Reviews in the Morning, Now to Cartoons.

I guess I was going a little crazy in the last post.  My mother, and I quote, said, “it was too graphic, and too many confusing sentences.  Did he do that to you? Because I’ll kill him.”  So, for the record, no, he did not.  So, it’s inevitably time for an update and we can just cover up that ratty post with a new one (the other one does have pretty pictures though).

I guess since there’s nothing good on, I’ll just write about the beginning of today and how I’m avoiding the hospital, and my father’s imminent health procedures to write a blog.  But, really I’m just going to give a few book reviews on some books I’ve just finished.  Lately, I’ve been reading everything, BUT A Gate at the Stairs (which I started in March and still think about daily, the plot, I mean, but just can’t convince myself to go any further with it.  It’s like a mystery that isn’t unfolding fast enough for a girl with compulsive A.D.D.  I’ll probably be reviewing it next year).  So instead, I’ve just been floating around, reading things brought into the shelves at the RR Loft and trying to get inspiration for a few stories for graduate school applications next year.  It’s still up in the air if I’m applying or not, I’m quite liking my teaching degree classes, but who knows if I’ll like them for another year, AND THEN, the classroom.  I’m like a school junkie.  I’ve graduated college, I’m back in school for a  second bachelor’s and then I’m thinking of graduate school in the fall for both an MFA, or a Masters in Library Science.  Yes, I do want to be that librarian that gets to sit on the carpet mapped out like a small town and read monster stories to young children, and I will be purchasing some glasses, and an up-do hair clip.  (This would all help if I could spell librarian correctly, the first time and without spell check).

I’m getting off course, as usual.  If you’re used to reading this blog then you already know how my mind works and  you’ve forgiven me, if not, you’re shit out of luck I’m afraid.  I hope you aren’t taking notes because my brain is playing mental hopscotch.

Okay the two books I’m going to do quick reviews for are: The Blue Angel by Francine Prose and The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown.

One of the books I couldn’t put down and the other one kept doddering along, like an Ugly Duckling.

1.The Blue Angel (Francine Prose):

I should probably start by explaining the plot: male writing professor teaches workshop to a small group of students that are all very different (much like a Glee cast): you have the black girl who is secretly rich, but for the sake of her reputation she talks “hood,” as Prose puts it I believe.  You have the suck-up, the ex-army man who is in the class as an older student.  The punk character (who is also a main character).  The girl who is in love with the boy, and always sticks up for his work.  And the writing professor who is in a marriage to a woman he  loves because it is comfortable, but I’m not too sure he’s still in love with her, in fact, he isn’t, at all.  He has a daughter who is not speaking to him and who has become a morning-after feminist while away at college.  He has an affair with a student (you see it coming from Page 1) and his life, in general, downwards spirals from there.  At the end, we aren’t sure if he is set-up, well he’s definitely set-up, but we’re not sure of the motives.  The key to the book, is he ends up cheating because of the girls erotic writing style.

This ending makes you want to start furiously cleaning your kitchen, it’s that upsetting.  I know for me it takes an awful lot for me to get on my hands and knees and scrub that kitchen floor (that’s practically spotless because my mother believes in “Cleanliness next to Godliness).”  However, Blue Angel is impeccable all the way through.  The main character takes every step you don’t want him too.  It’s like watching a horse-race on television when you’ve placed a big dollar bet (See: Kramer in the Subway Episode of Seinfeld).  I’m reading this book, yelling at it’s dirty pages, “No! No! Don’t do that! She’s horrible! She looks like a dinosaur – they’re setting you up!”   And yet still, he “let’s the penis do the picking” as Patti would say.

This book is also by Harper Perennial so it has a P.S. at the back, which are my favorites.  And after I finished, I read the interview with Francine Prose and she said that the male professor is so bent on self-destruction that it had to end the way it did.  STILL MIND CHURNING!  I spent the rest of the day after finishing this book, humphing around angry, and stomping through my house, slamming dish cupboards and knocking over  my mom’s collections of salt&pepper shakers.  I love books, actually, where you want the whole time for the character to go the other way, take the other path, “Just say No” as they taught us in DARE class, and yet they continue towards the devil with his crooked smile, but perfectly braced and aligned teeth.

I’ve read one other book by Francine Prose that wasn’t as good, Goldengrove.  It was still good, the writing was just so much more diverse in The Blue Angel.  I plan to read more of her books and keep you all updated.  This book was a finalist for The National Book Award and was a New York Times Notable Book.  So, it’s got the credentials behind it, and if you can handle an ending that might not be what your heart desires, I definitely recommend it.

2.  Weird Sisters – Eleanor Brown

I chose this book for a number of reasons, I will list them here:

  • In her author snip-it at the end, she calls her husband her “partner.”  This may not be a big deal to other people, but for the longest time I thought she was a lesbian.  When I realized she wasn’t, I discovered what a bias I had to the word, “partner” and it made me want to beat myself over the head.  Also, I like the idea of “partner” as a significant other because it makes me think of two people walking down an empty, gravel road, together holding hands, both walking at the same tempo. How quaint.
  • It is overwhelmed with Shakespeare Quotes because of the father’s job as a Shakespeare professor and obviously, the three sister’s names.
  • It has a cover like Her Fearful Symmetry which I absolutely despised as a book and so I try to read books that I think may be like that book in order to understand that book a bit better.
All that a side, I got it from the library for a week and started ripping into it as soon as I could.  In the beginning, I’m thinking, as long as she gets to the sister’s obvious problems (why they all return home) in depth then the book is going to be fine and I’ll be able to read this with joy and all will be well.  Unfortunately, Brown stays on the surface for the entire book.
One sister is pregnant and instead of getting the juicy stories of her life as a born-again hippie, traveling the open road with an open thumb and sleeping with whoever will give her a bed for the evening, we just get a small glimpse of the child’s probable father and a small glimpse of the dirt surrounding her mattress in one of the abandoned homes she stayed in.  If you’re a reader like me, you want details.  I should really say, if you’re a woman like me, you want details.  I wanted to know if the sex was good.  She stayed with this supposed father for a few days and yet she gives no key to his personality, no further hints about her life as a vagabond.
Then the third sister, too afraid to travel from her own home, so much so that she refuses to move to England with her fiance.  I think this sister made sense as a character, and she was so much like me a few years ago, but I still think she was one-dimensional.  You have to give us something to like about a character, even if they’re the most villainous villain on the block who has guns of magnetic steel or something.  Brown gave us nothing positive about Rosalind except she quite enjoyed yoga, but quit when the teacher became skinny and blonde.  I’m not up on my latest Shakespeare so I’m not sure if I should have pulled pieces of Shakespeare’s Rosalind from As you Like it in order to better understand Brown’s Rosalind.  But, honestly, you shouldn’t have to do that, you should understand the character even if she’s based on a character of the past.  Good writers should be able to do that.
Then, finally, Bianca.  I’ve always loathed that name, ever since Veruca Salt.  I feel like all Bianca’s are the evil spawns of the Willi Wonka character.  (Sorry, if you’re name is Bianca, I’m sure you’re freakin’ awesome and could change my mind).  This character steals money from her job and ends up back home, paying it back.  The entire time you think she’s going to marry the town minister, but she continues to self-destruct.  I think we’re supposed to see some epiphany-type change in Bianca by the end because she starts liking community service, and really begins to enjoy her homey job at the library, but I see no change.  The only change is when she breaks it off with her lover, who is clearly bad for her.  I know that’s supposed to be a big step, I’ve seen my friends break things off with “bad boys” and it isn’t pretty afterward; with all that ice cream, all that hair sticking to the hot tears on their face, all that runny make-up, eh.  But…Bianca again, one dimensional.
Oh, I guess I should mention this is written in first person-plural, by all the sisters at once and most of the time you feel like it’s an omniscient narrator unless one of the sister’s pipes up.  It works and it doesn’t.
Where I felt every cell of anger at the ending of Blue Angel, I felt nothing through the entirety of Weird Sisters.   I can’t really recommend Weird Sisters, but then again,  I want someone else to read it and tell me what they thought.  Maybe you can find something that I missed to make the whole story turn around in a new way for me.  I always like reading reviews by other people to see it from their perspective, so, maybe read it and get back to me!
I guess that’s all for this blog, as I have more I’ll enlighten you.

One thought on “Reviews in the Morning, Now to Cartoons.

  1. bea mannes says:

    As always, I love your reviews! They keep me reading and laughing. Of course you would make a great librarian, especially the hair in bun with glasses look. I don’t know if anyone loves libraries the way you do. When you walk through the door, it is like you are home. The only other place that could compare to it for you, would be a cute, privately owned, old bookstore. If you went in one of those, we might never get you out. So, I enjoyed this blog, even the occasional drifting in the first few paragraphs. Sometimes a little drifting is good!


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