Sunday, August 31, 2008

Modern Library's Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century Quest: #81

Title: The Adventures of Augie March
Author: Saul Bellow
Judgin' the Book By Its Cover: Dude, it has a giant gila monster on it! Two thumbs up!!

Thoughts: This story, unsurprisingly, is about the adventures of one Augie March, a boy living in the Jewish slums of Chicago in the years before the Depression. The book follows him as he attends grows up, falls in love (over and over again), and eventually serves in World War II. It was quite difficult to get into this book, as the first 100 pages or so are spent describing various character's in Augie's neighborhood. Eventually, as Augie sets off on his journeys, things get more interesting. I especially enjoyed the passages describing his trip to Mexico with an unstable girlfriend bent on training a young bald eagle to hunt giant gila monsters (again, I can't get enough of the giant gila monsters!!).

I found Bellow's prose to be a bit off-putting-- he frequently used metaphors that were difficult to follow (or even nonsensical) and tended to be verbose where I would have preferred brevity. Moreover, I generally wasn't interested in Augie's search for meaning. He relegates all the events and people in his life to supporting roles for his grand theories about life, at times sacrificing story in doing so. There were definitely parts of the novel that I enjoyed, though, so it wasn't a complete fail, but this isn't a book I would return to anytime soon.

This week the Man Friend reminded me that it's been exactly one year since I embarked on this heroic quest, which depressed me quite a bit. It's been a long, strange trip (OK, not really, but I couldn't really resist a Dead reference), and it feels like forever since I read The Magnificent Ambersons, but I'm only 20% of the way done (not even, actually)! At this rate it will take me FOUR MORE YEARS to get through this list. I'm a bit intimidated, to be honest.

Monday, August 11, 2008


Here is a fun game from kristywes-- self-portraiture via photo mosaic! To make yours, type your answer to each of the questions below into Flickr search. Using only the first page of returned images, choose your favorite and copy-&-paste each of the URL’s into the Mosaic Maker (3 columns, 4 rows).

The questions:
1. What is your first name?
2. What is your favorite food?
3. What high school did you attend?
4. What is your favorite color?
5. Who is your celebrity crush?
6. Favorite drink?
7. Dream vacation?
8. Favorite dessert?
9. What do you want to be when you grow up?
10.What do you love most in life?
11. One word to describe you.
12. Your Flickr name.

Kristywes answered her questions, but I'm going to leave mine blank (and therefore mysterious). See if you can guess how I answered!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Modern Library's Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century Quest: #82

Title: Angle of Repose
Author: Wallace Stegner
Judgin' the Book By Its Cover: This cover doesn't do much justice to the story-- does it make you want to read the book?

Thoughts: Angle of Repose tells the story of Lyman Ward, an aging historian, crippled physically by disease and emotionally by his wife's betrayal, living in California in the early '70's. To stave off loneliness and to retain what he can of his independence, he embarks on a new project and begins digging into the letters, articles, and drawings left behind by his grandmother, an accomplished artist from New England who left a life of sophistication and culture to move to the Western frontier and marry a mining engineer. As Ward contemplates his life and his grandmother's, he draws startling conclusions about the nature of marriage and what holds relationships together.

The book was very absorbing, and really examined the lives and relationships of the characters. I found it challenging and difficult to read at times, especially as I watched marriages disintegrate and characters inflict wounds on each other that would never heal. It really made me think about my own relationship and the choices that you have to make to keep your life intersecting with the lives of others.