Monday, April 12, 2010

I read, I feel, I babble (installment 2)

Between XX and XY: Intersexuality and the Myth of Two Sexes by Gerald N. Callahan.

*sigh* I'm not quite sure what to say about this book...I just have incredibly mixed feelings about it. See, it's such an important topic. And trying to dispel the myth of two sexes, of an either/or mindset, is such an incredibly worthwhile endeavor. And this book contained so much interesting information. Seriously, I learned so much.

My favorite part of the whole book were the personal stories. But I enjoyed a lot of the book--the look at the way other cultures have viewed intersex, the look at intersex in other species, etc. Like I said, there really is a lot of interesting stuff here.

BUT. Truth be told, I wish someone else had written this book. I really hate saying that, because I could sense the author's passion for the subject in general, and his respect for intersex people specifically. And it's not the worst writing I've ever encountered, though it wasn't the best either...and honestly, I could have easily overlooked that, if not for the trouble I did have. What got to me were the author's attempts at humor. Now truth be told, I'm usually okay with lame humor. But there were times in this book when these attempts at humor crossed the line into tacky. I realize that's a very subjective judgment to make, and maybe others wouldn't feel the same way, but it really bothered me. And in the general, this clouded my reading experience.

And in the end, I'm just not sure if I recommend this book or not. Like I said, this is important stuff here. But I was left questioning his presentation. *sigh some more*

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros.

Now this book, I loved. Positively adored. I bought the 25th anniversary edition, which contained an intro/essay at the beginning by Cisneros. I know that sometimes it can be a dangerous thing to read the intro of a book, as some aren't wise enough to avoid spoilers. But in this case, I am so very grateful that I read it. Cisneros' essay made me fall in love with the book, and her writing, before I even began the book proper. I know it's impossible to go back and know for sure, but I honestly believe that her essay truly added to my experience with the book itself.

I have to admit that knowing this was a serious of vignettes scared me a little bit at first. But that was totally misplaced fear. This book was so lovely. It never felt the slightest bit disjointed to me. As usual, I'm having trouble putting into words how wonderful I think this little gem of a book is, but trust me I loved it. For so many reasons.

And yes, one of those reasons, is the writing. I confess that I'm not terribly "sophisticated" when it comes to an appreciation of beautiful prose. I suspect that in general I'm pretty much oblivious. I tend to get lost in stories and characters and fail to notice how the author got to me to that place. But every once in a while, someone's writing gets to me. Ray Bradbury...he definitely has a way of doing that. While I didn't fall quite so hard for her prose as I did for Mr. Bradbury's, it's still early in the game, and I can't wait to read more of her writing.

Redwall: The Graphic Novel by Brian Jacques, with art by Bret Blevins.

Rich used to read the Redwall books to Annie when she was younger, and now he's reading them to the boys. I'm not sure why, but they just never interested me at all. But Gray had this graphic adaptation, and back in February, when the mini-challenge for the Graphic Novels Challenge was to read a comic featuring animals, I figured this was the perfect time for me to see what Redwall was all about.

Honestly, I didn't fall head-over-heels in love. It's highly unlikely that I will dive into the novel series. But that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy this graphic adaptation--honestly, I had a lot more fun with it than I thought I would. But my goodness, those little forest critters sure can be violent. ;)

The story was fun, but really nothing earth-shattering. But the art, oh the art--that I adored. It's beautiful, and it's expressive. Unfortunately, I couldn't find many images on-line, but here are the couple I did:

Like I said, it's unlikely that I'll ever get around to reading the novel series, but should they continue with the graphic adaptations...well, I suspect I'd slip them into my TBR pile at some point.


  1. dont forget to link Redwall to the Once Upon a Time links!
    wow you really do read alot and quickly! I am happy to say nothing on this post gets addes to my wish list! (not often I can say that! lol) I hope you enjoy your next read more then the above ones!

  2. Pat,

    A lot and quickly...hahahahahahahahahahaha. Oh how I wish it were so. Redwall, for example, was read over a month ago. I'm just so perpetually behind that I never get anything "reviewed."

  3. Some fabulous books there. I like the sound of Redwall. I am always on the lookout for other graphic novels to help me finish the challenge.

  4. I read The House on Mango Street two years ago and I just bristled at it. Maybe it's because I recognize the pattern of speaking, coming from the same city as the author. Because coming from here, the air she speaks with is very condescending and pretentious, like she wanted to pat the reader on the head. And I just bristled at that. I have no idea what the book sounds like to someone who grew up outside San Antonio, but every person I've met in town that have read it has felt like me, and those who aren't have felt like you. Isn't it strange? It makes me think our culture here is very different than the rest of the country. I feel bad hating that book, but I can't help it. :(

    Red Wall! Ambrose just read that book for the Readathon! I'm not sure he enjoyed it terribly much. He wanted to and he said he did, but he got halfway through and set it aside to read another Bone book and only finished it afterwards. It took him much longer to read than the Bone books too and I think it frustrated him. I haven't read it myself.

  5. Vivienne,
    My problem is that I have soooooooo many comics I want to get read for this challenge and I know I'll never fit them all in. Hmmmm...maybe if I got off the computer, I'd have more time for reading... ;)

    I certainly can't speak for anyone but myself, but it certainly did have a pretentious feel to me at all. I'm sorry it felt that way to you. :( And I know Cisneros lives in San Antonio now, but she grew up in Chicago, right? And I think it was published before she ever moved to San Antonio. I wonder if that accounts for some of the difference in your experiences and hers.

    And I'm sorry Ambrose didn't enjoy Redwall more. But I certainly understand...I liked it okay, but I definitely didn't love it. Apart from the art, that is. But I know lots of people adore the novel series, so I think it just may not be my thing.

  6. I so have to get my hands on The House on Mango Street!

    And ugh, don't get me started on bad attempts at humour :P It's a pity, as the book sounds fascinating otherwise.

  7. I think I would love Mango Street too. I read Redwall to my boys and they enjoyed it, but like you I couldn't really get into the series. It is extremely popular at my middle school and I think the GN would fly right off the shelf!

  8. Ana,
    I really do think you'd love The House on Mango Street...I hope so anyway! :D

    And the "humor" in this book...I *know* it would have driven you as utterly crazy as it did me. And it was so bizarre, because he said so many other things that just had me cheering him. Such a contradiction. :/

    Oh, you really should read Mango Street...I think you'd really like it, too!

    I can see why the Redwall books are popular. I suspect for both us that they're just not our thing. Which, of course, doesn't make them bad.

  9. The structure of House on Mango Street intimidated me too until I started reading it. Then I loved it! :)

    I love the way you put it about the nonfiction, that you wish it had been written by a different author. I feel the same way about nonfic at times!