Tuesday, November 30, 2010

It's all about asses and cocks.

Ok, I couldn't help it. I know the fables are referring to donkeys and roosters, but it still makes me giggle.
(And I hear Emily exclaiming "You're so dirty!) Anyway, I finally read Aesop's Fables. There are SO MANY more than I thought there were! I was familiar with "The Tortoise and the Hare" and "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" but there about a zillion more. I liked the overarching themes of being content with what you have, not reaching beyond your means, getting what you deserve, helping others, and the like. No wonder they've lasted throughout the centuries. And they are so adaptable, which is why there are so many versions mixed into books, movies, TV, etc. In fact, Jerry Pinkney won the Caldecott Medal this past year for his version of The Lion and the Mouse which had no words, just beautiful images and subtle details. I'm glad I got acquainted with the original tales. Thanks Project Gutenberg!

Who is more of a tortoise than a hare.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Everyone's a nonconformist.

The funny thing about having a baby is that you turn around one day, and they are a toddler. With opinions. Opinions that may differ from your own on topics such as what to wear, what to eat, whether to take a bath, and so on. And though some of the things they do are awfully cute, I guarantee that every once in a while, they are going to want to wear their green pajama shirt all day with their purple striped leggings. Or is that just my kid?

Sinclair Lewis' masterpiece Babbitt is about a man who has spent his whole life doing what he should. He joins the right clubs, makes the right friends, lives in the right subdivision, and has a life that seems quite happy on the surface. Inside, though, he is restless and wonders if other choices would make him happier. He essentially wants to try the adult equivalent of wearing his green pajama shirt all day. The book is a wonderful story not only about Babbitt and his desire to no longer conform, but also an amazing illustration of America in the 1920s. Whenever his kids became part of the story, I kept thinking, those are my grandparents. I can definitely see why Lewis won a Nobel Prize for this book.

Happy Thanksgiving! I can't wait to see what Peanut decides to wear to Thanksgiving dinner this year.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Peanut: Want cranberries!
Me: You have a dish of cranberries right over there on the coffee table, see?
Peanut: (wailing): Nooo! You don't LIKE those cranberries! Want DIFFERENT cranberries! Nooooo!

This kind of scene is repeated several times at my house over the course of a day. Peanut will be 2 on Saturday. I usually just give her what she's asking for if it isn't a big deal like a dish of different cranberries. There are several reasons for this. I love her very much and I want her to be happy. And if it is important to her and not so important to me, I don't mind compromising. Goodness knows that there's plenty of stuff she doesn't get to choose (wearing a coat is the biggest right now) so I may as well say yes when I can. But I see why people say toddlers can be dictators, though. Yikes.

Thankfully, I'm not afraid that Peanut will have me beheaded or quartered if I don't give her the cranberries, like the dictator in The Autumn of the Patriarch might. (How's THAT for a segue, ha!) This book was tough to read. Difficult subject matter for me, very difficult stream of consciousness writing style, and very depressing book. There were almost no paragraphs. Just these really long musing, meandering sentences. I found it harder to read than Faulkner.

Anyway, glad it's over, and I better post this before my baby dictator spots my iPad...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Post from beyond...

Oh hey. It's Marissa. What's up? Just checking in. I started Adam Bede. Which is book 7, friends. My sister Emily von Speedypants Readsalot is at 57. AND I'm only on 7 because I haven't read 5 and 6 yet. Although I had read 52 of the 1001 prior to starting this project, so we're about even. Will post again when I've actually gotten into Adam Bede because I'm in the explanatory notes now (George Eliot was a WOMAN!).

Marissa von Slowpoke Gradschool Readsotherstuff

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Books 61-70

Into the B's now!

61. Back by Henry Green (1946)
62. The Beautiful Room is Empty by Edmund White (1988)
63. Bel-Ami by Guy de Maupassant (1885)
64. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (1963)
65. Belle du Seigneur by Albert Cohen (1968)
66. The Bell by Iris Murdoch (1958)
67. Beloved by Toni Morrison (1987)
68. Ben-Hur by Lew Wallace (1880)
69. A Bend in the River by V.S. Naipaul (1979)
70. Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Doblin (1929)

Lots of bells. I guess that's appropriate for the coming season of the year.

One of the original feminists.

Kate Chopin's book The Awakening came in an edition that had a few hundred pages of critical notes, discussions of what society was like at the time, etc. The text itself was only 109 pages. I'm glad that that other stuff was included though because I think I would have missed some important nuances.

Edna Pontellier is a proper Southern lady who gradually comes to realize how limiting her existence is. Society places all these restrictions on her. She gradually works to be free of them. In some ways I agree and see why she has the feelings that she does. I also think, however, that women of that level of wealth at that time were comparatively lucky. Many women had to struggle to feed their families and care for them. It doesn't necessarily mean that the challenges of women like Mrs. Pontellier shouldn't be considered, just that they were lucky to be able to consider higher issues such as women's roles in society. I also didn't like how Mrs. Pontellier kind of abandoned her children and husband. Even if they were part of the social order that was causing her to feel so troubled, I kind of was sad that she discarded them so easily.

Anyway, definitely an important book and I'm glad I read it.


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Get away from it all.

When Mike and I were dating, we once took an ill-timed vacation to Miami in August. Everything was great until Hurricane Frances started lurking in the ocean. Faced with the hotel's suggestion of evacuating to a shelter in North Miami, we rented a car and joined the largest evacuation in Florida history at the time - drove all the way back to DC, braving gas shortages and stopping for a few hours to rest in Florence, South Carolina. When we got near DC, just to add insult to injury, we found ourselves stuck in Labor Day traffic. I think we were both more stressed out when we got back from that vacation than when we left!

August is a Wicked Month is the story of another vacation that doesn't turn out the way the protagonist wants it to, and it is much more tragic than a little Labor Day traffic or the rush to find gas in the middle of the night in Jacksonville. I don't know much about this author or anything else she has written, but this was a really good, if sad, story. It's slightly dated now (I think it was published in the mid-1960s) but the messages still are powerful.

Oh, and the next time we visit Miami, it's going to be in the WINTER. When there are NO HURRICANES.

56 of 1001, or about 5.6%!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Crazy good.

You know those people who can get so absorbed in what they are doing and their own worldview that they can't see that anyone else has different motivations or goals? Dr. Peter Kien, the hero of Auto-Da-Fe, is one of them. His love for scholarship and literature blinds him to everything else and ultimately is his undoing.

This book was fantastic. I really thought 464 pages were going to drag but I was interested the whole time and couldn't wait to see what happened to everyone. I won't give away the ending, just say that what I wanted to happen, didn't happen.

55/1001 so far, or about 5.5% done!