Friday, June 26, 2009

#30 Charlotte's Web by E.B. White

Homer Zuckerman had a farm: e-i-e-i-o.  

And on that farm he had a spider: e-i-e-i-o.

Most of us have either read the book or have seen the movie.  We know the story of how Charlotte, a witty and charismatic spider, saves Wilbur, a sweet and earnest pig, from being killed by weaving messages like “Some Pig” and “Terrific” into her web.  Zuckerman thinks Wilbur is no ordinary pig. Says Mrs. Zuckerman: “I think you’re a little off.  Seems to me we have no ordinary spider!” One can learn much from Charlotte and her web which, like the lives in this book, is intricate, fleeting and full of sticky situations. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

#29 A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

The French Revolution wasn’t televised, but was broadcast via The Novel. This classic puts a face on one of the bloodiest moments in history.  It is the face of Charles Darnay, a nobleman who rejects the aristocracy and immigrates to London.  He goes back to Paris during the uprising to help a friend who has been arrested.  This proves fatal, when he’s identified as an Evrémonde, a family known for cruelty towards the peasantry.  It is also the face of Syndey Carton, who bears a striking resemblance to Darnay.  Carton, a troubled cynic, does “a far, far better thing” than he has ever done and finds peace amidst chaos and death.  


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

#28 Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

 An enormous nest made of human hair? A mutant turd that refuses to go down without a fight? Is this stuff for real? Fortunately, yes.  Or else how could David Sedaris use his great talent for turning the embarrassing and icky moments in  life into hilarious stories for us to enjoy?   Sometimes he is poking fun at the “weirdos” of the world, and sometimes he is poking fun at himself. Having a friend from out of town come visit means being stuck with a woman he'd like to beat to death. He goes to France and the only word he can say  in French is “bottleneck.”   You just can’t make this stuff up.

Friday, June 19, 2009

#27 The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Ah! To be young, gifted…and depressed. A college student working as a writer in New York, Esther Greenwood attends fashion shows, parties and rubs elbows with the literary elite. But she can’t enjoy any of it.  Esther has shut down- or has broken down- and comments on those around her as if she were a ghost observing the living.  After a nightmarish suicide attempt she seeks help, which comes in the form of badly administered electro-shock therapy.  Ironic, as at the beginning of the novel she says, “The idea of being electrocuted makes me sick.” But it’s the idea of life after college that makes her sick in the first place. 

Friday, June 12, 2009

#26 Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

There are times when being invisible would be a blessing: an unsightly pimple, or a foot-in-your-mouth remark,  but that is not the case for the young black man in Ellison’s classic novel. He tells the story of how throughout his life people have chosen not to see him, though he is a solid, physical being. It was a slow, painful process, becoming invisible, but he embraces it now, as real life has nothing to offer him and he sees it as a joke. He lives rent free in the basement  of an apartment building where he has rigged 1,369 light bulbs powered by stolen electricity.  He is off the grid; invisible. 

Sunday, June 7, 2009

#25 Going Solo by Roald Dahl

Whoosh!  It’s not a bird, it’s a plane, and in it is...Roald Dahl! When most people hear the name Roald Dahl, they think of the prolific author who wrote some of the best books in children’s literature.  But did you know that Dahl used be a fighter pilot for the Royal Air Force during WWII?  It’s true.  How does someone go from shooting down German planes over the Aegean Sea to writing books about a madman who lives in a chocolate factory?  This book is a thrilling and nail-biting account of how Dahl cheated death through feats of daring and lived to bring joyful feats of imagination to the world.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

#24 American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

On the outside, Patrick Bateman seems to have it all.  He’s vice president of an upscale firm, he lives in an swanky apartment and he wears only the finest clothes.  On the inside, Patrick embodies all that is sick within the human soul.  He spends his days  in a world where materialism reigns and individuality is not an option. His nights are spent  torturing and killing people in horrific acts of violence. But are the murders just figments of Patrick’s imagination or is he indeed a psychopath?  It’s hard to know.   One thing is certain: this is not someone you want to encounter in a dark alley, Armani suit or no.