Monday, January 10, 2011

What I've read lately...

I've read a few things over the last month that a) weren't compelling enough to post about individually, or b) I am too lazy to write about individually. Ergo, compilation post.

For my December book club meeting at Idlewild, we read Carlo Collodi's classic, Pinocchio. [Sidenote: this may be the worst NYRB cover in existence.] I was under the assumption that this book is very different from the Disney movie known by all. Well, it is somewhat different, but not in the extreme way I thought it would be. Many of the plot points were the same. However, this story is much darker—too scary for Disney audiences. The cricket's appearance is too brief to even warrant him the name "Jiminy," and Pinocchio is....ANNOYING. Collodi obviously wrote these stories as lessons on behavior to children, which were published as chapters in a weekly magazine. But when all the chapters are compiled into one book, the lessons get repetitive and Pinocchio becomes unlikable because he seems to never learn! [More points found here in this NYRB article that I never actually read.] It was a quick easy read, but, to be honest, I can't even remember what we discussed about this book because I was too excited by the pita chips and wine.

In Nashville for Christmas, I read Joy in the Morning, the other well-known work by Betty Smith. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is in my top 3 books of all time, so I'd been meaning to read this for a while. It's a lovely story of a young Brooklyn couple in the late 1920s who were just married and moved to the midwest where Carl, the husband, is a law student. Annie is immediately endearing, as she's uneducated yet bright and eager to learn. This book should be required reading for newlyweds because it's uplifting in a non-cheesy, unsentimental way—in a way that reminds you that things happen but you get through them. It's a simple story but it sucks you in with likable characters while throwing some important life lessons in there about enjoying the small things and stuff like that. Not too much to say about this besides it was highly enjoyable.

The World Reading Party's country for the month of December was Greece. After a long search for Greek literature that turned up little more than mysteries or chick-lit or really long novels, I opted for the Greek classic, Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis. It's the story of a traveling Englishman who meets an elderly (if 65 is "elderly" by today's standards—my dad certainly would not like to think so) vivacious Greek man named Zorba who aims to live life to the fullest and drags our narrator out of his shell. Supposedly this is a book about the philosophy of life and contains some important message on how to live it—which may or may not be something along the lines of "live how you want." But the only lesson I got from this was, in a nutshell, "Eat a lot, drink a lot, and sleep with a lot of women." I've read comments that this book is the book for some people, but I guess I am not one of those people. It was just meh to me. I didn't even learn that much about Greek culture, which is my aim with this reading challenge, so boo on that.

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