On V.C. Andrews, Wastelands, and Why I Hate Stephen King

I finished A Moveable Feast, and found it much better than The Sun Also Rises (well, most books are) but not as good as A Farewell to Arms. I keep trying to find a Hemingway as good as the latter book, but nothing has really come close. I’m kind of done with him right now, anyway. I was thinking of reading The Paris Wife, but I will put that off for the time being.

After A Moveable Feast, I moved on to Flowers in the Attic. I read it when I was a child, around 9 or 10, and I loved it – probably because it had sex and curse words in it, and I knew this was something my mother would never have let me read had she known what it was about. I read the entire series at that age, and was absolutely fascinated by this twisted family and their stranger-than-soap-opera lives. As a 28-year-old woman, the story was still captivating and I could see why the story drew me in at that age; the narrator, Catherine, is very relatable as she goes through budding sexual feelings, emotional changes, and the general pre-teen/teenage angst. Of course, it’s framed in the most fucked up story imaginable, but the core of Catherine’s growing up rings true to many young persons’ experiences.

Looking at the story with the knowledge I have now, of how racism/sexism/ableism/etc manifest themselves, I did see that the author has this obsession with beauty and being perfect and white and blonde, and how any imperfection is deemed horrifying and not worth living with. I know that V.C. Andrews suffered a spinal injury and spent most of her life in a wheelchair, so I was trying to think of how she was using the themes in FitA to make some grand statement about disability/racism/sexism, but I couldn’t piece anything together to make it fit any other mold than fucked up beauty standards.

Besides that, the writing was atrocious (I am no Shakespeare, but can pick out crap writing from oceans away) and some of the story seemed to drag on, despite the page-turniness (new word!) of the book. I’m glad I read it again, if only to laugh at what I thought was *ama-zing literature* when I was a wee child.

Now I’m half-way done with Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse, which I purchased on my Kindle when I went through my dystopia obsession. Well, I’m not really through that obsession – I imagine I will always be in it. This book is a compilation of (mostly dude) writers and their short stories about the after-effects of the Apocalypse. I bought this based on a recommendation, and am bummed that there has only been one woman author out of the ten stories I’ve read so far. I can’t say I’m surprised, but still frustrating.

Most of the stories have been good, though. My favorite was “When Sysadmins Ruled the World” by Cory Doctorow, which spoke to my computer nerd self and showed us what might happen to the internet if the world went to shit. I also liked “Dark, Dark Were the Tunnels” by George R.R. Martin, which was about the human population living underground for decades after a nuclear attack, and what that did to their biology/psychology. My least favorite was “The End of the Whole Mess” by Stephen King – I even went into that one with an open mind, knowing that I hated every King book I have read thus far. His stories are just so dragged out and his characters are straight-up asshats, and I can never pump myself up enough to give a shit about anything he writes. I want to appreciate his work, and I keep going trying to find something I like, but no – apparently, this is impossible. I do like some of his movies, though, and his concepts are interesting and would make awesome books if he didn’t write them.

After Wastelands, I’ll probably dive into Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs, which intrigued me with its antique photo cover. Never judge a book by it’s cover? Pffft, I say. I also bought Alice I Have Been: A Novel by Melanie Benjamin, and you can guess why I picked that one up. Or maybe I’ll just tell you – I’m a big Alice in Wonderland fan. I liked it before it was cool to like it (how hipster of me to say – I apologize), so I’m in heaven with all these Alice-related books popping up.

What have you been reading lately?


On How I Might Be Related to Ernest Hemingway

I finally finished The Age of Dreamingby Nina Revoyr, and ended up giving it two stars on Goodreads.com, which translates to “it was okay”. It was very flawed in many aspects, mostly having to do with the ending that seemed completely tacked on, and the unnatural way the plot twist was revealed, but overall, it kept my interest. I love silent movies, so I enjoyed all the references to Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, the way the movies were filmed, and the contrast between silents and talkies. The first third of the book is painfully slow (that’s why it took me so long to finish), but once we learn more about the happenings of the murder case, it really picks up. The narrator was naive, almost child-like in the way he viewed people, and it was a weird juxtaposition when he kept stating that he was a ladies man. I just didn’t buy that, and it really feels off when you get to the end of the novel. I would recommend this if you enjoy works about silent movies, filmmaking, and/or racism in the early days of film and beyond.

I started reading A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway, which I picked up at this awesome independent bookstore (Kramerbooks and Afterwords Cafe) in Washington, DC. I loved it so much, that we went back twice and I purchased four novels. I wish we had places like that where I live – the closest that we have here are either not wheelchair accessible or too far to drive to. This is why I would love to live in a city – awesome shops and places to eat or hang out wherever you look. But back on point – A Moveable Feast. I am a huge fan of A Farewell to Arms and Hemingway’s style of writing – the beautiful simplicity and organic flow of words that just hit you right in the heart. I have also read The Sun Also Rises, and hated it so much, plot-wise (let’s get drunk! Let’s go to the bull fight! Let’s go back to our hotel and get drunk! Let’s go back to the bull fight, drink, and go back to our hotel to drink some more!), but the writing was still fantastic. Or, as Hemingway would say, it was very nice. A Moveable Feast is a collection of autobiographical stories by Hemingway, and so far, it is beyond fascinating. I went to bed last night thinking about it, and it makes me want to write. The last book I read that evoked this sort of reaction was Finding Miracles by Julia Alvarez, and I read that almost two years ago. I’m not even half way done with A Moveable Feast, but I can’t recommend it enough. If you plan on reading it, purchase (or borrow from the library) the restored version, as it reflects his original intentions with the novel as well as unfinished manuscripts that have been included in their own section.

You may be wondering what is up with the title of the blog post. I was reading the forward, written by Hemingway’s son, and came across this passage: “When I was a young person being raised in the Roman Catholic religion of my maternal grandmother, Mary Downey, born in County Cork, I heard [the Bible] read from the pulpit during service on Sundays and feast days.” My ancestral name is Downey, or so I thought until my dad and cousin informed me that it’s actually MacEldowney, and was shortened to Downey. But maybe Hemingway’s family did the same thing! Realistically, there are a lot of Downeys from Ireland and we are probably not related – but my cousin is still going to look into it, because there is always that chance that one is related to a famous author. I’m just going to pretend Hemingway is my cuz until I found out differently.