Happy Friday!

Thanks again to Jen at Crazy-For-Books for hosting the Book Blogger Hop!

In the spirit of the Twitter Friday Follow, the Book Blogger Hop is a place just for book bloggers and readers to connect and share our love of the written word! This weekly BOOK PARTY is an awesome opportunity for book bloggers to connect with other book lovers, make new friends, support each other, and generally just share our love of books! It will also give blog readers a chance to find other book blogs to read!

This week's question: Who is your favorite new-to-you author so far this year?

As of recently I am in love with Françoise Sagan. I just discovered her this week when I read Bonjour Tristesse. Here is a review of the book and here is a post about Sagan herself. She is a fascinating author!

Happy Hopping!


Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan

This is a fantastic book. Read it immediately.

As I mentioned yesterday, Sagan wrote this book when she was 18, which I think contributed to the success of this story. We meet our protagonist, 17-year old Cecile, on summer vacation with her father just outside of Paris. Egotistical, endearing and very spoiled, Cecile fears "boredom and tranquility more than anything else". Jealous of her father's relationships with mature and rational women, Cecile plans to destroy them in an effort to keep her father all to herself. Sagan opens her novella with the lines:
"A strange melancholy pervades me to which I hesitate to give the grave and beautiful name sorrow. The idea of sorrow has always appealed to me, but now I am almost ashamed of it's complete egotism. I have known boredom, regret, and occasionally remorse, but never sorrow."
Of course the title, Bonjour Tristesse, is French for "Hello Sadness," so we know where the story is headed.

Sagan handles Cecile's transformation from a self-absorbed, disillusioned youth to a more mature and effected young girl realistically. We are introduced to a typical 17-year-old girl, one who admits, "I dare say I owed most of my pleasures of that period to money; the pleasure of driving fast in a high-powered car, of buying new records, books, flowers. Even now I am not ashamed of indulgent in these pleasures. In fact, I just take them for granted." We leave her after she has said "hello" to sadness. However, I'm not sure we are meant to understand Cecile has truly grown up. I think she is effected, but still enjoys her frivolous relationships and material things. Yes she has said Bonjour to sadness, but I don't believe she has gotten to know it very well. As Cecile puts it, "Unaccustomed to introspection, I was completely lost". All in all, the story moves along with ease and nothing really seems contrived.

I also loved the setting of the novel. Not only the beaches outside of Paris but the period charm of the 1950's. A time when it didn't matter that everyone smoked and drank too much whiskey. When socializing and tanning were summer activities of the utmost importance.
"I was nailed to the sand by all the strength of summer heat - my arms were like lead, my mouth dry."

Like The Elegance of the Hedgehog, this book is undeniably French. I recommend this to anyone who loves French literature or hated The Catcher and The Rye because it seemed contrived. If you have ever acted selfishly against your better judgement you will be able to relate to this novel. A true memento mori.

I'm looking forward to reading more Sagan and I think I'll start with her second novel, A Certain Smile.

Publisher: Harper Perennial Modern Classics
Year of First Edition: 1954


Françoise Sagan, My New Favorite

I started
Bonjour Tristesse yesterday and love it. I've always been a sucker for stories that feature the spoiled, self-absorbed, manipulative young women and this story is no different. But besides that, the author Françoise Sagan is quite intriguing. Bonjour Tristesse was published in 1954 when she was 18 and it was immediately well received.

It sounds like Sagan herself was quite similar to her female protagonist in Bonjour Tristesse, Cecile. Sagan was born near Bordeaux to an upper-middle class family and was the youngest of three. She was described as "headstrong and fearless". She was spoiled as a child and didn't do well in school, and was eventually rejected by the Sorbonne. So at the age of 18 she began to write. In an interview with The Paris Review in August 1956 she said, "I simply started it (Bonjour Tristesse). I had a strong desire to write and some free time. I said to myself, This is the sort of enterprise very, very few girls my age devote themselves to; I'll never be able to finish it. I wasn't thinking about 'literature' and literary problems, but about myself and whether I had the necessary will power."

After the novel's success, Sagan then had money of her own - and a lot of it. In September 2004, upon Sagan's passing, The London Times wrote "Sagan was not shy in presenting to her public a version of the responsibility-free lifestyle endorsed in her work. She would leave her sports cars haphazardly in the road outside the doors of nightclubs, breakfast on Gauloises and coffee, and play to lurid rumours of her sex life. Her entourage came to be known as the pinnacle of youthful sophistication."

Labeled the enfant terrible, Sagan was a long-time smoker who was fined for using cocaine later in life. All in all, I find her fascinating.


Glamorama by Bret Easton Ellis

I'm not really sure how to review this book except to tell you it is unlike anything I have ever read and it will stay with me for a long time. My initial reaction after closing the book was wow this is brilliant and seriously crazy all at the same time.

On the surface this is an extreme satire of post-modern society and the celebrity-obsessed culture as we know it. Ellis combines models, celebrities, drugs, pop culture, violence, sex and terrorists to convey a sense of confusion, emptiness and dispair. The first half of the book focuses on establishing this plastic, superficial culture and the ladder twists it into a violent ball of mayhem that begs the reader to consider exactly where our society is headed.

While I did enjoy the book I wouldn't recommend it to just anyone. If you can't read Chuck Palhunak you most definitely can't read Bret Easton Ellis. That being said, Ellis has the gift of combining great writing with a great story - albeit a very dark and shocking story.

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Year of First Edition: 1998

With 546 pages this book puts me at 2,227 pages for the 2010 Summer Reading Challenge.


Friends with Death

"You've got to make friends with death. And you have to let things go. Because if you don't, then your life really is shit"

-Bret Easton Ellis via Herald.ie


Eyes of a Blue Dog by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Earlier this week I stumbled across Classic Short Stories - a site that offers short stories (for free) written by classic authors. Since I recently read Marquez for the first time I thought I would start out with his short story "Eyes of a Blue Dog".

This is a really interesting read that becomes even more complex upon reflexion - a skill that Marquez has proved with everything else of his I've read. The entire story takes place in the narrator's dream. Marquez writes the story with a sleepy eloquence that portrays a dream-like atmosphere for the reader, making it seem as if you are in the dream yourself.
"In some city in the world, on all the walls, those words have to appear in writing: 'Eyes of a blue dog'. If I remember them tomorrow I could find you."
"Eyes of a Blue Dog" explores the intricacies of the unconscious mind in relation to the conscious mind and how these unconscious desires manifest themselves in everyday life. It's a beautifully written story that I recommend to anyone who has 15 minutes to spare.

You can read it for free in it's entirety here. If you do let me know what you think!


Need to Read

"I don't think people read 'for' pleasure, exactly. Of course there is pleasure in reading. But mainly we do it out of need. Because we're lonely, or confused, or need to laugh, or want some kind of protection or quiet — or disturbance, or truth, or whatever."

-Lorin Stein, editor of the Paris Review, via "The Fine Art of Recommending Books" by Laura Miller


Margaret Atwood Writes Like Stephen King?

A few days ago I posted a link to the now viral I Write Like, a tool that lets you paste a few paragraphs of writing and then determines which author you write like.

It turns out that because of the sites popularity, successful authors have used the site to see who they write like. The results? The site isn't quite accurate (which became apparent when my results were Nabokov). Apparently Margaret Atwood writes like Stephen King, to which she responded via Twitter:

According to the I Write Like analysis, I write like... Ta da! Stephen King! http://bit.ly/bBCMB3 Who knew?Lady Gaga's Alejandro lyrics are considered Shakespearean, but we already knew her lyrics are "incredibly literary". Clearly the site is just for fun, but I wonder how Margaret Atwood felt when Mel Gibson's rant to his ex was imputed and she was the result.


My First Bret Easton Ellis

Reading now: Glamorama by Bret Easton Ellis

"Hey baby, we're all in this together," I grunt, my hands dusted with chalk. "Yeah, I wanna give all this up and feed the homeless. I wanna give this all up and teach orangutans sign language. I'm gonna bike around the countryside with my sketchbook. I'm gonna - what? Help improve race relations in this country? Run for fucking president? Read my lips: spare me."

This is my first Ellis novel and so far, it is unlike anything I have ever read - save White Noise by Don DeLillo but much more intense. I'm about half-way through the novel and the story is finally starting to pick up. It seems Ellis used the first 200 pages or so to establish the hollow and celebrity-obsessed world of the 90's, where the protagonist, a male model, communicates using song lyrics and considers himself very important because "the better you look, the more you see". Like Delillo's White Noise, Glamorama is conveying a sense of post-modern trepidation and is considered a staple in post-modern literature (something I wasn't aware of until I started reading the book).

Ellis is the author of American Psyco and while I didn't read the book I remember the movie. If Glamorama is anything like that, it should get quite interesting.


I Heart Nabokov More Than You

Awe, you guys. I took this quiz (that Eric recommended to me) that determines which author my writing style most closely resembles and this is what I got:

I write like
Vladimir Nabokov
I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Love it! Regardless of the fact that it's so not true because I couldn't even come close to his poetic prose, but it's still nice to see.

Take it
here if you'd like and let me know who you get! All I did was copy and paste my last blog entry into a box for analysis.


On Book Trailers

I read an article in the NYTimes Online today that discusses the importance of book trailers in today's publishing industry. "In the streaming video era, with the publishing industry under relentless threat, the trailer is fast becoming an essential component of online marketing. Asked to draw on often nonexistent acting skills, authors are holding forth for anything from 30 seconds to 6 minutes, frequently to the tune of stock guitar strumming, soulful violin or klezmer music. And now, those who once worried about no one reading their books can worry about no one watching their trailers."

It's undeniable that book trailers are the next big thing. We've even got book trailer awards and trailers with almost 5 million hits but at the end of the day, who are these trailers being marketed to? Are publishers hoping to reach avid readers who are constantly adding to their TBR list, or are they going after the demographic who watches more youtube videos in a day than they read pages out of a book?

For me, I've never bought a book based on it's trailer. But then again, I haven't seen that many book trailers. I can remember the first book trailer I ever saw, about two years ago, which also happens to be the most viral trailer. It promotes Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan through a series of touching anecdotes.

But did it work? Did I buy the book? No, I already told you I've never bought a book because of its trailer, silly. However, when I was at BEA last year I saw they were giving it away and grabbed a copy, which is still sitting in a box in my basement waiting to be read.

I'm not knocking book trailers. I think anything out there that promotes reading is a good thing. But I do question it's effectiveness. Maybe 10 years down the road when next generation's avid readers are purchasing books they will pick out a few from a trailer they saw. But until then, have any of you ever bought a book because of it's trailer?


If I Were a Man I Would Wear These

Earnest Hemingway's son has made a collection of men's loafers inspired by his father, who was a fan of the shoes. They are divided into literary, angler and sportsman collections. Me? I'm a fan of the literary:

Hemingway's grandson, Steven, details that "Hemingway hated socks. Socks meant that summer was over and you were going back to school." (via The Bozeman Daily Chronicle)

Shop them all here


Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

This book introduced me to a world that I had never encountered: that of the traveling circus. We meet Jacob Jankowski when he is 90 years old - or 93 - he isn't exactly sure. From there Jacob narrates two plot lines; that of his struggles with aging in a nursing home and his experience working for a traveling circus during the Great Depression at the age of 23. The majority of the story focuses on the younger Jacob. After studying at Cornell's veterinary school, Jacob learns his parents were involved in a fatal accident and he is left with no money. He leaves his final exams without filling in one answer and decides to run away. After jumping onto a train in the middle of the night, a train which turns out to be that of the Benzini Brother's Most Spectacular Show on Earth, his fate his sealed. He begins to work for the circus - a society in and of itself, filled with it's own politics and class struggles.

I was completely swept away by the enchanted world Gruen introduced me to. It reads easily and I was completely sucked in, yet it also informs like a history lesson. Gruen explains that she spent four and half months researching and "acquiring the knowledge necessary to do justice to this subject" of the traveling circuses in America in the 1920's and '30s.

While the overall story was heart-warming, there were aspects of it that really disturbed me. I can handle a lot of raw fiction but when Gruen detailed some of the animal cruelty that was involved in these circuses, it was truly heartwrenching. However, these instances are few and far between and looking back, they add a lot to the plot and understanding of the story. Didactically, Gruen's story emphasizes the importance of empathy and understanding, toward both people and animals. Rosie, an elephant who joins the circus is probably my favorite characters that is an animal out of any book. She is so fascinating because of her personality and spunk - and eventual heroism. Some of her actions in the book are taken directly from other elephants in circus history during the depression - Topsy and Old Mom - which makes it all the most fascinating.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a great story or reads for escapism. Gruen's imagery makes this world come alive in a way that is so real you won't want to put it down. Also, as I mentioned before, they began filming for the movie Water for Elephants in May of 2010, with it's release scheduled for 2011. I'm really looking forward to the movie.

Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Year of First Edition: 2006

With 335 pages, this book puts me at 1,681 pages for the 2010 Summer Reading Challenge .


Robert Pattinson as Jacob Jankowski

Oh this is fabulous. I am just finishing up Water for Elephants (which is actually taking me a really long time to finish as a result of the holiday weekend, the World Cup and the general business of summer) and stumbled across pictures of Robert Pattinson filming the movie, in which he will be playing the lead role of Jacob Jankowski.

Now, am I the last one to find out this news? Or maybe I'm just the last one to read Water for Elephants.  Either way, I am super excited for the movie! I'm not a die-hard Twilight fan, but I am a die-hard Robert Pattinson fan. I would do unspeakable things to him. Unspeakable...


Book Blogger Hop and My Favorite Authors

This is my second time doing the book blogger hop, hosted by Crazy For Books. It's a great way to meet and connect with other book bloggers.

This weeks question: Tell us about your favorite authors and why they are your favorites.

My favorite authors (in no particular order):

Kurt Vonnegut: Vonnegut will always be one of my favorite American authors. He manages to make me think about society and politics in a way that I normally wouldn't, warning against the dangers of totalitarianism and extreme egalitarianism. His short stories are also great.

Margaret Atwood: My favorite author of dystopian novels.

George Eliot: Mill on the Floss, Silas Marner, Middlemarch, Daniel Deronda - all amazing.

e. e. cummings: His poetry changed my live. Enough said.

Audrey Niffeneger: Despite her mass-market appeal I can't help but love everything she has ever published. I am eagerly looking forward to the Night Bookmobile.

Wilkie Collins: Arguably the first author to write suspense fiction - Victorian tone with intriguing plots. How can you go wrong?


Fun is a Relative Concept

A few weeks ago I discovered Stuff No One Told Me and immediately became a follower. Alex Noriega is an artist from Barcelona who illustrates things no one has told him but he has learned himself along the way. I wanted to share my favorite illustration so far (which, of course, is book related):

How fabulous, right?


I'm back!

I had a terrific 4th of July weekend filled with festivals, cookouts, fireworks and Dave Matthews concerts. Unfortunately, I didn't get any reading done, but expect a review for Water for Elephants soon! I hope you all had a great holiday.


One in Seventeen Books Sold are Written By James Patterson

That statistic scares me.

I just finished reading an article from the New York Times entitled "James Patterson, Inc." and wow is it interesting. Basically the article relates the major success of James Patterson - not only how he created a brand for himself using his experience as an Ad Exec, but also how he essentially shifted one of the most successful publishing houses, Little, Brown, to embrace mass-market fiction rather than literary masterpieces.

Let me preface my response to this article by telling you I have only read one James Patterson novel in my life, Sam's Letters To Jennifer, at the request of my mother. After taking a whole two days to read this fluffy novel with absolutely no character development and a disgustingly simple plot structure I promised myself I would be much more skeptical when considering recommendations from my mother.

I have also met James Patterson, last year at BEA, and while I'm not a fan of his books I'm kind of a fan of him. As I trotted up to get a signed copy of his latest YA novel he noticed my name tag that labeled me from Madison, WI and began bantering about the terrace and the fact that his wife is also a fellow alumni of UW. Cool guy, bad books.

However, while it seems that James Patterson (and his many ghost writers) write for the masses using little or no literary devices, once upon a time James Patterson did know how to write. After Patterson landed himself an agent who helped to get his first book published he was awarded an Edgar - the mystery writing equivalent of a Grammy - for best first novel. Now days Patterson fails to live up to his literary achievement and notes that in his first novel, "The sentences are superior to a lot of the stuff I write now, but the story isn't as good. I am less interested in sentences now and more interested in stories".

Considering one in everyone seventeen books bought are written by James Patterson, it's sad that he can't master the art of pairing a good story with a good sentence. Why does it have to be one or the other? One of my favorite authors, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, has mastered the art of combining rich prose with a suspenseful, cant-put-it-down story line and I'm sure 9 out of 10 people have never heard of him. (You know, all those people who don't read book blogs everyday.) They are too busy reading the nine books Little, Brown publishes by James Patterson per year.

In my opinion, James Patterson left his writing abilities to pursue marketing his brand. Here is a marketing genius who has schemed his way to the best-seller list too many times to count by writing simplified novels that indulge the public's basic instincts. Does that make him a bad guy? No, he is arguably the most successful authors today - he's obviously doing something right. But, in my opinion, he is a shinning example of what publishing is turning into - or has already become. These days it's more about marketing your book than it is about writing a decent one. It's more about an author's platform and what they can do for the publisher than what the publisher can do for them.

Originally posted 1.14.10


Age is a terrible theif.

Reading now: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

"Time is a terrible thief. Just when you're getting the hang of life, it knocks your legs out from under you and stoops your back. It make you ache and muddles your head..."

I didn't know what to expect when I started this book - I had heard a lot of hype which always makes me a little skeptical. But to be honest, I am pleasantly surprised. So far this book is truly delightful and is proving itself to be a terrific summer read. Gruen has introduced me to the enchanted world of the traveling circus and I can't get enough.

Sucks for Molly Ringle

Did you know there is an award for the worst opening sentence of a novel? Well, there is and Molly Ringle won it this year for writing this sentence: "For the first month of Ricardo and Felicity's affair, they greeted one another at every stolen rendezvous with a kiss--a lengthy, ravenous kiss, Ricardo lapping and sucking at Felicity's mouth as if she were a giant cage-mounted water bottle and he were the world's thirstiest gerbil."

Yikes. She deserved this one. It seems like not all publicity can be good publicity, especially in the book world.

Via Media Bistro: This prize is part of an annual bad writing competition that began in 1982 at San Jose State University. The contest was named after Victorian novelist Edward George Earl Bulwer-Lytton, an author famous for writing the opening line: "It was a dark and stormy night."

UPDATE: So I guess I read this article wrong. Caroline Bookbinder informs me that "Actually, these lines that are submitted for the Bulwer-Lytton award are NOT the first sentences of actual books - they're made up specifically for the Bulwer-Lytton (at least they don't HAVE TO come from books. I suppose having been published wouldn't prevent a line from being submitted.) So Molly Ringle purposefully created the worst first sentence she could think of. It's an exercise in creativity."

Thanks for setting me straight Caroline. I feel like a total spaz. I guess it doesn't suck for Molly Ringle.


Rabbit, Run by John Updike

It wasn't until I finished this novel and took a step back from it that I realized I liked it. On the outset I disliked it for leaving a bitter taste in my mouth but the more I thought about the story and Updike's portrayal of Rabbit, the more I appreciated it.

The novel centers around Harry "Rabbit" Armstrong, a 26-year-old salesman and former basketball star who, within the first 30 pages of the book, runs away from his wife and child in an effort to untie himself from the constraints of his life. In Rabbit's defense, his wife is a preggo alcoholic who barley manages to care for herself, let alone her own child. So, Rabbit runs, searching for whatever it is that is missing from his life.

"The odor of meat cooking grows more insistent as he explains what he thinks happened: how Harry has been in a sense spoiled by his athletic success; how the wife, to be fair, had perhaps showed little imagination in their marriage..."

Of course Rabbit never finds exactly what is missing and along the way he manages to hurt many people and destroy a few lives. There were times I wanted to shake Rabbit while screaming "What's wrong with you?" and every once in awhile I wanted to comfort Rabbit and offer him a hug. There is something to be said about characters like this; so complex and so realistic that they invoke real emotions within the reader. "The only thing special about him is he doesn't care who he hurts or how much." This basically sums up Rabbit on the outside; he is continually hurting people because of his irresponsibility yet somehow, I sympathize with him. Maybe because there is a part of him who is simply following his instincts in search of happiness. It's like his character is speaking to the restlessness associated with the convention of marriage and saying it's not always going to lead to happiness.

This book got under my skin. There were times I wanted to give up because I was disgusted by the world I was reading about, but in the end, I'm really glad I didn't. The ending, while very fitting, didn't offer much of a conclusion (this the first in the series of four), but the story overall was great. I would recommend this to readers who would like to meet the ultimate anti-hero.

I'm planning on reading the second novel in the series, but I'm going to give myself a little Updike/Rabbit break in the meantime. If I had to guess, I'm going to say that Rabbit is left unsatisfied for most of the series and will continually search for something. About halfway through Rabbit, Run his wife states, "No. He'll come back for the same reason he left. He's fastidious. The world he's in now, won't continue to satisfy his fantasies". I've got a feeling there isn't much out there that will continually satisfy Rabbit's fantasies, but I'd love to be along for the journey to find out.

Publisher: Alfred An Knopf
Year of First Edition: 1960

I'm counting this toward my 2010 Summer Reading Challenge and at 276 pages that puts me at a cool 1,346 pages.