Sunday, April 29, 2012

"It was a bright cold day in April..."

"A guy needs somebody--to be near him." He whined, "A guy goes nuts if he ain't got nobody. Don't make no difference who the guy is, long's he's with you. I tell ya," he cried, "I tell ya a guy gets too lonely an' he gets sick."
-Of Mice and Men
John Steinbeck

In my last post, I mentioned how quickly February went and how I simply couldn't fathom how it was already March. Well, it's going to be May this week and not only does time continue to fly by, but it all went so quickly that there was no time to update the blog (even though my 25 list demands it). But I'm here now, so let's do this.

Since my last post, life in general here has been busy and fun--the DC weather is cooperating nicely and I've been able to do outside things thanks to that. Gotta love baseball season! Besides the big bummer of a good friend and co-worker leaving me, the past two months have been pretty fun and eventful, and it's only going to get crazier (and hopefully more fun!) as summer comes on.

In my book life, I've done some good reading and some not-so-good reading. Spring and fall always make me miss being an English major and having the time to tear through books and poetry, but spring always makes me particularly long for a little Kerouac and Ginsberg, so I took the plunge and read a biography of Allen Ginsberg that has been taunting me from my book shelf since the Ginsberg exhibit at the National Gallery two years ago. Unfortunately, it was a long, dense book that basically gave Ginsberg's every movement throughout his life. It was far too detailed and even though the original plan was to read that then jump into my annual reading of On the Road, I had to pass because I felt so overwhelmed afterwards.

Although that was disappointing and took a long time to get through, I started on another of my 25 goals by reading two books from my "To Read Before I Die" list which is, of course, super long and constantly growing. The list originated out of a book called The Top Ten where authors choose the books that they believe to be the top ten fiction books of all time. As I was reading it, I noted how many I had read but mostly felt under-read, so kept a list of the books that I thought were important to read at some point. In its current state, the list is about 45 books total, and I've gotten through about 1/3 of them since I made the list in late 2008. In an effort to get through the list, I've made it a goal to read 5 of those books this year. The two I got through this month were Of Mice and Men and 1984, both of which I loved and mildly obsessed over. Add in some other random fun books, and the list from the past two months is great! So without further ado:

-The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick - Yes, I realize that this is a children's book and although it's quite thick, most of the pages are wonderful charcoal drawings that help tell the story, but after seeing the movie Hugo this past winter, I felt the need to see how the book was. It was lovely and a really amazing example of how art and literature can go hand in hand to enliven a story and to hopefully get kids invested in books. I know that it's won several children's book awards, but I'd love to hear how a kid liked it from the kid's mouth!

-Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck - You know how there are holes in your personal literary canon because there was no time in school to read every book ever? The fact that I hadn't read this one has been pestering me for some time now, so I knew it was time. In case you haven't read it, the story follows Lennie (a large man with slower mental abilities) and George (a quick-witted man who looks after Lennie) as they find work on farms and continue to dream the dream of owning their own place at some point. The story is about friendship, hope, isolation, desperation, and humanity. Very quick read (I think it's considered a novella) but engrossing. Warning--don't read the end of this on the train in the morning or your tears will attract the attention of everyone.

-The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides - I was kind of disappointed with Middlesex in the end and wasn't completely taken with The Virgin Suicides, so I was a little worried about reading the newest from Eugenides. It got rave reviews, however, and I found it on the new book shelf, so I snatched it and gave it a go. I loved it, and if you were either an English major or went to a liberal arts school, you're at least bound to chuckle at many parts! The story is about a pseudo-love-triangle among three college kids. Actually, I think what most struck me about this book was it's bold-faced, real, desperate representation of depression and what it does to a person and to the people around them. If you liked The Art of Fielding, you'll like this one!

-Blue Nights by Joan Didion - After reading The Year of Magical Thinking and having a breakdown at BWI airport while reading it, I didn't know if I could handle the newest Didion. And it was rough. But Didion knows how to write a good book and her words and descriptions and agony are so poignant and real and beautifully tragic that I couldn't help myself. Blue Nights picks up where The Year of Magical Thinking left off, but Didion's daughter has died and she is dealing with the loss of both her husband and her child. Very quick read but also very thought-provoking and sad.

-Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling - If you liked Bossypants (which.. who didn't?) you'll like this one. Kaling is hilarious (she writes for and plays Kelly Kapur in The Office) and has great stories of her childhood, her life in television and comedy, and has some great pictures strewn throughout. Kaling is someone you want to be friends with and go for manicures with. I will say that one of her favorite moments in television is the same as mine (30 Rock Dealbreakers episode. Liz Lemon crying from her mouth... I'm dying just thinking about it), so basically we're already friends. This is perfect for the beach!

- I Celebrate Myself: The Somewhat Private Life of Allen Ginsberg by Bill Morgan - Like I said before, this was actually disappointing. I was hoping for some more talk about the poetry and the history of the Beat Generation, but what I got was basically a day-by-day account of Ginsberg's life. While it was interesting at some points, it got a little long and boring and I felt like it was like hearing every meal that Ginsberg ate rather than his real personal life. Morgan knew Ginsberg and compiled his diaries and such which is why it's so intimate, and I appreciated that, but I felt like I still didn't really know Ginsberg by the end. I wouldn't recommend this one...

- The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright - I randomly picked this one off the shelf at the library and ended up not totally regretting it. The story is about a woman who cheats on her husband, then leaves him for the guy she's cheating on him with. It's a very personal look at a love affair, but one that didn't really make me feel bad for any of the involved people. But I guess that was kind of the point. There's a kid involved and by the end you sort of feel for the main character, but like I said, I didn't feel very invested. Another one I would skip in favor of something else.

- 1984 by George Orwell - How have I never read this book?!?! I mean, it's so ingrained into our society (I mean.. Big Brother!) that I feel like I've probably missed some awesome references to it in pop culture! Again, this is one you've probably read (this or Animal Farm), but in case you're like me, this is a book that was written in the late 1940s and takes place in the futuristic year 1984 where society has become a complete oligarchical dictatorship. We follow Winston Smith whose job it is to change the newspaper reports so that they conform to Big Brother's favor and who begins to feel resentment toward the society that is constantly keeping tabs on its people. It's actually a really frightening book that made me think about our own society and the idea of free thought. I recommend it for anyone, particularly if you liked White Noise or Animal Farm.

Well, that's all I got. I'm hoping to post more regularly!

I'm currently reading Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer and I'm loving it to the point of obsession!! I think I might have to write a whole post just about that one book! :)

I hope that spring is bringing you lots of good books to read and hopefully some nice weather wherever you are!

As always, I'm willing to make personal book lists and recommendations! :)

Happy reading,