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July 11, 2013

Throwback Thursday: Sex, Love...and a Hatchet?

Posted by nicole

Hi readers! It's been a while, huh? Hope you all enjoyed your long holiday weekend, and took the opportunity to exercise all of your personal liberties (read: drink a lot of beer). Over the break our intern, Anthony, left us, and we will miss him dearly, and Carla couldn't make it in this week, so our ranks have diminished quite a bit. But time marches ever onward, and we must continue to throwback even in the face of great hangovers and great loss. Here are our picks this week:

Nicole: LOLITA
Where do I even begin? The best Russian literary novelist of the twentieth-century, Vladimir Nabokov, so beautifully convinces his readers that middle-aged Humbert Humbert needs to capture the heart (among other things) of prepubescent Dolores Haze --- nicknamed Lolita. A controversial, cult classic that is also a NSFW unorthodox love story, Nabokov eloquently and whole-heartedly writes the most complex characters, who possess the most compelling and intriguing affection for one another. The unique prose style in conjunction with the thematic extremes make you question your moral understandings and interpretations of love.

I read MARJORIE MORNINGSTAR the summer before I started tenth grade in a misguided attempt to fulfill my school’s summer reading requirement (the book, it turns out, was assigned, so you can imagine my embarrassment when I had absolutely no idea how to fill out an in-class essay on HEART OF DARKNESS). Despite my mistake, MARJORIE was one of the books that moved me most at that time in my life. We’ve already established that I was a moony young person, and the Herman Wouk novel was the perfect combination of romanticism and fatalism, with a healthy dose of cynicism that was (at the time) way over my head. Marjorie Morgenstern is a young Jewish girl living in Manhattan who dreams of becoming a famous actress. One summer she meets the older and more sophisticated (seemingly) composer, Noel Airman, at acting camp, and falls head over kitten heels in love with him. I did, too, to know one’s surprise, because he was blond and skinny and wore artsy black turtlenecks even in the summer. Noel constantly suspects Marjorie of being a “Shirley” --- which is just kind of a regular, in-the-box, marriage-hungry girl (this is the 1930s) --- and goes through this whole torrid back-and-forth love with her, but mostly with the idea of her. Guys, this blew my mind when I was 15. I didn’t have any real-life experience of love, but I was still kind of obsessed with it, and cried so many tears about Marjorie’s love and Noel’s love and my own love, and *spoiler alert* was completely devastated when she ended up with some regular schlub at the end.

In Middle School I was the kind of kid who didn’t like when teachers told me what to read. I loved the hour every day --- called silent sustained reading --- when I got to read the book of my choice. Yet I disliked how I was required to read books that I simply expressed no interest in. I was a rebel of sorts, and I did not see the point in reading books if they were not enjoyable. When it became mandatory for my sixth grade class to read THE RIVER --- book two in Gary Paulsen’s Brian’s Saga series --- I was initially reluctant and uninterested. However, looking back, I am glad my teacher fit it into the curriculum. THE RIVER soon became one of my favorite childhood books. The plot follows Brian Robeson --- a 14-year-old boy who had previously survived in the wilderness for 54 days with nothing but a hatchet. A few years later, the government asks Brian to return to the wilderness once more so the military can learn the survival techniques that somehow kept him alive. So Brian and Derek Holtzer, a government psychologist, journey to a remote location somewhere in the Canadian wilderness. Sounds simple enough, right? Not quite. Like most adventure books worth reading, the trip soon takes a grim turn --- like when lightning knocks Derek into a coma and destroys the emergency contact radio. Brian must once again survive on his own in unfamiliar and dangerous territory --- except this time the life of another man rests in his hands. When Brian builds a raft to transport Derek to an emergency post down the river, I found myself reading deeper into the book than my homework assignment required. I was relieved when Brian made it to the emergency post and, for the second time, defeated nature. Paulsen truly has a unique style for telling adventure stories and a gift for keeping young readers enthralled. While THE RIVER may not be required reading in every youngster’s classroom, I highly recommend it for anyone craving a well-written survival story.

I read WALK TWO MOONS by Sharon Creech when I was in the fifth grade. I knew it was going to be on the required reading list for school, so being a nerd, I naturally read it over the summer so I could get a head start for class.  I liked the book from the beginning --- it’s narrated by 13-year-old Salamanca as she takes a road trip with her sweet but crazy grandparents to go visit her mother, who has recently left Sal and her father for reasons unknown. As the story unfolded, I had more and more questions, not only about the circumstances surrounding Sal’s mother’s disappearance, but also ones involving the nature of muesli, which was oddly central to the plot, and the realization that I probably could not locate Idaho on a map. When (spoiler alert) it is revealed that Sal’s mother has been dead the whole time a la Bruce Willis at the end of Sixth Sense, I felt betrayed, confused and, ultimately, sad. This was the first book I remember to make me feel something other than mild entertainment, and to make me feel a connection with characters on a deeper level than I had ever felt before. And so, as Sal uncovered difficult but important truths about life and death, I did too. Even now as an almost-adult, the lessons I first learned from WALK TWO MOONS remain surprisingly relevant and valuable, though I’m admittedly still a little confused about the nuances of dry breakfast foods and the geography of the Midwest.