Friday, July 31, 2009

#38 A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen

At first Nora was afraid, she was petrified,

kept thinking she could never live without Torvald by her side

and then he found out about the money she borrowed to save his life

and he said she was a liar and the cause of all his strife!

He called her low, and a disgrace,

said he no longer loved her, but outside he'd show a happy face,

and when the lender then decided that blackmail he would not pursue,

then Torvald turned to little Nora and said, “My Darling,  I love you!”

 But she said, "No!" 

"Now I will go!"  She turned around then and walked out and slammed the door...


Monday, July 27, 2009

#37 Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

Avast, me hearties!

 Capt Flint, th' most feared buccanneer on th' high sea be dead, an' Billy Bones, his first mate knows 'ere Flint buried his booty. Bones be a buccanneer who loves his rum an' when he drinks hisself t' Davy Jones' locker, 12-year-old Jim Hawkins comes upon Flint’s map.  Jim an' his shipmates Doctor Livsey an' Mr. Trelawny, set sail fer riches an' adventure. But shi'er me timbers, thar’s treachery afoot. Long John Silver, th' one legged buccanneer wi' a heart as black as a bilge rat’s belly, be plottin' a mutiny. Jim an' his shipmates must look sharp an’ fight t' stay alive on Booty Isle, arrr!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

#36 Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

 What does it mean to be a “catcher in the rye”? For 16-year-old Holden Caulfield, it means catching kids who are running through a rye field before they fall over a cliff at the end of the field. But Holden himself needs to be caught.  He swears a lot and smokes too much, while falling more deeply into isolation and depression after his brother’s death.    Unable to stand the “phonies” in his prep school, he flunks out and leaves in the middle of the night.   After two cold and lonely days in New York City, Holden allows himself to be caught by an unlikely person whose childish innocence gives him hope. 


Monday, July 20, 2009

#35 Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

Black lacquered hair. White face.Red lips fixed in a knowing smile.  We have all seen pictures of the beautiful geisha. But what lies behind the make-up?  This book gives an intimate portrait of one geisha’s heartbreaking journey.

 Chiyo Sakamoto’s father sells her into an okiyo, a geisha house, where her unusual grey eyes attract the jealousy of the top geisha, Hatsumomo.  The two women fight it out with bitter gossip in the tea-houses of Kyoto, until Chiyo becomes Sayuri, the city’s most celebrated geisha. But her success does not buy her the freedom to follow her heart.  In the world of the geisha, love is the luxury that costs too much. 

Thursday, July 16, 2009

#34 Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling

Being eleven isn’t easy. Your body betrays you and your world seems to be changing faster than you can make sense of it all.  This is especially true if you receive a letter informing you that you are actually a wizard, which is what happens to eleven year old Harry Potter.  Harry is an orphan living with his detestable aunt and uncle, who constantly remind him that he is unwanted in their home.  He gets the letter and his whole world changes, as if by magic. It’s exciting to discover the magic world with Harry. An enchanted castle, flying broomsticks, unicorns and centaurs would certainly make being eleven loads more fun. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

#33 A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams

Blanche Dubois is the houseguest from hell.  She arrives at her sister Stella’s cramped New Orleans apartment and showers contempt on the humble surroundings. She ties up the bathroom for hours, drinks all the liquor in the house and covers lightbulbs with paper lanterns to escape the harsh glare that reveals her fading beauty.   No wonder Blanche and her brother-in-law Stanley Kowalski don’t get along. Stanley is part man, part beast, and his very existence offends Blanche’s delicate sensibilities.  But Blanche is not as pure as she seems. As the summer wears on, the sordid details of her past come to light, and the paper lantern is savagely ripped off.  

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

#32 The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Mary Lennox is a skinny, sickly, spoiled, selfish and sour-faced little girl with a nasty temper. She knows not how to love anyone else, but you will love her. When her parents die, she is shipped off from India to an uncle who lives in a huge, old house high on a moor in England. Once there, Mary learns of a neglected garden on the property and sets off to find it and make it come alive. Then Mary begins to come alive herself. You will love Mary because she will make you fall in love with all outdoors: the sunshine, wind, rain and every blooming, growing thing upon the earth.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

#31 A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf

A woman could never have written Shakespeare’s plays, says Virginia Woolf, because women in Shakespeare's time had no money nor a room of their own in which to write. To demonstrate this point, Woolf creates Judith, Shakespeare’s imaginary sister. Judith has as much of a gift for words as her brother and as adventurous a heart, but is denied access to classical works that would ignite her imagination, and is not allowed to have exciting experiences that she could put into her plays. Instead, she is forced into marriage and a life of domestic servitude. 

Thankfully, times have changed, even if perhaps the world  is still awaiting another Shakespeare, male or female. 

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Let's Pause for Music: Michael and Me

Remember the Time

We're the party people, night and day. Livin' crazy, that's the only way...

It’s 1979.  The house is filled with music and people.  It is dark, but there is a red and green light on and everyone is dancing, dancing, dancing. They’re bumping hips, snapping fingers, spinning around, and looking good.  Anne Marie, a teenage girl who lives at the end of the block, is doing the Robot, making her forearm swing at the elbow like it was attached with a hinge.   I try it too and everyone laughs at the four year old with all the barrettes in her hair, holding her hands at right angles and moving jerkily around the room.   I know I’m no dancer, but the music makes me feel like jumping, spinning, shaking my too-many-barretted-head from side to side.   The madness in the music has gotten to me and I am off the wall.  Later, I look at the cover of the album,  at the boy with big hair and a bright smile.   I can’t read, but I know his name is Michael Jackson. 


People always told me, be careful what you do, don’t go around breaking young girls’ hearts.  

It’s 1984.  Long legs, long arms, long jheri curl.  Peach-colored glasses that are crooked on my face. Nine year old me, trying to Moonwalk on the kitchen floor, wearing my red pleather zipper jacket, like the one Michael wore in “Beat It.”  I keep trying, but I look more like someone running backwards on sandpaper.  Night after night, too, I pour over the cover of Thriller-- Michael in a glowing white suit lying sexily on some black, polished surface.   Watching him perform Billie Jean at the Grammy Awards, I cry when he moonwalks across the stage. All I have is an 11 inch black and white T.V. with a wire hanger in it for an antenna, but I cry because the show will soon be over.  Oh Michael, don’t go!  Dance for me one more time.  Don’t break this young girl’s heart.


Annie , are you o.k.? So Annie are you o.k. are you o.k, Annie?

It’s 1987.  I am in junior high and a nerd of magnificent proportions.  Even longer legs and a  short waist.  Huge glasses with coke bottle lenses.  Hair permed straight and pulled back into a sickly pony-tail(The jheri curl went out of style when Michael’s hair caught on fire during the filming of a Pepsi commercial—too much jheri curl juice.) I have changed and so has Michael. The cover of the new album, Bad, is a disappointing shock to me. Where is the handsome, brown skinned boy that I had spent hours day-dreaming about?  Who is this pale guy with long straight hair? Was that a cleft in his chin? Still, the music on Bad is still Bad—in the good way. And the video for Smooth Criminal, with that ridonkulous anti-gravity lean? Not that I could do that move myself— for fear of falling down and breaking my precious glasses— but how did he do it? My friends and I have many ideas: camera trick, wires, mirrors-- or had Michael actually found some way to defy gravity?   His moves are awesome, but why did he bleach his skin?   With a night and day difference in how he looks, I can’t help asking, “Michael, are you o.k.? Are you O.K. Michael?”


Do you remember the time, when we fell in love, do you remember the time when we first met…

It’s 1992. I am a college student, 17 years old. Michael and I are going in different directions.   I am wearing kente cloth and cowrie shells. My hair is in dreadlocks.  Meanwhile, Michael’s nose seems to be disappearing and his skin is getting paler and paler.  Still, no one else can sing and dance like he can.  Being college students who are too-cool-for-school does not stop my best friend and me from trying to do the dance in the “Remember the Time” video. Snap, move to the left, Snap, move to the right, then down on the knees, left-right-left-right.  I always mess it up and am still no dancer, but so what?    It is great to be dancing with Michael again.

It’s 2009.  My best friend calls me up after his death, in tears. I don’t understand.  Sure, it’s sad, but she doesn’t even know the guy, and he seemed to have gone off the deep end long ago. But then she reminds me of how much we had loved Michael, his music and his moves.  How we had spent so much of our childhoods listening to and singing his songs over and over again. His songs were like private jokes between him and us, him and me.  How "Mama-say-mama-saw-ma-mock-ooo-saw" sounded like "I'mma sit on the side of a mountain top." Oh, Michael, you so crazy!

And now, I remember the time when Michael Jackson was so much of my world, remember the time when I fell in love with the beautiful brown-skinned boy who made an awkward little girl forget that she couldn’t dance. And I cry for the loss of a friend whose music was the beat of my childish heart.