Wednesday, April 22, 2009

War of the Worlds Wednesday

Subtitled: The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells (Book Review or Maybe Not)
Subtitled subtitled: Wherein Megan joins a book group (but forgets to like...say stuff at it...d'oh I'm such an introvert, gimme some pie and don't ask me any questions.)
Subtitled x3: Gosh, I need to write a freakin' book review already. Come on.

I used to like to write book reviews. Now I like to read American Idol gossip and uh... sulk continuously about the state of my life. Thanks to the Read-a-thon I got a big wake-up call, like, hey, this is the book blogosphere, you like it. And books, you like them too! And writing! Sometimes you even like to do that! Now, I must attempt to translate these positive feelings about all things bookish into an actual post (about a book!) *gasp* I know. Except it's not going to be a real review cuz, I mean, who really reviews works of classic literature? Does it really matter if I liked it or not? It's not going to stop being a classic, is it? I'm Megan, and I have the power to end classic-hood of books! Muah....hahaha! Er, just kidding.

Speaking of classics, I have to ask. Is there some super secret literary prize for how many words you can pack onto a normal sized book page? I want to know, because hey, I picked this book up and I was all like, "Pshaw, 145 pages, I can do that no problem. And quick!" Yeah, whatever. They forgot the margins in this book, and the spaces between the words and the spaces between the... um... spaces. How demoralizing to spend weeks reading a 145 page book that you don't even loathe so much that you can't help putting it down for a week after every other sentence. So, my reading totals will look mind-numbingly dismal this week because the amount of words in this book could totally have taken up like 300 pages in a normally formatted book. Seriously.

But anyway, so I read The War of the Worlds for this book group at my church that wants to read literature and reflect on it literarily and, well, in light of Christianity and stuff. I finished the book, with a week to spare, and shuffled myself off to book group on Friday night where I and three married couples (hey look, Megan, you're the token single young person!) and the book group leader, who is, not-so-coincidentally the nerdy cool English teacher you had in high school who is oddly passionate enough about his subject that he has neckties dedicated to the individual works that he teaches. That's right. Guy shows up in a War of the Worlds tie not to mention toting a copy of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies that he's reviewing for the local paper. Seriously, why didn't I have this guy for my high school English classes? So, I sat down with my book, my pie, and a glass of water and listened attentively as everyone else discussed the book while occasionally adding an emphatic "Yes!" or "Mmmmhmmm" and secretly thinking "aw, I was gonna say that but you beat me to it!" So me at book group? Not exactly a huge success. Nonetheless, I think I shall return because I did actually enjoy myself and find it rather enlightening.

Now that I've blathered on at length, it's time for my in a nutshell impression of The War of the World which is about pretty invincible seeming Martians invading Victorian England and wreaking havoc upon it and all of its helpless citizens in the process of trying to steal Earth because Mars is dying, but, as my book group would tell you, it's about so much more all of which is revealed in a rather lengthy first paragraph but you won't figure it out until Not-My-English teacher guy says "What do you notice about the first paragraph?" *deep breath* The story is told from the point of view of our nameless narrator who is separated from his nameless wife and nameless brother. Once I got over thinking that I was supposed to have some connection to the narrator or his brother as they endure this fright, I rather appreciated the book. It's about humanity and human nature and what happens when our status quo is radically altered so that all our societal constructs fall apart. It's about Darwinism and natural selection and all that kind of thing. We'd say it's about the surprising ways of God which is kind of surprising to see in a book by a guy who was not that into God. And, apparently, it's about British imperialism. All that in a mere 145 (300!!!) pages. The scope of this small (unexpectedly medium-sized!!!) novel is pretty vast, and it's fascinating to see how Wells lays it all out to make his points from beginning to end but it never seems obvious what he's aiming for until you reach the end, reflect awhile, and it all sort of comes together. It's not really much of an unputdownable sci-fi adventure story, but it does have a lot to say about a lot of things that were important when it was written and a lot of things (though not all) that continue to be important and relevant today. It's not my favorite book, but I didn't dislike it, and I would have to say that having read it, I firmly believe it deserves its classichood. And I mean that in a good way.

Sorry, folks, I won't be de-classic-ing the classics for you today. We're using the save on this one! And you maybe won't get that last line there because you are, hopefully, not as big of an American Idol nerd as I am. That is all. See you in a few weeks soon!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

It's Ended!

The Read-a-Thon has drawn to a close, but as always, I think its effects will go on long after the last pages were turned. Congrats to all you readers, especially the ones that more or less made it the full 24 hours! It's so awesome to see so many people reading on Read-a-Thon day. Despite the fact that I was a bit frustrated at times that I got to what seemed like such a relatively small percentage of the nearly 200(!!) readers on my cheerleading jaunts, I am so thrilled to see so many people getting on board to continue this event that Dewey was really so passionate about. I had a fabulous time visiting those of you I did get to visit and hope that a few of you found my demented comments at least mildly encouraging!

Despite never having signed up as a reader, I've got a soft spot in my heart for this event. The first one took place probably not even a month after I first started blogging and my "unofficial" cheerleading helped me to meet some of my best bloggy buddies who then helped me to meet some of my other best bloggy buddies. I was and continue to be so impressed with the way such a vast portion of the book blogging community "comes out" to do this, how much fun everyone has, and how supportive everybody is of each other. I know that my parents were rather perplexed when I announced that I would be dedicating a decent chunk of a day to cheering on people while they read for 24 hours. I'll even admit that it sounds a little strange, but I can't think of a better way to have spent my day than encouraging such a great group of people who are doing what they love (and loving what they do!)!

Thanks again to all of you who made this Read-a-Thon, what seems to me, a resounding success! Thanks especially to Trish, Nymeth, and Wordlily who dedicated their time and their energy to continuing this great event where we can really come together as a community. I'm sure that Dewey would be proud.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

It's Begun!

Yes, that's right everybody! I've decided to suspend my total failure at book blogging to encourage the masses today as they attempt to read for 24 hours straight. Sadly, I wasn't able to participate in an "official" capacity while Dewey was still with us, but I'm greatly looking forward to being involved this time around.

I'm hoping to spend a lot of time cheering but also a good chunk of time reading, too. I mean, it's only right, right? And maybe catching up on a couple of reviews and generally trying to make a good blogger of myself. But it's also really nice out, so I might spend some time walking about the neighborhood (but I could also read...*outside*!).

So, after a brief jaunt out for the traditional Saturday morning breakfast of bacon and homefries and toast (I don't like eggs, okay? LOL) to fortify me for the day, I'll be back and cheering the many, many readers who are participating. Good luck and happy reading everybody!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

On Chesil Beach By Ian McEwan

So, here's this book I've been waiting and waiting to review. It's not that I didn't like it. I did. It's that everybody read and/or reviewed it pretty much already, and I'm not sure I have anything meaningful to add to the discourse. I'm sure I didn't exactly get all the cool literary things McEwan did with it, and I'm sure he probably did buckets of said cool literary things. I'm also sure that I don't quite understand all the societal forces in play in this tiny slip of a novel, all of which means I won't be able to offer you the wide-ranging, deeply perceptive big picture primo lit crit you are accustomed to seeing here on Leafing Through Life. Ahem, stop laughing. Anyhow, as you can see, of course, I am merely hedging to avoid starting the review, and I simply should not hedge anymore given the strikingly few books I am managing to get reviewed of late (Ultimate Bad Book Blogger 2009 trophy, I'm still coming for you!). And this is one of my Dewey Challenge books so I really need to just get this done. Really. Like, right now.

On Chesil Beach is the story of Edward and Florence on their wedding night. The novel follows as the couple blunders through the first few hours of their wedded life, one excited and the other horribly repulsed by the idea of what's immediately to come. As the newlywed couple draws ever nearer to consummating their union, they discover that they are ill-prepared in their naivete and lack of true knowledge of each other not only for this, their wedding night, but also for their entire future together.

Using the lengthy uncomfortable moments between the marriage and the doing of the deed, McEwan expertly weaves together the couple's past and their present. In just over two hundred pages he chronicles their first meeting, their falling into sweet, if ultimately superficial love for each other, and the unfortunate consequences of an evening that could have ended very differently. Even as the two contemplate their pasts and futures, their conflicting feelings about the moment at hand are ever present in McEwan's narrative.

On Chesil Beach is a very big book in scope that is, physically, quite small. It is a book in which very little actually happens, and much to McEwan's credit, it's very unlikely that most readers will notice the lack of action. In fact, On Chesil Beach hums along at a pace that never feels laborious which seems to be ever a danger in books such as this. McEwan has created a tightly written and stunningly realistic portrait of an innocent couple on their wedding night, showing us two people who barely know themselves attempting to become one. Beautifully wrought description, imagery, and characterization bring both the wedding night and the retrospective scenes of the beginnings of Edward and Florence's relationship to life in all their minute intricacies. Using his newlyweds who seem to be virtual strangers even on their wedding night, McEwan beautifully brings home the point that we can never really know another person completely, and maybe love isn't quite all you need when it comes to sustaining a relationship.