June 13, 2016

Reading: Gold, Silver and Mirth.

“It seemed funny to me that the sunset she saw from her patio and the one I saw from the back steps was the same one. Maybe the two different worlds we lived in weren't so different. We saw the same sunset.” 

I was in middle school when movie The Outsiders came out in theaters.  The teen-hype filled magazines and posters led me to the belief that this was a shallow story full of predictable angst.   It was many years later before I finally got over myself, and gave it a chance.

It has been decades since I saw the movie, but had always heard that the books by S.E. Hinton far surpassed the movies made..

“They grew up on the outside of society. They weren't looking for a fight. They were looking to belong.” 

This book is my pick for the book I "should've read in school" category of the MMD 2016 challenge.  This book is a simple and beautiful telling of growing up when it isn't easy.  It's about not fitting in and friendship. 

The Outsiders allows us to see a glimpse of a life that has layers.  It shows us the hopes and dreams that are in each of us.  This wonderfully written story makes us feel that pain that comes with not fitting in and feeling limited by nothing more than who we are.

I admit that I love YA reading.  I love the emotion and tone.  I love that there is usually one overwhelming issue.

This book reminded me of the 16 year old that is inside each of us.  It reminded me that I still need to remember who I am on the inside and remember to appreciate all that is in my life.  That I need to see the uniqueness and beauty in each day.
I picked up the audio download from the library site and listened while I sat and sewed one afternoon.  The audio was well done and really brought this story to life.  I also bought a copy for my kids to have for 'required reading' this summer as well.

“I've been thinking about it, and that poem, that guy that wrote it, he meant you're gold when you're a kid, like green. When you're a kid everything's new, dawn. It's just when you get used to everything that it's day. Like the way you dig sunsets, Pony. That's gold. Keep that way, it's a good way to be.” 

The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton.

"She was realizing for the first time that a woman's dignity may cost more to keep up than her carriage; and that the maintenance of a moral attribute should be dependent on dollars and cents, made the world appear a more sordid place than she had conceived it."

I really, really wanted to like this book, but it turns out that it is in the running for "a book I hate" status.  I selected this book to read after hearing it as a favorite on the MMD podcast.  I was expecting a classic filled with social intrigue, witty writing and a commentary on the time.

What I found was sadly, pathetic characters with a writing style that I'd call uninteresting.  I did not find any of the beautiful prose I was expecting in this story.  There were details upon details, and just so many words that seemed to have no point.

"Miss Farish could see no hope for her friend but in a life completely reorganized and detached from its old associations; whereas all Lily's energies were centered in the determined effort to hold fast to those associations, to keep herself visibly identified with them, as long as the illusion could be maintained."

I thought about giving up, but kept hoping it would become better.  The writing and tone did seem to change in the last 10% of the book and the characters finally seemed to develop, but it was too late for me.
I do admit that I appreciate getting to the point, and maybe that's why I enjoyed the style of the ending a bit more.  It was more to the point and quit going on about all the meaningless details.

This story takes place in the 1890s in New York society.  It follows a poor, but well-born lady who continues to make foolish choices in life time after time.  She is abandoned by society and must start to work, but realizes she lacks any real skill or knowledge.  It goes down from there.

The flat, one-sided characters didn't lead me to empathizing with them as their shallowness was so overwhelming.

It has been years since I read Gone with the Wind, and this reminds me somewhat of House of Mirth.  GWTW is not one of my more favorite books actually, and they may strip me of my "Native Atlantan" banner for saying that, but the story is long, overly-detailed with an unsympathetic heroine.  I think the difference between the books is that Mirth gives you someone who feels defeated, while Scarlett never gives up.  The characters are in similar circumstances, but their temperments lead them to handle things differently, and the passivity in Mirth really bothered me.

I realize that I come from a different time and sensibility, but I think I just have a hard time with understanding this mindset and culture. The book didn't draw me in, but seemed to shut me out.

“I have tried hard - but life is difficult, and I am a very useless person. I can hardly be said to have an independent existence. I was just a screw or a cog in the great machine called life, and when I dropped out of it I found I was no use anywhere else. What can one do when one finds out that one only fits into one hole? One must go back to it or be thrown out into the rubbish heap - and you don't know what it's like in the rubbish heap!

After this book I needed something to get the taste out of my head.
I had The Silver Lining Playbook on my Kindle and decided to read it.  I had never seen the movie and had no idea what the plot involved.
I hate giving a book synopsis as you can find them everywhere, and I'm more interested in the why behind someone did, or did not, enjoy a book... and I'm also always worried I'll give more away than I should.
This book was a great read.  While it was as long as Mirth, it only took about 3 days to read compared to the 3 weeks of toiling away I spent with Edith Wharton.   

"If clouds are blocking the sun, there will always be a silver lining that reminds me to keep on trying, becase I know that while things might seem dark now, my wife is coming back to me soon."

It is a quick read about people working through the issues of life.  Yes, some of it was predictable, and what it says about living with mental illness is sometimes uncomfortable (at least it was for me, but not in an overt way?), but this was an uplifting story about people just trying to make it through life and be their version of happy.

The characters were real and well-written, ifnot always likeable. They made poor decisions, but there was a glimmer of hope for something better here.

"But I do know that sometimes people say and do what they think others want them to.  Maybe Tiffany really did not want to have sex with you, but only offered something she thought you would find valuable, so that you would value her."

On the surface, this story of Eagles football, a dance contest, and mental illness might not be one that draws you in, but the writing immerses you in this world, and you enjoy it.

I am already looking to find more books by the author, Matthew Quick, as I enjoyed his perspective here and his writing style was interesting. 
I'm hoping that my library gets his new YA book, Every Exquisite Thing, soon as it sounds like it would be a good read.

And just to put this out there... I googled the movie synopsis, and it would seem, that like the Outsiders, the story in the book is much different and deeper than the movie.

This post is linked with the Modern Mrs Darcy June Quick Lit post. You can find more great reads for the summer there.

No comments: