I don’t consider myself a very black-and-white person by nature; I’ll shades-of-gray all over something before coming to a conclusion about it. This holds true in all areas of my life, except for literature analysis. It makes me want to crush things when I have to talk about what the author could have meant by saying a character took a pickle dish down from the shelf (side-note: Ethan Frome is forever a comedy, thanks to 11th grade English). Yes, there are evident themes in Lord of the Flies, but that book was picked apart so much that it was ruined for me. I don’t want to perform surgery on a book, I just want to read it.
I remember sitting in a Creative Writing workshop course in college and listening to the other students dissect a story I’d written, and being amazed at the things they were reading into, things I’d never intended or meant when I’d written it, but things they were just sure meant something else. Uh, if I meant for the protagonist’s decision to lock herself in the bathroom to be a metaphor for upper class guilt, I’d have put a footnote in all caps that said that. But I didn’t, so stop reading into it.
Thankfully, reading has not been ruined for me. I still love nothing more than curling up on my sofa with a good book (and a better cup of tea) or reading until I fall asleep at night. My dad was the kind of person who read a book a day, almost, and was good friends with local booksellers. He spent years reading to me in bed at night, both of us eventually falling asleep. Over dinner, we’d read from the Etymological Dictionary (and yes, I endured a fair bit of teasing for that).
Anyway, here are some of the books I’ve read/been reading recently:
Little Bee, by Chris Cleave
I loved this. Santa left it for me under the tree this year, and I couldn’t put it down. It’s beautifully written. The author has a refined voice, and the end left me, literally, speechless. I had to sit quietly for a while when I finished it, to let it all sink in. Once you read it, you get why you’re not supposed to talk about it, and truly, I don’t want to ruin the magic of this story for anyone else. Trust me though, it is definitely worth a read.
Incendiary, by Chris Cleave
Again, the author has this staggering command of a woman’s voice. Plus, lots of Arsenal references! It’s a pretty dismal, very realistic story on a fictional terrorist attack. I’m almost finished, but I don’t want to be.
Columbine, by Dave Cullen
I have a very weird fascination with Columbine; the event itself, not the book. I was 12 when Columbine happened, and it was the first major, life-changing thing that totally reshaped the way the world worked for me. I couldn’t wrap my mind around what had happened. Guns at a school? That just didn’t fit anywhere in the world I’d known my entire life up until that point. A few months after Columbine, my school installed metal detectors. Dress codes came a few years later.
I went to see “Bowling for Columbine” when it came out, but after reading this book (well, okay, so I’m halfway through it but I can’t read it when I’m by myself because it scares me too much, and it’s extremely dense due to being a compilation of 10 years of research) I realize how narrow Michael Moore’s take on the whole thing was. He went into the movie declaring that guns were the entire problem, that it all happened because of America’s problem with guns. I’m not saying that point isn’t valid, but Dave Cullen goes further into the story with this book, by talking to victims’ families, taking full pages from the shooters’ journals, and interviews with hundreds of people connected and affected by the tragedy. It’s definitely worth picking up, but if you’re a chicken like me, don’t read it late at night or before you go to bed, or you’ll be left sleeping with the lights on.
What books are you reading these days? Any recommendations? I’d love to know!