Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Thoughts on Curtis Sittenfeld's Eligible

27. Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice by Curtis Sittenfeld

Initial Thoughts

1. Holy short chapters

2. Cincinnati--how appropriate

3. Sittenfeld's read P&P at least as many times as I have (>I can count) because Austen is in the language even with no obvious parallels.


4. I love Lizzy/Darcy hate sex.

5. Finally, the answer to the real mystery of P&P--what IS the deal with Mary?


6. The most difficult part of updating Pride & Prejudice is the tectonic shift in Western social values. Although many social taboos from Austen's day no longer persist, Sittenfeld triumphantly substitutes the few modern taboos left in a way that requires no suspension of disbelief.

7. I've read all of Sittenfeld's published work, and for the most part, her writing and storytelling continue to mature. Her first book, Prep, still deeply affects me. So, one of my favorite authors updating the work of one of my other favorite authors should have thrilled me. Instead, while I think Sittenfeld did a better update than almost any author living could have done--I want more original work from her.

8. Austen set the bar high, and Eligible doesn't transcend her work. However, it's more than the romantic comedy that often gets compared to Austen--Sittenfeld succeeds not only in time-traveling the P&P cast (splitting a few personalities)  into the 21st century, but in turning truly Austenesque snark on today's culture.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Books Finished in May

23. Paper Towns by John Green

My first John Green book. I wasn't blown out of my mind, but this book does what it's meant to do. Although it's accused of being an archetypal "manic pixie dream girl" story, I think it actually is meant to (and does) split that myth apart. Margo Roth Spiegelman and her crazy adventures is a persona, a paper girl. Instead of feeding into it, Green shows, in a lighthearted way, how dangerous it can be for a young man to put a young woman on a pedestal.

24. The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler (audiobook)

As promised, the story centers around a corgi. This is a deep character study, and also a quirky story, that will hit the spot for those into that sort of thing and predisposed to sympathize with quiet, socially anxious characters (as I certainly am).

25. Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok

This had been on my list for a while, and I'm really glad I picked it up. Although many of my friends (and my family) come from immigrant backgrounds, I was not prepared for the sheer destitution of the situation the main character finds herself in. It takes true grit and depth of courage for Kimberly to overcome her poverty, exacerbated by linguistic and cultural barriers, and use her mathematical talent to change her social class. While this is an 'American Dream' type immigrant success story, this shouldn't be the message that anyone in this situation could overcome these odds. Kimberly is clearly a rare exception, and other kids without her extreme talent and determination fall through the cracks.

26. Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson

Ever since I heard the title of this book, it's been reverberating in my head. It's the last thing Jeanette's mother says to her when she leaves home at sixteen, after explaining that she loves women the way she's supposed to love men. It's the perfect title for this memoir about Winterson's childhood with her larger-than-life adoptive and abusive Pentecostal mother. It's the perfect encapsulation of the way certain people think, when a mind is so trapped by its devotion to to its own version of social convention that it has substituted it for G-d, happiness, and the people right in front of it. The memoir is clearly Winterson's attempt to grapple with that powerful mentality and also look back on the life she has built because of or in spite of it.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Bookish (And Not So Bookish) Thoughts

1. I added three bags of trash to my KonMari purge this weekend. Clothes, books, and papers were more straightforward, but I've really hit a snag in komono--I have so much random junk, it's hard to separate into clear categories. So far, I've gotten through linens, CDs/DVDs, and old school binders (which probably fits in papers or sentimental items, but whatever). I had saved an entire binder of college admissions information, applications, records, and acceptance/rejection letters. Reminds me how organized I can get.

2. Jean Kwok, who wrote Girl in Translation, started following me on Twitter, and now I'm too nervous to write a review of her book. I mean, I liked it, but I feel like I can't criticize it because what if she reads it? The flip side of bloggers (and everyone) having closer access to authors...(Ms. Kwok, if you're reading this, I really did like your book. I promise. I would even read the next one.)

3. I also got to cross Girl in Translation off my ever-expanding TBR list. I have almost 500 on the list, which includes some books I've crossed off, but still.

4. I finished Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? which I didn't like as much as I wanted to, but the title is still awesome and it's a fascinating insight both into growing up in a British industrial town in the late twentieth century and growing up with a cartoonishly difficult parent. Maybe I should have read Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit first.