Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Glass Castle

Book: The Glass Castle
Author: Jeannette Walls
Like/Don't Like: Very good. I liked it a lot.

Have I told you how great my parents are? They never once made us live in a house with no plumbing. They never made us leave our home in the middle of the night to escape from bill collectors or the police. They bought us food on a regular basis so we wouldn't have to dig through the trash cans in the school bathrooms for something to eat. These are things I never even considered as attributes, but I also never had Jeannette Walls' parents, who did all of these things and more.

Jeannette Walls was a gossip columnist living in New York City when she was on her way to a fancy party and saw her mom digging in a dumpster. Up until that point she had hidden the fact that her parents were living on the streets from just about everyone because she was afraid that people would think she was a monster for allowing that to happen. The next time she saw her mom she asked her what she should tell people and her mom said to just tell the truth. So she wrote her memoirs about growing up in poverty with a genius father who was also a raging alcoholic and a mother who would rather be an artist than look after her 4 kids. The book is filled with really horrible stories about neglect. Her parents loved her but seemed to be incapable of caring for her. They moved from town to town, always staying in places that were barely inhabitable. Her parents seemed oblivious to their kids' suffering, which was incredibly frustrating to read about. And when they did see what they were doing to their family it was heartbreaking to read about their shame. Particularly her dad.

The impressive part about this memoir is that there is very little blame placed. She doesn't seem bitter or angry. She has a very light style and writes about horrific experiences like they happen to everyone, which, considering the subject, was a blessing to read. I can't imagine being able to finish a book like this if it had taken a more dramatic tone. She doesn't seem to want any sympathy - although you can't help but feel it - she just seems to want to explain how it all happened. And because of that you don't see her or her parents as monsters, just people with problems who are doing the best they know how.

Monday, September 21, 2009

David Copperfield

Book: David Copperfield
Author: Charles Dickens
Like/Don't Like: I think I'm making Dickens my literary boyfriend.

Once I decided that I loved Dickens I felt it only fair that I read more of his stuff. So I happened to be in the library last month and they didn't have the book that I wanted so I grabbed David Copperfield off of the shelf. I could have maybe planned it a little better because this is a fatty book - 1000 pages - and it always takes me a long time to get through fatty books. I've been reading it for a month now. It's not that I don't like big books, it's just that I get to a point where I forget what happened earlier in the book. I forget that characters existed or that certainly plot lines even happened. And I feel like it eats away at my book reading time, like I've devoted enough time and that I should be done, when I still have 300 pages, or essentially another book, left to read.

But I don't regret reading this at all because I really loved it. All 1000 pages of it. I really love his subtlety and wit. It carried the book for me. The story is about David Copperfield (a fairly typical Dickens ragamuffin) and his rise from obscure orphan to prominent author. Along the way we meet relatives and villains, servants and sailors, and his great aunt Besty Trotwood, who holds a personal vendetta against all local donkeys who trample upon her lawn. It's filled with hilarious characters and interesting stories.

In the introduction Dickens wrote that he felt truly sorry at the end of writing it because he would miss them all so much. And, while I'm glad to move on to a new book, I kind of feel the same way.