Sunday, December 23, 2007

Done with Little Children

Loved this book. I loved that each character was so very flawed and almost equally likable and dislikable at the same time. Where Desperate Housewives is over the top and American Beauty is miserably tragic, Little Children falls somewhere in the middle--realistic in it's angst, not expecting the reader to swallow massive amounts of tragedy, but not letting them off at the end with a shiny, happy ending, either. Perrotta definitely takes a big old dump on the idea of domestic bliss, no question, but it's not like the universe is out to get these people--they walk into their messes, eyes wide open and for no other reason than they want to. They are the "little children", acting on impulse on doing what satisfies the immediate need or want in them, not considering consequences until the final chapter.

Overall, it was a super easy and captivating read; I wish the characters HAD felt a bit more moral fretting over the situations they threw themselves into, but that would have defeated the metaphor of their childlike (or would "childish" be more appropriate) behavior. I did appreciate the allusion to Flaubert's Bovary that kept me wondering how the lives of these people would parallel that particular character's conflict and demise. While nothing quite as gruesome and dramatic as drinking arsenic, I can definitely see why Perrotta chose that classic as the reading group's literary selection. I think he could have also alluded to any of Austen's classics, as Perrotta is clearly poking fun at our society with the same satirical wink as Austen did in her time.

I'm off to read my first Booker Prize winner: The Gathering, by Anne Enright. I started it moments after completing Little Children and it is like jumping into the deep end of a cold pool in comparison to Perrotta's writing. Very stream-of-conscious-y and abstract-dreamy like. But I am already in love with the narrator Veronica and the way she paints the world around her with her poetic choice of words and the clearly complex relationships she is going to share with me. Can't wait to curl up tonight and see what happens next.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Wisteria all over the place

Digging this book. Although, I have to say it makes me slightly uncomfortable, as it is suggesting such subversion in a nook of the world that up to this point, I have felt fairly comfortable in.

Perrotta looks at the lives of suburban mothers and fathers (they are, indeed the "children" his is referring to in his title, I believe) and peels back the "happy happy!" image we all strive to put forth. Think Desperate Housewives and American Beauty (he even gives this film a shout out in the first few pages), in writing.

One of the more interesting questions it's posing to me right now (140 pgs in), is HOW we get to this place. Who we were before marriage and children is, sometimes, so vastly different from who we become once we give ourselves over to these institutions that you can, he seems to be saying, lose track of who you really are in the shuffle of daily life.

I like to think that's not the case with my own family and those with whom I am close. Having become a stay at home mom in the past couple of years, I have definitely seen the women he writes about in the first few pages: the judgey schedule-nazi moms who always looks perfect (at least their own perception of perfection) and I have been the character Sarah (how fitting), who forgets to pack a snack for the play date (or a diaper--gasp!) and has to rely on the kindness of other moms to step up for me. I will say, my kinship with Sarah pretty much ends at that point--the clumsy, flustered anti-supermom.

I am curious to see what becomes of these "little children" and how they play out the little games they have going on now, consisting of what I think is going to end up being a fairly torrid affair, the stalking and harrassing of an ex-con, and some fairly kinky internet fetishism. This book is a much wilder ride, but just as thought-provoking as the last one I read.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Whole World over

I finally finished it. At 550-ish pages, it's one of the longest books I've read in awhile and I'm relieved it's over. I have to say, as I rounded page 400, I just wanted it to be over. I did like the story, but none of the characters ever really grabbed my heart and held on.

The end was relatively satisfying, but I'm not sure if it's because it was over or because it was a truly good ending. The climax of the book is a twist around page 500 that definitely upped my emotional investment, and drives the book to it's conclusion, but even with that unexpected twist, I called the ending far before that point. I knew where each character was going to end up, I just didn't know how they were going to get there.

I do think Glass has a talent for creating interesting family dynamics and honestly, she spins melancholy better than any other contemporary writer I can think of. Her ability to capture the subtle emptiness of life (all I can think of is late afternoon sun coming through the window into a dark room) isn't quite as impressive in this book as it was in Three Junes, but it's definitely there.

I hate saying negative things about books, especially written by authors whose work I have loved in the past. I generally close a book with a heavy heart and a teary eye (cheese-ball extraordinaire, I know), sad that it's over. This time I felt a pang of "oh, thank god it's over." I'm not sure if it's because of the book itself or because I have a list of "to be reads" a million miles long and for the past 300 pages, all I could think was "I wonder if Little Children or The Gathering is better than this."

I'm off to start Little Children, so I will let you know in a few days....

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Diving In...

In my attempt to be more serious about reading this year, I am jumping into my first reader's challenge, hosted by Deweymonster.

For my selections, I am choosing

The Gathering, Anne Enright
The Blind Assassin, Margaret Atwood
Amsterdam, Iam McEwan
Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, Roddy Doyle (I read this years ago but the only thing I remember is that I loved it)
Possession, A.S Byatt
Vernon God Little, DBC Pierre

And yeah, I'm still going to do the NYT Notable books (although I'd never for a second think I could get through all 100 of them); I believe that The Gathering is an overlap, so that takes care of that, right? Ethan's going to have to take some really long naps...

Oh, and The Whole World Over? I kind of fell in love with it a little bit last night.

Friday, December 7, 2007

To Read or Not To Read...

My biggest struggle as a reader is often whether to power through a novel that is just not capturing me. I know I *should* (my least favorite word, by the way) because somewhere in there I might find a lesson to carry away with me or an image that takes my breath away. I do believe one gem of a description or one powerful character can make 500 pages of otherwise pointless stuff all worthwhile.

I can't believe I am saying it, but this is my dilemma with Julia Glass' The Whole World Over. I was so in love with her first novel, Three Junes, that I felt solid certainty that this book would move me in the same way. The characters in Three Junes and their tremendous senses of loss and melancholy haunted me for weeks upon completing the book. I even recall driving through Rock Creek Park, trying (poorly) to relate the story of these interwoven lives to Husband (who, though he snagged a first date with me by discussing Shakespeare, the sneaky man, is not a big reader himself). I closed that book with my eyes on the next masterpiece I could look forward to from her.

But here I am, 150 pages in, and I'm not in love yet. I'm not even really interested. So many characters to love, but I can't get there. I do love the Dickensian way she hops from one character to another, while knowing full well that somehow all of these paths are going to meet, in some way, before the book closes. And that meeting will be powerful and emotional and I know I'll cry and have to tell Husband all about it, too.

So I will continue to trudge through this, in the hopes that I fall in love. I rarely give up on a book, but when you look at the page number and realize you've got 350 pages left in a book that hasn't grabbed you by pp 150, it takes some serious deep breaths to keep muddling through.

Hopefully next time I check in, I will be eating my words.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Someone's Got Too Much Time on Her Hands...

Yeah, I've got another blog. I probably won't write in this one with the same frequency as my "mommy" blog or the one where I exercise my self-deprecating (or is it self-loathing) tendency in my journey towards (or around) weight loss. But I wanted to start it nonetheless. Why? Because I haven't been in front of a class room in 2 years now and I rarely get to talk about one of the greatest loves of my love--reading.

One of my plans for the new year (I hate the idea of resolutions, so if I just play around with it semantically, that makes it way less cliche, right? sure), is to read more. Not that I've been staring blankly at walls for the past 2 years or anything like that, but I've really not been reading the type of literature that makes my brain light up, or that gives me the urge to sit down with a friend and a cup of coffee and just talk, talk, talk about the book until we've lost all sense of time and space.

So here I am, all Jodi Picoult'd and Phillipa Gregory'd out. Don't get me wrong, I have enjoyed almost every page of the eleventy billion of their books I've read, but the truth of the matter is, they don't really write stuff that resounds with me (except perhaps Picoult's My Sister's Keeper) and quite often I can't recall how one of their stories ended more than a week after I've finished it (and that's pretty sad considering Gregory's novels are based on a history I minored in during college).

My hope is to power through the New York Times' Notable Books of 2007 ( and share some of my thoughts on each book I complete here in this blog. This is going to mean that I will be walking my contrite ass over to the library and paying some insane overdue fee for books that I forgot about during our kitchen remodel. They lived, in all their overdue glory, under a plastic tarp in my dining room for a good 6 weeks before I discovered them and realized I was probably going to have to get part-time job just to pay the library fee. But many of these books are in hardcover which makes them unbuyable for me because Husband would kill me if I came home with a dozen gigantic books. As it is I am about to donate a gazillion (I promise hyperbole in each and every blog I write, people) books to the library just so that we have room to, I don't know, WALK through our house. The size of our house and my love of the written word do not go well together, let's say.

So there it is. It seems to be fast becoming a tradition that a new year brings a new blog for me. That does not bode well for me in a few year's time. I will need more hours in the day, or for them to have perfected human cloning. As both are quite doubtful, I think I will just have to vow that this is the last blog coming out of me.

for now...