The Book Life

Suckers! (?)

May 20, 2009
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I’ve been reading a lot of vampire books lately.

(Your mind just jumped straight to Twilight, didn’t it? Silly pop culture. Just wait. I’ll get there.)

I’ve been reading a lot of vampire books lately – some intentional, some not so. I wonder if that’s some sort of sign. Regardless, I started intentionally, at the top, with Dracula. It’s been one of the books on my I-should-read-this-as-a-responsible-English-major-and-professed-book-lover list for a while now. I finally read Frankenstein last summer, and it was really fantastic, and I’ve always professed a love of gothic lit.

The real reason I read it? I wanted to read Twilight and not feel like a complete twit. I’m 23, after all, theorectically an adult, and not only is Stephenie Meyers’s series meant for teenagers, but from everything I heard, it was pretty bad teen writing, too.

But you know how some people have soft spots for romance or mystery novels, or sci-fi? Well, I have a weakness for fantasy-infused adolescent drama. Specifically the adolescent drama part. Seriously. Ask me about Dawson’s Creek sometime, and how old I was when I enjoyed it most.

But I am an adult, of some sort, so I read Dracula first. It moved significantly faster than I expected for a 19th-century novel, and it was great! And then I picked up Twilight, and the other three books in the saga, from the library.

Everything they say about these books is true. Good and bad, it’s all true. The writing is truly appalling, the heroine is truly annoying, and the story is truly engrossing, once Meyers finally gets around to telling it, 100 pages of boring background into the the first book. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I have it on reserve at the library.

I remain an unreformed and unrepentant teen fiction fan.

Next up, a book I came across in a scathing review of Twilight, recommended as a much better teen vampire novel: Thirsty by M.T. Anderson. While the writing was definitely better, I found the story irritating, either because it’s written by a man and in the voice of a teenage boy, and teenage boys are inherently annoying, or because it’s written at a 4th-grade reading level, which is farther than I’m willing to go in my pursuit of adolescent drama.

And then, an accident: Sunshine by Robin McKinley. I’ve loved McKinley’s writing for years – she does a lot of teen fantasy fiction and re-tellings of fairy tales. So when I saw this at the library I picked it up without even reading the back. I started it yesterday, and, lo and behold, it’s another vampire novel! Like Thirsty, this book is set in a world like ours, but slightly different, in that the existence of vampires (and other creatures, e.g. werewolves) is an acknowledged part of life. Add some transmutations, and magic powers enhanced by sunlight, and I’m sold, if only 5o pages in.

But seriously, people – this is a lot of vampire fiction for someone who only just read Dracula a few months ago. I’m not really sure how it happened, but I hope it ends soon.

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The Struggle

May 17, 2009
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I wasn’t going to do it.

Buy books, that is. I wasn’t going to. I wasn’t going to buy any books this year.

I won’t have time to read them; I won’t make time to read them in the face of library deadlines; I should only buy books I’ve already read, so I already know they’re good; my bookshelf is already full and there are two boxes in the basement; I won’t get to them before law school, and then I’ll have to cart them to Indiana with me; the library is free!

But I have a job right now, I can afford a few; it’ll be a memento from this trip; this is one of my favorite writers; her reading was so good, I have own her books; these are on sale; they’re just so pretty!

It’s a desperate battle. I’ve been fairly victorious, using gift cards, receiving books as gifts, only buying used or on sale – until last week. Last week was the Spring Literary Festival at OU. It’s one of my favorite things. I took a day off work to go down, and managed to fit in six events.

Six is a smaller number than the number of books I bought. Only two of them were significantly on sale, two others, not so much. Four were solidly full-price. I am weak.

But it isn’t entirely my fault. Sidewalk sales are unavoidable; I don’t even have to walk inside, and my most traditional defense is the not-walking-into-the-store-in-the-first-place. But there they were. In boxes. With tempting percentages boldly discounting what I already want. And if Maggie Nelson weren’t such a great poet, I wouldn’t have had to buy four of her books immediately following her reading.  And if Dan Chaon hadn’t come to OU and given a hilarious reading when I was a student there, I wouldn’t have been so thrilled to see two of his story collections out there on the sidewalk.

***

Moving on.

The eight books I bought are sitting on the edge of my overflowing bookshelf, in the space formerly occupied by library-books-to-be-returned. (I have a complex organizational system for my bookshelf. Maybe someday I’ll take a picture.)

Three days before this shameful buying spree, I visited the library. Instead of just picking up whichever of my reserved books or movies had arrived, I wandered the aisles. DANGER. I came home with four novels.

I am never going to get through this.

However – I started Something Bright, With Holes by Maggie Nelson over the weekend, and it’s brilliant. Something in the way she writes just rings inside my head over and over and over and over. I can’t stop reading it.