Monday, December 28, 2009

BLOG NEGLECT!

The worst thing to do, if one has a blog, is to neglect it! But since coming to Maine I haven't had access to a computer regulary and with the holidays...well....need I say more! 
Last time I checked in I was putting out a call for impressions of Forster and his works!  A couple of takers thus far so will continue to put that together.  I have however finished reading all of Forster's novels on the Random House list: Room With A View, Howard's End, A Passage to India.
Currently I am reading Deliverence.  I wanted to get away from the never ending spew of English hyper-steriod etiquette:
http://www.roadjunky.com/cultureguide/1404/etiquette-and-manners-english-culture-guide
"In a desperate bid to avoid emotion, the English have developed an entire language around the evasion of embarrassing situations:
"Oh Dittums, can you ever forgive me!"
"Dash it, that was rather a blow.’

‘I don’t suppose you could possibly..’
‘I’m terribly sorry…’
‘Would it be too much trouble to…’
and the like.....
I can't think of a more pertinent 180 degree turn!
Which author would you rather read?
Forster of Dickey?


Monday, December 14, 2009

What I've decided to do for Forster is to collect other blogger's experiences, thoughts and reflections on the following novels: Howard's End, Passage to India, Room With A View (or Forster).  Just a little something...literally a few sentences is fine or a small review is great.  I know everyone is busy this time of year...but  the season is about sharing and caring so I thought it would be nice to read and share different reflections on the same novels.

Send comments/reviews to my email: bookreviewsbykris@gmail.com
and include your link!  Thanks!


Thursday, December 10, 2009

HOLY BUSY

I am now here:










But had been here a few days ago......






Needless to say, I'm a little crazy after 15 hours of travel time with a 9 and an 8 year old...not cooperative travlers to say the least....Them:  "I need a snack" "He hit me" "I want the window seat" "He took my PSP" "He called me a dummy"
Me: "Okay, you just ate you're going to be okay" "No hitting please we are on an airplane" "You'll get the window seat on the connecting flight" "Share the PSP or I'll have to take it away" "No name calling guys" then it goes to threats "Shut up right now or when we get off this plane......"  "I've had it, you're both selfish, other people have paid good money to be on this plane" (as if they're concerned with this) and finally, "You're not getting anything from Santa...you're on the the bad list for sure"
It's amazing how children can hold adults hostage and reduce them (me) to blubbering messes in very little time.
Okay....so that is why I haven't been on my blog...time change, mental breakdown, etc.
I finished reading Howard's End and am finishing A Passage to India (snore).  I have had the most trying time writing a review for Howard's End....a complete block.  Anything I write sounds contrived or completely boring.  I'm not sure why.  I would be interested in posting two contrasting reviews of Howard's End if anyone out there would be willing.  Let me know!  Okay, off to fight some more battles in the name of parenthood.  Wish me luck...I might be Baker Acted by Christmas.

Monday, November 30, 2009

AUTHOR'S ALLEY........ E.M. FORSTER

Don't forget to enter the Vonnegut 'Look At The Birdie' give away.  It's a great chance to read a great author! Just follow the link on the sidebar, become a follower of 'One Hundred Books', scroll down post and enter a comment! Easy Easy!!

Currently I'm reading A Passage to India (#25 on the list)  and Howard's End (#38) by E.M. (Edward Morgan) Forster. I have not done this kind of thing before.....said the little lamb.....No, I mean reading two books at the same time! Get your mind out of the gutter! But I'm giving it a whirl to do a bit of comparative reading.  So far I am way more into Howard's End, but we'll see what happens.
 E.M. Forster was born January 1, 1879 and lived to a ripe old age dying June 7, 1970.  His father died when he was young and he lived with his mother, in London, until her death in the 1940's.  He won countless awards for his writing and turned down a knightship in 1949 (probably due to England's Imperialistic policies).  After reading several different small bios and factoids on Forster, the preeminent feature of his life and writing seems to have been making a stand against Imperialism, racism, homophobia, and sexism.  He did this by having the characters in his novels embody different elements that would clash to reveal an inner truth about human nature and enlightenment.  
His last novel A Passage To India is drawn from his time spent there in the 1920's where it is believed he had an on-going relationship with an Indian man.  I'm sure the injustice of Imperialism and racism was cause for his spot lightening the English attitude toward Indians in their own country.  Also on the top 100 list is A Room With A View (#79). 


Thursday, November 26, 2009

GOBBLE GOBBLE GOBBLE-DE-GOOK


This is too cute.  It looks like my Uncle Herbie (God rest his soul).  Happy Thanksgiving to all those happy book bloggers out there that have shared so many good (and sometimes not so good) books and their insights, recommendations and humor.  I'm thankful I've actually made some unexpected like-minded friends by creating a "book blog". 
I was thinking last night about the learning curve of creating a book blog.  At first, I just thought I'm going to read these top 100 books, which I've always wanted to do.  If I create a blog maybe someone will read it and it will create an embarrassment factor if I give up!  That is literally how my sick mind works, disturbing yes!  Then I met some wonderful people and started enjoying their blogs and then discovering more blogs through their blogs.  
But then a whole new set of issues arose....blog inadequacy issues!  "Hold the phone, WTF is a widget, winky, Mr. Linky, RSS feed, tweet-twitter, google reader, html codes, site meter, follower, gadget gobble, gobble gobble-de-gook?  Then I somehow ended up following myself not once, but twice and didn't know how to get myself off there until Stephanie at Misfit Salon took pity on me!  How embarrassing! And, Cara from Oh...Books tried to help me out as well with 101 Blogging, but I'm too challenged.
Then if all this weren't confusing enough, I started worrying about this phenomena "blog etiquette" and wondering if I had maybe done anything to offend another blogger or didn't comment enough etc.  Now at this juncture, neurotic would be an appropriate diagnosis.  As one may notice, I still have the most basic of basic blogs for fear of messing anything up beyond repair.  So for now I just have to stick with enjoying books and ruminating about them using all my "quotation" marks and lots of !!!!! and endless (parenthesis) because I always enjoy sharing internal monologue (see below).
Well off to engulf some turkey and the trimmings until I fall into a gelatinous mass on the sofa all drugged up on tryptophan (which I think is literally being sold on an infomercial now) As if I need to buy something that makes me more lethargic!
Happy Thanksgiving Uncle Herbie!!




Saturday, November 21, 2009

VONNEGUT: NEW SHORT STORY RELEASE!


Again, I love Kurt Vonnegut! I had a smile on my face after reading "Slaughter House Five" and internally noted, "yes, this is why I'm reading all these novels!!"
So imagine my delighted exuberance at opening my favorite obsession "Vanity Fair" and seeing that there was an on-line exclusive on a never released short story by Vonnegut! 
"Kurt Vonnegut may have died in 2007, but his brutally witty fiction lives on.  Read "Shout About It from the Housetops" a never before published story from his upcoming posthumous collection, Look at the Birdie, at vf.com/go/vonnegut."

Excerpted from Look at the Birdie: Unpublished Short Fiction, by Kurt Vonnegut, to be published October 20, 2009, by Delacorte, an imprint of Random House, Inc. Text © by the Kurt Vonnegut Jr. Trust. Illustrations © 2009 by Kurt Vonnegut and Oragami Express.
I read it. I guess everybody in Vermont read it when they heard Hypocrites’ Junction was actually Crocker’s Falls.
I didn’t think it was such a raw book, the way raw books go these days. It was just the rawest book a woman ever wrote—and I expect that’s why it was so popular.
I met that woman once, that Elsie Strang Morgan, the one who wrote the book. I met her husband, the high-school teacher, too. I sold them some combination aluminum storm windows and screens one time. That was about two months after the book came out. I hadn’t read it yet, hadn’t paid much attention to all the talk about it.
They lived in a huge, run-down old farmhouse five miles outside of Crocker’s Falls back then, just five miles away from all those people she gave the works to in the book. I don’t generally sell that far south, don’t know many people down that way. I was on my way home from a sales meeting in Boston, and I saw that big house with no storm windows, and I just had to stop in.
I didn’t have the least idea whose house it was.
I knocked on the door, and a young man in pajamas and a bathrobe answered. I don’t think he’d shaved in a week. I don’t think he’d been out of the pajamas and bathrobe for a week, either. They had a very lived-in look. His eyes were wild. He was the husband. He was Lance Magnum in the book. He was the great lover in the book, but he looked like one of the world’s outstanding haters when I met him.
“How do you do,” I said.
“How do you do?” he asked. He made it a very unpleasant question.
“I couldn’t help noticing you don’t have any storm windows on this beautiful old home,” I said.
“Why don’t you try again?” he said.
“Try what?” I said.
“Try not noticing we don’t have any storm windows on this beautiful old home,” he said.
“If you were to put up storm windows,” I said, “do you know who would pay for them?” I was going to answer the question myself. I was going to tell him that the money for the windows would come out of his fuel dealer’s pocket, since the windows would save so much fuel. But he didn’t give me a chance.
“Certainly I know who’d pay for ’em—my wife,” he said. “She’s the only person with any money around here. She’s the breadwinner.”
“Well,” I said, “I don’t know what your personal situation here happens to be—”
“You don’t?” he said. “Everybody else does. What’s the matter—can’t you read?” he said.
“I can read,” I told him.
“Then rush down to your nearest bookstore, plunk down your six dollars, and start reading about the greatest lover boy of modern times! Me!” he said, and he slammed the door.
My conclusion was that the man was crazy, and I was about to drive off when I heard what sounded like a scream from the back of the house. I thought maybe I’d interrupted him while he was murdering his wife, thought he’d gone back to it now.
I ran to where the screaming was coming from, and I saw that an old rusty pump was making all the noise.
But it might as well have been a woman screaming, because a woman was making the pump scream, and the woman looked like she was just about to scream, too. She had both hands on the pump handle, and she was sobbing, and she was putting her whole body into every stroke. Water was going into a bucket that was already full, splashing down over the sides, spreading out on the ground. I didn’t know it then, but she was Elsie Strang Morgan. Elsie Strang Morgan didn’t want water. What she was after was violent work and noise.
When she saw me she stopped. She brushed the hair off of her eyes. She was Celeste in the book, of course. She was the heroine in her own book. She was the woman who didn’t know what love was till she met Lance Magnum. When I saw her, she looked as though she’d forgotten what love was again.
To see the rest of this excerpt visit Vanity Fair on-line!


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

BRAVE NEW WORD

Brave New Word
Aldous Huxley
Published 1932

"Shakespeare's The Tempest, Act V, Scene I.
O wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!  How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world! That has such people  in't" 

Brave New World takes place in AD 2540, where natural childbirth and nuclear families have been abolished.  There is no "God" in this mechanical age; there is "Ford", yes as in Henry Ford ( i.e. "Oh my Ford, you just scared the daylights out of me!!  Apparently Huxley didn't know how badly Ford would be tanking in 2009.) Any of the reasons that are cause for war, crimes, competition and even love have been eliminated because these things cause pain and interrupt production and consumption. The leader of this society (The Controller) Mustapha Mond explains it to a man (John Savage who has come from a contained reservation that is not civilized). 
" Where there are wars, where there are divided allegiances, where there are temptations to be resisted, objects of love to be fought for or defended.... there, obviously, nobility and heroism have some sense.  But there aren't any wars nowadays.  The greatest care is taken to prevent you from loving any one too much.  There's no such thing as a divided allegiance; you're so conditioned that you can't help doing what you ought to do.  And what you ought to do is on the whole so pleasant, so many of the natural impulses are allowed....that there really aren't any temptations to resist.  And if ever, by some unlucky chance anything unpleasant should somehow happen, why, there's  always soma (a drug that is similar to alcohol, heroin, cocaine without physical damage or addiction) to give you a holiday from the facts." 

Some ways of life in the Brave New World (London) are attractive: no illness, no significant aging, no prejudices against sexuality/orientation or religion, no war, no starvation etc.  But the cost of these benefits are high: no individuality,  love,  companionship,  family,  art/creativity,  passion or freedom of choice (self will).  "Everybody belongs to everybody" is a Brave New World mantra.

There are  two main characters in the novel, Bernard and John Savage, who represent a juxtaposition (Bernard being from the Brave New World and John being from an uncivilized reservation, although he has been educated by his mother and has spent years reading an old copy of Shakespeare's works.)  The Brave New World is one of genetic engineering where people are created in a test tube to be either Alphas, Betas, Deltas or Epsilons.  Each person is geared to certain jobs/tasks; in example, Epsilons are the lowest life form and purposefully designed to be of a lesser intellect and physical stature.  Because they are specifically designed for mindless labor the possibility doesn't occur to them to be anything different; therefore, there are no power structure conflicts (they're referred to by Alphas as "Epsilon Minor Idiots". Nice!!)
Bernard (an alpha which is physically and mentally the most superior) finds John Savage on a contained reservation.  John is the product of a women (Linda a Beta) who was lost (on a scientific expedition) while visiting the reservation.  More than twenty years has past when two alphas, Bernard and Lenina (his sexual partner for the trip) find Linda and John who have been taken in by Native Indians.  Because they are considered outcasts by the Indians, they are ostracized and degraded.  Linda (who originally was a fine specimen is now an obese mess with missing teeth, which horrifies the Alphas and the Betas) , is unaccustomed to the concept of motherhood, is at first horrified she is pregnant and by the idea of motherhood (a dirty word).  However, her son John becomes her comfort and connection to "her world" in the midst of chaos.  
Bernard brings them back with him as objects of "scientific curiosity".  Bernard has always been "different" then the other Alphas.  Although Alphas are bred to be similar in every way, there are a few (maybe genetic throw backs) who cannot escape the desire for individuality.  I feel that the novel is more about John's journey in what he has christened the "Brave New World."   Does he embrace his genetic homeland or does he return to savagery  (these are the only two choices Huxley provides)?  
Of course, reading this in 2009 one can see things that are ridiculous like the creation of individuals for mindless labor jobs, where as we know these kind of jobs are fewer and fewer as technology has taken over.  One notices little things like a person assigned to operate the elevator, which would be common in 1932.  To Huxley's credit, many things are accurate,  the obsession with anti aging, drugs for every conceivable problem, fixations on cleanliness,  sexual freedom and secularism.  
It took me awhile to get into the novel due to it being science fiction, not my favorite genre; however, it is a book worth reading.  It challenges the mind to think about issues that we are facing currently in the world and to what ends we will go to for medical advances and global and environmental stabilization.  I think Huxley was brilliant and "Brave New World" is a must read!

 


Saturday, November 14, 2009

"THE AGE OF INNOCENCE"


"The Age Of Innocence"
Edith Wharton
Published: 1920
As a history teacher, the enjoyment of this novel was twofold.  The historical element afforded new perspectives and references for life in 19th Century New York; and, the novel was also (although ridiculous by today's standards) worth reading for the characters and their societal, cultural, and emotional involvements. 
I taught a unit on the Industrial Revolution to my students called "Engines of Change" for years as part of the curriculum. The focus predominantly was placed on reformers, inventions and immigration.  I highly recommend "Five Points" by Tyler Anbinder if this era is of interest.  It covers the immigration into New York's Five Points, a chaotic jumble of Italian and Irish Gangs, African Americans, Chinese, prostitutes, drinking establishments, and of course extremely corrupt politicians (Tammey Hall/Boss Tweed).  Conversely, "The Age of Innocence" took place roughly six miles away (5th Avenue), but for all practical purposes it was worlds apart and integration of these worlds was nonexistent.
Edith Wharton (1862-1937) was a product of this gilded world.  Born Edith Jones, her family's name literally spawned the saying "keeping up with the Joneses."  Needless to say, she didn't have to spend relentless hours researching for this novel and was an accomplished writer at  a very young age.  Wharton was one of the few that made the journey from high society to intelligentsia and befriended many accomplished writers and artists (Henry James was a close confidant). She also, in 1921, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for "The Age of Innocence".
The novel is reflective in many ways of Wharton's transition between different two different societies and cultures. 
The gradual death of  old world customs and the birth of the modern age (Twentieth Century) is metaphorically represented in the characters of Newland Archer, the Countess Olenska, and May Welland.  Newland Archer, 19th Century metro-sexual, goes through a myriad of changes as he awakens from a life of slavery to conformity to what is truly important in life.  This awakening is caused by his fiances' (May Welland) cousin, the Countess Olenska whose nature is not congruent with Newland's world (a world where a guest could cut off his thumb at dinner with a steak knife and be accused of causing a dreadful scene).  Eventually he is ready to throw it all away, his marriage, fortune and  prestige for Olenska.  This love is vanquished by his marriage and the impending birth of his first child.  Archer steps back into the stifling gilded cage that he so desperately wanted to escape and although not entirely miserable, sleep walks through the remaining years of his life.  His only consolation a few brief moments in time when he could have been a different man who led an entirely different life.

Again, I appreciate this journey because it provided me the opportunity to experience a novel that had been procrastinated!  So life goes....

"The worst of doing one's duty was that it apparently unfitted one for doing anything else." Edith Wharton "The Age of Innocence"








Tuesday, November 10, 2009

WILL I MAKE IT??

Will I make it?  All these books in one year?  Probably not, I have to face the facts.  But, I will do the best I can with the goal of enjoying the novels, not speed reading just to say, "I'm done!!"  After all, the joy is the journey.  

I survived Halloween and my son Domenico's birthday all while living in a studio in Hawaii.  We moved out the beautiful house we were renting, a $2000. rent (YIKES!) And now are in the midst of "What do we do next?"  We camped two weeks on our kid's school vacation.  Then we rented a studio.  Now, we are contemplating a move back to our house in Maine, not the most comforting thought during the winter months.  But, my husband moved here for work and his job was eliminated.  How long can you sit around a place, no matter how beautiful, without gainful employment. Also, our schools have closed every Friday due to lack of money in education (don't even get me started on where the money went!!)
So, what to do, what to do??
This makes it a little difficult to make reading my priority, although I am doing my best in the evenings. One Dr. Kilby came across my site and was certain he had read my time frame incorrectly.  He emailed me to ask, "Umm, are you sure about the 365 day thing?"  (that isn't verbatim).  To which I replied, "No, but I am a person that has to set outlandish goals to accomplish anything."  When I went to graduate school, I had three children, two under the age of two!  My peers thought I was a little crazy, deservedly, given we had to teach full-time, take 33 credit hours, and I also owned a retail business.  But, I'm all for throwing myself into the fire.  
Dr. Kilby is a very well read individual and I thought he had some great insights and ideas to share about many of these novels.  So I'll share them as well......
I read An American Tragedy last year.  It was overly long and kind of a soap opera, but I enjoyed it overall.  He has interesting insights into psychology and our complex motivations, but his writing is downright cumbersome at times.  Like the Studs Lonigan trilogy I just finished, it is on these lists less because it is a “timeless classic of literature” and more because of how it pushed boundaries and was wildly popular in its time.  That’s my opinion anyway.

Gone with the Wind is kind of like that, too (I think it’s on the Time/American list but not on the Random House/British list).  Difficult to rank with the greatest literature on its own merits, but rather because of what it represents historically—like Harry Potter, it revolutionized the reading habits of the entire US (and much of the Western world?), not by changing University reading lists but by capturing the attention of the everyday public.  It’s fascinating that Mitchell and Rowling also each spawned the most critically acclaimed blockbuster films of all time.  There have been attempts at movies relating to Finnegans Wake, Ulysses, and Portrait of the Artist…but they’re not very memorable!   And I’m betting not many mill workers tucked dog-eared copies of these books into their lunchboxes like they did An American Tragedy and GWTW and Studs Lonigan!  (My 13 year old recently snuck and tried to read Ulysses because he heard it had been banned and censored…he reported back to me that “you would have to work pretty hard to get turned on by that book!”  I agree—in this age of free internet porn, it is difficult to imagine the titillation of poring through 100,000 cryptic words in order to uncover something about how eating undercooked kidney ties in with Freudian fantasies of carnal sexuality…)  The memory of Studs Lonigan that will remain with me forever actually comes from the deleted/censored alternative final 20 pages or so…after all his timid waffling about trying to be good and what is morality, etc, he is screaming “F#%$ my mother, f--- the ten commandments, I am the AntiChrist…”  Wow, you can see how that never saw the light of day circa 1934.   

Dreiser talked about the same themes that great literature has for centuries—struggles to overcome social stigma, the inability to rise out of your social caste, the consequences of unbounded ambition, etc….But he faced it head-on in a way that Victorian writers never would have dared…(Shakespeare was more likely to tell it like it was than most of the writers for the next 200 years that followed, wasn’t he?): ”What if your sister was a prostitute and had to go hide in a dirty motel to have a baby out of wedlock?  What if you were tempted to murder an innocent woman in cold blood in order to continue a meaningless affair with a well-to-do society girl?” 

I have not read Sister Carrie—it’s one of the next books on my list.


Monday, November 2, 2009


"Slaughter House Five" 
Kurt Vonnegut
Published 1969  
I know this a long review but please read it because I highly recommend this book!! And this is why I chose to read the top 100 novels because I wouldn't have had this experience otherwise. 

What can I say, I love Kurt Vonnegut!  His frank, dark and often self deprecating humor causes a desire in the reader to literally ingest "every word".  It truly is a 2 a.m. book that is put down when your contact lenses are burning and you're out of eye drops.   Vonnegut uses his past in WWII as a p.o.w. in a German Camp and the bombing of Dresden as one of the many dimensions experienced by Billy Pilgrim (the protagonist).  
Billy Pilgrim is an ordinary man from Iliad, New York.  He's a scrawny pipe of a guy, weak, weary and prematurely gray/bald in his twenties.  His time traveling starts during the war, as he has crossed enemy lines with 2 scouts and a pain in the ass named Roland Weary who is described by Vonnegut as eighteen and from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
  "He had been unpopular in Pittsburgh.  He had been unpopular because he was stupid and fat and mean, and smelled like bacon no matter how much he washed.  He was always being ditched in Pittsburgh by people who did not want him with them. When Weary was ditched, he would find somebody who was even more unpopular than himself, and he would horse around with that person for a while, pretending to be friendly. And then he would find some pretext for beating the shit out of him."  

When Billy is about to be 'done in' by the bloated Roland, Germans come along and capture both of them sending them to Dresden where they are housed in "Slaughter House Number Five".  Billy time travels to all different points in his life.  
The Tralfamadorians  (aliens) show up at a certain time in Billy's life and kidnap him to guide him through his  fourth dimension experiences.
Billy can visit any point he would like to in his life. The Tralfamadorian view of life can be described as such: 

"All moments past, present and future, always have existed, always will exist.  The Tralfamadorians can look at all the different moments just the way we can look at a stretch of the Rocky Mountains, for instance.  They can see how permanent all the moments are, and they can look at any moment that interests them.  It is just an illusion we have here on Earth that one moment follows another one, like beads on a string, and that once a moment is gone it is gone forever.  When a Tralfamadorian sees a corpse, all he thinks is that the dead person is in bad condition in that particular moment, but that the same person is just fine in plenty of other moments.....So it goes." 
I like that! 

Billy can be riding in the train as a p.o.w and the next moment he is visiting :
*His forties as a successful Optometrist.
*His marriage to the Senior Optometrist ample daughter Valencia.
*Different points in his children's  lives.  
*Visiting an impatient mental institution reading Sci-Fi novels by Kilgore Trout
*Has an airplane accident
*His wife dies of carbon monoxide inhalation
*Starts going on radio talk shows revealing his times as a captive of the Trafamadorians.  When he was kept naked in a Zoo.  

He had to be kept in a Zoo, where the conditions of earth were simulated.  He was naked at all times, but his Zoo environment was quite nice with furniture and modern appliances stolen by the Tralfamamdorians from 'Sears and Roebuck'.  At all times he has a Tralfamdorian audience, which at least leads Billy to finally have 'body confidence' because they think everything he does is just the most spectacular thing they've ever seen (especially when he uses the bathroom).  But just Billy isn't enough, so the ever considerate and accommodating Tralfs provide Billy with a partner to mate with, Montana Wildhack (a B movie actress), "and so it goes".  

This novel was so enjoyable that I was laughing aloud or shaking my head every few pages.  But on the flip side, it demonstrates the inhumanity of war/life in it's harshest form:  
"I myself have seen the bodies of schoolgirls who were boiled alive in a water tower by my own countrymen, who were proud of fighting pure evil at the time.  This was true.  Billy saw the boiled bodies in Dresden.  And I have lit my way in a prison at night with candles from the fat of human beings who were butchered by the brother and fathers of those schoolgirls who were boiled.  Earthlings must be the terrors of the Universe!"
"Slaughter House Five"......Read It!   














Saturday, October 31, 2009

MY BOYS AND HALLOWEEN!

It's almost the witching hour when I will go out with my two little spirits and watch them engorge themselves with sugar until they fall into a diabetic coma!!  Of course this happens only after they have organized their candy, made strategic trades and then bounced off every wall like ping pong balls. Then they literally collapse in a heap with chocolate smeared all over their faces!  It's quite scary to see!  They are both "Scream".  I'm not sure what happened to the cute little costumes: bumble bees, Zurg, Buzz Light Year, Winnie the Pooh, etc.  Now it is all about blood, gore and ....blood and gore!  They're both obesessed with Chucky even though they've never seen the movie and keep referring to "it" as a "she".  I've corrected them and told them, "No, Chucky is a he, hence there would not be a sequel entitled 'Bride of Chucky'."  They don't seem to understand what I'm saying and go about their business with one pretending to be Chucky while the other says, "Chucky doesn't have an axe, that's not fair.  She only has a kitchen knife!"  
Anyway, finished "Slaughter House Five" and absolutely loved it so review to follow.  Happy Halloween All, keep checking your sugar count!   

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

ALIENS, TIME WARPS, B-MOVIE ACTRESSES!! YIKES!!


Apparently, Slaughter House-Five (as the title may suggest) is on board for the Halloween festivities!  What could be scarier than aliens, time warps and B-Movie actresses??? This novel, is number 18 on the list!  Slaughter House-Five, like Ulysses, has a nonlinear narrative, which should prove to be exciting and easy to follow.  The main character is Billy Pilgrim who is captured by the Germans during WWII .  Here is a little description of what happens then...
Billy " is kidnapped by extraterrestrial aliens from the planet Tralfamadore. They exhibit him in a zoo with B-movie starlet Montana Wildhack as his mate. The Tralfamadorians, who can see in four dimensions, have already seen every instant of their lives. They believe in predestination. They say they cannot choose to change anything about their fates, but can choose to concentrate upon any moment in their lives, and Billy becomes convinced of the correctness of their theories."
Okay, I gotta go!  I  have a book to read!!

 

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

VAMPIRE VEXATION


Vexation: (noun) 15th century: troubling/irritation/affliction
Apparently Ann Rice is at it again with her new book "Angel Time".  What does this have to do with my endeavor to read the top one hundred list, absolutely nothing!  But, since I'm deciding what new book to read today I figured I'd toss some ideas around in regards to this "VAMPIRE" vexation I have!  Which, apparently Rice now shares since her conversion to Catholicism.  I guess her new character, an "angel", has to go around cleaning up this vampire mess she made back in the 90's.  
All of sudden the new big thing is Vampires!  (New??)  I thought Bram Stoker pretty much summed it up, but then Ann Rice came out with "Interview With A Vampire"  and everyone was blood lusting to be bit by Lestat and/or Louis depending on one's taste.  



 I'll admit, I was a huge Rice fan and then I recall in one of the later books Lestat suctioning himself back together out of nosophoros primordial goo under some house and then becoming a rock star and that's when I said, "Okay, too much suspension of disbelief for me!"  Now here we are with all these new vampire series piggy backing off each other getting anemically worse by the second.  I just took my kids to "Where The Wild Things Are" (great book/great movie), and  on the marquee I saw a new movie entitled, you guessed it, "Vampires".  There is something in the simplicity isn't there?  
My spouse said this post is too negative!  Maybe it's the time of year???



Monday, October 26, 2009

BEELZEBUB AKA "THE LORD OF THE FLIES"




"The title is said to be a reference to the Hebrew name of Beelzebub (בעל זבוב, Ba’al-zvuv, “god of the fly”, “host of the fly”, or literally “Lord of Flies”), a name sometimes used as a synonym for Satan. The title of the book, in turn, has itself become a metaphor for a power struggle in a chaotic situation."

A CHAOTIC SITUATION:  Living on an island can sometimes leave you with a condition called "Island Fever" which I am currently suffering from.  I long for civilization and the streets of Manhattan.  Sometimes I have pondered, what would happen with all this H1N1 or some other scary disease (maybe a zombie type) broke out and we were stuck here in the middle of the Pacific.  Things would get downright hairy super fast!  Of course there would be no imports so the residents would have to survive off the land.  Now, for native Hawaiians this probably wouldn't be that big of a deal.  Most Hawaiians know all the edible fish, fruits, vegetables etc.  And, of course there are wild boar on the island just like in "Lord of The Flies".  Things would get primitive pretty quick and different "camps" would be established as to who had access to what.  There are more components to this scenario not being a native Hawaiian but I can't get into that!

People come in all varieties and some are more prone to the democratic process, organization, and logic (Ralph, Piggy and Simon).  Others are more prone to survival of the fittest (Jack Merridew & Co.).  I say, a person needs a certain balance of each.  After all, you can have a 160 IQ and not a lick of street smarts.  If my family was hungry I'd definitely do in a pig or two without losing much sleep.  The chaos isn't in the hunting; it's in the social organization of people. Brawn over brains seems to prevail in these types of survival circumstances.  It's a wonder that we're as civilized as we are, but of course all one has to do  is turn on the news for that warm and fuzzy feeling to go away.  
There have been many debates and books on this topic, social/political order and the nature of man,  (Animal Farm, etc).  I'm having a hard go of it trying to get into this book (again, one I read in high school) because it isn't a novel concept in 2009 like it was during the "Cold War".  And, when I was a teacher in Maine, I taught at the school that serviced all the incarcerated (lock downed) kids in the state of Maine.  It was "Lord Of The Flies" everyday in that place.  I'm "flied" out! 






Saturday, October 24, 2009

SEX IN THE CITY? "SISTER CARRIE" BRADSHAW



If you're a "Sex In The City" fan like I am, you're obsessed with watching Carrie Bradshaw's suave success as a columnist with a major New York paper.  She journals about her life and her friends and all that encompasses life in Manhattan.  Besides that, they are slaves to fashion, covetously looking at Jimmy Choo shoes at $5000 that are a must have.  I guess I like watching it so much because A) it is hilarious and B) it is nice to imagine that I could just walk into some high end boutique and slip into an Oscar de la Renta creation.  Not that I don't think  the cost of fashion is ridiculous, but I do love the art.  
So, what does this have to do with "Sister Carrie" by Theodore Dreiser, which was first published in 1900?  The first sketches of life in Chicago find Carrie at her sister's austere, barely meat and potatoes flat.  Her sister and her dullard blank staring cow faced husband are as much fun as getting a Brazilian wax! Carrie wants to see CHICAGO!  She has  just fled a sleepy town which  suffocated her ambitions.  
Obviously we have a separation of little over a hundred years between these two Carrie's but their character's are of the same guild. The more things change the more they stay the same.
Now, I don't know if you remember when Sarah Jessica Parker started off as a poor orphan who later was  adopted by "Daddy Warbucks", then unfortunately she became a big nerd referred to as "String Bean"on a show entitled "Square Pegs", then she was a redneck in "Footloose", following that there were some less than noteworthy bit roles. Later, I saw her in a hilarious movie with Steve Martin (L.A. Stories) where they were dating.  The scene that stood out the most was when they took a romantic get away.  The first night in bed together Martin abruptly throws up the sheets and declares, "Good God, what are wrong with your breasts?" To which she replies, "Oh they're real".  That stepping stone lands her into the heart of Manhattan where she turns into the fashionista diva, Carrie Bradshaw!
*Sister Carrie, poor unrefined bumpkin, naive as a babe in the woods shows up in Chicago.  Her first job is in a shoe factory (Oh, the monotonous dreariness). She is a shabby hidden butterfly who covets all the glamor that surrounds here.  
*Then she hooks up with a sport called Drouet who is a sleek looking and  slick talking character that really does have a good heart but wandering nether regions.  He helps Carrie and sets here up in nice quarters and clothes.  (This is the beginning of the clothing obsession).  No Jimmy Choo shoes but pearl buttons, parasols, leather patten lace up boots, silks, bejeweled purses, hats...and so on.  She and Drouet live together but then it just doesn't work out.  Like Carrie Bradshaw she seems to have commitment issues.
*She than hooks up with an older esteemed gentleman, Hurstwood (Mr. Big) who sweeps her off her feet with his position, power and of course MONEY.
*One little problemo, he's already hitched to a Stepford nightmare wife and has two bratty self indulgent adult kids. 
*Hurstwood (after some moral deflation of the most unscrupulous variety) flees to New York with Carrie, and as his decline becomes inevitable her rise as an actress is a forgone conclusion.  
*Hurstwood withers to the point where he is unrecognizable.  He ventures into the dregs of society as Carrie becomes Manhattan's "IT" girl.
*And, of course there are new love interests and the ever present obsession with fifth avenue.


Now, this is a ridiculous review of this novel.  But, the social, sexual, Victorian caste system analysis can be read anywhere. But, if I really wanted to say something about this book, I would have titled it  "It Is But The Work Of A Moment"It really is Hurstwood's story and he is by far the most compelling character.  Dreiser's narration style reminds me of Dickens.  And, I also kept thinking about the angel in "It's A Wonderful Life" giving us the characters little backgrounds and inner feelings as they would provide the proof.  Recommend*** Ahh, Yeah!





Thursday, October 22, 2009

HALLOWEEN READ?

Well it's that spooky time of year, which always felt spookier in Maine vs. Hawaii.  My house in Maine was built in 1875 (old farm house) so it lent itself to being quite creepy naturally.  I'm wondering what book I should read off the list that would give me a lil' of that "chill up the back" feeling.  Thinking maybe "Deliverance".  Any suggestions???

Off that topic, somehow how I ended up as one of my own followers if that makes sense.  How do I get myself off there?  I'm a slight bit challenged.  

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

"LADY CHATTERLEY'S LOVER" HOLY HOT!

"LADY CHATTERLEY'S LOVER" by D.H. Lawrence was a delightful surprise.  Unfortunately since I am currently a hobo, bouncing from place to place, the book is buried somewhere in my pathfinder. I've been camping for two weeks with my family and now I'm in a small studio.  We are looking for a permanent place, but until then it is quite interesting to fulfill all my obligations living out of a suitcase. At least I don't have to hop any trains!  Anywho...... yes that was me  making fun of "Lady Chatterley" not so long ago! But, (blush, gush...gush) I have been over swept by the romantic tide of D.H. Lawrence.  The steamy love scenes between Connie Chatterley and her Game Keeper are something else! And, if you've ever been passionately in love (especially for the first time when you really go out on a limb and get a little crazy) the book will have you visiting  some far away delightful memories!  I know there have been several movies made of this book, but I have never seen any of them and don't intend to!  The beauty of "Chatterley" is in the language.  The exacting expressions of love, passion, fear, lust, insecurity and the visual imagery along with personal connections are nothing that could possibly be conveyed in a movie. It takes awhile to get into, but it's worth the effort (and there is not hidden meaning in that statement!;)



Thursday, October 15, 2009

BEAUTIFUL HAWAIIAN (NANI HAWAIIAN) WORDS..........

FIRST OFF, HAVING MAJOR TECH PROBLEMS WITH MY PAGE!  ANY SUGGESTIONS APPRECIATED!
I'm almost done with "LADY CHATTERLEY'S LOVER", literally maybe 15 pages and then will write a review.  I like trying out other blogger's themes i.e. OHH .....BOOKS reactions to the first few lines of a new book.   In this post, I'm borrowing an idea from THE CAPRICIOUS  READER, "Wondrous Words Wednesday". 
Since I have to stick to my goal of reading the top novels and have to finish the book before I can write a review, it's fun to venture off on some other roads.  Living in Hawaii, your ear has to become accustomed to the language and it is no easy task to pronounce Hawaiian words.  When I first got here three years ago, I called to set up new doctors, etc. for my kids.  Of course, I had to ask for directions.  This was a challenge, not only to understand the street names but also the vernacular.    The women on the other end of the phone replies, "Ok so you take Kuakini to Hualualani Road, then take a right on Palani, left Luhia street, left on Nani Kailua and then you're there!  DAHHH, HUH??? Can you spell that?  So after much practice and mutilation, I do have some of it down.  Here are some  beautiful Hawaiian Words:


Aina (eye na):  earth
A Kamai (ah kamy): smart
Aloha: Hello/Goodbye
Mahalo:  Thank you
Wahine (Wa heen knee): women
Kane (ka-nay): men
Kumu (koo moo): teacher
Nani (nah knee): beautiful
Kai: The Sea
lani (la-nee): The Heavens
Imu (E-Moo): pit (which they roast pigs in, and yes I've tried this, yum!)
AND THE PIECE DE RESISTANCE:



WHICH MEAN TRIGGER FISH AND NO, I CANNOT PRONOUNCE IT!  BUT GIVE IT YOUR BEST SHOT!!

Monday, October 12, 2009

WORST BOOK YOU EVER READ?

Yes, this is negative, but on my book blog site I posed the question "What is the worst book you've ever read (or author)? Because good recommendations are just as valid as bad ones!  Of course we tend to read books in the genre that we like.  And, I can't sustain attention if a book is really horrible.  I toss it aside or give it away.  Here are some of the responses:
THE TWILIGHT SERIES (listed by more than one person)
THE LOST SYMBOL
GERMILA
KAROLINE
CITIZEN GIRL
MERMAID CHAIR

AUTHORS PEOPLE DIDN'T CARE FOR
STEPHEN KING
JAMES HERBERT

SO, WHAT IS THE WORST BOOK/BOOKS/AUTHORS YOU'VE EVER ENCOUNTERED?
GO TO BOOK BLOG SITE http://www.bookblogs.ning.com/profile/KristinaDaniel
OR EMAIL ME AT bookreviewsbykris@gmail.com
OR JUST LEAVE A COMMENT
THANKS!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

LADY CHATTERLEY'S HARELQUIN ROMANCE


"Lady Chatterley's Lover" by D.H. Lawrence was first published in 1928.  It also graced the banned book list along with "The Catcher In The Rye".

I've decided a good technique is to put myself in the era in which the novel was written because modern mentality tends to precipitate an unfulfilled experience.  This happened right away when I cracked the first pages of "Chatterley".  The book seemed hokey and cliched.  I recall seeing a shelf full of Harlequin romance novels at my Grandmother's house when I was a kid.  The writers (mostly women) used terms like: throbbing member, hot virile shaft, achieved a climatic eruption.  And, I was like... Wow!  This is really lame! This novel was definitely the precursor to all Harlequin romance novels. BUT, the writing is superb and besides the "sex" scenes and some contrived content it is a pretty good story so far.  If I can get over a description like this (I have to detach myself from 2009 and go back to the 1920's when nobody really was writing material like this) then I'll be okay.
"Connie found it impossible to come to her crisis before he had really finished his.  And he roused a certain craving passion in her, with his little boy's nakedness and softness, she had to go on after he had finished,  in the wild tumult and heaving of her loins, while he heroically kept himself up, and present in her, with all his will and self-offering, till she brought about her own crisis, with weird little cries."  
See what I'm saying?
Oddly enough Lawrence uses these kinds descriptions, but then busts out with a couple of F-BOMBS by page 35, way before "The Catcher In The Rye".  It leaves me asking why the squishy, squirrely loin talk?  


The main character is of course Lady Chatterley and unfortunately for her, her husband was paralyzed in the WWI.  I say unfortunate for her, because Lawrence describes him as someone who really didn't care about sex when he still had the ability to do it.  Thus far in the novel, he doesn't seem too distraught  over his condition, which of course is extremely peculiar.  So, as one may guess, the book is about Lady Chatterley trying to "get her freak on"!  Yes, I did just bust out with that expression!  


HAVE A GOOD VOCABULARY!

Words in the first few chapters:
bucolic
supercilious
tremulous
simulacrum
laconically


Words Used Over and Over AND OVER:
loins, loins and more loins
crisis (huh? figure that one out!)
bitch goddess
nakedness
erect

Friday, October 9, 2009

TOO HARD ON "THE CATCHER IN THE RYE"?

I too, like Salinger, have a tendency to be a bit cynical at times. My mother says it comes from my father's Scottish side.  One argument in that family and they don't speak years!  Maybe I was too hard on "The Catcher In The Rye" by not mentioning other facets of the book that were subtly weaved within the context.  Cara, whose site OOH....BOOKS is definitely an inspiration to all book bloggers, reminded me of this in her comments:
"One interpretation of this book that may be missed is that it is about grief. Did you mention that in your previous post? I can't remember. Anyway, part of why Holden is the way he is is that he recently lost his brother. His parents just shipped him off to boarding school where he's expected to go on like nothing's happened. I never liked A Catcher in the Rye, but this interpretation makes me appreciate it more."

It is true that Holden Caulfield was a boy that was ignored. He brings up his mother's careful selection of ice skates for him, but mentions nothing more except that she has a very nervous nature.  His father's career is mentioned but their relationship is never touched on, which suggests that it wasn't positive or negative, it was nonexistent. Holden focuses on memories of his brother Allie who died from cancer when he was very young.  It is obvious that he misses him terribly but life seems to have gone on for everyone else in the world as if Allie didn't even exist.  Holden is alive but holds the same distinction as his brother Allie, invisible.  He mentions several times that he just wants to "disappear"; he wants to go away and maybe he'll show back up twenty years later just to say "hi"; he will punish his family by really disappearing and then how will they feel? 


He focuses on his relationships with his other siblings as proof that he does exist and he derives a sense of pride from his older brother's and sister's accomplishments.  He doesn't feel he has any  noteworthy talents or accomplishments himself. 
Caulfield is a boy on his own.  How else could he leave school and be running around New York City, staying in hotels, hiring prostitutes, spending copious amounts of money and his parents have no idea of his whereabouts. He states that his parents will get over his dismissal from school in a few days. 

I thought the saddest part was when Holden, toward the end of the book, sneaks back into his house to visit his sister while his parents are gone.  They are obviously very close (she is younger); she is very upset that he has failed out of school again.  He needs someone to care.  After a short visit, he has to find somewhere to go and he doesn't want to be alone.  (One of the major themes of "The Catcher In The Rye" is his never ending quest to find someone to be with, anyone.  It really is quite sad, as he calls people who are mere acquaintances just to have someone, anyone to talk to.)  He calls a former teacher who he feels genuinely cares for him.  Holden describes his former teacher as a man who is quite well off because he married a much older wealthy woman (I knew where Salinger was going with this).  Holden has stayed at his house many times in the past.  His teacher, Mr. Antolini, tells Holden to come right over.  They a have a chit chat about  Holden's wasted potential, as Antolini slurps down a steady stream of burbon.  Holden receives blankets and a sofa to sleep on but is awoken by Mr. Antolini stroking his head.  Of course, Holden is scared to death and asks him what in the hell he thinks he's doing.  Antolini replies, "just admiring".  Of course, this is heart breaking because this is one of the only adults Holden felt cared for him genuinely.  He comments that he knows a perv when he sees one because this has happened to him many times before.  Again, evidence that he has been on his own for along time.  No wonder he is so disenchanted with life.  
 The people who care about him in life are so few.  This is probably why he feels people are so "phony" and they just pretend to care about people when in actuality they only care about themselves.  


A dilemma I'm facing is whether I should read about the author before picking up the book? Admittedly, I do not care for J.D. Salinger, but that doesn't mean this book is without merit.  Salinger controlled his wife, and kept her completely isolated, until the point she almost killed her infant daughter and herself just to escape his domineering often cruel treatment.  His wife Clair commented: 

"She remembered that Salinger would chronically leave Cornish to work on a story "for several weeks only to return with the piece he was supposed to be finishing all undone or destroyed and some new 'ism' we had to follow." Claire believed "it was to cover the fact that Jerry had just destroyed or junked or couldn't face the quality of, or couldn't face publishing, what he had created."

Salinger would change his beliefs from one ideology to another so quickly that his family couldn't keep up with his excessive demands to adapt.  He wouldn't let his wife seek medical treatment for their children because he was on a "Scientology" kick.  This is when his wife finally decided their marriage was over. 
Salinger, in his fifties, wrote to a young old girl who wrote an article for "Seventeen" magazine and told her she could interview him.  Needless to say she abandoned school and all her potential to live with Salinger.  I guess I find this kind of behavior very predatory and selfish and this does seep into my opinion when reading the novel.  
Something to ponder on whether I should forgo reading about the author.  What do you think?  


Thursday, October 8, 2009

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH BASEBALL!


I remember picking "The Catcher In The Rye" off a list when I was a freshmen in high school because I thought it had to do with baseball and I had heard it had something really filthy in it!  OOOOH, I thought, I wonder what it is?  All a teenage kid needs to hear are the words "banned" "swearing" and "sexual content" and we're all over it!  There wasn't too much exposure to this sort of thing  when I was growing up.  I came from a small town in Maine where our TV had rabbit ears and we could only pick up ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS!  That was it!  Staying up to watch the "Gong Show" was a big deal.  Then one dark and seedy night, when I was around twelve, I stayed at my friend's house in town who had just hooked up cable.  What a novelty, the Darwin de-evolution of the human mind had begun! I turned on HBO and the movie "Dressed To Kill" with Angie Dickinson was on.  What a shower scene and she was totally "NAKED" and then some dude got in the shower with her, OMG!!


Now, today it seems foolish that anyone would get their under garments in a twist over this book.  And, what is even more foolish is that movies that were rated R like Rambo seem tame next to P13 movies today.  In that light, reading "The Catcher In The Rye" doesn't seem that big of a deal.  The swearing becomes gratuitous and annoying.  I thought I had missed all the "F" words when they all showed up in the last few chapters. How exciting! So Holden Caulfied is  this rich, confused kid that keeps failing out of prep schools. He swears, drinks, chain smokes, is obsessed with sex (imagine it, a teenage boy obsessed with sex), has the dough to take off from school, gets a hotel room, hires a hooker (then gets stage fright), is super negative, hates everyone, is impulsive, has ADD, is deluded, depressed and feels lonely.  Ummmm, sounds like many teenagers I've come across. Except he doesn't,  like other socially elite kids today, have a sex video on UTUBE or his own reality TV Show.

Holden Caulfield is more intelligent than most kids his age and is overly obsessed with people being "phony", which is a Salinger personality trait. In comparison, I remember sitting in my room as a teenager, listening to soulful music, ruminating about everything that sucked (especially my parents) and how was I going to keep myself from becoming one of "them" or their lame-o friends.  I used to write for hours about dreamy fantasy's with boys were I gave them "love potion number 9" so they would only have eyes for me, or how I would become super successful and show all those snobby losers how wrong they had been about me, or maybe I'd just be a fashion model with a PHD!  Oh, the choices were endless!   And, then reality......


"The Catcher In The Rye", will take you back to that time in your life and for that it is a great book.  How often do we get to go back and visit our angst filled adolescence.  But there is something odd, the fact that Salinger as an adult could so easily slip into this personality and embody so fully the language and thought process of Holden Caulfield, makes me believe he is emotionally immature.  And, if you visit his bio. this is very much evident.  I don't really care for Salinger.  His history seems to show him as a very narcissistic, inappropriate and controlling person.  For me, this book really isn't top 100 material, but because it personifies the rebelliousness of a certain generation it is # 64 on the list.  In my opinion, Salinger is no Fitzgerald or Steinbeck and isn't entitled to this attitude of snobbery in regards to his talent. I don't think Salinger published anything else noteworthy because he knew he couldn't write anything better then "Catcher" and he is not someone who can handle the embarrassment of failure or the criticism.  It is safer to remain a recluse and laze on you laurels.  Salinger is 90 years old now and is looking down from Mount Krumpit hating the Who's.  I can see him telling a young woman at the local store, "hey, maybe you've heard of me, I'm kinda a big deal.  I wrote a lil' book called "The Catcher In The Rye".  To which she responds, "Like, what are you talking about dude?" 



Coming Through the Rye by Robert Burns
(1759-1796)


Coming thro' the rye, poor body,
Coming thro' the rye,
She draiglet a' her petticoatie                                   
Coming thro' the rye.

O, Jenny's a' wat, poor body;
Jenny's seldom dry;
She draiglet a' her petticoatie
Coming thro' the rye.

Gin a body meet a body
Coming thro' the rye,
Gin a body kiss a body -
Need a body cry?

Gin a body meet a body
Coming thro' the glen,
Gin a body kiss a body -
Need the warld ken?