Thursday, May 28, 2015

Book #2: The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
I actually read this in high school, and honestly - I felt kind of meh about it. It's not that it wasn't good, it just didn't leave any lasting impression on me. I have vague memories of enjoying reading about the jazz age, being super annoyed by the character of Daisy, and feeling angry about the ending and what actually happens to Jay Gatsby.
And then I saw the movie. And I loved it.
(Small disclaimer here: Leonardo DiCaprio is, to me, what *NSYNC was to my sister. He is my white whale. I will love him forever, and it is hard for him to make any movie that I do not at least appreciate. Well. Except maybe "The Wolf of Wall Street," because ew.)
I mean, come on.  Look at that face. I read the whole book with that face in my mind.

But it wasn't just about Leo's portayal of Gatsby. It's the decadence, the hero worship, the unrequited love, the huge fall from grace, and the tremendous gimme-gimme apathy of people that fascinated me. 
So I decided to give the novel another try.  And I loved it.
I found myself underlining passages like crazy. The prose is just so dang pretty:
"There was music from my neighbor's house through the summer nights. In his blue gardens, men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars."
“He smiled understandingly-much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced--or seemed to face--the whole eternal world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself, and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey.”
“I was within and without. Simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.”
And, of course, the most famous line of all:
“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

The ending is still bleak, but it makes sense to me now. I picked up a copy of Tender Is the Night, and I'm hoping it's as satisfying.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Book #1: Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
by Mary Roach

So I'll be the first to admit -- the cover alone almost kept me from reading this book. I hate feet. Like, hate them. Loathe entirely. But my curiosity won out in the end, and I was pleasantly surprised.

For a book about what happens to human bodies after death, this was weirdly funny. I found myself laughing out loud a few times, and then feeling slightly guilty. Roach approaches the subject with a wry appreciation for what is sometimes ridiculous, i.e. the crazy notions that people had about bodily functions in the dark ages or the unsettling cult-like practices of some overzealous environmentalists, and I appreciated how she kept the subject matter from being too depressing.

The book covers a wide range of "uses" for the body after death - from cremation to composting (yes, there are people who want to do that) to organ donation and medical research - and it's fascinating. 

I think the most unsettling passage in the book deals with her visit to a bonafide body farm in Georgia. Body farms are places where medical research teams place un-embalmed bodies into a natural outdoor habitat and just...wait and see what happens. It makes a Halloween haunted cornfield walk sound like child's play. Roach doesn't shy away from describing all the sights, sounds, and smells that accompany her visit, and I learned pretty quickly that eating while reading this book was going to be a major no-no.

I guess what I really took away from this is that we, as humans, have a very hard time separating the notion of the soul from the body, but in reality - the body is just a shell after the soul has departed.  It should be treated with respect, but we must keep the inner essence of a person separate from their physical housing.

So all in all, this isn't a book for the squeamish, but it was an extremely interesting read.

Is this blog just about books? Yep. Yep, it is.

So I know most people start new projects in January, but since I tend to be the biggest procastinator in the world, I'm starting at the end of May.

If you know me IRL (that means "in real life," for those of you not well-versed in teen-speak. I'm very hip to the way kids talk these days, y'all), you know that I'm more than a little obsessed with books.

I read before bed. I read on my lunch break. I read at the doctor's office. I read in any long line.

And confession - sometimes, when I'm out with people, I'm actually thinking, "I can't wait to get home and finish that book." Unless we're eating Mexican food, and then I'm really only thinking about the queso.

I've had another blog in the past, and while I loved it and haven't completely abandoned the idea of it, I think I might be better at keeping a "books only" blog updated more regularly.

If you like books, and you're anything like me, you like to read reviews.  I do not like to read book reviews that sound like they came from my Chem Lab professor, so if you're looking for super intellectual stuff, you've come to the wrong place. There will be no navel gazing here.

So let's get to it, shall we?