Monday, October 1, 2012

Get your read on.

Happy Banned Books Week!
I hope everyone's reading up a storm.

I've just started a book - Junot Diaz's This is How You Lose Her - that I'm reading slowly so as to savor every word. Every page.  Every thought. If you have not read any Junot Diaz, I do not think we can be friends.  Seriously.  Read The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and see if you don't find yourself engulfed in a world you suddenly find you can't live without.

I'm listening to a collection of New Yorker stories, and while I sometimes find myself enjoying them immensely - there are a couple of Calvin Trillin stories that I adore - I also finally understand why much of the great unwashed loathes the purported intelligentsia with such fervor.  God, smart people can be pretentious fucking assholes, can't they?

I also picked up JK Rowling's new book The Casual Vacancy. I don't want any spoilers, please. I'm looking forward to reading it and seeing if it has the magic of the Harry Potter series. Not literally, but that would be cool, too.

[Full disclosure, I'm reading Undead and Uneasy by MaryJanice Davidson to fall asleep. I love this series about vampires because it's sexy and funny as hell and moves quickly.  Sometimes, I need brain candy, and this fits.]

We are a very, very bookish family.  Every room in this house has books in it - at least one bookshelf crammed full to bursting with both hardcover and paperbacks [the bathrooms just have stacks of magazines and sometimes a book or two - TMI?].
Some of our books. And booze. And our giant cat. She's shy.
We LOVE books and love to read.  The best thing about growing up, for me, was that my mom would take us to the library every week and I could get armloads of books to read.  I was that kid who read hundreds of books each summer during the Summer Read-a-thon, painstakingly writing the title and author on the tally sheets the librarians supplied. SO SUPER COOL, RIGHT?

My mom would also bring home bags of books given to her by one of the customers where she waitressed.  As strict as she was about pretty much everything, she never censored what we read - probably because she's a big believer in education, but also probably because English is like her 3rd or 4th language and she had way too much else going on to see what we were actually reading.  I may have grown up a bit too fast reading Harold Robbins, but it was great to always have reading material available.  Especially The Carpetbaggers.

I tended not to censor what the girl read, either, when she was younger.  Except for when I'd read the Harry Potter books to her. She could read way early, but we'd get the new book and lay on the couch together and I'd read them to her until she was older than she probably wants me to mention. I'd try and skip over parts that I thought she'd find too scary.  Years later, she told me that she just read along and saw what I was trying to skip.  Parenting at its finest. 

As she got older - say, 13 or 14 - she'd ask about books she'd see me read, and I'd let her know the topic and I'd also say, "There are some pretty heavy sex scenes in these books.  Do you think you're ready for that? You can't un-read that."  And she'd decide no, she wasn't ready. Probably because she had a good head on her shoulders and also probably because, disgusting, her mom was reading a sex book.  No one ever wants to put that level of 2 + 2 together, because it will = OH HELL NO, I NEED BRAIN BLEACH.

Of course, she recently told me she'd read some of the MaryJanice Davidson books anyway, and just skipped over the super-sexy stuff.  So she says.  I'll have to repeat my ALWAYS USE A CONDOM speech next time I talk to her.  She may need a refresher.  She also may need new reading material.

The husband sent the girl a care package of snacks and jackets and stuff that she forgot to pack.  He also stopped at the book store to pick up copies of The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler and This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald to send along to her.  Two American writers who influenced both the husband and me greatly.  I remember the first time I read a Raymond Chandler novel, suggested to me by my 9th grade English teacher.  I couldn't believe someone could write so well and so clearly and still be so goddamn fun.

I think I'll read a banned book this week. How about you? Also, what book can't you believe has been banned? For me, it's To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Maybe I'll re-read that one.


  1. Oscar Wao was...perfection. Beautiful, tragic, smart, simply amazing.


    We can be friends.
    (Good thing, since we already are.)

    Sorry I haven't been commenting.
    Here or anywhere.

    But I cheated and came here anyway.

  2. Big fan of Junot Diaz. BIG big fan. Some of my favorite memories are my library trips with my mom also. Nothing was better than plopping onto the couch with a new stack of books- I'd carefully pore over each one to decide which was worthy of being read first. And that library book smell? Sexy. Books are sexy.

  3. your bookshelves look familiar, at least before we moved, but i'm working on filling up these new shelves too. Banned books? Well, Harry Potter, and The Golden Compass, and The COlor Purple, and Are you there god it's me margaret...pretty much things to do with race, sex, women, or magic, and it's a safe bet that some yahoo somewhere has banned it. One of the great sadnesses about life here is: NO LENDING LIBRARY. seriously. or at least, not one with anything in English. Will be curious to hear how JKR's new one is - if I'd been her, I'd have wanted to publish that puppy under a pseudonym...

  4. Yeah, our house looks like a library threw up in it too. We're actually in the process of rearranging the family room to fit one more goddamned bookshelf in. Junot Diaz (who I only recently found out is, in fact, not a woman) is on my list - still love me? One of my library tech courses had a section on banned books - I still get a kick out of the story about a book by a B.C. writer - someone objected to the word 'bazoongas' in it.

  5. Wow that's quite a review! So I'm seriously going straight to Amazon now to check it out!

  6. My 11 yr old read To Kill a Mockingbird earlier this year. I didn't think she was ready, but oh, the conversations we had after. I am definitely going to start one of the banned books this week. My mother never censored what I read either (she gave me a book called Juffie Kane when I was about 14 and the sex in it was HOT DAMN WHAT'S THAT STIRRING I'M FEELING) but I do tend to try to get my oldest to find alternatives when I know a book is highly sexual or scary or violent. At the same time, read it, let's talk about it. Eh. Depends.

    If there's one thing she and I have in common, it's reading. I must have a book in my purse or hands at all times. She is the same, oftentimes found curled in a corner with books surrounding her. Before Borders closed, that was where my family and I spent our weekends, just sitting in the cafe with cookies and books. Now, we're in the library 3-4 times a week. I could stay in our library for hours (and have).

    1. And of the list, I think the most surprising is Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are.

  7. I love my readers because they are readers. LOVE BOOKS!

  8. I was that kid too... except we spent the summer camping, nowhere near the library, so my mom had a deal with the library that I could take out all my summer reading books for two months without fines, and return them at the start of the school year. My mom was also the one who got a phone call from my grade 7 teacher - "do you know that your child is reading 'clan of the cave bear'?" (if you haven't read it... there's a lot of adult content). yup, she had suggested it to me.

  9. i'll ck out Junot Diaz because i'd like to remain friends.

    i just cleared out 3 boxes of books. i ran out of space and the dust was killing me. i'd live in a white room (with padding) if i had a say.


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