I Love Cereal

I don't usually write much about the books I'm currently reading on this blog, since I do actual reviews on Amazon. Nonetheless, I'm been feeling the urge to subject the blog world to my thoughts on what I've just read, but in a hopefully non-boring not too "reviewy" way.

Enter January. Enter breakfast cereals. This month I will compare the three books I read to members of my favorite food group in 100ish words or less. If you want an actual synopsis or review check out Amazon.


Book 1: Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie
Pages: 533 (this took me forever, since I tackled it during the holidays)
Cereal: Lucky Charms
Why: The cereal's catch phrase "magically delicious" and marshmallow/brown crunchy bits hy
brid make it a perfect match for Midnight's Children. Rushdie's political and social commentary on India's process of independence is intermixed with a healthy serving of magical realism, which focuses on the narrator's ability to telepathically communicate with others born within the same hour of India's rebirth. The marshmallows represent the first two parts of the very long novel, while the crunchy bits are the last one-hundred pages, which while I still liked, I didn't love as much as the beginning which chronicles Saleem Sinai's youth.

This is not a quick read, and it's very dense on many levels. I'm a sucker for magical realism, though, and I welcome a novel that incorporates some history and politics. I enjoyed it, but it is not for everyone.

Book 2: On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan
Pages: 203
Cereal: Honey Nut Cheerios (with an unexpected, random toy)

Why: It's really hard to describe this book adequately without giving too much away. McEwan's prose is reminiscent of Honey Nut Cheerios (HNC) in the sense that both are simple, packed with nutrients, and always hit the spot. McEwan and HNC leave you satisfied, but never bored (as opposed to the regular Cheerios). This text describes two young, virginal, British newlyweds who are about to consummate their marriage , yet unfortunately each have some serious sexual issues to contend to (hence the "random toy"). Graphic without being vulgar, just as HNC is sweet without being cavity-inducing.

Book 3: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
Pages: 870
Cereal: Cocoa Puffs
Why: God, this one just seems to self-explanatory. First of all, I adore Cocoa Puffs, so it's definitely not an insult. Yes, Cocoa Puffs are sugary, chocolaty, and are represented by a bird- very hard to tak
e the seriously, just like the wizards and spells of the Harry Potter books. Yet underneath it all, there's some substance. Cocoa Puffs have over 20% of your daily values in zinc, iron, vitamins B6 and B12, folate, niacin, riboflavin, and thiamin- basically, they're one big multi-vitamin. This Potter book, just like the others, are well-written young adult novels, have good messages, and are good clean fun.

Consumption rates are also quite similar. I can eat a box of Cocoa Puffs in 3 days, just like I can read
a Potter book in three days. And, as much as I love both, they're only used a occasional treats.

I Do Miss Winter, but...

I know I've done my fairshare of "I miss winter" whining (hey, a girl needs to get some use out of her sweaters), but today's morning was perfect outside- reading weather. I enjoyed over an hour of whatever Harry Potter book I'm on in the 68ish degree weather until some jackasses hopped the pool fence and started blasting music. I've always been a big fan of reading out doors, which is unfortunately not always feasible when living in an apartment. We have a great patio area, but, given my aversion to 90.5% of all people and the noises they make, I generally just stay inside. Oh well, at least I got in an hour!

Digestion

Reading a great book is a lot like eating a satisfying meal- you never want to stop and once you do, you're so full that you couldn't possibly think of starting the next feast... at least for a few hours.

I'm the same way after finishing a book, which I just did. Of course part of me wants to bust out my Amazon review and dive into the next novel waiting in the very long line of books collecting dust, but I know to wait at least a little while. It's similar to breaking up with someone; you have to pause for at least a short period of time (depending on the boy, or book) and let things digest. What did you learn? What did you love? What reminded you of your own life? How does this compare to other stories? What questions might you still have?

Part of my mandatory grace-period is in part out of respect for the author. It's homage to the blood, sweat, and tears someone put into creating something that I've spent hours hopefully benefiting from.

How long does it last? Sometimes four or five hours, sometimes a day or two. Not actively reading something feels a bit lonely after too long, starvation of the literary kind.

Kanye Hearts Borders

First of all, I am completely joking with the title of this post, at least about the "hearts" part- this just allows me to go on a quick rant. When the hell did the word "heart" become a verb? It's a shape, a symbol, an organ, folks! Crap. Shit. Geez. Okay, done.

Anyway, when my husband and I were on vacation last month we quickly tired of Hawaii's radio stations after forgetting CDs and iPod auxiliary cables for the rental car (lots of Christian rock, surprisingly). Finding ourselves at a Best Buy we decided to hit up their very limited music section, and, after hearing rave reviews of Kanye West's new album, my music-loving husband decided to give it a try, and I didn't object. Turns out, many of the songs are great to run to, so it's been on heavy rotation lately (nonetheless, I still wholeheartedly believe that Kanye West is still a massive douchebag).

What does this have to do with books? Well, in my favorite song on the album, All of the Lights, Kanye sings, "public visitation/we met at Borders/told her she take me back/I'd be more supportive." What? Kanye is singing about Borders? As in the place with the books? Granted it's obviously one of those arranged, "you can't beat the crap out of me in public" kind of situations, but still, Borders? I wonder if Kanye got suckered into the Rewards program like I did. After a little research it turns out that while Kanye may be an arrogant prick, he's actually somewhat smart (for a gangsta) and has done some time... in college.

So, yeah, that's pretty much it. Kanye mentions Borders in his songs and I get excited.

Image Credit: http://www.gossiboocrew.com/kanye-west/2009/09/14/kanye-west-is-an-arrogant-drunk-ss-douche-bag/

You're such a bitch :)


Obligatory Disclaimer: I know that smileys aren't exactly found in books (not the ones I read, anyway), but they are made up of punctuation, which can be found in books, so, by proxy, I can write about them in my book blog.

Oh, the smiley. The winking smiley. The smiley smiley. The sad smiley. The open-mouthed smiley (insert crude joke here). I'm definitely guilty of smiley usage, and am grudgingly ashamed. I know that they're ridiculous- seriously, I'm trying to convey a message with colons and ellipses? Really? I used to put smileys on the homework I corrected as a fourth grade teacher, and the intellectual side of me acknowledges the fact that they really are pretty damn elementary.

On the other hand, they have some pretty practical, time-saving uses. You can be as sarcastic or mean as hell, but if you put a smiley at the end the person may think you're just joking or at least being lighthearted (and sometimes I actually am).

You're such a bitch :)
Subtext: God, you're actually a massive a bitch but I know you'll go crazy if I just say it- the smiley will seem jokey.

Wow, your kids have more toys than Toys R Us ;)
Subtext: Your kids are really spoiled. Super great job on that. Have fun buying them a Lexus at age 16.

I really wish I could have hung out with you last night :(
Subtext: You can be really annoying and I much prefer to sit alone staring at the wall picking fuzzballs off my sweater than seeing you.

They're also great for ending a text session with something. It can be awkward when you've been texting someone for awhile and it's time to move on. Saying bye is so strange when texting, for some reason. On the other hand, an appropriately timed :) can be a nice ending.

Smileys are also great for instances when you have no idea what to say. Something sad? :( Something happy? :)

So, just to recap, smileys are a fantastic way to avoid substantial communication, allowing us to further society's technologically-rooted emotional detachment with mere punctuation.

I'll Take the Jack with a Side of Shrooms, Please.


Alcohol, exercise, cocaine, porn, nail-biting, chocolate, caffeine, sex, and shitty tv- just all the things that I'm addicted to (kidding! Like I would watch The Bachelor). Fine. Maybe not all in excess, but these are common things that people do claim to struggle with, including very famous authors. Last week I read an interesting blog article about famous authors and their vices, most of which were no surprise. Fitzgerald and booze. McCullers and booze. Kerouac and booze. Faulkner and booze. Stevenson and booze, with a side of shrooms. Thompson and booze (and every other drug known to man). I see a trend.

Skip to Sunday night and the premiere of Showtime's Californica
tion. For those who aren't familiar with the show, Hank Moody, played by the dashing David Duchovny, is a washed up novelist who doesn't let a day go by without a healthy dose of alcohol, nicotine, and vagina. Hmmmm.

Obviously, you don't have to be an addict to be successful creatively, but it's never surprising to hear that someone with an amazing imagination is influenced by something that's going to leave them a little nauseous in the morning. It's not only writers, either- it's become quite the norm to hear about actors and musicians entering rehab on a weekly basis. For some reason, though, it seems to me that it's not quite as frowned on when writers and artists (as in painting) are alcoholics or drug addicts.

First of all, it's fun when the smart kids screw up- it makes normal people feel better about themselves. It would have been like witnessing Bill Gates get drunk off his ass in high school and puking all over his mom's couch. When someone with intellectual talent and creativity is vulnerable to alcohol or another dru
g it shows a weakness that the masses can relate to- it makes them human. I'm sorry, but when Bill Clinton got caught "not having sexual relations" with Monica, even at the oh-so-innocent age of fifteen I liked him a little more for being real (please note Bush's addiction to alcohol didn't make me like him any more, but that's because he's an uncreative dumbass).

Another reason why I think it's slightly more acceptable is because many writers and artists can be productive drunks. Busting out the Jack or taking a few hits loosens them up, it gets the creative juices flowing. We've all been there- after a few shots things don't matter as much and life is a lot more fun. For most people habitually abusing a substance impedes their work, but many writers can work through and around this. Interestingly, I think it's the opposite for a lot of actors, hence the need for Promises to start a punch card system for their frequent fliers (come in five times and the sixth is free). Not that it can't be done- I mean look at how well it's worked for Lindsey Lohan.

Am I condoning addiction? Nope. Am I necessarily criticizing it? Not really. We all have our weaknesses, and some fall victim to the ones that are expensive and illegal. I don't anticipate this happening to myself (though who does), but I sympathize with those that do get pulled off the wagon, or who were never really up there in the first place. To be a true creative genius and to deal with that sort of pressure to be brilliant, even if self-inflicted, must be tough. Forget story mapping, scheduling time to work, and all that other crap- if I want to ever start a novel all I apparently have to do is hit up Bev-Mo.

Neat-o

I found the site The Book Cover Archive today- pretty damn cool. They take pride in an "appreciation and categorization of book design." You press "randomize" at the top (over and over and over again) to see their awesome collection.


Mark Twain is so Pissed Right Now


Mark Twain's classics are ones that most of us are familiar with, whether we're fans or not. They represent a place in history, society and literature, and are at times considered controversial. Like now.

Professor Alan Gribben from Auburn University has worked with a publishing company to rewrite Twain's classics Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer, removing the words "nigger" and "injun." In his recent interview with NPR, he justifies the change by saying this will allow more students access to the text, since many schools won't allow it to be read in classrooms because of the offensive language.

I acknowledge the fact that his intentions are probably rooted in a love of Twain, and supporters called into the NPR show thanking him for making literature more accessible. Now that this humble, respectful hat-tipping has been made, I now won't feel bad when I say, "What the hell?"

Yes, the words "nigger" and "injun" are extremely abrasive, yet they represent a place in time that was different- using these words in literature is an accurate depiction of race and culture before the Civil Rights Era. Students and readers in general deserve an authentic, honest portrayal of setting and character interactions. Teachers should fight to use these texts in their classrooms- they are excellent learning tools to show students the differences between now and then, and what not to do or say. When I had my students read To Kill a Mockingbird I was very upfront about the word; when reading aloud we literally said "n-word," and I told the students to handle the word however they felt comfortable when they used it in their writing (some wrote "n-word," some "nigger," and some did everything could to write around it). Reading the word "nigger" isn't going to make teenagers run out into the street yelling it at every black person they see (they'd get their asses kicked) or become racist.

Not being a fan of abridged versions to begin with, I feel that any sort of tampering with a text is unacceptable. I'm even weary of translations! What gives this publishing company the right to alter the writing of an author, let alone Twain? What's next?

This also brings up the whole issue of the word "nigger," anyway. Rappers use it constantly, but since they're African American it seems to be acceptable. Riddle me this- as a white girl, when I'm singing along to Kanye or Jay-Z can I say "nigger?" Interesting. If Twain was black would the word be removed from his texts?

As for the word, I think it has some pretty powerful racial, literary, societal, and historical implications. Obviously it's offensive and it's hurtful, but there seems to be some fuzziness on it's current place in America. I'm not going to call anyone it, nor will I tolerate any of my students using it, but removing it from literature? I think not. It's all about context.
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