Saturday, June 1, 2013

This Month In Non-Fiction

A Moveable Feast
by Ernest Hemingway

I've wanted to read this book ever since I heard Nicholas Cage quote from it during a scene in the movie City of Angels.  I don't usually rely on Nicholas Cage for book recommendations, but I thought the wording sounded beautiful.

This book was not really what I expected, which is hard to explain, because I don't know that I really expected anything from it.  I had no idea what it was about when I put it on my TBR.

Turns out it's a memoir of Hemingway's life in Paris from 1921 to 1926.  Hemingway's writing style is a little odd.  He can be repetitive, and he seems to draw sentences out when it isn't necessary.  I do enjoy the way he describes food and settings.  And it was pretty interesting to hear all the gossip and shit-talking that went on amongst writers in the early 20's.  I would recommend reading it if you're a fan of that decade or of reading about the writing process.

Interesting Quotes:

If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.

But sometimes when I was starting a new story and I could not get it going, I would sit in front of the fire and squeeze the peel of the little oranges into the edge of the flame and watch the sputter of blue that they made.

You got very hungry when you did not eat enough in Paris because all the bakery shops had such good things in the windows and people ate outside at tables on the sidewalk so that you saw and smelled the could always go into the Luxembourg museum and all the paintings were sharpened and clearer and more beautiful if you were belly-empty, hollow-hungry.  I learned to understand Cezanne much better and to see truly how he made landscapes when I was hungry.  I used to wonder if he were hungry too when he painted; but I thought possibly it was only that he had forgotten to eat.  It was one of those unsound but illuminating thoughts you have when you have been sleepless or hungry.  Later I thought that Cezanne was probably hungry in a different way.

They say the seeds of what we will do are in all of us, but it always seemed to me that in those who make jokes in life the seeds are covered with better soil and with a higher grade of manure.

There is never any ending to Paris and the memory of each person who has lived in it differs from that of any other.  We always returned to it no matter who we were or how it was changed or with what difficulties, or ease, it could be reached.  Paris was always worth it and you received return for whatever you brought to it.  But this is how Paris was in the early days when we were very poor and very happy.

Read more reviews about this book on LibraryThing.

Mirror, Mirror Off The Wall
by Kjerstin Gruys

Disclaimer:  I received a free advanced copy of this book from Penguin through LibraryThing in exchange for an honest review.

Kjerstin Gruys, who is currently working on her Ph.D. in sociology, decided to change the way she feels about her body image by not looking at mirrors or current pictures of herself for AN ENTIRE YEAR.  And if that didn't sound brave to you already, you should know that she took on this project the year she got married.  Which means that she didn't even look at herself on her WEDDING DAY.

I requested this book because reading the synopsis gave me two very different reactions.  1) Oh my God, the thought of not being able to make sure I don't look like I've been run over by a truck every morning makes me so stressed I want to throw up, and 2) Oh my God, it sounds so wonderful and FREEING to not be able to know that my face looks fat today and my hair looks like some kind of accident.

Gruys is pretty fluent in the ways the media promotes an unattainable sense of perfection and female beauty, having already received her B.A. in sociology concentrating in women and gender studies.  At the time of writing, she was working on her M.A., so there's a lot of fantastic information packed in.  At times, I thought Gruys could get a little repetitive.  My guess was that there was a lot of pressure to make the book a certain length, but honestly some of the repeated information could have been tossed, and this would still have been a good read.

Now, the writing is not spectacular, but this is a book that's based on a blog.  And considering the subject matter, I was completely fine with the fact that this was not what you would call "fine literature."  Gruys writes like a human sharing a story with her journal with the expectation that she can write whatever she wants without being judged.  And I liked that, because we have all been there.  I, too, have gotten mad at my husband for not reading my mind and saying the exact thing I needed to hear at the exact moment I needed to hear it.  I've also made terrible fashion/cosmetic choices because something was "less expensive" or "took less time."

I'm not going to run out and start this project.  I'm really just not that brave.  But I did take away a lot of healthy advice and some new outlooks on my body image.  Because, let's face it, most of those negative things we see about ourselves in the mirror are just in our head.

Some Things I Learned

  • Our brains can only handle so much at a time (duh), so over thinking our appearance and stressing about how we look throughout the day takes up valuable brain real estate that could be used on other things.  That's why you have such a shitty day when you think you're having a bad hair day.  It's not because your hair looks terrible, it's because you're thinking about how terrible your hair looks, and it's preventing your brain from completing other tasks.
  • Gruys admits at one point that she trusts her mother-in-law's opinion on clothes far more than her sister's, who she is closer too.  And that's because she finds her mother-in-law very critical, and figures that if the outfit is good enough for her, then it's good enough for anybody.  Haven't we ALL done this?  We let somebody we don't even necessarily like that much determine what we wear or how we do our hair, because they're more likely to criticize us.  I know I have, and it's not healthy.
  • We can't be everything to everybody.  And that's okay.

 Read more reviews about this book on LibraryThing.

The Potty Mouth at the Table
by Laurie Notaro

I LOVE Laurie Notaro.  She makes me laugh until I start crying and inspires me to force my husband to listen to me read aloud from her books when all he really wants to do is play XBOX.

I wish I could describe all the odd events that happen in my life the way she does.  She has a wonderful way of laughing at herself.  I think one of the things I like most about her writing is that I see a lot of myself in her.  I also have what she describes as a "Hoarder's Corner" (more like an entire closet).  I become overly attached to furniture and knick-knacks I find at garage sales.  I have even, occasionally, convinced myself that I have encountered FutureBrittany.  In other words: 

Having said that, this was not her best.  I'm sorry.  There was still plenty of hilariousness, just not nearly as much as there was in her first books.  There was also several typos throughout the book.  What's up with that, Gallery Books?  (I still love you, Laurie)

Favorite Quotes

Now, I suppose it would be different if this were the first body my husband had suddenly found this year, but it wasn't...

"It's actually not a metaphor; it's an analogy," my husband corrected.  "Shut up," I demanded.  "You still have student loans!"

I have read Harry Potter erotica.  Sometimes, life is like that.

"I just went to the ballet on half-price tickets.  I didn't expect to time travel and come back a Nazi collaborator!"

Because hoarding doesn't happen overnight - it worsens over time like Madonna's music.

Once, my husband, who had been deathly ill for eleven days, came into my office to tell me about the new season of Portlandia, and then he stopped and said, "I know you're not turning around because you think if you don't face me, you won't get my germs and they'll bounce off the back of your head.  But I have protected you."  I turned around slowly to see that he was wearing a napkin around his face like a bandit.

You can read more reviews about this book on LibraryThing.

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