Friday, January 25, 2013

CBR5 #2: The World According to Garp by John Irving

While my obsession with horror books is not over (sorry Mum!) there will be a brief respite from them for a while.

The World According to Garp is the story of T. S. Garp. It begins with the life of his mother Jenny Fields, and the way that she became a feminist icon, and continues to follow Garp's life through the twists and turns of becoming a husband, father, writer, and unwilling icon in his own right. I thought I might like this, since I fell in love with Irving's Hotel New Hampshire, but instead it was a struggle just to finish it. I hated dogmatic matron Jenny Fields. I hated whiny, indecisive, anxiety-ridden Garp. I hated Garp's puling, dissatisfied wife Helen. I hated the Ellen Jamesians (a group of women who cut their own tongues out to represent the struggle of young rape victim Ellen James). I did like Ellen James herself (partly due to her own hatred of the Ellen Jamesians), though my favorite character was Garp's friend Roberta Muldoon, transgendered former football player.

In general, I felt like the book dragged on forever, detailing the often melodramatic lives of a bunch of people I didn't like. Unlike Hotel New Hampshire, which I wished were a thousand pages longer, I kept looking at Garp and thinking "Still? There are still SO MANY pages left?" The parts I liked the most were the bits of Garp's "writing," and his short story about the family who travel the world rating hotels brought a flicker of recognition and enjoyment (the family might as well have been the Berrys, though instead of running hotels they visit them) it all went back to Garp eventually. Unfortunately.

I suspect that this is one of those books that people either love or hate. I'm sure there are a lot of people who adore it--several of my friends seem to be quite fond of it--but it left me completely cold.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Why Comparing the Danger of Cars to That of Guns is Stupid

I do not usually post about political things, but today is just one of those days that has pushed me to a point where it's either write a blog about my irritation or start yelling at people on Facebook who are ostensibly my friends. Since I like my friends (despite their occasionally ill-informed opinions) I thought it would be better for me to vent here, to my "tens" of readers.

I grew up in place where guns are fairly common. While my parents don't own any, nor do they have any interest in them, my grandfather is an avid hunter and target shooter, and his wife is also a gun enthusiast. I have been taught the basics of gun safety and have shot some of the smaller weapons. I do not have a problem with people owning guns in general. Rifles for hunting, hand guns for protection or target shooting seem perfectly reasonable to me. I am not one of those people who believes that no one should have guns.

I DO however feel that NO ONE (aside from active duty military personnel in a war zone) needs to own a semi- or automatic assault rifle. I don't think that anyone needs a magazine that holds more than ten rounds (if you can't "protect yourself" with ten rounds, then either you are a VERY bad shot who probably shouldn't be firing a gun in the first place, or you are trying to take down a rhino, which happens very rarely in North America). I believe very strongly that a thorough background check should be run on anyone who wants to buy a gun, a check that includes both criminal history and documented mental health issues, and I believe that this should be done ANYWHERE a person buys a gun (thus closing the "gun-show loophole"). I believe that there should be a limit on how many guns a person can buy in a given space of time. What possible reason could a person have for needing to buy more than one hand gun in a month?

I am personally on board with every one of the President's executive orders that were released yesterday, and I think that if even half of what was sent to Congress can get passed, it would be an improvement.

Yet there are some people who are reacting as though this means the Gubmint brownshirts will be showing up tomorrow to violently confiscate their .22 hunting rifles. The hysteria is astounding to me. And the worst is the terrible analogies. And the VERY WORST of those is the people who smugly say "Cars kill more people than guns. Maybe we should ban those, too."

First of all, NO ONE IS TRYING TO BAN GUNS. (Okay, probably some people are, but that's not what the president is all about.)

Secondly there are many significant differences between cars and guns. For example:

1. In order to legally drive a car, one must pass a licensing test to prove that one understands the laws and is capable of operating that car in a safe manner.
2. In order to drive a car, one must have adequate vision, and be free of medical conditions that could impair--either physically or mentally--the ability to drive safely (i.e. epilepsy).
3. Operating a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol is illegal, and if caught you can go to jail.
4. In order to drive legally, one must purchase insurance to cover the possibility of damages you might incur or inflict to property or persons.
5. There are rules about operating a car in public -- speed limits, traffic laws, etc -- designed to protect both the driver and others who are sharing the road.
6. Cars must conform to certain criteria. While you may want to fly down the road in a car equipped with jet-fuel powered rocket boosters, you can't. Also, a car must be inspected on a regular basis to be sure it meets safety and operating standards.
7. If you are unable or unwilling to follow the laws of the road and operate your car in a safe manner, your license can be taken away. Do people who have their licenses revoked still drive? Yes, because some people aren't going to follow the rules no matter what. Do most of them still drive? No.
8. Cars were designed to transport people and goods from one place to another. Guns were designed to kill things.

The whole thing is just fucking ridiculous, and I am tired of people acting like this has become Nazi-controlled Germany because our government wants to impose some regulations on deadly weapons.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

CBR5 #1: Jane Slayre by Sherri Browning Erwin (with Charlotte Bronte)

It's a new year and time for a new Cannonball Read! I didn't manage to finish last year--I got SO CLOSE and then somehow pooped out at the end--but I am getting back on the horse to try and complete all 52 reviews this year. For any of you who might be interested, learn about the CBR here. Although I haven't always been successful, the CBR is a great motivator to keep making blog entries. If my tags are to be believed, I have written reviews for 261 books since I started, which is not too shabby.

Anyway, enough with that and on to the first review!

I must first say that I really like the original Jane Eyre. It's a great story with an original and interesting heroine who was waaaay ahead of her time.

That said, the story is distinctly lacking in vampires.

Sherri Browning Erwin has solved that minor problem in Jane Slayre. Now, instead of just being terrible people, her aunt and cousins are vampires! And the school she goes to isn't just miserable and run by a cold-hearted Christian fundamentalist--it's also crawling with zombies! And let's not even discuss what Mr. Rochester has got hiding in his attic!

Although this could have become rather stupid, it was actually pretty well done. The horror elements were layered on to the original tale without overwhelming it. It was a bit like a hidden picture puzzle for me, watching where the elements of Bronte's story were woven in, and trying to predict how they would effect the story of the unloved-orphan-turned-vampire-slayer.

For purists, this is probably a book to avoid. Mind you, I don't think Jane Eyre attracts the same ravening fanboy following as--for example--Lord of the Rings. I'm sure there's people out there who might find the way Erwin has changed the story offensive. If you're one of those people...don't read it. You won't like it, and no one wants to hear you complain. If you are a person who can see the humor in the idea, and are willing to put aside the idea that this is a corruption of "lit-ra-toor," then you might just enjoy this.