I quoted Kurt Vonnegut in a post from a couple of weeks ago. Here, I’ll just post it again (’cause it’s awesome):
“The arts are not a way of making a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”
Kurt Vonnegut holds a special place in my heart. And not just because he says really awesome things. He also writes really awesome books. While I can’t choose a favorite out of all the books I have ever read, I can tell you that Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions changed my life.
I read it when my husband and I were dating. He was an English Major and very well read and I was totally enthralled with his knowledge of books. He loaned me Breakfast of Champions to read one day and I ate it up. This was THE book in which I had that “aha” moment of realizing that the narrator was NOT the author of the story. I was discussing the book with Raf and mentioned something like, “I can’t believe Vonnegut’s mother committed suicide by drinking Draino!” Raf responded with, “Monica, the narrator of the story is not the author.” It was like a bowling ball hit me in the head. I went from dumb girl to smart girl in a matter of seconds.
Looking back, I feel like an idiot for being such and avid reader and not realizing this sooner. For some silly reason I assumed the author and the narrator were the same. Do other readers think this? Maybe I had crappy English teachers in High School. When I was a TA in college I pointed this out to a few of my students and I could tell that they had the same aha moment that I had, so maybe it is something some people assume when they read.
Anyway, Breakfast of Champions made me see this truth and it did several things. I became a critical thinker. It caused me to question. It also pointed me toward to a greater love of reading and literature and it was the catalyst that made me become a literature major in college. To this day one of my favorite things is a good, smart, book discussion.
I just finished The Road by Cormac McCarthy. I am quite blown away by it. For a summary of the book check out Good Reads or Amazon. Basically, it is the story of a boy and his father in a post-apocalyptic world, walking along a highway to find a better, safer place.
The writing was stunning. It was so wonderfully succinct. I loved the relationship between the father and son. The Father’s love for his son was so beautiful and I loved it in contrast with the bleakness of the world. For me, that is what made this story. I wondered about what happened to the world at first, but after awhile it didn’t matter to me anymore. It doesn’t matter. I believe the story is this father and son’s relationship.
The book is bleak and there are some frightening and gory moments in it. I hesitated to read it while I was eating lunch sometimes.
It was recommended to me by a patron on a really dark, dreary day. I had just finished telling him about my step-dad. He saw the book on the shelf and came up to the reference desk and said, “you should read this. It’s the perfect book for a day like this. Sit down with a glass of wine and just enjoy the writing.” He explained that the story was kind of bleak but it was worth it. He was so right! I’m glad he recommended it. It’s one of the best books I’ve ever read and I look forward to reading more from Cormac McCarthy.
Atonement by Ian McEwan
rating: 5 of 5 stars
One of the best books I have ever read/listened to. I could hardly stop listening. It was absolutely compelling. The ending just completely blew me away.
The Brothers Grimm: Popular Folk Tales by The Brothers Grimm
I have found myself almost obsessed with these stories. I decided to read through these folk-tale and fairy-tale classics because I don’t remember being exposed to the original versions of the stories in my childhood. I absolutely love them. Some of the originals are so gruesome that they had me exclaiming “oh my God!” out loud in the staff lounge at work, and then I had to share the passage with my co-workers. Did you know that Snow White’s step-mother told her henchman to kill Snow White and bring back her lungs and liver so she could eat them? yikes! And don’t even get me started on the story “Fitcher’s Bird.” That story will give you nightmares.
They are freaking awesome!
The edition I checked out from the library didn’t include Red Riding Hood and Cinderella so I just bought the Complete Grimms and will read them at my leisure.
A couple of weeks ago I read a delightfully funny book called The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry. It had me laughing out loud in the lunchroom and I had to tell all of my co-workers about what was making me laugh so hard. Books like this are few and far between, I believe, and it is always fun to find one.
The Willoughbys is a satire on all of those old old classic children’s books we all know and love. It is about an “old fashioned family” who likes to do “old fashioned” things. And they like to remind themselves of this all the time. The have parents who decided one day that they don’t like their children and so decide to find a way to get rid of them. The Children catch on to this and they decide to figure out a way to “get rid of” the parents. Luckily they have a cape-wearing nanny to take care of them AND there is a rich old bachelor down the street who saves the day at the end.
As you can see Lowry pulls out all of the children’s lit tropes. There is even an abandoned baby on a doorstep.
This book is even more fun for me because I decided this summer to read all of those old classics (because I never have and am ashamed to admit that as a children’s librarian). Reading these books having The Willoughbys in the back of my mind is a treat.
So go to the library and check it out! It’s a very quick read. It took me about an hour to get through it. And let me know what you think!
It is a rare treat to find a book that I can’t put down. Don’t you love that? Reading a story that is so interesting and exciting that you just want to keep going? This week I read “Dead Lucky: Life after Death on Mount Everest” by Lincoln Hall. This book was so good that I read the acknowledgments at the end. Seriously. An absolutely amazing story.
Lincoln Hall is a veteran climber from Australia. He has written several books in the Mountain Climbing genre and is quite well known among these Mountaineering types. He attempted Everest in his twenties but was not able summit (I believe White Limbo chronicles this attempt). He continued climbing through the years but then settled in with his family in Australia living a nice life. However, when he was approached to be a photographer for a climb involving the youngest climber to attempt the summit he decided it was something he had to do.
He makes the summit but on the way down, just below the summit things began to go very wrong. He started hallucinating and when he fell down in the snow to “rest” he could not be revived by his team so he was left for dead not far below the summit. News travelled fast. His family was notified, the media were notified and people in Australia and around the world mourned Lincoln Hall’s death.
The next morning another team of climbers were attempting the summit and saw someone sitting up and moving around. The went over to him and the man said, “I bet your are surprised to see me here.” The men asked what his name was and he said, “I’m Lincoln Hall.” Unbelievably, Hall survived a night at the top of Mt. Everest. This has never happened before. Even more unbelievably, Hall walked down most of the mountain! Albeit confused, but he did it. His walk down the mountain is even more unbelievable. I won’t give you the details because I want you to read the book, but the story is absolutely jaw dropping.
The book is very well written, as can be expected by an experienced writer. He puts his reader on the mountain with him as he his sitting through the night. You are going through the hallucinations with him and you are there with him when he suddenly realizes where he is and that he as to survive this. Amazing stuff.
This has to be one of the best books I have ever read. The story is truly amazing. I highly recommend it.
I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I bought this book. I wanted to go into more detail on it for you. Really, it can all be summed up to: I love it! I don’t know why I waited all of these years to buy it. It is a true gem, especially if you love Elizabeth Zimmerman. I’m probably preaching to the choir here. I’m sure all of my knitting friends already have it and know what I’m talking about.
The book is a collection of All of Zimmerman’s newsletters from 1958-1968. The newsletters came about when EZ saw the printed version of her (now famous) knit-in-the-round fair isle yoke sweater published in Women’s Day. The pattern called for the knitter to knit it in pieces and then seam it up! (can you believe that?!?) So she decided to print her own patterns and send them to people as newsletters. The book contains all kinds of fantastic patterns that include the Baby Surprise Jacket and the Tomten jacket. And they are published as they originally appeared, with EZ’s handwritten notes, and all. They are wonderful.
Included in the book are her writings about all kinds of things from her love of skiing, to camping, and many more that I have yet to read. She was such a wonderful writer. I love her style. There are also really fantastic photographs of the knitted items from the newsletters as well as photographs from various stages of her life.
And I have to say, I cried at the end of this book. Yes, I did. I cried at the end of a knitting book. The last piece of the book is the Wool Gathering letter that was sent out reporting the death of EZ to her subscribers. And then a list of notes from her readers telling how much Elizabeth meant to them. It is so incredibly touching that it brings tears to my eyes right now.
I’ve mentioned this many times before, but I learned how to knit from reading Elizabeth Zimmerman books, specifically Knitting Workshop and Knitting Without Tears. I feel very at home with her style and I love it. Zimmerman is like my knitting grandmother. Her writing just makes you feel like she is in the room with you teaching you how to knit, chatting away with you and telling you stories.
I decided to start knitting the Baby Surprise Jacket pattern from this book. It truly is an engineering marvel. I’ve been knitting along, sometimes questioning the pattern, but knowing that there is no way there is a mistake in it. I’m just knitting this thing on pure faith right now. I’ll show it to you on Monday.
have a great weekend!