December 3rd, 2012

Dead Dog Cat

(no subject)

During the day, yesterday, I finished reading a little book by Terry Pratchett, called The World of Poo. It's a kiddy book set in Ankh-Morpork, the largest city on the Discworld; a young man with connections learns all about stool, and its uses. Cute. Not disgusting, mostly.

Books #45 & #46

Book #45 was "Waist-High in the World: A Life Among the Nondisabled" by Nancy Mairs. Mairs is probably best known as being an author about her Catholic faith, but she's also written extensively on disability issues. This is a collection of essays that form a sort of memoir about her life coping with Muscular Dystrophy. I liked all of the essays a lot, though they ranged from intimate musings about how to have an erotic life when your spouse has to bathe and dress you to more political pieces about the American with Disabilities Act or the story about her helping to bust snake oil salesman who robbed desperate ailing people of thousands of dollars by selling sham treatments. I loved Mairs' honest and straightforward storytelling style and would be interested in reading more by her.

Book #46 was "Crime and Punishment" by Fyodor Dostoevsky, as an audiobook. I'd never gotten around to any Dostoevsky in high school or college, and I'm kind of glad that I "read" this as an audiobook, because I'm not sure I would have gotten into it as easily if I'd read it as a paper book. It is somewhat slow, but Dostoevsky is a master of getting into a character's head and ratcheting up the tension. I understand why this is both a critically-acclaimed book and was also a best seller when it first came out (1860s). The story concerns, as you might guess from the title, a man named Raskolnikov who commits a crime and the punishment - both spiritual and judicial - he suffers after committing the crime. It's chock full of philosophy, and sometimes it seems to move slowly because not much is happening except in the main character's head. However, in its favor, the tension builds relentlessly toward the climax, and Dostoevsky was really good and drawing portraits of various characters that feel true to life. I really liked this more than I expected to.
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Virgin Suicides

Book 46

Originally posted by audrey_e at Book 46
46 MIDDLESEX Jeffrey Eugenides (USA, 2002)

Calliope Stephanides is the narrator of her Greek-American family saga from her great-parents incestuous relationship and flight to the US to her - or rather his - realization that he is a boy who was wrongly raised as a girl.

Middlesex is a Pulitzer Prize winner.

Let me tell you right away, this is the best novel I have read so far this year, and there's only one month left to make me change my mind. 

The Virgin Suicides is to this day one of my very favorite novels, and Jeffrey Eugenides blew my mind once more.

Middlesex is family saga at its best because through research and the stories of incredibly well-developed characters, the author manages to tell America's story from the 20s onwards. It is a perfect blend of universal and specific. Calliope's journey is certainly out of the ordinary as she is intersex and partially blind to her condition for most of her difficult childhood. But Calliope's journey is also the more universal coming-of-age one that we all know and can relate to. And if there is something Eugenides knows how to write about, it is teenagers. He had already proved it with his first novel. 

Let me warn you though, Eugenides's writing is quite dense in this novel, and it may take about 60 pages to get used to. This is intensified by the regular flashforwards that may be slightly confusing at first. I saw reviews on Goodreads of readers who complained about the density and abandonned the novel early. I think it would be a shame to give up on such a book, so if you make an attempt and struggle, I would advise you to keep going. Calliope's voice is both moving and hilarious. He guided me through America's history while reminding me of my high school days in France.