Tag Archives: book

The Girl on the Train

91lUeBR2G1LPaula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train has been raved about recently, and was so popular that I had to wait over two months to get my copy from the library. The teasing description of the book promised the tale of a woman who gets caught up in the life she created for two people, “Jess” and “Jack,” that she observed on her commute into London every day. What the description failed to say was that it was the story of three desperate women who work toward the ultimate goal of having a baby and pleasing their men, which ends up being the same singular male (apparently god’s gift to women in this small suburban town).

The main narrator, Rachel (aka our girl on the train), is an unemployed drunk who takes fun in riding the train every single fucking day to keep up appearances of having a job to her roommate. Because somehow after getting fired she has the funds to pay her rent and various bills as well as afford alcohol multiple times every day AS WELL AS these pointless daily round trip train tickets. Maybe Rachel can recommend me for her old job because it seems like it must’ve paid a helluva lot more than my job does. Aside from her love for trains, Rachel enjoys stalking her ex-husband, Tom, who cheated on her with a blonde real estate agent, Anna, who then went on to also cheated on Anna with his blonde and probably younger and thinner neighbor, Megan. Megan aka “Jess” aka the girl that Rachel watched every day from the comfort of her free train rides and imagined a life for.

Now isn’t that a mouthful?

Here’s the biggest kicker, though. Tom isn’t who all these women thought he was! Anna is somehow shocked when she finds out that the husband she met through an affair is cheating on her, and they’re both even more shocked to learn that he’s a psychopathic liar.

This book was so cringy and annoying to read, and so much of it reminded me of the dreaded Hausfrau. I couldn’t relate to a single thing that any of the characters did because they all acted idiotically and their thoughts/actions were extremely exaggerated. At one point, the “evil villain” Tom (I’m going to refer to him as that because he seems like a comically exaggerated evil villain) sits down and explains his dastardly plan and all his intentions behind his evil acts. I really thought that in 2015 we were past that sort of crap.

I wish I threw this book in the Gowanus Canal when it flooded last week. The best thing I can say about this book was that it was a quick, easy read so I didn’t have to suffer through it for a long time. Lately I feel like I’ve been reading a lot of horrible books, so I’m hoping the next book I venture into is better than these have been.

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House of Leaves

71Vmj-9DZYLMark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves is one of those books that I’ve tried multiple times to read but never completed. I always knew I’d come back to finish what I started because I really hate not finishing books, though, and now I can finally say I’ve finished this one.

A friend recommended this book to me probably around 2007 and I tried and tried and tried to get into it, but when I was 18, it just read as pretentious drivel. Now that I’m older, I definitely had more of an appreciation for all the hard work and effort that went into the creation of this novel. But I also think that Danielewski is a bit pretentious still, especially because I’m sure he went into the creation of the book with the intention of making a cult classic. I also don’t think it was necessary to have so many stylistic tendencies, like having his words spiral or reducing word count page by page until there’s just one word on a page. Turning a 600+ page book upside down to read four sentences every other page while standing on the subway at 9 a.m. is enough to make anyone want to throw the book between the gap.

House of Leaves has a serious cult following behind it where obsessed fans have an ongoing forum that they still post it almost 20 years after the book’s publication. Some of these more than dedicated fans have even created the fake cited sources Zampano refers to in the book. Yep. It’s THAT kind of book.

In a 600+ page novel, you want to be gripping the pages anxious to see what happens next. With House of Leaves, that was often not the case. A lot of the book drags on and on with deep mythological explanations of where an Echo came from and “removed” (aka red crossed out passages) about Minotaurs that, while interesting, could definitely have been shortened. It’s almost too obvious that Danielewski wants people to take a metaphor away from these passages.

The novel is narrated by Zampano, the old man who created this in-depth analysis of a movie that he also made up, and is full of fake sources, fake definitions, and tons of other falsities where you don’t know what’s real and what isn’t. Sure, it’s metaphorical as fuck, but after page 250 of intense metaphors that you can’t quite put your finger on, most normal readers resort to heavily skimming and sighs of frustration.

The other narrator is Johnny Truant, the sex and drug addicted son of a mother who spiraled into violent psychosis after she tried to murder (and possibly succeeded, according to one fan theory I read) in murdering her son because she didn’t want him to suffer through how horrible the world is. I mean, I guess that’s one way of dealing with how much life sucks. As Johnny becomes immersed in this world that Zampano created, he begins to have trouble differentiating reality from dreams from paranoias, a theme that runs rampant throughout the book: What exactly is real? What exactly is going on?????

My disdain for Johnny is practically unrivaled; I haven’t hated a character in a book since reading the abomination that was Blackbirds. The parts where Johnny was writing, I was overcome with rage at this fictional character because his rantings often revolved around who he was fucking, how many drugs/drinks he had that night, and the CRRAAZZZYYYY antics that Lude was up to. What’s that Lude gonna do next!?

One theory that I read and really liked was, as I mentioned before, that Johnny’s mother actually did kill him and House of Leaves/the writings of Johnny are all this elaborate story that she created and wrote. She loved writing her son letters as we knew but also suffered from some sort of psychosis (schizophrenia? bipolar? something else indicating that she was delusional?), and possibly the contents of this book are the ramblings of a disillusioned woman. For example, Lude’s and Thumper’s names are characters of what they’re known for (lewd behavior and…thumping), which can be evidence of a person that’s unable to create anything more than a flat, two-dimensional character whose actions are indicated by their names. Anyway, it’s not necessarily a good theory but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Regardless, I did actually like this book for the most part. After four years as an English major, I find a lot of enjoyment from book/movie analyses, even if they are fake, and took a lot away from it. I didn’t care for drunken, drug-induced, unreliable ramblings because those got old pretty fast. No one in the book club aside from me (I WIN!) finished the book, so I would one day like to actually talk to someone who read it in its entirety because I think there would be a lot of interesting things to discuss. For now, I’m basically just talking to myself about it.

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Bad Feminist

badfeministI loved this book. I loved this book. I needed this book.

Here’s a little secret you may not know about me. I LOVE WORDS. Weird, right? And Bad Feminist was full of words and phrases that I wish I could high five and befriend. There were times while I was reading that I burst out laughing and others where I shook my head as I held back tears. There aren’t enough words to express how much I appreciate a writer that can make me emote, and Roxane Gay is a prime example of one. She was also able to articulate so many thought-provoking assertions in such an eloquent way, leaving me utterly impressed by her talent, skill, and brutal honesty. The thoughts that she expressed are ones that I’ve had before, but was unable to find such a composed way of conveying.

There is now a huge, not-so-secret part of me that wants Gay to recognize me on Twitter and somehow become my new best friend. I want to sit with her and roll my eyes at terrible movies and just vent about what’s bugging me lately in the world. I identified with so much of what she thinks and has experienced, and when I couldn’t personally relate, she still made it coherent and accessible.

Every woman has a series of episodes about her twenties, her girlhood, and how she came out of it. Rarely are those episodes so neatly encapsulated as an episode of, say, Friends, or a romantic comedy about boy meeting girl.

I can’t express how reassuring it is to hear someone complain about how difficult and stressful their 20s were, for instance. I had NO IDEA what I was getting into once I graduated college. My parents and all my aunts and uncles met in high school, got married in their early 20s, then moved into houses with mortgages by my age now. Not only is that absurd, but that’s unrealistic—not that I knew that growing up, though. This was the example I had to grow up alongside, so imagine my anxiety when life wasn’t that easy come the end of my educational career.

After finishing the book, I feel a bit more jaded but also way more aware. I’ve always felt like I fell a little short on the feminism spectrum since I hadn’t studied the classics and I probably can’t name many of the women who made important strides in the movement. There was a part of me that didn’t feel qualified to assert my voice and opinions in conversations revolving around gender equality. However, this book reassured me that the feelings I have are justified and worth having—I feel totally reinvigorated in my feminism.

It’s hard not to feel humorless, as a woman and a feminist, to recognize misogyny in so many forms, some great and some small, and know you’re not imagining things. It’s hard to be told to lighten up because if you lighten up any more, you’re going to float the fuck away. The problem is not that one of these things is happening; it’s that they are all happening, concurrently and constantly.

(I absolutely LOVE this quote! It is the perfect example of Gay’s clever writing and honest perspective.)

Most importantly Bad Feminist made me mad. I’m mad that we, as women, have to deal with so much nonsense still. I’m mad that myself and other qualified, impressive women aren’t paid nearly what we deserve in comparison to our male coworkers. I’m mad that our culture glamorizes sexual harassment and inequality, making it seem like those of us who demand respect are “wrong” or “too radical” or “cold-hearted.” I’m mad that if I get catcalled or inappropriately touched, then my clothing or way I carry myself is to blame. I’m mad, and I’m sick of letting it happen or risk being coined the token “bitch” of the group if I refuse to go along with it. Misogyny is a big joke to most of our society where everyone goes along with it, and if you’re offended then you’re told to relax and just laugh because it’s a joke after all. Well I’m done pretending I’m relaxed, and I’m done trying to be on the inside of a joke that I don’t even find funny.

This book is an important reminder that there is still A LOT of room for improvement in regards to gender equality in this country. We live in a progressive country that still fosters so much negativity and absurd gender biases. The realization that equality is worth fighting for and I’m worth fighting for has become rekindled upon reading Bad Feminist, and I’m so happy it’s reawoken this in me.

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Naked Lunch

nakedlunchAbout a month ago I founded my own book club. It all happened so fast, but I’m (so far) really pleased with it. Aside from the fact that we all absolutely hated the first book. Woops?

It all began with This American Life’s William S. Burroughs podcast. I never cared for Burroughs or his writing, but the podcast had me enticed—because what’s not fascinating about some drug addicted pervert’s musings? My friend Nuala and I talked about the podcast together and both said we wanted to read a few of his pieces afterwards. From there I moved on to talking to other people about how we missed reading/discussing literature in general and are always craving new books recommendations. (Seriously, always. Send me all of your recommendations immediately!) So I decided that maybe we could read Burroughs’ most acclaimed work together, Naked Lunch. And thus my baby book club was born.

It’s worth mentioning that I tried to read Naked Lunch once before and that I fucking hated it. I read the entire thing because I can never begin a book without finishing it. It was torture for me, though. I had no idea what was going on, hated the content, and forced myself through it without retaining a single thing aside from my intense dislike of it. So obviously a great first choice for our club.

I figured maybe I was just too young or immature to understand the novel, and now that I’m older, it should be a lot more enjoyable/interesting. WRONG. WRONG. YOU WERE WRONG, NICOLE. AND IF YOU’RE READING THIS POST IN THE FUTURE AND CONSIDERING READING NAKED LUNCH AGAIN, YOU WILL MOST DEFINITELY HATE IT AND YOU SHOULD STOP. JUST STOP IT.

I got about 95 pages and for about the third time ever, I stopped reading a book. I can rest easy knowing that at one point in time I finished this book, but not this time. And never again. I had no idea what was going on and suddenly found myself in the thick of a 30 page description of suicidal orgies. I gave up. I have no idea who any of the characters are, where they ever were, what they were ever doing (aside from the painfully obvious), or what they wanted to be doing.

No one in the book club was able to finish it—in fact, I made it the farthest out of anyone. I’ve heard his other, shorter works are more enjoyable, such as Junkie or Queer. I’ll never find out because I’m done trying. Beatnik era writing is simply not for me (I also hated On the Road in the past and will not make the mistake of trying that one again).

The only other time I can really remember beginning a book—multiple times, actually—and not being able to finish it was with Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves. And just guess what our second book club novel is…

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Analysis of Dante’s Inferno, Virgil’s Aeneid, and Margery Kempe’s Book

804192989_origAn essay I wrote in undergrad comparing Dante’s Inferno, Virgil’s Aeneid, and Margery Kempe’s Book. 

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In Dante’s Inferno, Christianity was the main focus of the epic; Dante explored the underworld showing his opinion of what was sinful and what would qualify someone for Hell. In Margery Kempe’s Book, all of her stories were also written about Christianity, however, she created a sexual relationship between herself and God who was also a character in her book. In Virgil’s Aeneid, the gods and goddesses also had active roles in the storyline and helped the plot progress. Although the time periods when The Aeneid, The Inferno, and Margery Kempe’s Book were written have drastically different religious views, they all incorporated their beliefs into their writing.

Roman gods had dialogue and actively participated in the story; they were an ever-present force in The Aeneid. The gods were able to control situations depending on what they wanted, even if that was not the way that things were supposed to work out. Throughout the epic, Juno tormented the Trojans and created unnecessary problems for them even though she knew that they would settle eventually and Rome would start; she held a grudge against them which was why she incessantly tortured them. Robert Coleman said, “Divine interventions were a traditional staple of epic, conferring status upon human events portrayed and evoking a world where gods and men were closer to one another” (143). In Roman epics, the gods usually played a major role in the storyline and their over exaggerated emotions would create problems for the humans. Their intentions to create some sort of drama usually conflicted with fate, but the gods still interfered and fate worked its way around their intrusions. The Roman religion was something that became apparent in all epics, especially The Aeneid because of how it was portrayed. Religion was a major theme in that epic, threading its way throughout the plot. It was obviously a main value of the Roman people as well because of the huge part that it played within the storyline. Fate and the god’s influence would conflict with one another causing the majority of problems throughout the epic. “Gods intervene in two general ways: by manipulating the external world and by influencing human reactions and decisions internally.” The gods were real characters in the epic and interacted with other characters, showing the importance of religion in ancient Rome.

Dante’s story had mention of religion and made the rules of Christianity clear, but God was not a character. Dante also made it known what would or would not get you put in Hell, showing how strongly influenced he was by religion. Although God was not actually in The Inferno, His will was still made known by Dante and His influence was apparent throughout the entire epic. Dante the Pilgrim was positive that he was heaven-bound and went around Hell from a spectator’s perspective. However, since Dante was also the writer, he was not the innocent bystander that he appeared to be in the epic; he felt that God was merciless and that if you sinned, there was a slim chance that you could repent and avoid going to Hell. “In Dante, there is no ‘development’ properly speaking: the soul itself continues to exist without change while the life of the body is utterly destroyed” (Spitzer 82). One of Dante’s beliefs about how the Christian afterlife was that the soul could exist but the body would be destroyed. He made a lot of assertions without actually using God to say what he believed, creating an experience that showed his opinions about Christian afterlife.

Margery Kempe was controlled by religion and her stories were entirely about her interactions with God and Jesus with both acting as main characters as well. Margery sacrificed having a normal life to be entirely dedicated to Jesus; she refused to have sex with her husband, she cried out and annoyed people around her—all so that she could be pure and entirely dedicated. “Margery demonstrated her mind’s kinship with spiritual realities” (Glenn 541). Margery’s entire book is based on “her divine visions,” and how Jesus or God would talk to her and tell her how much they loved her (Glenn 541). She was known for crying hysterically all the time because of how deeply she was affected by her visions. She would be in church, for instance, and have a vision of Christ being nailed violently to the cross as if she were there watching. “By associating her own development with incidents in Jesus’s life, Margery blurs her theology with her autobiography” (Glenn 544). Margery was seen as a nuisance but could also be considered special by some because of these visions. Her writing was entirely dedicated to Christianity and her level of infatuation with God. Margery showed her views in her writing by including her crazy visions, her supposed conversations with God and Jesus, and her overall commitment to Christianity.

The similarity between them all was that they lived in times when religion (no matter what kind) strongly influenced them and they made sure to bring it into their stories. There were many reasons why these writers would incorporate religion into their pieces. In their times, making religion a main theme of their stories or epics showed the values of the society and it was a way for the writers to appease to readers then. In each society, people would only want to read about stories that they could find a way to apply to themselves, and being able to relate to the religious aspects was a good way for the authors to appeal. Life during their times were usually centered on religion, which was another reason why it was a good way for the writers to get publicity for their works. There were also trends in literature with religion threaded throughout stories. Before Virgil and Dante’s epics, Homer and other epic writers also incorporated their religious beliefs into stories. Greek and Roman writers made the gods into characters, which is a trend that Virgil kept with, and although Dante deviated from the trend of keeping God as a character, he was also dealing with a new type of epic poem and a new type of religion. Aside from having similar messages due to the fact that religion was so strongly incorporated, there were similar characterizations and plots as well. Margery Kempe was inspired by God enough to feel His presence and see Him all the time, and Dante was inspired enough to create a version of Hell appropriate to what he believed. Similarly, Virgil used religion in the way that he and other ancient Romans believed, although he himself was not entirely embodied by the beliefs. He used what he believed in his storyline, but it was not a part of him as much as it was part of the story. All three authors were able to somehow incorporate their different beliefs into their stories in a way so that they told an interesting story while utilizing what they believed. For Virgil, it was a minor point to include the gods and just something that he did as a tradition in epic poems. However for Dante, it was more of a small focal point for him to branch off from. Margery used religion as the entirety of her book and made her beliefs into part of her autobiography. In different ways, they were able to show the varying strength of religious influence in their lives.

Dante, Virgil, and Margery Kempe all integrated their religious beliefs into their writing, whether it was the main focus of the piece or just a small part of the larger story. Kempe and Dante’s stories were more focused around religion while Virgil was more focused on the creation of Rome with the gods mixed in. Regardless of their approach to writing, they were all able to show their beliefs. Margery used her visions and conversations with God to show her dedication to Christianity, Dante used his decisions as to what made a person a sinner to show his devotion, and Virgil mentioned the gods and goddesses as characters to show his views.

Works Cited

Coleman, Robert. “The Gods in the ‘Aeneid’. “Greece & Rome. Vol. 29, No. 2.

Cambridge University Press, 1982. 143-168.

Glenn, Cheryl. “Author, Audience, and Autobiography: Rhetorical Technique in the Book

of Margery Kempe.” College English Vol. 54, No. 5. National Council of Teachers

of English, 1992. 540-553.

Spitzer, Leo. “Speech and Language in Inferno XIII.” Italica Vol. 19, No. American

Association of Teachers of Italian, 1942. 381-104.

 

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Writing Down the Bones

41vE++wPhKL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_My lovely boyfriend gifted me Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones for Christmas because he really gets me and knew that this would positively influence my life. What a keeper.

There isn’t a lot that I have to say about this book aside from the fact that I think it’s superb and that it should absolutely be taught in all middle schools/high schools across the country. Writing, and education in general really, are rarely valued anymore, which I think is such a shame but that’s a topic for a whole other blog post. I think there is a lot of value to be found in this book by students who are maybe unsure of how to go about their passion for writing, and I even think that it could help open other students up and expand upon their skills. I never realized how many people struggle with writing until I started editing. Even those who aren’t interested in eventually publishing a novel or even writing for fun would benefit from this book and the practices it instills. Business owners tend to discard writing as a skill and send out emails littered with incorrect spelling and poor grammar, but imagine how they would benefit from a bit of practice and proofreading. I find her relation between writing and meditation to be natural and eloquent, and I yearn to be at a similar space as Goldberg with my own writing. Since completing this book, I’ve tried to make it more a goal to write at least every day again (starting back up the journal!) and have simply felt more inspired to do so. I even find myself less critical of my work and attempting to have confidence in my pieces. I’ve found ideas floating around my head more often, and I look forward to practicing some of her techniques and prompts. Overall this book changed my writing life already and I think it could be a fantastic resource for others as well.

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Hausfrau

hausfrauI read Jill Alexander Essbaum’s Hausfrau for my book club, which I haven’t been to in FOREVER. I made a point to go to this one mostly because it was being hosted at the Random House office and I have a not-so-secret obsession with publishing houses. I also thought the author was going to be there, but instead she just Skyped in, which I actually preferred because people seemed to hold themselves back from saying the “wrong” thing in front of her. Oh, and I also thought her book sucked.

I thought this novel was cheesy and overly dramatic and also catered exclusively to women who are married/have kids. I couldn’t relate to most of things that went on in the narrator’s life, but older women at the book club meeting today seemed to understand it. The narrator, Anna, was a woman who drifted through her day-to-day life in passivity as she lived with her husband in his native Switzerland. During her nine years there, she never bothered to learn the language, get a job, meet any friends (she literally had one, who was actually kind of a badass), or even have some sort of hobby. She actually just let life pass her by, which was exactly as boring as it sounds like it’d be, and admitted to enjoying sewing as a girl before she majored in Home Economics (yes, exactly.) in college. A girl at the book club argued that she believed the narrator to be “actively passive,” meaning that she forced the passivity and did it all to herself. To an extent, I agree, but it was also very clear that Anna was severely depressed and couldn’t stop herself from isolating others. The book ends with Anna killing herself, confusing almost everyone that read it, but I thought in her suicide she was able to take control for the first time in a decision she’s made. I was also really happy she died off because I was utterly sick of her complaining and being a victim to every incident in her life.

Essbaum is a poet mainly and her book reads like extensive poetry as well. It has a great flow at times, however, I think her sentences read very dramatically and over-the-top. I found myself rolling my eyes and sighing most of the time as Anna or her psychiatrist went off on long inner monologues where, instead of letting readers figure out the metaphors and symbolism, she spelled them out in painfully long tangents. Overall, not a fan of this book, and I was surprised to see how many people there actually enjoyed it. I am, however, a fan of the Random House office and its desks full of books.

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Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Between_a_Rock_and_a_Hard_Place_CoverAron Ralston’s Between a Rock and a Hard Place was something that I honestly never wanted to read, mostly because I’m a baby and just the thought of gore makes my head spin. I knew where it was headed–the cover gives away the ending in just one picture–and I’ve also heard of James Franco’s role in 127 Hours. I immediately put it on my “Never Going to Watch This Movie” list (this list also includes all the Saw movies and anything with Adam Sandler in it), but here I was reading the book. So I knew that Ralston cut his arm off with a dull pocket knife blade after suffering through a complete and total canyoneering accident. Even thinking of it made me feel like I was losing my balance. But I’m also a compulsive garbage digger and I happened upon this book. Call it fate, call it disgusting, but now the rest is simply history.

After sitting on my shelf for close to six months, I finally read this book because I had nothing else to read. The experience overall was fine, I guess. It was over 300 pages and moved very slowly. It took me months to read because I found myself utterly bored and distracted quite frequently throughout it. He also has more of a scientific mind and focuses on the most minute details to his situation and the story. The way he describes the situation he found himself in wasn’t very interesting and was hard to picture, and that’s even using the pictures that were included throughout the book as reference. He uses terminology that you won’t understand if you’re not experienced with climbing or outdoor adventure. I’ve been climbing and hiking plenty and I still barely had any idea of what he was talking about at certain points. I honestly think this story could have been summed up in 120 pages, if that, but there was an immense amount of backstory.

The backstory was probably his most incriminating information and just proved how reckless and immature Ralston could be, making it so that this accident didn’t come as a total and utter surprise to me. He constantly tempted fate throughout his life, doing solo winter fourteener hikes through avalanche-prone areas as well as plenty of other acts where it seemed like he thought about the consequences of his actions long after he had already committed to them. Then he kind of tried to laugh it off like, “Oh boy, isn’t adventure FUN?” while everyone around him was left cleaning up his mess and rolling their eyes. There are multiple times where he talks about how he doesn’t just do these sorts of adventures for bragworthy purposes while coming across as if he’s bragging. I got to a certain point in the book where I felt annoyed by him.

Overall I thought the book was pretty lackluster and simply a story about a somewhat spoiled guy who got INSANELY lucky. It got interesting for me once he finally started talking about his friends beginning the search for him, although that whole thing seemed very privileged and fortunate as well. His parents were able to pull enough strings so that a helicopter was flown out to search for him the day after they reported him missing, but it was all done in a polite way full of plenty of luck and smiles and “please and thank you’s.” It feels like something is just missing from that part of the story.

So yeah, it’s great and frankly miraculous that he even survived that long. Very impressive, but also…eh. Not my kind of story. Oh, and I definitely skipped over every gory, overly-detailed scene of him sawing his arm off and I don’t regret it even a little bit. Gross, gross, no thanks.

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Slaughterhouse Five

slaughterhousefiveAfter years of going to local libraries only to find out that Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five was out of stock, I realized there was really only one option left. So I asked my little brother to buy me it as a birthday present and made it my own. Take that, Sunset Park Library—I WIN!

Anyway, that being said, this is a Vonnegut book so of course there’s a lot of depth and creativity and tons of stuff flying overhead that you don’t necessarily catch on the first, or even second, read. Oh how I miss the days of college literature classes where I could have read this book and then talked and written about it for weeks on end with my equally interested peers. Alas I remain here on my blog where I will essentially dissect a novel by myself. So it goes.

The novel is a great anti-war piece as it shows the horrible effects of war on soldiers who survive and how traumatic PTSD can really be. Billy Pilgrim lives every day suffering flashbacks as he travels through time experiencing war, being taken hostage, and surviving the bombings of Dresden. His flashbacks are intense enough that he believes he is traveling through time to relive these parts of his life again and again. He faces constant nightmares and even has a barbershop quartet set him off into a panic attack because they resemble faces he saw in Dresden. Then he creates an alien abduction in his mind to escape the reality that he has trouble dealing with anymore. Reading about Billy Pilgrim’s life made me intensely unhappy because he seemed like such a bystander to all the huge events that would otherwise cause people immense joy. And it’s all because of a war he entered at an age where he was to young to properly process everything that was happening around him.

Vonnegut reinforces the utter sadness I’m filled of whenever I think of war and the people I know who are intentionally investing themselves in it. The narrator has a voice that seems to say, “This is what happened and it was terrible and we hated it. We saw death and destitution; we were miserable and scared. But it happened regardless and there’s nothing we can do about it now. We’re empty and have to live with what we’ve seen and done for the rest of our lives.” So it goes.

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Look Me in the Eye

I juLook Me in the Eyest finished (like yesterday morning) Look Me in the Eye by John Elder Robison, AKA the brother of one of my favorite authors, Augusten Burroughs. It was an honest and funny read about his life with mostly undiagnosed Asperger’s (he was diagnosed at age 40 I believe).

He’s so aware of his condition and able to write with such genuine introspection that it makes everything he writes feel so real. The struggle is actually real, and it’s brought on by undiagnosed disorders and all the repercussions of them. Robison evaluates his habits and compares them to someone who doesn’t have Asperger’s, then tries to imitate how he has observed others acting so he can fit in better. It’s very interesting to be able to get this sort of insight into how someone’s disorder effects them, and I truly enjoyed his awareness of societal norms juxtaposed with how Asperger’s makes him stand out as “different.” I think this novel offers a very unique perspective, and it isn’t boring to read, either — he has a humorous voice and I thoroughly enjoyed learning about his life.

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