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August 19, 2012

Sunday Morning Book Thread 08-19-2012 [OregonMuse]


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Holy crap, it's the 19th *already*? Where did August go?

Good morning morons and moronettes and welcome to the insouciant and deliciously piquant Sunday Morning book thread.

Books I Read When I Was Young

Some books just stay with you for your entire life. For whatever reason. It has nothing to do with the quality of the book or when you read it, something about it just sticks deep in your mind, and even years later, you find memories of it come bubbling up into your consciousness at odd and unexpected times.

I have two examples.

The first is Up the Down Staircase, which was a bestseller back in the 60s. It's a novel about a newly-minted New York City public school teacher's first year of teaching in a resource-poor, inner-city high school. What makes it interesting is that it isn't written in the usual narrative style, but is rather a collection of written documents and notes that a school teacher would see, i.e. official memos from the school administration, notes passed by students in class, completed homework assignments, items posted on bulletin boards, things found in a wastebasket, and letters written by the main character to her best friend who is an older and more experienced teacher. Woven into thie patchwork of seemingly random written materials are the story of what happens during this first tumultuous school year and the various characters that all play a role in it.

I believe that this is the only book that that the author, Bel Kaufman, ever wrote.

I have no idea why I remember this book so well. Looking back, though, it's amusing what was considered dysfunctional in the 60s vs. what is dysfunctional today.

They made a movie of Staircase back then, too, but I can't recommend it. The nature of this story is such that it absolutely depends on a very strong performace by the lead role, the young, book-learning-smart-but-naive teacher. If you don't have that, the movie will fail. They gave the part to an actress named Sandy Dennis, and even though this is a minority opinion (according to the glowing imdb.com reviews), I think she was absolutely dreadful and completely ruined the movie.

So there you are.


The second book, The Bridge At Andau, a non-fiction book by James Michener is one I got from school. The Catholic primary school I went to was hooked up with some Scholastic Book Service and we could order a variety of books inexpensively. Bridge deals with the Soviet Union's brutal repression of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. This is where I first became acquainted with the all but unspeakable evil a communist thug regime was capable of -- and the amazing resiliency of its victims, and what impossible hardships they will endure to fight or flee from it.

There's a hilarious 1-star review of Bridge at Amazon that complains of it being "one-sided" and "anti-communist". Seriously.

Great googly moogly, where do these idiots come from?

And speaking of Soviet tyranny, some morons in one of yesterday's threads recommended MiG Pilot by John Barron. It is out of print, but available used.

As always, book thread tips may be sent to aoshqbookthread@gmail.com

Hopefully, you all have been reading some good stuff this week. Let's hear about it!

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