I give it an A for Effort, a C for Content

A progress report on #theLIST. I am plugging along, but not as quickly as I like. Out of the 75 books, I have read ten. In the meantime, I have had to balance out the serious with copious amounts of comfort reading and the aforementioned 50 Shades of Grey, which was 100 shades of awful.

My current reading includes Endurance, by Lansing, about Shackelton’s failed expedition. I love a disaster. I did a bit of comfort reading, with classic Mary Stewart’s Wildfire at Midnight, and have picked up my book club book for the next meeting. I own almost all the books on #theLIST, and am pleased with 11 down. I’m definitely reading dangerously, but I only give myself a C. I could have cut out 50 Shades and read Fahrenheit 451. Live and learn.

CROSSED OFF THE LIST

Little Women-Alcott
Jane Eyre-Bronte
My Antoinia-Cather
The Great Gatsby-Fitzgerald
To Kill a Mockingbird-Lee
Animal Farm-Orwell
Slaughterhouse 5-Vonnegut
Breakfast of Champions-Vonnegut
The Color Purple-Walker
Night-Wiesel
Revolutionary Road-Yates

WORKS IN PROGRESS
A Tale of Two Cities-Dickens – HOPELESSLY STALLED
Dr. Zhivago-Pasternak – PLODDING AWAY
Rise and Fall of the 3rd Reich – PLODDING AWAY

As a report – I don’t think I like Dickens, but it is required reading in literature heaven, so I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.

I’d rather read Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel. Doesn’t that count as classic literature? Anyway. . .

I think I’ll move up House at Pooh Corner. It’s short and it always makes me feel all warm inside.

This has been a rather ambitious little undertaking. So far, Revolutionary Road, both Vonneguts, and The Great Gatsby are my favorites. All of them were well worth the time they took to read and the time I spent thinking about them.

9/10 Hearts. A for Effort.

Capote – A New Voice for Me

My familiarity with Breakfast at Tiffany’s has previously been limited to the movie with Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard and a song by Deep Blue Something. I like both the movie and the song very much – both carrying a tiny corner in my heart. I had never read the original Capote and, lo and behold, I have found a new voice to which to listen!

Capote’s style is deceptively simple. His voice is clear and distinct, but never in the foreground. He is not an intrusive author but, rather, one who shows us the foibles and strengths of his characters without judgement. More often, there is a ruefully sad undertone to this novella that is far more poignant than even the final scene in the movie, where Holly Golightly finds Cat in the rain.

Even if a person has seen the movie a thousand times, the novella is worth the read. My familiarity with Capote has been with In Cold Blood, where I appreciated his distance as an author from the subject of his work while providing what could have been tedious details in a compelling narrative that bordered on investigative journalism with the slight addition of perfect adjectives. Breakfast at Tiffany’s finds an unseen and unnamed narrator swept into the whirlwind of Holiday Golightly, Traveling. The seedy side of life is acknowledged without unnecessary shock or surprise. The concept of belonging becomes omnipresent, and the sadness of wondering about belonging runs underneath the words like a river. I am swept away for the moment. I am in another world, in another time, in another place.

To be able to string these words together is to string pearls on a strand. One bead too short and the necklace will not fit. One bead too long and it hangs in quite the wrong place on the throat. Capote strings pearls on strands exactly long enough.

Hearts: 8.5/10. It’s not quite perfect, but I certainly cannot imagine the talent that strung those words together.

Fifty Shades of Conundrum

I recently succumbed to the temptation to step away from #theLIST and pick up the much-ballyhooed Fifty Shades of Grey. I am now fifty shades of confused and conflicted.

I cannot say that this was a good book in which there was some big revelation. I cannot say this book was well written. In fact, this book is as poorly written as any piece I’ve seen in years, to include Twilight, which I thought was a complete waste of paper. In fact, I question whether it was worth the electrons necessary to download it digitally, so I did not. I borrowed my teenage daughter’s set. “Hackneyed” is the best word I can use to describe it. And, sadly, Fifty Shades of Grey was even more wretched. Who knew that was possible?

I cannot say our heroine, Ana, was compelling. I hesitate to say she is even interesting.

I cannot say our hero, Christian, was anything other than apparently an outstanding looking man who wears linen shirts, black jeans, and Converse tennis shoes. Somehow, the whole Converse thing does not make him cool, to me. It makes him a bad dresser. However, stuff hangs off his hips constantly and I am stunned that he does not glow in the light. This dude glows in the dark.

I cannot say that the plot even existed. A series of events occurred, but I would hardly call it a plot.

And yet – I continued to read. The entire writing style, with its internal dialogues with “inner goddesses”, which I apparently do not have, was artificial at best and stupid at worst. The continual series of e-mails between our hero and heroine were, at times, amusing and, at other times, pathetic. They were certainly contrived to move the lack of plot along without the author having to think too much. The author needs a much larger vocabulary and needs to abandon the word “clamber” immediately. Also, our heroine’s continual “Holy (insert expletive here)!” exclamations eventually wear on the nerves and have all the impact of a Robin/Batman exchange.

“Holy editing fail, Batman!”

And yet, I kept reading.

I know, deep in my heart, that I will read the two sequels, just as the little Twi-hards read all those miserable Twilight books.

Somehow, this book has made inroads into selling pseudo-erotica to the mainstream adult female population. I say pseudo-erotica, because even that is not particularly well done. It certainly is not as hard core as the press makes out. Sure, it has its hot points, but it also has its “yuck” points. The two kind of cancel each other out.

But here is the conundrum – I kept reading. Part of it is the literary equivalent to rubber-necking – when something is so terrible you keep looking to make sure you saw it correctly. Part of it my inner writer, who, unlike an inner goddess, is looking for what is marketable in today’s “romance” (using the term quite loosely) genre. And part of it is that I want to buy into the fantasy.

You see, I lead a hum-drum life. I have a nice husband who is uncomplicated, is able to commit to a relationship, and certainly is not Midas-level rich. As Grey showers Ana with gifts and experiences (of all sorts, on most of which I will take a pass), the fantasy is not in the sex. The fantasy is that she can change this twisted sex-god into an ordinary guy, like my husband.

Can love change a man? It certainly did for good old Bella and Edward. It took her four books to get him to marry her and have their cross-breed baby and become a vampire. How long will it take our heroine to turn the fantastic Mr. Grey into an ordinary guy who is willing to invest all his considerable worldly goods and other goodies in only our ordinary heroine?

E.L. James is selling a fantasy – but it has nothing to do with kinky sex. It is the fantasy that we, as women, can fix damaged men and make them ordinary.

Hmmm. Now I’m really in a conundrum. Take the exotic, make it ordinary, and call it a fantasy? I thought it was the other way around. . .

Anyway, Fifty Shades and I will be spending some time together. Not because it is a worthy read. It is not. But it gives me some insights into what the adult woman theoretically wants from a romance novel.

I really don’t recommend this series to anyone who actually has a grain of sense. However, I am not finished rubber-necking. I’ve got to see this fantasy through to the end.

I begin to question my intelligence. It is not the first time. It won’t be the last. But this, indeed, is a serious blow to my supposed intellect. Believing in Fifty Shades is like watching the Real Housewives of New Jersey and thinking they are real housewives. I don’t believe. But I do love a disaster. It is a conundrum to be discussed in therapy, I think.

I give this book 3 hearts. And that is a pretty dang generous rating.