Slaughterhouse-Five – Kurt Vonnegut

Source: Goodreads

Slaughterhouse-Five is a lively, if strange, jaunt across time through Billy Pilgrim’s life. In the middle of World War II, Billy Pilgrim becomes unstuck in time. Although the rest of the world experiences Billy’s life linearly, Billy himself – his soul, if you will – hops around his own timeline. Sometimes he is in the forests of Germany, sometimes he is at his daughter’s wedding, sometimes he is on the alien planet of Tralfamador, and sometimes he is in his bunk inside Slaughterhouse Five just before the bombing of Dresden.


The overarching theme of this book seems to be the question of whether Billy is actually unstuck in time like he seems, or if he is suffering severe PTSD from the bombing of Dresden that makes him feel that way. The reader is never given an explicit answer. Whatever the actual reason for Billy’s obsession with the Tralfamadorians, there is no denying that this book is written in a confusing way. Billy even has a run-in with the author which just lends to the meta-filled non-plot.

I’ve been hearing about this book in school and in the book world for years, but I didn’t pick it up until a friend of a roommate recommended it based on what he saw on my shelves. I think I had a look of consternation on my face the entire time I was reading it, and ultimately I think I got exactly nothing out of it except for the fact that I can now say I’ve read it. If unreliable narrators are your jam than you might like it, but I can’t steer you in any particular direction regarding it.


HHC Rating: 2 Stars.

M Train – Patti Smith

M-Train-Patti-SmithSource: Goodreads

 

Transportive. Delectably imaginative. Easy to pick up, hard to put down. Completely immersive. Deliriously inspiring. I want to crawl inside and live here forever. Forget punctuation and plot – who needs it?

My father claimed that he never remembered his dreams, but I could easily recount mine. He also told me that seeing one’s own hands within a dream was exceedingly rare. I was sure I could if I set my mind to it, a notion that resulted in a plethora of failed experiments. My father questioned the usefulness of such a pursuit, but nevertheless invading my own dreams topped my list of impossible things one must one day accomplish.
~ p.81, M Train – Patti Smith

This passage! Smith just gets me, even though all I knew about her while reading the book were the facts in the author bio at the back of the book: her marriage and induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I wondered if she only wrote poetry and took polaroids. Did she write music? Had I heard any of it? (obviously, I have, but I am notoriously bad at remembering artist and band names. Lyrics are my strong suit.)

All of the people she mentions I know by name, yet they are all strangers to me. Burroughs, Wittgenstein, Rackham, Bulgakov, Wegener, Camus, Ibsen, Plath, Genet, and many others I’m sure. As I read I wondered if getting to know these people would make me a better writer. Smith already has.

When I finished it, all I could think about was what a journey it was. I wanted to start it over immediately, and did, and was again transported to that place between dreams and reality. Much like Smith’s obsession with The Wind-Up Bird, I just wanted to dive back in. I had a copy from my local library, but I actually went out and purchased a copy of my own yesterday so I can continue to pour over its pages. The writing is phenomenal. I rarely enjoy works written in the first person, but this memoir of sorts is executed to near perfection.

I found that I didn’t even mind the strangeness of moments in the story where Smith actively mentions that she “Closed her notebook and sat in the cafe thinking about real time.” How do we know that’s what she did if she wasn’t writing down her thoughts? Obviously, her notebook was closed. Still, the fluidity of the book allows for this kind of endeavor. The ‘story’ plays out in black and white almost as if we are watching it through her polaroids. I wondered whether, if I pushed on their surface, they would grant me entry.

This is one of those books my children are going to find on my desk, dog-eared and falling to bits because it has been read and loved so much. I often had the realization while reading that I had been thinking of a dozen things, set off by a passage I had read 30 minutes ago, the book lying on my lap in quiet anticipation, perfectly happy to wait for me to come back down to reality and continue to wade through its pages.

 

HHC Rating: 5 Stars

The Boston Girl – Anita Diamant

the-boston-girl-anita-diamant

Source: Goodreads

Anita Diamant’s The Boston Girl follows first-generation American Addie Baum through the ups and down of living in early 20th century Boston, Massachusetts. Not your typical historical-fiction-memoir, the story reads as though Addie is being interviewed by her granddaughter, Ava, and shows us her life from 1900-1985.

Having never heard of Anita Diamant except when people spoke in passing about The Red Tent, I don’t 100% remember why I picked up this book in the first place. I think I came across a summary and it sounded interesting, and then I had family that moved to Boston, and I bought it. Then, The Red Tent was turned into a TV miniseries (Trailer and Miniseries rated PG13) in 2014 on Lifetime that my mother and I marathoned and bawled our eyes out through. It was life-changing. And then I was moving to Boston this year and I picked up this book to add to my reading list and realized it was by the same author all over again. Still, I kept putting it off, for no real reason. I’m glad I read it in Boston. It gave me a new perspective on my new city, and I’m beyond thankful for that.

This book is nothing like any historical, fictional, memoir type book that I have ever come across. The almost but not quite interview style is done extremely well, and you hardly realize that the story is being told in first-person. If Addie was a real person she would immediately be on my list of biggest heroes. There is so much gumption in this girl. She’s just so real, and the twists and turns that her life takes are too numerous to count.

True, the number of words which I’m guessing were either Yiddish or Hebrew and I, therefore, didn’t know (not having studied those languages myself) were high, it’s true. However, each one only added to the hominess feel of the book, as though the reader is one of Addie’s close friends, maybe from the Saturday Club, or maybe a close Jewish friend (like the granddaughter who’s supposedly interviewing her) who would understand all the terms. The humor with which she speaks is contagious, and even though I read the book in the span of a day, I found myself walking around smiling even when I wasn’t reading it.

“You know, Ava, it’s good to be smart, but kindness is more important. Oh dear, another old-lady chestnut to stitch on a sampler. Or maybe one of those little throw pillows.”
~Addie Baum

There are too many ‘chestnuts’ to share them all, but The Boston Girl is pure magic if I’ve ever seen it. Even the sad and tragic things that happen to and around Addie provide important information that allows you to dig deeper into Addie’s story. This is one of those books that really was too good to put down, completely sucking me in. It’s so good that it might have even earned a spot on my all-time favorites list, something that rarely, if ever, happens.

HHC Rating: 5 Stars

Leave Your Mark: Land Your Dream Job. Kill It in Your Career. Rock Social Media. – Aliza Licht

Source: Goodreads

Leave Your Mark by Aliza Licht is part memoir, part advice book, and part much-needed kick in the rear end. Aliza, formerly known as DKNYPRGIRL across social media, was the Senior Vice President of Global Communications for Donna Karan International. After rising to success on Twitter and inspiring other brands to place Public Relations on the front lines, Aliza answered the many inquiries for advice from young Fashion and PR professionals and students with this book, which she terms a sort of written mentorship.

Throughout its pages are sprinkled stories from her life, ranging from early career woes to the challenges of anonymous stardom. Her advice is great, and the flow of the book is mostly fantastic, but the formatting could use some work. By the end I was growing increasingly annoyed by the interruption of a perfectly good paragraph by an “insider tip” that was usually pretty common sense, yet made to feel so secret that it might as well be the identity of Gossip Girl.

Occasionally, Licht would go on a rant (something that, IMO, should be saved for opinion columns and reviews, not used in memoirs or advice books, although I can understand the urge.) and it would feel like she was yelling at the reader for something they hadn’t done, but that there was a small chance they might do in the future. I found myself feeling slightly upset and bewildered after these parts and having to put the book down in order to remind myself that I hadn’t done whatever it was before I was able to pick the book back up and try to get back into it.

Although I know Licht was just trying to be thorough and professional and when she announced in the beginning that she would be altering names and even genders of people she would refer to so that their identities would say secret and the reader, whether they be a man or a woman, would feel equally represented, the whole concept rang through my head like a song on replay whenever I was reading the book and ended up making it feel somewhat contrived and slightly less than genuine.

However, the overall tone of the book was pretty good, and it carried a lot of solid advice for only 288 pages. I think it was a bit of a cautious beginning for Licht in the literary world, but I get the feeling that she will probably publish more, and that she will improve with each publication. I definitely enjoy her social media presence, sass and all, and look forward to reading anything else she decides to print. I would recommend the book in its entirety to anyone looking for advice on a career in social media, fashion, or PR specifically, and the resume section to every person I have ever met or will meet in the future.

HHC Rating: 3.5 Stars

You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) – Felicia Day

Source: Goodreads

You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) is like a trip to Versailles – that famous French palace with a hall full of mirrors – where all the mirrors are windows into Felicia Day’s life. The widely proclaimed “Queen of the Geeks” – a title she tries not to lay claim to – is fantastically funny, and comes across as an old friend filling you in on life after a long time apart.

I’ve always been a big fan of memoirs – and this is one that I’ve been really excited about – so I pre-ordered it and read it in basically one sitting when it arrived. The little anecdotes from people’s childhood, teenage, and college years are usually hilarious, and the struggles that the authors face in their early adulthood are full of universal self-identification. For me, the self-identification goes back to Felicia’s childhood, growing up homeschooled. Although mine was not nearly as isolated as hers, the imagination growth and creativity flow were always at an all-time high.

The way Felicia bares it all about her early adulthood struggles really impressed and inspired me. At a time when no one was internet famous, she forged new paths and created a world no one else could have imagined. It was revolutionary to say the least: putting a show on the internet and then having it become this great big thing. When I discovered The Guild a couple years ago, it was (and is STILL!) a huge deal. And don’t worry; despite all the ‘geek talk’ in the book, Felicia really takes the time to make everything understandable to even the most un-geek reader.

You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) is most definitely a home-run in the memoir category. Felicia Day’s personality just oozes out in the writing, and if you’ve ever seen one of her videos, you’ll probably even read the whole book in her voice like I did. Definitely a five star read.

HHC Rating: 5 Stars