the time to read them...

Books I have read. More for me than for you, but I guess that depends on who you are. If you stalk me, than this will probably be more useful for you than me.

Sunday, March 19, 2006


Usually when I travel a lot, it forces me to read a lot of books on planes and waiting for trains and such. Recently, though I have been travelling at funny times, and have had a monster cold the whole time. This means I sleep consistently during travel. I am thankful for the shuteye, but it's bringing down the reading!

So recently I have read two books at the home of my host in Austin, TX. I read

The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy by Tim Burton
This was good, very Edward Gorey, except with more resolution. I like Gorey but every time I read one of his books I expect a story with an ending and then am just confused. This was that same Gorey feel with some witty resolution! Yay!

The World According to Mimi Smartypants by Mimi Smartypants
I used to read Mimi Smartypants a lot, but she kind of dropped off my radar a few years ago. I read again a couple of months ago, and to my horror she has a kid and the blog is totally lame now. Bummer. So reading this really reminded me why I liked Mimi Smartypants in the first place. Let this not be misconstrued to mean that she is lame for having a kid, but that her writing is now not as personally interesting now that she does.

Now I have to cough all over things and get on another plane.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Bitter Harvest by Ann Rule

Man I have to stay away from Ann Rule's angry wife stories. I understand why she finds them interesting, but the part I like about true crime is figuring out who the criminal is, which these do not have. these seem more like legal thrillers, as the court case took up more than half the book. Bo-ring.

The Great Psychedelic Armadillo Picnic : A "Walk" in Austin by Kinky Friedman

I read this and some other austin travel guides as I am going there Thursday for SXSW. While this book was amusing, I don't know how helpful it was to tourists! It seems a lot like Chuck Palahniuk's Fugitives and Refugees : A Walk in Portland, Oregon which I enjoyed because I actually lived in the town. The books are part of the same "Crown Journeys" series, which I now want to read more of. I have the D.C. one in my ipod because it's by Christopher Buckley, but I intend on reading the Chicago one too.

It was a fun read and did talk about the geography and restaurants to visit. And who doesn't love Kinky Friedman?

I Am Charlotte Simmons

This was recommended to me as something everyone who works with undergrads should read. I live in undergrad cities, so I tried it out. I liked the other Tom Wolfe book I read, so I tried it out. I was repeatedly warned I would hate it, but should read it anyways.

Well, it IS longer than it needs to be and some of the description is unnecessary. Wolfe clearly comes up with some clever adjective phrases that he repeats OVER AND OVER. I now hate the phrase "fuck patois." Mainly a lot of it just makes me think, "nice try Tom, but this makes it clear you are SEVENTY!" I think the intended audience of this books is definitely over 40. If you are under 40 and went to college, or had an undergrad experience recently, none of this would be very surprising. Yes, girls swear and hookup. Kids pay too much money for ripped jeans. Big whoop.

The other side of that coin is that some of his characterization of the college experience are untrue. A large part of the SHOCK of the story revolves around the dorm the main character (Charlotte Simmons) lives in. Her dorm has coed bathrooms. OH MY GOD. First, my undergrad DID have college bathrooms and didn't really have any of the issues involved in this book. But mainly, no colleges have coed dorm bathrooms. I don't know anyone whose alma mater had them. More dorms will probably have them in the future, but not now.

The bigger problem I had with this book is that I hated the main character. And was also confused as to how she would get involved in the story in the first place. She is a big rural prude. She is very stereotypical, and a genius. Okay so it is briefly mentioned that she is evangelical. Yet the entire book, though she is SHOCKED by people saying "fuck" she never once goes to church or attempts to join a youth group. Yes, colleges are by and large not open to super religious conservatives, but every single college campus in the country (including my alma mater which is consistently voted as having the most students likely to ignore god on a regular basis.) has a bible study or religious group. All of them have non-alcohol related activities put on by the school that any student who didn't want to get into the frat scene could go to and actually make friends. But in this universe, none of these things exist.

The other confusing point was that Charlotte gets into being shallow and popular and fratty, but still hates drinking and sex. Huh? I thought the latter was the only good part about the former? For being so religious and high and mighty, this character is a total ass to all of the people who try to befriend her.

I had a theory that the reader is supposed to love and feel sorry for Charlotte in the beginning of the book, and be shocked by the state of colleges. And then, when Charlotte sort of assimilates, you're supposed to hate her, as she is relatively a prude, and you, the audience member have become one with the rowdy college students. After hearing an interview with Tom Wolfe though, I think we're just supposed to like her the whole way through.

I still agree it's a great book if you work in/near college students. I can't tell you how many times I have brought up the book to friends recently, and how often I will see something in real life that is so in sync with the book. I believe finishing this book on the weekend of Unofficial St. Pat's (our drunken made up holiday in this college town), was really the best time possible! Although I had problems with the character, I enjoyed reading this book, and got through it quickly! Even if you are only recently graduated from a college, you can learn something.

Our local version of "IMs" in the book:

(taken by Oldtasty)