Sunday, June 5, 2011

Shorter Reads: An Interlude

I have finished about 4 books over the past couple weeks that I haven't mentioned, mostly because they are short, popular or classic, and have been reviewed or discussed widely elsewhere.  They include:

The Stranger, by Albert Camus: In this short piece of absurdist fiction, Meursault is supposed to be an 'ordinary man,' but he is really anything but. He's fairly passive and bland, but also generally unfeeling and unaffected, even when he inadvertently kills a man, and is basically put on trial not for the murder, but for not caring enough about death. You never get the sense that he's a bad person, just completely indifferent and amoral. The entire story is absurd, which isn't to say it's not great, I believe that's the point. The most absurd aspect is how realistic the story turns out to be.

Animal Farm by George Orwell: Leave it to Orwell to suck all the hope and optimism about humanity right out of you. If anyone can succinctly (and without subtlety) paint a bleak picture of human nature, it's Orwell.

Bossypants, by Tina Fey: I listened to the audio version of this and it was hilarious, since Fey herself was the reader. She discusses her life in a self-deprecating & humorous way, dancing over some of the obstacles she's come up against in her career, and her annoyance with the "How do you do it all?" question reserved solely for working women.
Of all the places I've worked that were supposedly boys clubs, The Second City was the only place where I experienced institutionalized gender nonsense. For example, a director of one of the companies once justified cutting a scene by saying, "The audience doesn't want to see a scene between 2 women." Whaaah? (More on that later.) 
In 1995 each cast of the Second City was made up of 4 men and 2 women. When it was suggested that they switch one of the companies to 3 men and 3 women, the producers and directors had the same panicked reaction: "You can't do that; there won't be enough parts to go around. There won't be enough for the girls." This made no sense to me, probably because I speak English and have never had a head injury. We weren't doing Death of a Salesman; we were making up the show ourselves. How could there not be enough parts? ... The insulting implication, of course, was that the women wouldn't have any ideas.  
... My dream for the future is that sketch comedy becomes a gender-blind meritocracy of whomever is really the funniest. You might see 4 women and 2 men. You might see 5 men and a you-tube video of a kitten sneezing. 
The Giver, by Lois Lowry: The coconspirator produced this book when cleaning out the car last weekend, so Monday morning I picked it up and read it. It's a YA book, about Jonah who lives in an eerily orderly society in which the Elders determine your job at age 11 or 12, and you train for that. At a certain age, after your societal worth is deemed exhausted, you are 'released' from the group. It's an interesting dystopia, even if some of it doesn't make sense-there's a bit of magical realism, you might say, which didn't always work for me. But, worth the couple hours it'll take you to read.

Now, off to enjoy some coffee and Mystic River.

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