Fat Books & Thin Women


30 Day Book Meme, Day 29
August 30, 2011, 5:17 pm
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A book everyone hated but you liked:

Special note: today is Bajram, my favorite day of the year in Macedonia. Really, one of my two favorite days of the year here, since there are two Bajrams – this is Ramadan Bajram, the next one is Kurban Bajram. Yesterday was the last day of Ramazan (known elsewhere as Ramadan), and today my family and I woke up early to eat ruchek, lunch, a little past seven. This is the fourth and last time I am celebrating Bajram with them, and it’s sad to think that I’ll never again be pulled out of my house by my six-year-old host sister to eat baklava right after the sun is up.

This has nothing to do with the book I’m writing about today, but I wanted to set the baklava scene simply because there are not many opportunities when a grown woman has the chance to eat baklava for breakfast.

Signs that Tom Wolfe’s I am Charlotte Simmons is widely despised by reader and critic alike: I bought my copy off the remainder table. It won an award for “bad sex in fiction.” Even most Tom Wolfe fans refuse to acknowledge this book.

But me? I loved it. Sure, Charlotte Simmons can be frustratingly naïve and Wolfe sometimes strives too hard to take in the whole of a college campus (it is hard not to think, “This man read some articles about campus hook-up culture while he was writing”), but there’s something joyful to this novel’s taking in of every college experience it can. Wolfe’s characters and situations verge on caricature, but this is the pleasure in the book: Charlotte’s year at college is recognizable, but exaggerated enough that you want to read this novel in great gulps to find out just what the hell is going to happen to her and Wolfe’s cast next. I am Charlotte Simmons is the literary equivalent of a soap opera, and if you are like me you won’t have a hard time ignoring Wolfe’s underlying message about the perverted view of education many college students have in favor of this novel’s voyeuristic pleasures.

30 Day Book Meme:
Day 01 – The best book you read last year
Day 02 – A book that you’ve read more than three times
Day 03 – Your favorite series
Day 04 – Favorite book of your favorite series
Day 05 – A book that makes you happy
Day 06 – A book that makes you sad
Day 07 – Most underrated book
Day 08 – Most overrated book
Day 09 – A book you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving
Day 10 – Favorite classic book
Day 11 – A book you hated
Day 12 – A book you used to love but don’t anymore
Day 13 – Your favorite writer
Day 14 – Favorite book of your favorite writer
Day 15 – Favorite male character
Day 16 – Favorite female character
Day 17 – Favorite quote from your favorite book
Day 18 – A book that disappointed you
Day 19 – Favorite book turned into a movie
Day 20 – Favorite romance book
Day 21 – Favorite book from your childhood
Day 22 – Favorite book you own
Day 23 – A book you wanted to read for a long time but still haven’t
Day 24 – A book that you wish more people have read
Day 25 – A character who you can relate to the most
Day 26 – A book that changed your opinion about something
Day 27 – The most surprising plot twist or ending
Day 28 – Favorite title
Day 29 – A book everyone hated but you liked
Day 30 – Your favorite book of all time

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30 Day Book Meme, Day 26
August 27, 2011, 4:48 pm
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A book that changed your opinion about something:

My cooking used to be a sorry affair. When I first moved into a house, in college, I considered opening a jar of pasta sauce a major accomplishment, the result something that would impress any home cook. I ate cereal two meals a day and this seemed alright, since they were different types of cereal.

Then I became a vegetarian. (Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which I read around this time, was a close contender for today’s book. Pollan lost out simply because his book didn’t change my views – it simply solidified them.) This meant, first, that I no longer had to prod fearfully at a piece of a chicken, debating if it were done, and second, that I had even less idea how to cook than I had had before.

Enter Mark Bittman and How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. If you’re wondering how a cookbook can change your view on something, you’ve probably never been the sort of person who approaches the kitchen fearfully, skims past recipe after recipe because the spice list is too confusing or you’re not sure what a certain instruction means or you’re missing one ingredient. Bittman’s book isn’t just a great cookbook, though it is. It’s a book that changed the way I think about cooking: it woke me to the fact that if you’re missing ingredients or spices or don’t really know what you’re doing, it doesn’t matter. It taught me that if you put a bunch of delicious things in a pot together with some olive oil and some salt it will taste pretty good, and that if you make something that doesn’t taste good you don’t have to eat it – you just add stuff to the pot until it tastes better. The parts of my Peace Corps service that have been in a kitchen have built on Bittmann’s book, as I’ve realized it’s not just ingredients you can fudge but the tools. When recipes say you need a blender, an immersion blender, a mixer, a rolling pin, a whisk, you don’t need these things. Everything you make in the kitchen can be adjusted based on what you have, your skills, your tastes, and I owe Mark Bittman for helping me to realize that.

30 Day Book Meme:
Day 01 – The best book you read last year
Day 02 – A book that you’ve read more than three times
Day 03 – Your favorite series
Day 04 – Favorite book of your favorite series
Day 05 – A book that makes you happy
Day 06 – A book that makes you sad
Day 07 – Most underrated book
Day 08 – Most overrated book
Day 09 – A book you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving
Day 10 – Favorite classic book
Day 11 – A book you hated
Day 12 – A book you used to love but don’t anymore
Day 13 – Your favorite writer
Day 14 – Favorite book of your favorite writer
Day 15 – Favorite male character
Day 16 – Favorite female character
Day 17 – Favorite quote from your favorite book
Day 18 – A book that disappointed you
Day 19 – Favorite book turned into a movie
Day 20 – Favorite romance book
Day 21 – Favorite book from your childhood
Day 22 – Favorite book you own
Day 23 – A book you wanted to read for a long time but still haven’t
Day 24 – A book that you wish more people have read
Day 25 – A character who you can relate to the most
Day 26 – A book that changed your opinion about something
Day 27 – The most surprising plot twist or ending
Day 28 – Favorite title
Day 29 – A book everyone hated but you liked
Day 30 – Your favorite book of all time

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30 Day Book Meme, Day 20

Favorite romance book:

I don’t consider myself a real “girly” reader, so when I saw today’s prompt I worried I wouldn’t come up with anything. I don’t think I’ve ever read a novel that would be shelved in the romance aisle, and however open I may be to reading other genres (thriller: awesome! sci-fi: awesome! fantasy: awesome! mysteries: awesome!)…I am not real interested in reading the guidance counselor’s novel from Ten Things I Hate About You.

Close-minded? Sure. I will totally fess up to that. But I guess “romance” isn’t limited to books that will be shelved under “romance” in the local library. E.M. Forster’s A Room with a View is a romantic story on top of a penetrating look at Edwardian society and the changes that were occurring in ways of thinking, particularly in how women (Lucy) viewed their lives. But I wrote about this novel earlier, and it’s time I push myself to not answer every question by talking about Harry Potter or Nabokov or Forster.

My favorite romance, other than A Room with a View? The Time Traveler’s Wife. Though Niffenegger’s book is part of the unfortunate “The [Male Character]’s [Something]” titling trend, and the movie was mediocre, the book is gorgeous for infusing a classic love story with elements of science fiction. It’s heart-rending to watch Clare and Henry repeatedly pulled apart by time and to know that Henry’s death may come at a time Clare can’t even be part of; but Niffenegger realizes that the best love stories are the ones that don’t quite end happily, but in which there is still some hope. Even after Henry dies we know that his younger self remains somewhere in the aging Clare’s future, if only briefly.

30 Day Book Meme:
Day 01 – The best book you read last year
Day 02 – A book that you’ve read more than three times
Day 03 – Your favorite series
Day 04 – Favorite book of your favorite series
Day 05 – A book that makes you happy
Day 06 – A book that makes you sad
Day 07 – Most underrated book
Day 08 – Most overrated book
Day 09 – A book you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving
Day 10 – Favorite classic book
Day 11 – A book you hated
Day 12 – A book you used to love but don’t anymore
Day 13 – Your favorite writer
Day 14 – Favorite book of your favorite writer
Day 15 – Favorite male character
Day 16 – Favorite female character
Day 17 – Favorite quote from your favorite book
Day 18 – A book that disappointed you
Day 19 – Favorite book turned into a movie
Day 20 – Favorite romance book
Day 21 – Favorite book from your childhood
Day 22 – Favorite book you own
Day 23 – A book you wanted to read for a long time but still haven’t
Day 24 – A book that you wish more people would’ve read
Day 25 – A character who you can relate to the most
Day 26 – A book that changed your opinion about something
Day 27 – The most surprising plot twist or ending
Day 28 – Favorite title
Day 29 – A book everyone hated but you liked
Day 30 – Your favorite book of all time

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30 Day Book Meme, Day 19

Favorite book turned into a movie:

This isn’t even a question that needs to be asked of a twenty-something occasional fantasy fan, is it? There are books-to-movies I have to watch with my mom every year (the Colin Firth Pride & Prejudice), there are movies I have to watch because they came out while I was on my visit home (Harry Potter), there are ones so good they send me back to the book for a reread (the Coen brothers’ True Grit), but there’s no film adaptation that I thrill to quite as much as Lord of the Rings.

Tolkien wrote the fantasy that no one could follow (though many have tried), and Jackson did the adaptation and fantasy films that no one can follow. Judging by the latest Harry Potter film, it’s near impossible to do a fantasy film today without echoing some element of Jackson’s imagery.

Besides, he gave us this:

30 Day Book Meme:
Day 01 – The best book you read last year
Day 02 – A book that you’ve read more than three times
Day 03 – Your favorite series
Day 04 – Favorite book of your favorite series
Day 05 – A book that makes you happy
Day 06 – A book that makes you sad
Day 07 – Most underrated book
Day 08 – Most overrated book
Day 09 – A book you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving
Day 10 – Favorite classic book
Day 11 – A book you hated
Day 12 – A book you used to love but don’t anymore
Day 13 – Your favorite writer
Day 14 – Favorite book of your favorite writer
Day 15 – Favorite male character
Day 16 – Favorite female character
Day 17 – Favorite quote from your favorite book
Day 18 – A book that disappointed you
Day 19 – Favorite book turned into a movie
Day 20 – Favorite romance book
Day 21 – Favorite book from your childhood
Day 22 – Favorite book you own
Day 23 – A book you wanted to read for a long time but still haven’t
Day 24 – A book that you wish more people would’ve read
Day 25 – A character who you can relate to the most
Day 26 – A book that changed your opinion about something
Day 27 – The most surprising plot twist or ending
Day 28 – Favorite title
Day 29 – A book everyone hated but you liked
Day 30 – Your favorite book of all time

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30 Day Book Meme, Day 18
August 19, 2011, 5:04 pm
Filed under: 30 Day Book Meme | Tags: , , , , ,

A book that disappointed you:

I never quite made it off my ass long enough to write a review of Téa Obreht’s The Tiger’s Wife. This is partly because when I read it I had a pinched nerve and spent all my time laying on the floor feeling sorry for myself, partly because I was getting ready to travel to the States for vacation, partly because I found the book so underwhelming that I couldn’t think of much to say about it. I think the Obreht disappointment has been pretty well-documented by Greg at New Dork Review of Books and Sasha from Sasha & the Silverfish, so I’m not going to get into too much detail here. (Also, I am still too lazy to think up much to write about the novel.)

Like so many novels that are hyped up the wazoo by all five remaining newspaper review sections, Obreht’s novel almost couldn’t help failing simply because it could never be as good as we were promised. The Tiger’s Wife, set in an unnamed country of the former Yugoslavia (it’s Serbia), is overflowing with sometimes gorgeous details and stories. There’s the deathless man and the three times the narrator Natalia’s grandfather meets him, the story of the escaped tiger living in the mountains above her grandfather’s village and the story of the Muslim butcher living in that village and the nearly innumerable ways in which his life has let him down. The story that claims to be the backbone to Obreht’s story, that of Natalia’s attempt to find out why her grandfather disappeared just before his death, is weak, though; if anything, it’s this framing narrative that serves to distract from the otherworldly beauty of Natalia’s grandfather’s stories.

In Natalia’s story Obreht tries to give some motion and energy and purpose to the novel. The problem is that the best parts of the novel are those that have nothing to do with that ragged plotline, and that the novel is never able to feel like something more than a cobbled-together book of family stories and fairy tales. The Tiger’s Wife is promising more for what it suggests Obreht is capable of doing in the future than for what she is capable of doing now.

30 Day Book Meme:
Day 01 – The best book you read last year
Day 02 – A book that you’ve read more than three times
Day 03 – Your favorite series
Day 04 – Favorite book of your favorite series
Day 05 – A book that makes you happy
Day 06 – A book that makes you sad
Day 07 – Most underrated book
Day 08 – Most overrated book
Day 09 – A book you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving
Day 10 – Favorite classic book
Day 11 – A book you hated
Day 12 – A book you used to love but don’t anymore
Day 13 – Your favorite writer
Day 14 – Favorite book of your favorite writer
Day 15 – Favorite male character
Day 16 – Favorite female character
Day 17 – Favorite quote from your favorite book
Day 18 – A book that disappointed you
Day 19 – Favorite book turned into a movie
Day 20 – Favorite romance book
Day 21 – Favorite book from your childhood
Day 22 – Favorite book you own
Day 23 – A book you wanted to read for a long time but still haven’t
Day 24 – A book that you wish more people would’ve read
Day 25 – A character who you can relate to the most
Day 26 – A book that changed your opinion about something
Day 27 – The most surprising plot twist or ending
Day 28 – Favorite title
Day 29 – A book everyone hated but you liked
Day 30 – Your favorite book of all time

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