Bookish Updates

I have not done a great job of reading books that check off things on my challenge list but I’ve got 11 more months to do that so I won’t make myself crazy. I’ll focus on finishing the two I’m currently straddling and then switch to a challenge book. I realized a lot of the things I’ve thought about reading have been written by white men. Diversifying is not as easy as it sounds.

I also just discovered The Austen Project was a thing courtesy of Instagram. Penguin talked about the P&P update. I saw it on goodreads as The Austen Project #4 and I now have 4 more books on my to-borrow-from-the-library list. I think this is incredibly cool and am very excited to dive in when I get the opportunity.

Technically I’ve already bought new book #2 but it won’t be in my possession until February so I’m not counting it until then. It ties in with checking off one of my bookish actions so you’ll hear about that in a couple of weeks.

Sticking to It

I discovered this list of 10 Painless Ways To Stick to Your Book Buying Ban on BOOKRIOT. Some of them I already knew but others shed some light on some things.

#10 isn’t the worst idea in the world. At the request of a friend, I created an Amazon list for my birthday. It has several books on it. Going over that wouldn’t be the worst idea but I’ve done that enough.

I do, however, periodically like to go over my TBR list on GoodReads and cull books that no longer appeal to me or I don’t recall what they’re about. My TBR is how I remember to come back to a book I couldn’t get to before. I never feel guilty for taking a book off my TBR because if I can’t remember it, it’s not the right time for it. I strongly believe in book serendipity. If a book is meant to find me, it will.

I really like #3 to review your shelves for something to donate. I just saw that owned so many books I was running out of room but this gave me another way to think about it. “…provides a visceral reminder of how much privilege is implied by the idea of having to work hard not to buy something that many people consider a luxury…”

While I’ve managed to accrue some credit card debt with my book and makeup buying ways, books have never been unavailable to me. My friends have them, I always get gifts cards that can be used to buy more books for my birthday and Christmas, and the library always has them. I have never truly wanted for books. The fact that I live in excess and have the ability to do so speaks to a privilege I often forget I have.

#1 became so true when I was trying to get a copy of Confessions of a Sociopath. Our regular library was out but they were able to hold one for me at a smaller branch. Boyfriend wanted to wander around since we’d never been to this branch before. I wandered past the New Releases section and it was like Christmas. I can take this one home and I’ve been meaning to read that one! Logically I knew the library was my best resource to minimize buying but it didn’t hit home until I actually lived it.

While I have lapsed in January buying something I wasn’t sure would continue to be available to me, I’ve done well otherwise. I haven’t brought home any other books that are due back somewhere by month’s end. Hopefully I can keep this up for most of the year.

What Is Literary Fiction?

Literary fiction is a term we often hear about but doesn’t have a solid definition. Wikipedia defines it as “Literary fiction, also known as serious fiction, is a term principally used for fictional works that hold literary merit, that is to say, they are works that offer deliberate social commentary, political criticism, or focus on the individual to explore some part of the human condition.”

While accurate, it is also more nuanced than that. Here are some other things that help make the literary fiction genre.

It can’t be too accessible, especially when it’s about women, which rules out writers like Caitlin Moran, J. Courtney Sullivan, and Jo Baker. It can’t have to many fantastical things like magic, elves/goblins, ghosts, zombies, parallel dimensions, or space travel so that rules out Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Patrick Rothfuss. It can’t cater to the masses and easily translate into a blockbuster film omitting Dan Brown, John Grisham, and James Patterson. Other common qualifications include:

  • Abstract, artful cover
  • Cannot be too short
  • Must frequently use polysyllabic words
  • Often overly descriptive, vaguely poetic, but rarely sensual
  • NEVER available as a mass market paperback.
  • The convergence of people, places, and emotions must be complicated
  • Nominated for or won a Pulitzer Prize
  • Reviewed favorably by the New York Times
  • Hailed by at least one critic as a ‘new classic’
  • Would never, under any circumstance, be described as a ‘fun romp’
  • One or no fantastical/genre elements
  • The title is never short and/or simple.
  • Occasionally makes you wonder what the point of this story is
  • Anything by David Foster Wallace, Don Delillo, Philip Roth, Norman Mailer, Jonathan Franzen, Haruki Murakami

Delillo gets one genre aspect in White NoiseThe Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan has the various narratives tie together in a complicated way but the stories themselves are not needlessly complicated nor heavy on exposition.

Despite the overwhelming numbers supporting white men as writers and protagonists, literary fiction does have some diversity.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel Americanah would one of the rare few that has a character that isn’t white or from American/Europe. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón and The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson center on young men that lack privilege and Caucasian complexion. Among the consistent female authors of literary fiction are Isabel Allende, Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro, and Ann Beattie. I suspect Meg Wolitzer would qualify as well.

While I respect the need to have more than one sort of ‘general’ fiction available to us, literary fiction to stop being praised as the be-all-end-all of writing. Cameron Diaz isn’t a crappy actress for not making Oscar nominated films and genre writing isn’t inherently bad for existing within a genre. Literary fiction can be pretentious and tedious just as often as it can be amazing.

If you gave me a choice between Tortures of the Damned by Hunter Shea and the infamous Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, I’m going with the apocalypse. I’d rather enjoy myself than fulfill some hipster obligation.

Music Mondays: Funny Ha-Ha

This week I give you songs that have tickled my funny bone. Whether intentional or not they’ve all made me either smile, cackle, or chuckle

Beauty and the Beat by Todrick Hall
Princess Rap Battle: Cinderella vs. Belle by Whitney Avalon featuring Sarah Michelle Gellar
Arlington Rap by GoRemy
Will They or Won’t They? by The Doubleclicks
Blank Space by Taylor Swift
Business Time by Flight of the ConcHords
Poor Unfortunate Subjects by The Geekenders
Hipster Girl by MC Lars
White and Nerdy by Weird Al
Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury by Rachel Bloom
Johnny Dicklegs by Molly Lewis
One of Those Crazy Girls by Paramore

Movie Books of 2016

PopSugar has given me a handy list of books becoming movies in 2016. I resolved to read the book, see the movie, and compare. There are actually several good candidates for me to choose from.

The 5th Wave
Sci-fi, aliens, action. I’ve even seen other grownups reading it on the train. I’m pretty sold.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
The captivating mystery/thriller that was everywhere in 2015. Strangely, I haven’t gotten any spoilers about it yet. Please keep it that way.

The Taliban Shuffle By Kim Barker
Tina Fey starring in it has some serious pull for me

Allegiant by Veronica Roth
I’ve already read the book and enjoyed the other films. I just feel like it’s cheating to not actually *read* something and that book was pretty awful.

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
A unique love story and was everywhere in 2015, including with one of my future sisters-in-law. She was reading it.

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates by Mike and Dave Stangle
The book sounds pretty funny but I worry this might be a slightly less obnoxious Tucker Max equivalent. Plus, I’d actually have to pay to see a movie I’d rather watch on TBS.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
I’ve been wanting to read this since I heard about it. I like dark and creepy and since it’s kid friendly, I should be able to enjoy it without nightmares.

Inferno by Dan Brown
I haven’t read this one yet and I’ve found all the other Robert Langdon stories to be entertaining. However, this movie will be big and I have to deal with the crowds.

Fantastic Beats and Where to Find Them by J. K. Rowling
I love Harry Potter. My first book of 16 was the first illustrated Harry Potter. Reading another book of that world and seeing a movie in the universe I might finally like? Solid contender.

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
I’ve heard amazing reviews and I like weird.

The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman
It’s been in by TBR for a while so it would give me an excellent excuse to read it.

Looking For Alaska by John Green
Green is a phenomenal writer. Occasionally I feel bad he wastes his talents writing about teenagers. I hated Margo in Paper Towns and didn’t find Quentin overly sympathetic either. Although I wonder if it’s fair to expect teenagers to not be so self-absorbed.

Nerve by Jeanne Ryan
Interesting premise and YA books tend to go quickly. Although I fear as I age, I relate to the characters less and the genre loses some appeal.

Never Broken

The first book I started and finished in 2015 was Jewel Kilcher’s Never Broken. An Alaskan musician who was homeless, roughed it, survived many traumas, a cowboy’s sweetheart, and one of the most emotionally intelligent people I’ve ever read.

I never realized how emotionally insightful Jewel was. She seems emotionally wise for beyond her years. I imagine growing up on a homestead and with her complicated home life, it makes you grow up quickly. She said so many sagacious things that I kept writing down page numbers and the pieces I wanted to remember.

“I watched love and life play out in a million ways, but one of the best things I learned was this: You don’t outrun pain.”

“Greatness is never achieved by trying to imitate greatness of another.”

“True cynics kill themselves. The rest are posers, trying to use clever sarcasm and snarky remarks to hide insecurity and the fear that if they put themselves out there, they will fail.”

“[Fame] was all a projection—fame made me a blank canvas that people projected their love, lust, troubles, self-worth, and desire upon.”

“Words can be said easily but one can’t fake actions.”

“A heart can break only if it’s closed—if it remains open, there is nothing to break.”

“My innocence is not lost—it has been converted into wisdom.”

For such a smart, insightful, driven woman, it astounds me that she didn’t see her mother for what she was (someone with a personality disorder). Love can blind us and Jewel is such a good example of when it happens outside of romantic relationships. So desperate to be loved by a mother, she went with it so she could keep holding on. It was sad but I have no doubt she’s stronger for it and a better mother.

While Jewel went into great detail about the creation of her first album, I felt like she skimmed over all the others. We got to know some of the writing process and what went into certain songs (a lot of the time it was Ty or her mother). But she never talked about finally being comfortable in the studio. When did she stop sounding like Kermit the Frog? (She insists you put down the book, go back and listen to Foolish Games and you’ll hear it.) How did she find a set-up where she could ‘feel’ the music? The way she describes seeing and feeling the music reminded me of synesthesia.

Another thing she was very scant about was her Ty. Jewel gave us a good amount but what about his trip up to the homestead for the first time? We have pictures and a couple of lines but I felt like this merited more of a story. We know almost nothing about the breakup. She hints at it but doesn’t say anything directly. While disappointing, I get it.

This was longer than I expected but Jewel has managed to pack a lot of living into 40 years. I grabbed the book from the library after I heard her promoting it on NPR’s Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me… I had a few of her songs but was never a fan. After reading it I’ve been cashing in all sorts of Viggle points to get her music. I am impressed with the depth of 0304. You don’t often sneak that into a pop song.

I give this memoir 4 out of 5 stars. If you’re at all curious, go read it. While it did not fit into my Richer Reading Life Challenge, I wanted to read it. Maybe it will fit into one of the Casual challenges.

Music Monday: One Hit Wonders

Every one knows those bands that have one HUGE hit and then we never hear from them again. Today, I give you some of my favorite one hit wonders.

Save Tonight by Eagle Eye Cherry
Steal My Sunshine by Len
Everything U R by Lindsay Pagano
So in Love with Two by Mikaila
Absolutely (Story of a Girl) by Nine Days
Its About Time by Lillix
I Believe in a Thing Called Love by The Darkness
Girl Next Door by Saving Jane
On the Way Down by Ryan Cabrera
Crazy for This Girl by Evan and Jaron
Listen to Your Heart by D.H.T.
He Luvs You Not by Dream
Barbie Girl by Aqua