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 ikurriƱa 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.