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weirdest book you've ever read





TurtleShell
So, they've got a "weirdest movie you've ever seen" thread in the movies/television forum, and I realized that almost all of my "weirdest" movies were actually based on books. So I decided to ask, what's the weirdest books you've ever read, and what made them weird? Was it the writing style, the plot line, something else?
ddukki
If by weird you mean strange and out of place, I guess it would have to be Gulliver's Travels for me. I read it in and out of context and it was a laugh either way. Swift's writing made the novel interesting and the weirdness just kept me focused on the book.
TurtleShell
You know, I was trying to think of what would be in my "weirdest" category and I thought about that one too. I really hated that book though:) Jonathan Swift was a cool guy though--"Modest Proposal" stands out as a particularly entertaining bit of history and literature.
missdixy
I recently read a book titled "Eurydice in the underworld", forgot who the author is but it was very very different.

Edit: the author is kathy acker.
TurtleShell
actually, I just googled that to find out more but I didn't come up with anything. Really, that's what it was called? Is there any book published not on google?Smile

edit: just saw your edit. will check it out.
TurtleShell
didn't find much of anything about eurydice in the underground, but love this blurb about the author on wickipedia:

"Kathy Acker (b. 18 April 1947, Manhattan — d. 30 November 1997, Tijuana, Mexico) was an American experimental novelist, prose stylist, playwright, essayist, and sex-positive feminist writer. Considered the leading experimental writer of her generation [citation needed], she was strongly influenced by the Black Mountain School, William Burroughs, David Antin, and by French critical theory, philosophy and pornography."

odd, and cool.
ddukki
Also a satire that was crazy was Candide by Voltaire. Random crap and a utopian allusion ... yeah that's about it in a nutshell. Good, wacky reading. I guess satires are mostly weird.
TurtleShell
i heard that about candide. wasn't it like stream of consciousness writing at the end?
jwunderlich
I Am the Cheese by Robert Cormier is a pretty strange ride. It has been a number of years since I read it, but I remember how shocked I was by the ending. I went back and read a review http://www.carolhurst.com/titles/iamthecheese.html - but you might be better off just picking it up and reading it.

I am never a fan of knowing too much about the book- though this review doesn't really spoil the ending.

THis is pretty cliche- But I am also a huge JD Salinger fan so Catcher in the Rye is also a classic if you haven't read it?
TurtleShell
yeah, it's a huge classic--and I'm kind of embarrassed that I've never gotten around to reading it. In fact, it's almost never even on the list of "Stuff I want to Read". I just keep forgetting about it.
TurtleShell
so I was laying awake in bed last night for 3 hours, for no good reason... I just wasn't tired. one of the many, many things to cross my mind during that long time was another one of the weirdest books I've ever read: Specimen Days, by Michael Cunningham. It's actually 3 novellas combined into one book. The novellas, while totally separate, share themes, events, and characters. The novellas span a period of several hundred years, but the characters reoccur in each time and setting. Oh, and Walt Whitman comes up in each story. And this porcelain plate. Random, I know... It's hard to describe what it's really about, though. It's an interesting read... and the writing is good.
Crazy_Canuck
TurtleShell wrote:
... one of the weirdest books I've ever read: Specimen Days, by Michael Cunningham.


I've read this. Michael Cunningham is a brilliant writer. He wrote The Hours, which has a very similar plot structure to Specimen Days, with three distinct stories/characters reflecting off of each other from chapter to chapter in really interesting ways. Even if you've seen the movie, I'd encourage you to go back and read the novel because it is different in some significant ways. The fact that Cunningham wrote the screenplay for the movie, and was able to reinterpret his own work, is another piece of brilliance.

In terms of weird writing, James Joyce takes the cake for me, not just Ulysses but even more, Finnegan's Wake, which I've never managed to get through (and I never believe anyone who says they have!!). Talk about obtuse.

Similarly obtuse is anything by Thomas Pynchon--again, praised for its literary quality and I just say--huh??

A really weird writer than you should check out if you like Vonnegut-style 60s counter-culture lit is a guy named Richard Brautigan. Among his many books, these are noteworthy for their weirdness: In Watermelon Sugar and The Abortion: An Historical Romance 1966.

Good luck. Would love to hear what people think of any of these if anyone has read or reads them.
TurtleShell
I've not read or seen the Hours--my only other Michael Cunningham experience has been Home at the End of the World, which I read several years ago. I liked it, but didn't think it was enough to sell me on future books by Cunningham. I only then picked up specimen days because it was recommended to me by a friend who only said "it's weird, you'd like it."

I've totally been looking for someone who's read Pynchon because I'd like to read him myself and I'd like to know if it's a good lead or a waste of time.

Joyce was great when I was in college and had a professor standing over my shoulder who could clarify the context of his writng, but I fear now that anything by Joyce would be 90% lost on me, given my history of needing things to be explained.

I'm going to look into Richard Brautigan. I've heard of him but...I'm embarrassed to say, I thought he was an actor:) Oops.
Crazy_Canuck
TurtleShell wrote:
I've totally been looking for someone who's read Pynchon because I'd like to read him myself and I'd like to know if it's a good lead or a waste of time.

I'm sure willing to pick him up and try him again. If you start a thread, maybe we could get a mini book club going here! That would be fun! Not sure how many people we'd get to read Pynchon, though Very Happy Very Happy

Honestly, I don't even know if Pynchon is a good lead. He's just one of those writers who always comes up on a list of people you "should" read, y'know?

TurtleShell wrote:
I'm going to look into Richard Brautigan. I've heard of him but...I'm embarrassed to say, I thought he was an actor:) Oops.

LOL. Maybe you are thinking of Kenneth Branagh? I just was looking up Richard, and I see he committed suicide at 48. When (if) you read him, you will probably feel that angst in there.

Another writer who I just love, but who isn't everyone's cup of tea, is a guy named Stephen Wright (not the comedian). He wrote a book called "Meditations in Green", which was about a Vietnam vet coming back and basically having a meltdown interspersed with scenes/images of the growth of a plant (the vet's job in Vietnam was to scan photos of the jungle and plot out Agent Orange attacks). It's another unusual structure and tough subject matter, but beautifully written.

Wright is one of those people who describes gruesome scenes with beautiful language, and it's the strange combination of those two disparate things that gives the writing such power.
imera
Weird books, I'm not sure it I have read any weird books, depends on what people think weird is. I am pretty weird myself (in my head) so maybe I don't see a weird book as weird, only pretty interesting. I have read some books that are strange and maybe don’t go as the rest off the books but I just find them interesting.

But I haven't read the ones you suggest, maybe I should try
ddukki
TurtleShell wrote:
i heard that about candide. wasn't it like stream of consciousness writing at the end?
I'm not sure. It's been a while since I've read it. The ending was very eclectic with the characters kind of being listed off if that's what you mean.
TurtleShell
Crazy_Canuck wrote:
TurtleShell wrote:
I've totally been looking for someone who's read Pynchon because I'd like to read him myself and I'd like to know if it's a good lead or a waste of time.

I'm sure willing to pick him up and try him again. If you start a thread, maybe we could get a mini book club going here! That would be fun! Not sure how many people we'd get to read Pynchon, though Very Happy Very Happy

Honestly, I don't even know if Pynchon is a good lead. He's just one of those writers who always comes up on a list of people you "should" read, y'know?

TurtleShell wrote:
I'm going to look into Richard Brautigan. I've heard of him but...I'm embarrassed to say, I thought he was an actor:) Oops.

LOL. Maybe you are thinking of Kenneth Branagh? I just was looking up Richard, and I see he committed suicide at 48. When (if) you read him, you will probably feel that angst in there.

Another writer who I just love, but who isn't everyone's cup of tea, is a guy named Stephen Wright (not the comedian). He wrote a book called "Meditations in Green", which was about a Vietnam vet coming back and basically having a meltdown interspersed with scenes/images of the growth of a plant (the vet's job in Vietnam was to scan photos of the jungle and plot out Agent Orange attacks). It's another unusual structure and tough subject matter, but beautifully written.

Wright is one of those people who describes gruesome scenes with beautiful language, and it's the strange combination of those two disparate things that gives the writing such power.


I could totally go for a mini book club! Of course, it's been 11 days since I even visited this forum, so maybe I wouldn't be the best one to kick off something like that. I've actually been too busy to even post in the forum:0

I want to read Pynchon, though, and definitely will now. Crazy Canuck, if you were going to start a book club, what books or authors would you begin with, and what themes would you want to explore?Smile I've always thought it would be good to find the right book club, but it seems like the only book clubs I've ever heard of have been...pretty light weight compared to my own interests.
Crazy_Canuck
TurtleShell wrote:
I could totally go for a mini book club! Of course, it's been 11 days since I even visited this forum, so maybe I wouldn't be the best one to kick off something like that. I've actually been too busy to even post in the forum:0

I want to read Pynchon, though, and definitely will now. Crazy Canuck, if you were going to start a book club, what books or authors would you begin with, and what themes would you want to explore?Smile I've always thought it would be good to find the right book club, but it seems like the only book clubs I've ever heard of have been...pretty light weight compared to my own interests.

Totally agree with that last thought. I was attracted to your thread because I read, if not weird stuff, then definitely not the standard fare. I'm the one who created a thread here about never having read Harry Potter. Laughing

I like stuff that is--content-wise--a little difficult, but style-wise, still accessible. And I like authors who create worlds with language, and tell a very strong story, usually based on human psychological truths. I couldn't even specify a theme, because it could be anything, but at the core has to be a strong story, well-rendered characters and dialogue, and masterful use of language.

Sadly, I don't have a lot of time to read, and even less to visit this forum. When I do come here, I usually try to find a thread like this where I can leave a post with some substance and maybe even start a conversation.

I posted a while back a thread to find out if anyone had read Cormac McCarthy's The Road. Have you read it? I think it's a good one for a book club because you can read it in a couple of hours, but it has enough depth and artistry that there is lots to talk about with it. Since no one responded to my thread though, I'm not certain it'd be the best choice for a mini-book club here!

I'll go and ponder this, and maybe we can figure something out. What would you put on your book club list, TurtleShell?

See you in 11 days. Wink
TurtleShell
Crazy_Canuck wrote:
I like stuff that is--content-wise--a little difficult, but style-wise, still accessible. And I like authors who create worlds with language, and tell a very strong story, usually based on human psychological truths. I couldn't even specify a theme, because it could be anything, but at the core has to be a strong story, well-rendered characters and dialogue, and masterful use of language.


I'm there with you. To me, the most important qualities of a good work of fiction are a well concieved plot and, as you said, a masterful use of language. Authors I've read in the past who really stand out for this are Michael Chabon, David Foster Wallace, TH WHite, Mark Z Danielewski, Charles Dickens...i'm mentally trying to picture my bookshelf right now... oooh, also this contemporary poet, my favorite guy in the world, Stephen Dobyns. Many of his poems resemble short stories. He's the master of conveying weird ideas and doing it concisely, perfectly. He also wrote a great work of cheesey fiction called Church of Dead Girls--absolute brain candy, but a well-rendered psychological thriller that I really couldn't put down. And since I've stumbled on the topic of poets, another favorite of mine is really neither here nor there, because it's Catullus, and I can't read the original latin, so all his works are translated, and my favorite translation is by Peter Whigham, a man who they all say took a lot of artful liberties with the language, so who knows if I really love Catullus, or Peter Whigham, or Peter Whigham doing Catullus? But whoever he is, he's sassy and witty and mean and hilarious and bratty and vulgar and he KNOWS how to write.

I've never read The Road, or no doubt I would have left a comment... So I went to the source of all wisdom and truth to read a couple reader reviews (amazon.com). There were 599 customer reviews.

The plot, as I understand it, reminded me of 2 things:

that poem by Lord Byron? Darkness? ("I had a dream that was not all a dream/the bright sun was extinguished, and the stars/did wander darkling through the eternal space..." or something like that.) Which, by the way, I've been waiting years to say: "Hey that reminds me of that poem by Lord Byron, Darkness..." I love that poem, and I don't think most people are familiar with it. I've thought about it and read it again and again. But it's quite bleak--I'm not sure how I would handle 290 pages of it?...

It also reminds me of that Beckett story...I think it was a story by Beckett? It was about a man dragging himself down a hall, or a road... I think it was a hallway. The man had a broken leg, but it really wasn't clear where he was going or what he was doing, he was just doing it. (ahh, beckett:) Again, I don't know how I could handle 290 pages of it. I guess that the point isn't necessarily to LIKe the books that you read in a book club--the point is to share opinions, and to take something away from the experience. In fact, I believe that having opposing viewpoints would be essential to a good book club.

But you know, I started thinking about it, the book club idea, and I might begin with The Handmaid's Tale, which really isn't terribly cheerful! But I would pick it because it's readable, and those who I know who have read it have all enjoyed it, and I think that there are a lot of themes that could be discussed in-depth. Actually, here's the thing: were I to join a book club, I don't know exactly what I would want on the list, because obviously I don't want to only read books I've already read before.

So were I to start a book club, I'd need some feedback from other members. Maybe I'd have everyone pick an author and we'd discuss the qualities that author possessed and based on that pick a book by said author, or a book by another author who possessed similar qualities. I'd need to do some online research.
zjosie729
I don't think any books are weird. I only categorize books as exiting, interesting, addicting, slow, and boring.
jharsika
jwunderlich wrote:
I Am the Cheese by Robert Cormier is a pretty strange ride.

I agree! I remember reading that the whole time thinking "....what?!"

Also: Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy; Alice Through the Looking Glass; Stargirl; and Better than Running at Night are all strange.
Crazy_Canuck
Yikes! Has it been two weeks since I've been here?

TurtleShell wrote:
Charles Dickens...


Definitely on my book club list. Did my honours thesis on Bleak House. I could read and re-read Dickens 'til the cows come home.

TurtleShell wrote:
Stephen Dobyns.


I've not heard of him. I will look him up!! I could probably manage to read a poem or short story. Novels seem beyond me right now, given my schedule. Sad


TurtleShell wrote:
I've never read The Road, or no doubt I would have left a comment... So I went to the source of all wisdom and truth to read a couple reader reviews (amazon.com).


Funny, I thought the source of all wisdom was Wikipedia. But if so, amazon.com is the source's handmaid. Speaking of which ...........

TurtleShell wrote:
I started thinking about it, the book club idea, and I might begin with The Handmaid's Tale,


YESSS!!! Margaret Atwood, a Canadian literary icon and heroine to just about every young budding feminist bookworm in the land. I wanted to be her when I grew up. I am SO there with you.

What's brilliant about Atwood is how multi-layered her novels are. You can read for surface meaning, and just enjoy a good, funny story (The Edible Woman, anyone?). Or you can delve into the symbolism and complex psychology of the characters, and have a totally different experience (Surfacing--a Freudian surrealist's wet dream).

TurtleShell wrote:
So were I to start a book club, I'd need some feedback from other members. Maybe I'd have everyone pick an author and we'd discuss the qualities that author possessed and based on that pick a book by said author, or a book by another author who possessed similar qualities. I'd need to do some online research.


Maybe we start a separate thread and see if we can drum up some support? If you start it, I'll join you. And I promise I won't stay away another two weeks! Embarassed
Eyre
Strangest book I ever read was by C.S. Lewis. So strange I don't even remember the name. It was about the devil and Hell...at least I think it was. Had to read it twice to understand parts of it. Took notes, still failed the AR test Mad
darvit
Eyre wrote:
Strangest book I ever read was by C.S. Lewis. So strange I don't even remember the name. It was about the devil and Hell...at least I think it was. Had to read it twice to understand parts of it. Took notes, still failed the AR test Mad

I am positive that you may be referring to The Screwtape Letters. Smile An elderly demon called Screwtape was writing letters to his nephew, Wormwood in order to "mentor" him or something.

I have to agree--that was a pretty weird book, but I won't consider it the weirdest I've ever read. I actually like it. It was an interesting read.

Anyway, as for my weirdest book... If Graphic Novels were allowed here, I would have to say that Neil Gaiman's Preludes & Nocturnes from The Sandman would be the weirdest. Arkham Asylum, Lucifer, Constantine, Doctor Destiny and strange fetishes aren't enough to describe it. I still like it, though. Smile

If Graphic Novels aren't allowed in here, I'd have to say that so far, I think that Jostein Gaarder's Sophie's World is really really weird. If I told you why it was weird, then I would have given out a major spoiler.... So I'll just leave it there. Very Happy

Don't get me wrong, though--it's a great book on philosophy and would be a great reference for anyone who wants to brush up on [or prepare for] their Philosophy 101 course. Very Happy
TurtleShell
Darvit, my best friend read Sophie's World at the beach a few years ago. I never did get into it myself, but you know, from what she said about it, I would back you up on the weird factor:)

Canuck, I might start a book club thread. I will think about that. It might be difficult to:

a) find the people who would share the particular interests in books that we've been discussing
b) get people motivated to read them more or less with the group and stay with it

And you--you sound like you're as busy as I am. How could we start a book club if we were unable to read the books ourselves? Granted, if I started a book club I would have to read the books:) But I'm afraid I would be alone. If you at least were going to read them with me, I guess a book club of two isn't as pathetic as a book club of one...
Crazy_Canuck
TurtleShell wrote:
And you--you sound like you're as busy as I am. How could we start a book club if we were unable to read the books ourselves? Granted, if I started a book club I would have to read the books:) But I'm afraid I would be alone. If you at least were going to read them with me, I guess a book club of two isn't as pathetic as a book club of one...


Very Happy Yes, reading the books is kind of a pre-requisite for a book club, isn't it??

I can usually manage short stories. And, if you like short stories with a slightly weird twist, here's another author for you: Barbra Gowdy (Canadian, like Atwood, and coming out of that literary tradition, but taking it to a stranger, darker place). Try We So Seldom Look on Love, a terrific collection of short stories about all kinds of weird and wonderful stuff.

Also, Gowdy's novel The White Bone is indescribably beautiful, poignant and heartbreaking. From Henry Holt & Sons' Reading Guide:

"A tour de force of the imagination, The White Bone is a thrilling journey into the minds of African elephants as they struggle to survive in a land wracked by drought and slaughter. The story is told by a young cow named Mud, who at the novel's opening has survived an attack on her family by ivory poachers. She finds herself at the center of a desperate quest for the White Bone: an object of mythic power that if found might lead the herd to safety and survival."
TurtleShell
Crazy_Canuck wrote:
I can usually manage short stories. And, if you like short stories with a slightly weird twist, here's another author for you: Barbra Gowdy (Canadian, like Atwood, and coming out of that literary tradition, but taking it to a stranger, darker place). Try We So Seldom Look on Love, a terrific collection of short stories about all kinds of weird and wonderful stuff.


So, if you'll look up Stephen Dobyns (try Velocities: New and Selected Poems) I'll check out Barbra Gowdy from the library. I can swing for some short stories.
Crazy_Canuck
TurtleShell wrote:
Crazy_Canuck wrote:
I can usually manage short stories. And, if you like short stories with a slightly weird twist, here's another author for you: Barbra Gowdy (Canadian, like Atwood, and coming out of that literary tradition, but taking it to a stranger, darker place). Try We So Seldom Look on Love, a terrific collection of short stories about all kinds of weird and wonderful stuff.


So, if you'll look up Stephen Dobyns (try Velocities: New and Selected Poems) I'll check out Barbra Gowdy from the library. I can swing for some short stories.


Deal. I'll report back here. You'll give me my customary 12-day interval, will you? LOL Very Happy
TurtleShell
Crazy_Canuck wrote:


Deal. I'll report back here. You'll give me my customary 12-day interval, will you? LOL Very Happy


Heavens yes. I need to go find that Gowdy book somewhere...if they don't have it at the library, they'll need to ILL it, which means I might actually wait a while.

By the way, there are a few poems in that collection you must be sure to look at. Spiritual Chickens pops to mind. But there are others. I'll have to take a look at the book myself and let you know.
TurtleShell
I just requested it inter-library loan style. this could take a week or two.
Crazy_Canuck
TurtleShell wrote:
I just requested it inter-library loan style. this could take a week or two.


And I can't find Gowdy on my bookshelf; I must've given it away. I'd like to re-read that too.

I often find that I go to re-read books, and they've disappeared on me. I tend to give them away and then forget about it. It's a pay-it-forward thing for me. Smile
TurtleShell
This morning I dug out my own copy of Velocities. I wanted to point out to you some of my favorites: Wind Chimes, The Gardener, Night Swimmer. I'm sure I already mentioned Spiritual Chickens, which I have read too many times. Also, there are also a number of short poems clumped together in a group. They're concise, quirky...almost like riddles. My favorite is the one called Spite, but there's also Gluttony, Anger, Envy, Covetousness, Vanity, Sloth, Grief, and Silence. There's a line,...from Grief...
Quote:
I was dancing when I learned of your death; may my feet be severed from my body.


Also, the Six Poems on Moving. The one about the Sword is excellent.

Anyway, let me know when you've had a chance to get your hands on the book and take a look. I'm still waiting for Gowdy. I expect it will take a week.
Crazy_Canuck
Any luck with Gowdy, Turtleshell? I have been woefully negligent posting here and in my reading too. Haven't picked up Velocities yet, but I PROMISE I will.

Holidays and such got in the way ...

Back when I have something to say about the book!
TurtleShell
Canuck, I have Gowdy and I am halfway through. This means you are obliged to me to pick up Velocities, so I expect results:) The book is due by the 23rd, but I think I can renew it, so I'll either finish it by then, or renew it. One or the other. ANyway, I'm collecting my thoughts and will report back when I've got something organized to tell you.
Crazy_Canuck
TurtleShell wrote:
Canuck, I have Gowdy and I am halfway through. This means you are obliged to me to pick up Velocities, so I expect results:) The book is due by the 23rd, but I think I can renew it, so I'll either finish it by then, or renew it. One or the other. ANyway, I'm collecting my thoughts and will report back when I've got something organized to tell you.


Excellent! Just the motivation I need! Intrinsic good intentions coupled with extrinsic guilt tripping. The perfect combo! LOL.

Getting it now .......... whoosh............
Shewolf
[quote="darvit"]
Eyre wrote:


If Graphic Novels aren't allowed in here, I'd have to say that so far, I think that Jostein Gaarder's Sophie's World is really really weird. If I told you why it was weird, then I would have given out a major spoiler.... So I'll just leave it there. Very Happy

Don't get me wrong, though--it's a great book on philosophy and would be a great reference for anyone who wants to brush up on [or prepare for] their Philosophy 101 course. Very Happy


I see what you mean about Sophie's World. - And speaking about Gaarder I might think Maya is one of the weirdest books I've read. Beacause of the mix of plots, and a gecko (don't ask). This book is probably the one of Gaarder's books I've enjoyed the most, but still...
Anyway, I suppose I might get back to this topic, when I've found myself a weird book to read Laughing
Azmo
I recently read a book called "leva av luft" wich basicaly means "living from air" (no food), and was made like a diary from an anorectic.. that was a realy strange book, jumping between storys, history and present.. but it was very interesting too Smile
Crazy_Canuck
Okay, TurtleShell! I've got Velocities! Now, all I have to do is find some time to read it!

And at first glance, that's going to have to be some focused, concentrated time...perhaps I'll do that while all around me are watching the Superbowl this weekend! (couldn't care less about football, no offense to any NFL fans out there Smile)

Back soon ....................
Crazy_Canuck
Azmo wrote:
I recently read a book called "leva av luft" wich basicaly means "living from air" (no food), and was made like a diary from an anorectic.. that was a realy strange book, jumping between storys, history and present.. but it was very interesting too Smile


Who's the author, Azmo, and is it available in an English translation? Also, is it fiction or non-fiction? (I like stories like that ...)
TurtleShell
Crazy_Canuck wrote:
Okay, TurtleShell! I've got Velocities! Now, all I have to do is find some time to read it!

And at first glance, that's going to have to be some focused, concentrated time...perhaps I'll do that while all around me are watching the Superbowl this weekend! (couldn't care less about football, no offense to any NFL fans out there Smile)

Back soon ....................


Yes! I'm finished with Gowdy's book, but writing something coherant about it will take a little time. I feel like I'm back in college, how fun--but I wanted to say I thought the last story was by far the strongest. Wow. It left me thinking for a long time. I'll have more to say later.
TurtleShell
CC, Ok, here's how I felt about Gowdy's book.

As I said, I felt like (by far) the last story was the strongest. In fact, I'm glad it was last because it really tied everything together for me. I had kind of an epiphany at the end.

The common theme between all these stories presented itself in two parts: #1) at least one character in each story (and frequently multiple characters) had some kind of major deformity--whether it was physical or emotional or even supernatural (as with the girl who flies). Actually, I'm not even sure that "deformity" is the correct word. I think that the idea is that someone on the outside (the reader) may perceive these extraordinary characteristics as deformities. This is not really the case. ...which leads to the other plot point all the stories had in common, #2) it was best for everyone when they embraced what made them different and moved on. Those who tried to change themselves/alter their nature all faced negative effects (as with the guy with two heads who tried to cut the "extra" head off and went crazy, and the woman who had her sister's legs and feet surgically removed only to realize she didn't just remove a pair of legs, and the man who killed himself to be loved by the necrophiliac...)

This is why I think the last story (Flesh of my Flesh, about the man who marries the woman and reveals on their honeymoon he's actually a woman) is so important. The woman-soon-to-be-man asks his new wife: "who are you to tell me who I am?" Sure, he's in love with her, but he is not going to let her shake his sense of identity. And in the end she relents and accepts him for who he is and presumably they live (reasonably) happily ever after. Actually, this was an important piece for multiple reasons. I had a hard time accepting him as a man. I couldn't get over the way the author (and his alienated wife) consistently referred to him as "him" when technically, he was still a her. Or was he? Is gender a physical or mental state?

I'm sort of gay. I say "sort of" because I've barely dealt with my identity issues. Actually, I'm not sure that I have any significant identity issues. I really don't care to say I'm gay or straight. I don't think I fit in either category appropriately. I am who I am, and I have much bigger problems to tackle anyway. I only mention that because I feel like I'm pretty open to weird/alternative gender roles, and I'm flexible/indifferent when it comes to the lifestyle choices other people make. To each his own. ...but I had a hard time wrapping my mind around the idea that this woman was really a man. I surprised myself, because I was a little disgusted. The prosthetic penis, the rejection of his femininity (which I guess he thought he had never had in the first place), all of it... He seemed like such a normal man (a normal man that I liked) that it made me uncomfortable. (which I think was his wife's problem, too)

I was disturbed that Sam (the transgender) disgusted me. I had to think about that a lot. There was a point at which his wife said that despite the fact that she was repulsed by him when she found out who he really was, she was still in love with him, would still "take a bullet for him", as I think she put it. Which was a really wonderful detail. Her love transcended the other issue.

It was my opinion that the first story in the collection was the most misplaced. This would be the one titled Body and Soul, about the woman who takes in the foster care children, one of them is blind and the other is...well, I'm not sure exactly what was wrong with the other little girl, except to say that she believed she had rocks rolling around in her head. This was (in my opinion) a poor way to introduce the book. The dominant gene in this story wasn't the deformity/acceptance issue I discussed earlier. Maybe this is because my daughter is adopted and lived in foster care, but the topic that really stands out in that particular story is social dysfunction, which is in my mind, a different can of worms and one I feel is abused and tired in fictional literature anyway. I thought it was boring.

The second story really set her book on the right track though. Sylvie (about the woman with her sister's legs sticking out of her stomach) was perfect. First, here was this girl who was completely unapologetic for her appearance--and seemingly not even bothered that much, even when her mother insisted on favoring the pair of legs over her. There was a good line in that one. Sylvie, talking about her love for the baby Merry Mary gives birth to, says that "the minute she'd laid eyes on Sue it had struck her that it was all right being deformed if deformity had to exist for there to be such perfection". I really think that Sylvie was proud of herself--how she was both the same and different from everyone else. It was also a surprise when her sister's legs become a very critical part of having sex with the doctor (I think the orgasm came through the little legs, to Sylvie's other self...very weird). And then the legs are removed and it doesn't say exactly why, but the results are tragic. I'm quite sure Sylvie felt the emptiness they left behind.

I guess the story I enjoyed the most (after Flesh of my Flesh) was the Ninety-Three Million Miles Away, about the woman who discovers she's an exhibitionist. When she discovered her neighbor liked to watch her through the window, I cheered her on, which is maybe a little weird:)

I have more to say, but unfortunately I have to return to the book to the library now.

So tell me, did you get to read Velocities? If it didn't do for you what it did for me, that's fine, but I'd love to hear about it anyway...

By the way, please don't feel like you have to write a book report the way I did. I just want to know what you thought...and I had a lot to say about Gowdy's book.
Crazy_Canuck
Hi Turtleshell. I've been so negligent. I haven't even picked up Velocities ... it's still sitting on my living room coffee table, next to a bunch of unopened mail and an old coffee cup with stuff growing in it.

** Sigh. **

Your review is TERRIFIC. Much of this is how I feel about Gowdy. I find her stories--at least the ones in this collection--like a Diane Arbus photograph. They look straight at what is perceived by broader society to to be ugly, and they don't look away. By focusing on the grotesque, they reveal the common humanity beneath and the worthiness of compassion.

Your review has made me want to go back and reread Gowdy. But first, I am heading for the coffee table. Wish me luck.
TurtleShell
*tsk tsk* for shame cc:) oh well, that's ok--I don't have any time to read anything fun right now either...

I'll be waiting for your review:)

I'm not familiar with Diane Arbus. I'll google her.


EDIT:

I take that back, I know Diane Arbus. I forgot her name, but I remember her photographs, and you know, that's EXACTLY what Gowdy's stories are like. That's a great comparison.

The photo of a man pretending to be a woman...that kid with the hand grenade in central park--I remember those photos.

The interesting thing about D. Arbus is that she was photographing actual people, where as Gowdy writes fiction--some of it pretty spectacularly unrealistic (the girl who flies, for example). Of course, photographers can manipulate situations to make their photos, but assuming that Arbus didn't do a lot of that, it just casts her photographs (and, indirectly, Gowdy's fiction) in an interesting light.

Arbus photographed abnormalities, and normal people. I suppose the juxtaposition was intended to blur the line between the two (what is normal? is anyone truly normal?), and I'm sure that Gowdy would like to do the same.

I'm not sure if I'm making sense here. we're watching a documentary right now about kids in Jerusalem and Palestine...subtitles, flying everywhere...hard to keep track of two things at once...
megwings
Das Parfum by Patrick Süskind.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perfume_(novel)
TurtleShell
You know, oddly that reminded me of Tim Robbin's Jitterbug Perfume, which I read years ago and hadn't thought about in a long time... that was a weird one. I always felt like I should have enjoyed it more.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jitterbug_Perfume
sondosia
Any Kurt Vonnegut book is pretty weird...but I love them. Smile
TurtleShell
I'm sure I've said it before, but I never really got into Vonnegut that much. I should give him another try.
Derek_Nicolas
I was very confused when I read Kafka's Metamorphosis.
Crazy_Canuck
Turtleshell!! I'm back!!!

I've been soooo negligent in posting here. And haven't had time to read at ALL.

Coffee table still piled with books, including Velocities. Maybe today? Ooops, nope. Gotta go to my niece's b-day party. Will be reading her Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Now THAT'S a weird book.

Sigh.

Many apologies. It's not for lack of good intentions, I assure you.

Embarassed
TurtleShell
CC, you should be ashamed of yourself! No, it's ok:) I've been busy myself. I've been traveling a lot. Also, we recently acquired these hamsters and my computers keep breaking down and the beach just opened... I've been a bit busy. I hope you do get to Velocities sometime, and that you do enjoy it, but I don't blame you. ...after all, you don't live in the land of public transportation like I do. Where would I ever get my reading done if not for the morning commute?
pony987987
maxim gorkyj: my universites
georgeodowd
I don't know that I would call it the weirdest book I'd ever read, but certainly the most moving and memorable thing I ever read was As Meat Loves Salt by Maria McCann. It was amazingly dark - I couldn't read anything else for two weeks afterwards (normally I have to start another book immediately after finishing one).
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