Ever get annoyed? Ever feel like someone needs to be told where the dog died? Or handed a crowbar and a tub of Elbow Grease to help them pry their head out of their arse? Congratulations--you've come to the right place.

And when I'm not commenting on the latest thing to piss me off, I'm trying to figure out my own twisted life. Because, hey, I'm like that.

On a gentler note: for anyone dealing with depression, anxiety, and other assorted bullshit: You are NOT alone.

And if you're looking for a laugh, search on the key word "fuckery." It's just my little thing (as the bishop said to the actress).

Monday, January 10, 2011

Stop the Madness! A sensible reading challenge

I have read (yet another) blog post on (yet another) reading challenge for the new year.

C'mon, people! WHAT'S THE FUCKING POINT?!?!?!? I'm finding just finding the time to read hard enough as it is. Have you seen my Amazon wish list? Or my "to read" list on Good Reads? And we won't discuss how far behind I am on creating the YA bibliography for the library web site. (We REALLY won't discuss that--all suggestions GLADLY taken!)

I am really sick of these "reading challenges." I think they're artificial and intellectually dumb.

Yes, I said that--INTELLECTUALLY DUMB. Inevitably, these are not about "fun reading"--they all seem to involve Great Literature, and for me, as the Literature Teacher's Nightmare*, it just puts me even more off on them than I already am. I mean, I'm having a hard time reading Terry Pratchett these days, never mind Shakespeare (and I LOVE Shakespeare). I'm even finding Stephen King a challenge, and Uncle Stevie is usually a cakewalk, uncomfortable literary comfort food.

I don't get the point of encouraging high consumption of reading material--I think I know too many slow readers, difficult readers, and people who just either have zero time or zero focus to read. And when I see some of these reading lists... *growl* I read The Great Gatsby my sophomore year of high school: trust me, there was nothing "great" about it. I have previously bitched about Dickens, the Brontes, Flaubert... even Stoker gets to me some times, and I love a good horror tale. (I really do!) Lovecraft--there's a reason for short stories, and it's Lovecraft. I don't think I could read a novelful of his prose. Even Twain, as hysterical and fabulous as his work is (FUCK YOU, YOU POLITICALLY CORRECT FASCIST BASTARDS!!!!!!!!! MAY YOU ROAST OVER SLOW FIRES IN HELL WITH YOUR HANDS REPEATEDLY CHOPPED FROM YOUR WRISTS AND ACID POURED ON THE STUMPS ONLY TO REGROW AND GO THROUGH IT AGAIN FOR ETERNITY FOR YOUR IGNORANT CENSORSHIP AND HISTORICAL COWARDICE! Yes, I am still upset over the new edition of Huckleberry Finn. Yes, I want to sponsor a readout of the novel to protest. Yes, I have issues with censorship, even if I personally eschew use of the n-bomb.)

Anyway, as I was saying... I really have issues with the whole "great books" thing, and I don't know that we're doing ANYONE a service by pushing them. In my experience, the best way to a great book is to find your own path there. I'm not saying recommendations aren't welcome, I'm saying that putting them on lists and insisting they are Great Books is a bit off-putting to those of us who have been duped before.

So here's MY throwdown--the Official Empress Reading Challenge for 2011: I want you, my darling blurkers, to read a book. A GOOD book, a book that moves you in some way--I don't care if it pisses you off, makes you cry, gets you off, makes you happy, or scares the pants off of you. It can be a novel or a graphic novel, possibly a short story--it's up to you. The thing is, you've got to tell ME about it. Leave a comment on the blog, below this post, and the person who can motivate me to read their choice wins. I'll even give out second and third prizes.

Up for grabs... First prize is a $25 (American or Canadian) Amazon gift card (or the equivalent thereof in other currencies); second prize is a handmade by me Critter, Funky Monkey or Dust Bunny (your choice!); third gets cookies (homemade! allergies allowed for!).

Deadline: February 28th. That's right, I'm giving you almost two months, so the slow readers have a chance.

* i.e. a highly intellligent, analytical and vocal class participant who reads "great books" and can't figure out WHAT THE FUCK IS SO GODSDAMNED GREAT ABOUT THEM!!!!!!


  1. Does it have to be a new book we've never read, or can it be an old favorite that we're in the process of re-reading at the moment... like I am currently reading? LOL

  2. Re-reads are totally acceptable--this contest is about the JOY of reading (as opposed to the CHORE of reading). Move me, dammit--make me want to go right out, RIGHT NOW and get that book!

    BTW, if you are shy and don't want to shout it out via comment, you CAN email me at lisa.empress@gmail. But be forewarned that your name and description will be posted if you win. I WON'T take points off for spelling and grammar, but please... make an effort. KTHXBAI!

  3. I'm going to steer you towards a pair of childhood favorites: "Absolute Zero" and "Bagthorpes v. the World" by Helen Cresswell, both of which you can find at the BPL. They are books two and four in "The Bagthorpe Saga," a series of novels about an eccentric English family and their one levelheaded but unconfident son, Jack. There are eight other books in the series, but these two are far and away the best. They are HILARIOUS - a perfect mix of dry wit, character-based humor, hilarious comic set pieces and plot. The world would be a better place if more people started giggling the moment they heard the phrase "all the bees are ded." Or "reconciling the seemingly disparate." Or "selectively deaf." Or the name "Arry Awk."

    There's a lovely review of the entire series here:


  4. For some reason, the attempt at a direct link redirects to a totally random page on their site. Use their search engine and search for "Bagthorpe," then click on the first link.

  5. I have chosen "The Last Picture Show" by Larry McMurtry; let you know what I think.


  6. Okay! Finished reading "The Last Picture Show" last night. Published in 1966 it is the first of one of Larry McMurtry's many sagas about life in varied places.

    Set in Thalia, TX, a town probably a lot like Larry's hometown, McMurtry paints a small-town life around the time of the Korean War (which is only alluded to). It is a very small town with very little to do in it; the characters are well-drawn, some of them nuts, some of them very human.

    A lot of looking in at the human feelings as well as failings of a lot of these people. It mostly goes around the life and times of a high school kid named Sonny Crawford, his friends and the characters who hang out at the three hotspots in town, the pool hall, the diner and of course the picture show.

    As stark and minimalist as the settings are, they are just enough to give you the idea of what the town is like, and how messed up a lot of these people are. A good read, and this honestly for me is a classic contemporary novel.

    Good stuff.

  7. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick.

    I have read so many darling and great books over the past few months that have drawn me into their world and lifted me up with good story or nourished my imagination. None have left me so bewitched and entranced as this book, especially as it has almost no words.

    The art, the story, all of it haunting and vivid. It embraces both fantasy and the gritty reality of life. It is a fast read, and yet I find that I spend minutes taking in each story board drawing.

    it is an unusual tale, it is made with an eye for the beauty in the mundane, and it is something that can simply be picked up and admired over and over again.

    I love this book, and for me it is the closest equivalent I have come to finding a book that I would place next to Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell.

    The story involves an orphan, clock work, history, and early cinematography. It is probably the most beautiful book I have ever read.


  8. I recommend the book Plain Kate by Erin Bow and I loved it. The writing was beautiful and the story was amazing. The story follows Plain Kate who is a woodcarver in her village. But times are hard and people are looking for someone to blame. It's not long before Kate and her seemingly magical powers with her knife are suspect. She runs away, trading her shadow to a witch for supplies. She meets up with a band of gypsy like travelers.