Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving Reading

From BookRiot
The Celebration of Caloric Debauchery/Thanksgiving is just one day away here in the States. As for the past I-don't-know-how-many-years now, I'm going to be down in South Carolina.* Actually by the time this posts I'll be on my way down. I'll be MIA over the next few days while I eat way too much, play with the dogs, and hopefully get a lot of reading done. I won't get too much internet-ing done because internet is in short supply down there, and I'm pretty much limited to my phone.

What will I be reading while I'm down there? I'm not exactly sure. I just bought & recently started Bridget Jones's Diary. I'm pretty sure I'm one of the last people to read this book. (I haven't seen the movie either.) I've been in a Pride & Prejudice mood recently, and I thought this would be a good time to try it. I'm also thinking I might pick up the next Game of Thrones/Song of Ice and Fire book A Storm of Swords since I first picked up the series last Thanksgiving so it seems like a good choice. Besides, I can't think of many Thanksgiving themed books, so why not make my own Thanksgiving reading tradition? Or maybe I'll go with something else. Who knows.

Since this is the season and all, I wanted to talk about how thankful I am for all of the book blogger friends I've made. I was going to say I'm so grateful for this blog, but really the blog wouldn't be nearly as fun (and I can't promise I would have kept up with it) if it wasn't for everyone else. I'm so grateful for the friends I've made. You all kick ass and I hope you're all having a great Thanksgiving. Even those of you outside the States, you should probably eat a lot of food and think of the things you're thankful for because why not? How many excuses do you need to do this?

I'll return shortly hopefully with more book reviews and definitely with some animal pictures.

*To would-be robbers, be warned while I'm out of town Boyfriend+ is holding down the fort. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

One night last summer, all the killers in my head assembled on a stage in Massachusetts to sing show tunes

Earlier this year Alice introduced me to Sarah Vowell. I knew of her but it wasn't until Alice sent me a copy of The Wordy Shipmates that I actually read anything by her.* Then I saw Assassination Vacation was on sale and snatched it up. Wordy Shipmates, you were fun, but Assassination Vacation wins.

AV is about presidential assassinations, specifically Lincoln's, Garfield's, and McKinley's. She discusses the history of the U.S. during the time right before and after the murders. I realize this sounds like a downer of a topic, but if you're already familiar with Vowell you know this is not the case. If you're not already familiar with her, know that she refers to Robert Todd Lincoln as Jinxy McDeath, as he was present in some capacity at all three assassinations.

I think my favorite way to learn is to be tricked into it. Bill Bryson does a good job with this. So does Vowell, who I would consider very similar to Bryson, albeit in different topics and she cites more sources.** AV focused more on her travels around the country to visit the various sites of the assassinations, see the relics leftover, etc. I think this is why I enjoyed this one more than WS, because her talking about her travels are the funniest parts. Besides, this means her young nephew Owen gets to be a character, and he's adorable. I mean, he calls cemeteries "Halloween parks" because adorable. Also because he's a small child whose aunt keeps bringing him to "Halloween parks" so she can visit the graves of various famous historical figures. Plus we get lots of awkward stories about her traveling like when she's at a B&B sitting at breakfast with a bunch of strangers and suddenly starts going on about presidential assassins and the musical she recently saw. As she describes:

Now, a person with sharper social skills than I might have noticed that as these folks ate their freshly baked blueberry muffins and admired the bed-and-breakfast's teapot collection, they probably didn't want to think about presidential gunshot wounds. But when I'm around strangers, I turn into a conversational Mount St. Helens. I'm dormant, dormant, quiet, quiet, old-guy loners build log cabins on the slopes of my silence and then, boom, it's 1980. Once I erupt, they'll be wiping my verbal ashes off their windshields as far away as North Dakota.

It's her humor that gets me through a topic I can't imagine I would read about otherwise. Not unless forced anyway. I feel like just typing that pains certain friends of mine, but American history is not exactly my favorite subject. Hence needing tricked into learning. Vowell brings a human element to a subject that I've mostly experienced through textbooks. She describes how Booth timed his shot during a joke in the play, so at least "the bullet hit Lincoln mid-guffaw". She describes the man who tended to Booth's ankle, broken when he jumped down to the stage after shooting Lincoln, Mudd and even goes to visit the Caribbean prison he was kept in for his part in the assassination. See, now that's dedication.

She spends the most time on Lincoln, but of course there's the most information there. Garfield and McKinley weren't really considered martyrs at their deaths the way Lincoln was at his. Of course it could also be the matter that I know more of Lincoln anyway, so I'm just remembering there being more of that. However I do like the knowledge that Garfield was sort of a slacker, or at least preferred reading to most other things, including running the country. Maybe not the greatest trait in a president, but still.

When I look back over all the sections I highlighted, I realize the majority of them aren't about the presidents. A few are about Owen (cos adorable) and the others are mostly things like "You know you've reached a new plateau of group mediocrity when even a Canadian is alarmed by your lack of individuality." OK, so maybe I didn't learn all that much. I'm sure I'd still fail a test on the topic, but that's fine. It would just give me an excuse to read this again.

I'll need to give Unfamiliar Fishes a try now.

*And I just looked at that post and realized I said pretty much the same thing about knowing of Sarah Vowell because I am repetitive. Let's consider it a quirk instead of a fault so I don't have to go back and rewrite those first sentences.

**Yeah, yeah, I said this in the last review too. Quirk, remember?

Title quote from page 1, location 100

Thursday, November 21, 2013

We say motherhood is important, but we sure don't act that way

I've wanted to check out some more Jessica Valenti since I read her book Full Frontal Feminism a zillion years ago.* I have a few of her books on my TBR list and it turned out Why Have Kids was on sale one day, so I went with that one. Many of my reading choices are based on what's cheap at the moment.

I only somewhat remember Full Frontal Feminism at this point, but I'm still pretty confident in saying Why Have Kids is better.

Despite the title of this book, it isn't really a discussion on why one should or shouldn't have kids. The subtitle A New Mom Explores the Truth About Parenting and Happiness is much more accurate. But it's less of an attention-grabby title, so I understand why they went with what they did. Valenti talks about her experiences being a mother and how the culture of motherhood is deeply flawed. Not that being a mother is a bad thing or a negative thing but the deification of mothers is bad for women because it suggests the ONLY way a woman can be worthy is if she's a mother.

She argues this isn't only a problem for women who have no interest in becoming a mother and having society pity them and tell them "you'll change your mind" and other very patronizing things, because man, society can be terrible.

She talks about how the whole idea that "mothers have the hardest, most rewarding, most important job in the world" is a way to tell women "the most important thing you can do is be a mother, so maybe don't worry so much about having a different career. Or at least don't worry about being paid so little for other work. I mean, that's not your true calling anyway."

She also talks about how the problem extends even to those women who want to be mothers, who are mothers, and who discover that being a mother isn't the key to ultimate happiness that they were promised.

She talks about how many laws do everything possible to protect the rights of the fetus while simultaneously ignoring the rights of the woman. How sometimes the woman is ignored as a person even when she's not pregnant because she could possibly become pregnant.

The book talks about a lot of things that make me rage-y, but that's sort of the point going into this book. You know with Valenti you're going to get feminist rants. That's why you're reading the book to begin with. The biggest argument Valenti makes is that motherhood is not the end-all-be-all. It's not necessarily going to be the most important thing you do. And that's OK, and it doesn't mean you love your kids any less, and the fact that this even needs to be affirmed shows how much of a problem this is.**

I highlighted a lot of this book and in what seems to be a theme here, I'm going to share a few of these quotes with you.

Parents expect their children to be their soul mates in the same way they expect of their spouse-they want children to make their lives and families complete. When these sweet little beings who are supposed to be the center of parents' universe don't manage to fulfill their lives completely, we come back to the most overwhelming sentiment of mothers across America: guilt.

The sentiment that women overwhelmingly hear is that if we don't think parenting is the most difficult thing we've ever done, if we don't find it exhausting and draining and killing our sex lives...well, we're doing it wrong.

How insulting is it to suggest that the best thing women can do is raise other people to do incredible things? I'm betting some of those women would like to do some great things of their own.

Overall a book I really enjoyed, despite the rage-y-ness. Because of the rage-y-ness? Both. I've been trying to figure out who I'd recommend this book to: women who want to have kids? are unsure if they want to have kids? know they don't want kids? I dunno, all of that, plus guys? Yeah, I think that last one works. It's an interesting take on the concept of motherhood in current American (and mostly Western) society.

*OK, it was like 3 years ago. But in internet years that's roughly a zillion. Also I apologize that my review for it isn't really a review but like 3 sentences mentioning that I read it and that I like the quote "Keepers of the all-powerful hymen." It really is a good quote, so not a total waste.

**There was recently a Guardian article titled "Sorry, but being a mother is not the most important job in the world" which goes over many of the same ideas, and you should probably read this as well.

Title quote from page 65, location 1044

Valenti, Jessica. Why Have Kids?: A New Mom Explores the Truth About Parenting and Happiness. New Harvest, 2012. Kindle edition.

Monday, November 18, 2013

If there's one thing I loathe, it's men who bite

I can't remember exactly what made me decide to pick up Breakfast at Tiffany's. Laura reviewed not this book but a book sort of about this book, which at least reminded me BoT was something I wanted to check out at some point. Then it was on sale. I'm sure that's what did it.

Going into this book I knew pretty much nothing about it. Or I guess actually I knew this
And nothing else. Not the context of this image, nothing other than "Hey, I've seen this image forty million times before and know it's from Breakfast at Tiffany's." And according to Laura's post this image barely has anything to do with the movie but was mostly promotional stuff that Tiffany's made her do in exchange for letting them film in their store. Oh, and I know that song by Deep Blue Something. Neither of these things really give you any clue what the story is about. Not that I think that's necessarily a bad thing.

In case you'd like to know what it's about, here's the plot. Narrator (Holly just calls him Fred after her brother and we never learn his actual name) and the bartender Joe are talking about a picture they've found in a newspaper. A man in Africa has created a sculpture of a woman that looks just like Holly Golightly, whom neither of them have seen in years. And then "Fred" tells us about meeting and befriending Holly, who I am pretty sure is the first manic-pixie dream girl. Except she actually has some depth, so that's fun.

Holly is...I think just calling her a prostitute isn't quite right. I suppose she's closer to an escort. She's a society girl who entertains wealthy men, who buy her things and give her money. Her goal is to marry one of them some day. Sex is implied, it's certainly not shied away from, but it's never discussed outright.

There isn't too much that happens, now that I think about it. She and "Fred" hang out, she throws parties, another society girl/escort moves in with her for awhile, she and "Fred" fight, she disappears. There's slightly more that happens, but really, it seems so secondary to the point of the novella, which is just learning about Holly Golightly. Except Holly really doesn't want you to know who she is or where she came from.

What really makes the story is the language. The only other Capote I've ever read is In Cold Blood, which has a very different subject in mind. Here are some of the quotes I particularly enjoyed

She was never without dark glasses, she was always well groomed, there was a consequential good taste in the plainness of her clothes, the blues and grays and lack of luster that made her, herself, shine so. 

I knew damn well I'd never be a movie star. It's too hard; and if you're intelligent, it's too embarrassing.

"You know those days when you've got the mean reds?"
"Same as the blues?"
"No," she said slowly. "No, the blues are because you're getting fat or maybe it's been raining too long. You're sad, that's all. But the mean reds are horrible. You're afraid and you sweat like hell, but you don't know what you're afraid of. except something bad is going to happen, only you don't know what it is."
("Fred" calls this angst. And he says it in a really dismissive way, because "Fred" kind of sucks.)

"Everybody has to feel superior to somebody," she said. "But it's customary to present a little proof before you take the privilege."

There was a plot point in the novella I was not expecting. It is sort of a spoiler so if you haven't read the book, I would recommend avoiding this section. I haven't seen the movie so I have no idea how they handle it, if at all.
This mysterious man seems to be stalking Holly and when "Fred" confronts him he tells "Fred" that he's actually her husband and her name is Lulamae and they got married when she was going on fourteen and oh, he was a middle aged man then with children just about her age and WHAT THE FUCK? And you know what "Fred" does? He BRINGS THIS GUY RIGHT TO HOLLY. Because "Fred" sucks. Holly ran away from this guy when she was little, the guy tells "Fred" this, and instead of thinking "Hmm this middle aged guy married a child. That's messed up" he thinks "I must return this man to his wife" or some other bullshit.

THEN later Holly says something about how she's only ever had eleven lovers not counting anything that happened before she was thirteen and OMG HOLLY, WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU? You never find out. Which I think is better cos if they really delved into that this would be a very different book. So I'm sort of torn between really wishing there was a prequel or something about Holly, and then just wanting there to be more hints in the text but nothing official.
*spoilers over*

There were three other stories included with Breakfast at Tiffany's but they' I read them because I wanted to say I finished the book but I can hardly remember two of them and the last one I can't remember at all. But that's ok because Breakfast at Tiffany's was worth it over the other stories. Now I just need to see the movie.

Title quote from page 17, location 210

Capote, Truman. Breakfast at Tiffany's and Other Stories. Vintage, 2012. Kindle edition. Originally published 1958

Friday, November 15, 2013

On the other side of 400 there was nothing but high green grass

First up, I'm sorry for being very MIA this week. Work has been 9 types of nuts so when I get home I want to do nothing. Of course a few of the nights so far I have done things, which also gets in the way of doing blog stuff as I am out doing things and not home. Please accept this PBS Idea Channel* video about the complications in wanting to see Ender's Game knowing that OSC is a douche canoe. I just wish this video had been a thing when I did my Authors That Suck post.

Second, I think I need to plan my Halloween reads better. It's taking me awhile to get around and review things which means while I read the scary books during October, I'm not posting stuff about them until November. And now is the time to be talking about turkey stuff or something. Though since this would involve selecting books I'm going to read ahead of time, this probably won't happen.

So anyway. Review. October was nearing the end and I didn't feel I'd read enough season-appropriate books so I was on the lookout when Kayleigh wrote a post that included a review for a Stephen King/Joe Hill collaboration. I had read Horns not long before (again, see the planning thing and that was from Kayleigh cos she dictates my Hill reading, apparently) and was happy to try out some more. Besides this sounded extra creepy and I really wanted to see what these two could come up with when they join forces. I was not disappointed. Well, there was a little disappointment. See this is a short story, which I knew going into it, BUT STILL, when I got to the end I was like "OK, so could you guys go back and make that a full novel, kthxbai."

Siblings Cal and Becky are driving through the middle of no where somewhere in Kansas. While passing through what looks like a sea of grass they hear a little boy yelling for help. Being the good people that they are they decide to wade into this tall grass and try to find the kid. Of course there's also a second voice telling them to stay away, telling the kid to quit calling to them, that he'll hear them.

It seemed so simple. Go into the grass, find the little boy, get back out. But is it that simple? It's so easy to lose your way in this grass that is well over 6 feet tall. And it seems like someone you thought was right next to you one minute turns out to be several meters away the next. And who's this person that second voice is afraid will find them?

I plowed through this story. I didn't realize until I went to write this that I hadn't even highlighted any lines I liked. And it's not that there weren't good lines, it was just that there was no time to stop and highlight something. THINGS ARE HAPPENING!

I can't say too much because I don't want to spoil anything. But you should read this. I mean, it's short so even if it ends up not being your thing you haven't wasted much time. Unless you don't like scary things. Maybe stay away from it then. But otherwise, yeah, check it out.

*I'm going to get all of you to start watching this channel. Just wait.

Title quote from location 50

Hill, Joe and Stephen King. In The Tall Grass. Scribner, 2012

Monday, November 11, 2013

Coraline discovered the door a little while after they moved into the house

My October reading was pretty slim on creepy stories. I thought I should fix that and people have been saying lots of good things about Coraline AND it's a children's story so it's on the short side so it seemed like a good choice. Bookish internet, you have such good taste.

I know I've called it a children's story, but it is a seriously creepy story. Coraline recently moved with her parents to a new home in a once mansion/now apartment building. There are no other children around and only so much entertainment she can get from the elderly (and slightly crazy) neighbors. Her parents work from home but they both work from home and are too busy to play with her. One day she finds a door in the drawing room, but when her mother opens it it just leads to a brick wall. Until one day Coraline opens the door herself and there's a hallway that leads to a replica of her family's apartment. It's complete with Other Mother, a woman who seems to be just like Coraline's mother except she has big black buttons instead of eyes. She and other father want Coraline to say with them.

Things in the Other Flat seem nice at first. I mean, except for the fact that everyone has buttons instead of eyes. But things moved from unsettling to creepy to sinister pretty quickly. Ghosts and monsters and of course Other Mother wants Coraline to stay with her. Forever.

It's a modern fairy tale. In a way. There are no princesses but there are quests to complete and monsters to overcome. And Coraline is just the right heroine. She's a child, but not a precocious one. She seems like a real child. She's brave and she's scared. She wants to go exploring. There's a quote early on that sums up Coraline nicely
There was also a well. On the first day Coraline's family moved in, Miss Spink and Miss Forcible made a point of telling Coraline how dangerous the well was, and they warned her to be sure she kept away from it. So Coraline set off to explore for it, so that she knew where it was, to keep away from it properly.

I haven't (yet) seen the movie version of this, but just from reading it I'm pretty sure they picked the perfect medium. This feels like it was made for stop-motion animation, especially done by the same team that did Nightmare Before Christmas. Even when it's about cheerful things stop motion has an eerie quality to it.

This was the perfect Halloween read and it was short enough to finish in about an hour. I've had mixed feelings about Gaiman. American Gods was not my thing but I loved Good Omens. So I went into Coraline unsure of what I'd be getting. I knew people had very good things to say about it. But so far the only Gaiman work I liked involved having Terry Pratchett at the wheel as well. After this book I trust Gaiman if a) he's writing with someone else or b) if he's writing a children's story.

In the names post I mentioned I liked the name Coraline so much because it's like Caroline except twisted. It's a simple change that makes the name so fresh. And guess what? Gaiman came up with the name because he mistyped Caroline, and what a lovely mistake.

Title quote from page 3

Gaiman, Neil. Coraline. Harper Perennial, 2002.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

So the stories aren't just stories, is what you're saying. They're really secret knowledge disguised as stories

Alif the Unseen is one of those books I'm sure I would have never picked up if it wasn't for the book blogging world. It's still a book I'm confident I could mention in a crowded room and most people would give me blank looks. It's a strange feeling. I know there is talk about the internet world versus the real world, but whenever I'm actually smack dab in an example of it I realize how true it is. Which segues nicely* into the plot of Alif.

Alif is a hacker of sorts. He's a programmer who is happy to work with anyone online to hide their identity and keep their business safe. He'll work with revolutionaries from all sides of the political spectrum. This does not make him especially popular with the local government who want to find him and his friends and shut them down. He lives...somewhere in the middle east. The city is unnamed so it's just not me being oblivious (thought I forgive you for thinking that as I had to confirm it myself). Alif has a failed relationship with a rich lady and in an attempt to completely cut her out of his life he writes a program that will recognize her. Not just her handle or her IP address, something that  seems to go even beyond recognition in how she writes so he can make sure he will never accidentally run into her online and she will never have to "see" him. Of course this software is powerful and when the antagonist know as The Hand gets ahold of it, Alif's online friends are in danger. So first we have a techno thriller set in a dystopian (though set in the real world present) city.

But the book doesn't open with Alif. It opens thousands of years ago as a man takes down the stories from a captured jinn to wrote the Alf Yeom. This book is supposed to have strange powers, though it's considered no more than a legend in modern day. So we have these supernatural elements. I was thrown at first by the opening of the book because I was expecting the story above. What is this about genies and jinn and ancient texts? But when I shut up and just went with it, it worked so well.

There are also scenes where the characters discuss religion and spirituality and morality and modern technology that work well within what's really a face paced story. I never felt bogged down by these moments or like someone was getting on a soap box. If nothing else it made me rethink my opinions and assumptions on the hijab.

And the book is funny. Or, OK, it's not exactly a laugh out loud riot but it has a lot of funny moments.

I'm struggling with what else to say about this book without spoiling anything. Also it's been awhile since I read it. I can't believe I forgot to review Alif the Unseen. Or, I guess I didn't forget to review it so much as I had written down notes for Quiet and then when I was like "Hmm I should probably write a review" I saw those notes and figured that's where I last left off. But please, do not take my lack of organization to mean anything bad about Alif. I was sucked into the story, worried for the characters, if they would get out of this peril while also moved by some of the stories and discussions they had.

To make up for the fact that this review is short, and due to the fact that looking through my highlights makes me realize how many great quotes there are, here's a few of them for you to enjoy

"She can't quite see me as I am," [Vikram, a jinn] said. "It's an American quirk. Half in, half out. A very spiritual people, but in their hearts they feel there is something shameful about the unseen.

"All translations are made up," opined Vikram, "Languages are different for a reason. You can't move ideas between them without losing something. The Arabs are the only ones who've figured this out. They have the sense to call non-Arabic versions of the Criterion interpretations, not translations."

"For God also tells us that when you perform an action you believe to be a sin, it still counts as a sin even if it is proven to be permissible. Conscience. Conscience is the ultimate measure of man."

*And totally unintentionally. I'm not that clever.

Title quote from page 108, location 1616

Wilson, G. Willow. Alif the Unseen. Grove Press, 2012.

Monday, November 4, 2013

October Reading Wrap-Up

October has come and gone and, at least around here, it's actually starting to feel like fall. It also seems that all of the trees decided to change colors overnight, because I swear one minute everything was green and then the next it's all yellows and reds. I'm going to assume by tomorrow the leaves will be completely bare and it will also be snowing.

My reading this month was a bit all over the place. First there was The Corrections readalong, which was much fun and full of snark and gifs. The cos it's October there was the demand for Halloween style books. Except I realized I didn't have too many I hadn't re-read recently so...I just re-read some more. I also got all thrown off at some point and forgot to review a book, so the Alif the Unseen review will becoming eventually. Also there was a readathon where you'd think I would have gotten some extra reading done, but you would be wrong in that assumption.

Now, the stats!

Number of books read
Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson
The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
World War Z by Max Brooks
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain
Coraline by Neil Gaiman
In The Tall Grass by Joe Hill and Stephen King

The WWZ link is from this summer. Because this was my fourth time reading the book. And second time listening. It's pretty great, but that doesn't mean I'll write a new review each time I read it. Of course I will still count it towards my monthly totals. Cos it's my blog, I'll do what I want. I also read random stories from King's Everything's Eventual but I won't include them here cos I don't know how many pages that was.

Number of pages read

Percentage of fiction read

Percentage of female authors

Percentage of white authors
100% Whomp.

Percentage of US authors

Percentage of ebooks

Books written by decade
2000s - 50%
2010s - 50%

I'm failing at reading non-white people and reading books older than me. I thought I'd have a non-white person with Alif but Wilson is actually a white lady from NJ who converted to Islam. I did read Breakfast at Tiffany's but I didn't count it because I haven't read the other 2 stories in the collection yet.

Friday, November 1, 2013

So many things you think are going to matter...turn out not to matter

Oh man. This is it. The final Corrections readalong post. We did it! Even when it wasn't that fun or when there was talking poo or Chip (and Gary and Caroline) being the worst. But that's OK, because if nothing else, we didn't let Franzypants beat us. WE WIN
OK, notes from this final section. Here we go

We are getting our Christmas. Enid isn't quite getting the Christmas she wanted because Caroline is terrible. Just the worst. First she refuses to see her in-laws. Then she convinces the two older kids not to go. When the youngest Jonah wants to go and is all excited, she and the older siblings spend the weeks leading up to Christmas talking about how stupid and lame St. Jude is. THEN, the coup d'etat, she buys tickets to see The Lion King on Broadway for Christmas. But you know, Jonah can't go if he's in St. Jude and OMG CAROLINE, WTF IS WRONG WITH YOU, YOU TERRIBLE, TERRIBLE PERSON.

I started to feel bad for Gary in this section. I already pitied him from his other section and when we learn just how awful Caroline is, I felt it again for the guy. He was nice enough to tell Enid Jonah was sick instead of how his mother is a manipulative bitch. And that was officially the last nice thing Gary did during his visit to St. Jude and shit, Gary, you're making Chip look good. His shit about how illness is low-class (whatnow?), him making a big deal about installing the handle in the shower for his dad*, demanding his mom pay him back for the $4 bolts he had to buy, him going on about how trains are his hobby and not a hobby someone else picked out for him, except he picked the darkroom hobby and got bored with it when Caroline got him his own darkroom because he's a child, just like his kids, his fight Christmas morning.
Gary, shut up. You're terrible. Now I'm glad you're stuck with Caroline.

Denise is still hovering somewhere on the terrible-fence. She's being a bitch to Robin in part to drive Robin away, in part because she knows Robin won't leave no matter how badly she treats her. So obviously that's Denise being terrible and fitting in with everyone else. But she also really cares about her parents. She's patient with them. She helps her father with his stretches and deals with his incontinence. She's even patient with Enid. And we learn that the reason Alfred quit his job right before getting the bigger pension was because he found out about her and Don however many years before and wasn't going to let Don drag Denise's name through the mud. That was the most (only?) touching moment in the whole book. Denise ends this being in limbo. She does some really awful things but overall she's not the terrible-person-to-the-core like her siblings seem to be.

I skimmed Chip's Lithuania pages. I don't try to but I just can't focus on it. I could however focus when the cops (or whatever) stole Chip's clothes cos he was head-to-toe in leather and haha Chip. But he does manage to make it to St. Jude for Christmas morning. Right when Gary is leaving which pisses Gary off but Gary has stolen the torch for worst Lambert child, so whatever. Gary can be pissed. Because it turns out Chip has stopped being all that terrible. Not completely redeemed but he stays in St. Jude to help take care of his dad after he's moved to the nursing home. OK, so Denise sort of makes him do this at first, but he seems to keep doing it of his own volition. Then he moves to Chicago and even gets married. I hope he doesn't ruin her computer keyboards. And I hope he leaves his stupid vaginal-tang chair behind in NYC. He at least seems to have failed to replace his leather pants so we're moving in the right direction.

We see a little bit more how difficult life is for Enid having to take care of Alfred. Once Alfred is in the nursing home, and then later dead, we see how much more relaxed Enid is. She refuses to pay Gary back for those bolts on principle (the principle being Gary is an asshole) and anytime he brings them up she points to his various expensive toys. Not in a "you've spent so much on your watch", but in a "My, what a lovely new watch you have Gary" and BAM, SHUT THAT DOWN.
She even decided her friend Bea sucks and she doesn't want to be friends with her anymore and even stands up for gay rights. Enid gets her happy ending.

The story pretty much ends with Alfred dies and everyone is much happier. You know, end this on a high note.

I'm not going to run out and read more Franzen right away, but I'm very happy that I didn't hate this. And more than that I'm happy we did this as a readalong, cos there is no way I would have made it through without everyone else. And the gifs. Always the gifs.

*Which by the way is TOTALLY an easy thing to do. I can do it. If I can do it, anyone can do it. This is not complicated DIY stuff. Of course it helps to know whether you're running the drill the right way

Title quote from page 525

Franzen, Jonathan. The Corrections. Picador, 2001