Sunday, February 24, 2008

Reading Roundup

Me and Mr. Darcy by Alexandra Potter had one really great description: "totally, utterly, back-in-college-doing-tequila-shots-on-acid crazy." Otherwise, it was an entertaining read but nothing particularly memorable.
"Words can enhance experience, but they can also take so much away. We see an insect and at once we abstract certain characteristics and classify it - a fly. And in that very cognitive exercise, part of the wonder is gone. Once we have labeled the things around us we do not bother to look back at them so carefully. Words are part of our rationa selves, and to abandon them for a while is to give freer reign to our intuitive selves."
In A Reason for Hope by Jane Goodall, I learned a lot about the woman herself and she's always fascinated me - all three of "Leaky's angels" do (Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdikas.)
"I experienced, as have so many others, the bitterness of a close and joyful relationship with a spouse slowly changing and souring, and the intense emotional pain that this generates. And the sense of failure and guilt."
She asks why there is such a dichotomy between the idea of evolutionary goof and compares to MacBeth's "tale told by an idiot" purposeless existence with the idea of a plan, hence god. She also shares some of her hope by outlining the Roots & Shoots project that works on educating and empowering children to save the environment. She quotes Albert Schweitzer: "A man who possesses a veneration of life will not simply say his prayres. He will thrown himself into the battle to preserve life, if for no other reason than that he is himself an extension of life around him. I learned about pseudospeciation, which is the transmission of individually aquired behaviour from one generation to the next with a particular group, leading to a collective culture.
"In its extreme form, cultural speciation leads to the dehumanizating of out-group members, so that they may come to be regarded almost as members of a different species. Gombe chimp wars."

The Last Days of Dogtown by Anita Diamant did very little for me. The characters were too quirky, I think, for me to ever come to care much about what happened to them. It was odd to dislike the book so much, considering how much I loved The Red Tent. Usually if I like an author, I like the majority of their books because I find myself very influenced by writing style.

A Mighty Heart by Mariane Pearl was a good book. The life of Daniel Pearl is one worth knowing about. As Leon Dayan says about Danny in a letter:
"I am talking about the ability to truly live life: the ability to experience unrepressedjoy; the ability to be thoughtful without being self-absorbed; the ability to see, and add to, the humor in life wihtout adopting the easy distance of a cynic; and the ability to be spontaneous and unforced in relationships with others."

A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon - it's so delightfully British! I'm curious as to what has led the author to focus his novels around issues of mental health and mental disabilities, but what I liked most in this book was the examination of the gay son:
"He wasn't sure which was worse. Mum and Dad pretending Tony was one of Jamie's colleagues in case the neighbours found out. Or their being painfully groovy about it.

Jaimie has spent a great deal of time and energy arranging his life precisely as he wanted. Work. Home. Family. Friends. Tony. Exercise. Relaxation. Some compartments you could mix. Katie and Tony. Friends and exercise. But the compartments were there for a reason. It was like a zoo. You could mix the chimpanzees and the parrots. But take the cages away altogether and you had a bloodbath on your hands.
Ah, mixing. It most certainly isn't always welcome.

Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult and her book the Pact are the same fucking book! Amish girl, tried for the crime, says on the stand she's guilty because she feels guilty, but she didn't do it. Same with The Pact, Chris says he thinks he's guilty because he can't stop Emily from committing suicide. Ahhhhh! And yet, somehow I still by Picoult's novels to read as my guilty little pleasures, in spite of the fact that Little Earthquakes by Jennifer Weiner was a far superior guilty pleasure read. I do like chick lit - it balances out the seriousness of so much else that I read.

The Boy Who Loved Anne Frank - Peter hides that he is a Jew, but marries a Jewish woman, goes quietly crazy hiding who he is - it's a book about the burden of memory. His response to the publishing of the play and book is fascinating - he feels there are lies about his family. I've always loved books that take history and give it a fictional slant.

Sexy by Joyce Carol Oates - I've written about it elsewhere, in an analysis of teen literature and Oates' feminist perspective. It was a good book, but nowhere near as good as Freaky Green Eyes (the teen novel I bought by accident, not realising it wasn't one of Oates' adult novels.)

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