Saturday, May 30, 2009
Perhaps it was the subject matter - I am inherently more interested in life after death and ghosts than I am in cadavers. But I also think Roach learned a lot about writing a book the first time that she was able to apply this time. Her writing in Spook is tighter; the flow from chapter to chapter is better. Her sense of humor even seems sharper. She's no stranger to writing - she's been a journalist for a number of years, but writing a book is quite different from writing an article for a newspaper or magazine, and I think she's honed her craft in the second book.
Spook is about, as I have implied, life after death. Specifically, it's about the scientific study of life after death. Who knew that my very own Charlottesville is a hotbed of paranormal research at the University of Virginia? Who knew that a number of historically brilliant scientific minds had projects to try and communicate with the dead? Who knew that electromagnetic fields or strong (but too low to hear) sound waves could be responsible for the creepy-crawlies we get when we think something ghosty could be going on? I thought the book was fascinating, and I liked her conclusion very much. Science has not yet proved any sort of afterlife one way or the other - neither that it exists or that it doesn't. After studying the research and talking to lots of scientists, Roach says that the only conclusion she can come to is: who knows? But, as she points out, it's no fun to go to a graveyard with a non-believer.
Friday, May 22, 2009
First, some observations. The place is in the middle of nowhere, on farm land between Staunton and Harrisonburg. Right after you turn into the driveway, the road you were driving on turns into a gravel road. Even so, it's really only a few minutes off the interstate, so it's not at all complicated to find. They do try to place the books by category, and they succeed in this for the most part, but I found that the fiction section was TOO divided. I ended up looking at pretty much every book in the fiction section because I didn't want to miss something I was looking for and I wasn't sure exactly which subdivision it would be in. I had to laugh because, on the same aisle, two books with "suspicious" titles had been turned around so that the spine faced the back of the shelf and you couldn't see what it was. I had visions of a 50-year-old self-righteous mom deciding they were too risque for the kids to read. I turned them back around so you could see them, of course (for the curious, the titles were Confessions of a Romantic Pornographer and Hideous Kinky).
Book sections I saw while there: science fiction, mystery, popular fiction, gay/lesbian fiction, assorted romance fiction categories (regular, contemporary, erotic, paranormal, etc.), African American fiction, Christian fiction, historical fiction, bestsellers, world literature, classic literature, 20th century literature, literary biographies, literary criticism, poetry, fiction anthologies, drama (including a whole separately labeled section for Shakespeare), manga, game books (like crosswords), reference, business, travel, self-help, personal finance, diet, cooking, crafts, gardening, history, science, a large children's section, and audiobooks. There may have been even more categories; those are just the ones I remember!
Okay, on to what everyone's been waiting for - a list of the books I bought. Some of these were for the Fill-in-the-Gaps project, and some were purely for entertainment.
- A Company of Three by Varley O'Connor
- Lottery by Patricia Wood
- The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
- The Shipping News by Annie Proulx
- Mrs. Bridge by Evan S. Connell (I would have bought Mr. Bridge too, but they didn't have that one)
- Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
- The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy
- The Night Villa by Carol Goodman
- If Andy Warhol Had a Girlfriend by Alison Pace
- David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
- Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
- My Ántonia by Willa Cather
- Time Off for Good Behavior by Lani Diane Rich
- Diana Lively Is Falling Down by Sheila Curran
- The Next Big Thing by Johanna Edwards
My advice for those considering going themselves some time? Go early in their open window - they're usually only open for 2-3 weeks at a time, and a friend of mine told me that near the end, everything is really picked over and the good stuff is gone. Next, give yourself plenty of time. I didn't think I'd need more than an hour, and I was there for almost two...and I didn't even see everything. There was a whole downstairs area that I didn't get a chance to go look at because I had to leave to come home. Set a budget, bring a calculator, and make sure you stick to your budget. Also, if you have a wishlist of books you want, bring a list with you so you don't stand there thinking, "Was this book I wanted? I can't remember if it was called The Little Chair or The Little Table."
And that's all I've got. Their dates for the rest of this year are June 27 - July 12, August 22 - September 7, October 10 - 25, and November 27 - December 13. Anybody else been before? Do you want to go now?
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
The book is not for the faint of heart. There are several explicit descriptions of his first sexual experiences with a man 20 years his elder, not to mention the nasty things he describes his adopted family doing (such as drying the patriarch's bowel movements in the sun and studying them as messages from God). Despite the insanity and grossness, the book manages to be bitterly hilarious at the same time. I am really glad that I didn't have to live through anything even approximating this book, and I'm sorry that anyone had a childhood that led them to write like this, but I was definitely held captive by the humor and the crazy.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
All of these skills could be useful in hiding himself from the man called Jack who wants to kill him, but as he gets older and is told the reason for his confinement, he knows that he may want to kill Jack more than Jack wants to kill him.
Overall, I really liked this book. It was fun and entertaining and kept me interested the whole time. But I felt like a lot of the mythology that Gaiman created was unrealized in the story. I got a snippet of something cool and then it was dropped and gone. It could have been better if it had been longer and taken its time with many of the ideas he started in the book. The only other of his children's books I've read is Coraline, which I think is the superior. I feel like this book may have won the Newbery because someone felt he should have won it for Coraline and didn't, because I don't think The Graveyard Book is really at the Newbery level. But I still really enjoyed it and I'm a huge Gaiman fan!
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
The memoir covers the period in the author's life after her divorce when she goes on a worldwide quest to rediscover herself and soothe her mind and heart. She divides the trip (and the book) into three parts - four months each in Italy, India and Indonesia. Her aim is to figure out how to enjoy the pleasure in life, and to be very spiritual, and how to balance the two. The book is structured like yogi prayer beads - 108 stories, divided into three sections, 36 stories in each section.
The section about Italy was crazy and awesome and funny and triumphant. She kicks her depression, makes tons of friends, eats an insane amount of food and learns to speak passably good Italian. It made me want to go live in Italy for a few months, not that it would take all that much convincing. The section about India was deeply revealing about her spiritual life and progress in her meditations. I don't know that yoga is the path to a relationship with God for me, but I don't think it was about that - it was about finding your own path, and her showing what her path looked like. The section in Indonesia was honestly the least interesting to me, but it's very important to the story because that's where she finds love and closure. And it's a really interesting look at Balinese culture, making me want to go to Bali someday!
Part travel guide, part memoir, all funny and touching and human and healing. I enjoyed this book a lot and plan to give it to my husband to read next.