Friday, April 18, 2014

Sister Carrie

"Sister Carrie" was the April selection for Newberry.  On my way out, the leader of last month's discussion said she thought my comment about not reading more Marquez was funny.  And then Pete came home and asked "guess who died?".  RIP Marquez.  What strange timing.

And now back to Carrie.  I read the book and also listened to it on audio book when I was out walking or knitting.  It was an interesting way to read the work.  I found more humor in the book than I think others in the group did.  I thought Hurstwood's slide into wearing casual clothes and shaving less frequently when he was unemployed was so modern.  Sweatpants anyone?  I also found humor in Carrie's mentally spending her money in excess of what she actually had available.  Who hasn't done that before?  Wow, it doesn't go as far as I thought.

I have started noticing an interesting book group phenomenon.  It happens sometimes in our Novella group and happened yesterday at Newberry.  Why do some people feel they have to like, or respect, or build up, the main character of a book even if that character does not deserve the praise?  There is no contract with an author that says I have to add certain positive traits to a character if they do not exist.  One woman yesterday said Carrie was so observant and insightful.  I would agree to observant.  She certainly noticed clothes and finery and what others had that she did not.  But insightful?  No way.  In the book there were very long stretches where she had no action and took no responsibility for her life.  She is more than happy to live off other's money but when someone else needs help she leaves and says she needs her money for her clothes.  Selfish?  Yes.  Insightful?  No.

The edition of the book that I had (pictured above) included an afterward where the writer said that Sister Carrie might be compared to the modern day Carrie Bradshaw of "Sex in the City".  What???  I'm not a huge "Sex in the City" fan but Carrie Bradshaw had a job, made her own money, had friends and took responsibility for her actions - good or bad.  Sister Carrie drifts along and, only by chance and some talent is successful - certainly not by any hard work or extreme effort.

Some of us were talking after the group and said that you might enjoy this book more if you are from Chicago.  It is also a history of the city during a specific time.  If you want to read a book about Chicago I would suggest "The Jungle" or "The Man with the Golden Arm" before "Sister Carrie".  One part of the book I really did like, however, were the chapter titles.  They were fabulous.  Dreiser was a journalist and the title headings read like very interesting headlines.  In Chapter 14 (spoiler alert!!!) Carrie, Hurstwood and Drouet encounter a panhandler at the end of the section.  Carrie doesn't even notice the person, Hurstwood only vaguely registers it and Drouet is the only one moved by it and gives the man some money.  The title of the chapter is "With Eyes and Not Seeing: One Influence Wanes".

Friday, March 21, 2014

Newberry Group March

Hated the book.  Loved the book group discussion.  Very lively!  But I said I think I'm done with Marquez.  I've read two of his books now (both for Newberry) and I think that is enough of my life.

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Punch

We have had "The Punch" on the shelf for a few years and I know it's one that Nancy Pearl frequently suggests.  It is a really good book and I highly recommend it.  You may want to be a little bit of basketball fan, or sports fan, to connect with all parts of the book.  If you aren't a sports person just the timing of this event is amazing to think about and how technology, and the immediate delivery of information, has changed our lives.

Full disclosure:  I have not watched the video of The Punch.  I did not want to before I started the book.  Now that I have finished the book I think Feinstein portrays the struggles and aftermath of that event for Kermit Washington and Rudy Tomjanovich so well that I feel, out of respect for these two men, I won't watch the video.  The grainy photo on the back cover and the multiple descriptions in the book are enough for me.

Also - I would not read the book while you are eating.  I made that mistake a few times while I was traveling.  Parts of it are graphic.  Other parts are so fun and interesting - the changes in the league, the NBA in general, the players that I recognized, the draft that involved Michael Jordan.

I will be pushing this book on all my sports friends and have already emailed a co-worker who has a son who is a reluctant reader but plays basketball.  I know people will enjoy this book.  Read it during March Madness for a whole basketball theme!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Asylum

"Asylum" by Simon Doonan was the book he was signing when I went to Barney's to meet him.  Since that event I've been reading his column on Slate.  This book, which is split into short chapters, reads like the Slate column.  Doonan has such an eye and ear and I've been enjoying his writing.  Some of the chapters I liked better than others.  He brought up two points in the book that have stuck with me after finishing it.  The first is about money.  I had not thought about it but, back in the day, the women who actually BOUGHT the clothes from the designers got to sit in the front rows at the shows.  Not the bloggers or stars who get the clothes for free.  That got me thinking about money.  Really shouldn't I take fashion advice from someone who parts with hard earned cash to buy an item (even if they have A LOT of hard earned cash) rather than someone who gets so much for free that they don't even repeat outfits?

The second point is about sarcasm.  I had not thought about this issue at all until I read his book but I so agree with him!  People don't know how to handle sarcasm - either in the delivery, or the receipt today.  I think that is why "Downton Abbey" cracks me up so much because the Dowager Countess is so on point with her zingers.  I think that some people try to use sarcasm but it's too personal and becomes ugly.  Then you have the person on the receiving end who takes way too much offense and ends up blowing it out of proportion.  It is a lost art.  I am not good at sarcasm so know well enough to stay away from it but when it's done well it's very intelligent and insightful.  

I continued the fashion theme this weekend by finally going to the Chicago History Museum to see Inspiring Beauty 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair.  If you live in Chicago, or are visiting here before it ends in May, you MUST go see it.  You can't take photos of any of the ensembles or else I would have some to share here.  I was going to buy the program book but the clothes looked better in the display than they did in the book.  This event was also concerned with money and fashion.  When Eunice Johnson went to some designers to buy clothes for the Fashion Fair they turned her down because she was African American.  To have money and be told no!  So shortsighted on the part of the designers because Fashion Fair was not a one and done event - it was a 3 month, fashion show in every city, traveling event.  The designers included in the exhibit are ones everyone would recognize today - maybe because they did not discriminate against a fashionable consumer?  The clothes have stood the test of time!  There were only about 3 pieces that I thought look dated.  Everything else - I'll take two please!!!  Especially the amazing Winter ensembles (yes with fur - I'm good with vintage fur) that would look so chic in Chiberia.  Learning the story of Ebony Magazine and Johnson Publishing was also very educational.  Illinois residents get free admission to the museum every day in February (except Saturdays) and I'm thinking about going back since it was so much to take in during one trip.  There was one comment on one of the videos about thinking that maybe clothes are silly but when you look good, you feel good and can accomplish more.  I'm paraphrasing a lot with that one but you get the point.  

Friday, January 24, 2014

Visual Trip to North Korea

Talk about armchair travel!  Since the chances of me ever visiting North Korea are slim, "Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea", by Guy Delisle was my second best option.  I've read a few books about North Korea now, and some have had a few photos, but this graphic novel was an interesting way to represent the visual aspect of Pyongyang.  Delisle is Canadian and was in North Korea to work on an animation project.  It sounds like North Korea might be a location where animation gets outsourced by some countries.

Toward the end you could feel the author's frustration with the North Koreans.  They can't, and won't, talk bad about their country.  As I know from other books, spies are everywhere and the chances for someone to rat you out are high.  I thought he was being a little unfair, but then today I realized that sometimes I have met people that, for whatever reason, make me want to be mean to them.  I don't know what it is, but I feel like I have to smart off or be rude.  Maybe after a few weeks of being in North Korea, and feeling so stuck and frustrated with the people he met, the author could not help but be a bit harsh toward them.  I don't know if he expected to find some pocket of resistance in the country but it's just not there.

Dennis Rodman is back in the news with regard to his most recent trip to North Korea.  Bad month for him, but good examples for me to use for my training sessions at work.  Off to look up the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Six...I'm still reading

We are working on watching less tv at home so that means more reading.  But it can still be silly reading!  Silly reading - better than silly tv?  I think yes.  It's been so cold, too, that it's really fun to get under a ton of covers and read a semi-trashy book.  Stephanie may be wacky but she does get the job done...in the end...after blowing up a car, ripping some clothes and having someone break into her apartment.  Hey - Wallander runs over a hare in every book - why can't Stephanie have repeat behavior?

And just saw this - Prairie Lights Bestselling Books of 2013 (http://www.prairielights.com/pauls-corner/2013-prairie-lights-bestsellers) and will be checking out these titles.   Had some changes at work but still get to keep Iowa in my territory (for now) so I can visit Prairie Lights.  Lost Minnesota!  Boo - will have to make my own way to Minneapolis to visit Once Upon A Crime.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

I Married Your For (Fill in the Blank)

"I Married You for Happiness" by Lily Tuck was our Newberry selection for January.  Wow.  What a discussion!  Even with cold weather we had a full house.  The consensus was we did not care for this book.  We were expecting something heavy.  I found myself not really liking the narrator so the book did not make me as sad I expected.  We also found the ending totally contrived and the book kind of pompous and snobby.

Ouch.  Well, you win some and you lose some.  We did say we would not have picked this one up if it weren't for our group so at least now we know.  I have to say this book does one of my least favorite things....it says National Book Award Winner BUT it's NOT for this book.  I think that is just shady.  At least put what book she won the award for and don't let me think it's this one.  So that's #2 for 2014.  It is novella length but not worth repeating for the Novella Group.  The blog post title refers to part of our discussion - what else could you put in place of Happiness?  Why do people marry?

On to the next book!!!