Tuesday, February 27, 2007

17. "An American Tragedy" ~ Theodore Dreiser

OK, the only thing remotely tragic about this novel was the fact that I had to get to page 467 before I realized that I could skim it and still get the gist of the story.

Clyde Griffiths grows up poor, humiliated by his family, greedy for love and social recognition. Who hasn't been through this?

The tragedy comes when his greed usurps his morality and he offs some poor chica carrying his baby.

But 800 pages. For the love of Mike. I think he's on this list for completing such a monstrous manuscript. The language is flowery, perfectly fine for the early century. If I were his editor, I would have polished my green pen and scrapped 500 pages of the superfluous "oh oh oh, my love, my darling" and descriptions of jealousy.

Banned book -- sex is insinuated (oh! oh!), and there are about 100 pages about them trying to abort the fetus. Mild by today's standards.

1.75 out of 5.0 Irish Car Wreck.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

"Whoever said you can't buy happiness forgot little puppies" ~ Gene Hill

Meet Shylah.

It's hard to tell, but she'll be a wicked watchdog someday. For now, she's just my little fuzzball.
P.S. Her name is Celtic... meaning loyal, strong. Good to have a name that will work when you are 110 pounds and fighting off bears.
P.S.S. Why has no one told me that An American Tragedy is 860 pages long? Even with work and Shylah, I'm on page 400. Whew.

Monday, February 19, 2007

16. "The Wind in the Willows" ~ Kenneth Grahame

Oh, the adventures of haughty, naughty Mr. Toad. That's all I could remember of this childhood favorite, which made the discovery of the other characters all the more interesting. The Mole, the Badger, the River Rat... all have stories, but it is strictly Mr. Toad with his bluster and pride that resonates.

Someone sent me a "what character would you be in" (enter book title here). If asked that again, I'd say that I'd want to be the Rat, though I'm probably more like the Badger.

As A.A. Milne said, this is household book because everyone in the household will like it.

4.0 out of 5.0 Milk Punches.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

15. "You Suck: A Love Story" ~ Christopher Moore

Christopher Moore ranks up there with Carl Hiaasen when it comes to a sick sense of humor and quirky details, but Hiaasen still has him beat at building suspense.

It didn't matter in this book.

The first three chapters were so funny that I snickered out loud, then read it to my husband. But I shouldn't act surprised; Moore had me at Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal.

In You Suck, a vampire turns her boyfriend into one so that they will be together 4-evah. Add a huge cat, a smurf-blue hooker, a freaky 500-year-old vampire, a mini-Goth minion, and a team of frozen turkey bowlers. Shake well and serve.

Is this literature at its finest? No, but it's damn funny and entertaining.

4.0 out of 5.0 Blood Clots.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

14. "Death Comes for the Archbishop" ~ Willa Cather

Based on truth, this is a series of short novellas about Bishop Latour and Father Vallient, two Catholics who travel from Cincinnati to New Mexico in order to start spreading the good word and set up a diocese.

I spent some time of my childhood in Albuquerque, so the references to mesas and pueblos and the Arapaho stirred my memories. Would others be as fascinated? I don't think so.

In my opinion, if you want to read a good book about the "taming" of New Mexico, get "Angle of Repose" by Wallace Stegner.

2.5 out of 5.0 Mexican Coffees.

13. "This Side of Paradise" ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald's first novel, this is a semi-autobiographical recount of life when the women became more sexually uninhibited and the men began to think rather than react.

Amory Blaine is spoiled, self-absorbed, snobbish. He goes to Princeton, he has a monthly allowance. Handsome, women flock to him. Clever, men seek his opinion.

But he's lost in his head. The intelligent thinker has much more to fear than others. Amory is accused of being a socialist, an atheist, and even an amoralist.

Fitzgerald must have thought a lot of himself. The novel is about status and greed. By publishing this novel, he was able to prove that he had the means to support a socialite wife. Knowing that information tarnishes the pure, altruistic ending.

2.0 out of 5.0 Headbutts.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Sunday, February 04, 2007

12. "The Castle in the Forest" ~ Norman Mailer

The first novel from Norman Mailer in more than ten years automatically gets a free "bump up the list" card.

In this novel, he tackles the childhood of Adolf Hitler, son of Alois and Klara - who are actually father and daughter, but thought of as uncle and niece. Confused? Just wait.

Told from the perspective of a demon serving the devil (or Maestro), the reader is coated with crap (literally) and incest, as if this explains the latter behavior of Hitler. Well, besides having a devil on his side.

The narrator is clever, though. "Humans are at present doing their best to be beholden neither to God nor to the Maestro. They seek to be free. [...] All the while, we devils guide the people we have attracted (we do call them clients), the Cudgels contest us, and many a particular individual does his or her best to fight off both sides. Humans have become so vain (through technology) that more than a number expect by now to become independent of God and the Devil."

There are six pages of tightly spaced bibliography notes, which implies truthfulness in the telling. In the end, it's not so much the fight for Hitler's soul, but the theological applications of heaven, hell, truth, etc. that carries the reader's interest.

3.75 out of 5.0 What the Hells.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

11. "Babbitt" ~ Sinclair Lewis

George Babbitt is a successful realtor in the fictional town and state of Zenith, Winnemac. He is faithful to his wife, whom he does not love, he is kind to strangers, whom he belittles because of their economic status, and he is adored by many friends because of his light humor and deep values of men's clubs, church, and business.


Lewis is sharp in this satire. It's like Main Street on meth. The people behave like society expects them to behave. When Babbitt tries to break out of his hollow life, he is firmly reprimanded.

There are so many one-liners that sting, the narrator a not-so-distant snark. If I had to chose the better of the two Lewis novels, I'd go with this one.

4.0 out of 5.0 Evertinis.