July 2003 Archives
I like shopping at Amazon because you get a discount on most books, shipping is free if you spend more than $25, and thereís no tax. (Actually, my state has a form for you to file with your income taxes for online purchases, but Mr. Paul told me only idiots fill it out.) I like it even more when you shop at Amazon because I get a little commission (very little) whenever you click through from here to there then buy something.
The problem with Amazon is their targeted marketing. It works almost too well, to the point of annoyance. I used their site to browse professional titles and then was assaulted with recommendations for teacher books. I made the mistake of clicking "I own it" on a few of them, and now Iím pummeled with teaching crap every time I go there. My book recommendations are overloaded with professional, sociology, young adult, and picture books.
Of course, I could probably easily remedy this by going in an clicking "not interested" for everything I donít want, but I shouldnít have to. They should know better by offering me stuff like the items Iíve actually purchased rather than things Iíve merely browsed.
Although I kind of derailed the discussion by making the mistake of expressing my distaste for a certain character (I still think heís a jerk, by the way), Gwen did a great job hosting Memoirs of a Geisha last month. Itís been a while since weíve had more than one thread going on a title, and I loved the thought she put into creating her posts. Brava!
good in bed !
(well, i don't like to brag.... but...)
well, hello there bookblogger kin! i have emerged from my hermit-like hovel for the first time on the book blog to plead with you to buy, read and yap about Good in Bed... by Jennifer Weiner.
so, let's see.... looks like the discussion starts August 25th - perfect! y'all have a month to lounge and read it by the beach, pool, or heck, even in your bathtub (nice water theme i have going right now).
it's a great book - a quick read because i jumped right in and devoured it - i must admit when i picked it up in barnes & noble i had thought that it was a book filled with tips... but was pleasantly surprised to find out what was under the cover (hahaha... oh! bed... covers... sorry, i promise not to have too many pathetic puns riddled throughout the discussion)
so here's the skinny... go, grab that book now... enjoy it and let's start yammering about it in a few weeks!
for extra added pleasure, check out Jennifer Weiner's blog (she's the author... you were paying attention a few paragraphs up, weren't you?)
Memoirs of a Geisha, cont.
I'm glad that everyone who's commented so far has enjoyed Memoirs of a Geisha, but I'm a little surprised, considering what a bunch of voraciously up-to-date bookworms you are, that no one had read it before. What stopped you from marking it off your list for so long?
Personally, I was sure it would be more of a hubba-hubba salacious look at this culture, an Unauthorized Biography of a Geisha Gone Wild, if you will. Like the Anna-Nicoles Sayuri meets at society parties in New York, the only concept I'd ever had of "geisha" is as a synonym for "prostitute." I'm not sure this book has changed my mind on the basic definition, but it certainly expanded my ideas of what being a geisha entailed.
How has your concept of "geisha" changed? At her core, is a geisha anything more than a gussied-up prostitute?
Following Mary's lead, I'd like to further discuss the issue of Sayuri's self-proclaimed cleverness. The main thing that left a bad aftertaste with me after both readings was the easy fairytale ending -- I didn't feel like she deserved it.
Throughout the book, Sayuri acts in tandem with Mameha's cautions that we're fated to our fates rather than heeding Nobu's carpe diem lectures. She passively waxes about holding onto her hopes, while relating the numerous examples of the truth in Mameha's statement that "We don't become geisha so our lives will be satisfying. We become geisha because we have no other choice." (294)
At its core, her internal dialogue, while beautiful, comes across as little more than "Pretty, pretty, someone was mean, pretty, what will I do about the Chairman and my sister, oh, look at the lovely butterfly." After her initial meeting with the Chairman, Sayuri has an epiphany: "To become a geisha ... well, that was hardly a purpose in life. But to be a geisha ... I could see it now as a stepping-stone to something else," (114) and starts doing some complex math, figuring out how old the Chairman will be when she's grown up. It seems like a turning point in the story, that Sayuri will finally get off her butt and just do something, but she doesn't. The only reason she ends up anything but a maid is Mameha's sudden interest. Nothing happens in Sayuri's life without someone else's intervention. Even the one instance where change is instigated when she takes action is arguably due to Pumpkin's stepping in.
Where, then, is her cleverness? Does it seem reasonable to you that someone who faces such long odds yet practices "not fighting the currents, but moving with them" (127) ends up with the proverbial brass ring?
Finally, just because this made me laugh: Is there anyone who agrees with the statement made by the Amazon reader who said Geisha is "So tediously boring in its excruciating detail, I couldn't finish it"?
Memoirs of a Geisha
Arthur Golden's Memoirs of a Geisha is one of those hoopla-ridden runaway bestsellers I tend to avoid simply because of the lowest common denominator factor -- my experience has been that the things that everyone buys into (summer blockbusters, airport paperbacks, Top 10 sitcoms, pre-fab boy bands, etc.) tend to be big disappointments.
But I picked up a copy at a yard sale a few months ago (along with several of those Tuscany memoirs that were so popular a few years ago. 10¢ and as long as everyone else has read it and it's summer...), and was surprised not only by how much I enjoyed it but how much I've been thinking about it since reading it.
To start with, I'd like to discuss the somewhat peculiar and particularly obvious issue of the voice of the book. This story of an early-20th-century Japanese peasant girl who makes the journey to geishahood is told by a present-day, well-educated American family man. I have to admit, this is an idea that didn't sit particularly well with my post-modern feminist leanings, but I should have known better than to come in with preconceived notions about who should write what. An author's basic responsibility, after all, is to write what he (or she) knows in as convincing and engaging a manner as possible.
How did you find the voice of the story? Was it convincing? Did you have pre-conceptions about gender and voice? Did you find these notions at all disruptive to your reading, or was Golden's extensive knowledge of Japanese and geisha culture sufficient to override them? Should it matter who wrote it?
Also, I'm curious if anyone has read Geisha, A Life by Mineko Iwasaki, the former geisha who Golden interviewed extensively for his novel, and if you have any thoughts on it or comparisons of the two.
Bad Writing Wins Prizes, Too
Gwen brought The Barbecue! Bible Website to my attention because she did some work for them in setting up Moveable Type to run it.. Although I shy away from nonfiction, will probably never read The Barbecue! Bible, and am mostly interested in blogs of fiction, this author site totally cracked me up because of its unashamed enthusiasm for barbecuing. Seriously, you really have to love something to jam an exclamation point where it isnít wanted or needed in the middle of your book title.
The thing I like best about the site is that it doesnít take itself seriously even though grilling meat is serious business, which I know nothing about since I am an apartment-dweller. I also finally learned the difference between cooking with charcoal ("Charcoal gives you the primal thrill of lighting and playing with fire.") and gas ("Gas grills deprive you of the primal thrill of lighting and playing with fire."). Although I am currently boycotting cooking, I did browse through the recipes and managed to make myself hungry.
If Iím not mistaken, several of our members grill. Why donít you pay the Gladiator of Grilling a visit and then go make me a steak?
Authors with Blogs
We blog; so do they.
Cory Doctorow - Boing Boing: More famous for being an author on Boing Boing than an author of novels, but he did recently publish Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, which was plugged by Jeff Bezos on NPR. Not surprisingly, Doctorow set up a blog to promote his book.
Neil Gaiman - Journal: Not only does Gaiman journal about his life and travels, he answers fan mail. I almost want to start writing to him just to see if I can get mentioned because that would be pretty cool, but I?m not an authorfucker (or a starfucker for that matter). Neverwhere had me so enthralled I couldn?t put it down, but I had no problem putting down and then quickly giving away my copy of American Gods.
William Gibson - Blog: I find it funny that the author of Neuromancer and Pattern Recognition recently posted about problems with Blogger just like the rest of its users did. But instead of the usual "Blogger sucks" and "fucking Blogger" rant, Gibson made it sound so much more profound: "Feels remarkably like being locked out of your own apartment, except that there are lots of people in there, having conversations."
Scott Heim - Weblog: Mysterious Skin made us all feel oogy when we discussed it in February, but he left us a nice comment anyway and thanked us for reading his book. In clicking around his new site, I noticed that it includes a timeline of high and low points of his life to date. One event seems to be missing: 02.17.03 BookBlog begins discussing Mysterious Skin. Realizes he has finally made it to the big time.
Michael Lowenthal - Weblog: "I can?t (won?t) be one of those folks who writes every day, or even every week. If I did, I?d never write the "real" stuff (i.e., novels and stories) that (sort of) gives me the self-inflated sense of my importance that (sort of) allows me to have a Web site in my name and to type these occasional notes with a straight (sort of) face." If it?s such a burden, dump the blog. Simple. His most recent work is aptly named Avoidance.
John Passarella - Passarella Author Musings: Who is John Passarella? He?s on this list because I thought Sarah might be interested. He wrote a Buffy book.
Pamela Ribon - Pamie.com: This longtime blogger wrote Why Girls are Weird, the story of a twenty-something who learns html, invents an online persona, blogs about a made up life, and develops a following. Hmm. This scenario sounds oddly familiar.
William Shatner - Bill?s Space: Captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise. T.J. Hooker. Author. Blogger.
Duane Simolke - Duane Simolke?s Acorn Universes: Although Simolke is a self-published author, Degranon and The Acorn Stories can be purchased at Amazon. I also added him to the list because he mentioned BookBlog on his web site and sent an e-mail to let me know. I never responded to him, which happens often because every yahoo with a book wants us to read it, but he?s the only one who was nice enough to give us a link.
Bruce Sterling - Schism Matrix: Of all the sites listed, this one is most like a real weblog in that it seems to be a collection of regularly updated links rather than a journal. I didn?t check it out too thoroughly, though, because I became fixated on the PayPal donation link featured so prominently next to the entries. I?m sure Rich laid out some cash for more than just Schismatrix. Doesn?t Sterling earn royalties?
Jennifer Weiner - SnarkSpot: An upcoming BookBlog author who has been devoting most of her blog to posting about new motherhood. Don?t forget to pick up your copy of Good in Bed and read it in time for August?s discussion.
The list above only covers fiction because there are about a billion non-fiction authors, especially ones writing about computers and the Internet, with blogs. And I?m not as enamored by non-fiction as I am with fiction.
I?m sure I left out a bunch, but it?s really difficult to google for authors/writers because everyone with a web site is an author/writer. I was also surprised no one had already put together a list like the above that I could steal in order to avoid doing my own legwork. If you know of any others, leave it in the comments and maybe I?ll put together a page here to keep them all in one place.