50 book challenge

In (approximately) the words of Mimi Smartypants, I read the way junkies rummage through your medicine chest, so from the very beginning I regarded a mere 50 book goal as laughably easy.

Then I realized the pitfall would not be in the reading, but in the recording of them. Not only is the time an issue, but simply remembering the existence of a book can be tricky, since my library modus operandi consists of wandering the library as a playboy wanders the singles bar. I pick them up, check them out, plunder the pleasures they offer, then drop them off and — as often as not — never give them another thought. It’s heartless, but it’s true.

The time has come start jotting some names in my little black book:

22. Rapunzel’s Daughters: What Women’s Hair Tells Us about Women’s Lives, by Rose Weitz.

Oh, hush. Sometimes you know a book will be pretty awful, but you hope it won’t. This book was.
At 35, I have a frankly startling head of salt and pepper hair, which I’ve chosen not to color; perhaps understandably, I’m more interested in hair as a symbol of femininity and sexuality than most. I was hoping this book might contain an intelligent discussion of the feelings going gray elicits in women. Take it as a powerful comment on the book when I tell you that, although there is a chapter dealing with going gray, I cannot begin to remember what the tone of it was. I found myself repeatedly checking the author’s credentials, unable to believe that she is allowed to teach this sloppy, vague babbling.

23. Widdershins, by Oliver Onions.

This collection of ghost stories made a light, fun read — like Henry James without the sex, or M.R. James without the shuddering, but competently written and certainly diverting.

24. Course in General Linguistics, by Ferdinand de Saussure.

Anytime I start getting ideas above my station thinking I’m clever or industrious, I pick up a linguistics text, which immediately brings me back to earth. Several years ago, I entertained the idea of majoring in linguistics, but it turns out that linguistics is hard. It makes me feel my brain. That can’t be good.
25. Egil’s Saga, translated by Herman Palsson and Paul Edwards.

I first read Egil’s Saga a few years ago for a class on Old Norse archaeology. Leafing through it last week seeking a particular verse, I was struck again by its brutal charm, and I opened to the flyleaf and read straight through.

Oh, the hacking and hewing and rending of flesh! The paeans to the (many many) shining blade edges! The vomiting. So much vomiting. I was especially taken with a passage I had completely forgotten, in which Egil and his men are captured during an incursion, and the captors remark that it has grown too dark to have much fun torturing them — he recommends waiting until morning, when the light is better and, presumably, they’ll all be fresh and ready to fully enjoy the torture.

You’ve got to love the Vikings.

26. The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists, by Gideon Defoe.

Given my fondness for Vikings, with their hacking and hewing, you will not fall over in astonishment to hear that I like pirates, too.

Gideon Defoe wrote this book in an attempt to woo a girl away from her boyfriend. She didn’t succumb, but I think the less of her for it.

It reads almost like a delightfully clever and arch children’s book, a feeling reinforced by the size of my copy: an advance-reader paperback, it just covers the palm of my admittedly large hand. But the frequent references to looking down ladies’ tops and mermaids who put out convince me otherwise. It’s a lovely read, though. Arrrrrgh.

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2 thoughts on “50 book challenge

  1. Love reading your reviews of these books. And this, “linguistics is hard. It makes me feel my brain”, OH YES! I know tht feeling, I can still remember what it feels like. I actually thought at the time, that it sometimes felt like giving birth through your brain. Now that I actually know what giving birth feels like I’m here to say I was right.

  2. Faith, I remember thinking exactly that while trying to visualize hyperspace (there ought to be a text link here, but I see there isn’t, so here: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0385477058/002-6248150-5547201?v=glance), and utterly failing.
    The sensation I get while reading linguistics is more frustrating, because I feel so tantalizingly close to holding the entire conceptual framework in my head, but it continually slithers away like a live fish.

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