Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Book Dealbreakers

Well thank you, interwebs, for inspiring two blog posts this week!

Today, Book Riot did a What Are Your Book Dealbreakers post. Here's the list:

1. Casual treatment of sexual assault or rape. (This is the one I encountered yesterday).
2. Books that ignore the existence of LGBTQ relationships.
3. Books that characterize any LGBTQ characters as inherently untrustworthy/up-to-no-good.
4. Books with female characters who cry at the drop of a hat, especially if the author is male.
5. Inappropriate treatment of the issue of suicide.
6. When a plotline fails to make logistical sense.
7. Minor but basic factual errors, especially in nonfiction.
8. Books that repeatedly substitute obscure words for standard ones (“orb” for “eye,” “tresses/locks/mane” for “hair,” “tome” for “book).
9. Sudden romance: when two characters who have no chemistry and who have not appeared to be developing feelings for each other suddenly announce that they are in love.
10. Excessively prolonged romantic tension: when you know two characters are meant to be together and they should know it too but they refuse to do anything about it.
11. When a book ignores basic known facts about the world for the sake of a plot.
12. Oversimplification of mental illness.

Interesting. I've never come across something as a standard dealbreaker. I've only given up on one book, ever, and that was Zelda by Nancy Milford. But I was young, and uninterested, and didn't understand the significance of the woman I was discovering. It wasn't because of any of these things.

Incest? Sure! Rape? It's probably part of the story, so I'm not going to stop reading because I don't like it. Plot logic fails? Happens all the time. Mental illness and LGBT issues? Good luck liking the way those issues are portrayed, if it happens. Obscure words? SIGN ME UP. Dickens makes up the best stuff.

I'm just going to say it: I think having a dealbreaker for books is weird.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Peanut Butter & Jelly Reads

This is an interesting idea, and one that I've never come across before. PB&J refers to two books that are better when read together. I found the concept here at the Barnes & Nobles blog.

Sure there are books that are better read together. Like, all of the Harry Potter books. And The Hobbit with the Lord of The Rings trilogy. But what about books that aren't written together?

Fascinating! I guess that's what higher-level college courses do, throwing books into a curriculum that are, indeed, better when read together. That's the beauty of higher studies in English--it's enlightening to read Marx before diving into the commodity culture of Our Mutual Friend. 

But this concept did inspire me to tell you, oh vast interweb of lit lovers, to read Dickens' Oliver Twist right before diving into Sarah Waters' Fingersmith. It's my absolute favorite pairing and the novels I used for my grad school application paper.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Next Lifetime

So, I'm listening to The Hunger Games series on audiobook. I'm 1/3 into Catching Fire and this Peeta-Gale-Katniss thing is getting old. Where's the action?

Listening to Pandora at work, Erykah Badu's "Next Lifetime" came on and I immediately thought of their endless love triangle. Pick one, please, or die, or something, so I can stop judging your stupid adolescent indecision. 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Lady Susan by Jane Austen

I downloaded Jane Austen's Lady Susan for audiobook. It's one that I don't own, and one that I knew nothing about, so I was excited to check it out. It is a short, epistolary novel, early in Austen's life. 
     The story focuses on the shenanigans surrounding one Lady Susan Vernon: a scandalously flirtatious recent widow who spends her time conniving men (married and single) into thinking her a good woman and mother (of which she is neither). She is older, beautiful, witty, and charming. The women see through her lies and deceits and flattery, while the men in her presence fall prey to it.  
     It's an interesting set up. As a female character in that time period she must be despised for her immoral nature, but yet she is a very commanding persona that triumphs over typically-considered-stronger males. She is both the namesake and the "villain" of the story--she truthfully has no redeeming qualities. But Lady Susan is not the one strong female, however, since the other women see through her character. It is a novel where female characters are more intelligent and sensible than males. For me, it's the dominance of female characters that is most interesting, particularly for the period. Or perhaps it's just an apparent dominance; are there men who, upon closer examination, are better characters? 
     While I don't dislike the epistolary format, for this novel I find it hard to get a true sense of the character I want to know best: Frederica, her daughter. I also don't like that I cannot see the moments of Lady Susan's seduction (however, I enjoy her recounts in letters to her dear friend). 
     The tale is dark for Austen--terrible parenting and a somewhat rushed conclusion to the work. It's a very different read than any of her other works I have encountered. Yet it shows her range and it does not feel out of place within her works. 

As a final note, if I had my way: Kim Cattrall would be playing Lady Susan in some adaptation of the book. She's divinely perfect for the role. Jane Seymour would be a far second.