Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The Unbearable Lightness of Being By Milan Kundera
Weight: 9.6 oz
Method of Disposal: Leaving in Coralville, Iowa

I brought this book with me on the plane. I wanted to read it again before letting it go. It has probably been almost ten years since I last read it. It explores sex vs love, philosophy, living under an oppressive regime. It exposes human relationships as the ignorant, trite, and bumbling experiences they always are.

I am writing this from a hotel room, while my niece wails in the background, upset because she accidentally overfilled her cup with water and it spilled. It is hard to focus on Kundera and also hilarious to think about him in the drama that is ensuing. As it were, I am going to end this post here and find a place to leave this book behind and hope that someone picks it up who might enjoy it. Tomorrow, I fly back to Atlanta. I will spend my time on the plane reading So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell.

Go With Me

Go With Me by Castle Freeman Jr.
Weight: 5.6 oz
Method of Disposal: Leaving in Coralville, Iowa

I went to Prairie Lights in Iowa City for the first time this weekend. I let myself go a little, and I bought some books I probably should not have. This was one of them. It was a definite splurge to get this book and then leave it somewhere just a couple days later. Financially, it was really stupid, but in the spirit of the moment it was the right thing.

Go With Me is a quick read, and there some fine things about it, but overall it is not one of my favorites. The typography in this edition is disgraceful. It can really pull you out of the story, but that is not the author's fault. The skill of the story probably lies in the very thing I did not enjoy about it. It is not that it is bad, but that it is not really my type. It is the story of a woman trying to escape the threats and abuse of the town criminal. She seeks the help of the police and is directed to a group of local men. Two of which agree to go after him and take care of him for good. They were men of few words, and they did not show a lot of excitement or energy whether they were in danger, relaxing, or traveling to a fight. The woman was desperate for help but resentful of the type of men who were willing to help her. The only ones who will do anything. She lacks respect for them and fights them almost the whole way. The beauty of the story is in these relationships and that big, dramatic moves like murder are actually shown to be small, mundane acts of violence.

I am leaving this small book in Iowa instead of packing it in with all the other stuff I picked up along the way. I hope someone else finds it and enjoys it. I found it on a display at Prairie Lights and now it will be given away for free somewhere nearby. That bookstore, by the by, was great. I really like the quality of the books on display and that there's a decent selection of literary journals. I like that there is a tie between the bookstore and the university. Just two days before I flew in my past college professor had done a reading there. I adore that professor and was glad to see she had been there, right across from one of the universities she attended and has led workshops at. My trip to Iowa has been fun. I have enjoyed exploring downtown and checking out the school.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Buddhism Plain and Simple

Buddhism Plain and Simple by Steven Hagan
Weight: 12 oz
Method of Disposal: Giving to Tracy

I read this book when I was 16, and it changed me. I knew it as a basic, introductory book. I felt relaxed, secure, less anxious. It started a lifelong respect and love for Buddhism, whether or not I was able to truly make it a component of my life. I am so thankful for that feeling and for that insight. I am thankful for the book.

I reread it recently and did not enjoy those same feelings to the same degree. I was slightly disappointed for a brief period, but then I realized things change. We are the stream, after all. The book, what it is, the meaning, my “self” that does not really exist, is constantly changing. I was not as open to the insight it offered this time, and I wish I could change that. I may be able to. That is my dukkha. One of the many goals I set for myself and then fail to achieve because I set a goal, because I was trying to achieve something. I like the thought of being a mountain and my thoughts being clouds that pass by. I am not the one who can explain this to you. I am not the one that can write about this book right now.

It has given me a lot to un-think, to not think. It is a useful source. Check it out if you want a simple and repetitive lesson about Buddhism.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy Book

Lady Cottington’s Pressed Fairy Book
Weight: 2 lbs
Method of Disposal: Left in Inman Park area

On a far less serious note, I am getting rid of a Pressed Fairy Book.  What a strange little thing…
One of my dearest friend’s mom loved the smooshed fairies and had written a book about fairies herself and, somehow, that influenced me to have this book all this time.  A woman sits very still and waits for a fairy to land in her book and then she smashes it.  She writes about their fear, her excitement, her growth.  It is actually quite disturbing, but I can see how some people might find it entertaining so I hope it finds a new home with one of those folks.  No, in all honesty, the drawings of the fairies are well done and all in good fun.  It even comes with a publisher’s note about The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Fairies, and it explains that only two fairies really suffered.  It is cute.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

How Can I forgive You?

How Can I Forgive You? The Courage to Forgive, the Freedom Not To Janis A. Spring


Weight: 1 lb

Method of Disposal: Leaving somewhere

I am willing to bet that this book would have been helpful if I had read it when I bought it. I cannot remember now, but I am sure I bought it when I had a certain person in mind that I wanted to forgive. I did not feel as involved or motivated to read it, as I probably did then, when I picked it up a week ago, but I persevered. I was not entirely impressed, but I think I probably did some latent learning. I have a built in resistance to self help books so this is likely more a commentary on me than on the book itself. The author uses a lot of very helpful real life examples and, while a lot of them focus on adultery, there are plenty dealing with parent/child conflicts, sexual abuse situations, and even one dealing with a therapist/client relationship. I was particularly impressed by this last relationship. The client confronted the therapist about the hurt she endured working with him, and he wrote her back with a thoughtful and helpful response. This was so new and unique to me. I believe in therapy, and I have heard about/experienced a lot of bad therapy sessions and good ones. I have never heard about someone confronting their therapist years later and getting an insightful and helpful response. It made me feel good about people and about counseling and about forgiveness. I appreciated that diversity and it encouraged me to delve into myself, my history and my present situation, to think about how I forgive and how I accept forgiveness. Who I have forgiven, who has forgiven me, and who I have yet to forgive. It is only in instances of trauma that I feel I have not yet been able to forgive. The author allows that freedom but also puts forth some ideas about how to go about dealing with that pain/yearning if I wanted to. It also made me think of who I need to apologize to and how I might go about apologizing in the future. That cannot be bad, right?

ALSO, I did learn that there is a Forgiveness Institute. I never knew.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Diary of a Blue-Eyed Devil

Autobiography of a Blue-Eyed Devil: My Life and Times in a Racist, Imperialist Society
Inga Muscio
Weight: 1 lb
Method of Disposal: Putting in a Better World Books Bin

I have finally finished the last Inga Muscio book I own.  After Cunt impressed me so much when I was around 16, I kept feeling like I needed to read her other work and kept collecting them as they came out, even though I had come to the realization that Cunt was much less mind blowing than I thought and a little more offensive.  If you have read my past blog, you know I was not enthralled with Rose.  I decided to read this one on the heels of that one so I could go ahead and just get rid of them.  It took me all month.

I will say that this one was much much better than Rose and even had snippets where I could get into her voice and what she was saying all over again.  I believe it is important for Americans to face the rampant racism and imperialism of our country.  I appreciate that she put so many provocative truths forward, but she continued to let me down.  For someone who thinks so much about discrimination, reclaiming and the power of words, and various isms she really seems to be lacking an understanding or a willingness to understand (dis)ability.  How are we still using “retard” three books in?  How is it that this book is the first one I remember seeing ability looked at in its own right, and each time it was brought up it was in a superficial or blase way, if not thrown out as an insult.  It would be so easy to fix!  

I am sure no one will be shocked, given that I work at an animal shelter in the South and see cruelty/neglect on a daily basis, that I was not all that thrilled with her tangent about companion animals and spay/neuter.  That is not to say that I think animals exist to be our pets and that I do not, also, have a problem with how we breed, abuse, dominate, and mistreat them.  I do not think, in an ideal world, we would have so many animals in homes and contained.  I do not think that if breeding were controlled and animals were treated with true humaness that we would have to spay/neuter them.  I can understand and empathize with the resistance to spay/neuter, but the benefits to the animals far outweigh the negative.  I think of the thousands of pit bulls on chains, euthanized, abused every day and cringe at the thought of making more that will suffer the same way their peers did.  I would rather spay one pit bull than watch their offspring starve to death, live in crowded shelter conditions waiting for death, get hit by cars, so on and so forth.  And this goes for all pets, but I use pit bulls because I love them so and they are the least adopted, most mistreated companion animal of all time.  Also, Inga Muscio has a friend who use to have to sleep with a gun and a PIT BULL every night because of living amongst gangs.

I like how she describes her love for America, as well as her dislike.  I appreciate that she took the time to lead the reader to see the beauty of this racist, imperialist country even while exposing gross injustice.
I do not like the stories about her blowing up on random strangers, like the woman on the plane who asked her what she was eating.   Inga is sure it was because the woman was white and the food did not fit into her worldview of normal.  I am not so sure.  Sometimes, I question her reason and her anger management.  A woman asking about some noodles got blown way out of proportion.  And, even if that was what was going on, couldn’t you find a better example of everyday racism?  Or educate the woman instead of confuse her? This book was way too long and contained way to many disconnected snippets.  I read the first 200 pages quickly and suffered through the redundancy and negativity of the last 300.

She has a good idea.  She says important things.  But it is always face value, and intentionally over-the-top-shock-value material.  She never achieves a tangible, well thought out, connected piece of work.  This is the last Inga book I will read, no matter how many more she writes.  I am sorry about that.  We have so much in common and so many interesting/useful differences, but I am done.  It has become overwhelming and reading is supposed to be fun/educational/helpful/inspirational/enraging/meaningful/something else.  I mean, I am supposed to feel something other than irritation, I think.

Side note:  I do not quite understand the idea of her choosing not to swim in the ocean, which she loves so much, because the ocean is so mistreated.  It talked to her and told her.  People do massive damage to the ocean and the planet, and we should be angry, but really, what does not swimming in the ocean do to help the situation really?  You will have to read the section for yourself.