Monday, May 31, 2010

"No one" is special (see what I did there?)

I wanted to like Miranda July's No One Belongs Here More Than You. I did. Honestly. The moment that I saw the cover on my dashboard over at the Tumblr blog, I thought, "Gee, that sounds pretty swell." Then I did some research on Miranda July, the filmmaker who brought us the film Me and You and Everyone We Know. And I was just taken aback by her author's photo - marvelously beautiful.

But like the old saying goes, don't judge a book by it's cover - and this one is less than marvelous - nor by how cute its author may or may not be. It should also be revised - don't judge a book by how many times people blog and reblog it on Tumblr. Though, I should have guessed that this book wouldn't fair well in my world. I mean, this jerk offs think Chuck Palahnuik is some sort of god of contemporary literature - he's not, by the way, even though I have a sneaking suspicion he may think he is.

Palahnuik aside, Tumblr has also led me astray with the films Triangle and The Tracey Fragments - you hipsters will think any piece of shit is art because it's different - admit it, no one really thinks the latter film is art, or likes it for that matter; you're just trying to be cool. So why did I decide to buy Miranda July's collection of short stories debut? Not because I'm a sucker for a cute author, or one to believe that hipsters know what they're talking about - even though I have a sneaking suspicion that they think they do; it's because I don't like many female authors. I can only think of a few at this instant: Toni Morrison, Julie Orringer, Anais Nin and A.M. Homes.

And it's reverse sexism for me - I give female authors a chance because I feel like a sexist for seemingly liking only male authors - let's face it, their suicides are more messy and, therefore, pique my interest. 

However, the entire reading of No One Belongs Here More Than You wasn't a complete loss. Eight stories into the collection, there's a gem called "Something That Needs Nothing." Farther down the list, the last story, "How to Tell Stories to Children" was also a good one. I'll even throw in "Mon Plaisir" as something worth the time. 

But in the end, there isn't anything special about Miranda July's work. Even the blurbs on back cover are less than convincing. One even goes off to say he's coined a new phrase - July-esque. However, I couldn't help notice that July's work reminded me of another female author's writing, one I failed to mention above because I was saving her for this: Margaret Atwood. So George Saunders, perhaps your newly found phrase should be Atwood-esque. 

I won't be holding my breath for July's next collection/release, however, I'm not denying her a second chance. I think I'm going to do that from now on. Give authors who failed to capture me the first time around, a second chance. 

In summary, I suppose, I'll give her three stars. Average. Nothing special.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Chronicle of a book, translations and a death

Back in 2004, I signed up for an English course called Development of the American Literature, marking the first of three classes I took with Jose Skinner. The first thing he said was the class isn't American literature in the sense that it would primarily focus on books by authors of the United States, but would focus on writers from the Americas. 

While I can't recall most of the authors covered - William S. Burroughs was one - Gabriel Garcia Marquez stood out the most. Skinner, opting not to play the typical Garcia Marquez book, chose Chronicle of a Death Foretold, a 120-page novella detailing the events of the murder of Santiago Nasar.

I haven't the faintest clue why I didn't read it for the course; half of me probably held on to my  prejudices. I don't like reading translations for the sole reason that I feel they fail their original language. Books like Innocent World and Snakes and Earrings failed to keep me as an audience, even though I completed the book. However, with Gabriel Garcia Marquez I read and finished - even fell in love with - his novella, Memories of My Melancholy Whores - Memoria de mis putas tristes - which, obviously, is also a translation. Of course, this leaves it all open to the fault of the translator and not the original writer.

Six years after being introduced to the novella Chronicle of a Death Foretold, I'm at the library browsing through used books when I see a new copy on the shelf. It's been a while since I've sold mine - probably shortly after the course concluded - so I decided to attempt another read through. Costing only half the cover price, I saw it as a good deal. I paid for my purchases and went home, putting off the read until I finished at least one of the two books I'd been reading. When concluding Thirteen, I dived into this one.

Regretfully, I realized how much I missed out in 2004. The book was beautifully written (translated?), leaving me feeling helpless for not having been able to read it in its original language. I'm looking forward to reevaluating my stance on reading translations.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Adolescence Horror Revisited

Of all the familiar places, I find myself once again being sucked into the world of teenage horror. Teenage horror from the 1990's, no less. Paying no mind to the authors mentioned on its cover, I picked up a copy of Thirteen at Mike's little store found inside the walls of Georgia's Thrift Shop thinking I was in for a scare. The price was only fifty cents, so why not, right? 

Picking up it soon after I started reading Utopian Literature - another book I picked up at the store - in order to balance out the tedious reading, I wound up being sucked back into a very familiar world. Not that I enjoyed the simple, not-so-complex writing but the read was comforting. It reminded me of better days when I first picked up books to escape reality rather than be reminded of it.

R.L. Stein, of course, being the only author I've read as a kid - his Goosebumps novellas were my introduction to the awesome world of reading - I was reintroduced to familiar names that filled the shelves of my female cousins. Namely, Christopher Pike whose Slumber Party cover always reminded me of a young chick lit gone awry.

It's a four-star read for any adolescent wanting to take a stab of horror at their reading level, or for the adult who wants to reminisce about their childhood. However, the book is a little dated - cassette tapes probably have the Myspace generation scratching their hands on that one ("Why not use a CD and leave it on loop rather than having to rewind the song?"...or better yet, "what's a CD?!"). The advent of electronic mail made me smile - how crazy were we in the year 1991? 

I might pass this off to Izzy to read, or maybe not. I think it's best that she's privileged enough to know that IP Address would probably end the cyber stalker/killer a lot sooner, leaving no room for a story to exist.

Poetry Reading & An Impromptu Book Hunt

The Dustin Michael Sekula Memorial Library hosted another night of reading, and it was great seeing old friends again. Sadly, El Senor couldn't make it. In fact, several people who said they would try to were no shows. It's something I'm beginning to become accustomed to. It's okay, I don't go to their readings either.

Getting there, I started to feel the old familiar itch. There was a book out there for me; I just had to find it. Thinking I might hit pay dirt by finding a copy of Rant by Palahniuk in the used shelf, I instead found a half-priced, new copy of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Chronicle of a Death Foretold - a book that previously graced my bookshelf in college while I was enrolled in Jose Skinner's American novel class.  I can't remember why I sold it - I either needed the cash (which I wouldn't gotten much for it) or because I thought I didn't like - which is more likely to be the case. Either way, I got a new copy of it to sit down with later and read. 

Moving along to the used bookshelf, I found an aging copy of The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison - an author I was introduced to during Skinner's class (we read Sula). As I was about to check out, from the corner of my eye I caught the sight of another awesome find - one I had been looking for since before Hastings shut its doors - The Te of Piglet by Benjamin Hoff. Total price? $7.90, meaning the latter two books were fifty cents a piece.

Reading, blues music and book hunting - I should say this day was awesome. What made it even better was, I didn't have to go into work due to the thunderstorm that moved in this morning. Awesome.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


I don't know why I have to post this, but I'm being told to by the powers that be.

This blog contains posts that I'm being paid to do. They may or may not deal with the subject matter of the blog - and from time to time, you'll see that.

Thank you,

Monday, May 3, 2010

What Should I Read Next?

Every bookworm has this problem, am I right? When we close the book we're reading, finishing it after a few hours, days, weeks reading it - after we take it all in, learning about ourselves, the world we live in - we're left with a lingering question: What the hell do I read now?

Thank you Internet! What Shall I Read Next? is the answer to that question. Simply buy putting in some details - author/title - or the ISBN of any book - like one you just finished - and hitting enter, you are given a list of like material that might just tickle you fancy. I quickly added it to my bookmarks after it StumbleUpon landed me there. I couldn't be happier.

The Man, The Monster & His Lovers

"To you alone I've told the tale, do with it what you will," concludes the narrator of the A.M. Homes novel, The End of Alice. Granted, he is a rather unreliable source - you begin to question his knowledge, his ability to tell two sides of a story - the ongoing tale of a young college girl who starts a sexual adventure with a 12-year-old boy - and his own lustful, murderous tale of how he landed himself in prison for the last 23 years.

Much like Humbert Humbert, the narrator - and child lover of the still controversial novel, Lolita (anyone who thinks that is the bottom of the pit clearly hasn't read The End of Alice, or anything by the Marquis de Sade) - the narrator of this tale, whose name is unknown, though he is called Chappy by an old acquaintance upon his only visitation, is very informed, well educated and sticks to a strict set of rules. Unlike his counterpart, however, he doesn't make any attempt to hide his monstrosity by making up excuses for his depraved sexual desires of young prepubescent girls - they're on the brink of adolescence; I don't know if we can call this prepubescent.

The story begins through correspondence between the unknown narrator and the unknown college student, who is home for the summer, staying with her parents. She openly admits her desire for a certain 12-year-old boy who lives in the city, and whom she has been stalking for two years. (The only important names we learn in the story are both victims - Matthew and Alice.)  As the story progresses, the narrator is both in love and annoyed by his "student," at times comparing her to Alice - even thinking she is Alice at times. 

A.M. Homes's powerful narrative shines the light upon the most commonly misunderstood individual, all the while never showing mercy - from the beginning to the end, despite his weaknesses, we do not see the man a tormented, a victim of his lusts, but as a monster tormented. 

"I'm not afraid of you anymore, I'm more afraid of myself," the girl ends her correspondence with the child lover, turned child murderer. Much like our narrator, we see that the girl is heading in a similar direction of torture, an attempt to free herself from herself.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Nine books & a DVD

Hunt: Rant by Chuck Palahniuk
Location: Georgia's Thrift Store, McAllen, TX
Success: 0% (though, I bought other books)
Cost: $12.99

After finding out I don't like Chuck Palahniuk's writing, someone made a case to give him a second chance. Her suggestion is to read Rant. As with most of my book hunts, I ventured to Georgia's Thrift Shop. The only books Mike had on stock by Palahniuk were Fight Club - which I can borrow from Monica - and Haunted. I could've made the exception and just pick up the latter, but the price was too high for my blood - five dollars. I don't think Palahniuk's worth five dollars, let alone the price of his novels. Call me when you have for fifty cents and I might haggle you a nickel.

Of course, I didn't come out empty handed. I did manage to find nine books that piqued my interest and found a cheap copy of Star Wars Episode III for a reasonable price.  So here's what I did buy:
  1. Four Past Midnight by Stephen King
  2. The Optimist's Daughter by Eudora Welty
  3. The ESP Affair by Alison Tyler
  4. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith starring Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman and Hayden Christensen
  5. Utopian Literature edited by J.W. Johnson
  6. Dolores Claiborne by Stephen King
  7. Thirteen edited by T. Pines
  8. Ghost Walk by Brian Keene
  9. The Tommyknockers by Stephen King
  10. Hannibal Rising by Thomas Harris