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I've just finished Catch22 by Joeseph Heller and loved it because of its similarity in humour to Douglas Adams. I'v noticed that Catch22 has a sequel but i'm skeptical that it can live up to my expectations. So i guess what i'm wondering is, can anyone shed any light on it? or if anyone has any other recomendations that are similar i'm all ears (and now with school finally finished for the semester i actually have some free time in which to read- yay!)
Oooo I love Catch-22, but like you haven't read the sequel. Too worried about tainting the original I guess.

Its not similar, but I do have a book reccomendation that I've been pressing on all my friends and customers (I work at a bookstore). "The Know It All" by A.J. Jacobs. Its perfect for anyone who is a trivia/knowledge buff. Its his account of his attempt to read the Encyclopedia Britannica from A-Z. Split up like the Britannica into different topics you get a funny speedy jaunt through the encylopedia. Love it.

Also other book I read recently that I enjoyed: "Prep" by Curtis Sittenfeld. About a girl in bording school, it is so spot on with its looks at the female teenage years. Highly recommend. Plus I met some of friends of hers last summer at the store and they said she was lovely, I like to support lovely authors.
i loved Prep... I devoured it in a couple of days (and although it's late, I loved the eyre affair and the sequels. And I haven't read Jane Eyre... I couldn't get into it.)

I think I'm going through a phase of reading non-fiction science books again... anyone got anything to get me out of this rut? or deeper into it?
Mornington, that's a trip. I can't imagine what it would be like reading TEA and not knowing the plot of JA! I think there are a lot of in-jokes. As far as non-fiction + science-based, what would you think of Galileo's Daughter by Dava Sobel? It's about the relationship between Galileo and his younger daughter, with whom he corresponded extensively (she was in a convent) throughout the key years of his publication, trial, etc. - very interesting historical look at his work.
DO NOT make fun of me for this!

A friend reminded me of this book last night (when she produced it as a grad gift), its not great literature, but its a damn good read: "Debbie: My Life" by Debbie Reynolds. The things she's gone though :-) I recommend it to anyone who is low and wants a silly pick-me-up.

Does anyone else ever read trashy celeb biogs? Any recommendations?
I kind of liked Call Me Anna by Patty Duke. I guess that qualifies as a trashy celeb bio, but I was thinking of studying psychology at the time. Yeah, I read it for research, sure.
I just finished Joyce Carol Oates' short story collection The Female of the Species. Her writing is like comfort food for me, it's very predictable and formulaic and usually follows femme fatales/perverts/messed-up kids/lonely ugly girls/white-collar businessmen. This isn't any different, but I thought some of the stories were memorable.:

- "Doll: A Romance of the Mississippi" is based on Lolita and has the girl be pimped by her father as a "no touching" prostitute, and it gets nasty when Oates describes the girl's body and sexuality.
- "So Help Me God" was good as a story about a young girl who married an intimidating, disturbing cop and her loneliness as his "blond princess."
- One that I was ambivalent about was "Angel of Wrath," about a guy who stalks a young woman and becomes obsessed with her. He sounds like a complete freak but validates himself with affirmations that "she doesn't know that she loves me yet, but she'll know soon enough" and keeping up this messed-up stalker relationship with her no matter what she does to get rid of him.

Trashy celeb bios: Motley Crue's The Dirt, Anthony Kiedis' Scar Tissue, Courtney Love's bio by Poppy Z. Brite, and Gia Carangi's bio Thing of Beauty.
I'm going to re-read Stacy Horn's Waiting For My Cats to Die. (I loved it the first time, we'll see now that it's five years later and my taste has grown-up some. (Not really.)

Also thumbing through Vanessa Davis's Spaniel Rage.
I love Janice Dickinson's biographies. The first one (No Lifeguard on Duty) is much better than the 2nd.
Light reading this past weekend:

- A bio of Uma Thurman, which makes her sound very insecure in her early 20s by growing up quickly (she was 6 ft by age 12, was made fun for her looks by classmates, moved around a lot, ditched school to work as an actress and model in NYC at 15, and went back and forth between being flirty and sexy and being withdrawn and anxious). I'm surprised that she was 24 in Pulp Fiction, I thought she was 32 at the time.

- Janice Erlbaum's Girlbomb: A Halfway Homeless Memoir.

- Rereading Francesca Lia Block's Echo, just for fun and to reread my favorite sections.

No Lifeguard on Duty is good. The second one is more post-comeback and kinda cheesy. I still don't think Janice was as big in her time as she claims. I saw her briefly mentioned in Gia Carangi's biography, but as a kid I was into supermodels and knew a lot of their names, past and present. And I never saw Janice's name ever mentioned until recently.
in between studying, i've been reading marge piercy's sex wars which is the freaking BOMB. it's about the post-civil war suffragist period, and is just so good. i definitely recommend it.

Edited cause i'm a moron and should read at least a few posts before posting.
Oh, I know. I've met her a couple of times, she's cool.

I meant Janice Dickinson when talking about the modeling. Catsoup just mentioned her books, so I was responding to that.
yeah, sorry anna, see my edited post.
Mandi, I am so uber jeolous! I am in the process of reading A Dirty Job, and loving every minute of it! I wouldn't know what to say to an author that I met. I'm amazed looking back on it, that I didn't faint when I met Doug Coupland a couple of years ago....I lost the book he signed :-(

Thanks for some good trashy celeb bios...
this is going back a bit...

but, back to the murakami.

i just finished kafka on the shore and really enjoyed it. my faith is restored :-)

have any of you ladies read Richard Brautigan's In Watermelon Sugar??
Anna K -
Anna K - I reread Francesca Lia Block frequently! I was paging through Hanged Man this week, inbetween finishing Girlbomb and starting Feminism is For Everybody by bell hooks.

Have you read all of FLB? Echo is one of my favorites although the first time I read it, the shifting points of view were jarring.
I'm really trying to read the Eyre Affair because so many people recommended it, but I am really not getting into it. It's not exactly (how to say this without sounding like a big snob?) literary. It's probably just not my cuppa tea. I don't tend to get into mysteries or sci fi, or certain categories of books, so this is probably one of them. I loathe Christopher Moore and I know lots of people in this thread love him, so I guess I'll just stick to the genres I know and love...
The Eyre Affair is on my very-soon-to-read (promise!) list - however, I thought that it would be literary in its literary allusions, alone?
So far it reads like a mystery novel with very little literary anything, except the mention of the main character's love of literature (which doesn't really go into great detail yet). Right now it's like a futuristic cops and robbers game.
Mermaidgirl, I've read a lot of FLB, starting with Girl Goddess when I was 13. I learned a lot about the artsy world of film and music through her writings, and sometimes I want to inhabit her L.A. world. I feel too old for it now, but I still reread her occasionally for comfort.

I liked Echo, but not Echo herself, she was too whiny and boring. I liked how FLB integrated earlier short stories into Echo's world, it made sense. Sometimes when I read her books I would wish that I was like her teenage heroines, all skinny and dreamy-looking and ethereal, instead of a busty nerd with glasses and messy hair.

I'm looking forward to reading Hillary Carlip's new book, I'm fascinated by all the performance art that she has done, emboding characters and convincing the outside the outside world that it was her her identity.

I also want to read Jancee Dunn's book, since I liked her a lot on MTV and was fascinated by her Rolling Stone writing work.
Whammyman bought me the windup bird chronicle and Dance Dance Dance for christmas. Read enougn of windup bird to get wicked effin depressed. I mean, bummer of a book.

These books are both murakami.

Am now finally reading Dance Dance Dance

Would like to read Kafka on the Shore.

The literary allusions in The Eyre Affairs start off subtly in the background, little references that show you how important literature is in this alternate universe - the main character is a *literary* detective after all. However, maybe you need a fondness for sf-type or mystery reading protocols to really appreciate it - I love science fiction, escpecially the intelligently allusive alternate universe kind. It is definitely a light, quick read - I devour all of Fforde's books at a sitting.

But I'm a little embarrassed to admit that, while I have two degrees in literature and will soon be beginning a third, I often get bored and irritated with books that are explicitly and determinedly 'literary.'

I've read In Watermelon Sugar - I love it. Brautigan is a great writer.
I found the literary-ness of the Eyre Affair is subtle - more of a continued joke than anything else. Fford's books seem, to me anyway, to be full of subtle (and not-so-subtle) humour, not all of which is literary (landon park-laine, anyone?). I read it for the humour, not because it was literary - and because it was lying around the house when I had nothing better to do.

I'm partway through Animals in Translation by Temple Grandin. I devoured Girlbomb's book, and returned to my non-fic kick. It's easy to pick up and put down, but can hold my interest for hours - it's about animal behaviour and how animals' percieve the world, but also about autism & autistic perception. It's brilliant.
Just finished Sense & Sensibility and now understand just why I never read Austen before. How exhausting to read, and how even more exhausting that sort of life must have been to live! The leisure class was so caught up in never giving offense to anyone, how on earth did anyone ever understand each other?

EA is definitely not "literary" in the sense of "important meaningful writing." It's a lot of fun and full of inside jokes, but it's not one of those life-altering reads. In other words, EXACTLY my cup of tea.

Mornington, I was thinking about reading Temple Grandin's book. Good to know it's interesting to read - she's very odd to listen to (in interviews.)
Well Celimene, don't feel alone because I am also here to express an unpopular-in-this-thread opinion:

I'm having a hell of a time with Middlesex. There, I said it.

I WANT to love it, and I really thought I liked J.E.'s writing style at the beginning, but now I'm finding it's a little too...I don't know, "beat around the bush"? Does that make sense? I'm almost halfway through the book (I know, it takes me forever to read anything these days, I have an 11-month old!) and I feel like I've been reading the introduction this whole time. I was really looking forward to reading about Cal's experiences specifically, but so far it's been all background. That's great, as far as it goes, but WHEN oh when does this story become about the main character?!?

Help me like this book as much as I wanted to!
I didn't love Middlesex either. I enjoyed it, but it didn't leave a vast lasting impression - I read it a couple of years ago and I can't remember much that's specific about it. I think I was hoping for more in terms of gender stuff.

In a vaguely related way, a book I absolutely adore that is very different from Middlesex, but just maybe possibly touching upon similar themes (nonnormative genders, passing) is Jackie Kay's Trumpet.
I am also hating a book that everyone seems to love: The Handmaid's Tale. I actually fell asleep while reading it. It is so boring and the main character's voice, in my head, sounds like an NPR parody. I have to finish it for my work's bookclub, of which I am the coordinator. I don't get why I can't get these women to vote for Octavia Butler's Kindred because it sounds too sci-fi, but I have to read THT. I feel like the author is beating me to death with the feminist agenda.

sesame - I don't know how to help. I loved Middlesex to death.
I have to admit, neither The Handmaiden's Tale or Middlesex appealed to me. middlesex is on my list of books I really ought to try and read. But I can't get into atwood's (it's not atwood, is it) writing style.

I don't read too many "literary" books though, and never because they're deemed "literary" - and I felt the same way about Thomas Hardy as vesica felt about Austen; exhausting to read. I couldn't get into The Mayor of Casterbridge, forced myself to finish it, and haven't gone near Hardy since.
Maryjo, yes - that's exactly it. I was hoping for more in terms of gender stuff as well. Maybe I'll try Trumpet later on - thanks!

Hee. Kittenb, I hated The Handmaid's Tale too.

I LIKE BOOKS! I swear I do! Please don't kick me out of the thread. :-)

Next on my list is Devil in the White City - anyone read?
I loved Devil in the White City. Living in Chicago, I found that to be one of thoes books where total strangers will talk to you on the train if you are reading it. What surprised me was how interesting even the architecture stuff was.
Ah, well I'm a landscape architect so I have a pretty solid background in architecture - I'm hoping, actually, that that won't ruin it for me. My friend who recommended DITWC is an urban planner and she said that some of the architecture stuff got a little boring for her because she knew a lot of it already.

Just gotta get through Middlesex first!
I love The Handmaid's Tale and I'm an Austen fan. Although I agree with mornington re: Thomas Hardy (although I liked Tess of D'Ubervilles despite finding it long-winded at times).

Middlesex is still on a very long (and becoming longer by the day) to read list. As is Trumpet (closer to the top after maryjo's rec!)

I've recently read Joyce Carol Oates's novella Rape: A love Story which was harrowing but I think a very worthwhile read. It's short and the writing style is very easy to read. I think it has important things to say and I found it interesting that so many people (strangers) looked at me oddly as I was reading it and some asked about the controversial title (my friend is now reading it and she's experiencing same reactions to it.)

Now reading Oates's The Tattooed Girl which is fantastic. Such a different style to the novella and the writing itself is beautiful.

My new book group are shadowing the nominations for the Orange prize for fiction (all women writers) and I'm going to try to read 3 of the shortlist in the next couple of weeks: Nicole Krauss's The History of Love; Ali Smith's The Accidental and Zadie Smith's On Beauty.

After that, it's extensive reading for my dissertation and The Eyre Affair as I'm confident it will be a quick and enjoyable read.
Power to you, bunnyb, for being in a book group while doing an MA in English!

I'm having one of my regular YA-fiction-from-the-library kicks. Just finished Susan Price's A Sterkarm Handshake and A Sterkarm Kiss (wonderful) and next up is Phillip Pullman's The Tiger in the Well.

I also just finally managed to read Annie Proulx's Brokeback Mountain story after adoring the film. I think the film was a very strong interpretation of it, and I loved her sparse writing style.
Oooh, MJ, I didn't know there was a follow-up to The Sterkarm Handshake!! Must look it up.

I'm re-reading Craig Holden's Four Corners of Night - if you're a fan of police procedurals, check it out, it's a really, really good one.
sesame- for me, the point of middlesex is that all of that background *is* the character, and the denoument happens when callie can both accept and let go of that history to become him/herself. as much as we have control over who we are, we are comprised of our history and our relationships. one doesn't transcend those limitations, but interprets and creatively combines them to become oneself. i'm not sure how far you are, but the story does center more on callie and her/his gender issues towards the end. the last third of the book i think. the story is at least as much about family and general coming of age as it is about transgender issues. i think that the book really is all about gender and sexuality, but that it's theory is that gender is affected by all of these things that we often don't consider. it isn't purely biological, or social, or a personal choice. it has a history.

maryjo- i'm itching for some children/YA stuff too, after a long semester. i loved the *lemony snickett* movie, so as soon as my last paper is written (i'm totally procrastinating right now) i'm going to read the first few. i loved the *his dark materials* series, but haven't read anything else by phillip pullman. give a report when you're done, because i'd like to know if it's just as good.
I haven't finished The Tiger in the Well, but previously I had read Ruby in the Smoke from the same series (I thought TW was the sequel, but there are about three books in between - ah well, they'll be next) and they are wonderful books! Victorian feminist heroine Sally Lockhart kicks some serious ass. Tiger in the Well has some interesting subplots around Jewish socialism in 1880s London that I'm looking forward to getting deeper into, too.

Vesica, Sterkarm Kiss is *wonderful* - my only complaint is that it wasn't long enough! And for everyone else, those are amazing books too - funny, switched-on science fantasy about time travel with a focus on gender and, oddly enough but fascinatingly, colonisation issues (the near future exploits 16th-century Scottish border reivers for their natural resources). Very intelligent indeed.

YA fiction is a strange marketing category, really - most of stuff I tend to read within it, at least, is about people in their 20s, and the only difference between it and 'grownup' fiction seems to be the tendency to straightforward storytelling style and focus on plot. And a tendency to the coming-of-age narrative, but even that isn't essential... It's a category only recently imported to the UK (or maybe not imported at all, I may just use it because I spend so much time talking to Americans online); when I was a teenager we had 'teenage' fiction and it was generally fiction about teenagers, which may or may not have been marketed as such on first publication (I remember Oliver Twist making it into the teenage section of my local library). I still get my YA books from the teenage section of the library, but I do have a strong sense of YA crossover as a specific genre... Anyway, I'm rambling.
marjo - YA fiction has been around long enough for me to grow up with it; it's basically the new name for teenage fiction, but aimed at 14/15+. It seems to me to be more "serious" than the Point Horror/Romance etc and all the rubbish my local library seemed filled with. I loved The Sterkarm Handshake & I think I've still got it in a box somewhere... I could never find the sequel (this was before I discovered amazon).

I'm going to have to join the library - I'm itching for something new to read & my card cries when we go to waterstones. Maybe I'll try Pullman. Although I really want to get Gaiman's Anansi Boys.
bunnyb - I loved The Tattooed Girl, as I love most of Joyce Carol Oates's books. (And take hell from my more "literary' friends because of it. The Stephen King-like release schedule has a lot to do with it.)

The only problem I have is that she can get a little sloppy at times. And she recycles character types to the point where they become caricatures.
I've only read the two so far (the ones mentioned, back to back), curioushair, but want to read We were the Mulvaneys and Blonde. I finished The Tattooed Girl this morning after not being able to put it down. I found it quite literary; the quote from Primo Levi's Survival in Auschwitz blew me away although I do recognise it - probably because it's a famous quote.

Began reading Ali Smith's The Accidental and it's a fun and quirky read, so far.

Thanks, maryjo, I need to allow myself some reading for solely pleasure time or I'll go mad! It helps that it's disciplined for book group as I can schedule it around all of the other reading!
Oates too often writes about sexual violence, poor upstate New York towns, femme fatales, bitches, stupid people, and jerky rich people. She has an outline and sticks to it. I still read her though for fun.
Altargrrrl, you're so right. Just this morning I reached the end of Part 2, where there is a recap: (not sure if it's a spoiler, but I'll put it in white anyhow)

Lina is not only Callie's first cousin twice removed, but also her/his grandmother. Milton was his own mother's and father's nephew. Desdemona and Lefty were Callie's great-aunt and -uncle as well as her/his grandparents. Etc.

I realized that I'd been rushing it. That was the paragraph that I had been thinking could sum up the whole first two-thirds of the book, but once I read it I realized that without all the background I'd have been way lost. Callie's not just a product of genetics, but of culture, religion, superstition, human strength and weakness...and on and on.

So anyway, I'm rambling but I just wanted to let all of you Middlesex lovers know that I had my Eureka! moment with it. That said, I do hold out hope for some more gender-related stuff from this point on.

I liked learning about Greek history and getting wrapped up in Middlesex. However I felt worn out by the time I finished it. It was another year before I read it again.
Slightly off topic:
Went to the local bookstore in my hometown (Huntington, Ny) and found a hardcover copy of Phillipa Gregory's The Virgins Lover for $6.95 and a soft cover copy of Phillipa Gregory's The Queens Fool for $4.95.
I read The Other Boleyn Girl a few months ago and I cant wait to read some more yummy historical (high-level) trash :-)
i think the readers of middlesex might sometimes be a bit misled by its publicity. the gender stuff is the most sensationalistic, so it's often described as being a book about a hermaphrodite. but actually, my feeling about it was that it was actually more a book about the 20th century American immigrant experience and that the hermaphroditism is sort of a metaphor for that experience.

yet, at the same time, it never feels like a mere literary device.

also, i don't know if i've ever read a more painfully accurate depiction of awkward girlhood and young female friendship, which is even more amazing since he is a man.
I just started Lisa Palac's The Edge of the Bed: How Dirty Pictures Changed My Life

Just finished: Augusten Burroughs's Possible Side Effects.
ooh, maryjo -- pullman. Loved the Golden Compass series.

So similar and so different from harry potters. Note: Jarvis Cocker referred to "specters" in one of his Harry Potter movie songs, so I wondered if he read them both too and got them mixed up in his head.

Of course, the word "spectre" has been around before
During the end of semester crunch time when things get stressful, I always go back to Molly Jong-Fast's book Normal Girl which is trash literature about a Jewish socialite that hangs out with aged models and thinks she killed her junkie boyfriend. I finished it again today, and her bizarre problems make my life seem so much more managable.

Now that it's summer and I'm in the mindset for more whimsical reads, I'm looking for my next several books. Can any of you recommend any good kind of mystical love stories? (I saw the FLB posts below, and so if you know her, you know what style I'm trying to pinpoint not very articulately here...)
I cannot recommend Daughter of the Forest, by Juliette Marillier, highly enough. It has magic, tragedy, triumph and such and intense love. I cried through so much of that book. And the best part it, it is the first in a trilogy!
ooh kittenb - sounds so good, I've just bought it! I've come across the same Celtic myth whilst working on my dissertation so this will be pleasure reading whilst still doing work (I can pretend!)

appmtnwoman, you may like the Avalon series by Marion Zimmer Bradley (or The Firebrand which is a reworking of The Iliad from the PoV of Cassandra) or Jean Auel's The Clan of the Cavebear series.
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