Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Kid: What Happened After My Boyfriend and I Decided to Go Get Pregnant - Dan Savage

So on APW's recommendation I read The Commitment. And I hearted it (though it seems I never blogged about it). So like any obsessive reader I had to pick up more books by the same author.

I loved The Kid just as much. Savage is great at weaving his personal story with politics, humor and stats. Basically, Savage and his partner decide to become parents via open adoption and the book tells that story while educating the reader on adoption law, gay rights and Savage's relationship with his own family.

The story starts with Savage in the mire of negotiations to donate sperm to various lesbians. When things fall apart he and his partner go down the rabbit hole of adoption. It's an expensive hole full of paperwork. And straight people dealing with infertility. They end up matched with a homeless, pregnant street kid and finally, finally go home with a baby. Its an emotional experience but also a tedious legal proceding and a rather dull wait. Such is adoption, apparently. There's a lot to take in, and it's totally worth it.

I'd recommend this book to anyone who is interested in adoption, thinking about having kids or is passionate about social justice and finding homes for kids. Totally amusing and educational. My favorite combination.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Church of Dead Girls by Stephen Dobyns

Well. That was interesting. I picked this book off the library shelf because I was intrigued by the title. I thought it would be a simple whodunnit serial killer mystery, but it's really not. It's more about how the suspicion infects the members of a small town, and how it escalates as each girl goes missing. Also, it's very slowly paced, which isn't normally something I would expect from a mystery novel. But I don't read a lot of mysteries, so maybe the pace isn't actually that unusual.

While the pacing does help build the suspense, I really think the book could have been fifty pages shorter. I know the author was trying to give the reader a sense of the town, but honestly, at some point you just want to know who the killer is. And it took forever. By halfway through the book only one girl had gone missing.

The book starts with a prologue describing the room in which the girls' bodies are found. It sets a gloomy mood for the rest of the book. As each of the three girls go missing, you read about the parents and town members searching and praying for the girls' return, but you know the truth. The girls are dead, tied to chairs in someone's attic, dressed in weird decorated robes, surrounded by melted candles. It's the "church" of the title, and it's a very creepy mental image. The most suspenseful part of the book is wondering if Sadie, the young girl whom the narrator lives near, is going to be one of the dead girls.

The book really spends most of its nearly 400 pages describing how the anxieties and suspicions of a small town grow and grow. At first everyone assumes that it must be someone from outside of Aurelius, because certainly none of their friends or neighbors could have done it. As each successive girl disappears, the townspeople become more and more suspicious of anyone whom they perceive as different. It's really a great examination of how a small town turns on its own members. And the big reveal in the last few pages was definitely unexpected. I found myself thinking "how on Earth did these people live with this psycho and not suspect something was up?" And then I remembered that I live in a small town where a three-year-old was stolen out of her own home and murdered, and the president of our library board was convicted of possession of child pornography in Canada. Those incidents are unrelated, btw. There are evil people everywhere, even if you don't suspect them. Terrible things happen all the time. I mean, Criminal Minds has to get its plot ideas from somewhere, right?

Friday, April 8, 2011

rose: love in violent times - inga muscio

Can I just say, I love Inga Muscio? I think I can, because it's unquestionably true. I loved cunt so much I've already read it twice.

rose is a kind of sequel to cunt. cunt was specific (specifically about cunts), microfeminism. rose is macro, the philosophy of cunt splashed worldwide. Muscio talks about violence, not just the kicking and shooting people kind, but the passive violence that seeps into every aspect of our lives, from deforestation to racism to celebrity. We are a violent people.

I'm still processing the book, I tore through it in two sittings so I'm still marinating. The way Muscio can transform a mildly awkward interaction with a neighbor into it's violent core and then contexualize that in both the culture of modern America and our collective history of colonization and war is amazing. In her world, feeding the goats that live behind her house becomes a radical act of love.

Reading Muscio is so inspiring, it (again) makes me put my life and my interactions with my world under the microscope. I can quiet the violence around me. I can walk away from hate and I can unconditionally love the assholes of the world. And now I'm gushing. I have no shame.

Everyone should read Muscio. The End.

In other news - next I'm picking up The Sicilian by Mario Puzo. I've been a little intense lately with the nonfiction so I'm returning to the saga of the Godfather. Still picking up pages here an there in Acid Dreams, but it's a little dry. (Which seems impossible, right? How do you make a story about the CIA experimenting with LSD boring? Maybe by overuse of the word "ironic".)

I love you, internet. And Miranda.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Bossypants by Tina Fey

"I hope that's not really the cover. That's really going to hurt sales." - Don Fey, Father of Tina fey

"Totally worth it." - Trees

You know a book is going to be awesome when even the blurbs on the back of the book are hilarious.

I've been a fan of Tina Fey for years, ever since she first started doing Weekend Update on SNL. This was back when I was young and still had the energy to stay awake past 10pm. She was a tiny, smart, funny brunette. I identified with her. I still do. She rocks the sexy librarian aesthetic by being smart and wearing glasses. I rock the same look by being an actual librarian.

The book is filled with tales from Tina's life, starting as a child growing up in Pennsylvania, through her time at Second City in Chicago (I have also been to Chicago! The similarities are endless), up to her current job as show runner and star of 30 Rock. The book is hilarious, filled with what I assume are the best stories from Fey's life. The book is really more a series of funny stories than a flat, "this happened and then this happened" autobiography, but you definitely get a sense of her life story.

Bossypants is a feminist book, because Fey is a feminists and a "woman in a man's world." Whatever that means. (Wouldn't it be nice if certain areas weren't viewed as a "man's world," but just as part of the world? I look forward to the day that a woman being the head writer for SNL is so commonplace that it doesn't get remarked upon.) Fey is living proof that feminists are not humorless, man-hating bitches. Here are her pointers for women trying to make it in a male-dominated workplace: "No pigtails, no tube tops. Cry sparingly. (Some people say "Never let them see you cry." I say if you're so mad you could just cry, then cry. It terrifies everyone.) When choosing sexual parters, remember: Talent is not sexually transmittable. Also, don't eat diet foods in meetings." Those are wise words, my friend. I work in a female dominated workplace, but these are still applicable to my life.

Obviously, I freaking loved this book. We're getting married, and Abby has agreed to become internet-ordained in order to perform the ceremony. You should absolutely read it, it's quick, funny, smart, silly. You'll probably love it just as much as I do, but you can't marry it because I beat you to it and I'm not into bigamy.

I know I already made it quite clear that I identify with and look up to Tina Fey, but there was one passage in the book that made me feel like I might secretly be Tina Fey. While listing off her faults: "I have no affinity for animals. I don't hate animals and I would never hurt an animal; I just don't actively care about them. When a coworker shows me cute pictures of her dog, I struggle to respond correctly, like an autistic person who has been taught to recognize human emotions from flash cards. In short, I am the worst." Yup. That's me. I'm a cat person, which means I like it when my pets pretty much hate me and leave me alone until they want to be fed. I also like goldfish because they never want to cuddle. That actually explains a lot about me. I am the worst.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Agent Zigzag - Ben Macintyre

Agent Zigzag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love, and Betrayal

and so it is. Agent Zigzag is the story of Eddie Chapman, an English gentleman thief who talked his way out of prison in German-occupied France by becoming a German spy then immediately turned double-agent for Britain.

I quite enjoyed this book. Macintyre found most of the story in recently declassified documents, which gives this outrageous story a strong anchor. It's a deep look at WWII espionage, counterespionage, technology and psychology, but never dull. Chapman is truly a character made for movies - explosives, bank robbery, beautiful women, expensive taste, cover stories and sabotage. And yet often Chapman is restless and bored.

For anybody who likes a spy story (or the tv show Alias) or WWII trivia, this is a must-read. The story is well-written and most of the auxiliary characters are really well fleshed out. Plus there's a certain schadenfreude for the reader as upstanding government employees are compelled to provide a valuable spy with "loose women". The English are appropriately scandalized.

Chapman provided an astounding amount of valuable intelligence to the English at a crucial time in the war and was able to provide just as much valuable misinformation to the Germans, directing bombs away from central London and misleading them about the Allies technological capabilities.

Despite his amazing contribution to the war effort, Chapman was a con man and he was never fully trusted by his British handlers. Macintyre kind of obsesses over Chapman as a psychological study (as did the Germans and the Brits in their time), a man who will "look you straight in the eye while picking your pocket". He's an opportunist, for sure, but at a time of great need he was a patriot. His story is one worth reading, and it seems that Chapman himself would strongly agree.

Macintyre published another book about WWII last year called Operation Mincemeat which made's Top 100 Books of 2010. When I get through the backlog I'll definitely pick that up. At the moment I'm in the middle of Personal History, Katherine Graham's autobiography, two chapters into Acid Dreams, the complete social history of LSD, and I'm quickly consuming Rose by Inga Muscio. Clearly, I lack focus.