Meredith's Challenge 2.0

52 books, one year. Stay tuned for more details.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

2.3 When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka

Before I was a surly teenager, my family would spend a week in Mammoth Lakes every other summer. We would drive there and in the six hour journey we went by Manzanar, one of the internment camps during World War II. My father was a school teacher and he told us about what happened to the people of Japanese descent. I was young and stupid and didn't really think about what "internment camp" meant. Now that I'm older and, hopefully, wiser, I get it. Part of me is incredulous that this happened here and the other part sees how very possible it is that this country's government tore a whole group of people away from their homes, stole their property and treated them like they were political prisoners just because of where they or their ancestors came from. And no one seemed to have a problem with it.

Emperor is the "Santa Barbara Reads!" choice for 2005, (as a side note, asking a city's populace to read just one book a year, isn't that challenging, nor is it going to improve the use of the library or literacy rates) which is probably why the library had twelve copies of it on Sunday. It follows the story of a Japanese-American family, a mother and her two children, who is sent away to a camp in Utah and what happens when they return to their home in Berkley. The father was brought in for "questioning" the night of Pearl Harbor and isn't seen for more than 4 years.

I think that Emperor has an identity problem. Except for a few gory parts in the beginning, I felt like this was mostly a children's book, albeit marketed for adults. It's short-ish, not as harsh as it could be, nor as intense. It seemed like the author was just about to get into the nitty-gritty at any moment, but backed off right away. For example, I thought that the mom was going to go crazy at the camp. She stared at walls, kept to herself and spoke in odd sentence fragments but when they get home, it's like none of that happened and she is back to normal.

The author tries to turn it back into an adult book with the final chapter but I felt like it was just confusing for confusion's sake. It gave more insight into how people might have felt but I wish the whole book was like that and two pages at the end aren't going to change that the reader doesn't learn much about the characters. I don't know if their blankness was intentional, that they could be any family that was forced into camps, that returned to find they weren't welcome in their old home, that were punished because of where they came from. The only part when that made any of them seem more real was when the little boy walks around whispering Hirohito's name just because he knows that he will get in trouble if he does and the sudden desire to do so.

There must be other books out there about this same topic. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

2.2 A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

Another Pulitzer Prize loser. Yes, I know the author committed suicide and his mom published this posthumously and it's sad. However that does not excuse the fact that this novel has no redeeming qualities whatsoever. I mean it. This is supposed to be a satire of... um... er... honestly, I don't know of what. Can someone else out there can enlighten me because I feel like I'm missing something (maybe?).

My theory is that before books are published, they go through multiple editing processes. Back and forth between the author(s) and editor(s) until they hit upon the exact right word for every word. This was most likely not the case here, unless someone was doing it on Toole's end. Perhaps that explains the mind-numbing yet absolutely ****ing craziness of the whole thing.

Dunces was favorably compared to Candide which I also hold in high distaste, maybe unfunny satire just isn't my thing? What is funny though, is that I picked this up as a distraction to finishing Beauty Myth and now I almost wished I hadn't. The Pulitzer Prize and I are officially no longer friends. Except I do really want to read this book.

Friday, January 20, 2006


What I'm currently entertaining myself with:

It's not that kind of seal.

Also: Don't forget this Sunday (January 22nd) is the 33rd Anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. Check your local (ha!) SB News-Piss for my name in print! Look here too for more info.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

2.1 The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

Throughout reading House, I became more and more upset with myself for seeing House of Mirth before reading it. In my defense, Gillian Anderson is in it and so are pretty dresses! Nonetheless, I hated knowing exactly what was going to happen in end. That didn't stop me from sobbing uncontrollably though when Lily realizes what exactly is going to happen.

Since it is Wharton, of course it is beautifully written and her descriptive prose is stunning. Here is one of my favorite bits that literally made me hold my breath:
The afternoon was perfect. A deeper stillness possessed the air and the
American autumn was tempered by a haze which diffused the brightness without dulling it.
This is so close to describing exactly how I feel about my favorite time of day in my favorite time of year, when I cannot get the words out to say anything really meaningful. The beginning of Chapter 6 is so unbelievably gorgeous, it hurts my heart and I would quote the whole thing here if I wasn't afraid of copyright infringement and of boring my tiny readership. Even if you don't like Wharton, at least look here.

The last scene made me angry with Seldon instead of sympathetic. He had it within his power to unlock the Victorian propriety between himself and Lily and never chose to, whereas, Lily really had no choice in the matter, or much of anything else, honestly. If she wanted to, Lily could have dropped her upbringing as a proper lady instead of what actually happened, but I felt like that option wasn't ever really a choice for her. Maybe that's because the movie spoiled me. Stupid Seldon, so proper and then I'm supposed to feel bad for him? Also, the talk about love at the very end, I felt was kind of cheese ball and I don't know how much he really loved her. If he had, I feel that he would have made his decision earlier, instead of waiting until Lily was desperate.

Obviously, the title is ironical but I'm quite sure what it refers to. Any takers?

As a backlash to Lily's existence, I am now embroiled in The Beauty Myth. It's my second go-round and I do plan on finishing it this time. I blame Wolf for my creepy dream/nightmare last night that I was a fashion model, which if you know almost anything about me, is absolutely ridiculous. Myth is a bit rough-going, you might not hear from me for a bit.

Monday, January 09, 2006


So my goal was a book a week with a post every week because I would really and truly finish each and every book within seven days' time. Clearly this is all working out very well.

I'm about halfway through House. Be back soon.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Year-End Wrap Up

First off, let's pretend that all my posts from today are really from December 31st. Kay? Kay.

Number of posts (including this one): 69

Number of totally unnecessary posts (including this one): 19

Top 5 books: Reefer Madness, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, The Kite Runner, and The Time Traveller's Wife

Bottom 5 books: A Suitable Boy, Bee Season, Mirror, Mirror, Oryx and Crake, and Devil in the White City

Number of books not written by The Man: 32!

Number of cheats: 3

Number of books read that were actually on the list I foolishly made when I first started this madness: 6

Number of New Years' Resolutions I've ever completed: one (you're looking at it)

Number of books I'm going to read next year: 52 (ready for more?)

Thank y'all so much for visiting. I hope the new year brings all of us much love and happiness.

#50 Microserfs by Douglas Coupland

Definitely a cheat because I wasn't willing to end my year with House of Mirth (I'm beginning it with Wharton though), and I found this on my bookshelf at my parents'. I read this for a class, I think, but I don't remember which one. Anyhoo, I like it. It's a pretty nifty concept, lots of computer-geek speak and Coupland is a playful author.

My brain is clearly mush and this review is crap as are the previous two. Sorry, folks. First day back at work and I'm revolting because I'm missing the Rose Parade, my favorite television show. Dang, no parade on Sunday and double dang work for making me come in today. Grrr. Enjoy the flowers for me.

#49 Relationships Can Be Murder by Jane DiLucchio

The boy's mommy gave me this to read when we were visiting for Christmakah. One of her colleagues is the author. A murder mystery, usually not my forte, but it was a fun, easy read. I never guessed correctly who the murderer was and like all murder mysteries I've read, things wrap up super quickly after the perp is caught. Hey, a first edition copy signed by the author! Maybe in 150 years, my imaginary great-great grandchildren will be multimillionaires!

#48 The Whore's Child by Richard Russo

I read this, oh, about a week and a half ago and have completely forgotten almost everything about it. Collection of short stories, mostly about unhappy people, all of them well written. I like Russo. Empire Falls is excellent and he won the Pullitzer Prize. The end.