Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Literary Monday, Tuesday Edition: No, I have not forgotten how to read

For a few months there I was so caught up in other stuff that I kind of stopped reading for pleasure, other than re-reading things I'd already read for an escape. Do you ever do that? Re-read something you've read umpteen times before, just because it's familiar and comforting and something you won't have to work at? In February I re-read Ender's Game (my favoritest book ever) for about the 38th time, and re-read some Piers Anthony light fantasy. But this month, wedding stress is coming to an end and I've branched out from Safe in order to read some good, meaty stuff.

Well, the first thing was Anne of Green Gables. Yes, I've read it before, but not since I was about 9 years old. I'd found a used copy in a bookstore a few months ago but forgot about that and happened to be browsing my children's/YA bookshelf when I saw it and thought to myself, ooh! So I read it. Then I found the first sequel, Anne of Avonlea, last week in the same bookstore and read that too. Both were every bit as good as I'd remembered - perhaps even better, now that I'm reading from a more adult perspective - and I enjoyed every minute of my time on Prince Edward Island. And now I have much more incentive to acquire and read the others, since I never got past book 2 when I was nine (no interest in Anne Shirley after age 16, she was waaaay too old for me to be interested!) Now I am interested.

I also read The Namesake after picking it up in the bookstore last week. (To Leah: Now you have ME doing it! Nah-me-sah-ke!) I started it on Friday, my birthday day off, and finished it last night. It was really good, a little depressing, and entirely fascinating. Monkey writes a lot about what it means to be a 2nd generation desi (I hope it's OK for me to use that term) so reading this book made me think of the stories she has written about (and told me) and also make me think how interesting it is that different cultures deal with the clash between what it means to grow up in America versus what it means to be part of that mother-culture. Possibly the most well-known author writing similar stories of growing up 2nd generation in America is Amy Tan (Chinese), and I've read stories written by people of other cultures as well - Mexican, Irish, German, and others written by Indian-Americans.

I really enjoyed the basic underlying theme of the book encapsulated by the title, what our names mean and how who we are named for and under what circumstances might affect our lives in trivial or profound ways. As I've written about before, I'm a name buff, so I love reading about the ways in which people in other cultures go about naming people. Jewish people, I have learned, name babies after deceased relatives (but never living ones, and usually it's just a shared first initial rather than a fully shared name between the deceased and the new addition). Some people start out having a baby name and have an adult name later, and some people are given one name but are always called by a nickname. Despite being many-generations American, this was the case for my father's family, as he and his sisters were all called by nicknames, most unrelated to their actual names, into adulthood (and four of the five of them still are!)

The book I'm working on right now is The Year of Living Bibilically (from the library, I'm too cheap to buy it). I'm about 4 chapters in and really enjoying it, so I plan to review it once I'm finished. I've got a couple of other library books as well, so maybe next week in the middle of all the wedding craziness I'll write about them too!


Yank In Texas said...

Oh do read the rest of the Anne books. They aren't the best books but the story is nice. Rilla of Ingleside, the last book, wraps up the story nicely. The last two of the series are mostly about the kids though. The Emily of New Moon series is much much better, though Anne will always remain a favorite. (Can you tell I'm a fan?)

Monkey McWearingChaps said...

I think you'd love the movie but I think it's more depressing than the book-just because some of the cinematography is so breathtaking.

Another author you might like is Chitra Divakurani Bannerjee-my impression is that she was Jhumpha Lahiri's mentor, though JH has no surpassed her in fame. Not the novels though, since those are treaclefest messes. Her short stories are very very poignant.

BTW, I am all for spreading the word desi into the American tongue. Mainly because it's way more inclusive than saying Indian, since Pakistan-Bangladesh-Sri Lanka-India are political constructs more than they are political.

Anonymous said...

I do love rereading my favorite children books and I am actually in the process of rereading the Anne books too. My roommates and I just rewatched the movies too, so I am in the midst of a bit of an Anne obsession. Also in an interesting note, apparently there was actually a third movie made in the series. My roommmate has seen it and said it was pretty aweful. Apparently it transported a just married Gilbert and Anne into the World War I era (this is actually when Rilla of Ingleside takes place). Oddly enough though, both of the origional Gilbert and Anne actors star in the third as well. Crazy, eh?