104 in 2014 : There’s nothing witty that rhymes with April


I’ve been rebuilding my study, and binge-watching Still Untitled: The Adam Savage Project on Tested, so my reading has been a little slow this month. Let’s look at my paltry number of finished books.

27: This Star Won’t Go Out by Esther Earl.

This book is a series of letters, notes and remembrances of a teenager who died of cancer. The book is meant to be fighting the prejudice that suggests that the suffering of the ill is spiritually elevating, both for them and for their acquaintances. I’m not sure the book manages entirely to avoid this. An interesting read, nonetheless, and of particular appeal to fans of The fault in our stars, to which is bears a complicated relationship. I’ve prepared some book club discussion questions. City Libraries has some copies, but get in before the TFIOS movie comes out because they’ll be hard to keep on shelf.

28: The News by Alain de Botton. I’ve reviewed this book separately. City Libraries has copies of the book.

29, 30, 31 and 32: Moonbeams from the Larger Lunacy, My Discovery of England. Sunshine Sketches on a Little Town, and Essays and Literary Studies by Stephen Leacock. Reviewed elsewhere.

Books I set aside unfinished

33: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (pardon the lack of umlaut).

I have been following Crash Course Literature, and Jane Eyre was our book for this fortnight. I wasn’t able to finish it. I gave it up just after Jane was tied in the Red Room. My reasons for giving it away are pretty ordinary ones. I know the plot, including all of the twists, from other reading. I’ve been reading a great deal of litfic, and so I need something a little lighter next. Perhaps some non-fiction? I’m not saying it’s a bad book, merely that at the moment I’m an unreceptive audience.

34: The Amityville Horror: a True Story by Jay Anson

I was listening to this in audiobook, and such books get a single disc (72 minutes or less) to hook me. The person who put their disc set together did a good job on the edit, because the disc finishes with a hook, but for me it fell flat.

The thing I found most interesting about the book is the sequence of mountingly horrible events, and what it said about contemporary America.  Let’s check the list:

  • House feels cold.
  • Dog disturbed.
  • People wake at odd hours.
  • People feel out of sorts.
  • Mother and father take weapons and beat their children until they beg not to be beaten any more, then beg again the following day.
  • Flies.
  • Odd smells.
  • Toilets painted black inside.
  • Crucifix inverted into what the (Catholic) observer should have recognised as a Petrine Cross.

So, for the writer, the scary thing was a crucifix being placed in a position which is only considered scary by people who know very little about the symbolism of Catholic saints. The part where the mother and stepfather take weapons and beat their children into submission, in a way that’s illegal here in Queensland today*, is slightly less shocking, than a swarm of unnatural flies.

(* I’m not looking to start a “Should you spank?” discussion, just noting that in Queensland spanking is legal provided it is “reasonable” and the description given to what the Lutzes did seems to go beyond the degrees of temporariness and proportionateness that are generally  required, even by advocates of corporal punishment, here.)

I also started the Count of Monte Christo again, and set it aside again. It’s good but interminable. I believe I’m now about halfway through.

Books from my collection I finally finished

In my new study, the books that are in my “to be read” pile face my desk, where I used to keep folklore reference. I choose to see this as progress, even if I did not read any of them this month know that my “to read” pile has 45 books in it, plus the shelf of books from my English trip.