Spotted: The Bluest Eye

We saw this young lady reading Toni Morrison’s first novel, the Bluest Eye.

Apparently, because the book looks at racism and child molestation, otherwise known as things that really happen, there have been campaigns to ban it from schools.   Morrison is a frequent contributor to the list of most frequently banned and challenged books, so I’m sure she’s used to the attention.



Spotted: The Jumbee(?)

This reader was wearing a Columbia fleece jacket and hat with a logo from some sort of outdoor adventures outfit.  I figured the book would involve a strong male protagonist physically overpowering his obstacle.  Probably outside.  In the woods.  With his bare hands and, like, his resolve.  The only thing I could make out was the word “Jumbee.”  So you can imagine my surprise when I searched online (you’re welcome Google) for “Jumbee” and “book” and found a book called “The Jumbee” with this as its description:

When Esti Legard starts theater school on Cariba, she’s determined to step out of the shadow of her late father, a famous Shakespearean actor. But on an island rife with superstition, Esti can’t escape the darkness. In the black of the theater, an alluring phantom voice-known only as Alan-becomes her brilliant drama tutor, while in the light of day Esti struggles to resist her magnetic attraction to Rafe, the local bad boy. Toppled sets, frightening rumors of jumbee ghosts, and brewing tropical storms culminate in a tantalizingly spooky finale where romance sizzles and truths are unmasked.  Laced with eerie mystery and the lush scenery of the West Indies, this modern Phantom is perfect for readers who like their love stories served with spine-tingling suspense.

Romance?  Theater?  DRAMA TUTOR?  Now that just can’t be right.  Apparently a Jumbee is a “type of mythological spirit or demon” in the folklore of several Caribbean nations, so it’s quite possible he is reading some other, perhaps more difficult-to-find-out-of-print book about some 18th century British colonialist encountering and tangling with the Jumbees summoned by a local Voodoo Witch MD/PhD in Montserrat.  Yeah.  I like the sound of that.

Spotted: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Growing up, I loved reading the tales spun by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle about Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.  The mystery and intrigue drew me in and was tempered only by my oscillating feelings of whether Holmes was a misunderstood genius or just an asshole with a knack for observation.  When I saw this title on the train the other day, it reminded me of Sherlock Holmes.  Many of Doyle’s short stories have similar titles.

Turns out I was playing right into the hands of the evil Professor Moriarty author Mark Haddon, whose protagonist, an autistic teenager, actually loves the logical Sherlock Holmes and brings to mind he of the The Seven-Per-Cent Solution himself.  So, good title there Mr. Haddon.  With one glance you had me on 221B Baker Street.

Spotted: So long, see you tomorrow

Well, I won’t, because I’m heading out of town for Memorial Day.  Considering the habitual use of the phrase, I was surprised to see this book turn up in the top results when I googled the title.  The description does sound quite interesting though.

In this magically evocative novel, William Maxwell explores the enigmatic gravity of the past, which compels us to keep explaining it even as it makes liars out of us every time we try. On a winter morning in the 1920s, a shot rings out on a farm in rural Illinois. A man named Lloyd Wilson has been killed. And the tenuous friendship between two lonely teenagers—one privileged yet neglected, the other a troubled farm boy—has been shattered.Fifty years later, one of those boys—now a grown man—tries to reconstruct the events that led up to the murder. In doing so, he is inevitably drawn back to his lost friend Cletus, who has the misfortune of being the son of Wilson’s killer and who in the months before witnessed things that Maxwell’s narrator can only guess at. Out of memory and imagination, the surmises of children and the destructive passions of their parents, Maxwell creates a luminous American classic of youth and loss.

Good read for a long weekend.  Have a great Memorial Day!

Spotted: World War Z

World War Z? What is this book about?!  Did we have so many World Wars that we had to ditch Roman numerals and go alpha-numeric?  Does Z stand for something, like Zinc or Zelda?  So curious, let’s look it up.

Ah, looks like it signifies “zombies.”  And it’s about to be a motion picture, starring Mr. Pitt himself who, as we all know, sympathizes with the undead to such an extent he married one (I kid, I kid).  From the review:

The Zombie War came unthinkably close to eradicating humanity. Max Brooks, driven by the urgency of preserving the acid-etched first-hand experiences of the survivors from those apocalyptic years, traveled across the United States of America and throughout the world, from decimated cities that once teemed with upwards of thirty million souls to the most remote and inhospitable areas of the planet. He recorded the testimony of men, women, and sometimes children who came face-to-face with the living, or at least the undead, hell of that dreadful time. World War Z is the result. Never before have we had access to a document that so powerfully conveys the depth of fear and horror, and also the ineradicable spirit of resistance, that gripped human society through the plague years.

Huh.  I’m getting a little tired of zombies, to tell you the truth.  On a scale of overuse, I think they’re approaching stage “Vampire.”  Don’t get me wrong, I like zombies as much as the next guy, and I will have a conversation with you about why slow zombies are better than fast zombies.  But it just seems like you can’t throw a flesh-craving cat by it’s bony tail these days without hitting the living dead.

That all said, the perspective from which this is written, as post-zombie war oral history, is pretty novel.   Reminds me a bit of War of the Worlds.  Though hopefully no one will read this book or see this movie and start chopping off the heads of everyone who just looks kind of tired or ill.

But make sure you don’t buy it from the zombies at Amazon.  Buy it here and help fund the human resistance!  Or something.

Spotted: 1Q84

This is kind of cheating, because it was your author who just turned the last page of this book today during his morning commute.   But maybe you spotted me reading it, ha ha! And I also saw at least two other people over the past few weeks.  And this significant, because as a 900+ page hardback, it is no easy feat to haul this around and pull it out on even a mildly crowded train/bus.   I wouldn’t have dreamed of it at first, but I became so sucked into this story, that I would actually take the (slower) bus, rather than the (sometimes faster) train, just so I could more likely get a seat in the morning and get lost in the year 1Q84 with Murakami and the bizarre worlds he convinces us to believe and care about.   It might be the case that since The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle was my first Murakami book, I will always think that was his best effort, but 1Q84 isn’t too far behind, imho.  Well worth the effort to shove in your bag somehow and read.

Fabulous Nobodies

SF, you never cease to amaze me.  From the review:

Before Bridget Jones, Carrie Bradshaw, and the Shopaholic, it was a world of Fabulous Nobodies

Holy Shit.  Leave it to a SFer to find the “I was Bridget Jones before being Bridget Jones was cool” book.  This also seems fairly hard to find, giving it even extra hipster cred.  “Oh, you liked Sex and the City?  You should read this book that, like, totally set the stage for it.  It came out like a LONG time ago.  Yeah, I’m not surprised you haven’t heard of it.  I found it at (insert one: Strand/Powell’s) on my last trip to (insert one: NYC/Portland)”

Spotted: The Bible Repairman

I’m going to coin a phrase.  Ready?  “Don’t judge a book by its title.”  On more than one occasion I have assumed the content of the book based on its title, only to be surprised by what I learn upon doing a little research.  Maybe I’ve watched too many episodes of Biblical Mysteries, but I thought that this book was going to be a nonfiction account of one of the archeologists or some other person involved in trying to piece together the provenance of the dead sea scrolls or some of the later discovered gospels.*

Turns out I managed to find yet more fantasy.  As you might be able to glean from the title, “The Bible Repairman and Other Stories,” is a collection of short stories, one of which deals with a guy who is hired to edit bits out of the Bible that his clients find problematic.  That actually sounds quite interesting.  For purely literary reasons of course.

* As an aside that (I’ve discussed in more detail before and) might only be interesting to me, in 1944 the great Jorge Luis Borges wrote a short story entitled “Three Versions of Judas,” in which a case is presented (in the form of a scholarly critique of a fictitious religious academic, no less) that it was in fact Judas, and not Jesus, who must have been the son of God because he actually sacrificed much more.  Judas’ sacrifice of becoming the incarnation of evil and betrayal for the entirety of human history to follow far outdoes an afternoon strung up on a cross.

In the early naughts, a text unearthed in Egypt during the 1970s was translated and discovered to be the text of something called the gospel of Judas.  In this gospel of presumptively gnostic origin dating from the 2nd century AD, a slightly different account of Judas is given than that in the Bible.  According to the text, Jesus actually asked Judas to turn him over to the Romans, because it was only in this way that his spirit could be released from its earthly form.

Point Borges.