I see I haven't updated in a while. I'll fix that.
Wintergirls, Laurie Halse Anderson. A curiosity read for me - it's a YA novel that's said to really show what anorexia is like. Lia's been in the hospital a couple of times and now awkwardly living with her father and his wife and fighting with them and her mother - both of her parents are pretty awful - and hiding her weight loss, and cutting. Then her former best friend dies. She dies alone in a motel room and she tried to call Lia 33 times that night, only Lia didn't pick up because of feuding.
I felt sorry for Lia and didn't find her unlikable as some reviewers, but I wasn't drawn to her either. I hated the poetic dreamworld writing which made it hard for me to figure out what was going on half the time and the ghost just didn't work for me. I did like how every time she thinks of food, even just cooking for someone else, she's instantly thinking of how many calories, and arguing with herself about eating it. That fits with anorexics I have known. I don't quite get what it was that changed her in the end - yeah I'm spoiling it but what did you expect in a book like this?
I still don't get anorexia, wish I had that kind of control and of course I'd use it for good (ha ha, typoed that as "food").
One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd, Jim Fergus. I'm giving it one and a half stars because I was interested enough in the characters to finish it, but otherwise, eh.
Here we have an interesting alternate history - apparently a Cheyenne chief really did suggest to the BIA that if the US would send 1000 white women to marry his braves, it would result in peace between the nations. This speculates on what would have happened, in the form of a journal and letters by one of them.
I'm afraid her voice isn't that of a 19th century woman, even one who has been sent to an asylum by her family for her promiscuity (living as the common law wife of a man whose status is beneath her and bearing him two children.) She's far too worldly and liberal minded about marrying an Indian and about a black woman in the group. Oh yeah, I forgot all the other characters who are equally one dimensional and are all stereotypes (Amazonian black woman, proper Englishwoman, good hearted lady mule skinner, broke down Southern belle, red haired Irish ex-con twins (who marry twin Indians AND EACH HAVE TWINS - kill me now please)) who all talk in embarrassing phonetic accents.
Daniel over on Goodreads made the excellent suggestion that the book would be more interesting if it were unclear whether she was unfairly persecuted by her family or if she was really crazy.
The Leftovers, Tom Perrotta. What happens to the leftovers from the Rapture? If that's what it was. Dysfunctional families stay dysfunctional, no surprise there. Lonely people still have trouble connecting.
It was interesting but kind of disappointing, I think because I couldn't understand the motivations of some of the major characters, especially the ones that joined cults. I know I'm hopelessly naive but the teenagers' sex game seemed unrealistic to me. In that same vein, the big reveal about what happened to cult members solved the mystery yet left me skeptical. Talking to my spouse about the differences between the book and the TV series, which he watched, helped me realize that part of my problem was that I couldn't get into the mindset of people for whom the whole world has changed and old rules of morality and expectations of the future have vanished in the wake of this incomprehensible event. It's similar to how I had a hard time understanding people whose outlook on life changed after 9-11.
Oh yeah and I hated the ending. Please, call the police and have them come take it away.
A Place of Greater Safety, Hilary Mantel.
Big disappointment. It just seemed like a bunch of conversations strung together, that didn’t go anywhere, and I never got a sense of the individuality of the three main characters. I couldn't keep the characters straight - which first name goes with which last name and who has the stutter and who the scars - and I bailed on it, which I rarely do. I knew a fair amount about the French Revolution so it wasn’t that. It was just boring.
Mad Night, Richard Sala. Gothic-esque graphic novel of murder and skullduggery on a college campus. Interesting drawings but otherwise eh. I’ve never read the teenage detective books it seems to be parodying so it was boring rather than charming.
Green River Killer: A true detective story, Jeff Jensen with drawings by Jonathan Case. More of a story about the detective who hunted and finally prosecuted the killer, and his relationships with other detectives. That raises it above the usual true crime books. Despite a lot of legwork, when the killer was finally caught it was with DNA, and he made a deal to show detectives where he'd left bodies to avoid the death penalty. So, much of the book is about these field trips to where bodies were dumped, and how frustrating it was for the detectives. He simply couldn't remember most of the details because there'd been so many murders and they were so similar. For him the women were just objects to satisfy his urge to kill.
The artwork is beautiful and Case does a great job of showing the detectives and their families aging, as the case goes on through the years. I didn't realize until I finished it that the writer was the son of the lead detective and main character.
Sailor Twain: Or: The Mermaid in the Hudson, Mark Siegel. I'm in love with the artwork in this book, a combination of realism and caricatures done in charcoal. The story is great too. A riverboat captain rescues an injured mermaid from the Hudson and falls in love. The ship's owner, taking over for his missing brother, is acting more and more strange. A notoriously reclusive but wildly popular writer agrees to announce his next book on a river cruise.
I'm reading slowly because I don't want it to end.
Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary, Justin Green. This is a reprint of the 1972 comic. I have the original in the garage, and when I first read it I was kind of put off by it. It's an autobiographical story of a young boy and his struggles with sexual urges and Catholicism. Now I find his scrupulosity and neuroses interesting but then I just thought he was kind of weird. I just didn’t get it – I was thoroughly in the late 60s – 70s mindset of sex is groovy, guilt is for squares, if it feels good do it, and couldn’t understand the shame and conflicting urges he’s portraying here. I’ve come to feel differently about these things. Art Spiegelman wrote the intro to this edition and worshipfully opines that Green invented the autobiographical comic. I don't think so – Robert Crumb was way ahead of him - but it's a great personal story.
Green has an odd, boxy style that I wasn't sure about but have come to really like. Again, it's very personal. And, we're Facebook friends and he’s commented on flea market photo finds that I've been posting!
Popeye, Vol. 1: I Yam What I Yam!, E.C. Segar. Pat and I went to a big show of comic art a few years ago that included original stuff by E.C. Segar. I liked them so much that I asked him to get me this collection, and over the years he got me all six volumes. In 1919 the strip, Thimble Theatre, featured Ham Gravy and Olive Oyl, then Olive's brother Castor was added and most of the 1920s stories were about his get rich quick schemes. When he needed to take his luck-bestowing African Whiffle Hen to an island casino in order to win millions, he hired Popeye to sail the boat, and the latter was such a colorful character that he took over the strip.
I finally started reading and it's hilarious. The humor is surreal and dry, absurd and charming. I'm loving it, and haven't forgotten that Popeye on TV cartoons was one of my first childhood crushes.
The Matter of Wales: Epic Views of a Small Country, Jan Morris. History, culture, natural history and animals, music, writing, national character - Morris covers it all in this evocation of Wales. One of my grandmothers, Helen Lambdin, was of Welsh extraction and I've always been interested in that mystical kingdom. Morris is also Welsh and passionate about Wales. Very entertaining and interesting, especially the chapter about being a tiny neighbor of England and how it's shaped the Welsh.
Next I think I'm going to read a mystery, Now You See Me.