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Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead
Brené Brown
Marxist Literary Theory: A Reader
Terry Eagleton, Drew Milne

The Gathering

The Gathering - Anne Enright To borrow from Damon Wayans and David Alan Grier from "In Living Color," hated it.

The Sea, the Sea

The Sea, the Sea - Iris Murdoch, Mary Kinzie Charles Arrowby is the most pompous, self-absorbed, idiotic, misogynist protagonist I've ever encountered. Yet, he's so charming that I was pleasantly horrified to read about his abusive behavior. Written as a proposed diary/memoir, the story reveals two sides of him. We read his extensive self-reflections that sound astute even outside of his warped, little mind while watching his singular ability to misread situations and turn simple moments into madcap mayhem.Iris Murdoch is a genius.


Poison: A Novel - Susan Fromberg Schaeffer The author really likes the word "travesty," and that's what this book is: a travesty of an epic novel about Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. It's been awhile since I've forced myself to finish an awful book, and I'm amazed that a fictionalized tale of the fascinating lives of those two could be so weak. Ironically, the flowing, almost stream of conscious, narration gave the sense that things are moving when almost nothing happens in this 600-page book. A man dies. His heirs fight. All of them are extreme caricatures of real human beings, who whine and behave hysterically, without evoking a single reason why anyone should care about them.

The Complete Short Stories of Ambrose Bierce

The Complete Short Stories - Ambrose Bierce, Ernest Jerome Hopkins, Cathy N. Davidson As a word assassin (i.e. editor) by day, I find Bierce's talent for word conservation stunning. I didn't know diction (and fiction) could feel so efficient. But, because no story is longer than 5 or so pages, this collection can feel draining, especially since the stronger works are in the last two sections: war stories and tall tales. Even still, he's such a phenomenal writer who pushes bitterness almost to its unbearable limit that anyone who wants to learn more about writing as a craft should have to read.

Nocturnal Butterflies of the Russian Empire

Nocturnal Butterflies Of The Russian Empire: A Novel - José Manuel Prieto, José Manuel Prieto González This books starts way too much like Thomas Pynchon's _V_, but not as good.

Say You're One of Them

Say You're One of Them - Uwem Akpan I usually avoid stories with child protagonists as their preternatural sophistication and astute observations seem unrealistic and off-putting. They know too much. Uwem Akpan’s characters in _Say You’re One of Them_ apply their simple logic to their lives in the face of child prostitution, human trafficking, and ethnic cleansing. (When you discover your Hutu father has lied to his relatives about hiding your Tutsi mother, you make a note to yourself to remind him that lying is wrong.) Yet, because they are not yet cynical or suspicious, they narrate tales filled with hope and wonder, which makes their impending suffering all the more horrifying in the end. The only story I didn’t like was “Luxurious Hearses,” set on a coach bus waiting for various reasons at a depot to take refugees across Nigeria after an ethnic conflict between Muslims and Christians has broken out. It wastes a lot of time with summaries of Nigerian history and current events. Furthermore, I found the passengers’ repeated changes of collective sentiment, such as wanting to eject certain passengers and then wanting them to stay, tiring. As a device, it may make the story an allegory of Nigerian politics, but instead felt like unnecessary “crowd shots” in narrated form before returning to the real plot in the dialogue and main character’s flashbacks.

How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents: (Plume Essential Edition)

How the García Girls Lost Their Accents - Julia Alvarez I feel petty criticizing a book that's meant for beaches and plane rides, but the occasional heartbreakingly beautiful chapter raised my expectations only to fall when I later read whole paragraphs with a new simile in every sentence, rampant exclamation points, and novel ways to make the use of cliches even more awkward than normal.

Life Interrupted: The Unfinished Monologue

Life Interrupted: The Unfinished Monologue - Spalding Gray The concept behind this book is pretty brilliant. It couples Spalding Gray's last monologue, speeches from two memorial services held in his honor, and an obituary--in essence, more monologues about Gray but written by various artists, writers, friends, and members of his family. But, with a couple of exceptions, including that of his stepdaughter, none of the other writers compare to Gray himself, and at the book's dullest points, I was completely aware that I was reading a transcript from a funeral, as painful as that sounds.

Reveries of the Solitary Walker

Reveries of the Solitary Walker - Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Peter France And I thought my diaries were maudlin and full of self-pity. This book is Rousseau lite, offering a quick summary of some of his major ideas about truth and man's relationships to nature and society all the while ruminating on life in (largely self-imposed) exile. At times, he was so over the top that I imagined Dave Chappelle reading some of this material aloud.

Marxist Literary Theory: A Reader

Marxist Literary Theory: A Reader - Terry Eagleton,  Drew Milne Not only is it not an insomnia killer, but I find it so relevant to what else I'm reading and doing right now that I'm actually reading it cover to cover. School, bah.

The Monk (Modern Library Classics)

The Monk - Matthew Gregory Lewis, Hugh Thomas Scandals, intrigues, and seductions, I was actually shocked by this gruesome, immoral, rabidly anti-Catholic tale.

Five Comedies from the Italian Renaissance

Five Comedies from the Italian Renaissance - Laura Giannetti I wish I could say that I like screwball comedies because I like commedia dell'arte, but really, I loved these plays because I like screwball comedies. Part of what made them so engrossing is that on the surface, many of these gender-bent, queer-ish characters eventually return to heteronormativity and get married. Yet, throughout the majority of the plays, they lead these subversive lives that make light of all that is upstanding and proper.

Prospero's Daughter

Prospero's Daughter: A Novel - Elizabeth Nunez With such a promising concept, it's unfortunate that this book fails in execution in the second half. I only continued to read because I couldn't remember how The Tempest ended. Colonialism is bad, but through it, Western art traveled to distant lands and influenced the lives of others. In other news, area man is shocked that a dog has bit him.

Abyssinian Chronicles: A Novel

Abyssinian Chronicles - Moses Isegawa This book is so amazing that I'm willing to forgive a few weighty sins -- like how the narrator comes to know so much detail events in the lives of people he avoids. The story, which covers the life of Mugezi and many members of his extended family, is interwoven into a history of pre- and post-Amin Uganda. The first half of the book, his life through late adolescence, is by far the strongest. As the second half concentrates more on the nation during that tumultuous period, the novel becomes more didactic. It's not clear if this is meant to be ironic as the narrator does his best to avoid politics. Where the book fails is in the characterization of women. Their behavior--cattiness, passive-aggressiveness, or surprising retreat from an easily won conflict--make sense, but the author tredges into places he clearly doesn't understand when he tries to explain their motivation.

The Peppered Moth

The Peppered Moth - Margaret Drabble There's a beautiful book waiting to emerge, and perhaps the author is the one to make it happen. But as she repeatedly violates the show-don't-tell rule, I just don't trust her to do it. She ruined some remarkable touching scenes by explaining their meaning at the end of the passages.

Faust: Ein Mythos und Seine Bearbeitungen

Faust, A Tragedy: Interpretive Notes, Contexts, Modern Criticism (Critical Editions) - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Cyrus Hamlin, Walter Arndt I won't bother trying to say something interesting about this book. But, I do acknowledge that it wasn't what I expected. The plot was far more dramatic and Faust a more ambiguous, conflicted character for a story that's become such a cultural archetype.