SD Alternative

“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope. Which is what I do, and that enables you to laugh at life’s realities.” - Dr. Seuss

Reading

Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster

Rescued from the “additional romance — $1 each — buy 4 get 1 free” section of the bookstore. (The only difference between “additional” and “regular” romance is that the regular romance is longer and costs $2.) Misleading summary aside, Daddy Long Legs is not romance, but it is charming and funny and militant and SHORT and I totally recommend it to everyone.

Plot: orphan girl is sent to an unnamed women’s college in Connecticut (Smith?) courtesy of a mysterious benefactor; the only stipulation is that she write to him once a month. The book was written in 1912 (before women had the vote) and serves as a kind of object lesson in the ability of women (and orphans, and children) to think and reason independently. XD Not only does the narrator express radical opinions in her letters, she does it in a creative way (with pictures!) so that you can totally believe that she could have won a scholarship on the strength of her English composition.

Good book, short (I finished in a couple hours), recommended. It’s a shame about the end though. ^^; Fun fact: Jean Webster did, in fact, grow up in an orphanage an orphan.

***

The News From Paraguay by Lily Tuck

Another book I want to recommend to everyone. XD Based strongly on the life of an actual person — Ella Lynch, a beautiful Irish woman who leaves Paris and a Russian count (though actually he leaves her first) to be the mistress of Francisco Solano Lopez, future dictator of Paraguay. The story takes place in the mid-1800s and is told in short sections (including letters from Ella, omniscient asides, and close third-person perspectives from various characters) which add up to form the total picture. This book is HILARIOUSly dark and includes sections like the following:

Instead of babtism, to satisfy Ella, Franco commanded a 101-gun salute in honor of his son. The reverberations from the huns were so powerful that they caused several buildings under construction in Asunción to collapse; also one of the imported English field artillery rifles had not been cleaned properly and it backfired. The battery landed on the hospital and killed and injured a large number of the patients in their sickbeds.

I read that out loud to [info]apintrix and she thought it sounded like magical realism, due to the matter-of-fact relating of a series of improbable events. The book does, actually, sound a little bit like Marquez (so the blurb on the back was right for once!), especially because the humor is all understatement. But at the same time, it’s verrry different — the magical realists, even when they’re writing about massacres, still manage to sound hopeful, or at least there’s the sense that through all of the horror they’ve managed to keep a sense of humor. This book is nearly the opposite: the light, frothing atmosphere suddenly turns dark; inoffensive characters are revealed as secret sadists; tragedies pile up.

But the narration stays light. XD Though I do think I like the earlier sections, where Tuck was more free to invent detail, more than the later sections, where I suspect she had more historical material to work into the narrative. Another thing to note about the book is that it uses Spanish as a literary device in the same way that I’m used to seeing French (or Latin — but knowing French is normally way more useful for reading English literature). I’ve had to stop to look up phrases.

(Confession time: I also had to look Paraguay up on a map, when I began. ^^; I knew it and Uruguay were between Argentina and Brazil, but I couldn’t remember which was the landlocked country and which was the one with Montevideo for a capital. (Answer: Paraguay’s the one in the heart-of-the-jungle.) So on top of reading an entertaining book, I get to educate myself about 19th century Paraguay.)