Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer

I finished listening to this one on audio on Friday morning.  I have been thinking about reviewing it since.  I loved it and I wanted to gush about it but when I tried to explain it to my husband he told me it sounded like, and I quote, “the stupidest book ever”.  Not only that but I was worried about the spelling.  There are a lot of words that I was more than happy to listen to someone else pronounce and figured I would have no clue how to spell them.

I’m going to wing it.

Everything is Illuminated is, cleverly or uncleverly, depending on the review, a young man named Jonathan Safran Foer and his trip to the Ukraine to find the woman who helped save his Jewish grandfather from the Nazis.  Armed with only a photograph with a name that may or may not be accurate written on the back and a the name of his grandfather’s village and the villages nearby, Jonathan meets his guides.  Alex, a young man with a very interesting vocabulary, will be his translator and the driver is Alex’s aged grandfather who is so heartbroken by the loss of his wife that he claims to be blind and even has a “seeing eye bitch” named Sammy Davis Jr.  Hi-jinks ensue, the kind of hi-jinks that I found absolutely hilarious.

Example: Jonathan is a vegetarian and at every place where they stop to eat the waitresses ask, “He does not even eat sausage?”  I don’t know why I found that so funny but I did.

The thing is that it is so easy to get caught up in the comedy of this first part of the book that you can forget what the book is actually about.  The chapters alternate between the tale of the trip, told by Alex, and Jonathan’s writing, a fantastical story Trachimbrod, the town his family came from.  While Alex’s stories are humorous in a comedy of errors way, Jonathan’s take on a magical quality.  Then, Alex and Jonathan find Trachimbrod and discover that the whole town was completely destroyed by the Nazi’s.  That’s not all, though.  There are still stories about that horrible time, some secrets and surprises.

I couldn’t decide how it made me feel.  You know, I just couldn’t tell if the gut wrenching parts were harder to handle or easier to handle because I had just been laughing about the deranged seeing eye bitch.  What I can tell you is that the book in its totality was wonderful and it had an impact on me.

Tally Monday- June 23, 2014

Checked Out 

  1. I Will Always Love You by Cecily von Ziegesar
  2. Captain Underpants and the Wrath of the Wicked Wedgie by Dav Pilkey

Bought 

  1. The Virgin Suicides by Jefferey Eugenides (Gift!)
  2. & Sons by David Gilbert
  3. Secret History by Donna Tartt
  4. Daily Dose of Knowledge by Tina Adler (Gift!)

Read 

  1. It Had to be You by Cecily von Ziegesar

TBR: 37/39

 

I know what you’re thinking.  What is going on with my TBR number?  I’m having a moment of indecision resulting from a lapse in good judgement.  See, one of my favorite things to do is browse the tables at Barnes and Noble and the best time to do that is when the summer reading picks go out.  I don’t know why but it fascinates me.  I like to see what I recognize, count how many I’ve read, and think wistfully of all the great summer reading I plan on doing.  Last week I was freaking out about how busy I am and I realized that I hadn’t even made it to B&N yet this summer.  Luckily I had a party in that area on Saturday so I left early and browsed to my heart’s content.  I convinced myself that I would finally replace my copy of Francesca Lia Block’s Dangerous Angels that my cousin’s girlfriend never returned to me but they didn’t have it.  So I bought two other books instead, like you do.  I want to put them in my TBR pile right away but I’m not sure yet.  They’re still on my kitchen table, looking all wonderful and new.  Also, my TBR number went down this week because I started listening to an audio of one of the books and took it out of the stack.  The Hobbit.  So far it’s a delightful listen.

I am getting achingly close to finishing the Gossip Girl series and I am beyond excited.  I want to finish it up so I can do a series of reviews focusing on different characters individually.  And, Lord help me, I’m pretty excited to start a new series.  My next one is Private by Kate Brian.  Or maybe it’s Divergent?  I’m not sure yet.  I almost decided to try Sookie Stackhouse again after watching the season premiere of True Blood last night but I don’t know that I can stomach it.

I also finished listening to Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything is Illuminated this morning.  I want to write a fabulous review but fear my spelling.  I listened to a lot of words that I don’t think I could spell.  It was a fantastic book.  I loved it.  Then I had the pleasure of reading the reviews.  This is one of my favorite things to do.  I go to Goodreads.  I look up a book I’m reading.  I read the one star and five star reviews.  It’s amazing how different books are for different people.  I thought this one gut wrenching and glorious but a lot of people thought it was shit.

I’m hoping for a nice block of reading time these next couple of weeks.  I may not be able to tally up next Monday.  I’ll be camping this weekend and then leaving for another trip on Monday.  Happy tales!

 

Grams

I know this is technically the second entry of the day.  Deal with it.

I wanted to talk a bit about my grandma on my mom’s side.  Or, Grams.

Now, I was really close to Grams.  My mother was the baby.  One of 7 kids.  A change of life baby, as they used to call them.  My grandma was, I believe, 42 when she had my mom.  Mom was raised with my cousins and I was raised with their kids.

Basically, Grams was the shit.  She loved everyone and she was a church goer but when the dementia hit she used to ask us if we had brought any “Goddamned whiskey” when we went to visit.  My mother was grandma’s keeper, in the end.  She fell and broke her hip at the local Big Boy when I was in 6th grade and the hospitalization was enough to throw her into turmoil.  We were with her when she fell and I’m sure that I insisted on the Big Boy and I always felt bad about it.

If I told you about my grandma, I would tell you that she was the sweetest woman ever.  She loved me, unconditionally.  She was so soft.  I loved her to death.  I watched her decline.  We were pretty much the only ones who visited her regularly when we had to put her in a home.  I watched her become a shell of memories.  When the home called my mother and told her that she was going, I asked my mother to let me sit through my English class first, the most important class in the world to me even then, and we missed her dying by 20 minutes.  I have always felt a little guilty about it.  Nobody wants to die alone.  But I know that she wouldn’t really mind.  Grams knew what the written word meant to me.  She was very old then.  She was born in 1916.

I have very little from my grandma.  I have half of her bell collection, which she promised me long before she lost her mind.  And I have my The Hank Williams Story box set on vinyl.  Mom kept it when we had to sell off her stuff and somehow it ended up with me.  I remember, when I was first getting into rockabilly, with a heavy influence on the billy because we’re in the northern south,  being confused by how many songs I knew.  Mom had to explain to me that it was because that’s what Grams listened to.

I cannot tell you what the Hank Williams means to me.  It’s like living in my grandmother’s world.  She was a teenager in the Great Depression.  She weathered the death of a son, a stillbirth and a miscarriage or two.  To me, my grandmother was the strongest woman ever.  She didn’t like cars or lightning and I’ve made myself love these things just to let her know that I am okay.  She was my first rock.

My family is ripe with what I call “redneck stories.”  When my mother asked Grams if she had sex before marriage, she said, “You know your father.  What do you think?”  And when Mom went to sell the family home that Grandpa built with his own hands, she discovered it had been lost in a poker game.  I don’t find these things shameful.  They are the color of my life.

But if I could be like anyone, it would be Grams.

Surprise! Unexpected Alone Time

The Hubby got his first overtime assignment today at his “new” job.  He is literally working overnight.  We had some decent plans for the weekend.  Tonight we were going to listen to our newly amassed vinyl of the week: Led Zeppelin, Clutch, and Soundgarden.  We were going to play games and drink.  We were going to have a lovely time.  Tomorrow we were going to do some local garage saling.  The sub behind us is have a neighborhood sale.  I was greatly looking forward to it.

Now he’s working overnight and when he gets out he will have been awake for 22 hours.  He’ll probably crash at his Dad’s because it’s an hour closer to where he’s at.

So, me?  I am snuggled in at home.  The doors are locked.  The beer is delicious.  And I have no idea what to do with myself.

I want to read.  I toyed with watching some movies.  I wanted to work on some cleaning projects and such.  I thought I might listen to some of the old vinyl that I never get to listen to.  But mostly I am just sitting here, thinking that it could be better to hang out with someone other than the cats.

What Came before the Book

Recently, in some podcast or another, someone confessed to hating prologues.  “Nothing turns me off like a long prologue,” I paraphrased the person.  “I don’t need to know what happened before the book unless it is part of the actual book.”

Agreed.

But right now I am facing a particularly interesting bout with “before the book.”  I have been reading the Gossip Girl series for a while now.  I’m not going to lie, it is complete and utter brain candy and I love it.  The chapters are short and pack a lot of punch so that more often then not I am flapping my hands like an idiot when I finish one.  “Oh my God!  Oh my God!” I exclaim, much to the annoyance of those around me.  I can’t help it.  It’s like watching train wreck after train wreck and knowing that everyone will be okay in the end because it’s just high school and we all (mostly) survive it.

It was one of those series that seems to go on and on forever, though.  When I started out it looked completely doable.  As I rounded book 7 I thought, “This has to be nearly done, right?”  Just when I got to graduation and the summer before college, I was sure that I was almost done.  Then I realized that there was a prequel, a sequel, and a slasher parody.  I loved the characters so obviously I had to read them.  I ordered the prequel and got to work.

But, wait!  Um, I’m pretty sure that I knew all of this, right?

The prequel to this series just feels out of place.  It’s actually kind of awkward seeing the characters we know and love in their senior year when they are still sophmores.  There’s something creepy about phrases like “his hot fifteen year old boyness.”  I know that I have to figure in the year that I think falls between the prequel and the series, but did these people who are so close at the beginning of the series just meet a year beforehand?  Did Jenny’s boobs really grow that much in a year?

More than that, I feel like we get enough of the back story throughout the series.  We don’t really need the specifics.  We don’t need to see things happen that we have heard about.

Of course, I’ll stick it out.  I feel like I need to.  Then the sequel.  Then the slasher!

Mid June HP Update

How do you enjoy life?

Really, this is a serious question.  Because for me the answer is: boundaries.

See, I am a little crazy and I use rules to keep myself in check.  This is important because if I don’t do this I will probably either never get anything done or I will do nothing but work.  On of my rules is that I can bust my butt to get anything done that I want until I get home from work.  It is completely acceptable to clean the toilet on my lunch break but after work I can read or watch TV or play games or just sleep.  That is the time for me to enjoy my life.  On the other hand, I keep an intense to do list in my planner.  I expect a lot of myself, even if those expectations end when I get home at night.

These may seem like crazy rules to keep but from my point of view it is probably the best thing that I can do.  I understand that a lot of people think it is odd to expect yourself to clean/organize two things a day but for me it means that my house is usually in pretty decent shape and I’m investing 10 to 30 minutes a day.  Yes, I clean the whole house once a week but my junk drawer isn’t actually full of junk and it took me 15 minutes to tackle it on a Wednesday morning while I drank a glass of coffee.  This week I intend to clean out my clothes.  It will be done by Friday and I will do it one drawer at a time.

It’s nice because it means that I can tell myself to simmer down.  When I left the house this morning I was thinking that maybe I didn’t need to go to the movies tonight.  Maybe, instead, I should go home and practice the banjo and work on cleaning the house.  Then I reminded myself that, no, I am not allowed to do that.  I need to go out and enjoy myself.  It’s about the boundaries.

Tally Monday- June 16, 2014

Checked Out- 

  1. Tampa by Alissa Nutting
  2. Captain Underpants and the Perilous Plot of Professor Poopypants by Dav Pilkey
  3. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein (audio)

Bought- 

None!

Read- 

  1. Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King
  2. Saga, vol. 1 by Vaughn and Staples
  3. Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey

TBR 

40, I think

 

Ugh.  Sorry, you guys.  I forgot to count my TBR before I left the house this morning.  I was distracted by my sudden onset of 30 today.  That’s right.  It’s my birthday.  I spent much of my morning moping about turning 30 and not actually thinking about what needed to be done for the day.  I mean, come on.  It’s my birthday.  I’m old school about this.  I should not be working or doing dishes or doing laundry but I am because I am a mofoing adult and it sucks pretty bad.  Oh, gosh.  There I go again.

My whole week was taken up by Stephen King and I’m pretty sure you already know my thoughts on that one.  I just wanted some good old fashioned King style horror and that wasn’t what I got.  Friday night I discovered that Mr. Mercedes is the first part of a trilogy.  I was devastated.  You know, I want to read all of the King but I don’t know if I’ll make it through two more of these and that it pretty disappointing too.

There were a couple of big surprises in my week.  You may not know this but a couple of years ago I started reading short stories in between books.  I thought that I might be missing something so I picked up a couple of classic short story collections and started in on them.  This week I started an early Alice Munro collection and OMG she is so good!  I’m loving it.  The stories are so simple and that woman can write a sentence.  The other surprise was Saga.  I heard a lot of good things about it but when I first flipped through it I thought that I might not like it.  Wrong.  So wrong.  It was wonderful, a graphic novel about two beings who are supposed to be enemies but have a baby together and are trying to escape their armies and build a life for the baby.  It was really cool and pretty graphic.  Har, har.  Definitely worth a try if you’re into graphic novels.

I know that two of the books I read last week were really short, quick reads but it was enough to make me feel powered up.  Hoping to clear some good ones this week!