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The Awakening, by Kate Chopin, is a novel one is supposed to have read already–in prep school, perhaps, or certainly in women’s studies. I am not surprised I missed it in high school–what was shocking in 1899 New Orleans probably would have caused a similar stir in 1999 Pascack Hills–but come on, at Vassar? How I managed to attend Intro to Women’s Studies, English 170 Texts and Contexts:Politics and Poetics of the Erotic* , Sense and Sensibility: 17th and 18th Century Women’s Literature and so on without ever encountering it is beyond me. Luckily, I found a  copy at a wonderful used book store in Montclair, NJ this winter and rectified the oversight.

I urge you, if you haven’t read The Awakening, please borrow my copy or pick it up for yourselves. It is awesome–both in the colloquial and actual meaning of the word. Don’t be put off by the fact that it was written so long ago–it is not taxing in the least nor will it put you to sleep. The content is absorbing, the society fascinating, the characters alternately frivolous and painfully deep–but this is not a sociology text. The writing and structure of the story are exceptional. And, a hundred and ten years later, it is still pretty scandalous.

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The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti is one of those books where the words on the page disappear. It is not about beautiful turns of phrase or elegant sentences, but about story. Generally, this is not my preference (as evidenced by the fact that next to nothing ever happens in my own writing in terms of plot—everything is at the sentence level) but I completely loved The Good Thief. It manages to be extremely literary despite its disappearing words.

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I’m not quite sure how I obtained a copy of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. It must have landed on my bookshelf in one of two ways: I picked it up on the swap table downstairs in my building, figuring I should read it, or someone lent it to me, and I took it, figuring I should read it (if this is the case, this person should come forward to reclaim their book). I definitely did not ask for it for Christmas nor did I buy it myself–it was an obligation read, an everyone-has-read-this-so-I-should-get-with-the-program read. What was my problem? I’m sorry to say I just assumed it would be a super male book; generally I feel like post-apocalyptic stories contain action scenes, bombastic speeches and fuzzy overly symbolic flashbacks. I just wasn’t into the idea of it. I was expecting something in between a Stephen King book (not that there’s anything wrong with that) and that disaster movie with the Aerosmith song. I can’t remember seeing a trailer for the movie based on The Road, but perhaps I did and my (unfair) impressions were based on that.road

In reality, I liked The Road. Read the rest of this entry »

Books I’ve read on the beach that have appeared on this blog:

Elizabeth Bishop’s Collected Prose

Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld

The Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchet

And now, add: What is the What by Dave Eggers.

I started it three weeks ago while visiting friends in Pittsburgh and then had no choice but to finish it the next weekend on the beach in Miami. Sure, I guess I could have taken a hiatus to read something more beach appropriate—like, well, anything in the entire world—but I was too in love with the protagonist, Valentino Achak Deng, to leave him behind. So, I sat there on beautiful white sand, staring out at the serene Atlantic Ocean, flanked by outrageous hotels and tanned bodies, reading about death, destruction, dissapointment and civil war. Let me tell you, it put my own little sob story—having come down with the flu right before vacation—in perspective.

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