Wednesday, March 9, 2011

My favorite book of all time, blame it on U2

Finals have just about started which means that for the next week or so expect there to be a lack of blog entries. Two weeks ago I was way into procrastinating which means that instead of reading for my Clinical class, I was typing up lots of entries. So I've had a little bit of a back log that I can rely on. After that, I have 4 tests in 3 days and then I'm home for a workshop. I know, who spends their Spring Break learning?!

Normally when I'm on break from school I spent the first two days completely vegging out. My brain is tired. I need to rest, sleep, watch lots of BBC miniseries (one of my favorites is Wives and Daughters), and eating anything with cheese on it. When I come out of my coma, I start reading. Not for school, but fun things.

For years I worked at the Modern Language Association, and every year for their convention staffers would get discounts on books, and even better discounts on the last day of the convention when vendors would try to unload their cargo so as not to have to ship it back. I've acquired at least two dozen novels this way, and I'm still trying to get through all of them. It's not like I haven't had HS, a BA, an MA, and now a PhD and countless other books to slow me down. One of those books is one that I consider to be an absolute favorite, only rivaled by Catcher in the Rye.

Gloria, by Keith Maillard, is more or less the female version of Catcher in the Rye, except it's about a girl, so you know she actually gets her stuff together at the end. At the time I read this book, I was hot off of reading Catcher and was really into reading things about characters who wanted to break away from their society (The Bell Jar was next on my list). It's been almost about 9 years since "Gloria" by U2 prompted me to pick up this book, but my affection for it has not changed.

The title character is a young woman of wealth and privilege. Her life is set out for her, look pretty, go to college, find a husband. But somewhere she decides that maybe looking pretty isn't the most important thing, and pursuing her dreams could possibly more fulfilling than finding a husband. Nowadays we are lucky because we can do both (and many of us often do), but back in the 1950s that wasn't an option. And Gloria explores one woman's struggle to decide what's best for her.

Years after reading this book, it is still the first thing I suggest to people when they want to find a good novel (although I'm upset to find that it's out of print and you have to buy it used); and I still can't believe a man wrote it. Maillard is an excellent writer, who at a time when everyone wants to write quickly and make us keep turning pages chooses to slow us down and make us think. Gloria is a very slow read, but the way the author writes Gloria's thoughts and the fact that attention is actually paid to some of the higher elements of literacy is worth it.

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