Thursday, August 30, 2012

Culture Club

My summer reading continues apace!

Pandemonium is the second book in Lauren Oliver's Delirium series.  Bonus for me that I slept on Delirium because that means that the next instalment was ready to go, published, and in the Library for me when I needed it.  The second book is even better than the first.  The protagonist, Lena has chosen her new life as one of the "uncured" (those who don't go through the procedure that takes away your ability to feel love or passion) living in the Wilds (areas outside of the regulated zones) and has joined the rebels.  A self-actualized heroine is much more interesting to me than the one who still has yet to make the (obvious) choice for free thought, etc.  Now that the world is already established, this book became more action-driven, and there was a big WHAT THE-?! reveal at the end that makes me really really really want the final book to come out soon.  

The Miseducation of Cameron Post is more "serious" YA that can also stand alone as regular fiction, in the vein of Curtis Sittenfeld's Prep or John Green's Looking for Alaska.  Cameron Post's parents die in a car crash the same day she kisses her female friend for the first time.  Living in small-town Montana and now under the care of her born-again aunt, Cameron gets caught fooling around with the town rodeo princess and then gets shipped off to a religious camp that "fixes" gay kids.  Emily Danforth does a fantastic job of evoking the dusty, dirty stillness of small town America.  Each description of the town and the farms surrounding brought to mind the opening credits of Friday Night Lights.  I believe this is Danforth's first novel, which means that some of the passages give way to Writer's Craft-excessive flourishes that make passages describing the sunlight glinting off a haystack a little too much to bear, but overall, the story is a sweet, tender coming-of-age that draws you into a story of being a square peg in a red state.  It's not a very humorous story, per se, but it was an enjoyable read.

The Collective is about three Asian Americans artist friends who meet at college and chronicles the ensuing 20 years post as friendships come together and fizzle apart, all revolving around the exhortations and manoeuvring of their enigmatic, Gatsby-like nucleus, Joshua.  It's also about Asian-directed racism and art and how minorities are always asked to do more in their artistic endeavors than their white counterparts.  Either you're pandering to racial stereotypes or you're white-washing yourself, etc.  All these VERY SERIOUS TOPICS are tackled in the book through discussions among the characters, who are all pretty obnoxious and unlikeable, especially the whiny, feckless narrator, Eric.  The events in the book verge on soap opera and it's all very unbelievable, but in a very Writer's Craft-y way (Don has an MFA - creative writing - and was the editor of some literary journal).  The book never came together for me and actually seemed rather amateurish in parts.  
I became a hardcore Nora Ephron fan this summer.  On the way up to the cottage, I brought her latest, I Remember Nothing as an audio CD to listen to on the drive.  I read: I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman while at the cottage.  The essays are short and sassy and funny and wise.  It's like, the quickest read ever.  I actually prefer the audio CD because Ephron herself reads it and she imbues everything with warmth and is so delightfully chatty.  Sometimes the stuff gets a little to New York-y for me and sometimes it gets a little too "ageing lady" as well (as when she talks about the bald spot on the back of her head), but knowing that she was already sick when she wrote I Remember Nothing gives the recollections and stories an urgency, especially her list of "What I will Miss and Not Miss" that comes at the end of the book.  She lead a fantastic, interesting life and she relays anecdotes with a chatty, matter-of-factness that is quite endearing.  I didn't know she was married to Carl Bernstein (of Watergate and All the President's Men fame).  Pingy actually went to University with her son, which was thrilling to find out.  I'm waiting to get her book Heartburn which is a thinly fictionalized account of her breakup with Bernstein (upon discovering he was having an affair, while she was pregnant with their second child), from the Library.

I will of course be sure to report back.


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