Monday, December 27, 2010

Enchanté

Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked: Sex, Morality, and the Evolution of a Fairy Tale
by Catherine Orenstein
2002
Weight: 1 lb
Method of Disposal: Giving away to anyone who wants it. Just let me know.



I wrote a paper on the sexual connotations of Little Red Riding Hood when I was in high school. It was the most important paper of the year for that English class, and thus the most important paper to me overall. This book became my dictionary, my encyclopedia, my bible for that semester. I read many others about sex and adult themes in fairy tales, but I did not enjoy them like I did this one. I recognize now that it was probably because it was not as “heavy” or “scholarly” as some of the others.

I was able to use the paper as an excuse to watch ridiculous movies like FREEWAY and talk about sex in class-- my favorite topic but not that of the public school system. For years afterwards I was drawn to an odd assortment of Little Red Riding Hood paraphernalia, though I really do not own too much. My favorite Hood possession is a scantily clad action figure, which I kept in the box until 1-2 years ago. She still lingers, somewhere hidden, on my bookshelves. She may be tacky and or nerdy, but I like her and she fits in with all the literature. She was given to me by a very good friend. My most prized object is a hideous and old doll that is both Little Red and The Big Bad Wolf. You flip up Red’s dress and there he is. It was almost thrown out when I was a kid, but I found and salvaged it. I was drawn in by its sheer creepiness and now it almost seems like a relic. It presents to me the strange transition in understanding from childhood to adulthood, and the natural intuition of children.

I cannot tell you what I would think of the book if I read it now, but then it was the perfect mix of literature, fairy tale, media, sex, and feminism to hold my attention. I did fairly well on my paper, and I think I might even have that somewhere in the depths of my closet. I am finally ready to let this book go even though every time I see it I smile with the memory of having the most interesting topic of anyone in my class, at least it was to me.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sex My Studies Up

Jane Sexes It Up: True Confessions of Feminist Desire Edited by Merri Lisa Johnson
2002
Weight: 15 oz
Method of Disposal: Giving to my friend Tracy



Feminism and Sexuality are two topics that I believe cannot be discussed separately. They come up a lot in conversation. People struggle to grapple with the two together, but there is no other option. I feel comfortable in the many layers of possibility enveloped in the blanket terms, feminism and sexuality. I consider myself pro-sex, whatever that really means. I love talking about sex, reading about it, discovering new things, enjoying new experiences. I am a huge fan of sex toys, sex talks, porn, and people having the right to provide sex work while maintaining their safety and respect.

I often have to think and then re-think my defense of porn and/or sex work. It is a strange and blurry area. The Feminist Sex Wars have been written about a lot, and I have respected women on both sides of the pro/anti-porn debate. I spent a good deal of my college-life studying Catherine MacKinnon, loving her and disagreeing with her all the way (she did convince me to become a vegetarian). I am fluent in Pat Califia. Dworkin holds a special place in a crevice of my heart. I cannot possibly forget my past desire to follow in the footsteps of Susie Bright or, hell, even Sue Johanson. I’m not picky. I just want to talk to people about how incredible and versatile sex can be.

Recently, discussion about porn, sex work, and human rights has been renewed in my life. I find myself with some of the same questions I thought I had already answered and some news answers that question the ideas I had once fully developed. I am uncomfortable in some of my beliefs again, and I am more confident than ever in others. I am confused. This is not an unusual feeling, but it has been awhile. I am excited to rake it all over again and give it another look-see. It is an ongoing conversation I am having with Tracy that has me re-reading a large stack of books on feminism and sexuality. I am going to pass the stack onto her when I am finished because I think she has her own confusion—different than my own in many ways, though there are overlaps. This is the first book in the stack.

As per usual, I had high hopes for Jane Sexes it Up, but I wasn’t overly impressed. I also don’t think it helped me work out any answers for all of my questions. I found myself periodically checking the publication date to make sure it was really written after the year 2000. If it had been in the late 80’s I might have been more enthused. I felt too young for the essays, but too uncomfortable with my potential ageism to admit it right away. It all felt so dated to me.

“Fuck You and Your Untouchable Face” consistently quotes one of my favorite Ani Difranco songs--when I was in high school. I still love me some Difranco, but it felt weird. I appreciate the author’s honesty and openness, and I respect a good conversation about queering heterosexuality. I just didn’t learn anything, and I don’t know what she meant when she used the words “queering heterosexuality.” There was too much reservation in “Of the Flesh and Fancy: Spanking and the Single Girl.” And who judges spanking anymore? I know people do, but I am not around those people much so I forget. And what is wrong with the word “flog” or “flogging?” I like a good flogging from time to time, and I like that it is not dainty.

I did like “Liquid Fire: Female Ejaculation and Fast Feminism.” That might have been the best essay. I wasn’t anxious to leave it. I wanted to follow her through the sex club, and she was a good leader. I liked her sexual openness and how she subtly showed how you can maintain control of your body and your consent in a building with many sexual partners with a simple word or sentence if everyone respects each other. It doesn’t have to “take you out of the moment,” and everyone can maintain their hunger. The lessons on ejaculating were enlightening, and the author seemed confident.

“Scrutiny and The Female Porn Scholar” and “Pearl Necklace” had so much potential, but they quickly became some of my least favorite portions of the book. “Pearl Necklace” had me. I was so onboard with the masturbation, the ejaculation, the bath tub water turning cold, the rape fantasies, but she lost me somewhere in all her rape language. She defended it with her so whats, I like its, and who cares. Are those even a defense? Could you try just a little? I am all about rape fantasy, forceful sex, role playing, BDSM, and so on and so forth, but consent is my #1. And I don’t mean just saying “no” if something is unwelcome. Where was the discussion about consent, safety, consideration, and respect? “A Cock of One’s Own: Getting a Firm Grip on Feminist Sexual Power” was an essay I could not relate to but could see vague outlines of in my memory. I cannot remember the last time I spoke with someone who was anti-dildo, but I have girlfriends of friends of friends who are anti-dildo. I know they are out there. I have read about them in letters and in this essay, but I don’t see a lot of it in my sexual partners.

Maybe I am just super-sexed. I mean, maybe I hoped something would shock me, compel me, maybe even turn me on but nothing did. Worst of all, I don’t think I learned anything and the book came nowhere near helping me with my new prostitution and porn dilemma. I guess I didn’t know what Vulvodynia was before, and I do now. I thank Kantinka for sharing her story with me and all of us. I am not sure it gave me a good pro-porn argument, but I am glad I read it. It gave a good reason for why one might watch porn, but I can think of 100 of those. I need more good reasons for why people make porn-- other than money. A subversion of the patriarchy, playing with the strict rules of society, promoting sexual fun and play, helping others in their exploration of sexuality, pure enjoyment, just a job, what? Where do all these reasons fit into the dominant porn industry? Is it fair to look at “mainstream” porn and judge all porn? It seems that (at least in a capitalist society) the big rigs always have some fucked up idea of morality and the small, little independents struggle to stay alive. I don’t know what the answer is. Maybe we just need to be more responsible about how we purchase sex. Is there a Conscience Consumer list out there for the sex industry? Can anyone help? Do you have any book recommendations? I have many more books to come, Whores and Other Feminists being the next.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tipping the Velvet

Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters
1998
Weight: 15 oz.
Method of Disposal: Leaving somewhere in the Metro-Atlanta area unless someone else wants it--UPDATE: GIVING TO SKYE WHO SAW IT WAS AVAILABLE ON SOCIAL NETWORKING SITE





I have such fond feelings for Tipping the Velvet. I am really not sure I am ready to let it go. This book fits into my running joke that if a piece of fiction is no good it is shelved in the gay/lesbian section of most major bookstores, and if it is good it goes straight to the fiction/literature section. I know it is not always true, but sometimes it really feels like it is—when you see Jeanette Winterson, Sarah Waters, and (sometimes) Rita Mae Brown elsewhere. I wrote about this same thing in regard to movies earlier in this blog. I am not really opposed to or in support of this way of shelving. It is just an observation. I love browsing the gay/lesbian section, the make-believe transgender section (It is labeled but never has enough books. I want more!), as it slides into the women’s (or gender) studies section. Dangerously close to Sociology, Cultural Studies, African American, Native American, and Everyone else all crammed in. Far far away from the Fiction or Fiction/Literature section.

But, (insert a heavy, lusty sigh here) Tipping the Velvet. I read it (once more)when I was fairly young. In one day. I could not put it down. I am not claiming that it is the type of book that will change the current trends in Contemporary American Fiction or that it will be taught in every first-year English course across the nation. It probably won’t change your life or your (non)relationship. It was just good fun. I loved reading it. I cared about Nancy Astley/Nan King, and I believed in her. I think I would have followed her anywhere. I too was intrigued by Kitty-- that Bitch. And even when I hated her, I felt like I didn’t really. I’d take her back if she’d have me. Read it if you are in the mood to get away for a little bit. It is beautiful, the imagery really pops, and it is sexy. At least, it is as I remember it, and I confess I don’t want to mess with a good thing by reading it again. I get so excited to even think of it.

I sought out her other novels after I finished this one, and I do have all but the most recent one. I enjoyed them too, but this one far surpasses the others. If you are looking for some lesbian fiction written by someone who has been in a workshop before, probably edited the piece before it was published, and does not pursue hilarity in situations that are just not funny then you should check out Tipping the Velvet. Let me know if you want me to send it to you.

Monday, December 13, 2010

I Will Always Think of MC Paul When I Hear "Sigourney Weaver"

Prayers for Bobby by Leroy Aarons
1996
Weight: 3 oz
Method of Disposal: I am going to leave it somewhere in the Metro-Atlanta area unless anyone out there wants it. UPDATE: Sending to Jenn C.





I read Prayers for Bobby a long time ago, way before it ever became a Lifetime movie starring Sigourney Weaver. At least, it seems like a long time ago. I was a totally different person in 1996—a much younger person who had just realized that she was into women but had no idea how queer-fabulous she really was. At that time, I loved this book. It broke my heart and made me stronger at the same time (I use clichés because my feelings at the time were trite and overdone). I needed this book in order to understand the kids at school, my upbringing, what I would eventually go through at the hands of strangers. Bobby had a very different life than I did, but there were some small, important connections.

I wanted my father to read it, my mother, my friends, everyone. I gave it to my deeply Christian friend, Jacque, and told her that I would go to Church one time in exchange for her reading it. I really do not remember what happened around that. I am fairly certain I never went to Church with her though I had been many times in the past and would go again. I want to say she read the book, but I am not certain. I have it now so if she did borrow it she did not neglect to return it. We still talk, and she is still a Christian woman, and I am still a queer woman. The book came up one last time in some letters we wrote to each other during college about a boy who attended her Presbyterian (?) School.

The book is wrinkled, bent, used. There are just a few markings in it. I read the passages that are highlighted and cannot fathom what it was about those particular sections that made me feel so bold. I do know, even now, that this was an important, sad, and redeeming book about a mother who suffers greatly after the death of her son. She realizes that all the help she had tried to offer him in life was actually detrimental, painful, and tormenting to Bobby. I cannot imagine what it would feel like to realize that after someone you love commits suicide. I am glad she went on to be an advocate, and I hope she is able to find some peace. After all this time, I still recommend reading this book. I think I will even give in and watch the Lifetime movie. I hear Weaver won a Golden Globe when it was all said and done.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Absolute Man

Leonardo: The Artist and the Man by Serge Bramly
1994
Weight: 2.5 lbs
Method of Disposal: Donating or giving it to you if you ask for it.



This paperback is showing its age. Most of the abuse it endured happened while I was reading it for a book report/ project in 6th or 7th grade. We were able to choose any biography we wanted within a certain historical period. I picked up Leonardo because he was the only artist in the handful of biographies I had grabbed. I loved painting and drawing. I was intrigued with anyone who could do those things for a living. I also tought my teacher would be impressed that I was reading a book with over 400 pages BY CHOICE. I don’t think she really noticed or cared if she did. Oh well.

The spine of the book is cracking and developing wrinkles. The cover is bent and folded. Acrylic paint has stained the self-portrait of Da Vinci on the front. The inside is marked with blue, orange, and red ink. This is a used book (a loved book).

I learned so much about Leonardo Da Vinci. Things I will never forget and things that have strongly shaped my opinions of him. I loved the book at that age. I had no idea how much trouble Leonardo had found himself in growing up. No teacher had ever told me about his possible homosexuality. I had not been warned about his bitterness towards women. I didn’t realize that there use to be a time when you could focus all of your attention, studies, and dreams on your one passion. I didn’t even know about all of his inventions! It was all here, in this book, and I was enthralled. I would be afraid to read it again. I don’t want to know if it is not as good as I remember.

I guess, all in all, it was a good school assignment, for me anyway. I was what they call, “riveted.” I won’t easily forget it.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Found

The Lone Surfer of Montanta, Kansas By Davy Rothbart
2005
Weight:4.8 oz
Method of Disposal: Do you want it? Cause otherwise it is going to be donated—if I can resist recycling it. UPDATE: Shipped to North Carolina to reside with Amanda



This book was a major disappointment. I don’t know what I expected, but it was something much better. These short stories were written by the guy who put together FOUND magazine, which I like a lot. I have several artist friends who tell me FOUND was less than intriguing, and I believe it, on a graphic arts level, but I enjoyed it. These short stories, however, were mundane. The opposite of life-changing. My previous experience with the magazine and his work with people in the prison system had me intrigued, but the word of JUDY BLUME and ARTHUR MILLER had me convinced. On the cover there is a quote from Miller, “Davy writes with his whole heart. These stories are crushing.” I write my stories with my whole heart, but it doesn’t mean that they are automatically worth reading! Judy Blume says, “It’s always exciting to discover a talented new writer. Davy Rothbart writes with such energy, wit, and heart.” What am I missing?!

Well, here I stand. I don’t get it. There is not one story that made me feel anything. But, who am I, right? I will stick to the magazine.

All My Countrymen

Vintage Baldwin James Baldwin
2004 (The Estate of James Baldwin)
Weight: 7 oz
Method of Disposal: Giving to my friend, Tracy



I am not a huge fan of anthologies because I hate it when I get very into a piece of work and realize that it is just a selection from a much larger piece of writing. I tend to avoid buying anthologies for this reason alone but, for whatever reason, at some point I bought this book anyway. It sat on my bookshelves for years, unread. I picked it up the other day. I was in the mood for Baldwin, a very confident and brazen author.

The majority of the book left me feeling riveted and active. I wanted to get out in the world and do something. I wanted to write something that mattered. I wanted to hide in a corner and worry about how slow progress seems. There were some parts of the book that left me sneering and unhappy. The excerpt from ANOTHER COUNTRY was particularly hard for me. I felt so much resentment for the lead character even though Bladwin did such a good job of creating a complex character who had been through so much and done so much. You were motivated to feel for him and tempted to understand him, but I guess I am just not there yet. His interactions with Leona, a girl he became involved with, were so revolting. In the sex scene, the blurred line between rape, force, and sex made me recoil. The job of writing is not to make me feel good about everything. I know that, but I did recoil. A lot. In fact, I found myself avoiding all of Baldwin’s descriptions of women in the book. It is always hard to hear such a progressive author write about women in such a gross and unappealing way. It is one of those fallacies of the activist world. You know better than to expect more out of people because they fight for something you believe in, but you do it anyway. And, of course, men do interact with women in a forceful and sometimes detrimental way. We cannot just avoid writing about. So, here we are. It’s complicated.

All that being said, I will definitely be reading more Baldwin. He has a powerful voice that is impossible to ignore. So, here is my recommendation, read Baldwin, but read complete works. I am sure Another Country would mean more in its entirety. I intend to find out, anyway. I will leave you with two quotes from the collection.

“…all my countrymen had been able to offer me during the twenty-four years that I tried to live here was death—and death, moreover, on their own terms.” p.153 (NOTES FOR The Amen Corner)

“It has to do with political power and it has to do with sex. And this is a nation which, most unluckily, knows very little about either.” P.82 (Nobody Knows My Name)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Falling Down and Falling Apart

Reservation Blues by Sherman Alexie
1995
Weight: 11 oz
Method of Disposal: Donating—possibly here : http://www.wpbp.org/pages/book.html or somewhere like it. Donating to women’s prisons was suggested by a friend, and I am definitely interested if I can figure out how to do it.





Sherman Alexie will always hold a special place in my heart. I was first introduced to his writing while attending Agnes Scott College. He was a particular favorite of Dr. Guthrie. The first book of his I read was The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, and I loved it. That was required reading for two of my classes over a time frame of four years, and each time I found different words to cling to and various “meanings” depending on where I was at in my own head. In my senior year, I would write one of my final papers about Reservation Blues. I also collected and read everything else I could find by the man while I was in school.

I was really into Reservation Blues when I read it but, unfortunately, I was not yet into Blues. This led for a very disjointed and dull paper on music and the written word. I tried. I read several books on Blues, and I bought the CD Sherman Alexie made with Jim Boyd to coincide with the book. I enjoyed the music and tortured my then-girlfriend with it every time we got into the car. It was much better than the Eddy Clearwater CD I bought for $13, by accident, when I was seeking out the real album. Much better.

The book itself blends together life on a Spokane Indian Reservation, the magical guitar of Robert Johnson, and the desperation of the garage band that brings it all together. As usual, for Alexie, the book is witty, fun to read, hilarious, angry, and heart-breaking. His writing is blunt and to the point, but beautiful. Each word is delivered with force and perseverance. The book is a multi-genre piece with songs, dialogue, music, activism, reality, and history seeping through the pages.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Exquisite Pearl

The Exquisite Pearl: The Journey to Allah and the Home of the Hereafter 2002 Translated by Abu Aaliyah Surkheel Sharif
The Light of the Qur’an: An Explanation to Surah al-Ikhlas and Surah al-Kafirum 2010 Prepared and translated by Abu Rumaysah
A Course in the Science of Reciting the Qur’an 1988 by Muhammad Ibrahim H.I. Surty
Key of Lisaan-ul-Quran Vol 1 and 2 2006 written by the teachers of Madrasah Ayesha Siddiqua Karachi
Lissan-ul-Quaran Vol 1 and 2 2008 and 2009 by the teachers of Madrasah Ayesha Siddiqua Karachi
Part 2 od Murshid al-Qari series 2007 by Madbut Writers and Translators

Weight: 7 lbs

Method of Disposal: Giving them to Vallan who has been studying Arabic, among other languages, for years. She will benefit from them far more than me.





I live right down the road from a decent-sized mosque. It is a very important part of the community and, just driving by; you can tell there are a lot of events in and around the building. I am not sure if these books have anything to do with my location in relation to this place.

I came home from work one day and saw books scattered in my neighbor’s yard. I initially thought she was just trying to give away some of her belongings. I wanted them, but I wasn’t sure. I decided to go inside and wait for a few hours. If they were still there after awhile I would take them. Nearly 7 hours later, in the dark, I went back outside. The books were still there. This time I noticed all the loose papers scattered in multiple other yards. I started to collect the papers. I became increasingly excited about my discovery. What was all this? I got it all inside, with just a few curious, late-night glances from some lingering neighbors. The books were all about the Qu’ran and bodybuilding. The loose papers were images from bodybuilding books. I felt like I had stumbled upon a gold mine, but I was very worried about the previous owner of these books. Why were they just thrown out like that? Why did no one come back to get them?

In current times, it is hard not to start assuming all sorts of things. It was probably some kid who did not want to study anymore. I hope it was. I really just want the previous owner to be healthy, happy, and uninjured physically or emotionally. In other words, I hope the owner tossed the books and no one took the liberty of tossing them for hir /her /him.

The United States has become so anti-Arabic, anti-Islamic, anti-Qur’an. It is scary. I hesitated to use the name of the person I was handing them over to even though she studies languages and international relations. How absurd is that? I mean, I know I was being a little over-the-top paranoid in thinking about that—which is why I decided to do it after all. But, it is still a world where these things cross your mind. There is so much we need to work on, so much we need to change.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Misplaced

Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2: Roderick Rules 2008 (uncorrected proof)
Diary of a Wimpy Kid 4: Dog Days
by Jeff Kinney
A Series of Unfortunate Events 2: The Reptile Room by Lemony Snicket (1999)
Weight: 2.5 lbs



One of the most frustrating things about this project is that you realize how many books were lost over the years. You don’t know if they were misplaced, stolen, or never returned. They are just gone. I will think of one I read years back and realize that it is finally time to write about it and let it go. Then, I realize, it has been gone for who knows how long. Months? Years? A decade? What does it mean to love something so much you cannot remember when you lost it?

In this case, I am irritated because I wanted to give the entire series to my friend, Skye. I am about to head towards her house and thought it would be nice to bring a book bundle along but, alas, I cannot find the books I need. Book 1 and 3 of Diary of a Wimpy Kid is missing, and I cannot find the interactive journal either. Needless to say, I absolutely adore the Wimpy Kid series. I think they are hilarious. They never fail to make me happy. The movie was lackluster. The books far outshine it. I recommend it to anyone and everyone, but if you have kids you should really be sure to pick it up.

Another series I think all kids (and adults) should read is A Series of Unfortunate Events. The books are incredible. The dry humor makes me laugh out loud, and I appreciate all the little vocabulary lessons. It would be an utter shame for you and any kids you might know to miss out on it. I had the privilege of seeing Lemony Snicket (aka Daniel Handler) while I was in college, and he is just as wonderful as I would have dreamed. He stole kids books, brooded, and paced. I loved it.

UPDATE: As of today, 111.93 lbs of books have been given away, donated, sold, or recycled.

P.S. I particularly love Children's Literature. Is that obvious yet?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Illustrated Shakespeare

The Globe Illustrated: The Complete Works (Annotated) by Shakespeare
2001
Weight: 7.7 pounds
Method of Disposal: Giving to Vallan when she comes to watch my dogs for a few days


*I am sad to report that I have misplaced my camera and so could not post an original picture today. This is what the book looks like, but this image is from www.alibris.com.*

I have owned The Globe since I worked at Waldenbooks. It was too good to resist, a leather-bound, illustrated, massive book of Shakespeare. I had to have it. The only problem, of course, being that it is quite intimidating at 7.7 lbs and 2,364 pages. It looks like a large dictionary. Not to mention it is Shakespeare.

It is a wonderful idea, I am sure, but I will take my Shakespeare in one play (two plays if you want to push it) form from now on. It seems a little less overwhelming, and I enjoy it more. I have not read any since school, and I am not sure if I will return to it in the future. Of course, it is wonderful to read, but it is not really where I am at right now. It has not been one of my favorite things to read since High School and as I get older I just feel more and more distant for no good reason.

Luckily, there is still someone out there who cares about classic literature. I am giving this huge, honkin’ collection of rhymes, lyrics, and puns to Ms. Vallan as a thank you for watching the pups while I am away. She wanted it once, and I hope she still does.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

"Stupid Jokes That Unicorns Do Not Find Funny"--page 90


Mountain Man Dance Moves: The McSeeney’s Book of Lists by the editors of McSweeney’s
2006
Weight: 8. 5 oz
Method of Disposal: Leaving somewhere in Decatur, GA


I have so much love for McSweeney’s. So much that I feel I need to make a confession now…I just renewed my subscription despite the fact that I have no money and even though it must be a sin that goes against everything I am trying to do on this blog. I mean, I am getting rid of my books even as I have McSweeney’s arriving on my doorstep. I will let you know when I resolve this personal and moral dilemma.

It is because of this love that I purchased this book of lists last year. It is also because I read the most wondrous list of Chuck Norris facts in a Best American Nonrequired Reading collection around that time. Here is an example, “Chuck Norris doesn’t read books. He stares them down until he gets the information he wants.” Which reminds me of the #1 Chuck Norris fan who always came into Waldenbooks looking for a new Norris book, but she never bought anything because there never was a new Norris book—but that is a whole other blog, I guess.

Overall, I did not find this book to be as hilarious as I expected, but it still had some excellent moments. I did not plan to get rid of it, and I have fond feelings for it. I am disbanding it now out of guilt about the free item I got from McSweeney’s for re-subscribing, which is, in fact, a bundle of three books that weigh about a pound.

I cannot remember my favorite lists so I will give you two random lists from the book to ponder.

1. NAMES THAT COULD POSSIBLY PASS FOR CRIES OF PASSION IF ACCIDENTALLY YELLED DURING SEX WITH ANYONE NOT SO NAMED by Emily Lloyd (p.15)
• Aaliyah , Maura, Ewan, Osgood, Deepak, Uma, Ja Rule, Moe


2. FOUR WAYS MY LIFE IS LIKE PAC-MANS by John Crownover (p.111)
• Ever-present wail of sirens
• Relentlessly pursued by ghosts
• Occasionally eat some fruit
• Four special pills a day keep ghosts at bay

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Neighbors

Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland by Jan T. Gross
2002
Weight: Amazon says 7.2 ounces, but it is far more heavy than that for so many reasons.
Method of Disposal: I am really not sure. Any suggestions? It might be donated.



I have been dreading writing this for days. Every time I think about it I fall asleep instead. It seems almost impossible to “review” a book like this because the history is so deplorable how would you ever be able to focus on the quality of the writing, or even the research? I was slightly critical when I first started reading it, but that faded away as my horror grew.

This book details the mass murder of 1,600 Jewish people by their own neighbors—in one day. These people were not ordered to do so, instead they acted on their own. Sure, there were leaders, cheerleaders, and those who were particularly brutal. The country had been groped and grappled by the USSR and Germany. But what does any of that mean? We, as people, are terrifying creatures.

There was one family who hid some of their neighbors. There were only a handful of survivors, and they still had to deal with life after the Germans established control. Mass murder was no longer allowed, but the camps were the alternative.
Sometimes, it is hard to understand the reason for reading so much gruesome detail. Is it just so that we always remember? Will it really make us act different? Do we enjoy the horror we feel? What is wrong with us? In this case, one thing this book succeeded in doing was confronting what the writer stated was a hidden history that the people of Poland were ashamed of. It went against the proposal that the Germans had been the villains, not any Poles.
The author writes the following:
…the history of a society can be conceived as a collective biography. And just as in a biography—which is also composed of discrete episodes—everything in the history of a society is in rapport with everything else. And if at some point in this collective biography a big lie is situated, then everything that comes afterward will be devoid of authenticity and laced with fear of discovery. And instead of living their own lives, members of such a community will be suspiciously glancing over their shoulders, trying to guess what others think about what they are doing(113).


I guess images, words, our environment changes us. I suppose we continue to remember the worst conceivable things, by reading about them or watching them, so that we can imprint them into our brain. This is wrong, this is right, this is what a hero looks like. We are all children trying to train ourselves how to be humane. Perhaps, if we study it hard enough, attempt to feel pain deep enough, we can put to rest the community and self-doubts the Stanford Prison Experiment raised. The truths that books like this expose, “regular” people can and will turn on their neighbors if they need a scapegoat bad enough. Look around the world now, look at the other mass-exterminations of people, look at all the violence. Where are we going? What are we doing? Where is justice and what does it look like? It is easy to feel like a child, to curl up in a fetal position, and fall asleep rather than deal with it all. Complacency.

All of that being said, I still feel like I am doing the memory and the people an injustice.

And that being said, if you go on Amazon 23 people gave the book 1 star and 29 people gave it 5 stars. The accuracy of the research comes under fire quite often, as research often does in these situations. I cannot claim to be an expert on Poland during World War II. I do know that far too many people died and were tortured, and that there is no good reason. Some people dispute 1,600 vs 200-300 people. 200-300 people. 200-300 people.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Life Among the Savages

Life Among the Savages by Shirley Jackson
1997
Weight: 11 ounces
Method of Disposal: Leaving somewhere in Decatur, GA



Shirley Jackson is a brilliant author and, in this case, amusing. This book is an autobiography, and it shows the chaos and interlinked thoughts of a mother and a housewife. The whole book is just detail after detail about regular family life. The first few pages are my favorite.

I do not have any stories tied to this book. I bought it from a used bookstore. It cost me $4.25, and it would have retailed at $11.95. I recommend it, though I know that there are people close to me who will not enjoy it. There are others that will love it. Just be prepared for hectic, inappropriate, and loving family life. This is the closest I come to trying to understand.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

God of Animals

The God of Animals by Aryn Kyle
2007
Weight: 9.9 oz
Method of Disposal: Leaving somewhere in Decatur, GA



The God of Animals was found in the break room of a Barnes and Noble. It was an advanced reader’s edition, and no one had picked it up. It just sat there for days until I grabbed it, but I tucked it away and never read it. It wasn’t intentional. I just got distracted and forgot about it until I started this blog project.

I found it again recently, and I began reading it. I have since read that the depictions of horse farms and horse shows are entirely inaccurate. I find this to be a relief since it all seemed so deplorable, but it is also disappointing because good research is always important when writing fiction. I really do not know a lot about ranches and the whatnot. I am just now beginning to spend some time on a farm, and I do not think I will ever see those kinds of details—like breeding/birthing and euthanasia. Though, to give Aryn Kyle credit, I do not think she was ever trying to portray this particular ranch as the shining example of what all ranches are and should be. I am sure it was quite the opposite.

Regardless of the things I have heard, the book itself is good. I felt for the coming-of-age character, Alice, who was overlooked by almost everyone in her life. She had to lie, turn vicious, or act dangerously to get anyone she loved to pay attention to her. Her life is set on a ranch that ties together the disappointments of many, many people. Every character is a monster, an average person, and amazing. There is not one person who does not encompass all of these traits. Not one. The abuse of the animals is brutal and hard to read through, but it has a place in the novel. It is not gratuitous. In the end, I felt empty. I saw Alice move on, the others succumb to their own problems, the mother fade away without answering all of my questions about her (I cared for her so much), and I was still stuck there with a dead horse.

I don’t know what else to tell you. Humans are not better than their animal counterparts, but they are probably much worse. That came through to me loud and clear.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Isabella Collection



Your Personal Penguin by Sandra Boynton 2006
So-Big Whale by Sheryl Berk 2000
The Monster at the End of this Book by Jon Stone 1999
Curious George’s Are You Curious? Illustrations by H.A. Rey 1998
Walt Disney’s Peter Pan and Wendy 1981
Oh The Thinks You Can Think by Dr Seuss 1975
The Digging-est Dog by Al Perkins 1967
The Frogs Wore Red Suspenders by Jack Prelutsky 2002
Edwina: The Dinosaur Who Didn’t Know She Was Extinct by Mo Willems 2006
My Mama Says There Aren’t Any Zombies, Ghosts, Vampires, Creatures, Demons, Monsters, Fiends, Goblins, or Things by Judith Viorst 1973

Weight: 5 lbs
Method of Disposal: Giving to my niece, Isabella

I met my niece for the first time two days ago, and I am on track to see her again one more time tonight before she heads back to Colorado. I have collected some books for her, though I am not all that sure that the parents will want an additional 5 lbs of luggage. The prices keep going up on what you can carry. If not, I will ship it to her in the next couple weeks. I have put some incredible ones in the mix, despite the fact that I debated with myself all morning about whether or not I could let them go. I finally came to the conclusion that THE ONLY person who could have them other than me is Isabelle. So, I am a little selfish when it comes to my books—you should know that by now.

The two I had the most difficult time letting go of were Edwina and The Monster at the End of This Book. Edwina is a wonderful, modern, story about a dinosaur and the kid that cannot get along with her because he just knows she must be extinct. One of my favorite moments in the book is when Reginald Von Hoobie-Doobie holds up a sign in protest that states, “This is not happening.” The Monster at the End of this Book is probably on my top ten favorite books of all time list. It is so much fun to read to kids, and they seem to love hearing it. I did. The graphics AND words are incredible. Grover tries so hard to stop you from turning each page, as he is afraid of the monster at the end of the book. This makes it an interactive book, and you are quickly drawn in—particularly if the story teller does a good job.

The So-Big Whale book is a plush book that I bought when I was 16 and have been saving for just the right child. I just like that it is a stuffed book. Madeleine, my dog, likes that too, unfortunately. I thought the Judith Viorst book was appropriate since it is almost Halloween. Peter Pan and Curious George were just to add some variety. I do not feel much of an attachment to them, though Peter Pan has my cousin’s childish handwriting scrolled across the back which is pretty cool. I added Your Personal Penguin because I LOVE Sandra Boynton and Penguins. I had been saving it for the perfect woman, but I am thinking that Isabella is just that. Not what I expected, but even better I suppose. The Thinks You Can Think encourages imagination and has fun pictures. The Frogs Wore Red Suspenders is full of short poems because kids should be introduced to fun poetry early.

The Digging-est Dog was mine as a child. I remember being in bed and falling asleep to my grandmother reading it. My name is written on the inside, in huge, fumbling, and insecure kid letters. I loved the dog in the book. He was a good dog gone bad. He had been kept unfairly cooped up and when he was free he just let loose and dug up the entire city to everyone’s dismay. I like that this dog was misunderstood, yelled at, and then understood/redeemed. They found a way to make his digging useful so that everyone was happy and that dog never had to go back to being in a cage again. There are a lot of adults who could learn from this book.

So, that’s it. 5 lbs of brilliant, life-changing literature for a tiny little girl who is growing older and bigger each and every day. I hope she enjoys chewing on them, falling asleep midway through them, and pointing out all the colorful animals in them while Rusty or Ann Marie try to read the actual text to her. Once these are devoured there are many more to come.

Monday, October 4, 2010

On Killing

On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society
Lt. Col. Dave Grossman
1996
Weight: 14 oz
Method of Disposal: Donate or give away if anyone wants it




It has been a long time since I read this book. I was in high school, and I bought it in hopes that I would better be able to understand what was about to happen in my world. It was after the attacks on the World Trade Center. It was after it dawned on me that my brother would be called to war sooner rather than later—I just did not know when. I did not have the money to buy the book so I got special permission from my “psychology” teacher to write about it and then asked my mom to buy it for me. I have no idea if she did or if I ended up trying some other avenue. I cannot remember, but here it is after all of these years.

I remember being intrigued by the author’s thesis that people, in general, have an innate resistance to killing. He writes about how many soldiers known to shoot accurately have missed their human targets or never even fired their guns throughout history. He says that in WWII we learned that “programming” or “conditioning” our soldiers would take a 15% firing rate and increase it to 90%.

Grossman challenges himself to fit a lot into a 366 page book. He writes about fight or flight, psychological trauma, violence in society, conditioning, individual vs group action, a variety of wars, rape, and so on. I do not remember the writing being particularly intriguing or well-composed. I know it is a basic overview because there is just too much to squeeze in, but I know I thought it had some value. I still think about it from time to time, when I am having certain conversations with people. I do not feel the need to revisit it, though I would read another book on this topic and have.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

"Where am I? What am I doing?"

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
2002
Weight: 2 lbs
Method of Disposal: Donation or give away if anyone wants it



I was fairly young when I first picked up this book, and I remember having trouble getting through the first 15 pages. It was because I did not understand the Russian names and was having trouble keeping them all in order. It felt like I was trying to read the book of Genesis in the Bible. I did not have that same trouble in the future, but I still think about it. I am so thankful I pushed through at that age, because this book was one of the best I have ever read. It is beautiful, through and through. And heartbreaking. And incredible.

I felt so close to Anna Karenina. I wanted to storm into the story and take her out of it. She was my friend, but I could not help her. The conclusion was bound to come—part of Tolstoy’s portrayal of fate and death. I always love an adulterous woman.

The other thing that I remember is that the last twenty pages felt tacked on and frustrated the hell out of me. Why do I care about a world without Anna? Why do I care about God and Christianity? I was only so impassioned because Tolstoy had led me there.

This is the kind of book I intimidate myself into not being able to write about. That is how much I liked it. There is nothing I could say that would not be a disgrace to the work. I recommend you read it. Goodbye Anna, I have always missed you.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Curiouser and Curiouser

The Swan House by Elizabeth Musser
2001
Weight: 1 lb
Method of Disposal: return to my grandmother

http://www.atlantahistorycenter.com/virtualTour2/swanhouse_front.html




My grandmother has been trying to get me to read this book for years, but I kept putting it off. There were several reasons. The main one being that I (wrongly) thought we had very little in common and because we've had some rough patches. Also, The Swan House is a real place. It is a mansion. I have zero desire to look at, read about, and think about mansions. They are useless and tasteless, in my opinion.

A couple weeks ago I visited my grandparents. My grandmother was about to have surgery on her knees, and we were all hoping for a quick recovery. We talked a lot, and we had a really good time. She told me stories from her past (as did my grandfather) and there were many I had not heard. It changed me, and my feelings shifted dramatically. I went from keeping this book at a distance to having an overwhelming desire to sit down and read it all in one day. I wanted to understand her through reading it. I am not sure if that is possible, but I did enjoy the book in spite of myself.

It was a multi-genre novel set in historic Atlanta. I enjoyed learning about my city while reading it, and the mysteries kept me going. There was something wonderful about it that I cannot put my finger on. There was something about the wealthy boarding school girls that drew me in even as my resentment surfaced. I saw the trite descriptions of class and race at every turn. I left this book with a mixing of feelings. I can mostly only think about all the things I didn’t like, and yet I did not dislike the book. I know everything was overly simplified, and the story verged on “white man’s burden” material. I had to skim through some of the more lengthy religious proclamations without fully reading them. They were so frustrating and totally took me out of the story when I was completely sucked in. And yet and yet and yet…

What does it all mean in the context of my grandmother?

Friday, September 17, 2010

OutrageoUS: The Photographs the editors of US Magazine
1998
Weight: 2.3 lbs
Method of Disposal: Donation




This little embarrassing remainder from my teenage-hood came into my possession after I realized that there were two pictures of Gillian Anderson, one of Geri Halliwell, and one of Tori Amos included in its pages. All women I was intrigued by. I took a quick look through the pages once again before tossing it into the donation box. It is like throwing out a landmine. I would hate for someone to find that book in my house. It was fun to see the shifting and ridiculous faces of fame and fortune. My new fascination, Julianne Moore has withstood the changing times. Unfortunately, so has Matt Damon. At least, to a degree. I am fairly confident that Tom Cruise would no longer be one of the first faces you saw in a book like this, with no one at his side like the others had. Just the words, “Icons and Ingenues.” Claire Danes and Sarah Mechelle Gellar look far too young to be in the sexy positions you do not see them in as often now that they are not playing teenagers on tv.

The truth is that I am still a little bit shameless. I tossed the book in a box like it was so much trash and then went back 5 minutes later to tear out the two pictures of Ms. Anderson. You cannot claim that I am not loyal, but you could probably argue that I have trouble letting go.
Ah well. We’re not perfect, are we?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Over 800 Pages of Western Civilization

From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life by Jacques Barzun
2000
Weight: 3.5 lbs
Method of Disposal: Donation



I was in my junior year of high school. The girl I had known since fourth grade sat next to me in AP European History, and we tried to have a good time making jokes and passing notes. She always did better on exams than I did. She was far more skilled in the cramming arena than most other students—now she is even good at studying.

That year we were assigned the task of reading From Dawn to Decadence, and it was painful. I think everyone in that room, with the exception of a boy-genius named Michael Smith, struggled through the 800+ pages of European History. Oh, it was SO painful. I would like to tell you that I have held onto the book all this time so that I could revisit it. Maybe it would not be so bad now. I might be older, wiser, and more inquisitive? Somehow, I doubt it. I am not going to risk it anyway. No way will I suffer through that book again. No, I think I held onto it as a trophy. An “I lived through this” trophy—not that I am keen to admit it so maybe trophy is not the right word. A personal and secret memento of book-reading gone bad?

All that being said, I felt a certain leap in my heart when I saw it on the bookshelf. It was beckoning me, and I rejoiced in finally being able to put it out once and for all. I am packing it up tonight, and I hope to never lay eyes on it again. Good riddance.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Death Can and Will Happen--What Will You Do With The Body?

REMEMBER ME: A LIVELY TOUR OF THE NEW AMERICAN WAY OF DEATH
By Lisa Takeuchi Cullen
2006
Weight: ½ lb
Method of Disposal: Donating




I have had an unfortunate problem lately. I cannot stop thinking about death, and it is unpleasant for me. I have never had this problem. Being someone who pokes painful bruises and peels off scabs, I picked Remember Me off my shelf and began reading. I was not at all impressed with the writing skills of the author and was tempted to put it down many times. I always finish a book though--with the exception of Shadow of the Dolls. The only book that was so bad I not only put it down but returned it to the bookstore after getting 15 pages in. I never return things. Anyway, back to the point. Remember Me was written by someone who makes bad jokes and seems distracted from her topic.

That said I still learned a little. I will impart some of it to you in hopes that you will be able to resist the urge to rush out to the bookstore and get this book right away. If you must read it please let me know in the next week, and I will save this copy for you.

Things I now know:

 Sometimes people have doves released at funerals. There have been a few horror stories about this being done improperly. In one case, a flock of doves was released by a trainer. A hawk swooped in, grabbed a dove, pushed it to the ground, and began gorging itself on the little bird in front of all the onlookers. Was it a sign?
 You can get coffin furniture. Why only use it once? http://www.casketfurniture.com/
 You can be mummified with your animals. http://www.summum.org/mummification/’
 You can be turned into a diamond. http://www.lifegem.com/?gclid=CL6dwebDiKQCFdVb2godJGSQJQ
 I have trouble reading about people dying right now without crying. Despite myself and the writing.

I am not sure what I will do with this new information, but I have it. That’s something. Right?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

"I was completely suprised and repulsed..."

The Woman’s Bible Elizabeth Cady Stanton
1993
Weight: 1.1 lbs
Method of Disposal: Donation



Elizabeth Cady Stanton is best known for her involvement in the suffrage movement and her involvement in the creation of the Declaration of Sentiments, which was read at what is often considered to be the first women’s rights convention in the United States. She, unfortunately, died about two decades before women were given the right to vote, but her activism influenced many people and policies. She is one of the most recognized white American Feminists.

Elizabeth Stanton also wrote The Woman’s Bible with 26 other women, and it caused quite the ruckus—many say it put an end to Stanton’s ability to fight for suffrage. It sold well and was read by many, but a lot of suffragettes denied its usefulness for fear that it would make the whole movement look too radical/bad. The Woman’s Bible takes on the common biblical interpretation that women are subservient to men. The authors used historical and cultural contexts, as well as a new interpretation to show that women were created as men’s equals.

I read this book in 8th grade, and I enjoyed it at the time as I had started to question the Christianity I had heard about growing up. I do not care too much for it now, as I have no feelings of connection with any religion. I reserve some respect, though, because of what it means to those who do connect deeply with religion and what it took for Stanton to help write it and put her name on it. It is an important component in the history of women in my country, and it has influenced my place in the world now. That is why I have held onto it.

I did not think it would be all that inflammatory in the present world, but that was not too smart of me. If you look at modern reviews of the book people either love it or they hate it. The feminists rave about it and many a review written by devoted Christian women call it an atrocity. Take a look at Amazon. The hilarity ensues with each new post. I will leave you with this little nugget from someone with the username GRAM:

“I was completely surprised and repulsed by its feminist stance. I couldn't bear to read much of it as I believe the Bible is the unerring Word of God. Women's stature in organized church has grown significantly and I would not want my daughter's and granddaughter's minds poisoned by these ideas. I have several women friends who have gone into the ministry and have been very successful. I know this is an old writing but it came off my Kindle the minute I saw the problems Stantan had been trying to express. She must have been a terribly abused girl to have such bitterness.”

Saturday, September 11, 2010

"The cup is raised, the toast is made yet again..."

THE DEFINITIVE ILLUSTRATED ENCYCLOPEDIA OF ROCK General Editor, Michael Heatley
2006
Weight: 5.2 lbs
Method of Disposal: Donating



I wanted to get rid of a heavy and large book today. I am about to take my donations in, and I wanted to get a good one in the box before leaving. I have chosen the encyclopedia of rock because it is a little over 5 lbs. It was given to me by Vallan when we began dating a few years ago. She was trying to give me a lesson in quality music. She said she would make notes throughout the book to let me know who I should pay particular attention to. I suppose she was not impressed with my collection. Music is very important to her, and she has an ear for talent.

The book includes many wonderful artists and albums, but it is not something I need anymore. I do not need the weight—of the book or of that relationship. The bottom left of the book, on the spine, has some damage from our first pit bull foster, Maelie, who use to chew on our stuff fairly often. I use to like that addition to the book. It made it feel more like a memory embodied than just an encyclopedia, an alphabetical and numerical list. Despite the damage, I am sure it will find a new home with someone else.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

OWL: Overwhelmingly Large Telescope, Earthgrazers, and Omega Centauri

Oxford Astronomy Encyclopedia: An A-Z Guide to the Universe
General Editor: Sir Patrick Moore
2002
Weight: 3 lbs
Method of Disposal: Donation




This book is chock-full of definitions that enthrall me and entertain me each time I open it, but I will inevitably forget all of them by the end of the week. My brain just does not seem to retain any information that hints at the inclusion of numbers and formulas. I think this is part of what my fascination with astronomy is about. I cannot understand it, and there are so many questions that will have to go unanswered. I don’t even know that I can ask them. Perhaps some theories will supplement not knowing but, luckily, they will not replace my confusion with definitive answers. It is something I can get lost in when I am not looking for a way out.

Just please do not ask me any questions on the topic. I have no answers. I just like to believe that the false colors they put into the photographs of galaxies and planet compositions are really out there somewhere and that sometime, when I finally lose my mind, I will believe I am out there swimming in it, unscathed by heat, lack of oxygen, or time. There is very little more comforting than the obscurity of the Universe.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

"The Lesbians Will Define Who is Lesbian."

POMOSEXUALS: Challenging Assumptions About Gender and Sexuality
Edited by Carol Queen and Lawrence Schimel
1997
Weight: 9.3 oz
Method of Disposal: Giving to Tracy



I hate to be giving Tracy yet another book about gender and sexuality that I did not enjoy all that much, but here I am doing it again. The good news is that a book about pomosexuals, no matter how much it disappoints, is still better than just any kind of reading. I am also, apparently, the only one who got bored while reading this book. It seems as if it received 12 five star reviews on Amazon and on Urban Dictionary the first definition for “pomosexual” that comes up is the exact subtitle of this book.

I guess I am starting to feel the same way about people’s sexual escapades as I do about coming out stories. I use to find them enthralling, empowering, and rejuvenating. Now, I just get bored. I love sex, filth, and fucking. I love bliss, passion, and safe words. I like sex in bathrooms, on buses, and in bedrooms. BDSM, role playing, polyamory, kissing, cuddling, sex toys, serial monogamy, and pornography. Throw it at me. I will probably like it. But a book needs to be more than that unless I am just trying to masturbate for awhile. I want to learn something! I don’t want to deal with everyone’s egos and bragging rights. I have seen enough dirt brushed off other people’s shoulders. It has a place in the world, and it is important, this book, but it has no place in my hands. I am over it.

There were a few interesting essays, and I love several of the writers. Their other books are great. I am glad to hear about so many people busting out of the rigid gay/lesbian binary and even the bisexual trianary. I like the gender fucking and the fun. I JUST WANT MORE. Is that so much to ask?! I am starting to think that it is.

I hope that I am wrong about this book, and that it will find a more compatible companion in Tracy who will hopefully be able to dig out the components I missed in my irritation. We shall see…

Monday, September 6, 2010

"I can't write it enough times to make it look the way I feel."

Monster by Walter Dean Myers
1999
Weight: 12 oz.
Method of Disposal: Donation



I picked this book up when I was working my latest bookstore stint. I love young adult and teenage literature, and it caught my eye. Parents were upset about it, kids were asking for it by name, and the author was prolific. I was curious. It was also one of a handful of books that did not have a white person’s face on the cover in the teenage section.

It is about a sixteen year old boy, Steve Harmon, who is in jail and on trial for felony murder for being a lookout, if he was even that. The book is written in the form of a screenplay. There are just a few perfect pictures placed throughout the book at just the right times.

Things I loved:
• I appreciate the author trying out a style not often seen in the genre.
• I like the well-placed photos.
• I love it when children’s authors treat their audience as competent and intelligent human beings. Myers does this, and he does not shy away from difficult things, hence the reason so many parents got pissed off.
• The book does not avoid the topic of systemic racism.
• I thought the book review questions at the back were somewhat useful.

Things I wish would happen:
• I wish this book was one of many books on the shelves in the young adult/teenage section that had black leading characters and voices. Unfortunately, it is one of few. I think it could be misunderstood, attacked, and not allowed to reach its full potential in these circumstances. On the one hand, it shows the world a bunch of hoodlums in Harlem living the life of crime but, on the other, it humanizes these “hoodlums.” And if I had a third hand, it is a part of reality that people who are not considered to be white are more likely to be arrested and jailed—not because they are the only people committing crimes. Racism runs deep in our systems and codes.
• I would also like a little more time alone with Steve Harmon before the robbery. I feel like I did not get a clear view of him as a person during that time. There were a few cliché moments, though they kind of worked since Steve was supposedly writing the play/those moments as you were reading it.

Neither here nor there:
• The form will aggravate some kids, but it will enthrall others. It will also get the book read more often. I know from working in bookstores that many kids pick the book on the list with the shortest number of pages, but when that fails they flip through the pages to see the size of the font and whatnot. Monster looks like a book they can read fast, and it is.

I don’t know what else to say. I think it is a useful and good book. It was not riveting or life-changing, but it holds its place in the world. It would probably be best utilized in an 8th/9th grade setting.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

"I can't remember seing a single newborn child. And yet, there are always new people to replace the ones who have vanished."

In the Country of Last Things by Paul Auster
1988
Weight: just under half a pound
Method of Disposal: Giving away to a friend



I purchased this book nine years ago, and I cannot believe it has taken me this long to read it. I am sad that I have read it just in time to get of rid of it. I don’t even know where to begin.

Anna Blume goes into a city she will likely never be able to leave again in search of her brother. The city is made up of a starving homeless population of people who crave death above most anything and have ceased giving birth. As people die an elusive, distant, and constantly changing government demands that the bodies be taken to facilities that then turn the remains into energy. Most of the buildings are now in rubbles and people live in constant fear of catching cold or falling. This city shadows one like you might find anywhere across the United States. As the city crumbles and shifts, the landmarks and conveniences fade away as do people’s memories. Snippets of what the world use to be like are found here and there, but people are mostly just focused on survival. Anna, the narrator, has the somewhat unique position of someone who gave up luxury and life to come to the city. A different life is not so distant in time, but is possibly unattainable in reality and almost impossible in her mind.

I do not know if the gloom that has crowded into my head, my heart, and my house stands on its own, or if this book has seeped into those places making everything that is darkness seem larger. I do not know how to put the book down now that I have read the final page. I do not feel adequate to write about it, talk about it, or really even think about it. I thought it was incredible. I will be reading much more from Paul Auster in the future. I hear this is not his best work so I have a lot to look forward to.

Ignoring my negative energy for a time, I think it is important to also recognize the hope, love, and determination of the characters in the novel. There are people of all sorts in this book, and you will be able to recognize some of them even in their most unrecognizable forms. If you have not read it you should go to the library and check it out. Let me know what you think. Maybe by then I will have figured out what to say about it.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Temper Tantrum

WOOF: Writers on Dogs Edited by Lee Montgomery
2008
Weight: 1 lb
Method of Disposal: Giving to Heather



Each time I do laundry I clean the lint trap and slowly slowly slowy the black hairs of my Phoenix are vanishing. They are leaving my carpet, my clothes, and my air filters. I spent our time together trying to rid the house of his fur, but each time I pull out that lint trap my body recoils with the repetitive realization that our life together is officially over. There is no amount of desperation, pleading, or rationalizing that will change the fact that I will never be able to hold that white beard in my hands again and kiss that beautiful snout. Phoenix is gone, and I struggle to act like I am not a five year old throwing a temper tantrum about it. Still. But I am.

Today, I am getting rid of WOOF, which is an anthology written by people about dogs they love and have loved. It was given to me by Vallan, and it is one of the few books about human/dog relationships that I have enjoyed. I will confess that I cried through some of the essays, and sometimes I was really frustrated with an author or two. AND I still will never understand why someone would go to a breeder when they could get an amazing friend from a shelter or a rescue.

I am giving this book to my friend Heather who is an incredible and strong woman. She is also my co-worker, and five days a week she has to answer the phones at the shelter and listen to all the bullshit excuses people give for being irresponsible and inhumane. She has done this for over six years, and I don’t know how. I am giving her WOOF because she deserves to hear from people who would do anything for the animal(s) in their lives. I hope it helps to balance out some of the pain.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

"Wow. I never considered that girls could be transgendered."

Luna by Julie Anne Peters
2004
Weight: 13 ounces
Method of Disposal: Donating—I just found a new place I can donate books. I like the variety. Dr. Bombay’s Underwater Tea Party in Atlanta sells all used books for 50 cents and then donates the money to Noah’s Ark. http://www.drbombays.com --tea shop http://www.noahs-ark.org --Animal Rehabilitation Center and Children’s Care Homes



Luna is a difficult one for me. On the one hand, I am thrilled that there is a book about being transgendered for teenagers and, on the other hand, I feel like it fell short. It could have been so much more! Or, am I putting too much pressure on it because it is such a rare thing? Probably. It should not have to be the authoritative book for teens on being transgendered. We should have a selection.

I respect the author. Julie Anne Peters also wrote DEFINE NORMAL and KEEPING YOU A SECRET. The first one is about getting past appearances and getting to know people who are not like you. The other is about two young women who fall in love in high school and all the shit they have to go through because of it. Thank you, Julie Anne Peters, for giving some variety to our young adult libraries. Some of the best books are made for teens and for kids. They are important, imaginative, and emotional. Children and adults can relate through them, and they hint at a common language/understanding. Adults usually write the books, but they connect to something in the child. This is the kind of book I was looking for in middle school. It came a little late, but not too late.

Luna is simplistic, but it is not such a bad introduction. The story is told from the point of view of the sister of Luna, a wonderful and caring girl who sometimes gets frustrated with how important she is to her sibling. I wish that the book did not have to reinforce such a cliché of transgender experience, but I also know that sometimes that is how it is. It is not that there are not people out there who will be able to relate fully to Luna—there are plenty of people who will. It just seems like it is the only story we hear. A “boy” struggling with his actual identity as a “girl.” “He” has been feminine since “he” was pushed out of the womb, and that is how it is. Period. No blurry lines--just from one thing to another. Again, this is not the fault of the book or the author but the American society at large. Luna recognizes that strict gender roles can cause damage, that there is a difference between gender and sexuality, and that we are all human. We get frustrated.

Overall, I think this is a great addition to any young adult collection, and I will miss it when it is gone. I hope it reaches someone young who is looking for a book just like it. Luna will be a great start in an overall understanding of oneself and/or others, but there will be much more to learn and read when it is over.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Oh Beatrice, My Beatrice

Go Ask Alice (1998) by Anonymous, ed. Beatrice Sparks
Jay’s Journal (1989) by Anonymous, ed. Dr. Beatrice Sparks
Annie’s Baby, The Diary of Anonymous, A Pregnant Teenager (1998) ed. Dr. Beatrice Sparks
Finding Kate, The Diary of Anonymous, A Teenager in Foster Care (2005) ed. Dr. Beatrice Sparks
Weight: 1 lb
Method of Disposal: Donate? I question whether it is responsible to pass them on, but I also am tempted because I remember how much I loved reading them.



I admit it. I loved reading the Anonymous journals. There were not nearly enough of them. Oddly, I cannot find what use to be my favorite, IT HAPPENED TO NANCY—an “anonymous” journal about date rape and contracting AIDS. Not at all a scare tactic to get teens to avoid dating older boys, I’m sure. It is a book that is not subversive (or really all that helpful), but it came into my life through protest and civil disobedience. Strange, right? It was presented by a peer of mine in one of our dull, sex-ed, bullshit, health classes. The teacher looked like she was going into a state of panic as she shut the girl down. Her reaction is what made me seek it out. Rape was real despite the public school system’s denial of it.

From there, I read GO ASK ALICE. In some circles, this is now considered a classic. It was probably my third favorite and did not stick with me. I have laughed with many people about it since I first read it. It is pretty ridiculous that some schools consider it required or suggested reading, but I guess it is a good thing? At least, they are not trying to act like drugs don’t exist. Too bad it doesn’t really portray drug addiction accurately.

JAY’S JOURNAL was next, and I loved it. Poor Jay. Such a good kid, turned wicked and unruly by the dark forces of the occult. He lost his way while playing with Ouija boards and sacrificing animals. Not at all dramatic—just honest to God truth wrapped up in 192 pages of PURE HELL. I shouldn’t poke fun. Jay kills himself because he cannot escape the demons he summoned. Let this be a lesson unto the youth, Satanism could get you killed. Mix that with drugs, drinking, and pill-popping girlfriends and you don’t stand a chance.

ANNIE’S BABY bored me from the get go, and I really have very little to say about it. She is so young. Can she really raise a baby on her own?! Where are you, Juno?

FINDING KATE is the newer model of the anonymous journal. I saw it in a dumpster while working at a bookstore, and I could not resist it. Kate had been beaten so badly by her Daddy that she threw herself in front of a truck, went into foster care, and learned that she could help others. The ending is a much happier one than dying of AIDS, drug overdose, suicide, and realizing you need to give up your baby, but still just as trite.

I am slamming the theatrics of these books and the obscure “lessons” that get taught through them for good reasons, but there is a silver lining (I am being positive too!) in all of this. I was drawn to the books as an angsty pre-teen/teenager because of their darkness and their fabricated privacy. At the end of the books, there is usually a list of crisis-lines because, let’s face it, bad shit does happen to teenagers. They are not always surrounded by people who are willing to help them, and they have to find another way. So the books brainwash, but they also offer a line. Sort of. Let’s just hope that too many people have not internalized all the sexist, scary, absurd fear-tactics that could end up doing more damage than good. Ugh. Should I donate or recycle?!

Who is this Beatrice Sparks person? I always ask myself that when I get to thinking about these over-the-top young adult creations. A quick Wikipedia search tells me that she was born in 1918. She was a therapist and a Mormon youth counselor. It is unclear if she ever received a doctorate.
Sounds about right.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Illuminating the Sex Industry

RENT GIRL WRITTEN BY MECHELLE TEA AND ILLUSTRATED BY LAURENN MCCUBBIN
2004
Weight: 1.5 lbs
Method of Disposal: Giving to Tracy



I received an e-mail from SPREAD magazine yesterday in which they explained that they would no longer be able to publish in that form due to financial troubles. They wrote about how it is difficult for any magazine, newspaper, journal to exist now. SPREAD was created by an all-volunteer crew that kept on keeping on for five years, and I love the whole half century.

I stumbled upon the first issue while shopping at my favorite local feminist sex shop, Aphrodite’s Toy Box. I was hooked. I bought a couple more issues at Charis Feminist Bookstore, and then I went ahead and subscribed. I even got a nifty pink shirt with the silhouette of a person on it. I loved all of it. I am very sad to see them go the way most print seems to be going. It still feels like it was not that long ago when the amazing ON OUR BACKS quit printing their magazines. I don’t want to let go.

The mantra of SPREAD is “illuminating the sex industry,” and that is what they attempted to do through the publication and art showings in New York City. There were articles about and by strippers, prostitutes, call girls, escorts, johns, customers, so on and so forth. I believe they tried very hard to be inclusive and accessible. Have I mentioned yet that I loved them? The Sex Industry IS something that needs to be illuminated. People need to be safe in their professions and protected as human beings. We all deserve respect and decency, but we won’t get there if we ignore a large component of our population, or worse, persecute them.
I am letting RENT GIRL go today in honor of the good five years of writing, comics, and wonderfulness that came out of those volunteers who created and maintained SPREAD magazine. I enjoyed reading the graphic novel a lot when I first bought it while I was in college. I still enjoy flipping it open to a random page and checking in on what is happening. I think it helped with the overall illuminating of the sex industry, and I highly recommend it. I never imagined there would be a day when I would let it go, but here we are.

I bid farewell to SPREAD magazine, unless someone out there has $30,000 to donate to them. They did mention that they might publish a book in the future. If they do, I might have to break all the rules and go buy it.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Eliza P. Donner Houghton

The Expedition of the Donner Party and Its Tragic Fate by Eliza P. Donner Houghton
1998 (originally published in 1911)
Weight: 2 lbs
Method of Disposal: Donating




I first heard about the Donner Party on a cross-country trip with my mom and at-the-time-close-friend, Chris Bale. We were traveling from Georgia to California, up the coast, and then back to Georgia again so we stopped at the Donner Memorial State Park in California. My mother had been telling us about the expedition while we drove. The flora and landscape were beautiful, though the museum seemed dull to me at the time. I bought this 2 lb book in the gift shop because it was written by someone who had been a part of the Donner Party as a little girl and because I thought I would learn more about the whole thing from that book than from the museum.

I think I did. Last night, by chance, I saw The Donner Party movie was free to watch online and so I half-watched it and half-heartedly wrote letters to friends in other states. It had very bad reviews and people claimed it was far too focused on cannibalism. I hear it IS pretty hard to think of anything but food when you are starving so I do not know if it was all that far from the truth, and I don’t know that the truth is unacceptable. It seems like a standard reaction—survival at all costs. In the movie, there is some murder. In the book, it is claimed that only people who died naturally were eaten. They weren’t killed off simply for food. I don’t know what happened. It sounds horrific if you watch the movie or read the book. Side Note: I thought the movie was neither here nor there, and I don’t recommend it per se.

I have held on to this book for some time for a couple reasons. The main one being that the trip to California and back was one of the most amazing trips I have been on, and I hate to let go of the few things I have from that time. The other thing is because, for whatever reason, I trusted the narrator at the time and she became my one source of knowledge on the whole ordeal. I felt loyal to her even though she was just a child when the whole thing went down and would have a very different experience than her adult counterparts. In fact, for years I would be irritated if anyone sensationalized the story and/or talked about it from another perspective than hers. Strange, really. There is always another perspective.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

"I'm sorry if I've given you the impression that it's my mouth that's rough. I try to be rough all over."-from Smilla's Sense of Snow

Cavedweller by Dorothy Allison
1999
Weight: 13.6 oz
Method of Disposal: Giving to Gail



I took a couple days off work after Phoenix’s death, and today was my first day back. I did not work a full day, and I was away from the shelter. Tomorrow, I officially start my routine all over again. I wish I could go cavedwelling.

Dorothy Allison is an amazing author and woman, and this book does not disappoint. The majority of the book takes place in Cayro, Georgia. Several strong-willed, southern women, struggle to recreate and shape their lives in a way that allows them to continue existing. The people of Cayro do not appear to be forthcoming with empathy or affection, but there is a deep bond among the people of the city.

The main characters are a woman named Delia Byrd, and her daughter named Cissy. Cissy develops a love for climbing down into the dark, damp, earth through caves. There is no darkness deeper. This is how she finds comfort from the world. That sounds lovely, doesn’t it? This was a great book, and I am sad to see it go. I am anxious to talk to Gail about it though.

I am off to the world of the dreaming. I hope I can find peace--even just a fraction of what Cissy finds in those caves.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Phoenix, 1997-2010

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
2009
Weight: 9.6 oz
Method of Disposal: Not sure, but I want it gone.



On August 16, 2010 I stayed up late reading the ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN while my baby foster kitten ran up and down the couch. Phoenix, my old man, laid beside me and would give the kitten a sniff from time to time that would cause her to blow up into the tiniest little poof ball. Phoenix’s tail was wagging, and he was given a good pet. The next morning I woke up, left the house to go to work telling Phoenix my usual, “Don’t worry, I will be back. I don’t want to leave either.” I got off work an hour early. I stopped by Walgreens for a totally unnecessary soda and then went home. I opened the door. Phoenix was lying crumpled and dead on the floor by the window. I started yelling at him to get up and fell over the items that blocked my way to him. The consensus is that it was probably a heart attack.

I adopted Phoenix from a local animal control around 11 years ago, and they guessed his age to be two years old. He was a big, scared, black dog with snot hanging down to the floor. It was raining that day, and he was scared to get into our car. They thought he might die since he was so sick, but he recovered. His shelter name was Sprocket and, because I was in 9th grade and he had overcome so much, I named him Phoenix. Later, he would also be known as Fiend, P-Beast, and Feenie.

In his early years, he would bolt out the front door if anyone attempted to open it. He would run straight into children, knocking them over, and then walk away without a second thought about it. He was always terrified of thunderstorms. He was also my best friend, despite the fact that I was a teenager and had trouble showing it. He was there when I broke up with my first love, and he was there for all the trying times I have had since then. He met everyone who was important to me, and he impressed almost everyone he came into contact with. In his older years friends of mine would proclaim that they wished he was their dog or that they wanted a dog just like him. We would use him to socialize other pets that were more timid, and he helped Vallan and I foster ten or more other beasts. He moved 5 + times to new houses and neighborhoods, but he always took it in stride. New smells, new people, new friends. He was cared for by Vallan, my mother, my grandmother, and myself. Every one took care of him in different ways, and he loved all of them. He ended up being the best-behaved dog I have ever had the privilege of calling my family member.

Phoenix was a traveling dog. He loved car rides. He had the opportunity to go cross-country several times, and he was also able to live with my mom on top of a mountain in New Mexico. He never cared for swimming or baths, much to my dismay. He was so afraid of water I am surprised he ever drank any out of the bowl. He did like to lick the water off my ankles when I got out of the shower, and I always hated it, but I would let him, thinking I would miss it one day. I do.

The night before my best friend died, I was reading a book from the perspective of a dog about his love for his owner and his own dying. The book was sometimes trite, and it was often way too human-centric—mostly man-centric. The women characters left a lot to be desired, and the man was the ideal life form. I really don’t care about all that right now though. The book did make me cry often, and I did read it fast. It was good and, for some, I think it would be comforting. I had no idea I would lose Phoenix so soon after reading it and now I want it out of my life. It is not the book’s fault, but it has to go.

Good Bye Fiend Man, I will always love, respect, and cherish you. 1997-2010.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Mark of Voldemort

Harry Potter (2) and the Chamber of Secrets 1999
Harry Potter (4) and the Goblet of Fire 2000
Harry Potter (5) and the Order of the Phoenix 2003
Harry Potter (7) and the Deathly Hallows 2007

By J. K. Rowling

Weight: 6.5 lbs Method of

Disposal: Donating

I am not donating my entire collection of Harry Potter books—yet. It is mostly because I cannot find all of them at this moment, but it is also so that I will have the excuse to write about them again in the future. I am a fan of the series, like many many more people out there. I worked at two different book stores and watched the children plow through hundreds and hundreds of pages of reading. They were enthusiastic and obsessive. It was wonderful! The Harry Potter Release Date parties were always intense. I often did wand-making with the kids. They would show up in these great costumes, eat too many sweets, stay up all night, and have a blast. The books would sit in the receiving room until midnight. They were behind red tape and each individual box had font on the side explaining that it was against the law to snoop until a certain date. It was hard not to get wrapped up in the moment.

I may have been able to feign nonchalance at times, but I read every book the night after it came out. I would not sleep until I had made it to the very last page. The books really are magical, timeless, and just overall incredible. It is impossible not to fall in love.

A young pit bull puppy was tied to the fence of the shelter this weekend. He tried to crawl inside through a small hole in the wire but, instead of making it through, his head was caught for over 40 minutes while he panicked and tried to escape. He is a total sweetheart, wiggly, and affectionate. He also has the mark of Voldemort on his toosh. We do not know what really happened to cause it. That PotterBull is the impetus behind my disbanding of my Harry Potter collection.

*Please note that in the video you cannot really distinguish the lightening bolt shape. It looks straight, but I promise there is more to it!*

video