Thursday, August 30, 2007

A cheap Nick Hornby rip-off...

This weekend I attended a writer's group meeting in Wilmington, and while I can only say that it was a disappointment (huge HUGE disappointment), something positive did come out of it. This particular group meeting was held at one of my very favoritest independent bookstores, Pomegranate Books. While I was there, even though I've taken a vow to not buy books, I couldn't help myself. You see, I'm always eager to support a good cause by buying books, and I consider Pomegranate--an independent, progressive, community-oriented shop--a very good investment.

With this vigor to help the community in mind, I indulged a new obsession. The Essay (preferably of the personal variety). Elise has been a huge fan of the essay for years, even did her thesis on New Media and the essay, and it appears she's finally rubbed off on me in a big way. And, truthfully, I often wonder if I'd be better cut out to write essays, sundry columns and social critique than fiction. I have a big mouth, a sharp tongue (and fingers?), and I'm pretty snarky when caught in the right mood, so why not? Anyway, I indulged my new addiction with two purchases:

-The Polysyllabic Spree, by Nick Hornby, a collection of 14 installments of his column from The Believer magazine.

-Stranger Than Fiction: True Stories, by Chuck Palahniuk. For those of you who aren't familiar, he wrote Fight Club, and all of his fiction that I've read is equally, if not more, twisted than that. I can only venture a guess at how crazy his essays will be. In truth, I read through the first one, "Testy Festy," a short chronicle of his experience at a Montana testicle festival, that made me sort of want to die. But I'll press on.

The entire point of this post, is my admiration for Hornby's book. His column is a monthly chronicle of the books he's brought into his home and those that he actually reads. To any tried and true bibliophile the amassing of books is a sacred ritual. I, my self, only me, own approximately 400 unread books. I think. I haven't counted in a while and I shudder to think.

In the spirit of Hornby's monthly ritual, I'm going to do something similar here. Not only will you get a taste of my precious book hoarding, you'll also get a monthly recap of the books I've ingested. I have a shameful tendency to forget to review the books I read (even though I add them to the sidebar), so these will be bite-sized reviews for you to take and do with what you will. And, as we're seeing another perfectly good month to an end, what better time to start?

Andi's August Reads (2007, just in case you'd forgotten)

The Dying Animal, by Philip Roth - 8.5/10 - A fantastic, if
sometimes frustrating, book about a professor/intellectual celebrity
and his dalliances. However, as he ages, he finds that he begins to
fall for one woman in a way he hadn't been able to before. All is
not pleasant as he finds himself in the midst of an obsession. More
than anything, The Dying Animal is about aging, the death of
sexuality, and the death of vigor.

Unmasqued, by Colette Gale - 7/10 - An erotic (not to be confused
with romantic) retelling of The Phantom of the Opera. Gale takes lots
of new directions with the story, but this was a decadent good time.
Look for a review in this month's Estella's Revenge.

Eclipse, by Stephenie Meyer - 9.5 of 10 - Pure enjoyment! I love
this series, and I got my hands on this book as quickly as I could.
I was not disappointed, as so many were, because I saw this story's
twist coming from a mile away! (I won't say more than that to avoid
spoiling.) While I do have issues with facets of Meyer's writing, I
just can't resist the characters.

Norwegian Wood, by Haruki Murakami - 10 of 10 - This one will likely
be one of my top 10 of the year. Murakami's story of a Japanese
college student coming of age is often compared to the penultimate
coming of age novel, The Catcher in the Rye. However, that
comparison is pretty vague because the books are dramatically
different. Toru, Norwegian Wood's protagonist, is almost like a
blank slate compared to his friends and acquaintances. Instead of
judging those around him as so many written teens and young adults
do, Toru absorbs the life and habits of those around him, holding
the story together with his endearing honesty and openness. I also
understand that this is one of Murakami's most "normal" novels. I'm
really excited to read others and see what he has up his sleeve.

So, yes, four books read in August. While it's sad in comparison to the nine or so books I knocked off in July, I've had to work. I've gotta make a livin', people!

The sadder state of affairs is the sheer number of books that have wormed their way into the house this month (and I'm sure B. would throw up in his mouth a little if he read this). While, admittedly, it's not as bad as last month, they're still stacking up at an alarming rate:

-Reading Comics and What They Mean, by Douglas Wolk (review book)
-Hauntings and Other Tales of Danger, Love, and Sometimes Loss, by Betsy Hearne (review book)
-Blood and Chocolate, by Annette Curtis Klause (BookMooch)
-Norwegian Wood, by Haruki Murakami (from a Shelfari recommendation)
-Freaks: Alive on the Inside, by Annette Curtis Klause (Carl V.'s enabling and BookMooch)
-O Pioneers!, by Willa Cather (gift card!)
-Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, by Jules Verne (gift card!)
-A Walk in the Woods, by Bill Bryson (a gift, thanks, Les!)
-Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac, by Gabrielle Zevin (a gift, thanks, Heather F.!)
...and the two books of essays I mentioned before, of course.

Now, the up side to all of this is that I spent very little money. I'm tickled to have publishers that want to send me stuff for Estella's Revenge and really good friends who throw books at me. Not to mention BookMooch, which I affectionately call "the crack house."

In other (abbreviated) news, school is going fine. Week two is drawing to a close and I'm still standing. Except that I'm lying in the floor typing this. But that's neither here nor there. Work life is good, home life is good, creative life is good. I really can't complain.

With that, I'm off to teach a night class. Behave!


  1. I'm lusting over Norwegian Wood. I might make that my holiday weekend read.

    Glad to hear classes are going well for you!

  2. You're brave. I don't like to admit to every new book that enters my house! Nick Hornby's reading columns are great though. I really should get around to reading the 2nd collection one of these days.
    Glad to hear life is going well!

  3. Ah too bad the writers group sucked but hey you bought a book! I have got to read Pollysyllabic Spree. I just know I'll love it, I mean, the sacred ritual of amassing books. What's not to love about that right?

  4. There's no way I would admit to all of the books I've been bringing into the house lately. We have the Hornby book on our TBR pile; we love his books, but believe High Fidelity was the best.

    And I'll have to read Norwegian Wood--I loved the Wind Up Bird Chronicles.

  5. I'm with Katie - lusting after Norwegian Wood and totally perplexed as to why I can't find a copy in this freaking state!

    ****end purge****

    I should probably throw some more books at you. You need them worse than I do because you're young and you have a graduate degree in English. I mean, really. I'm not even going to live long enough to read everything. (I'm feeling old 'cause tomorrow's my birthday).

  6. I simply can't leave the bookstore without dropping some money there. It's too much temptation! :)

    Not to mention I carry with me a list of books I'm continuous searching for.

  7. i think i actually got three in this august... i at LEAST have to read two a month or a i get super pissed. i wish i could read as MUCH as you! i just don't read as fast i know it.

  8. I didn't enjoy Eclipse as much as I was hoping to, Jacob got my last nerve through the whole thing. Was there a twist? I didn't really think there was, but maybe that's just me.

  9. Katie, totally read it right now! lol

    Nat, I'll probably want to climb under the couch when I actually write them all down. Eek!

    Iliana, right!!! And Hornby's humor just jacks it all up a notch.

    Purl, I'll have to give High Fidelity another go. Maybe it'll work out better for me next time.

    Nancy, you crack me up!

    Matt, those lists will get you in trouble! They're a constant reminder of what we neeed.

    Corinna, I get really cranky if I don't read at least 3 or 4. There are some months when I only read *gasp* 1, and I get REALLY mad.

    Heather, there wasn't really a twist for me either, but apparently some were surprised and/or appalled by the love triangle. I figured it was coming.

  10. I love Nick and Chuck and all the damned reading you fit in.


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