Monthly Archives: September 2010

Great Girls Talk Books: Guyland

Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men

This month BB&B read and discussed Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men. I think we were all hopeful for an insightful work, but none of us enjoyed this book, many did not finish it. What I think we did enjoy was talking about why we didn’t like it, eating yummy apple cobbler and cinnamon ice cream, and good conversation.

I don’t have much more energy to devote to this book so I’ll include the publishers’ synopsis:

“The passage from adolescence to adulthood was once clear. Today, growing up has become more complex and confusing, as young men drift casually through college and beyond—hanging out, partying, playing with tech toys, watching sports. But beneath the appearance of a simple extended boyhood, a more dangerous social world has developed, far away from the traditional signposts and cultural signals that once helped boys navigate their way to manhood—a territory Michael Kimmel has identified as “Guyland.”

In mapping the troubling social world where men are now made, Kimmel offers a view into the minds and times of America’s sons, brothers, and boyfriends, and he works toward redefining what it means to be a man today—and tomorrow. Only by understanding this world and this life stage can we enable young men to chart their own paths, stay true to themselves, and emerge safely from Guyland as responsible and fully formed male adults.”

My synopsis:
Limited analysis and documentation of research methodology – even basic citations, generalization based on a very small subgroup of men (read: white heterosexual college age fraternity men of privilege), shallow grasp of gender as social construction.

Next month’s read is Impatient with Desire by Gabrielle Burton, a fictionalized account of the Donner party, pioneers who become stranded during a cross-country move in the 1840s.


The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey

Elisabeth is on vacation in Europe when she begins to feel ill. Suddenly she is weak and exhausted, only becoming worse. Back and forth between doctors’ visits, emergency rooms, and major setbacks, no one can figure out the exact cause of her illness.

But out of the blue came a series of insidious relapses, and once again, I was bedridden. Further, more sophisticated testing showed that the mitochondria in my cells no longer functioned correctly and there was damage to my autonomic nervous system; all functions not consciously directed , including heart rate had gone haywire.

Eventually bedridden she is moved from her country home to an apartment where she can receive the assistance of a caretaker and visits from friends and family. She can only sit up for a few minutes and spends the majority of her days lying down. In a seemingly odd gesture a friend delivers a snail to her bedside. The snail lives in a pot of field violets. Skeptical of her companion, Elisabeth eventually learns a lot about the snail and herself. Sometimes elated by the snail and sometimes in the doldrums, she pours over the literature and research concerning gastropods and is introduced to a world and even a way of life that she had not previously considered.

Survival often depends on a specific focus: a relationship, a belief, or a hope balanced on the edge of possibility. Or something more ephemeral: the way the sun passes through the hard, seemingly impenetrable glass of a window and warms the blanket, or how the wind, invisible but for its wake, is so loud one can hear it through the insulated walls of a house.

After a while the snail is moved to a terrarium. Elisabeth keeps up her watch of the snails’ habits learning that it is neither slow nor boring but has a complete and calculated life and habits. Everything about the snails’ daily routine is curious to both Elisabeth and the reader. At times the snail reminds Elisabeth of her difficult position.

Everything about a snail is cryptic, and it was precisely this air of mystery that first captured my interest. My own life I realized, was becoming just as cryptic…Yet it wasn’t that I had truly vanished; I was simply homebound, like a snail pulled into its shell. But being homebound in the human world is a sort of vanishing. When encountering acquaintances from the past, I sometimes see a look of astonishment cross their face, as if they think they are seeing my ghost, for I am not expected to reappear. At times even I wonder if a ghost is what I’ve become.

At other times there is only beauty.

Even when my snail was asleep, I loved to gaze at the beautiful spiral of its shell. It was a tiny, brilliant accomplishment of architecture, and because the radius of the spiral increases exponentially as it progresses, it fits the definition of a logarithmic or an equiangular spiral. Also known as the marvelous spiral, it accounts for the sound of the sea that one hears when an empty shell is lifted to the ear: outside noise enters the curving chamber and echoes back and forth, jumbling into a continuous surflike tone.

Today! National Book Festival


Autumn Story

Today is the first day of autumn here though summer is still in full swing. We still make it into the 90s each day and the leaves have not begun to change but the nights are much cooler and the balcony is a lovely place now.

I stumbled across the world of Brambly Hedge a while ago perusing through a local secondhand shop. The small little books all placed together caught my eye, not only because the illustrations reminded me of the Beatrix Potter stories but also because nearby the exact same series lay printed in French. ‘Ohhh’ I breathed and instantly began a dance between myself and those tiny jewels. I’m not a child nor have I given birth to any…what was I even doing in the kids’ section. Nevermind, I decided I was to have those books.

The mice of Brambly Hedge are out working to collect berries and nuts to put away for winter-including Lord Woodmouse and his young daughter Primrose. When old Mrs. Eyebright senses a storm brewing all of the mice must work doubly hard to move the harvest to the Store Stump to keep it dry.

Meanwhile Primrose idly wanders, chasing her thoughts through the woods.

Soon she is lost and the storm arrives.

Tea With Mr Rochester by Frances Towers

These stories were originally published in 1949 after Frances Towers’ death. Enjoyable and at times quirky these stories are about love, friendship, betrayal, and society. Most of the stories seem ordinary enough but there always seems to be a lovely little twist somewhere and not everything is as it seems.

A wonderful selection sent to me by Sophie (my Persephone Secret Santa) of An Embarrassment of Frivolities.

The Summer Before by Ann M. Martin

A few weeks ago I was searching through tubs of books I read as a girl. These books brought up such a sense of nostalgia that I decided to re-read some of them, including The Babysitter’s Club series. Shortly after reading the first three I was looking around on the web for more information about the series. The series is sadly out of print, however the first three books have been re-released and there is also a prequel. The Summer Before tells the story of each of the members of The Babysitter’s Club before Kristy thinks of the idea of the club. The girls have just finished 6th grade and have the entire summer ahead of them. Each has their own preoccupations and dilemmas to face. Kristy is worried about seeing her father after her parent’s divorce, Stacy is preparing to leave everything she knows in New York to move to Stoneybrook Connecticut, Mary Anne is desperately trying to convince her father to let her have some freedom, and Claudia has a crush on an older boy.
Martin’s style of writing was familiar and a good change of pace from what I’ve been reading lately. Though I knew a lot about each girl, in this novel I was really able to get to know each of them and how they approach the changes in their lives.

The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi

The Icarus Girl

Jess is a quirky girl prone to sudden screaming fits and other strange behaviors. Her teachers classmates and parents are all aware of this but no one really understands why. Besides being reserved and extremely intelligent she appears to be normal. She is very observant and sensitive and spends much her time reading, telling herself stories or writing poetry. After promotion to a higher grade level at school doesn’t seem to ease what’s bothering Jess her parents decide that it might be good if they take her to visit her mother’s family in Nigeria. This will be the first time she’s met them, until now she has only spoken to them on the phone from England. She has only visited her father’s family.

Adjusting to Nigeria is going along slowly when one day Jess meets a little girl dressed in rags who appears to be about her own age. TillyTilly is fun and brave and seems to really understand Jess. Jess is always a bit nervous around TillyTilly but goes along with her antics. Soon TillyTilly becomes reckless, carrying Jess along with her and even showing up when Jess’ family returns to England. The Icarus Girl is told from Jess’ point of view providing an interesting look into her world, a world filled with ghosts, doubles, and unexplained happenings. What we see is that everyone has a story even if they have not heard it for themselves.

a grey surprise

My birthday was over a month ago but to my surprise I received a lovely package in the mail.
Thanks to a wonderful and most thoughtful boyfriend, I can eagerly await a Persephone each month for the next year (gasp)!

They Were Sisters by Dorothy Whipple is this month’s book.