Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Review of The Glass Castle

Reading an excellent memoir is perhaps a little more satisfying than reading an excellent novel because when you put the book down you can say "holy shit, this actually happened." (Unless the memoir was written by James Frey). Although I thought I couldn't read a better memoir than Don't Let's Go To the Dogs Tonight, I was wrong. The Glass Castle is the best memoir I have ever read.

When you read about the childhood that Jeannette Walls survived, it creates new meaning for the word "resilient". Her parents never should have had children, but they had four. Her father was a raging, but brilliant, alcoholic. Her mother was a selfish (and I think manic-depressive, although that is never discussed) woman who could not see beyond her own needs and challenges. At the age of 3 Jeannette is badly burned while cooking hotdogs for herself and her older sister so they could have something to eat for dinner, and neither of her parents show any remorse or shame for the position they put their child in by not providing enough food for her. This is consistent throughout her childhood as her parents move from one small town to another, letting their children fend for themselves, narrowly escaping abuse (both physical and sexual) from neighbors, strangers, and even grandparents and uncles. Only through the bond and protectivness of the siblings are the children able to survive and escape to New York City when they are old enough to live on their own.

What I found most moving about this book was the fact that Walls was able to write so openly and honestly about such horrific events in her childhood, but in a way where she was not asking the reader for pity or sympathy. Her life just was what it was, and the events that she survived were heart wrenching, but also freeing and deeply moving. Ultimately, this is a book about family, and the ties that keep us bound to each other whether we like it or not. It is definitely worth reading.

MY RATING: 10/10

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Review of Twilight

I have to admit, Twilight was a great read. I picked it up at the airport on my way home and started reading in the waiting area. By the time we boarded I was on page 55. When we reached cruising altitude I was on page 92. Then I had to restrain myself from reading on the flight because I had work to do. And that was no easy feat. The book is addictive. The last time I picked up a book that hooked me like Twilight did was when I read The Da Vinci Code (yes, I read it. And yes, I enjoyed it). Now don't get me wrong -- I am not saying that either of these books is an example of good writing. In fact, they're both really bad in many many ways, trashy almost. But Stephenie Meyer is a master at capturing teenage angst, awkwardness and frustration, not to mention the imagination of the reader. It's as though the story is crafted in a way to hit all of the same nerve endings that cocaine does, creating a rush (while you're reading), comedown (when you put the book down), desire for more (several minutes after you've put the book down), and then withdrawal (when you finish the book). (BTW, I've actually never done cocaine, so if I got my metaphoric drug-addled phases wrong, forgive me).

I have always said that I do not have an addictive personality, however, I find myself thinking about Bella and Edward at various times throughout the day, wondering what happens in the next book. I have created a rule for myself that I will not read all 4 books in a row, but instead space them with at least a book in between. If I have to make rules its a sure sign that I have a problem, and I guess I can't pride myself on not having an addictive personality anymore.

I'm not going to summarize the story -- Meezly did an excellent job of that, so there's really nothing more to say except that, for what it is, Twilight is a lot of fun.