Sunday, February 03, 2008

January Resolutions

What a weekend. I totally tried to attend the DC KidLit brunch.

But I overslept. And then when I got there, couldn't find anyone.

This might have been because I had it in my mind that the brunch was THIS morning, but really, it was yesterday. I wore my Kiki Strike shirt and everything.

That's kinda been the story of this whole past week, actually. Oiy.

I'm trying really hard to come up with some writing samples for some stuff. Writing samples ABOUT BOOKS. My brain isn't functioning.

And, when I made my new years resolutions this year, one of the things I promised myself was that I would never be more than a year behind in my reviewing. And here it is, February 3 and I never did get around to reviewing those lonely unreviewed books that I read back in January of 2007, so let's do that today, shall we?

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol. 1: The Pox Party M. T. Anderson

Octavian Nothing is a slave, but he doesn't know that. He's treated like a prince. He and his mother are the subjects of bizarre human experiments by an Enlightenment society in Revolutionary America. It's only when his mother is killed during a Pox Party experiment that he realizes what's going on. It's through this that Anderson explores the duality of slavery while fighting for freedom from England.

Told entirely in eighteenth century English, Octavian Nothing is a technical feat of writing to be sure, but Anderson keeps up an impending sense of doom and Octavian's frequent change of topic in narration leads to extremely short chapters (most are only 2-5 pages long). So, the language doesn't get in the way of the story or bog it down--the narration moves a steady to quick pace.

Powerful and horrifying, the two parts of the story are meant to be one 900 page book, but this first part stands perfectly well on it's own. That said, knowing there's another part coming, I can't wait. It was the one author question I asked at the National Book Fest this year-- when will we see Part 2? Anderson told me next fall.

Wide Awake David Levithan

David Levithan is pissed off about what's happening to his country, that much is obvious.

Here we are in the not-so-distant feature. The country has undergone another War to End All Wars (except that people seem to think that this one actually will) a Greater Depression, and something referred to as the Prada Riots. Christians have split into two major political/cultural groups-- the Decents (think Falwell) and the Jesus Freaks (Jesus loves EVERYONE.) And Duncan cannot believe that the candidate he was campaigning for--gay, Jewish Abe Stein, just got elected President.

Then the governor of Kansas disputes the results in his state and... well... we remember what happened in 2000, right?

Duncan's boyfriend, Jimmy, is super-militant about his politics and he's off to Topeka to protest. Duncan can't go. Because Duncan doesn't want to run away from home to go, Jimmy turns into a jerkwad. So Duncan goes.

Topeka is ugly. Part Florida 2000, part Ukrainian Orange Revolution, both sides have turned out to protest for and against Stein. It gets uglier.

Usually, the one thing that Levithan does so well--sweet love stories, doesn't really work in this case. I wanted to smack Duncan around and tell him that Jimmy wasn't worth it. Where there are several love stories here, it's the politics that drives the plot. Levithan's future gets a little strident and annoying at times as well (we don't believe in consumerism anymore! We go hang out at the mall after school and buy stuff, but we don't actually keep it! The store restocks and all the $$$ we spent goes to charity! If you really need something, you buy it online later! Puke.)

But I like Duncan, who, when in elementary school, thought the Boston Tea Party was a revolutionary cat fight during a sit down Tea Party. And I like the Bleeding Kansas parallel, as well as everyone sitting through the night with their bright green glow sticks...

But his portrayal of the Kansas protests is believable and real and it's all we can do to hope that we don't actually have to do it in November.

Can we please have a fairly clear-cut win this year? Something that is announced BEFORE I fall asleep on the couch? Preferably having the person I'm voting for winning?

I've voted in 2 presidential elections so far. The first being 2000. I lived in Iowa at the time, so my first primary was in Iowa caucus. That's some pretty intense stuff right there. We all crammed into the gym of the local elementary school, and my history prof was standing on a table telling the Gore people to go out on the hall and the Bradley people to get into groups of 10 so they'd be easier to count. (Bradly gave a great speech at campus earlier that year-- ours was the only precinct he won-- and he won us by a landslide...) And then, for the general, I had to vote absentee and watch the results from China. Where most English language news sites are blocked. Except MSNBC, which was reporting 2 different winners on the front page.

Class got out at noon, which was midnight Central time, so we figured all we had to do was bop by the internet cafe on the way to lunch, see who won, and go on about our day.

No. All afternoon, every internet cafe was full of Americans hitting "refresh" every 30 seconds. I was just waiting until 7pm, or 7am where my parents were so I could call and ask what the #%@##%^@#@#$!@#!@ was going on. They didn't know.

Then I had to try and get election results from Chinese Central Television. "Ger-a" and "Xiao Bu-shi" are two vocab words I definitely learned that semester. Every time I heard one, I'd scream for my Chinese roommate to translate for me....

Let's not do that again this year, ok?


Sara said...

Oh, no, oh, no! We missed you! I think at one point, we had discussed Sunday as an option, so I had to double-check the email before I left that morning to confirm that it WAS Saturday. So I can totally see why you got confused. But still...phooey!

Jennie said...

Well, at least I was missed! Next time I'll be sure to triple check everything!

MotherReader said...

Ooops. Sorry the wires got crossed, but hope that we'll catch you next time.

I think I may let your reviews stand in for the same two books that I never got around to reviewing myself. Well, two of the books I never got around to reviewing. There are actually dozens in my notes pile that never got a review. If only I had more time. Sigh.

Jennie said...

I think it was less "wries getting crossed" and more "I don't know which box is Saturday and which is Sunday on my day planner"

I hear you about more time to review. I mean, these are both books I read over a year ago! And then there's that point, where you think to yourself, should I blog this? Because the next book on the pile looks really good, and I could read that instead...

Glad you liked the reviews!