Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Fifty Shades of Grey – E.L. James


(Not you, dear reader.  Never you.)

Disclaimer:  The only reason I read this terrible book is because EVERYONE in my ‘hood has already read it.  If that’s not negative publicity for the suburbs, I don’t know what is.  And granted, it is sexy – I am not arguing with that.  I get it.  I do.  (But if you want sexy, read sexy that is also smart.  Like Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon.  Jamie Fraser?  Holy hell, about eleventy-gazillion times hotter than Christian Grey.  People, please.)

But, back to today’s book o’ smut. 

Here is what is not shocking, to me:

            1)  The novel’s bizarre S&M sex scenes.

2)  The fact that the book frames a dominant-submissive sexual relationship as a love story.

3)  The fact that Fifty Shades, along with the other two novels in the trilogy, presently occupy spots one, two, and three on the New York Times Bestseller List.

On the other hand. 

What is shocking is that a book that uses the phrase “sensual sexuality” actually got published.  [Weeping in despair.  Despair!]  Abandon all hope, ye who enter Fifty Shades.  Here’s another gem.  Brace yourself.

“I gaze at my mom.  She is on her fourth marriage.  Maybe she does know something about men after all.”

This is said with no irony whatsoever.

Also, an interesting factoid:  I just wiki’d the series and learned that Fifty Shades was based on a manuscript the author originally wrote as fan fiction of this esteemed novel.  Shocker.  My point?  Crap begets crap.

PEOPLE.  [stabs eyes out of head WITH SEWING SCISSORS.]

However.  This is erotica written by a woman, for women – a genre that is seemingly under-represented in contemporary fiction.  And even though the female protagonist is, well, physically abused, I wonder if there is any way to look that this as an empowering book.  (Just trying to think outside the box here.  Bear with me.)  I’m not saying that there is, but I am asking what you think.  Is this merely another terribly written book?  Or does it somehow fill a gap in women’s…uh…needs?  And in doing so, is it possible that it indirectly empowers women, making it more important than the sum of its parts?

And that is all I have to say.  Already this is too much time spent on this ridiculous book.  Especially since I’m spending valuable time here when I could be reading book two. 


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao – Junot Díaz

One thing I am learning about the sewing habit is that fabric and patterns are my stepping stones.  Gateway drugs, if you will.  Here’s the next phase.  Welcome to my world.

Buttons.  BUTTONS ARE MY CRACKROCK.  Omg, you guys.  I have a problem.  Hence, I’ve been meaning to sit down and write here for days now, but instead I’ve been making these nonstop all the time without rest constantly. 

I CANNOT CEASE, my friends.  What are they?  Why, thank you for asking!  They are fabric cuff bracelets with vintage buttons, and I’m obsessed.  (And oh yeah, they are $10, but no pressure or anything.  And free shipping!  But no pressure.)  And I’m getting much better at those pesky buttonholes, I’ll have you know.  I’m starting to think that the sewing portion of my book-deliberation is becoming mandatory.  Like I need the quiet space to process, yet still have my hands busy doing something interesting.  My thoughts need to percolate.  To stew.  Or something.  Anyway, here we go.

I really liked this book.  I’m not sure if I actually understood it, but I liked it nonetheless. 

The narrative takes place in New Jersey and the Dominican Republic and chronicles the life of our hapless hero, Oscar.  The dude just can’t catch a break – overweight, misunderstood, a sci-fi and role-playing enthusiast who had the misfortune to be born Dominican – a Latin culture that apparently places an enormous premium on physicality and cool.  So Oscar doesn’t fit in, anywhere, ever, the poor guy.  The story is told from multiple perspectives (Oscar’s, his sister Lola’s, and his sister’s boyfriend Yunior, to name a few), and what I liked best was the energy of the prose.  (Admittedly, I’ve never felt like more of a whitegirl/gringa than while reading this particular book.  Tons of Spanglish and Latin slang on every page – I was as out-of-place as Oscar.  (I grew up in rural Oklahoma, people.  I am ill-equipped.))  The shifting point-of-view served to characterize both the speaker (Yunior, for example) as well as the focus of the speaker’s story (Oscar, usually).  In this way the prose worked doubletime, making the reader privy to the various facets of each character.  While reading, I could compare Oscar’s inner life with his public persona, and in this way synthesize the information to come to a deeper understanding of Oscar’s identity.  I thought it a unique way to write, and to read, a novel.

Anyway, I think you should read it.  Then you can explain it to me.  Thanks in advance.

On a completely separate note, I’m having something of a moral dilemma about this blog, and I need to poll my readers.  On the one hand, I need to be completely honest with you about what I read.  Otherwise, what is the point of a book blog?  On the other, I don’t want to offend anyone by criticizing a book they love.  And I can be…vitriolic.  You see, most of the books I read are given to me or recommended to me by dear friends, some of whom may be very sensitive about the books they love.  The bottom line for me is - if I hate a book that you love, that doesn’t mean I’m right.  It doesn’t mean you’re wrong.  And it certainly doesn’t mean that I think any differently about you, as a person, because you love a book that I don’t – and I certainly apologize if I’ve been insensitive to anyone’s feelings.  Many beloved friends even loved Twilight.  (You know who you are.)  So what do you think?  How do I reconcile this?  How do I navigate the space of being inviting and gracious, yet still truthful to my own ideas?