Thursday, October 25, 2007

Booking through Thursday

This week's question:

  • I would enjoy reading a meme about people’s abandoned books. The books that you start but don’t finish say as much about you as the ones you actually read, sometimes because of the books themselves or because of the circumstances that prevent you from finishing. So . . . what books have you abandoned and why?

The book that comes to mind: Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections. I became interested in it when Oprah announced it.
  • No, I do not read all of Oprah's books. I don't even like Oprah. In fact, sometimes I really dislike Oprah. But that's another story. Oprah has chosen some fine books. The Reader, for example, and We Were the Mulvaneys. I read the translation of Anna Karenina she chose because it had been years since I'd read AK and I wanted to experience her through a newer sensibility than Constance Garnett's.
Another admission: sometimes I allow my feelings about an author to color my response to the book. If Joyce Carol Oates or Cynthia Ozick has written it, I'm predisposed to love it. In this case, the whole Franzen/Oprah flap predisposed me to disliking the book because, much as I don't like Oprah, I think that any author who chucks an opportunity to meet a huge and hungry audience is foolish.

And dislike it I did - on its lack of merit. I got through, maybe, 70 pages before I chucked it. I hated every character, I didn't care about what they were doing or where, and I found myself thinking that Franzen should have been very grateful indeed to have had such mass exposure.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

"Happyness," and the pursuit thereof

Becoming homeless frightens me. Those who live without homes and those who used to do so amaze me. It is hard for me to imagine forging ahead with life in the face of such a circumstance, never mind going on to overcome it and to found a multimillion-dollar firm. But that is what Chris Gardner, founder of Gardner Rich & Company, did. The Pursuit of Happyness is Mr. Gardner's memoir of his rise from a poor childhood with a brutal stepfather and loving but defeated mother through his colorful adulthood, through his year of living homeless with a young son, and onward to his eventual triumph as a stockbroker and founder of a brokerage firm. Mr. Gardner, along with ghostwriter Quincy Troupe, do not flinch in relating the most heart-wrenching details of Mr. Gardner's life, not even when his choices are poor in the extreme.

Mr. Gardner's story of abandonment, deprivation and brutality during childhood is far from uncommon. But what saved him from becoming another heartbreaking failure? A combination of his mother's love and encouragement combined with his own intellectual superiority and curiosity plus some extremely lucky breaks drove him, as did his ability to see potential in opportunities, and his ability to focus on what he wanted.

Mr. Gardner's lack of a loving father-figure during childhood made him an intensely involved father to his own son, even when that meant a year of homelessness with his little boy. There were no dramatic resolutions to their living status, rather a long, gradual ascent that came from very hard work and sacrifice. Mr. Gardner thanks San Francisco's Glide Memorial Church for much of his rise to success. In fact, he is an active partner with that church even now, sponsoring the church's continuing commitment to those who live on the edge.

Mr. Gardner's riveting story is told in his own words, the language of the streets. I'm not a fan of such language, but this story was so compelling that I stayed with it. I like stories of people who rise above their circumstances, becoming victors, not victims, thus I am glad I read The Pursuit of Happyness.
Oh, and when you read this book, you'll find out why "happiness" is misspelled.
(submitted by Moon Rani)

Thursday, October 18, 2007


Booking Through Thursday:"You may or may not have seen my post at Punctuality Rules Tuesday, about a book I recently bought that had the actual TITLE misspelled on the spine of the book. A glaring typographical error that really (really!) should have been caught. So, using that as a springboard, today’s question: What’s the worst typographical error you’ve ever found in (or on) a book?"

An impossible task this is, naming the worst typographical error I have found. Errors in grammar, punctuation, structure and fact abound nowadays. True-crime books, which - - I suspect - - get rushed into print for fast bucks, are among the worst books I have seen. [Paging Ann Rule...] I have gotten rid of books without finishing them because their numerous errors made it impossible for me to concentrate on what I was reading. Does anyone know why this happens so often now? Is it just laziness, or is it ignorance, or a combination?
Ah, well that is enough of that. Longtime readers of this blog will recognize this as a post from the avatar of curmudgeonry, Moon Rani.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

High Tea, Darjeeling Style

The travel section of today's New York Times has a wonderful article about tea - High Tea, Darjeeling Style.

Flying to a remote corner of India and braving the long drive into the Himalayas may seem like an awful lot of effort for a good cup of tea, but Darjeeling tea isn't simply good. It's about the best in the world, fetching record prices at auctions in Calcutta and Shanghai, and kick-starting the salivary glands of tea lovers from London to Manhattan.

(Cross-posted from the Knitters Tea Swap 4 -- melanie