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review 2018-07-18 02:58
So much hidden meaning
The Intuitionist - Colson Whitehead

The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead is included in the list of 100 titles chosen by American citizens for The Great American Read hosted by PBS. (More info on the books on the list and how you can vote for America's favorite novel can be found here.) In an effort to read more diversely (and to have the ability to recommend books for the adults in my branch) I started with this book as I had never heard of it despite it being listed as a 'classic'. The story follows Lila Mae Watson who is the first female person of color to be an Elevator Inspector. In the world created by Whitehead elevators are the height (ha!) of technology and the majority of the population see them as somewhat mystical and beyond the realm of ordinary comprehension. (There are even guilds which seek to elevate the status of Elevator Inspectors in society to those in political office.) Even more confusing to discern are the two distinct sects of theory as to the maintenance and future of these machines. One school of thought is firmly rooted in the reality of the technology while the other views them as metaphysical creations that can be 'sensed'. Lila Mae belongs to the second school of thought which further compounds the problems that she faces among her coworkers and the public that she encounters on her daily rotations. This sci-fi novel is rooted in the reality of race. What drives the story are the veiled discussions of race but it is told through the lens of technology innovations. It is ultimately a story of hope for a better world where we are 'elevated' from the weaknesses and barbarisms of our current reality. Whitehead challenges our perceptions of our accepted reality as he argues that established views are not solely based on what we see with our eyes. This is a book with a seemingly simple premise about elevator manufacture and maintenance in a world so very similar (and familiar) to our own but instead what we get is a complex discussion of race and how we can (hopefully) rise above. 9/10

 

What's Up Next: The Read-Aloud Handbook (7th Edition) by Jim Trelease

 

What I'm Currently Reading: When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

 

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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text 2018-07-16 03:43
at 100 pages, hmmmm
The Witches of Eastwick - John Updike

I thought I'd try something by Mr. Updike that wasn't Rabbit Angstrom-y.

 

This is the single worst writing from women's point of view that I've ever encountered. These women are the least believable I've ever encountered, and I've read some really bad books. I understand these witches are fantasy, but I can't believe witches would be so ridiculous. Nor can I imagine grown women who complain about getting their periods for a full five (5) days! Or women who think the way these "women" do about their bodies. Men, apparently, believe women are nothing but our bodies and our relationships to men. He gives them interesting professions, then he reduces them to insipid caricatures. 

 

Dear Male Writers - Woman Have Breasts and Vaginas. I'm going to write a book where the man's balls are all I talk about if I run into this again. Shockingly, our bodies and fear of aging are not the only thing we ever think about.

 

Argh. I'm very tempted to stop reading this. It's making me irritable. 

 

However, now the man has entered the picture, so I may try to continue, since I'm almost a third of a way through. But not tonight. I need some female comedy -- on to Netflix!

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review 2018-06-23 22:49
A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving
A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving

A tidbit I learned whilst reading was that much like the narrator, John Wheelwright, John Irving's mother never revealed the identity of his father to him. Apparently this book contains a lot of Irving's biography (well mixed with fiction) which may interest someone, but not really me.

 

The thought experiment: what would it take to make me a Christian? is interesting. And it plays out here in the form of one Owen Meany -- annoying prophetic child who knows, without any doubt, that he's an instrument of God. People who have zero doubt are often very irritating, as Owen can be. Owen hasn't arrived at his doubtless state without interrogating his faith or life, though. He's not full of faith because he refuses to see reality, in fact it's almost the opposite. He seems to have questioned and still believes his fate and purpose. I grew up in the Catholic church and never met a person like this until I was already quite the doubting Thomas. However, I can attest to how discombobulating strong faith can be in the face of endless questioning, and this is what Irving sets up so beautifully, comically and tragically for John and Owen.

 

Along the way we witness a friendship between two boys and young men that is so charming and graceful and appealing that it's hard not to be moved. The comic scenes are pure gold. (I both read and listened to the Christmas pageant scene many times. I bookmarked my audio copy there, and it made me laugh so hard tears rolled down my face, even when I already knew what was going to be said. It's a perfect scene.)

 

This novel is dense, full of little details, flies off on what seem like tangents, and more than once I wondered if there was an editor. Then in one fell swoop every single detail that seemed extraneous, silly or irritating falls into place. Details become symbols. Tangents find their meaning. The topsy-turvy struggle between faith and doubt gets an answer -- at least for John. But Owen's "gift" of faith to John is not without cost. John Wheelwright is bitter and confused and doesn't seem to know his own place in the world, though he's clear on Owen's. So even with an easy answer on the question of God, this novel shows how painful a life of faith can still be.

 

Please read this book if you haven't. I'll evangelize for John Irving's story of friendship, home and faith. Hang in through the unholy capitalization and irritation, your belief in the story will be rewarded.

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review 2017-02-27 18:52
The Great American Whatever- audio
The Great American Whatever - Tim Federle

I think what ruined this novel for me was listening to the audio of it. It was read by the author and I thought the author was too old to play the part and his voice just wasn’t cut out for it as I thought all the characters sounded the same and I thought his voice had an even tone to me. The more I listened to it, perhaps it should have been read by more than one person because in parts where there was more than one person speaking it was: Quinn: this, Geoff: that, Quinn: this and so forth. There were no dialogue words like said, replied or remarked, it like a ball was being tossed around, very disjointed and flighty. I kept losing interest in this novel as everything sounded the same.

 

It was Quinn’s friend Geoff that kept pulling me back, he was the character who I enjoyed the most. Geoff, the guy who tried to pull Quinn out of his rut. Geoff was the fun one, the one who was there for Quinn, and the one who encouraged him. Quinn was deep in sorrow and he had a right to be as there had been a lot of turmoil in his family but it was time to move on. At a party, he meets a guy, and they hit it off. I would like to think that things would turn around for Quinn but Quinn is hiding things from himself and others. It’s like there were two sides to Quinn and I wasn’t sure what side I liked best. Quinn was fun when he wanted to be yet there was this serious side of him, this side that was sensitive and warm. I wished that I hadn’t listened to this novel, I wish that I would have read it instead, for I feel that my feeling towards this novel would have been different.

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review 2016-12-21 11:31
The Great American Dust Bowl
The Great American Dust Bowl - Don Brown

Don Brown does it again! He took a piece of history and made it come alive inside this graphic novel. With glossy illustrations highlighting the dust and the grime that covered the countryside, I learned quite a bit about the American Dust Bowl. I have read other novels about this time period but this one gave me facts and information that I didn’t realize.

 

Oh, it was a dreadful time in 1935 when the dust clouds first started to form but Brown tells us about the plates that began to move beneath the earth many years before that. He goes into great detail about the bison, and the American Indians who first used the land and how things progressed beyond that. We get the full history before the dust clouds actually arrive. We learn why they came, who they affected, and what damaged they did. It’s a very educational and time-sequenced story, which I highly enjoyed. Imagine experiencing a snow blizzard with dirt in it. Imagine your roof collapsing because there was too much dust on top of it. Imagine birds dying from breathing in the dust from the air. Imagine yourself opening this novel and diving into Don Brown’s Great American Dust Bowl. The illustrations are engaging, the text is geared for upper elementary or middle school readers and when you finally close the last page, you will be well-educated on the Dust Bowl and you would have read one terrific novel.

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