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Showing posts from February, 2009

1970s Anger Clouds Nineteenth Century Life

8. Louisa May: A Modern Biography of Louisa May Alcott by Martha Saxton Not only is this biography outdated, but it exemplifies a wonderful reason why some books deserve to be outdated. I picked it up in a used bookstore, and bought it because I adore Louisa May Alcott and the last biography I read on her was definitely a children's book. Still, from what I remember of that book, one or the other has got to have some facts wrong. The problem I have with Martha Saxton is not that her facts are wrong in general, but that she speculates far too widely and twists every word to make her point. Her thesis, essentially, is that Louisa was never happy with herself and was stunted emotionally and sexually due to her upbringing, namely her mother's martyrdom and her father's philosophy, and that most of her books are examples of her stunted, morally binary pain. That makes me so angry. Saxton makes statements like (I'm paraphrasing) " Moods is undoubtedly her best work,&q

I Think I May Become a Regular...

at the Harvard Bookstore's events. I heard Azadeh Moaveni speak there on Thursday night. Despite her bronchitis, she was extremely well-spoken and very, well, different than I had imagined her while reading Lipstick Jihad . She came across as a lot more politically observant, calm, and thoughtful in person. She talked about the issues of her new book; the rise and fall of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's popularity, the changing priorities as her generation in Iran grows up, and her own experience with Persian weddings. I did purchase Honeymoon in Tehran and get it signed, and will be reading it probably within the next few weeks or so. I'm still chugging on through a bitter feminist biography on Louisa May Alcott (though I may take a break for Michael Chabon's Wonder Boys).

Ch-ch-check it out

I was just in Rodney's Bookstore . Their postcards are kind of hilarious, I bought two. Also, they have a ridiculous poetry collection, like I'm going straight there next time I have to read a bunch of emo Victorian poets. Note to self: Stop saying ridiculous so much.

Get Your Lobo Ready

7. World War Z by Max Brooks Read this book NOW. World War Z is an account from multiple survivors all over the world of the Great Zombie War. Find out how the outbreak began, how governments reacted, the catastrophes that resulted, how rebels and soldiers and ordinary people survived. In all seriousness, this book feels absolutely accurate. Beyond the questionable existence of the undead, the accounts from all facets of every society; Israel's self-quarantine, the several versions of South Africa's "Redeker" plan (protect a desirable percentage of the people, hole up and cut your losses), the nuclear outbreak between Iran and Pakistan, the abandonment of Japan and China (the outbreak begins in China), various navy defections, of course the behavior of idealistic, individualistic Americans, and all variety of psychological epidemics; seem plausible. Which returns me to why this book needs to be read now. Max Brooks demonstrates at least a shallow if not thorough u
6. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield Margaret Lea is an irresistible narrator. The back story of her character provided the basis for this entire literary suspense novel. While I tend to look down on sensationalism and mystery, this book was so well written as almost to obliterate my prejudices. The book is infused with smooth literary references and the absolute truth of certain lines is memorable and valuable. Perhaps I was seduced more than other readers would be by the bookshop Lea grows up in, and by the two main characters, Lea and Miss Winter. Like Margaret, I am quiet and bookish. Like Miss Winter, I write dark stories and have green eyes. I was quite impressed by Setterfield's description of settings. It has been a long time since I have been able to so vividly picture a place in a book. Yet, again and again, from the bookshop to Miss Winter's home to the dilapidated estate Angelfield, I felt as if I were there too. This kind of skill is particularly importan

Always More Where That Comes From

5. Things I've Been Silent About by Azar Nafisi Everyone has something they'd rather not talk about; their true feelings for parents or relatives, youthful mistakes, diseases, money, religion, death, sex. Azar Nafisi has tried to set loose her memories and feelings about her mother, and to a lesser extent, her father and other relatives and old family friends. She is upfront about her uneasiness, even an unwillingness to do what she feels she must, go against her mother's wishes and "air her dirty laundry." While the book is certainly exposing, of her father's affairs, of her less than charitable feelings, her favoring of her father over her mother, it always feels like there is something left hidden. I'm not even saying there shouldn't be, just that there is. Maybe it is because Nafisi herself has so little information about her mother and her mother's mother. Just like in Reading Lolita , when the Islamic Republic of Iran tries to deny her ficti