Thursday, September 20, 2007

Modern Library's Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century Quest: #97

Title: The Sheltering Sky
Author: Paul Bowles
Judgin' the Book by Its Cover: The cover art stinks. Seriously, how am I supposed to read books with ugly cover art? I would never have picked this up if I saw it on a shelf at a bookstore.

Thoughts: After a quick detour from the reading list to read Everything is Illuminated (I know, I know, I should've read it ages ago), I got a little bogged down in this book. I've had a hard time processing it and deciding what I thought about it.

First off, this was an interesting read. It's a little strange-- although it was published in 1949, the first half of the book felt like something written in the late '20's about the post-WWI generation. It's a ponderous, serious study of humans in a foreign (and harsh) environment. One Amazon reviewer mentioned that each of the characters in the book is an example of a different Western approach to alien cultures. It's interesting to examine the book in this way and to see how each character's attitudes and prejudices influence not only their experience in the desert, but their fate.

However, the depictions of the North Africans are almost entirely negative, which makes the book difficult to enjoy. Even worse, the book perpetuates the myth that women secretly (or not so secretly) enjoy sexual violence, which is an idea that I have a major problem stomaching. These two things were huge obstacles to my enjoyment of the book. But it was thought-provoking, at least.

I'm finding this quest a difficult one-- it's tough to dive from one serious, hard-hitting novel right into the next. I'm taking a brief sabbatical (here's looking at you, K-Dub!) to read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle , which I've been dying to read ever since it came out-- I added it to my library waitlist months ago and it has only just now been ready. I'm really looking forward to that, especially since I've been trying to introduce more fresh, locally-grown, and plant-based food items into my diet (which mainly consists of pizza, Coke, and Greek takeout). I'll let you know how that goes. ;)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Bored At Work?

Here's an amusing little game... it's actually pretty fun.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Married With Children, Kremlin-Style

According to the New York Times, the sitcom is appearing for the first time on Russian television, and "Married With Children" is the hottest "new" show. Watch the clip-- the Russian dad even sounds like the Al Bundy that we all know and love! So weird...

Monday, September 10, 2007


This A.V. Club article lists 10 great songs that were nearly ruined by a saxophone... it supports my long-held theory that the saxophone should NEVER be used in rock music. Seriously, name one song that's better because of a sax solo (fact: if you think there is one, you're probably a lame Kenny G fan who doesn't deserve to read this blog).

Getting in Touch With My Masculine Side

Despite the warm weather, telltale signs point out that fall is on its way-- the days are getting shorter, the neighborhood hooligans are back in school (finally!), and football fever is ravaging my home. Yes, football season is here, like it or not, and suddenly I find myself plunged into a world where I'm supposed to care deeply about a stranger's torn ACL (pop quiz: where is the ACL located?) and share the shame of a disgraced kicker who just missed the extra point. It's not that I don't like football-- I do and I actually know a lot about it (probably because of my time at USC). I just don't have the stamina to watch 10 hours of football in a day-- after a couple of hours, watching fat guys in spandex jump on each other seems a little lacking in entertainment value. I'll be honest-- my interest in football is focused mainly on the football snacks department. A football game is always a great excuse to eat chicken wings.

This weekend wasn't ALL football and no play, though. Friday night the Main Squeeze, the Third Man, and I went to see Shoot 'Em Up, and I'm pretty sure I was the only girl in the place. I hadn't seen a trailer before the movie, so I had no idea what I was getting into. I'm all for the cheesy action movie (seriously, if both Die Hard 3 and Speed are on TV at once, it's a gut-wrenching decision to make), but this was probably the most gratuitously violent movie I've ever seen. It probably should be shown with a body-count ticker at the bottom of the screen a la Hot Shots: Part Deux. The first person gets killed about 20 seconds into the movie, and then it's about 40 people per minute for the duration. The boys enjoyed it, but it was way too violent for me. The movie was strangely like a hopped-up-on-speed meathead remake of Children of Men. The basic plot is similar: moody Clive Owen protects an infant from gunmen. Only in this version, Clive "Could My Face Be More Chiseled?" Owen kills about 800 people, including a dude who gets stabbed in the eye by a carrot.

All this man stuff is making my inner romantic schoolgirl revolt-- I find myself wanting to take long, lingering walks in the park, speak French, and bake chocolate souffles. Even crazier, the other day I was enamored with the idea of embroidering a dresser scarf. Seriously, a dresser scarf?! But that's alright- I can be as girly as I want to during these last summer days. I'll have the whole winter to eat brats, wear sweatpants, and cheer for the Bears.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Modern Library's Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century Quest: #98

Title: The Postman Always Rings Twice
Author: James M. Cain
Judgin' the Book By Its Cover: Boooooo! If your favorite kind of book cover is one which abstractly depicts a man grabbing a woman's, um, bosom, then you're in for a treat! If not, well, you're probably out of luck...

Thoughts: Although I've never read any of Cain's novels, I've seen the film adaptations of two of his most popular works, Mildred Pierce and Double Indemnity (two words: Billy Wilder), and like both movies, especially the latter. I'm a big fan of film noir and also of the hard-boiled crime fiction of the '30's and '40's, especially anything by Raymond Chandler (who doesn't appear on this list-- he got robbed!) or Dashiell Hammett, so I was pretty psyched to see this on the list. However, this book was much darker than anything I've read by the two previously-mentioned gents, and a bit dirtier. The narrator, Frank Chambers, is no Philip Marlowe-- he's a sleazeball with no principles and none of the dry wit that characterizes Chandler's hero. Moreover, the connection between violence and sex in the book is truly unsettling-- Frank and the femme fatale seem drawn to each other by their mutual love of violence. One thing that sets the novel apart from others in its genre is the use of a true workingman's voice-- Frank isn't a super-articulate wisecracker, and he even uses poor grammar (in a believable way). This added realism makes the story somehow more disturbing-- it's as if someone you know is talking about a murder they committed. Overall, the book is a visceral pageturner, but it's really short and is entertaining in its own way, so probably worth a quick read.

Down= 3
To Go= 97

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Modern Library's Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century Quest: #99

Title: The Ginger Man
Author: J. P. Donleavy
Judgin' the Book By Its Cover: I kind of like the cover art... it's subtle, yet manages to convey a lot, plus, it's 10,000 times better than this cover.

Thoughts: I was unfamiliar with both the book and the author before I encountered the Modern Library list, so I didn't really know what to expect. Donleavy employs a strange combination of first and third person narration, often switching between the two mid-paragraph. This technique, although jarring at first, works pretty well in the novel-- the hero, Sebastian Dangerfield, behaves despicably throughout the story, so hearing his thoughts firsthand makes him more human and more likable. That said, I wasn't very into this book until it was nearly finished. Sebastian is a heavy-drinking, abusive, lazy, and dishonest guy, and it's hard to be sympathetic to his problems (since they're caused entirely by his self-destructive habits). However, his unquenchable optimism made me root for him a bit despite all of that. Overall, I guess I'm pretty ambivalent about the book-- I didn't hate it by the end, but I didn't exactly like it, either. Was it the 99th greatest novel written in the 20th century that I've ever read? Well, probably not...

Down= 2
To Go= 98