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The Mixquiahuala Letters
The Mixquiahuala Letters
by Ana Castillo
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.46
140 used & new from $0.01

18 of 33 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars I hate this book, December 4, 2001
This is probably the worst book I was ever forced to read. It is so poorly written, I could hardly bear to pick it up after I threw it to the ground in frustration. I don't know who edited this novel, but he or she should be fired. There were so many problems of grammar and punctuation and vocabulary. Castillo uses the word "prodigy" when she meant "progeny," as in "the school built for the progidy of the very rich." And she does it TWICE!!
I don't have as much of a problem with the style or the story or the characters (though the narrator was terribly self-righteous and both main females are complete idiots who do everything they can to let themselves be victimized). It is just such a sloppy mess.
It seems to me that if you wanted to write a book that is supposed to represent some marginalized group, you would want to work even harder to make sure that your book is well-written. Otherwise, how can you expect anyone to take you seriously?
I am half Chicana, and something of a feminist, and I hope that nobody, Chicano or not, feminist or not, will buy this book, because we all deserve so much more.
P.S. Contrary to the review above, the friend of the narrator, though she comes from a privileged background, is not Anglo, but at least part Spanish and the rest of her ethnic heritage is not discussed. Doesn't anybody want to get things right?
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 8, 2011 9:12 PM PDT

Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly
Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly
by Anthony Bourdain
Edition: Paperback
368 used & new from $0.01

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars NoTypos in the Paperback!, September 2, 2001
I saw Anthony Bourdain on Oprah one afternoon. They shot a bit in his kitchen at Les Halles, and he was standing around, spinning a knife, while he showed America the secrets of restaurant food. He seemed like a pretty funny guy, and I eat way too many meals out, so I thought I would like to read his book. I waited for the paperback edition, because I am poor from eating out too much. And let me say first of all, there are no weird typos or random commas in this edition as there seem to have been in the hardback.
I suppose it could have been better organized, and there are a lot of things that i would have liked to know. I gather that his wife has been with him since his college days, but I don't know when he got married exactly. Also, he never explained what a garde-manger is. In the new preface for the paperback, he says that he wrote the book really for other cooks/chefs to read, so he maybe didn't think of explaining it. (A garde-manger is the cold foods station, I recently found out, for salads and appetizers and that sort of thing.) There are a few things like this that take a little bit from one's enjoyment of the book.
Anyway, it's a wonderful book. It is truly truly funny. It is so difficult to write humorously, but Bourdain really did a fine job. I don't know how many times I laughed aloud. I just wanted to keep reading it. I think I stayed up until about three in the morning to finish it. It's not fine literature, but it is whole lot of fun.
There are a lot of reviews here by people who were shocked by all the sex and drugs and profanity and how very self-absorbed Bourdain is. I think Bourdain knows exactly how arrogant he is. Half of the fun is in seeing how his arrogance got him into trouble over the years. He may be arrogant, but he also has no fear of showing the reader how completely foolish he can be. And I think he has a great amount of respect and even tenderness beneath his profane, macho shell. For example, he talks a lot about the sex that goes on, but he is personally involved in none of it. He is married, so maybe he just doesn't want to talk about it for his wife's sake, but still, he doesn't seem to be nearly as bad as you might think if you were not paying attention. And he also does appreciate and respect really great chefs, while freely admitting that he is not a really great chef. He has respect for the chefs that don't work in a pirate galley and who turn out beautiful and delicious food every night with consistency and grace.
He loves the business he is in. He loves people who really love food. He seems like a fun guy, and his book is a fun book. I highly recommend it.

The Things They Carried
The Things They Carried
by Tim O'Brien
Edition: Paperback
905 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A true war story, March 8, 2001
Tim O'Brien writes: "A true war story is never moral. It does not instruct, nor encourage virtue, nor suggest models of proper human behavior, nor restrain men from doing the things men have always done. If a story seems moral, do not believe it." I think this applies not only to war stories, but to all stories, and I think that is why this book works. Whether this is someone's reality or not is not important. It gets you in this unspeakable way, and you just say wow after you are done with it.
I didn't want to read this book when it was assigned. I was tired of the idea of the Vietnam War and what an utter mess it was. And I wasn't even born until two years after we got out of there. But, this book is about more than war. It is about life and love and memory and truth and death and hate and forgetting and fiction. It is everything. And it is so beautifully written.
If you read this book, you will learn something about what words can do, you will learn something about why people do the things they do, you will learn something about the war, you will learn something about yourself. It is a truly wonderful book. I have read it over and over and found so much in it. I would say it is one of the best and most powerful books I have ever read, and I would say that Tim O'Brien is one of the greatest living writers, one of the greatest writers ever, even.
Tim O' Brien writes: "And in the end, of course, a true war story is never about war. It's about sunlight. It's about the special way that dawn spreads out on a river when you know you must cross the river and march into the mountains and do things you are afraid to do. It's about love and memory. It's about sorrow. It's about sisters who never write back and people who never listen." That is what The Things They Carry is. A true (war) story.

On How Life Is
On How Life Is
Offered by Big_Box_Bargains
Price: $5.69
705 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Macy Gray...Yeah, April 27, 2000
This review is from: On How Life Is (Audio CD)
I read an article in the New Yorker about Macy Gray about the time the album was released. When I saw the album at a record store listening station, I had to listen to see if all the effort the record company had been putting into this debut was worth it.
At first, I didn't know what to make of her voice. This is odd, I thought, like Eartha Kitt and Tina Turner and Rod Stewart and who knows who else all combined. I wasn't sure if I liked it at all. I kept listening because all the tracks had such a great sound.
One of the songs is named "Sex-o-Matic Venus Freak." When I read that, I thought, Boy, what a awful name for a song, how cheesy. Oddly enough, the song really works well, without even a little bit of cheesiness. It made me want to be Sex-o-Matic, too.
Then there is "I Try," which is the loveliest bit of soul recorded in years. The way Macy sings the line"...but I'm just a prisoner of your love" makes me want to weep. What great phrasing.
"The Letter" is probably the most fun and groovin' song about suicide you will ever hear.
Anyway, this is a great record. Her voice is one of my favorites now, in spite of, or because of, all the oddness of it. The lyrics are great. It is really well produced. I have listened to it hundreds of times and it still feels fresh. That's pretty rare. You should buy it.

A Confederacy of Dunces
A Confederacy of Dunces
by John Kennedy Toole
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.59
668 used & new from $0.01

101 of 119 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It didn't make me laugh..., April 16, 2000
I actually liked the book. It's so life-like. I know far too many people that are just as awful and obnoxious as the charecters in it. Very vivid, very depressing. The only character I would really want to spend time with was the cloud of smoke that is Jones. The book was worth it just for Jones.
My main problem with the book was that it failed to make me laugh. This wouldn't be a problem normally. I don't expect books to be laughfests as a rule, but everyone said "Oh, it's soo hilarious! I was cracking up the whole time I read it!" So I had to read it for a literature class. My teacher said it is a masterpeice. It won the Pulitzer Prize! So I was expecting to laugh this time. But I couldn't. It was just too depressing. I told my teacher I didn't think it was funny. He asked my classmates if they thought it was funny and they all said yes. My teacher quoted Jonathon Winters, who said that the scariest person in the world is someone without a sense of humor.
So maybe I don't have a sense of humor, but I find it difficult to see the point of laughing at miserable people who make each other more miserable. There are also a lot of sex jokes and a lot of jokes about passing gas, but I can get that from Beavis and Butthead.
My teacher also said the whole book was about scorn. It is supposed to make you feel beter about yourself because you're not as horrible as the people in the book, but I think my ego was okay without having read this book.
But I liked Toole's style. The dialogues and descriptions are wonderful. The book is great as a description of the burgeoning chaos of the early sixties. It just didn't make me laugh.
Comment Comments (12) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 30, 2014 9:23 PM PDT

The Catcher in the Rye
The Catcher in the Rye
by J. D. Salinger
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.55
173 used & new from $6.60

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review Number 1050, March 3, 2000
This review is from: The Catcher in the Rye (Hardcover)
Any book that elicits this much of a response is certainly powerful. Is it a good book?
This IS a good book. Why? Holden is one of the most believable characters ever written. He sees that adults are "phony," and he doesn't want to be one of them. Who can blame him? He is sometimes whiny, but I think he knows it and the sincerity of his pain is absolutley devastating. He is immature, but he is fighting against the loss of his innocence. He's a very perceptive, if not always very articulate, sixteen year old.
If you never had any doubts about the truthfulness of the way adults represent themselves, or if you think prose should always be lyrical, you might not like this book. If you are interested in an honest representation of a youth's struggle with his impending adulthood, you probably will.
Either way, you should read The Catcher in the Rye, just so you will know what everyone else is talking about.

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