Sunday, September 15, 2013

Top Five Books I’ve Pretended I've Read (and Five I've Pretended I Haven't)

5. Ulysses –James Joyce

I “read” this for my Joyce and Woolf seminar my senior year in college. I really did try to read it. Much like Ulysses himself, I got lost somewhere around Scylla and Charybdis. I do remember, in that chapter, instead of almost being eaten by a sea monster, the main character goes to the library. Talk about false advertising. 
Maybe someone will do a mashup with zombies or ghouls? Please? 
4. The Second Sex-Simone de Beauvoir

I’ve read about it one million times, I’ve read lots of excerpts, but I’ve never actually read the book itself. I’m guessing I’m not the only one; it’s just one of those books. Anyone who can pronounce her last name and knows the premise feels justified in saying, “Oh, yes. I’m familiar with that work.”

3. A Tale of Two Cities—Charles Dickens

If any past students are reading this, don’t worry—I’ve read this book many times in the decade or so. But I was afraid of it for a long time, because it was assigned in my 7th grade language arts class. I remember getting so confused about Carton and Darnay. Were they twins? Why did they have different names? I just wanted it all to end. Once I was old enough to actually read the thing, though, I loved it.

2. Lolita-Vladamir Nabokov

This one always seems better in theory (postmodern masterpiece) than practice (actual book about a creeper with a thing for a middle-school age girl).

1.     Kid Klassics

I have no idea what this series was actually called, but I’ll call them Kid Klassics. When I was young, I read scads of these shortened versions of classic novels. Many years and books later, I would become confused about whether I’d read the Around the World in Eighty Days, Gulliver’s Travels, or Journey to the Center of the Earth. I guess these were the Spark notes of my childhood.

And....Top Five Books I’ll Pretend I HAVEN’T Read at Some Point

5. Crash Into Me: The World of Roswell
On second thought—nah. Not even embarrassed.

4. Any Star Trek novel.

3.  Anything with the word Lord or Duke plus a prepositional phrase like “of Scoundrels” or “of Seduction"...

2. A Vampire for Christmas
I haven’t read it yet. But: that title! Come on. That has to happen.

1. Fifty Shades of Wow That’s Embarrassing (I mean Grey).

Sunday, September 8, 2013


So my last post was all glass-half-empty about the stuff that’s a dealbreaker for me. So for this one, I figured I’d take the other tack, and I started thinking about the stuff that makes me automatically go, “I’m in!”

5. Unrequited or impossible love

I am such a sucker for this business. I’ve slogged through many a book (and some series of books) that wouldn’t otherwise do much for me, except I get caught up in the love story. Confession: sometimes when a movie gets like 15% on Rotten Tomatoes, I end up loving it. The key: heartbreak (as long as it’s eventually followed by a happy ending. I’m a sucker for those too.)

4. Vampires

Speaking of suckers, I'm sort of over it now, but back in the day, I was all about anything vampire. My favorite movie when I was young was always The Lost Boys. I devoured all of Ann Rice’s books. When Twilight came along I was so in (it also had #5 in spades). I read the first few books in Melissa de la Cruz’s Blue Bloods series (although I’m still not entirely sure they were vampires?)
Go to a bookstore today, though, and you could get buried in vamp books. A quick search on Amazon yields the titles of a bazillion vampire series—too many to keep up with, and some, I suspect, may involve unintentional comedy:

Vampire’s Witch
Vampire Academy
Vampire Awakenings
Vampires Realm Romance
Vampire for Hire
Vampire Elite
Bonded by Blood Vampire Chronicles
Vampire Journals

I even found a book called Vampire for Christmas. I kind of want to read that one, not gonna lie.

3. Free and/or reasonably priced snacks

This one has nothing to do with books (although I do like to snack while reading. But here's the thing: I love to eat. Love. When my best friend wrote a novel with a me-inspired character, that character’s defining trait was that she was hungry all the time. Free food is great, of course. But you’ve also got to love half-price appetizers, like those delicious little steak kabobs at Ruth’s Chris. Ask anyone who knows me. As long as there's food, I’m in.

2. Genre mashing

I think I loved Lost Boys so much back in the day not just because of the vamps, but because it was the perfect blend of horror, comedy, and romance. Later, Buffy the Vampire Slayer blended the same three genres and became the most important show of my life. And my dear departed Firefly was a space western. I really love all the genres, but I love them even more mixed together. The only exception so far was Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which I wanted to love very badly. I just loved the original too much to accept the adulterated version. Now, if anyone’s looking to add some zombies or demons to, say Ulysses  or The Sound and the Fury—have at it. 
Somewhat gratuitous Nathan Fillion pic. 
1. Experiments

I don’t mean Dr. Frankenstein’s type of deal: I love language experiments. Jennifer Egan’s Power Point chapter in A Visit from the Goon Squad. Don Winslow’s acronyms and two-word chapters in Savages. Raymond Queneau’s Exercises in Style. If the author is messing around with form or style, I’m totally in. Proving once and for all that although I may enjoy reading about or watching glamorous vampires or the folks who slay them, deep down I’m just a word nerd.

Thursday, September 5, 2013


We all have our limits. A line we just won’t cross.  Or when it comes to entertainment, a character type we just can’t stand or a plot point that’s one step too far. Some folks don’t seem to mind when a series jumps the shark—for some people it can be a dealbreaker.

For me, the dealbreaker isn’t always rational. But I know it when I see it.

`     1. VH1 Here I come

As a connoisseur of the pop-culture water cooler moment (that’s what we used to call them back when people communicated by speaking—now it’s all internet memes)—I usually tune in to at least part of MTV’s VMAs. This year I got through about ten minutes. After a parade of ostensible stars who looked exactly the same age as my ninth grade students, I changed the channel. I don’t expect the pop stars to be my age, but it might be nice if some of them could legally drive.

2. Galbatorix

I like fantasy, and a friend recommend Eragon years ago. I just couldn’t get past the names, especially: Galbatorix. It sounds like Lord of the Rings crossed with late-night Cinemax. It sounds like something a teenage boy would think up. It’s irrational, but I just couldn’t go on reading it. I’m also not too sure about talking dragons. There were talking dragons in it, right?

    3. The Wolfologue

Speaking of talking dragons...Yeah, werewolves should never talk. Just, never.
For example, the movie Red Riding Hood had a promising director (Catherine Hardwicke) an interesting soundtrack including Fever Ray...and, at a crucial moment, a talking CGI werewolf.


Also, at some point long about Eclipse, I think, Jacob starting having this dramatic interior wolfologue. No, no, no.

Please wait until you change back into a human, and put your pants back on, to give that dramatic monologue. Like children in ye olden times, werewolves should be seen and not heard.

     4. Teens who talk like old folks

Bad dialogue in general has caused me to put down many a book. But old-sounding teens in YA—that’s a pet peeve. I spend my days with kids. I know what they sound like. They also definitely give fewer speeches in real life. Some adolescent boys use words like they are rationed, but those guys hardly ever seem to show up in books.

    5. The ending isn’t coming until book 3 in the series. That’s okay, right?

Sure. Totally fine as long as I can have my $7.99 back.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Five Signs that the World is Not Getting Smarter

 5. It’s Twerking

“So disgusting! To think she used to be a Mousketeer! She’s ruined foam fingers and teddy bears forever! Ew!”

Everyone’s talking about Miley’s “performance.” Which was, I’m sure, the entire point. Well played, little Mouseketeer. Well played.

4. Gotcha!

This summer some network ran a show called Capture. The premise: let’s rip off The Hunger Games. Except they’ll be playing for money instead of their lives. Come to think, beyond the costumes and set, it really isn’t that much like Hunger Games at all. It’s much more like the first twenty minutes of the 1985 movie Gotcha!, which was about people trying to shoot each other with paintball guns. Now that’s a classic film.
Let’s all pop some popcorn and watch people chase each other through the woods on what is essentially a corporate retreat with a soundtrack and screen captions.

3. $9,523.89

That’s about how much the Robertson family (they of the Duck Dynasty) will make for every one MINUTE of mugging for the A&E cameras on this “reality” series this season. I’ve seen it and it’s pretty funny. But is it ten grand a minute funny? I guess that question’s already been answered

2. Keeping up with the quality TV

According to a quick and very depressing Google search, Keeping up With the Kardashians has been on for eight seasons.

Meanwhile, Firefly got yanked off the air after ten episodes. Yeah, I don’t know what else to say.

1. Symbolic Tiger

The other day, I saw one of those World Wildlife Fund commercials. They have been running commercials like this since I was a kid, urging folks to adopt a tiger or an elephant or some other exotic animal by sending in a donation. In the old days they sent you cute mailing address labels with pandas on them. I don’t know if you still get the stickers, but I did notice that the ads now include a word that definitely wasn’t there before:

“For just eight dollars a month, you can SYMBOLICALLY adopt a tiger.”

So now the tragic heartbreak of finding out that you haven’t been able to purchase an actual tiger for just $96.00 can be avoided. I’m so glad they cleared that up. You’ve really got to wonder what kind of phone calls preceded the rewrite of that script. 

“When will you be mailing me my tiger? Can I track the shipping? What does he eat?...What do you mean symbolically adopt?!? I want my money back!”

Just to be clear, we're sending you the STUFFED ANIMAL tiger.