March 21st, 2007

Reading to Dragon

Various Things About Books

The mood is due to the book I'm reading right now: "The Book Thief." I'm only about half way through, and it's tearing me to pieces, but it is also SO beautiful. A novel set in Nazi Germany, narrated by Death. I want to read more, but I felt like I needed to take a break. Has anyone else out there read this book yet? If it keeps up like this, I'll be giving it a full 10 stars.

Also, karlamrich: C is upstairs right now reading the first Chet Gecko book. He started it tonight. When I asked him how he likes it so far, he said, "I'm already up to chapter six, and it's getting pretty interesting." (If you'd heard his tone of voice, you would realize that the words themselves are an understatement). :D Thanks for the recommendation - I can tell he's really enjoying it! :) ETA: He's now up to chapter 10, and it's "really getting good!" Now he's telling me something about a mean third-grade gila monster, and how sometimes teenagers can behave "way over the top." I'm letting him stay up WAY past his bedtime reading. I LOVE IT! :D

Okay . . . now, less specific book stuff. Firstly, I now have an RSS feed of all my book reviews (as posted on LibraryThing). Why? Because I CAN. :D And someday, I'm sure I'll get extra geek points on some meme because I'll be able to check off the question asking if I've ever set up my own RSS feed. ;) Still, it's out there, and it would be kinda nifty if at least someone other than me was subscribed. *winkwinknudgenudgesaynomore* So, if you like reading my book reviews, and want to make sure you don't miss any of them, feel free to friend hbdreviews. If you're thinking, "but I can already read them on your journal," BWAH! I only post some of my reviews here. Admittedly, I usually post the ones that I think will be of interest, but who knows? You might be missing something fantastic! *pimppimppimp* Enough about that . . . moving on to the real reason for this post:

A couple of weeks ago, I saw that someone was doing a book reading challenge called Books Across Borders (or something similar), the idea being to read a certain number of books which pertain to places other than the places you usually read about. Both books that are set in far-away places (unless that's all you read about, in which case, I guess you'd look for books set close to home), and books which were originally written in other languages, and translated (or not, depending on your language skills) into English.

Well, I don't feel like formally doing another challenge this year, but I thought it would be kind of a cool idea to see just "where" I've done my reading. So, I put together a couple of nifty maps. The first, a map of all the countries I can remember "visiting" in novels I've read; the second, a similar map of U.S. states. (In both cases, I only counted fiction. I'm sure I could add a few places if I included non-fiction; maybe I'll do that later). I've also got lists of representative books from each place (titles are italicized if the book was written in a language other than English). Here they are:

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I enjoyed putting that list together, and I'll try and keep it updated. Maybe it will inspire me to visit some new places in my reading.
Reading to Dragon

"Nine Stories," by J.D. Salinger

This collection of nine stories was recommended to me by the father of a friend, so when I saw the book at the library, I grabbed it and took it home.

On the whole, I enjoyed them, but didn't really love them, although a few were excellent in a way that creeps up slowly, rather than a "love at first sight" sort of way. My initial impression, as I read the first two, was that they reminded me of the "Twilight Zone." Not because there is any supernatural element to them though (they're what I'd call psychological in focus), and I soon realized that I was making the connection because of the era in which they were written. The nine stories had the same flavor for me, even though they're really about a decade earlier than TZ. These stories are very evocative of the 40s and 50s, and, it seemed to me, of a particular segment of the population: mostly dissatisfied middle- to upper-class east coast Americans.

There's not a lot of action in the stories; they're character studies, really. Or, rather, studies of interpersonal relationships (the intersection of characters), and mostly strained relationships at that. A lot of couples sniping at one another with a bored air which comes from frequent repetition, and people who seem thrown together more by convention than preference. Also a lot about the effect of war on the individuals and families involved in it. Some of my favorite stories (all my favorites, actually) involved children. This is where I thought Salinger particularly shined - in the way he brought some interesting and unusual children to life. "Down at the Dinghy" is a beautiful study of a troubled (or at least confused) child and his mother; "For Esme, With Love and Squalor" (which seems to be considered the "favorite" story by most people) is the touching story of how a chance interaction with a precocious girl affects the life of a WWII soldier.

I enjoyed both of these stories, but I think my very favorite was "Teddy," which is about a 10-year-old genius who also happens to be very close to spiritual enlightenment. On the whole, I found this story a beautifully done piece on reincarnation and non-attachment.

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These stories were very different from the sorts of things I usually read, and I enjoyed them. I will probably someday look up other works by Salinger, as I understand that many of these characters turn up again in novels. I'd like to see some of them again, and I get the feeling that there is some controversy about just which characters turn up where, at times (like the identity of X in "Esme"). I think I'd enjoy that, when I'm in the mood for something slow-paced and subtle (which is how I'd categorize these, on the whole).
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