Thursday, September 5, 2013

Book List!

This semester at Pine Manor I have a fantastic line-up of books to read.  I have already tackled seven - almost eight! - and felt like it might be interesting to show our readers and contributors the annotated bibliography that I have to keep for my readings.  What you see below has been copied and pasted from my personal account at, which has been a godsend for this project.  Please note that my annotations are meant as a personal guide for myself to see what I learned or liked about a book and perhaps even why.  They contain spoilers and also some of my immediate reaction.  

Abbott, G. The Executioner Always Chops Twice: Ghastly Blunders on the Scaffold. New York: St. Martin's, 2004. Print.
  • It is interesting reading how someone methodically describes the actual mechanics of bringing people to pain and to death and giving an objective bird's eye view of the process. Helpful to me in my own detailing of execution in writing. This book is a fast and interesting read - the best part of it is the accidental intimacy we begin to feel for certain hangmen by the end and for the Sanson family in particular. It gives a bit of humanity to the ones carrying out the sentences as well as a bit of justice (or scrutiny) to the one's being killed. Also has great insight to the mental rationale of the executioner (one says he executes while his predecessor hung them - another says that he doesn't kill them, he let's them kill themselves at the end of his rope).

Dickey, James. Deliverance. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1970. Print.
  • Favorite parts were the owl on the tent, the making love to the rock wall, and the part when he cut out the arrow. I had visceral reactions to much of the 'gore' or 'pain' descriptions and oddly enough, not as much of a reaction to the rape. It reinforces some of the rape culture beliefs of the time and makes the victim feel tainted through Ed's POV. Overall, this is a fantastic example of effect and poetic prose. The ending was subtle and I wouldn't have minded just a bit more of something - it sort of just stopped after a wonderful cool down period. I loved all the non-sentimental and yet extremely sad mentions of Drew and his death. Excellently haunting. This is the 1970's version of Lord of the Flies for me: Drew = Simon, Lewis = Jack (in his savageness), Bobby = Piggy, and Ed = Ralph. Very archetypal in that way. Highly enjoyable read.

Gaiman, Neil. The Ocean at the End of the Lane. New York: HarperCollins, 2013. Print.
  • He wrote the first part intending to make it 'boring' so that it might dissuade young, young readers from continuing on - so that only kids mature enough to get through the boring part would persist. I love the dip back into memory and the part when he feels it's a 'ghost memory' that it didn't happen when he gets his heart ripped out by the varmints. I love the end so much that he is still recovering even at forty-seven and that he's suffered as a human and is growing a new heart. This is a fantastic and quick read with so much imagery and such a raw-innocence in it that it just had to be told through a child's eyes. There's something beautiful about this story that makes me feel like Gaiman is a web weaver - like he wrote the epilogue long before he wrote the first chapter (probably not) but he had such precision in getting from the start to the end. Such tight story telling and no wasted words. It was wonderful and the repetition of water and fabric were just gorgeous.

Gardner, John. Grendel. New York: Vintage, 1989. Print.
  • An interesting look at POV - I really fell in love with this poor monster. I melted every time he screamed, "Wah! Mama!" It was fun and full of anachronistic moments, phrases, 'knowings', that made it highly humorous yet no less serious. Gardner's use of dialogue mixed with action is fantastic and reinforces the aesthetic of the novel. Fun stuff in the book: moments when the structure takes a movie type turn as well as moments when the first line of the paragraph is flush with the margin and the rest of the paragraph is indented. This inversion really caught my eye. Fantastic resource for structure. Something else that I loved and found to be very effective was that it went 'oh so smoothly and sneakily' from first person past tense to first person present tense. That was brilliant especially since the ending of the novel portrays Grendel on a fall to his death and it ends with this suspended moment of knowing what's going to happen but having to use your own imagination for it.

Memmer, Philip. Lucifer, a Hagiography: Poems. Sandpoint, ID: Lost Horse, 2009. Print.
  • Interesting take on the Lucifer myth - putting him neck and neck with Christ as a caring and sympathetic brother rather than an antagonist. I like the brother-ness. The story telling in the poetry is fantastic. Favorites include the dance and when Lucifer watches his daughter be born. I like the reaffirmation that Satan and Lucifer are different angels. It's a real twist that God wanted Lucifer to perform the Christ role initially and that this 'plan' was what made Lucifer drop out of heaven saying 'that's the stupidest thing he'd ever heard.'

Myers, Walter Dean, and Christopher Myers. Monster. New York, NY: HarperCollins, 1999. Print.
  • Super quick read - nice handling of some very adult matter (prison rape and violence) without making it too graphic or turning off a younger audience. My only complaint with the book is that the main character is sixteen and much of his diary entry narrative feels younger than that. It could just be the fear making him feel that way, or maybe he's not that intelligent but the rest of the story leads us to believe that he is quite smart. The end is haunting and unsettling and leaves such a chillingly ambiguous taste in my mouth that it redeems any 'immaturity' in the text prior. Also I love the gradual and effective way Myers pulls us into the screenplay format.

Vonnegut, Kurt. Slaughterhouse-five: Or, The Children's Crusade, a Duty-dance with Death. New York: Dell Pub., 1999. Print.
  • It's like a dream within a dream within a dream within a dream. Craft-wise, I enjoyed the various POV narrators and the broad spectrum third person (with occasional author asides) that delved into omniscience. For satire and comedy this broad stroke style is highly effective it seems. This book also makes me proud of my affection for ugly, mutilated, awkward, and otherwise non-traditional appearance characters. No one in the book is attractive accept maybe Derby and he's doomed from the get go. Structure wise I adore the long chapters with continuous breaks (lots and lots of white space) and not just between Billy's 'time travel jumps' but also in the middle of a conversation. It gives the reader a breath and for me it makes it easier to come back and read again and pick up with a sense of knowing exactly what's going on. There's so many lovely gems in here - all of Kilgore Trout's novels and the recurring imagery of silver and blue defining the skin of the dead. Not to mention the picture of the pony and the woman. I liked the non-linear approach and it worked to make Billy even more interesting.