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Books I've Read Recently.


I can be funny about reading books sometimes. I go through periods where I spend every free waking moment with a book in my hand, and sometimes I don't pick up a book for weeks. Within the past ten days, I've read three whole books without so much as pausing for a breath, and it felt great! One of them was under 200 pages, another was just under 300 and another was 400 pages. I'm ashamed to say I'm intimidated by long books. XD Anyway, I enjoyed all three of them, which is pretty impressive for me.

Book Number One was Kurt Vonnegut's Mother Night. Despite the fact that he was an often-quoted favorite when I was in college I didn't read anything of his until I was 25. Perhaps because I was spoon-fed neo-conservatism by my father until I was mature enough to follow the news myself, I had always regarded Vonnegut as a mean old man who said nasty things about people just to get a shock out of them. Then I picked up a copy of Slaughterhouse Five and well...the rest is history. I've always been a squeamish person who was deeply disturbed by any portrayal of violence in the media. Reading Slaughterhouse Five was my first experience with a writer who portrayed scenes of brutality just for what they were--bad dreams that continue to stalk the human race. I know it sounds incredibly wanky to say this about a writer, but I'm forever grateful for the humanity and morality of Mr. Vonnegut's writing. Rather than feeling angry at him for exposing people to so many sad and ugly things, I feel thankful that he had the guts to tell the truth. He gave me a few nightmares, but he told the truth.

Mother Night read more like a pop fiction spy novel, but I still enjoyed it immensely. It had a lot of shocking moments that were very effective. I read it cover to cover on a Saturday afternoon; I wish I hadn't rushed it, but it really is the kind of book you have to read fast. Also, the print is quite large--good for the visually impaired! Even if you don't like books you really ought to read it. I hear a movie was made from it, but I don't know if it's any good.

Book Number Two was Amy Tan's The Bonesetter's Daughter. I've always been a fan of hers. I'm not sure why I waited almost ten years to buy this book. From reading her book of autobiographical essays, I knew that a lot of the violent emotional scenes with the main character and her mother were from Tan's own life. She had a childhood worthy of a sordid memoir! Knowing this diminished the impact of those scenes a little...maybe I'm not being fair, but it was like having to patiently listen to a relative recounting a juicy story that you've already heard. Regardless, I thought the book was pretty good. I like Tan's books because they deal with Chinese families and mother/daughter relationships that, for a Caucasian American like me, are both exotic and familiar. I've always loved to learn about foreign cultures, but what stands out the most to me with all of Tan's work is that she and her most personal heroines are very much American. I have to admit that there was a lot of rehashing in this book. Even someone who didn't know much about Tan's personal life would be able to see that the mother in The Kitchen God's Wife and the mother in The Bonesetter's Daughter were both based off Tan's mother. She definitely has a formula to her work, but the writing is so good and the emotion is so real that you want to keep reading anyway. And buy her future books

The last book was Eudora Welty's The Optimist's Daughter. It was a beautifully written little book about a sad and passive heroine who loses her father, her trashy stepmother and the stepmother's equally trashy family. They all behaved horribly and no one was punished in the end. It was a very good book, but I would only recommend it to you if you want to be put in a bad mood. I'm still suffering. ::smashes a cinderblock over a certain character's head:: Eudora Welty's writing reminds me a lot of Flannery O'Connor's, but without the satisfying "epiphany" in the end that usually resulted in some obnoxious character being hit with a book/run through with a bull's horn/shot by a serial killer. Oh well. I can dream, can't I?