Friday, March 14, 2008

You Can Read

I've got way too many books. I also like to switch them up depending on my mood. So I've got one here, one there; all read a bit, none finished. You can tell a lot about my brain by the way I read books.

Right now I'm juggling the following:

Puddn'Head Wilson, by Mark Twain.

If you thought there were a lack of original stories out there, read this. This was written during Mark Twain's "cynical" days, and he mocks the institution of slavery. He writes about a slave woman named Roxy. She's as white as I am, but she descended from blacks, so she's a slave. The thing is Roxy has a baby that is born around the same time as her masters baby. Both babies are white, so what does she do? She switches the babies, to give hers a better life.

After the switch, she watches her son grow up to be a rich, educated white man. But he (get this)...beats her! He beats her so severely she races off down the river. She ultimately comes back, and gives him one more chance to be nice to his "mammy" but he beats her again, so she tells him the truth: She's his mother and she'll tell everyone he's a "nigger" unless he gives her half his allowance. Hysterical.

Now they're friends, secretly. But her son is about to lose his inheritance because of massive gambling debts he's run up, so Roxy comes up with a solution. "I'm worth $800," she says. "You can sell me!" And he does.

****

7 Habits of Highly Effective People
, by Stephen Covey.

The habits are great. But I'm already on habit 6 and I'm still unemployed.

****

The God Delusion by Richard Hawkins

Only just begun this one, but it may be best summed up by the Emerson quote he put on chapter two: "The religion of one age is the literary entertainment of the next."

****

Manifest Your Destiny, by Wayne Dyer

A gift from my friend Paul. As with the habits, I need to stop reading and start manifesting.

****

The Post-Birthday World, by Lionel Shriver

A fascinating book. The protagonist, Irina McGovern, starts the book in a relationship of ten years. Then one night she cheats on her long-time boyfriend with their mutual friend Ramsey. Or does she cheat on him? The chapters then alternate. In one string, she did hook up with Ramsey, in the other she didn't. We see what happens to her life and relationships in two parallel stories.

The plot is predictable (if in one chapter she's the victim, the next chapter she's guaranteed to be the monster), but what makes this book incredible is the writer. She's got a wicked talent for truth. Take this passage, for example, when Irina reminisces about her relationship and the days (long since gone) when her lover would tear off her clothes in a fit of sexual passion:

Everyone understood: that's what you did at "the beginning," and she and Lawrence were in the middle. Or she had thought for ages that they were in the middle, though you couldn't read your own life like a book, measuring the remaining chapters with a rifle of your thumb. Nothing prevented turning an ordinary page on an ordinary evening and suddenly finding that you weren't in the middle but at the end.

****

Just like life, eh? At least her child doesn't grow up to beat her. What are you reading?

4 comments:

Robin said...

You need to join Goodreads.com so we can keep up on your reading material! I am a multi task reader too. Currently reading Wolves of Calla by Stephen King (I will get through the Dark Tower Series!), Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer (lesson is don't go meandering into the Alaskan wilds when you get the wanderlust), Fledgling by Octavia Butler (excellent author who adds a new spin to vampires), and finally A Fistful of Charms by Kim Harrison because everyone needs some campy fun.

damedaxx said...

I lived in London for most of the 90's, and went through a period of compulsive book-buying.

I once waited in line for 4 hours at a Clive Barker signing. I had no idea who he was but there was a huge line snaking down Oxford Street waiting to see him so I joined it.

After 5 years of this I had over a thousand books, mostly hard-back and many signed. I even shipped most of them to New York when I moved here in 2001.

Over the past 18 months I've been gradually donating them to the Salvation Army and thrift shops. My target by this summer is to own no more than a couple of dozen books. The ones that bring to mind a particular time, place or person, rather than anything to do with the book itself.

Oh, and of the several thousand books that I bought, I never read any. I didn't want to damage the spine. And I arranged my otherwise chaotic apartment so that no books were in direct sunlight.

I have finally started to read my first book in about 15 years:

"Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in the Markets and Life", by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

I'll let you know if I ever finish it.

lwando said...

It's hard for me to read things that are not school orientated at this point as I am busy with my masters. I bought The bluest eys and will be reading it for the first time ever. I finished Kevin Sessums "mississippi sissy" which I loved!

Jesse said...

Thanks for sharing! And Dame Daxx, my dear--how liberating it must be to rid your shelves of all those books!