Monday, April 30, 2007

28. "Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix" and 29. "The Year of Yes"

Maria, author of this memoir, is gorgeous, literate, hilarious - well, we are told that she is, anyway. (Repeatedly.) So, why can't she find a good man in NYC?

I had an idea, though it was unkind.

Maria decides enough is enough. Anyone - crazy, drug-addicted, female - who asks her for a date will receive the answer, "Yes."

She yesses (a word?) her way through a lot of strange men and a woman. Of course the one man she adores is married. Of course she will marry him in the end. I'll get hell for giving out the end, but for the love of Mike, don't read this book.

The writing style is eerily similar to a former MFA classmate. Bubbly style, woe-is-me quirky romantic edge. I preferred her writing to Maria's. By a long shot.

.75 out of 5.0 Witches' Brews.

P.S. And I read Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix for the second time in my preparations for the final release in July. Yes, I recognize that J,K. Rowling is not a "fantastic" or "literary" writer. However, if you can write with the skill and imagination to hold not only children but adults under your spell, then you need to get your ass published and quit bitching about one major success story. By the way, has anyone heard of J.R.R. Tolkien? Madeleine L'Engle? Point taken? I'm done. Quit emailing me about it.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Substitute "damn" every time you're inclined to write "very;" your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. ~Mark Twain

I'm writing fifteen minutes per day. This is a paltry, sad sum of time. But bit by bit, I'm building a structure for my shy characters to bumble around in.

My eight-year-old and I had a long discussion about naming characters. He prefers basing names on mythology; I should probably listen to him more because he's finished four full-length novels and I've only finished, erm, one. All of my characters are named except the heroine. I've looked up Celtic names, old Testament names, Dr. Seuss names. She remains ? in my ms.

So, between "working for the man" and writing a bit, I don't read like I did last year. I miss it. I miss gorging myself on 5 books a week. I miss the exhaustion of tossing another mildewy tome into my to-return pile. But I love my job. I love the constant challenges. And I love the lunacy. I get to write 8+ hours per day. And I never have trouble coming up with ideas like names.

Books for Breakfast will be on a brief hiatus -- I'm going to Phoenix, books in tow. Titles are not as highbrow, either. Forgive me, but I need a vacation, and besides these "fun" reads there are several chocolate martinis awaiting me.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

27. "Go Tell It On the Mountain" - James Baldwin

Told mainly through a night of spiritual cleansing at a Christian tarry, this semi-autobiographical novel shows how religion affected the black community, from the end of slavery through the first experiences of northern snobbery.

Someone mentioned in an earlier comment that this book opened up an insight into a whole world he wouldn't know without reading. I felt the same way. There is that stereotype of black churches where people cry out, "Amen!" and speak in tongues. This book takes that stereotype and spins it on its head.

John, the 14-year-old son of the preacher, wonders why he can't go to movies or dance to music. His complaints seem slight after reading about his father's history, as well as his mother's and aunt's -- all stories that reflect upon his own hidden desires.

I remember singing this hymn at Bible camp and was surprised that it never shows up in the story. Purposeful, smart writing.

4.0 out of 5.0 Rock Mountain Mudslides.

Banned Book: Use of the word "nigger." Too much truth for 1950s south.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

26. "For Whom the Bell Tolls" ~ Ernest Hemingway

I wish I could have given this book a fighting chance. But after reading a war-themed novel that surpassed greatness, it only took 30 pages and a lot of skimming for me to know that good old Ernest was not going to appeal to me. At least, not this time.

Filed under: to be read again later.

Friday, April 13, 2007

25. "The Naked and the Dead" ~ Norman Mailer

Warning: gushing and effluent praise ahead.

I never thought that I'd find a book that touched me as much as To Kill a Mockingbird. That book encompasses so much to me, but to simplify - the pain of humanity as backdrop to the tiny, aching bits of beauty that passes through our lives.

I'll say it now: Norman Mailer is on my most-admired list. He went to war, he served in several stations, he survived, then he wrote this book at the age of 25. What did you do when you were 25. Jesus Christo.

And it's beautiful. Mailer captures the personalities of a platoon of reconnaissance soldiers with the intuitiveness of someone who is not 25. He shows their lives through flashbacks, written as one-act plays or monologues or a simple story. Their mission - to recon and take over an island under Japanese control - is not glorified. In fact, it's about as anti-war as can be imagined for that time. Plus, Mailer writes about the Japanese soldiers, left to starve while keeping the island secure, their diaries reflecting their fear, their hatred of war.

Part of the reason why it has taken me so long to post? I read it twice. Amazing work.

4.95 out 5.0 Great Caesar's Martinis.

Banned Book: The use of the word "fuggin'" rather than "fuckin'" did little to sway book abolitionists. Sexual innuendos. War. Shit.
NOTE: Thanks for the emails telling me that I had the wrong cover. Getting 20+ notices was flattering, in a "you like me, you really like me" kind of way. I thought that people stopped reading after Shylah took over the blog.