Saturday, March 26, 2011

Edith Wharton: The Age of Innocence

One Word Summary: Dilettante
Synopsis: A man marries one woman, but he loves another.
Rate: 3 canvas-backs
Recommendations: This is a helpful book if you want to think great thoughts. It's wonderful if you like to feel frustrated and powerless. It's also nice if you're into rules, and even better if you enjoy debates on whether the society is going to pot. It's also really well written.

  1. Before they are married Archer fantasizes about 'awakening' May. During their courtship he is at some pains to educate and inform her tastes, but he abandons the task even before the wedding. How is his behaviour towards May mirror to his unconsumated love for Countess Olenska?

  2. When I was a child my mother told me that May manipulated Archer to acheive her own ends, she implied that it was a bad thing for May to do. Is May a sneak or a product of her time? Was it wrong of her?

  3. Somewhere in the novel Archer complains to Countess Olenska "I don't Understand You!", and she growls back, "Yet you understand her!" Do you understand either of them? What ideas do these two women represent? Why does he love one and scorn the other? Why does he stick with one and forsake the other?

  4. Is society going to pot? Would you like to live in Old New York? Visit?

  5. Food Food Food! What is canvas-back? How does May's image as Diana the Virgin Godess jive with her food loving tribe?

Carey Wallace: The Blind Contessa's New Machine

One Word Summary: "Would you tell me theses things if I were not blind?" (or something like that)
Synopsis: A young girl grows up in a summer cottage near a man made lake on her father's property (she does sometimes sleep in her family's house). She befriends an eccentric and already married inventor. She notices she's going blind. She observes her condition scientifically. She marries a handsome playboy. She begins a 'passionate' affair with her neighbour the inventor. They are caught. Her husband removes her to the city. Upon her death she returns the typewriter to her former lover.
Recommendation: This book would be great for a group. There's a lot to discuss. And it's all interesting. For a small book it's pretty complicated. Carolina has a rich fantasy life, my eyes mostly glazed over during these passages but I didn't fail to notice the coldness darkness mingled with the warmth and beauty she created. I especially like how the story just ended, it felt like having one of my senses cut off.
Rate: Three Lemon Trees

Holly Peterson: The Manny

One Word Summary: perjure
Synopsis: Jaime hires a man to babysit her son and provide a good male role model for him. She's already out of love with her spoiled-rich-husband but she's not ready to jump ship until her entire life falls apart and the Manny comes to rescue her
Review: There are so many things morally wrong with this story, and one thing I don't really understand. At the end of the book Jaime makes a deal with her husband to lie in court about his underhanded deals if he agrees to maintain her in the style to which she's accustomed and divorce her on her own terms with no fuss. How can she avoid going to jail with him if he reneges and she has to reveal the documents she has under lock and key? How can she carry the moral high ground in this situation?
Rate: 2 white ermine muffs

John Hersey: Hiroshima

Christmas came and I didnt' finish this. But I will. I liked it.

Kurt Vonnegut: Slaughter House Five

One Word Summary: Edgar Derby and the teapot

Synopsis: Billy Pilgrim is an unremarkable youth. He goes to war. He's still alive after the Dresden Bombings. He comes home from war and life goes on. Except he has a nervous breakdown. His life is remarkable only for its blandness-wife, children, big house. His fantasy life is pretty fantastic (he's on display at a Tralfmadorian zoo with his mate Montana Wildhack, an earthling porn star) but it also what you'd imagine a boring man would dream up. In the end he dies. And even though Billy is emotionally detached (among other things) from his life you kind of feel sad for him and wish it could have been different.

Recommendation: I liked this book. It has style. I didn't like this book. It is depressing.

Rate: 4.5 dimensions

Jonathan Safran Foer: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

One Word Summary: I would spend my only life with you/ Grandma

Synopsis: A boy goes on a quest to find his father by following a series of (meaningless?) clues that lead him to meet every Black in the NYC phone book.

Review: Sorry if the synopsis doesn't capture the genius of ELAIC. Read the book. It's a love story that will fill you with sadness and hope.

Rate: 5 boroughs


  1. Who was that enlightenment philosopher/scientist who said refering to love he felt for his mistress "I never wanted more to believe in our eternal souls", or something like?
  2. Does it mean anything that JSF wrote about a boy going on a quest which is not exactly pointless?
  3. Is Grandpa selfish? or sad? or human? Should he have just got over it?

Other Books:

Slaughter House Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Hiroshima by John Hersey

The Odyssey by Homer

About a Boy by Nick Hornby

That children's book where the father dies and leaves his son a locked box and the boy, with the help of his best friend, goes on a quest to find the key. Inside, among other things, is a playing card. The story ends with a deep fried twinky and some sort of hula hoop routine at a fairground talent show. Incidentally the boy only eats PBJ.

The Incredible Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznik

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer

Maybe not today...

It's been four months since I last posted. My reading appetite has slowed down dramatically. Even if I could remember every book I've glanced at I would never catch up; besides I'd spend so much time posting that I'd never read again. How fun is that! So I'm going to make few quick changes.