Tag Archives: coming of age

Call Me By Your Name

Thoughts by André Aciman, Picador 2007, 248 pages

Challenge:  Book to Film, personal
Genre: Coming of Age, Romance
Type/Source: Barnes & Noble 2 for 3 Table most likely but I really don’t remember…
 Why I read this now:  short, different, no pressure, just because

MOTIVATION for READING: Ok, confession/admission. I have a fascination with Armie Hammer. He stars in the movie version of this title.

WHAT’s it ABOUT:  Look at the cover of this book. Art. Perspective.

The story fascinates me on so many levels – kid of academic parents who are expats?  I think, anyway, academics of the true liberal arts. Living in Italy, owning ocean front property, hosts an academic student every summer, have people over ALL THE TIME for dinner and tennis and pool lounging and swims in the sea, and  an apricot orchard. As one does. Discussions of things WAY over my head, authors and texts I can’t even pronounce. And this kid finds the current summer academic student extremely intriguing.

And then mayhem ensues.

Except it is perfectly uncoiled – the tension, the dialog, the tension, the touch the talk the confusion the obsession. Tightly held and slowly, tensely, O.M.G already, happen something damn it!  Happen!

THOUGHTS: Truly, the setting is beautiful. The relationships are so endearing. The father-son talk had me in tears. Very fun book. I enjoyed this very much.

RATING:  Five slices of pie. No pie mentioned but I did make an Apricot Apple Walnut Pie…

I keep trying to figure out when I can watch the movie…  Soon.

 

 

 

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Copyright © 2007-2020. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

How To Build a Girl

Thoughts HtBaGbyCM How To Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran, Harper 2014, 352 pages

WHY I read this: I think it might have been on sale. I had it on my Kindle. Amazon tells me when but not how much I spent; the when was January of this year. When we took off for a long weekend to Kentucky, I realized that I hadn’t brought any other books with me besides Pet Sematary. Well. I had been limiting my reading to 30 pages per day of PS and the long car ride meant that I would have more time than book. So upon opening my Kindle app on the iPad, I saw How to Build a Girl. Perfect antidote to King, was my first thought.

Truthfully, I forget about books hiding in the eBook apparatuses.* They are so silent and unobtrusive. I had to move this book to last priority, though, when I realized a book club book that was SITTING in the OBVIOUS SPOT right on the stairs was jumping up and down screaming not to be forgotten like good little visible hard copy BookBooks tend to do (unlike eBooks which hide, do not jump up and down, nor scream.)

Initial CONFUSIONS: However, I was instantly confused because I had it in my head that this book was Moran’s memoir. Funny that the main character was named Johanna and more odd that it started with what it started with. I had to check goodreads to see what was the what. Yep, I had confused this novel with her How to Build a Woman book. Oops.

What It’s ABOUT: Johanna is a mere child with thoughts in her head most unlike any thoughts I had in my head at that age. Oh my. I liked her. I probably had the same tendency to talk too much and talk too much about myself but we did not have similar ideas about what we wanted when we grew up.

She is brave and fearful. She has a positive spirit. She is ambitious and naive (I was naive.) She manages to get a writing gig for a rock and roll magazine. She did things with no moral compass and yet her morality-humanity did suggest an extremely kind soul. Except when she was skewering bands she didn’t like. She was one big fierce imaginative force.

What’s GOOD: Many laugh out loud passages. Many keen observations about how life could/should be approached.

What’s NOT so good: The jarring switch in viewpoint from her teen self to her smarter older self, every so often.

FINAL Thoughts: The goodreads reviews that hated this are an interesting contrast to the ones that loved it. I just really liked Johanna, a refreshing bold new character to cheer for.

RATING: Four slices of Shepherd’s Pie.

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“I’m going to need a bigger boat. This is my recurrent problem.”  p.75

“We must away, to pastures new.” also p.75

DODDLE – easy

SCALLY – a low life loser

Book Connection- Links to Dept. of Speculation!  “I resolve that for the rest of my life, at least once a day, I wil remember this. I think it must be most cheering thought I have ever had.” p.143 [Both books try to savor and file away a happy memory for possible reference at a later time as needed.]

Book Reference – Norwegian Wood (I have no idea nor do I think I want to know what this really was a reference to…) p.149

“I think I cry for at least half an hour – the kind of crying that is like rain where it starts without warning, and violently, but eases off into sudden rainbows, and blackbirds calling out in gratitude as they swoop across wet lawns. The weeping of relief.” p.154

“For someone who lives in a house without mirrors, seeing yourself talked about by others is exhilariing. I’d alwasy had a slight worry that I might not exist – that I was a very long dream I was having.”  p.207

“”I keep breaking penises,” I think to myself dolorously on the 37 heading toward Euston station.” p.239

SCOPEY – “I simply wept, exhaustedly, in the bath, feeling very, very scopey.” p.256

“Pain has made me older and wiser. Yesterday, when I found this house messy, I cleanedit from top to bottom, like a good girl. Today, they can all go fuck themselves. Housework is endless. I am never opting in again.” p. 258

“we are all breakable. So just be kind.” p.262

“This is the terrible thing about learning everything from books – sometimes you don’t know how to say the words.” p.289

“The point of life is joy – to make it, to receive it.” p.304

“Pig Pye (14th century): Flea Pyg and cut him in pieces. Practically nothing is wasted in a good pig. A pig killed in November would still provide fresh meat, brawn and pie until Christmas.” p.311

“There is a leaving party for me, at Uncle Jim’s house – “Because we’re not having a party here,” my mother says, firmly, dishing out shepherd’s pie in the front room.” p.326

* The interwebs are frowning on my plural use of apparatus. Nope, not apparati but pieces of apparatus. Whatever. My blog, my misuse of the English language. I own it.

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The Color of Water

Thoughts tcowbyjm by James McBride, Sceptre 1997, 291 pages, tradeback

Bookmooched and sent via seamail from a generous Australian – I kept the stamps portion of the package as a bookmark: photo-80

I really enjoyed and was fascinated by this look into an unusual family and growing up experience. James McBride was born in 1957, the 8th of 12 kids with a black father and a white mother. It took him a long time to discover his mother’s background and heritage as a Polish Jewish woman — she wasn’t too keen on telling him about her childhood.

His look at the contrasts between his mother’s life and his life in the mid twentieth century: New York City and small town Virginia, black and white, Christian and Jewish, poor and (by extension, not quite her immediate experience) rich – are very startling and mind-boggling. James questioned it all and explored all the depths and backs and forths to emerge/survive from a scary path of possible crime to educated musician and writer; telling his story between the unfolding of how his mother rejected her Jewish life to find love and fulfillment on the ‘black side’.

I found the mother to be thoroughly amazing in her approach to life, her fearlessness and fierce spirit. I am thrilled to know Mr. McBride had such a strong support system to get himself back to school as a teen.

 


Within the family, questions about racial identity were answered with loving circumspection. When James asked his mother about why she was different from her children, she would say only, “I’m light-skinned.”

When he asked if he was black or white, she said, “You’re a human being.”

And what about God?

“God is the color of water.”

 – excerpt from NYTimes review

(I found an interesting connection to water in my current read (Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, p.23): “Water is the purest, clearest of liquids; in virtue of this its natural character it is the image of the spotless nature of the Divine Spirit…” – Ludwig Feuerbach)

And then to realize that the author of The Good Lord Bird, which won the National Book Award for Fiction 2013 and took top honors at last spring’s Tournament of Books, is the SAME JAMES McBRIDE who wrote this. I am so looking forward to reading TGLB – a historical fiction that explores slavery against the backdrop of John Brown’s adventures at Harper’s Ferry.

Maybe I should rec The Good Lord Bird for book club. Not sure how many of them will like the satire, but I know many will be intrigued by the author.

One more note: The Color of Water is on my school’s Summer Reading List.

Who is up for a Read-Along of The Good Lord Bird?  

 

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The Yearling

Thoughts tybymkr by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Aladdin Classics 2001 (orig 1938), 509 pages, tradeback

 

I read this because it won the Pulitzer Prize Letters and Drama Award for Novel 1939.

I read this because the author and I are both alumnae of the sorority Kappa Alpha Theta.

I read this for the Classics Challenge: An American Classic. classics2014

This book might also satisfy the TIME category of What’s in a Name 7, if I want to ‘double-dip’.

The blurb in goodreads:  Young Jody adopts an orphaned fawn he calls Flag and makes it a part of his family and his best friend. But life in the Florida backwoods is harsh, and so, as his family fights off wolves, bears, and even alligators, and faces failure in their tenuous subsistence farming, Jody must finally part with his dear animal friend.

Have you read it?

This is becoming one of those books that I appreciate reading more now that I’ve finished than when I was in the middle of it. It is just growing on me the more I contemplate the experience.

It is a classic, it is certainly Americana, it is a coming of age story, it is hard-scrabble & rough-living. Dialogue is in vernacular. A glimpse into a life that no longer exists.

I will likely think of this book every time a bear sighting makes the news (or my Facebook page). I think what makes this most sad for me is that kids rarely now can have such an experience to run off by themselves and enjoy nature.

I did not cry.

I am amazed this book isn’t on the 1001 Books to Read Before I Die.

Also, I couldn’t have found a more interesting contrast with my current read The Omnivore’s Dilemma if I had tried! Both discuss food and food source.

Rating: Four slices of pie. Sour Orange Pie – unfortunately, I may never have the chance to make this myself but apparently it is on the menu at The Yearling restaurant in Cross Creek Florida.

WORD
p. 444 – swivet – a fluster or panic.

 

 

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A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Thoughts  A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, Harper Perennial Modern Classics 2005 (orig 1943), 493 pages, tradeback.

Purchased for September’s The Bookies Book Club.

“Tell the truth and write the story.”
– p.199

WHAT’s it ABOUT:  This is a coming of age story of a young girl named Francie in the not-so-good section of Brooklyn in the early years of the 20th century. I enjoyed that it starts in 1912 because it is exactly 100 years ago. They say that nothing much happens in the way of plot in this book, but actually a LOT happens! It just doesn’t quite have the “beginning-action-ending” plot arc but a meandering slow-moving reality feel to it. It was a profoundly touching look at a time period and segment of American history.

In the words of Anna Quindlen in the Foreword (which I read after the book, per usual, but is ok to read first, in case you need to know such),

When it first appeared, in 1943, it was called, by those critics who liked it, an honest book, and that is accurate as far as it goes. But it is more than that: It is deeply indelibly true. Honesty is casting bright light on your own experience; truth is casting it on the experiences of all, which is why, six decades after it was published and became an instant bestseller, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn continues to be read by people from all countries and all circumstances. Early on in its explosive success it was described as a book about city life, a a story about grinding poverty, a tale of the struggles of immigrant America. But all those things are setting, really, and the themes are farther-reaching: the fabric of family, the limits of love, the loss of innocence, and the birth of knowledge.

I very much enjoyed this book. I wonder if I would have loved it as much if I had read it much earlier in my life, though. Could it be this book resonates more reading it as adult? Is this considered YA? because it would fit ‘my’ definition of YA: protagonist being ‘young’. Some scenes were just wonderful! The librarian and her attitudes and Francie’s wanting desperately to be recognized for her talents. The descriptions of the educational process were my favorite. I loved Francie’s mother – she was so honestly described. Though the book did not sugar-coat anything, it still portrayed even the dirty ugly side of life has having good and hopeful elements.

I heartily recommend A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. I’m thinking of so many people I want to foist this upon! Holly, Miss Madeline, my neighbor and her 12  yo daughter, Elaine…

Considering that this book is FICTION and yet obviously has much in parallel to the author’s life, I thank Ms. Quinlen for explaining. Apparently, an editor suggested it NOT be a memoir but be reconfigured and I think it works very well. It makes one wonder just how much Francie is Betty Smith and vice versa. What a tough and amazing woman she must have been. On this note, it reminds me of Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried.

RATING: Four slices of pie.

Also, because it is #ITalong season, I must mention that the day I read about Francie and how much she loved the library was also the day that I listened to the section of King’s IT  on how much young Ben Hanscom loved the library. EERILY DELIGHTFUL!!

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Model Home

Thoughts    Model Home: a novel by Eric Puchner, Scribner 2010, 360 pages

For the What’s in a Name 5 Challenge (house category) and February’s selection for my book club “THE BOOKIES” – discussion 2/22

FIRST SENTENCE:  “Two days after his car – an ’85 Chrysler LeBaron with leather seats and all-power accessories – vanished from the driveway, Warren Ziller crept past the expensive homes of his neighbors, trying to match his dog’s limp.”

WHAT’s it ABOUT:  Ol’ Warren, our protagonist, chased the dream of making big cash in the sunny land of California, moved his family and staked his claim & fortune in a property development project that ended up next to a toxic waste dump. Losing it all, but not quite his family; lots of shit happens when it all falls apart. And still, the family seems to, at least, still be talking to each other and attempting to move on.

Despite my innumerable (ok, only three) statements that this is ‘quite depressing’, I liked it more than I thought I would while I was being depressed by it all. Now that I’ve finished, now I can remind myself that “this is only.a.book.” AND, a book set in the long ago Eighties! That crap is over. Of course, we could say we now have the same only more current crap but don’t get me started…

I do know that I have no interest in moving to the sprawl of California. (the one described in this book.)

Which leads me to what is GOOD about Model Home.  It feels so authentic. The characters were flawed but not overdone. The situations sad but presented with a tiny thread of hope to pull on. Pull on that thread and would it all unravel more?!  or would it fall apart into solution and progress and growth and resolution?  yea, right.  It was life, very believable UNFAIR crappy life.

I liked poor Warren. I do think that if we had only a few more pages we would have read about his heart attack but thankfully, Puchner knew to stop when he did.  I liked his wife Camille and understood her conflict, her dilemma, her attentions and neglect. I really rooted for Lyle (real name Delilah) though I was not at all like her in her need to ‘experience’ – she was much more brave than I. Dustin? I disliked Dustin most of all, but even he, too, comes around to push my buttons and make me cry the hardest in his saga of pain and possible redemption. And nutty weird strange Jonas – can ya blame him?!

My favorite character is Mr. Leonard. He’s the dog. Even that storyline could have melted into melodrama, but for me was spot on.

I think Mr. Puchner did an admirable job in this debut novel. When people mention it is funny (DARK-FUNNY), I probably would disagree. But then, I did laugh at times.

FINAL THOUGHTS:  If I would put this into a category, it would be “you’ll probably not exactly like it while you’re reading it, but. It is well written. It’s possible that it will be one you remember much longer than that last book you loved but can’t recall the title.”

RATING:  Three stars for “I liked it.” If I could give it three and a half, I would. Three slices of Sour Cream Raisin Pie. Pick out the raisins…

Other REVIEWS:  Check out Ti’s fabulous review here, Sandy was ‘swept away by this family’s story’, Lori at she treads softly said, “Puchner is certainly a talented writer…”

VOCABULARY:
p.23 – SOTTO VOCE – in a soft voice
p.310 – COROLLA – (Nope, not just a Toyota!) – the petals of a flower – “A mansion, flowering into a corolla of rooms…”

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Copyright © 2007-2012. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

The Sea

Thoughts   The Sea by John Banville, Vintage Books 2006 (orig 2005), 195 pages, Winner of the Man Booker Prize

I loved this book.

Yet, is it true?   I only gave it 4 stars?!   Yes, I had to discount it one star because I was mad at it that it wouldn’t be finished in the year 2010 and cost me the completion of the What’s In a Name 3 Challenge.    I was mad at it because I had to look up a new-to-me word on every other page.   I dislike the uneasy idea that I lurve books that make me feel stupid and thus smarter because I am thus challenging myself to something ‘deep’ and to look up vocabulary.   SO there.

I was hooked and mesmorized by this book after the first page!   This book told me that I crave prose that is lush and confusing.   That I need to have THOUGHT-y books in my reading appetite;  books that are all in someone’s head, reflecting on life’s crap-filled past futures and present, with many a sentence fragments and/or multiple descriptors and then some.  Oh yea, bring it on.

This little bit is from the very first page, the first two paragraphs:

“The seabirds mewled and swooped, unnerved, it seemed, by the spectacle of that vast bowl of water bulging like a blister, lead-blue and malignantly agleam.  They looked unnaturally white, that day, those birds.  The waves were depositing a fringe of soiled yellow foam along the waterline.  No sail marred the high horizon.  I would not swim, no, not ever again.

Someone has just walked over my grave.”

Even now, knowing now what I didn’t know then, I am still pulled by this imagery.   I see SPOILERS!!   (oops)   FORESHADOWING!     and yet, I am still puzzled.*

What exactly makes this stuff something I like?   Is it really any GOOD?    Sure, are not my own aesthetics and opinions the only ones that matter?   How could I be so entranced by Banville’s Sea and yet, have a serious dislike of Nabokov (Banville reminds me of Nabokov;  or was it just the comparison made by The Sunday Telegraph on the back of the book blurb)?   How come so many others thought this book dull and I found it captivating in its contemplative quietness?

So, if you don’t like books like this, move along.   Go ahead and read all the negative reviews on goodreads.   I laugh HA HA!  at those people that think Mr. Banville is pretentious and show-offy.    Yea, I suppose...   The guy does have an incredible vocabulary – I say he has a right to use it.     [I would really hate to eavesdrop on a conversation between him and Martin Amis.   English?!  on which planet?]

I was sucked into this book and felt it.    The imagery, the soft colors, the muted tones.   The emotions;   young love, first kiss, the questions, the fear and the passion.   Heavy angry grief.

MOTIVATION for READING:   I have mentioned more times than you really care to be reminded of that this was for the What’s in a Name 3 Challenge but that does not explain why THIS book for THAT category (body of water).    I originally wanted to read this book because of Dewey.   And now I’m getting all emotional and sad.   Did Dewey review this?    Maybe; I have lost that link already.    Here’s the chain of events:     Dewey reviewed Christine Falls written by Benjamin Black and offers it to send it to anyone who wants it and I win!   Soon after, we receive the sad news that Dewey is no longer with us.    I will always think of Dewey now, when I think of Banville.   (and books and Weekly Geeks** and the Read-A-Thon and I’ll shut up now) and when I only gave the Black mystery two stars (in a post that included vocabulary!), I committed to reading more by Banville to find out why/how he is so critically acclaimed;  I didn’t want my memories of Dewey tainted by a book I didn’t love.

I committed to reading The Sea in 2009 for the Dewey Challenge.   I failed it that year.   I committed to reading The Sea for 2010 and failed that, too.  (I finished it on January 6th.)    And, it’s OK. I think I needed this book to be more than a book.   It needs to be a memory, a token.***    Something that provokes me.    (I’m all teary right now being sad about Dewey.)

And I’m glad that I have found John Banville a place in my heart as a brilliant-to-me writer.   I’m grateful to the universe for making this a special read for me.   Aw hell, I’m going to re-rate it to 5 stars.   It’s personal.

Where was I?

pg 57  “There was a day when the door did open but it was Rose who came out,and gave me a look that made me lower my eyes and hurry on.  Yes, Rose had the measure of me from the start.  Still has, no doubt.”

HUH?   still has?  WHAT is going on!?

WHAT’s it ABOUT:      It’s about Max, whose wife has died.   To deal with his grief, he goes back to the seaside town he grew up in (or vacationed in? —  I was confused on this point.)    That’s pretty much it.      Mostly recent memories of his wife and her illness, the far past of his being a kid on the beach and the friends he made, his present – having to sort through all these difficult memories…   It’s almost a puzzle.    It definitely jumped around in time, a lot.   Confusingly.   I read the first 15 pages and then started over, I was so lost.    And Max wasn’t really a likable sort, either.

“Life, authentic life, is supposed to be all struggle, unflagging action and affirmation, the will butting its blunt head against the world’s wall, suchlike, but when I look back I see that the greater part of my energies was always given over to the simple search for shelter, for comfort, for, yes, I admit it, for cosiness. This is a surprising, not to say shocking, realisation. Before, I saw myself as something of a buccaneer, facing all-comers with a cutlass in my teeth, but now I am compelled to acknowledge that this was a delusion. To be concealed, protected, guarded, that is all I have ever truly ever wanted, to burrow down into a place of womby warmth and cower there, hidden from the sky’s indifferent gaze and the air’s harsh damagings. That is why the past is just such a retreat for me, I go there eagerly, rubbing my hands and shaking off the cold present and the colder future. And yet, what existence, really, does it have, the past? After all, it is only what the present was, once, the present that is gone, no more than that. And yet.”

Please link over to these EXCELLENT REVIEWS:    Jules – also for the What’s in a Name 3 Challenge (“elegant and poetic style of writing”) ,  Incurable Logophilia (“…a good author to take slowly, and I liked being able to take up with the book a little each day and meander through his careful sentences.”), Matt’s Views at A Guy’s Moleskin Notebook (“…a book of portentous rhetoric, a story of a ravaged self in search of a reason to go on in life cloaked in beautifully and meditatively constructed sentences.”)

The more I reminisce about my reading of this novel, I am conflicted about wanting to read it again or only share with a friend.  Make them read it and then discuss, discuss, discuss.   I want to talk about symbols, foreshadowing, crazy words.   Maybe I should have made this one a book club book.   Aw, they would have hated it…

BE READY for the upcoming post of vocab words…

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*  WHOSE grave!??!    I am still not sure about this…
** Sadly, I have not done a Weekly Geek post in months.
*** TOKEN as defined as “a thing serving as a visible or tangible representation of something abstract.” and “done for the sake of appearances or as a symbolic gesture”.


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