Long overdue

I wrote this, whoa, five weeks ago, but circumstances prevented me from posting it then. I submit it now, without a review or an update. Mea culpa.

50-book challenge: Labor Day round-up

As I’ve said before, the biggest challenge in book-blogging is simply keeping track of the books. Here are a few titles that escaped me on previous posts.

Of course, there’s the Shakespeare:
68. Titus Andronicus.
Operatically violent. The pages seem to squelch with blood. If Quentin Tarantino were Shakespeare. And, uh, vice versa.

And, like Tarantino’s oeuvre, there is more below the surface than one might first suspect. The staggering brutality — the many parts lopped, hacked, and hewn — contributes to the larger theme of the body politic.

69. Taming of the Shrew.
I had always read Katerina as an independent, fiery spirit — an Elizabethan Katherine Hepburn, who inexplicably cows herself to the demands of a swaggering alpha male. The play has irrevocably changed for me since a friend lent me a tape of a stunning BBC production. This Kate is defensive and lonely, cloaking fear in rage, and John Cleese’s Petruchio is peevish, weary, and — ultimately — tender. Rather than two strong forces clashing, this is a story of two wary, damaged characters tentatively seeking contentment, and finding it grows beyond their hopes.

This Kate poses some difficulties for a 21st century feminist, but finally the character makes sense to me, and that is a worthy trade.

70. As You Like It.
This was my favorite of the comedies when I was 16, probably because it was the favorite of my intense, funny, and very cute teacher, Mr. W.

Now, not so much. As luck would have it, this play was just added to my upcoming lit class, so we’ll see how I feel about it in November.

71. Emma, by Jane Austen.
Don’t worry, I needn’t burst once more into song over the joys of Jane Austen. To sum up: blah blah blah wit. Blah language blah blah measured and harmonious blah. Blah blah unintentionally revealing comment about romantic miscommunications and the nature of unrequited blah.

72. Banshee, by Margaret Millar.
Meandering, dated, and ultimately unsatisfying. And — lucky me! — I own it!

73. God Said “HA!” , by Julia Sweeney.
The translation from stage to page makes for stilted writing, but immerse yourself in her laughter and sorrow, and you will soon hear Sweeney’s voice as if she were in the room.

74. The King’s English, by Kingsley Amis.
This style guide is more opinionated than educated; in one characteristic entry, Amis recommends one usage over another because he believes anyone who disagrees sounds “like a berk.”

It’s Kingsley Amis; you perhaps expected it not to be steeped in vitriol? (Poor Martin. No wonder…)

75. Good To Eat: Riddles of Food and Culture, by Marvin Harris.

Anthropophagy! The dreaded filthy swine! Kuru! So happy, so so happy.

Harris appears to be unaware of the mechanism by which kuru is transmitted (brain-eating cannibals! hurray!), which causes me to wonder: was the cause unknown as recently as the 1980s, or is Harris just as careless as I’ve always thought?

An early candidate for Scariest Thing Overheard on the bus this morning:

“Well, my instructions were to roast it, and I did, but it filled the house with the most gawd-awful smell.” She paused, considering. “It smelled,” she went on in a matter-of-fact tone, “like human flesh.”

After a discreet few moments, I turned casually to get a look at this woman who recognizes the smell of human flesh roasting. Just don’t eat the brain, Ma’am, I longed to say.

My brain, how it works, and why you shouldn’t eat it

Out of nowhere, a prof asked, “So, who knows what kuru is?” Mind you, this has nothing to do with our classwork; he just likes to make conversation Jeopardy-style.

I happen to have read an article about kuru several years ago, so I was able to shoot back (or, more honestly, stutter back) “Um, the disease brain-eaters get, right? Human brains? With the, the, the prions?” (I am less than eloquent on the spot, but all the key points are there, my friends.)

But who, having read this once in her life, wouldn’t remember it? Brain-eating cannibals, people.