November Book Log

November 30, 2009

Phew, still a bit of work to do on the queue. I think I can manage it, but one or two might not be read. I recently got a hold of Straight Man by Richard Russo and I might read that instead of Bridge of Sighs because the point, really, is to read a little more Russo and see what I think, and Straight Man is 200 pages shorter and I’m pressed for time. We’ll see, though. On to the log…

1. Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout (3.5/5) – I was really excited about this book and it was… meh. Several of the stories were really good, but I hated the central character. I really have no desire to read 250 pages or so of someone being awful to everyone else. The writing is nice enough, but I needed to relate to the characters a bit more, and I didn’t understand why anyone would tolerate Olive.

2. The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver (5.0/5) – This book was fantastic. Most of the story is told in journal entries from the perspective of developing and later successful writer. The main character grows up mostly in Mexico and interacts with some wonderfully rendered historical figures (I never thought I’d read a novel where Trotsky was an important character). It’s thoroughly researched, the characters are real and relatible. And there is just something about it. It feels like Kingsolver reached another level with this book, though I can’t pinpoint exactly why I think that. I really can’t say enough about it. I absolutely loved this book. A masterpiece.

3. The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper (3.5/5) – I was pleasantly surprised at what an easy read this was. Still, it’s so episodic, that he could have cut 100-150 pages without losing much, and the female characters are just shamefully flat. A nice enough adventure novel and a compelling ending, but not fantastic by any means.

4. The Reivers by William Faulkner (5.0/5) – Faulkner is not a cheery guy, and though there is some comedy in this book, it only makes the stomach punches that much more keen. You can’t argue with Faulkner – everything he says is true – but you wish you could. This book reminds me a fair bit of Catcher in the Rye, but with a more painful loss of innocence and less hope. Lest I sound to bleak, I should say that it is a wonderful book and I really enjoyed reading it, even if the characters often made me cringe and shake my head. Also, a surprisingly easy read for Faulkner. I whipped through it in a few days.

5. Robert Frost’s Poems by Robert Frost (3.5/5) – This has been sitting on my shelf for a while, and I felt like I needed a dose of Frost, so I picked it up. The rating I have given it is not a reflection of how I feel about the mostly wonderful poetry so much as how I feel about the terrible commentary. Read Frost, but buy a volume that doesn’t intersperse fawning admiration disguised as academic commentary every few pages. Also, terribly organized. The sections feel contrived and arbitrary at the same time.

Fall Book Queue Update:

Robert Frost’s Poems by (ahem) Robert Frost
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Anton Chekov’s Short Stories by (double ahem) Anton Chekov
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
The Reivers by William Faulkner
The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper
The Machine by Joe Posnanski
Manhood for Amateurs by Michael Chabon
The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
Chronic City by Jonathan Lethem
Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver
Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo
One True Thing by Anna Qunidlen
Blindness by Jose Saramago
Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff

I will tell you right now, this is not going to be a very focused blog post, but I wanted to get it out before the issue got stale, I guess.

I am bothered as hell by the Stupak Amendment. That this thing even made it onto a piece of legislation with a real chance at becoming law is appalling. I tend to vote more or less straight-ticket Democrat, but I am not a registered Democrat. Why? Because of bullshit like this.

First of all, can we please just cut the crap and admit that this is about religion? Because it is. I will have a great big post about religion in public schools soon, but in the mean time I would just like everyone to acknowledge that something like 99.999999999999999% of people who think abortion should be illegal/unfunded believe this for religious reasons. Thus, if you make it illegal, you are imposing your religious beliefs on me. I do not like that and couching it in language that skirts religion does not make it any better.

Related: This makes me angry. Really, really? Does Saletan even realize that more than 60% of people think Roe v. Wade is a good thing? How is this “throw[ing] in your lot with the people”? How utterly, fucking ridiculous.

Initially, I had a hard time understanding how the “liberal” half of the US legislature could be this stupid. Then I saw this article on fivethirtyeight.com and it made sense. The United States ranks 70th in the world in percentage of female legislators at 17.5%. Even if you take just the Democratic Caucuses, then you end up more or less tied with Pakistan for 46th. Pakistan!?!? Are you freaking kidding me? No wonder we suck at women’s rights. Can you imagine a 21st century legislative body with any kind of reasonable female component voting to amend a bill in this way? I sure as hell can’t.