Friday, November 25, 2011

Endless Love by Scott Spencer

As with most books, I heard this one mentioned on NPR and thought I would give it a shot. It was written and published the same year that I was born - 1979 - making it 32 years old but for some reason, I had never heard of this book or the author before.  I was, quite frankly, almost hesitant to read it because it is about teenage love.  Those books are never good, I thought.  They are self aggrandizing and boring - who wants to relive that angst again and again and again? I could just read my journals from that time period after all right? But this book surprised me.

The book opens in Chicago.  David, a 17 year old and the protagonist, is dating Jade, a then 15 year old. Jade's family are well known in town - they live a hippie-esque and bohemian lifestyle where just about anything goes.  They allow David and Jade to have sex in their house, they smoke pot and would be the type to provide condoms to their children and their children's sexual partners if they had been more readily available during that time. At some point though, they take a stand and bar Jade from seeing David.  David is absolutely heartbroken about it - it's absolutely more than he can bear. So one night, he elects to set fire to Jade's home by putting flammable materials on the doorstep and then stepping backwards to watch the house burn.  But things don't go according to we soon find out and by that time, the book has its claws in you so deeply that you can't stop reading.

I was absolutely captivated by this book and mesmerized. I was enthralled about the deepness of David's obsession with Jade and her family.  He goes out of his way to have contact with her, often to his own detriment (which I was curious about - I wanted to know more about why HE was so seemingly self destructive). The book moves slowly, but I didn't mind it at all.  The pace allowed me to completely savor each and every thought and sensation that David, the main narrator (we are viewing everything through his eyes after all) himself has and that was absolutely wonderful.  At some point, I may opt to re-read this book so that I can truly savor it.  Definitely pick this one up.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

E-Reader v. Actual Book: Which Do YOU Prefer?

As my e-reader (a first generating Kindle) slowly begins to die, I began to think about what is fast becoming a philosophical debate: which is better, an e-reader or the real thing?

On behalf of:

Perhaps not THAT particular e-reader, but e-readers in general. I like the idea of an e-reader in general.  It cuts down on the amount of space that I have dedicated to books (which, for someone like me, can be quite a massive amount of space) - and this was the reason that Izzy got it for me in the first place.  He was getting upset about the amount of space that was being eaten up by my book habits. It also makes carrying a TON of reading material on vacation with me that much easier and being able to update it when I'm done with a book and on vacation is super convenient. I so wish that e-readers had been around when I travelled to Europe because that would have made the long flights and travel time all that much more bearable. I have yet to try to download a book from the library but I intend to try to do so in the near future.

However, there is a lot to be said for: 

There is something to be said about how holding a book in your hands feels - you can turn the pages as you read, you can see how far you've come and how far you have to go (which for certain books, is much of the battle in getting through) and there is a certain satisfaction to be had in finishing a book, closing it and putting it on the bookshelf. However, you are limited in how many books you can take with you to a certain place - they are notoriously heavy and therefore hard to carry around and expensive to ship. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson

Like with most of the books that I read, I heard about this on NPR. This novel was Wilson's first and was wonderful.

Camille and Caleb are the heads of the Fang family and are known the world over as conceptual artists, with their roots in Slavic Eastern Europe. They have won many, many awards and receive many grants that would enable them to perform their art and not have to worry about earning the money to support their children: Annie and Buster (known to most of their fans as Child A and Child B). In order to memorialize their art, which often makes use of their children, they use video recordings. An example of their art is this: one day, the Fang family go to the mall.  Annie,Buster and Camille go into a candy store separately and un-attached, so there is nothing to attach them to each other. Camille begins to put candy under her dress and Buster tells one of the clerks about it.  The ensuing chaos is recorded for posterity by Caleb. As the children get older and enter into adolescence and young adult-hood, they begin to resist being used by their parents in performances and eventually outright refuse.

In the present time of the novel, Annie and Buster are living independently from each other and from their parents: Buster as a novel writer (who has published two novels) and Annie as an actress (who was nominated for an Oscar but who has begun to appear somewhat regularly in the tabloids). The Fang parents have also not presented any new art since Buster and Annie became independent.

This is both an entertaining and disturbing look at a dysfunctional family, a la "United States of Tara" and is very witty.  It is entertaining and not predictable - scenes that comprise the Fang "art" are loony and off the wall and completely unrealistic but are nonetheless funny and smart and fresh.

The Power by Naomi Alderman

If you liked The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, you will want to read this dystopian novel, which has won a number of awards in th...