January 2011 Was…

I can’t help but sing ‘Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow” when I think of the month January has been. If you live in any state (besides Hawaii) you know what I am talking about. Even HotTopic-Lanta has gotten some snowfall. They haven’t known what to do with it, but they got it nonetheless! Needless to say the snow has kept me indoors and reading for the month of January! For the record, here are the books:

  • Breath, Eyes Memory by Edwidge Danticat ~ in honor of Danticat’s birth month. This was a movie in my head (or else a true-life story). Really, really good!
  • Cruddy by Lynda Barry ~ in honor of Barry’s birth month. This was one of the most disturbing books I have read so far. the violence and abuse was over the top.
  • King of the World by David Remnick ~ in honor of Muhammad Ali’s birth month. I didn’t know I wanted to know but I’m glad I know.
  • I, Robot by Isaac Asimov ~ in honor of Asimov’s birth month. Science fiction, of course. Interesting, but a little redundant in theme.
  • Two in the Far North by Margaret Murie ~ in honor of Alaska becoming a state in the month of January. Courage and adventure personified. I enjoyed this book a lot.
  • Citizen Soldiers: The U.S. Army From the Normandy Beaches to the Bulge to the Surrender of Germany, June 7, 1944 -May 7, 1945 by Stephen Ambrose ~ in honor of Ambrose’s birth month. It took me a little to get into this book but I’m glad I read it. It is slowly helping me get over my fear of Hitler and all things Nazi.
  • Another Song About the King by Kathryn Stern ~ in honor of Elvis Presley’s birth month being in January. This was a super fast, super fun read.

I was supposed to get an Early Review book but it hasn’t arrived yet. It will go on the February list of books, hopefully.

Another Song About the King

Stern, Kathryn. Another Song About the King. New York: Random House, 2000.

Silvie Page has the kind of mother we all dread having. The kind of mother we probably already have memories of. The kind of mother that loves us to death. Outwardly appearing to have our best interests in mind but really are so caught up in themselves that their intentions are inwardly mean and controlling. Best friends forever as a way to minimize and manipulate. Silvie’s mother, Mimi, is just that woman. When Silvie was a child it was in the way Mimi wanted Silvie to be just like her, only just not as pretty or talented.  It’s in the way she phones an adult Silvie (with a calling code that meant she should pick up no matter what) only to say ‘wear red on your first day on the job.’ All of Silvie’s life her mother has kept her in emotional limbo – one minute loving and sweet, the next competitive and conniving. Silvie tries different tactics to “escape” her mother’s grasp, starting with changing how she addresses her mother from mom to Mimi, as a way to distance herself from a blood relation. Throughout Sylvie’s life there is another shadow that looms just as large. Elvis. Mimi has an ongoing obsession with a date she had with Elvis when she was 16. It is her worst kept secret, one that in times of stress, she hauls out and elaborates on until finally the lie is bigger than the truth. She even has blue suede shoes and a crimson cape to illustrate her never-wavering loyalty to the king.
There is so much more to Another Song About the King than meets the eye. Beyond a complicated mother-daughter relationship there is an element of self-discovery and forgiveness. I couldn’t put it down.

Lines that snagged me: “I was successful in the womb – obedient and nimble, turning somersaults in those jelly seas of color and sleep” (p 9), “I’d come to lose my mother and find myself, to put some distance between her dreams and mine” (p 24), and, “But, I was sure I would lose, and winning, I knew in my bones, would raise the stakes with my mother in a game I didn’t want to play” (p 81). There were many, many more tantalizing lines, but I’ll let you find them.

Author Fact: Another Song About the King is Kathryn Stern’s first novel.

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called “Elvis On My Mind ” (p 78).

January Was…

January started off and ended with a head cold (damn you, kisa), a really nice dinner party, a re-commitment to the houses HOUSE (glutton for punishment that I am), a re-commitment to charities with a big one – training for a 20 mile walk for Project Bread, a huge re-commitment to friendships and huge changes at the library. For books it was:

  • Death Comes to the Archbishop by Willa Cather in honor of New Mexico becoming a state in January.
  • Red Death by Walter Mosely in honor of Walter’s birthday being in January
  • Biggest Elvis by P.F. Kluge in honor of both Elvis and P.F. celebrating their birthdays in January.
  • Devices and Desires by P.D. James ~ in honor of mystery month.
  • The Eleven Million Mile High Dancer by Carol Hill
  • Edith Wharton: a Biography by R.W.B. Lewis ~ in honor of Edith’s birthday on January 24th.
  • The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman ~ in honor of Barbara’s birthday.

For fun:

  • The Letters by Luanne Rice and Joseph Monninger ~ a story that partially takes place on Monhegan. How could I resist? This is the blog that was plagarized by some dumb-azz.
  • 30 pages of Nutritional Wisdom ~ a Christmas gift from my sister.

So I didn’t get a LibraryThing Early Review book in January. That’s not a big deal. I have certainly gotten my fair share over the course of the program so I’m not complaining. I do have to admit, I feel a little guilty. For the first time ever, I am really late publishing the review for the last ER book. Maybe that had something to do with it…who knows?

ps~ I did get one for February, or so I am told! 🙂

Biggest Elvis

Kluge, P.F. Biggest Elvis. New York: Viking, 1996.

I like sarcastic, witty books. I like books with a bit of bite to them. Biggest Elvis has bite, wit, and dare I say, balls. Really fun book to read.

Written in the first person from the points of view of six different characters Biggest Elvis tells the story of the reincarnation of Elvis…in Olongapo, Philippines. Elvis lives again in the form of three Elvis impersonators portraying the early young-stud years, the middle movie years, and lastly, the portly, pudgy, final years. Their nightly performance is a huge hit in Olongapo, but as with all things, it has to end. As the performance gets bigger and more permenant so grows the obsession. In addition there is a sinister commentary about American greed and power that lurks behind the entertaining Elvis trio.

I realize that in the Philippines sex and prostitution are commonplace for a community. Just like homelessness or alcoholism it’s viewed as something the just exists and is shrugged off on with regularity. Because Biggest Elvis essentially takes place in a whorehouse disguised as a bar the references to sex are plentiful. For me, it was a little excessive.

Lines that I liked: ” – well, he would be a lost ball in tall grass” (p 6), “Olongapo had contaminated me. It leaked out of my pores, dripped off my tongue” (p 58), and “The kind of woman who always brings along something to read because she might get bored, the book is like a warning to the world she’s in, that if the people aren’t up to expectations, in a minute she’s out of here…” (p 124).

BookLust Twists: In Book Lust and More Book Lust. In Book Lust in the chapters, “Elvis on My Mind” (p 79), “First Novels” (p 89), and “P.F. Kluge: Too Good To Miss” (p 139). In More Book Lust in the introduction (p xii).

Sometimes I doubt myself to the point of silence. It’s hard for me to point out an error when I don’t think I have all the facts. So, it’s with a great deal of trouble that I have to say I think I found an error in a Book Lust chapter. Here’s the deal: Biggest Elvis is in three different Book Lustchapters: “P.F. Kluge: Too Good to Miss” (p), “Elvis” (p), and “First Novels” (p). It’s this last chapter that has me so bothered. According to Kluge’s website, he wrote a couple of other books before Biggest Elvis. Unless I misunderstood Pearl’s content for “First Books” I think including Biggest Elvis is a mistake. There, I said it. Somebody, anybody, please correct me if I’m wrong!