Wicked is the story of the life and times of the Wicked Witch of the West. Beginning with her humble beginnings as the misfortunately green daughter of a "unionist" minister and his society wife, Wicked gives the background Elphaba, the villian of the classic The Wizard of Oz.
I picked up this book on a whim because I liked the idea behind it, but I must admit I wasn't expecting much. It's been awhile since I've been truly surprised by a book, and it's nice for a change. Maguire's style is a little, er, crude. Ok, scatalogical. But so far that's my only complaint on this book. He creates another world, a bit too parallel to our own, but unusual enough to keep you reading. I'm not done with it yet, and I hate to give away endings, so I'll end my little comments here.
Click here for another review of this book.
The Left Hand of Darkness is one of those books that I can't believe went unnoticed by me until now. It just reminds me of how little science fiction I have read so far. My thanks to David for suggesting (and buying) this book for me!
The truly striking feature of the planet Le Guin describes here is its androgynous people. Everyone possesses both male and female sex organs, which remain dormant for the majority of the month. During "kemmer" (heat) either the male or the female will emerge as the dominant sex and will find a mate (also in kemmer) that has emerged in the opposite sex to mate with. I do a poor job of describing this here.
The social implications of this are, of course, astounding to our "bi-sexual" society. (Interesting to look at it from that perspective). No war between the sexes, indeed, no sexism at all, really. Le Guin does a superior job of looking at issues through a truly "alien" mindset.
A Must Read. For more information on Ursula K. LeGuin, click here
(Dune is another one of those books that I can't believe went unnoticed by me until now. It just reminds me of how little science fiction I have read so far. My thanks to David for suggesting this book).
Ah, the cover says "An unparalleled achievement of imagination." Truly amazing, how this book sucks you in. The climate of the planet Arrakais, aka "Dune", is total desert. Herbert takes command of this situation, imagining a place where water is more valuable than anything else and the desicated natives look upon their hydrated alien visitors hating them for their "water-fat skin".
Herbert's characters are as complex and three-dimensional as their setting. We are introduced to people who we envy, hate, adore, love . . . He even manages to throw in plenty of "cool" traits, such as enhanced perception, without making us cringe. I'm not very far into it, yet, but already I'm pleased to say that the story has plenty of action and suspense. Herbert is not afraid of killing off a main character to further his plot, and he uses his author-god powers well.
Links to info on Dune
(My Secret History is another David suggested read).
Hey, I'm not reading Science Fiction!
The first section of this book, Altar Boy, describes in first person the life of a 15-year-old Altar Boy, Andy Parent. He befriends an alcoholic priest and entertains the idea that entering the Church wouldn't be so bad. Since I wasn't raised Catholic, I found his descriptions of life under the thumb of the Catholic church disturbing yet fascinating. It's set in the early 60's, so the social pressures seem much stricter.
The entire book seems to rest on Andy's erotic coming of age. Although it's definitely *not* erotica, I find myself still a bit thrilled by the amount of sex in this book. Andy's outlook on sex is almost innocent; his friend's rude comments (his friend, Larry, calls Jackie Kennedy "a piece of ass") are alarming, yet insightful. A neat quote:
"I was looking at her and thinking: Girls get up in the morning and wash themselves carefully and put on four different types of underwear, not including a girdle, and choose a certain color sweater and clean socks and a matching skirt. They take the rollers out of their hair. They put in ribbons, they do their eyes, they rouge their cheeks, put on perfume and lipstick, earrings, beads, a bracelet on one wrist, a tiny watch on the other, and all day they go on checking themselves in mirrors. It was an amazing amount of trouble, but it worked. Why were they so surprised when we wanted to squeeze them and feel them up? Mimi Hardwick smelled of lavender and I wanted to push my nose against her."
Nude Study (detail)1913
by Gustav Klimt (1862-1918)
This book made me melancholy more than any thing I've read in a long time. Thank goodness I read it simultaneously with Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas -a very different book indeed!
Isabelle Allende is in the same league as Gabriel Garcia Marquez: South American Magical Realism. 'Cept she's a chick, with the sort of quilted, heart-weaving prose that just pulls your heart into your throat and makes a nice nest for it there. I cried quite a bit reading this book. You know all those side characters that sort of help the plot in your ordinary story? Isabelle Allende tells you their story as well as the main plot. In fact, I was almost halfway through the book before I was *really* certain exactly which story was going to turn into the main plot. And the way she does it is absolutely gorgeous. Layering story on top of history on top of families and countries and just about every thing in life that's worth getting all choked up about. Sorry to gush, but her writing is brilliant, lush and complex. The sense of understanding one gains from her intoxicating, at times heart-wrenching tales . . . uh-huh- ah. She makes me weak sometimes.
I don't know if it's obvious or not, but I have a deep love for the Magical Reaslists. Especially the female writers, who show so much of their heart when they write. I really appreciate the raw, almost confessional-with-none-of-the-guilt, she makes no excuse, honesty. Honesty of emotion, honesty of situation and politics . . .
. . . And I don't think I've told you a bit of the story yet. Ah, well, why ruin it for you? Love affair, impossible, frightening odds, extreme politics and human horrors . . . she doan't pull no punches, and I'll tell you, I've never understood "banishment" so well before. (I remember in 9th grade reading Romeo and Juliet and getting to the part where Romeo gets "banish-ed" and wondering why leaving where you were was such a bad thing. She sneaks up on you, and by the end you're weeping for your country along with a gypsy/journalist and a psychologist/photographer. I can hardly speak of the actual story; it chokes me up.
Go to what I'm reading now