All The Kings Men by Robert Penn Warren

My Pulitzer goal has really suffered this year. This is only the first book I’ve read from that list in 2014. I need to pick up the pace if I am to make my goal of reading 12 of them this year.

All The Kings Men

All The Kings Men by Robert Penn Warren

All The Kings Men contains some of the best character development I’ve read. The path of self discovery taken by the book’s narrator, Jack Burden, is compelling and resonated with me in a way I don’t think it would have had I read this at a younger age. Truth be told, I kind of ended up with a crush on Jack Burden.

As Burden tells his story you come to know those around him as complex people, more of their “warts” than their good characteristics and it would be very tempting just to paint all of these characters as “bad people” if you were to just give the prose a cursory read. But Warren’s prose doesn’t really allow for a cursory read, at least it didn’t for me. I became curious about the motivations and thought processes of these characters. Willie Stark is fascinating, both Adam and Anne Stanton intriguing. Even some of the more peripheral players like Lucy Stark, Tiny Duffy and Sadie Burke were people whose motivations and actions lead to hours of thought.

And really, this is what happened for me. I thought about this story a great deal, during the day as I went about other tasks I would think about these characters and try to imagine why they would take the actions that they did, say the things they did. Because this story was filled with some many layered people I became emotionally connected to it. This story once again affirmed my belief that there aren’t many truly “bad” people in the world. Most of us are just people, doing the best we can, and we make mistakes. Some of them ugly.

This story also sent me down two “rabbit holes” Because it is believed that Willie Stark is based on Huey Long , I spent a lot of time reading about him. And then as I was reading about Warren himself I learned that he also won the Pulitzer Prize for his poetry, and therefore spent time reading his poems. But then, that is not really a complaint, the “rabbit holes” are one of the most enjoyable things about reading afterall :)

Beautiful book.

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Posted in All The Possibilities, Pulitzer Goal | Tagged All The Kings Men, book reviews, book-a-week goal, Pulitzer Prize Goal, reading, Robert Penn Warren | 1 Comment

Learning To Be Kind

Does the desire to be kind, the intention, count for anything?

This thought has been on my mind a great deal today. It began earlier today when I read this post. I thought about (and cringed about) many unkind statements I’ve made in the past. And those that I’ve made recently too.

While I know that I truly have changed and grown in the past several years, sometimes I get overwhelmed by the shear amount of changing I still need to do.

I’ve been told all my life that I am a selfish person, by my mother and by my ex-husband. How much truth is there to that? I know that regardless of the truth I’ve internalized it as such. And that is mostly a good thing. I believe it has had a negative impact in that I beat myself up and am so hard on myself that I cannot feel good when I make some progress toward being a kinder person. But on the whole I feel like it is good to constantly be looking for ways to improve in this important aspect.

I would like to live in a state of kindness. I would like to be so focused on the needs and hearts of others that I never say or do anything unkind. I feel that is a worthy goal. Maybe the best goal that I have. Also probably the least attainable in reality.

Am I going to be apologizing for things I’ve said, done or written my entire life? Probably. But I DO need to acknowledge, and celebrate that I am making progress toward a kinder, less selfish me.

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Posted in Charitable Living, Relationships | Tagged good intentions, kindness, rationalizations, selfishness | Leave a comment

2014: The Year That Will Tell The Tale

Sometimes I feel pathetic. I set goals, make a bit of progress and then I let life get in the way and before I know it a month or two has passed and I’ve not made any more progress.

I desperately want to think that I can change this. And I guess that if I just continue to “try” every time I slip that I will continue to make progress. But that feels like a “cop out” and I know I am capable of better.

What do I want to accomplish in 2014?

Finally remove the extra weight

read 12 Pulitzers

read 61 books total (last year I read 60, so 61 it is)

learn PHP

knit or crochet 50 hats for the homeless shelter

move to a better place

Planning, planning, planning- no, wait…

I always spend too much time planning and not enough taking action.

Action, action, action

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I Made My Goal!

So I set a goal on the GoodReads website to read 52 books in 2013- and I made it! I am so excited to have accomplished at least one thing in the past year. I’ve not had a very good year in many respects, so to have this small success is kind of a big deal for me.

I wrote about this in an earlier post, when I was ahead of the goal. I didn’t make my Pulitzer related goal of 12 Pulitzer winners this year, but accomplishing this one feels good.

I am going to be a bit  more aggressive next year – 60 books in 2014, with 12 of them being Pulitzer winners. I get a great deal of joy from reading, and I know that I need to continue to look for ways to bring more pure joy into my life.

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Posted in All The Possibilities, Goal Setting, Other Reading, Pulitzer Goal | Tagged book-a-week goal, celebration, goal setting, goals, joy, Pulitzer Prize Goal, reading, successes | 1 Comment

A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley

I just finish A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley this week. This is my latest read for my Pulitzer Prize reading goal.

(SPOILER ALERT)

What I loved about this book:

Smiley’s writing style – she draws such clear, emotional pictures with her words, even when writing about difficult subjects

What I liked about this book:

The book took place in a time period that I remember vividly, and she wrote about it accurately

Having been raised by a farmer I enjoy reading about farming, so although the father in this story was NOTHING like my daddy (I don’t think I can stress that enough) there was much about the other farmers and the way of life itself that resonated with me

The people in the story were complex and every single one of them fascinated me. I wanted to get to know them all better, but felt that I knew them at the same time. Smiley is very good at writing in a character driven manner. She did not write in a way that was overly judgmental of her characters, especially Ginny and Rose. While many of the characters within the story make choices that might be viewed as “wrong” most of them never lose their humanity to that “wrongness”

What I disliked about the book.

Child sexual abuse is never easy to read about. And while I believe repressed memories do happen I don’t believe they happen the way they did in this book. I remember very well the repressed memory craze that went on in the 1990s, so many women were “discovering” that they were abused while they were in therapy.

All in all a deep story, beautifully written.

 

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Posted in Pulitzer Goal | Tagged A Thousand Acres, book reviews, book-a-week goal, family, goals, Jane Smiley, Pulitzer Prize Goal, reading | 1 Comment

The Way Of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

So, can I just say – LOVED this book :)

Seriously I’ve only two complaints, both minor really.

1- I felt there may have been too much time spent on world building, maybe…

2- This is the first book in what will eventually be a 10 book series, I will have some waiting, as the second one is not even due out until March of 2014

Rich characters- sort of have a bit of a crush on both Dalinar and Kaladin, and I am totally fascinated with the assassin.

I like the conflicts of the morality systems of the different characters and societies, that will make for rich story telling in the later books.

 

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Posted in Other Reading | Tagged book reviews, book-a-week goal, Brandon Sanderson, goals, reading, The Way of Kings | Leave a comment

Frankenstein

I finally read Frankenstein. It is odd that I could live this long and not have read it. Of course there are many more books I could say that about, classics that I’ve yest not taken the time to read, so maybe it is not so odd.

18490I LOVED this book. It is beautifully written. As I was reading I kept going back to the thought that Mary Shelley was only nineteen when she wrote this book. Nineteen.

I felt cheated by every adaptation Hollywood has ever produced from this work. (Okay, not every adaptation, there is the monumental awesomeness of Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein) But nothing has ever captured the true horror of this book.

The anguish of both Victor Frankenstein and the creature were nearly palpable to me. Honestly, I felt much more sorrow for the creature, for his frustrations and loneliness. I found it contemptible that Frankenstein would create him and then do nothing to relieve his suffering. Not that I think creating a companion for the creature was the correct idea, but he himself could have provided friendship and understanding. He could have perhaps even have shared the presence of the “monster” with others he trusted. I found Frankenstein’s cowardice loathsome. It was not until the end of his life that he told anyone about what he had done, he never really took responsibility.

 

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Posted in Other Reading | Tagged book reviews, book-a-week goal, Frankenstein, goals, Mary Shelley | Leave a comment

Tai-Pan by James Clavell

I read this book clear back in February and March. I read it because it was recommended to me by an old friend from high school (jr. high and high school to be exact) I’ve had a crush on this man since I was 13 and had just recently reconnected with him. I wanted to read it quickly so I would have an excuse to talk to him. (I know, I could have just talked to him anyway, but…) It worked out well, we’ve been dating since then :)

the book Tai Pan by James Clavell

Tai Pan by James Clavell

So anyway, about the book…

The protagonist of the story, Dirk Struan, owns a very large shipping company. The British have just won the First Opium War, and Struan wants to Hong Kong to become a  stronghold that will help open the very large Asian market to British interests. He plans to return to his native Scotland and enter into politics as a result of his success in Asia.

Other characters in the book include Struan’s rival and his family, his mistress, his son and brother, other European and Americans residing there,  as well as the Asian politician’s and business men. The result is a tale that has depth and scope, something that usually allows me to get lost in a story and emotionally involved with the people and events contained in a book. This book did not disappoint. I was captivated by the characters and intrigued by the history. I found myself looking for information about the time period and the history of Hong Kong.

I’m glad I read this one, and I plan to read all  Clavell’s Asian saga now.

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Posted in All The Possibilities, Other Reading | Tagged Asia, book reviews, book-a-week goal, Hong Kong, James Clavell, reading, Tai Pan | Leave a comment

Laughing Boy by Oliver La Farge

So, this book review blog post is not part of my attempt to catch up on all the book I’ve read this year but haven’t taken the time to write about here. This is a book I finished this morning. It is fresh in my mind.

the novel Laughing Boy

Laughing Boy

Laughing Boy is a love story, written about a young Navajo couple in the very early 1910′s. The beauty of the story is how it shows the growth of their love for one another and acceptance of one another as time passes in the short year and a half that they are married in the book. Learning to be honest with one another, to trust one another – this is real love.

I know a small amount of Navajo culture, this book made me want to discover more. The concept of learning to live “in beauty” is something I believe would help me transcend the occupation with day to day trivial things that sometimes consume to much of my energy. I need to find a way to focus more on that which really matters.

Having grown up in the west, I attended schools with some Navajo children who were brought up from the reservation to live with families in my area. This was done under the direction of the LDS church. Of course as a naive fourth grader I bought into the idea that we were “helping” these children. It was not until about 15 years ago that it began to occur to me what an awful thing much of this was, and how it harmed this beautiful culture and people. Reading about how the young woman in the story, Slim Girl, was viewed because of her American schooling brought this home even more deeply. Even though she was taken to a school and lived there for 5 years, verses the children I knew that just came up to live with a family for the school year I don’t see much of a difference. Being told that your culture and people are inferior would be devastating. And it is those emotions that are driving Slim Girl’s actions and ultimately lead to her death. I didn’t much care for her while reading most of the book, I didn’t trust her actions. It wasn’t until her full story is revealed that I, like Laughing Boy, began to understand her.

This is another book that I feel has altered me, made me a better person just for having read it. Simply beautiful.

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Posted in Pulitzer Goal | Tagged book reviews, book-a-week goal, goals, Laughing Boy, Navajo culture, Oliver La Farge, Pulitzer Prize Goal, reading, religion, simplicity | 1 Comment

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

I am making an effort to catch up on all my book reviews. I’ve read so many books in the past several months but have not written about them. So today I am going to write about reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao book cover

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

I knew nothing about the Dominican Republic when I began reading this book, and so I really enjoyed all the footnotes he added to give context and further the story telling. I also found myself interrupting my reading to look things up online. Every so often something like this comes in to my life to remind just how self absorbed I tend to be, and how very little I know about the world around me. I consider that to be one of the greatest gifts of reading, the opportunity to expand my knowledge and experience life in ways that time does not allow me to otherwise do.

I could relate to Oscar, sometimes too well. Being a geek myself, and raising four of them, I understood the pain of not fitting in, of feeling that no one “gets” me. There are still occasions where this feeling comes to me, although as I’ve gotten older and matured (at least a little bit :) )I’ve found that I don’t mind not fitting in all the time, and that the feeling of fitting in is really almost illusory anyway.

I’ve never experienced anything near the poverty or violence that was shown in the parts of the story that take place in the Dominican Republic. Even with all the hardships I’ve had over the past 48 years, nothing compares to what Diaz wrote about there. And I don’t think that it was anything Diaz “enhanced” in an effort to make the story more powerful. After the reading I did from other sources in addition to the book I came away believing that while this particular story was fictional, the situation for people living in the D.R. was accurately portrayed.

Like all good books this one stayed with me while I wasn’t reading it, it had an effect on my thoughts and emotions even while I was doing other things. And that continued after finishing the last sentence. This book changed me. I wouldn’t say that it is one of my favorites, but I loved it.

 

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Posted in All The Possibilities, Pulitzer Goal | Tagged book reviews, book-a-week goal, goals, Junot Diaz, Pulitzer Prize Goal, reading, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao | 1 Comment