand his relationship with them, as a way of discovering his spirituality and beliefs contrasts so sharply with the fear Anna felt with the one in her nightmares, who also seemed to represent some kind of slow, inevitable natural process.

Which in turn makes me think, along with other moments here and there, that Tolstoy really wasn't at all sympathetic to Anna's character and decisions. Which isn't what I would have thought, initially. Especially because I feel sympathetic towards her. I know that as a woman in the 21st century I am bound to approach her dilemma differently than him, but it still surprises me that despite the different approach, we end up with different conclusions. I didn't think we would.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Book Review: The River Why

The River Why, David James Duncan
1.10.11 - 1.12.11

Mary (my stepmom) gave me this book for Christmas after I saw she was wrapping it for an unnamed someone else. I told her how good, amazing, gut-wrenching his other book, The Brothers K, was. It magically became one of my Christmas presents from her. That really wasn't my intent, but I'm so glad it's what happened. I love this author.

For a book on flyfishing, it was utterly incredible. For a book, it was utterly incredible. ___________, it was utterly incredible. I finished it at The Woods, set it down, and took some deep breaths. The book literally (not figuratively!) left me breathless. I didn't even overly resonate with the message itself, which was a search for the main character's spiritual and religious awareness. I was so very, very, very impressed with how the author achieved this message. His style and execution, as well as his simple and pure metaphors, was so well done.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Book Review: Dhalgren

Dhalgren, Samuel DeLaney
12.8.10 - 1.6.11

Checked this book out of the library the day I turned in my very last college assignment (Senior Seminar paper on Liberalism and Scott's Politics of the Veil, ahem, not that it matters). What I loved was the introduction someone else wrote about it--comparing the city in the story to the Hippie movement in the sixties. How not everyone went there, but of those who did, very few (some say none) ever return.

The book made me think a lot about House of Leaves, and Dhalgren is definitely on my reread list. I looked for a used copy and the bookstore owner told me it was one of those books--many start, few finish. I want to tell him I finished, but (one) it feels like inappropriate bragging and (two) he wouldn't remember me anyway.

I had to buy the book new.

The writing itself struck me as very powerful. I know I'm naturally an escapist who loves to lose herself in literature, but this book captured me forcibly, whether I wanted to be or not. I remember reading it in my standard little coffee shop and afterward walking down the street to work, and looking at the sky. It was odd to have to remind myself that I don't live in an anarchist, post-apocalyptic, abandoned city. The writing was fluid enough to make me occasionally forget what was actually reality.