Book I finished this week:
For some reason on Monday I decided I HAD to go to the Tustin Library. So I did. I perused the fiction section. I saw this book. I recognized the title. I decided to read it. I needed a change from fantasy and dystopic fiction (I’m currently reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Howl’s Moving Castle, and 1984).
Well, it was a brief change. I read it in about 6 hours. But man, this book irked me. It had no plot (to Bank’s credit, I think it was meant to be a coming-of-age novel, so no big problem to solve). The main character, Jane, came off as whiny and self-centered (except when she was talking about or with her dad). It was all about relationships and had nothing to do with the other cool things she could have been doing with her life during her 20’s. Most of the other characters seemed so unrealistic (always saying the right things, being larger-than-life). Also, there is a chapter in there told from the point of view of an older woman named Nina, Jane’s great aunt’s neighbor, that has pretty much nothing to do with Jane’s story. I keep thinking about the purpose of that chapter. I can’t think of anything reasonable. Thoughts?
In any case, it was an OK change from Big Brother and Voldemort and Howl.
Memorable links and articles from this week:
Everyone and their mother has shared this link on Facebook and Twitter: Stop Coddling the Super Rich by Warren Buffet – New York Times
One of the best analyses of The Help I’ve read so far: This is why I worry about The Help – Adios Barbie
What Would Hillary Clinton Have Done? by Rebecca Traister – New York Times
Graphic novels count, too! I found this while browsing around the “Older Teen” section of the Tustin Library tonight.* I sat down by the stacks and read the whole thing. It was sad. It hit a little close to home, I guess. I don’t have a thoughtful analysis for this one, but I really enjoy Craig Thompson’s artwork.
*I almost got kicked out! Adults aren’t allowed in that section unless it’s during school hours. Thankfully, it appears I can still pass for an older teen. Also, who decided that adults don’t like graphic novels, too? Why are they in such an inaccessible spot? I am hearing about this happening in libraries pretty frequently these days and it makes me sad.
I had been following Maureen Johnson’s tweets for several weeks before I found this book at the library bookstore. She has a great charm and wit about her, and I was curious to see how that would translate into her writing.
I was not disappointed. Even though they are seniors in high school, I related on some level with all three of the members of “the Bermudez Triangle”: Nina, the studious, hyper-involved overachiever with a huge heart; Avery, the musically gifted and impulsive rebel; and Mel, the sweet, shy friend who must grow up very quickly once she embraces who she really is.*
One of my favorite things about the book was Johnson’s treatment of the girls’ sexualities. One is definitely straight, another definitely gay, and another definitely confused. She doesn’t automatically equate “confused” with “bi” (although that is addressed quite eloquently somewhere in the dialogue) and did not romanticize the character’s fluid sexuality. The character was truly CONFUSED, with all the good and bad that comes along with it.
I have more to say but my reflections are rife with spoilers. The bottom line is that this is something I’d want my daughter/niece to read when she gets into high school. Of course, by the time this happens, my daughter/niece might relate to Nina, Avery, and Mel in the same way that I relate to Nancy Drew. But I will persevere in my quest!
*I don’t necessarily relate on these levels. For descriptive purposes only.
Quickest read of the year so far because of the length and the interesting narrative style. The imagery is also fantastic: the sun changes colors, the watermelons change colors along with the sun, the trout glow in the stream. And everything in the commune (iDEATH) is made of watermelon sugar.
I wish there was more of Antonia in this book, but I had to keep reminding myself that this was supposed to be written from the narrator’s (Jim Burden) memory. So it kind of made up for Antonia’s character being somewhat flat. I did really enjoy Jim and Antonia’s friendship. Jim is a stand up guy! My favorite character was Lena Lingard, the town hussy who grew up to be a totally awesome and successful dressmaker but still lived by her own rules. Sorry, Antonia.
My favorite part of the book was the story of why Peter and Pavel, two minor characters, came to the United States. I won’t give it away, but it was pretty horrifying to read even compared to the other dark moments in the book. It was captivating.
Finally, I still can’t say ANtonia. I believe it was Jim who equated it to saying “Anthony,” but the extra syllable at the end of Antonia trips me up every time.
Just Kids is the story of Patti Smith and the late Robert Mapplethorpe. The one she promised him she would tell. It’s beautifully poetic and unapologetic. They have this seemingly impossible connection, devoid of greed or jealousy over each others’ artistic pursuits and full of loving support.
Now, if you’ll pardon me, I must go to bed!
I wish my teachers assigned this book when I was a senior in high school (some parents can’t allow their nearly-adult kids to learn about racism, rape, and teen pregnancy). I was so impressed by Maya Angelou’s ability to observe and remember the details of her life as a young girl, as a student, as an older sister, as an African American living in pre-Civil Rights Era Arkansas, and as a resident of WWII-era San Francisco, and weave them into a poetic autobiography in which every passage is meaningful.
I didn’t really plan it, but I’m also glad to have read this over the MLK Jr. holiday. Reading a book set mostly in the South and rife with depictions of civil injustices tends to give more meaning to the holiday, you know?