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review 2017-01-28 04:12
It is the essence of man that he must question himself.
No Rusty Swords: Letters, Lectures and Notes 1928-36: From the Collected Works, Vol 1 - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

-Deitrich Bonhoeffer

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text 2015-07-17 16:00
Fabulous Finds Friday: July 14, 2015 LIBRARY EDITION
Dad is Fat - Jim Gaffigan
A Sport and a Pastime - James Salter,Reynolds Price
Bonjour Tristesse - Irene Ash,Diane Johnson
Jane Austen's England - Roy Adkins,Lesley Adkins
A Broom of One's Own: Essays on Housecleaning and the Writing - Nancy Peacock
My Life in Middlemarch - Rebecca Mead
Crafting the Personal Essay: A Guide for Writing and Publishing Creative Nonfiction - Dinty W. Moore

Dad is Fat. All the promos for Jim Gaffigan's new show reminded me that I've been meaning to read this.

 

A Sport and a Pastime. Good for a sultry summer read.

 

Bonjour Tristesse. Another melodramatic, affair-filled summer read.

 

Jane Austen's England. I'm going to keep checking this out until I finally get to read it.

 

A Broom of One's Own. This one sort of caught my eye, as I worked as a house cleaner in college.

 

My Life in Middlemarch. I love a well-written look at the power of books in our lives, and this one is very well done. I also love Middlemarch but haven't found the time to revisit it.

 

Crafting the Personal Essay. I really want to spruce up my writing. I didn't have a lot of luck with an ARC from this same writer (the format was so bad, it was practically unreadable), but I thought I would give it a chance.

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text 2014-03-06 17:17
And no reason to talk about the books I read. But still, I do.
Come to Mecca - Farrukh Dhondy Come to Mecca - Farrukh Dhondy

When I was working on my Best of 2013 and 1913 posts, I planned to include a “to-be-read” section. It would list the books that were published in 2013 that I was interested in reading but never got around to. I was going to call it “These could have been the best books of 2013 if only I had read them.” I came up with 31 books before I realized that this list was already too long and therefore incredibly boring. (Even now part of me is still tempted to curate this list into a top ten, but what would that be? Best Books of 2013 I Did Not Read? Books of 2013 I am most likely to in fact still read?) At that moment I was suddenly struck by my strange relationship to making lists of books.

 

So first of all, where did I get these 31 titles from? Why, obviously it was culled from a much longer list of books I would like to read. I counted and there were 187 books on that list. Theoretically I could get through all those books in a year, but I absolutely won’t, even though they’re supposedly the books I want to read. Some of those books have been on that list for many years. I feel oppressed by that list because it’s so damn long. In fact, less than one year ago I did a massive “Selektion,” keeping some books on the list but sending many others to the metaphorical gas chambers. (Yes, that’s how guilty I felt about it: I was picturing myself as an SS officer. Any other time I picture that scenario, no more than once a day, I am a camp inmate. This is probably because I’m Jewish.) Since then, the list has burgeoned again, which explains the high proportion of 2013 books on the list.

 

Why am I ADD about everything else in my life but OCD about books? (And OCD about thinking about the Holocaust?) These days I try to stay away from “What is the point of. . .? Why am I doing. . . ?” questions because the answers are always the same. (“There is no point, things don’t have a point.” “There is no reason, this is just something you’re doing and stop worrying about it.”) I know a lot of things are beyond my control, but maybe not this thing. Making lists of books is not actually an autonomic life function like breathing or pumping blood, as much as it may seem that way. So I could stop if I wanted to. Is the first step admitting that I am powerless over making lists of books?

 

I remember a more innocent time before the internet, when the only way I ever knew about books was if some human being talked about them to me with their actual mouths or if I saw a review or ad in some sort of magazine or newspaper. I got most of my books through browsing in the library or the bookstore. Now my browsing is done online and then I either put them on hold at the library or buy them from Powells or Charis online bookstores, or ABE or Alibris in a pinch. Back in the day I did have a list of books I wanted, but it was very short, and I kept it in a notebook. Even then, it sometimes took me many years to read a book on my list, but that was mostly because at that time it was harder to find any specific out-of-print book. I remember when I was a teenager my friend S. recommended a book called Come to Mecca and other stories by Farrukh Dhondy. (This recommendation may even have been made via handwritten letter mailed with a stamp!)  The book stayed on my list for, oh, at least five years. I finally read it, liked it a lot, and told S. about it. She did not remember anything about the book and refused to believe she had recommended it.

 

The upside of the way we discover books now is that I come across books that will never be reviewed in a big periodical. Five of my favorite books of 2013 are not in my local library system because they are either from a small press or self-published. So it’s not that I want to turn off the internet (okay, well actually I kind of do.) The problem is on my end, the list making end.

 

I actually don’t  like to read as much as I used to. I think in some way reading about books has replaced actually reading books as the satisfying activity. I read about a book, it sounds so very interesting, and then I put it on my list, which in some way mentally checks it off. Resolution has been achieved, and some sort of endorphin is released. Why would I want to actually read the book? It would take hours and I might not even like it after all.

 

One thing I actually still like is reading and briefly reviewing the books of one century ago. In fact, my fantasy is that someone would pay me to do that. I say this in the spirit of putting my intentions out to the universe, which as I understand it means that my intentions will magically come true because it turns out the world is a wish granting factory after all. I have in mind a classy periodical like The Chronogram. Or, perhaps a brand new magazine, devoted solely to the books of a hundred years ago. Every month there would be a different author on the cover. (Although probably it would mostly be P.G. Wodehouse, L.M. Montgomery, Arnold Bennett, Baroness Orczy, E.F. Benson, and L. Frank Baum over and over. The way David Bowie has been on the cover of Uncut magazine nine times, about 5% of all their covers. But Uncut has had women on the cover only seven times, total. My magazine would have female-identified writers on the cover every other month, at least.) I guess I’m not averse to a single, really high quality issue per year. Wealthy Edwardian-literature-loving visionary publishing dilettantes who share my dreams, contact me.

 

All right, I got a little off-topic here. Let me tell you how my genius girlfriend solved my list-making problem for me. I had all kinds of ideas but hers actually worked. She told me to use a Bannanagrams rule where if I want to add a new book to the list I have to delete three others. It’s been working wonderfully. If I ever get through all the books on the list, you will hear about it.

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review 2012-08-23 00:00
The Art of the Personal Essay: An Anthology from the Classical Era to the Present - Teachers & Writers Collaborative,Phillip Lopate I need to make a separate shelf for this book titled, "kill-me-now," because really, the best way to offer someone a slow and painful death is to make them read this. I was forced to read this for class and write up summaries and analysis' for practically all the essays, in addition to taking a test and writing an essay on these essays for my classes, so I did not have fun reading this. It's boring, it's long, and 99.9% of the essays in this are boring. I guess if you like reading personal essays this might be your thing, but they're clearly not for me. Seneca, thank you for writing essays that were only two pages long. James Baldwin, thank you for writing an essay that, although was long, actually kept my attention! Joan Didion, thank you too for writing a short essay that was only three pages long. Michael Montaigne, you are hailed as the best personal essay writer ever, but I still have no idea what the purpose of your ramblings were. Seriously, that looong thing I read couldn't have been a coherent essay. No. Way. Richard Rodriguez, I'm sorry I never even bothered to read your essay because it was the last one. I'm also sorry I had to make up a really bad analysis for it because the internet didn't have much information on it. Curse you, Google! I bet Hermione would have had the answers I needed! >.< Phillip Lopate, the guy who had WAY too much time on his hands to compile all these BORING AS HELL essays and RUIN MY LIFE, you SUCK! If I ever meet you...well, let's just say your face won't be so pretty anymore and your family members will fail to recognize you. You might need a wheelchair afterwards too. I read this...anthology...and wished I could have seen insta-love between the pages. I dreamt about crappy love triangles, Mary Sues, lack of world-building, and terribly developed characters while reading this book because all that stuff is so much better than this anthology. If I could give this book 0.00000001 Stars, I would. In short, give this to your worst enemy or hand it out to criminals in the prison if you want them to die of insanity. Otherwise, RUN AWAY! I don't even think going to Antarctica can get me far enough away from this book. *starts running*
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