BTT ~ I’ll Flap You Silly!

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Suggested by Prairie Progressive:

Do you read the inside flaps that describe a book before or while reading it?

I usually do glance at, and read part of, the inside flaps of the books or the back of the book before choosing a book, but ADD usually takes over and I get distracted by something – a sound somewhere, the cats and dog fighting, what’s that smell?  OOoooh, pretty colors….

What was the question?

you can find more Booking Through Thursday answers here.

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By the way, speaking of distractions and stuff, I did find yet another challenge to add to my growing list.  I’m really, really meaning to make this the last challenge, but I just couldn’t resist.  Sarah at Behold, the thing that reads a lot is hosting the We Didn’t Start the Fire Challenge 2010.   Inspired by her love of all things 80s, she’s taken Billy Joel’s 80’s “History of the 20th century in less than 5-minutes” song, or “We Didn’t Start the Fire?” and made a reading challenge out of it.   We Didn't Start the Fire ChallengeParticipants are challenged to read books and learn about the topics mentioned in the song’s lyrics.  You can read fiction, non-fiction, or a combonation of both.

COMBO

Bronze Combo: Read any combination of 5 fiction or nonfiction books related to the song.

Silver Combo: Read any combination of 8 fiction or nonfiction books related to the song.

Gold Combo: Read any combination of 10 fiction or nonfiction books related to the song.

I’ll be going for the Bronze Combo, and I realized earlier today that my current ARC, Islands Apart, can fit into this one under “California”, as it deals with The Channel Islands off the coast of southern California.  And I have another ARC called Last Night I Dreamed of Peace which will fit in under Ho Chi Minh.  AND I saw “suicide” in the lyrics, so Surviving Ben’s Suicide will qualify for this challenge.  That just leaves me 2 to figure out, so I should be in good shape.

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I have to say THANK YOU to Sally906 for letting me know Roald Dahl was Welsh, because now I’ll probably have to add a “platinum” level to the Welsh Reading Challenge 😀  I came across a copy of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in the thrift store the other day and snatched it right up.  It’s a good time for a re-read, and Mags agreed.  We spent a couple hours tonight whizzing through the first third of the book -she wanted to go on, but I thought 11:30 on a school night was late enough. 

Oh, and one thing I have to say about the whole paper book vs. e-readers and digital books.  I just don’t think they’ll ever do away with the “real” thing.  I can’t imagine cuddling under the blankets with your child and holding the print-out or the little plastic doo-hickey and convincing them, “No, really!  This is the book!”  There’s something special about asking them to turn the page for you because your free hand is wrapped around them 😉

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The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Title:  The Glass Castle

Author:  Jeannette Walls

Hardback:  288 pages

ISBN:  9780743247535

Dad came home in the middle of the night a few months later and roused all of us from bed.

“Time to pull up stakes and leave this shit-hole behind,” he hollered.

We had fifteen minutes to gather whatever we needed and pile into the car.

…An hour passed before we finally tied Mom’s paintings on the top of the car, shoved whatever would fit into the trunk, and piled the overflow on the backseat and the car floor.  Dad steered the Blue Goose through the dark, driving slowly so as not to alert anyone in the trailer park that we were, as Dad like to put it, doing the skedaddle.  He was grumbling that he couldn’t understand why the hell it took so long to grab what we needed and haul our asses into the car.

“Dad!” I said.  “I forgot Tinkerbell!”

“Tinkerbell can make it on her own,” Dad said.  “She’s like my brave little girl.  You are brave and ready for adventure, right?”

“I guess,” I said.  I hoped whoever found Tinkerbell would love her despite her melted face.  For comfort, I tried to cradle Quixote, our gray and white cat who was missing an ear, but he growled and scratched at my face.  “Quiet, Quixote!”  I said.

“Cats don’t like to travel,” Mom explained.

Anyone who didn’t like to travel wasn’t invited on our adventure, Dad said.  He stopped the car, grabbed Quixote by the scruff of the neck and tossed him out the window.  Quixote landed with a screeching meow and a thud, Dad accelerated up the road, and I burst into tears.

“Don’t be so sentimental,” Mom said.  She told me we could always get another cat, and now Quixote was going to be  a wild cat, which was much more fun than being a house cat.  Brian, afraid Dad might toss Juju out the window as well, held the dog tight.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, pages 17-18

This incident haunted my mind throughout the whole book.  I couldn’t help think, “If they could just toss the cat out without a thought, telling me we could just get another, who’s to say they wouldn’t do that to me, as well?”  Later in the book when Jeannette takes a tumble out of the moving car, the same thought occurred to her as she watches the family disappear down the road.  “What if they decide I’m too much trouble to come back for?”  It had to be a terribly difficult uncertainty to grow up with.

Not only is there the impermanence of home and things, there are virtually no rules nor supervision, as the Rex, Jeannette’s father, spends much of his time “researching” at the local tavern and her mom, a narcissistic enabler with some sort of mood disorder fritters her time and money away escaping reality in books and painting.  Too many times to count, the kids are forced to go hungry… or worse, dig through garbage to find food… while Dad drinks and smokes the money away and Mom sneaks nibbles of Hershey bars hidden under her covers. 

On the rare occasion the mother works, it’s the kids who have to force her out of bed and onto school where she’s a teacher, then clean her classroom after school, grade her papers and make out her lesson plans in the evenings.  After spending 8 weeks away from Rex and the kids, living in a dorm, eating regularly and taking classes to keep her teaching licence up to date, she comes home to report she’s had an epiphany.  She tells her teenage daughter who has been handling the bills, working and feeding her siblings, that she’s spent her whole life taking care of everyone else and now she’s gonna live life for herself… say WHAT?!

yeah….. m’kay.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls is a shocking and heartbreaking memoir of growing up with an alcoholic father and mentally ill mother.  Over and over, I was stunned and even angered by the so-called adults complete and total lack of parenting skills.  At one point, Jeannette, who was 7 or 8 at the time, wakes up to find a strange man touching her beneath her covers, and when she tells her parents maybe they should shut and locked the doors at night so as to keep the creeps out, they tell her some crap about fresh air and not letting fear get the better of you.  In her teens, when Jeannette tells her mom that her uncle has been inappropriate with her, her mother tells her he’s just lonely and that “sexual assault is a crime of perception.”  Time and again, these two genetic donors (calling them parents is going too far, to be honest), show a complete lack of common sense and sheer laziness to step up to the plate.  I am amazed that the kids lived to adulthood, let alone to be anything close as successful as they nationally syndicated columnist and regular contributor to MSNBC.  Brian and Lori also made good despite their upbringing.

One thing I can say about reading this book is that I can say with 100% certainty that I’m not that bad as a parent.  It’s done a lot to make me feel better as a parent… at least I shut the doors at night and feed my kids and make sure they bathe regularly.  I make sure they’re fed before I feed myself and I’d damn sure have food in the fridge AND pantry before gnawing on a Hershey bar.  I feel guilty if I decide not to share my candy bar.. or Lindt truffle balls, nom nom nom…  but that’s because they’ve ate plenty and had dessert, and By GOD, this is ONE thing I kept for myself.  And I feel guilty for THAT!  I can’t imagine the utter self-centeredness, truly clinical narcissism, the mother wallowed in.  Also, I can say with certainty to my kids that they’ve never gone hungry.  They may not like what’s in the cabinets, but there IS food… it’s just not ready-made junk for them to snack on. 

I read a few reviews of The Glass Castle, and one reader dinged the book because the author conveys such neglect and abuse in a very unemotional manner.  How could anyone suffer such a life without feeling a sense of indignity and injustice?  To this I must point out that Walls is a professional journalist, and relaying information in an objective, matter-of-fact way is part of the job, so I wasn’t surprised by that at all.  Also, I think it’s a normal part of the coping skills of an abuse survivor to learn to be able to talk about it with some distance and disconnection.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls is a great story of resilience and survival.  I don’t recommend it to be read in one sitting, as it can get emotionally overwhelming, but definitely a worthwhile read.   If I could ask Walls one question, I’d want to know how she thinks her life might have turned out without public libraries and books to turn to.  At times, it seems the only escape the kids had and a part of her best memories.  I give The Glass Castle 4 out of 5 stars.

TSS ~ Half-done Is NOT Well-begun

The Sunday Salon.com

Oh, how I wish I were a speed reader with photographic memory, that way I could zip through all those lovely books and then digest them later!  Or, that I had clones, each with a feed into my own brain, so that I could read all the blogs and comment on them, read all the books and write their reviews, get all the house work done and cook and walk the dog and….. *sigh* and just the other million and one things I would do, meanwhile I would lay back and receive the feed and process it all.

But, alas… it is just little ol’ me.

But li’l ol’ me did manage to get a lot done this week.  I figured out how to work Google Reader, but I’ve promptly forgot to CHECK IT EVERYDAY… now I’m scared to look at how many new posts will be waiting.  I finished Emmaby Jane Austen… finally… and I’ve started the review, but I just don’t know exactly what I want to say or how I feel, so it sits in the drafts pile, waiting.  The Cable modem had a malfunction and I was without internet for about 26 hours, so in the absence of my feed (addiction), I managed to read Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay (have yet to start the review), get about 2/3 the way through The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards, and get a good start on The 19th Wifeby David Ebershoff, but had to set aside Of Bees and Mistby Erick Setiawan until after the blog tour books since they take precedence as they have specific dates to post.

I got on the stick and started sorting clothes for keepers, winter clothes, Goodwill and trash, and now my kitchen table is covered with laundry, the job half done, so now we can’t eat at the table.  We just kinda disperse to which ever cave, er, I mean “room”, we prefer to huddle in front of TV or monitor or book while consuming our food.  It feels so separate and distant, I can’t see how people do that on a regular basis. 

Maggie’s dad’s suffering the economic crunch, and this multiple-times Employee-of-the-Month-where-ever-he-goes will be outa a job as of Wednesday, the company he has worked for for six years is closing their doors.  So my coming weeks will involve helping him with unemployment paperwork, filling out job apps, looking up openings online and helping him talk to potential employers.  I do all of that because he’s Maggie’s daddy and if he gets a job here, then he’ll stay in the area and she’ll get to grow up as much with him as possible.  When he first found out about the closing, he talked about moving back to California with his parents.  Mags wanted me to let him live at our house, but I had to set her straight.

Me:  “Maggot, that’s NOT going to happen.”

Daddy’s Princess:  “Why not?  He can sleep on my top bunk.”

Me:  “Honey, if daddy were to move back in with us, it wouldn’t be long before you’d be an orphan because I’d be in jail for killing him”

Needless to say, he and I are great friends but we did not get along under the same roof AT ALL.  I enjoy our relationship now that I can tell Mr. Anal-Retentive to “Go home if you don’t like my messy house.”  The very things that I love and admire in him drove me insane when living together.

Yeah… As the sands through the hourglass, such is The Kool-Aid Mom’s life. 😀