maeve66: (Read Motherfucking Books All Damn Day)
[personal profile] maeve66
I think the image above sort of sums up 2013 for me -- I made it my goal to read 365 books this year, via Goodreads (whose purchase by Amazon has not so far much changed it, as far as I can tell). I read (as of today, the last day of 2013) 440. I would like to have made it an even hundred over, but I cannot read twenty-five books today.

Anyway, I will deal with All the Topics, IN THIS ONE POST. That wasn't the point of the meme, at all, but having topics I promised to write about is starting to make me feel guilty, and guilt is a feeling I loathe.

Portal Fantasy: I had to ask what this was, but since [personal profile] sabotabby kindly told me, I get it. I read the Narnia books at about the normal age for them, and I guess either they or the Wizard of Oz or Alice in Wonderland were the first portal fantasies I encountered. Hm. It's interesting. I would think that my reaction would be positive, but in fact, when I think about reading these, except for the Wizard of Oz, I had problems. I did not like Alice in Wonderland. It was too trippy, I think, and I couldn't get much of a sense of the main character, Alice. I've never been comfortable with that story. And Narnia just pissed me off as soon as I figured out what Aslan stood for. I remember viscerally the rage I felt while reading the stone table sacrificial (crucifixion) scene, at how blatantly the reader's emotions were being manipulated for religious purposes. Why was The Wizard of Oz different for me? Huh. I appreciated the American fairy-taleness of it? It's very rooted in Americana -- all of the books of the series are. I think the one I like best is actually the one where Dorothy gets swept overboard while she and her uncle and aunt are on their way to Australia, and Dorothy ends up in a hen coop, with a talking hen whom she names Billina (actually, the hen may have been named that by some earlier child owner... there was a whole discussion about the confusing gender implications of sexing chicks and of names) -- the moment when the hen begins to talk is when Dorothy realizes she's in that other world again, though not precisely in Oz. It's a shipwreck fantasy AND a portal fantasy, and I like those both. I went to Goodreads and found a list of portal fantasies to see other examples, and it included the Harry Potter books, which I wasn't sure about, because the two worlds seem to overlap somewhat. But I like those books -- not as much as I like Diana Wynne Jones' various series, but well enough. I guess my verdict is: portal fantasies -- yes, good. Time portal fantasies -- where a character somehow falls through time to real history -- possibly better.

YAF > regular F: That is, the advantages of young adult fiction over regular fiction, or adult fiction. You know, I am not sure, except that it's easier, and more enjoyable. There is usually less to wrestle with in terms of ambivalent characters and wretchedness. It tends to be reassuring in the way that mysteries are reassuring -- most things will come out well, plots will tie up neatly. It can be formulaic (also reassuring) but not as formulaic as romances. Except for a subset of YAF that deals with tragedy (including John Green, who does this well) it tends not to confront the reader with aging or mortality. When contrasted with literary fiction, it is not as preeningly self-aware of the use of language, though some YAF writers enjoy playing with language. I'm not a fan of the YAF novels-in-poem form (Karen Hesse), but they exist. YAF, which really only goes back to the 19th century, is a good primary source document of its times, and is interesting in that sense -- I mean, YAF as a primary source is obviously also propagandistic; it can't help but be, but that itself is interesting. I know that [personal profile] toastykitten and I have thought about that aspect before with regard to the Anne of Green Gables books -- her Anne book set during WW I is overstuffed with pro-war propaganda. She even has a very thinly disguised version of "In Flanders Fields" written by one of her characters instead of John McCrae, also a Canadian. ANYWAY, whatever the advantages are, I really like young adult fiction, full stop.

Favorite YAF novels and/or Funniest Things Kids Say or Do: Hmmm. The former question is too huge. I wrote a month's worth on my favorite novels and authors a few years ago. But a random handful of authors: Laurence Yep, especially his Golden Mountain chronicles, which go from the 1840s in China to the present in the USA. Really, really good. Carolyn Mackler -- contemporary young women. Michelle Magorian -- writes exclusively about WWII and its aftermath (early 1950s) on the home front in Britain. Ellen Klages -- only has two YAF books out, but they're both great; about the Los Alamos project and its aftermath, from the perspective of two middle-school age girls whose parents worked on the atomic bomb. Karen Cushman -- mostly great girl-centric historical fiction set in the Middle Ages, but also a good Cold War book about McCarthyism called The Loud Silence of Francine Green. Trudy Krisher -- a few historical YAF books, one very good on the Civil Rights era -- Spite Fences and one contemporary Southern, Kinship, and one set during McCarthyism that I haven't read yet, but which looks really good called Fallout. Gah, obviously I could write about this stuff for a long, long, long time and not get bored of it.

As for the what kids say stuff... I don't know. Middle School students -- especially 7th graders -- aren't founts of hilarity. They're all so concerned with their social standing vis-à-vis each other. Ugh. 6th graders are a little better as far as saying things unselfconsciously. One of my fairly interesting sixth graders asked me in a sort of probing way something about believing in god. Most of my students ask that only if they get a horrified sense that I might not -- it's a locale with a LOT of Christian families and some Mormons, too, though there is a leavening of Buddhists from Southeast Asia. This kid was clearly testing for some atheist solidarity, which has happened a few times over the years, and which I always enjoy, though quietly. It's not worth it to make atheist waves in my district. Okay, so that's not a funny thing a kid said. I can't think of any right now. Kids are enjoyable, though. This year (see: Year of Books) seems to be one where more of my students react positively to reading. There are a fair number of kids doing Scholastic Book orders, and kids participate in some of the internet-reading-tracking schemes I've got going, and they read the comments I put on their Weekly Reading Logs, and then come show me the books they're reading, many with the hope that I will read them too. Which I well may. One girl is very adamant that I read the results of Chris Colfer's newest career, some series of portal fantasies, the first of which is called (I think) The Land of Stories. Dude is a Renaissance Man.

1980s Central America Solidarity movement: Which of these things is not like the others? [profile] johnbcannon, I cannot write about that right now in one entry with all the other things here! I will try to write about it, because it's an interesting topic. Next year.

Oakland -- cool and cheap: You know, when I moved to Oakland, in October of 1998, I did NOT feel at home. This is not really my preferred coast, if I am choosing between coasts. But this was where I knew my sister would be reproducing, and I wanted to be involved in that as an auntie. It took me at least three years to grow some roots here in the Bay Area, and it was a slow, difficult process. Now I do love Oakland -- it is urban in a way I like; it has different neighborhoods with their own personalities, it has beautiful perspectives from the hills, and it is funky and real. It is also a manageable size, and it is not too into itself (unlike San Francisco). I used to be able to say it had good rents, but that is not true any more, except when compared to San Francisco.

The first things I discovered that I really liked, on my own, that are Oakland/East Bay, and are cool and also practical (aka cheap or free): San Pablo Avenue. I have a car (though I didn't for the first five years, and the 72 L bus goes up San Pab) and driving up San Pablo is still a lot of fun. My students used to tell me that it was the main drag for prostitution, around MacArthur and thereabouts, but that whole area has been pretty gentrified... 40th and San Pablo is the beginning of Emeryville and a lot of consumer products and Mall stuff. Probably not very cool, but sometimes necessary. Driving north on San Pablo (at least I think it's North; I still get very, very confused about directions here) you go through a cute couple of blocks that have tchotchke stores (I think the Sino-Antiques shop where I got my Little Red Book Mao Girl is gone, though, sigh) and Good Vibrations, always an enjoyable stop. And some cafes. A few more blocks and you're at University, which is the main Indian store area of Berkeley. Good restaurants and sari shops and Indian groceries. One of the main purveyors of Bollywood music and DVDs has sadly just closed and reopened as a 7-11, ugh. The Freight & Salvage folk music venue used to be just off San Pablo a few blocks south of University, but it has moved to downtown Berkeley, ugh.

Still in that general area, one of the coolest (and free) things in the East Bay is the Albany Bulb, which is a jutting mini-peninsula just north of Golden Gate Fields (a gorgeous horsetrack, well worth visiting on its own -- there are dollar Sundays). This vacant land was where all the detritus from the last major earthquake was dumped -- all the collapsed freeway parts and rebar and cement. And nature and anarchists reclaimed it and made it into a fennel-covered art park. It's eerily beautiful and the smell of fennel in season is great and there are wildflowers everywhere and sculpture parks and so on. There are several paths, but you can feel like you might get lost, too. I wonder if there is an online guide? Well, it has its own Wikipedia entry.

You've already discovered the Paramount Theater and you live right by Lake Merritt, so I don't need to say anything about those. I like the homely and dilapidated elegance of the Grand Lake Theater (and also its opinionated marquee) a great deal. I haven't been to the new version of the Parkway pub-cinema, but its predecessor was a good place to watch third run movies and drink beer while sitting on couches. The branch libraries each have ambiances of their own: Rockridge's is hella new and pretty, and is on College Avenue, a chi-chi shopping district with a cafe specializing in hot chocolate -- Bittersweet. And a good independent bookstore right next door, Diesel Books. The 51 bus route goes up Broadway to College to University, though I think now you have to change at the Rockridge BART.

I will keep thinking about this topic, because Oakland and the East Bay ARE pretty great. The Oakland Museum is quite good -- I didn't used to think so, but it's been redone.

Okay -- now I can end 2013 without feeling like I have shirked a self-imposed responsibility.

Date: 2014-01-01 07:37 am (UTC)
ironed_orchid: pin up girl reading kant (Default)
From: [personal profile] ironed_orchid
You're not the only one to do several topics in a single post. It's already January here, and I still have two more meme posts to write.

7th graders -- aren't founts of hilarity. They're all so concerned with their social standing vis-à-vis each other. Ugh

That does seem to be the time of most peer pressure and conformity (and feeling constantly embarrassed by parents and other adults in ones life).

I know a lot of people who agree with you about the enjoyment of reading YA. I like it, but I also like some lit fic and various other genres (mostly sff, but also certain types of horror and crime fiction).



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