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Jul 05

July 2005 Books

July 1, 2005
Embroideries by Marjane Satrapi

Mrs. Roboto lent me this when we went to Skate King. It’s a very quick read (I started and finished it on the same bus ride) about the sex lives of a group of Iranian women. I really like the drawing style and the whole thing was very funny. I especially liked this line: “To speak behind others’ backs is the ventilator of the heart.”

July 2, 2005
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

This was sort of fractured and difficult to understand, and the pace was really uneven. I wanted the plot to explain the context of the story much more than it did instead of on the details of who said what to whom with what kind of look on her face, and who gestured in such a manner as to indicate that all was not well beneath the surface. Regardless, I couldn’t put this book down and am still sort of looking around my room for the second half of it…surely there must be more to this than that, right?

July 4, 2005
The Genius Factory: The Curious History of the Nobel Prize Sperm Bank by David Plotz

A very quick and interesting read, in which one learns a lot about eugenics and crazy rich Republicans. I thought a lot about different types of families while I read this, and also, unsurprisingly, about the good old nature/nuture debate. I love how in sophomore psych classes you’ll be all talking about various wild boys raised by packs of wolves or in closets tied to chairs and how ontongeny does not, in fact, recapitulate phylogeny, and how some over-earnest girl will always go, apropos of completely nothing, “But what if personality and development are a result of the interaction between nature and nuture? You know? I mean, I think it’s totally both.”

July 7, 2005
Kaaterskill Falls by Allegra Goodman

Book club choice for this month. I liked the tone of this book and the perspective of the characters very much, though there wasn’t much of a plot. Sometimes no-plot works for me and sometimes it doesn’t, and this is one of the times it does. Something, however, is not quite satisfying here and I’m not exactly sure what it is. I like the author’s voice enough though that I’m going to try to find some of her short stories and see if I can put my finger on what, exactly, is missing from this story.

July 10, 2005
The Hopes of Snakes and Other Tales from the Urban Landscape by Lisa Couturier

Maybe I’m just in a cranky mood or something because this book rubbed me the wrong way too. I was hoping it would be a little more about urban biology and less about the author’s life and general philosophy about how it’s totally important to have wild spaces and how people and animals are totally connected and everything. I’m being facetious; her prose is quite lovely, but there’s something about it that makes me a little itchy. Witness: “Back in Washington and traversing the promenade of the Potomac all these years later, I felt the land of my childhood reinhabiting me: The smell of the wet soil and rotting logs, the scraping sound of long wild grass against my legs and asthmatic squealing keeee-r-r of a red-tailed hawk, a flash of pileated woodpecker’s flaming red crest in the green trees. I was overcome with feeling strangely lost and yet found at the same time. I imagined it must be what a migrating bird experiences: a sudden departure from one terrain and arrival in another. In the new-old land, the bird begins a quest of belonging again, an adventure in re-placing itself (p. 61).” See? But yeah, don’t mind me, I’m just not feeling it.

July 12, 2005
Eat Here: Reclaiming Homegrown Pleasures in a Global Supermarket by Brian Halweil

If you want to feel like a tree-hugging hippie, read this book on the bus. If you want to feel like a real tree-hugging hippie, read it in bed. Anyway, this was helpful to me in understanding something Kat taught me when she got back from Japan: that the real benefit of eating as seasonally and locally as possible has to do with the quality of life of farmers, as much as the health benefits of, you know, not purposefully ingesting poisons. Actually I learned a lot about the politics of food as well as some of the recent history of how the ways our food gets from the farm to the table have changed dramatically. It’s a lot more interesting than I’m making it sound, I promise you.

July 17, 2005
Divided Kingdom by Rupert Thomson

I kind of hate a lot of the books I’m reading this month, it would seem. I am still wanting to read some satisfying speculative fiction and this just didn’t do it for me. Sigh. It was too slippery and surface-y and I thought the ending…and I say this with a full recognition of how ridiculous of me it to say this…was absolutely amateur and I can’t even say it didn’t make sense in the world of the book because there is no world. Who is this character? Why is he followed? How does he just become a White Person. And, like, oh, the ending, how convenient and how meaningless. I am going to stick to straight fiction for the rest of the month and see if I can get this bad taste out of my mouth.

July 25, 2005
Nectar From A Stone by Jane Guill

I think this is basically a dressed-up bodice-ripper. Set in Wales, people with swords, visions, pestilence, holy fools, ale for breakfast, that kind of thing. I am interested in the European Middle Ages in general and this was decently written with a pretty good, if predictable, story, but it was only just fine. It’s fine.

July 26, 2005
Appetites: Why Women Want by Caroline Knapp

I was prepared to scorn this book for being not really one thing or another: self-indulgent identity politics memoir or gender-studies sociology or what. Instead I found myself really drawn in and wishing I could underline in a library book: the idea of suppressed desire is a pretty compelling one for me and when you tie that all up with pervasive body image issues and worries about ambition and femininity and the tyranny of choice…well, it’s calculated to make me stop and think, if nothing else. I made a list, while reading this, of all the desires and wants and appetites I have and I was a little ashamed that so many of them seemed so small and stunted, compared to what sometimes seems like a huge internal void.

July 28, 2005
The Jump-Off Creek by Molly Gloss

A short, fraught story about homesteaders in Oregon in I guess the 1870s. I had a hard time understanding who the various characters were at first but I came to get a handle on them as the story continued. Not much of a plot here, more of a snapshot of a particular time and place. Mud, rain, exhausting work and killing animals feature heavily here.

July 31, 2005
Epileptic by David B.

A big complicated graphic novel that reminds me of Maus and Persepolis not only because of the memoir-y aspect but also because those are the only other graphic novels I’ve ever read. It’s about epilepsy and family dynamics and macrobiotics and hopelessness and battle and esoterism and speaking with the dead and art school and lots of other things. I felt a little dizzy while I was reading it. It really made me wish I could draw, though, so that I could get the same deep texture from a story as the graphic artists do.

July 31, 2005
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

I read this mainly to get the taste of the most recent movie adaptation out of my mouth, which I didn’t much like for Willy-Wonka-as-bitchy-Dr.-Evil reasons. Hard to describe this book, if you didn’t read it as a kid. Roald Dahl is obviously insane but it’s the kind of insane that is very appealing and very truthful, if that makes sense. Anyway. Johnny Depp, my love for you is deep and pure but I have to say I am a little disappointed with your interpretation of Mr. Wonka. And now I am very hungry for a Whipple-Scrumptious Fudgemallow Delight.