Monday, February 16, 2009


Hi. Back from Paradise. It was lovely and I swam in the ocean and snorkeled and hiked and came back relaxed and with a bit of a sunburn (damn swimsuit rubbing things off). My red badge of courage. Ha ha.

Maybe I'll post pictures of clear blue water and palm trees soon, or maybe I won't be so cruel. For not being a tropical paradise kind of person, I'll just say I enjoyed myself very much, especially seeing as it SNOWED AGAIN when I was away. We weren't gone long, I just haven't been very good about the communication side of things lately. Say for oh the last 9 months or so. Maybe the mojo will return.

Anyway. Inspired by Fillyjonk's and Kmkat's reading posts, I'm doing my own, because I've been through some good stuff lately and wanted to share.

(I hesitate to share any of my personal opinions about media, as people's tastes vary so wildly, even about generally accepted 'great literature'. So don't stone me, please. I find life too short to read anything that I don't enjoy, is stimulating, or I'm required to read).

Over Christmas, my Mom the mid-school librarian brought with her The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Wow was this good. Every time I start despairing about 'young adult' (ugh, hate that term) literature, I need to remember this and others. It was hard to read at times (look, I'm a softy and a sentimental fool. I cry at pictures of cute kittens) but absolutely absorbing. I agree with my sister-in-law on this one, I couldn't decide whether to root for the protagonist to win or not-to-win so she wouldn't turn into an emotional monster.

Second one was from the library after reading through the Onion AV Club's Favorite Books of 2008. I've found great stuff through their book reviews before so I checked some of these out. David Sawtelle is still in the hold line (I think I'm up to 100 out of 500 now), but I got my hands on Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood by Mark Harris and it was fan-frickin'-tastic. It describes, in detail, the creation of the 5 films that were up for Best Picture in 1967. It's focused on the films, but the author also discusses the historical context (Hollywood-centric, but also general American history). If you like to know the stories behind things, this is a really fantastic book. He must have interviewed hundreds of people, as well as going through archival notes, footage, diaries....

Did you know that Sidney Poitier was the star of *3* of the highest grossing films of the year, and yet _In the Heat of the Night_ was filmed in Illinois? Black actors from movies shot on location in the south were getting death threats. I think I'm going to have to pick up Nixonland next, but I know it's going to break my heart, how much people can hurt each other.

I also finally opened A Passage to India, which I've been meaning to read for years and years, and sadly, I don't think I can get through it. The author's style and my tastes are two separate curves that approach but do not intersect. I admire his writing but we will go our different ways. I was also having a lot of trouble with the casual racism (not the author, just coming from the characters).

I am finally within 50 pages of the end of Against the Day and really I'm only sticking it out to say I made it through. There are bits of beautiful wonderfulness in here but it just all feels too random. I prefer his other books, and some of those I even have a hard time getting through. They just felt more worth the effort. Or maybe I'm just a tasteless hack, because my favorite (although I greatly respect and do enjoy Gravity's Rainbow) is Vineland, which is supposed to be his tossoff, just-for-fun book. Somehow his storytelling and language and weirdness and predilection for odd cultural references come together in a perfect form for me in this book. I told K coming back on the plane that it's too bad we weren't on Kahuna airlines being robbed by sky pirates as Takeshi escapes with the help of Zoyd Wheeler. Because that sounded like quite the party.

Oh just one more, The Cheese Monkeys by Chip Kidd which just kept making me cringe but I had to keep reading. Snark levels and wanton cruelty to uncomplicated schmoes like me runs high in this book. Entertaining but I don't think I could read this one again, and yet I had a hard time putting it down once I'd reached the middle. Part fascination with the abomination, I'm sure, as I was wondering just how much worse the plot situations could get.

I'm not going to admit to my other recent choices except for Galactic North, which was pretty good but I kept wishing I were reading Revelation Space again for the first time. Otherwise, I need my plot-heavy gym books (mumble Terry Brooks mumble) and I'm only slightly ashamed to say it.