{room vroom}

Emma Donoghue’s Room was a major topic of the first lecture of the University of Denver Publishing Institute I attended this summer. Said institute was the main impetus behind me starting this blog (and continues to be a major reason why I stick with it), so I felt it very crucial that I read Room. Unfortunately, my hometown, where I lived post-Denver until last month, is full of readers, and so Room was constantly unavailable at my local library. Luckily, I now live in a tiny yet wealthy suburb (!), meaning it has a fantastic library. So—to make a long and utterly unnecessary story shorter but still pretty much unnecessary—I got my hands on a copy of Room.

And read it in one sitting.

Returning readers may remember that I did the same thing earlier this month with Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, but I don’t actually do this often. Post-move means I have no friends, new job means I have no energy, and the result is that I spend most weekends lying on the couch reading.

Also, Room was pretty good.

The narrator of Room is Jack, who is five years old. Jack lives in Room with Ma; also with Bed, Duvet, Table, TV, Meltedy Spoon, College Ruled Pad, and plenty of other inanimate characters. Jack loves Room, and loves Ma, and loves all those other things. He doesn’t love Old Nick, who comes at night.

I approached this book already knowing its basic plot premise—Ma was abducted by Old Nick and she and Jack are prisoners in Room. (Sorry for the spoiler.) While I don’t imagine it would be too hard to figure out, I think it’s definitely not immediately apparent. (Sorry for the awkward sentence structure.) Not only is Jack a small child, with thoughts and feelings somewhat unfamiliar to the adult reader (although his vocabulary and grasp of grammar is prodigious), but he also has spent his entire life in Room. His understanding and perception of the world have definite physical barriers; specifically, a 11′ x 11′ revamped tool shack. He sees people, streets, schools, etc. on TV, but understands those to be “only TV,” not real like him and Ma.

This book is emotionally hard to read not only for the plot topic, but for the characters. As I said, Jack is happy in Room—when Ma tentatively begins to talk of her life outside and the possibility of escape, he rebels. Also, Ma and Jack’s relationship is one of the most beautiful parent-child relationships I’ve ever come across in literature. You love both of these characters and, as the plot unfolds, have a huge amount of admiration for Ma for raising such an incredible child on pure love in such an environment. You find yourself starting to think that their interactions would not be as perfect or precious in the outside world… It’s disturbing.

I can see why this book has caused such a stir in the reading community. It’s a wonderful story, slowly moving from an isolated, almost fantasy world into the real and somehow far grittier one that we know. I give it my recommendations.

 

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{house still confuses me}

I saw Hugh Laurie’s book about 3 years ago in a European airport and was immediately intrigued. I’m a current fan of House, M.D., but first grew to love Hugh Laurie in high school when my dad would bring DVDs home from the library of Laurie and Stephen Fry in Jeeves and Wooster. And anyone that’s seen me in my most hysterical moods knows that I stop breathing from laughing so much at this.

So for some reason it took my dad sneaking his copy of the book in amongst my stuff when I moved last month for me to actually sit down and read The Gun Seller. In a nutshell, the main character, Tom Lang, is an ex-Army officer who is offered the job of assassinating an American businessman. Instead of accepting the money, he tries to warn the intended victim—and finds himself in the midst of an international minefield of terrorists, WMDs, and beautiful women.

Starting the book, I found it to be exactly what you would expect of a combination of Laurie and the above plot. The first-person narration is so constantly tongue-in-cheek that it would’ve gotten old had the plotline not been a bit violent and action-packed. However, I suspect that my admiration for Laurie as an actor and comedian made me more tolerant of his writing.

Toward the end, though, I definitely found my enthusiasm waning, namely because the plot just got so darn confusing. The double-crossers are double-crossing, Tom Lang is under cover as an undercover agent, a beautiful women is a victim but also might be an instigator…? I was confused. And still am.

Literally, the ending of this book (in simple terms) is a big explosion, and a bunch of bad people die. The problem was, by that point I wasn’t even sure who the bad people were. It’s unsettling to finish a book and not know who is dead and who is alive. And it makes me feel stupid.

So. I find myself forced to accept that while I do still love Hugh Laurie and may laugh/cry myself to sleep watching “Mystery” tonight, spy novels are really just not my thing.

{general hilarity and wanton sentimentality}

So after a week of reading The Talented Mr. Ripley (and subsequently blogging about it) and an afternoon at work spent collating photocopies for 4 hours, I decided to settle down for an evening of fun, low-stress girl reading. As I mentioned earlier, I purchased Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? a couple of months ago after falling in love with an online excerpt. I killed it tonight in one sitting, in a feat only mildly more impressive than the Friday night a couple of weeks ago when I killed a DVD of Sherlock Holmes, an unassembled IKEA bed, and a fifth of Bailey’s in one sitting.

Mindy did not disappoint. The book was hilarious, relatable, and informative. (Did you know that she got her start playing Ben Affleck in a play she wrote with her best friend called Matt & Ben? I didn’t.) Within the first few pages, her descriptions of herself as a chubby androgynous Indian kid had my (male) roommate of two weeks glancing at me politely yet quizzically across the couch, as one regards a slightly deranged person, as I laughed uncontrollably. To make matters worse, I was self-conscious enough to attempt to temper my laugh into a silent blowing of air rapidly through my noise, which I can only imagine is how a huge douche laughs. (Except, sadly, I don’t need to imagine it, for I know it to be true.)

Anyways. I would venture to recommend IEHOWM? to any young female in need of a bit of hilarity and a solid kick in the pants. Or young man, for that matter. After all, it was Mindy’s uncannily accurate analysis of the man vs. boy debate that got me hooked in the first place.

Hilarity aside, I also loved this book because it allowed me to selfishly and egotistically believe that Mindy gets me, and only me. She has that enviable quality in her writing that made feel at once exactly like her and importantly unique. Her humor is spot-on and often hilariously self-deprecating, but she also makes no secret of the fact that she’s a pretty romantically conservative gal who wants to find a good man and settle down. In the midst of my ever-engrossing journey to emerge on the opposite side of quarter-life crises years without a regular therapist, Mindy makes me feel like everything is going to be fine, but it’s also cool if everything isn’t.

All incredible cheesiness and regurgitated tropes aside, IEHOWM? is definitely going to a prime spot on my bookshelf (to be purchased from IKEA at a date immediately following my first paycheck!) and indulged in regularly.

{so… yeah.}

In the past two weeks, I celebrated Christmas, moved 10 hours away, and started my first job since last summer. So… the blog took a back seat. As did reading time. (Damn you, OMF! Still not done…)

But I’m back! And on a Friday, nonetheless. Which means…

I realized about a week too late that my last post was kind of a lie. I mean, yes, Ernest and Celestine are my faves. But they are not my only fave childhood books. Not even my only fave childhood Christmas book.

The Donkey’s Dream by Barbara Helen Berger is one of the first books I remember hearing outloud, which makes it extra special to me. In this Christmas story, the tale of Mary and Joseph trying to find a safe place to have their baby is told from the point of view of their donkey. He doesn’t know where they are going or why: To him, they are simply “the man,” “the lady,” and, finally, “a tiny baby.” As he wearily trudges from town to town, inn to inn, he dreams he carries… A city. A ship. A fountain. A rose. A “lady full of heaven.” At last, he is able to rest, seeing the reflection of a star high above him as he drinks from the trough. At the end, the woman invites the donkey to come see the miracle he has helped to bring about.

“Come—see what we have carried all this way, you and I.”

Breathtakingly beautiful illustrations accompany this sweet and simple story.

As much as I got caught up just now in remembering this book, I do admit that I am a little behind the times. But even though it’s no longer the Christmas season, I still absolutely love Barbara Helen Berger.

 

Since my name means “pearl,” one of my parents’ first gifts to me was about Grandfather Twilight, who every evening takes a single pearl from his strand, walks through the forest with it as it grows larger and larger in his hand, and finally releases it over the ocean as the moon.

 

 

For me, When the Sun Rose is much more about the illustrations than the story. It’s simple enough—a girl is visited by her best friend, and they spend the day together. But the pictures—whew. Go get a copy yourself. I can’t possible begin to do them justice.

 

 

All of the above books are picture books, even though obviously I still love them as an (almost) adult. Gwinna is a true chapter book, but still has the wonderful pictures that characterize all of Berger’s books. When Gwinna’s mother discovers that her baby is growing wings, she is terrified that they will make her leave her family, and binds them tightly to her daughter’s back to keep her safe. When Gwinna discovers the power of her wings, she does leave—and the fairy tale begins.

As with Ernest and Celestine on my last post, it is seriously so hard for me to write about these books, because they really have been such huge parts of my childhood and continue to be so important in my life. All I can say is that you will not regret reading these, no matter how old you are.