Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Rape: A Love Story

Rape: A Love Story by Joyce Carol Oates
Weight: 6 oz
Method of Disposal:  Not sure?

I admit it.  I gave into the name.  I wanted to resist.  I knew I was being played—and easily—but I could not stop myself from walking right into the trap.  I saw it on a table next to other books.  I wondered, can the story possibly live up to that title?  I thought about being told never to write about rape in fiction.  Maybe Oates could pull it off or maybe she is why none of us should.  I thought about being raped and being loved.  I read it right away, and though I was not surprised, I was disappointed.  The book felt rushed and incomplete.  I think I have felt that way about Oates’ novels several times.  So sad.

I think I will write my own Rape: A Love Story just to see if it can be done.  I will have to call it something else of course.  Perhaps I will share it here when I am done.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Does Your House Have Lions?

Does Your House Have Lions?  Sonia Sanchez
Weight: 3.8 oz
Method of Disposal: Leaving Somewhere

It seems like in the late nineties I was buying a lot of current literature.  I was buying things and reading them the same year they came out.  I must have been more adventurous then.  Really, I am sure it was just that I had more time, money, and a bookstore employee discount.  If I buy or check out a book now, I usually look for a nonfiction topic I am into or for an author I know.  I am embarrassed to say that I do not give many new writers a chance—unless I read a good short story from them.  I miss the days of grabbing a book off the shelf and taking it home just because of the title, because it spoke to me, or because I happened to like the color in that moment.  

I just re-read Does Your House Have Lions?  There is something about the poetry surrounding illness and death that engulfs me, almost drowns me.  I have not read a lot of poetry in recent years, and I absolutely have learned that I cannot write it.  I respect someone who can, and I did enjoy this book when I first read it in the nineties and still now.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Why We Make Mistakes

Why We Make Mistakes: How We Look Without Seeing, Forget Things in Seconds, are All Pretty Sure We Are Above Average  by Joseph T. Hallinan
Weight: 8.5 oz

Method of Disposal:  Anyone want it?  I will leave it somewhere if no one asks for it.
This book was given to me, and I cannot remember by whom.  I kind of wish I could because it took me this long to realize they might be trying to tell me something.  It is bright orange so I grabbed it when looking for the next book I would read/release.  It was okay.  It contains a lot of stories and statistics.  There is nothing really to glean from it, other than trivial information.  You might try to look to the left at a grocery store for shorter lines.  Things like that.  Sometimes, I question the conclusions he draws from the information he has gathered. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Night Train

Night Train  by Martin Amis
Weight:  6 oz
Method of Disposal: Gave to Tracy who will probably read and then donate

I was caught quite off guard with Night Train.  I was under the impression that I did not particularly enjoy Martin Amis.  When I pulled it off my shelves I noticed that it looked short and easy to read, which was what I was in the mood for.  I was turned off by the author and by the synopsis that put it forth as a mystery novel.  I still took it to bed with me.  The voice of the main character in the first couple pages irritated me, and I just knew this would not be a favorite.

How many ways was I wrong?  I think I have an irresponsible and potentially inaccurate view of Martin Amis, and intend to read his other novels, many of which I already own.   I thought he did a great job with Night Train.  It can be categorized as a detective novel, without being a pop mystery book.  I see that now.  I had some prejudgments.  I admit it.  I really enjoyed this book.  I could not wait to read it and viewed other, non-reading, moments of my life with disdain.
That being said, I do think the book had so much more potential.  I am not sure exactly what it was missing, but I think it was in the character and her voice.  I liked Detective Mike Hoolihan, but I am not sure I was ever convinced of her existence.   There is too much umph.  Too many stereotypes for one person, maybe?  There were necessary details that were never explained or used in any real way.  It was like they belonged, but they had not found their place.

This book explores the suicide of a beautiful young woman with a seemingly perfect life.  The narrator tells her own story while describing the lead up to the death of the beautiful woman (her acquaintance) Jennifer Rockwell.  The book itself becomes a suicide letter from the narrator, Mike Hoolihan.  The reader is given clues all along, but like in real life, misses most of them, ignores them, or does not realize the full potential of them.  While we focus on Jennifer, her boyfriend, and her family we let Mike lead us through her own demise without us realizing it.  We know Mike is lonely, a recovered alcoholic with a dying liver, and bitter from her time working as a Police.  It is not shocking that she decides to end her life, but it is not what you thought the focus of the book was either.  

I really cannot fully explain what about this book grabbed me and would not let go, but I can say that I was in it the whole time.  I felt sadness, fogginess come over me at the end.  I was surprised by my reaction.  It was unexpected and so wonderfully welcomed.  I now say goodbye to the Night Train.  I bought it for 93 cents many years ago and never thought much about it.  Now, I will not soon forget it, and I have some Amis to catch up on.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Hold On To The Sun

Hold On To The Sun  by Michal Govrin
Weight: 8.8 oz
Method of Disposal: Donating or giving away

I admit it.  This was a book I bought at the Border’s going out of business sale.  It was like an addiction.  I just started grabbing books off the shelves at random.  The end was just days away and I could buy something like  5 books for the price of one!  The Dismantled Project faded away, and my animal instinct took over.  I can remember and relive the feelings that washed over me then because it must be a lot like what I am going through now.  I am trying to quit smoking AGAIN, and it is the third day.  If there was a closeout sale on cigarettes, I would not be able to resist.  Hell, if I walked into a gas station I would not be able to resist.  That is why I am trapped at my house, nauseated, and semi-delusional.  I am afraid to leave this cave and go into the world again and yet I will have to.  Soon.  Tomorrow even.


The part of the book I recommend is the very first essay.  It is entitled “The Journey to Poland.”  Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Rose: Love In Violent Times

Rose: Love in Violent Times  Inga Muscio
Weight: 9.6 oz
Method of Disposal: Donating or Giving Away

I fell in love with Cunt: A Declaration of Independence when I was 16.  It got me excited.  I proclaimed that I would buy 100 copies and give them all away for free before I died, just to spread the word.  I wrote Inga a letter telling her about my plan, thanking her for writing, and asking her to sign a book.  She sent back an autographed copy and some Cunt stickers I carried around with me, never deciding on where they would get their best use.  

I did buy quite a few copies of Cunt.  I gave them to friends.  I bought the revised copy.  To this day, I still have one of the original yellow books, one of the revised blue books, and the autographed yellow copy.  I quit buying them right as I got into college.  I was reading so many amazing things.  It just kind of faded away.  It was not until much later that I found my disappointments with the book.

Despite my growing distaste, I continued to buy her books.  It meant so much to me at 16, and that means something no matter what I learn, feel, think in the now/future.  

I just pulled Rose off the bookshelves and read it for the first time.  I was disappointed.  It was all over the place and never seemed to come together in any real way.  The chapters were labeled differently, but I so often felt like I was reading the same thing over and over and over.  It is her stream-of-consciousness, blunt writing that is her strength, but it can also be her weakness.  I like that she does not write as if she is smarter, more educated, wiser than other people.  I like that she says things that make sense.   I worry when she compares the opening of a Wal-Mart to the dropping of atomic bombs in Japan.  It feels like a painful and inaccurate comparison even though I agree that Wal-Mart does terrible things.  I could even think of a lot of ammunition/information to throw behind the argument that a Wal-Mart opening could be like a bomb—but I did not get it from her.  She mentions is, but she drops it quickly and moves on, like almost everything else.   I do question some of the research, statistics, information she sites.  There should be a good way to not fall into the rut of academic writing but still give me a clue as to where you got your information that rape has gone up dramatically since the Iraq War (and things like that).  I do not doubt that it has, but I want to know more about it and read more about it.  

I have disdain for the use of “retarded” in the first Cunt and for the flippant anti-prostitution analogies used in Rose.  I just do not see the need.  I think it is unnecessarily hurtful, though possibly unintentional.  Just, if you are asking us to think about our words then think about yours.
I think Inga is a great activist, a passionate writer, and probably a loving person.  I am just not so easily amped up anymore.  I have grown and changed.  I am no longer moved by the language and voice I once was.  Again, I am still thankful for that energy I was given as a teenager, but in the future I hope to read far more useful books on the same topic.  We do need to find love in these violent times, afterall.