Posts filed under ‘Uncategorized’
I bought The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac in City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco in 2008, along with a postcard of Jack and Neil Cassidy that I planned to use as a bookmark when I started the book on the flight home.
It is almost four years later. That book came with me from San Francisco to Buffalo to two homes in California, an apartment in Dublin and four apartments in Idaho, and I hadn’t opened it until last week.
Books like this haunt me–books that I meant to read, I still intend to read, but which never seem make it from the To-Read shelf to the main bookshelf area where all the cool books hang out. Few of them last on that shelf as long as The Dharma Bums did, but they are there nonetheless. They sit there, haunting me, contributing to my bad book karma.
There are only two ways to get rid of bad book karma from an unread book: get rid of the book or read it. And when I was faced with that choice last week while packing up my shelves to head to my fifth Idaho apartment, I chose the latter when it came to Kerouac.
I’ve tried Kerouac before, I promise. I read On the Road like every teenager did, and found certain sentences so profoundly beautiful that they stuck in my mind for years. Unfortunately, those sentences are so buried in lines like “The hog dogs were too thin because they ran out of Mexicans so I went round to the old rose bush out back and slept until the truth of the emptiness and awakeness of the world came to me in a flash of holy white pure snow behind my eyes.”
The dude’s whacked, for lack of a better turn of phrase.
But I pressed on with the Dharma. I kind of hate it, but I know there are people out there that love the beat poets, even though they are not my thing. At least, when I go to pack up my to-read pile next week, there will be one fewer book in it this time.
Do you suffer from book hauntings? What books? Maybe we should do a book-haunting swap! :D
Like hundreds or maybe thousands of people across the nation, I got a Kindle for Christmas.
I know what you’re thinking — I have been anti-Kindle in the past, much preferring paper books that one can get for about a dollar at any thrift store. I collect used books, I love old books, and I take an intense amount of pleasure in hunting used book stores for the perfect edition of my favorites. In short, the printed (not displayed) word is my one true love.
But my other love–my well-meaning boyfriend–had somewhere along the line heard that I had been considering getting a Kindle or other e-reader, and decided that a Kindle would be the perfect Christmas gift.
“You love to read!” he said as I opened the gift. “This is perfect! You can carry all your books everywhere! How awesome is this?”
His enthusiasm caught on, and I warily but gamely spent most of the weekend and the weeknights afterward playing with my Kindle.
The reader itself has its advantages, but it also also has its frustrations. In the interest of informing those of you (ahem, Corey) who may be considering a Kindle or other e-reader, here’s the pro-con list I have compiled so far:
Storage and Portability
The Kindle is TINY. Rather than having to lug around my giant copies of Anna Karenina or all four volumes of One Thousand and One Arabian Nights, I have them on my Kindle and can take all of them everywhere — a plane, a bus, the coffee shop, anything. Sure, this doesn’t help for newer books that I only have in hard copy, but it’s great to know I can pick up Anna right where I left off, any time I want. (more…)
I have been reading a lot of chick lit recently. After struggling through A. S. Byatt, and undergoing a significant amount of family drama, I couldn’t bring myself to start anything more strenuous than Everyone Worth Knowing by Lauren Weisberger and Something Blue by Emily Giffin.
Now that I live with my boyfriend, reading chick lit is somewhat of a struggle. I couldn’t do it at all for the first few weeks, only venturing to break out the books with pastel covers and cleverly-named heroines when he wasn’t around. Now, I’m a little more comfortable, only because he seems to find it hilarious that with all of my English education, sometimes all I want is to read a trashy book.
“Is it, like, a rebellion?” he asked this weekend. “Is it like, ‘Oh, I could read Dickens, but I’m going to be bad and read trash instead?’”
I had to think about this for a while, but I eventually concluded that no, it wasn’t that. Though chick lit might not exactly top required reading lists worldwide, it does have its merits—one of them being accessibility, and another being a reassuring conformity to genre. No matter what happens during the course of any given chick lit novel, the reader can relax into the plot, knowing that it will end happily.
In Something Blue, the heroine has cheated on her fiancé only to have the fiancé run off with her best friend. Not only that, but she finds herself pregnant with the guy she cheated on, who quickly flees the picture. It is impossible to imagine that this woman, who up until now has shown herself to be shallow, delusional and self-centered, could ever come out of this situation intact.
In Everyone Worth Knowing, the main character quits her banking job and is thrust into the high-end P.R. world, surrounded by anorexia, cocaine and celebrity gossip. She finds herself a target of a vicious gossip columnist and trying to figure out a way to save her best friend from marrying a party boy.
Of course, everything works out fine in the end. They both find love, they both solve many of their problems, and they both live happily ever after. As well they should; this is chick lit, after all, and that sort of thing is expected. But Weisberger and Giffin are such good writers that you don’t mind the ride to entirely predictable endings.
In the interest of full disclosure, I make roughly 50 percent of my area’s median income, which qualifies me for subsidized housing. Rent for a studio in my town is roughly $500 to $600 a month, and at my salary, I cannot afford anything more.
Heating bills are high, gas prices are skyrocketing and to be honest, some months it’s tough to pay all of my bills (student loans and car payments making the biggest dents in my income).
The above paragraph, however, is only to let you know that while my life might be hard, it is nothing compared to what Barbara Ehrenreich endures during her work on Nickel and Dimed. Her goal is to find the lowest-paid job and the cheapest apartment she can in any given town and see if she can make ends meet.
The results are startling. Simply, she can’t. She ends up paying $50 a day for the privilege of working at Wal-Mart somewhere near the end of her experiment, when the cost of gas, rent and food are taken into account. The closest she ever comes is while working two jobs, one as a maid and one as a nursing home assistant, working 7 days a week at minimum wage.
Granted, some of her figures are outdated. The book was published in 2001, and therefore some of the numbers are slightly off. For example, I believe the $7 Ehrenreich made working at Wal-Mart might now be illegal in many states – minimum wage in California was $8.50 last time I checked.
Her point remains crystal clear, however: the poor, even the working poor, are always with us, and nothing will change until wages are hiked. Telling residents on welfare to simply “get a job” is not enough – the jobs have to be able to support a single person, at least.
This is the most compelling piece of non-fiction I have read in ages – definitely worth the entire dollar I spent on it at a thrift store. I might recommend borrowing it first, but definitely give it a read.
Okay, Challengers, here is the belated The Handmaid’s Tale discussion!
While most of Atwood’s novels deal with women and female identity, this is one of the first that deals with maintaining female roles and identity while struggling to stay alive in an openly hostile environment. A woman can literally be killed for being infertile, for having consensual sex…and her existence relies on being raped on a regular basis. Let’s discuss:
Obviously, the focus of the book is on the Handmaids, especially Offred. In what ways does Offred attempt to maintain her identity –and femininity — in the face of a patriarchal society? How successful is she?
Offred does a couple of things, namely remembering her past life, using her body to control men and having sex with Nick. Sadly, she is not quite as successful as she could be. First, remembering her past life does not do her any good, only makes her miss her daughter and her husband much more. She does repeat her old name to herself, she says, in a desperate attempt to define herself in terms outside her role as a Handmaid — perhaps that gives her some sense that she can be the person she was again at some point in the future.
The second two ways are perhaps less successful than the first. (more…)
This is somewhat panic-inducing for a book nut. What if I suddenly need to break into A Tale of Two Cities? What if I need to refer to Franny and Zooey for inspiration (everyone needs to be reminded from time to time to do it for the fat lady)? I can’t — I have to rely on my library books for now. Small comfort, as they comprise Macbooks for Dummies and Jillian Michaels’ Master Your Metabolism.
Cicero said that “A room without books is like a body without a soul.” He’s right. My apartment felt empty when my roommate left, but it feels almost emptier now that my shelves are barren. Packing books is the worst thing about moving, as well — I always feel like I have too many and not enough at the same time, and they never fit evenly into the box, no matter what configuration you try to use.
What about you? Do you have moving and packing books as much as I do? I know Corey does…