Sunday, August 28, 2011


I love Bonfire of the Vanities. I read it in high school, college and now again at 33. I feel like I took away different impressions from the book now as compared to when I read it years ago. Plus, now that 23 years have passed since it was written, a lot is different in New York and it seems more dated, more of a reflection on New York society at the time.

So I'm sitting here watching the Weather Channel, watching New York and Connecticut get walloped by Hurricane Irene and thinking of how much I enjoyed this book and how much it makes me think. I was a lot more ambivalent about Sherman this time around. When I was younger, I was rooting for him as the hero of the book, and I wasn't sure I liked him this time. I found his moral ambiguousness startling. I thought it was inconsistent for him to stick up for Maria through almost to the end of the book, even though her interests and his diverged, while he was very easily able to dismiss Judy, his wife, for getting too thin and too interested in her decorating business. Usually Sherman acted entirely in his own interest but when it came to Maria, he had this glaring weak spot that proved to be his undoing.

Anyway, I loved this book as much as I did the first time. I raced through it and was sorry to see it end!

Sunday, August 21, 2011


Blood and Guts in High School is one of those books that is wayyyy over my head. It is sort of a stream of consciousness writing, involving a woman named Janey (I think) and her life as a young woman. I struggled to figure out what was going on. The narrator is so unreliable - in the opening chapter you are told that Janey is ten years old but then the way the story goes, it is obvious that she is not ten years old at all and is probably a woman. Interspersed with the text are some graphic drawings and a sort of Arabic grammar text (ostensibly created by Janey when she was held captive by a "Persian slave trader").

This type of book is not my favorite. I never seem to know what is going on, and, as the book continues, I find myself caring less and less.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Justin Time.

The Body Artist is a very measured, very well-edited, very beautiful book. It is evident that the author thought very carefully about each word in the book - each one has meaning and there are no extraneous words. It is a very short book but definitely takes some thought to read because of how carefully it is assembled.

The book deals with a woman who is grieving the loss of her husband and discovers a mysterious person living in the home she is renting. As she talks to him (his name really isn't Justin Time), he gives her a new perspective on time and how things work. He is somehow able to simultaneously live in the past, present and future. The book is kind of sad, but also really pretty. I liked it.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Message in a Bataille?

I know I should be getting more out of Georges Bataille's work than I do. Blue of Noon is the second of his books that I have read (the memorable L'Abbe C was the first). I just don't like his books. I don't understand what message he is trying to send. The protagonists do crazy things for seemingly unexplained reasons.

You may recall that the guy in L'Abbe C pooped outside someone's window. In this book, the main character decides he likes a woman named Xenie. Rather than make cute little jokes at her expense or offer to buy her a drink, he stabs her in the leg with the prongs of a fork, drawing blood. Yuck. And the book just goes on from there. I never get interested enough to care about the characters and they just do things that are totally absurd.

At least it was short!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Thoughts on The Bluest Eye.

I am not sure how I hadn't read The Bluest Eye before. I had heard of it but never read it. Good book, obviously, I can see why it is on the list. Definitely deals with some difficult topics and themes. It's not just the incest that I found difficult (though that was hard to read about for sure) but also the racism, the child abuse, the whole structure of society. The book definitely made me think.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

It's (not) a wonderful life.

I am not what you would call a movie buff. In fact, movies are not something I have ever really gotten into. It sounds weird, but it is just not my thing. There are many classics that I haven't seen and honestly, I'm not all that interested in seeing them.

I knew who Marilyn Monroe was, obviously. I kind of had a vague outline of the fact that she was a movie actress, had a number of high-profile relationships, and died from a drug overdose at an early age. Beyond that I knew nothing and I haven't seen any of her movies.

Reading Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates was a really fascinating look at Marilyn Monroe. It was difficult to read at times because her life was so difficult and sad. And some of the things that happened to her as a child were horrible. Reading about children being harmed is difficult.

The amount of work that went into writing this and the different ways Oates approached the story was just amazing. I particularly liked how it got kind of less coherent toward the middle and end and you couldn't really tell whether the things that were portrayed in the book really happened - because Monroe herself wasn't sure what was real and what was not. (I seem to like the unreliable narrator). I also liked how Oates handled the ending - you aren't sure whether Monroe was assassinated or overdosed on her own and was imagining the people conspiring to kill her.

Is this book going to make me want to watch a whole bunch of Marilyn Monroe movies? No. I did enjoy this book tremendously though. All 738 pages. I couldn't put it down.

Friday, August 5, 2011


So I posted last night's entry and then realized I had more to say about The Blithedale Romance.

I thought the whole idea of them all kind of getting away from the world to live in the Utopian society kind of interesting. I know it was kind of in fashion at the time (and have read that Hawthorne also did this himself for a brief period). It reminded me of The Bell, except that all the action in this book is kind of on the periphery of the society, and the book is not as concerned with the inner workings of the society itself. In The Bell the book was much more about the society and its growth, and this book was a lot more about the personal relationships between the characters.

At various periods of history this sort of Utopian society has come into vogue. Back in the 1850s, again in the 1960s with commune living and maybe also to some extent now as we build societies over the Internet and form digital friendships or renew old friendships with people who live across the world from us. (Whatever happened to Second Life, anyway? Wasn't that supposed to be the next big thing in, like, 2005?) I wonder what that says about us at those periods where we are so dissatisfied about what is going on that people feel the need to retreat and often in such an extreme fashion.

Anyway, just a ramble about something that was rattling around in my head last night.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Behind the scenes of a Utopian society.

I find Nathaniel Hawthorne's books to be very difficult. I feel like I am not getting enough from them. There is so much symbolism and things going on in the margins that is important- and I just know I'm missing a lot of it.

I liked The Blithedale Romance. I thought it was an interesting story and I liked that some of the mysteries in the book stayed unsolved. I liked how Hawthorne didn't feel the need to wrap everything up in a neat little package at the end. I liked the exploration of the relationship between Priscilla and Zenobia and how they related to Hollingsworth. I definitely liked it more than I thought I would. Not that I got everything out of it that Hawthorne intended...but I definitely am glad I read this and got a lot out of it.