Self’s Life in Books

In 2013, she read a total of 30 books.

In 2014, to her great disappointment, she managed to read only 7.

Thus far, in 2016, she’s read 18 books. Oh happy happy joy joy.

2013 was a great year for her reading life.

She read:

  • Bicycle Diaries, by David Byrne
  • Anna Karenina
  • Don Quijote
  • Per Petterson’s Out Stealing Horses
  • Mildred Armstrong Kalish’s Litte Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression
  • Sister Carrie
  • The Leopard, by Giuseppe di Lampedusa
  • The Quiet American, by Graham Greene
  • Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel
  • The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin
  • City of Thieves, by David Benioff
  • The Lincoln Lawyer, by Michae Connelly
  • Henry M. Stanley’s How I Found Livingstone in Central Africa

In 2015, self’s great reads were:

  • Silas Marner
  • Brooklyn, by Colm Toibin
  • The Act of Love, by Howard Jacobson
  • Middlemarch, by George Eliot
  • Bad Behavior, by Mary Gaitskill

This year, self’s favorite books have been:

  • The Forever War, by Dexter Filkins (which she just realized she’d already read five years ago: She didn’t remember a thing!)
  • Anjelica Huston’s second memoir, Watch Me
  • The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins
  • The Narrow Road to the Deep North, by Matsuo Basho
  • Swimming Studies, by Leanne Shapton

She’s struggling through Northanger Abbey. Really struggling. But she is determined to finish it.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

“Indignation”: It Ends

SPOILER ALERT!!! SPOILER ALERT!!! MAAAAAJOR SPOILER ALERT!!!

Interesting, the way the characters in this movie spoke. No one sounded natural delivering the dialogue, but perhaps this was done deliberately, to reflect an “uptight” decade in American life (the 1950s)?

Everyone, that is, except for:

  • Logan Lerman
  • The actors who played Logan Lerman’s parents, especially the woman who played his mother
  • His childhood chums, discussing the death of one of their friends in Korea
  • His college roommates, one of whom (the phlegmatic big guy) was very, very good

This arch-ironic delivery, however, ends up being pure acting gold when it comes to the portrayal of a Dean of a University located in, of all places, Winesburg, Ohio (How very Sherwood Anderson!).

Nothing the Dean said (mainly a string of platitudes) made any sense. He was all about double-talk and veiled warnings, yet he delivered them with such a sense of conviction, as a man absolutely unshakeable in his moral beliefs, a man who’s been taken over so completely by his need to uphold the “right” standards that he doesn’t even know how to react when Logan’s character says (at least 5x): “I’m about to throw up. I have to go.” (Because self has seen Animal House at least 3x, she knew exactly how this scene was going to go down. How weird is it that Indignation and Animal House have a scene like this in common?)

The performances in this movie were really, really on point.

Lerman’s character, who hails from Newark, New Jersey, is completely out of his depth. Not only is he from Newark, New Jersey, he’s the son of a butcher. Not only is he the son of a butcher, he’s the son of a kosher butcher. Can you imagine? Oh the horrors of a guy like this attending university in Winesburg!

Lerman’s character is an atheist but unfortunately for him, he’s the only “out” atheist on campus. Everyone else — aside from 80 Jews — is Christian.

There’s a femme fatale. Okay, so she slit one wrist, was treated, she’s okay now. Self is so tired of these fragile college girls, these doomed Sylvia Plath iterations, who mess up the lives of innocents like our hero played by Logan Lerman. From the moment her character was introduced, self knew she would mess up the hero’s life. (Yes, Hero, You Should Listen to Your Overprotective Mother!)

And then the end. Let’s just say, not since that trendy woman’s novel where a woman kept going to bars and sleeping with strangers and ended up describing how she was killed, on the very last page, has self ever felt so cheated, cheated, cheated!

You cannot do first person when you’re dead at the end, all right?

If you’re dead — unless you’re an angel or a ghost or the second coming of Alice Sebold — you cannot tell a story like this, where everything is wrapped up so prettily in hindsight. Because the human being who lives the story will not tell it like this. He’ll be all: I cannot believe I’m going down like this! This sucks!

Total disintegration would be preferable to tragic story arc (In hindsight, everything can be made to seem tragic. It’s “spin.” It’s also a cheat. That is self’s humble opinion. You can get away with it but please, not in first person)

But, Holy Cow, LOGAN LERMAN. The only other movies self has seen him in are 3:10 to Yuma and Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief. Her main objection to him was that he looked like a girl. She won’t be saying that again, after this movie.

When the movie ended, self had to turn to her seatmate and ask, What the heck just happened there? Is he really dead?

The woman’s countenance was completely shattered. Yes, she said. He is dead.

And with that, self left the theatre in a very bad mood. Practically stomped out. Like, she could not believe she just spent two hours listening to Logan Lerman’s poetic narration, only to have it end up like this. So, all that before, that was his disembodied dead self telling us the story? Nooooo!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Reading, in Bath: Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen

“Oh! I am delighted with the book! I should like to spend my whole life in reading it. I assure you, if it had not been to meet you, I would not have come away from it for all the world.”

“Dear creature! How much I am obliged to you; and when you have finished Udolpho, we will read the Italian together; and I have made out a list of ten or twelve more of the same kind for you.”

“Have you indeed! How glad I am! What are they all?”

“I will read you their names directly; here they are, in my pocket-book. Castle of Wolfenbach, Clermont, Mysterious Warning, Necromancer of the Black Forest, Midnight Bell, Orphan of the Rhine, and Horrid Mysteries. Those will last us some time.”

Actually a Very Good Question

Self has been browsing movie reviews, and binge-watching Ripper Street, and tweeting with fans about it, and beginning yet another fan fiction, which she needs like a hole in the head, but this one’s irresistible, this one’s got a Really Really Dark Peeta, a Peeta who just might be a murderer! Like Jack the Ripper! . . . Sorry! Back to the reason for this post.

From Critic After Dark’s review of The Shallows (which self saw aaaaages ago, at the start of the summer — feels like a lifetime!) starring Blake Lively, whose legs are so on point self can’t even:

Then of course death crashes the party in the form of a humpback whale carcass. Clever way to account for the Great White cruising nearby (otherwise it’s a bit of a puzzler why the shark — which habituates the waters of California, Northeast United States, South Africa and Australia — is hanging around a Mexican beach) but also raises a whole other question: why forego this tasty, properly wet-aged all-you-can-eat buffet of rich blubber and tender meat for a bony surfer who would hardly make up a satisfying snack?

In answer to which self wishes she could insert a hundred “shrug” emojis!

And self  has a question of her own for reviewer Noel Vera: How does he know the carcass is that of a humpback whale? Because it literally is half gone. So there is no possible way to determine whether it really does have a humped back. Har, har, har! Sorry, self just couldn’t resist making a lame joke.

Self will close with a list of the summer 2016 movies she most enjoyed:

  • The Shallows
  • Captain America: Civil War
  • Our Kind of Traitor
  • Café Society
  • Love & Friendship
  • Ghostbusters
  • Bad Moms

Oh, summer. Self can’t believe it’s almost over.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

How To Have Fun: August 2016

This week’s WordPress Daily Post Photo Challenge is FUN.

It’s almost the end of summer. All stops out, now. Show us, WordPress bloggers, what FUN really means!

Check out these blogs and have fun doing it!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Café Society: Angst, But No Meltdown

Live every day like it’s your last, and one day you’ll be right.

— a character in Woody Allen’s Café Society

Why do Woody Allen’s recent movies end like that?

Why do they just seem to stop — as if the director realized he was running out of time and it would take at least an hour to untangle the mess he’s thrown his characters into but uh-oh, he doesn’t have the time or the budget so, rather than compromise with a manufactured ending, he just stops.

Sometimes, he can get away with it, but not here. No, no, no. Self refuses to accept that this ending “works.”

About the performances: Jesse Eisenberg, it’s almost a physical transformation. Is the actor really that skinny, that stooped, that — plain?

Kristen Stewart — not nearly as convincing as the California object of men’s desires. J-Law could have done this part, in her sleep. And she would have nailed it, too.

Blake Lively — her part was sooo under-written but she did her best with the little she was given.

Steve Carell — okay, you were good. So good that self hated you. Almost all the way through.

And Corey Stoll — Self knows. Corey who? But, what a performance. Scary and convincing. Watch for it.

Cinematography — aced. The settings were so beautifully framed, in almost every shot.

More later.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Other Interesting Mornings

This week’s Daily Post Photo Challenge is MORNINGS.

Self always enjoys taking a look at other people’s blogs to see how they interpreted the photo challenge. Here are links to three she particularly liked:

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

Finishing THE GREEN ROAD, Starting THE LONELY CITY

The last two sentences of The Green Road are killer.

She was not sure how Enright was going to wrap everything up.

SPOILER ALERT

The mother is unchanged, from start to finish.

The kids say she is a horrible, narcissistic person.

Why don’t they give her credit for surviving, though. It is not easy, after all, to grow old.

Self had quite a lot vested in the fate of Hanna, but the novel ended and things with Hanna are just about as inconclusive as things are with the mother.

Self’s next book is The Lonely City: Adventures In the Art of Being Alone, by Olivia Laing.

She also wants to read Brazillionaires, by Alex Cuadros. It already has five holds in the San Mateo public library. If self wants to read it, she’ll have to buy herself a copy.

Self began reading the latest issue of Stanford Magazine today and thought two books sounded particularly interesting: The Crown’s Game, by Stanford alum Evelyn Skye, and Eve of a Hundred Midnights: The Star-Crossed Love Story of Two World War II Correspondents and Their Epic Escape Across the Pacific, by Bill Lascher.

About Skye’s novel: “Set in Imperial Russia, this historical fantasy follows two teenagers who wield magical skills in a competition to become the tsar’s adviser. Only one of them will win the prized position as Imperial Enchanter; the other will be put to death.” (Stanford Magazine)

Eve of a Hundred Midnights is the story of two Stanford alums: Melville Jacoby and Annalee Whitmore (who both wrote for the Stanford Daily, as did self!) and how they escaped the Philippines during the Japanese invasion.

When someone asks what self’s favorite book (so far) of 2016 is, she immediately thinks of The Forever War, by Dexter Filkins, which she read in Fort Bragg. Also: The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins, which she read while she was driving around the central coast, earlier this summer.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Easy Open Cap, Complete Nonsense

See the words on the lid of this bottle of macapuno (coconut fruit preserves)?

Self has been trying to get at the contents for two days. Granted, anyone who spends two days trying to open a bottle must be bonkers. But self really, really loves macapuno. And she hasn’t had any in about 10 years.

In Redwood City, she used to have this nifty thingamajig by Zyliss that wrenches open bottle caps in 10 seconds. But here, she hasn’t seen any store that sells the thing. So, she has to resort to:

  • running bottle neck under warm water
  • pounding on top lid with knife, block of wood, and hammer
  • inserting knife tip under the lid to break seal
  • wrapping lid with rubber bands and twisting and twisting and twisting

The Filipino manufacturer should be proud! They have perfected the super-tight seal! Bottle lid’s tighter than a seal on an oil rig! Paging BP Oil! No, even better, paging NASA!

In the meantime, those words EASY OPEN CAP on the lid are simply taunting her. Has the manufacturer never heard of “truth in advertising”? This dilemma has also given rise to snarky thoughts such as: You want the macapuno? You can’t handle the macapuno!

This problem would not occur in the Philippines where self recalls never having to touch food of any kind — because of help! LOL — unless it is delivered on a tray.

DSCN9625

Jar of Macapuno, Absolutely Impenetrable. “Easy Open Cap.” Bought two days ago. Enough is enough. Tossing today. Good-bye, $3.99

When all hope is lost, self shares her dilemma on Facebook. Which then leads to a Filipina sending her a link to this instructional video, which contains the words: “Even a two-year-old should have no problem opening a bottle lid using this method.”

LOL LOL LOL

Stay tuned.

Wall Street Journal Books, July 23 – 24, 2016

Self found a couple of books to add to her reading list while perusing the Books section of the July 23 – July 24 Wall Street Journal:

  • Your Friend Forever, A. Lincoln, by Charles B. Strozier (Columbia)
  • The Castle of Kings, by Oliver Potzsch (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) — historical fiction, set in 1524 Germany
  • Abahn Sabana David, by Marguerite Duras (Open Letter) — “minimal, dream-like setting” and narration that has “the bluntness of stage directions.” Self adores Duras.
  • The Brotherhood of the Wheel, by R. S. Belcher (Tor) — Resourceful residents of a small town use a HEXapp — an actual HEXapp! LOL LOL — to show the most recent sightings of the local spectre!
  • Richard Cohen, literary critic and Tolstoy expert, shares his favorite British crime novels: The Cask, by Freeman Wills Crofts; Tragedy at Law, by Cyril Hare; Reputation for a Song, by Edward Grierson; The Shortest Way to Hades, by Sarah Caudwell
  • Brazillionaires, by Alex Cuadros (Spiegel & Grau) — nonfiction by a journalist

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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