>> 18 February 2015
After the disastrously depressing reads in South Africa (and to a lesser degree, Fiji), I intentionally focused on something more light for this week. Although, light reading brings with it new problems...
The Road Less Graveled, Wendy Laird
This is the true account of a family who left their comfortable life in Seattle to go live in Italy for a year in the recent 2000's. I still haven't the slightest idea why. From the author's description, it seems the family had become too.... comfortable? Organized? Well-cared for? Rich? And so under the great weight of their own ennui, they acted on their inconceivably privileged arrogance, moved to the Italian countryside, and had the gall to complain about it for a few hundred pages. They speak another language there! The don't have clothes dryers! People are bad drivers! They burn their trash! Our guesthouse only had 3 bedrooms and was on someone else's property! Sometimes animals exist in the world! Basically, I found the entire story contemptible. They made no attempt to integrate themselves in any meaningful way, and their 'cultural victories' were superficial at best (I learned to not be angry about having to wait in line!, declares the wife smugly). I already knew a lot about Italy, but now that I've seen how much these Americans complained about it, I think I will like it all the more when I go there someday. Compared to South Africa or Timor, it's a dream.
Personal growthiness: 0/5
Feels: annoyed, irritated, irked, disgusted, impatient
Love and Truth, Kathryn Perez
Sorry, but this book was OH MY GOD KILL ME bad. The story follows a young girl who travels to Japan to spend a year after high school at a ballet institute. She, of course, meets a boy and falls in love and they go back and forth between love and hate as he continues to betray her again and again. This is the sort of story that convinces girls to stay with an abusive partner, and it sickened me. When the girl had a negative reaction to something the boy did (hiding the fact that he had gotten another girl pregnant during a drunken one-night-stand), she was being too sensitive. When she wanted to have sex, he told her she wasn't ready. When he was unhappy because he did something wrong, it was her fault for making him feel bad about it. Utterly nauseating, and it rang too much like a true story. These are the kind of ideas that girls are brought up to believe (a man's emotions are your responsibility, not his; decisions about your body are up to the man you're with, not you), and they are horribly damaging to creating loving and trusting relationships. Disappointing all round, especially because Japan was less of an immersive environment and more of a painted background. I have GOT to stop reading these young adult novels.
Feels: BLINDING ANGER
The Saint, Oliver Broudy
This book follows the adventures of a complete madman as he enlists the aid of a journalist to do... something crazy in India or possibly Tibet? Fortunately, the journalist is also suffering from what I'm now going to start calling ennuienza, so he was perfectly poised to leave behind his comfortable and privileged life to do... something idealistic. I still don't know what the pair were trying to accomplish. Something about sneaking across the northern India border into Tibet? Or invading Tibet in a helicopter? And also there was something about a vial of Ghandi's blood? The reason I'm not really sure is that for the majority of the story, the delusional ideologue was fasting, and he became increasingly incoherent. Even after he broke the fast, he was no more coherent and revealed himself to be nothing but a fake and a liar, spouting pseudo-intellectual bullshit so pungent it'd make your eyes water. I've known people like this; they're big thinkers, man, and if you only knew how smart they were and how well-connected they were, and oops, let me just drop another name and tell you about another 'book I wrote that's gonna be huge'.... ugh. Gag me. There were a lot of really good quotes throughout, though, and the author does make a good case for the necessity of occasional travel:
"I could see that if I pursued this course I might easily end up a cosseted fool, the proprietor of a well-upholstered life drained of vibrancy and challenge. But I didn't know what else to do. In short, I was confused."Not awful, not great, just boring; especially for a true story.
Feels: confused, annoyed, REALLY annoyed, impatient, dismayed