Saturday, April 30, 2011

Form 668-B

Confessions of a Tax Collector: One Man’s Tour of Duty Inside the IRS by Richard Yancey (2005)
Waiting: The True Confessions of a Waitress by Debra Ginsberg (2001)
Weight: 1 lb
Method of Disposal: Donate

This is my 100th entry. I am 170 books in and have lost 153.28 lbs. In all honesty, it is becoming increasingly difficult and painful. I hate watching my shelves shrink, and I hate letting great books go. I have not yet decided if I am making a huge mistake, but I am unwilling to stop.

I feel like I should have something really special for this entry, but they only place that has got me is nowhere. I have just been avoiding the blog since I couldn’t come up with an appropriate way to celebrate 100 entries. What should I give away? How much should I give away? Where should it all go? What makes it special?

I give up. I haven’t written most of the month. I came back to it today because I finished my tax collector book which I had read because of it being April. I had to get rid of it before April was over! It is month-appropriate. It also wasn’t very good, and I don’t want to wait until this time next year to get rid of it. Yancey is a detestable person. The book starts off o.k. You kind of care about him, you are kind of amused, and you are kind of intrigued by the IRS. As it goes on and on and on, you realize that you hate him. He sucks. The book is repetitive, self-important, and over-the-top awful. A day in the life books can be great, but this one failed on so many levels.

In my total disgust with this book, I started thinking about other books that give readers a glimpse into a work force world they may never be a part of. I remembered Waiting. I thought Waiting was enjoyable and important, but I did leave it still wanting something more. We need another book on serving, and I want it to be hilarious. I am a firm believer that everyone should have to serve tables at some point in their life. If they are not going to, they should at least pick up the book.

A friend of mine was just tipped with an expired coupon tonight. She is a great server. People are assholes. That tipper was probably never a server.
So, anyway, farewell career books and farewell to the month of April and farewell to tax season….

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Bears Famous Invasion

The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily by Dino Buzzati
2005 (it was first published in Italian, but this is the English edition with the Introduction by Lemony Snicket)
Weight: 9.6 oz
Method of Disposal: Leaving somewhere, unless you want it.

Such fun! I love children’s books that treat their audience with respect and assume that they are an intelligent crowd. It is why the Lemony Snicket series is so successful, and it is why this book is great. The humor is dark and the story is often depressing, though triumphant. There is a lot of violence and betrayal. There is also heroism and friendship. I was amused to see “GRE words” dotted throughout the text. Teach em’ those fun oft-used words young! I support it. How improved my life would have been if I had known the word “nettle” when I was in grade school.

The book includes poetry, prose, b+w and colored illustrations, a character guide (that is hilarious), and a Reader’s Companion that was written by Snicket himself. You can find some valuable lessons in this last component. “The lesson of this chapter is clear: Cats—and their owners—are not to be trusted (165).” This refers to a massive, hungry cat that attacks the bears in chapter 4. It is unleashed by its wicked troll of an owner. Or, “The lesson of this chapter is clear: There are few things more painful than a bad evening at the theater (169).” This is referring to when the bears overtook the malicious Duke while he was attending a show in town.
I won’t give you any quotes from the actual text, though I will hint to you that I love the description of ghosts in the very beginning. I recommend this book. It was endearing and entertaining.

Friday, April 8, 2011

RIP Ditto

Hamster (ASPCA Pet Care Guides for Kids) by Mark Evans
Weight: 9.6 oz.
Method of Disposal: Donating

On April 5, 2011 a beautiful, clean, and curious Black-eyed Cream Syrian hamster named Ditto passed away in her hut at an old age, 2.5 years. We do not know what the start of her life was like, who her mom was, or much about her before she arrived at one of the big name pet stores. We can surmise that she went through a lot as a tiny puppy and was lucky(?) to be alive by the time she arrived at the retail store. PETA exposed cruelty at a major small pet supplier, and it was all over the news just last year. I am not always a fan of PETA but, in this instance, I am thankful for their undercover footage. I also know, from talking to multiple friends who worked at these retail chains, that life in the store was not idyllic either. Many hamsters never made it out alive, they got sick and received little to no treatment, or were sold to people who did not have the best of intentions. I remember one story about someone’s first month on the job. This particular store requires that you fill out a form to buy a hamster, stating that the animal will not be used as feeder. A man turned in the form stating he was No Body from Somewhere, Ga. The manager said there was nothing they could do and to let it go. There were worse stories about animals suffocating in too close quarters and arriving dead or injured.

A woman decided she would purchase her young son a hamster to teach him about responsibility. Ditto was chosen from her litter. She was given a name (Sandy) and taken home. She lived with this family for about a year, but when the woman realized she was pregnant she spoke with her doctor who told her she could no longer clean her cage, and there was no one else who could help her. She knew it would be even more difficult when she was recovering from her C-Section. She placed an ad to get rid of her and all her things for free. We made plans to meet. I picked Ditto up in a public parking lot. I had wanted a hamster, but I knew I would never be able to buy another one from the pet store. I was thankful to have her in my life. I was told that she was not big into being handled and knew to crawl into her running ball when it was time for her to leave the cage. I drove her home. She was scared and angry.

My friend, Skye, was the first person who would be able to lure her into their hands, later that same night, and I was the next. She was a sweet girl, after all, she was just terrified and had been through quite a lot in her short life. I threw out the cage I had been given for free and all of its components. I could not get the urine smell out of it, and so we started with a fresh cage. I named her Ditto after the most fabulous Beth Ditto, a strong woman for sure. She had plenty of treats, toys, and nests. She always had food, water, and a clean cage. She often roamed the house in her ball, running alongside my dog Sergei (who ignored her or was slightly scared of her) and some of my foster babies. She loved papaya treats above all others. My friend, Jasmin, once startled her while she was asleep and she promptly bit her finger, causing her to bleed, but she never hurt anyone else. Jasmin still hates her to this day. She escaped once and was caught in the act once. The first time, I was beside myself with worry and was frantic for hours, trying to find her. She chewed up the carpet, tore up some insulation, and left sunflower seed shells in various corners, but I did find her eventually. I was worried about her for days, but she continued living for a long time after that. The next time I caught her she was tightrope walking right beside her cage. I fixed it to where she could not escape again. I lamented her lack of freedom, but I had to protect her from the dogs and potential toxins.

Ditto was less social than my other rescued hamsters, and it would take just a little patience and time to gain her trust. I have always respected that in an animal, and it seems reasonable considering her rocky start. She was intelligent, curious, and energetic. She made me laugh. I felt an overwhelming amount of love for her.

She is now buried and gone, but I will never forget what an amazing little rodent and friend she was.

I am donating the ASPCA book in hopes that a parent and child will read it together before adopting a hamster. So often, parents think a hamster is a good starter pet, but they do not realize how fragile they can be. This is an excellent book explaining how to care for your buddy, describing what makes hamsters so incredible, and encouraging a healthy life overall for the little rodents. It tells you everything you need to know and more.

-In the wild, hamsters run as much as 5 miles in a night.
-Hamsters can have up to 16 nipples—large litters!
-Hamsters have 16 teeth in that tiny little mouth.
-The Siberian hamster became a pet in 1940, not that long ago. The smaller hamsters, like Roborovsky’s were even more recently introduced.
-Dwarf hamsters and Chinese hamsters like to live in pairs, but Syrians cannot live together after they are 5 months old. They will fight each other.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Thank you, Nancy Garden

Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden
1999 (6th printing, first printed in 1982)
Weight: 4 oz
Method of Disposal: Donate, unless you want it

I have such fond and warm feelings for Annie on My Mind. I have talked about young adult glbt fiction on here any number of times. I have whimpered and whined and given in. I often mention not being able to find age appropriate books at the time I was realizing I was queer fabulous—when I was in middle school. Annie on My Mind was the exception. It was the only YA fiction book I found before I went into college. Don’t get me wrong, I read plenty of other things. 1 Teenager in 10, 2 Teenagers in 20, The Well of Loneliness, and so on.

I loved it. It was gentle and slow. It does not include any overt, sensual sexcapades or daring protests. It is a simple, love story about two girls realizing their feelings for each other. It seems as if they will never kiss! You know they want to, but they are too scared to admit it. I remember feeling that way when I was reading the book, and I remember having similar moments in my young, inexperienced life.

I am so glad for this book and so sad to see it go. Won’t anyone I know take it? So, I know it has a good home? It is dated now, and I am not sure who would benefit from it more—teenagers or adults—at this point. BUT it is so loveable! Aren’t you, at least, intrigued?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Fade Away

Prozac Nation (1995)
Radical Sanity: Commonsense Advice for Uncommon Women (1999)
Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women (1999)
More, Now, Again: A Memoir of Addiction (2002)
By Elizabeth Wurtzel
Weight: 3 lbs
Method of Disposal: Donating to the AKF with other items, unless you want it

I will be very satisfied when I rid my life of this book. It is another one I have held onto for far too long with no explicable reason. I can see how Wurtzel may appeal to a young, depressed, and dramatic youth population, but it is hard to imagine her outside of that realm. I bought her when I was at that stage, but it was already starting to be too much back then, and it definitely is now.

I picked the book up, scanned some of the writing, tried to get some inspiration to write this blog entry, became increasingly irritated, fought it, so on and so forth. This might be the 10th time I have done this over the last few months. It is all so frustrating. On the one hand, depression and addiction are very serious issues. I do not want to downplay these components of her life or take away from the understanding that she needed a lot of help. I don’t want other people to read my words and think that no one understands what they are going through if they relate to Wurtzel. I am tempted to go the route of she had everything…what the fuck?! But, I know that even people with “everything” have their own demons, secrets, and inner turmoil. I have been that what-the-fuck-person—people have looked at me that way. I have looked at me that way. Sometimes, I still do. It just depends on whose perspective you are seeing the world through.

Wurtzel has written two memoirs now. One dealing with depression and one with addiction. She wrote a less-than-insightful women’s studies book entitled Bitch (though, if I had to pick a favorite…). A useless and tiny book called Radical Sanity and then renamed The Secret of Life? She has been successful. She has been a bestseller. She has been offered interesting and enviable writing jobs, and she has lost interesting and enviable writing jobs. She has a massive ego that makes it difficult not to view her with disdain. She can seem so utterly selfish. She appears to love herself just as much as she hates herself, and she loves to hate herself. At least, as of the time this was published in 2002.

I am over Wurtzel. I don’t even want to talk about it anymore. In fact, I started this thinking I was just getting rid of More, Now, Again, but I think I will go ahead and get rid of all the others I can find so I don’t have to do this again. It is making me queasy.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Geography Club

Geography Club by Brent Hartinger
Weight: 6 oz.
Method of Disposal: Do want to read it? Otherwise, I am not sure.

This book was not exceptional, though it was amusing. It was one of my gay/lesbian finds I got so excited about in my Barnes and Noble employment days. I had wanted there to be more gay/lesbian young adult reading when I was the age that genre is geared towards, and I couldn’t find it. Then, as a college student, it slowly started popping up. I was excited to find Geography Club, and I took it home that night.

My then-girlfriend and I read it aloud to each other in bed. The writing wasn’t great, the character development left a lot to be desired, and stereotypes ran rampant, but we had so much fun with it. We would be laughing out loud when it got too absurd, and then we would toss it aside for the next night. I cannot tell you now that if I read it again I would feel anything. I don’t know what would happen. It is possible that all my positive feelings towards this book are actually positive feelings towards that moment in my life, in that bed, in that apartment, with that girl.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Indian Killer (1996)
The Toughest Indian in the World (2000)
Sherman Alexie
Weight: 2 lbs
Method of Disposal: I am giving Indian Killer to my mom because I want to know what she thinks about the end. I am giving The Toughest Indian to Yosafa because she wanted a fast, good read.

I was introduced to Sherman Alexie while I was in college, and I have loved his work ever since. I went around to local used bookstores and bought up all of his books immediately following reading The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven for the second time. I may have bought one or two from the bookstore I was working at. I read most of them soon after I got them home, but these slipped by me. I must have become invested in all of my assigned reading and forgot about them, boxed them up, and didn’t notice them again until the last week of March.

I read The Toughest Indian in the World first. I felt like it had been awhile since I read good fiction, and I was not disappointed. As usual, the writing was hilarious, embarrassing, infuriating, and heartbreaking. Alexie so easily works various identities into his stories. He does not shy away from anything. Alcoholism, sexuality, the class war, racism, sexism, any of it. People are beautiful and fat. There are losers and warriors. They are complicated, even in their simplicity.

The last story in the collection, “One Good Man,” was about an Indian man caring for his dying father and, without flourish or delusion, we are torn apart by their relationship. “Dear John Wayne” showed how obscure academia can be in the context of real life, and the parts about John Wayne were hilarious, so sad, and so believable. “The Sin Eaters” came out of nowhere and felt so unusual compared to everything else I had read by Alexie, but it was creepy and, unfortunately, believable. I highly recommend this collection of stories. 5/5 stars. I la la loved it.

Indian Killer was also good, though I did not enjoy it like I do his short fiction. I still started it first thing one morning and finished it that evening. I could not walk away from the story. The racial tensions in the story were overwhelming, brutal, and honest. One act of violence would set of a string of violence and more and more and more. Everyone would react. Hate seeped into every crevice. Everything was complicated and inescapable. Hundreds of years of anger and confusion weighing down each page. The ending, so beautiful—was it a threat? I just finished it, and I am still trying to get a hold of all my thoughts. Maybe 4 out of 5 stars?

Good stuff. I hate to see my Alexie books go. I know I will be reading quite a few of them again, but they will not be my own copies. It is because I love them so much that I am letting them go. I hope the people who receive them enjoy them and, if they don’t, I hope they will pass them on to someone else who will.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Don't Stop Dreaming

The Blue Day Book: A Lesson in Cheering Yourself Up by Bradley Trevor Greive (2000)
Christmas Wishes: Inspiring Sentiments for the Festive Season (2004)
Weight: 1.5 lbs
Method of Disposal: Donating to AKF thrift store with some other items, unless you want them

These are those little square books that can be found by the registers at most major bookstores. They are up-sale items. They are last-minute gift ideas, attention grabbers, and coffee table phenomena. They are, essentially, like a really long chain e-mail. There are adorable and sometimes amusing pictures of animals juxtaposed with a simple sentiments. For example, a line of penguins stands at the edge of an ice cliff and one is jumping off. Underneath this image you find the following words, “Never hang back. Get out there and go for it.” Kind of annoying, right? The cover of The Blue Day Book brags that Grieve is a New York Times best-selling author.

These books are popular amongst certain people or when seen at the right time by someone desperate to find something for that someone or for someone who just wants to add something small to the gift they already purchased. Maybe you were guilted into buying it by the poor soul trying to keep their job—the one that already offers low pay and few hours? These books have been around for awhile so might have lost some of their luster, but I still think if they are donated someone who likes them will find them and will probably give it to someone else who doesn’t but will appreciate the thought.

I love cute pictures of animals as much as the next person, but thanks to the World Wide Web I see them every day. Often, I see the same ones over and over again. Often, I see them and couldn’t care less. I never understood these books. They do not make me feel better. They do not make me feel anything. The Blue Day Book was a hand-me-down from my manager, and the best part about it is the note in the front someone wrote to her. It was a gift, and probably a good one for the occasion. I have since flipped through it, and I am ready to pass it on. With a quickness.

I hope I do not offend anyone here. Christmas Wishes was a gift from a family member, and I can totally see what drew them to it. Adorable pictures of animals and most of them are penguins—my favorite. I was really pleased with this gift and appreciated the thought. I loved all the penguins. I have held onto it for a couple years, but I am going to relinquish it with the other one. It can only be flipped through so many times, and the words are absurd. A flock of geese are featured and beside them are the words, “What do you call people who are afraid of Santa Claus? Claustrophobic. All together now…quack,quack!” And that is one of the better excerpts.

No, these predictable and trite little square books are not my thing. I am sure I will receive them again in the future though. I love animals and someone will think of that and think of me, and I will be thankful.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Chimpanzees of Gombe

Through a Window: My Thirty Years with the Chimpanzees of Gombe by Jane Goodall
Weight: 14 oz.
Method of Disposal: Giving to my Mother, one person who seemed somewhat interested in my ramblings about the book.

I bought this book on discount when I worked at Barnes and Noble. I was only vaguely interested in reading it and only got it because it was such a good deal. I have admired Jane Goodall, and thus chimpanzees, ever since I first heard of her way back when, but it just was not on the top of my reading list. I felt that I had already read so much about her and so much about chimpanzees. I, obviously, have a passion for animals on top of it all and that is what led me to pick this book up out of a pile of others earlier this week.

It did end up surpassing my expectations, and I felt I did not know as much as I thought I did. For several days, I became enmeshed in this chimpanzee world and had trouble leaving it. I could put the book down easy enough. I wasn’t constantly trying to get back to it, but I could not get the chimps out of my head. I found myself inflicting others with conversations about Goodall and the chimps when most people obviously did not care. Probably, they also felt that they had already read or seen enough. Maybe they have, but I am willing to bet that most of them don’t know the half of it.

I kept seeing chimpanzee-like behavior in people that I knew, and it was fascinating. I had also, previously, idealized chimps and was a little shocked at how violent they could be. I found myself feeling angry and disappointed with them often, not unlike I feel towards people. It was really helpful to glean this information from Goodall, who respects and loves the chimps and has spent much of her life with them. She was able to present this information, while also balancing it with examples of kindness and compassion amongst the animals. In one of the final chapters, she discusses how similar people are to chimps, but also highlights their differences. She believes that only humans are capable of evil and torture, or martyrdom.

It is also sad to think of what would have happened to Goodall in the year 2011 if she were to try to go off on a similar expedition at the age she was in the 60s and with the same inexperience. It is easy to envision her being shot down, and then we would have lost so much valuable insight or it would have taken us much longer to get it. What are we missing now? Anything? I guess there is no need to dwell. Excellent people are held back every day, and excellent people push through all the barriers from time to time, throughout history. I am just glad Goodall made it and that she has made it her mission to let others know about Chimps, their link to human behavior, and the need to help save them and other animals from destruction and/or miserable living conditions. I am glad she was able to stand apart from some of the more sterile thinking involved in scientific research and observe the chimpanzees with the full knowledge that they are sentient and emotional beings.