Angle of Repose - Wallace Stegner

This story was incredibly slow, but I ended up liking it in the end. The book tells the story of a man fighting against personal troubles as he creates a biography of his grandmother and her life as an eastern socialite uprooted and living in the undeveloped western united states. As the man explores the life of his grandmother and grandfather, he learns about how the genetics and social upbringing he had was influenced and shaped by the lives of his grandparents. The point of the book is to discover the meaning of the phrase angle of repose. As different points in the book a possible explanation is offered and I think that the explanation a person buys into says more about that person than about the book and that phrase. I highly recommend this book because, while I have tried, I cannot find the words to adequately convey the feelings the book brings out. If you like looking at your own life while reading a book, this is a good one for it.

Battlefield Earth - L. Ron Hubbard

I went into this book prepared to be amazed and overwhelmed at the craziness that I always associate with the name Hubbard. But I was very very shocked. This is a good science fiction book. There is a little bit of social commentary but everytime I felt like it was about to go to far, the story would change and go back to the action. even the social commentary that there was seemed fairly innocuous.

The story is set in 3000 ad when humans are next to extinct and our planet is run by a multiuniverse mining company. the humans are viewed as animals and hunted for sport. one human fights back as a kind of superhuman and eventually owns about 1/3 of all the known universes and humans are the dominant force anywhere. Incredibly far fetched? Yes, but that is what a good science fiction story is. Far fetched but still a fun story.


An American Tragedy -Theodore Dreiser

I am still not sure what to make of this book. It is the story of a boy and tells of three chapters of his life. First, his poor upbringing and efforts to leave his poverty behind, ended in a tragic accident. Second, the period of time he spends in Lycurgus new york. this time contrasts his seduction of a working girl that works in his department, and his eventual introduction and acceptance into Lycurgus society and courtship of a very prominent and beautiful girl from a wealthy family. followed by his balancing the affections of the second girl while trying to resolve the problem of having gotten the first girl pregnant, ending with him killing the first girl in a tragic and confusing set of circumstances. Finally, his trial and eventual execution for killing the first girl.

The first part I found a little boring due to the fact that the boy, Clyde, is an idiot. His troubles in the first part are juvenile and easily solved, but turned into drama through his own incompetence.

The second part was distressing for personal reasons. His being in love with one girl and then quickly forgetting her when another girl came along reminded me a little too much of a young me and made reading that part of the book uncomfortable.

The final part of the book was uncomfortable for another reason. the majority of it is descriptions of the Clyde's trial for murder. attorneys for both sides cavalierly did things that would get them disbarred immediately now. but then end of the book when Clyde is trying to find God before his execution was what is going to stick with me for a long time. I do not like the death penalty, and this book seemed to describe fairly well the torment that a person who is to be executed goes through. Probably not as well as different books on this subject, but still haunting in my opinion.

All in all, it is a good book that touches on a large number of subjects worth thinking about. It dragged in places, but the poignancy of the topics it addresses makes it worth reading.


The Time Machine - H.G. Wells

I was familiar with this concept from the movie that they made from the book. But as usual, the movie was pretty pathetic when compared to the book. While a book written nearly 120 years ago won't keep up with the science very well, the human side of the story is very telling. The short story explores a human's social needs as well as the survival instinct. An overarching theme is the desire to explore and learn. The main character loses his time machine in the future, and when he finally gets it back, instead of fleeing into his own time, he continues further into the future to see the end of the world. All in all a good quick read.


Dracula - Bram Stoker

I thought when I started this book, being somewhat familiar with the vampire myths, that there would be little to surprise me. I was wrong. It was a very enjoyable read once you get past the old time feel to the writing. Dracula instead of being a major character in the book is instead mostly a motivation for the characters to do what they do. After the first part of the book, he has maybe three lines. It is written as a compilation of various peoples' diaries and correspondence, and unlike most of the time when an author attempts this, there is mostly a different style and feel to each person's writing style. A word of warning however; by the standards of today it is a fairly sexist book. If a male author tried to use some of the lines from this book as his own, he would be eviscerated.


The Age of Innocence - Edith Wharton

This book was really hard to get into. It is about 300 pages (at least the volume I read) and for the first 200 I really struggled. The last 100 were much more fun to read. the end was OK, but seemed to be trying too hard to be poignant.

It is the story of two star crossed lovers in New York "Society" whose love is doomed by the social norms of the day combined with their desire no to hurt their families. The characters end up not being who you thought they were for the whole book. The man is the most complex. It appears at the beginning that he is in love with love, then he is in love with a woman, then he becomes rooted in habit and ends up not loving anything. The woman is flighty and while you think she loves the man, I am not totally sure she did. The man's wife appears to be a simpleton, but ends up being quite shrewd.

Worth reading once, but I dont think I will ever read it again.


Hamlet - Shakespeare

Totally overrated.


American Pastoral - Phillip Roth

The point of this book seems to be that no matter how good you try to be, you can be broken. There are a lot of different interesting angles to this book, but overarching and ending the book is that love and a desire to do good will be trumped by the hate and desire to destroy of everyone else. Most books leave you with some hope. This one does not.


The Wood Wife - Terri Windling

I really enjoyed this book. The cover claims that it is a story about desert magic, but in the first 100 pages or so, there is maybe 1 page of total "magic." But while it starts as an unremarkable story, it quickly becomes quite surreal, and totally compelling.

My only complaint is that the ending reverts back to a common love story. It just seems to me that people who live through a magical contest with supernatural creatures and learn to view time in a non linear fashion don't go back to a normal life after. It seems to me it would change them.


Two Books

I finished "A Passage to India" and "Wise Blood" in the last week. Passage was slow but decent. It basically went to the point that everyone sucks. So if you are in that kind of mood, have at it. Wise Blood on the other hand was just weird. You would think that a book that had larceny, murder, religion, self mutilation and a whole slew of crazy people would be good. You would be wrong. In all likelihood, I just didn't get it. But I really don't care.


Play it as it lays - Joan Didion

This is the story of a woman's descent into psychological unwellness after her decision to get an abortion. To me it felt a lot like fear and loathing in las vegas, but without as much drug use to get to the feeling that everything was messed up. (If you are a hunter thompson fan, dont worry there is still drug use. It is just not entire cars full.

The weirdest thing about the book was that there was no point, it was just a story. I didnt seem anti or pro anything. Nothing matters. nothing is important. what i take away from the novel is that life really sucks for some people and they make it worse through their own decisions.

Unfortunately in my copy, a previous reader had annotated it with their own thoughts. Living in one of the most conservative places on earth, you can imagine that the comments were along the lines of, "thats what happens when you kill unborn children." But i completely disagree, there was nothing in the book that would lead me to believe that had she not had the abortion she would have been any healthier or ended up any place but in a sanitarium. in fact, the book insinuates that the mental imbalance started at the death of the main characters mother (and the subsequent eating of the mothers corpse in the desert).

All in all, a very quick read, and weird. If you like weird books maybe worth a read, but no promises from me on if you will like it or be offended by it or anything else.


The Naked and the Dead - Norman Mailer

I had high hopes for this book. Best book about World War II and other hyperbole made me think it was going to be great. It was only OK. I believe it was Mailer's first book, and that showed in the lack of polish to the thoughts. But at the same time, you can tell that he can really write. My biggest problem with the book was the continual (in some parts it felt like every 10 pages) descriptions of a character's motivations for some action ending in some form of the thought, "even if he wouldn't admit those reasons to himself." If the book had been about how people lie to themselves, then maybe this would have been effective. But instead it felt like a crutch he used to explain more of the characters' back stories and how they related to this part of the war, even though the stories didn't really relate.

I liked less, though it is more a criticism of his view of human nature than of his writing, his (in my opinion) simplistic view of the people he was writing about. There were only two or three motivations for any action in the book, sex, loyalty, and fear. Indeed, the last two were identical many times. He may have been saying that when in a long drawn out war, a person is stripped to just his most basic instincts. It is an interesting thought, but I disagree with the premise.

All in all I am glad I read it, and will be definitely interested in reading more of Mailer's books. This was an ambitious book and idea, but even though it was over 700 pages long, I think it needed to be much longer to fully do justice to the concept of the book.


The Crying of Lot 49 - Thomas Pynchon

This was a hard read. My reading time has often ended up with me falling asleep so it is tough to know how much of it is my own tiredness. There were more similarities between this book and what I have read of John Irving. I think it would be interesting to read all of Pynchon and Irving chronologically to see how many connections there are. But that is the job of a grad student in american lit., not me. maybe someday i will do it, but not now.

The book itself is quite dense. I think i would have to read it a few times to really get it. and if you want answers to the questions a book raises this will leave you frustrated. it ends by saying that there are only two possible solutions to the basic question of the book and never tells you which one. maybe an answer can be divined, but like i said, you would have to read it closely and a couple of times. (or be more gifted than I am at literary interpretation).


Interesting Connection

The next book that I am going to read is The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon. Before reading it though, i wanted to check out the author a bit. i read what i could on him and one thing jumped out. in one of his letters to his agent he talks about working on three or four novels at the same time and that if they come out at all like what they are in his head, it will be the literary event of the millenium. This jumped out at me because a nearly identical conversation takes place in Joh Irving's The World According to Garp. That book is about an author who discusses with his publisher the next three books he will work on simultaneously and that if he finishes them like he imagines them it will be quite the literary event. I am paraphrasing here because i dont have garp with me. This isnt a subtle reference either, Garp was published in 1978. Pynchon's letter, while written well before 1978, was not made public until well after that. I don't know if there is a connection between Pynchon and Irving that this exchange would help prove, but it is an ineresting little theory, at least to me.

The Old Wives' Tale - Arnold Bennett

This book is about two sister who represent sophistication (sophia) and consistency (Constance).

Bennett evidently saw an old lady in a restaurant and the fact that she was old and ugly made him think that all old women are ugly, and so women who were once beautiful and are now ugly must be depressed. His purpose of showing the sad story every old woman has because she is now old, and used to be beautiful is contradicted by the story he tells. It is an exemplary work for sexism and ageism.

The sisters live very different lives and then they die. I have no idea what bennett was trying to say with this book, mostly but what i got from it was that no matter how different you are and what kind of life you lead, you end up the same in the end. with this kind of book that follows someone through their life, the end of the life is supposed to be the most poignant and instructional. in this book it appears to be that old people are fragile, pathetic, and die ignoble deaths. Sophia has a point in the book where she wishes that she was dead but doesn't want to die. This conundrum would be a good plot for exploration, but instead bennett puts her into a coma and kills her in the next page.

I could see it on a list of the best 100 books of any given year, but of the 20th century, that is a joke.


A Prayer for Owen Meany

This is the second John Irving book I have read in the last few months. I have decided that i really like his style of writing. there are books that feel like the author is finding out what happens as it is written, without plan or knowledge of what will happen next. Irving has a way of forshadowing exactly what is important, making your recognize the foreshadowing, and still leaving you surprised at how it ends. That was the case with Owen Meany. Everything was in place for the climax of the book. If you were paying attention, you had to know what was coming, but I was still surprised. the book is really about God, and I dont know if Irving was trying to say that people who believe in God are silly or that people who dont believe in God are silly, and frankly it doesnt matter. I have a feeling that regardless of what you actually believe, you will feel that Irving agrees with you.


My butt hurts with the memories

i was flipping through my copy of my latest law school magazine. I don't really read any of the articles but it is nice seeing the places i used to hang out. what stood out was the courtyard where i spent many many hours is now covered (i knew about that) but that they have nice cushy chairs and couches now. i remember how badly my tailbone hurt after sitting in the rickety unpadded wooden chairs. all of them were either built to fit someone much smaller than me, or with a weird curve in the back that messed up your back. now i know they fit some people, i just didnt happen to be one of them. but on the other hand, i imagine i would have spent more time there and less time studying if i had these apparently faux leather thrones.



I was actually surprised by how well written this book was. I think there are a lot of easy descriptive words that authors use and it has created a kind of cut and paste writing. But this book was different. I found myself expecting the typical descriptions of people places and happening and was pleasantly surprised to not find it. I would give examples, but unfortunately left the book at home. I think that if you are trying to write it is definitely worth reading to see a better approach to description than you can find just about anywhere else.


As I Lay Dying

When I told someone I was reading this, they responded that Faulkner is a tough read. I don't know about that, but he is definitely one that requires you to pay attention while you read. I was cruising along and the next thing I knew naked people were running around with animals, the barn was burning, and then two of the naked guys started wrestling. huh? definitely not easy reading but a nice change of pace from the type of writing that is prevalent in most of todays books.


Rabbit, Run

This book was quite disturbing. I really didnt think it was that good, but its a perennial bestseller (says so right on the cover), so maybe i missed something. The book seemed to me to glory in a completely self centered point of view. Every character acted nearly exclusively in his or her self interest. It seemed to be written from Ayn Rand's philosophy, but without the majesty of the human condition. The difference being in rand's books it feels like she is advocating something, and updike's book feels like he is describing something. the problem comes from the fact that no one acts like what is described in either book. so like i said, maybe i am missing something, or maybe it keeps selling because people wish they could act that self centered in real life. (or maybe another option i haven't thought of, like i said maybe i missed something in my apathy toward the book.)


Plug for better off ted

Its a new show on ABC that i think is quite funny. it reminds me a bit of the office back when that was about stupid things that happen in an office and not the relationships that seem to dominate that show now. its on tonight so take the time to watch.

Latest Books

Books I finished in the last little while, but not really deserving of their own post.
the world according to garp
the spy who came in from the cold


I Hope Obama Fails

There have been a bunch of Republicans that have been saying that they hope Obama fails with the policy decisions he is making. It started with that nut job limbaugh, and most recently (that i have seen) now thompson.

We all agree that the country is facing some serious problems. the disagreement is on how to fix those problems. By saying that you hope that Obama fails, you are not saying that his policy decisions are wrong (though I am sure they think that too) you are saying that you hope those policy decisions are not effective. I can only think of a few reasons that a person would hope that policy decisions fail: 1) you predicted that they would fail and you want to be proven right; 2) you dislike the person making the policy decisions and hope poorly for them as a person; 3) you want them to fail so that you can again claim power. Another way of classifying these reasons are: 1) petty; 2) petty; 3) petty. What in effect these republicans are saying is that for their petty reasons they want all of us to suffer. I can respect someone who disagrees with obama on how to handle the current crises we face, but someone that hopes he fails for a petty reason (causing all of us to suffer) is not someone i can respect.

fear that he will fail, predict that he will fail, believe that he will fail, but hope that he will fail? That is the epitome of partisan bickering that is everything bad with our political system.


Zuleika Dobson

is the story of a girl who is not very beautiful but so attractive that guys the world over fall in love with her immediately. She goes to oxford where eventually all the undergraduates except one drown themselves to show their love. the one chickens out but when he sees her later, she taunts him and he jumps out a window. she then leaves to go to Cambridge evidently to see if she can get all the guys there to kill themselves too. The most redeeming quality of the book is that it was the genesis of the line "Death cancels all engagements." I thought there was far too much introspection, though i did enjoy the chapter about how the narrator knew the innermost thoughts of all of the characters. all in all, i thought an adequate but not exceptional book.


Winds of the Forelands Series

I don't particularly like most of the easy reads out there so when i want brain candy i look mostly for fantasy books. Because i expect brain candy that is often what i get. from that perspective these books didnt disappoint. the story was fun, the world was new to me, and the good guys win in the end. my only complaint is that they got progressively more sexually explicit. so after two i recommended these books to my little brother but came to realize that i would not have done that if i had finished the series before talking to him.



I just recently got on facebook for real, if you are on it send me a friend request.

Brideshead Revisited

So I told a number of people that i was going to read another atwood book (the handmaids tale) next, but my copy of it ended up back at the library before i could grab it so i moved on to brideshead revisited. I really really liked this book. There were a number of layers to it and a lot of diverse messages; from drunk driving is bad, to a persons inner beauty can make them outwardly beautiful as well (though neither of those was the main message). I think this is a book that i could read many times and still not get everything out of it that there is.

Its the story of a boy starting in college and his relationship with a family. he is best friends with one son, and then becomes the paramour of the sister. but he is involved with all of the members of the family. it is a dark book (which is probably why i like it) but dark in the sense that the main character never seems able to be truly and completely happy, despite looking for the happiness. But again, there are so many levels to the book, that if i read it again i am sure i would have a completely different take on it.

on another note, my favorite character had to be aloysius, a gigantic stuffed teddy bear that one of the college students takes with him everywhere, and talks about constantly as if it were a real person.


the blind assassin

not worth the read. i like clssic books because usually with a classic book you either get a view of humanity that makes you re-evaluate your view of human experience, or you get a story that is so embedded in our culture that many many versions or spinoffs or references in other works can be better understood. this had neither thing, and it wasn't even a good story. it is a story within a story, but there are actually four stories going on. the sci-fi adventure, the story of the lady and here paramour (there you go bill dorothy), the story of the old lady, and the story of the old lady when she was younger. turns out three of those are about the old lady fro different points of view, but the style doesnt work for anything great (maybe good but i dont think so). rather it felt like the author became enamoured with writing a story in this style and let that take over the telling of the story. i finished wishing that she would have just told the sci fi story which had a lot of potential in my mind.



I have heard Colorado Springs described as the anti berkley for the number of right wing nut jobs that live here. while it is very conservative, i haven't had many problems (other than some playful threats because of my obama yard sign). however lately i have come under attack for not being pro life enough. i dont think that abortion isever correct except maybe in the case of rape, incest or life of the mother. i dont think that government should provide money for abortions. i think there need to be programs to decrease the number of unintended pregnancies and in that way decease the number of abortions. i think roe v wade was wrongly decided (but my reasons are more legal than i think it was wrong because it permitted abortion). but since abortion is not the number one issue for me, i have been criticized as a flaming liberal. i find it amusing/concerning when an issue is so polarizing that even people on the same side can't stand each other.

but for the record, there are very few places on earth as beautiful to live as the springs (and most of them are also in colorado) and most of the people are actually kind, polite, good people, so dont get the wrong idea from this post.


to kill a mockingbird

disappointing. i thought that the book was good until the end and the end betrayed the point of the book up until that point. while the point of the book was clear, there was a greater point that got lost because of the easy out ending. a book everyone should read, but overhyped in my mind because of the simple ending.


strange case of dr jekyll and mr hyde

this was a fun quick read. i especially liked seeing how popular culture took the idea behind the story and changed it to fit their wants. the real story is more of a commentary on basic human nature than a monster story (though one interpretation is that there is a little monster in each of us). frankly stevinson is not ever an easy read, but i liked the book.


Animal Farm

I remember reading this book back in high school and thinking it was a critique of communism. This time through, it does not seem critical of communism but rather supportive. What the book does criticize are the leaders of the communist movement. But at the beginning of the story when the animals are closest to living the ideals set originally, their lives are better than previously. This will lead to one of two interpretations: communism is good, but the leaders of the movement screwed it up, or communism is flawed and cannot work because a person in power will eventually abuse that power.

I don't know what Orwell was trying to say but apart from communism I think it is an apt description of the complacency and intellectual laziness of most people.


The Long Valley

I realized that I have not been talking much about the books I have been reading. Since that is one of the things I most enjoy about writing on my blog I wanted to get back to that.

I just finished a collection of John Steinbeck short stories called The Long Valley. First, you have to know that Steinbeck is one of my favorite authors so I am inclined to like what he writes anyway. Some of the stories were just OK, but the majority of them I really liked. One of my favorite aspects of these stories is seeing certain character types that appear in his longer writings also playing a part in the short stories. For example, Lenny from Of Mice and Men can be seen as quite similar to Johnny Bear the "moron" who unwittingly makes his life and the life of the people that care about him much harder. While I have nothing to support my position, it felt like some of these characters intrigued Steinbeck and he wanted to explore other aspects of their personality in different writings. So if you like Steinbeck, definitely worth reading.