Thursday, January 26, 2012

that time i remembered how to read

From the time I submitted my final paper for Foundations of Library and Information Science until the spring semester officially began on Tuesday of last week, I had just over five weeks to live life on my own terms without assignments or quizzes or articles or textbook chapters or discussion boards.  A significant amount of that time was eaten up by holiday preparations and the holidays themselves, which were, despite a case of strep throat and just over a day lost to a stomach virus, uniformly lovely.  But just as noteworthy in blogging terms as Christmas baking and parties and presents was that during my break from school, I rejoined the ranks of readers, consuming six books.  Let me tell you about them, please.

Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

The circumstances:  Since I started my expanded teen gig back in the fall, I've been feeling not so cool about the fact that I don't read much young adult fiction these days.  Additionally, every time I think that, I want to punch someone over the name young adult fiction.  So when I got tired of being the only person in the world who hadn't read this trilogy and when my long-time stooge (non-internet friends will know her as Sam the page) offered them to me in audiobook format so I could listen to them on the way home for Christmas, I knew my time had come.  I actually got a head start on them by listening to the first one as I did some holiday baking and then consuming the second in day I spent languishing in my bed of sickness.  And because I couldn't wait any longer, I polished off the third a few days later several day before I began my trip home.

The verdict:  A few disks into Hunger Games (because I didn't actually read them with my eyes, I have no concept of the number of pages or chapters), I thought to myself that I could totally understand the mass appeal of this book--but it also seemed a little formulaic to me.  And then a disk or so later, I acknowledged that I too had been sucked in, formulaic or not.  I really enjoyed the first one, and I was eager to see the story develop in the second . . . but that's when the hopelessness and futility started to make me itch.  I would still say that I liked Catching Fire, but things were starting to fall apart for me, and by the time I started Mockingjay, I was worn out by the misery.  Much like my final verdict on watching Lost, I can only handle characters I've grown to care about being miserable for so long before self-preservation kicks in, and I have to remove myself emotionally from the story.  That happened here.  And in case you are wondering whether I was rooting for Peeta or Gale (and yes, I just had to look up how to spell their names on the internet), I was rooting for everyone except Katniss.  She was my least favorite.  Maybe I was rooting for Haymitch most of all.

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

The circumstances:  After the Hunger Games saga, I was in the market for something else to listen to on my drive to Kentucky, so I explored some options.  What I really wanted was The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo as it was the January selection of my online Peeps book club, but there was a hold list at the library, so I went with the coworker recommended Magicians instead.  I also got the book itself in case I got four hours into the story and wanted to keep going while I was at my moma's house and not in the car.  I listened to it all the way home, but never felt the need to crack open the book while I was in Kentucky.  I put another four hours into it on the way home, and I was still waiting for something to happen.  When I got back to work, Jonathan had started listening to it as well, and though I was further ahead, we shared a similar feeling that something was lacking, but I forged ahead and finally finished it on a lazy Saturday.

The verdict:  I hated the person who narrated the audiobook which I'm sure influenced my overall experience, but I just didn't enjoy it.  At all.  I tried to--I kept expecting for it to click with me as so many people had extolled the greatness of the book, but I never got it.  I don't recommend anyone ever reading this book (least of all you, my dear imaginary readers), but if you think you might someday read it, go ahead and skip down to the next paragraph to avoid some spoilers.  The book is about this teenager who gets accepted to a magical college (leading someone to mistakenly tell me that the book was like a grown-up Harry Potter, which is the most insulting thing anyone's ever said about Harry).  The kid is completely unlikable (even worse than Katniss Everdeen) and profoundly unhappy to boot.  But when he discovers this magical world waiting for him, he's sure that he's figured out why he's been unhappy.  And then he's unhappy being magical.  And then he's unhappy some more.  And then later, he's unhappy.  Also he's obsessed with this series of books he read as a child where a family of English children are sent to a manor in the country side and discover a portal to another world where animals talk and there's a wicked queen to defeat and they become royalty.  The land is governed by wise,moral and very stately rams who might as well be named Aslan, because my goodness, it's such a blatant rip-off of the Chronicles of Narnia that I wanted to scream.  And then it ends badly and the most likable character dies and it just gets worse from there.  The dumb kid (who's in his mid-twenties by the time the book actually ends) never stops whining and wallowing in his own unhappiness, and there's actually a sequel (and a third book coming soon) and a movie to be made of the mess, but I've washed my hands of it all.  Don't ever read this book.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson

The circumstances:  By the time that I got home from my holiday trip, this audiobook had come in for me--plus I bought the paperback as a little present to myself, so I was ready to give it a whirl so I could attend book club for the first time since we started it back up--and so I could go see Daniel Craig as I have a strict policy about not seeing movies if I haven't read the books.  I listened to about a third of it, but the names were confusing without being able to see them, so I switched to the print version.  I started it on a Saturday evening and finished it before bedtime on Sunday with plenty of time to spare before book club on Monday.

The verdict:  It's a slow start, and the Swedish names can be a bit confusing, but once I got into it, I was hooked.  The mystery bit was intriguing, and I found the main characters really interesting, and although it ended up being fairly graphic and brutal in places, I thought it was well worth the read.  I still haven't seen Daniel Craig, but I'll get to that eventually.  My enjoyment of this one made me place holds on the remaining two books in the series, but so far I haven't made a start on them yet.  Maybe during spring break . . .

Julie & Julia by Julie Powell

The circumstances:  I saw Peep Martha the morning of book club, and she warned me that I might get the chance to choose the next book since I was showing up at chat and hadn't had a turn picking yet, so I did some research that day so I would feel prepared.  I was looking for something that would be a light change of pace form the intensity of Dragon Tattoo, and everything I knew of this book fit the bill, so I picked it.  So with only one more week between me and the start of the new semester, I decided to go ahead and try to make a dent in it, so that I'd be prepared for our February book chat even if my classes did try to kill me.  Luckily, in that week, I had another trip to Kentucky, but this time I would be a passenger--and be traveling twice as far to get to Pinkie's birthday party, so there were plenty of reading opportunities along the way.

The verdict:  I laughed out loud at the book enough in the car that my moma wants to read it.  I'll have to warn her about Julie Powell's potty-mouth, but even with her propensity of dropping the f-bomb enough to make me blush, I really enjoyed it.  It was often insane and sometimes unintentionally sad, but it was still a delight.  And now I get to watch the movie--which I always thought looked cute but was unavailable to me because I hadn't read the book.

Since the start of my semester, I've also read a few gems such as the back cover of Bossypants by Tina Fey, which had me in fits of hysterical laughter, and two chapters in The Neal-Schuman Library Technology Companion, which is a real page-turner, let me assure you.  Next up is a couple chapters of Information Representation and Retrieval in the Digital Age.  I'm pumped about that as you might imagine.  It was a joy to be back in the land of the pleasure reader for a while, and I'm determined to not let so much time pass before I sneak back for another visit.  In the meantime, for those of my faithful followers who are not hip-deep in library textbooks, what are you reading?

Friday, January 6, 2012

approximate rhyme is disgusting and other disproportionately strong reactions

I was thinking today about the crushing guilt I feel over my lack of blogging, and then I considered all the things that are wrong in the world that I'm not fixing and even the things that are wrong in my own life that I overlook with very little consequence, and I decided it was stupid to feel guilty over something so trivial as blogging.  My blogging doesn't save the world, and it's foolishness and wasted time to expend energy or prolonged thought or worry on my lack of posts in the last quarter of 2011.  No one cares, and even if a few imaginary readers have given passing thought to what has become of my work dramas or burger hunts or haikus or even the long-lost open letters, their worlds kept spinning without those crucial updates from me--and will continue to do so even if I never post again.

So I'm no longer allowed to shoulder the burden of entertaining you all.  I'll write or I won't, but I refuse to allow what is a small concern to a very limited number of people be blown out of all proportion because of my own sense of self-importance and secret need for martyrdom.

And with that giant imaginary weight lifted from my shoulders, I can give attention to other ridiculous reactions that I have to things.
  • Approximate rhyme is disgusting.  
  • Combining chocolate and peanut butter is an evil plot to ruin my life.
  • Someone touching my ears will literally kill me.
  • Grown people who use chat or text language on facebook are dead to me.
No, really, I feel this strongly about all these things.  Why?  Because reacting strongly is so fashionable right now.  Have you noticed this?  No one can just have an ordinary like or dislike or preference or mild annoyance.  Everyone reacts in superlatives, and I'm just as bad as anyone, but sometimes at least I catch myself at it and attempt to dial back the manufactured drama of every little thing being the absolute worst or best.  Because honestly?  One two things in the world can be the absolute worst and best, and assigning disproportionate reactions to marginally important things diminishes the value of everything.  Plus it's the most annoying thing in the world--so stop doing it.