Monday, December 03, 2007

November Books in Review

November was not the best reading month. I chalk it up to my five classes ending, planning the next five and grading a boatload of essays. And fatigue. I'm ready for a break!

I only read two books this month. Albeit, they were good books, but two makes me twitch a little.

1. Pnin, by Vladimir Nabokov

2. Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, by David Sedaris (audio)

Linked above is my review of Pnin, and since I haven't gushed with love for David Sedaris lately, I'll tell you what I thought of Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim. BRILLIANT! Quite a few people have told me that they didn't care so much for Denim in comparison to some of his bigger titles like Me Talk Pretty One Day and Naked. I was talking to S. the other night, and we always discuss what we're reading, so I brought up Denim. Her response, "OH! It's so funny! And tragic in spots." OH how right she was.

David Sedaris, for the uninitiated, writes for the most part about his family. He's from a big Greek family (several sisters, one brother). While they originally started out in New York, the family eventually moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, and that's where many of his essays take place. Sedaris is openly gay, and many of his essays discuss the woes of growing up "different." From his noticeably squeaky, effeminate voice, to the problem of playing strip poker at an all-male slumber party, his essays ooze hilarity and, to some extent, heartbreak. Much more so in Denim than his other collection I recently read, Me Talk Pretty One Day.

Aside from his experiences growing up in North Carolina, Sedaris also writes about his partner, Hugh, and their adventures living in Paris and Normandy. In fact, one of my favorite essays in this collection (the last one) involved David's time alone in their shared cottage in Normandy while Hugh was out of town. Sedaris details his tendency toward exaggeration and crazy imagination when he recalls thinking himself into the belief that zombies would invade the house. As a result, he stays up all night when Hugh is out of town, and on this particular evening he inadvertently injures a mouse in a trap, decides to drown it in a bucket on his front porch to "put it out of its misery," and encounters a van-load of lost tourists at 3am as he's drowning the mouse.

No matter how outlandish and hilarious the situation, like any fine essayist, Sedaris always manages to pinpoint the basic human element that makes it all very relatable. Don't let anyone tell you this is a lesser collection.

Now, for the books that have walked into my house this month:

  • A pristine new copy of Great Expectations for "My Year of Reading Dangerously"

  • Portnoy's Complaint, by Philip Roth, a find at Bookmooch

  • Fables: Wolves, by Bill Willingham for the 2008 Graphic Novels Challenge (see sidebar)

And while I feel certain a few books have flown in under the radar, those are the ones that spring immediately to mind. I received a $50 Barnes and Noble gift card from my mom as an early Christmas gift, so there will certainly be more books winging their way to me any time now.

And in case you hadn't noticed, there's a brand new issue of Estella's Revenge online! It's brief this month, but Heather and I decided to put the whips away and give the writers a break for the holidays. OK, OK, she and I needed the break, but I feel certain the writers were OK with it too.


  1. mmmmmm...Fables....

    I can certainly relate, I only read a couple books this past month myself, and not too darn many in October either. But, things seem to be looking up as I have already finished one this month and am a third of the way through a second one.

  2. I didn't like Portnoy's, though I'm a Roth enthusiast. Maybe you will feel differently.

    Yay for Barnes cards!

    I'm officially addicted to your blog. I checked it this morning, didn't see anything new, yet came back this afternoon with my fingers crossed.

  3. I only finished 2 books in November too! Rather disappointing. I think I have 'Dress Your Family..' in the stacks somewhere. Will have to dig it out someday.

  4. I adore David Sedaris. I think 'Six or Eight Black Men' which I believe is in that collections, is one of my favourite essays ever, in the whole world. He is so funny. And yes, I'd say five classes is enough to put the brakes on anyone's reading!


  5. Oh I can't wait to read the latest Estella's!
    I love David Sedaris - he's so funny. Sometime ago NPR had a clip of him reading that story about the mouse. Hilarious. I got to see him at the Dallas Museum of Art - Arts & Letters Live program several years ago and still that's one of the best author readings I've been to.

  6. I'm another one who adores David Sedaris. And I loved Nabokov years ago--I need to revisit his novels.

    I'm still loving Eclipse. Luckily work has been busy, so I haven't had time to race through it.

  7. Carl, I'm right there with ya. I'm racing through Special Topics in Calamity Physics and O Pioneers! at the moment. Cheers to better (numbers) in December.

    Awww, I'm glad you're addicted, Soj. It makes me all warm and fuzzy inside. :) S. (former Thesis Director) loved Portnoy on audio--good reader she said--but I'm gonna try it in print and see how things go. Roth hasn't disappointed me so far, so we'll see.

    Nat, definitely do give Dress Your Family a try. I almost had to pull over a few times in the midst of my maniacal laughter.

    Litlove, "Six to Eight Black Men" was HILARIOUS. I should've mentioned that one in the post, in fact. I giggled until I cried. And I would only be teaching THREE courses, but I'm a glutton for punishment and always take on extra night classes and/or online classes to make more $$$. Student loans are a bitch.

    Iliana, I would LOOOOVE to see him read in person. My friend Elise had tickets to go see him in Dallas a year or so ago but it got cancelled. :(

    Oooh, Purl, I wanna re-read. I'll have to see if I can stash Twilight and New Moon in my suitcase on the way back from TX so I can revisit the whole series at once.

  8. I can relate to you and Carl. My reading numbers are way down this year. Those darned ol' jobs!

    Off to read the new Estella! :)

  9. Enjoy, Les! It's brief, but still a goodie, in my opinion!

  10. David Sedaris is one of my longtime favourites, in fact, it's almost time for Holidays on Ice, one of my traditional holiday reads.


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