So, today I’m cataloging retro titles. I came upon this book, Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat and after reading the NLS annotation my reaction was:
“Oh jeez, what?” and then, “Where is the ‘good lord, what the hell’” subject heading when you really need it?”
Then I looked up the title online to compare descriptions. This really does come down to the original purpose of this blog: NLS’s crazy, mixed up, misguided, and occasionally, FAR OUT annotations.
Until age twelve, Sophie is raised by her aunt in Haiti. Her mother then sends for her to come to New York and explains that Sophie is the product of rape. When a grown Sophie is befriended by an older musician, her mother tests her virginity. Sophie rebels by violently deflowering herself, an act that caused her to seek sexual phobia therapy. She marries the musician and tries to come to terms with her past as her mother does the same. Some violence.
Oh jeez, what the what? Pretty much the end of every sentence of this annotation is cringe-worthy. Rape. Virginity. Sexual phobia therapy. Haiti. And…only some violence? This is a book that contains, by description, a violent self deflowering and the best we can do is “some violence” but no, not even a little bit of “descriptions of sex,” explicit or otherwise? Uhhhhh.
So, like I said, I visited the internet to find out if its just me, or is this book weird (?). Turns out, it’s been an Oprah’s Book Club selection. I was like, “sensational, much?” But then I read the Amazon description from July 2003. Turns out, it’s not JUST a book about virginity verification and violent deflowering after all. Yay?
At the age of twelve, Sophie Caco is sent from her impoverished village of Croix-des-Rosets to New York, to be reunited with a mother she barely remembers. There she discovers secrets that no child should ever know, and a legacy of shame that can be healed only when she returns to Haiti–to the women who first reared her. What ensues is a passionate journey through a landscape charged with the supernatural and scarred by political violence, in a novel that bears witness to the traditions, suffering, and wisdom of an entire people.
When presented from this angle, the book seems downright interesting, engrossing, enlightening, and, dare I say, worth a read?
NLS, I realize that this is a very old annotation…1994 to be semi-exact. So, I’m not going to rail too hard. Let’s assume this annotation writer has moved on to other tasks at the NLS…director, deputy director, collection development…something innocuous that doesn’t put them in direct access to the books, or the humans, or writing PR copy. Uh oh.
Anyway, that is all. Now back to cataloging this backlog of 4 months and 2,000 titles.
Edited to say: Make that 3,000 and change.
Today folks, allow me to present the Narrow Interest of the Week Award. And the winner is…Left Neglected by Lisa Genova(Ph.D.)! Oh brother, when the cover of the trade paperback edition includes an endorsement by Jodi Picoult you know you’re in for a bummer. From the NLS annotation:
High-powered executive and working mom Sarah Nickerson survives a car wreck with a condition called “left neglect.” No longer aware of the left side of her body and unable to see anything on her left, she ponders an uncertain future. Some strong language and some descriptions of sex.
Okay, I looked it up, and this book has 336 pages in the print version. So, I’m going to assume that the accident probably takes place in the first 50 pages (at most, right?) and that for another 280 this dummy is “ponder[ing] an uncertain future.”
BOR-ING. Why why why? Why does a book exist called Left Neglected that only deals with this medical phenomenon of left neglect? And that is why, in case you hadn’t figured it out by now, I award Lisa Genova the Narrow Interest of the Week Award. At the very least Sarah Nickerson should look into getting a left side transplant with the left side of a cadaver, right? Let’s mix it up a bit, people!
Now, I want to address the “strong language…some descriptions of sex” part of the annotation. I can be honest with you, Gentle Reader, I have no intention of reading this book. But I have every intention of commenting on what I think the content of this book might be. First; strong language. I think the strong language in the book will be situations where Sarah Nickerson curses her invisible left side loudly. As in, “damn you you useless piece of shit, I never favored you anyway,” or, “you good-for-nothing son-of-a-bitching left-side, go f*ck yourself!”
Which brings me to part two of the content disclaimer: some descriptions of sex. Really? If this book describes, in any detail, a sexual encounter in which her neglected left side leads to some wacky sex-hijinks, I must object. As in,
- Me: Objection, Your Honor.
- Judge: On what grounds?
- Me: On the grounds that this is stupid.
- Judge: Sustained.
See? Even the legal system agrees with me–this book is most likely stupid, and at the very least, lame. But, if you’ve read this post and for some crazy reason you still think you should read this book, here is a handy link to purchase it privately. I wouldn’t risk checking this doo-doo-pie out at your library, if I were you–somebody might see you. At least Amazon will ship it in a plain brown corrugated wrapper.
*my own disclaimer: if this book had been about somebody losing feeling of their left side due to a stroke, I wouldn’t have made fun. I’m sorry if you, or someone you love, has experienced “left neglect,” but that doesn’t negate the fact that this book sounds stupid to me, and, as a matter of course, must be ridiculed.
Has this ever happened to you, Gentle Reader? Somebody close to you tells you all about this FANTASTIC book that they’ve read this year and you just HAVE to read it now! And upon reading it, you are expected to tell them all about how it changed your life too and how you’re going to proselytize this “good book” all over hill and dale. Well, GR, this has just recently happened to me and the offending turd is none other than Deborah Harkness’s A Discovery of Witches.
Where do I begin? I’ll tell you where I’m not going to waste any time: the beginning. Nothing, and I mean nuh-thing, happens in this book of any consequence for the first 300 pages or so. From the NLS annotation (because Harkness and Amazon’s synopsis are ridiculously long):
After scholar and witch Diana Bishop requests an alchemical manuscript from the depths of Oxford’s Bodleian Library, she finds the magical power within the leather cover disturbing and hastily sends it back. But the book’s reemergence causes a chain reaction through the paranormal community. Descriptions of sex.
Diana Bishop is also descended from witches dating back to the Salem witch trials…because all witches in fiction are descended from Salem, MA. She is also considered a “reluctant” witch because she refuses to use her powers, which are, of course, super powerful and she has like the most powerful potential witch-powers in the history of the world. Aaaaaaaaaand, her boyfriend is a vampire. A broody, tortured, rich, handsome, 1,500 year old vampire. I’ll get back to
Edward Cullen Matthew du Clairmont in a minute.
I left the part about “descriptions of sex” in the NLS annotation because there significantly ARE NOT ANY. So, no real magic and no real sex. This book is a 592 page rip off of every magic/vampire/witch/romance/suspense/secret society novel ever written.
The vampire, Matthew Clairmont, is some kind of undead Forest Gump. He has met and/or worked along side EVERYONE of political, historical, or artistical(?) note of the past thousand years. Vampire Matthew fought in the crusades, the Revolutionary War, the Napoleonic Wars, and probably even the Korean War (it’s the forgotten one, you know).
And you laughed when I likened Matthew to Edward Cullen, but in the part of the book I’m suffering through right now, it has just been revealed that the witch and the vampire are destined to reproduce. Re-pro-duce. I could punch Stephenie Meyer for introducing that little nugget of literary license to the vampire/magic genre.
And I’m not even done reading the thing yet. I have been suffering through this book for 5 weeks now. It is 2 weeks overdue. I owe the Salem Public Library $3.45 to date. I have to finish this book because I have to go back and tell the recommender something about this lame book.
But wait, there’s more. There are about 100 pages left in this turd and it’s real obvious that nothing is about to be resolved. So, we’re looking at a series. There will be more. Dear Deborah Harkness: you either write a long-assed book that sucks or you write several medium- to short-assed books that suck collectively. You DO NOT write a series of books that are all as long as hell. Thank you, Me.
As usual, check this book out at your public library. Go today and get on the waiting list because it’s a best seller and you will need to wait for your copy. How and why? I don’t know.
Any Jill Churchill fans out there? You just lurve those Jane Jeffry “novels?” Well, this post is [not] for you! For those who don’t know, Jill Churchill writes (among others) a series of books about a character named Jane Jeffry. The books are mysteries– cutesy, cozy, mysteries. As evidenced by Jill’s URL; cozybooks.com. Barf. Gag. Erp. Blech.
As a rule, I haven’t read “cozy” mysteries since I was in my mid-20’s. I used to be a huge fan of Qwill and his two cats, Koko and Yum Yum. However, I grew up and, while I accept that those stories have a huge place in “literature,” they no longer have a spot on my bookshelf. Sorry, I’m lying here. My collection of Lillian Jackson Braun books up to 1999 still has real estate in my home library.
My issue today isn’t with the “cozy” mystery genre. It is with Jill Churchill and her blatant rape of world literature, for personal profit, through the vehicle of this Jane Jeffry series. You see, every book in the Jane Jeffry series has a title that directly rips off another title from classic literature. I can’t stand this. Her titles include:
- Grime and Punishment
- A Farewell to Yarns
- A Quiche Before Dying
- The Class Menagerie
- A Knife to Remember
- From here to Paternity
- Silence of the Hams
- War and Peas
- Fear of Frying
- The Merchant of Menace
- A Groom with a View
- Mulch Ado About Nothing
- The House of Seven Mabels
- Bell, Book, and Scandal
- A Midsummer Nights Scream
- The Accidental Florist
How dare this hack ride on the backs of literary giants (yes, I said giants) to sell books? And, really, what did Shakespeare ever do to you, Jill Churchill? Why did you feel the need to bother the Bard twice? Every time I have to catalog one of this cow’s disgustingly pandering titles I groan, yes, groan out loud. Go to Hell Jill Churchill; I’m pretty sure Dante saved a special seat for you.
So, today I feel the urge to write about a book that I consider a non-turd. The book is the Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. The book parallels a part of Alexie’s own life story in which a young Spokane Indian leaves the “rez” school to attend high school at a “white” high school 20 miles away–and off the rez. Arnold Spirit faces discrimination from the kids at the new school, discrimination from his neighbors that he leaves behind every day, extreme poverty, and alot of sadness. But-hey-this is just normal stuff for a kid from the rez.
Anyway, of course the book has been challenged, like, everywhere. It has profanity, sexual content, and some overall anti-social behavior. In other words, it’s a peek into what it’s really like to live on and leave the reservation. I’m posting today because the most recent school district to “challenge” [read: banned] this book is the Richland Washington School District in Eastern Washington. At one point in my life my home address was Richland WA 99352, and I’ve actually met Sherman Alexie and think he’s a totally rad dude. Additionally, Richland sits, literally, right between the Spokane Reservation and the Yakama Reservations–and two or three others, but I’m showing my own ignorance here.
At the bottom of this post I’ve included a link to the Tri-City Herald’s news story about the banning of the book. I had several, “oh REALLY” moments while reading this article, but as a former English major, this one is my favorite:
“I get the feeling that language arts is an opportunity to talk about these issues and problems that are rampant in our society,” said board member Phyllis Strickler. “But is that really (its) purpose?”
I guess the kids of Richland WA will just have to wait to discuss literature as it relates to real life when they get to college–assuming their moms and dads approve.
In addition to wagging my finger at the Richland School Board, I’m “for shaming” the parents of Richland WA 9th graders. Apparently, the English teacher who taught the book last year sent a letter about the book to parents and encouraged them to read the book and send in reviews to the School Board. Of his entire 9th grade set of students, one parent read the book. Of course, he or she gave it a thumbs-down.
Seriously, do yourself a favor and READ THIS BOOK. It is not a thumbs-down and it is not, what Wall Street Journal Reviewer Meghan Cox Gurdon lists as an example in her list of YA books that are “…hideously distorted portrayals of what life is.” Oh, really?