Friday, October 23, 2015

This Isn't Grey, this is Black and White

WARNING: This is not for the squeamish. Vulgar language will be used, repeatedly. Sexual scenarios will be discussed, in detail.

Grey – E.L James

I actually didn’t think it was possible for Christian Grey to come off as even more of a dick than he did in 50 Shades of Grey and its subsequent sequels. As in many things, I was so very wrong.
Take everything wrong with Christian in the first three books and distill that into one condensed version. He is a megalomaniac stalker who truly and honestly believes that disagreeing with him in any way is a punishable offense. Tell him you aren’t hungry when he wants you to be? Then YOU don’t understand that he absolutely needs you to eat, regardless of whether you want to eat, and not eating means you aren’t taking his feelings into account, so obviously, YOU are the asshole.

He truly, honestly, completely believes that taking all control is a good thing for YOU! I mean, he is taking on all the hard work of making decisions, and thinking, and stuff. All YOU have to do is look pretty and cry or come on cue. How hard is that?

At the end of the book, when Ana asks him to really beat her so that she understands how far the BSDM lifestyle goes, he enjoys the hell out of it. He clearly and repeatedly states that this is the best moment of his life.

“I drop the belt, savoring my sweet euphoric release. I’m punch-drunk, breathless, and finally   replete.”

Jesus, Mary and the oft-forgotten Joseph – is this shit for real? There are really women in the world who think this is romance? It isn’t. This is torture porn. This is a tragedy. If you take his behavior out of the bedroom and place it in a kitchen, for example, and he beats her (for her own good) because she added too much oregano to the sauce, then it is clearly domestic abuse. From his own point of view, in his own words, he enjoys inflicting pain on her. Not just control. Pain.  He thinks her sobbing her heart out is “beautiful” and actually says, “This is what happens when you defy me, baby.” Um no. Not now and not ever will a man raise his hand to “punish me.” I will never deserve it. No woman ever does.

From Ana’s point of view in the other books, he is merely a little boy who has lost his way and needs to be saved by her love. That is so much psychological bullshit that it even hurts to type. From his point of view, it is all much clearer. He is a villain. He really is the monster she pretends he isn’t.

This book makes it very, very clear  that she isn’t a person, she is a possession. He says over and over that he “owns her.” He is insanely jealous; making sure everyone from the valet to her father knows that the two of them are together. He is also incredibly insecure so that every joke, every sentence is analyzed to ensure that she isn’t leaving him, isn’t arguing with him, and isn’t in any way offensive to him. It’s odious. It’s insulting.  It’s repugnant. He flat out tells her that he doesn’t want to talk to her, he just wants to fuck her and she’s like, sure, sounds great. Really? Maybe for a one-night stand, but for a long-term relationship? Not so much.  

If I haven’t yet made it clear what I think about this book, let me provide one last example. Christian hates Ana’s car. Even though she has been driving it for years and it works perfectly, he has decided that she will simply no longer drive it. He takes it, sells it, and gives her a car he prefers. It doesn’t matter what she was driving or what he wants her to drive. That is beside the point. The point is that this is all done behind her back, with absolutely no input from her. When, at the end of the book, she breaks up with him, she returns his car and asks for the money he received from the sale of hers – and his response is to be furious! “It’s always about fucking money.” As if! No, asshole. You stole her car and pocketed the cash! You OWE her that money. That money is hers (and she wouldn’t even be in that position if you hadn’t stolen her goddamn car in the first place.)

Grey is single-handedly the best guide to what a woman should never suffer through in a relationship. Ladies, if the man you love hits you, follows you, steals from you, tells you how to dress, how to think, and even when to eat, then please, run as far from him as you can, possibly while dialing 911. 

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Final Countdown

If you read one book a week, starting at the age of 5, and live to be 80, you will have read a grand total of 3,900 books, a little over one-tenth of 1 percent of the books currently in print.
The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop: A Memoir, a History – Lewis Buzbee

I was asked to do a final summary of the list and while I wasn’t really planning on it, I now think that a retrospective is a good idea. I started the list in December and ten months later, I have read almost all of the 60 books. I did devote some time to trying to read the remaining three, plus I still did read a few others here and there. Not a bad total overall. I’ve got a ways to go to hit that (almost) 4000 book mark and I pretty sure I am going to need another job to afford the addition I’ll need to my home library to store all of those books, but it will be worth it.

I did this the most honest way I could – I simply looked at the list to see which stayed with me and which books I wanted to throw at people.

I will say that a particular gentleman really hit it out of the park with book choices. Sure, he gave me seven, so the law of averages says that he would do better than someone who only gave me one, but still, I am quite eager to read the ones that didn’t make the list. I also look forward to our next breakfast to discuss them all.

So, in no particular order, I present my top five. (Also, I didn’t include books I had previously read because that seemed like cheating. However, in the interest of fairness, I will say that The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver remains one of my top ten books of all time.)

House of Sand and Fog – Andre Dubos III
I keep hoping to run into someone who has read this so I can really go to town on the characters, all of whom have stayed with me. Who was right? Who was wrong? When did they go off the path? Would they have ever seen the other person’s point of view? Was there ever going to be acceptance? (Should I watch the movie?) Unfortunately, after reading excerpts from his other books, I don’t think they are quite my jam, but this one more than makes up for it.

I am Ozzy – Ozzy Osbourne
Dear Lord, this is just a palate cleanser of a book. Instead of just navel gazing and staring adoringly back at his own life, Ozzy really just lets it all rip in a glorious display of destruction and damnation. It was an utter delight and I still crack up every time I think of the line “and then we hung the midget.”

Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
There was a great section in this book when Clare and Henry get married and because he is a time traveler, hijinx ensue. She realizes, at one point, that while she has gotten married, the Henry who stood with her at the altar is not the present-day Henry to whom she expected to be wed. “And the realization: we’re married. Well, I’m married, anyway.” It is such a great character moment because it shows the humor, the pathos, the strangeness of their life, and her ability to just roll with it. I have found myself over the past few months, coming back to that line over and over again. “Well, I’m married, anyway.” She loves him, he loves her, and while their life is definitely complicated, they make it easier by just handling it and moving forward. This truly is one of the most epic love stories I have ever read and one I never wanted to stop reading. (So, should I watch the movie?)

Into Thin Air – Jon Krakaour
I still don’t understand why people push themselves to the extreme, why they walk so close to death that they can hear the sound of her wings, and why we are so shocked when things go dangerously awry in such dangerous circumstances. Yet, so many of the people in the book wanted something so simple – they just wanted to touch the top of the sky. But as Icarus learned the hard way, trying to get so close to the sun has consequences. I do think hubris played a major part in the deaths of those climbers and I think this books shows very clearly how little mistakes can add up to big ones and that there really is a moment in one’s life where you have to make a choice. But this was really well written and didn’t make any of the answers clear cut. People died, yes, and it was a tragedy, absolutely, but damn, it was a hell of a story. (The author has shit canned the movie pretty thoroughly. Should I go see it?)

What is the What – Dave Eggers
Every time I read about the refugee crisis I think about toasters. As the story unfolds, Achak is being robbed of all of his worldly position in an apartment in Atlanta. Throughout the robbery and the subsequent trip to the hospital, he tells us the story about his horrific walk through Sudan to the refugee camps where he lived. He has already been robbed of his homeland, his family, everything that you could possibly lose – he has lost – and yet, here he is, watching people steal his toaster. It is ridiculous. He ate a meal a day in the camps. He was happy to have bread, let alone worry about whether it was properly toasted. The juxtaposition of the stories really showed how ridiculous our modern lives are and how cluttered with technological nonsense. These refugees have nothing. Nothing. And yet we all have toasters. It’s a weird thing to wrap my head around.

Also in no particular order are the books I wish I could use as weapons to bludgeon the authors to death. Luckily that list is much shorter because you guys don’t actively hate me.

Me Before You – JoJo Moyes
A good friend wrote a three-page rant about this book that to this day, has remained one of funniest critiques I have ever read about the hot, rich, older guy with the young, pretty, ingĂ©nue and how the entire premise is not only a load of shit, but legitimately toxic for both people. (Because I am evil, I’m pretty sure I am buying this very same friend the sequel for Christmas.)

Leaving Time – Jodi Picoult
This book was insulting. It offended me. It was so flat out stupid, so embarrassing, such a fuck-you to readers that I think even M. Night Shayamalan would think the so-called twist was ridiculous. This book is Exhibit A to my thesis statement: why ALL authors, regardless of number of books sold, still need to be edited as if they were first-time authors. (Exhibit B is Stephen King, but he needs a museum to house all of those works.)

That’s it my friends. The end of an era. But fear not, I still have Grey and Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined to cover. I also owe a few blogs to my SIL, who has given me more than enough material for them, and as always, when the mood strikes, I will write. But til then, I’ve got another 60 books on my to-be-read shelf, free reign at the local library, and a fair amount of BN gifts cards yet to be spent. I’ve got lots and lots of reading to do!

Friday, October 9, 2015

60 is the New 40

This is it guys. This was the last book on the list. Next week, the wrap up. 

#60 – Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
Recommended by: PR

                 It was love at first sight.

I don’t think I am smart enough to get this book entirely. It is a very long joke on the ridiculousness of the military and of the concept of a Catch-22 situation, in which the only way to get out of duty was to prove you were insane, but since only a sane man would try it, it was an impossible scenario. The book goes on to differentiate several similar situations in which, basically, you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. The military bears the brunt of the satire and, I’m sorry, but the joke went on way too long. I liken it to watching one of those interminable SNL sketches that would have been funny if they were three minutes, but at ten, have lost all pretense of humor. My father-in-law recommended this one and I thought it was fitting to end the list with an American classic and this definitely feels like something I should have read in school, mostly because it feels like homework. It was just too much, over and over again. If this book were half the length, it would have been enjoyable. As it stands though, I just wanted to get through it. Once again, I found myself doing a bit of research on a book to see if the satire was supposed to extend to the characterization of women in the book, all of whom were whores, or “easy”, or shrews, and who are routinely raped, beaten, and berated by the men. Yeah, I didn’t find that really funny. I’m glad I read it as I feel like I probably should have already, but I didn’t really enjoy the experience. Sorry Dad.