Saturday, August 1, 2015

Book Bingo: Second Card, Second Line

There are some tricky categories on these book bingo cards. Out of the following row of five, three required special effort to track down a suitable title. That's what makes this reading game an interesting challenge.

BY AN AUTHOR BORN THE SAME YEAR AS YOU: Resurrection by Wolf Haas, translated by Anne Janusch (see previous book bingo post).

THAT YOUR PARENTS DIDN'T/WOULDN'T HAVE LET YOU READ AS A KID: Exquisite Corpse by Penelope Bagieu, translated by Alexis Siegel.
I called my mom about this category because I couldn't think of a single book I had been denied as a kid. She confirmed this. She let us read anything we wanted, including novels from her bookshelves. I was about 11 when I read and loved Herman Wouk's Marjorie Morningstar.

Mom recalled an incident when I and two of my siblings told our youngest sister (who might have been in Grade 2) that The Wizard of Oz was too difficult for her. Mom said we quizzed her and then were satisfied that she had indeed not only read but understood the story.

I told Mom about the Sex Criminals comics by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky. (A librarian's orgasms stop time and she uses that power to rob banks--for a good cause. A lot of the funniest stuff is in the porn shop scenes.) Then I asked if she would have been comfortable having us read them when we were kids. She sounded a bit flabbergasted when she said, "I don't think they had books like that when you were kids."

The cute, cartoony style on the cover of Exquisite Corpse accurately reflects the sweet and funny story it is, but there is also a lot of nudity and sex inside. While it isn't quite as raunchy as Sex Criminals, I wouldn't recommend this for readers under 16. (I'm surprised that Edmonton Public Library has shelved it in the teen section.) A French woman on her lunch break from her trade show booth job meets a reclusive author when she asks to use his bathroom. It's lust at first sight. Her boorish boyfriend and his ex-wife be damned. Or not. This is a light-hearted look at the tension between the creative process and making a living.

Funny and devastating and healing. This is one of my two favourite books so far in 2015. I wrote at length about it here.

For me, the easiest categories on this bingo card are LGBTQ, Historical, Poetry, YA, Essays, and Involves Magic. Ann Kingman and Michael Kindness have been discussing individual bingo categories and making suggestions on their Books on the Nightstand podcast. Kingman was poised and gracious as she spoke about feedback, specifically about their episode that dealt with the LGBTQ category. She gently suggested that it wasn't necessary for people to write to let them know that the reason for unsubscribing from the podcast was because they didn't want to hear about LGBTQ books. If you haven't been listening to Books on the Nightstand, why not start?

A PARODY: Fun with Kirk and Spock by Robb Pearlman.
The nostalgic-style illustrations in muted primary colours evoke the original Fun with Dick and Jane series. This book warmly pokes fun at the costuming and plots of the original Star Trek episodes. For example, the way it's always a guy in a red shirt who doesn't make it back to the ship. There are so many passages that made me chuckle that it's hard to choose just a few.

"See Khan wake up. 
Khan is cranky. 
Khan wants to take over the Enterprise
Mine! Mine! Mine! 
Khan wants to take over the universe. 
Mine! Mine! Mine! 
Khan is not a morning person."

detail from Fun with Kirk and
by Robb Pearlman.
"See the Gorn.
The Gorn is tall.
The Gorn is green.
The Gorn is wearing a one-piece sleeveless tunic with brocaded accents and matching gauntlets.
The Gorn is fashion-forward."

George Takei, the gay actor who played Mr. Sulu, gets a ribbing too:
"See Sulu's sword.
Sulu's sword sure is sharp!
Sulu's sword goes swish!
Swish swish swish!"

Some jokes will go right over kids' heads, but that doesn't stop me from recommending this for all ages.

"Go go go, Enterprise!
Go boldly!"

AN AUTHOR'S DEBUT: Unbecoming by Rebecca Scherm [Books on Tape audiobook: 13.5 hr: narrated by Catherine Taber].
New voices add variety and spice to my reading diet, so I'm often excited by an author's debut novel. This one is a thriller about an art heist and the central protagonist is a young American woman who is living under an assumed name in Europe. I listened to the audiobook 6 weeks ago and the story has stuck with me, although I wasn't wild about it at the time. Haves and have-nots, envy, greed and deception. It reminded me of Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch and I felt similarly lukewarm about it when I was done. But both books made an impression, so there is that.

Scherm's opening lines sucked me in and I still find them compelling: "The first lie Grace had told Hanna was her name. 'Bonjour, je m'appelle Julie,' Grace had said. She'd been in Paris for only a month, and her French was still new and stiff. She'd chosen the name Julie because it was sweet and easy on the French tongue--much more so than Grace was. The best lies were the simplest and made the most sense, in the mind and in the mouth. These lies were the easiest to swallow."

If you liked The Goldfinch, then this is for you.

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