Thursday, October 14, 2010

Thursday reading update

Again, I'm late with this post. (How is it Thursday already? Oh, right, because I've been swimming around in the cesspool that is quarter end reconciliations.) Maybe trying to post on Monday isn't a good idea. Or maybe I'll keep trying and sooner or later I'll get it right...after all, I only have the rest of my life in which to accomplish this.

You may notice that my reading list is one book shorter! I finished The Titan's Curse by Rick Riordan. Like I said last Monday, or Thursday as it were, it was a YA adult, and therefore not overly complicated, but I found it entertaining.

Still on the list is...everything else.

The following books still haven't been started: The Man from St. Petersburg by Ken Follett, The Hunting of the Snark: an Agony in Eight Fits by Lewis Carroll, The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer, and The Tales of Beedle the Bard by JK Rowling.

I haven't made any progress on these books: World Changing: A User's Guide by Alex Steffen, The Science of Harry Potter by Roger Highfield, The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett, and The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, although I did move up the waiting list on this last one!

Like I said last week, I have to return All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren and Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut. I've been trying to finish the chapter I've been reading in King's Men, but the chapters are about 90 pages each, so it's sort of a commitment to even read one.

Jack Burden is the character telling the story in King's Men, and I don't know what to make of him. The book jacket states that the book "traces the rise and fall of Willie Stark, who resembles the real-life Huey "Kingfish" Long of Louisiana." I don't know who Huey "Kingfish" Long of Louisiana is, and I don't really care. I think Jack Burden is a journalist (although I'm not really sure), who sort of becomes the go-to man for the governor, Willie Stark. The book doesn't really explain how this happens, though, it just says something to the effect of, I first met Stark in the back of so-and-so's. It's an interesting education of how to write something so you get the general picture of what's going on without explaining the details. What was everyone doing in the back of so-and-so's? Why did the governor think this was the place to go? (of course, he wasn't the governor at the time).

Also, Jack Burden is an eloquent character through which to view the novel, so you get the impression that there's a lot more to the man than you see, but nothing actually indicates that we'll get to know him any deeper. So while I'm enjoying the language of the writing, I'm not sure yet that I can actually recommend this book as I haven't really figured out where it's going, or if I care about the story.

I've only managed to read one chapter further in Breakfast of Champions, and I honestly don't know if I like Vonnegut's writing. I feel like I'm reading the work of a conspiracy theorist or something. It's that crazy. Not Lewis Carrol crazy, where you think, I want what he's taking, but more like you might find Kurt Vonnegut sitting on the streets talking to the mailbox. On the other hand, I'm still completely normal by comparison. So it's got that going for it.

Two nights ago I did a significant amount of reading in Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants.

The story is told by Jacob Jankowski. He's either 90 or 93, he can't remember which, and he's telling the story of his younger life through flashbacks.

The first thing I want to discuss is women writing men. Many times, when men write women, I feel like I can't relate to the characters at all. I was first introduced to Wally Lamb over 10 years ago when a roommate of a friend said of his She's Come Undone: I've never read a man write a woman so well. Until then I hadn't thought about what made some books in which men write women just a little off. But I think she hit the nail on the head. The trouble is, as a woman, I can't tell if Gruen is actually doing a good job writing a man, or if I just really like the man she's created.

Yes, I will confess, I totally develop crushes on male characters that I think are particularly well written, and who I'd like to know in actual life. I'm pretty sure Captain America is aware that I develop these literary crushes. He seems to think that it indicates that I'm a caring, empathetic sort of person, and not crazy. I think it will start to worry him, though, if I start to say things like, I wish you were more like Rhett Butler! But of course, I don't want him to be like Rhett Butler...otherwise the crush wouldn't be nearly as much fun. And I do have at least other bibliophile girlfriend who does this too, which leads me to believe it's completely normal.

Okay, back to Elephants.

**Spoiler Alert**

Two nights ago, after said copious reading, Captain America came home to find his wife in tears because I had just finished the chapter where Jacob is sitting in his wheelchair waiting for his family to come and get him and take him to the circus. He woke up so proud of himself because he remembered what day it was and everything. And...his family forgets him. He's got five kids and they take turns visiting, and the one who was supposed to get him forgot and made other plans and then remembered but it was too late to cancel the other plans (which sounds like a really lame thing, in my opinion), but I suppose it happens. So Jacob is all disappointed because he's missing the circus, and he was so looking forward to it.

Okay, I did not do the scene justice here, but you should really read the book for yourself.

Also, I was saddened by this because my grandma had dementia, and she kept talking about wanting to wear a red dress and no one would let her. I don't know if my mom had any idea what this dress was about, but I certainly didn't. But I still felt bad that my wonderful grandma was upset about not being able to wear this red dress. It was to the point where I felt like, maybe I should take her shopping, but that just wasn't feasible, on so many levels (which is maybe what happened with Jacob's son).

In case you're missing the comparison that happened in my mind, it's that both were good, loving people, who would have been made happy in their old age by something unbelievably simple, but it didn't happen for either of them. Both Jacob and my grandmother were in good care, and all in all were very fortunate in how they lived out their last years, but it's still sad to me.

Of course, I haven't finished Water for Elephants, so I don't know what happens to Jacob in the end, and I'm not sure, even if we let my grandma wear her red dress, if she'd remember that she had worn it the next day, or if we would have to get her numerous red dresses so she could wear one every day, or if she had a very particular dress in mind, from her youth, that we neither had nor would fit her, and certainly wouldn't look the way it does in her memory (which is sort of how I feel about communion dresses. I'm not Catholic, so I never had a communion dress, but I remember being in Sears with my mother and grandmother and seeing all of the dresses with the ribbons and lace, and tulle petticoats, and trying to convince my mother I could wear one for Easter or something. I'm apparently still not over how pretty those dresses were.)

While I would never say that I am a particularly religious person, part of me would like to believe that my grandma is in heaven happily wearing her red dress, and that when Jacob dies, he'll get to see the circus and that it is better than he remembers. Maybe that's not how reality works, but I think it makes for a nice ending to a story.

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