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.