Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Catcher in the Rye

I first read The Catcher in the Rye in high school and must have read it at least a dozen times since. I've owned multiple copies, but I frequently give it away if I meet someone who hasn't read it yet. It's on my Top Five for sure.

I suggested it for our last book club, trepidation, because I actually hadn't read it for quite a few years and I wasn't sure if I would still love it as much as I have before, also I was afraid someone else's possible negative reaction would spoil my own. But, it turns out I loved it as much as I ever did (and I think everyone else in book club enjoyed it quite a bit too!)

Re-reading it again, I realized how much the language of the book influenced me as a kid. I used to say that I got a "bang" out of things all the time, a reference only appreciated by my sister and perhaps my friend L. This time around, Holden's criticism of corny music effected me. Now when I'm listening to the radio, I'm like, "Jesus Christ, that IS pretty corny."

There are many things I love, but, just to name a few, I just go crazy over Salinger's narrative structure. It really shines in his short stories, which I've been re-reading this year, but in this novel, what's remarkable is you go on this long journey with the main character, it feels epic. And then, when you think about it, it's a matter of days. I was thinking about tracking the whole thing, kind of like in a day planner, to see how it laid out.

I also love how Holden is a untrustworthy narrator, and the reader needs to decide who to trust - for example, in one scene, his friend tells him to stop shouting and he says he's not shouting, just excited.

What I'm excited about is the possibility of more stories coming from the Salinger estate. He reported hated working with publishers, so we'll see if anything is published now that he's passed away.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Knife of Never Letting Go

The Knife of Never Letting Go is book one of the "Chaos Walking" series by Patrick Ness. It's a YA book and the first Space Western genre I've ever read! It's about a young man who lives on some distant planet in some distant time but they don't have any advanced technologies (you find out later they're kind of like pilgrims and they wanted to live more "simply"). All the people were settlers, and shortly after they settled in this new place, all the men's thoughts were audible as well as visual to everyone else.

Todd, the kid, lives in this town which doesn't have any women. Everywhere he goes, he's surrounded by the horrible thoughts of the men of the town - and, they're a bitter, awful, violent group of people, barring Todd's adoptive parents, two guys (possibly a gay couple but it's a bit unclear). Without ruining it for you, Todd needs to run away from the town and that's mainly what the book is about.

There's a LOT of repetition in this book and it got really old - and I'm a person who likes repetition. But, ultimately I thought I would tear out my hair if I had to read one more
...I could finish falling down that pit, down down down til there's only blackness, down into the nowhere where there's no more Todd to blame or screw things up or fail Ben or fail Viola...
Or, God forbid:
And I can't hold it back--
And the hate --
And I look over --
At the knife --
Just a few feet away --
On the ledge --

etc. I mean, honestly. Come on.

So, that drove me insane, and I'm quite sure this rather long (almost 500 pages) book could easily have been a decent 300 if they'd cut out some of that nonsense.

But, what I really LIKED was how this misogynous world and its consequences was created. Essentially, I believe Ness was writing a book about the culture of hatred toward women and, unlike, for example, those horrid Stieg Larsson books which are also ostensibly about a culture of violence toward women, but, as I've previously said, end up contributing to that very culture in the form of extremely graphic portrayals of that very violence. Ness manages to describe that world without reveling in the gory details.

He also does very interesting things with text to illustrate how the thoughts of so many men can get jumbled together:

Unlike The Hunger Games, which I really loved, I don't think The Knife Of Letting Go transcends that YA category. I haven't decided if I'm going to read the other books in the Chaos Walking series, but I can definitely see the appeal they have. At it's best, it reminded me of the TV series Firefly and I really enjoyed reading about the universe that was created.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Bad Marie

I heard about Bad Marie on The Rejectionist, a blog I really admire. Her review is excellent and I encourage you to read it.

It's about a woman, Marie, recently released from prison. She's one of those people who have a pretty loose system of morality and she doesn't really feel guilt. This is very interesting to me because I am almost constantly wracked by guilt. Marie (and I'm not ruining it for you) kidnaps her best friend's kid and husband and goes to Paris with them. What's really interesting is how the author, Marcy Dermansky, writes Marie in such a way that you really hope the best for her. To make a villain likeable is such a triumph... I have a theory that Marie is such an empathetic character because it would be such a relief to be even partly like her - to say what you think, to act in the moment, to live without (major) consequences.
Marie was certain this relationship would not last another day. The strain had been too much: death, infidelity, cat abuse, plagiarism, and now this added worry about money. Also, they were drunk, still, from dinner.
But she's not a one-dimensional, soul-less character, in the briefest ways (and those I won't spoil), you find out a little about how Marie became the person she is.

It's a quick, fun read and I'd highly recommend it.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

From Dead to Worse

When I first read a Sookie Stackhouse book, by Charlaine Harris, I was ashamed, yet titilated. The second time: more ashamed, but I had a lot of fun. Now I want to shamelessly read anything I can get my filthy hands on. Her books are fun, interesting, fast-paced, and they fill in the lonely blanks between seasons of True Blood.

Oddly, From Dead to Worse doesn't have ANY of Harris's trademark bloody vampire sex (but that's ok har har har), but this (I think) eighth book in the series was fresh and amusing. And still a little oowkie:

From his tension I realized that some major event was coming at me fast, and I began to be afraid. Eric took my hand as we walked across to the restaurant, and he ran his thumb absently across my palm. I was surprised to find out there was a direct line from my palm to my, my, hootchie.