I’m currently reading Evolve Your Brain by Joe Dispenza and also The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway, but before I finish those, I wanted to share an excerpt from the Random House website from Bret Easton Ellis’ new book, Imperial Bedrooms. It is a sequel to Easton Ellis’ novel Less Than Zero, which was also made into a film starring Robert Downey, Jr. I have actually only read one of Easton Ellis’ books: The Rules of Attraction. Anyway, I saw the film version of Less Than Zero but I am curious about this sequel, so I plan to read both books.
Anyway, here is the link. I am already a bit intrigued.
Well, I had to renew it from the library three times, but I’ve finally finished reading Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. The novel won a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2003 and I definitely understand why now. It is amazingly well-crafted and original and features an unforgettable protagonist. I even found myself marvelling at individual sentences at times.
The novel is told from the point of view of middle-aged Calliope Stephanides retelling the history of her family from Asia Minor all the way to Detroit, Michigan, where her own personal history begins and she takes the reader all the way up through her adolescence. The history of her ancestors is imperative to her own story because a dark secret has been covered up and has manifested itself in her own genes: Callie was born a girl, but due to a mutated gene, her body becomes that of a male’s as soon as she hits puberty. She has both male and female genitalia. By the way, before you fly into a rage, this isn’t a spoiler because it’s revealed in the first few sentences of the novel. It is quite shocking at first. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to relate to a narrator who’s a hermaphrodite, but this story is so incredible, moving, and epic and Callie is a strong, funny, inquisitive and brave protagonist.
That’s the amazing thing about fiction and about being inside the head of a character completely different from you. It really expands your mind and enables readers to have empathy for people that they most likely would not be able to empathize with in the ‘real world’.
Eugenides also does a remarkable job of contrasting the Old World ways and customs with those of American life. We see how quickly the next
generation becomes Americanized and loses touch with the roots of their parents, how quickly they forget. A physical environment has so much influence over who a person becomes, which also factors into Callie’s gender identity. Her environment has molded her to be female, but eventually the biological self starts to mutiny against that conditioning, and she is thrust into foreign territory, much as her grandparents felt when they arrived in the United States. A person becomes conditioned to one place or one set of circumstances, but chance thrusts them into another.
This novel is a grand achievement, with the makings to become a classic. Although Calliope has been compared to the likes of Holden Caulfield, among others, she/he is unlike any other protagonist that came before.
Recently, I finished reading Bill Bryson‘s A Walk in the Woods. I had started reading it right after Christmas and eventually got distracted by other books. But I took it with me on a 6-day backpacking/camping trek through the Grand Canyon because I thought it was appropriate. Ok, so the Grand Canyon is different terrain than the Appalachian Trail, but it was appropriate enough.
Bill Bryson, an American, spent 20 years in England before moving to New Hampshire with his family. In order to reacquaint himself with his native land, he decided to hike the entire Appalachian Trail, which spans from Georgia all the way to Maine. The book details his ensuing adventures and tribulations.
Bill Brysonis obviously a writer who will make you start giggling like a maniac when you’re reading by yourself in a
Author Bill Bryson
coffee shop, and you’ll try to keep your mouth closed, but the laughter will splutter through anyway. My mother was reading the same book in the Grand Canyon, and she started laughing a number of times while reading in our tent. What makes A Walk in the Woods especially funny is the fact that neither Bryson nor his hilarious sidekick Katz is a natural born hiker or anything close to an athlete. The contradictions, such as fueling a journey through the wilderness with Little Debbie cakes and Snickers bars, are so spot-on American.
And besides being funny, A Walk in the Woods is quite informative as well. I knew next to nothing about the Appalachian Trail when I first picked up the book and thumbed through it, but I learned a lot and felt pretty darn inspired and protective of the AT by the end of it. Bryson really makes a plea for preserving the Appalachian Trail and the vision that led to its creation. It really is magnificent. In fact, I almost felt like climbing out of the Grand Canyon and trekking on over to the Appalachian Trail.
All in all, this is an enjoyable, informative, and rather quick read that will instill patriotism and perhaps get more people outside.