Monday, February 18, 2008

More American Dreams through Gatsby

I thought I would post this article on The Great Gatsby here in case anyone missed it in the Times this weekend. It is always wonderful to hear that the novel is alive and well in the classroom.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

this and that

First of all, what is up with all these Elizabeth Gilbert bashers? According the latest press, readers find her "self-centered" - this after buying her book by the droves for the last eight months. The other night I was completely outnumbered at my bookclub discussion where someone argued that any redeeming moments in Eat, Pray, Love were likely pure fiction on her part. ?

Maybe the idea of someone finding pure joy in Italy, India, and Bali is just too much for some people. I would suggest, as Gilbert does in her book, that anyone who reacts that strongly to Gilbert's personal journey reflect on his or her own Puritan anxieties. Isn't that what Gilbert is trying to escape in the first place? Kudos to her. Secondly, a memoir is what it is. Personal. I'm wondering if people are reacting to her or reacting to the genre.

Okay. Whew. Now that I have that out of my system, I can say that I am smack in the middle of a page-turner right now: Three Cups of Tea. This is the story of a former mountain climber, Greg Mortensen, who finds a way to build schools in rural Pakistan after failing to scale K2. If you are fending off the winter blues or are in need of a diversion on President's Day, go buy this book and start reading it. Good stuff.

Friday, February 8, 2008

All the Pretty Horses

It just doesn't get much better than this. Listen to the Faulkner in McCarthy's opening par:

"The candleflame and the image of the candleflame caught in the pierglass twisted and righted when he entered the hall and again when he shut the door. He took off his hat and came slowly forward. The floorboards creaked under his boots. In his black suit he stood in the dark glass where the lilies leaned so palely from their waisted cutglass vase. Along the cold hallway behind him hung the portraits of forebears only dimly known to him all framed in glass and dimly lit above the narrow wainscotting. He looked down in at the guttered candlestub. He pressed his thumbprint in the warm wax pooled on the oak veneer. Lastly he looked at the face so caved and drawn among the folds of funeral cloth, the yellowed moustache, the eyelids paper thin. That was not sleeping. That was not sleeping."

This guy is the master of the prepositional phrase, and I mean that as a high compliment. I read this to my students yesterday and asked them to write the rest of the story. They came up with such imaginative plots. According to one student, the dead person in above passage also has a solid gold arm.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Saw No Country for Old Men this weekend and it has made me want to read every single Cormac McCarthy novel in one sitting. I'll confess that I haven't read the first one yet, but I'm ready to go now. Admittedly I watched most of the movie with my sweater pulled up over my eyes - couldn't bear seeing the violence. But I'm sure I'll have a lot less trouble reading about it. I thought the movie was brilliant. Which one should I start with?

In other news, and not that surprisingly, Toni Morrison and I are on the same page about two very important things: Obama and the Kindle. Just read this interesting blog about both on Papercuts.

Also, I found this questionnaire on another blog and felt like answering it. I'm not certain about the whole mischievious fairy bit, but I'll go along with it for kicks (see below):

Which book do you irrationally cringe away from reading, despite seeing only positive reviews?
Um, The Joy Luck Club? And it was wonderful! I am sure there are others...anything by John Updike. Although I did just read a great short story in the New Yorker by him. I'm about to turn the page on that one, I think.

If you could bring three characters to life for a social event (afternoon tea, a night of clubbing, perhaps a world cruise), who would they be and what would the event be? I'd be up for that cruise. I don't know about the characters. I'm much more interested in authors. Thomas Wolfe, Virginia Woolf, and Tom Wolfe. They would probably be better for tea.

(Borrowing shamelessly from the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde): you are told you can’t die until you read the most boring novel on the planet. While this immortality is great for awhile, eventually you realise it’s past time to die. Which book would you expect to get you a nice grave? Ulysses.

Come on, we’ve all been there. Which book have you pretended, or at least hinted, that you’ve read, when in fact you’ve been nowhere near it?
Emma by Jane Austen.

As an addition to the last question, has there been a book that you really thought you had read, only to realise when you read a review about it/go to ‘reread’ it that you haven’t? Which book? nope

You’re interviewing for the post of Official Book Advisor to some VIP (who’s not a big reader). What’s the first book you’d recommend and why? (if you feel like you’d have to know the person, go ahead of personalise the VIP) Interpreter of Maladies or The Namesake or Bel Canto or Midnight's Children. Depends on the person. Does such a job exist? If so, can I have it? Wait! Definitely The Kite Runner. Everyone needs to read this because it is beautiful, heartbreaking, and real. Right now real.

A good fairy comes and grants you one wish: you will have perfect reading comprehension in the foreign language of your choice. Which language do you go with? Spanish

A mischievious fairy comes and says that you must choose one book that you will reread once a year for the rest of your life (you can read other books as well). Which book would you pick?
Moby Dick

I know that the book blogging community, and its various challenges, have pushed my reading borders. What’s one bookish thing you ‘discovered’ from book blogging (maybe a new genre, or author, or new appreciation for cover art-anything)? How much I love book reviews

That good fairy is back for one final visit. Now, she’s granting you your dream library! Describe it. Is everything leatherbound? Is it full of first edition hardcovers? Pristine trade paperbacks? Perhaps a few favourite authors have inscribed their works? Go ahead-let your imagination run free. Lots of light, lots and lots of books, signed or unsigned - doesn't matter. And an orange cat.