Thursday, September 27, 2007

I'll Take You There

It has been years since I read anything by Joyce Carol Oates - and I think until this point, it had always only been short stories. I just finished her novel I'll Take You There and find myself to be satisfied and just a little disturbed.

A first-person narrative, I'll Take You There's narrator is an intelligent, obsessive, needy, and slightly off-balance girl in her college years. With sometimes brutal self-awareness, the narrator seeks to define herself through her surroundings. Though the "self" is something too complicated to understand itself, she tries by turning to other girls her own age, to other intellectuals, and to family - constantly reinventing herself as other might see her - trying to learn who she is by who others think she is.

While riveting, I did not like that the cover of the book is pink and purple with flowers. It looked like a romance novel, and while there were some sordid parts, they were more of the intimate, merciless commentary on female intelligence and social affairs in the sixties sort.

In other news: BBC news is still reporting on Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty's public kiss with Richard Gere; Two U.S. computer engineers are charged with conspiring to steal microchip designs to sell to China's army; And bridges collapse in Vietnam too.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana

Yesterday, at a Starbucks downtown, in a tight corner with room only for me, and a great window for people watching, I finished the book The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana by Umberto Eco. I enjoyed this book. It wasn't one that compelled me to read above all else, but when I thought I might sit down and read, it was always a pleasant thought to remember what book I was in the middle of. It was a fun shout out to all your history, comic-book, old movie, and Catholic dogma trivia; this book strings together all the incidental things that we absorb and make us who we are.

The premise is that a man, through some accident has lost his memory. He remembers events as one would have read about them but not as he experienced them. The book is his quest to restore those memories. He delves through old books, papers, records, comic books, etc, hoping to glean a bit of himself from them. In the minor details of political history and cultural iconography, he pieces together what kind of child he must have been - but he has no idea what kind of man.

Eco writes philosophically of the banality of individual lives and the trivial manner we have of living them. Though it wasn't as good as Foucault's Pendulum (one of my favorites) or as gripping as The Name of the Rose, it was a very fun book to read.

In other news: Mattel, not China, is responsible for the flaws that led to recalling more than 20 milion toys; Violence has soared in Afghanistan this past year - and the past two days have seen heavy fighting between US-led forces and Taleban militants; There is such a thing as a cadaver sniffing dog; and the word of the week is proglottidean (i have no idea how one would use it in a sentence).

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Art of the Day

Well, shoot - all that time in Colorado and I could have been using my time like this:

This guy (who lives in Colorado) is an etchasketch genius! I'm just so impressed.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Haroun and the Sea of Stories

Last weekend, in Omaha, I finished the book Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie. I really enjoyed this book - it made me feel like a kid to read it. It felt like the telling of old fables and fairy tales with a tinge of eastern mythology. Haroun is the son of a story-teller who has lost the gift of gab. He goes out on a bizarre and beautiful quest to return the gift of story-telling to his father and restore happiness to his home town - a town so sad it forgot its own name. A thoughtful adventure story - Rushdie writes exciting and unusual characters and fantastic plots with a quirky sense of humor that makes it so enjoyable to read.

Word of the week: Fungible (adj.) - interchangeable.

In other news: We send just as much junk to China as they send to us; Your seatbelt isn't working properly if you are riding in your car with your seat reclined; The world is standing still until General Patraeus delivers his report on the war in Iraq; And for a satisfying coma I recommend trying pancakes and scotch.

Friday, September 07, 2007

The Midwest

I have been meaning to blog about this for some time now, but I have been too busy to even shower lately! Tomorrow I teach six group classes and have seven new private students. Yikes!

Over Labor Day weekend, I drove to Omaha to meet Monte and Curry. Omaha as a destination spot for a weekend getaway? Well, let me tell you a thing or two about Omaha! Kool-Aid is almost from Omaha but it's not (it is from Hastings, NE). And that isn't even what makes Omaha cool!

Omaha has the prettiest and most interesting chocolates I have ever tasted (they even beat out chocolates from Altman & Kuhne in Vienna):

They are so cool and laid back that there are bookstores that allow dogs in them:

And there are bubbles.

And my sister. Needless to say, I had a great time.

But now I'm back in Chicagoland with Curry and am enjoying/resenting my first week of teaching.

In other news: Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti died at age 71; Parents are advised hyperactive children may benefit from fewer additives after new research is published; The mosquitos are out of control out here; New versions of the iPod are unveiled including one with a touch screen and a wi-fi connection; and the 3.2-million-year-old fossilized remains of Lucy, the most intact human ancestor ever discovered, began a six-year tour of U.S. museums starting in Houston, despite much controversy.