My Latest Grievance by Elinor Lipman

My Latest GrievanceI couldn’t resist. This book has been calling to me from the new books shelf at the library for days. I finally snagged it yesterday and stayed up until 2 am reading it (mostly because I was relatively sure schools and the library would be closed today for weather. I was right.)

The narrator is hilarious. She was raised in a dorm because her parents were houseparents for a dorm at a private girls college as well as professors in sociology and pscyhology. It’s the 70′s, and this 16 year old girl has her parents totally pegged. When she wants attention, she curls into the fetal position. She makes altruistic, non-judgmental statements to make them feel like they’ve done a good job parenting her. And she plays the “I thought we discussed everything together like equals” card whenever they don’t want to tell her something.

She finds out about her father’s first marriage just before the ex-wife turns up to be a housemother in another dorm on the same campus. The ex-wife is a grade A narcissist. Everything is about her, somehow. Even the weather is out to get her and only her. She has a fling with the president of the college, which ends disastrously, as is expected by everyone but her. She is a real piece of work.

I am officially a fan of Elinor Lipman. I know I’ve only read 2 of her books, but I just chose them at random and I don’t think they are her most celebrated work. I will not be averse to staying up late reading some more.

Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose

Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them If you want to know the basic information in this book, here it is: If you want to write better, look to better writers to learn how. Especially Chekhov. If you want to hear it said better, read the book.

I’m not looking to be a writer. I just read the book because someone else said they liked it. I know, I know. Huge sheep. Anyway, I do like Prose’s voice. I may actually read some of her fiction, now.

Bang Your Head: The Rise and Fall of Heavy Metal by David Konow

Bang Your Head: The Rise and Fall of Heavy Metal This book gave me book hangover. I put on some Metallica and stayed up til 2 am reading this book. Michael called it headbanger’s ball my way.

Konow starts with Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper, KISS, and moves forward. It started getting really interesting for me at about 1984, bcause that’s about the time my personal music consciousness kicked in. I remember a lot of what he was talking about. Of course, I was so young that I didn’t actually get all the gory details described here. Good to know those things. For example, I didn’t know Axl Rose showed us the psycho as early as the Appetite for Destruction tour when he refused to go onstage until a certain time because his psychics told him that was when the stars were in alignment and he would perform well. Sheesh!

The end is very depressing, but we all know how it turned out. I feel bad for all those guys with their huge egos that suddenly didn’t have anyone to stroke them. Here’s what’s interesting: Metallica comes out smelling like a rose, here. They’re so supportive of everyone and the least egotistical. So how do you explain Some Kind of Monster? I haven’t seen it, but isn’t it just a big therapy session full of egos? Whatever. The book didn’t make me like the music any less, unfortunately for those around me.

The Things That Matter by Edward Mendelson

The Things That Matter: What Seven Classic Novels Have to Say About the Stages of Life Lookie! Lookie! I finally finished another book. Sadly, it’s not for my From the Stacks Challenge. This one came from the library.

Anyway, Mendelson has chosen 7 books that say particular things about 7 stages of life. The seven books are:
Frankenstein – Mary Shelley – representing birth
Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte – representing childhood.
Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte – representing growth
Middlemarch – George Eliot – representing marriage.
Mrs. Dalloway – Virginia Wolf – representing love.
To the Lighthouse – Virginia Wolf – representing parenthood
Between the Acts – Virginia Wolf – representing the future.

Mendelson says some interesting things. I’m not sure I agree with everything he stated, but it was definitely an interesting way of looking at things. It definitely got bogged down there in the Middlemarch section and I nearly gave it up. I was certain the Wolf stuff would be beyond me, but I actually quite enjoyed those parts. I’m not sure, though, that he completely justified having 3 Virginia Wolf books on the list.

I’m not sorry I read it. I am still mulling it over and probably will for awhile.

Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy

Jude the Obscure (Barnes & Noble Classics)It took me months to get through the first half of this book. I finished the second half yesterday. When it finally picked up, it really went for it.

Jude is this working class regular guy with a dream of graduating from Christminster college and becoming a clergyman. Well, he accidentally gets sidetracked from this plan by a woman. And not a particularly nice woman at that. She is mean and critical and she finally leaves for Australia with her parents. Jude gets back on track to his original goal and moves to Christminster as a cathedral stone mason. There he meets his cousin Sue. He, of course, falls madly in love with her. She.. not so much.
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Book by Book: Notes on Reading and LifeBook by Book by Michael Dirda. I don’t think I really understood most of this. It was pretty philosophical, and I’m ill. We all saw this coming, didn’t we. When Adrienne can’t say no to anyone, she runs and runs and runs until she bites the dust. I’m currently biting said dust in the form of an inner ear infection which makes me very dizzy. The good thing is, I can still read a bit before the dizziness puts me to sleep. This could explain why I only got this out of this book: Reading is an important part of life and should be used to enhance life, but should not replace experiencing life.

Duty and Desire: A Novel of Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman (Fitzwilliam Darcy Gentleman)I also finished my first book in the From the Stack Winter Challenge. Duty and Desire by Pamela Aidan is quite good. My library system turns up its nose at this series because it thinks it is fan fiction, but it is wrong. The three volumes of this series (Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman is the series title) coincide with the three volumes of Pride and Prejudice, only they are told from the perspective of Mr. Darcy. We see what Darcy was doing and thinking. This second one takes place between when Mr. Darcy leaves Netherfield in November and when he goes to visit Lady Catherine in Kent in the spring. He goes to the castle of a friend for a house party where strange things ensue. It is a bit of an homage to Austen’s Northanger Abbey which is a satire on Gothic romances. I think it is well-researched and well-written. I can’t wait for number 3 to come out in January.

From the Stacks

Baaa Baaaa. I’m a sheep. I’m going to join everyone else in the From The Stacks Winter Challenge at Overdue Books. I will get a button up when I figure out how (read: when Michael does it for me).

The idea is to read 5 books that are already on your shelves that you’ve been meaning to read, but just haven’t got to yet. No substituting because you found a great deal at the bookstore. And no fair counting the public library shelves as your personal stacks. It started Nov. 1 and runs till Jan 31. Plenty of time there. I think.

So here’s my list:

Duty and Desire by Pamela Aidan – because I’m already reading it.

Wicked by Gregory Maguire

The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillippa Gregory

The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje (because I may be the last person in the free world to read it.)

The Mauritius Command by Patrick O’Brian (unless I’ve already read that one, in which case I’ll read the next one, whatever that is).

Good day. Bad day.

Yesterday was a good day. It was my birthday, and my coworkers made me feel special all day long. Not to mention the Officer Hottie sighting. I didn’t have to cook dinner. I ordered pizza. I took my daughter to the grocery store and it wasn’t horribly crowded like it usually is on Monday nights. I order myself some birthday presents.

Today was not so good. The dog got me up at 5 am. Then, she got everyone else up, too. She was whining and trotting through the house acting worried. We followed her around. Whenever we went in the den, she’d wag her tail at us. Finally Michael realized that the pilot light on the heater had gone out, but that the heater was still blowing. We turned it off and went back to bed. For about 5 minutes before Michael’s alarm went off. sigh.

Michael got ready for work, but when he went out to his car, it wouldn’t start. It also couldn’t be jumped. Totally dead. He had to buy a battery (and a carbon monoxide detector for the house because we hate to rely on the dog too often). He finally got on to work, and I went to Physical Therapy. This could be a worse thing. It’s not painful, it just takes almost 2 hours every time. I had to get a slow leak fixed in my tire, and a new battery in my watch. My lovely day off was mostly spent running errands. I went to the bookstore to spend my gift certificate, but I couldn’t find a single thing I wanted. I was there for an hour and bought nothing. I’m like an animal off my feed. I had a terrible headache so I went to Target and bought sunglasses to replace the ones I scratched on the retreat. If I hadn’t started dinner in the crock pot before I left this morning, I’m sure we would have eaten P B & J for dinner. My sister did call me tonight for my birthday call. That was nice.

Anyway, my headache is still hanging around so I’m going to call this day done. I sure hope tomorrow is passable.

The Right Attitude to Rain by Alexander McCall Smith

The Right Attitude to Rain: An Isabel Dalhousie Novel (Isabel Dalhousie Mysteries) I have to admit it. I picked this book because I liked the picture on the cover. Yes, I’m one of those people. The picture of the door was just so pretty. And it even had “rain” in the title. Now, I know I’ve read the other book in this series, and wasn’t terribly impressed, but I thought I’d give it another go.

I liked this one better. I would tell you why, but I only very vaguely remember the first one I read, so I can’t.

I have heard that a book can be considered literature when, at the end, it asks more questions than it answers. However, I don’t think the question I was left with makes this book qualify for literature. I want to know: Where’s the mystery? This book is classified a mystery by both the publishers and the library system. I wonder if they even read it. The only mysteries I could find were as follows: 1) Will Angie and Tom break up or get married? 2) Will Isabel hook up with Jamie? 3) Will Cat ever forgive her? That’s it.

Not that is wasn’t a lovely story, but if you’re looking for a hard-boiled detective novel. This ain’t it.

The Dearly Departed by Elinor Lipman

The Dearly Departed I picked this book up at the library because I was going to need something to read while waiting in line to pick up my son from school, and because I read somewhere that Lipman is this era’s Jane Austen.

Ok. I wouldn’t go all the way to Jane, but it was very enjoyable.

Sunny goes back to the one-horse town she grew up in to attend her mother’s funeral. Mom was only in her fifties when she died of carbon monoxide poisoning in the company of her “gentleman friend.” The friend’s son shows up to the double funeral and it becomes obvious that Sunny and Fletcher are related. Hmmm. A mystery. Also, the chief of police is mighty cute.

I enjoyed reading this book. It wasn’t high literature, but it was entertaining.