Monday, March 28, 2005

Book Lists of Many Shapes and Sizes

A few days ago, my mom asked me to order some books for her via the Internet. I decided to check out what deals my Book Club was running and discovered that they had one that would enable me to order a few books for myself as well; however, I'm so accustomed to purusing bookshelves, thumbing through thousands of titles, for finds that I didn't have any ideas about what I might like. Plus, I've recently taken trips to used-book bookstores and had my most immediate book needs met, so I decided to take a look at my favorite links and blogs to see what other people were reading.

That's when I discovered an interesting confluence of themes in my life, namely lists. Not only did I need to create a list for my book club, but friends have been asking me what my favorite books are, and I've also been intending to post a wish list for quite some time. For some reason, memes concerning book lists seem to have become a popular subject among blogs and especially book-related blogs (go figure). You can see an example of how quickly a list can become a meme at The Little Bookroom.

The meme featured at The Little Bookroom asks which authors one has read ten or more books by. Here's my list:

L.M. Montgomery
Louisa May Alcott's (pretty close to ten if not ten)
C.S. Lewis
Jane Austen (it will be ten once I read her letters
Patricia Cornwell
Roald Dahl
William Shakespeare
Robert Graves (sometimes I feel like he's a drug--I feel like I have to read him and them I'm angry that I have afterwards)
Can I count the Bronte sisters all together?
Robert Browning
Edgar Allen Poe
Marguerite Duras

Well on the way to ten?
A.S. Byatt
The Bronte sisters (if combined--It's not fair, I know.)
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Muriel Spark
Theodore Dreiser

The list simply made me realize that I wished many of these authors had written more!

On my search to find things I'd like to read, I found an interesting meme, called The One Book List. Apparently, over twenty years ago, an individual put out a call for forming a list of the most beloved books, and The One Book List resulted. The list began with about a hundred selections and has grown to well over six hundred books. Now, that's a list to occupy even the most of avid of book readers. In my search for book recommendations, I also found The List of Bests and Great Book Lists.

It was interesting to see what makes the cut and what doesn't. It also gave me more direction in selecting future reads because I realize which books I have appreciated the most, and, seeing other peoples book lists, reminds me of books that I've intended to read but have put aside in favor of others. Perhaps, as I have with old friends, it's time for me to return to those I've neglected in favor of the more novel (yes, I know that's a terrible pun).

On another note, the combination of other people's lists and my own encouraged me to buy more books! Here's my bookshelf, that is, a list of my book wants/wishes (to name a few). Now, though I have the list at Powells, that's not my only wish list or where I'll necessarily buy my books. The expense of my book buying practices could rival the cost of a mild drug habit, so I search out the best prices I can find. I'm looking into Amazon, Daedulus, used bookstores, local bookfairs, and so on. The Powells list is just a way for me to organize my own wish list. (It's much more efficient than my trying to remember titles or writing them down on little scraps of paper that find there way into another dimension--probably the same one where half of my socks end up when I wash them.)

Sunday, March 27, 2005

I was baptized!

On a personal note: I was baptized at my church's Easter Vigil, and I believe that I have finally experienced the profound joy of Easter. Though I wish I hadn't had a heinous headcold when I stepped into that chilly holy water, I'm glad that I stopped equivocating or prevaricating and finally "took the plunge" so to speak. It has most certainly changed me and strengthened my belief in the sanctity of innocent life.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Please Stop Terri Schiavo's Suffering

I know this has nothing to do with books, that are normal fare on my blog, but, I feel so strongly, that I have to digress from my usual book diatribes. Please excuse my typos.

Terri Schiavo's case troubles me on many levels. Firstly, I think that the fate that a Florida judge has mandated for Terri amounts to state-sanctioned murder. Secondly, what the Congress has done, though compassionate (and I would have a difficult time not doing the same thing) amounts to what may become federal interference with state law. So, I want Terri to be saved, but I'd also like to preserve state's rights over the long term. The latter concern must be dealt with at another time because the first concerns a matter of life and death.

I'm not going to list all the reasons that Terri's life should be preserved, I'll leave that up to the sites run on Terri's behalf, such as Terrisfight or Blogs for Terri. I'm just going to post a letter that I sent to much of the Florida Senate, some of its House members, and some of the representatives from my own state. I do so in order to encourage people to send letters of their own to their representatives, and for those that disagree, to open up a dialogue about it. If a dialogue opens up, then maybe representatives can create a law that would protect indivduals from suffering the same fate in the future. If state's pass their own laws with regard to elder and disabled care that address this sort of situation, like a law that requires written evidence of a desire to die by starvation, then that might keep us from suffering the same fate and from future arguements over state's rights.

The letter I sent is as follows:

I implore you to thoughtfully consider any legislation that would help
Terri Schiavo and others with similar health conditions, namely the
severely retarded, disabled, and/or elderly. Terri and many others
have not given informed consent to death by starvation.

Terri, as a devout Catholic, may or may not have wanted
extraordinary measures to be used in order to prolong her life, but it's
doubtful that she would willingly consent to death by starvation. Her
family, those who know her best, have assured the justice system and public
of as much. Yet, a Florida state judge is taking the word of an adulter,
who has physically and emotionally harmed his wife, who has lied to the
court in order to receive money (i.e., he did not live up to his assurances
that he would provide his "wife" with the best physical therapy and tests
available), and who has not demonstrated a devotion to Terri and any of her
needs. Terri fights to live, or she would have died either as a result of
the first "incident" that incapacitated her, or her having consequently
being denied physical therapy, advanced treatments, and antibiotics
for sicknesses.

If Terri is permitted to
die by starvation, her murder will set an awful trend. Her
murder would set a precedent for permitting United States citizens to rid
themselves of the disabled in the name of "carrying out their
wishes." But, this would be nothing more than a ruse for getting rid of
those who demand a great deal from the rest of us in terms of physical
and emotional care.

If Terri were a
family pet, she would be treated more kindly, and her husband could be
prosecuted for the sort of neglect and deprivation that he and a judge have
advocated and finally ordered for Terri. Please help and care for Terri
where her husband and the justice system has not. Terri IS
still human.

Please honor her life and her desire to live by
giving a voice to her wishes and a right that is constitutionally
protected, the right to live.

That's the best I could muster. The subpoenas sent by Congress were the best that they could muster. And, I fear that nothing short of the Florida state judge reversing himself, that is, a miracle, will be enough to save Terri from a painful, cruel death.

Monday, March 14, 2005

The End of the Affair

A few years ago I saw a movie called The End of the Affair, and I remember that at that time I liked it. And, a couple weeks ago, my wonderful fiance indulged my love of books, some would call it an obsession, and took me to an enormous used book store in Manhattan, namely The Strand. The Strand boasts 18 miles of books, and, even after having been there for an hour and a half (I say we were only there for under an hour and he says we were there for two, so I'm compromising), I probably didn't even rummage through 1% of their books. Though I didn't really make my way through that many of their stacks--I'm giddy even remembering what it was like to be there--I still returned from Manhattan with scores of books, including Graham Greene's End of the Affair. As soon as I read the synopsis on the book's back cover I realized the movie had been adapted from Graham Greene's novel.

Every once in a while I come across a book that speaks to what it means to be human, a story that glimpses into the soul. Greene's novel is one of those pieces. The novel is almost autobiographical. It's like Greene wrestled with the darkest and brightest portions of his own nature, and this book resulted. If you like to mix your daily dose of philosophy and religion with fiction, then this book's it. The story captures one man's relationship with the God he wants to deny. It's just brilliant! It's way to fresh on the brain for me to write anything useful about it right now.

While I found certain stylistic aspects of it to be troubling, e.g., inconsistent transitions from chapter to chapter and portions of the ending too convenient, I loved this book. It' such a fine piece of fiction that it makes me wonder whether the author intended bumpy transitions in certain places, i.e., whether they have some sort of hidden meaning that I'm not getting.

It really was a wonderful read. I don't want to say too much about the ending, but I'll say this: certain aspects of the ending weren't ambiguous enough. The book captured how futile it is to deny God's existence, because he wont deny your's. I think that the reader, the "believer," would have felt this at a personal level even more than he already does if certain aspects of the ending had been more ambiguous. The reader would have felt a push/pull between rational explanations and religious explanations if specific portions of the ending a more open explanation. Geez this is hard to explain without giving away the book. I'll stop here.

By the way, I've realized that I should have written about the Da Vinci Code as well as Angels and Demons. I still haven't read the Code, but I find everyone's buying into it's being historical silly. Angels and Demons wasn't a great book--it was a fun beach book--but society's response to it and/or other pieces of literature that incorporate some historical facts startles me. The reason it startles me: people think fiction is fact. Why? Why is there such a complete lack of common sense or basic knowledge of history that makes it possible for people to read something like the Code or see something like the Gangs of New York and think that they're seeing something that really happened? Don't be a duncical reader (that's what I tell myself when I read something that calls itself a documentary or says it's adapted from or based on history).

Firstly, one of the first few pages in Dan Brown's book is entilted "Facts." It states that essentially all the rituals, pieces of artwork, and so on have been meticulously researched and are true. In response, many have published responses to the novel, such as Breaking the Da Vinci Code and the myriad of other books listed by Though takes issue with Brown's book because of it's open hostility to Catholicism and Christianity, I take issue with it's readers, not it's author. People? What's next? Why are you so willing to believe tripe? Why are people so willing to believe the worst about western civilization and religion? And, more importantly, why are people so ill informed? (On the upside, at least people are reading (they're just not thinking). Is that too mean?)

Now, some people have probably been spoonfed nonsense by iconoclastic teaching professionals that belong to an especially ill-informed school of idealogues; however, regardless of the malebolge that certain schools offer up as a "approved" education, don't we owe it to ourselves to seek out the truth? I'm sure there are a lot of good history books out there, but I would recommend Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong as a great place to start. If anyone can think of any others, please let me know. I'm always looking for a good read.

Anyway, back to my wonderful pile of books. Eragon is just around the corner. I promise not to rant again for quite a while.