{a few notes}

• I wrote a review of Louis de Bernières’s Corelli’s Mandolin for my group book blog, which you can find here.

• I was still thinking about Wally Lamb’s This Much I Know Is True for literally weeks after finishing. I finally had to lend it to a friend to stop staring at the cover on my desk and silently internally weeping. Yikes bikes. 

Here is a pretty good review of the Great Gatsby movie that I think pretty well sums up my reaction to it, if you weren’t tired of it already. 

Happy Monday!

{are we having fun yet?}

I’m slowly forging my way through Faulkner’s Collected Stories—slow going not because I dislike them, but because it takes me about 40 minutes to read each 10-page story. And the book is really, really long.

For those of you that are not Faulkner-ed out (probably no one) (are we having fun yet?), I also recently read this 1956 Paris Review interview with none other than William himself.

The reason I don’t like interviews is that I seem to react violently to personal questions.

This interview is just so many gems—of truth, hilarity, wisdom, sarcasm, literally everything I like. Funnily enough, I find myself unable to comment on much of what he says, for a few reasons. First of all, clearly not being a writer myself, I don’t have a whole lot to say about that. Second of all, and more accurately, I read through this interview almost in a trance. I got so caught up in reading his responses that I almost forgot was he was talking about—that’s how much I was paying attention. The story about working with MGM? Priceless. Every story should be told like that. How is he at the same time so straightforward and so meandering?? Ugh. Genius.

Everybody talked about Freud when I lived in New Orleans, but I have never read him. Neither did Shakespeare. I doubt if Melville did either, and I’m sure Moby Dick didn’t.

I love Faulkner for so many reasons, one of which is his dedication to Southern heritage. Personally, I find the American South to be the most fascinating cultural phenomenon in the history of this country, and I literally cannot get enough of it. Say you disagreed with someone and so didn’t want to be around her anymore, except then she is like, “EXCEPT YOU WILL NEVER GET AWAY FROM ME AND I AM GOING TO DESTROY YOU TO PROVE IT.” Maybe if you are seven, you will appreciate that explanation of the American South in the Civil War and understand why I find it so compelling. If you are older than seven, maybe you will like my other Faulknerific entry better than this one.

Some people say they can’t understand your writing, even after they read it two or three times. What approach would you suggest for them?

Read it four times.

P.S. As of earlier this month, my friend actually works for the interviewer from this article… Wowza. I tell him that is truly the stuff of memoir. After all, who wants to read the memoir of someone who worked in textbook publishing? I certainly don’t, and I am the one living it. Oops.

{notpeople in notlanguage}

I believe I’ve mentioned before how obsessed I am with William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! I read it in college for my senior seminar, and then proceeded to nerd out over it for a good eight months and, in a surprising example of productivity, produce a research paper and conference presentation (who knew??).

So when I ran across an NYT article earlier this week called “How William Faulkner Tackled Race—and Freed the South From Itself,” I dropped everything and read it immediately.

This book is, really, just the best. Who besides Faulkner could literally tell the entire plotline within the first few pages, and then continue with the rest of an amazing novel? Sullivan’s article does an excellent job of exploring the ways Faulkner addresses and defines the South. Quentin’s inability to extricate himself from his incessant narration (and creation) of his Southern heritage plays a central role in his depression and gradual insanity (as Sullivan notes, he commits suicide about a year later in The Sound and the Fury).

What Sullivan doesn’t address, however (although another commenter mentions it), is that almost all the elements of the plot—certainly Bon’s death, his relationships with Judith and Henry, and even Bon himself—are never presented as fact in the text. They could be anything from third- or fourth-hand narration to figments of Quentin and Shreve’s collective imagination.

I’m a little disappointed Sullivan didn’t bring this up, because I think it strengthens his argument—or at least complicates in a very interesting way. With the validity of Bon in question (and with it, his ethnicity and its implications on Sutpen’s and Henry’s actions), Quentin’s insistence on relaying it to Shreve puts an even greater weight on its importance in a Southern novel. Quentin is, himself, the South—hating his own existence, conflicted about his future, unwilling yet obligated to relive the past.

“Now I want you to tell me just one thing more. Why do you hate the South?”

“I dont hate it,” Quentin said, quickly, at once, immediately; “I dont hate it,” he said. I dont hate it he thought . . . I dont. I dont! I dont hate it! I dont hate it!

His attempt to come to terms with the atrocities of his background is rendered invalid by his own heritage. By embroidering details of his own into stories passed down to him by family and neighbors, he is trying to create some sort of order and rationality to the events (especially since he is explaining them to Shreve, a Canadian outsider, in their Yankee dorm room). But as they get deeper into the story, not only do the embellishments fail to provide any sense of reconciliation or finale, but they also weave Quentin into his own heritage even more inexorably.

OH DEAR GOD I COULD LITERALLY GO ON LIKE THIS FOR AGES. But it is Sunday night, I have an early morning tomorrow, and a Harry Potter marathon is on ABC Family. Clearly, my immediate future lies elsewhere.

{mid-week blues}

I’ve changed into my pajamas at 6:30 p.m. the past two nights. I’ve also seen the same two episodes of Kim and Kourtney Take New York four times in as many days (to slightly redeem myself, I must note that I’d never seen any Kardashian show before this week). It’s just been that kind of a week.

Woof.

I also finished Ian McEwan’s Saturday, which I’ll be writing about for Book Blob next week. It was alright. Not too bad, but not great. I liked Atonement better—a fascinating story about storytelling. For anyone else who’s nerdily into meta stuff like that, I also recommend Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! and the film The Fall.

The next book on my list is Joyce Carol Oates’ My Heart Laid Bare. Now, let’s Beyoncé here: The cover (and title) makes this look like a crummy historical romance. I’m sorry. It’s just true. But I’m giving it a shot because I absolutely love We Were the Mulvaneys, and on a lesser note am willing to grant that Oates is one of the greatest living American writers. (Also, I secretly kind of dig crummy historical romances. Shh.)

I realized today that I haven’t been super up on all the biz news lately. Funnily enough, when you actually work in publishing and aren’t unemployed, you don’t have a whole lot of time, energy, or interest to dedicate toward reading the dozens of industry newsletters that you giddily subscribed to back when you were idealistically jobless. But. Thanks to FBook and Twitter, I have managed to scrouge up some interesting bookish tidbits:

  • The 20 Most Beautiful Bookstores in the World. Umm WOW. Amiright? That’s really all you can say. Some major book porn for my ongoing fantasy of one day having a room made entirely of bookcases, à la Beauty and the Beast or the following…
  • The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. Smiles, tears, smiles, tears. There, just for you, is a summary of my experience watching this short film. Good enough for an Oscar nominee is good enough for me.
  • Letters of Note. I am a big fan of 1) snail mail (support the USPS!) and 2) pretending to be a huge literature snob (while secretly hiding my taste for crummy historical romances). Therefore, I am also a huge fan of this blog, which in all seriousness has some pretty insanely interesting letters.
  • Ryan Gosling Reads Young Adult. I am so, so close to saying there are too many of these Ryan Gosling meme blogs. And yet, every time I come across another one, I think, “Not quite there yet…” I was, however, incredibly nonplussed to realize that I have read exactly none of the books referenced here.

And now, pajama-clad and Kardashianed-out, I move on to drown my ennui in a potential crummy historical romance. As one does.

Woof.

{a story of fail}

Yeesh. It’s been a while. Firstly because I’ve been super busy driving back and forth from SF to Oregon for various reasons, and secondly because everything I would’ve had to blog about is basically a story of fail, so I’ve been avoiding it.

Case in point:

1. Missed Friday Favorite again.

2. Was supposed to have finished Our Mutual Friend by Friday to blog about it on Book Blob. Did nay finish.

3. Because of trips to and from SF, I had to return On Canaan’s Side to the library before I finished! And now it’ll be another million years, if ever, that it will come around on reserve hold for me again. So I will never know how it ended. GAH.

Here, though, is the one interesting thing I have to talk about. My immediate thought upon reading this was, “Why on earth would famous writers respond to a 16-year-old high school student? And through snail mail nonetheless!” My second one, “Why was I not badass enough to mail more letters to authors when I was young enough for it still to be considered cute/precocious and not sad/stalkerish?”

The second question is, perhaps, not entirely fair. My most prized possession to this day is the response I received from Beverly Cleary after writing her a multiple-page document that was, in hindsight, more like a diary entry than a fan letter. Not only did she respond, but she answered questions I’d posed, proving that she actually read it! I was thrilled. And continue to be so.

But I digress. How hilarious is Norman Mailer, that he typed out a separate reply saying he couldn’t reply? And Ray Bradbury definitely reached bamf status by referencing Guy Fawkes’s Day.

As a longtime English student myself who has frequently been “tired of symbol hunting,” I found the authors’ answers actually less brilliant than I might’ve hoped. Perhaps that’s why I never bothered to send out similar letters: My illusion of the omnipotent author would’ve taken a severe blow. I did enjoy McAllister’s conclusion as to why he got so many responses: My mind instantly conjured the image of poor, lonely writers being ignored by the other kids as their precious books got torn apart by scholars and high schoolers. Literary theory of all kinds is pretty much beyond me, but I’m sure someone who’s studied Barthes and actually understood it would have some pretty big things to say here.

What do you think? Did the authors’ letters answer any of your long-standing questions about symbolism? Any authors out there care to weigh in with their opinions?

{everyone with a heart and an itunes account does}

Well, I don’t know about you, but my weekend went just about like this week’s SNL skit with Adele’s “Someone Like You.”

JK. That was not the story of my weekend. That is the story of every minute of every day of my life, because it was just that good.

(I had really, really hoped to be able to post a video of that skit. Sadly, they are being removed from YouTube as fast as I can find them. If you haven’t seen it yet, please, please watch the episode on Hulu. Emma Stone hosts, the Adele bit is somewhere around 52:00.)

But let’s get serious. While I am still reading Death in the City of Light, today I was thinking (albeit incredibly belatedly) about Borders. In another television reference (my favorite thing to do), anyone catch James Spader’s line on The Office? “Let me tell you how I buy something these days. I know what I want: I go on the Internet, I get the best price. Or I don’t know what I want, and I go to a small store that can help me.”

Now, I was raised on the hippie ideals of supporting local businesses and eschewing big corporations like the plague. Sometimes this gets tricky, like today when I tried to pick a gym that wouldn’t break my unemployed bank. But still, the small mom-‘n’-pops always win in the end. When my parents’ favorite local bookstore went out of business, it was basically like a death in the family.

This made the closing of Borders ethically and emotionally difficult for me. Could I really be sad about the destruction of this megalith of evil? Did people who worked at Borders really deserve my sympathy when they lost their jobs? The answer, of course, is yes. But still—a tiny part of me wondered whether my favorite small-town book joints would still be in business had Borders simply never existed.

What do you think about the Borders liquidation? Any favorite local businesses you wish were still around for you to support? What are your best tips for dealing with the local vs. cheap debacle?

{in which i reject self-awareness}

Last night, I came across the following quote on a friend’s Facebook:

Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people. —Eleanor Roosevelt

As much as I do like said friend and respect his opinion, I took issue with this quote. Boo to ideas and events; their only interest lies in how they affect people. Small minded I may be, but I would much rather discuss people.

In keeping with that notion, last week I went on a rare and ill-fated self-improvement kick, which involved watching the following film and reading this almost book-length article from The Atlantic.

Also this weekend, I took a physical trip down Memory Lane and visited my alma mater, as well as the city I worked in last year. These visits always result in some sort of emotional turbulence, during which I attempt to question what my life has become since college and how I can change that. Meh.

What could all of this possibly have to do with book learnin’? Well, this is my long-winded explanation as to why I chucked Swell: A Girl’s Guide to the Good Life. Sometime this weekend, I had a fit of pique about my self-improvement project and instead gave myself up to internal rants on being told how people perceived me, how to perceive myself, how to acclimate myself to a lifetime of spinsterhood, and how to make this all a worthwhile and ultimately successful endeavor. Hooray!

Instead, I immediately picked up Bridget Jones’s Diary and gave myself over to emotional fuckwittage. Because that’s real life, people.

I watched the BJD movies one winter in high school. My parents were out of town and my younger brother was obvi out on some social engagement, so I hightailed it down to BBV, rented the double feature, and watched in sitting on my living room floor, wrapped in my duvet and eating reheated casserole out of the pan. Rarely have I ever had such a meta moment.

So, faced with funemployment and home-aloneness during the parents’ vacay to northern Africa, clearly there were no better books to read. I’m already loving BJD, and can’t wait to blog more about it later.

What do you think? Do you agree with Eleanor Roosevelt? Do you embrace activism/sociology, or do you just sometimes get tired of it and just want to read a hilarious and slightly racy diary?

{in the event of an apocalypse}

I finished The Reader last night and pretty immediately went back to the good-times book I bought in Portland a few weeks ago. Fluffy, mindless reading was in high demand post a Nazi trial read. I’ll be posting on The Reader at the Book Blob later this week.

This is a week or so late, but I came across this article in my publishing-related reading. What do you think? I am really not a huge fan of zombies, so while it would probably make my hypothetical running workouts more interesting, I probably wouldn’t invest. But then I started brainstorming interactive literature-based programs that would make me want to buy them. Here’s a preliminary list:

• Harry Potter (DUHZ)

• Oliver Twist (you’ve got to run fast when you’re a pickpocket, everyone knows that)

• The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (if the adrenaline rush I got from just reading that was any indication)

• The Magicians (ditto)

• The Wolves Chronicles (because I’m a sucker for children’s lit/period novels/mysteries)

• Agatha Christie (because WOW excitement)

Oh dear. A girl can dream.

{for skittles}

Well, I can’t remember the last time it took me this long to finish a book. Not that Unseen Academicals isn’t good. It is, actually, and I’m developing some very interesting theories on it, mainly because I also watched The Outsiders this week. But I’ll save that for the end review.

Perhaps it’s taken me so long to finish because I’ve been distracted by this:

1. I laugh until I cry.

2. I’m pretty much obsessed with Victorian lit anyways.

3. Is no one else impressed that the dialogue and ambiance go together so perfectly?

4. “She’s so boring. There’s nothing to her. She’s just there, like furniture.”

5. There are 5 videos.

So that’s my life as an unemployed convalescent living with my parents.

What about you? What are your favorite pop culture, multi-media, or other example of literature being used for awesome?