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Love Among the Ruins (Walker Percy)
28 August 2013 @ 08:15 pm
So this is where I talk about what I have been reading? Yes? Okay. Well, for a while I got trapped in a weird eighties politics book tunnel, with Landslide (bonus link: a contemporary review from Commentary!) and What It Takes and...I feel like I am forgetting something, but holy cow What It Takes is its own book tunnel! Oh my GOD it is so long but also jaunty and delightful and bonkers. It made me think uncharitable thoughts about Howard Fineman and Barbara Bush. Howard Fineman, why are you so sleazy? Barbara Bush, why so terrifying? Anyway, there were also a million 1980s politics articles I threw onto my Readability list, only some of which were by Joan Didion, who I am sorry but I don't really get, what is the deal, but that is articles, not books, sheesh. Plus there are two Hunter S. Thompson books sitting on my dresser, and I wish it hadn't taken me so long to realize how great he is when he writes about politics, but I am out of that tunnel and those books need to wait.

Here is a representative anecdote from each of those tomes!
Landslide: When Reagan was reelected, one of his aides drew up a bunch of major policy proposals, handed them to Ronnie in a binder, and said, "Okay, look over these, we can do probably one or two, MAYBE three, but probably more like two-ish, you pick what to do in your second term." Reagan handed it back to him with "Let's do 'em all!" and a smiley face on the first page. Guys! He was the PRESIDENT of a WHOLE COUNTRY for EIGHT YEARS.

What It Takes: All the dudes in George H.W. Bush's squadron (squadron? the dudes who fly around in airplanes dropping bombs, a group of them) had nicknames. You know, nicknames, like people have. Red! Shooter! So on! George H.W. Bush's nickname was "George Herbert Walker Bush". The whole thing! That was his nickname! I find this weirdly charming.

And then I also read two books by Gabrielle Zevin (one young adult, one not), and The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane because sometimes it's good to get started on your October reading early, and The Liars' Club, about which I have no feelings really, it was fine. I started a Walker Percy a few days ago. Also I keep telling my dad he should read Infinite Jest because he's recovering from surgery and what ELSE is he doing, I mean come on there is no reason to not read Infinite Jest if some lady comes in your house and does your dishes and cleans and everything because you aren't allowed to move very much. What better time?

Something about Marisha Pessl will go here soon. As soon as the new Pynchon comes out and I have them both in my hands. Yesssss.

ps: Hahah I just realized the top book in the stack on my icons is Ishmael. I am sorry, everyone who know me when I was seventeen, for that time I would NOT shut UP about Daniel Quinn. Ishmael!!
 
 
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Love Among the Ruins (Walker Percy)
27 April 2011 @ 12:44 pm
Dear Amazon.com,

I am never, ever, ever going to buy a Kindle.

I like books. I like libraries. I like that libraries allow me to read a book without having to pay for the right to provisionally own it, until you decide that it is offensive or otherwise TOS-violating and take it away. I like that if I do buy a book, I can lend it to someone, or five someones, or seventy-five (note: I do not know seventy-five people), because I own that book, forever. I like that if I drop it in the sink or leave it in a park, I am out $30, tops. I like the physical room they take up. I like the lack of a battery or need for an upgrade. And, actually, I enjoy purchasing books from you, Amazon.com. You sell so many books! So many books that it was hard to find in a small town before you came along.

So I'm really not sure why your latest ad implies that people who like books are foolish, backward-looking dicks. Yes, I do like books. I know people like Kindles. It is not a competition. I can like my book. You can like your Kindle. You can sell your Kindle. A lot of them, apparently. And you can continue to sell books--actual, physical, paper books--without making the people who buy them from you feel preached at and grumpy.

Regards,
Karen.

ps: it's cute that you're finally actually letting people borrow library books on the Kindle, but there are an awful lot of missing details here. I am sure you will let people borrow library books on the Kindle in the most library-unfriendly way possible. Never change.
 
 
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Love Among the Ruins (Walker Percy)
29 August 2009 @ 10:18 pm
Students Get New Assignment: Pick Book You Like.

WHAT? NO.

I hear this all the time at the library. Every time a kid checks out a Walter the Farting Dog book, or a Captain Underpants book (note: I do love Captain Underpants), or Gossip Girl or whatever. Junk food. The kid's mom rolls her eyes and says, "As long as s/he's reading! I don't care what it is as long as s/he's reading." Really? Because it's just a form of consuming media. It's like saying "As long as s/he's watching television, I don't care what it is." "As long as s/he's playing video games, I don't care what it is." There really honestly is nothing inherently noble about reading. It's putting words in front of your eyes, and then passing your eyes over these words, and putting those words into your brain. That's it! That's all. It's not a wondrous thing, it's not the hardest thing ever, it's just eyes and words and brains. And when you're telling your own kids that it doesn't matter what they read as long as they read, you're telling them, "Hey guys, don't challenge yourselves if you don't feel like it. Doing the bare, stupid minimum is fine with me. It's your free time, after all! No sense using it to make yourself better."

And a teacher telling them that! During the time that is supposed to be for LEARNING! Okay, to be fair, the teacher said no Gossip Girl, no video game books, no "junk" as she defines it. Except that you end up with kids reading those execrable YA James Patterson books (there is no market immune from James Patterson; I expect James Patterson easy readers at any moment now oh wait THEY ALL ARE) and probably a lot of like Sarah Dessen and those mass-market paperbacks with cartoons of smiley girls and hunky dudes on the cover. You also get one girl who reads Toni Morrison but also thinks that you spell the word "never" with the number 3. So anyway, the teacher! Who is supposed to be educating them! Is telling them, "You are all special unique snowflakes who don't need to be pushed in any way! Your own special unique worldview is all you need to think about. Some teachers try to tell you about this stuffy old thing called the 'literary canon' and this silly concept of 'a class discussion of a challenging book you are enjoying but might not otherwise have read', what a bunch of squares! Ha ha ha this is what your parents' tax dollars are paying for! Me not doing my job! This is great!" I just--this drives me absolutely insane. What is the point here? Wow, you got a kid to read Captain Underpants! GOOOOOD FOR YOUUUUU. That's not what school is for! It's for LEARNING. You would never get away with this shit in math (oh they just learn the algebra they want to learn!) or science (the chemistry they want to learn!), so why is this okay for books?

Plus this article keeps using To Kill a Mockingbird as an example of a book people are forced to read and hate, which, no. People love that book. Try using Frankenstein next time. That book blows.
 
 
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Love Among the Ruins (Walker Percy)
16 July 2009 @ 12:13 am
So some blog I've never heard of, but which looks both classy and annoyingly contrarian, posted a list of books you totally don't have to read, even though people will tell you you do. I do not have a problem with this concept. I have long ago come to terms with the knowledge that I, personally, am never going to read Finnegans Wake. I'm never going to read In Search of Lost Time. It is entirely possible that The List will go unfinished forever because I might never read An American Tragedy. So I get it. I get acknowledging that books are long and plentiful, and life is short and singular.

BUT THIS IS A TERRIBLE LIST. A Tale of Two Cities is a "failure" and I should just read Bleak House and "the first half of David Copperfield" instead? Are you saving me time out of my life here, or are you trying to kill my soul? And White Noise? The Corrections? On the Road? These books are enjoyable. They are not going to tax you too much. They are not going to waste your time. I really do not see the harm in taking a week to read any of them, and the criticism of the first two is so fucking ridiculous I can't even start, except to say that maybe the writers here have never seen what a college student eats. It is not pretty. Oh my god PLUS On the Road gets the irritating "oh well maybe if I were FIFTEEN and trying to be COOL OR SOMETHING" treatment, which: yes. Everyone who likes Kerouac is fifteen. Gosh sirs and madams, you are so right. Spot on. You really nailed those lousy beatniks.

Also, I've never had anyone try to push D.H. Lawrence on me, and I'm not sure I've ever even heard of the book they tell me to avoid, so at least we have that one in common. Thanks, The Second Pass! I will make sure to keep avoiding a minor work by a major writer. I will also agree with them on the John Dos Passos, just because that is one of the things I'm pretty sure I'm never going to read. I don't know, I hear it's okay, but man there are so many things I want to read, you know? Which yes I know is the point, but THIS LIST IS SO AWFUL IT HAS ADDLED MY BRAIN. But if there is a classic novel that sucks, you should tell me so that I may take that under advisement.

The new Dave Eggers book addled my brain a little, too, but in a great way. It is so good, you guys. It is very real and immediate and actually really upsetting, but I don't want to tell you why because I want you to be as horrified as I was (because this fucking country, my god). You are welcome. Also, it is a McSweeney's book, so you should really buy it, just so you can have this beautiful book on your shelf. It's on sale, and goodness their books are gorgeous. It has shiny bits! SHINY BITS. Very important.
 
 
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Love Among the Ruins (Walker Percy)
09 June 2009 @ 12:20 am
So some people in some town in Wisconsin decided that Francesca Lia Block's Baby Be-Bop is unacceptable reading material for young adults, because it deals with a gay guy. A really adorable, sweet gay guy. UNACCEPTABLE! UNCHRISTIAN! WE DEMAND TO BURN THIS BOOK. No, seriously: they literally demanded to take the library's copy of Baby Be-Bop and burn it. Why this one book out of the whole Dangerous Angels series, when Dirk is in all of them, I don't know, but here we are. (Which one is the one where Dirk and Duck and Weetzie all sleep together and also of course there's Secret Agent Lover Man, and all three of them are Cherokee's dad? Is it just Weetzie Bat? Because I feel like that is more objectionable, to people who would object to that. I'm just saying.)

Anyway, this is just the weirdest lawsuit ever. Let us burn the book! Give us $120,000 for emotional distress caused when we looked at the book in a display! We will tell people the library is not a safe place! The library director has “publicly stated that it is not up to the library to tell the community what is appropriate," so obviously THAT IS OUR JOB, A COUPLE OF RANDOM OLD PEOPLE. I feel like you guys misinterpreted some things, is all I'm saying.

In conclusion: Francesca Lia Block? You are picking on Francesca Lia Block? Yeah, god forbid teenagers be taught that the world is beautiful and lovely and interesting. Fuck you, old people.
 
 
Current Mood: annoyed
Current Music: Richard Hell And The Voidoids: I'm Your Man.
 
 
 
Love Among the Ruins (Walker Percy)
14 May 2009 @ 12:49 pm
Can't be any worse than the original!

In other contrarian news, I finally got around to part one of Octavian Nothing and was kind of underwhelmed.

HELLO, I'M KAREN, AND I DISAGREE WITH YOU.
 
 
Love Among the Ruins (Walker Percy)
03 May 2009 @ 06:46 pm
Laura Kasischke! Where have you BEEN all my life? You write like Francesca Lia Block, sort of, if you read the whole book knowing something horrible was going to happen to Weetzie Bat. But, okay, this snippet of dialogue from Feathered, between teenage best friends, regarding an offer of a ride from a stranger, is kind of perfect:
"Let's forget it," Michelle said. "If you think it's a bad idea, let's take the bus."

"Do you think it's a bad idea?"

"I think," Michelle said, "he seemed pretty safe."

"They always seem safe," I said. "That's what they all said about Ted Bundy. That he was the most normal-seeming guy in the world."

"That's true," Michelle said. "But that's what they say about most men who are normal, too."

"That's true," I said.


Love it. This is the woman who wrote Boy Heaven, which I couldn't stop thinking about for weeks. No, seriously. Seriously!

Also, the new Barbara Vine is pretty good, the new Keith Donohue is good but not nearly as good as The Stolen Child, The Man Who Loved Children, from the List, is basically just HEY LOOK AT THESE PEOPLE THEY ARE AWFUL, and maybe this summer I will get started on the summer reading list Kyle gave me last year. Whoops.
 
 
Current Music: The Magnetic Fields: I Don't Believe You.
 
 
Love Among the Ruins (Walker Percy)
09 April 2009 @ 10:44 am
Okay, so, I don't get it.

Is she saying that women love housework and this is a pleasure denied to men? Is she saying Delillo and Roth are unhappy and could use some simple pleasure? (Because: duh, this is not a point no one has ever made before, Joyce.) Is she really making vacuuming into a gendered thing? Everyone vacuums. It's vacuuming. It's something people do. I am pretty sure that if she hadn't inserted the word "male" in there, I would not be bothered at all, but she did, so here we are. PLUS I am pretty sure that with the word "female" in place of the word "male", it makes me spitting mad, so...ugh. ("Maybe if Doris Lessing vacuumed, she'd be happier." See? What?) Maybe I should wait and read the whole interview, because this is just making me angry and puzzled.

Oh uh also I read The Sun Also Rises and thought it was all right, even though Kyle kept telling me I wouldn't like it. It's just people hanging out and drinking, so. Now I am reading a book about conspiracy theories and trying to decide if I really want to read Crash after I went through all the trouble of having Kyle request it through the U of I library, because NOBODY in the northern Illinois system has it.

EDIT: oh man I meant to post this yesterday! WHOOPS.
 
 
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Love Among the Ruins (Walker Percy)
18 March 2009 @ 09:26 pm
HELLO. So, what with there being a tiny person in my house all the time, my house is loud, and therefore I can't read. So I've been reading less, which means only finishing two books most weeks rather than three. Sometimes only finishing one book in a week! I'm such a failure, dudes. But here are some things. Oh, lord, I haven't posted since my best of 2008 list? Oh looooord. Bear with me.

At the end of 2008, I read Richard Fariña's Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me and mostly really, really liked it. Except for something that Gnossos did at the end of the book that is just completely fucking unforgivable. (Have you read this? Do you know what I am talking about? Fuck you, Gnossos, that was not okay.) I therefore ended up with mixed feelings about the whole thing, so I got a book of a bunch of short stories and essays and stuff that was published after he died. A Long Time Coming and a Long Time Gone has a pretty big advantage over Been Down So Long in that it has this on the back cover, and that is pretty much the cutest picture I've ever seen in my life. I am bummed I can't find a bigger version to show you. But anyway: it had a story about Richard and Joan Baez and Thomas Pynchon going to a county fair and picking a fight with some John Birch Society dudes (this was a fabulous story), and it had some more Kristins, and it had cute notes written by his wife. I was a fan.

I was actually not such a fan of All the Sad Young Literary Men. I know, I know. But I got awfully tired of waiting for these annoying snobs to grow up, and they never did. Also one of those dudes drove drunk an awful lot, and I cannot even get behind that in fiction.

Also not a fan of Herzog, which is on The List. Like, hey, Saul Bellow, have you ever met a woman? Do you know how they talk? Do you know how they act? Because I am not sure that you hav, or that you do, and Herzog is a dick, and I am just unimpressed by the whole thing. Oh, and while I'm committing heresy, I'm going to say that I read Facing Unpleasant Facts, the book of Orwell's narrative essays compiled by George Packer, and I wasn't impressed by that either. I think part of the problem is that I wasn't ever sure if he was kidding, because sometimes it was so ridiculous he must have been kidding. Like when he was talking about how even the best socialist sometimes had to buy a paper other than the Daily Worker, because the Daily Worker was not always big enough to start a fire, and clearly you need a fire in your house, even though they are smelly and labor-intensive, because they force you to be sociable. He...he was kidding, right?

Okay, some things I liked: What Was Lost by Catherine O'Flynn, about Kate, a girl detective who is bright and independent and awkward, and who disappears when she's forced to take the entrance exam to a boarding school she doesn't want to go to. The only suspect is her best friend, a twenty-two-year-old guy who is pretty awkward himself. Then he disappears, too, and we pick up the story twenty years later with his sister Lisa and her shitty life, and the lives of other people in the town's big shopping mall. It's really really affecting and heartbreaking in the details, and reminded me a bit of David Mitchell in that.

Also: a book of Shirley Jackson short stories, Just an Ordinary Day, because obviously Shirley Jackson frigging rules. I Was Told There'd Be Cake, which I fiiiiinally got around to and which is totally delightful. The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway, which you really need to go to the bookstore and pick up and experience, because it is FUZZY. Oh my gosh. It is also a giant epic dystopian tome which suddenly gets fucking WEIRD about two-thirds in. It's a little bit Stephenson and a little bit Pynchon and I liked it quite a bit.

THIS IS LONGER THAN I'D INTENDED AND I AM TIRED I AM SORRY
 
 
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Current Music: The Magnetic Fields: Grand Canyon.
 
 
Love Among the Ruins (Walker Percy)
15 January 2009 @ 12:16 am
I have been sitting here looking at my prospective best of 2008 choices. I have also been thinking that sometimes it is kind of frustrating being internet pals with iamfitz because whatever I try to say in here a) he totally already said it, or b) I already talked everything to death with him and then I don't want to write about it in here, because I am TIRED OF IT. But here goes anyway? If it sucks, it is his fault.

Black Swan Green! I learned a lot about the Falklands? And about what it is like to be a somewhat awkward little boy and a somewhat awkward teenage boy. Because SERIOUSLY I don't know how many times I've said this, but I'm saying it again: David Mitchell can fucking WRITE.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle, in the beautiful Penguin Deluxe edition. I demand Penguin Deluxe editions of all my favorite books, please, by the way. Shirley Jackson, you probably realize, can also fucking write, but it goes way past that into what family means, and what being yourself means, and how awesome it would be if you had a sister who baked cookies every day! All the time! Hooray for Constance Blackwood! Anyway, Merricat is awesome, and unreliable narrators are great.

God Is Dead is one of those things I read and then would! not! shut up about! It is about how God dies and is eaten by some wild dogs, and it is about what humans need to survive. If we need God to look up to, or if we can get along by ourselves, with just ourselves to look up to. It's so so sad, except for when it's hilarious, and it's hilarious except for when it's terrifying. This might have been my number one favorite.

I think The Cheese Monkeys and The Learners have to be taken together, and they have to be taken DELIGHTFULLY and EDUCATIONALLY and HIMILLSILLY (that is a terrible joke, but I am sticking with it!). I want so badly for Chip Kidd to be my best friend or my uncle or something. Also, I have been reading a lot of the books he did covers for and gushed about, and I think I am getting a good handle on the kind of books he likes. Chip Kidd likes books in which articulate, interesting people do horrible, horrible things. This is awesome, and I will continue using Chip Kidd's taste as a guide to inform my own.

I read eleven books off The List this year, which is a pitifully tiny number. Not even one a month! The only one I looooved was The Berlin Stories, because it involved clever people with interesting lives sitting around having delightful conversations. And then the Nazis came and ruined everything for everyone. Also, Sally Bowles comes across so much sadder and younger in the book than she does in the movie (or, I assume, the play). This is probably because we never get to see her sing "Mein Herr".

I don't know if I liked Anathem enough to put it on my year-end list. I am leaning toward yes, because I have been writing this for literally twelve hours, on and off (mostly off) and I am willing to go with whatever comes into my tired head at this point. Also because I think that "plane" is a really good word. If you make an argument that you think is really well thought-out and brilliant and then someone quickly demolishes it, that person has planed you. This is fabulous. Also: subjecting something to the steelyard. Also: IT KIND OF HAS AN ENDING, but the dude STILL NEEDS A BETTER EDITOR. Also, I guess it is a lot like A Canticle for Leibowitz , which I've owned for like two years and should really read.

Seven Types of Ambiguity (the novel, not the literary criticism) was my favorite tome of the year, though. It was extremely thrilling and complicated and lonnnngggg but I think I read the 800 or so pages in three days. Thrilling!!

Oh my gosh I almost forgot The Intuitionist!! IT SO GREAT, YOU GUYS. Conspiracies! Racism! Sexism! Completely unrealistic things that are treated totally realistically! I might just be a sucker for an elevator repair novel*, but I am pretty sure this is awesome.

Oblivion, because duh.

This is too long. I also loved Personal Days and Superpowers and One Foot in Eden and War by Candlelight (!!!! hey Daniel Alarcón: please write more) and Vineland and Sewer, Gas & Electric and Peace Like a River (because my heart is in Minnesota) and The Enormous Room and The Shadow Year and M. Rickert's book and John Kessel's stories and The Amnesiac mostly, and srsly my eyes are going to fall out of my head now.

*This is a joke. I am not. As far as I know.
 
 
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