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Archive for February, 2012

A Dance To The Music Of Boredom

Two words: Help me!

I’m in the weeds of boredom. And no matter how bad I want to stop, I must continue.

This was my fear: a 3,000 page book that isn’t interesting. In fact, it’s extremely tedious. When I discussed last month the first of twelve books in the massive novel that is A Dance To The Music of Time, I mentioned that I felt like Anthony Powell was doing a lot of “setting up” the story. Well, book two, A Buyer’s Market, continued that trend. Even moreso.

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Next Up: Dog Soldiers

Mix a journalist, his wife, the Vietnam War, and a sailor and what do you get? A heroin deal gone bad. Huh?

Sounds interesting enough. And that’s the premise for Dog Soldiers, what appears to be another dark, bleak, depressing novel. When I’m done with 101 Books, I might read 100 happy Disney novels to counteract all of these depressing books. Who’s with me?

Anyway, here are a few quick facts about Dog Soldiers, written by Robert Stone:

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Book #37: Native Son

Part of the challenge of trying to neatly review any book is attempting to understand the context around which the author wrote the story.

With Native Son by Richard Wright, I’m not sure if I’ve had a more difficult time understanding all the forces at play during the context in which this novel is set—in 1930s Chicago.

When Bigger Thomas, a 20-year-old African American boy, accidentally kills a rich white girl—the daughter of his new employer—all hell breaks loose in Chicago. But not only did Bigger murder, the manner in which he covers up the accidental murder is even more alarming than the murder itself.

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Your Search Questions Answered, Volume 8

Do you know what time it is? It’s time for the latest version in the series of posts that no one is asking for–Your Search Questions Answered!

These are actual unedited search terms that found my blog–the smarty pants commentary is from yours truly! For a recap of previous search questions answered, go here.

Now for the fun:

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Family Matters In “Native Son”

Moms are the best.

Just think: Without Moms, where would be? Not here likely. Scratch that–we’d definitely not be here. I guess Dads have something to do with that, too, but Moms are so much cooler. At least most of them.

In Native Son, Bigger Thomas’ Mom is an amazing woman who does everything she can for her son–only to see him reduced to a life of laziness, street crime, and eventually murder. His actions wear on her to that point that, by the end of the novel, she almost seems incapable of living because of how he has treated her.

So, one of my many beefs with the character Bigger Thomas is the way his treats his mother. This passage highlight both Bigger’s feelings towards his family and his mother’s feelings towards him.

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David Foster Wallace’s 10 Favorite Novels

Yesterday, David Foster Wallace would’ve been 50. He’s one of the authors that I’ve slowly grown in appreciation for since I started this blog. And judging by my tag cloud on the home page, I’ve probably talked about him more than any other author.

When I think of an author like DFW, a guy who wrote the beastly novel that is Infinite Jest, I assume he must have been into heady novels like Ulysses, that his daily reading list probably consisted of Chaucer and Homer, that he would read Faulkner on his lunch break.

But maybe not. Before he died, DFW made a list of his top ten favorite books for a compilation of favorite books of famous writers. I’ve got to say—they aren’t quite what I expected from DFW, but that makes him all the more intriguing.

Here is his top 10:

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Bigger Thomas: Growing Up In A White World

You might’ve guessed at some point that I’m a white guy. Maybe not. But, yeah, I’m a white guy.

I was born in 1976, when race relations in the U.S. were somewhat improving—at least in the sense that we were past the days of segregation and overt hostility. So when I read about some of the things African-Americans faced in the early part of the 20th century, it’s a real eye-opener for me.

That’s what I love about literature—it has a way of giving you a sense of time and place through the eyes of a character who is experiencing it all firsthand. Richard Wright’s Native Son does that brilliantly. I believe To Kill A Mockingbird and Go Tell It On Mountain are other great examples of this type of novel.

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Why Libraries Should Love Taylor Swift

As a resident of Nashville, it’s almost a requirement to be at least vaguely familiar country music–at least in the sense that we know names if we don’t know songs.

So when it comes to Taylor Swift, it’s hard to exist, much less live in the same town, without at least knowing a few things about her. The music is poppy and bouncy, and she always seems to be smiling, even when Kanye West is standing right next to her and insulting her in front of a national TV audience.

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Hello Nonfiction! How Have You Been?

For the first time in the 18 month history of 101 Books, let’s talk nonfiction. Finding a nonfiction review on this blog is kind of like spotting Paula Deen in a vegan restaurant. But I guess there’s a first time for everything.

It seems like forever ago, but I used to read nonfiction—a lot of it. That, of course, was before this blog started and I realized that I need to stick to fiction if I wanted to keep up a daily blog about fiction. Interesting concept.

Though I’m obviously not up to date on any hot new nonfiction books, here are some of my personal favorites:

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Why “Native Son” Totally Stresses Me Out

Some characters frustrate me to no end. They seem so likeable. You want to cheer for them. But then they make such stupid, stupid decisions.

Bigger Thomas from Native Son is a perfect example. Without going in-depth into plot, I’ll just say that the first half of this novel, though highly entertaining, has me thoroughly frustrated.

Bigger makes one stupid decision, then complicates things by making another stupid decision to cover up his first stupid decision. He then follows up those decisions by making three or four more stupid decisions. It’s stupid on top of stupid on top of stupid. And that’s a lot of stupid.

But in the middle of all that stupid, Bigger comes to a self-realization:

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