Manhood For Amateurs by Michael Chabon

Today I’m doing a review with my pal Kelly over at The Written World. And it’s for an incredible book; Manhood for Amateurs by Michael Chabon. A book that I think should be read by everyone. Certainly not only by men. We each gave each other three questions to answer about the book. You can click on over to her blog to read the answers to the questions I asked her. Here are my answers to her questions:

1. If this the only Chabon book you have to judge by (and I think it is) what do you think about his writing? Will you read more by him based on this collection?

It is the only Chabon book I’ve read! And it certainly will not be my last. In fact, I think this is the start of a beautiful friendship. Honestly, I was scared to death of Michael Chabon before reading this book. He won a Pulitzer. That alone makes me scared of an author. But I’ve always just assumed that his books are too smart for me. And that is absolutely NOT to say that his books are not smart. This book was very smartly written, but so well presented. The language just flows perfectly. I’m glad I started with a work of non-fiction with Chabon. It gives me a sense of his true voice. This is a collection of essays, short essays. His tone goes from whimsical to comical to philisophical to absolutely beauty in a matter of sentences. It worked just perfectly for me. Felt almost conversational at times. He painted beautiful pictures in my head that made me laugh aloud at times, took my breath away sometimes with a couple of words – just in the way he would phrase something, and would bring a tear to my eyes at other times.

What I found I loved more than anything about Chabon’s writing is that as a whole, it’s wonderful. But he throws in little gems here and there that just catch you. Little special moments that just make you stop. And reread that one line over and over again. I remember going over a line a few times in this book and thinking to myself “that’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve read”. It’s like he can paint a masterpiece with a few words.

2. What was your favourite essay in this collection? Why?

Sorry, but I’m going to give you a total sell out answer here :p I can’t pick a favorite essay in this collection. I had many. Many, many favorites that stood out to me in this collection. For so many reasons that I’ll get into more in the next question. There was the essay on being assumed to be a wonderful father just because he had his son with him in the grocery store, the essay on circumcision and the reasonings behind it and on if it’s cruel, the night he took his son to the park when Obama was elected president and held him on his shoulders, the time he bought a man purse and enjoyed it, the essay on why men do not use instruction manuals and the deeper philosophy behind it, the evolution of legos, his first sexual encounter with an older woman and the feelings associated with it (not what you might expect). I loved this mans thoughts. I really did.

3. This was supposed to be a book for manhood. Did you learn anything?

I don’t know that “learned” would be the right word to use here, but I was so happy to have read this book. Because I related to it so much and it felt good to see a man be so open and honest about his feelings. We live in a world that is so divided by gender and it seems to become more and more divided by gender. All of the -isms seem to be focused on the differences between each other, when it’s been my view that it should focus on how we are similar. How we are and should be equal. Of course, no two people are going to share the same interests. I understand that, but this book made me a little more comfortable with myself and I thank Mr. Chabon for that.

It’s become acceptable these days, not just acceptable, but expected, that men fit a certain role. And personally, I think it’s a disgusting role. I see it so much all the time…we all do. A guy is expected to find a nice little girl that’ll take care of all his needs, in the bedroom and out, give him bragging rights to his friends, get drunk and make an ass of himself and it’s cool, you’re supposed to LOVE sports, you should probably love hunting and fishing, baseball caps, drive a truck, etc. I’m NOT saying here that I have anything against anyone who likes any of the above things. What I do have a problem with is societies expectations that men SHOULD love all of the above things. And if you don’t, then you’re a freak, or not a real man.

Personally, I don’t like many of the above mentioned things. Chabon does like a lot of the above mentioned things. At least he likes sports and I know he’s gotten drunk quite a few times. I’VE gotten drunk quite a few times and like my fair share of sports too. But guess what? I also like long baths, I like to read, I like nature, I’m trying to learn to crochet. And what I loved more than anything about this book is that Chabon challenges these stereotypes of “maleness” too. Over and over again in this collection. And I thought he did it wonderfully. In a way that all men and women can relate to. I don’t think this is a book just for men, though I think it is a book that any man can benefit from reading. I think this is a book for anyone that is human to read. After all, isn’t that the one thing that we all have in common?

Mailbox Monday and Bad Bloggers

I thought I’d go ahead and post all of the Mailbox loot before it got up to 30 books this time :p So here’s what’s walked into my house lately:

1. Whose Body? by Dorothy Sayers – There’s potential for Nymeth to get LOTS of points in the future for Ms. Dorothy Sayers. You see, I got this book after all of her wonderful Sayers reviews. I’m a sucker for reading books in their published order when it comes to series, so I’m starting with the first book in the Lord Peter Wimsey series. And many say that this is her “worst” book…well I’m in love with it, so if I continue to love it, I can see poor Nymeth gathering many points for Sayers :p Her first point comes for this one. (Bought it)

2. The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place by Maryrose Wood – This one just sounds so good and I absolutely LOVE the cover!!! I heard about this one over at Becky’s blog and whenever she says that she “love love loves” a book, I know I have to read it πŸ˜€ And she love love loved this one. So she shall get a point for it! (Bought it)

3. Growing Wings by Laurel WinterRobin over at A Fondness for Reading read this one as a warmup for the Once Upon a Time challenge and I just thought it sounded so cool!! So I checked Paperback Swap and they had it πŸ˜€ Point to Robin! (Paperback Swap)

4. Sugar by Bernice McFaddenEva at A Striped Armchair recommended this one when she did her POC post awhile back and it just seemed to jump out at me! So I put it on my wishlist and now I have it!! Looks like a really wonderful and powerful book. Can’t wait to read it. Point to Eva! (Paperback Swap)

5. Fablehaven: Keys to the Demon Prison by Brandon Mull – And so my beloved Fablehaven series must finally come to a close. This is the last book in the series. I bought the first book in this series the day it came out. So I’ve been following Brandon Mull’s career since the day it started. I would’ve never thought that along the way I would’ve had the chance to interview him twice! I hadn’t even started blogging yet when I first started reading him. Can’t wait to see how this one ends. (Bought it)

So that’s it for now…more to come…did you ever doubt that?

Enchanted Night by Steven Millhauser

I have PLENTY of books that need reviewing at this point, but I just finished my first Once Upon a Time read and enjoyed it so much that I want to talk about it right away. Enchanted Night is a very different book in both it’s format and it’s content. But I do mean “different” in an good way. A very good way. Would it be silly of me to describe this book itself as enchanting? Because I do think it’s the perfect word for it.

There is no true plot to this short novella. What it encapsulates is the events of a summer night. A night where anything might happen. When magic is in the air.Β  A writer who holes up in his attic leaves to visit a friend for an adventure, four girls break into homes leaving notes saying “WE ARE YOUR DAUGHTERS”, strange flute music plays throughout the night and enchants children from their homes, dolls awaken in attics, a mannequin breathes and a man falls in love with her, lovers lay on a beach. These are just a few things that happen on this enchanted night.

The book is written in a series of very short chapters. Some chapters as short as just a couple of sentences or four short lines of poetry…a song. Millhauser’s writing is something that is just a pure gift to readers. I prayed for it not to end, just as I prayed for the night not to end when I was reading this book…dreading the rising of the sun, just as the characters in the book did. As the pages start to thin in your hands, there becomes a sense of urgency…that the book is almost over, that time is running out. And you truly don’t want it to end.

Millhauser does such a fantastic job of putting us into the book. Having us actually feel the magic, the enchantment of this special night where the moon goddess has come down and touched everything. Call me crazy, but I so wanted to just go lie in the grass in my backyard after reading this one and soak in the moonlight. It’s a reading experience I won’t soon forget. This was the second Millhauser book that I’ve read and I think I’ve found a very special author in him. The first book I read by him was Martin Dressler. You can read my thoughts on that one here. I loved that book and still think of it to this day, but I loved this one even more. This was a fantastic start to Once Upon a Time!

What's Going On In My Book World

I was going to write a couple of reviews tonight but I’m really not feeling up to it right now, so I’m not :p Instead, I thought I’d just chat about books right now. That’s always fun, right? What I’m reading, what I’ve read, what I’m looking forward to…that kind of stuff.

I have a few books that I NEED to review right now. Ever since I started book blogging, it drives me nuts when I finish a book and don’t review it. It’s something that constantly just sits in the back of my mind until I get it done. I used to literally review each and every book I read the second I turned the last page. But now it may be a month after I read a book before I get around to reviewing it. Is it just me or does everyone else go crazy when they have books to review?

Right now I have three books to review. One of them is in the works, and that’s Manhood for Amateurs by Michael Chabon. I’m co-reviewing that with Kelly from The Written World. We’ve exchanged questions, now we just have to answer them. I loved that book so much. I didn’t know what to think of Chabon before reading that and I’m so glad that I finally got up the nerve to read something by him. I also finished This World We Live In by Susan Beth Pfeffer in two sittings and need to review that one. No surprise here, but I loved that one as well :p More when I review it. And finally, I finished Raven Stole the Moon by Garth Stein tonight and wow what an awesome book! I know everyone is sick of hearing about it after the recent blog tour, but you’re just going to have to hear me rave about it some more. It was just a solid book and I really enjoyed it.

Right now…believe it or not, I’m down to only reading ONE BOOK!! Which I haven’t done in ages. I’m still reading Aurora Leigh by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. I had put it aside to get some other reading done and just picked it back up tonight. My plan is to read one “book” of it a night for the next 6 nights. So I’ll have it finished by the 28th. I don’t do well with reading large chunks of classics at a time, so I’m taking it in baby steps. I think I’m also going to read The Storm in the Barn by Matt Phelan tonight. It’s a graphic novel and I haven’t read one of those in awhile.

Last thing I wanted to talk about is all of the cool books that are coming out soon!!! I was looking at my Amazon wishlist the other day and just realized how much I have to be excited about! Look at all of this stuff:

1. Instructions by Neil Gaiman, Illustrated by Charles Vess – After the beauty of Blueberry Girl, I can’t wait to see how the picture book collaboration of Instructions comes out between Gaiman and Vess. I’m sure it will be just as incredible! I’ve already pre-ordered my copy πŸ˜€ Actually, I’ve already pre-ordered all of the above books :/

2. The Beastly Bride ed. by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling – In the spirit of books like The Coyote Road and The Faerie Reel comes, The Beastly Bride, tales of “the animal people”, animals in myth and folklore and fairy tales. This one is just going to be so amazing!! Peter Beagle, Tanith Lee, Jane Yolen…among others….yeah…

3. The Hurricane Party by Klas Ostergen – One of the Canongate Myth books. I’ve only read the Penelopiad in this series, but I want to get and read them all. So I’m excited about this one πŸ˜€

4. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins – Duh..last book in the Hunger Games trilogy. Can’t wait to see how this one concludes!!

5. Puppet Master by Joanne Owen – This one actually came out in hardcover a couple of years ago and I’ve been wanting to read it. Mariel reviewed it and I’ve had it on my radar since then. But I LOVE the paperback cover, so I’m really excited about it πŸ˜€

6. Stories: Ed. by Neil Gaiman – A short story collection edited by Neil Gaiman??? I’m all there!

7. Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Leviathan – You better believe that I preordered my copy!

8. Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness – Possibly the most anticipated book of my life.

So what am I missing here? Are there any books that you know of that are coming out that I should be super ecstatic about that I don’t have on my list? Or are there any books that you’re super ecstatic about that you feel like chatting about? Let me know! Hopefully I’ll have some reviews coming soon.

Push by Sapphire

This book, originally published in 1996, has had a sudden resurgence in popularity due to the movie Precious which is based on the novel. And I only hope that more and more people read it. It’s not an easy book to read. And I don’t think that I can watch the movie after reading the book. I don’t think I can go through the experience again. But I’m glad that I did go through it once. This book is full of pain, but it’s even more full of strength and determination. But the pain is so raw.

Push is the portrayal of a young black girl named Claireece Precious Jones who has lived under circumstances that most of us would consider unimaginable. But they are real, nonetheless to many people all over the world. She lives with her mother, a woman who is mentally unstable and highly abusive under the welfare system in Harlem. Precious is raped repeatedly by her father until she becomes pregnant by him and delivers his baby at the age of 12, giving birth to a child with Down’s Syndrome. Instead of supporting her, her mother calls her a whore and worthless and Precious continues to live a life of abuse and molestation until she becomes pregnant again by her father and then decides to make a change for herself. She enrolls herself in a school for underprivileged people in her town. She cannot read or write and with the help of an amazing teacher, she begins to learn while finding her own self in the process.

Push is never an easy read. Even at the end, it is not a happy book. But, my God what an amazing book it is. It’s filled with a quiet, underlying hope. A brightness that overflows from Precious. A determination to never give up, to never give in to the darkness that constantly surrounds her that would be so easy to just fall into. What I loved more than anything about this book is that paints a picture of trauma so well. It shows what dissociation looks like in the midst of a traumatic event as Precious drifts off into a more pleasant place that she’s created for herself to escape. As she loses time and gets confused and doesn’t realize how she got from one place to another. It helps the reader understand how people can possibly cope with such horrendous things.

Precious herself has a heart of gold and I just wanted to reach through the pages and hug her so many times. She’ll make you laugh out loud at times, but she’ll make you cry too. Much of this book will bring you to tears and that’s something I should warn you about ahead of time. There’s a lot of graphic sex in here and a lot of language, but that’s reality. It’s true to this story. And I hope that doesn’t stop anyone from reading this. Yes, it’s a hard read, but this could just as easily be a work of non-fiction. People actually go through Precious’ story every day and it’s time we became aware of it and talked about these things more.

I’d really like to read more of Sapphire’s work now. She hasn’t published much, but I’d like to read what I can find. She’s a poet and I’d imagine that her poetry is amazing. This book was like a work of poetry and Precious herself becomes a poet throughout the book. There were certain lines that just jumped out at me and just stung me…in a good way. I hope that you can experience that too.

It's Once Upon A Time Time!

I’m so very excited πŸ˜€ If there’s one thing that can jumpstart me and really get me back into the swing of things when it comes to blogging, it’s the Once Upon a Time challenge, hosted by one of my very favorite bloggers, Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings. Carl’s one of the first bloggers that I met and his very first Once Upon a Time Challenge was the first challenge that I ever joined. So I’m thrilled to join it again for the fourth year in a row! It celebrates what will always be my favorite genre of books – fantasy, folklore, mythology and fairy tales. Just those words put a huge smile on my face!

I’ll be doing Quest the First which is to read at least five books that fit into any of the categories that Carl offers for the challenge. As for a pool, I leaving my options WAY open. I’m sure I’ll find books throughout the challenge that aren’t listed here that I want to read. But here are a few that are on my TBR list that really stood out that I want to read:

1. Girl Meets Boy by Ali Smith
2. Small Gods by Terry Pratchett
3. Lips Touch Three Times by Laini Taylor
4. Goblin Market and Other Poems by Christina Rossetti
5. Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie
6. Transformations by Anne Sexton
7. The Onion Girl by Charles De Lint
8. Fables Vol. 5: The Mean Seasons by Bill Willingham
9. Dangerous Angels: The Weetzie Bat Collection by Francesca Lia Black
10. The Book on Fire by Keith Miller
11. Skellig by David Almond
12. Bone Vol. 3 by Jeff Smith
13. Ash by Malinda Lo
14. The Fox Woman by Kij Johnson
15. Black Juice by Margo Lanagan
16. Graceling by Kristin Cashore
17. A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
18. Weight by Jeanette Winterson
19. The Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia
20. Lux the Poet by Martin Millar
21. His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik
22. Voices of Our Shadow by Jonathan Carrol
23. Pedro Paramo by Juan Rulfo
24. Zahrah the Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu
25. Hidden Warrior by Lynn Flewelling
26. The Ice Queen by Alice Hoffman
27. The Tempest by William Shakespeare
28. Lud in the Mist by Hope Mirless
29. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
30. The Watermelon King by Daniel Wallace
31. The Green Man ed. by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling
32. The Faerie Reel ed. by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling
33. Enchanted Night by Steven Millhauser

So I’d say that should get me through about three months at least, eh? lol…Where do you think I should start??

The Einstein Intersection by Samuel Delany

I already feel like I’ve failed Samuel Delany by even thinking about how to write this review. Here’s the problem. The Einstein Intersection is incredible. I want to buy everyone I know a copy and tell everyone I know to read this book. I know that this book is about being different. And discovering what being “different” means and becoming comfortable with that. With the quest for finding meaning in that. It’s about that journey. It’s about mythology. It’s about our ties, our connections and how others can help us along that journey in finding ourselves while we think the journey may be about something else entirely. I know all this. But at the same time, I feel that this book is so much more than that and I can’t do it justice 😦 What I can tell you is that I plan on reading everything that Delany has written after reading this book.

In Neil Gaiman’s introduction to this book, he says he first read this as a child. I wish I would’ve first read this as a child. I find that there are books that I go back and read now that seem “difficult” that seemed quite easy to me as a child. There’s something about the world that starts to cloud our minds, complicate our minds as we grow….that we can’t accept a story for what it is. Or maybe it’s the opposite. That we finally understand and face what we didn’t know we had to face as a child. Either way, I wish I read this as a child like Mr. Gaiman had.

On it’s surface, this is a work of speculative fiction. But don’t let that shy you away from it if you think “oh, I don’t like sci-fi”. Let this be the novel that shows you that the word “genre” does not have to limit your enjoyment of a novel. It’s set in the future where a different race of people have taken over our planet. Humans have long left earth and this new race now lives in the shell we leftΒ  behind. The use the term “lo” for males, “la” for females and “le” for those beings who are neither as a prefix to their names. Lo Lobey is our main character and when his friend dies and he goes in search for her, we find that he is really on a search to find his true self.

He finds that the world is more than his village. There are others like him. Others who are “different”, more different than him. There are people who reject the terms Lo, Le and La for gender. As I said before, it’s a novel (a short novel) that’s so important to the issues going on today despite the fact that it was first published in the 60s.

The edition that I have has a wonderful introduction by Neil Gaiman that explains the importance and beauty of the novel (without spoilers) much better than I ever could. It also has author notes throughout the book direct from Delany’s personal journals that record his thoughts as he was writing the book and I enjoyed reading those just as much as I enjoyed the book itself.

I wish I could convey how much I really enjoyed this book. What it all meant to me. I feel like it was a true epic packed into a short 150 or so pages. There was so much written in between the lines and I don’t know that I even fully grasped it all. It’s one that certainly deserves a reread or two. But I’m glad that I finally gave this one an initial read. It’s one that’s been on my list for awhile now!