Friday, February 29, 2008

Sickened: The Memoir of a Munchausen by Proxy Childhood


-- by Miranda

I just want to start by saying that my mom is awesome.

That being said, this book is the memoir of Julie Gregory who grew up being taken to innumerable doctors by her mother in the never ending search to find what was wrong with her. In actuality, nothing is fundamentally wrong with Julie, but her mother is making her sick. It's a bizzare form of child abuse. I'm about halfway through the book now, and Julie is just starting to realize that maybe there isn't anything wrong with her. This comes at about the same time Julie's mother is trying to convince the cardiologist to do open-heart surgery on her daughter. Julie is 13 years old.

As a side note, I first heard of munchausen by proxy on an episode of Law & Order where a mother was killing her infants and making it look like crib death to garner the sympathy from friends and neighbors. People are crazy.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

My FBI

Having finished Atonement, I'm taking a little break from English romance wrought with drama.

Yesterday I read the introduction to My FBI by Louis Freeh. He became director of the FBI in 1993 and ran the Bureau for almost 8 years. The book covers his attacks on the mafia (including the Donnie Brasco incident), his investigations of Bill Clinton (in the Lewinsky years) and the pre-September 11th war on terror.

Basically, it looks awesome. I lovelove biography and this guy is really smart, and apparently very well-liked and respected in Washington--certainly a rarity. Before taking over the FBI he was an agent and a federal judge.

I'm not going to do the chapter-by-chapter (probably) but I'll keep you posted on my progress.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Atonement Clip

-- by Miranda

In my comment on Ab's last entry about Atonement I mentioned Saoirse Ronan's Oscar clip. Well, I just happened to find it on YouTube. It's actually a bit longer in the begining than what they used on the Oscars, but it's the same part.



There are actually a ton of clips from Atonement on YouTube, but I only watched this one and one depicting the play practice.

Atonement - 1999

--by Abby (London, 1999)

Brilliant! In the jump to modern day we find old-lady Briony celebrating her 77th birthday. And she's losing her mind (glorious!)

So some truth comes out (truth? The whole book is fiction. There is no Briony. Whatever.) So the 'truth' is the anticlimactic death of Robbie before he ever makes it back to England and then Cecilia is taken out by a bomb dropped on a hospital some time later. That's fantastic. Much better than the happily ever after.

I now enthusiastically recommend this book.

The Lola and Marshall bits are disgusting. How wretched that they should appear happy together. Paul particularly should have suffered a bit.

I actually am now very curious to see how they handle this nonsense in the movie version. Do they just kill Robbie off, straight up? Or do they let him life in the fairy tale ending? The whole lying author thing seems difficult to convey in film. I will find out immediately. Or, like eventually.

Okay, I'm really pleased with this book, but am writing this after 7 consecutive entries and at midnight so no pearls of wisdom will be added at this time. Just that I love a book that ends with everyone dying. No loose ends, no sequels.

Atonement - Ch. 24

--by Abby (ending pg. 405)

Ah! Action! The war has hit London. Briony's hospital is overrun with the wounded and dying. Bones sticking through the skin, crude stitches, exposed intestines and brains. Disgusting!! I love it. What isn't better with a little blood on it?

The end of the chapter is a long letter of rejection for one of Briony's stories. It's her tale of the infamous day at the fountain. No forward progress is the critique. I can identify. Interestingly, the editors seem to think she's a man (since they ask if she's a doctor, not a nurse) and one of them apparently knows Cecilia from Girton.

Everything important in this story comes down to one day. Briony made an actual friend, encountered the horrors of war, learned to be a nurse, and was kindly rejected as a writer. The fact that she enjoyed her nursing and wants to be good at it makes me like her more. I hope she keeps that up, as opposed to abandoning it to be a brilliant writer. That would be lame.

Atonement – Ch. 25

--by Abby (ending pg. 422)

This chapter is Lola's wedding. Briony, not able to formulate a good reason against it, just sat in the back and watched Lola marry her unprosecuted rapist. All previous talk of Briony abandoning her fantasy-filled imagination is a pack of lies. She actually travelled miles on foot in order to be at the wedding and be seen but not speak. Her purpose was for Lola to wonder why she came. She's an odd girl.

I'm not sure what this all means for Robbie. I mean, if Briony recants, do they still try to prosecute Paul Marshall? Will Briony be too scared of her family to tell the truth still? Not much book left to find out….

Atonement – Ch. 26

--by Abby (ending at the end of Part III)

So we end this twisted and tragic tale.

I'm sad that we readers were not privy to Cecilia and Robbie's reunion. The short glimpse of their life together through Briony's eyes was hardly satisfying. After the long middle bit inside Robbie's head, I would have liked to see him regaining his sanity, bit by bit or in a rush when his feet hit Britain's shores or when he was finally in Cecilia's arms.

I did like Cee and Robbie's realization that they were wrong about young Hardman all these years. It seems it should soften their anger towards Briony, since the lie wasn't so extreme. The ending, with Briony's sign-off was a little melodramatic, but it does explain the bizarre and inconsistent style. How very Briony.

Based on three parts and some 400 pages, I think I'd recommend this book, but the first chapters were certainly more engaging than the second and third parts. The latter make the early chapters centered on Emily Tallis and Lola seem superfluous. I can see doing some delving into Lola's psyche so that readers can understand her silence in the accusations, but still. Why did I do all the reading about Emily Tallis' magic ability to track her family from her darkened bed? Hmmmmmm.

So there's another "chapter" coming set in 1999. One more entry coming.

Atonement - Ch. 22

--by Abby (ends pg. 362)

Briony has grown. It seems a large factor in her decision to go to medical school was to earn her independence. She's remained very introverted and is kind of alienating her family.

Since discovering 'Genre' it looks like she's off the deep end writing stories without characters or plot. Insanity. And she is not pleased that Cecilia hasn't written her back. Clearly she doesn't realize that depends on letters back and forth from France.

Atonement – Ch. 23

--by Abby (ending pg. 368)

Interesting news from Mr. Tallis—Lola and Paul Marshall are getting married. Not quite the scandal I expected, but still, I knew he was into her. Briony thinks she facilitated this union, but she hasn't seen Lola in like 5 years so I'm not really sure what that means.

The news has sent Briony into a shame spiral, which is fun. I hope she gets self-destructive and takes a lover. That would be fun.

Atonement - Ch. 20

--by Abby (the end of Part II)

Well Part II is over. It lasted nearly two days and drove Robbie Turner completely mad. I'm with Miranda in her sentiments that war sucks and this drags on. Nothing actually happened. Technically, Robbie didn't even make it home, though when last we left him the boats were coming. They didn't even find Mace.

Better luck in Part III.

Atonement - Ch. 21

--by Abby (Chapter 21 starts at the beginning of Part III and ends on page 356.)

Glorious. Back to Briony, now a nurse-in-training. Anything is a welcome change of pace from Robbie. Plus Briony has a pretty miserable little life, so that's nice. This chapter is wrought with premonitions of horror and attack on England. Other than that it just tells us that Briony barely has any friends and they all live in fear of the Sister.

I'm a little upset that no mention was made about Briony's feelings about the Robbie-didn't-rape-anyone situation. I'd like to know.

The word "strictures" was used. That amuses me.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Final Thougts on I Am America (And So Can You!)

-- by Miranda

Yeah, I probably could have thrown this at the end of my last post about IAA (ASCY!), but who knows if anyone is actually reading all the posts. But anyway, my final thoughts.

In the beginning I was worried that the style of writing would get old, but it never did. It was very funny and even subtle in some places ('The Stephen T. Colbert Award For The Literary Excelence'? Hee).

Bottom line: If you like The Colbert Report, you'll like the book.

I Am America (And So Can You!) - Chapter 10 through the end

-- by Miranda

I kind of feel like the write-ups for each chapter are getting a little repetitive, so just go ahead and assume that ever chapter is very very funny (which is true), and just read the quotes below for a little taste. So, without further ado, here's Part Three: My American Maturity (chapters 10-14) and everything after that.

CHAPTER 10 - THE MEDIA

"CSPAN's liberal bias is severely underestimated. With its unvarnished gavel-to-gavel coverage of our elected leaders, CSPAN glamorizes big government by showing not only how it works, but that it sometimes does work. CSPAN 2 may be just as dangerous, but has never been watched."
- pg. 154

Bonus: An imagined Cosmo headline: "29 Ways To Make Your Man Renounce God: Make Him Go From Amen to Oh, Baby!"

CHAPTER 11 - CLASS WAR

"Now, I'm not the smartest knife in the spoon, so explain this to me. We're supposed to help folks out of poverty by giving them a financial reward for being poor? Doesn't add up. If being poor is a never-ending money party, where's the incentive to get rich?"
-pg. 165

CHAPTER 12 - RACE

"Some people seem to think racism still exists. These people are racists."
-pg. 174

CHAPTER 13 - IMMIGRANTS

"America is not a land of immigrants. There. Was that so hard to say? It makes sense if you think about it. It feels like we've been here forever, doesn't it? Let's just assume that we have been. How does it feel to smash the shackles of our past? It tastes like freedom."
-pg. 182

Fun Fact: The picture of Stephen at the begining of this chapter is the same as at the begining of the Homosexuals chapter: Stephen, smiling big, has his arms outstretched. With a big ol' mustache.

CHAPTER 14 - SCIENCE

"Physics: Some say this science is fundamental; I say it's a bunch of unnecessary regulations. Physics is the ultimate Big Government interference -- universal laws meant to constrain us at every turn. No staying in motion if acted on by a net force. NO thermodynamic systems without entropy. Hey, is it wrong that I sometimes want to act without having to deal with an equal and opposite reaction?"
-pg. 201

A NOTE TO THE FUTURE

"Obviously, I can't know what will happen in the future, but just because something is unknowable, that doesn't mean I don't have some strong opinions about it."
-pg. 209

WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED?

"In fact, however carefully you've just read this book, there are sure to be lessons within it that you've yet to fully comprehend. That's why you should buy a fresh copy and read it again. The smell and feel of a new book is part of the lesson."
-pg. 214

Another round of applause for WPL patrons: All the "Stephen T. Colbert Award for the Literary Excellence" stickers are still there.

THE WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENTS' DINNER

"Then, George W. Bush arrived. He made a beeline for me, in that, like a bee, he went all around the room and then came up to me last. "Pleased to meet you, ColberT."
-pg. 219

Saturday, February 23, 2008

I Am America (And So Can You!) - Chapters 5 through 9

-- by Miranda

Chapters 5-9 make up Part Two of I am America, "My American Adolescence." Part Two begins with a story that includes the five big Ss of Adolescence: "School, Sports, Sex, Sodomy, and the Silver Screen."

CHAPTER 5 - SPORTS/CHEVRON "THE GAS WITH TECHRON" SPORTS CHAPTER/BLOCKBUSTER "NOW YOU DON'T HAVE TO CHOOSE" SPORTS CHAPTER/THE KRAFT SEVEN SEAS CREAMY ITALIAN SPORTS CHAPTER

"Now, generaly speaking, I'm not a big fan of sports. It's a waste of both
testosterone and blind, fervent allegiance, both of which would be better
directed towards our military."
-pg. 71

This chapter includes such brilliance as "The Abstinence Bases" (1st base is polite chatter, 2nd is eye contact) and a list of which sports to pay attention to and which to ignore. Stephen's thoughts on Synchronized Swimming (a sport to ignore): "I defy you to watch this sport and tell me the olympics have no hidden gay agenda." Also this chapter is sponsored by several large companies, hence the rather long chapter title.

CHAPTER 6 - SEX AND DATING
"Treat sex like alcohol. Whether you sip it or chug it or have a destructive
chemical dependency on it, make sure you're in control. When you bring that
frosty can of sex to your lips, you'd better be the one calling the
shots."
-pg. 90

So far this was the hardest chapter from which to pick a quote. It's not that it's not as funny as the other chapters, it's just that a lot of the quotes were too long for my lazy ass to type up. This chapter is incredibly funny. An abstinence pledge, a continuum of sexual morality ("gay stuff" being at the bad end, "missionary postition, followed by a firm handshake" being at the good end), and dating advice for men and women. One piece of advice for the ladies? Show some cleavage. I couldn't agree more.

CHAPTER 7 – HOMOSEXUALS
"Nowhere does God say he wants pairs of men to be fruitful and multilpy. If
that's what He'd wanted, He would have given gay men ovaries and breasts and
luscious lips. But [H]e only gave them the luscious lips."
- pg. 112

I love the gays. This chapter is hilarious, but I'm suprised that on the list of "Things that are trying to turn me gay and their success on a scale of one to ten," Clive Owen only rates an 8. Clive Owen is hott (two Ts!), ask anyone. I guess I should point out that Clive has the second highest ranking on the list, after baby carrots, which score 11.

CHAPTER 8 - HIGHER EDUCATION
"Look no further than the example of Ted Kaczynski, a.k.a. the Unabomber. He
skipped sixth grade, got a Bachelor's from Harvard followed by a Master's and a
Ph.D., and then embarked on a distinguished academic career of blowing people
up. Most Ph.D. biographies have similar endings."
-pg. 119

Again, lots of funny here. I know, it's getting repetitive. But it's a great chapter describing exactly why higher education is the greatest threat facing America today, after flag burning, yoga, and vaccination.

CHAPTER 9 – HOLLYWOOD
"I don't understand movies today. They romanticize the liberal lifestyle, cram
gays into our living rooms, and make children believe it's safe to spend time
with Robin Williams."
- 131

I hear ya on that last one. Some of my favorite parts of this chapter are Stephen's description of the Hay's Code ('It was created to curb the corrupting influence of movies like The Bathing Kuties of '28 and Gangbang Dames of '29) and the Cultural Corrosiveness PH Scale, which gives Abstinence and Holy Water PHs of 13 and 14 respectively. Yep, completely alkaline. I remember enough from sophmore Chem to know that an alkaline substance isn't safer than an acidic substance.

Check back later for the final I Am America entry.

Friday, February 22, 2008

I Am America (And So Can You!) - Introduction through Chapter 4



-- by Miranda


Here I am continuing to make up my own rules for this here UBC by picking a book from the library rather than a book I actually own or am borrowing from a friend. I don't know if anyone has read this book, but I know that everyone here should at least be interested in it. Because it's Stephen Colbert, and he's awesome. I decided to semi-adopt Abby's style of chapter-by-chapter posting. I'll post a brief blip about each chapter, but I won't give each chapter it's own post. I'll just post when I feel like it, every five chapters or so. And, coincidentally, Chapters 1-4 make up part one, "My American Childhood." There are no spoilers below, unless you have a really sensitive spoiler-nerve.
INTRODUCTION
"People who borrow this book are not Heroes. They are no better then [sic]
welfare queens mooching off the system like card-carrying library card-carriers.
For the record, we're not offering this book to libraries. No free rides."
-pg. viii
Well, I checked this bad-boy out from my favorite public library/place of employment, but I see Stephen's point. I am a free-ride getting card-carrying library card-carrier. I mooch, you know this about me. Anyway, the introduction gets you used to the style of the book, which is pretty similar to the style of the Colbert Report. On more than one occasion the margin notes and footnotes reminded me of The Word. Just after the Introduction are instructions on "How to read this book." Some of these should be taken to heart as "how to read any book." Never use to right a wobbly table, never dog-ear pages, no highlighting, ect.
CHAPTER 1 - THE FAMILY
"Children are tiny versions of you, minus the crushing failure.
If you're not going to live your unrealized dreams through your kids, WHEN WILL
YOU?"
- pg. 12
The Family was my favorite chapter so far. It starts out by clearly defining the duties of the mother and father, then continues to explain extended family members, including Pro/Con lists (Pro for Grandparents: "Unlike your parents, they have no issue with buying your love."). The chapter even includes an incredibly useful, all-purpose family counseling script.
CHAPTER 2 - OLD PEOPLE
"No disrespect, but old people are useless to me. So, this
chapter is now re-directed at all of you not-yet-seniors. Plus: Since seniors can't read this, I can say whatever I want about them. They look like lizards."
- pg. 22
That pretty much sums it up.
I just want to take a moment to applaud the WPL patrons: This chapter has a page of stickers, and none of the stickers are missing. These people know how to respect a library book.
CHAPTER 3 - ANIMALS
"To put it simply, certain animals are endangered because God is
pissed off at them. If you try to save an endangered animal, you are going
against God's will -- and the Man knows how to hold a grudge."
- pg. 40
Very funny chapter. Really, it's full of brilliance, like an entry from a cow that wants to be reincarnated as a human so she can try steak to "know what all the fuss is about." Also, a table of endangered animals and why they are unloved by God.
CHAPTER 4 - RELIGION
"Creation: 'In the beginning, God created the
heaven and the earth.' Sorry, Darwin-huggers, but it's not 'In the beginning, a
monkey evolutioned gay marriage."
- pg. 57
This is another brilliant beyond brilliant chapter that includes why all religions besides Roman Catholic are rediculous and all you need to know about the Bible.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Tossing Aside "The Curious Incident..."

-- by Miranda

I tried. Really, I did. I started reading The curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime a while ago. I liked the parts that I read. Then I got distracted by a few other books, but last night I decided to pick it back up again. I read about 30 more pages or so, but then a ballroom competition was on TV, so I stopped reading. But the biggest reason I stopped reading (aside from the fact that ballroom dancing is awesome) is that I've lost interest in the book. Right now, I don't really care who killed the damn dog. Plus, I'm making an ever-growing mental list of books I want to read at the library, all of which are more interesting to me right now than Curious. Today I checked out I am America (And So Can You!) and there's another book about a girl who's mother had Munchausen by proxy that I want to check out.

So that's my plan.

Atonement - Ch. 19

--by Abby (ending pg. 315)

War sucks and lots of people die and the walking never ends. By my count this is the third chapter set in the same day, on the same walk toward the sea.

I've been more entertained. I like how Robbie's spirit and pride are being systematically sacrificed though. That's a nice touch.

Atonement - Ch. 18

--by Abby (ending pg. 299)

More war, more missing Cecilia. There's the possibility Briony will clear Robbie.

Then there's the backstory that Robbie suspects Briony had a crush on him and felt betrayed, and that is why she turned him in. Unlikely.

Kind of a slow chapter. Robbie's theories are less interesting when you know they are wrong.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Atonement - Ch. 17

--by Abby (ending pg. 289)

War stories here. Nothing too life altering, but certainly disheartening. It's really a survival story now.

In these types of stories, I'm always a bit surprised at the unwillingness of people to do what is necessary for their own survival. It seems gov'ner Turner is the only man clever enough to watch the sky for bombers.

His companions are beginning to grow on me. After leading them out of the wilderness, I'm predicting that Robbie is injured and they carry him to England. Why not?

Atonement - Ch. 16

(ending pg. 273)

Ah, the background. So Robbie went to jail and joined the army to shorten his sentence. All well and good until war is declared.

I'm very pleased that Cecilia found the strength of character to disown her family completely. Very dramatic and appropriate. This was an excellent "chapter" in that it was more events, less lengthy descriptions of emotions. Of course the book couldn't be girlier, with Robbie hopelessly devoted after years of separation and on the one occasion they met they were barely able to kiss. Such longing!

While Cecilia seems optimistic that Briony's reappearance can fix Robbie's situation, I am less convinced. I'm hoping older Briony is still a crazy person. Ooooh or better, a whore. That could be fun. Onward!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Atonement - Ch. 15

--by Abby

Part Two! There are no chapters, but there are breaks in the book, so I'll just keep numbering as if they are chapters. For reference, in my paperback copy Part II started on page 243, and chapter 15 ends midway down 257.

We've flashed forward. The earlier account of the inquisition and trial has eliminated the need for anything after the terrible end of Part I. We join Robbie Turner, a low-ranking soldier leading two corporals through the French countryside as England retreats and leaves the French to fight the Germans alone.

In this account they befriend some Frenchman. Robbie is injured; he's got some shrapnel between the ribs and is hiding it from his travel buddies.

I'm in need of some background. Here's hoping the next bit explains how Robbie ended up in the army.

Atonement - Ch. 14

--by Abby

More from the life of Briony. She rats out the innocent Robbie to the police and even searches Cecilia's room for his dirty letter, which is then used as evidence against him. Drunk with power, Briony does a reenactment of Robbie and Cecilia's library booty call. Nothing good.

Lola sees a docter, Mr. Tallis' car service breaks down and Cecilia locks herself in her room in anger. The creepy lawn guy is nowhere to be found. Robbie brings back the twins unharmed, but then gets arrested and his mom beats the police car with an umbrella.

Briony continues to misunderstand the workings of the world around her assuming that Cecilia is telling Robbie off just before he's taken away and then forgiving him. I doubt it.

Atonement - Ch. 13

--by Abby

Just kidding. The twins did not drown. Instead Lola was attacked near the water. Chapter 13 was unlucky. Lola molested by Marshall, the twins unfound, and poor innocent Robbie's about to be accused by Briony who is getting less likable by the second.

I'm a little upset by the gigantic flash-forward the author gives us about the inquisition into Lola's attack. It's depressing to know how everything is going to go following this tragedy iced in misinformation. Instinctively I would hope that Marshall would be seen covered in mud and Robbie would come in all clean and that people would use logic and not quite believe Briony. I'd hope that Cecilia would defend him and Emily would remember hearing Marshall and Lola in the nursery and someone would get to the truth. But now I know it's all going south. There appears to be no way this clusterfuck is going to work itself out. Seems unfortunate.

Briony is a menace. I was just so getting to like Robbie and now you know its going to be nothing but terribleness for him. Sigh.

Atonement - Ch. 12

--by Abby

Ah, the plot thickens. This book is getting more and more pleasurable all the time. Or the fact that I'm reading at midnight may be influencing my level of appreciation.

An Emily chapter, we've got the standard amount of nonsense that rolls about in this woman's head. She seems to have no strength aside from that of self-preservation. I'm not sure what the deal is with her husband, if he's married to his warmongering job or has a mistress. Emily's fascination with bugs that fly to the light, the easiest place to get eaten seems a bit dark. At first, I thought this was a prophesy or a parallel to her life, but her instincts are the opposite, so I'm still working it out.

The real drama here is the return of the search party sans twins. Leon has gotten himself muddy on a dry day, so all signs point to an encounter in the river. Look back, did I not predict tragedy? Yep. I did.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Atonement - Ch. 11

--by Abby

Oh heaven. The story of Robbie from his arrival at the house to the after-dinner chaos—with special attention to sexy library encounters. Very rewarding reading.

Robbie is turning into a very agreeable man, in that, he's become totally typical. Now that he knows he has Cecilia, he can't take his mind off of it, and now loathes anyone who delays him from getting her alone again. Briony interrupted him before and is now hated with the fire of a thousand suns. It happens.

On other dinner topics, it seems to me that Lola was attacked and possibly molested by Paul Marshall. The stories of abuse from the twins are outrageous and Marshall has a cut on his face which I don't recall from previous descriptions. It's terrifying that everyone else in the house is so self-involved that they are not noticing this. Or the twins plotting to run away. Or the twins' terrible spelling which nears illiteracy.

So we leave the family charging into the wilderness in search of the twins, and I'm predicting injury or tragedy at any second. Glorious.

Atonement - Ch. 10

--by Abby

Briony is such a very naughty girl. She ought to be grounded. Not only has she read the letter that Robbie never meant for anyone to read, she's now gossiped it to her flighty, melodramatic cousin. Oh this will end poorly.

Awesomely, Briony (having no understanding of physical attraction whatsoever) has decided that all of Robbie's actions this day are dangerous threats of violence. I find this hilarious. She thinks her sister needs protection from this terrible maniac.

Her fears are confirmed when she discovers Robbie "attacking" Cecilia in the darkened library, shoved into a corner, hands pinned over her head, etc, etc. Sounds terrifying. If we could all be so unlucky. Sigh. This seems to indicate that the bluntness of Robbie's letter has erased all the awkwardness between him and Cecilia. That's a relief. Now all that is left is for this all to somehow get back to the parentals.

Atonement - Ch. 9

Well! Things are finally heating up a bit. Excitement.

Not at first though. It's another Cecilia chapter and I have to say she's somewhat a bore. Perhaps because she is, herself, bored. Despite her minor delusions of grandeur, she is luckily getting smarter. After a lot of 'what dress to wear' and 'how to fix all the house's problems' she has a Clueless moment when she realizes her true feelings for Robbie. Perfection.

Unfortunately she also realizes in this moment that young Briony has read this strongly-worded letter. Uh oh. That cannot be good.

We also get further insight to the life of Leon in this chapter (and a bit in the short Briony chapter as well). His story is apparently to be told by those who idolize him. He appears to be a shallow, useless human being. It says something about his sisters that they worship him the way they do. It is concerning.

Atonement - Ch. 8

My favorite chapter so far. We have the life of Robbie Turner here, who has fantastically just discovered sex. Kind of. Apparently he had not previously had the warm feelings Cecilia was experiencing. That is, until he saw her nearly naked. That'll change most boys' minds.

After his strange fountain encounter with Cee, he is basically reduced to a twittering teen-aged girl, all "But what did she mean when she blah blah blah?!?!" and then imagines a million scenarios, particularly the ones that mean she reciprocates his feelings (which she does), but then crushes them, convinced he's wrong (which he is not) because he's such a poor slob (well, he has a point there).

My most favoritest part is, of course, the romantic notion that love is torturous, but a person in love is a masochist who must be near their lover no matter how much pain it causes. The more the better. Yeah, I am a fan of this belief. Particularly in fiction, love should be unbearable, and should eat its victims from the inside out until all that is left is an empty shell of a person with no senses except the instinct to chase their lover and survive. That always makes the best stories.

So the chapter closes with a vital event for two characters. Briony is released from her bridge-imprisonment by Robbie asking her to deliver his letter to Cecilia (apparently Briony finds this to be sufficiently important) and then Robbie realizing that he enveloped the wrong letter. Instead of sending the carefully-worded, hand-written letter, he's sent the vulgar, honest, typed letter that expresses his desire to do dirty, dirty things to Cecilia. His fixation with Freud could not be more ironic or humorous at this moment. While I think Cee wants the same things, I suspect she won't want to get them typed in a letter delivered by her young sister.

Some sort of excitement and horror is about to ensue. I'm excited. Robbie is a dead man.

Atonement - Ch. 7

Once again we're back with young Briony. She's pouting, out by the water, butchering plants that have the audacity to resemble her cousins and self and disappointment.

I enjoy Briony's little slips into her fantasy world when she can't really cope with reality. I used to do this a lot, though I don't recall ever making myself an Olympian. That's a stretch.

At the end of this rather short chapter Briony resolves to stand on the bridge until something really significant happens to her. I actually already read the next chapter and now think that Briony's standards of significance are a bit low. Tsk Tsk.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Book Club Suggestion

--by Abby

I am not making good progress in Atonement, because I spend all my time on engineering. Lame!

A book I know at least 3 of us have read is Love is a Mix Tape by Rob Scheffield. I believe Dia has it at the moment... Maybe we can circulate this?

Blurb: "Music critic Sheffield's touching and poignant memoir of love and death will strike a chord in anyone who has used a hand-selected set of songs to try to express something that can't be put into words. A socially awkward adolescent, Sheffield finds true love as a college student in the late '80s with Renée, a "hell-raising Appalachian punk-rock girl." ... Each chapter opens with a song list from a mix tape made at the time."


I loveded this book. I laughed, I cried, you know. I'd read it again and post chapter-to-chapter if anyone is interested. Also, I feel that someone should make an audio companion so we could listen to the songs as they are on the tapes. I have no time for this obviously, but it would kick ass.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

yay!!

(Van Meter) Check it out guys, i'm blogging!! I have only had time to grace A Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime which is just so brilliant. I don't think there is a particular reason I heart it so much besides the fact that you get into the narrator's head perfectly. I started to believe I have bad days too when I pass a line of yellow cars (sorry Dia.) I promise to venture into the other books ASAP. An interesting note - I should call it a side note - I believe my copy of a curious incident is the same copy that has been passed from person to person and state to state - i want to say it's in Chicago currently. If I have this circuit correct, it started out as Shannon's original copy and she passed it to me, who passed it to Dia's Jeefy, then to Dia, who passed it to Abby, who then gave it to Miranda, which means it's hit the midwest! Sweet! I believe the next book I experience and want to share with the world will receive a stamp or place for initialing by every person in every state that gets a hold of it, not unlike the specific dollar bills with stamps and email addresses exploring a way to track the dollars and there intricate circulating pattern. I know it sounds like I have tracked some mulah in my day but I promise I am not that ridiculous. Besides, i'd rather get lost in a book that will occupy a large amount of my time anyway. And i'm going to stop typing now because I just keep talking about nothing! I promise to have something good next go!

Atonement - Ch. 6

--by Abby

Ahhh, the characters reveal themselves. Emily Tallis, the mother but not the matriarch. It seems she is plagued with migraines and is now living in constant fear of them so she is constantly in the safety of her cave bedroom, shielded against light, and sound and life.

Despite her invalidity, she seems to be quite on top of household events. Its possible this is how all mothers operate: with super-senses that can detect actions in distant wings of her homestead. Sharp.

I don't know. I didn't love this chapter, just because Emily Tallis is a depressing person. Her life appears to be minutia. Though her love for her children is nice. Still... I'm not sure how strong her influence can be in this story, I think she's just going to be victimized by the whims and disregard of her children.

Atonement - Ch. 5

--by Abby

Okay, previous speculation that every chapter would focus on Briony or Cecilia was wrong. We've found ourselves in a Lola chapter.

It seems that we are piling on the events of a few hours from the perspectives of many characters, so this is Lola just after Briony abandoned the play, while Cecilia, Leon and Paul are at the pool, and then after when Paul Marshall meets the Quincey children.

Paul Marshall seems like a creepy dude. I feel that there is a chance for pedophilia romance between him and Lola. Particularly because her name is Lola.

Other than that, the events of this chapter really just showed how screwed up the Quincey kids are about their parents divorce, and the cultural climate of the time. Not terribly exciting.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Atonement - Ch. 4

--by Abby

Finally we have some interaction between the siblings. The chapter kicks off with Cecilia and Briony, struggling to redefine their relationship more as equals than nurturer and child. Briony is really in a state. I like that having discovered realism, Briony is disgusted with her tales of morality. How true that a great love can seem stupid when you discover something more sophisticated.

We also meet Leon, who seems a nice enough guy. His friend Marshall seems like a tool. I dunno. I love that both Tallis sisters seem to have a masochistic streak. They take a sick joy in self-destruction. Excellent.

It seems Briony is our view of the future and Cecilia is the window to the past. Her story is peppered with memories and flashbacks, not just to her own childhood, but the joint lives of her family.

Atonement - Ch. 3

--by Abby

So we're back to Briony. Her frustration mounts as the hours stream by without constructive rehearsal of what we can only assume is a masterpiece. She sees the whole Cecilia in the fountain scene from the window but can't hear it. Her imagination runs wild. And, with no knowledge of the world of adults, she assumes this is some sort of custom, a ritual, she's yet to learn about. Of course, she wants to write about it. That's almost definitely going to lead to trouble.

Interestingly, we get the "six decades later" in this chapter so we know absolutely that Briony lives to be an old lady, she's a successful writer, and her stories are amoral. I get the sense that the story (at least the Briony chapters) are written from the perspective of adult Briony, recalling the events. She's very self-analyzing and not a lot of credence is given to the factuality of the events or timeline.

On the other hand, Cecilia's chapter had an of-the-moment feel. She's not as reflective and more turmoil is lent to her thoughts and actions. There is no distancing or objectivity about the life of Cecilia. We are given no clues about her future or Robbie's. We don't even know if she later regrets her actions at the fountain.

Atonement - Ch. 2

--by Abby

Chapter 2 is all about Cecilia. Cecilia seems a bit like a man without a country. She's no longer needed at home, but hasn't found a satisfactory route to strike out on her own. So she's floundering, wasting time, bored but lazy. Seems like a situation in which one could start making some bad decisions. And she's even got a neighbor to help her.

Obviously, Cecilia and Robbie have a messed up relationship. Since we haven't been given too much background at this point, I'm assuming they used to be in love, or imagine they'd end up together. College confused everything and the phrase "could his first have gone to his head?" that makes it seem like Robbie had a lover in college. That tramp.

I am still trying to decide if all the background about Uncle Clem and the vase was just to add weight to the vase's breakage or if there are other reasons for hearing of Clem's heroics. Probably Cecilia's father's reaction will be terrible.

I'm also thinking that the ugliness of the house, the weakness of the fountain, and the wildflowers are all symbols or metaphors for the character of our characters. More on that in the chapters to come.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Atonement – Ch. 1

-- by Abby

Trying out the new strategy.

Atonement starts out with descriptions of the young Briony and her life as a 13-yr-old writer, longing for the attention of her older brother, Leon, who we've yet to meet. Her quiet world is disrupted upon the arrival of three cousins, all much more accustomed to sibling squabbling and warfare. So Briony is finding out that it really is better to be an only child (despite the fact that she seems to have two older siblings.) The chapter is wrought with disaster as the author is blatantly foretelling the failure of Briony's stage production.

I'm not hating it all so far. I feel like the plot of the play may have some foreshadowing in it, but what story doesn't follow a theme like that. Also, the cousin's mom is named Hermione, which, quite frankly, I thought was a made up Harry Potter name. Must be British.