Friday, September 28, 2007

The Likes of Me by Randall Platt

I chose to read this book because I really liked the cover. I thought the book sounded interesting enough to give it a try, and if that doesn't sound like I was eager to read it, well... No, I just really liked the cover.

The story is told by a 14-year-old albino girl named Cordelia who runs away from her Northwest logging mill settlement home in the early 20th century, following (what else?) a young man who's paid her some attention (which she didn't get a lot of). This is the kind of book that doesn't ever feel real because the characters and events are so fantastic--she stays (as a guest) at a place of ill repute and becomes part of a freak show where she makes quite a bit of money from people who think she'll bring them luck. Squirl, the boy she followed, is a charming, cunning creature; Babe, her stepmother, is a superhumanly strong giantess of a freak herself; Sally, Squirl's sister, owns the lavish establishment where Cordelia takes up residence.

This is definitely an enjoyable read, though overall I think I'd only rate it as slightly above average. (B)

Friday, September 14, 2007

Thank You for Not Reading by Dubravka Ugresic

In Thank You for Not Reading Dubravka Ugresic presents a collection of insightful, cutting essays about writers, readers, exile, form, and the state of the publishing world. She discusses agents and the role of the book proposal, foreign writers (she's Croatian), good writing, bad writing, and the concept of literature (just to name a few).

I found myself laughing out loud (often in inappropriate settings) at her observations about characters and writers, gender and location, successful novels as gossip. The copy I read (from the library--but I may have to buy my own) is tabbed as though I could do something with her ideas, as though she could support a paper I have yet to write. (I do wish I had read this book before/during grad school.) Mostly it's memorable language or analogies I've marked, but there are too many--I'll never write them all down, and so all my tabbing has been for naught. The book's already overdue.

I recommend that you don't sit down to read this cover to cover. Read a few essays and let them settle before going on to the next few. Maybe read a novel as you're making your way through Thank You for Not Reading. I started losing focus with the last essays, probably the result of having read nothing else for weeks and the more academic style (and length), but I do highly recommend this book to anyone who loves reading and/or is especially interested in the publishing field. I'll be buying my own copy, and I'll return this one to the library now.