Love Poems

love poems neruda

Love Poems, by Pablo Neruda. I picked this up at the BYU store, because it was on crazy sale upstairs. Like, a couple bucks. Score. I had heard good things about Neruda from my husband, who thinks he’s just a wonderful poet. And he’s Chilean, which means I can cross Chile off of my “countries to read a book from” list.

Anyways. Love Poems is a very short collection, and fairly sweet. He’s not the best romantic poet I’ve ever read (I think Shakespeare takes the cake on that one so far), but I did enjoy most of the collection, and I’m looking forward to reading some of his less love-based poetry in the future. Because, you know. It’s not like that was the only book I bought. ♦

Broken Things to Mend

broken things to mend

I love Jeffrey R. Holland. He’s one of my favorite speakers of all time, whether the subject is religious or not. So I picked up a copy of Broken Things to Mend, which is a collection of some of his talks.

Overall, the collection is good. And by that, I mean that it seriously fell beneath my expectations—but I can’t really fault that. My expectations were unreasonably high. See, when Elder Holland gets it right, he really gets it right. He kind of pulls your heart out of your chest, squeezes it a few times, and then puts it back in there a little better than he found it. But I suppose I can’t expect him to do that every time he opens his mouth.

If you feel broken, there are a few talks in this collection that will make you weep. (Like the title sermon.) And then you’ll put yourself back together again, and be so glad to know you’re still good enough, even as broken as you feel. But then there are a lot of other talks in here that are just good, inspirational talks. Not mind-blowing. Just good.

Long story short, I recommend the book. But if you’ve got a very specific need, I would sooner recommend you just go to lds.org and search for one of Holland’s individual talks. ♥

Made for Heaven: and Why on Earth It Matters

made for heaven

I’ll keep this brief, because the book is brief.

Made for Heaven is a C.S. Lewis book for dummies. Kind of like What Christians Believe, this book collects a few essays or chapters from his other writings, puts it in an easy-to-read font and format, and allows you a glimpse into Lewis’s arguments without making you wade through a few hundred pages of high-falutin’ philosophy. This one discusses why Lewis considers human being to be inherently divine, and why we seem to yearn for something greater than this life.

It’s very good. But if you want something complex, skip it and read Lewis’s other stuff. (You’ll get everything from this book in his other stuff, anyway, since this one is just collected from those ones.) ♦

Cinderfella: A Rant

Okay. So I saw this video on Facebook. And of course, instead of just moving on, I got all worked up about it.

It’s a parody of “Cinderella.” They tell a two-minute story called “Cinderfella,” in which an innocent orphan (boy) is abused by his stepfather and ugly stepbrothers, is granted a new suit and a pair of glass loafers by his fairy godfather, and wins the heart of the fair princess by means of his rare shoe size. It’s absurd, and adequately points out how absurd the original Cinderella story is.

And up to this point, I think it’s fine. It’s actually rather clever. But then it goes on a feminist rant about how we share stupid stories with our girls, about girls doing stupid things that don’t matter, and how we would never read a story like that to our boys. Of course we wouldn’t. We don’t want them to grow up stupid.

But, of course, since we do read stupid stories to our daughters, that means that we expect them to be stupid. It’s sexist. Fairy tales are sexist, the video argues, and our girls deserve better.

First, let’s talk about the idea that we don’t read stupid stories to our boys. Have you ever read a “Caillou” book? If you have, I rest my case.

If you haven’t, count your lucky stars.

I’ll go back to the Cinderella logic. It’ll make the argument more cohesive, anyway. Cinderella is a classic fairy tale, found in the Grimms’ Fairy Tales collection. Now, the brothers Grimm weren’t out to create any great literature. They didn’t write the stories. They collected them—and not even for literary reasons. They just wanted to know how far German culture extended, and asking old grandmothers to tell stories was the easiest way to tell how far the same stories had spread.

I digress. The point is, Cinderella is a Grimm story. And so is “Hans in Luck,” “Hans Married,” “Strong Hans,” “Foolish Hans,” and “Hans Files His Income Taxes With a Late Exception Because He Was Singing Down a Well and Forgot When the Due Date Was.” Hans, as a character, is apparently a German legend. And he was so stupid, bland, and irrelevant to the story that he didn’t even get an interesting name. I mean, at least “Cinderella” is distinguishable from the next-door neighbor.

So no, we don’t just tell stupid stories to our daughters. We tell stupid stories to all of our children, gender aside. And why do we do that?

Ask a child to tell you a story sometime. If they’re old enough to make one up, it’s probably going to be stupid. They’re kids. Their concerns are equally spread around being lost, left behind, unloved, and losing jelly beans. And they’ll probably include all those things in a poorly-constructed fairy tale about a turtle named Bob. (Or Hans, perhaps.)

Now sit down and write your own story. Was it brilliant? Probably not. Was it adequate? … Probably for bedtime. Maybe. These stories were told, spur-of-the-moment, by the fire, usually by an elderly woman trying to entertain small children with short attention spans. No wonder they include shiny objects (like glass slippers,) magical beings, and gaping plot holes.

If you want higher entertainment for your kids, I don’t blame you. But stop complaining about old German folklore, and go write something better. ♦

The Art of War

the art of war

I picked up The Art of War years ago, because it was a great-looking hardcover, Barnes and Noble had it at a great price, and I wanted to learn more about Asian culture and war generally. Also, it was an old classic, and I wanted to be better-read. Also, how could a book with entire sections about the proper use of spies not be amazing? I finally got around to reading it just a few months ago.

The Art of War, by Sun-Tzu, is indeed an old classic. It was written over a thousand years ago, by a very successful general, in specific circumstances, and used to great success in more specific circumstances, blah, blah blah, blah blah. Here’s the thing: I don’t know a thing about ancient China. And here’s the other thing: Well over 3/4 of this book was commentary on the actual text. I could have gotten a version with just the original text, and it would have been short and sweet. But instead, I chose to skim all of the academic, high-falutin’ history crap in the (many) introductions. Big mistake.

Then there’s the actual text. A few of the “strategies” are interesting. Most of them are crazy boring. I’ve heard that this book is used as a marketing book sometimes. I’m not a marketing strategist, so I can’t vouch for its use there; as a literary work, it is crazy boring. I finished it primarily out of pride, and because I’m trying to read a book from every country. This one would count for China. I should have just picked up another book.

Can anyone explain to me why this book is still popular? ♦

Stories from Mexico

stories from mexico

Ethan picked up Stories from Mexico for me because I want to practice my Spanish. It’s a bilingual book: English on the left side, Spanish on the right. The stories are native to Mexico (hence the book’s name), and written out simply enough that I could usually get the idea from the Spanish before double-checking with the English. (My Spanish is probably somewhere between beginning and intermediate.)

As a short story collection, this isn’t thrilling. The stories themselves are interesting, but they’re deliberately written simply enough for student reading. If you’re a Spanish student, it’s a great book. It gives you culture and practice at the same time. But if you already speak Spanish fluently, or if you’re just planning on reading the English versions and skipping the Spanish, you should go with something else. It’s not interesting enough to stand on its own, outside the classroom. ♦

The Lost Symbol

LostSymbol

Dan Brown is best known for The Da Vinci Code. Of course, after loving the fast-action code-breaking of Da Vinci, I started reading other Dan Brown books. The Lost Symbol grabbed my attention because it’s about Freemasons, and I’m already interested in them.

Like all Dan Brown novels, The Lost Symbol certainly shouldn’t be taken as historical fact; but Brown does his research well enough to still tell an excellent story that’s mostly based on truth, with just enough fiction to spin it all wildly out of control. Having said that, I’m starting to see through his edge-of-your-seat writing to the tried-and-true formulas that he always seems to use:

  • The first scene will be gripping and morbid. Probably a death and subsequent disfigurement. Although in this one, it’s just death threats.
  • The next scene is usually the one introducing Robert Langdon, who is in his forties but still in excellent shape due to swimming laps. Emphasis is placed on how in-shape he is for his age. Also, women desire him, but he’s not really sure why.
  • In a few scenes, we’ll introduce the villain. He is naked. The reason he is naked is so Brown can describe how toned and intimidating his body is; nobody else (besides the reader) is present. The villain (a man) is also naked because he is somehow obsessed with his body, and paying special attention to it. In this case, reveling in weird tattoos.
  • Now for the female interest: mousy science nerd who is still irresistibly attractive. She is also not aware of how attractive she is. She is conveniently single, and Langdon’s age. At some point during this first introduction, Brown will describe her skin as “Mediterranean.”

I could go on, but I won’t. The main thing is, Brown is predictable. If you don’t like his writing style, you don’t need to bother reading any more; they’re all pretty much the same. The good news is, if you like his writing style, you’re probably going to like everything he writes. The Lost Symbol actually did surprise me a few times, it delivered all the action and suspense I wanted, and told me a great deal about American history and Freemasonry that I didn’t know (and should probably fact-check.) At any rate, it piqued my interest.

If you like action movies/books, this is a great one. If you want high literature, you should read something else. But this book is an excellent ride.