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8. “Misery,” Stephen King

January 14, 2011 4 comments

Big time author Paul Sheldon celebrates finishing a new book– the first since he killed off the character, Misery CHastaine, who made him famous, but whom be grew to hate– with a bottle of champagne behind the wheel of his car in a blizzard. When his car spins out of control, he is pulled from the wreckage by Annie Wilkes, his number one fan. Annie nurses Paul carefully back to health, treating him as best she can with his badly mangled legs. Soon, though, Paul realizes that she is a dangerously ill woman and as her mental health slips, he finds himself more and more under her power. The two are locked into a battle of minds and wills Paul cannot afford to lose.

I meant to go to sleep more than an hour and a half ago. But I still had that much time left in this audio book and I could. not. stop. I legitmately let out a small, dry sob of terror somewhere near the end of the book. Okay, twice. Maybe three times. And there was one moment where I was so dizzy with fright I thought I might faint. I sunk my entire day into this book and don’t regret it.

If you listen to this audiobook, which I highly recommend, definitely listen to the version read by Lindsay Crouse, which is really well done and gives Kathy Bates a run for her money.

Page count: 352

Page total: 2,217

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4. “Blindness,” José Saramago

December 3, 2010 Leave a comment

José Saragamo’s Blindness begins at an amber light. In a traffic-congested road in an unnamed city in an unnamed country, an unnamed man sits in his car, staring at a traffic light that goes from amber to red– and then suddenly to white. The man, who never so much as wore glasses in his life, has gone suddenly and inexplicably blind. It’s not a normal blindness, that of darkness or lack of light, but a ghostly white blindness unlike any anyone has seen before. It spreads, slowly at first: from the first blind man to the man who offers to help him home only to steal his car, to the first blind man’s wife, to a police officer who finds the thief screaming, to a taxi driver who transports the first blind man and his wife to the ophthalmologist’s office, to the patients of the ophthalmologist, to the ophthalmologist– but not to his wife. As one by one, everyone connected to this white blindness becomes blind themselves, the governance of the city decides that they must quarantine the blind and infected in an old mental hospital guarded by the army until the cause of their malady can be determined. Quickly, the situation begins to spiral out of control as the internees rapidly lose not only their sight but their humanity.

I just wrote a paper about how this book sucks, so I kind of don’t feel like doing it again, but here’s my thesis paragraph:

I shall examine how this novel constructs blindness metaphorically, exploring the links Saramago draws between physical and moral blindness, sight and humanity. I shall then explore the problems with employing disabilities as metaphors, and how this common trend speaks to the ways in which disability haunts our culture. In doing so, I hope to tease out the ableism upon which stories such as these are predicated, in the belief that doing so is the necessary first step to expelling these traits.

Add to that some Foucault/Heterotopia and you have a surprisingly-decent paper.

Page count: 352
Page total: 1,341

68. “The Haunting of Hill House,” Shirley Jackson

October 25, 2010 Leave a comment

Two women with a history of experiences with the supernatural are drafted by a doctor into spending their summer at a house with a reputation as haunted. They are joined also by the heir to the house and, eventually, by the doctor’s wife and her assistant. Quickly, the house begins to plot against them: closing the doors they leave open so they can find their way through its labyrinthine halls, pounding on their doors at night, writing their names on the walls and then washing them clean. As the house focuses its attention on simple mousey Eleanor, the others must find a way to get her out before it is too late.

This book actually scared the bejesus out of me. I strongly recommend the audio version, which is wonderfully atmospheric. It’s a quick read, and good for a dark and stormy night with the threat of a power outage. For my part, my roommate’s dog started randomly barking just after there was banging on the doors of the House. Then the barking turned into growling– and finally yelps before I swooned and dragged myself to the kitchen where I discovered he was freaked out by a crepe witch hung over the oven.

Nice work, dog.

Page count: 246
Total pages: 20,079

I knew there was a joke to be made

January 30, 2010 3 comments

G-d bless the Onion for finding it:

Bunch Of Phonies Mourn J.D. Salinger

January 28, 2010 | Issue 46•04

A black-and-white yearbook-style photo of a young Salinger. He is a white man with dark hair sitting in three-quarters profile. He wears a shirt and tie with a light-colored blazer

CORNISH, NH—In this big dramatic production that didn’t do anyone any good (and was pretty embarrassing, really, if you think about it), thousands upon thousands of phonies across the country mourned the death of author J.D. Salinger, who was 91 years old for crying out loud. “He had a real impact on the literary world and on millions of readers,” said hot-shot English professor David Clarke, who is just like the rest of them, and even works at one of those crumby schools that rich people send their kids to so they don’t have to look at them for four years. “There will never be another voice like his.” Which is exactly the lousy kind of goddamn thing that people say, because really it could mean lots of things, or nothing at all even, and it’s just a perfect example of why you should never tell anybody anything.

6. “Hung: A Meditation on the Measure of Black Men in America,” Scott Poulson-Bryant

December 21, 2009 1 comment

I started reading this in October, mostly via eBrary, which is a pretty cool site. It lets you highlight the text and, the really cool part, copy it. I was making such slow progress with it, though, that I had to give up and order it through the BPL.

This book pretty much what the title says, a meditation on (US American) discourse constructing the black man as hung. It’s written in the first person, which I think required, to use the metaphor Poulson-Bryant expands upon in the past third of the book, a pretty big dick. He peppers his writing with anecdotes about his own dick and the dicks of guys he knows. Drawing on his career writing for magazines, he’s able to reference a lot of Black NFL and NBA stars, as well as hip-hop and rap artists and draw common links between their sexualization and the sexualization of old movies like “Mandingo,” right through Lexington Steele’s porn.

The writing is pretty good, too, though occasionally self-consciously so. There’s a chapter where he quotes liberally from an old journal, which always kind of bothers me, and the book begins with some references to his college journalism career. Overall, I think I was expecting something a little more academic (more citations, less ancedata), but it was pretty good for what it was: one man’s personal attempts to understand the myth of the big black penis and all it means for him and America.

Here are a few quotes:
A (white) woman, upon seeing his penis, remarks that she thought he’d have a bigger one. “I thought I’d have a bigger dick, too. There was shame in that response but also a nagging question, as in: Why the shame?” (12)

James Baldwin in “Just Above My Head”: “It was more a matter of its color than its size… its color was its size.” (quoted on 14)

Gunnar Myrdal study: White Southerners were asked what Blacks most wanted. They rated intermarriage and sex with whites #1 of 6 options (20)

“The white men who invented America weren’t trying to create a monster to subjugate. They needed a monster against which to measure their own monstrous actions. […] It’s a measuring stick of self-worth, capabilities and fallablities.” (22)

“It’s the men’s magazines that run articles about dick size […] because for so many men, it’s the very definition of who they are.” (23)

“I could cite position papers and speeches and documents detailing the African-American male’s continued status as less than endowed on the economic, social, and political totem poles. But it almost seems to defeat the point because pop-culture-wise, black men are the cream of the crop, the definers of image, and the valued sites of desire and cultural anointment, endowed, as it were, like myths. And maybe, eventually, that’s all we have. Maybe, eventually, that will be our salvation, as America, and not just hiphop, makes its mad dash to the finish line of high capitalism. Maybe, eventually, it is the Michael Jordans and Puff Daddys of our world who will signify what it means to be a black man, who will be the sole signposts to follow along the road to true endowment. Perhaps the myth will hold because there are men like our pop-culture and sports icons who put a face on the American dream of bigness, whether it’s the real financial thing or the big-dicked-ness everyone surmises them to have. Not that Jordan and his crew are immune to adhering to some of the same mythic qualities in the American obsession. “(198)

Page count: 224
Page total: 11,85

63. “I Am America and So Can You,” Stephen Colbert

September 30, 2009 Leave a comment

Very much like the show. I like audiobooks that are read by the author and this one was particularly good because Stephen has a very strong voice. If you’re familiar with Colbert, you hear him when you read his stuff anyway.

Page count: 240
Page total: 24,539

60. “World War Z,” Max Brooks

September 15, 2009 2 comments

This audiobook had a full cast reading it, which was really awesome for an oral history. It also had some creepy atmospheric music (like “The Haunting of Hill House,” which expired before I could finish it, so this may be its only mention). My favorite of the histories was the pilot whose plane crashed in the bayou. I usually listen to the book while I’m waiting to fall asleep (an endevour that often takes an hour or more), and this one was so vivid. I don’t typically get pictures in my head while reading, but I could see that one.

Brooks did a good job capturing the voices of people in many different cultures (though the voice actresses and actors may have helped, too).

I’d really recommend both the book and audiobook.

Page count: 352
Page total: 23,972