Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Fuku vs. Zafa

Book: The Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

Rating: B-

Review: It look a long time for me to get into the story line. For whatever reason I just couldn't connect or relate to a Dominican family in New Jersey. Even though they were vulnerable and sad, I didn't like that the characters had no redemptive qualities. They all had messed up lives, and it kind of stayed that way. I'm sure there is an exception to this rule, maybe with Lola, but even then, there wasn't something that stood out as that great - just kind of mediocre. I'm not saying that reading the book was torturous, but it did go slower than I thought and the whole time it felt like I was just willing it to be over.

When Diaz started talking about fuku and zafa, it got me thinking about how every culture has their version of bad luck. Some that are long in tradition and have been around for centuries, and some that we create within our lives just because of our own superstitious natures.

The Greeks have the evil eye. Italians wear horn-shaped pendants to ward off bad spirits. Native Americans have dream catchers. Thespians wish you to "break a leg." We're all guilty of it. Even my own grandmother warns me with "advice" like: Don't laugh to hard because you'll end up crying.

Maybe this kind of stuff does exist and we should throw the salt over our shoulder and make sure to knock on wood - but maybe it is just our imagination, or one of those chicken and egg scenarios. You are cursed because you think you are cursed or You think you're cursed, because you are cursed.

Do any of you have examples of weird everyday superstitions that you find interesting?

Friday, September 17, 2010

fill in the blanks Fridays

Ever since I started reading  The World Is My Oyster I've wanted to pick up her weekly "fill-in-the-blanks Fridays" tradition. Obviously I've waited a long time to actually do it - but better late than never, right?

If you would like to participate, please link up to the fill in the blanks guru, Lauren's blog: the little things we do

1.   When I get a day to myself I like to   If it is a weekend day: sleep late, cuddle in my bed while reading a good book, lazily make breakfast, go for a walk, visit the library or a museum and run fun errands that I don't have time to do during the week. If it is during the week and I have a night to myself: Make an elaborately messy dinner and lay on the couch watching my favorite TV shows or a movie.   

2.  High school was....     unforgettable.  I met some of my best friends when I was there and even though my school was wildly conservative - I find that I actually did a lot of thinking and formed a lot of my (wildly liberal) opinions about the world and life that still hold true today.

3.  A little dream I have is    to fix up my recently moved into apartment with art and knickknacks that really bring out mine and my roommate's personalities. I want anyone and everyone to feel at home when they come over.  

4.  A big dream I have is    to write a book. So many times I've sat down, determined to start my journey as a writer - but self doubt and nerves quickly set in and before I know it I'm off doing something else.    

5.  If I could drive any car my pick would be  umm...I don't really like driving so one that would make the ride as pleasurable as possible. With good tunes and great friends.

6.  A time that I felt really and truly beautiful was    this morning when I looked in the mirror? Hahaha just kidding...I feel really comfortable and beautiful when I get dressed up for a fancy party.  But I also feel vulnerably beautiful when I wake up in the morning - no make up and bed head  

7.  Tomorrow I will....   sleep late, clean my apartment, maybe see my mom and take a walk around my neighborhood....   

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Summer in, Summer out....

July came and went - a flash of heat exhaustion and laziness.The only reason I know August happened was because one of my very best friends got married on the 12th. And now it's September. As I await the crisp weather and colorful foliage, I'll update you on all the books I managed to read since we last touched base :)
Some were worth savoring and some were torturous to get through, either way, here it is:

1. The Book Borrower by Alice Mattinson: This book and I had quite a love affair. The first time I saw it was in Brookline Booksmith - my favorite indie bookstore in Coolidge Corner, Massachusetts. But I saw it during my college days, where a book that cost $4.99 was just too much for my measly budget. So I left it there. Intrigued by the story, I couldn't help but think about it from time to time. Every time I visited the bookstore, I would stop by to say hello, pick it up, caress it - let it know that I had not forgotten about it. Until finally one day, a while after I had graduated, I stumbled across it again - on one of my impromptu visits to Boston. I had to get it. I knew that it was time to bring The Book Borrower home with me.

You'd think after all that, I would have loved every page. I was disappointed when it took me more than a week to finish it. At about 300 pages, this book should have been back on my shelf in three days. And you all know that even if it is a slow start eventually you'll see that it was worth getting through. I honestly, don't know if I would recommend this. A story within a story - I kept feeling like there were too many commercials during my program, and the program wasn't that good to begin with. Like when it's Saturday afternoon in the summer and it's raining and you are looking for something to watch, but you have to settle for a re-run or some mediocre daytime movie.

2. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark: Short and simple. It was the choice for the new book club I joined. We met at an Irish-Victorian-inspired bar/restaurant, where I had a deliciously large drink called the Diamond something or other. It was champagne mixed with some divine nectar of the gods.

The meeting was very interesting, and totally different from my own book club. We went through a lot of the reading group questions at the back of the book and at the end, you got to grade the book and pick which characters you would "Chuck, F* or Marry". When I first accepted the invitation to take my roommate place in this book club, I was nervous about the first meeting. But I think it was an overall success and a lot of fun.

As we discussed at the meeting, while I was reading it, I couldn't tell if I liked the book. Honestly, I thought I hated it. But once I let it settle and actually started thinking about what I had just read, I started to like it more and more. It's like when you see a movie for the first time and you say you don't like it, or think it is funny - but then you start quoting from it and find it hilarious?

3. Parisians: An Adventure History of Paris by Graham Robb: It's time to book my ticket to Paris and never come back. I requested this book a few months ago, and I was trรจs huereuse when I got the email from the NYPL to come pick it up. Normally, I am not one to voluntarily seek out history books. It is only within the past year and a half that I have branched out and started consecutively reading non-fiction books, but this book called to me. And now, I can't wait to buy a copy of my own.

When I was younger, my sister used to joke that Gertrude Stein's "America is my country and Paris is my hometown" quote should have been my mantra. By luck and blessing I visited Paris five times before I graduated high school and each time I loved it more and more.

I would recommend this to anyone planning a trip to The City of Lights or even for someone who wanted to transport themselves there without the packing and 7 hour flight.

4. The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud by Ben Sherwood: Is it lame that I have a crush on Zac Efron and that is the reason behind me reading this book? Yes. BUT if it weren't for my weird High School Musical obsession, I would have never found/enjoyed this little gem.

5. The Most Beautiful Book in the World: Eight Novellas by Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt
What can I say? Hauntingly beautiful and weirdly French. I really can't think of how to convey how much I liked this book. With its simple story lines and intricate fantasy Schmitt transports you to each mini world effortlessly. (A favorite)

6. That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo: Definitely not what I was expecting. Too slow and melancholy for my taste. It wasn't until the very end that the main character was redeemed of  his eccentricities, but I still felt like it was "too little - too late."

7. Me and Orson Welles by Robert Kaplow: I loved this book! Frustrating at times, but the fast-paced artist's life in New York always holds a spot in my heart. A time and life so different from mine - yet riddled with some of the same wants and dreams. Indulgence at its finest.

8. Busy Woman Seeks Wife by Annie Sanders: One of the only "summer reads" I picked up this season. Funny and quick, filled with sabotage, secrets, love and friendship. I finished it in two days. Just a nice way to give your brain a break from life's worries.

9. Wedding Season by Katie Fforde: Why is it that British authors write such fun and addicting "chick-lit"?  The main character's nagging practicality and cynicism towards love was a tad annoying at times, but it all wrapped up nicely in the end. Perfect for those light luxurious summer days.

And I am currently reading The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz