Saturday, June 19, 2010

Leo Tolstoy: Anna Karenina

One Word Summary: Black was her colour
More Words: After Anna begins her affair with Vronsky, I skipped ahead to see if she eventually throws herself under a train. Then I read various passages to find how she came to that point. Now that I've finished most of the story I've come to a few conclusions. Tolstoy has a way with words but I don't like him (if Levin really is autobiographical and if the short bio I read is true). I don't like shallow men like Vronsky either. I pity all women who can't hold on to their youth, beauty, mystery, or even their hair. Trains are a great literary device. I don't think Anna did Dolly any favours by patching things up between her (Dolly) and her husband (Stiva). And I'll be sure to avoid men named Alexie. I did like the part where Levin calls Stiva a fool for selling his land so cheap.

Can you think of anything that could have salvaged this train wreck?
Are you an Anna, or a Kitty?
Why does Ayn Rand hate this novel?

Rate: 3 tears
He had heard that women often did care for ugly and ordinary men, but he did not believe it, for he judged by himself, and he could not himself have loved any but beautiful, mysterious, and exceptional women.

Patricia Veryan: Married Past Redemption

One Word Summary: Kill MollyMae or whatever writers call their perfect alter ego.
More Words: Here's another clean Regency Romance Author to check out. I think she wrote in the '70 and '80. I do know she died last year. Anyhow, I read Married Past Redemption (which made me smile) back to back with Lanterns (which bored me to death), and couldn't tell the difference between the two heroines. That's my only complaint. She is supposed to be "the best regency romance writer since Georgette Heyer", so I wont write her off yet.
To help rescue her family from financial ruin, Lisette Van Lynsey marries a man who happens to the brother of the girl who married the man she really loves. Throw in a large dog, a disastrous wedding night, a romantic poem, a whole slew of misunderstandings, some unhealthy jealousy, a scoundrel and you have a romance. It's great.

Rating: 3 smiles
More Authors:
Veryan's Books

Carol Lynch Williams: The Chosen One

One Word Summary: Wrong
More Words: I can't say how wrong this is. I remember meeting a polygamist family as a missionary and not knowing what to say, but wanting to say- "you're wrong." Mostly I remember the man smiling at me. It was an irritating smile because it said there is nothing you can do to change this. I can't even remember the expressions of two women or their daughters. They're a blur. And then a few years ago there was a huge sexual abuse scandal in southern Utah, and so many children were taken into protective care. I wonder what's happening now?
Synopsis: Kyra is thirteen years old. She is the chosen to be the sixth wife of a sixty year old man, her uncle. He's holds a position of authority in the community and she cannot refuse him. Various methods of intimidation are used to coerce the child. Luckily or unluckily she escapes.

St Martins Griffen 2009

Sharelle Byars Moranville: The Snows

One Word Summary: Four Short Stories
More Words: My married name is Snow. I had to read this book. I liked it. The writing was uncomplicated and straightforward.
Synopsis: Start with Jim in 1931 he's sixteen and he leaves home and takes his sister with him. Later, in 1942/3 his kid sister, Cathy, is an unwed mother at sixteen. Next his daughter, sixteen year old Jill, reports on the Kent State student shootings in 1970 for her school newspaper. And finally, his grandaughter Mona is sixteen. She returns to Iowa for Cathy's funeral and reconnects with her family.
Henry Hold and Company 2007

Tanya Egan Gibson: How to Buy a Love of Reading

One Word Summary: Meta-
More Words: First off, I liked this book. Professional reviewers seemed to think it shallow they called it an unsuccessful attempt at meta-fiction. Still, I think people should give it a try- ideas about substance abuse, and love, and beauty, and how we change people are still zinging around in my head. The title caught my eye. I opened the book, read the inside jacket and almost put it down. Then I read the beginning chapters and thought "what is this gossip girl a la Megan McCafferty crap!" But I persevered and came out at the end sobbing-how embarrassing right. The end is sappy. I almost want to read The Great Gatsby a fifth time (another olive of mine). Anyhow the writing is clever and not a little self mocking as it readjusts itself to suit Carly's preferences. Yep, this is a fun book. Read this book.
Synopsis: Carly is fat, unpopular, unfashionable, uncool, and maybe a little freakish (ref: possible public masturbation debacle). In a misguided attempt to reinvent Carly, her parents commission an author to write a book for Carly to love. Enter Bree (and Justin), the author (and the author's past), they talk about writing and what makes a good story. They, Bree and Justin, are the best thing that's ever happened to Carly. They care about her. They reinvent her. Meanwhile Carly loves Hunter. He is bent on self destruction, and Carly can't save him. One thread of this story is how she let's him go.
Rate: 3.5
Dutton [Penguin Group] 2006
Why are the only responsible adults in this book writers of fiction?
Does Hunter love Carly? I know he says so, but does he?
Does everyone create and liveout their selfimages?
Is Hunter's goodness, payback for Carly's favour?

A.S. Byatt: The Children's Book

One Word Summary: Poor Tom
More Words: I didn't enjoy this book, although it has given me some ideas to chew on. Byatt could have written a brief-but-not-compelling-history-of-the-arts-and-crafts-movement-in-England-from-1895-to-1915. A huge problem, for a simple person like me, was the vast number of characters. Then Byatt killed off everyone that couldn't have a snappy happy ending. Thank goodness for WWI, right? I feel guilty for not being remotely interested in any of the women characters, because... well I am a woman. I'm still unsure about one idea. Byatt writes somewhere near the beginning that the children of arts and crafts generation experienced childhood differently from all other children past and present. How asinine, I thought, at first. Of course now I'm wondering if I missed the point. Maybe Byatt meant that the romanticized childhood was invented during this period-like Olive creating Todefright with Violet manage it smoothly. Whatever she meant, I still don't get it.
Knopf Books 2009

She was thinking much faster than usual, and reflected sardonically that
those hungry-minded women, those frustrated female thinkers, of whome Marian
Oakshott spoke, would always need her, Eslie, or someone like her , to carry
coals and chop meat and mend clothing and do laundry, or they wouldn't keep
alie. Someone in the scullery carrying out the ashes. And if one got out of the
scullery, like a disguised princess in a fairytale, there always hd to be
another, another scullery maid to take her place.

Nevertheless, she would like to get out.

{and that half speach by Saraphita after Benedict Fludd is dead}

Joyce Carol Oates: The Gravedigger's Daughter

One Word Summary: keeping going
More Words: I skimmed and skipped huge dull passages throughout this novel. It was dull and I didn't always 'get it', but the author skillfully created one mysterious gypsy with so many voices. I still want to know: Who is Hazel Jones?
Synopsis: The story of a girl a)struggling to hide from her past or b) to define herself or c) to conquer her weakness.
HaperCollins 2006

Rebecca Solnit: Wanderlut, a history of walking

One Word Summary: Space-Time
More Words: Wow! I relied heavily on my dictionary while reading this book. The reading went slow, and even slower during the chapters I didn't fancy. It took about six months to digest. Usually I'm too impatient to tackle longish projects, but this was a very good book. It's an education. Solnit is thorough, thoughtful, and witty. I'm not a poet or a philosopher or any type of mover and shaker but I am a walker. In the last six months I've felt more conscious of the space outdoors- appreciative, protective, and while I've been luxuriating in the freedom of my feet I've also been chaffing at their limitations. I wish people would park their cars. I wish it were easy to fetch groceries with two young children on foot. I wish communities were designed for pedestrians.

Viking (Penguin Group) 2000

Quotes: I've flagged so many passages. Here are three chosen at random.

They have castigated her cross-country walk across
the boundaries of decorum; she is mocking their garden propriety by suggesting
that they have become part of the garden's array of aesthetic objects, objects
that she can contemplate as impersonally as trees and water. That evening Miss
Bingley strolls about the narrower confines of the drawing wroom, where all the
Netherfields characters but Jane are gathered. "Her figure was elegant, and she
walked well," says Austen. The acuity of idle people about each other's conduct
extended to critiques of movent and posture, and a person's walk was
considered an important part of his or her appearance.

The word citizen has to do with cities, and the ideal city is organized around citizenship - around participation in public life.

What exactly is the nature of the transformation in which machines now pump our water but we go to other machines to engage in the act of pumping, not for the sake of water but for the sake of our bodies, bodies theoretically liberated by machine technology?