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Archive for February, 2008

Learning to Read #7

Lord of the Flies By William Golding

This novel is my next installment in the”LOST Book Club”.

Though there were several more books on my LOST list before Golding’s novel, I shamefully skipped ahead eager to dive back in to a novel that I thoroughly enjoyed in high school.

What on Earth was wrong with me back then??

In this tale, a group of British school boys find themselves the only survivors of a terrible plane crash on an exotic, but deserted island. There had apparently been a small number of adults in their original troupe, but none of these individuals has survived, so these young boys gleefully find themselves without authority. A few begin to try to bring order with the hopes of being rescued, but irresponsibility and savagery quickly take over their wills, and soon these well-trained young men turn to beings with little more restraint than beasts.

I think this book is excellent, but (OH MY WORD!) disturbing. I’ve always been a bit morbid, so I’m not surprised that I enjoyed this reading requirement as a teenager, but now that I’m a mother it’s a bit harder to stomach children behaving so terribly. I found myself wishing that I could jump in to the pages to help bring order among the chaos, but unfortunately I was forced to just observe the self-destruction as a reader. It’s probably for the best, though; in this story order-makers always seemed to bite it in the end anyway.

Just for some extra fun, I wanted to add some personal connections that I saw in the story. First, as far as allusions go, this story was once retold on The Simpsons with Bart, Lisa, Milhouse, and Nelson playing the parts of Ralph, Simon, Piggy, and Jack. However this is probably not too exciting; I think the writers for The Simpsons are very clever, and often make literary and media allusions in their brief episodes.

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I also think it would be fun to wrestle with the connections between this story and LOST. The writers of LOST at one point tried to dispute the suggested inspiration for their story, but even they begin to note the striking similarities as they started to break them down. I think I want to sit on this one for a bit, and then I’ll add a footnote to this post regarding LOST vs. Lord of the Flies.

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It seems that I have quite a collection of words that I can’t ever seem to type correctly, so I’ve come up with a game. The following words top my list, and I want to see if you can figure them out. I’ll post the real words at a later date…Enjoy!

  1. trup
  2. form
  3. Allson
  4. geat
  5. caneldar, claendar, clanedar, etc.
  6. howver
  7. deifnitly
  8. excpte
  9. scehudle
  10. Daryl

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Learning to Read #6

One for the Money By Janet Evanovich

My dear friend has heard my plight to find a great grownup reading list and recommended this series to me. Actually she graciously handed over her personal collection of the first four novels saying, “They’re quick and easy books, and the characters are really funny.” I’ve also seen several copies of this author’s books in the hands of my mother, so I decided that any stories that two of my favorite people are reading are definitely worth my time.

This novel was the first in the series centered on Evanovich’s created heroine, Stephanie Plum. Plum is an ex-lingerie buyer, now bounty hunter (go figure) who has been hired to recover a guy she knows from her past. Since her former duties with underpants didn’t really equip her with apprehension skills, Plum gets herself in to some pretty comical messes, introducing us to entertaining characters along the way.

After some wordy and heart-wrenching “classics”, this book was a nice change of pace. I liked our bumbling heroine (some may argue that as a definitive characteristic, but come on–she burned off her eyebrows!), and I enjoyed the fact that this story took place in the busy-body neighborhoods of New Jersey. Evanovich so colorfully painted each of her characters, I felt like I was actually sitting at the dinner table with Plum’s pushy mother, crazy grandmother, and uber-uncomfortable blind date.

I believe what might have made me smile the most as I read, however, was the “questionable” material in the story. Not that I haven’t heard my share of expletives (I taught middle school, remember?), but if you knew my sweet friend, you’d understand why I love the fact that she relishes these books. And taking in to account that my own mother has her collection of Stephanie Plum as well…I wish I’d known Mom was diving in to her share guilty pleasures while she was lecturing me on the lyrical debauchery found in Green Day’s Dookie CD I wanted when I was 14. Sigh…

All in all, an interesting read. I think I might space out this series a bit and read something else before moving on to Plum’s next adventures.

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So I was watching ER this morning and noticed that a few of the characters had a striking resemblance to my most recent finished novel. Dr. Greg Pratt (played by Mekhi Pfeiffer) has an oversized “stepbrother” named Leon who, because of some sort of accident, has the mind of a child. Leon’s innocence has been causing “G” all kinds of headache, but Greg feels a responsibility to him. They’re George and Lennie!! Look, their names are even similar!

gregpratt.jpg

Annnnnd, I don’t know how many of you are Looney Tunes fans, but I think the Abominable Snowman is supposed to be Lennie, too. He loves Bugs (because he loves rabbits) and always makes a big deal about how he will, “hug him, and squeeze him, and name him George.”

snowman.jpg

I’m interested to see where else these characters pop up. If you happen to find any other media allusions, I’d love to hear about them.

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Learning to Read #5

Of Mice and Men By John Steinbeck

Book chosen, again, because of my LOST obsession. This one was referenced during the super-creepy episode in which Ben and Sawyer spend extensive time in conversation (and Sawyer, after quoting from this book, recommends it to Ben saying, “You’d like it; puppies get killed.”).

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I initially read this book in high school and remember appreciating it at the time. Looking back I can’t remember if I was a fan because of the actual story, it’s length (you can’t beat 102 pages!), or because this was the novel we read after Great Expectations (which, when I was 14, was most decidedly the opposite of great). Regardless of what did esteem this novel to my mental list of mandatory greats, I was very eager to pick it up again.

For those not so familiar with this classic, the story centers on two men who are traveling together as they look for work during the Depression. George (I guess our main protagonist) seems to be a simple man who dreams of nothing more than having some land of his own, and Lennie is his over-sized traveling companion who, despite his staggering size, thinks and acts like a small child. From what we can gather, these two men have been in each other’s company since boyhood and are searching for new employment since a mistake of Lennie’s forced them to flee town.

It took me a couple of days to get through this post because quite honestly, I didn’t want to think about this book anymore. I think it was excellently written and I believe it has deserved its “Classic” mark of distinction, but geez…could I be any more depressed?

Maybe it’s because this short novel followed up my journey with Watership Down, where the characters are simple and the ending happy. There is nothing in my present book that made me smile; the life for each of these men is hard, the characters are each in their own right very sad, and the tale itself…I had to get lost in a few episodes of Home Improvement just to get out of my funk.

My final prognosis: a fantastic story, but don’t read it if you’re already in the throes of some kind of depression.

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Learning to Read #4

Watership Down By Richard Adams

In the past several years I have developed a specific TV obsession: I’m a total LOST junkie. I own every season on DVD, I check obscure website “clues” seen on the faux Oceanic commercials, I even marked this season’s premiere on my calendar. I am infatuated with this show.

For those of you who are also LOST-philes, you have probably already made the connection between this post’s book and my previous paragraph tirade. As mentioned before, I went to several sources to assist me in my quest for a grown-up reading list. This next book that I have read was chosen because of its reference in my favorite show, and the TV-stalker in me wants to see what connections are there. I appeased my guilt a bit under the guise of “Oh, it’s a classic!”, but really…it’s all about the show.

I’ll spare you the detected LOST symbolism (unless you really care to hear me gush) and instead focus on the actual novel. In this story, Adams has created an epic journey using very unlikely heroes: rabbits. Hazel (our protagonist) leads an expedition to create a new warren after heeding to the warnings of the “special” Fiver that danger is about to befall their present community. The story takes place in four different parts, and the gang of bunnies shares some thrilling turns as they seek to establish some comfort and safety for themselves.

To be completely honest, it was a bit difficult for me to urge myself through the story. Though I appreciated the creativity and surprises, the characters were sort of lifeless to me. Each rabbit supposedly possessed a very distinctive personality, but I wasn’t very impressed with that, and since I wasn’t all that attached to the characters I wasn’t all that attached to the story. My friend Regan encouraged me to push through to the end (and I’m glad he did!) because in his opinion the final chapters made the entire story worthwhile—I couldn’t agree more.

I think this story was very clever, and though the fact that I had to force myself to make it through reminded me of my mandatory reading days of high school, in this instance I didn’t feel as though I was wasting my time. Maybe not “highly”, but I do recommend this read.

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Learning to Read #3

To Own a Dragon By Donald Miller

I decided to read this book for a number of reasons: 1. I had not yet picked up a library card, so I was forced to choose a book that was already in my house, 2. it was suggested on our Small Group webpage, and 3. Blue Like Jazz was an absolutely fantastic read, and I was eager to see what else Donald Miller had to offer.

I was definitely not disappointed.

In this book, Miller allows us to peek in to his very personal timeline of growing up without a father. Miller describes how this “fatherlessness” affected his own view of God as well as his role as a man and presents his revelations through his experiences and his mentor (who coauthored the book). I love this guy’s candor. Miller has a gift for exposing his reader to the very core of his thinking (even when it’s not so pretty), but his authenticity makes the reader overlook potential crudeness or immaturity…like one would with a good friend. The man is real.

He lets us know in his opening pages that this book’s aim and style is for men, which admittedly I am not. Miller is quick to warn us of his approaching subject (as well as his “bathroom humor”), but I found that this made the book all the more enjoyable for me; it was almost like I sneaked in to some sort of secret meeting. Plus I found his insights to be valuable, if not vital for a woman who knows a man that grew up without a father. Though my husband does have a father (a gracious, honorable dad who has done so much to provide a trustworthy model of how a man should be), there have been males in my life who did not grow up with that kind of mentor, including my own father. Thankfully my Dad had older brothers, teachers, and faithful men in the Church to tender this need for him, but I shudder to think of what happens to families when the men don’t know how to be men.

I think what I appreciate most about Donald Miller is that I cannot read a book of his and not be forever changed. To think that I better understand the love that God has for me because I do have a father that possesses senseless and faithful love for me; I feel almost indebted to Miller for waking me up in this regard. And to realize that those without faithful fathers have an entirely different spiritual journey because they have to really learn what a father is…

For those who have not yet experienced a Donald Miller book, I highly encourage you to run to the library and check this guy out. Even non-nonfiction loving friends of mine have found his stuff to be really worthwhile.

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