Cultureguru's Weblog

Of food, technology, movies, music, and travel—or whatever else strikes my fancy

Three books, five days

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… And that’s pretty good for me. The key, I’ve found, is trains. And given what’s currently happening at airports, more of us may be taking trains. At least take comfort in knowing it’s good for literacy.

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

… even though, I have to confess, two of the three books were consumed in Audible form, on my iPod. That way you can also watch the scenery. And the snow-covered trees were really pretty.

OK, the most important thing about finishing Oryx and Crake is that I’m no longer in the embarassing position of never having read a Margaret Atwood novel. Yes, I know. You’d be amazed at the great authors I’ve yet to read. Though, to be fair, I have tried reading Margaret Atwood before. I just had to give up about a third in, due to incredible lack of enjoyment. (Not even sure what book that was, anymore.)

But Oryx and Crake, I found really interesting. It’s an Apocalyptic future kind of tale, taking place in a globally warmed future where a single remaining homo sapien coexists with “Crakians”, genetically engineered humans who lack humans more destructive impulses. A lot of the realities of the book—the bizarely genetically engineered animal hybrids, the smart technologists locked away in compounds away from the “plebe-lands”, the reliance on medicine to treat everything—seemed somewhat plausible, only a little beyond what is actually going on.

So it was an unpleasant yet somewhat familiar world, and it was fairly engrossing uncovering the mystery of what led to this point.

Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously by Julie Powell

I had seen and enjoyed the movie, so I got curious about the book, which I did actually read, and without the benefit of train motion. Julie Powell had a blog that covered her efforts to make all 524 recipes in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, in one year. Though a personal strain (these are not easy recipes), the blog became very popular—ultimately becoming a book, then a movie (obviously).

Watching the movie, I somewhat related to Julie. She and I both like to write about food, for example. She and and I both cook from written recipes (as opposed to just whipping up your own thing, which is a whole other talent). She and I are both in a long-term, childfree marriages to really sweet guys.

And reading the book, I found even more similarities. Like—I kid you not—her total obsession with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. One of the most dire crises of the book is when CBS wants to interview her on the night of the very last Buffy ever!

So part of my brain thinks, geez, why didn’t I think of blogging about making all of Julia Child’s recipes in a year so that I could get a book deal, and a movie deal, and get to write another book?

But then I’m reminded that there are some key differences between Julie and me.

She’s much more open than I about writing about personal, embarrassing stuff, for example. And that is a big part of the charm and appeal of the endeavour, which made it a success.

There’s also the fact that she was really disastified with her secretarial job, and her difficulties in getting pregnant, both necessary fuel for taking on and maintain this crazy project of hers. (Along with occasionally copious amounts of alcohol, cigarettes, and expletives.) Me, I don’t have quite enough angst to take on making boeuf bourgignon until 2:00 in the morning, sustained only by nicotine and rum.

And most particularly… Frankly, I would never do classic French cooking. Reading the book, even more than seeing the movie, made me realize I have no interest in this type of arduous cooking: Digging out bone marrow, making gelatin from a calve’s hoof (seriously! apparently smells like a tannery), chopping up a live lobster (all the parts squirm, it appears), boning an entire duck.

It was fun to read about, though.

Dead  Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

This was the return trip audiobook. I had downloaded Fahrenheit 451 as well, but that was starting to seem a little too much apocalypse for one trip, so I dug around and stumbled upon this one, the first Sookie Stackhouse mystery. OK, vampire mystery. But the vampires are still incidental, even though I realize this is the second time they’ve been mentioned in this post.

And also, that all three books are from a single individual’s point of view.

Anyway. In this case, the point of view is Sookie Stackhouse’s, a telepathic bar waitress in a world where vampires exist and have just attained legal status. Sookie meets Bill, a vampire who sets her small Southern town a-twitter by deigning to live in it. She’s intrigued because she cannot read his mind; this comes as a major relief. But their path to true romance hits stumbling blocks in the form of the murder of women who have a sweet spot for vampires.

Jean declared this too much of a chick book for him, though not too much for him to listen from start to finish.

I found it diverting enough, but I’m not sure I’m compelled to read any more of these. Sounds a bit weird to say given that the main characters are a vampire and mind reader, but there were more supernatural elements introduced later in the novel than I wanted. Made it a bit harder to believe in the world. Sookie was a fun character, it had some nice sexy bits, and I was curious about the murderer’s identify. But it’s not something I’d say you’d have to go out of your way to read.

(In case anyone was wondering, I haven’t yet seen True Blood, which is apparently based on, but very different from, these novels.)

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