Friday, December 31, 2010

Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris

It seems appropriate to end the year with the author who started it. Books that make me laugh are always checked off in my mental win column. The subject really does not matter. If it makes me laugh out loud, I like it, and David Sedaris always makes me laugh. One of his essays in this collection is titled 'Six to Eight Black Men' and is largely about Christmas traditions in Denmark. It made me laugh until I cried.

Thanks for loaning me another one, Angela!

The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

The Complete Persepolis is the first work that I have read from an Iranian author. Satrapi tells her life story as a graphic novel and in the process, explains what it was like to grow up in the shadow of the Islamic Revolution. She covers a wide range of themes and provided a new context from which to consider contemporary Iran.
"The regime had understood that one person leaving her house while asking herself: 'Are my trousers long enough? Is my veil in place? Can my makeup be seen? Are they going to whip me?' No longer asks herself: 'Where is my freedom of thought? Where is my freedom of speech? My life, is it livable? What's going on in the political prisons?' It's only natural! When we're afraid, we lose all sense of analysis and reflection. Our fear paralyzes us. Besides, fear has always been the driving force behind all dictators' repression. Showing your hair or putting on makeup logically became acts of rebellion" (302).

One of Satrapi's most consistent themes is family. This is a photograph of me and my fiancé; we are already family.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Complete Poems by Dorothy Parker

Indian Summer

In youth, it was a way I had
To do my best to please,
And change, with every passing lad
To suit his theories.

But now I know the things I know,
And do the things I do;
And if you do not like me so,
To hell, my love, with you!

Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

Busy, busy, busy

Thanks to Russell for the loan of both the book and a pen. The book was to read; the pen was to write in the margins.

Derrida for Beginners by Jim Powell

"America is deconstruction." --Derrida

Dr. Palmer lent me this one about a month ago when I stopped by his office when I was up at CBU hanging up posters. In the course of our conversation, I mentioned that whenever anyone in my seminar classes mentioned theory, I got hopelessly confused. He lent me this book that he had read when he took philosophy of history when he was in grad school to help me get a handle on deconstruction/textuality. It is certainly the most accessible philosophy book I have read; the cartoons helped. It was also purposely flippant and would drive any serious philosopher crazy. For me, it was all the philosophy I could handle.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Interview with the Vampire by Ann Rice

Let me start by saying that I did not take this picture (I was 5 at the time), but it is my absolute favorite one of Cameron and Ryan.

It was nice to go back to a day when vampires did not glitter in the sunlight or get slayed by supernatural teenage girls (not that I have not enjoyed both of those contemporary vampire twists). Reading Rice's novel, it was easy to see where all the modern vampire hype got its start. Thanks to Chase for the loan.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott

Is it so wrong to laugh when you think about faith? Or to consider that God's standards of loving you are incredibly low (mostly it's about showing up and trying)? Or realizing that you aren't the only person who thinks this way? I found this book at Burke's Bookstore last Saturday afternoon, tucked away in a corner of the theology section waiting for me. It got me through my paper writing, exam grading week and a half with some light-hearted humor, introspective prodding, and the reminder that this too shall pass.

If you have never read any of Anne Lamott's more spiritual work, I highly recommend it. Start with Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith; Plan B is its sequel. If you have book borrowing privileges with me (which is pretty much everyone; I fear I may be too trusting with my books), feel free to ask for a loan.

I took this photo with my new Diana lomo lens. The plastic lens distorts the light and makes colors more vibrant. Like Lamott, I find the outdoors to be one of the easiest places to have a conversation with God.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Uncharitable: How Restraints on Nonprofits Undermine Their Potential by Dan Pallotta

Yuck. Ech. Awfulness.

This book was absolutely terrible. If you have been following along, you know that I hardly ever come down harshly on a book. This book, however, sucks. I think Pallotta wrote this book to justify the enormous salary he was making as a nonprofit CEO before his charity folded. I think that he says controversial statements with no actual solutions (other than to have the courage to dream our biggest dreams). I think he would have a love affair with capitalism if it was personified. And I think his writing style is one the most gosh-awful ones I have ever read (constantly using increasingly bizarre metaphors and placing your "key points" in italics is distracting not helpful).

Yes, new ideas need to enter the nonprofit sector. Yes, current efficiency standards are lacking. Yes, there are changes that can be made to make the system more effective. No, Dan Pallotta is not the nonprofit savior.

In the interest of fairness, I should say that just about everyone in my Theory and Practice of Nonprofit Administration class disagreed with me. The majority thought he raised great points, and some students were actually fawning over him. I will say that he made me think, but I also could not get past the horrendous writing.

Writing all this down has been cathartic. Maybe now I can write my final paper without having to fight the urge to hurl the book across the room. I think the picture of the vomiting computer adequately sums up my feelings about this book.

Binder O' Assorted Readings by various authors in academic journals

Meet my binder o' assorted readings that I read this semester for HIST7060. We had different professors come in most weeks and spend the first hour and a half of class discussing the study of women and gender in their particular field. Most of them assigned at least 3 readings. Not all of the readings are in here because by the end of the semester I deemed the binder too heavy to lug around. I know this isn't a book, but I spent so much time reading all of these articles that I decide they count. Yeah, grad school's fun.

What a Woman Ought to Be and to Do: Black Professional Women Workers during the Jim Crow Era by Stephanie J. Shaw

I really liked this book. Shaw takes these women and explains how their parents and communities taught them who they should be as African American women. They were not educated in spite of being black women; they were educated because they were black women. She also does a good job contrasting this ideal of womanhood with the reality they faced once their education was finished. I also liked that this discussion was the first one in which I know I participated well. Corner turned.

I read this book back in November. Same old story about being backlogged that I will not bore you with again.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Founding Mothers and Fathers: Gendered Power and the Forming of American Society by Mary Beth Norton

405 pages.............

This book was assigned to coincide nicely with Thanksgiving. You know what I'm thankful for? Not having lived in colonial America.

Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver

I could not fall asleep the other night so I took the time to finish this book, which happens to have been sitting by my bed 2/3rds of the way read since August. To be honest, it is not Kingsolver at her best. Pigs in Heaven is the sequel to Bean Trees, which I read on the plane to Brazil a year and a half ago. The story seemed solid at first, but the ending felt forced, like it was not really what the characters wanted to do. Maybe Turtle and Taylor should never have left Arizona in the first place.

Part of the reason I like reading Kingsolver's books is because I distinctly remember the people who suggested I read them and who I passed the books off to in turn. I grabbed The Poisonwood Bible from a friend's apartment three summers ago and read it in 36 hours because I could not put it down. This summer I found a copy of it at the library used book sale and bought it for a quarter to give to my grandmother. A camp counselor told me to read Bean Trees when I was 15, but I didn't pick it up until I saw it at a used book store a week before I left for Brazil. I left my copy in Brazil with Rahel, the German Ph.d candidate we helped with field research, because she wanted something to read that was in English. I read Animal Dreams last year on the way to California with my mom. I gave it to her when I was finished. She liked it so much that she bought Pigs in Heaven and then passed it along to me. Last April, I walked into an apartment to see a friend reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle for a final paper. I mentioned that I would like to read it, and she told me to come back in two days and she would give it to me.

When I think about the cycle of getting and giving Kingsolver's books, I am reminded of the very different people in my life. Some are still a presence; others I have not talked to in years. Regardless, it makes me think about the network to which I belong when I realize how a suggestion from a counselor at Camp Marymount led to a book being given to a German student living in Brazil six years later. It is just one of those things that makes me pause.

Music and Revolution: Cultural Change in Socialist Cuba by Robin D. Moore

What do son, timba, and nueva trova have in common? They are all forms of Cuban music, and all genres of music I had never heard before class two weeks ago. That's a benefit to reading a book about music, to discuss it in class, you have to listen to it!

Song of Songs

The night before John and Amanda's wedding, I was hanging out with the bridesmaids at the apartment. We got to talking about the readings for the wedding and how one of the options was from Song of Songs. One of the people who had read it laughed a little and mentioned how that would have been an interesting choice. Post-discussion, I figured I should read it. It was my first foray into Biblical poetry and might I just say, "Wow."

Imposing Decency: The Politics of Sexuality and Race in Puerto Rico, 1870-1920 by Eileen J. Suarez Findlay

My book about turn of the century Puerto Rican prostitutes. I really enjoyed the shock value when people asked me what I was reading. Short version: Class was linked to race; concepts of sexuality and honor varied by class. To be white meant to be elite and honorable. To be black meant to be working class and disreputable. What color your skin was did not necessarily determine which group you belonged to because they were social as opposed to biological concepts. Who do you think the prositutes were?

(Get it? The buildings in Chicago are imposing. I finished reading this book in October, but I have been struggling with how to take a picture for a book about prostitution and war. Not that this lame stretch is much, but it's better than nothing.)

Essence of World Religions: Unity in Diversity by Pravin K. Shah

This book is another one that I started reading years ago and just now finished (for the same, pre-sleep reasons). I bought it from a Jainist at the Ghandi-King Conference my freshman year at CBU. I think by this point I have probably read all of it twice since I skipped around, but I finally finished the book from cover to cover. It is intended as a brief overview of major world religions and includes a nifty comparison chapter on Eastern and Western religions. My favorite part was a reading a Jainist's interpretation of Christianity. Sometimes you learn the most about yourself by looking through someone else's eyes.

I also feel like I should mention that I finished reading this book at the end of September. I just never got around to taking a picture for it.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Gay L.A.: A History of Sexual Outlaws, Power Politics, and Lipstick Lesbians by Lillian Faderman and Stuart Timmons

When I first saw that one of two books I had to read this week was 360 pages long, I was not amused. However, this book is incredibly readable and, frankly, fascinating. If this topic interests you, you should definitely give it a read (or if you are friends with me, borrow my copy). It reads like popular history, which means it is full of anecdotal stories and is meant for a general audience. It was a nice break from reading some of the truly stodgy ones I have been going through as of late. Don't get me wrong, I love reading history (hence the current path I am on), but some authors are completely oblivious at how to make their books enjoyable. Thankfully, these two writers do not fit into that category.

A note about the picture:
It is interesting to me that people choose to discriminate against others because they are "weird" or different. Everyone's weird. And everyone has something about them that can be targeted by someone else. Stop the name calling; all it causes is hurt.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Fighting for American Manhood: How Gender Politics Provoked the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars by Kristin L. Hoganson

It's a book about how gender was an important aspect of the US's decision to get involved in Cuba and the Philippines. Everyone wanted to be manly and promote the virility and fraternity that war supposedly fosters. It had fun cartoons of Uncle Sam as an old woman.

In my mind football has always been equated with guys. I don't think there were any gender politics at work at this game though, just lots of friends having fun.

Latin American Popular Culture: An Introduction Edited by: William H. Beezley and Linda A. Curcio-Nagy

YES! A book about popular culture! It was a collection of essays about topics ranging from Mexican cookbooks and the creation of national identity to the roots of Brazilian samba. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The picture is of graffiti in Bonito, Mato Grosso do Sul, Brasil. I'm now falling back on pictures that I have taken over the past couple of years since I am currently without the time or creative powers to take new ones.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Everyday Life and Politics in Nineteenth Century Mexico: Men, Women, and War by Mark Wasserman

This book read like a meta-analysis of research on nineteenth century Mexico, which meant it lacked clear citations. Wasserman says his themes include the struggle of common people to control their everyday lives, the dominant factor of external war in economic and political developments, and the transformation of gender relations. He barely touched on the last topic, which makes me wonder why authors sometimes stress in their introductions that they are going to talk about something when they only mention it in passing. Seems like a strange strategy.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

In Defense of Honor: Sexual Morality, Modernity, and Nation in Early-Twentieth Century Brazil by Sueann Caulfield

Caulfield uses "deflowering" (a.k.a. seduction) cases from early twentieth century Rio de Janeiro to address the topics of sexual morality and nation building. It is truly amazing what people will latch onto in order to keep gender and racial hierarchies intact.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

To Be a Slave in Brazil 1550-1888 by Katia M. De Queiros Mattoso

Putting time limits on historical phenomena is an interesting concept. Slavery certainly existed in Brazil prior to 1550; 1550 just marks when the slave trade started in earnest. [Basically, I like this picture (from Chicago) and wanted to make it work for this book.] Mattoso examined the social aspect of slavery by looking at how slaves interacted with each other, their masters, and freed slaves. The problem was that she did not use footnotes or endnotes, which made her conjectures seem a bit ungrounded. I read this one as part of my oral report for class last night. It was for more than half of my grade so hopefully it went well.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions by Edwin Abbott

I found this book in the $1 section at Borders four years ago. I read half of it then and picked it up again a month ago. I like reading before I fall asleep at night, but I am in no way alert enough at that point in the day to do (more) school reading. Thus, I needed something I could read 2 pages of at a time and not feel compelled to finish in a timely manner. Hence, the book I started four years ago. If I liked and/or understood geometry this book probably would have held my attention better given that it is basically a mathematical thought experiment. Although, looking through the lens of all the feminist theory I've been studying, the book is an intriguing take on women's role in British society circa 1884. Interesting that women can never be any shape other than a straight line and should be educated so they can be controlled.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Afro-Latin America 1800-2000 by George Reid Andrews

I think this book is my favorite one I have read for this class to date. That might be due to the fact that Andrews draws heavily on examples from Brazil to develop his argument that Afro-Latin Americans have played a critical role in transforming the social, political and cultural life of Central and South America (9). That makes sense considering Brazil by far has the largest black population in Latin America due to its heavy reliance on and late disavowal of the slave trade. I especially liked his explanations of the development and appropriation of Afro-centric and Afro-derived cultural traditions. Hopefully, centuries from now (if the planet hasn't been completely trashed), the human population will have moved beyond race. After all, they're just colors.

The Limits of Racial Domination: Plebeian Society in Colonial Mexico City, 1660-1720 by Douglas Cope

Why can historians not seem to keep their book titles succinct? Cope had a really fascinating take on the racial politics of colonial Mexico City. Basically, he argues that the plebeian subculture limited Hispanic ability to control castas (racial mixed people) through racial ideology. Race had real meaning because it delineated individuals' social networks, but "passing" as another casta group was only an issue if one was trying to break into the closed world of the Hispanic elite.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Public Lives Private Secrets: Gender, Honor, Sexuality, and Illegitimacy in Colonial Spanish America by Ann Twinam

In a way, it is a book about sex in colonial Latin America, but it is really more about the consequences for all of the people involved. Men and women paid for sexual indiscretions differently, illegitimate children were stained without honor, and people paid large sums of money to have the crown award them legitimacy. Fascinating really.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Feminist Theory from Margin to Center by bell hooks

Ok, I have some issues with this book. That may stem from the fact that I happen to be middle class and white, exactly like the people hooks thinks is the problem in the feminist movement. It is difficult to read chapter after chapter that are down on white women. That being said, she does have some valid and interesting points. For example, she sees racism, classism and sexism as interconnected problems. She is abrasive and revolutionary, but she brings a necessary angle to the debate. Maybe some day race will not make a damn bit of difference.

Genealogical Fictions: Limpieza de Sangre, Religion, and Gender in Colonial Mexico by María Elena Martínez

Copied directly from my weekly paper: Martínez’s book examines the emergence of the concept of limpieza de sangre, traces its exportation to Mexico, and studies the way the system changed to become more secularized. The reliance on transatlantic institutions to prove purity claims kept the system from dying out in Spain and reinforced its importance in Mexico. Limpieza de sangre was intimately tied to religion and gender but was never a monolithic concept.

Limpieza de sangre=purity of blood

Thursday, September 9, 2010

For Glory and Bolívar: The Remarkable Life of Manuela Sáenz by Pamela Murray

Remarkable was a good word choice to describe la Libertadora. Her relationships with powerful men (such as Bolívar) put her in a position to have a certain amount of influence in Latin America's "Age of Revolution." She might not have been a transvestite, but she certainly challenged gender roles and social conventions in her own way.

Modern Latin America by Thomas Skidmore and Peter Smith

I got my syllabus for my Latin America Historiography class, and it had a section saying that if I did not have a background in Latin American history, I needed to read one of the listed books to get an overview. So I borrowed this book from my professor and spent many hours learning about the period from independence up through the early 21st century. General trends: economies went wonky, much coffee was grown and politics were tumultuous. Latin America is fascinating.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Sovereignty and Revolution in the Iberian Atlantic by Jeremy Adelman

Let me start by saying I have no real background in Latin American history, and this book is definitely not the one to read if you are a casual reader of history. Not at all. Adelman focuses on economics and politics and the roles they played in Latin American sovereignty before and during the revolutions. There was much discussion of merchants and boats. It seems like he is developing the historiography of the subject, but I do not think that you can get a clear picture of the topic while ignoring social history and half of the population. Women were there too, man.

Graduate School

It's official. I'm back in school. This fact has a couple of implications for this project:

- My reading is getting very topical. For example, trying to figure out how to take pictures for eleven books that are all about Latin American history is going to be interesting. I suggest you check back to see my creativity (or lack thereof--we'll see which wins).
- It is going to take me a bit more time to put up pictures. In the past there has not been much lapse between me reading and me posting. Oh, how times are changing!

So if you find yourself wondering, "What exactly does a graduate student do with her time?" feel free to check in and see the fascinating books I will be reading.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Claddagh Ring by Malachy McCourt

I feel like I need to take a shower to get the saccharine tackiness off of me. I went to the library specifically to borrow this book because I love cultural traditions...and claddagh rings. I think they are beautifully wrought, and I was planning on giving one to a certain guy for a certain day, but first I wanted to make sure the tradition was what I thought it was. You know how writers sometimes end chapters or books with a lingering phrase that is meant to make you pause and consider what you have have been consuming? Well if you ever wondered what it would be like to read something where every sentence attempts to do that, then give this one a read. I have never been so disappointed in a book in my life. It takes mad butchering skills to take such a potentially great subject and turn it into drivel.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

I really like dystopia novels, especially when they are imbued with a healthy dose of satire. Atwood seems to be asking what happens when people keep trying to outdo nature and turn a handsome profit in the meantime. For every spliced gene and animal re-combination, the consequences cause more problems that keep the cycle circling closer to a fully unstable point. Do not get me wrong, I think scientific inquiry and invention are wonderful and have an incredible amount of potential. Still, I cannot help but think that at some point humans may go too far and be unprepared for the fallout.

"Why is it he feels some line has been crossed, some boundary transgressed? How much is too much, how far is too far."

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History by S.C. Gwynne

People have a tendency to ask me how I can possibly enjoy reading history. Here is an attempt at an answer. History is fascinating because it is not a static subject but rather one that raises as many questions as it answers. Then there is the additional fact that there is so much to learn. There is always a subject waiting in a book that can introduce you to an aspect of life on this planet that you knew nothing about. I had never given Comanches or their place in America's "manifest destiny" any thought before I read this book. I had no concept of the brutality of Plains Indian warfare or the bitter reality the last of the free bands were forced to face. Thanks to Steve for handing me this book as a break from that angry one I am trudging through.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon

Weird book.

The Postman by Antonio Skármeta

One of my favorite things to do is to let a book choose me. I aimlessly wander the stacks at the library and judge books solely on their covers or titles. I skim the back and then let myself make a snap judgment: to read or not to read. Of course this method has varying success. It has led me to some of my all-time favorite reads (such as The Scarlet Pimpernel) and to some that have been so unbearable that I stop reading halfway through. I rarely pick books in this manner since I always have a long mental list things I want to read. But on those weeks when every day feels like the one before, a bit of spontaneity in the form of reading is the quickest way to fix the problem. The Postman is simple; just the kind of book I needed.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Bee Season by Myla Goldberg


This book was in no way what I expected. Goldberg has a unique style and is as gifted a storyteller as anyone I have read. No one in Eliza's family is left unmarked by bee (as in spelling bee) season. I closed the book with a silent cheer for Eliza and a sigh of relief that I have never been a good speller.

Feminist Theory: The Intellectual Traditions by Josephine Donovan

Whew. This book, a read for Women and Gender Historiography, marked my first one for graduate school. *Pause for overly dramatic mental applause.* It took me three weeks to finish it, which is why I read it over the summer instead of waiting for classes to start. Honestly, I do not think I am cut out for intellectual history; it bears too much in common with philosophy. Thanks to Chase, my favorite extreme religion/philosophy, emphasis-on-philosophy major, for explaining the details of existentialism to me.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams

I like taking a break from novels and history to read plays. There's something very satisfying about knowing that you can sit down with one and finish it in two hours. Alas, it also leaves you with the feeling that you need to see it on stage to get the full effect. In my humble and, frankly, uninformed opinion, I think this play is Tennessee Williams at his best. You can almost feel the tension when you turn the pages.

The picture is a scan of a photo I took on a disposable camera back in my Camp Marymount days. I tried to find a picture of Tin Roof cabin, but I had to settle for one of the senior camp lodge pre-facelift. One of the many things for which I can thank camp is for introducing me to the tranquility of falling asleep to the sound of rain plopping on a tin roof.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

“Because for some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.”

I love the way Anne Lamott writes, so reading about how she writes seemed like a no brainer. Even though the type of writing we do is vastly different (my "characters" are not composites--historical writing does not lean that way), her take on the way writing sucks but is rewarding at the same time is damned true and good to hear from somebody else. Thanks to my dad for letting me read his Christmas present (from me) before he got a chance to. (All I'm saying is that I gave it a good five months of shelf time before I picked it up...)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Kitchen God's Wife by Amy Tan

I have always wanted to read Amy Tan, but I just never seemed to get around to it. There was always something else to read that seemed to bump her from her place on my mental list of books to read. Enough was enough, however, and when I saw this book sitting on a shelf for fifty cents, I realized it was time. I just wish I had not waited so long. Between the mother/daughter dynamic, the strength of the mother, the cunningness of the aunt, the introduction to a new culture, and the new perspective on World War II, I had a hard time putting this book down. I love the imagery of incense carrying prayers off toward heaven. I also love that many religions/cultures have the same idea. It makes the world feel a little smaller and more familiar.

Sorry about the graininess of this picture. The only way to capture the incense smoke was with a high ISO, which in turn led to the increased noise. Also contributing to the problem was the fact that I used my point and shoot instead of my DSLR. I'm also going to go ahead and apologize for not posting more. That would be because I'm not reading as much lately. You see, I finally discovered Buffy the Vampire Slayer and have literally been watching the seasons on Netflix for hours.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Basque History of the World by Mark Kurlansky

"Garea gareana legez."--Let us be what we are.

Basque culture and history are fascinating, and if you do not agree, it is probably because you have not fully looked into the subject. The sheer fact that this nation without a state has managed to survive Roman conquest, the dividing of Europe, and Franco is reason enough to want to learn about them. Add to that their unique language and culture and how could you not be intrigued? Granted I did not know any of these things before I read Kurlansky's book. For me, the bad press Basque separatists have gotten over the years as terrorists in the world media is what made me start asking questions. I hope someday I will be able to visit Euskal Herria, see the ikurriña flying, and walk by the Guernica oak tree.

NB-I do not think that the Guernica tree is a post oak, but I was working with what I had in my backyard.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Enlightenment by Maureen Freely

I am still not sure what to make of this book. I hated it at first because it seemed so scattered, but I eventually realized that was all part of the plan. By revealing facts slowly and out of order, Freely was able to give the reader a sense of the confusion of being an outsider in Cold War and contemporary Turkey. At times the two American protagonists seemed to combine into one person with a singular purpose, which I believe the author also meant to have happen. By halfway through the novel, I was compelled by the story and itching to know why no one would tell a straight story. The afterword, written by Suna, a minor-turned-major character/Turkish sociologist with always hidden motives, answered as many questions as it confused. I closed the book still wondering what exactly had happened, which I suspect is how Freely wanted me to feel. As an outsider, I will never be able to completely understand the situation, no matter how many pages back I turn or questions I ask, just like Miss M. Freely sure was good at controlling this reader's emotions.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Dawn by Elie Wiesel

Dawn follows the thoughts of eighteen-year-old Elisha, a Hasidic Jewish survivor of Buchenwald, on the night before he is to execute a British officer in Palestine. The event is to take place at dawn, leaving Elisha an entire night to think about the moment that will permanently change him into a murderer. For me, the most striking moment was when the ghosts of his past joined him in the room to remind him that by becoming a murderer he was also making them, the people who had contributed to the man he had become, murderers as well.

These photographs are ones that I took last summer in the Brazillian cerrado. The first one was taken around 5:00 AM; the last one was around 6:00AM.

Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett

I found this play jammed amongst other classics at the library booksale. Since I've heard/read it referenced in several places, I figured it was worth a read. It was my first absurdist play, and I believe it may be my last.

As an aside, this post marks book number fifty for the calendar year. If you care to recall, I estimated that I would read that number in twelve months. Through some happy turns of events, I have been able to embark on some much needed self-education during these first six, which has meant much reading of very different types of books. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your attitudes toward formal education), this period is about to end, and my reading will become much more topically focused as I start my graduate program. Some of my books for my first semester recently arrived in the mail, which means that my somewhat carefree novel and nonfiction reading will be curbed. However, there is still much "pictorial literature" to come; the pace and variety might just slow down a bit come August.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

"The heaviest of burdens crushes us, we sink beneath it, it pins us to the ground. But in love poetry of every age, the woman longs to be weighed down by the man's body.The heaviest of burdens is therefore simultaneously an image of life's most intense fulfillment. The heavier the burden, the closer our lives come to the earth, the more real and truthful they become. Conversely, the absolute absence of burden causes man to be lighter than air, to soar into heights, take leave of the earth and his earthly being, and become only half real, his movements as free as they are insignificant. What then shall we choose? Weight or lightness?"

Good question. Thanks to Gayle Katz for donating this book to the Friends of the Library booksale where I picked it up for a quarter. Your eco-friendly action introduced me to a very different type of literature.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez

Love stories are intriguing. There are the sentimental, sappy ones that a reader could never take at face value. Then there are the ones filled with unhappiness and suffering. And of course there are the ones that are more about lust than love. Only rarely does an author manage to combine the three in a way that can leave a reader feeling satisfied. Márquez manages to tell the stories of Fermina Daza and Florentino Ariza in such a way that neither is presented as completely a sinner or perfectly a saint. He characterizes them as unique people whose lives took very different paths that eventually led them to each other, although not exactly how one of them planned. It has been a while since I read a novel that captured my imagination so completely. It is no mystery to me why Márquez won a Nobel Prize in Literature.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Southern Belle Primer: Or Why Princess Margaret Will Never Be a Kappa Kappa Gamma by Maryln Schwartz

I do not belong to the correct socio-economic class to be considered a Southern belle; however, there are aspects of Southern culture that will stay with me no matter where I live. I will always think sweet tea is God's gift to make summer more bearable. I know that "hot" does not start until the heat index starts creeping into the upper nineties (although it is time to start "buying the air" in mid-April). Eating sliced tomatoes at dinner is a summer staple, and you have to be careful what you say because everyone seems to be related to everyone. Most importantly, I know that to show proper respect, you tack a sir or ma'am onto everything.

This book was silly on purpose, and presented a picture of the Old South that focused on teas, Junior League, silver patterns, and sororities at Ole Miss. My favorite part was the pictures of the "royalty"--from Memphis Cotton Carnival to Natchez Pilgrimage (always a guilty pleasure). I found this book for 25 cents at the Friends of the Library Booksale and thought it would give me a chance to look at my region from a new perspective. I now know for sure that I am not a Southern belle (thank goodness), but I love my region's quirks all the same.