it’s not always sunny in Chicago (or New York)

I had never heard of the Collyer brothers when I started reading E.L. Doctorow’s book. I chose to read only because I’ve read Ragtime a couple times and thought it was an amazing interweaving of history and fiction.

It starts slowly and I felt like I was stumbling along with Homer in the dark. I had no idea where his story was going. Until I looked it up online. Even though I knew how it would all end, there was something beautifully haunting seeing it through Homer’s eyes. I have yet to find a writer who does it as well as Doctorow. We may never know what really happened or what drove these two men to seek solace inside their house, barricading themselves against the world with all their junk, only to die alone. Since the brothers rarely ventured out, Doctorow builds the story by bringing history though the house. He did change a lot of details, which might not be necessary considering these men were stranger than fiction and probably didn’t need much embellishment, but that’s the beauty of fiction. You have the freedom to do create a world and put characters in it and do whatever you want with them. The difficult part is making it believable. So I read it as fiction, forgetting the news articles I had looked up, and tried desperately to finish it before I had to get off the plane. It probably wasn’t the best book to read on a trip back from sunny California after a beautiful, happy, teary wedding but that’s just the way I am. For the same reason I could never live in a place where it’s sunny all the time, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I didn’t have a dark thought every once in a while.

How does something like this happen? What compels a person to accumulate so much junk? This photo is from the NYTimes. I can’t stop staring at it. They removed 100 tons of crap!! It took them weeks to find Langley’s body. The irony is that his life revolved around accumulating papers, parts, and other things. In the end, those things are what killed him.

Books Art Life

I saw these new covers the other day at Borders and almost bought them. I already own them but I’m a sucker for pretty new covers. The New Yorker had briefly mentioned that artist Ruben Toledo would be doing the artwork and I’m not disappointed. I’ve tried to tell myself I don’t need two copies of these books but they really are works of art and I want to own these and put them in some kind of protective plastic case. Someday I’ll have a beautiful room with nothing but books floor to ceiling. Someday.

coming of age

There seem to be so many graphic memoirs coming out lately, it will have to be a section all on its own. It’s an interesting new medium to get a story across and definitely eye catching but I’m beginning to have mixed feelings about them.

One of the first graphic memoirs I ever read was Persepolis. I was blown away. And not because it was something new but because I was reading an amazing story AND it was presented in a different way. Another one that I’ve read recently that I loved was French Milk. Very different in terms of content but a familiar story about a girl trying to figure out who she is. It’s a common theme but French Milk had mixed media (photographs and drawings) which made it stand out. And it was just full of her personality, even if it was still a very young voice.

This past week, I’ve read two more graphic memoirs and maybe the novelty is starting to wear off because I didn’t really enjoy them. Stitches was different, much darker, almost horrific in its depictions, and rightfully so considering what David Small went through. I’m usually a fan of some horror, I like dark and twisty things but the story was lacking. He skips over a huge chunk of time that should have explained how he went from a disturbing childhood, losing his voice (literally), to finding his voice (figuratively) and becoming successful. I felt like there was a lot to tell there so the ending felt hollow.

The Imposter’s Daughter isn’t in black and white like the others but in full color. And the synopsis of the story sounded so interesting I snatched it up at the library before anyone else could. I’m glad I didn’t buy it. I love her illustrations and she lays out all her secrets for everyone to see. She doesn’t hold back anything which I applaud. That is something I don’t think I will ever have courage to do. But I wasn’t convinced. There is a 2 page spread in the middle of the book where she cleverly lists many of the celebrities she interviewed during that time by doing a mock Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band cover. But why? I didn’t see how that was relevant to the story. I got that she had a knack for getting these ladies to open up to her but the fact was she was using the sob story that she had a terrible father. I’m glad that she found help and is recovered but the story felt so contrived. Girls with “daddy issues” are a dime a dozen. If she was a celebrity journalist, would she still have gotten this book deal?

I think I’ll avoid graphic memoirs for a while.

vampires are so last year

The last time I was this engrossed in a series was Harry Potter. I started reading Hunger Games on Wednesday. I hated that I had to go to work and put it down. But I woke up this morning (Saturday) determined to finish it. I left for a few hours and my husband picked it up and hasn’t been able to put it down. I had to remind him to eat dinner. And I picked up Catching Fire and finished it in a matter of hours.

If teens want a good read with suspense, action, violence, and a little romance, they should read these books instead of Twilight. Katniss, the main character, is a girl I could get behind. I would want her as a friend and I could understand why guys would fall for her. She’s strong, resourceful, and feisty. I was rooting for her the whole time. She has moments of weakness and she’s not perfect but she has a backbone and has a lot more going for her than her scent!

My brain is still buzzing from everything that’s happened in the story and I don’t know how I’m going to wait another year for the 3rd book.

If I write anything more than what is summarized on Amazon or on the book jacket, I’ll give something away. When my husband and I stopped reading to breathe and share thoughts, I accidentally let a plot point slip. So then he forbid me to talk. Thank goodness we have a long weekend. I don’t think he’s going to get much sleep until he finishes both books.

I don’t know what I’m going to read next. It’s going to be difficult getting into something else after living the Hunger Games for two days!

something better

Another horrible day at work where nothing works the way it should and I just feel like I’m cleaning up someone else’s mess. Then I come home, sit down with a glass of wine and wonder if it’s worth it. If I didn’t have such an addiction to books, I could probably live on less. But I’m obsessed the way some girls are with shoes or purses. I just got my books for class and call me a geek but I really want to start reading “Modern Literary Theory”. It’s too bad I’m too tired to process anything complicated.

Grad school will be expensive and I’m going to be spending a lot of time at the local cafe putting in the late hours studying but I have to believe that I can do something better than this.