Monday, July 14, 2008

Books Read

Girlbomb: A Halfway Homeless Memoir by Janice Erlbaum

4 of 5 stars
A co-worker saw me with this book and warned me it could be triggering around drug issues...not an issue for me. What is it about super-smart girls and getting involved with drugs early? Author Janice Erlbaum leaves home because she told her mother if he took the abusive stepfather back, she would. This is her story about that time. I knew I was in for a good read at this early sentence:

Dave Malley was crazy. He smelled crazy. He smelled like bad soup and aluminum foil, and his unfiltered camels left murky stains on his fingers and teeth. I was introduced to Dave when I was twelve years old, and I wrote down that he was itchy.
The moment Janice told her mother this was when Dave attempted to kidnap his and her mother's baby. When he came back, Janice left, and went directly to a shelter. There, drugs cured boredom, and "group therapy" was about "How bad can I admit I am?" She hung out in Washington Square. Part of what tickled me about this book, for once a place was mentioned that I had visited. She did a lot of acid.
Some people will tell you that LSD makes you paranoid. Paranoid, hah! --aware is more like it. Acid elucidates all those things you would ordinarily take for granted: the color of the clouds, the frailty of the social contract, the disgusting miracle of the human body...
Of course I'm fascinated with descriptions of the use of drugs that I've never done, but more than that, this was a great memoir of a strong young woman who creates her life the way she

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

rating: 5 of 5 stars
One of my favorite authors to read in the 90s, reading this again for my book group reminded me that it's been too long since I've read Vonnegut.

People often focus on the time-travel, but gloss over the significance of the beginning. Vonnegut himself really did go back to Dresden, really did win Guggenheim money, really did take over twenty years to write about Dresden. He writes, "I think about how useless the Dresden part of my memory has been, and yet how tempting Dresden has been to write about...." He has to keep singing the same song over and over, invoking a limerick and a song, "My name is Yon Yonsen..."

At the end of the first chapter, perhaps to let the reader know that this song will not go on forever, he says this:
Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time.

It ends like this:
I wonder if he could have written of horrific war scenes any other way but a man unstuck in time. While I love Vonnegut for the science fiction elements, I cannot help but read those elements as metaphors of a philosophy. When a death occurs, the Tralfamadorians say, "So it goes." They create books in a way I think Vonnegut wished us to read this book. It is very Zen...very Dogen.
"...each clump of symbols is a brief, urgent message--describing a situation, a scene. We Tralfamadorians read them all at once, not one after the other. There isn't any particular relationship between all the messages, except that the author has chosen them carefully, so that, when seen all at once, they produce an image of life that is beautiful and surprising and deep. There is no beginning, no middle, no end, no suspense, no moral, no causes, no effects. What we love in our books are the depths of many marvelous moments seen all at one time."
Marvelous, funny, profound, tragic moments, all contained in a whole that couldn't be written for the longest time. I read this a year after Vonnegut died. So it goes.

A Wrinkle in Time A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

rating: 3 of 5 stars
For it's time, this was ground-breaking, and is a classic sci-fi book for kids. I recall liking it more when I was young, but now it seems more dated and less sophisticated. Strong Christian themes make it less appealing to me.

The Golden Dream of Carlo Chuchio The Golden Dream of Carlo Chuchio by Lloyd Alexander

rating: 4 of 5 stars
Carlo Chuchio loves to read and daydream. His name, translated as a certain braying animal, earns him further disdain. He works in his uncle's business as a clerk, but his imagination doesn't do well with numbers.

A bookseller gives him a book, and in it Chuchio finds a map. He will seek the treasure, and adventure. After a costly mistake, his uncle sends him on his way with a little money to get started.

Complete with swords, a maiden in need of help, a questionable guide, it's a book made for dreamers. This was the last book offered by Alexander before he died. I can't say I've read any others. Time to get started...

For a better review, go here. I took just too long between time of reading and reviewing.

View all my reviews.

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