The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

As I mentioned in my previous post, I loved Holden Caulfield when I first read The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. I was probably about 16 years old, which is Holden’s age. I read it again in college (20 years old) and I likewise enjoyed Holden’s story.

I didn’t love Holden on this third reading (age 28). In fact, as I read the first sentence, I groaned. Would I have to put up with this kid’s whining for another 214 pages? But in the end, I couldn’t hate Holden Caulfield, even after 215 pages of whining and complaining. His compassion redeemed him for me, and I’m so grateful I reread his story so I could experience it again from this perspective.

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Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud

When I started blogging about books, I didn’t know what “graphic novel” meant. In fact, in June 2008, I wrote a post explaining my confusion. But at Dewey’s urging, I gave some of them a try. Since then, I’ve read a few graphic novels. But I admit that I still hadn’t completely understood the concepts behind writing a novel (or a memoir) with pictures. Why? Shouldn’t we focus on learning to read, not handing our teenager illustrations?

It seemed odd to me, and although I’ve enjoyed the ones I’ve read, I didn’t understand it, I’m sorry to say.

Thanks to a tweet from Nymeth, I found Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art by Scott McCloud, which is a nonfiction comic all about comics. It’s kind of like a poem about poetry, except that analogy fails, for poetry is limited to words. Comics (or graphic novels, if you will) are multi-dimensional compared to a poem.

McCloud illustrates the power of comics by showing the reader what it can do. This is a book that literally shows, not tells.

Yes, Understanding Comics is nonfiction. If you do not normally read nonfiction, you may be bored. It goes through a brief history of comics, it analyzes what makes a comic good, and it gives some background on how comics interact with the reader. If you, like me, are interested in understanding what is meant when someone says “comics” or “graphic novel,” you will, like me, be fascinated by Scott McCloud’s book.Continue Reading

September in Review

In an effort to simplify my blogging life, I’ve decided I will no longer host the quarterly Martel-Harper Challenge. That challenge was to read two works per quarter from the list of books that Yann Martel sends to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Dewey started the project in October 2008, the month before she died, and I wanted to continue it in her memory. However, there has been little interest in the project and I don’t feel able to “advertise” it properly. I still personally intend to read books from the list, but from now on, I’m considering it a personal project rather than a public challenge. If anyone else wants to take lead of the quarterly challenge, please let me know. I’d be happy to send links your way.

At the same time, I made my life more complicated by starting The Classics Circuit. The first author tour will be Wilkie Collins (sign up by Saturday morning), followed by Elizabeth Gaskell (sign up begins next week).

My reading this month was more subdued, meaning I read more classics and not much nonfiction or modern stuff. I also read less because BBAW got me busy blogging and not reading! BBAW gave me a confidence boost I felt I needed and I look forward to the future of Rebecca Reads. I’ve added tons of new bloggers to my Reader and I am so excited to “meet” so many people through the community projects that I’m a part of.

Although I finished just nine books in September (as opposed to August’s 16 books), I feel it was a great month, and I think it’s good to slow down my reading occasionally.Continue Reading

Reading Journal (30 Sept): The Gift of Choice (Thoughts on Banned Books Week)

When I was a teenager (probably aged 13 or 14), I selected a book on the freshman reading list with an interesting title: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. My English teacher pulled me aside. There was a disturbing scene in it, she warned me, and I should think about it and ask my mother if it would be okay to read. I mentioned it my mother, and I don’t think she blinked an eye.

“I think that would be a great book for you,” she said. (She, an English post-grad student, knew the book.)

I read it. Yes, there was a troubling scene in it. But the overall message of that book, and the overall impression I received after I closed it, was one that I still haven’t forgotten. I remember feeling strongly that others should read the book to get a sense of what it means to be discriminated against. Besides all that, I left feeling amazed at the power of a life where, even while she feels caged, even when she has been abused, Maya Angelou felt she had a reason to sing. I loved the book.Continue Reading