Friday, May 7, 2010

Love and Hate

Today I found two stories (yes, through the absolute joy that is Google Reader) that seem different, but are in fact equally fun. That is if you look for the fun in things like I do.

Esther Freud's Top Ten Love Stories in The Guardian is up first. The comments behind each selection are not Esther's. In fact, Esther would probably be upset at my comments. Oh well.

1) Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell: If you ask every American under the age of thirty if they have read this terrific book, they will probably give you a blank stare and whisper so as to not embarrass themselves, "I don't know there was a book, I thought it was just a movie." See what happens when the movie gets so much publicity?

2) Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë: To me, this is in a category that includes Little Women, Wuthering Heights, Little Women, Sense and Sensibility and Pride & Prejudice. The category's title is "Books Whose Movie Adaptations Must Star Either Keira Knightly or Winona Ryder."

3) Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy: Never read it, but it might rank high on the "Most Mis-Pronounced Book Titles of All-Time" list as well.

4) Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy: Apparently if you are going to write a love story, it would behoove you to include a woman's name in the title...

5) Dr. Zhivago by Boris Pasternak: And set it in Russia. Bonus points for this one because it's my in-laws' favorite film. I've had buddies who've gone to Russia. It's cold there, and they said that 99% of the women are not attractive. And yet, they get two places on this list. Go figure.

6) The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford: Good title for a love story. Haven't read it, but I mean, if you're writing about love then pursuing it is a good place to start.

7) The Weather in the Streets by Rosamond Lehmann: Takes second place in the "Weirdest Title" contest on this list. I'm sure the story involves weather... and streets... and love... It's about a girl sleeping with a married guy. If the roles were reversed, we'd be talking thrillers.

8) Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri: Hey, it's the winner of the "Weirdest Title" contest! I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that it didn't translate from whatever language Jhumpa wrote in originally.

9) The History of Love by Nicole Krauss: If you pursue love and find it, then have long talks with it while watching sunsets, then perhaps you will learn all about it's past. Which allows you to write the history of it.

10) One Day by David Nicholls: This book makes the list if only because it's main female character is named Emma. It's a little known rule that every fifth book published in the romance category has to have an Emma in it. Just like a thriller's main character can't have a last name over two syllables.

Next up is the Top Ten Most Controversial Books in America. It's a list of the books parents have complained about the most to libraries all across the fruited plain. In other words, the books the kids want to read the most.

1) TTYL, TTFN, L8R, G8R: This is a series of books written in text language. I firmly believe that the only reason parents object to these books is that they can't understand what's being said and just assume something bad is going on within the pages. And no, I refuse to make an obvious text-language joke here. No, you can't make me do it. I'm not doing it!

2) And Tango Makes Three: Two male penguins raise a chick together. Or as those of us in the know call it, "March of the Penguins." You did see that dads do most of the raising, right? And that they help each other out? Oh wait... it's pushing homosexuality on kids who are already dating people of their own sex, think that BJ's aren't bad, and a thousand other things that parents would faint if they heard. But, yeah, let's kill the penguin book; that's the real problem with the world.

3) The Perks of Being a Wallflower: The website that I found these on uses different-colored darts to signify what parents think is wrong with each book. This one looks like it volunteered to be a pin cushion. Also, that guarantees it to also be known as "Bestseller." Nice job, parents. You might as well throw the book at your kid.

4) To Kill a Mockingbird: This one just plain upsets me. One of the most moral books in the history of publishing and someone actually objects to it. These are the people who feel like sending your kids to the movies is bad because someone might think they are going to the R-rated comedy instead of the G-rated talking animal story. I better stop before I get in trouble.

5) Twilight: No, there wasn't a colored dart for cardboard characters, sub-par writing, and causing other writers to go into fits of uncontrollable rage at the mention of the title. What I don't understand about these lists and the inclusion of popular books on them is this: isn't the point to get kids to love to read? If they enjoy reading something and it's not Penthouse Letters, then isn't that a good thing?

6) Catcher in the Rye: Speaking of over-rated books... Ever heard that argument that you either love something or you hate it, there's no middle ground? Catcher is that argument when it comes to classic books. If you hate it (like I do), don't ever say that you hate it front of someone who loves it (The Wife is among this number). That is unless you are really, really good at martial arts and ready to defend yourself from a possible beat down.

7) My Sister's Keeper: Made into a chick-flick with Cameron Diaz and Abigal Breslin (fresh off the tremendous Little Miss Sunshine). It's a tear-jerker, and as such, is geared mostly toward the fairer sex. It also looks like a pin cushion. But I'm assuming that most parents want to shield their children from the inevitable things in life and a deeper understand of them. Because, you know, kids should be kept from everything and anything that might help them grow up to be well-put together adults.

8) The Earth, My Butt and Other Big, Round Things: I've noticed that a writer tries to help kids deal with the difficult things that life throws at them, the book gets challenged as unfit for children. This one talks about overweight girls, and their self esteem. Apparently the parents who object think that all children should be skinny and that when an actress looks like a skeleton with a wig then she's pretty. I loathe the people who objected to this book. And not just because I like women with curves.

9) The Color Purple: Yes, it was a book before it helped make Oprah her first billion. And I'm shocked - shocked! - that someone objected to this book because of racial reasons. We really don't want our kids to grow up, do we?

10) The Chocolate War: Bonus points for this one because I read it and loved it. It's just a good book about not going with the flow. Which is apparently what a whole lot of parents want their kids to do.

So ends our journey into lists for the day. I hope you had fun. Be sure to thank your captain and please come see us again. Until then, my friends, continue to read, read, read.

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