Audible has its way of pulling you into unexpected stories. One day, "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time" (2003) popped up for the price of a latte. I think it's meant to be 'Young Adult', a genre I don't usually read - but it had awesome reviews. I skipped Starbucks, had black coffee at the office, and bought the book.
I'm a huge fan of Temple Grandin, the autistic author of, most recently, "The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum" (2013). Dr. Grandin thinks differently than neuro-typical people and does a great job at describing that. So does Mark Haddon in "The Curious Incident".
Christopher Boone, a brilliant mathematician hates the colors yellow and brown, and is in a 'special school' to help him lean, among other things, to understand what the expressions on people's faces mean. The book starts with Chapter 2 (on purpose, it's not an editing problem - and there's a good reason for it), when Christopher discovers Wellington, his neighbors' poodle, pitch forked to death.
Christopher is determined to solve the mystery, just like his one fictional hero, Sherlock Holmes. Christopher does, with the directness of someone with 'no filters', as well as the physical and mental pain 'no filters' for audio, visual and tactile senses causes. He is tenacious and brave - and while he doesn't say it, autistic. Like the best fiction, Haddon draws us into someone we aren't.
I know that this is Assigned Reading in a lot of English classes, and there are Themes and Meanings that are to be gleaned. I don't think Haddon meant to write an Important Book, I think he was writing a nifty story that turned out to have lessons. Enjoy the mystery first, and then worry about the message. The book quotes well - the title of this review is one.
The narration was good - I get a kick out of Jeff Woodman's English accent.
The book was worth a week of lattes. Or two. Or a month.
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John Green's Audibles should be labeled "Warning: Do not drive while listening."
"The Fault in our Stars" (2012) had me sobbing through an entire chapter. Fortunately, I was in really heavy traffic and I was able to slowly follow brake lights ahead of me
On the other hand. I laughed to hard through parts of "Paper Towns" (2008) that I forgot to look at my GPS, drove far past my exit, and ended up late for a meeting with a big grin on my face, instead an appropriately contrite look.
I'm not going to summarize the whole book here. I'm several generations past the target audience, and I'd almost certainly end up condescending and judgmental. Green doesn't deserve that, and neither do his characters Quentin 'Q' Jacobsen and Margo Roth Spiegelman.
So, as a middle aged mom of teenagers, here's what I thought was great about the book:
I like Green's neologisms. I've worked with developers for more than 20 years in California. There so many named, never built grand dreams on maps. California City. Salton Sea. Elegant community names are given, streets are mapped out and maybe graded, lots are sold - but nothing is ever built. Green calls them "pseudovisions" - and that's really the best word for what they are.
Green's subtle, clever nod to American photographer Lillian Virginia Mountweazel (1942 - 1973) added an unexpected dimension to "Paper Towns" that I had fun exploring. I don't think Mountweazel's posthumous contributions, especially to Wikipedia, are recognized often enough.
I also have a confession to make: I managed to make it through almost half a century without the slightest inclination to read Walt Whitman, much less understand his poetry. Or, to be fair - any poetry not written by Edgar Allen Poe, Ray Bradbury, or Maya Angelou. So, yes, I'll be listening to Whitman sometime soon. And I'm guessing I'll really like if. (Audible, wouldn't "Leaves of Grass" be a neat Daily Deal???)
The only problem I'm having now is - well - I keep thinking of great practical jokes. Which, since I'm a litigator and Judges are required to give up all sense of humor when they take the bench, won't ever happen. But at least I can imagine tricks while waiting for my case to be called.
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Cancer books seem to fall into IMPORTANT categories, like factual and vaguely or actually scary (Siddhartha Mukharjee's 2010 "The Emperor of All Maladies"); herbs/alternate life style/dietarily inspirational ("A Dietician's Cancer Story" Diana Dyer, 2010); humorously practical (Fran Drescher's "Cancer Schmancer" 2003); or melancholy and ending with the death of a neighborhood curmudgeon and/or a loved one (too many to name) who passes on an Important Life Lesson just before dying. If you're looking for one of these kind of books, then John Green's "The Fault in Our Stars" (2012) isn't for you.
I had avoided Green's book for a long time because I was afraid it would be one of those latter Inspiring Stories, a saccharine sweet tale that tastes okay going down, but leaves an unpleasant aftertaste. I was wrong.
"The Fault in Our Stars" was a heartbreaker, but in a clear, unsentimental and pragmatic way. 16 year old Hazel Grace and 17 year old Augustus Waters probably had my fellow commuters wondering just what kind of breakdown I was having. They would have had time to notice: I sobbed through an entire chapter, with traffic stop and stop again.
Is "The Fault in Our Stars" true to a 16 year old girl? I don't know. I was a 16 year old girl for a year, and I'd like to think I can relate - but I was 16 in a different century. Kind of LATE in a different century, but still - a different century.
Green's an unobtrusive voice, but he comes through in Hazel Grace and Augustus Waters scared parents. The parents want nothing more than to spend what time is left with their children; and their teens want nothing more than to be normal - you know, embarrassed by hovering moms; sneaking out the window on naive dads; and taking absurd risks and going on adventures. Come to think of it, it was the Mom in me crying with the parents.
"The Fault in Our Stars" haunts and is haunting. It's a good listen.
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