Monday, May 25, 2009

TWILIGHT by S. Meyer

First I must say that I enthusiastically endorse any or all temperate written literature designed to encourage people to read---especially young people. Anything to coax them away from TV and other electronic devices. These things have their place, but not exclusively. I do not have a problem with Stephenie Meyer's vampire books, and would actually encourage youngsters(Ed Sullivan use to say that word---I know, I know, who's Ed Sullivan?) to read them.

I have to tell you, this was the fastest time I've ever read a 500 page book! I would have read it in one sitting but I was getting a headache from laughing and cringing so much. But it was all so familiar. I taught English literature in Junior High and High School for 35 years, and read and corrected an untold amount of student-written stories and essays. Invariably, from girls, there would be the obligatory walk through a questionable area of town followed by an ominous shadow, the hopelessness of being lost in the woods, and the near-disaster car crash. And, oh for sure, the handsome, dark, mysterious, young lad skulking around the periphery. Ms. Meyer knows her audience; she's some smart. She also writes in a slightly advanced early high school style---although I've had top students whose writing was absolutely amazing for their age.

All this actually took me by surprise. I don't know what I was expecting, but the whole time I was reading this book I had this driving need to dig out my red pens. Anyway, this novel is definitely geared to young girls. I can't see boys reading this for enjoyment, although there is an intriguing story line and interesting albeit stock characters.

The cringe factor was quite evident in me while reading this. I chuckled, groaned, cringed, shook my head, covered my eyes, and exclaimed "oh dear" many times. My wife said, "Well, that's certainly getting a reaction from you!" She wants to read it now. Cringe Material: Example #1.( "You really shouldn't do that to people," I criticized. "It's hardly fair." "Do what?" "Dazzle them like that..." "Do I dazzle you?" "Frequently," I admitted.)
When I read this, I turned to my wife and asked her if I dazzled her. She said, "You're kidding, right?" "No", I responded in indignation. "Yes" she said, "you dazzle me all the time, dear", and she patted my arm. I wasn't convinced.
Cringe Material #2. (this is good)
("But animals aren't enough?"
He paused. " I can't be sure, of course, but I'd compare it to living on tofu and soy milk; we call ourselves vegetarians, our little inside joke. It doesn't completely satiate the hunger---or rather thirst...." ) Tofu. He said, tofu.

And I learned things about vampires! I found out that they go to school---I often suspected that! They play baseball---who's at BAT? teehee, get it? Bat? Oh, they said that they don't turn into bats, that's a pity. There are really nice vampire, they only feed on animals. That's OK for people, but what about the poor unsuspecting animals? Animal rights groups would be outraged. These vampires go out in daylight---cloudy days are better. I think this is a major breach in vampire lore. You just can't go changing the rules, can you? They don't sleep in coffins---now that's going too far! A vampire rising from a coffin at dusk is standard procedure for the species, so I've heard. Vampires go to proms---that I knew!

The sexual and romantic undertones are prevalent throughout the story---Edward the vampire is always sniffing and licking about her neck. And at the end of TWILIGHT Bella actually wants to become a vampire in order to be with her Edward forever. But I really don't care if she becomes one or not, I mean, who cares? Right? Maybe it would be a good move for her, and it would make the next few books really interesting, but it's's really not...well...Do you think she will? Do you think Edward will comply and make her a vampire? Like I care...yeah...silly, just silly...ah, Does she though? What about her mom and Charlie? Oh, nooo, you won't catch me reading anymore of these silly, ah, I was wondering, though, if maybe she.........

Next: DA VINCI code books

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


MARLEY AND ME by John Grogan is a really good book. It's a chronicle of hilarious events centering around Marley the dog, his owner and their life together. A book like this could have the tendency to become sappy and too cute, but Grogan is such a good writer that the descriptions of the many amusing and sometimes unsettling occurrences are handled with acute skill, making them highly readable and real. You can't read this book without laughing---sometimes out loud, and you WILL be next to tears at the conclusion---guaranteed. This book is not just for dog lovers, but for everybody who enjoys comic episodes with sometimes unruly pets. It is a must read.

The movie version of MARLEY AND ME was god-awful. It's so difficult to render this excellent book into film because its appeal lies almost solely in the writing---not the story line. I forget who was in this disaster of a movie. It's that terrible actor whose nose is broken about four times, and who insists on talking through it, and the female actor( the word ACTRESS is only a Hollywood word; actors are actors)---I believe her first name is Jennifer---was nondescript as she always is in anything I've seen her in. I'm always amazed at how little talent some of those people have, and yet get top billing. Anyway, if you saw the movie and was disappointed in it, read the book. I'm sure you'll enjoy it.

DOG WHISPERER, by Cesar Millan. Hey dog owners and lovers, have you read this book? Now, this guy is amazing! He knows dogs; he understands dogs; he talks to dogs. I'm not a dog owner(I was. See previous post), but I was amazed at how Cesar explains the manner in which dogs see the world---in packs, how they sense the energy of the pack members and Alpha--their chief cue to activity, how smelling is of primary importance to them, how their sense of hearing serves as an alert to any potential danger, how their position in the pack is of utmost importance to them, and so on. He also warns that people should be aware of this pack mentality, and should not treat their dogs as furry, small humans.

Dominance by the owner is very important---that's dominance without abuse, by the way. Molly's owner(remember Molly?) showed me how the Alpha(being the owner) shows dominance and control. She called Molly over to her, bent down to her with her index finger extended downward on Molly's neck(barely touching). Molly flattened to the floor, and stayed there until the Owner released her. The Owner said that you can't do this with some dogs, and that it could even be dangerous to try it with a lot of dogs. It's complete submission.
So this is a good book to read in order to understand a dog's world. It could help if you are having any issues with your dog. Oh! Cesar says also that it is of the utmost importance that your dog expend all his energy during a long walk, daily---it make him a happy, contented dog. Pent up energy is usually the source of dog trouble.

THE STORY OF EDGAR SAWTELLE by David Wroblewski. This novel was a huge bestseller, and still on the charts, I think. I (my wife too) had a lot of problems with this novel. It was really well written, and the author can weave a story that make you enjoy picking up the book for a reading experience, but there were so many odd and disconnected scenes, so many unanswered plot contrivances, so many questionable motivations that when I finished it I wondered if I had missed something somewhere along the line. I spent hours on the computer(I don't do this often, if at all) reading reviews from all over America trying to see if there was a critical one somewhere. All the reviews I read were saying that this book was a perfect gem. But, I did find one critical review. It was in the Chicago Tribune, I think(can't remember now), and this reviewer commented on a lot of the things I had found. I was so pleased because I thought I was really missing something.

The Sawtelle Dogs plot outline was borrowed from Hamlet. I hate when they do this because they believe it gives it a higher, classical meaning, which is hogwash. There is a young boy in this novel who was mute, for no real reason, and who had an uphill battle to avenge his father's murder. This feature alone brought Oprah in waving banners in her astute literary cheerleader garb, which propelled the book to the top of the bestseller list. But this novel has major problems with continuity, and common sense. It doesn't work on many levels. At least it didn't work for me.

Next: Hey, I read TWILIGHT! Oh, dear God, I did. I'll tell you all about the gory details in my next post.

Monday, May 11, 2009


I like dogs. I like their wet nose, sad eyes, wagging tail, lolling tongue. But I have a tale(pun intended) to tell. Our children are all off on their own now, and my wife and I tinkered with the idea of getting a dog, for whatever reason. Our life together since the kids are gone is marvelous, but we somehow thought a little doggy would enrich it even more. We figured a dog is less care and will eat less, and you don't have to give it gas money. So my wife contacted a friend of hers who breeds and owns lots of dogs. This woman is a lovely lady and knows dogs better than anyone. She cautioned that not all people are of the discipline to own and take care of these pets, and would consider giving over her best dog on a trial bases in order to ascertain if we all get along. Maybe she knew something we didn't.

A short time later the Owner appeared at the door with this beautiful purebred much-pampered dog. Her name was Molly. The Owner also provided a doggy dish along with other various canine accouterments. According to the Owner, Molly is a dominant bitch. I had never heard of this term before unless of course one was talking about Madonna. Apparently---and this is fascinating---if the pack has no Alpha Male present, then the Dominant Bitch will take over leadership. Dogs live in a pack world, not in a "it's your turn to do the dishes" world. So began the battle.

Molly, the dog, looked at my wife and I with keen introspection, quickly came to the conclusion that there was no Alpha Male here, and therefore commandeered the position of leadership. Sparks would fly. In my defense, I must say that I'm a kind of easy-going guy; not a pushover, but there's very little that will actually rile me. Contentious issues will seek equilibrium in time, with patience and understanding, but try telling that to a Dominant Bitch.

I liked that little dog, and devoted almost all my time to her. She had me right where she wanted me. This didn't go unnoticed by my wife, who by now was having "pack status" problems with Molly as to the second-in-command position. Molly being the First, of course. There were certain "favorite chair" issues which were quite funny, actually, but one wouldn't want to laugh right then. Also, Molly completely ignored any of my wife's commands and came to me with everything she wanted and I would oblige, willingly. Our pack was dysfunctional.

Molly would go to the door, eye the leash, look through the door window, turn to me and whine. I would jump up and get my coat knowing what she wanted. My wife said, "You don't have to jump every time she whines, you know!" I said, " I think she's trying to say something". To which my wife responded,"Yeah, I wonder what?". This was said wryly.

I bought Molly a pretty blue ball. You know, dogs and balls, fetch, fetch. Out in the yard, I threw the ball down the side of the lawn. Molly looked at the ball, then looked at me. I walked down and retrieved the ball, returned to the same position, all the time telling her what fun this can be. I threw the ball again. Molly looked a the ball, looked at me. I walked down and retrieved the ball. I did this a few times until I realized that there was something wrong here. All I needed was to hang my tongue out and pant and look over-eager and this fun-time would be complete. I did not tell my wife about this.
Molly curtly refused to eat a gourmet dog food my wife and I took a couple of hours to cook up, but hankered instead for my neighbour dog's freshly laid turd which she had seen---steam rising---in his driveway. Mmmmm. She would prefer this tasty morsel rather than the bland labours of our culinary skills. I had one hell of a time trying to keep her away from that choice of food. My wife was a tad angry about this, and to cool the situation I suggested we break out the wine and try this delectable doggy dish ourselves.

Anyway, After numerous incidents it became quite clear that either we were not "dog people" or our pack was beyond repair. So, the Owner was called(lovely woman, she understood), Molly's gear was packed up, and we awaited her departure from our now disheveled household. By the way, my wife is also an extremely neat and clean person and constantly grumbled about the dog-dirt about. She was conveniently absent when waiting for the Owner to appear, but emerged just long enough to say to Molly, "Molly, there's only room enough in this house for one bitch". I thought I heard Molly groan. Wow! I realized then that I was in the middle of something here and didn't really know it.

When the Owner arrived and opened the backdoor, I thought Molly was going to go completely berserk. She jumped so high I was sure she was going to put a hole in the ceiling or knock herself out, or both. She whined, cried, barked, hissed, and bolted towards the now open door where with two bounds she landed in the back seat of the waiting car looking hopefully to the horizon. Molly was gone with not even a by your leave. It was quite the experience. Maybe next time---if there will be a next time---I'll get an old Bloodhound who sleeps all day and you do nothing but step over him from time to time.

The books I was going to talk about were DOG WHISPERER by Cesar Millan--fascinating book. MARLEY AND ME by John Grogan, THE STORY OF THE SAWTELLE DOGS by David Wroblewski---I had some major problems with this huge bestseller. But the adventures of Molly took most of my time here, so I will take up these books in my next post. And we will revisit Molly.

Monday, May 4, 2009


First, a note to Cathie K. re VAMPIRES: Fair enough, well said. This has piqued my curiosity, however, so I picked up a copy of TWILIGHT and will begin reading it soon. We'll see.

I'm afraid this post is going to reveal just how neurotic I am, but rest assured it only applies to books; otherwise I'm perfectly normal(he says while his eye twitches, and hands wring)

I have an intimate relationship with books which would be practically impossible to transfer to the electronic field. It's not just the written word(novel, story)that delights me, but the whole package. The physical presence of the new, first edition, well-bound, smooth, untouched, unread book. The following is how I regard and treat books.

Buying A Book: At the bookstore, you take the book you are interested in off the shelf and check to see if it's a First Edition. First Edition books are first-run books and important for collectors. It's easy now(past 15yrs. or so)to tell if the book is a first edition. On the Editorial page(3 or 4 pages in,say) there will be these numbers: 0 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 . If you see the "1", you got a First Edition. It's important to me, anyway---I usually have to have a first edition.
Now you are going to buy the book. I wouldn't take the first book on the shelf because it has been handled by lots of people leafing through it---ugh. Try the second or third book behind the first. Check to see if the dustcover is in perfect shape, no marks on book from shipping, check the spine---important. Buy the book, but put it in the bag yourself---book clerks handle them like hockey pucks.

"NEW" books: I don't go to Libraries because being there makes me sad. All those poor, broken, misused, stained, smelly, devastated, unappreciated books screaming from the cold, steel shelves "Help!". Libraries are like used car lots where the car you are interested in has a pine tree scent thing hanging from the mirror. Libraries are like used furniture stores where chairs list to the left, and sofas have that stain you can't identify. Libraries are like....well, you got it.

Types of Books: I usually buy hardcover books now. There are three types of books on the market: Hardcover,Trade paperback, Paperback(pocketbook). When I was young, I use to buy pocketbooks because they were cheap and I didn't have any money. I still don't have any money but I never read pocketbooks anymore. Pocketbooks are reserved for the quick read, questionable status authors, popular themes(western, crime, etc.; But this is changing, I see). Trades are nice. They are tall paperback books, much cheaper than hardcover, but quite respectable and practical for carrying around. My wife and I have many Trades. But hardcovers are the best and the most preferred.

Reading the Book: There are rules when reading a new Hardcover book(or Trade). They are:
1. Don't eat, drink(anything), smoke, or chew gum when reading. Never eat chips or peanuts(salted) when reading. Your fingers get greasy and smudge all over the pages. There's nothing worse than a smudgy page.
2. No picking. hair, nose, eyes, teeth; no spitting on the book, no licking book.
3. Take the dustcover off before you read the book and put it someplace safe. Put it back on when you finish.
4. Don't write anything anywhere on the book! If you like what was said on a certain page, write the page number down for later.
5. Watch turning the pages. Don't fold down too much you'll cause a wrinkle in the page. If you have too many wrinkly pages, give the book to the Library.
6. Always use a bookmark. Never turn down a corner of the page to mark it, that's horrible. Make sure the bookmark is clean. Never use a scratch ticket as a bookmark; never use another book as a bookmark.
7.Never use the book for a coaster for your beer or coffee--it leaves rings.
8. Keep kids away from your books. I don't hate kids, but kids and new, hardcover books are a deadly combination.
9. Keep pets in the other room while reading.
10. And enjoy your book.

Both Amazon and Chapters--and I think Barnes and Noble---have devices out now where you can download dozens or hundreds of books to read on your iPhone, Blackberry, or whatever. It is quite amazing, and I would guess some people would find it not only handy and convenient but enjoyable too. But, I'm afraid I'm stuck in this wonderful neurosis of mine. I really can't see myself being excited about the latest novel now downloading on my cold electronic device. I think there would be something missing there. But, hey, Libraries would be different, wouldn't they?

Next: Dogs, and dog books