Sunday, January 31, 2010

I'm still around, never fear.

Wow, Emily is a CHAMP. I am on The Absentee still. It's turning out to be really good, though. My semester just started again and I'm taking 2 courses, so fair warning. I have to finish The Absentee though, because it's an interlibrary loan and it's about a week overdue. Oh, and I already renewed it once. I think I shall go read right now.



I just finished Adjunct: An Undigest by Peter Manson. This book was very, uh, different. I’ll include a quote. From Page 18.

“Dr. Ramsay good at injections. Prynne lineation in poems not by Prynne. Rabbi Hugo Gryn is dead.”

The book is entirely like that. Well beyond my understanding.

Here’s a recipe for Bistro Dinner Salad.

For the salad:

1 box (probably 5-6 cups) mixed herb salad

¼ c walnuts

¼ c dried cranberries

1 pear, chopped

½ c Gorgonzola cheese crumbles

7 slices bacon

3 eggs

Sliced French bread

For the dressing:

1 ½ T Dijon mustard

1/2 c Olive oil

1 tsp tarragon

½ c white wine vinegar

Cook bacon in large cast iron skillet and hard boil the eggs. Place other ingredients for the salad, other than the French bread, in large salad bowl. Slice the French bread and lightly toast in toaster. Prepare the dressing. When bacon is done cooking, tear into little pieces and add to salad. Toss the salad with the dressing. Serve in bowls and top with sliced hard boiled eggs and pieces of toasted bread.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

“What do you mean, you’ve never read Huck Finn?”

Said Mike when I told him what was next on the list. Indeed, I managed to get through high school and college without reading this book. (I was going to call it a “timeless classic” there. Then Mike started chuckling.)

So, it was pretty cool. I understand why it’s popular. As I’ve personally never actually SEEN the Mississippi River, it was hard for me to envision the action. I have a hard time imagining them floating along on this raft? And they also had a canoe? And all that stuff? It seemed like a lot for them to keep track of. And there’s also all that other stuff floating along in the river? Very weird.

I also thought the ending was kind of a little bit too neatly all tied up in the last chapter. It was like, all of a sudden, everything is wonderful! Hooray! Jim is freed, Huck gets his money back, finds out his father isn’t going to bother him anymore, and Aunt Sally wants to adopt him. It just felt a little bit rushed. But I was glad that everything wound up working out OK for everyone at the end.

I'm glad I finally read Huck Finn. It was a fun adventure story. I can see why everyone likes it so much!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

2 endings!

The Adventures of Caleb Williams is a tough read. The author (William Godwin) is a big Enlightenment guy and truly believed that if everyone followed the principles of reason, we would have a perfect society with no crime, no laws, no government, etc. This thinking comes through in the book – which must have been very trendy at the time. Now it just seems kind of goofy. Anyway, there is a lot of reasoning and “expostulation” that goes on (and on, and on).

The plot is pretty interesting but not that plausible. I found it difficult to believe that the characters would behave the way they do. The characters also are not that complex. It’s kind of a good vs. bad story. I was really glad I read the introduction for this one though because it helped put the book in historical context and helped me figure out some stuff I found confusing.

Finally, the edition of the book that I have has 2 endings! Apparently the author wrote one ending, then changed his mind and wrote a second ending. The second ending was published originally. The book puts the first ending in an appendix – so you can see what the other alternative was. I thought that was pretty cool – though I wonder how the author would have felt about that. If I wrote something, changed my mind, and wrote something else, I’m not sure I’d be all that thrilled if the first thing came to light and were published. (Though, now with everything on the computer, I guess the chances of that are slimmer.)

Next up: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. On the Kindle. It was 25 cents to buy! Now I just have to see if the baby will be too interested in the Kindle to allow me to read it when I’m around her. She does OK with books, but LOOOOVES electronics.

Friday, January 15, 2010

I'm squeamish about violent books.

Thankfully, Marissa doesn’t mind if I discuss a little bit of the plot of Adam Bede in this entry. It would be really hard to write about this book and not reveal any of the plot. (The introduction and the back of the book kind of give it away, anyway.)

When I found out that this book involved a young woman killing her own child, I really was dreading reading it. Ever since I became a mama a little over a year ago, I’ve been SUPER sensitive about - and try to avoid - reading or seeing stuff that involves dead children. How could someone kill their own child. Too awful to contemplate.

So I approached this book with some dread. Thankfully, though, the author develops the plot really softly and subtly. Much of the stuff that goes on is not presented directly and you learn about them because other characters are talking about what happened. So it wasn’t as explicitly awful to read as I had feared. I’m sure this is what the 1850s readership wanted and it’s a really nice contrast from how this topic would probably be covered in a book today!

And the introduction discusses this quite a bit, but this book really IS a beautiful portrait of rural farm life in 1800. I felt like I was living there with the villagers watching Adam build stuff and Mrs. Poyser run her dairy. It’s weird, the contrast between the beautiful writing and the thoughtful portrait of the community and the violent crime that forms the basis of the plot.

I do have one question though. I can’t figure out what happens to Hetty at the very, very end of the book. (I think she’s referred to in the epilogue, pages 537 and 539 of the Penguin Classics edition). It’s just TOO subtle for me, I guess. I even looked it up on Wikipedia to no avail. (Hey Marissa, when you get to this point, help!!!)

Monday, January 4, 2010

Not necessarily simpler times.

I keep starting to write about The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow and deleting everything. Too boring or book report-ish. I’m flummoxed by how good the book is. Anything I say will just muddle it up. So I’ll limit this to a few quick thoughts.

This book is a fascinating look at 1920s-1940s middle America. We idealize the past as Simpler Times but it’s more like different times. Life is not simple for Augie and his family and friends. The challenges they face are quite different than today (for example, they didn’t have the pleasure of the Magical Verizon Time Window, where you sit in your house and wait and wait and wait for a technician to come galloping over the horizon on a unicorn to fix all your tv, phone, and internet problems. But I digress.) The problems Augie and his family and friends face are no less complicated, though. Well, it is the Great Depression and all. Not really the most jolly, carefree time.

Augie doesn’t have a formal college education and holds about 10,000 jobs over the course of the book. (And some of them are crazy! He trains an eagle!) None of these jobs define him. You know when you meet someone for the first time and they ask, “So what do you do?” Augie would have this litany of things. I was struck by how many opportunities there were available to a person without a college education back then. Sadly, that is no longer the case.

Augie frustrates me sometimes because he doesn’t do what I think he should do. Sometimes he is presented with these choices where he would just make his life So.Much.Easier if he did the easy thing, but no. Instead he turns the easy decision down every time. I’m glad that I managed to like the book even though the main character got on my nerves a bit.

This book was absolutely worth reading and it’s one of those books I keep turning over and over in my head thinking about it. I don’t even want to start Adam Bede yet because I want to reflect a while on this one.