Thursday, September 17, 2009

Riveting Reads: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society


Do you know what you can get for under twelve bucks at Wal-Mart? About four bags of supreme pizza rolls. Or a small pack of Huggies—you know, the kind with only enough diapers to last a weekend. Or a Hannah Montana tee, knee socks, plaid miniskirt, hair clips, shoes, or pajamas—I bet if you could even get Hannah Montana fruit snacks. (Notice I didn’t list a Hannah Montana backpack? It’s because I’m banking that they’re more than twelve bucks. How else can you expect Miley to pay for her unicorn collection?!)

Or—if none of the above sparks your interest—you could get a copy of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.
Now, don’t be put off by its hokey name. You should know that my first instinct was, “Chic Book Alert!” which—as you can probably tell by now despite my chic status—isn’t really my type of book. Nevertheless, under the polite scrutiny and encouragement of my work book club, I purchased my own copy. OK. Say you just took my advice and bought your own copy, and opened it up to the first page. “What’s this?” you hypothetically say. “It’s a letter,” and as you flip through you realize, “What the devil? It’s all letters. It’s a novel entirely composed of letters!” And it’s true. It is a novel composed entirely of letters. But please stop walking to the Returns counter. Except for the crazy limitations the formatting must have put on the authors who still managed to pull off a New York Times Bestseller, you will still enjoy it.
Love it, I daresay.

Miss Juliet Aston is a newspaper columnist and semi-successful novelist living in London in a post WWII world. London is in ruins, a virtual skyline of crumbling brick buildings and other “dinosaur bones” of a once thriving city. Juliet’s own flat was destroyed by Germany's bombs, and paralleling the city’s aftermath, Juliet’s ideas for her next novel are scattered and lacking a common thread. Until one day…

…Juliet receives a letter from a Mr. Dawsey Adams from Guernsey, a Channel Island. Dawsey finds himself in possession of a book that once belonged to Juliet. She writes back to Dawsey, saying, “I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some secret sort of homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers” (a statement that I know has to be true. How else would I have found The Vorkosigan Series by Lois McMaster Bujold? It had to be Book Karma!)

In the midst of their correspondence, Dawsey reveals to Juliet of his participation in a local literary society, which was invented by accident in the heat of the Nazi occupation of Guernsey. Soon the entire hodge-podge literary society opens up a discourse with Juliet, telling stories of the occupation, some light-hearted and others heart-wrenching.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is worth reading. Book clubs will especially love it. With a ribbon of humor, Shaffer and Barrows offer a fresh perspective on the aftermath of WWII and testify to how literature can link people together in tough times.

(As published in the Foothill Breeze on September 17, 2009)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Things I didn't know (or just forgot about) and don't like...


1. I forgot that I hate that the 3rd season of Veronica Mars changed the theme song "We Used to be Friends" to some melancholy emo version of the song. It was the one TV show that I would never fast forward the theme song when watching the DVD. But the 3rd season version sucks toe.


2. I didn't know that if you kick a semi-deflated soccer ball at your car and it hits the antenna that the antenna will likely tap the back windshield and shatter the whole cursed thing. (Learned that lesson for a measly $500 bucks).


3. I forgot why I opted to have a $500 deductible on my car insurance policy.


4. I forgot that when a medicine bottle says, "take with food" that if you don't you'll have a stomach ache all day--even if you eat a half hour later.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Riveting Reads: The Road


(as published on Sept. 3, 2009 in the Foothill Breeze)

I visited my sister in Lehi recently, and every time I go there I browse her bookcase, picking at it like a vulture. This time I found a paperback copy of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. This particular copy has a very unremarkable cover. It’s black with the title and author's name as basically the only props holding up the cover. But there is a little golden circle in the bottom right corner that makes it decidedly more appealing than the cover art. The circle says, “Winner of the Pulitzer Prize”, and so of course I couldn’t put it back. And, boy, I’m glad I didn’t. Plus, within the first few pages of the exposition, the bland cover made a whole lot more sense.
It’s a post apocalyptic and dismal world to be alive in, especially for a child. The earth is burned and in ruins. The air so thick with smoke and ash that even the sun cannot penetrate the darkness beyond a predawn glow. Plants no longer grow and trees fall like thunder in the blackness. Food is scarce in McCarthy’s world, and as the years pass it only gets more difficult to find. A jar of homemade tomato sauce hidden in an already ransacked pantry or water found in a murky puddle and filtered with scraps of cloth. Some survivors—masked like harbingers of death—have become cannibalistic monsters, collecting and herding other people like cattle. They’ll feed off of a leg here, an arm there until nothing’s left and move onto the next victim. Humanity seems to be as scarce as the sun, and goodness is abandoned for butchery and a meal.
In burned America, the protagonist—a man who is never named (as if names are as luxurious as Twinkies)—and his little boy travel south on a road to avoid the treacherous winters. They head to the beach, hoping to find what? Neither really knows. But the man is driven by hope that they are not the only decent people left in the world, not the only ones left who “carry the fire”. Together man and boy journey down the road hoping to meet others with the fire, scrounging for food, and dodging the human herders with a measly pistol and what little survival skills that they possess.
McCarthy’s The Road is Hemingway-simplistic, and is so situationally terrifying that it raises the hairs on the back of the neck. It makes you wonder what you would do in the man’s place, and it makes you grateful for every miniscule piece of food in the house; the freezer-burned burrito buried in the ice box, the can of condensed milk that is over five years old, and the last remaining cereal crumbs in the bag that you would’ve thrown out before you read The Road.
Also, if you like The Road, you could also try No Country for Old Men, All the Pretty Horses, or The Crossing, all by McCarthy. Critics agree. McCarthy is a top-notch, award-winning, gripping writer. In The Road, he pushes human condition off a cliff to see if it can survive, then coaxes it back with hope.
The Road is becoming a major motion picture as well.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Rory: Do something to make me hate you! Loralai: Um, go Hitler?

Cole and I were watching the special features of Gilmore Girls a few weeks ago, which btw are really lame and don't bother. After one particularly lame "Tour of Stars Hallow" the clip ended with a violet screen with the watermark of a maple leaf. Centered were these words: Own all seven seasons of Gilmore Girls on DVD today. And there was a voice over reading those words.
I know what you're thinking, It was probably Loralai or Rory's voice or Miss Patty. No. The voice was not a lovable character from the show. It wasn't even Luke. It was some dark, bass voice who sounded almost like a retired drill sergeant. I mean it. We were both a little startled...and one of us peed a little. In fact, if I didn't already own all 7 seasons of Gilmore Girls--including the Amy Sherman-Palladino knock-off (i.e. the 7th season)--I would've gone right out and purchased them out of fear for my life.


The voice was enough to trump the "sophisticated, but understated" background.


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