WIB: Jan 11 – 17 Plus Book Club Backlog
Another week, another set of books read!
My worry with Jill Lepore’s The Secret History of Wonder Woman is that nothing in it would be very secret to me–or anyone else who’s read the Wikipedia entries on Wonder Woman and her creator, William Moulton Marston. This actually turned out to be true. Despite that, Lepore does an admirable job piecing as much together as she can from the secretive, and often dishonest, group that led to the famous comic book Amazon. She fills in the story, including the first-wave feminist movement that inspired Marston. Not being a regular reader of non-fiction, I can’t say whether my feeling that the book could have more cohesion is a fair assessment, but sometimes it felt there was so much about Sanger not only because of her connection to Marston, but because at least that information was available. Unlike with Marston’s crew, who, frankly, lied their butts off all their lives. But once you read the book, if you didn’t know already, you’ll know why.
That said, this book is a wealth of information all in one place and a very good read. Even as someone who knew a chunk of the story beforehand, I found The Secret History of Wonder Woman to be engaging and interesting.
Next up, I read two of Marc Sumerak’s Power Pack books: Pack Smash, a Hulk team-up; and Big-City Super Heroes, a Spidey team-up. For those who don’t know, Power Pack is a team made up of young kids, the Powers, who were given, uh, powers by an alien. They then go out and be superheroes. Power Pack was the creation of an editor, not a writer, but it doesn’t matter, because these kids still work. The ’80s made them, but there’s something timeless about kids being thrilled to have powers and siblings working together for the greater good. When I think of eighties’ characters that seemed too, too eighties , I think of Skids and Rusty.
Those pants though, Rusty.
But I digress.
In this new telling of Power Pack, the siblings have moved to New York and are trying to figure out their place in the world, while hiding their abilities from their parents. Power Pack has always been all-ages, and this series would be great for kids not yet ready for all the murdering in the MCU. Plus, the Spidey story is a hoot, with Peter Parker finding himself turned into a kid. I’ve heard this series isn’t in the regular continuity, but who cares? Power Pack always works.
And now for the book club backlog.
My online book club is very dear to my heart. It originally began as an off-shoot of a Livejournal community for book nerds, and then about eight months ago moved to Facebook. The move was awkward but necessary; almost every one of the book club members was done with or barely using Livejournal. The biggest problem so far has been a lack of good poll options. But otherwise, the transition has been smooth, although the make-up of the group has changed significantly since we added our friends.
The way the book club works is that we suggest and then vote on twelve themes for the year. After that’s done, we move on to suggesting books within the themes, and then vote again.
Our January theme was Mystery, and we read A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the first of Sherlock Holmes’s adventures. It’s half What We Love about Holmes and half Problematic, but that’s what happens when you go back and read older authors, I suppose.
Our February theme was Juvenile Literature, and we read The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. It was a reread for me, and I’ve since read the graphic novel version as well. It’s one of the truly scary books out there for children, as well as being interesting and imaginative.
Also in February, I finally picked up another copy of James Loewen’s Lies My Teacher Told Me, a selection from a previous year that I’d never finished, and finished it up. It’s a great book, as I detail here.
March brought us LBGTQI Month, and David Levithan’s Two Boys Kissing. This is an important book. Not a perfect one. But it’s the story of two ex-boyfriends trying to break the world record for longest kiss, the boys and men around them meeting, breaking up, loving, and the Greek chorus of men who died during the AIDS crisis. Without the latter, the book would be adorable; with it, it’s a stark reminder how easily we forget the past.
April was Non-Western Literature, and we all gave up on The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk. If we wanted to read about some guy cheating by sleeping with a younger girl, and justifying it to himself because, you know, he’s a guy, we didn’t have to go outside Western literature to do so. We were bored with it when it took place here, so taking place somewhere else didn’t give it a pass.
May was Non-Human Perspective with Richard Adams’s Watership Down. I may have been the only one in book club who’d never read it before. It’s a very good book, and I don’t know how I’d feel if I’d read it as a child. As an adult, I was only willing to give it three stars, probably for…oh, here we go. Here’s what I said about it on the book club page: ” I could’ve lived without the nature porn, especially the entire, poorly-written page about how day isn’t night, and honestly, the man is at his best when he’s not trying to be flowery, literally and figuratively. He’s a good storyteller but a bad writer, I think, and that’s especially highlighted in the mythology/folk tales of the rabbits, which are some of the best bits of the book. It took me a while to realize that these folk tales couldn’t be very old at all if the trickster was dealing with automobiles and guns.
Hazel was really good but his believe Fiver/don’t believe Fiver thing got old quick and I was happy when he finally stopped doing it. Fiver was interesting but I don’t like magic in my reality, which is what Fiver’s psychic or divine abilities were for me. The language was interesting. The fact that there aren’t supposed to be metaphors makes my Lit brain hurt.”
June was Beach Reads, with The Life List by Lori Nelson Spielman, a chick-lit book that got mixed reviews from the book club. It was called a good beach read, fast and light, but others had problem with the manipulation and infantilization involved in writing a list for one’s daughter life goals.
July was Books to Movies with Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, which I’ve covered on this blog several times before. This time I’ll talk about the movie. My husband half-watched it from behind his laptop in the TV room and said it was boring and awful. All I could see were the gaps that would’ve made it a coherent story. I remember loving it the first time I watched it but I didn’t have a critical eye on, but this time I was like, “It’s nice to see some of these things, but it would be better if this movie didn’t leave out huge, important things, or even little, important things.” Great performances from the actors though.
August was Superheroes with Soon I Will Be Invincible, which I also spoke of last time.
September was a big of a free choice with Books I Never Read in School. I read The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery and Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. I had read at least part of The Little Prince in French class, but not in English. I didn’t find it as charming as everyone else in the entire world, I suppose. Treasure Island was more fun than I expected, if a bit rushed. Stevenson says he wrote it in a weekend. No kidding.
October is Banned Books Month (well, sometimes it’s September) and we read Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson. Most of us believed it should’ve been banned from schools for being sexist, racist, and obnoxiously written. How many times can a man say “cedars” and “snow” in one book? I think it’s like sixteen times in the first chapter alone. Also, there’s little sense that the author understands how truly awful his lead male is. I’ve read reviews where this book is said to have “a beautiful love story,” but I cannot for the life of me figure out who that love story is between. Is it the stalker lead? Because, JESUS.
November was Spin-Offs with Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad, a retelling of the Odyssey from Penelope’s perspective. Penelope is a shade in the Underworld who is “living” in our present, which muddles the story a bit, I think, but it gives her a modern voice and enough distance to be an unreliable narrator. The book club was mixed on whether they enjoyed it, but everyone I think found it at least interesting.
Finally, in December, we had Nostalgia Month, reading The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin. Everything old is pathetically being worked toward again today, and this book has a diverse cast AS IF IT WERE NOTHING, because back then, it was nothing to have a diverse cast. How sad is that? It’s a great mystery, if a bit of an odd duck because it doesn’t feel like anything that would be published as juvenile lit today. The funny thing is, I’d forgotten reading it, but I must’ve read it at least twice because once I started, the details were all so clear to me, including who’d done what (but not necessarily why).
I had some extra time and read some other nostalgia-for-me reads, including Dragons in the Waters, probably L’Engle’s worst novel (but still okay); the Wrinkle in Time graphic novel by Hope Larsen, which has its pros and cons and some lovely art (stick to the book first); and the first three Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice: Interview with the Vampire, The Vampire Lestat, and Queen of the Damned. Interview, which I’d loved at 12 but shunned by 21, was the most surprising re-read to me. I’ve read some older, Gothic-y horror since then and I have to say, Rice really does a great job of recreating that style. Lestat, which had always been my favorite, seemed surprisingly slow-paced for what it was trying to do. Queen of the Damned seemed more repetitious than I remembered, but was still a very good read. Not sure if I want to move on and reread the “middle” books so I can read Prince Lestat, though.
Next up: More current books, more book club back log.