Archive for the ‘Books I read in the past’ Category

Life wish-list

Friday, March 20th, 2009

I think this post will be something that I come back to time and time again to update. A running list of my obsessions, if you will.

  • Lucy Knisley-French Milk
  • Adrian Tomine-Scrapbook-
  • Leanne Shapton-Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion, and Jewelry (this is already winning as my favorite book of 2009)
  • All of Y (I only have 1,3-6. I lent 2 to someone and I forget who.)
  • Jason Lutes-Berlin collected volumes (I HAVE TO HAVE THESE. I must have a benevolent and wealthy admirer out there. Where are you? Buy me these PLEASE. These are so good and important and relevant. I must own them.)
  • etc
  • etc
  • etc

Spring break.

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

I don’t get a spring break, because I am a working class schlepp, so that title is a big ol’ joke. I get the week off of classes, which is good and fine, but otherwise–HAH. 9-5. I am taking an untraditional mini-vacay tomorrow and going north, the way the birdies don’t go (so not Cancun). OMC are taking a brother-trip to Toronto for a long weekend (we both have brothers there. We are so friggin’ cute. We planned it that way.)

I had to put off Louise Erdrich readings because I think I burnt myself out. I finished the Beet Queen and ultimately have high praise for it, but when I started to read the next in line, Tracks, I just couldn’t do it. I feel bad about this, but I’ll pick it up again later (I accidentally have two copies of it checked out of two different libraries. This signifies I have two problems. One: forgetfulness, the other: obsessiveness). Over the weekend I instead started the Sportswriter, by Richard Ford, which I kind of think is hilarious but am not sure if I’m supposed to. I will get back to this, too.

Other readings:

  • Jar of Fools: a picture story - Jason Lutes (Sherman Alexie wrote the intro and I was like, “Argh hero.” Pretty dec.)
  • Sweater Weather - Sara Varon (this book is fucking adorable and you will hug it close to your chest and want it to be your friend and drink hot chocolate with you, if you are anything like me. It reminded me infinitely of Salamander Dream, by Hope Larson, which is equally adorable and friendable.)
  • Walking Dead v.2-3 – Robert Kirkman & Tony Moore (I don’t want to think these are good, but there it is, they kinda are. Oops? I read v. 1 over a year ago and then kinda forgot about the series because I was so obsessed with Lucifer.)
  • Preacher v. 1 - Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon (This, so far, is AWESOME. I love the story. I loooove it. It’s seriously so exciting.)

Also, I finally got season 3 of Always Sunny (thanks OMC!!!). This show is probably for people who don’t have morals. What can I say. I think it’s incredible.

In Toronto, I will get to visit my favorite bookstore of all time, which means I will return with piles of loot that I don’t and won’t have time to read for months. This is part of being me, though, and I have accepted it. Stoked!

Epic fail

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

I went to visit my grandparents on Sunday. They filled me with deep-fried goodness. French fries, onion rings, fried zucchini, fried mushrooms. On top of that, sadly un-fried pumpkin pie. I wanted to die. My body is not meant for such consumption. I am the kind of girl who would be extremely content eating sprouts and Pink Lady apples for the rest of her life. I should have been rolled home down the Pennsylvania turnpike. I was exceptionally full, and in fact still couldn’t eat yesterday. Therefore, there was no cooking in my house. Not a thing. Therefore I have no recipes, except for the recipe of self-destruction, which I am newly well-acquainted with and reads something like:

veggie burger + cheese + onions + mayo + ketchup + french fries + onion rings + fried zucchini + fried mushrooms + hot peppers + chunk of garlic + can of Coke (they don’t believe in drinking water, I don’t think) + pumpkin pie = stomach-clutching burping disgusting illness.

In book news, I finished Love Medicine (need I tell you it was great?) and started the Beet Queen (which, by the way, should probably be my middle name). I woke up at the crack of dawn on Saturday morning and tore through Adrian Tomine’s Scrapbooks, which I keep reminding myself to buy because it’s one of those “need to own” books.

I hardly ever ever ever talk about movies, but last night big brother and I went to see Wendy & Lucy and I felt like someone punched me in the stomach with a sadness punch. I can’t watch movies that make me this anxious. Yes, it was pretty, and yes, Michelle Williams is pretty much a babe and I think I’m going to have that hairstyle accidentally in about two days and yes movies about dogfriends break my heart, but oh my god, did I ever need a hug after it. Old Joy didn’t do this to me. I resent this lingering sadness feeling. Needin’ a hug. Needin’ a hug.

For the love of books

Friday, February 20th, 2009

I’ve referred before (and recently) to my obsessions with things small and large. This time, I’ve really done it.

As a wee lass, I read, adored, and quoted constantly, Jean Craighead George’s epic book My side of the mountain. It features my little hero Sam Gribley, who runs away from the big city life and with the help of a friendly small town librarian (in the movie, I should have been cast as this role), adapts successfully to LIFE IN THE WILD. He also has the help of a fierce and totally awesome peregrine falcon that he stole from a nest as a baby and trained to kill his small game for him. I’m paraphrasing, because my brain officially retires at 4:30 on Fridays, but let it be told that Frightful and Sam are amazing, and I decided I couldn’t live without Frightful for much longer.

baby girl

Frightful! In the flesh.

My burgeoning love of Louise Erdrich <3

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

I don’t think it should come as a surprise to anyone that I can get mildly (or, uh, incredibly) obsessed with things/authors/directors/celebrities/series/people etc. I have a tremendous capacity for things like this. Say I discover an author. Let’s say, Ian Frazier. I read one book. I love it. I read another book of his. I love it. I think, “I have to read them all. OMG. Immediately.” So I start at the beginning. I read his first book. Then the next, the next, the next, and so on. I think about them, and conceptualize them, and talk incessantly to people who don’t care about how much his writing style has changed/hasn’t changed, how he loves Ojibwe Indians more/less than in the beginning, etc. I get so fucking consumed by the things that I love! I think this might be an endearing trait, but I’m not sure yet.

Basically, my new obsession is Louise Erdrich. Again, probably not surprising. Upon finishing Plague of Doves, I decided I had to read them all. So, in true “me” style, I’m starting at the beginning, with Love Medicine. 132 pages in, I’m so thankful there’s a family tree laid out at the start of the book. I really love this woman. This new love, it’s going to be bad. I can tell.

Also, weekend comic/graphic novel readings:

  • Julie Doucet-Long time relationship
  • Leanne Shapton-Was she pretty (neither of these was as remotely romantic as they sound)
  • Seth-It’s a good life, if you don’t weaken (adored this!)

Weekend non-comic reading that I am embarrassed to admit:

Coffee at Luke’s: an unauthorized Gilmore Girls gabfest (this isn’t even remotely good. Not at all. It’s fucking stupid, and annoying, and I hate 80% of the authors. I could barely get through this book.)

I am writing a reading list. For a class I’m not allowed to teach.

Thursday, February 5th, 2009

I assigned myself a reference question that I have, ultimately, little to do with. This is because I am a dork, and also because I am a little nosy. OMC is writing a syllabus for a year-long ethnography course and is trying to pick the books he would teach in it. I, naturally, flipped out at the chance to help (although it must be said, he didn’t technically ask for my help). I live for questions like this on the reference desk. A question like this gives me the chance to play with my beloved Library of Congress subject headings (LCSH). Subject headings can be positively joyous to use in a reference interview, although simultaneously problematic in that they are historically kind of racist, sexist and homophobic, but that is not the focus of this blog entry, although ought to be in the future (also, really great catalogers are working to remedy this every single day).

I had a few books off the top of my head that I would consider ethnographic, and that I would teach if I were OMC:

Marjorie Shostak’s Nisa: the life and words of a !Kung Woman (I want OMC to teach this because that ! is pronounced as a tongue cluck, and sitting in on this lecture would crack my shit up because he has an unbelievable amount of trouble doing the cluck. Also this is, like, standard issue cultural anthropology 101. I don’t know anything at all about anthropology but I know that this book is incredible, and that it taught me a ton about PMS in places other than America/western countries. It also taught me about having a baby in the bush. Which I don’t want to do.)

Telipit Ole Saitoti’s World’s of a Masai Warrior: an autobiography (I hesitate to put this on my booklist because that already means there will be two ethnographic books about African countries, and I don’t want the focus of this course to be too heavily skewed towards any one demographic, but alas, this book is equally great, and also horrified the shit out of 17 year-old me when Telipit gets circumcised and writes about it in terrifying detail.)

Philippe Bourgois’ In Search of Respect: Selling crack in El Barrio. (Sometimes in my brain I make a list of the people that I would write letters to if I had the time. These are people that I would write letters to simply because I admire them, and think that they’re doing wonderful, admirable things, and also that I want to grow up and be a little like them. I would give my foot to study with Bourgois at Penn. I am that impressed by him. This book changed my life. I don’t say this lightly. It has to be on an ethnographic syllabus. Also, Bourgois has a 26-page long CV. My CV is maybe a paragraph long. I need to write him a letter. And learn to be an anthropologist so I can study with him at Penn. Which leads me to wonder if I can convince OMC to shrug off his morals to let me take his classes so I can get credit in Anthropology. He won’t.)

So those are the books that I am POSITIVE have to be on the syllabus. I’m having some trouble weeding out ethnography/enthnology titles via LCSH. There are 1008 titles that are probably really great JUST AT MY LIBRARY. Imagine what we don’t have that’s amazing. Oh my god. My brain is exploding a little bit. I want to write a syllabus so badly.

I am convinced (by table of contents, LCSH, etc) that the following titles must also be on the syllabus:

Dangerous encounters : genealogy and ethnography, edited by Maria Tamboukou & Stephen J. Ball (this book has a chapter on drug treatment clinics! Neat!!!)

Gray areas : ethnographic encounters with nursing home culture, edited by Philip B. Stafford (unusual! Weird! Fun! Depressing.)

Frank Schaap’s The words that took us there : ethnography in a virtual reality (this is about gamers, and Dungeons & Dragons, and if you know OMC, you know that this book will be taught in DISGUSTING DETAIL)

I have about 600 additional titles (literally) to weed through, but if you have any suggestions, lay ‘em on me. I am writing the best syllabus ever that is not my responsibility to write.

I don’t mind stealing bread

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

When I was in tenth grade, I sat at a lunch table with 5 other girls. They all had some variation of an eating disorder, or claimed to, in the least. I liked to eat copious amounts of food then (uh, still do), and was the size of a fly, and thus, Melinda daily running to the bathroom mid-lunch to barf up her ice cream sandwich was kind of a mystery to me. This might have been where my fascination with eating disorders began: cafeteria, dieters, Gina’s acid breath, the little stack of carrot slices Kris alloted herself per day. Either way, hello life-long fascination.

Going Hungry: writers on desire, self-denial, and overcoming anorexia (ed. by Kate Taylor) is a compilation of essays by 17 essays by various women writers (and in a nod to the newsflash that men are struck by eating disorders just as easily as women, one essay by a male writer). For the most part, these are heavy essays. They are largely sad, and strange, and deeply upsetting. I sometimes felt like I didn’t belong while reading them. Like an outsider, or worse yet, a voyeur.

I would like to say that this book could serve as a warning, or in the least, a cautionary lesson to young men and women, but I can’t. At points in nearly every essay, anorexia and bulimia are glamorized, are heralded; the writers claim to have felt sexy and more beautiful than ever whilst binging and purging. This book offers little hope. It offers few solutions to the readers who might have come to its pages looking for an answer, or for help. To the converse: it likely holds a few more secrets for those seeking a new fullness strategy, or another way to hide their disorder, or an easier way to vomit (yes–they even chronicle this). I wanted this book to slap me in the face and disgust me and terrify me and horrify me and I wanted to give a copy of it to a child of mine someday so they’d never be like the girls at my lunch table. Anorexia and bulimia are ugly, vicious diseases–make no mistake of this–but never, ever, do these essays show that. Writers flippantly talk of being hospitalized, near to death, and it’s no big deal. I realize that the point of these essays was largely not to solve a huge issue in a few hundred pages, but, c’mon.

My other complaint with this book, and maybe this is neither here nor there, is the homogeneity of the writers. The majority are white (one is black, another–the only male–hispanic). Most are monied. Most go to Ivy League schools–Harvard, Yale & Stanford are tossed around casually by the majority of the authors. This is a flat representation of a disease that plagues countless demographics. Why not show that?

I came away from this book mostly feeling very, very sad, and simultaneously quite helpless. It is perhaps not within the scope of this book to have included even an iota of a solution, but I can’t help feeling that it’s all too necessary regardless.

For a truly ugly and fantastic look at eating disorders, I highly recommend Marya Hornbacher’s memoir, Wasted : a memoir of anorexia and bulimia. It is the book that Going Hungry could never be.

12 things I can get behind:

Friday, October 31st, 2008

-any beer that Red Hook makes, but in particular, ESB


-growing one’s hair out

-written correspondance

-Alice Munro’s short story “A Bear Came Over the Mountain” & less-so, but still something I would get behind if there were a fight about it or something, Sarah Polley’s film based on the story, “Away From Her” (this is not just because I LOVE Sarah Polley and sad stories about old people, either)

-going to Canada/dreaming about Nova Scotian real estate

-making fake meatball subs (um, hello YUMMY)

-playing Uno

-family time

-dog walkin’

-getting up early when there’s no reason to

-Koha (dangerously, beautifully addictive & dorky)

My foray into Buffy studies

Thursday, October 16th, 2008

I am, like, the world’s worst blogger. My faithful readers must be thinking, “Wherever did Elaina go?!!”, to which I frankly have no answer. Um, to work? To school, maybe?

I’ve been reading lots of things, it’s true. And knitting lots of things. And watching lots of, um, well, Gilmore Girls. I feel no shame admitting that. This is the girl who faithfully watched the O.C. until the very last episode, who bawled her little eyeballs out when Marissa Cooper died, who was so devastated by Coop dying that she couldn’t leave the house on her 22nd birthday. The girl who has canceled plans in order to spend entire Saturdays (9-9, baby) watching Top Model marathons. The girl so devoted to Buffy she scours Digital Dissertations & ETD looking for Buffy-related theses and dissertations (at least I’m putting my reference skills to work?). Obviously, I have no television shame. Whatevs.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to you, then, to hear that I have been reading BUFFY SCHOLARLY ESSAYS. That’s right, faithful readers. Buffy studies–they exist. This month, I’ve read:

-Sex and the slayer : a gender studies primer for the Buffy fan, edited by Lorna Jowett

-Fighting the forces : what’s at stake in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, edited by Rhonda V. Wilcox and David Lavery (if there were a god of Buffy studies, it would be Lavery)


-Slayer slang : a Buffy the vampire slayer lexicon, by Michael Adams

I’m not entirely sure if I’m proud of this, or embarrassed. I actually liked all of these books/compilations. Sure, I kind of hid Fighting the forces behind a notebook when I was reading it on the bus (okay, it has a really really shitty cover) but, Buffyverse folks notwithstanding, there’s some decent writing in here to appeal to most people who like wacky television.

All of this is why it should come as no surprise that I am so eagerly awaiting the return of Gilmore girls and the politics of identity : essays on family and feminism in the television series (edited by Ritch Calvin) to my lil library. I mean, why not?

Books of 2006-October through December

Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

Anna Funder-Stasiland (Oct. 1-7) *

Kathryn Harrison-The Kiss (Oct. 8-13)

Julian Barnes-A Short History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters (Oct. 14-19)

Margaret Atwood-Moral Disorder (Oct. 20-26)

Aimee Bender-An Invisible Sign All My Own (Oct. 27-Nov. 1)

David Rakoff-Don’t Get Too Comfortable (Nov. 2-8) *

Milan Kundera-Life is Elsewhere (Nov. 9-15)

Matt Ridley-Genome (Nov. 16-22)

Michael Dorris-The Broken Chord (Nov. 23-29) *

Dan Savage-The Committment (Nov. 30-Dec. 7)

Margaret Randall-Sandino’s Daughters (Dec. 8-13)

John McPhee-Oranges (Dec. 14-19)

Gish Jen-Typical American (Dec. 20-26)

Jan Gross-Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland (Dec. 27-31)