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Dizzying Intellect » Reading

Category: Reading

Currently Reading

Peony, by Pearl S Buck

My mother has this Jewish cookbook, that she’s had as long as I can remember. After returning to California from New York one summer, I made my first batch of potato latkes and kugel from that book (and burned the holy living hell out of myself, in the process). It’s half recipes and half anecdotes, and having read it years ago, I’ve known for a long time that there are Chinese Jews. The book even goes into the “The Chinese Jew says to the Israeli Jew, ‘you don’t look Jewish’” schtick. But it never occurred to me to wonder how they went from being middle eastern to being Chinese. This book tells that story.

It’s hard to judge exactly when it’s set. I think the main part takes place between about 1790 and 1820, because one of the main characters was a real person, and his death year is recorded in history. (Some other occurences in the book make those dates questionable.)

Peony is the lovely bondservant, purchased by the family as a playmate/servant for their only son, David. Naturally, as they grow up together, she falls in love with him. But this isn’t really her story, it’s David’s. It’s his Chinese life, his Jewish faith, and the way the former are changed and strengthened by four women. It’s a great story, as all of Buck’s books are — fiction and history woven so tightly that it’s nearly impossible to tell the difference — and the characters are loveable and hateable and totally engrossing and believable.

One Sentence

This is awesome.

I know 18 digits of pi and can recite the quadratic equation, but I still need to make an L with my hand to find out where left is.

True stories, told in one sentence.

Currently Reading

Saving Fish From Drowning, by Amy Tan

Currently Reading

The Witches, by Roald Dahl

Clever and dark, dark, dark (like most of Roald Dahl’s stories). England’s crawling with witches, and only an orphaned boy and his grandmother can save us. Good story.

Currently Reading

Angels and Demons, by Dan Brown

I don’t love Dan Brown’s writing style. I find it awkward and confusing in parts — like the way he puts thoughts in italics, instead of specifying that they’re not spoken aloud. I felt the same way about the DaVinci Code.

But man, can he tell a story. Great intrigue and research (he even got an audience with the Pope!), good character development. Awesome plot. Sometimes the story is more important than the writing. Very rarely, but it happens.

Count Olaf!!

Ohmigod! I just saw the trailer for A Series of Unfortunate Events. It looks SO good!

The kid playing Klaus is too old, but I don’t think it’s going to be a problem, because Klaus acts much older than his age anyway. Jim Carrey is going to be so awesome.

A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men

Ok, who would you cast as Willy Wonka?

I’ve seen Marilyn Manson mentioned. And I think if Hollywood got to pick, it’d be Jim Carrey. But neither of them have that mix of sweet big-eyed innocence and creepy creepy creepy. The only person I can think of that has it is John Cusack.

What do you think?

Ok, ok…

Riddle me this.

“Every civilization has one basic principle, one single, supreme, determining conception, and every endeavor of men within that civilization is true, unconsciously, and irrevocably, to that one principle.”

What’s ours?