Monday, April 21, 2014

Big Book Phobia Tag Video

Another tag video/discussion.  I was tagged by another booktuber, MsJROD1980.  Nevertheless, all of that information (including the originator of the tag) takes place in the video's ABOUT section.  I rather share the video and dedicate a post pertaining to the books I mention, and why I have a "phobia" of reading them.  I use scare quotes over phobia because I actually like large, fat books.  See, there's always a sense of triumphant after finishing them because you've conquered a book that many may have abandoned because of its intimidating size.

Anyway, the books I mention in the video.  First...

1.  The Wild Rose by Doris Mortman

Doris Mortman… what compelled me to pick up my first book by her [First Born] two summers ago?  I really can't say, only that I was browsing through my local public library when I saw her author photo.  Upon a quick gaze, it screamed 80s; and rightfully so considering the book was written/published later in that decade.  Nevertheless, I think that was enough for me, and without another thought, I grabbed the book.  But seriously I was settling down after reading Jackie Collins’ Hollywood Wives and must’ve craved more 80s glam and Dynasty-style drama.  Needless to say, Mortman’s First Born delivered that.  Additionally, while some complain that she’s long-winded on the details, Mortman remains a better wordsmith than Collins.  With that said, I loved her mix of prose and drama.  I enjoyed that massive book [First Born] with its slow-burning saga detailing the lives of four wealthy women.  Oh, and the sprinkled family secrets, hot affairs, and overall bitchiness aflare melodrama.  

So when I went thrifting last spring with a few friends, I was super excited to run across The Wild Rose.  I think I screamed.  Here was another Mortman book, and now that I was familiar with her and her literary theatrics, I gladly put my dollar down on the title.  The only problem is that I haven't read it yet.  I started to open it up a couple of months ago and just never got far into it.  As I mentioned in the video, something about the characters’ names and accent marks distracted me.  Or maybe I was looking more for that American glam magnetism of First Born, whereas The Wild Rose introduce the legacy and paths of a Hungarian family drama.  Or maybe I haven't sunk into the book yet because it didn't open up with as much boil over as my previous Mortman excursion.  Whatever the case, I refuse to give up, and have since held on tightly to the book.

Is anyone else familiar with Doris Mortman or The Wild Rose?  Or tell me I'm not the only one who fell in love with First Born.  

2.  A Good Fall by Ha Jin

I was first introduced to Ha Jin during a lazy stroll through Barnes & Nobles.  As always, I was sniffing for a new Asian writer.  Thankfully I found his works.  Ha Jin grew up in 1960s China during the Cultural Revolution.  Ensuing, he partook in the Chinese army for five years before working as a telegraph operator.  As an operator he began to learn English.  Eventually he arrived in the West as a student, and immigrated permanently after the Tiananmen Square event where the Chinese government attempted to clean-up on student demonstrators in Beijing.  Having all this life experience tucked underneath him, Ha Jin began to share many of his life responses (or at least how I see most of it) through poetry and fiction.  His focus and themes surrounds his experience in the Chinese army [War Trash] as well as his eye-opening view of the immigrant experience [A Free Life].  Also worth mentioning his is fictionalize reflection on the Raping of Nanjing in his book Nanjing Requiem (I should actually finish that book soon).  Nevertheless, I’ve learned that he’s a lot more expansive than that, sometimes finding myself feeling the same confinement that his characters express.  Nonetheless, I got to taste his writing through the introducing ease of A Good Fall.  A Good Fall consist of collections of Ha Jin’s short stories, including my personal favors, “The Bridegroom” and “Children as Enemies”.  Each story peels back the day-to-day struggle that lie in Chinese immigrant communities with all of Ha Jin’s sensible planting of language and intonations.

3.  Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela

Long Walk to Freedom fell into my hands on Black Friday.  My mother wanted a TV, and as a reward for helping her through the crowded experience, I asked and received a book.  There’s no explanation as to why I still haven’t read Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom.  I could maybe try to explain why I want to--or need to.  Trying would pull forth a complex string of inspired thought, though.  Nonetheless, I intended to dedicate the month of April to reading many of the 500+ books I haven’t gotten to yet.  This was one.  Now… I won’t say anything more until it’s finally read and finished.  Then I can indulge this blog with all of my thoughts.  Sorry to keep it brief, but that's where I stand right now.  

4.  Reservation Blues by Sherman Alexie

I can across Sherman Alexie for the first time in an ethnic American literature class, with Reservation Blues as the shining introduction.  Needless to say, I ended the book won by his magical use of words, dialogue, and symbols.  Pile that on top of the charm of his characters and their needs and wants expressed through desperate voices; and I knew Alexie was an author worth keeping.  On the surface, the plot of Reservation Blues appears simple.  Its opens on the Spokane Indian Reservation where we meet a famed blues player named Robert Johnson.  With his guitar in hand, Johnson’s presence on the reservation is in search of a medicine woman named Big Mom.  He seeks Big Mom’s traditional practices (leaning toward spiritual) to save his soul.  Why?  Because he insist that he sold his soul to the devil in exchange for the ability to play phenomenally at the guitar.  

The first Native American upon the reservation to encounter Johnson is Thomas Builds-the-Fire.  Thomas opens up his van to Johnson's destination.  In turn, Johnson purposely leaves his seemingly cursed guitar in Thomas’s van, propelling the story of Thomas Builds-the-Fire and his reservation friends striking up a band.  All that aside, what really churned out the magic of this book came from the outlook of modern Native American lives on reservations.  There’s a dark humor within Alexie’s characters after generations of lost land, dealings with federal officials, and the Americanizing practices pressured into them.  Many of those aspects formed depression and alcoholism, both present and expressed within the book.  And from another stance, the prejudice they faced and survival off government food rations furthered illustrated how edifying this book shines to the observant reader.  A strange combo, but one that works here in an "ah ha" sense.

Do you have a 400 or 500+ page book just sitting on your shelf unread?  Why haven't you read it?  What are you afraid of?  Share your Big Book Phobias in the comment below.

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