Monday, May 30, 2011

Mailman

Mailman by J. Robert Lennon 2003 Weight: 1.9lbs Method of Disposal: Giving Away

video

Mailman has become something separate from the book I read. It has become a way of showing disapproval of something I have done. It is an insult slung out in unexpected times. It is a struggle and a disturbance. Sometimes, it is a fascination that when described makes others cringe and look at the speaker with disdain.

It took me a month to read this book. I could not get into it for the first 100 pages and so my mind wandered, and I read other books. Perused my stack of New Yorkers. I would look at the book and fall asleep out of fear that I would force myself to read it. Then, after all those pages, something happened, and I became invested. I started wish my day would end more quickly so I could crawl into bed with Mailman. Towards the end, it dropped off again, but it never got back to its first time low. I tried to discuss it with a friend and couldn’t tell if I had, indeed, found things to respect in the book. Was a feeling more than annoyance? I believe so. I felt conflicted. There are some great one-liners in this book. There were moments (very few) where I could relate to one of the characters, and I would be shocked. Every woman character in this was lacking something, and it was never clear why they all either fell in love with or slept with Mailman. He is a totally unlikeable and unsympathetic character. He is lacking so much. It is not the incest, the ibs, the total disregard of social cues. Those things are o.k. , but wasn’t there anything else to him? Was that the point? Probably.

It is not the fault of the author that I wanted there to be so much more dealing with being a mailman and the postal service. One of my many fascinations. Luckily, I have a string of fiction books about “snail mail” so there is hope yet. I write and send letters every week and am fascinated by other people’s letters. Not that it was trying to in any way, but Mailman had nothing on Mona Simpson’s LAWNS, which incorporates the mail system, theft, incest, and disturbing storylines also.

I don’t think I recommend Mailman, but many people do, and I am just not sure. It is sticking with me, which probably means something. If you would like to have a free copy let me know.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Aimée and Jaguar

Aimée and Jaguar: A Love Story, Berlin 1943 Erica Fischer
1995
Weight: 12 oz
Method of Disposal: Leaving somewhere in the city unless you want it



There are not a lot of books about German lesbians during WWII. There are a number of reasons for that, and I will not get into that here. I bought this book in the 90’s, as soon as I laid eyes on it. I also watched the movie as soon as I could get my hands on it. It is an incredible story about two women in an impossible situation. The love story between a Nazi officer’s wife and a young Jewish woman, hiding in the heart of Germany, Berlin.

It is a true story so it does not contain the standard romance formula we see in so many books. This book, unfortunately, is unable to really bring the women to life for me, but I am still glad to have read it. I am thankful for the research and work put into it. I did (perhaps embarrassingly) enjoy the movie more, but I learned more with the book. There is an unnecessary and uncomfortable epilogue to the book that has left a residual bad feeling within me for years. I resent it. If I could go back and do it again, I wouldn’t read that part. Anywho, all that being said, you should read it. Pass it on. Tell this rare history to someone else.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Christmas Blessings

Christmas Blessings: A Celebration of the Festive Spirit by Sian Keogh
2008
Weight: 10.4 oz
Method of Disposal: Donating



Did I seriously just find another one?!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Creationists

Creationists: Selected Essays 1993-2006 by E.L. Doctorow
2007
Weight: 8 oz
Method of Disposal: Donating



Creationists was great. Doctorow writes about Poe, Clemmons, Hemmingway, Stowe, Kafka, Melville, and many other renown authors, but he does it in a new way. There is a mixture of historical information, biography, criticism, praise, and individual connectedness to each essay. Did you know Stowe had 9 children and an overbearing (read: abusive) husband when she wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which sold only second to the Bible in its time.

At a time where I am almost constantly thinking about mortality, this book was kind of perfect. Let me know if you want it! Thanks for passing it on, Mom!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Your Blues Ain't Like Mine

Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine by Bebe Moore Campbell
1993
Weight: 9.6 oz
Method of Disposal: Donated to Decatur, GA Library




The first time I was exposed to this book was in a Women’s Studies 101 class. I read an excerpt, a scene, a murder. It was so painful. My whole body was screaming “no,” was rejecting the moment, and it. happened. anyway.

Later, I bought the book and, more recently, I re-read it. It felt different this time. My focus was different. There was so much crammed into one short novel—sometimes it felt like too much—only it all needed to be there. Some moments felt rushed, but it also showed change through time, through generations, through people. The true complexities of oppression were clearly laid out in front of us. No one could avoid them, even if they still couldn’t explain them. The book was ruthless. If only it could have been written into 5 books, but then no one would have read it and the connections would have been blurred. No, it was the size it should be, I guess.

Can I also say, I felt deep connections with the characters and that is so important to me? It is a bold book, and Campbell deserves respect for it.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Beasts of No Nation

Beasts of No Nation by Uzodinma Iweala
2006
Weight: 5.6 oz
Method of Disposal: Donated to the Decatur Library



This book was disappointing in that it was “one of the most acclaimed novels of the year.” It was okay, but it was not brilliant. A story about a child soldier is bound to be emotional, trying, and of interest, but it does not automatically get to become an incredible piece of fiction in and of itself. So, that’s how I felt. It was a great story and a poor delivery.

The novel is told in something like Pidgin English, and it starts to wear on you fast. Something just doesn’t fit. It doesn’t feel right, and it doesn’t seem consistent. I once had a creative writing instructor who told us to be wary of using dialect. If not done well, you could end up pissing all over your character and if you don’t care about them (no matter how deplorable) why should the reader? Sometimes, I felt like I was hearing from a character covered in urine and scrambling for identity.

It wasn’t deplorable, but it won’t show up on any Best of List I create. A lot of people LOVED it, and you might too.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Shout Out to Sarah and Hard Laughter

Hard Laughter by Anne Lamott
2000
Weight: 14 oz
Method of Disposal: Donating. I just took this and a box of books to the Decatur Library (GA) for their may sale. If you have any to donate they are collecting until May 21st.




This book was first published in 1979. This is the 15th printing, and I had no idea until just now. To me, this book is being 16. It is meeting Sarah Graham-Adkinson at the Waldenbooks in the mall and later working with her. It is pink hair, reading while walking, riot grrrl, and a red VW Beetle. Sometimes, it was watching Queer as Folk (rented from Hollywood Video) all night long or laughing about the use of “canoodling” in Valley of the Dolls, the movie. It was around the year 2000. I could go on, but I will spare you.

Sarah recommended this book to me and, at the time, it had me hysterical. There were a couple points where I laughed myself into tears. Something about Shiva? I never re-read it, but there were times later when I would try to read favorite parts out loud to someone else, and they just didn’t seem funny anymore. I am not going to revisit it. It is probably still great, but I do not want to risk tainting the memory.

I love you, Sarah!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

We Will Not Forget Matthew Shepherd

Losing Matt Shepherd: Life and Politics in the Aftermath of Anti-Gay Murder by Beth Loffreda
2000
Weight: 1 lb
Method of Disposal: Donate, unless you want it



I was just realizing I was into women and starting the process of coming out when Matt Shepherd was killed. I was 13. Two years later this book was published. It was not long after that when I started getting death threats, having my car keyed, and my nose shattered.

Matt Shepherd was 21 when he was brutally murdered in October of 1998. His death resonated with a lot of people. It scared a lot of people. It rallied even more. We were hurt, and we needed to come together. Judy Shepherd understood this and she took to traveling and speaking. She was in a heartbreaking documentary entitled, Journey to a Hate Free Millennium: Stories of Compassion and Hope, among others. I saw her at UGA with my friend, Sarah, and this documentary was shown before she spoke. At the end of her talk we were given thimbles. I believe they came from the documentary maker, and they were supposed to hold love. If we all carried a thimble of love…

I bought the documentary online later that month. I think it was around $50. I showed it to my high school sociology class, and I had to shut it off because they kids were having too much fun taunting me, making fun of matt’s father holding his son’s baseball hat in his hands. “Why do we have to watch a boring video about some old man crying about a faggot?” I only cried after that class one day out of that whole year, and it was a different day. The kids were brutal. The time I cried, they never saw it. It was not until my next class, physics, which I became inconsolable and had to call my mom from a pay phone to come get me. I could not get myself together for hours.

I don’t remember much about this book. I liked it, but I was not too picky. I do not remember feeling close to Matt while reading the book, though I was moved by his story many other times. It was emotionally distant, but it had value. It is not the book itself that makes it hard to let go. Can you tell?

What makes a crime a hate crime? This is part of it. A murder is committed and shouts out a message to others. It causes you to mourn a person, while also fearing for yourself and others like you because of race, sexual orientation, gender identity, so on and so forth. In October 2009, Obama signed the The Matthew Shepherd and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. 11 years later.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

R.I.P. Leviticus May 6, 2011

Quick and Easy Hamster Care The Pet Experts at T F H
2002
Weight: 3.2 oz
Method of Disposal: Donate or give away




Two months ago, I was taking trash to the dumpster at work, and I saw a filthy little aquarium out of the corner of my eye. I tossed out the trash and slowly approached it, afraid of what I would find. The sides were splashed with red paint. I peered in. I have never seen a cage look so dirty, so desolate. It was covered in feces and urine. There was no food. No water. There was a small hamster.

Leviticus was losing hair, his eyes were sealed shut, and he was so soiled that he could not even go to the bathroom—he was blocked. He had mats that had to be cut out of his fur with scissors. I carried him into the clinic and held him while the vet staff tried to figure out what all was wrong with him. I thought for sure he would be euthanized. Just by luck, the vet happened to be there that day. We got him cleaned up, cleared out his system, gave him an injection, and then we were sent home with oral antibiotics and eye drops.

My coworkers collected money to buy Lev a new cage. It was beautiful. Clean, plenty of room to stretch, to climb, and to burrow. He only got to enjoy it for a short while, but he did seem to enjoy it. Throughout all of his medical treatments, he was so gentle and so passive. He only nibbled on my once when I picked him up for the first time and once on his first visit back to the shelter, but it did not hurt and he never did it again. Not when I had to clean his eyes and open them every morning, not when I had to hold him down for shots, and not when I had to clean him up.

There is no need for an animal to ever be treated like that. Hamsters are so easy to take care of. It is cruelty and laziness that created a living hell for Lev. I guess the kindest thing those people did was dump him in the parking lot, but even that they couldn’t get right. You don’t leave a living thing, in a glass cage, outside under the sun, with no food or water, and just hope someone finds him in time.

He always slept out in the open, which is very unusual for a hamster. They are prey animals and will generally try to burrow or hide when they sleep. He would never go in any of the huts or houses I bought him. He probably never had anything to go in while he was growing up. How did he stay so placid?

I loved the little guy. I loved to watch him climb and to hold him, while giving him banana flavored treats. I knew he wasn’t doing well. One day, I came home to a lot of blood and a large clot in his cage. Things went downhill from there and, at some point, I had to take him to be euthanized. I couldn’t stand to watch him suffer anymore, shivering in the corner of his cage. On May 6, 2011 he finally quit struggling. I just hope that he had a good two months at my house and that he knew he was loved and cared for in the end.

Dream of the Tattered Man

A Dream of the Tattered Man: Stories from Georgia’s Death Row by Randolph Loney
2001
Weight: 1 lb
Method of Disposal: Donate



I really could not appreciate this book. Almost everything about it grated on me, and I felt like I would never get through it. Each page was a little piece of punishment. Last month wasn’t the first time I had picked up the book, but it was the first time I made it through.

I bought it when I was on a local author kick. It was an unfortunate time in my life. I read a lot of shit. I know there are great local authors, but I was having trouble picking them out of the crowd. I thought this book would be right up my alley. At the time, It was a recent discovery for me that I was against the death penalty. Years later, when I finally read this book, I almost had trouble maintaining that stance. It is really too bad since the author is also anti-capital punishment. We were just so disconnected from each other!

Just to assure you (or horrify you), I still do not support the death penalty. I was able to reason with myself and push this book out of it. Just make sure you don’t throw this one at somebody in an attempt to persuade them to stand up and fight.

A quick list of problems I had with the book:
• Too much God, though the author tried not to do this
• Too much personal struggle (mostly guilt), impossible to empathize with
• Too much name-dropping
• Too many useless details/adjectives—descriptions of the rain
• Too many quotes

Just steer clear!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Distress Signal

Fighting for a Living Wage by Stephanie Luce
2004
Weight: 4.8 oz
Method of Disposal: Donate or give away



It is May 1st. A hugely huge and important day. It is May Day or International Workers’ Day. It is the Day of Remembrance for the Holocaust. And, according to my peace calendar, it is Beltane, a Wiccan Festival of Fertility. It is also the start of Asian American Awareness Month.

In honor of May Day, I have decided to get rid of a book on Living Wage laws and campaigns. If you are not familiar with the Living Wage Campaign or what a living wage is, here is the following definition from Wikipedia:

“Living wage is a term used to describe the minimum hourly wage necessary for an individual to meet basic needs, including shelter (housing) and other incidentals such as clothing and nutrition, for an extended period of time or a lifetime. In developed countries such as the United Kingdom or Switzerland, this standard generally means that a person working forty hours a week, with no additional income, should be able to afford a specified quality or quantity of housing, food, utilities, transport, health care, and recreation.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Living_wage

It is important. And, it is not the same thing as a minimum wage.
This book is informative, and it is important, but I will be the first to admit that it was a little difficult to slog through. There is a lot of information in 266 pages. The author explores several Living Wage Campaigns, noticing how they are different and how they are similar. She wants to know why some have varying levels of success and some fail altogether. She brings all of her information together in the end for a helpful discussion on implementation and the future of Living Wage Campaigns. If you can do it, read this book. If you cannot get through it then talk to the people who are involved in the Living Wage Campaigns where you live. You might be surprised about how much you have to learn about poverty, money, your neighbors, yourself, and what it takes to make it in this world.

I hope you have a meaningful May Day, and I hope we can all improve together.