Sunday, December 16, 2007
A Little Sunday Reading v. 7

Need help deciding what to read? Want to see the best of the best in 2007? Some links to help your reading journey--

Time picks the best fiction and non-fiction. So does Salon. The NYT gives the 10 best. A book blog I like is doing a countdown.

Also, I've updated my blog roll and you can always become my goodreads friend for more ideas!

Go forth and read good buddies.

I read an amazing book this week. The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears. One of the NYT 100 notable books of 2007 and I understand why.

This book was so beautiful. The story, a tale of an Ethiopian immigrant living in DC, was sad and heavy but I loved it.

The development of the relationships in the book was incredible. I have pages and pages marked with moving quotations.

While slightly liberating at the end, the book is not an uplifting one. But if you want to be blown away by someone's writing talent, this is the book for you.

Labels: ,

Friday, December 14, 2007
Friday Flicks v. 3
If you haven't already, you really need to watch Lost in Translation. It is all kinds of wonderful and one of my all time favorite films.

But if you haven't watched it, I'm going to ask you to stop reading this post because there are some major spoilers ahead.

Seriously, stop reading. Go, go. Rent the movie.




As those of you who have watched the film know, the ending is a bit...vague. Bill Murray whispers some sort of goodbye to Scarlett Johansson and they go their separate ways. The words of the actual goodbye are too quiet to hear. I've long obsessed over what he actually said (although I really liked the ending) so when my friend e-mailed me a digitally amped up clip of the ending WITH! THE! WORDS! I excitedly watched. The date of the video is a year old so maybe some of you have already seen it. But take a look if you want. And if you don't want, LEAVE THIS BLOG because I repeat the line below...

So the goodbye..."I have to be leaving now. But I won't let let that come between us. OK?"

LOVE IT. Even my wildest imagination didn't create something that sweet. He has to leave. Circumstances and life demand it. But he'll always have these fond memories of her and their time in Japan.

BUT not everyone digs it and I can respect that.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Students doing good work!
The environmental communication class here at UGA did an interesting project for their class final. In order to raise awareness about how wasteful (and unnecessary) bottled water is, they built an igloo out of non-recycled water bottles and used the igloo to attract a crowd of people to educate.

I love it.

They've put together a documentary about their campaign. Watch it! It is great!

Listen hard and you can hear the Modern Skirts!

Great video and great project! I'm proud of the SPCM students!

Labels: , ,

Monday, December 10, 2007
Oh to be free of gender norms
FAO Schwarz has a line of "Make My Own Monsters." I don't normally get down with monsters. But when I saw Oliver? I was in love. His creator is 4 year old, Niko, who writes:

“Oliver loves pink and really wants to grow his hair out long when he gets big and be a princess. Oliver has no arms and legs, but that's ok. Everyone is different.”

Right on, Niko! All semester I've been struggling to get my Women's Studies students to grasp that gender and sexuality is fluid. It isn't about being straight or gay. It isn't about who you have sex with. Rather, it is how you occupy your body. How you exist in the world. You may be female bodied but identify as male. You may be male bodied, identify as a male, yet choose to dress like a woman or aspire to be a princess. The notion of fluid sexuality and gender is incomprehensible to my college aged students. But, seemingly, a 4 year old can grasp it.

Oliver represents everything our imagination has to offer. If a child can imagine a world where we're okay with difference, shouldn't adults?

I read about Oliver here. Thanks, Lisa!

Labels: ,

Sunday, December 09, 2007
A Little Sunday Reading v. 6
The story weaves a tale of a former literature teacher turned archivist in 1930's Moscow. His task is to destroy the literary work of political prisoners.

This book has been showing up on lots of Best of 2007 lists. As I read it, I was confused as to why. First, let me say it was well-written in a technical sense. Good sound plot. Interesting lead character. A build in the story. But overall I was let down. I think there were a few things that just didn't sit well with me.

First, it was written in third person. I've really been into first person narration lately. REALLY into it. And I don't know that I can say "lately." This is pretty much a mainstay with books I like. I enjoy when one of the character narrates. The narrator can vary from chapter to chapter but I like it always to be someone involved in the story.

Second, I hated the ending. Many people will disagree with me. I've read other reviews by people who LOVED the ending. I just didn't think it did enough to conclude what was a very powerful story.

Third, the writing just wasn't aesthetic enough for me. Prose doesn't always have to flowery and beautiful. But I'm critical of authors who constantly write in short, choppy sentences. Sure, it was a way to understand the character's (often unfinished) thoughts. It just started to bug me after a while. And, relatedly, the book centers around an archivist who reads beautiful literature for a living. Such beautiful literature he risks death to steal a work. I expected more of those beautiful words to be used in the story. No suck luck though.

So I can't recommend the book to any of you but I kind of hope you all will read it anyway! I'd like to know what I'm missing!

Labels: ,

Friday, December 07, 2007
Some words about keeping and reading diaries
This week's [The] New Yorker has an article about why we read diaries. The article also delves into the reasons we keep (or try to keep) diaries as well.

My own journaling has really fallen off in recent years. I attribute it to a variety of things but mainly to the fact that I have to write so much day to day that I can barely bring myself to blog let alone chronicle my life on a daily basis. So my moleskines are filled with lists of books I want to read, movies I want to see or have enjoyed, and tasks I need to complete. Oh! And reflections and notes to myself when I fail to accomplish the tasks. And as Louis Menand reminds me--"Diary-keeping, on this account, is just neurotic, since the last thing most people want to do with their unconsummated longings and petty humiliations is to inscribe them permanently in a book."

Well, I am nothing if not neurotic.

But I really appreciated the insight about why we read diaries of people who are long gone. I've often wondered this same thing and assumed it had something to do with looking to people smarter than me for insight on a life far more complicated than me. The reading experience was simultaneously depressing and hopeful. I'd become depressed that my diaries were not anything near this complex but I'd be hopeful that the reading would inspire me to become an actualized person.

I prefer Menand's reflections:
The obvious assumption is that we read diaries because we want to know what the diarist was really like as a person, but how plausible, even in the case of famous diarists, is this? It’s true that we read the diaries of Virginia Woolf because they were written by Virginia Woolf, who, in addition to being an interesting novelist, was an interesting character. But (a paradox of representation) we would actually feel that we had a more intimate sense of Virginia Woolf if we read about her in someone else’s diary. Woolf described from the outside by another person is likely to give us a more vivid picture of what Virginia Woolf was really like than Woolf described from the inside by herself. Introspection is not as reliable as observation. (That’s why we have shrinks.)

Inside, everyone sounds, more or less eloquently, like the same broken record of anxiety and resentment. It’s the outside, the way people look and the things they say, that makes them distinct. We read Woolf’s diaries so that we can see other people through Woolf’s eyes.

Labels: ,

Sunday, December 02, 2007
A Little Sunday Reading v. 5
One of the few books I read in 2007 that was actually written in 2007 is Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones. It is easily one of the best I've read all year. A 2007 Booker shortlist winner, the book is described as

On a copper-rich tropical island shattered by war, where the teachers have fled with almost everyone else, only one white man choose to stay behind: the eccentric Mr. Watts, object of much curiosity and scorn, who sweeps out the ruined school-house and begins to read to the children each day from Charles Dickens's classic Great Expectations. So begins this rare, original story about the abiding strength that imagination, once ignited, can provide. While artillery echoes in the mountains, thirteen-year-old Matilda and her peers are riveted by the adventures of a young orphan named Pip in a city called London, a city whose contours soon become more real than their own blighted landscape. As Mr. Watts says, "A person entranced by a book simply forgets to breathe." Soon come the rest of the villagers, initially threatened, finally inspired to share tales of their own that bring alive the rich mythology of their past. But in a ravaged place where even children are forced to live by their wits and daily survival is the only objective, imagination can be a dangerous thing.

The story was beautiful. It made you understand the tragedy of war and the beauty of reading. Matilda, the young heroine, escaped a troubled family and political life by throwing herself into a relationship with a special teacher and a special book. I was moved by her relationship with both. I'm not sure how Jones managed but the book was both devastating and hopeful.

I read the book at the same time as Peter. Read his review here.

Labels: ,