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my humble opinion in the shape of ‘book reviews.’

June 22, 2008

I HAVE HAD AN EXTREMELY BUSY, LONG DAY, but as I lay down with my nightly reading, I can’t shove off the thoughts still lingering about the last books I had on my “What the Green Eyed Muse is Reading” Post. As an avid reader (um, hello? English major!), my favorite part of summer is playing my own professor, lining up my own reads to devour one at a time, or overlapping, in delicious hours before bed, or on the stationary bike at the gym, or down by the river (alas, no ocean here). Here are my reads from late May, and what I thought of them, briefly:


I just want to share the most moving passage to me of this whole book, first:

“I came to Italy pinched and thin.  I did not know yet what I deserved.  I still maybe don’t fully know what I deserve.  But I do know that I have collected myself myself of late– through the enjoyment of harmless pleasures– into somebody much more intact.  The easiest, most fundamentally human way to say it is that I have put on weight.  I exist more now than I did four months ago.  I will leave Italy noticeably bigger than when I arrived here.  ANd I will leave with the hope that the expansion of one person– the magnification of one life– is indeed an act of worth in this world.  Even if that life, just this one time, happens to be nobodies but my own.”  (pg.115-16, end of the first Section)

This particular portion of the book spoke to my own needs to become a bodily being as a means toward spirituality, rather than my usual cerebral attempt to puzzle out the holiest of aches and longings.  This book has been recommended to me repeatedly, especially by a few of my closest friends.  It seems a staple in the quick-reads of most women I know between eighteen and forty-five.  It is the classic girl has successful career, girl gets depressed, girl initiates ravaging divorce, girl falls in love again with new lover, girl takes a trip around the world to rediscover herself.  For the first (many) pages, I have to admit, I felt like I was watching snipits of Under the Tuscan Sun (a movie that is charming enough) being replayed before my eyes.

But this feeling of deja-vu quickly faded as the earnestness of Gilbert’s own story, the originality of her voice, and the voices of her fascinating array of characters, took the book in new directions.  She is clearly spiritually devoted, and hungry to learn.  And, for a young woman who loves to travel and is experiencing her own full-blown spiritual hunger more profoundly now than at any juncture in her life so far, the book spoke to me.  I appreciated her knowledge of spiritual practices, the ascetic life she explored, and the transformation she engineered for herself.  The book is a quick read, and worth it, if you love travel, memoir, and diversified spirituality. 

I give it: ☼ __


Middlesex– Jeffrey Eugenides

The novel Middlsex was an intriguing, interesting and twisted journey which takes the reader back three generations, to Greece, and finds its culmination in Chicago, when a young woman becomes the bearer of her forefathers and mothers’ decisions to intermarry, and bring a rare genetic mutation into her body.  The book starts with scenes that are a bit disorienting, but exciting.  Soon, the plot wanes a bit, and we reach stagnation.  Never fear, love interests, youthful run-aways, sex-change and other surprises spice things up before its said and done.  I wanted more insight into such a psychologically traumatic experience for a young girl.  The historical settings are well-rendered, and anyone who wants to close a book only to find themselves haunted by (and missing) the narrator’s voice will find a complex companion in this 500+ page tome.  It piqued my interest, and I want more.

I give it: ☼ __ __


Temple Grandin’s “Thinking in Pictures: And Other Reports on My Life WIth Autism”

I was first introduced to this book indirectly via a lecture given by an English professor, and husband of my dear friend; they have a beautiful and incredibly, creatively intelligent Aspergerian son.  I had already heard of Temple Grandin, through Erol Morris“First Person” Interview Series, (which Mark introduced me to and I could watch ad infinitum and never exhaust my fascination, or my overwhelming emotional responses to some of the interviews.  They are worth buying.  Okay, segue DONE.)

The book is a bit redundant at times, though I found the “updates” in medical and scientific understanding and progress in learning about Autism Spectrum Disorders really intriguing.  I want to read much more on the topic, and on the incredible feats of Grandin herself, who has a PhD and uses her innate ability to learn visually to help her empathize with cows to the point of actually mimicking their consciousness, and knowing how to design slaughterhouses that are humane and do not unnecessarily scare the animals.

Worth a read, especially if you are in the spot of so many Americans, and have very little understanding of Autism spectrum disorders.  Join the fight to increase Autism Awareness.

I give it: ☼ __ __

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