Monday, August 30, 2010

What I know about sitting shiva?

What do I know about sitting shiva? Pretty much nothing.  One of the main plot points of Tropper's This Is Where I Leave You is that the family of recently deceased Foxman patriarch is sitting shiva.  I'm not Jewish and the most I knew about sitting shiva came from the episode of Weeds "Three Coolers" from season 4.  It was one of the episodes with Albert Brooks of The Simpsons and by the way, what ever happened to Weeds?  Season 1 was amazing and even seasons 2 and 3 were entertaining but they lost me after that.  Once Conrad and Heylia were no longer regular characters I quit watching.  I mean, how could you get rid of those 2?  They were my favorite characters.

Anyway, back sitting shiva. Actually no.  Not back to sitting shiva because to try to say that I somewhat understand it after reading this book is a lie and a mean thing to say about a meaningful religious ceremony.  What I will do is go back to the book.  I mentioned in my last post about this book that the anger caught me off guard, though it really shouldn't have because the book is very honest about the anger from the get go.  Throughout the rest of the book the anger doesn't go away and in many cases it's explained without being entirely resolved.  This feels slightly anti-climactic but it would be a lie if the problems were explained away at the end and everyone were to go off into the sunset singing "Age of Aquarius".  (If you don't understand that reference go check out The 40 Year Old Virgin.  By the way, Conrad is in there!  This post is making all sorts of connections.)

Situations are exaggerated for comic value but the story and the relationships still feel honest.  The story drew me in, even though I don't think I was necessarily in the right frame of mind to start this book.  As I mentioned I didn't have a choice because all of the other books were packed so I continued through it and I'm glad I did.

I do wish the character Wendy was better fleshed out.  You mostly see her making smart ass comments (my favorite kind) to her brothers while trying to deal with her own body issues and her asshole husband.  Tropper sets her up as an interesting character with potential and yet you never understand her childhood, her anger or why she became the person she is.  The story is told from the point of view of her brother and perhaps we learn so little about her because her brother never learns much about her.  We see Judd and his brothers Phillip and Paul at least try to work through their old issues but Wendy is never really dealt with.  And yet I still found this quote one of the most heartbreaking of the book:
[Wendy] fell in love often, and with great fanfare, throwing herself into each romance with the focus of an Olympic athlete.  Now she's a mother and a wife, who tries to get her screaming baby to sleep through the night, tries to stop her boys from learning curse words, and calls romantic love useless. (321)
I do have a few questions for those who have read This Is Where I Leave You (and even if you haven't read it feel free to weigh in, but there may be spoilers.)

-What do you think Judd's dream about his missing leg means?  The idea that he needs his father to help him stand seems to make sense but also seems to simple and I think I'm missing something.
-Did you picture Judd as Albert Brooks (see, the connections keep on coming!)? 
-What'd you think about Horry and his relationship with Wendy?  What about Wendy's justification for sleeping with Horry?
-What do you hope happens to Judd?  Do you think he should end up with Jen? With Penny?  With no one?
-Who was your favorite character?  I obviously mentioned how much I like Wendy but I was also a fan of Phillip.  He was an idiot and a bit of a man-child but he was at least honest if clueless.  This doesn't mean I'd want to hang out with him and certainly not date him but he made for a character I liked to read about and didn't want to punch several times per page (see: Paul).

Tropper, Jonathan.  This Is Where I Leave You. Plume Book, New York.  2009.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Blog Update

So as I've mentioned Boyfriend and I are moving and as part of this move we had to give up our internet the other day.  Of course this seemed to coincide with my new comment program falling apart so I haven't been able to look into it.  I'm still mid-move so I won't be able to figure it out at the moment but I promise I'll figure this out and apologies to those whose comments were lost.

By the way, if anyone knows why Intense Debate would continue to work on old blog posts but stop working on new ones, I'm all ears!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Book Blog Hop VIII

Book Blogger Hop

Eventually I'm going to stop remembering the Roman numerals and will need to change these headers up.
It's that time of the week again!  Time for the book blog hop hosted by Crazy for Books!  This week's question is "Do you use a rating system for your reviews and if so, what is it and why?"

I never really intended this blog to be a review blog.  I really wanted a space to write and discuss books I was reading.  Sort of like a book club but online.  I've found that whenever you're discussing books you can't help but to review them a little, even if what you're writing isn't a traditional review.  Even so I've never had an actual rating system and I've no plans to add one.  As it stands I figure I'll just keep writing as I have been and some posts might be reviews and others might just be ramblings.  It's working for me so far.

What do you think of rating systems and do you use them?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Award Happy Dance!

Jo over at the blog Fluidity of Time has graciously passed along the Lovely Blog Award to me.  And again I do kinda think these awards are like blog chain letters but they're still wonderful and make me do little happy dances.  So here are the steps to this blog award

  • Accept the award (done!), post it on your blog along with the name of the person who granted you the award. (double done!)
  • Pass this award to 15 other blogs.  OK, so I'm not going to do 15 blogs but I am going to pass this on to other blogs I enjoy that I didn't mention with my previous award.
  • Contact the bloggers to let them know about the award (will do!)
  • Do happy dance.  It wasn't listed as a rule on Jo's blog, but I think it should be stated.  I'm sure it's an assumed rule, but assuming is never a good thing.
So now here are the blogs that deserve this award
Bookish NYC
English Major's Junk Food
Entomology of a Book Worm
Oh, Reckless Abandon
Pink Sheep Cafe

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Shouldn't you be home, sitting Sheba?

Ever since I started blogging I've heard about the author Jonathan Tropper.  Greg over at The New Dork Review has written about Tropper a few times and his descriptions are what initially made me want to check him out.  Then I started hearing about Tropper, especially his book This Is Where I Leave You, on a bunch of book blogs.  Unfortunately I don't remember all of the other places I've seen it or I would include links to each of them and give everyone their due credit.

I'm about 1/2 way through the book but I wanted to share my initial thoughts.  The book is funny but very angry.  I guess this is understandable.  It opens with the main character finding out his dad has died not long after he walks in on his wife screwing his boss.  I was prepared for the sarcasm, the wit and the snarkiness, but not the anger.  This isn't to say that the anger doesn't work.  I think it's because I'm coming off of Christopher Moore who is very witty and sarcastic with a good dose of dark humor, but even with all of this there is a happiness to it.  Even in Fool, the retelling of the tragedy of King Lear, there is a lightness that goes along with the darkest moments.  Tropper caught me off guard, though he really shouldn't have.  What I'm getting is exactly what I've been told to expect from both fellow bloggers and the book summary.  This has lead me to wonder if reading this book right now was smart or if I should have waited until I was in a different frame of mind.  For the most part I'm enjoying the book but I did consider putting the book down and trying it again. It seems like the kind of book I will really enjoy and I want to make sure I'm getting the most out of it. But I'm reading it now in part because I am liking it enough to continue on and also because I've already moved by box of books over to my new place and the other books are packed.

Have you ever started a book but knew it was the wrong time and you wouldn't enjoy it as much right then?  What would you do if you thought you weren't going to get the most out of a book at the time you were reading it?

On a different note, this is the second signed copy of a book I've bought recently.  The first was I Was Told There'd Be Cake.  I don't go out of my way to buy signed copies and I won't pay more for them but they do excite me.  I don't know why.  It's not like I was even there to meet the author and get my copy of the book signed.  There's no logical reason to like the signed copies so much, hence the reason I won't pay more for it, but I do smile a little wider when I see that "Signed Copy" sticker on the cover.  Perhaps if these authors become super famous these autographed copies will be worth a lot of money.  Fingers crossed.

Title quote from page from page 72.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Top Ten Books I Can't Believe I've Never Read

I saw this meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish and I like this week's topic.  What are the top 10 books you can't believe you've never read?  This isn't actually in any order, but it is 10 books I haven't read.  Some of them are ones I personally am surprised I haven't read and the others are ones other people are surprised to find out I haven't read.  I can't think of 10 in either category so I'm mixing them together.

  1. Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson.  I've had this book for years and every once in awhile I see it on the shelf and think "I should read that.  It's short so I could probably finish it today."  And then I shrug my shoulders and go back to whatever intelligent activity I was currently engaged in, like watching Wipeout!  I will get around to it eventually, I swear!
  2. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle.  This is another book I've had for years, at least since elementary school and yet I never picked it up.  I think I may have missed the boat on this one, like I did with E.T.  I never saw that movie and I think now that I missed it as a child it's not going to mean much to be as an adult.  I may let this one pass me by but I do own it so who knows.
  3. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.  My dad bought me this book when I was a child and for the most part I love the new books he introduces me to.  He hit home runs with Catch 22 and Slaughterhouse 5 but I never picked up this one.  I tried it around the time I tried reading the rest of the LotR trilogy.  I think I skimmed 2 pages and then quit.
  4. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.  I recently bought a copy of this book because I had already read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies twice and I thought it was stupid that I'd never read P&P.
  5. Lord of the Flies by William Golding.  In my high school English class we were split up into groups.  Some people read Lord of the Flies, some read All's Quiet on the Western Front and my group read 1984.  I plan on reading this one.  Eventually...
  6. Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare.  I've taken several Shakespeare classes throughout high school and college and this play just never came up in any of them.  I even took an entire class only on Shakespeare's tragedies but we never read this one.  I guess this didn't fit into the professor's definition, which was "a dream of innocence realized by a fact of guilt that acquiesces therein".  How I miss academia.
  7. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis.  I haven't actually read any of the Narnia series but I include this one because I loved the animated movie version.  I can't find when that one came out but I do know it's not the 1979 version.  That box looks way more colorful and happy than I remember the movie being.  I have one of the books on my shelf from when my brother read it, but I never got around to it.
  8. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.  Like P&P, I've never read this one.  I've never been a big fan of British Regency/Victorian lit so normally this wouldn't be a surprise that I haven't read it.  Except for the fact that the first of my favorite book series, the Thursday Next series, is called The Eyre Affair and many of the characters play big parts in the book.
  9. Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde.  This one I can't believe I haven't yet read because I can't believe my self restraint.  I love Fforde and have been waiting for this book to come paperback.  I know I like paperbacks better than hardcover so I'm trying to hold out.  I almost caved once (it was a signed copy!!!) but I held fast.
  10. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway.  I haven't actually read any of Hemingway's work and this is a travesty I've been meaning to fix.  Just as soon as I get through all of this other very important work.
What are some books you can't believe you've never read?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Welcome to my book OCD

The Reading Ape recently had a post about the "extra-reading activities" book lovers partake in.  You should absolutely check out the post as well as the comments to see a glimpse into the insanity that is book lovers.  Of course if you're reading this blog you are, at least somewhat, a book lover yourself and know the insanity all too well.  I love this topic and wanted to share some of my ridiculousness with you.

I hate when books are dog-eared, covers folded over, spine cracked, pages written on, etc.  I like my books to look as pristine as possible.  I'm not sure why I care so much, but it's enough that I have certain people who are allowed to borrow my books.  It's not that I think people are going to actively destroy my books out of spite but there are only certain friends I've told of my ridiculousness because I know it's silly.  My one friend is amazing and he accidentally bent/tore the cover of one of my books and has gotten me a replacement copy.  This is also my friend that got be a first folio copy of A Midsummer Night's Dream because he is an awesome book gift giver.

There are exceptions to my "no writing in books" rule.  My college text books have all kinds of writing and highlighting in them.  I like going through some of these text and I can tell if I had any idea what was going on by the amount of highlighting I did.  Oh, the entire essay describing Russian formalists theory is highlighted?  Clearly I thought "I have no idea what this means and what's important so I'll just highlight all of it and hope I've stumbled across the part I'll need to know about."  I don't even mind if I buy a used book that has writing in it.  I just won't do the writing myself, which is stupid because I like the idea of going back and seeing what I've written.  I think one of those e-readers that lets you take margin notes and highlight things would be fantastic for me, at least in theory.  I'm trying out both the Kindle app and the iBooks app on my iPod Touch and I've used the highlighting stuff minimally so far. 

I also like my books in a series to match.  I prefer them to be all the same style, publisher etc. My Vonnegut books all match, my Fforde books all look similar.  My Bryson books don't match and for whatever reason that doesn't actually bother me.  I think this just goes to show that even I don't understand my arbitrary rules.  I have 2 sets that have given me a lot of grief.

My Lord of the Rings trilogy doesn't match.  I was never a fan of the books but got dragged to the first movie when it came out and was surprised to find that I loved it!  I went out and bought the first book and...well...I made it through with a lot of effort.  I decided to not read the next book before the movie came out because I didn't want the book to ruin the movie.  I knew I liked the movie better but I was willing to give the books another chance.  Well, after I saw the second movie I went out and bought both the second and third book.  But I failed to notice that they had slightly changed the spine image.  Now instead of creating one scene going across all of the books, it's all messed up.  This bothers me to no end and I wish I had just waited until the last movie came out, so then none of the books would match.  Because I know this was stupid, I won't go out and buy another copy of a book I already own just so I could make sure my set matched.  Or in this case, evenly does not match.  I'd be fine if all of the spine images were different; it's the fact that 2 are the same that drives me nuts. So now the books just taunt me.  Perhaps that's why I couldn't make it through the third book.  The Hobbit doesn't match but since it's not actually part of the trilogy and I got it when I was little, it doesn't bother me.  See, arbitrary rules.

As I mentioned, I don't mind if the whole set intentionally doesn't match and that is the case with my Harry Potter set.  I didn't start reading Harry Potter until late in college.  I obviously knew of the books before that but I only started reading it because I wanted books to bring with me to Italy and my brother had a copy of the first one.  I enjoyed it enough to buy the second book at the bookstore in the Rome train station (which has a small but wonderful English language section).  I then put down the series and didn't think about it again until a few years later when the last book came out and my then-roommate was super excited about it.  Wanting me to join her excitement, she lent me the third book during a beach trip.  I underestimated exactly how pale I am and got super sunburned (screw you SPF75 sunscreen) so for the next week I couldn't do much except lay on my stomach and read, so I made it through the next couple books.  I mostly borrowed my friend's books, but I also took a hard cover copy of the 4th book from Brother and bought the fifth book.  Now my collection was all over the place and I realized none of my books matched.  I debated a few times buying one of the complete sets but I had already bought 2 of the books in the series and acquired 2 more and it seemed silly to buy 7 books when I only needed 3.  Cheapness beats out crazy most days.  I instead went for the "I'll make it intentionally not match" method.  The hardest one to find is the 6th book, because I wanted it to be short like the second copy.  Thank you self-conscious HP readers for creating an "adult cover" version of the book.  Part of me was afraid I was going to end up with some weird HP fanfic, which would have been extra fun seeing how the package was being sent to my work.  But I lucked out and now my collection makes sense to me.

This is really the tip of the iceberg.  Perhaps I'll have a future entry with some other book insanity but I think this is enough for one day.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Blog Hop VII

Once again it's Friday and time for the blog hop hosted by Crazy for Books.  This week's question is how many blogs do you follow?

According to Google Reader, I'm subscribed to 80 blogs.  Out of those I closely follow about 36 of them and the others I'll glance at the others to see if there's a topic that interests me.  Most of the blogs I follow are book blogs, usually found through this hop, and then a few are some random ones.  I try post weekly about other blogs that I enjoy that I think other people should check out, but I'm no good at keeping up with any sort of schedule so they're happening more sporadically now. 

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

How do I choose?!?

There is news in the World of Red! (That's right, I live in my own world and it's important enough to warrant capitalization.)  Boyfriend got a new job (Yay!) in Long Island (Ya- wait, what?...well I guess that's kind of like NYC).  To answer your thoughts: Yes yay!, I know, and no, it isn't but I'm learning to get over that.  (Yup, those italicized parenthetical comments are your thoughts.  Bet you didn't realize I'm psychic too.)  Boyfriend will be heading down there very soon, but I have one of those job thingys up here in Boston so I'll be hanging around Beantown for awhile longer.  Which means Boyfriend and I need to split our stuff up and figure out who gets what.

How do I choose??
Seeing how this is my book blog I will be keeping the post mostly about books.  In this case, how am I supposed to decide what to bring with me?  I get one lil half bookshelf thing to bring with me.  How can I decide what gets shipped down to LI and what will stay with me?  Splitting up all of the other possessions was easy.  Boyfriend is taking all of the important things, like furniture and kitchen equipment, and I'm taking the toys like the various Nintendo systems (oh yes, I have from regular NES through Wii), the Back to the Future trilogy on DVD and martini glasses (which count as toys in World of Red).  But my limited amount of space means a limited amount of books.  I re-read a lot of books because I'm cheap and lazy.  I tend to just stare at my bookshelf while I make my next selection.  Oh, to the untrained eye it may look like staring off into space, but I assure you I'm deep in thought figuring out what I recently have read, what I'm in the mood for and what will help me forget I'm on the subway (most of my reading is done during my commute).  I'm no good at keeping TBR lists.  I go with the "in the moment" method of choosing a book.  This is how Eclectic Indulgence describes the process and this sounds far better than the ADD method as I've previously described it. You know, like I'm seizing the day instead of being too lazy to walk outside to a bookstore.

So how would you choose what books to keep? Obviously this isn't as dire as desert island reads, although I've been fretting over this decision like it is.  I also need to keep in mind I should save some shelf space for the new books I'm sure to acquire. 

While I'm on the topic of this move Boyfriend is making happen, I want to include this Calvin & Hobbes panel, which pretty much sums up me and Boyfriend.  I wish I could say I was Hobbes in this relationship but I'm most definitely Calvin.

If you didn't notice, I'm super into parenthetical comments in this post.  Probably because my mind keeps jumping to lots of different points and I know you don't want to miss a thing.  And now that I've typed that I have the Aerosmith song stuck in my head.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

We're all Fate's bastards

 I know my last few posts have been about Shakespeare* but the next couple are going to be about him as well.  Sorry!  Slog through a few more (or just ignore me for the next couple posts) and I'll be onto a new topic in no time.  Promises. I'm also skipping a fellow bloggers post this week because I recently listed out a bunch of my favorite blogs in my last post.  If you're at a loss for other blogs to check out and want, nay need, my wisdom check out that list.

For now I'm re-reading Fool by Christopher Moore.  It's a retelling of King Lear from the Fool's point of view, with some changes here and there to Shakespeare's play.  I'm not sure if it makes any difference if you're familiar or not with Lear before reading this.  I think the story is well told and funny enough that you don't even need to know there is a different version of King Lear but seeing how I already know the story of Lear I can't really say for sure.  That was a rambling way to say I've read Lear before and cannot time travel to see if Fool makes any sense without knowing it.  So there you go.

Moore's writing is satirical, humorous and absurd, which is exactly how I like my books.  If you're not yet familiar with his humor, here's the warning he put in the beginning of the book:
This is a bawdy tale.  Herein you will find gratuitous shagging, murder, spanking, maiming, treason, and heretofore unexplored heights of vulgarity and profanity, as well as non-traditional grammar, split infinitives, and the odd wank.  If that sort of thing bothers you, then gentle reader pass by, for we endeavor only to entertain, not to offend.  That said, if that's the sort of thing you think you might enjoy, then you have happened upon the perfect story!
For me, Moore has absolutely provided me a perfect story.  Or at least a very entertaining one.   The story doesn't just strictly follow the King Lear plot but also includes back stories for the fool, Pocket, as well as the pasts of Lear, Cordelia, Goneril and Regan. Pocket has a greater influence over the events of the story than the original play suggests, though it's pulled off in such a way you could see the truth-speaking fool actually having a hand in the action.

As is typical of Moore's characters, Pocket is a generally good guy but he certainly engages in some morally questionable plots, usually to suit his own ends or the ends of those he cares about.  He's not all good, which would make him boring and he's not all bad, which would make him unsympathetic.  The gray area is a more interesting mire to wade through.  Just as in the play, Pocket's wit allows him to say and do things that are unsavory when coming from others.  Humor softens the blow.  I've yet to find a Moore book that completely lacks wit, but it works especially well here, where quick wit is a central part to the fool's character.

Fool is one of my favorite Moore books, just barely behind Lamb.  I'm sure the fact that it's Shakespeare based plays a good part in making this one of my favorites but the story itself is so well-told and so funny that even if this had been just a generic court jester it still would have been good.  By the way, the book was originally going to just be  about a generic court jester, but his editor told him he should do Lear.  I love that this book includes a little explanation from Moore about his intentions.  And if you want to see an excellent post about author's intentions check out the post about just that over a Dead White Guys.  I can't say I think that author's intention is the be-all-end-all to a book and coming up with your own interpretation separate from the author's is pointless and a waste of time, Jane Doe makes a very convincing argument.  I can't think of a good way to counter it, so I'll just agree with The Reading Ape's comment.

I'm still debating if I'll have a second post about this book, so there may be one more Shakespeare entry you'll have to read (assuming you'll read the next one if you've made it this far).  I'm about 1/2 way done with the book as is, but because I have read it before I'm confident in the above review.  Don't worry, it won't be a second review of the book or anything entirely redundant, though I'm sure I'll make mention of the humor again.  If I find an aspect that particularly catches my eye, you'll see another entry.  If not, I'll be off on some other topic.

Title quote page 29

*Other Shakespeare posts:
I think you showed a lot of heart!  A lot of courage!  A lot of  -- as Shakespeare would say -- 'chutzpah'  - The Compleat Works of Wllm Shkspr (abridged)
The law of transitives and...Othello?
"[Maybe] I'll find the meaning of life in a sonnet" - My Name is Will

Moore, Christopher.  Fool.  Harper, New York.  2009

Friday, August 13, 2010

Blog Award and Hop VI

Before we get onto the hop I was very pleasantly surprised this morning when I saw The Book Bee gave me the Versatile Blogger award.  I know it's a bit like blogger chain letters but I still did a happy dance when I saw it!

So here are the rules for this award and I suppose if I screw them up I get it taken away.

1) Thank the person who gave you the award and link back to them when creating the award post.

2) Share seven things about yourself.
3) Pass the award on to 15 recently discovered blogs.
4) Contact the bloggers to let them know about the award

7 things about me!
  1. Despite my red hair I'm not actually Irish.  I'm mostly Italian and French with a bunch of other stuff thrown in for good measure.
  2. I studied for a semester in Italy and I got pretty good at speaking Italian.  I even have a copy of A Midsummer Night's Dream in Italian.  I've since lost the majority of the Italian I knew, which is just a great excuse to head back out there.
  3. My degree is in English but I describe my current job as "IT like".  It's an oversimplified description and it unfortunately makes people think I can help them with their computers.  I can't even figure out how to change the background on my blog while keeping the layout the same.
  4. I have a horrible attention span.  Reading is one of the few things I can do without trying to do 8 other things at the same time.
  5. I also have a terrible memory.  Or rather I remember ridiculous things and forget the important ones.  I forget people's birthday's all the time but I know all of the lyrics to Sir Mix-a-Lot's "Baby Got Back".
  6. When I was younger I had purple and sometimes blue streaks in my hair.  I was so punk rock.
  7. I love Shakespeare and you'll probably see a lot of his stuff and related works on my blog.
And now here are 15 blogs. 
  1. A Thousand Books with Quotes
  2. Estella's Revenge
  3. Krista Hidden in the Stacks
  4. Lit Addicted Brit
  5. Literary Musings
  6. Ordinary Reader
  7. Pens with Cojones
  8. ProSe
  9. Roof Beam Reader
  10. Shelf Life
  11. Somewhat Literate
  12. The Curious Reader
  13. The Raven Paradox
  14. The Space Bard
  15. The Tower of Stories
And now to the second part of this post: the weekly Blog Hop hosted by Crazy for Books!  This week's question is "How many books to you have on your 'to be read shelf'?"

I don't really have a shelf or list or anything official marking a to be read pile.  I have a list of current reads and upcoming titles on the left of my blog screen, but even that is subject to change on a whim.  Usually I decide on the next book I'll read as soon as I finish my current one.  I never know what I'll be in the mood for so I like to go with the flow.  I'm too disorganized to have any sort of real list.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

[Maybe] I'll find the meaning of life in a sonnet

My friend lent me the book My Name is Will: A Novel of Sex, Drugs, and Shakespeare by Jess Winfield awhile ago but I'm holding it hostage until I get my copy of Vonnegut's Galapagos back from him. And while I'm holding onto it it made sense to me to read it again.  Plus I'm currently out of new books to read and I'm trying to save money although I'm sure this won't last too long. It's just a matter of time before the call of the bookstore draws me in.

I've tried to describe the book to people before and I just end up repeating the subtitle.  "Well, you see, it's a book about Shakespeare.  But there's also a lot of drugs and sex."  I'm so eloquent.  So let me try a little harder this time.  It's actually the tale of two Shakespeares.  Also sex and drugs.  I hope that cleared everything up!

Alright, I'll give this one more try.  It is the story of two Shakespeares: the William Shakespeare you know and (I hope) love and then there's William "Willie" Shakespeare Greenberg, the modern day Shakespearean scholar.  The chapters alternate between Willie's journey to figure out his master's thesis, that Shakespeare was a closet Catholic, his task to deliver drugs to a Renaissance Faire and his goal to have a lot of sex along the way.  Then there's the Bard's life before he began writing, the poaching of the deer in Sir Thomas Lucy's grounds, his trip to London and having a lot of sex along the way.  The stories parallel one another, showing how the two Shakespeare's react to similar but entirely different situations.  There's a scene where Shakespeare is being tortured by Sir Lucy that mimics a scene with Willie and his girlfriend in bed together.  See, similar but different; I wasn't just being complicated there.  The two Shakespeare's are also persecuted to varying degrees: for Willie it comes from the DEA and Reagan's recently implemented mandatory minimum sentencing and for Shakespeare it's those darn Protestants.

I liked the Shakespeare chapters better than the Willie ones.  Both sets are interesting but I'm personally more interested in Shakespeare's life, even a fictional telling of his lost years.  You see into a world of Shakespeare if he was a closet Catholic and how his early life may have influenced his later writing, including the more important lesson of the theater "Know Thy Audience" which lets him move beyond political allegory and create characters for all ages. Winfield's Shakespeare could be the early version of Joseph Fiennes' Shakespeare of Shakespeare in Love. There is more at stake in Shakespeare's story and more chance for him to grow.  Willie's story is funny and kept me entertained but it couldn't draw me in the same way Shakespeare's chapters did.

There are a lot of little nods to Shakespeare, as would be expected.  Some work well and others are more obvious and feel a bit more awkward.  And of course there is a lot of humor.  Jess Winfield, then credited as Jess Borgenson, is one of the original authors of The Compleat Works of Wllm Shkspr (abridged), which I wrote about in an earlier post and he makes clear references to the early days of the group and according to Winfield's website parts of Willie's story is indeed based about his own life. 

Title quote from page 22

Winfield, Jess. My Name is Will: A Novel of Sex, Drugs and Shakespeare.  Twelve/Hatchette Book Group, New York.  2008

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Check Out These Bloggers

The last few weeks I've posted about other bloggers you guys should check out.  My original intention was to post this stuff on Mondays but the second I try to give myself some sort of schedule I break it.  But I had just finished What's My Name, Fool? and wanted to get my thoughts down and out there.  Now I know I'm obviously the main voice you listen to when trying to decide what else to read, so I didn't want to make you go too long without telling you what to do.  I'm kind like that.  Anyway, here are a couple more blogs you should check out. 

Coffee Tale Reviews - I just recently started following Ms. C's blog but I've already gone through her past posts and found interesting topics.  She reviews some contemporary novels, some classics and she includes some cookie recipes which I've yet to try but look delicious.  You should check out her latest entry Hitler's Private Library and what our library collections say about us if anything.

The Reading Ape - Check out this blog if you are looking for intelligent, interesting, well-thought out posts about books and the book world.  He's had a couple posts recently about Amazon questionable business practices that make me reconsider where my book money goes and also tackles topics about the gender divide in the book blogging universe.  I have a general tendancy to enjoy posts about general topics but his review of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake appealed to me and gave me a better idea of what to expect with this book (or not in my case since I don't plan on reading it) than other reviews have.

The Sassy Curmudgeon - Una isn't actually a book blogger and at this point I can't even remember how I stumbled onto her blog, but I am loving it. I do know the first entry I read was about her trying out the Wine Rack, which is a sports bra with special pouches to hold a bottle of wine.  Wheee! Plus Bill watches over her blog at the bottom of the page.  Double score! (I know his name is actually Martin Starr but he'll always be Bill from Freaks and Geeks to me.)

Enjoy!  And if you know of any other awesome blogs leave a comment and tell us about them!

P.S.! If you're curious about other bloggers I've deemed awesome, check out my previous posts
Fellow Book Bloggers
Bloggers You Should Know

Monday, August 9, 2010

Screw U.S. Steel. We're bigger than the damn mafia

When I first heard this was the book we were going to be reading for my book club I thought to myself, "Well the point of book club is so I can read books I wouldn't pick up on my own".  That's a lie.  My first thoughts were "What is this book?  Sports?  Who picked this one? I don't want to read this." And the point of book club is mostly so we can all get together, drink wine, catch up and maybe, if a couple people have read the book, discuss some of it.  Reading the book is not actually a necessary part of this book club, which means that if I really didn't want to read the book, I can still hang out with everyone.  

But I decided to suck it up and at least see what the book is actually about.  Radical idea, right?  I know Amazon is a great big bully, but they at least provide the first few pages of this apparently out-of-print-only-found-online book and I learned that this book is actually about discrimination in sports and how various people and groups have fought against injustice.  Ah, this sounds more like something my reading group would come up with.  And so I decided to actually read the book.

If you didn't guess from my knee-jerk reaction to the book, I'm not a huge sports fan.  Or even a little one.  But sports still regularly fit into my life as both my dad and Boyfriend are huge sports fans and Boyfriend works in sports.  I just can't get away from it.  But their enthusiasm has somewhat helped me with this book.  I at least recognized certain players, even if Boyfriend was disappointed I didn't know all of the teams Carlos Delgado has played for.  I tried to explain that he's lucky I recognize the name at all (Boyfriend is a Mets fan).  Oh well. That was a long way of saying I won't be able to comment on the sports aspect of the book with any sort of authority. 

I liked this book to a point.  It's not so much a single coherent book as it's a series of related short essays about racism, sexism and homophobia in sports.  This format worked for me as it made it easier for me to move quickly through certain essays.  The sections of the book where he discusses Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, and Billie Jean King are wonderful, sad and thought provoking.  He includes interviews with Lee Evans and David Meggyesy to give a first person take on some of the biggest moments in sports.  Maybe it's because these stories aren't so fresh but he's had the benefit of hindsight when writing that these stories come off as more powerful for me.  His essays on Pat Tillman, the Fab Five, Kate Hnida and Maurice Clarett still tell important stories but his anger over the injustices he discusses, while justified and understandable, overshadows the larger point he's trying to make. He uses these examples as jumping off points to a larger issue, but the leap happens so abruptly that I feel like there is more to the stories about Tillman et al. that I'm missing.

It was an interesting read that I think could have been better.  I may have a follow up post once we have book club again and I see what others have to say.  I'm also going to recommend the book to Boyfriend and my dad.  I'd like to see what a sports fan thinks about the book.

Title quote from page 17

Zirin, Dave.  What's My Name, Fool?: Sports and Resistance in the United States.  Haymarket Books, Chicago. 2005

Friday, August 6, 2010

Friday 56

Here's another Friday meme to keep me from having to think up real post ideas for the day.

The Friday 56 idea came to me from My Reader's Block
The Rules:
*Grab the book nearest you. Right now.
*Turn to page 56.
*Find the fifth sentence.
*Post that sentence (plus one or two other if you like) along with these instructions on your blog or (if you do not have your own blog) in the comments below.
*Post a link along with your post back to this blog.
*Don't dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the nearest

This is from What's My Name, Fool?: Sports and Resistance in the United States by Dave Zirin
The "Johnson backlash" meant that it would be twenty years before the rise of another Black heavyweight champ -- "The Brown Bomber," Joe Louis.  Louis was quiet where Johnson had been outspoken.  An all-white management team handled Louis very carefully, and had a set of rules he had to follow, including, "never be photographed with a white woman, never go to a club by yourself, and never speak unless spoken to."
To give a little bit of context, the "Johnson backlash" mentioned above refers to Jack Johnson, the first Black heavyweight boxing champion.

Book Blog Hop V

At some point I'll come up with a more created Blog Hop title than that.  But most people have already used all the good puns (is there such a thing? to paraphrase Sports Night) so for now this will do.

We have another blog hop this week hosted by Crazy-For-Books.  This week's question is: Do you listen to music when you read?  If so, what are your favorite reading tunes?

I do the majority of my reading during my work commute and I always have my headphones in, though I'm hardly paying attention to what I'm listening to.  The music is mostly to block out the noise of other commuters.  If you're curious my iPod is a mix of punk, ska, show tunes, classic and folk rock and then random songs here and there, in case the previous mix wasn't quite random enough. 

If I'm reading at home in general the TV will be on but I'm awful at focusing on one thing at a time so it, like the iPod, is mostly just background noise.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Law of Transitives and...Othello?

Sometimes something I see or hear will remind me of Shakespeare so I'll sporadically break up the novels I'm reading by picking up some of his works and looking at a certain scene or line I like.  So just as sporadically I figured I'd share those moments here. You're welcome. I'll consider this my Shakespeare Break.  This time the break was triggered by the production of Othello put on in the Boston Commons by the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company.  Free Shakespeare and Parish Cafe sandwiches: a great way to spend a summer night.

Seeing Othello again made me think about how Iago manipulates Othello to bring him down.  I should start out saying I'm skeptical of the idea of the tragic flaw, that Othello is brought down only because he is too trusting.  This makes both Iago and Othello seem like weak characters.  This is not my own conclusion but comes from Shakespeare Is Hard, But So Is Life: A Radical Guide to Shakespearean Tragedy by Fintan O'Toole.   I won't get too much into this book, as I'm sure that will be a later post, but just to say that O'Toole claims that the idea of the tragic flaw removes the concept of free will; the characters are destined to behave the way they do. Looking at Othello as having a tragic flaw robs Iago of his twisted powers of persuasion. 

So what does Othello have to do with transitive relation or law of transitives?  For those who don't remember, the transitive relation states essentially if A = B and B = C then A = C.  I also included a link to the Wikipedia page, which can give you more information should you be curious and which I had to check to make sure I was somewhat getting this right.  For the point I'll be making you only need to know the info in the example above.  So I'll ask again (because I assume your memory is as good as mine and if more than 10 seconds have passed you forgot what we were talking about)  what does this algebraic rule have to do with Shakespeare?  Iago uses this basic formula to plant and nurture those seeds of distrust in Othello.

     Ha, I like not that. 

     What dost thou say?

     Nothing, my lord; or if--I know not what.

     Was not that Cassio parted from my wife?

     Cassio, my lord? No, sure, I cannot think it
     That he would steal away so guiltylike,
     Seeing you coming.

     I do believe 'twas he.

     How now, my lord?
     I have been talking with a suitor here,
     A man that languishes in your displeasure.

     Who is't you mean?

      Why, your lieutenant, Cassio.

Iago knew that was Cassio talking to Desdemona; he had advised Cassio to have Desdemona plead on his behalf and hopefully make it back into Othello's good graces.  Yet Iago plants the seed here.  He points out a man "[stealing] away so guiltylike" from Desdemona and when Othello asks if that was Cassio, Iago says it couldn't be.  Cassio is a fine, up-standing man and a good man wouldn't sneak away from another man's wife like that.  But when the two men make it to Desdemona she tells them that was Cassio.  So we've set up the following equation

Cassio = Good Man
Good Man = Wouldn't "steal away so guiltylike"
Cassio = Wouldn't "steal away so guiltylike"

It may seem setting this up will not meet Iago's end as the very first equation is Cassio is a good man.  But to truly be the conniving character he is, Iago must work within the rules that have been set up.  Othello believes Cassio to be a good man, so the first thing Iago must do is destroy this first assumption.  He sets up the drunken fight and then he sets up the rules above, knowing full well the logic is going to fall apart.  When Desdemona tells them that it was Cassio she was just speaking with, we have a break down in the logic.  The last rule no longer applies as we now know it was Cassio that slunk off.  Iago has set Othello up to use the logic above, so with this new information Othello comes to the following conclusion:

Cassio = Did "steal away so guiltylike"
Good Man = Wouldn't "steal away so guiltylike"
Cassio = Not a Good Man

Had Iago just told Othello he shouldn't trust Cassio Othello would just have to believe Iago for the story to work and if we believe he is simply "too trusting" and also not-so-bright this would work.  It wouldn't necessarily be all that interesting to read about such dull characters but it would get the job done.  Instead Iago leads Othello in such a way that Othello, to the best of his knowledge, came to his own conclusion about Cassio.  If anything Othello sees Iago defending Cassio, saying of course he wouldn't be sneaking away like that!  Iago is seen as much more powerful, much more cunning and thus much more frightening than if Othello simply believes whatever he says because of some tragic flaw.  The point now is that Othello is intelligent but even he could be lead astray by the snake Iago, which means the reader could also be lead astray, no matter how smart they may think they are.

Shakespeare, William.  Othello.  The New Folger Library; New York.  1993.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Think of me with my nose in a book!

I finished Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell!  I feel like I should get an award.  Not because it was hard or painful to get through but because I feel like I've been reading it for so long it feels anticlimactic to just not be reading it anymore.  I kinda feel that way after long car trips as well so I think I just feel like I should get recognition for all kinds of simple tasks.* I'm not really ready to be finished reading it.  Isn't there more?  Give me another thousand pages, I'll keep reading!

I don't want to go ahead and say this is my new favorite book and perhaps my happy fuzzy feelings will dissipate over time but right now I can say this is in the top 10. I liked the book through the first 2 volumes, painting a vision of this alternate history, introducing the characters, setting up the conflict but the 3rd volume is where the action was lurking.  I couldn't put down the book as I neared the end.  I had to see what happens next, and unlike book-of-the-month thrillers, you actually care about the characters and stories for longer than four seconds so it makes the action that much better.  

I feel like I've already said so much about the book that there really isn't too much more I can say other than I loved this book and you should check it out.  Next up: the book club book What's My Name, Fool?: Sports and Resistance in the United States.

Update: Since I wrote a number of Strange and Norrell entries I figured it would make sense to include links back to those posts. 
In short, he wished to know why there was no more magic done in England
As everyone knows, no one with red hair can every truly said to be handsome
I believe Mr Strange will do very well in the war, sir. He has already out-manoeuvred you
"I am sure you are a very different sort of magician from Mr Norrell," [Stephen] said. "I hope I am," said Mr Segundus, seriously.

*See the Hyperbole and a Half blog entry This is Why I'll Never Be an AdultI'm not quite that bad but I relate to the entry more than is probably healthy.

Title quote from page 1006

Monday, August 2, 2010

Bloggers you should know

Last week I followed up my Book Blog Hop post with post spotlighting some of the great blogs I follow and that you should check out. Crazy for Books is working on tweaking the current hop format so it's easier to find the blogs you're interested in but while she works out those details (and most likely after she makes the change as well) here are some more blogs that you should probably check out because I have deemed them awesome and I am obviously an expert in these sort of things.

The New Dork Review - It was the books that Greg reviews that intially caught my eye.  Like What You Read, I found this blog relatively early in my book blogging career when I was still wading through all of the YA and chick lit blogs.  His review for Tropper's How To Talk To a Widower was a breath of fresh air.  I still have that book on my to-read pile but I swear I will get to it.

The Tower of Stories - I would personally find it hard to write a blog that was specifically about any one genre or style of writing so I appreciate this blog dedicated to short stories.  When I'm not sure of what to read I like short stories.  They work well for me: if I don't like the story it's going to be over quickly and I can move on to the next tale.  I especially liked his review of the story "An Honest Exit" and the link so I could read the original story myself.

The Curious Reader - It was the blog entries about Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series and Shakespeare that drew me in.  It's easy to appreciate someone's tastes when they match yours, isn't it?  I love the tone and style she used and even if I disagree and happen to enjoy Titus Andronicus (because even with the classics I seem to be drawn towards the trashier examples) I think she makes a fairly convincing argument. 

I hope you check out the blogs above and find something you like!