Today, our literary cat is promoting a book review site where *you* and the average Joe and Jane are the reviewers. Good Reads is a great place to see reviews from fellow readers, leave your own reviews, find new books by genre to devour, and view lists of the bests. You can also keep track of the books you’ve read. See! This is perfect for all of you overachieving readers who have ever looked at a book and asked, “Haven’t I read this before?”
My favorite feature: you can “collect” your favorite quotes from books. Since I don’t have a searchable e-reader, I’m thinking this could come in handy. (I’m still traumatized by trying to find a quote from C.J. Cherryh’s Regenesis several months ago that I wanted to share with Kitty. Took me forever to find that passage!)
Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.
Did you ever read a book that just struck you dumb with its artistry? Traveling back in time, I have to say the first book that had such an impact on me was Vladimir Nabokov‘s Lolita. Such was the power of Nabokov’s artistry with words that I stayed with a book that otherwise wouldn’t have earned a spot on my list of top literary works. Humbert Humbert is pathetic (in addition to being a pedophile). Lolita is selfish (which, granted, is not entirely her fault), Quilty is creepy (made even more so by Peter Seller’s portrayal in the film), and Charlotte is simply a sacrificial character—removed from the picture in order to advance the plot.
I’m all for anti-heroes and dark comedies; it’s just that this particular set of characters, and this particular plot, wouldn’t usually intrigue me. But then there’s that voice of the author. Such thoughts and observations he puts in pathetic Humbert’s head! Such provocative language he gives to Humbert as our antihero thinks of his lovely Lolita.
Anyone who has experienced the longing of obsessive love (lust!) can relate some to Humbert, I know. We can’t condone his obsession, but we can understand the feeling of obsession, and, even, the disappointment when obsession does not lead to seduction. But I don’t think this is what makes the work universally loved and adored. No, it’s the language. It’s the mastery of Nabokov’s writing. It’s this Russian author’s love affair with English. Because when all is said and done, and we have turned the last page, we realize that it is we, the readers, who have been seduced.
So, what do you think of Lolita? Am I just wrong about my take? And what books have you read that seduced you with their exceptional artistry?
OK, so we’ve finally had our “cold”snap and it’s not 110 in the shade any more. But before that happened I needed a different kind of steamy to take my mind off the heat. What better than Christmas romance. Turn to Christine Rimmer’s Scrooge and the Single Girl. Snow covered cabin, grumpy but hunky guy, Christmas music on the radio, and the lead lady complete with scumptious holiday fixings and junk food. Toss in ghostly appearances, cat and dog drama and you’ve got the perfect diversion from the heat. Christine Rimmer does a great job serving up romance through her Bravo family stories. This one is part of the Sons of Caitlin Bravo. If you don’t know about the Bravo books, here’s a handy list and summary of titles straight from Christine. All excellent for summer reading. (And she’s an Oklahoma Author)
Recently someone questioned my reading romances. Just when you think everyone has gotten past that sort of silliness. So I was talking to one of my romance reading colleagues about this and she didn’t get it either. Here’s why we think women continue to read romance (and the statistics prove it); the women are always strong characters, they don’t settle for second best. They usually have a good sense of humor, and interesting jobs. The men are strong and good looking, but once caught are devoted to the one girl. (no off to Argentina with a soulmate for these guys) They are not afraid to be romantic. And we know It’s all going to work out in the end, the right girl, the right guy. Nothing wrong with Happily Ever After. If you need unhappily ever after just turn on the television, pick up a celebrity rag or surf the net.
I do get the reality of relationships, I just like to take a break. So for those scrooges of romance, here’s my favorite poem by Marge Piercy.
What’s That Smell in the Kitchen?
All over America women are burning dinners.
It’s lambchops in Peoria: it’s haddock
in Providence; it’s steak in Chicago:
tofu delight in Big Sur; red rice and beans in Dallas.
All over America women are burning food they’re supposed to bring with calico smile on
platters glittering like wax.
Anger sputters in her brainpan, confined but spewing out missiles of hot fat.
Carbonized despair presses like a clinker
from a barbecue against the back of her eyes.
If she wants to grill anything, it’s
her husband spitted over a slow fire.
If she wants to serve him anything it’s a dead rat with a bomb in its belly ticking like the
heart of an insomniac.
Her life is cooked and digested,
nothing but leftovers in Tupperware.
Look, she says, once I was roast duck
on your platter with parsley but now I am Spam.
Burning dinner is not incompetence but war.
The Eyre Affair is Fforde’s first novel, and it introduces us to Next, a Special Operative in literary detection and a veteran of the Crimean War. (No, you heard me right.) It’s the 1980′s but there are many things in the book you simply wouldn’t recognize. Fforde has crafted an alternative world where the English are still fighting the Crimean War with the Russians, Wales is a separate republic, Churchill was never prime minister, time travel is more than just a possibility, Dodo birds have been brought back via DNA to serve as household pets, and the alteration of an original manuscript can change all printed copies of the work. In this universe, England is under the heel of the Goliath Corporation, an entity that helped England recover in the past, but has since pursued the almighty dollar at the expense of civil liberties.
Bring in Archeron Hades (love that name), the most evil of evil geniuses, who has a plan for the latest invention of Next’s uncle, Mycroft. Myrcroft has invented true bookworms (genetically-engineered creepy crawlers who can actually read and are nourished by prepositions) that work in conjunction with his Prose Portal to open a doorway into a book. If you open a doorway into the work via the original manuscript and alter anything, all printed copies of the work are altered. When Hades abducts Jane Eyre, the novel ends in all copies at the point of her abduction. After all, the novel is told from Jane’s perspective. No Jane, no novel. And that’s a big problem in a world where a debate about Shakespeare (did he or didn’t he write those plays?) can quickly turn to fisticuffs.
All of this sounds preposterous, of course, and it’s to Fforde’s credit that he’s able to pull it off with such finesse. No question that the work is suspenseful, but the author can’t help but have his fun via wordplay and literary allusions. (Next’s boss is named Victor Analogy.) There’s a great scene toward the end of the book where the bookworms are expelling an excess of their natural waste products: apostrophes and ampersands. Fforde writes the remainder of the scene utilizing excess apostrophes and ampersands. And then this:
Please!” pleaded Mycroft. “You’re Upsetting The Wor’ms! They’re Starting to hy-phe-nate!”
I literally cracked up during this scene. Fforde’s sense of humor shines through in such an original way.
This is obviously a book that requires that “willing suspension of disbelief” in order to find its treasures. But if you can take the journey, the treasures abound: romance, adventure, murder, conspiracy, comedy.
Check out what Fforde has to say about his first novel.
Will I read more Thursday Next? You bet! The sequel is Lost in a Good Book and, yeah, that’s what I’m planning to do.
We’re going to say the week starts with Monday, because I didn’t get the Site of the Week up until Sunday evening… Looking for just the right book site, Bookgasm is it.
If you need convincing go to their About page, it pretty much says it all,
Hey, have you read the new Nora Roberts?
Are you a member of Oprah’s Book Club?
Do you enjoy stories about the struggles of the disenfranchised in our society?
If you answered “no” to all those questions, we’d like to welcome you to BOOKGASM, the site dedicated to READING MATERIAL TO GET EXCITED ABOUT.
That includes all kinds of genre fiction, from horror and sci-fi to mystery and suspense. It also includes graphic novels, trashy paperbacks, cheap magazines and other things that much of America pretends to be ashamed of, for no good reason.
That’s just the kind of literature I love. Reading should make you want to stay up through the next chapter, it should make you turn off the tv, you shouldn’t have to explain it to anyone but you should want to tell everyone what you just read, it is a bookgasm sort of thing. The addiction that needs no intervention. So have a Bookgasm.
Even though the dropdown menu sticks on me, I think the selection of different genres that are reviewed should make anyone sit up straight.
P.S. They won Spinetingler Award for Special Services to the Industry & Community. (basically best blogs, forums)
Spinetingler is another necessary stop for finding reading pleasure.
Here’s what’s on my nightstand:
• Supersense: Why We Believe in the Unbelievable by Bruce Hood (Beyond culture and the handing down of beliefs, Hood thinks there is something inherent in our nature that makes us believe the unbelievable.)
• The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde (An adventure in an alternate world, where people really–I mean, *really*–value literature. What kind of drugs is this author taking?)
• The Great Fables Crossover by Bill Willingham. (Latest installment of maybe the best comic/graphic novel series ever!)
(If you’ve been following this blog, you may be interested to know that Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land is no longer on the nightstand!)
And what has been taking up Miss Kitty’s time?
• No Going Back by Lyndon Stacey (An ex-cop and his retired police dog solve a crime.)
• Women, Food and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything by Geneen Roth (It’s about our relationship with food.)
• The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe (A modern-day woman discovers she has a connection to the Salem Witch Trials.)
Plus, Kitty says she’s so fed up with this weather she’s getting ready to read a Christmas romance: Scrooge and the Single Girl by Oklahoma’s own Christine Rimmer.
OK, now it’s your turn. What have you been reading this hot, hot season?
Hmmm… with all these titles, I wonder how many categories I should tag? Let’s see…
Need some quick summer Okie reading,
M.L. Weber, editor of Sugar Mule: A Literary Magazine, announces a special double-edition of Oklahoma Writing, edited by Jeanetta Calhoun Mish. The issue is now online at http://www.sugarmule.com/35frame.htm or you can enter through the home page, at www.sugarmule.com. Keep a look out for the print edition, to be published by Mongrel Empire Press (Norman, OK) in early 2011.
Take a taste of Alvin Turner’s fare,
She keeps a 22 rifle on her dining room table
loaded with bird shot
that she uses to
“teach manners to the varmints”
who might hope to savor
her cats or chicks.
Others may conclude rightly,
hers is not the place to forget
one’s raising, or how to act
in the presence of a lady.
OK. This is just… bizarre! And there would be no way Myrna would make it through Library School in this day and age. Such atrocious customer service! Still, it makes for a rather fascinating, retro-funny YouTube break. And, it’s a chilling tale of suspense. Plus, it’s in three parts, so you have something to do on break tomorrow and Wednesday, as well. What a bargain! (You’re welcome.) Happy viewing.
One, I just finished reading The God Engines by John Scalzi, up for a Hugo Award for Best Novella. Second, the Hugo awards will be presented on September 5th (my birthday) at the AussieCon. Sounds like an omen to me.
This book or novella, whatever, is considered a fantasy, not sure why it’s not science fiction but smarter people than me make up these distinctions, so just go along with it. This small work really packs a big punch.
Story: Captain Tephe has his hands full with an angry god who has been enslaved to power his spaceship. He has a reluctant crew who have barely survived a recent hostile encounter with insurgents. Many souls in the universe do not believe Tephe’s Lord is their Lord. And he’s being sent on a conversion mission to claim new souls for his true god as directed by the powerful Bishopry Militant.
This is only the beginning of Faith tested. Is this Scalzi’s indictment of religion? Does the strongest theology endowed with the stongest military force create the true belief? Is there a truth stronger than belief? Is religion only about subjugation of the weak to the beliefs of the strong? Particularly relevant to our time of religion and war.
This 136 page book should ignite a conversation about faith, and belief. Just another reason why the Hugo Awards are so important. The nominees’ works make us think. So pick one, or two and see what affect they have on you.
GOOD WORDS: FOOD FOR THOUGHT
A Poetry Evening to Benefit Skyline Food Pantry
November 2, 2010 7 pm
Village Methodist Church fellowship hall
2501 W. Britton Road, Oklahoma City 73120
Refreshments and a table for you to sell books will be furnished. Price of Admission, for poets and guests: a donation of nonperishable items for the food boxes at the door. Readers, please limit your selections to one or two poems on the subject of food, hunger, recipes, restaurants, feasts, and related topics. We will have a signup sheet at the door. Music, Poems, and the chance to help a worthy organization. This is a family-friendly event. Questions? Contact sandy soli at sandrasoli at sbcglobal.net.