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Friday, January 29, 2010

I Am America (So Can You) Discussion

I Am America (So Can You)

by Stephen Colbert

genre: comedy

Succinctly put, this book is a raging plethora of exaggerated political hubris and paranoia presented as postulation. Colbert outlines all of the things 'attacking' the American way and Christianity. These things he presents as gospel truth. Heavily leaning against liberals and homosexuals, he takes the GOP stance to the utmost of ridiculous. He is obviously being sarcastic.

Once again, I went into this thinking, "Hey I like this comedian, I'll love his book" and was sorely disappointed. Not that I didn't laugh. But I was cringing a lot too. I began to wonder who he truly was making fun of and if any of the people reading this book held such ludicrous ideas as truth, would they think he was encouraging them? He certainly went into distasteful territory in my opinion. I don't mind an in your face comedian. And I get sarcasm. But this was too much for me to laugh at. And that is where my disappointment lies. It was vitriolic while trying to be tongue in cheek and I lost the laughter after about three or four chapters.

Example: "..until that great day when all humans can't see color, those with darker skin should take the Invisible Man's brave example and wrap themselves in the white bandages of unity so that we all truly look the same color.
"You see, White people are already wrapped in bandages: the skin God gave us to protect ourselves from racism."

or on immigration: "We need to build a 2000-mile long wall along our southern border...We don't want these Mexican Jumping Beans hopping over whenever they feel like it...something that can be seen from space, with double-wall construction, machine-gun nests and a flaming moat..."

Like I said, I'm not immune to the fact that he's using exaggeration and causticness, it's just that it feels like it goes too far without enough punchline humor to counter it. I think he's funnier in person where inflection and tone and the visual imagery of making fun of himself and those he's supposedly supporting help to make that balancing effect.

Did anyone else read the book? How did you feel about the humor? Were there passages you especially liked or hated?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Technical Difficulties

Due to technical difficulties, my book opening video will not appear here tonight.  I am sorry.  I am going to attempt this again first thing tomorrow, if it still doesn't work, I'll just do an announcement.

Sorry for the delay.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Don't forget

Book Opening tomorrow!  This will be book 22.  We're nearing the end.  And rounding the corner to a beginning.  What a great year we're going to have.

So tune in tomorrow and catch our latest video of us being...complete idiots.  But at least idiots in love with books.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Not my Best Year

It is January.  This is a book blog.  Therefore by association I feel compelled to write a Best of 2009 list or acknowledgement of lists post.

I can't.  Why?  I've been so out of the mainstream, I hardly knew the lion's share of the books listed in all the lists of lists that I perused.

I can tell you that my "To be read" list grew to Mount Everest proportions.  If I ever make it to the top, I'm mounting a plaque.  Here set the foot of a book lover whose eyes gave out.  Well, hopefully I won't be crying at the eye doctor too soon.

According to my records, I finished exactly fifteen books last year.  Oy the feebleness.  I did manage to start about double that.  But that doesn't count.

So I am challenging myself this year.  Including the books we read, I'm aiming to read at least one book a week.  (Or in the end, the average of such by the end of the year.  I'm not disillusioned enough to overlook the fact that some weeks just go to hell).

Some of the books I'm hoping to sink my teeth into include:

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead - The winner of the 2010 John Newbery Medal for outstanding children's literature, a story of middle school years, coming of age in New York city by a girl obsessed with A Wrinkle in Time.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle - I've never read it, and if I want to read the above, I figure I really ought to read this one first.

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold - another I must read before I do something else.  I'd like to see the film Peter Jackson, in spite of the scathing reviews so far.  I want to read the book first.  This one has actually been on my radar for quite some time, but I shied away from it.  No more.

Voluntary Madness by Norah Vincent - as Amazon puts it: "an investigation into psychiatric practices and questionable diagnoses" and "a personal exploration of mental stability".  To be honest I just happened to stumble on to this one, one of those click click click and suddenly I'm somewhere I never expected to be.  Quite a rabbit hole indeed.

Bad Science by Ben Goldacre - a humorous expose of all the science and medical scams we're inundated with from media.

The Magicians by Lev Grossman - almost completely off my radar, the recommendation I read for this felt like a slap on the back of the head.  "Why haven't you heard of this book?" was the thought running through my head.  And as far as I've read, don't let the fantasy aspect of it fool you.  It is a serious novel clothed in fantasy.

I won't bore you by going on and on.  But these were some of the highlights of things that jumped out of the Best Of lists I've read so far.

So now, you tell me:  What sort of challenges are you setting for your reading year?  What are the books you've added to your to be read list from the Best Of lists?  What books would you say are the top books of 2009?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Mudbound Discussion

Mudbound
by Hillary Jordan

category: literary fiction

Mudbound is the name of a farm, so dubbed by the wife who'd been reluctant to move there. When the rains come, the farm becomes isolated from the nearest town. That fact sets an entire stream of events into motion that inevitably lead to despair, deceit, pain, resolution, self-discovery and love.
Land sickness is described as the disease the farmer feels who is tied to his land, inextricably in love with it. So much so, that those infected with land disease often go blind to the effects the land exerts on those they love around them. You will not find any bucolic imagery of farming here. The land is hard, and the people on it often become hard with it. In a town in Mississippi just after the second world war, when racial tensions still ran higher than any flag flown, Henry and his wife Laura, buy Mudbound. Rather, Henry buys and as a dutiful wife she follows, however reticently.
Never having defied her husband, she finds herself thrown into situations that test her inner strength and her beliefs about deep-seated rules of racial boundaries and her deep-seated sense of right and wrong. She begins to make demands of her husband, standing up for people in defiance of his will. Strain on the marriage inevitably ensues. Add a cruel old man as the father and father-in-law into the mix and the tension thickens to pudding consistency. Then Henry's brother moves in with his ghosts of the war, and Laura begins to feel a passionate side of herself she never knew. Henry and Laura's relationships to all these people and the tenants on their farm, including a black family who become substantially entwined with their daily life, are the whirlwind this novel's plot revolves around.

This book does not indulge in flowery language. It is simple and direct, infused with its own style of elegance. Jordan's choice to write from each character's point of view chapter to chapter, heading them with only the name of the person speaking seems daring yet, I think, the only satisfactory way to tell this story. Any one person's point of view would never convey the widely varied ideals and perceptions that are essential to understanding the full story, and a narrative voice could never be personal enough to dig into the emotion of it. Throughout the novel I felt a sense of looming danger, yet it never felt depressing or too frightening to continue. There was a longing for things to go right when I knew there was no way they truly could. Jordan skillfully tapped into my emotions and drug me along like a fish on a hook. I found it hard to draw myself away from the story, even after forcing myself to put the book down. I can't say the ending surprised me all that much, but the range of feelings that I wrangled through to get there did.

I would definitely recommend this book. Not a difficult read, but certainly a worthy one.

Now, your turn. What did you like or dislike about this book? Or both? What are your post reading impressions? Did it stay with you and why?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Book Examiner

So I recently found myself clicking through to an article at the Book Examiner about annoying phrases used in book reviews. Then I dug into her site further and found articles about formats of book reviews and how impotent most reviews are and voila I had a Brown Book resolution staring me in the face.

I'm going to do my best to never use the words listed in this article.
I'm going to attempt to use a format similar to the one she lists in this article.
I want to get more comprehensive and foster higher interest in the books we're reading.
Which also means I need to be on the ball here and follow my schedules. (Um, ahem)

So. Here we go.

How many of you are reading Mudbound? I'm planning for us to discuss this one next Friday. If you want more time let me know, we'll futz with the schedule. We'll be opening the next book on Monday. Look for a rip roaring opening video!

Let's get the last few books of this set romped through and then let's do another! Shall we?

For the next set of books, I'm thinking we should wrap up 10 to 15 books instead of the amount I did last time. Secondly, I was leaning toward picking the books again so that you guys will have the socks surprised right off your warm and tingly little toes. But, I'm open for democratic shoot down of my dictatorship, so let me know what you think. And did you have fun last year?