Monday, December 30, 2013

The White Tiger

As Balram begins to tell his story of growing up, surviving and then thriving (this is debatable) in India I wasn't sure I wanted to hear another Slumdog Millionaire story.  I kept reading because the author, Aravind Adiga, threw me a bone, so to speak and then I was hooked.  Balram grew up in the Darkness of India as a smart kid who wormed his way into a job as a driver for a wealthy family.  The bulk of the book is taken up as Balram describes his life and that of his master.  Not his boss, not his employer, his master.  As Adiga describes the injustices in India I wanted to point my finger at India and get very self-righteous about their caste system.  However, my head was also swimming with the questions that I ponder constantly.  How do we keep people in their place here in the U.S.?  How are our social classes actually divided?  Do people from one class actually want to move up to the next class, or do they just want some of the benefits of that class?  The White Tiger is Adiga's first novel and I look forward to reading more from him, as soon as I can emotionally prepare for it.

Sunday, March 10, 2013


There's nothing like a movie based on a book to get me writing again.  When I saw the preview for the new movie Admission with Tina Fey and Paul Rudd I thought, "I think I own that book."  Sure enough I found it in a big stack of "to be read" in my bedroom.  I think Tina Fey is great so I know I'm going to see the movie.  Of course, the way my brain works is that I need to read the book first.  I finished it this afternoon.  Thumbs up, or down?  Hard to say.  I have a feeling Karen Croner (screenplay) will have written what I wish the book had been.  The title is a homonym used in the book to describe Portia Nathan's career as an admissions officer for Princeton University and for the secret that she needs to get off her chest that she's carried for 17 years.  The book is organized according to the cycle of admissions to ivy league universities.  I now know WAY TOO MUCH about admission to ivy league universities.  In fact, the book waxes on so much about the process that I literally thought it was the author's first book.  I was wrong.  So, where was her editor? Other than that flaw, I'd like to say that I like the characters and the setting, etc.  I want to like Portia.  She has some admirable qualities.  Unfortunately, she's just not very likable.  I think the author knows this, as Portia has approximately one friend.  There are a few other likable characters, but only one or two others tied to Princeton.  The author makes ivy league schools seem very disagreeable to someone like me, honestly.  Well, if Tina Fey signed on, then I have faith that the film will be much more enjoyable.  For instance, even in the preview there are a few laughs...whereas the book is most definitely not funny.  In fact, I would say that it takes itself entirely too seriously.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

When I'm in the mood for something relatively "light", but thoughtful, usually with some really good quotable lines, I often look towards Nick Hornby.  It's not his latest, but I have recently finished Juliet, Naked, a novel about the art of music appreciation.  Annie and Duncan are in their early 40s and have been a couple in a small seaside town in England for about 15 years.  Duncan is obsessed with an American singer/songwriter who walked away from his craft abruptly in the mid-80s (Tucker Crowe) whom Annie mildly enjoys but humors Duncan anyway.  When an acoustic version of Tucker's most famous album, Juliet, is released called Juliet, Naked Duncan and Annie's competing opinions of the album call to light the problems with their relationship.  I won't divulge how, but Tucker comes into the picture and challenges the opinions of him and his supposed genius and all three of these characters must confront the meaning of appreciating another's art and the impact that appreciation can have on ones own life.  I enjoyed this book for it's good characters and the overt and sometimes covert question, "What have I done with my life?"   

Thursday, May 24, 2012

I like the show Criminal Minds so I think I was attracted to the description of Killing Time when I read that the main character is a criminal psychologist.  This man, Dr. Gideon Wolfe, lives in New York in the near future.  The world is completely saturated by information from all forms of technology and Gideon begins to question the quality and accuracy of the information when he is very suddenly swept into a conspiracy.  This conspiracy contains geniuses and authoritative figures from many different disciplines (physics, psychiatry, etc.) and is very appealing to Gideon until he begins to question the accuracy and morality of what even the "good guys" are trying to accomplish.  Caleb Carr does a great job of carrying the reader through the questions that Gideon is asking himself through his adventures around the world including musings about the cure being worse then the disease.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Maurice Sendak

While driving to work this morning I heard the news that Maurice Sendak passed away.  What a loss to the world of literature.  I want to write "children's literature", but according to him he didn't write for children.  The radio station I was listening to played an excerpt from a recent interview with Maurice Sendak from Stephen Colbert.  In it, Mr. Sendak said that he didn't write for children.  He wrote stories and then people would say, "That's for children!"  When asked what he thought of the current state of children's literature he called it "abysmal".  Apparently he was a funny guy.  I believe it.  Who could have thought up characters like Max from Where The Wild Things Are or Mickey from In The Night Kitchen?  They are two of the most stubborn, brattiest, and inventive boys we've seen in books.  Well, Mr. Sendak certainly made his mark and now I hope he is able to rest in peace.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Magicians

With big nods to The Chronicles of Narnia and the Harry Potter series I also found myself thinking of The Catcher in the Rye. The book opens with the main character, teenager Quentin Coldwater, mopey, bitter, and lonely in Brooklyn. He is also secretly in love with a popular children's fantasy series about siblings who discovery Fillory through walking into a grandfather clock. Now here's the Harry Potter part...while Quentin is interviewing for admission to Princeton he has a disturbing and strange experience which leads to him being transported to a college for potential magicians. His ensuing years of college are interesting to read about as he seeks happiness in the world of magic that he had only hoped was real. The annoying part is Quentin's adolescent angst about his parents, girls, and friendship. A constant theme of being happy with oneself no matter where you are is great, but living through that growing knowledge with Quentin can become tedious and I found myself wanting to slap him near the end of the book. That being said, it really is worth the read for anyone who has a tolerance for magic and fantasy fiction. If you don't, you might want to take a pass.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Little Giant of Aberdeen County

Truly Plaice is the "little giant" in question. After her mother died in childbirth with her, her father was left with Truly and her older sister Serena Jane. After a very unsatisfying childhood marked with taunts and jeers about her size (height as well as weight), Truly begins her adult life still in the shadow of her beautiful sister. Truly is a beautiful person and the relationships between her and her two closest friends, Amelia and Marcus are the best parts of the book. There are mysterious aspects laced into the book, but these do not drive the plot. This was a very enjoyable book that spans several decades, including the Vietnam War, helping the reader to grow up with Truly as she matures.