Adventures in Reading

In response to Weekly Geeks #12
November 6, 2008, 8:47 am
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Anyone else remember Weekly Geeks #12 from, well, weeks ago? Anyone? Well I have finally finished reading Joyce Carol Oates’ My Sister, My Love, which most of my participants asked about, and am responding.

From Andi: “Some people seem to find her [Oates] tedious, so do you?” Yes and no. The final part of the book was definitely tedious, but considering the tabloid nature of My Sister, My Love of course all of the good stuff was up front. But Oates does seem to favor broad ideas with lots of development.

From Dew: “Did My Sister, My Love have any stylistic eccentricities that bothered you while reading?” Oates definitely favored an unconventional narrative style, which is something I actually quite enjoy in fiction. The story was told through the perspective of Skyler and his narrative would switch between first and third person, he’d reflect on his own use of literary devices, and the physical page at times would switch between a journal and the memoir. I don’t recall any “run-ons” though.

From Katherine: “Have you read any of Oates’s other works…? If so, how do they stack up to My Sister, My Love?” My experience with Oates is limited to her short story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”, which is a brilliant story that I have a fond recollection of spending days of class dissecting and discussing. Though short stories and novels are incredibally different, I was impressed with the voices and perspectives that Oates can take on; both are so thoroughly different and each written quite well.

From bybee: “Is this a novel for adults, or another YA book?” It’s definitely an adult novel in content, thought, ambiguity, themes, etc. Not to say that a young adult with a mature reading pallet couldn’t get behind My Sister, My Love, but I don’t think that Oates intended a young adult audience.

From Kim: “I am interested in this one you have picked–is it gloomy or have hope at the end of the tunnel?” Perhaps perverse is a better word? My Sister, My Love – like all good tabloid stories – is a car wreck and we all find ourselves as rubbernecking spectators. It’s not a happy book in that their is no uplifting conclusion, but it is an interesting book that displays the highs and lows of an American family.

From Katrina: “How does it compare to her other work? And does it feature an abused female? All her work seems to be about women who have been mistreated in some way from what I have read so far.” For the first question, see above. My Sister, My Love definitely has an “abused female” in the likes of Bliss Rampike who is murdered and her mother Betsy who experiences a variety of abuses. Saying that though, My Sister, My Love very much explores the idea of abused people, and especially the idea of self-abuse. But that’s definitely an interesting observation and I’ll keep it in mind next time I read Oates.

From Bibliolatrist: “…did the news about the DNA evidence re: the Ramseys affect your reading of the novel? Did you find the obvious connection to the Ramsey family distracting, or did you find it helpful to have the story grounded in “real life”?” When the Ramsey case happened I was quite young and I actually had to read the Wikipedia article to bring me up to date on the murder and trial. I did not find it distracting but it was interesting to have so much fact obvisouly imbedded in a work of fiction. For the more recent DNA evidence that proved it was an outsider – without giving too much away, it’s interesting what Oates did (though appropriate) prior to knowing about this new evidence in the case.

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Weekly Geeks #21: First Lines
October 15, 2008, 2:04 pm
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This round of Weekly Geeks has us looking at (more or less) famous first lines of novels to see what we can identify. I was pretty well pleased with what I was able to guess at.

1. “Call me Ishmael.” – Moby Dick

2. “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” – Pride & Prejudice

5. “Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins.” – Lolita

6. “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” – Anna Karenina

7. “riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.” – Finnegan’s Wake

9. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” – A Tale of Two Cities

16. “If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.” – Cather in the Rye

18. “This is the saddest story I have ever heard.” – The Good Soldier

19. “I wish either my father or my mother, or indeed both of them, as they were in duty both equally bound to it, had minded what they were about when they begot me…” – Tristram Shandy

21. “Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed.” – Ulysses

27. “Somewhere in la Mancha, in a place whose name I do not care to remember, a gentleman lived not long ago, one of those who has a lance and ancient shield on a shelf and keeps a skinny nag and a greyhound for racing.” – Don Quixote

28. “Mother died today.” – The Stranger

37. “Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.” – Mrs. Dalloway

48. “He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish.” – The Old Man and the Sea

50. “I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.” – Middlesex

66. ““To be born again,” sang Gibreel Farishta tumbling from the heavens, “first you have to die.”” – The Satanic Verses

WG19: Best of 2008
September 29, 2008, 10:00 am
Filed under: thoughtful | Tags: , , ,

I thought this round of Weekly Geeks, picking my 10 favorite books that came out in 2008, would be terribly easy. That’s because I wasn’t aware of exactly how many new books I had read this year. By the end, I had I ended up with 18 +/- (I kept adding and taking some off!) on the list and the following is the result of far too much labor and thought!

My 10 Best of 2008:
The Girl on the Fridge by Etgar Keret
Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri
A Mercy by Toni Morrison
First Stop in the New World by David Lida
When We Are Engulfed In Flames by David Sedaris
A Golden Age by Tahmima Anam
The Gone Away World by Nick Harkaway
Deportees by Roddy Doyle
Something to Tell You by Hanif Kureishi
City of Widows by Haifa Zangana

And 8 More:

The Sum of Our Days by Isabel Allende
Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff
Children’s Literature by Seth Lerer
Slam by Nick Hornby
Sharp Teeth by Toby Barlow
Mortal Syntax by June Casagrande
Mexican High by Liza Monroy
My Mistress’s Sparrow is Dead edited by Jeffrey Eugenides

I would like to note that I am quite dreadful at doing these sorts of lists and it’s quite likely that if I had compiled the list at any other time it could very well look different.