Sunday, April 25, 2010

Going In Circles by Pamela Ribon

pamie's third book!!

This is a novel about Charlotte Goodman whose marriage is breaking up after only a few months. She's moved out and become unhinged. She's so detached from her life that she internally narrarates the action. And then she makes a new friend and discovers roller derby and is able to eventually start living again.

Going in Circles is, I think, a departure from Ribon's previous novels. It still has that very personal aspect, the reader is fully inside the neurosis of the protagonist. It's believable in the details and well-written in that signature Ribon style. It lacked the hilarity though. I think this book was sadder. Not sad like Why Girls are Weird with the death of a parent that left me sobbing in the backseat of my parent's SUV as we roadtripped to Iowa. But, gloomy.

Charlotte is really Broken, just like her derby name - Hard Broken. And it's sad. And you feel for her. There are some scenes sprinkled with humor, the dark scenario lighened with some silliness, but overall this is a much more somber look at someone's life. Alternatively, Charlotte is a grown-up. She doesn't seem petulant or irresponsible or moody. She seems like she's been run over by a Mac truck. She also isn't as insecure as previous Ribon characters, possibly because her circumstances are so much more dire. I think this story shows growth from Ribon.

Totally enjoyable reading (contrary to what I just wrote about it being sad). I read it in a day and I learned about roller derby and I laughed out loud once and cried a little, and what more do you really want in a book? I heart pamie, and as always look forward to her next endeavor.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

cunt Revisited

Well, it has officially been (more than) a year since I started this all-female author experiment. The Lincoln book took so long to read it's been more like 13.5 months.

Anyway, I decided it might be fun to bookend the experience by rereading cunt. Plus I think the blog's rating was down to like PG. Not cool.

On second read, the book is still awesome. Not quite as awe-inspiring, but there was a ton of stuff I'd forgotten. So much I had resolved to do that is still un-done. New resolution is to reread cunt yearly. Also to put all the recommended reading from that book onto my to-read list.

Dear Inga, I still love you.

Here's my opinion about the experiment.

1) Great experience, I didn't feel like I was missing out at all. The only time I felt a pang was when my significant other left a pile of books at my place that he's already finished (and gushed about). But you know what? That pile is still there, with all of my unread books some of which are still by chicks. In fact, my Kindle is loaded up with Maya Angelou and the new Pamela Ribon is being sent to my as we speak. You can't exhaust the field, there is so much worth reading by female authors and we should all make the effort to ensure we don't miss out.

2) Great experience. My feminism feels strong and fit. My brain feels clever. I intentionally tried to read some classics, some youth lit, some science, some history, some fiction. It was glorious. In the last 13 months of my book-reading, nothing anti-woman has happened in my world. I have felt close to my books, they get me and they love me.

3) Great continuing experience. Reading books by women makes you want to read books by women. Every book I've read has made me want to read more by that author, more on that subject, more in that genre. I have a few books by men that I thought I'd be so psyched to read, like at the end of Lent and now I'm like, 'whatev, I'll get to them eventually.' More Girl! I also want to tweak my magazine reading to get more Girl and my movies to see more Girl producer and director and writer credits. I want to listen to music written, performed and produced by Girl. I want to fill my house with Girl art and consume more everything made by companies run by Girls. Tragically, without making a pointed effort the current mix is nowhere near even.

So!! I think I might give all my friends cunt for their birthdays and offer them access to my Girl! library, should they want to try this experiment. Cuz they should.

Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin

So, Abraham Lincoln was the man. Apparently there was a reason we spent so much time talking about him in middle school social studies, and it wasn't because I went to public school in Illinois. Well, not completely.

First of all, I should mention that I read this on my Kindle. The print version must weigh 80lbs. This is a long one.

Secondly, I have to say that Lincoln has become my favorite president and the Civil War has become my favorite war. I want to read more about the war and the leaders involved and the Confederacy. This is clearly a compliment to Goodwin. This book pretty much rocks.

For one thing it isn't a biography, but a quadruple biography. Goodwin traces not only the life and career of our 16th prez, but those of the other 3 Republican presidential hopefuls. All three men joined Lincoln's cabinet creating his "team of rivals". See? It's a clever title.

Anyway, the book is freaking fantastic. It's the best kind of history book, excruciatingly well researched but not bogged down in the facts. It really focuses on the personalities of the important people of the time and draws the reader into life in war-time D.C. Did you know they had to get messages from the front by easily sliced telegraph lines? Yeah, life before texting sucked. The book also does the opposite of that thing that made high school history super boring, which is presenting the events as inevitable. Even with my public-school education I knew that (spoiler alert!!) the North won the war and Lincoln was assassinated, but Goodwin weaves together the dry facts of the war with the colorful emotions and impossible decisions Lincoln was faced with in such a way that I was on the edge of my seat thinking "What's gonna happen?!?!?"

One thing that particularly got me was the racial climate at the time. Probably the recent read of Uncle Tom's Cabin served as a comparison. As a Northerner (or "winner") we're sort of taught that the Union was all abolitionists, who (obviously) were for equality. So not true. Pretty much no one wanted freed slaves to be citizens, vote, mix with white folks or have any rights whatever. Some people thought we should ship them back to Africa or South America where they could eradicate a native population, colonize and start their own civil war. Classy, America. Even Lincoln didn't think mixed races could coexist. It's the most bizarre thing. In context, it wasn't that long ago that this-the most racially diverse country in the world-thought the only way to have two races in one place is to enslave one of them. People wanted to keep the Irish out.

The other stunning thing to me is the evolution of the American attention span. Y'know those "American-style" debates they are trying out in Britain? Think back to the last one you saw. Each person gets something like two minutes to make their argument and one gets a 30-second rebuttle. In those actual Lincoln-Douglass debates (for Senate) they each spoke for two hours. No soundbite. No 4 second blip. Two hours of nuanced, detailed discussion of issues people care about. Farmers came in and stood in the hot sun the whole day to observe this. Can you imagine? I haven't sat through anything longer than 2 hours since "LOTR: Return of the King" opened. We live in a sad world. It's no wonder we're stupid.

I can't recommend this book highly enough to people with an interest in American history and strong arms (or an e-reader).