Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What I Said I'd Read vs. What I Actually Read

Summer is gone and with it the season of summer reading. Let's see what I read versus what I said I would read. I said I would read:
Nocturnes by John Connolly

Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto by Chuck Klosterman

Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky

The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance - Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem! by Seth Grahame-Smith and Jane Austen

The Thirteenth Tale Diane Setterfield

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder

Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell

Well, I suppose the list was a bit ambitious. However, I managed to knock out a few of them (those bolded). I've already reviewed Rebecca and The Thirteenth Tale. In addition, I read The Stolen Child, which was a great disappointment. It was close to being good, but fell short; I don't recommend it. If you were looking for a good book on changelings (because who isn't, right?), I'd more highly recommend Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, but only if you must.

The other books I read this summer were not on my list at all and included:
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde—I'm giving this one 2.5/5 stars for its sheer creativity and ability to pull off an anachronistic romp even if the author's voice reads similarly to sub-par serial novelist Janet Evanovich. Its originality and British-ness reminds me of The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy sans the genius to support its plot.

Pudd'nhead Wilson by Mark Twain—this is an ironic novel that uses a turn-of-the-century setting to tell a Greek tragicomedy that has implications on identity, racism, and the American idea of a self-made man and the sometimes-false promise of always being able to start over. It's a shorty and worth a read; a complex and modernized Prince and the Pauper.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde—Beyond amazing, what a gift it was to end my summer reading on this gem. My friend Tiffany H. said (more articulately than I do here) of the book, "you can just hear how broken Wilde was as you read this." It's true. It's a fascinating study of amorality and consequences, homoeroticism and its subsequent masogonism, and the tragic coupling of time and beauty. Do not even try to read this without a pen by your side, if you're like me you'll be underlining the brilliant quotables Wilde deposits on nearly every page. I'll have to reread it again just to make sure I didn't miss any.

I Feel Bad About My Neck and Other Thoughts on Being a Woman by Nora Ephron—What can I say? This woman who brought us the script (with significant input from Ron Howard) for When Harry Met Sally, and You've Got Mail gives us a fabulous little memoir. Never verbose, and always funny, I loved this book except for the last chapter on death. It's heartbreaking to hear someone who's not a Christian try to rationalize the death of family, friends, and eventually, herself; supposedly a practicing Jew, she has little in the way of comfort in this area and I recommend you skip everything past her chapter "What I Wish I'd Known," which is great.

The Zookeeper's Wife Diane Ackerman—This is the One Book One San Diego this year, it was one of those that starts out brilliantly, settles into itself, then trails off at the end into obscurity in my memory. Worth a read, not worth a rave except to say that you will learn fascinating things about animals. Maybe 3.5 stars out of 5.

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton—She is one of my all-time favorite authors. Like Wilde, it was a rare gift to read writing like this. The book is all sexual tension, romance, the importance of how others percieve you or lack thereof, and responsibility. I absolutely loved this novel. Also, I'm pleased to note that the movie (incredible cast) was one of the most true-to-form films based on a book I've ever seen.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey—is a fantastic read too for its symbolism and depth of characters; one becomes intimately familiar with the patients in the ward and I have to believe that Nurse Ratched is one of the most hated characters in modern literature. I found it moving, infuriating, and ultimately hopeful; a classic for a reason. Also followed up by a fantastic classic film with Jack Nicholson, Christopher Lloyd, one of Danny Devito's earliest appearances, and it was produced by Michael Douglas. Check out this cool backstory on how he got to produce it, "Kirk Douglas originated the role of McMurphy in a presidential stage production, and then bought the film rights, hoping to play McMurphy on the screen. He passed the production rights to his son, Michael Douglas, who decided his father was too old for the role. Kirk was reportedly angry at his son for a time afterward because of this."

Finally, I'm in the middle of Julie and Julia by Julie Powell. The book's pretty good, the movie was goodbut should NOT have been led by saccharin-sweet Amy Adams whom Nora Ephron seems to be grooming to be the next Meg Ryan. The Julie Powell who wrote this admits the same insecurities we sometimes have difficulty admitting to ourselves but, unlike Adams' character, fights back with f-words, hilarious self-deprication, fierce love for her urban family, and this mission to tackle Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I'm giving Adams one more chance to prove she's not a total one-note actress when I rent the movie Doubt sometime but thus far I'm pretty unimpressed with her performances outside the Disney realm.

Next on the list you ask? I'll tell you, but I won't promise I'll stick to it:
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Color: A Natural History of the Palette by Victoria Finlay (Tiffany H.'s sister is reading it and I'm jealous I didn't get at it first)
Wives and Daughters Elizabeth Gaskell
The Beautiful and the Damned F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Fountainhead Ayn Rand
Screwtape Letters C.S. Lewis
The House of Mirth Edith Wharton
Ghost Stories " "

1 comment:

Benjamin said...

That damned Sophie's World. I've been meaning to *actually* read that thing for 2/3 of a decade now?

Suggestions are appreciated, as always.