Fear of Flying

Jong, Erica. Fear of Flying. New York: Signet, 1973.

I think I started this book about eight different times, starting when I was 16 or 17. As a kid I always misunderstood the cover art – a naked woman under an unzipped… something. I thought she was in a body bag which, now that I think about it, doesn’t really make sense because if that were the case, she would have been sideways in the bag. Therefore she shouldn’t fit. Having no idea what the book was actually about back then I didn’t know it was a man’s unzipped fly. Now I say, “but of course!” The takeaway from Jong’s Fear of Flying is the underlying message of freedom (especially freedom from fear). To fly is to be free and this is one woman’s story about wanting that ability to become unfettered and free. Her sexuality and psychology are just metaphors for the deeper meaning of feminism and a woman taking control of her life…like a man. Yes, there is sex and lots of it but that’s not what Fear of Flying is all about.

Favorite lines, “A little girl who was neither bitchy nor mealy-mouthed because she didn’t hate her mother or herself” (p 46),

Reason read: May is considered the “Birds and Bees” month so let’s talk about sex.

Author fact: Erica Jong has a sexy website here. I love the colors and the use of multimedia – very eye catching.

Book trivia: According to Jong’s website, Fear of Flying was her first published book.

Reason read: from Book Lust in the chapter called “I am Woman – Hear Me Roar” (p 120).


Widow for One Year

Irving, John. A Widow For One Year. Read by George Guidall. New York: Random House Audio, 1998.

While meandering at times A Widow For One Year follows the life of Ruth Cole. In Part One it is 1958 and Ruth is only four years old. The plot doesn’t necessarily focus on Ruth at this point but rather on her Long Island parents – their endless grief over the accidental death of their teenage sons and the bitter end of their tumultuous marriage. Ruth’s father is a celebrated author of books for children, a closet alcoholic and a raging adulterer. He wants to divorce Ruth’s mother, Marion, but he first needs to make sure he’ll win the custody battle over Ruth. Given his drinking (he can’t even drive due to too many dui arrests) and sexual conquests outside the marriage he needs Marion to have an indiscretion of her own to level the playing field. Enter Eddie O’Hare, a sixteen year old high school student from Philips Exeter Academy. Ted hires Eddie to be his writing assistant for the summer but really Eddie is supposed to seduce Marion. It’s Eddie who I like the best in this part one. He plays the fool perfectly (oh, but what a sweet and pretty fool). Unwittingly he is a pawn for both Ted and Marion.
In Part Two Ruth, at thirty-six, is an accomplished writer living in New York. The section begins with the very same Eddie O’Hare. He is in town to introduce Ruth at one of her readings. While their paths cross only briefly at this point in the story Ruth is enlightened by Eddie’s memories of her mother. She begins to see her parent’s divorce in a whole new perspective. Before leaving for a European book tour Eddie gives Ruth a murder mystery he thinks was written by Marion. While in Amsterdam Ruth is witness to the murder of a window prostitute from the red light district.
This sets in motion Part Three which, in the beginning, focuses mostly on the murder of the prostitute from five years earlier. The lead chief inspector has a conundrum. While he was able to solve the murder he now wants to find the witness. The story jumps back fill in the story of the prostitute (which could have been a whole separate book). I don’t want to spoil the end except to say it’s nice that Irving brought the story full circle.

Favorite lines: “There are few things as seemingly untouched by the real world as a child asleep” (p 151). Don’t you love the image of that? Another favorite line, “I appear to have an old disease to share” (p 324).

As an aside, Ruth’s attitude about her American fans reminded me of how Natalie Merchant reacts to autograph signings and picture taking with her American fans. Both Ruth and Natalie are more comfortable with their European fans.

Reason read: John Irving celebrates a birthday in March, on the 18th…or so I’ve read on LibraryThing.

Author fact: John Irving was not an author Nancy Peal included in her “Too Good to Miss” chapters. Too bad because he should have been. He has written some amazing stuff.

Book trivia: The 2004 film adaptation of A Widow For One Year was “A Door in the Floor.” Note to self: put this on my movie list.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Wayward Wives” (p 232). I think Pearl got it wrong. Yes, the wife is wayward but her situation is completely more understandable than her husband’s. I think her husband is despicable. But, another thing: the book isn’t really about the wayward wife or husband.


Sex So Great

Keesling, Barbara. Sex So Great She Can’t Get Enough. Lanham: M Evans, 2012.

Before you start scratching your head and thinking I’ve lost my mind let me say but one thing: yes, I am reviewing a sex book for men. Call me a raging feminist but as a woman I had something to prove by requesting this book from the Early Review program. LibraryThing called my bluff and here I am. I want to believe I can review any book and that I’m not restricted by my gender or narrow mind. When asking for books to review I don’t want to be limited by genre or preference. I think I am capable of taking any subject matter and giving it a fair shake – MY fair shake. I also requested Sex So Great to play devil’s advocate. What if a man is too shy to buy such a book? What if a guy is just the opposite, too egotistical to believe he needs such a book? Either spectrum of a man’s ego could deter him from furthering a sexual education with Dr. Keesling. What if I dated a man and knew he needed the good doctor’s help? Could I buy the book, translate her knowledge into my own words and garner a better sex life for myself in the process? Not exactly. This is a book primarily written TO men with one curious section for women discussing vaginal shaving. (As a side note, what’s a man supposed to do? Hand the book over and say, “here honey, this part is for you”? So, having said all that let’s turn to Sex So Great She Can’t Get Enough.

I want to commend Barbara Keesling for her calm, gentle, and understanding (and sometimes humorous) manner with which she writes. You can tell immediately by the language she uses and the tone she conveys that she is has expertise when talking to people about sensitive subjects, not just men about sex. She is super careful not to offend. Let’s face it, men are sensitive about their private parts. As a woman, you can never call him “little” or “wimpy.” Leave that up to him. Self degradation is completely acceptable. Based on Keesling’s writing style I would say she is a good therapist and her other books (at the least the ones related to sex) are equally approachable. Sex So Great is mostly common sense advice that would sound just silly coming from my mouth. Keesling exaggerates the vulnerability and timidness of a woman to prove a point. Every moment a man makes must be slow and thoughtful. He could easily frighten his woman away. That’s not entirely true, but I get it.
Don’t get me know. Sex So Great had it’s educational moments for me, too. For instance, I never knew men should exercise their pubococcygeus muscle or practice a series of breathing routines for improved sex.
So. In the end, could I read the book and pass along the information to my lover? Some of it, sure. But like trying to give myself a foot massage it won’t be as effective and it certainly won’t feel as good.


I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell

Max, Tucker. I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell. New York: Kensington, 2009.

If there really is a Hell down? there, those fated to that destination will have this book to read, over and over again. Seriously. How can I describe this thing? Honestly, in one sentence, it’s the escapades of a guy in his early 20s. Big deal. That’s it. Only this guy happens to be an alcoholic womanizer with money to burn and a posse like-minded friends to have tag along. The book is nothing more than a series of drunk-to-excess adventures hooking up with ditzy, drunk, trashy women. Sex described in minute detail. Reading it is like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, only each story gets progressively worse and worse. Every misadventure is more and more exaggerated until you start to question the author’s grip on reality. Drink to the point of puking. Have outrageous sex with big chested blondes. Repeat. The most stupefying thing about this book is that not only was it born out of conquest-written blogs, but it was so popular that it was made into a movie. People love it (the blog, the book, the movie). Women (supposedly) throw themselves at Max and his crew at every chance they get. The more vile he is the more people adore him. His biggest dilemma used to be ‘which woman do I fukc?’ until he realized it didn’t matter. Both would have him.
I admit, there were parts of the book I giggled about. There were certain lines I had to reread because they were funny. Max does have a sense of humor. But, he can’t write. I spent more time cringing at the grammatical errors and implausible situations than anything else. Then, there is that repetition I mentioned before. I ended up skimming or even completely skipping parts if I thought they sounded too familiar (which ended up being half the book). The best thing about I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell is that I will be selling it back to the bookstore and getting my money back.


A Child’s Life

Gloeckner. Phoebe. A Child’s Life and Other Stories. Berkeley: Frog, ltd., 2000.

Nothing could have prepared me for Gloeckner’s A Child’s Life. I don’t know what I was expecting – maybe something along the lines of Robert Louis Stevenson or Kate Greenaway. Something really benign and cute, perhaps. I was prepared to be bored. but sweetly so.

Not so. To put it bluntly, A Child’s Life is a visual assault that needs to happen. When there are news reports of sexual abuse, rape, incest, drugs either on television or the radio we viewers are shielded from what that really means. We allow our imaginations to blunt the sharp edges of reality. We cringe, but we don’t go there with the truth. Gloeckner doesn’t allow for this numbing of truth. With Gloeckner you don’t have permission to soften this horrific reality. As a graphic novel the pictures tell the stories of an abused childhood better than any words in a novel. In a word, it was painful. When I finished I had words of my own; words like harsh, gritty, shocking, tragic yet truthful rang in my ears.

Author Fact: If you pick up the 1583940286 version of A Child’s Life you will find hints that this is semi-autobiographical. Gloeckner denies it.

Book Trivia: In addition to being called semi-autobiographical, A Child’s Life was also once called “a how-to for pedophiles.”

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter “Graphic Novels” (p 103).


Out of Control

Brockmann, Suzanne. Out of Control. New York: Ivy Books, 2002.

Here is the quick and dirty plot: Couple #1: Savannah von Hopf needs Navy SEAL Ken “WildCard” Karmody to help her save her kidnapped uncle somewhere in Indonesia. Couple #2: In Jakarta, missionary Molly Anderson is inexplicably drawn to silent, brooding “David Jones” who reminds me a little too much of the famed Indiana Jones. Couple #3: Back at FBI headquarters Alyssa Locke is trying to walk away from ex-lover Sam Starrett while avoiding walking into the arms of her boss, Max Bhagat. All three relationships will come together when Savannah’s rescue attempt goes horribly wrong.

The best part of Out of Control was the clever placement of Double Agent, a book written by Savannah’s grandmother, Rose. It’s on the best seller list so even missionary Molly is reading it.

The worst part about Out of Control was the corny sexiness of it all. If the three couples weren’t having sex they were imagining it at the most unrealistic moments. A helicopter just blew up and there are no survivors. That sucks, but boy would I like to lick that hard chiseled body of yours…
My favorite eye rolling line: “And as for getting a strenuous workout, his heart was not the primary organ he wanted to exercise” (p 23).

Also, when I started reading Out of Control I had this weird sense of deja vu. Something sounded really familiar about not only the characters but the plot as well. As if I had read it before. So, I did a little digging and back in 2008 I reviewed an earlier book by Brockmann called The Defiant Hero. Here are the similarities between the two books:

  1. Both plots involve a kidnapping of some sort.
  2. Both plots involve Navy SEALS and by default, both plots involve the FBI
  3. Both plots include a grandmother
  4. Both plots have a terrorist element to them
  5. In both books all lead characters are impossibly good looking
  6. Both books involve three sets of couples in sexual turmoil
  7. The same characters are in each book

There is a philosophy about writing – write what you know. I’d like to think authors take that with a grain of salt. If my third Brockmann book has Navy SEALS, sexy bodies, kidnapping, terrorism and a random grandmother thrown in for good measure I’ve figured out her formula.

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called “Romance Novels: Our Love is Here to Stay” (p 260).


May 2011 is…

THE LIST:

  • To Sir with Love by Edward Ricardo Braithwaite ~ in honor of National Teacher Day (May 3rd)
  • Out of Control by Suzanne Brockmann ~ in honor of Brockmann’s birth month
  • A Child’s Life and Other Stories by Phoebe Gloeckner ~ in honor of graphic novel month
  • Antigone the play by Sophocles ~ in honor of May being the best time to visit Greece.
  • Fifth Chinese Daughter by Jade Snow Wong ~ in honor Asian-American Heritage month
  • Catfish and Mandala by Andrew X. Pham ~ in honor of Memorial Day
  • Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery ~ in honor of Eeyore’s birth month (I’ll explain that connection within the review). I’m listening to this as a training book.
  • House on the Lagoon by Rosario Ferre ~ in honor of May 5th being Cinco de Mayo
  • City of Light ~ by Lauren Belfer ~ in honor of May being History Month

Lastly, for the Early Review program for LibraryThing – Art and Madness by Anne Roiphe.

I put so many books on my list because a) a few of them are really, really short so I know I can read I can read them in 1-2 days time and b) I don’t have plans to travel anywhere until May 20th so I should have more time to curl up with several good books, and c) AFTER the walk I have ten days of NOTHING to do. I am picturing myself on the back deck, a glass of wine in one hand and a good book in another.

Confession – Catfish and Mandala by Andrew X. Pham looked so good I started reading it on April 28th. Sue me.
May is also (finally) the Just ‘Cause walk. I am not confident I did everything to train (but then again, there is only so much walking one can do), and I know I didn’t fund raise as hard as I should/could have. I am $100 off from the amount I raised last year. I am guessing not asking aunts, uncles, cousins, (mother), grandparents….anyone from my mother’s side to donate played a big part. C’est la vie. Or, to quote mom, “whatever.”