Thursday, June 13, 2013

Fake Bookish Neurosis: Schizobibliosis

So Many Books (by ~Minnea~)

Lately, you may have noticed, I've mostly disappeared. Where did I go? You see, I got stuck. I'm buried under ALL THE BOOKS. (And other stuff. Like work, and dogs, and cats, and running, and spouses (well, just the one), and chores, and errands, and family, and, you know, stuff.)

How did this happen? Well, I accepted too many books to review, for one, so, that needs to change, or slow down, or something. The pressure to read the small pile on the review shelf is tying some seriously painful knots under my shoulder blades. I also started a book club in which we have a set day and time to meet every month, and, gasp, actually read and discuss the book,* and we had our first meeting, and it was grand. But since I started the thing, I actually have to be prepared! What? Add to this the fact that there are just so many interesting-sounding books out there. Lying in wait. To be read. By me. At some point. Maybe. Optimistically. Tragically?

All of which has resulted in me being in the middle of about 5 books at once. That's 2-3 too many, for me, really, which leads me to suffer from the dreaded, dreadful schizobibliosis. Too much jumping back and forth between plots and characters and comedy and tragedy and add to that that one of these is Infinite Jest, which is about 170 plot lines rolled up into one complicated, verbose novel that is often awesome and sometimes boring (sorry die-hards), and sometimes both at the same time. I mean, I couldn't pass up this whole Summer of Jest thing, even though I did miss the first call in, and am already behind the proposed schedule. But that's okay. I'm not terribly worried about that. It's The Spouse's favorite book ever, so, I guess it's time. (Although, I've said that before. Ha.)

See? I can't even stay on topic. What's the topic? Oh. Wait, what?

Luckily, schizobibliosis, unlike it's phrenetic (he he, see what I did there?) cousin, has a cure: I just need to finish some of these books before I start the rest of them. That's totally doable, yes? Don't you think? Yes. I think so. Probably. Most likely. We'll see. Or will we...

*The other book club that I'm casually, occasionally still attending can't seem to meet regularly or set a reasonable time to meet, every meeting scheduling shenanigan beginning with an email thread to check schedules and trailing off until a time is suddenly decided upon often less than a week ahead of time, 2 if we're lucky. This leads to the book often not being read (even by me, with such little notice), and discussions that tend to go off subject. Add to that, the off-subject subjects of discussion more often than not are topics that disallow my participation almost completely as a childless, non-Catholic non-teacher, since said discussions tend to revolve around (you guessed it) teaching, teaching politics, birthing, parenting, child behavior generally, and the goings on in a parish of which I am not a part and of which I have no desire to be a part, not being Catholic and all. The members are all smart, lovely ladies, but sometimes the prevalence of cliquey estrogeny teachiness can be a little overwhelming. So I call that my Wine-Drinking Catholic Teaching Moms That Occasionally Read and Might Discuss a Book, a Little, Sometimes Club, of which I am only an honorary member, my only qualifications for membership being that I can read and drink wine.  

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Appointment In Samarra by John O'Hara: Read This If

In a break from form, I'm going to introduce this novel (one that I can't believe I'd never heard of let alone read) with the description on the inside cover:
In December 1930, just before Christmas, the Gibbsville, PA, social circuit is electrified with parties and dances. At the center of the social elite stand Julian and Caroline English. But in one rash moment born inside a highball glass, Julian breaks with polite society and begins a rapid descent toward self-destruction. Brimming with wealth and privilege, jealousy and infidelity, O'Hara's iconic first novel is an unflinching look at the dark side of the American dream--and a lasting testament to the keen social intelligence of a major American writer.
Appointment in Samarra is a more frank, less stylized novel touching on the same themes as Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby - not that The Great Gatsby isn't fantastic - it is - this novel just presents its characters with more raw humanity than a novel as tight and stylized as TGG could possibly allow. The title, too, is quite clever - as a member of my book club pointed out, it's not only a metaphor for Julian's own fast demise, but, as the novel is set in 1930, a year after the crash of '29 that set off the Great Depression, it's also a metaphor for the rapid disintegration of a particular way of life. (Luckily O'Hara changed it from it's original - The Infernal Grove.)

You should definitely read this if:
  • You enjoyed The Great Gatsby and are looking for something set in a similar time period following a similar crowd.
  • You love realistic dialogue. (O'Hara was apparently accused of writing his dialogue TOO realistically.)
  • You want to know what the inside of an alcoholic's mind looks like. (I'm told it's quite realistic, so, beware.)
  • You wondered what the Jane Austen style of marrying off upper class men and women might look like in 1930s small town America.
  • You're looking for a short, fast read.
  • You have always wondered what might happen if you acted on some of your lesser impulses. (Answer: Nothing good.)
You might want to steer clear of this novel if:
  • Straight forward writing about sex and sexuality offends you.
  • You require happy endings. (If you know the story of the appointment in Samarra as retold by W. Somerset Maugham, which serves as an epigraph to this novel, I'm not giving anything away here.)
  • The crazed haze of alcoholism hits too close to home for you at this particular moment.
  • You are easily depressed.
  • You can't stand novels in which you're often silently pleading with the main character to make better choices.
Make better choices, all. Read this novel.

*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. (I'm so glad I did - I wouldn't have known to read this otherwise.)
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