Archive for Reading Responses

Reading Refuge

I’m not really as into this book as I was with The Liars’ Club, but I think it’s better for me than Running in the Family. I’ve been talking a lot lately about the use of explicit detail, or unique writing structure in our readings, but today I’ll respond to a little quote by Williams that cought me up:

The starlings gorge themselves, bumping into each other like drunks. They are not discretionary. They’ll eat anything, just like us. Three starlings picked a turkey carcass clean. Afterward, they crawled inside and wore it as a helmet. A carcass with six legs walking around-you have to be sharp counting birds at the dump. (2001, p. 55)

I think I may have actually laughed out loud reading this… Her personification of the birds, and the way she said “wore it as a helmet” instead of something like “it looked like a helmet on them.” I just love that quote “…you have to be sharp counting birds at the dump.” It brought in humor and sarcasm that lifted the mood off her mom’s cancer and the descriptions of the nasty landfill.

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Almost forgot…

Sorry classmates, I almost forgot a Running in The Family reading blog post! (Maybe it’s because Ondaatje’s writing is so wierd to me…)

Anyway, I wanted to draw some of your attention to an excerpt from page 122.

Property was there to be taken or given away… All her life she had given away everything she owned to whoever wanted it and so now felt free to take whatever she wanted. She was a lyrical socialist. (Ondaatje, 1982)

This stuck with me like nothing else in the book, in that I could almost recite it back to you from memory. I think this was mostly because of the way Lalla reminds me of my grandma Betty, and the way my boyfriend Matt says “socialism is perfect on paper”. This statement just grabs me, and I can’t get past it. It’s universal and deep, yet sarcastic in a way that makes you want to laugh.
I also am drawn to the way Ondaatje describes people with little anecdotes that are almost unappropriate, but eye-opening, and they sure as hell stick with you.

I want to go see what the rest of you 251-ers had to say, so I’ll come back to this.

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Running in The Family

I’m really not sure how I feel about this book yet. Granted, I will take full advantage of the option to read a book that on page 43 you’ve only read about 12 pages of text, but I honestly can say I have no idea what happened.
This guy is telling his story right? But I wasn’t really sure what he was saying at times, when it all really happened, if it was a dream or really did happen. I think I’ll have to go over it again, sorry all who found it as profound as the reviews claim.
Some parts that jumped out at me.. hmm… go to page 26. “In the heart of this 250-year-old fort we will trade anecdotes… In this way history is organized.” I loved that whole passage. This guy does Karr justce in his use of descriptive scenes, but here he just is honest and straighforward, but poetic and sortof.. soft? Maybe this little bit caught my eye because I understood exactly what he meant.
I will come back to this later when I have a clearer mind, but for now I’m going to go see what the rest of you ENG251-ers thought.

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More on “The Liars’ Club”

So, Chapter 15 definitely redeemed that gap between 13 and 14. It also seems, from reading the sampling of reviews in the back of the book, that Karr’s sequel “Cherry” serves to fill that gap. I really look forward to reading it now too.
I cannot emphasize enough how much I really love Karr’s use of descriptions and visual imagery inc reating scenes. I think perhaps it takes me so long to read because I am so detail-oriented that I literally visually a movie scene for every piece in take in; this book was no different, or even the epitome of my problem, because I could find myself creating and adapting Karr’s scenes every sentence along the way. It really took me the whole week to read the book, and I still couldn’t put it down.
I love memoirs. I especially love reading authentic documents, like people’s letters to one another. The real personal genuine stuff. This book not only quenched my apetite for that, but expanded on it and gave opportunities for reflection, relatability (if that’s a word), and a plethera of emotions.

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Reading “Liars’ Club”

A reading response to Mary Karr’s Liars’ Club:

Well, I am a really slow reader so I have about twenty-five pages to go. I’ll have to post again in the morning, and wish I had posted every few pages because there was so much going on in that book I am not sure where to start.
I have to say that most obvious topic for discussion should be Karr’s explicit descriptions of sexual abuse, and a childhood with her “Nervous” parents. For some perverse reason this was effective for drawing in readers like me. I was really disappointed though with her transition to post-college from childhood. She was so great throughout the book at expanding and condensing time, and using image-provoking scenes, that this shift made it really anticlimatic and almost boring/depressing (a different type of depressing than the overall story itself). I think i’m even going to go back to that section and explore it again, because it almost seems as though there could be a whole chapter missing.
I’m going to finish it up now, but if anyone reads this, what did you think of that transition (time warp) towards the end?

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Like the house key, this is just another kind of lie. Response to “How to Talk to a Hunter”


I loved reading this story. I love experiencing new methods of writing… of conveying an idea… methods I never would have thought of. Houston tells the reader how it is, how it will be for you, without ever having to actually say “this is what happened to me, this is how I felt, this is what I learned from it” and so on. Even though this came off as literally as set of rules for communicating with male hunters, it was spoken so straight up and connecting that it was extremely easy for me to relate to, and transpose myself into Houston’s role. Houston was able to give so much information through her method of writing, yet keep me wanting to hear more. Again, I know nothing about the life of a hunter’s mistress, but the feelings Houston subtly expresses make it easy to be confused for those I have experienced before. I think it takes a really great writer to do this- to talk about eating elk meat or sleeping with a hunter- and still make someone who has never done these things feel like they are speaking to and for you. I also like almost anyone who creatively quotes Kris Kristofferson or Janis.

Houston also used some of the hooks we discussed from our last reading in True Stories; a grabbing first sentence, a title that makes you want to read on, caters to the senses, and paragraphs full of personal conflict and detailed descriptions. These were all accomplished in a subtle but successful way.

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My response to “Growing Up Game”

I enjoyed reading “Growing Up Game,” by Brenda Peterson, because it was such an interesting and unusual topic, especially when I realized the author was a woman. I never knew someone could speak so eloquently about hunting and eating animals; the author was able to discuss in-depth the process of hunting for survival while still describing her feelings and emotions that were tied to the simple action of eating meat in a graphic, yet tasteful, way. She also managed to keep me engaged in the subject, even though I myself have never hunted or eaten wild game, and had little prior experience in reading snapshots of people’s childhood that varied so greatly from mine.

I thought, at first, “my boyfriend would love this story” because he is such an outdoorsman, who loves to read and greatly values all living things. I was then left wondering who the target audience was, and whether I gained anything from reading this. I never asked him to read it because I had no way of explaining its purpose to him, or even why I seemed to enjoy it so much.

Out of context, I couldn’t imagine where a piece like this belonged among short stories of self-writing. I was touched by the author’s insight conveyed through her personal accounts, and also wondered if I would be able to write something so powerful, yet short and so visually descriptive. I then realized I could relate to this well, because any episode of my life taken out of its full context may seem just as random to its readers as this.

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