From My Bookshelf…

Bookshelf Porn

Still haven’t read some of these…the rate at which my ‘To Read’ list is expanding is disgusting.

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Is this the Average American Male??

If you’re the type who gets easily offended I’d stay clear of this book, you will only get mad. The cover warns you that this book has sexually explicit content, and indeed it does. Really does. There isn’t a single paragraph that deviates from the subject of sex. I, personally, don’t offend easily and can see humour in almost anything, but even I was tested at times.

Average?

Average?

Chad Kultgen is the guy who wrote this book, The Average American Male. In the ‘About the author’ section it says he studied at USC, that he lives in California and that this is his first book. We know nothing else about Chad before reading this book (unless of course you decide to Google him or something). Although after reading, I had come to the conclusion that this was a very sick and perverted man, albeit a very funny, sick and perverted man.

But then, if I’m to believe what he’s telling me, this is precisely how the average American male thinks and behaves, how their minds operate. And due to globalisation, the term ‘American’ can be extended to describe all men residing in the Western World.

The unnamed narrator has a girlfriend, Casey, whom he cannot stand; too clingy, physically not up to scratch and isn’t up for sex all the time. She manages to rope him into planning a wedding for a marriage that he doesn’t want and did not ask for and has no intention of going through with. After finding his way out of this situation he goes on to find every guy’s Dream Girl, Alyna, one with an insatiable appetite for sex and a love of video games. Naturally. And so we follow him through his sexual exploits in a world that revolves around him and the constant need to be sexually gratified.

It would be too obvious to say this book was written for guys. Although I might be trying to read too much into this narcissistic drivel and this is precisely what it is: bedtime reading for teenage boys.

*SPOILER* The closing scene describes the narrator resignedly asking Alyna to marry him: ‘Her lack of hesitation as she accepts disgusts me.’ I honestly burst out laughing when I read that. Though the message may be bleak, there is a sliver of truth here with regards to this notion of the purpose of human life and what it means. Kultgen appears to be touching on the idea that we search for meaning through these milestones borne of tradition. One cannot simply be and instead looks for meaning through the ‘next step’, whether that be further education, marriage, children; whatever. We’re all haunted by the question, ‘What more is there in life?’, and this unending search for the intangible continues.

Underneath the sex, the kink, and all the vulgarity, and maybe even despite of all this, you can’t deny that he’s darkly amusing. Ok, very darkly amusing. He may be one of the most narcissistic fictional (?) characters you’ll ever have the displeasure of meeting, but you certainly won’t forget him.

Maybe it’s just me.

 

The Sense Behind the Booker Prize Winner

How reliable is human memory? This is the central preoccupation of this unassuming yet fascinating book by Julian Barnes.

Beautiful black edging

Beautiful black edging

The paperback edition of the book is simply beautiful. The pages are edged in black that bleeds off from the cover like running ink; a book that has what I like to call great ‘shelf power’ and will look even better with age; a keeper. Definitely not one for the kindle.

You always expect the winner of the Booker to be rather hefty but this is a slim volume (a novella?). With this book, every word counts, it’s concise. For lack of a better word, it is an elegant book made up of beautifully constructed prose. I read it in one sitting on a gloomy Saturday.

Tony is a retired man who’s satisfied with ordinariness; a life of holidays and mowing lawns. In the first half of the book, Tony recounts his final days at school and the memories of a particular friend, Adrian, and then of his relationship with Veronica during his time at university. The second half brings us to the present and the receipt of a bequest from Veronica’s mother, recently passed away and who met Tony only briefly on an uncomfortable weekend many decades before.

The illusion of memory

The illusion of memory

This brings Veronica back into Tony’s life and we begin to question his reliability, what he has just told of his past, undermined. He is now forced to re-evaluate the events of his past, and sets out to discover what really happened all those years ago, and to what extent he was responsible for what transpired. Our desire to know what exactly happened propels the narrative to a surprising and contemplative conclusion.

The Sense of an Ending explores the notion of memory and how it cannot be trusted, that it is indeed constructed. We believe what we want to believe and the longer we live, there are fewer people (witnesses) who are able to contradict us, so this belief then becomes the truth. This notion that we can edit our histories, and by extension our lives, is truly fascinating.

'We tell ourselves stories in order to live.'

‘We tell ourselves stories in order to live.’

This book has honestly had me questioning my life; my version of events so to speak. I’m pretty sure that my past isn’t how I’ve remembered it, it is how I’ve wanted to remember it.

I remember the amazing writer Joan Didion once saying, ‘We tell ourselves stories in order to live.’ And so we do. Do we?

Love…in 185 definitions.

fraught, adj.

Does every “I love you” deserve an “I love you too”? Does every kiss deserve a kiss back? Does every night deserve to be spent on a lover?

If the answer to any of these is “No,” what do we do?

Ever read a book that was miraculously able to pinpoint feelings you’ve had but have never expressed out loud, or described moments you’ve experienced that you thought were unique to you? Well if you haven’t, I suggest you give The Lover’s Dictionary’ by David Levithan a go.

This book is…well, it’s different. For a start it’s a dictionary that passes for a novel. We travel from A right through to Z, going through entries that give us insight into the ups and downs of the nameless (male) narrator’s relationship with his unnamed girlfriend.

What makes the reading process so rewarding is that the story is obviously not told in full and is not written chronologically. A lot is left unsaid allowing your imagination to fill in the gaps. Through these anecdotes/entries you learn so much more about these two people than if it were a full blown novel.

breach, n.

I didn’t want to know who he was, or what you did, or that it didn’t mean anything.

This is a love story that doesn’t hold back. All those little nuances of a relationship (both successful and failing) are detailed, making the story unique yet universal. I don’t want to reveal anymore because a lot of the delight in reading this comes from how the story unfolds; alphabetically. 

Photo: thyaudaciousness.blogspot.com

Interestingly, this book works very well as an ebook. I read it on my kindle and found I had a greater understanding and appreciation of what was being said because I could just touch my screen to find the full definition of more complex words. You could, of course, simply pull out a dictionary from your shelf, but all that hassle when you can just touch.

encroach, adj.

The first three nights we spent together, I couldn’t sleep. I wasn’t used to your breathing, your feet on my legs, your weight in the bed. In truth, I still sleep better when I’m alone. But now I allow that sleep isn’t always the most important thing.

This book is funny and it’s sad, but most of all, it’s real. Read it.

D’ya have any favourite words/entries from this dictionary?

Photo: the-lovers-dictionary.tumblr.com

The Sadness that comes with Cake – Aimee Bender

I’ve just spent the better part of the last two days reading Aimee Bender’s ‘The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake’. The quirky title is what lured me in, and I can honestly say that it’s been a while since I’ve been so wrapped up in a story that a book becomes unputdownable (hence why I haven’t posted here in some time). This book has left me intrigued, confused and undeniably sad.

At the age of 9, Rose Edelstein discovers that she can taste her mother’s emotions in a slice of home-made lemon-chocolate cake. Where before she was cheerful and capable, Rose learns that her mother tastes of sadness, despair and desperation. So begins a life where for Rose, an average meal can become an intimate moment of revelation.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

This gift of being able to read the feelings of the people who prepared the food she consumes is quite unsettling and results in Rose growing up very quickly, becoming an almost adult-child. The book follows her journey as she struggles with this gift, exploring the dynamics of her family: the father who is always there but never present, the sad mother who is always smiling, and the older brother who does not like to be touched.

I admit that I have a predilection for tales of dysfunctional families, but the Edelsteins are quietly dysfunctional: soundlessly desperate and unhappy yet not prepared for anything to change. Rose, wise beyond her years, is an excellent narrator who builds a stagnant world of surface where sadness and loss continue to permeate the air long after the last page has been read.

I recommend this book because I didn’t fully understand it, and for me, those are the kinds of books that stay with you. Let me know what you think!