Category Archives: Books Just Because

And This is What A Target Addiction Gets You…

Sometimes when I’m bored, I go to Target and just wander around the store. As I am bored at least once a week, this happens pretty regularly. For the past few months, my boredom also leads to a giant mistake: I walk into the book section.

And this is how I ended up with a copy of Priscille Sibley’s The Promise of Stardust.

It also didn’t help that it was a signed first edition.

I had a hard time putting this book down. It has to do with a man whose (unknown to anyone but her) suffers a fall and has irreparable brain damage, the kind where the doctors tell you “There is no hope for any sort of recovery” and you have to make the God-awful decision of pulling the plug.

So what happens when you throw a pregnancy into the mix, especially when the woman in question, while really really wanting a child, also really really did not want to be kept alive by machines?

This story explores that conundrum, touching on legal aspects and all the people in a victim’s life that crawl out of the woodwork in order to demand a semblance of control, an idea that yes, they were there and mattered to this person.

It also deals with who has the final say in what happens, and how it affects families. It was a really good read, and sadly, one good read leads to more “Target book club may be on to something!” selections.

My boredom and my addiction has only managed to increase my to-read pile.


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I am a Magnet for Depressing Literature

What is it with modern day books depicting unmarried woman as leading sad lives that involve never leaving their childhood homes? And more importantly, what is it with me finding these books?

Kate Morton’s The Distant Hours revolved around both a modern young editor and three older sisters.  It was about the sisters lives during WWII (with the editor’s mother) combined with the modern tale of the editor and her meeting the sisters.  It wasn’t a bad read but… seriously? Why must it be SO depressing?

Moreover, is there an issue here with twentieth century women who do not marry?  It’s a motif I have stumbled upon at least twice now, and I have to say, I’m not a fan.

So a woman has sisters who are close knit.  So she does not marry.  So life gets fucked up when they’re in their late teens/early twenties.  That does NOT MEAN they have to forget their dreams and sit at home singing “woe is me” songs.  Ruing their lot in life.  It was their choice to stay there.

But why is this even coming up repeatedly?  Is it a leftover mentality from the age of spinsterhood, that a woman without a husband is deduced to a depressed shell?  This is definitely a topic that needs more thought and, more importantly, more evidence.  Are there any other books about unmarried sisters not leaving home and leading depressing lives?  Are there any about unmarried sisters who still remain close despite living content and independent lives?

I may be on a hunt now.

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The Cultural Significance of Books

(I had a dream the other night that ended up with me yelling at people about never discussing the cultural significance of books, that they only looked at tearing things apart.  Remnants of my college life still follow me…)

Speaking of college…  I remember working on my senior paper, finishing it, and being disappointed by the grade.  My adviser wished to speak to me about it, so I obliged.  In said meeting, he told me how the English department found themselves in a funk of sorts.  See, my paper was a long story, and while it was not full on fantasy, it did have fantastical elements (i.e. mysticism, journey to another realm, elves, magic, etc).  Mine was not the only one to touch on that genre; others had written in the fantastical or science fiction worlds.  According to my prof, none of the professors in the English department were really sure on how to grade sci-fi and fantasy stories; it was an unexplored genre to them.

The way he was talking, even then I thought to myself that it seemed like this entire department was under the illusion that sci-fi and fantasy were baby genres, that they did not have the high set caliber that other genres have ascertained.  All I could think about was how sci fi and fantasy have been around longer than we think, and each has respected, classic books THAT ARE TAUGHT IN SCHOOLS.  We all know Tolkien and his influence, but even before him, and before C.S. Lewis and Narnia, we had the wonderful Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, Jules Verne, and, for the purpose of this entry, the magnificent H.G. Wells.

I’ve known about The Time Machine for a long while, even seeing the version from 2002, without ever having read the book.  That changed one night at work out of boredom.  I wanted lights off, but I wasn’t ready to sleep.  What should I find in itunes but a free version of The Time Machine?  I devoured that novel up.

Even though it is most definitely a social commentary, it is also one of the first sci-fi books.  At least, that has lasted to critical and cultural accord.  Can you imgine where we would be without this novel?  Countless novels and novelists influenced by this novella would not exist; sci-fi as we know it may not exist.  (And I know a LOT of Syfy/Sci-fi fans…)  Our entire society would be different if not for H. G. Wells and his tales.

I loved reading The Time Machine.  I knew the general synopsis, but it was nice having the cracks filled in.  After finishing it, I instantly found a copy of another of H.G. Wells infamous novellas:  The War of the Worlds.

Even more than The Time Machine, The War of the Worlds has influenced our culture.  Without this one, we wouldn’t have had the infamous tale of Orson Welles presenting it on the radio.  We wouldn’t have the amount of adaptions.  And can you imagine our take on aliens nowadays?  Would we have all the creepy and cheesy movies of aliens vs humans?  Would we have our cult movies and tv shows?

H.G. Wells thought outside of the box.  Tonight, of all nights, when I’m lamenting how it can suck to be alienated (intended) by being outside the box, it helps to know H.G. Wells existed and his works and legacy live long after him.  And to my profs, I cannot help but think: Are you really missing a bunch of really influential novels?  Do you really not see the amount of achievement in those respective fields?  There are bars in both sections; they’ve been set high.  You have no reason not to know how to grade them.

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AIDS Epidemic: As Told By Someone Who Lived It

I popped into a New Age store one day.  Being me, I found my way to the clearance book section and nearly had a heart attack.  And the Band Played On by Randy Shilts was there and only THREE DOLLARS?!?! It couldn’t be! Didn’t they know what they had here?

I took the book off the shelf, heart still palpitating.  I read the back: It WAS the book I wanted to read, which I had only heard mentioned (numerous times) in passing, most notably as a discussion of sociological methods.

There was no way this book wasn’t coming home with me.

The cashier didn’t share my excitement.  None of my friends had heard of the book.  But I had.  And I was going to read it, and its incense smelling pages, Damnit!

And so, I did.

And let’s just say, being born after ALL the events in the book took place, and having only heard of them briefly, it was a real eye opener.  It put the US Government in a new light and briefly made me want to track diseases.  But the government wasn’t hiring when I looked and I lack experience and the necessary degree and yadda yadda yadda.

I have several pages marked, too numerous to feel like recounting here.  But this book: I was shocked.  I was shocked from the underhanded political dealings that went on, from the lack of listening people would do to save their own skin while meanwhile people were DYING, the ignorance that grew (and still persists…)  It’s just… It could vie for a spot on the list of “Books that changed my life”.  I really wish I had read this in college, not for my sake, but for others.

In college, we read this book on TB in Haiti and how Paul Farmer is working to bring health care to impoverished locals.  I was not a fan of the book: mainly, I did not like the writing style.  I was slaughtered for not being moved by the book.  Halfway through And the Band Played on, I read about how they discriminated against “…the ‘Four H’s’ of the disease risk groups– homosexuals, heroin addicts, hemophiliacs, and Haitians” (Shilts 197).  My friend promptly got a text:

“Paul Farmer wrote a book on AIDS in Haiti and how Haitians weren’t to blame.  Why didn’t we read that one instead?”

I really really didn’t like the book we had to read.

Going back to Randy Shilts:  You have to respect him.  He was living with AIDS while working on this book, but refused to get diagnosed until he was done.  This is the AIDS epidemic not from scientists, but from someone who lived it, someone who was at risk.  And it’s not a memoir; it’s full on facts.

I cannot emphasize enough how I think people should read this book.  I can tell you about it until I am heaving from lack of breath, but it will not be enough.

You need to read it.

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The Final Book of 2012

I knew how Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Return of Sherlock Holmes would start.  That’s the problem when you’re a reader reading a book with a spoiler one hundred years after it was published: Everyone and their mother has spoiled it for you.  So I was ahead of Watson– not that that’s a hard thing.  I’m more a Sherlock than a Watson.  And really digging the TV Show Elementary, as I love them showing Holmes as being an addict, which source material totally has him being, but alas, I digress.  But seriously!  So nice to see him a pompous addict instead of just an overly smart, classy man.  I LOVES it.

Okay, I’m done now.  Maybe.

So The Return of Sherlock Holmes.  Usual pattern.  Bunch of mystery stories as solved by Holmes and told by Watson.  Generally short stories, all.  And generally some of the better mysteries I’ve read.  And I love mysteries.  Maybe because I can solve them pretty easily.

Some days, I think I am the female Holmes.  Other days, I wish I was.

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And the Waiting Never Ends…

Some days, I think Samuel Beckett was insane.  And then I think I’m insane and realize, we make a perfect pair.  He wrote Waiting for Godot, I read Waiting for Godot.  Need I say anything more?

I did not read Waiting for Godot while sick (I was really sick this past weekend; my body had entire revolution that started with passing out and ended with staying home for 48 hours straight).  And if I had, I don’t even want to wrap my thoughts around sick Ikkalee and whatever Waiting for Godot is about.  But healthy Ikkalee had a few thoughts:

According to her notes:

Waiting for Godot is either about one of two things:

1. Allegory for life: We are always waiting, we pass the time with trivialities, and we wait and wait and wait for something to finally occur.  It’s like with Finding Nemo.  According to 17 year old me, who discovered that Nemo was Latin for “No one” (According to a source I read; I could be wrong and then my entire theory has just collapsed around me) and was going through a stage of over-analyzing Disney/Pixar Movies, Finding Nemo is actually about our aimless search in life.  We are always looking for no one.  In the end, we find no one.  Wow.  I was a pessimist.

2.  Allegory of religion.  Godot is Jesus.  Dark is symbolic of death.  We are constantly waiting for Godot to arrive to bring us salvation and the meaning of life.  (Which we would all love to believe has something to do with 42.)

I’m not actually religious, but living in Western culture, it comes into my mind.  I have no idea what Beckett was thinking when he penned Waiting for Godot, but that is how an assimilated-into-Western-Culture, 20-something year old female in the 21st Century gets from it.  That’s my experience.  What is everyone else’s?

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A Middle Finger to “The Good Old Days”

You have all probably heard the phrase “The Good Old Days,” the nostalgic idea that everything was better back when and the current American Culture has gone off the diving board, into the deep end, and is one stroke away from drowning.  Case in point:

In the earlier parts of the 20th century, no one had sex outside of marriage.  There was no homosexuality.  Women and men, boys and girls all knew their proper places.  We have ads to support this, supposed stats that conceal hushed up family secrets.

And then there is literature.

I love my “F” American Authors.  Faulkner will always have a place in my heart.  But today, it’s Fitzgerald who will take over.

I had not read any F Scott Fitzgerald since the obligatory The Great Gatsby that all high schoolers read sometime in their lives.  (Junior year English for me).  Since graduating college, the idea of the reading the influential authors crept into my head and I pick up their not-so-famous works from time to time in addition to the ones everyone knows, claims to have read, but only a few of us crazies actually have.

In this case, I found myself reading Fitzgerald’s The Last Tycoon.

I don’t remember much about The Great Gatsby (except I decided the Counting Crow’s song Mr Jones was written with Gatsby in mind), so I cannot compare it with The Last Tycoon.  But I can say this: The Last Tycoon was never finished– Fitzgerald died– and that’s a shame as it was really getting good.

The story starts with a college-aged woman relating life growing up as a Hollywood producer’s daughter.  It soon changes to her describing the life and last great love affair of another Hollywood producer, “The Last Tycoon.”  And let’s just say, this man’s story involves everything that they claim never happened in the early 20th century (though without any homosexuality that I can remember).  Reading it, all I could think of was that Fitzgerald was sticking up his middle finger and saying “EFF YOU!” to propriety and the so-called “Good old days”.  And I laughed and my mind hugged the book even tighter.

I really wish Fitzgerald had been able to finish it.  Instead of an ending, the reader was given the notes and letters he had written to people and others had written to him.  And to be honest, I’m not a huge fan of Hemingway, but I greatly enjoyed his comments to Fitzgerald concerning this novel.

Early twentieth century writers… They were something else.

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