Friday, November 26, 2010

Modern Classics - Literary Blog Hop

I always seem to be a  day late with my Literary Blog Hop (hosted by the lovelies at The Blue Bookcase) posts. Thanksgiving kept me busy all day yesterday, but I'm super excited, as always, to participate. 
Literary Blog Hop
This week question is a big one!
What makes a contemporary novel a classic? 
Discuss a book which you think fits the category of ‘modern classics’ and explain why. 

Classic is a big word. I feel like a lot of Literary Fiction has come out in the past few years, but is being literary enough to make any of them a classic? I mean, it's not like we're gushing over all of Austen's contemporaries on a regular bases. Plus, Dickens and the Bronte's might have been popular, but what about Melville? He was universally panned in his lifetime! In my mind what makes a classic a classic is that it evokes another time, with similar problems and real characters. Now, if follow my definition, it becomes near impossible to see what future generations think will be relevant. I can scream about 'modern classics' as much as I want, but really all I'll be saying with that is 'look, this book was popular, but it was well written and it has a heavy handed message that some people will love, and others will hate, but regardless, everyone will talk about it.' 
Personally, I can't wait to see what's being taught in English classes in 50 years time. I'm sure Austen will stick around with The Odyssey and Twain, but what will be added to the long list of $5 paperbacks and free e-books?

So, that's my very noncommittal answer. I can't wait to hop around and see all of yours! Hope everyone had a filling Thanksgiving and didn't freeze waiting outside of stores for black Friday!

The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Milan Kundera

I'm finding it hard to write impartially, or even intelligently about this book. The Unbearable Lightness of Being is one of my favorite books, and I find it hard to separate myself from Kundera's amazing prose long enough to write a coherent summary. In short, my first 'review' and believe me, I'm using to word review loosely, of Kundera's masterpiece is the best I'm going to come to giving anyone a general understand of the story, oh, and there are spoilers. Sorry.

Part of what makes Unbearable Lightness so amazing is the amazingly worded philosophy that Kundera expertly threats throughout his story. Really, that's what drew me into the novel, lines like "There is an infinite difference between a Robespierre who occurs only once in history and a Robespierre who eternally returns, chopping off French Heads" - which really sums up the point Kundera is trying to make on heaviness - evokes something in me, and pulls me right in. 

Overall there isn't much I don't enjoy in this novel. I could take or leave Franz as a character, but even he's tolerable until he goes to Cambodia. Sometimes Kundera does get carried away with his philosophic ramblings, and what's more he picks really plot heavy times to do so. Right when your wondering what's going on back in Prague we take a detour into Kundera's mind. 

Sorry for the slightly nonsensical review! 

Friday, November 19, 2010

Literary Hop - Nonfiction Style

I've been a bad blogger. I had hours yesterday to work on this post and just kept putting it off - blaming it on how excited I was to see Deathly Hallows Part 1, or on being sleepy, but really I just didn't have a dignified answer to the question for this weeks Literary Book Blog Hop (hosted by The Blue Bookcase)

Literary Blog Hop

The question was: Is there a such thing as literary non-fiction? If so, how do you define it? Examples?

My hesitance to answer this question wasn't based on categorizing non-fiction as literary. For me, a literary work shows a beautiful control of wording and a innovative story. Ok, I'm simplifying my qualifications for the word 'literary' but I'm going to ask you to forgive me. Back to the point I was making; of course literary non-fiction exists. I'm just not sure if I've read any literary non-fiction. Looking at the non fiction I've read this year, it hasn't been very diverse 
Moab is My Washpot - Fry
American On Purpose - Ferguson
Running with Scissors - Burroughs 
How Did You Get This Number - Crosley
Sleepwalk with Me - Birbigglia. 

So, to break it down, that's three comedic memoirs, one generally funny memoir and a set of personal, and supposedly funny essays. Last year was no different. I think all I read was David Sedaris. But you can see that my foray into non fiction isn't usually for literary merit, but instead for a good laugh. I rarely read down the road to self help books, histories and general awesomeness that can be encompassed in non fiction. But with a category so vast as non fiction, I have to believe that at least some of it contains literary merit. 

In other news-
Since finishing Persian Letters, I have a chance to actually catch up on things I want to be reading. I still have to work through Things Fall Apart for class, but I'm excited for it. It also feels like an even switch since I made my old roommate read my favorite non-American book last year (Kundera's Unbearable Lightness of Being) and this is one of her favorite books by a non-American author. 

I'm also excited to finish rereading the above mentioned Unbearable Lightness of Being, as well as The Forgotten Garden, Stardust, The Virgin Widow and Starter For Ten. I think this is a good list to get me through Thanksgiving. What about you guys? Any big reading plans for the forthcoming holidays? Maybe a holiday favorite or a new release you can't wait for?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Persian Letters

Reading hasn't really been a big priority in my life the past few weeks. With only a few weeks left in the semester my body decided it needed a break, to make sure I understood what it meant, it made me super super sick. coughing all night, no voice sick. This paired with homework, and more importantly making Hogwarts themed scarves for opening night of Deathly Hallows has put reading for fun on the back burner. But seeing as how Persian Letters is homework, I did manage to get it read. I promise after Friday I'll be back with a stack of books I've been dying to read.

Persian Letters


Persian Letters is exactly what it sounds. Well, almost. Montesquieu has his readers loosely following the journey of two Persians, Usbek and Rica, from their homes to Paris, where they experience interesting western things like  apartments and loose women and lots and lots of philosophy.  Occasionally there are letters from harem Usbek left behind, but usually these are just about how the women miss him, or how they are misbehaving, depending on the writer.

Written by the French Montesquieu in 1721, it is a suprising read. I didn't expect to enjoy anything about Persian Letters, and for the most part, I wasn't surprised by long winded letters on depopulation, money, medicine, and a slew of other things that are more likely to make even the most attentive reader yawn. However Montesquieu surprised me with interesting side stories told in his letters. While Usbek and Rica's journey is straight forward and  dull, the mythes they write about, in the hopes of making a point are fascinating.  Usbek's Troglodyte myth would have been a much easier way of teaching middle school me about different forms of government. There are also adaptations of Greek myth, and a forbidden love story.

All in all, I can't  recommended Persian Letters to anyone. It has a place in history, but isn't really a classic. The narrative is to loose to be engrossing and the characters to unknown to be cared about. It's an interesting social commentary, and I can see why it was popular when it was published a little under 300 years ago, but even with economic themes being dealt with it doesn't ring relevant today.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A New Kind of Hop

If you've been lurking around Loving Books, you'll notice that I usually participate in Crazy-for-Books weekly book blog hop. I've found some amazing blogs through the hop, but lately I've been finding that it's much more of a YA party then general fiction. I don't mind YA, but I don't usually go out of my way to read it, and have been having a hard time finding new blogs over the past few weeks that I really want to follow.

This week I wanted to give the Literary Book Blog Hop - hosted by The Blue Bookcase - a try

Literary Blog Hop

I know not everything I read is a literary masterpiece, but I think (hope) my blog will meet everyones standards, and I know if nothing else I'll find some amazing blogs to follow!

The Blue Bookcase also posed a question this week, and that question is -
What is the most difficult literary work you've ever read? What made it so difficult?

Over the past few years I've found I have a really hard time reading Charles Dickens. He's been required reading for a few of my classes and I find myself headed over to the dreaded sparknotes to get through his novels. I found Hard Times especially bad. What really kills me about Dicken's though is that I like his stories. When I read a summery or hear someone talking about them I get really excited - These sound fantastic! Why haven't I read this! (Nicholas Nickelby was another notable example.) I guess, for me, Dicken's reads really dry. He sucks the life out of well thought out, amazing tales.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

First November Hop

It's Friday and that means it's time for another Book Blogger Hop. As always, thank you to Jennifer at Crazy-For-Books for hosting this amazing meme.
Book Blogger Hop
I started my week off on a great note with Mike Birbiglia's new book - Sleepwalk with Me. Since then I've been trudging through Persian Letters for class, and the library finally got in a copy of The Unbearable Lightness of Being, which I am really excited to reread.

This week Jennifer poses us with an interesting challenge, to find a new blog we generally enjoy and comment on  at least five of their posts. As always, I look forward to finding more awesome blogs.

Lastly, instead of answering Jennifer's question this week I'd like to pose one of my own. During my first year at College I created a quote wall out of post it notes in my dorm room. Since then I've moved twice and have lost a majority of the interesting quotes I came across. My room right now is pretty plain so I'm in the process of remaking my wall. So what I want to know is what is your favorite quote?

Hope everyone has a great weekend

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Sleepwalk With Me - Mike Birbiglia

Mike Birbiglia 

Sometimes it's good to laugh at yourself, and that's exactly what Mike Birbiglia does in this memoir. Mike created a perfect balance between personal, funny and serious - meaning almost all of his stories are very personal, laugh at loud funny and rarely heavy enough that it'll bring down your mood. If you're a fan of his stand-up you'll find a lot of overlap, but in a good way. Things like Birbiglia's Like Fun jokes develop into something more. It's more like he has decided to acknowledge his stand up, but take it on a different journey for his first book -which I really appreciated.

At 191 pages, Sleepwalk With Me is a quick read. I tore through the pages like a house on fire. I spent all of yesterday on a less then pleasant train ride, and usually during these rides I turn to Mike's comedy albums to give me a few laughs and keep my spirit up but this time I decided reading would be a better use of my time. There were still parts where I laughing out loud and having the time of my life, and I didn't have to worry about those silly ear-buds falling out ever five seconds!

There is a lot of honest in Sleepwalk With Me. At 32 Birbiglia admits he's a bit young for a memoir, not wanting anyone to think he's 'wrapping it up'. I particularly liked his brief section on Mitch Hedberg, which, along with his sleepwalking stories are the most serious of the entire book. This is one of the better comedic memoir's I've read this year, and it really exceeded my expectations. If you're in need of a pick me up you should totally pick this one up.

Top Ten Tuesdays - Books That Made Me Cry

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. This meme was created because they are particularly fond of lists over at The Broke and the Bookish. they'd love to share our lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists

This week's Top Ten is:
Top Ten Books That Made You Cry
(These all contain little spoilers. Just a heads up.)
1. The Book Thief - Zusak -  i can't think of a better place to start that here. The Book Thief was a really emotional journey for me. I read it this past winter and remember crying through the last thirty pages. It was just so hard to see Liesel lose everything and everyone.  

2.Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince - Rowling - Here's a little secret. When I first read Half Blood Prince when it came out I didn't cry. I didn't even really think twice to what Dumbledore's death would mean. Since then I've read Half Blood Prince at least five times, and twice since i started this blog. It's my favorite book of the series and I've noticed, especially in these past two reads, that I can't finish it without bawling like a baby. When I reread the series this summer I had to wait a few days to start Deathly Hallows. I felt like I needed to finally mourn Dumbledore properly, because I hadn't all those years ago. 

3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Rowling - I've talked a lot about Harry Potter on this Blog, but I find it hard to do lists like this without adding both HBP and DH. I have cried every single time I've read Deathly Hallows, sometimes more then others, but the tears are always there. Really, in addition to losing so many characters I'd grown to love, Deathly Hallows represents the end of my childhood. 
I even cried all the way through the epilogue. 
All was well. 
4. The Proud Breed - Blasis - A good friend lent me The Proud Breed years ago. I must have been just starting high school. It was a long novel, an epic really. I don't remember a lot of the details, or really much of anything about it, but I remember turning the final few pages and sobbing. There's something about taking a complete journey with a person, for me, means I need to mourn them in some way. I sobbed my way through those final pages, and I was proud of myself.

5. One Day - Nicholls - This may be silly, but I felt for Emma. This was one of those situations where I needed there to be a complete happy ending, kids, a dog, a white picket fence's. I needed that for this story, and I understand why the ending was what it was, but I just couldn't get over finality of everything. I just wanted there to be a story where everyone wasn't perfect, but where there could still be some kind of lasting happiness.

6. A Walk to Remember - Sparks - I don't think I need to say much about this, despite my hatred of new Sparks novels, i did read a good few in my early teens and Jamie and Landon have the kind of romance that's made for a box of tissues. 

7. The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Album - Journey's through death are sad. There really isn't much  more to say about this. 

8. Everything is Illuminated - Foer - I may have shed a few tears over Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, but Everything is Illuminated left me sad for days. I think it's something with World War II stories that get me. It was a combination of all of the stories that just had me shedding tears here. I have been siting this as one of my favorite books for over five years now and haven't been able to bring myself to reread it.

9. Falling Angels - Chevalier - This is my favorite book of all time. Honestly, my copy is falling to pieces, and I can find my favorite passages just by opening up to the creases. Now this list has me realizing one thing. I like sad things. Falling Angel's isn't really different. There is a lot of sadness here, and some death, and for a book that is centered around mourning it seems like It would have been a little wrong if I didn't shed a few tears as well.

I can't really think of any more, so I'll leave this list at 9.

October in Review

As always I borrowed the month in review post from Lily's Bookshelf, because she's awesome. 

Books Read:
Touching From a Distance - Curtis (review)
How Did You Get This Number - Crosley (review)
Moonlight in Odessa - Charles (review)
A Streetcar Named Desire - Williams (not reviewed)
The Lake of Dead Languages - Goodman (review)

Total Number of Books Read This Month: 

Total Number of Books Read This Year: 51 
Books Unfinished:
As I Lay Dying
Great House 

Most Anticipated:
How Did You Get This Number

Biggest Let Down:
How Did You Get This Number

Favorite Read:
The Lake of Dead Languages 

Overall Reflection:
October was a month of ups and downs for me. I'm really lucky to have gotten five books in this month. Three of them are curtsy of the Read-a-Thon earlier this month. After that I kind of fell into a funk. I was supposed to read Faulkner's As I Lay Dying for class but got about 3/4 of the way through and couldn't finish it. I was also having a hard time getting into Nicole Krauss's new novel, Great House. This was really discouraging because I'd been looking forward to it for a while. I was in a reading slump for most of the month, but rediscovered crocheting and made several hats and my dad a blanket for his birthday.  

So really out of the entire month I was only actively reading for about 10 days of it. I'm finally out of my slump. I read Carol Goodman's The Lake of Dead Languages over Halloween weekend, and got a few books at Barnes and Noble with a gift card I had laying around. I'm ready and excited to start November off on a strong note.

What about you, read any good books this month?