Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy (1891)

Reviewer: BeezusKiddo

Rating: 4 pierogies. It takes a LOT to get me to give something a 5. I thought this was a great book, but it didn't break into 5 territory.

Review: Although written a mere 30 years after Dickens' Great Expectations, I was surprised to find the language in Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles to be significantly more accessible to a modern reader.

I selected Tess because my friend Katy described it as "COMPLETELY MISEARABLE." I cannot resist such a review.


Tess of the D'Urbervilles follows young Tess of a working class (nearly starving) family named "Durbeyfield" in rural England. Her father is informed that his family actually descends from a line of the D'Urbervilles, a once-thought-extinct noble family. Tess' father sends her out to "make kin" with a local family also named D'Urberville, but it turns out that they actually paid for the name.

The introduction pushes Tess into the hands of Alec D'Urberville who, well to summarize all the ups and downs of this rather long novel, RUINS HER LIFE FOREVER. Tess is a sweet and industrious woman, but she internalizes every brush with bad fortune (and there are certainly many) and blames every one of these unfortunate turns on herself.

This is completely projecting, but I saw Tess as a symbolic of modern American womanhood, and all of the challenges women are facing with health access issues and even larger cultural perceptions toward women. This is not entirely out of place-- apparently in its own time Tess brought issues of womens' morality and sexuality to the forefront of the cultural conversation. These issues cross time and country.

High school is that time where you are supposed to really get into the "Classics." (I suppose that's for college, too, but I did most of my literature classes in German, and the classes I took in English literature were usually obscure ones like Pop Culture, Chaucer, or Children's Literature). My time in high school wasted entirely too much time on Shakespeare. Yes, Shakespeare's good to read, but we didn't have to read his works every single year of high school. That's a lot of time wasted that could have been used on other authors. Tess would be perfect for an 11th or 12th grade lit class. Its language is easy and flowing, and there's enough drama and heartache to get young minds engaged. Lets give Hamlet a rest for a bit, and put Tess on those reading lists.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (and other concerns), Mindy Kaling (2011)

Reviewer: BeezusKiddo

Rating: 4 delicious homemade pierogies slathered in fried onions. (fantastic, but not quite a "5")

Review: Dude, this book is funny.


Mindy Kaling is a producer for The Office, did some writing for SNL, and wrote a hit off-off-Broadway play. You know she's funny. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me isn't a book of jokes. Instead its funny in that OMG I TOTALLY DO THAT, TOO kind of way.

I found myself comparing it to Tina Fey's Bossypants (probably because Bossypants was the only other comedy book I've read in a while), but loved Kaling's book a whole lot more. Bossypants is tinged with stress and anxiety, while Kaling is totally laid back and fun.

Kaling's book is assembled from a number of essays on whatever topic happened to pop in her head. She jokes about her chubby childhood, and her ascent to a hit TV show-- which was filled with plenty of ill chosen sweaters and goofing off.

You don't want to just read about Kaling, you want to jump right in and BE HER BEST FRIEND. This book was exactly the medicine I needed after just finishing the excellent but long Tess of the D'Urbervilles. This book is fast, fun, and short. I read it in 2 days, and didn't even have to stay up super late for it.

Bachelor Number One, Mishka Shubaly (2012)

Reviewer: BeezusKiddo

Rating: 3.5 pierogies

Review: I stumbled upon this book browsing through the Kindle Owners Lending Library (a feature of Amazon Prime that lets you borrow one book for free per month, and advertises itself as offering thousands of titles, but unfortunately most of them suck).

This is Shubaly's third Kindle Single, and he has a hand for writing fun and light novellas. Apparently he has had a kind of insane life, full of drinking, drugs, and getting shipwrecked. He writes these shorts about the (mis)adventures he has found himself in. They're a little pessimistic and self-depricating, but completely entertaining.

I love the accomplishment of plowing through a book in one or two evenings. Shubaly's writing is fun, and makes me feel like some genius speed reader (the whole thing is maybe like 100 pages). Bachelor Number One recounts Shubaly's turn at eligibility for a television dating show.

The book is focused on the absurdity of the whole audition process, and is rather funny (although not entirely surprising). Unfortunately, right when the book is really starting to pick up steam is where the whole thing ends. And not "ends" like in "leaves a cliffhanger for a sequel" but "ends" as in "the bottom falls out of the story and its done." I would have liked it to go a bit longer, but it is a book about his life after all, and sometimes life doesn't give you the plotline you're looking for.

Although summer reading lists are quickly coming to a close, Shubaly's a shoo-in if you need something light to read on the beach (you lucky dog, you), or on an airplane.