sh1mm3r (sh1mm3r) wrote in 50bookchallenge,

Books 98-114 of 2009 (November reads)

98. Satchmo: My Life in New Orleans by Louis Armstrong (240 pgs)
Louis Armstrong's personal tale of growing up in New Orleans. A quick read, and full of interesting tidbits!

99. Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger (406 pgs)
A rather gothic tale of two sets of twins. Elspeth has died in London, leaving her flat to the twin daughters of her twin sister in Chicago. Hauntings, mysteries, and a man with ocd make up most of the story. There were some touching moments, particularly between Elspeth and Robert, but like most readers, I didn't find this to be nearly as endearing as the Time Traveler's Wife.

100. Stealing Buddha's Dinner by Bich Minh Nguyen (256 pgs)
A Vietnamese refugee and her childhood story, told largely through the cravings of American processed food.

101. Ooga-Booga by Frederick Seidel (101 pgs)
Reflective, a bit repetitive in theme. The occasional rhyming is a bit hard to know what to do with. My favorite poem was "Violin," but maybe I was looking for optimism.

102. Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout (270 pgs)
Olive is difficult, moody, and opinionated; also observant, direct, and caring in her own way. Strout presents her through a variety of lenses in a grouping of short stories, all directly or indirectly tied to the character of Olive Kitteridge. I can't decide if I liked it or not. It isn't heartwarming, but feels rather genuine, which might be refreshing.

103. The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker (243 pgs)
I'm carrying this book around in my head these days, seeing poetry everywhere I look and thinking in rhyme. A great love letter to poetry, especially the rhyming kind, and an interesting character of the poet Paul Chowder who just needs to finish the introduction to an anthology of rhyming poems.

104. Rivers to the Sea by Sara Teasdale (148 pgs)
I feel like such a sap when I read Teasdale. While her poetry is simple in structure and often very short (some are only one stanza), and they tend to rhyme, they are full of longing and sentimentality. This set comes with the poem that is rumored to be the one she wrote after her past love killed himself ("I Shall Not Care"). My favorites were Spring, From the Woolworth Tower, I Am Not Yours, and A Cry; I didn't care much for the second of the five sections. Her poems seem familiar, but I don't think I've read her before. I think that is more a reflection of the simplicity and feeling of loss or sadness.

105. Dark of the Moon by Sara Teasdale (94 pgs)
Teasdale is definitely older and more introspective in this volume (compared to Rivers to the Sea). These poems are more about nature, her inner life, and what she was contributing and experiencing. She's lost some of the wistfulness for love, and seems to have replaced it with a general longing for life in general.

106. Stars Tonight by Sara Teasdale (49 pgs)
A compilation of more child-appropriate poems.

107. Strange Victory by Sara Teasdale (37 pgs)
A small collection of poems, as far as I can tell, from around the time of when Teasdale's former love committed suicide. Death is a common theme, as well as loss.

"No one worth possessing
Can be quite possessed."

108. The Magicians by Lev Grossman (402 pgs)
I admit to getting this book because I thought the cover was beautiful.

To me this seems like two books, or three, that the author just couldn't decide between writing - one was a grown-up Harry Potter type story, if magic school were at the college level. But he raced through telling that part to get to the magical land part, which to me was even less satisfying than the story about Brakebills College.

I never thought I would say this, because allegedly I hate reading fantasy series, but this would have been better spread out so more time could have been taken with each stage

109. Collected Poems of Sara Teasdale (311 pgs)
I was glad to have found the smaller bound volumes of Teasdale's poems, because several were excluded from this collection, and one was one of my favorites ("Spring" from Rivers to the Sea). There aren't any explanations for the exclusions other than that they were based on conversations she had with friends.

I tend to like her shorter, rhyming, sentimental poems than her longer, affected sonnets and tributes to mythological figures.

110. The Answering Voice ed. by Sara Teasdale (131 pgs)
This captures what women poets were writing about love around the time that Teasdale compiled these poems. Some standards, some poets who were new to me. Read from a brittle copy in the library that was missing some pages and parts of others.

111. Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper by Nicholson Baker (370 pgs)
"The library has gone astray partly because we trusted the librarians so completely."

Nicholson Baker has written a heavily researched retelling of when the first digitization (microfilming) movement hit the major libraries in the United States, leading many to dump the only originals of major newspapers, journals, and books. He zeroes in on the Library of Congress and other government agencies (CIA, NASA, and the NEH) who have had major roles to play in the destruction of print.

While I found some of his reasoning to exclude fair arguments from other viewpoints, and one chapter to miss important details completely (the JSTOR project includes several libraries that act as repositories for the print, I should know, I was the graduate assistant in cataloging who added the dusty volumes to the collection), I think overall it serves as a cautionary tale to libraries and archives. Shouldn't somebody keep the original? Can we ever be completely certain that the digital copy has enough longevity, looking back and learning from what was lost by the original microfilming process?

I think the biggest mistake Baker has made, or really any scholar might be making, is in assuming that libraries are as a whole somehow charged with retaining and preserving the world's knowledge. Like any other industry out there, libraries change with the times. I don't think this noble mission actually exists in the minds of most library administrators; instead we work to serve the needs of our patrons. Some of our decisions to promote access to materials has led to the destruction of the original, although even Baker admits this has become less of a trend starting in the 90s.

It does beg the question - the massive digitization projects being sponsored by Google at several universities these days - what is happening to those originals?

"Leave the books alone, I say, leave them alone, leave them alone."

112. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf (209 pgs)
I've had this on my to-read pile for a while, and I'm not all together certain I haven't read it before. The setting is interesting (cold weather islands are a favorite of mine) but it is more about what goes on INSIDE the house as the family talks about going to the lighthouse.

113. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami (180 pgs)
A quick read about running and writing, nice to read at the end of another successful National Novel Writing Month. :)

114. Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami (296 pgs)
I really had to mull over this one before writing anything about it. To so many people it appears to be a love story, but I really take issue with that - this is a dark, twisted story really, with a lot of mental anguish for everyone except the main character. I am starting to take issue with the typical Murakami protagonist - they seem so bewildered about the world around them, particularly about women but people in general, and the only relationships they have are those that fall into their lives. I hate people who float around and let things happen TO them.

In this novel it seems somehow worse. Surely there is something Toru can do, but maybe Nagasawa is right when he says Toru only knows to think about himself. The ending, and several moments throughout the story, really made me sick to my stomach. I need to take a break from him for a while, I think.

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