Loos, Anita. “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes: the Illuminating Diary of a Professional Lady.” Grosset & Dunlap, 1925.
This was a positively silly book and it almost embarrassed me to be reading it. Luckily, it was incredibly short (less than 200 pages) so I was able to get through it in one weekend. It is the journal of Lorelei Lee, a Midwest girl making her way in the New York City with gal pal Dorothy. Lorelei’s idea of making her way is to see how many men she can charm into “educating” her with their wallets. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is Lorelei’s diary from March 16th to July 10th and chronicles (complete with spelling and grammatical errors) her trip to Paris, France and Europe beyond all the while juggling many different male suitors. She starts nearly every sentence with “So” to the point where it got on my nerves the way someone says “like” all the time (and not the “like” on FaceBook, although that can get annoying as well). Lorelei uses shopping as her weapon and is quite good at it. I had a few laugh out loud moments. My recommendation is to find the 195 version. The illustrations are priceless.
The line that made me know I was in trouble, “I mean I seem to be thinking practically all the time” (p 11). That’s on the first page of the book.
Reason read: Anita Loos was born on April 26th so I am reading Gentlemen Prefer Blondes as a Happy birthday to Loos.
Author fact: Anita Loos was also an actress. Too cool.
Book trivia: Every one knows of the movie version starring Marilyn Monroe, but did you know there was an earlier version from 1928? Obviously, it didn’t do as well.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “100 Good Reads: Decade By Decade (1920s)” (p 176)
Thackerary, William Makepeace. Vanity Fair: a Novel Without a Hero. New York: The Book League of America, date unknown.
The story opens with two graduating students leaving Miss Pickerton’s academy for young ladies. One graduate, Amelia Sedley, is well loved and receives an enormous send off while her companion, Rebecca Sharp, barely garners a glance. Becky is an orphaned governess, traveling with Amelia as her guest. Once at the Sedley home Rebecca sets out to become betrothed to Amelia’s brother, Joseph. Jos serves as Collector of Boggley Wollah in the East India Company’s Civil Service. Once that attempt fails Rebecca becomes even more amoral and shameless. In today’s terms she would be classified as a psychopath because of her lack of conscience and her inability to feel anything for her fellow man. Amelia is disgustingly sweet and Rebecca is shamelessly indifferent. Neither one makes a satisfying hero in Thackeray’s eyes. I found the story to be plotless and pointless. What made the reading more difficult was Thackeray getting confused and mixing up the characters.
Lines that got me for one reason or another, “Now and then he would make a desperate attempt to get rid of his superabundant fat, but his indolence and love of good living speedily got the better of these endeavors at reform…” (p 13), “Sir Put Crawley was a philosopher with a taste for what is called low life” (p 41), and “…if you are not allowed to touch the heart sometimes in spite of syntax, and are not to be loved until you know the difference between trimeter and tetrameter, may all poetry go to the deuce and every schoolmaster perish miserably!” (p 60).
Reason read: First month, first chapter. Wish I hadn’t.
Author fact: Vanity Fair (published in 1848) was Thackeray’s best known work.
Book trivia: I was astounded to learn (through IMDB) that Vanity Fair was made into a movie for the big screen and television nearly a dozen times. It even had a radio version.
BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the introduction (p x). Pearl says Vanity Fair is one of the books at her bedside.
Carroll, Lewis. The Complete Works of Lewis Carroll: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. New York: The Modern Library, 1958.
Everyone knows the story of Alice in Wonderland. If they don’t remember the duchess with the baby piglet or the gryphon they surely remember the queen who was constantly crying, “off with his head” or the white rabbit with the pocket watch and white gloves who was always late. And who can forget the caterpillar smoking the hookah on the giant mushroom or the episodes of Drink Me, Eat Me? There is no doubt that Lewis Carroll had a strange imagination. In rereading Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland I was taken back to a fantastical world where flamingos and hedgehogs were used as croquet pieces, Alice’s tears could create a flood, fish wore wigs and Alice grew and shrank so many times I lost count. My favorite scene was the trial and the king who wanted a sentence before the verdict. It’s satirical and funny. Perfect for kids and adults.
Favorite quote: From the introduction – in a letter Lewis wrote, “I never dance, unless I am allowed to do it in my own peculiar way” (p 8). Funny.
Reason read: Lewis Carroll was born and died in the month of January.
Author fact: Lewis Carroll’s real name was Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson and he was the Mathematical Lecturer of Christ Church.
Book trivia: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has been adapted into many different movies, theater productions, musicals, and television shows. Too many to count.
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Comics with a Sense of Place” (p 68).
Holy crap I am late with the list. “I’m late, I’m late” said the White Rabbit! Okay, okay! I just finished The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland so sue me.
January 2013 is another year of hope and of promise. Kisa and I are going to see Trey Anastasio at the Palace in a few weeks. I officially started training for the 5th Just ‘Cause Walk and, and. And! I am training to run a 10k in March. Yay me. But, here are the books…before I get too carried away.
- Rabbit Hill (speaking of rabbits) by Robert Lawson in honor of when All Creatures Great & Small first aired. Get it? Creatures = rabbits. This is a kids book so I’m hoping to fly through it.
- The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith in honor of January being Female Mystery month. I’m listening to this on cd. It’s the first one in the series so expect to see Alexander McCall Smith on my book list for the next 4 or 5 months.
- Lives of the Painters, Sculptors Vol 4 by Giorgio Vasari ~ this (finally, finally) ends the series started in October in honor of Art Appreciation month
- Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackery ~ in honor of the first month of the year I’m reading something from the first chapter of More Book Lust.
- Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron ~ in honor of the a Happy New Year. Another kids book to lighten the mood.
- Ancient Athens on 5 Drachmas a Day by Philip Matyszak ~ Okay, get this – Female Domination Day in Greece happens in January, hence reading something Greek.
- Tatiana by Dorothy M. Jones ~ in honor of Alaska becoming a state in January. Mo one locally has this book in their library so I had to ILL it. It might have to come from Alaska. How fitting.
- Final Solution by Michael Chabon ~ in honor of January being Adopt a Rescued Bird month. This is another book I will listen to in the car or while working out.
For the LibraryThing Early Review program I am just finishing up Gold Coast Madam by Rose Laws. I also received notification of a January Early Review book but as always I won’t mention it by title until it’s in my hot little hands (or in this case, cold little hands since it’s 6 degrees outside).
Downing, Michael. Breakfast With Scot. Washington, D.C.: Counterpoint, 1999.
Less than 200 pages long this was a quick, in-one-sitting read. At first blush I would call this story “quirky” for the simple fact that all of the characters have their issues. What makes this fun to read is how they deal with those issues as well as each other. This is a story about relationships and relating to people around you. The point of view is told from Italian art magazine editor, Ed. Ed and his chiropractor partner, Sam, have become guardians to eleven year old Scot. Scot doesn’t fit in for a multitude of reasons. For one, Ed and Sam have never wanted children. For another, Scot is the child of Sam’s brother’s girlfriend, only the brother is not the biological father. Topping it all of is Scot’s unique personality; his affinity for hand soaps and charm bracelets. While Ed and Sam are homosexuals they are not sure how to deal with Scot on any of these levels. As the reader you want them to not only work it out but work it out as a happy ending.
Poignant line: “But Scot’s the kind of kid other kids push down and kick simply because of the way he puts his hand on his hip” (p 50). This line sums up the entire book.
Reason read: November is national adoption month and while Ed and Sam don’t “adopt” Scot, per se, they are legal guardians.
Author fact: Michael Downing is a local boy, growing up to the west of me and working to the east.
Book trivia: Breakfast with Scot was made into a movie in 2007.
BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called “Adapting to Adoption” (p 1).
Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. New York: Barnes and Noble Classics, 2003.
I am glad I had a chance to reread Frankenstein. Such a great book! Victor Frankenstein is a student impatient with a classical education. He becomes fascinated with unorthodox science and the engineering of life from human corpses. Left alone with his “research” Frankenstein creates a man more powerful in strength and size than average, and because his methods are crude, so ugly it is deemed a “monster,” a “daemon” a “fiend.” Upon creation Frankenstein immediately regrets his man-made monster and is relieved when it runs away.
Frankenstein is a cautionary lesson in the dangers of messing with science. It is also a commentary on assumptions and misunderstandings. When Frankenstein’s monster starts killing Victor’s loved ones Frankenstein misunderstands the message and makes assumptions about the violence. From the first tragedy it is unknown if it was an accident or not. It is a tragedy that doesn’t end well for anyone. The story of Frankenstein and his monster is told encapsulated in another story that brings us full circle. You cannot help but feel sorry for the monster. He is abhorred and misunderstood from the very beginning. His struggle to belong becomes a diabolical quest when Frankenstein tries and then refuses to create a companion for him.
Favorite lines, “To examine the causes of life, we must first have recourse to death” (p 46), and “But I, the true murderer, felt the never-dying worm alive in my bosom, which allowed of no hope or consolation” (p 78). Okay, and one more: “During my first experiment, a kind of enthusiastic frenzy had blinded me to the horror of employment; my mind was intently fixed on the consummation of my labour, and my eyes were shut tight to the horror of my proceedings. But now I went to it in cold blood, and my heart often sickened at the work of my hands” (p 146).
Author fact: What an interesting concept – Mary Shelley, married to Percy Bysshe Shelley, writes Frankenstein in response to a challenge, “we will each write a ghost story…” (p 7); a competition of sorts among friends. Mary’s story wins. Ironically enough, it is her first story, written as an 18 year old who claims the story came to her in a dream. Another interesting twist is the preface to the Barnes and Noble copy is written by her husband but in Mary’s voice.
Book trivia: Over time Victor Frankenstein’s monster has become known as Frankenstein. Thanks to movies we all know the green man with screws in his temples and crude stitches running down his neck.
Reason read: Halloween is in October. Need I say more?
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust and More Book Lust. From Book Lust in the chapter called “Mechanical Men, Robots, Automatons, and Deep Blue” (p 150). From More Book Lust in the chapters “Horror for Sissies” (p 119) and “Literary Lives: the Brits” (p 147).
Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird. New York: Warner Books, 1982.
This is another one of those times when I have to ask who doesn’t know the story of Scout Finch? I’m sure many, many people refer back to the movie and that classic trial scene, but tell me, who doesn’t know Atticus Finch at least?
The story is told from the viewpoint of six year old Scout Finch, a tomboy living in Alabama during the Great Depression. She is looking back on her coming of age, remembering the year when all innocence was lost. Scout and her brother, Jem, are typical children growing up in the segregated deep south. Their widowed father, Atticus, is a county lawyer appointed to defend a black man accused of attacking and raping a white teenager. This is on the periphery of Scout’s life. She is more concerned with the monster who lives nearby. In the neighborhood lives a recluse of a man few have seldom seen. He is the subject of gossip and rumors and legends because his existence is such a mystery. Naturally, the neighborhood children grow up being afraid of him. Scout doesn’t understand this is a prejudice equal to the racial prejudice displayed in her town against her father for defending a “nigger.” As the trial draws near the community begins a slow boil until it erupts in violence. While the ending is predictable the entire story is so well written it should not be missed or forgotten. Read it again and again.
Favorite lines: “Matches were dangerous, but cards were fatal” (p 55) and something Atticus says at the end of the book, “Before Jem looks at anyone else he looks at me, and I’ve tried to live so I can look squarely back at him” (p 273).
Postscript ~ There is a scene when Scout and Jem are taking to their black housekeeper’s church. The congregation sings “When They Ring The Golden Bells” by Dion De Marbell. All I could hear in my mind was Natalie Merchant singing the same song off Ophelia, last track.
Reason Read: September is Southern Month, whatever that means.
Author fact: Harper Lee has never wanted the attention To Kill a Mockingbird has afforded her. She shuns the limelight and has never written anything since.
Book trivia: To Kill a Mockingbird was made into an Oscar winning movie in 1962.
BookLust Twist: I can always tell when Nancy Pearl really loves a book. She’ll mention it even in a chapter it doesn’t belong in. In Book Lust it is in four different chapters, “Girls Growing Up” (p 101), “100 Good Reads, Decade by Decade: 1960s” (p 178), “Southern Fiction” (p 222), and “What a Trial That Was!” (p 244). To Kill a Mockingbird is also mentioned in More Book Lust in the chapter called “You Can’t Judge a Book By Its Cover” (p 238). Pearl is comparing Donna Tartt’s character, Harriet Dufresne (in The Little Friend) with Scout Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird.
Cooper, James Fenimore. The Deerslayer: or The First War-Path. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1925.
Despite it’s raggedy appearance I am glad my library has kept this edition of The Deerslayer. It’s the 1925 edition illustrated by none other than the great N.C. Wyeth. It’s an edition my father could have held in his hands as a boy. It reeks of history and classic boyhood imaginings.
I will be one hundred and ten percent honest. I found this to be a tedious read. Maybe it’s because of the subject matter. I am not a fifteen year old boy enthralled with Davey Crockett, Huckleberry Finn and the Lone Ranger. Adventure stories about scalping and woodsmen mayhem doesn’t readily appeal to me. Aside from the beautiful illustrations The Deerslayer didn’t hold my attention. The plot was pretty simple: Natty is a woodman who proves to be a respected an ally to the Mingo tribe. When that tribe is attacked by Natty’s companions the tables are turned and the companions are taken hostage. There is a great deal made of how to get the companions back and a few people are accidentally murdered. Because Natty treats these killings with respect the Mingo tribe give him a nickname and build a tenuous relationship despite his choice of companions who insist on trying to scalp them.
Note: According to The Deerslayer’s preface it is part of the Leather-Stocking Tales and is meant to be read as part of a series. In chronological order The Deerslayer would be read first but it’s actually the last book of the series.
In the Deerslayer we meet frontiersman Natty Bumppo just coming into manhood. I’m hoping I will have more luck with reading Last of the Mohicans.
Line that snagged me: The very first one. “On the human imagination events produce the effects of time” (p 1).
Reason tried to read: Cooper was born in the month of September.
Author Fact: James Fenimore Cooper was expelled from Yale for being a prankster. He also died one day shy of his 62nd birthday.
Book Trivia: The Deerslayer was made into a movie six times, starting in 1957 and is considered controversial because it was heavily criticized by Mark Twain.
BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called “Digging up the Past Through Fiction” (p 79).
Remarque, Erich Maria. All Quiet on the Western Front. Translated by A.W. Wheen. New York: Ballantine Books, 1982.
Do people consider this a classic? I think I have been aware of this book for the past 35 years but have never read it before now. If someone said “all quiet” I would finish with “on the western front.”
Throughout All Quiet on the Western Front there is the theme of a lost innocence. Soldiers as young as 18 or 19 reflect on a childhood lost. The main character of Paul Baumer is constantly thinking about how, if he were to survive the war, he could never relate to the peacetime world around him. He scoffs at the word “peace.” I saw All Quiet as a commentary on survival in its purest form. Doing anything and everything you can to live another day. When one soldier is obviously on death’s door another wants his boots and starts planning a strategy to get them…even before the dying man has drawn his last breath. This is not callousness personified. This is survival. He knows the boots are of no use to the dying soldier. They would be to him, if only he could get them before someone else does. Ironically, the boots are later passed along to Paul eventually.
Another aspect of Remarque’s work that bears mentioning is the detail he pays to describing death. While the images are unforgiving, violent and grotesque, it is war in its truest state and at its worst. Some of the images that stuck with me: a butterfly flitting around a field of dead men and finally settling to rest on the teeth of a corpse; a screaming horse that can’t be put out of his misery because he will reveal the hiding place of the soldiers.
Lines that moved me one way or another, “The army is based on that; one man must always have power over the other. The mischief is merely that each one has too much power” (p 44) and “At the same time he ventilated his backside” (p 83).
Book Trivia: This was made into a movie twice – once in 1930 and again almost 50 years later in 1979. It won an Academy Award in 1930.
Author Fact: Remarque served as a soldier on the western front in World War I. I can’t help but think All Quiet on the Western Front is almost autobiographical.
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in two chapters “100 Good Reads, Decade by Decade: 1920s” (p 176) and “World War I Fiction” (p 250).
Baum, L. Frank. The Wizard of Oz. New York: Award Book, Inc., 1976.
This is one of those reviews I feel ridiculous writing because who doesn’t know the story of The Wizard of Oz? Actually, I take that back. Most people know Judy Garland as Dorothy. This Dorothy is a child living in a one-room house in Kansas with her aunt, uncle and dog, Toto. A tornado rips through the plains but before Dorothy and her little dog can make it to the hole in the floor the tiny house is swooped up in the tornado’s vortex and they are whisked off to a fantasy land. Upon landing they inadvertently kill a wicked witch (of the East). The
townspeople munchkins are overjoyed but all Dorothy wants to do is go home. So, the munchkins give her the witch’s special shoes and send her along a yellow brick road. At the end of the road is a wizard who supposedly can help her get back to Kansas…however he has a favor to ask first. Along her journey she meets some oddball characters (the ones we all know and love, a tin woodsman, a cowardly lion, and a brainless scarecrow). Unbeknownst to them, they are being watched on their journey. The deceased witch’s sister (Wicked Witch of the West) wants the shoes given to Dorothy. To read The Wizard of Oz as an adult is 100% entertainment. I had fun taking note of how many times the brains-needing Scarecrow did something exceedingly smart or the Cowardly Lion acted inherently brave or the no-heart Tin Woodsman felt true compassion. Other amusements: the group discussing heart disease.
Author Fact: L. Frank Baum’s biography was recently aired on the Smithsonian channel (narrated by Miss Natalie Merchant).
Book Trivia: According to Baum’s introduction before The Wizard of Oz Baum wrote this story because he felt the fairy tales of his day were too laden with morals and not “fun” enough for children. TWoO was written to be pure entertainment for children. However, I can remember being completely mortified by the Tin Man’s story of chopping off his own extremities!
Other book trivia: The Wizard of Oz was made into a movie in 1939 (as we all know) and like Wicked I am willing to bet more people have seen the movie than read the book. I know my grandmother plopped me and my sister in front of it every Thanksgiving.
BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called “Fractured Fairy Tales” (p 94).
I had high hopes for June. Unreasonably so, I think. I don’t know what I was thinking when I decided the difference of a day would make everything better. What’s May 31 into June 1st other than Thursday into Friday? One day into the next? Silly me. June was a few things – a return to the run, a funeral heard around the world, a trip to an exotic island…
Here is the book list:
- A River Runs Though It and Other Stories by Norman MacLean ~ in honor of river cleanup month. I can see why they made the first short story into a movie, but why not the other two? They were equally as good as the first. I read this in five days.
- Death of Ivan Ilich by Leo Tolstoy ~ in honor of June being the best month to travel to Russia…that is, if you even want to travel to Russia. I guess you would need the desire before you decided the best time to go…I read this over three lunch breaks.
- Kristin Lavransdatter: the Bridal Wreath by Sigrid Undset ~ again, chosen for the best time to travel somewhere. In this case, Norway. Note: this is only part one of a three part story. I will be reading the rest in July and August.
- The Stranger by Albert Camus ~ in honor of I honestly don’t remember what. Something celebrating Algeria, I’m sure. This was deceptively simple to read. Read over five lunch breaks.
- The Duke of Deception by Geoffrey Wolff ~ read in honor of June being family month. Some family!
- Damage by Josephine Hart ~ in honor of Father’s Day…well, sort of.
Two Early Review books came in, courtesy of LibraryThing:
- Waterlogged: The Serious Problem of Overhydration in Endurance Sports by Tim Noakes, MD. I didn’t finish this in time to consider it an official June read, but at least I started it in June.
- Who Should I Be? a Novel From Life by Sheila Heti ~ this was slightly delusional but I loved it.
One audio book on cassette while I worked out:
- D-Day by Stephen Ambrose ~ in honor of well, D-Day – June 6th 1944. Duh.
I should also note that I had an audio book for the flight to HI. I listened to July’s selection for the entire trip to and from the islands.
Hart, Josephine. Damage. New York: Ballantine Books, 1991.
Damage was on my list as a Father’s Day read, if you can believe it. I read it over two lunch breaks. Some father! Told from the point of view of a doctor turned politician who has an affair with his son’s girlfriend-turned-fiancee. What makes this (short, only 200 or so pages) story so intoxicating is the slow descent into hell this man willingly makes. When he first introduces us to his life he had been a well-to-do man who has a seemingly perfect family. Two smart and beautiful adult children, Martyn and Sally, a gorgeous wife Ingrid and a stable, well respected career. He does not deny that he had a good life…pre-Anna, his son’s girlfriend. Then he meets Anna and all hell breaks loose in a slow unraveling sort of way. Inexplicably there is an instant attraction between the two of them and an affair ignites abruptly. While the physical relationship is spontaneous the mental obsession builds gradually until it is all consuming…for both of them.
There is a sense of foreshadowing, a warning of sorts in the line “Can’t you sense, smell, taste disaster waiting in the corners of the house?” (p 36).
Anna’s explanation as to why she is the way she is, “I have been damaged. Damaged people are dangerous. They know they can survive” (p 42) is probably the most often quoted in reviews.
Book Trivia: Damage was made into a movie in 1992 starring Jeremy Irons. Yet another one I haven’t seen.
Author Fact: Josephine Hart died of cancer in 2011.
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called “Fathers and Sons” (p 85).
MacLean, Norman. A River Runs Through It and Other Stories. New York: Pocket Books, 1992.
If you don’t at least know the title of this book you have been living under a rock somewhere. This has been a hit movie as well as a best selling book. It has had definite staying power since published in 1976. Comprised of three semi-autobiographical novellas the title story is the most popular and best known of the three. In fact, a lot of reviews don’t really mention the other two stories which are equally as good. Even the back of the 1992 copy I read recapped only the title story – about a family of fishermen. Father is a minister who instilled a love of fly fishing in his two sons. One son is an alcoholic while the other tries to balance a marriage with his love of the Montana wilderness. What is missing is mention of the two other stories: “Logging and Pimping and ‘Your Pal, Jim’” and “USFS 1919: The Ranger, the cook, and a Hole in the Sky.” The first is exactly what it sounds like, logging, pimping and a relationship with a logger named Jim. The USFS story is about MacLean as a teenager working as a forest ranger. While it is a subtle detail it is interesting to note MacLean’s stories have a reverse chronology. MacLean is in his 30s in “A River Runs Through It,” in his 20s in “Logging,” and in his teens in “USFS 1919.”
What surprised me the most about MacLean’s writing was the humor that surfaced with sudden hilarity. Here are three such moments: “The light picked up his brow which was serene…as mine would have been if my mother had spent her life in making me sandwiches and protecting me from reality” (p 54) and “You have never really seen an ass until you have seen two sunburned asses on a sandbar in the middle of a river” (p 73).
Another favorite quote I just had to mention because I know people like this (don’t you?): “He was one of those who need to be caught in a lie while he is telling it” (p 36).
Author Fact: A River Runs Through It and Other Stories was MacLean’s first fiction.
Book Trivia: The movie of the same name was made in 1992 and starred Brad Pitt, among others. The third story, “USFS 1919″ was made into a made-for-television movie in 1995 and starred Sam Elliot.
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called “Montana: In Big Sky Country” as an aside when mentioning another book (p 156) and also from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Gone Fishin’” (p 100).
Tan, Amy. The Joy Luck Club. New York: Ivy Books, 1989.
Yeah, yeah. I know what you’re thinking. This should be a reread for me at this stage of the game. Believe it or not, I’d never read it before. Nor have I seen the movie. It bears repeating. I didn’t know this story. At all. Surprised? Don’t be. There are a lot of books I need to catch up to. I have a lot of words to chase. Still.
So. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan. In a word, magical. In two words, thought provoking. In three, very well written. In four, impossible to put down. I’ll stop there but you get the point. I liked it.
I feel a little redundant writing about a book that has been around for so long. Everyone knows it either through reading it (hey, it did spend nine months on the best seller list) or from seeing the movie. I’m the only who has been living under a rock! But, anyway:
The Joy Luck follows the lives of three immigrant Chinese women who had started up a Mahjong club called Joy Luck in 1949. (There is a fourth founder but she dies before the book starts.) When the fourth founder dies from an brain aneurism her adult daughter is invited to join the group. Each chapter is a vignette, alternating between the Chinese mothers of the group and their American-born daughters. Through memories, parables, heritage and tragic history the visuals and dialogues make each character come alive.
One of the elements that makes The Joy Luck Club so fascinating is that it is structured like the game Mahjong the Joy Luck Club plays. To be fair, I had to do a little research about mahjong because I wasn’t sure how it is played. After learning how the game is set up it dawned on me it was the identical design of Tan’s book.
Four parts that are divided into four sections totaling 16 different slices of story.
Personal joke: “…Ted introduced me to all his relatives as his girlfriend which, until then, I didn’t know I was” (p 124). Been there!
Book Trivia: The Joy Luck Club was translated into over 30 different languages, was a best-seller for nine months and was made into a movie in 1993 starring Tsai Chin. Chin also starred in Memoirs of a Geisha, another book on my list.
Author fact: Amy Tan co-authored a book with one of my favorite authors, Barbara Kingsolver, in 1994 called Mid-Life Confidential: The Rock Bottom Remainders Tour with Three Cords and an Attitude .
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called “Asian American Experience” (p 26).
Alcott, Louisa May. Little Women. New York: Scholastic, 1987.
I think it goes without saying that Little Women is a classic. Who doesn’t know the story of Meg, Jo, Amy and Beth? Okay, so female readers of all ages probably know it better than men but either way there is no denying it’s a classic! Plus, they made a movie out of it!
So. To repeat the obvious: This is the story of the March women – Mrs. March and her four daughters. Too old to be drafted into service, Mr. March enlists to be a chaplain in the civil war. While he is away Mrs. March and her girls keep a modest house house in Concord, Massachusetts. The story centers around the four daughters and their four very different personalities. Alcott was ahead of her time when she created the character of Josephine (“Jo”). Jo is an ambitious tomboy who cuts her hair and wants to be a unmarried writer. She is referred to as male by herself (saying she is the man of the house while Father is away) and by her father (who calls her “son”). It’s an interesting dynamic to the plot. The rest of the March women are as Victorian as can be. I try to refrain from seeing them as prissy. They are all very pretty and wishy-washy and have talent. As a aside, the storytelling reminded me of Anne of Green Gables.
Disclaimer: Alcott intended Little Women to the first of a two volume set (with Good Wives being the second). Because Good Wives is not on my reading list I didn’t read it with Little Women.
Author Fact: Louisa May Alcott is buried in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, MA. I wonder if I’ll have time to look her up while I am there in another week?
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called “Three-Hanky Reads” (p 236). Of course Pearl is referring to the part when Beth dies.