Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Encounters with culture.

Two books recently begun and abandoned:

Jonathon Safran Foer's Eating Meat. I love Foer's novels and I was really looking forward to this. But two things turned me off it: the flurry of really negative, even sometimes downright mean-spirited, reviews; and the fact that every page of it I read was like a little pin in my stomach. I wanted to read it, but found the details of factory farming (and fishing in pretty much all its forms, sigh) so horrifying that I could barely turn the pages. I already know the things this book is trying to convince me of, so I decided to spare myself the agony. And for several weeks I have only been buying farmer's market meat and farm eggs from a co-worker. (Maybe this time it will stick. I really, really try to be a conscientious meat-consumer and, as this book calls it, "meat-reducer." The problem is that I JUST HATE VEGETABLES.) Oh, and no more shrimp, even though it hurts my heart to give up those gross, delicious little sea-bugs.

Eoin Colfer's new Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy book, And Another Thing. I put a hold on this at my library with reservations. (Haha, hold with reservations! Get it! Library humour!) I had a feeling I wouldn't like it but I needed to see for myself. The first 25 pages were not bad, just not good enough for me to keep reading-- a little too Adams-y, too glib, a book that is trying a bit too hard to be liked. That doesn't mean it won't be, or that it shouldn't be. I think people who are fans of the original five books should give it a try, and decide for themselves, because if you like it, then this represents a small victory. Also, I don't really like Artemis Fowl. Maybe I am just not the sort of person who likes Eoin Colfer, and that is ok, because there are other books for me and other readers for him.

Two books finished and enjoyed:

The anthology Geektastic: stories from the Nerd Herd. Edited by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci. Like most short fiction anthologies, this one was a bit hit and miss, but more hit than miss, and there were a few real standouts by authors I had never heard of. It's so reassuring to learn that almost all writers are nerds, or can at least write persuasively about nerds, because it confirms my suspicion that they are my sort of people. This is the best possible combination of words that can be said about a book. Now I have out Kelly Link's tangential Pretty Monsters. (Her story was probably my favourite from the collection.) Also, I spent a lot of time gazing lovingly at the little pixelated, minifig-type people on the cover. So cute!

Adam Rex's The True Meaning of Smekday. Every year I make a real well-intentioned gamble at reading all the YRCA nominees and I usually get to about, uh, 2 of them. I would say if you are going to go through this same guilt-inducing process, that you make this book one of the 2. It's very very fun and cheeky, and the fact that it is published by Disney seems a bit scary, except the book seems to be kind of making fun of Disney. It's confusing! Like all the product placement that took place in the movie Josie and the Pussycats. Anyway, good stuff. I was laughing out loud at various points, and I am generally someone who does not laugh out loud at books. (Also: if you are someone who doesn't usually read young adult or children's fiction but is interested in it, the YRCA list every year is a great place to start. There is usually an assortment of different sorts of books on the list, and they represent some of the most readable fiction for younger people--books smart enough to be enjoyed by adults and interested enough to be enjoyed by young people.)

A troubled relationship with one television show:

The Office. I'm watching Season 2. James is many seasons ahead of me but is also watching Season 2 with me. Here is the thing about The Office. I think it's one of the cleverest, best-written shows going. The likeable cast members are so likeable, and the others are such scene-stealing unlikeables that it almost makes them likeable. But it is so UNCOMFORTABLE. I can only watch 2 episodes at a time and then I have to take a break from the awkwardness and discomfort I feel watching it. I feel this way about Michael and to a lesser extent Dwight: they are not so much funny as horrible. And just when you think they are such horrible people that they deserve execution, they'll do something that makes you feel so sorry for them that you have to start at the beginning in terms of finding them horrible. I know this is exactly the effect the show is trying to have, but maybe I'm too sensitive to be amused by my own reaction, as some people surely are.

One movie anticipated almost beyond reason:

The Fantastic Mr. Fox. Going to see it tonight with hopes perhaps too high. The trailers have filled me with uncontained childlike glee. I love Wes Anderson's films as much as the next hipster 20-something, or actually more probably; but if there is one thing off-putting about them it is their pretentiousness, the Wes Andersoniness of them. And they have been getting more and more Andersony as time goes by. Based on the very small glimpse of Fantastic Mr. Fox I've gotten from the trailers it seems like this movie might dispense with that a bit, be a bit more accessible, make some jokes just because they are there to be made, substitute some exuberance for some angst. Maybe? If so, this may become my favourite movie. Plus, in an utterly conventional and disappointing admission, George Clooney is my movie star boyfriend. He is dreamy, and his movies are always good. I bet even as a fox this holds true. Perhaps The Fantastic Mr. Fox represents the beginning of a new golden age of Wes Anderson movies in which all his movies have George Clooney in them and also are based on children's books. A girl can dream.

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