Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A Tremendously Bookish Weekend (a wee bit late)

The following lizard photo is for decorative purposes only. He hasn't objected, but he's totally unaware that his image is being used for blog adornment. The photographer gratefully acknowledges his kindness and patience in posing at great length.

We now return to normality.

Even though it was a holiday weekend that involved a lot of driving kiddo to work and back, entertaining the eldest (sort of) and having a nuisance husband around to make messes (he excels; it's not just a habit, it's a skill set), I got some great reading done. Unfortunately, it's at least in part because I'm so used to a quiet house that sometimes I become Hermit Bookfool and disappear with a stack of books and a pile of pillows while the family hangs out. This weekend, the husband and eldest watched kamikaze insects divebomb into a hot citronella candle while they drank wine on the porch. I tried being sociable but that's just disturbing, watching insects fly to their doom. I had to run away and read. The lightning bugs were enchanting, twinkling all over the back yard, but the kamikaze bugs were just too much.

Anyway, I got a lot of reading done, so here's a run-down.

1. Tarnished Beauty by Cecelia Samartin is the story of Jamilet, a girl born in Mexico with a huge, ugly birthmark and an unfortunate paternal history. The birthmark forces her to dress with extreme modesty and endure vicious taunts. I will write a full review of this one, soon, but I was so completely captivated by this story that I could barely stand to put it down for a breather. I read, I ate, I read, I sipped drinks, I read and read and read. Jamilet and the man she eventually befriends are wonderful characters. Particularly of note is the way the author blends enchanting paragraphs full of beautiful word pictures with honest dialogue. So, one second you may be reading about the beauty of the sunset and the next minute someone is asking the character who is rhapsodizing why the heck doesn't she just get herself a beer instead of staring off into the sunset (that's not an actual part of the book -- just a rough example). That clash of beauty and common language makes it incredibly believable and even a little bit magical.

2. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert -- I finished the "Eat" section, the portion in which author Gilbert describes her 4-month stay in Italy, during which she worked on improving her conversational Italian, healing from her nasty divorce, traveling around Italy to learn its history and savor its beauty and (most important) eating very, very good Italian food. I really enjoyed that part of the book, so I decided I needed to take a short breather before moving on to India. I've begun the India or "Pray" section, as of last night, and I'm enjoying it. I'm also glad I took a break between sections because the tone is a bit different and I think it might have been a bit jarring to move right from Italy to India. Such a contrast!

3. The Lottery by Shirley Jackson - I read a few stories from this collection, earlier in the week, and decided to read more. This book is an anthology of Shirley Jackson's short stories and most have left me feeling like, "Uh, so what was the point of that?" until this last batch. I love her writing but think it all boils down to endings -- love the voice, the mystery, the suspense . . . often hate the denouement. There's one story, for example, about a girl who claims the world is going to end because an asteroid is going to hit Earth. You don't know whether she's imagining things or predicting the future but either way it's kind of creepy and the suspense builds until the end, which is just a total letdown.

This weekend, I read "Trial by Combat", "The Villager", "My Life with R. H. Macy", "The Witch", "The Renegade", and "After You, My Dear Alphonse". And, I came away from this particular bunch of stories feeling entirely different. There was a depth I thought many of her other stories have lacked. Was it my mood? An ability to relate to some of the characters or situations? I don't know. But, I got so much from those stories that I'm thinking about doing a separate post on them. We'll see. First, what else did the crazy girl read?

Ah, yes, a weekend just isn't right without Alfred Bester. This week, I read "5,271,009" from Virtual Unrealities. It was one of the most flat-out bizarre, mind-boggling stories I've ever read. And, yet, at the same time I have an idea what it was about (but I'm not certain) and it made me laugh several times. There's a character whose mode of speech is so ridiculous that I can't possibly repeat it. I'll just have to post an excerpt:

"It's extremely odd, Mr. Aquila." Derelict seemed to struggle with himself. "Your coming in like this. A Halsyon monochrome arrived not five minutes ago."
"You see?
Tempo ist Richtung. Well?"
"I'd rather not show it to you. For personal reasons, Mr. Aquila."
"HimmelHerrGott! Pourquoi? She's bespoke?"
"N-no, sir. Not for
my personal reasons. For your personal reasons."
"Oh? God damn. Explain myself to me."

Well, that made me chuckle.

Last, but not least, I read a few nonfiction entries from Best Little Stories from World War II by C. Brian Kelly. There's a pattern to the way he tells the stories and it's a wee bit annoying -- the way he dangles information about some mystery person and you find yourself thinking, "Who is it? Who is it?" But, the story about the young WWI soldier who served as a messenger and repeatedly escaped harm while running messages from place to place -- a job that only about 50% survived -- was fascinating enough to really buck up my interest. That young soldier who repeatedly escaped harm, was injured but not badly, was temporarily blinded by chlorine gas but got his sight back and lived on was Hitler. Oh. I didn't know all that. Yeah, that worked. I'll continue working on this one. Come to think of it, that format is beginning to grow on me.

Had to return High Cotton to the library, today, but they had a cart full of ARCs sitting out with a "FREE" sign, again. Oh, goodness gracious. I cannot resist those free ARCs. I may have to post a list separately, but I began to read one that appealed to me because it will nicely fit the Southern Reading Challenge. The author is from Shreveport, Louisiana. It's a memoir and I just adore the way she tells stories of her childhood. Oops, sorry for the accidental posting at this point. The book is On Our Way to Beautiful by Yolanda Young. More on that, later.

Hope everyone had a terrific weekend!


  1. Holy crap! That WAS a great reading weekend. I wish I'd done that much. Eat, Pray, Love is winging its way to me as we speak. Wheee!

  2. "We now return to normality"?

    Ummm... sure.

    There is one thing that is good about my vertigo - forced idleness is perfect for reading!

    Tarnished Beauty sounds interesting by what was it I read about Eat, Pray, Love? It wasn't very flattering, whatever it was. I still to this day think The Lottery was one of the most bizarre stories I've ever read. That and the one by Kafka where the guy turned into a bug...

    You do read a wide variety of things, don't you? That exerpt left me scratching my head. And I wish my library did neat things like that!


  3. Andi,

    It was wonderful. Sometimes reading is just like climbing into a hot tub. It's so addictive you can't talk yourself into getting out.

    I'm loving Eat, Pray, Love. At the same time, I can understand why some people consider it self-indulgent. But, that doesn't bother me. I think her experiences and her manner of telling the stories more than make up for a little personal weirdness.


    Well, sort of. I guess we never quite reach normality, around here.

    Yes, true, been there with the vertigo. It makes a great excuse for doing little but read, since you can't move much.

    Tarnished Beauty is really good. Eat, Pray, Love is a take-it-or-leave-it book. Most people like it but those who don't really don't. They tend to find it self-indulgent and annoying. And, honestly, the choices she made . . . I can't imagine myself there. I like reading about her experiences within the different cultures, though. Her personal life is the part I try to ignore.

    The Lottery is definitely bizarre. I couldn't get through the Kafka story, but Joe Hill wrote a similar story about a kid who turned into a bug and it was revolting. Definitely not my thing.

    Yes, I do read a wide variety. The excerpt is my favorite example; but, man . . . that is one weird story. Not my favorite, but I still appreciate the fact that it made me laugh.

  4. That lizard may know more than he's letting on.

    I realize it's terribly unattractive to be so envious, but dang if I can help it. My family won't let me hide away and read...I've tried disguises and quarantine signs and padlocks, but nothing seems to deter them.

    You've definitely got me intrigued with Tarnished Beauty...sounds like a fantastic book!

  5. Wow! You really did have a good reading weekend!!
    'Eat, Pray, Love' shows up everywhere all the time it seems. I've never felt any desire to read it. I think I'd be prone to fall into the camp that finds it self-indulgent and annoying. Who knows though. Maybe I'll give it a try someday when I have nothing else to read! ;P

    I just read your 'About Me' blurb on your profile. Is it new? Or did I just never notice before.. Anyway, had to chuckle at the tripping over your own skirt. Yesterday I tripped over my own feet and really whacked my knee, arms are kinda sore too from bracing against the fall. No missing parts (that is very cool that your finger tip grew back!) but a nice big purple bruise for my efforts! Clumsy.. me? No... ;)

  6. Debi,

    The lizard was very much aware of me. I think he just couldn't decide whether to love me or ignore me. LOL

    My family has required years of training involving a noisy, messy wailing woman. Now, they know to let me just retreat and hide when I need quiet and reading time. Not that it always works, but I think my husband is particularly sensitive to the fact that when the entire family descends I get more than a little fruity.

    I really enjoyed Tarnished Beauty. Oh, oh, oh! Maybe I'll get a blame point! :)


    I did. It was wonderful.

    Exactly the same sentiments I had. I figured I'd find it self-indulgent and annoying. There are moments that I think, "Oh, for crying out loud." But, for the most part I'm just enjoying her wacky sense of humor, the people she meets, and the descriptions.

    I've changed my profile blurb twice. I got tired of looking at the other one, so I decided I'd change that regularly, when I change the photos in my sidebar. I haven't come up with another blurb, this week, though.

    Ouch, ouch on the tripping. Yeah, I really did trip over my skirt (it was a "maxi" skirt -- I was 9 years old) and chopped off half of the top bit of one finger. You can't tell at all. It's completely normal. But, I keep doing things like that -- I'm still a klutz. I hope you heal quickly. :)

  7. Sounds like you had a wonderful, booky weekend. Mine was not. In fact, this whole month has flown by with me reading so very little. I enjoyed wonderful times playing games, eating and visiting with extended family who were in town.

  8. Anonymous6:19 PM

    At last the lizard gets his credits.

    All those books and all I can think of is [whiningly] I want to go to Italy for four months! Think I'll need money? Speak Italian?

  9. Booklogged,

    It sounds like you had a great weekend! Yep, mine was definitely very booky. It's what I'd call restorative to have a weekend of biblio-indulgence. I hope you can find the time to squeeze in more reading, soon. I was doing pretty poorly, for a while, and can definitely relate to how you feel. :)

  10. I'm looking forward to your thoughts on the rest of EPL. I found the latter parts to be much different than the Eat section.

  11. Good Lord. That's like a month's worth of reading for me!! Can't wait to see the ARC's you ended up with...can't beat FREE!

  12. Carrie,

    Yes, sometimes the lizards deserve to have their say. Well, sort of.

    Me, too. I wanna go to Italy! Money? We need money? Oh.

    Nope, I don't speak Italian. But, I'm going to work on that.


    I'm still on the Pray section and it was boring me until Richard the Texan showed up. I do like Richard. But, I personally have no real interest in traveling to India and all the info about ashrams and meditating kind of makes me zone out. I'll let you know. :)


    It only looks like a month's worth because I read little bits from a lot of books. I do that, sometimes. When my husband goes on a long trip, I make a row of books on his side of the bed and I'll read a chapter or two of one, a chapter or two of another, etc., until I finally feel a little bit sleepy and give up for the night. It's fun. Exhausting, but fun. :)

  13. When I came home from work today, I saw a lizard scampering across the steps leading up to my back door. I urged him along quickly, warning him that as soon as I opened the door my dog would be coming out. I told him that if he were a mouse, I wouldn't care if he got caught, but as a lizard, he deserved a long life.

    It sounds like you had a wonderful reading weekend! I wish I could say the same. I had hoped to finish the book I'm reading,but I barely made a dent in it.

    I am glad that Cecelia Samartin's book was so good. I am looking forward to reading that one.

    I had better get to bed. I need to get up extra early so I can make it to the gas station before work tomorrow.

  14. Wendy,

    I'm sure that lizard appreciated your conscientious effort on his behalf Death by Dog is definitely not pretty and I agree . . . lizards deserve long lives. Mice, on the other hand, can't seem to figure out that they belong in the field, not the house.

    I did have a wonderful reading weekend. But, the week has just been so-so. Life keeps getting in the way of important reading, for some reason.

    Hope you like Tarnished Beauty as much as I did! Read it quick, so we can chat! :)

    Here it is noon and I'm just getting to your message. I couldn't wake up, this morning. I don't know what my problem was, but I could have used some intravenous caffeine.

  15. I think Eat Pray Love is better when taken in smaller chunks. I think I remember liking the Pray portion better than the Eat and the Love portion the best. :) I've heard they are making a movie with Julia Roberts...hmmm...

    The Shirley Jackson anthology sounds great. I've always said, I love short stories, but right now (RIGHT NOW) I think I've made a realization. I like short stories when I can mull them over and tease them out with other people. Too often I'm left feeling--so what?? or--that's it?? I did really like The Lottery, though.

  16. Trish,

    I would have to agree with that statement. I'm enjoying Eat, Pray, Love, but more so if I read it just a little at a time. Does it seem to you like Hollywood has run out of ideas and they're turning every best-seller into a movie, these days? It sure seems that way to me. Julia Roberts would make a good Elizabeth, though, if they must. Not sure I'd want to see a movie version of the book.

    Interesting comment; I felt like there was a lot to discuss after reading last week's short story allotment. Wouldn't it be nice to have a short story day in which we all read a single story together each week and discuss? I think you're right -- it would be so much more satisfying than just reading a story alone.

  17. You know, for the most part I've stopped seeing movies that were made out of books that I've read. There have been a few exceptions (I *had* to see Atonement), but it does seem like there is a lack of creativity--either use a book or an old classic TVshow/movie--really? Isn't that why they get paid the big bucks?

    You set up short story day discussion and I'll join. :D Deal?? Ha ha.

  18. Trish,

    Me, too. It does seem like there's not a lot of creative, original movie-making going on. Lots of comic book heroes brought to life, too. Actually, I tend to like those (maybe because I don't read comic books, so from my point of view they're new material). But, anyway, I don't want to watch every single freaking bestselling book on screen. I'd rather see some original stories.

    Oh, I would if I could! I just don't have the time, right now, to start up anything. You would not believe how much there is to deal with when your last living parent dies. I've never signed so many pieces of paper in my life. And, I'm just getting ready to go work on helping my sister get the house ready for sale. I don't want to go. I grew up in that house and it drives me nuts just thinking about not having a place to go home.


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