Monday, December 28, 2009

Favorite 2009 Reads

As it is now the end of December, we're being inundated with "Best of 2009" and "Best of the Decade Lists." I've written many of these articles myself and usually find them to be little more than space fillers, but I do appreciate a chance to look back over the past year.

In 2009 I read 38 books, though most weren't published this year. I wouldn't pick up the majority again, though many of them were great reads. Herewith, the 10 best books I read in 2009.

1. The Magician's Elephant, by Kate DiCamillo

I've said many times how I find DiCamillo's writing luminous, moving and beautiful. In The Magician's Elephant, she takes it to a whole new level, telling the story of an orphan in search of his sister.

2. The Believer Book of Writers Talking to Writers, edited by Vendela Vida

The writers featured are a mix of well-known and up-and-coming authors, and the intelligence of both the interviewers and interviewees makes this a dynamic read.

3. The Member of the Wedding, by Carson McCullers

After trying and failing to read The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, I picked up this novella and immediately fell in love with 12-year-old Frankie, her cousin John Henry West and her maid Berenice, the main characters in this tragic tale.

4. Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace

Reading Infinite Jest is the most ambitious reading project I ever undertook, and for that reason it is on this list. It's not the best book I read all year, but it was great, as was the satisfaction I felt when turning the last page.

5. City of Refuge, by Tom Piazza

The story of two very different experiences with Hurricane Katrina, City of Refuge is a heart-breaking, gorgeously-written story. I loved it.

6. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson

I rarely read thrillers, but like to pick them up on occasion. Larsson's intricate, electric tale is terrific.

Honorable mentions: The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Diaz; Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, by Wells Tower; Looking for Alaska, by John Green; and Garlic and Sapphires, The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise, by Ruth Reichl.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Review: The Liars' Club

Has there ever been a truly happy memoir of one’s childhood? Most seem to look back at the usually sad events of one’s early life with wit or nonchalance, as with Mary Karr’s first memoir, 1995’s The Liars’ Club. The overwhelmingly positive responses — including being named to the New York Times Book Review’s top ten books of 2009 — to her third, Lit, impelled me to start at the beginning. Her second, Cherry, was published in 2000.

The Liars’ Club is named for a group of her father’s friends, who spun tall tales while drinking beer when they weren’t working in Texas. But the name comes to include nearly everyone who is part of Karr’s childhood, from the mother who keeps hidden her former marriages, to her grandmother, dying of cancer, who wishes to erase the years of lying. Her older sister Lecia is her fellow traveler, and the two live briefly with their mother in Colorado after she divorces their father. But they return to Texas, to a town that is a producer of Agent Orange, and a black spot on the cancer frequency map.

It’s a tragic tale, filled with death and drinking and rape, but an eloquently told one. Karr is a poet, and her prose takes on a poetic lilt that occasionally betrays the gravity of the scenes she’s describing. This downplaying is expected; the elegance with which it is done is not.

With series and sequels I always take a break between volumes, not wanting them all to run together, and I will here as well. And I’ll likely have to — I had to wait several weeks for The Liars’ Club to arrive on the “C” hold shelf at the Mount Pleasant Library, and Lit hasn’t made a single appearance on the “New Arrivals” shelf.

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Woman's Wit: Jane Austen's Life and Legacy at the Morgan Library and Museum

I was in New York last weekend, and made a visit to the Morgan Library and Museum. I had long been wanting to visit a museum that devoted exhibits to everything from Babar to Puccini, but I was there to see A Woman's Wit: Jane Austen's Life and Legacy, which runs through mid-March.

The exhibit provides a look into Austen's works and life, and includes letters, manuscripts and drawings. You can see early illustrated editions of all her novels, but the most interesting part is the letters that Austen sent and received — she often wrote cross-hatch (writing across horizontal lines at right angles to save space), and her wit is actively on display.

An examination of Austen's legacy also proves interesting, as Nabokov and Kipling spoke very highly of her. We also see how her legacy extends to the modern day, which is evident from a short video that's part of the exhibit. In The Divine Jane: Reflections on Austen, a handful of writers, actors and intellectuals (like Colm Tóibín) discuss their relationship to Austen's work. You can watch it below.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Happy Birthday, Emily Dickinson!

Today would have been Emily Dickinson's 179th birthday. The Belle of Amherst, known for her reclusive tendencies and innovative poetry, was also a baker. Her black cake recipe circulates around a lot, and a version by Margery K. Eagan is below. To taste the cake for yourself (without having to make it!) head to the Folger Shakespeare Library on Monday at 7:30 p.m. for their annual Emily Dickinson Birthday Tribute in the Elizabethan Theatre.

The speaker this year, Lucie Brock-Broido, will read selections from her poetry collection The Master Letters, which was inspired by three letters Dickinson wrote to "Dear Master" but didn't send. Tickets are $12 and include the reading, a conversation and reception with black cake.

Emily Dickinson's Black Cake Recipe

1 ½ cups brandy, divided
3 cups sugar
1 ¾ lbs. raisins
8 oz. currants
8 oz. dried apricots, cut in ½” pieces (size of raisins)
8 oz. pitted prunes, cut in ½” pieces
2 oz. dried pears, cut in ½” pieces
4 oz. pitted dates cut in ½” pieces
1 ½ lbs. soft butter (salted or unsalted)
1 ½ lbs. granulated sugar
13 eggs at room temperature
1 ½ tsp. vanilla
¾ c. molasses
1 ½ lbs. unbleached flour
4 ½ tsp. baking powder
1 ½ tsp. baking soda
1 ½ tsp. salt (or none if using salted butter)
1 ¼ tsp. cinnamon
1 ¼ tsp. ground cloves
1 ¼ tsp. mace
1 ½ tsp. ground nutmeg
¼ tsp. ground cardamom
¼ tsp. ground ginger

The day before baking the cake, if possible, prepare brandy syrup: In a 2 qt. saucepan over medium heat, mix 3 c. sugar with 2 c. water until sugar dissolves. Let cool and add approximately 1 c. brandy (more or less to taste). In a large bowl, toss all raisins, currants, apricots, prunes, pears, and dates with ½ cup brandy. Let stand overnight, preferably, or an hour, or just while you get the other ingredients together.

Preheat oven to 350°.

Butter a 13" X 18" X 2 ½” pan and line with wax paper or parchment: butter paper or parchment. (See notes about using different pans—you don't have to make just one cake.)

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, mace, nutmeg, cardamom, and ginger.

In a separate bowl, cream the butter and gradually add the sugar, keeping mixture light. Add eggs 3 at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping sides of bowl several times to keep mixture uniform. Add vanilla. With mixer going, pour in molasses. Mixture might look broken, but that's ok. On low speed, gradually add sifted dry ingredients, mixing just until flour is incorporated. Place fruit mixture on top of batter, leaving any liquid at the bottom of fruit in the bowl. (Save the liquid and add to the brandy syrup.) Fold fruit into batter, taking care not to overmix. (Note: with this much batter, make sure your spatula is sturdy; otherwise, your hands are your best folding tools.)

Turn batter into pan, smooth the top, and bake for at least one hour, or until the middle top of cake is firm to the touch. The cake will be very dark on top and slightly sunken.

Let cake cool in pan. Invert cake onto large wax paper-covered board and back again onto another board. The paper should prevent the top of the cake from sticking to the board. With a skewer, poke several holes through the cake at 1" intervals. Begin brushing/tapping the brandy-sugar syrup evenly over the cake, allowing a few minutes for the syrup to soak in before brushing on more. If the cake seems moist enough, it may not be necessary to use all the syrup.

Wrap cake well in plastic wrap (or slide it into a large clean plastic bag) and allow to stand for at least 1 hour—or, preferably, a day or two, in a cool place. Slide cake carefully onto a large serving platter. (Or, for a smooth top: invert onto platter.) Keep the cake covered until presentation time.

This recipe makes about 20 cups of batter. Since an average loaf pan uses between 4 and 5 cups of batter, this recipe would make about 4 large loaf cakes. In 9" round pans: probably 5 or 6 layers. You get the idea, though: you can bake the batter in any size and shape. Butter and paper the pans, and fill them about 2/3 full for proper baking.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women

When I was in elementary school, I would read Little Women once a year. I also read nearly every other book Louisa May Alcott wrote, though none since I was about 12. I think Alcott is one of those immensely important writers for young girls, especially those who want to be writers themselves.

A new film Louisa May Alcott, the Woman Behind Little Women airs on PBS on December 28 at 9 p.m. It is based on Harriet Reisen's book of the same name, which came out in October. It looks promising, so I'm planning to check it out.

Several clips are out now to promote the film, including the mildly absurd Five Things You Don't Know About Louisa May Alcott, below.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Why I Use Goodreads, or; A Story in Organization

Once upon a time, I used to write down titles of books I wanted to read on little scraps of paper. These would collect in the bottom of various bags, and I would occasionally transfer them to a list that I would keep in journals. I say occasionally, because more often than not they would disappear and these titles would be lost to me, unless they were classics or new fiction, because those were easy to remember.

Two and a half years ago, I stumbled across Goodreads — I can't remember how — and my literary life hasn't been the same since. Here I can keep track of all the books I've read and those I want to read. I can sub-divide these into lists, like "food books to read" or "favorites." I can see what friends are reading and compare our reading tastes and get ideas for books I might like.

Sure, there are quizzes to take, walls to post on and groups to join, which aren't useful for me, but the best part is the organization it allows for. I can prioritize books I want to read, which helps me quickly request books from the library. I can also make lists of books I'd like to own to share with my mother, who is also on the site, for when she's looking for gift ideas for me (the worthiest outcome of belonging to a social media site, if you ask me). And now you can swap books with other users in the mail, which might be something worth checking out.

Like many people, I have a love-hate relationship with social media, eschewing Facebook but embracing Twitter since it is incredibly useful for my job. I generally think that all these sites, which are designed to connect people, instead make us unable to genuinely connect with someone on a personal level in the way we once did. But unlike these other social media sites, Goodreads is useful for the individual, someone like me who loves being organized but was never quite able to attain it in this one part of my life.

Follow me on Goodreads.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Eating the Dinosaur

Todd contributed this post on Eating the Dinosaur by Chuck Klosterman. To contribute a review or other literary musings to Attic Salt, e-mail


According to the copy on the back of Chuck Klosterman's new collection of essays — copy he presumably wrote himself — the "larger theme" of Eating the Dinosaur is "something about reality… most of the core questions dwell on the way media perception constructs a fake reality that ends up becoming more meaningful than whatever actually happened."

Klosterman is a pop culture pundit. He makes his living writing about and discussing various aspects of our modern world that range from politics and the Internet to Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo and the television show Survivor. This is his sixth book, after two memoirs, an anthology of previously published journalistic essays and interviews, a novel and another collection of original essays. I've been following the guy for quite a while now and my opinion of him used to rise and fall by the extent to which I agreed with his opinions on a given film or band.

In Eating the Dinosaur, Klosterman has come into his own as a philosopher for the modern age. While he's previously been indispensible as a thinker and talking head in the consumption and analysis of popular culture, I think he has advanced now to a point where I would say his work is finally "Capital I" Important.

There is an overarching theme here, as stated, that was missing in his previous book of essays, Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs. From the quoted description, you'd think he might just be discussing cable news and the Internet. However, while those certainly come into play here, they are but two of several topics that get strung together in surprising and confounding theses that actually affect a deeper and more complicated engagement with the pervasive culture in which we all have no choice but to inhabit.

In "Oh, the Guilt," Klosterman draws a lengthy comparison between Kurt Cobain in his final days as a rock star and David Koresh, leader of the Branch Davidian sect that was burned alive at Waco. Both men, he posits, were victims of an iconography that they only kind-of asked for and couldn't handle, emotionally. In the final section of the book, "FAIL," he issues a lengthy treatise on the prophetic nature of Ted Kaczynski's manifesto "Industrial Society and Its Future." Klosterman ties this into a feeling, reflected throughout the book, that in the Information Age we have lost control of our technologies and are now slaves running along a superhighway with a minimum speed limit far beyond our reach.

But it's not all as heavy-handed as that summary might imply. At his most serious, Klosterman drops references to pop music and reality television and keeps the tone light and digestable. He also never preaches. As I closed the book I was left with a definite sense of paranoia about the world I live in, but simultaneously my fears were assuaged by Klosterman's optimism and intellectual bonhomie.

At the same time, what makes the book so important is that any conclusions reached about society or popular culture will vary wildly from reader to reader. Klosterman isn't afraid to say "I don't know;" he's merely in the business of asking questions that need to be asked. It's easy to write an essay about the inherent stupidity of the sitcom laugh track; Klosterman asks us to consider the laugh track's relationship to an American's daily dosage of 'courtesy laughter,' and what it says about us as a people that the device perseveres, like a cockroach, to this day.

I generally try to promote discussion of those aspects of our popular culture that generally go ignored by the intellectuals. The high-brow must consider the low-brow, and vice-versa. Survivor may be a bread and circus show for middle Americans condescended by coastal liberals, but it's also a thrilling examination of rat-in-a-maze sociology. At the same time, left-wing hero Ralph Nader must be considered as the swing of the 2000 election that sent America down the rabbit hole. We must consider all sides; we are all, in fact, in this together. In the simple battle to keep a conversation going, Klosterman is my brother-in-arms. Fight the good fight, man.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Review: Netherland

The cover of the paperback copy of Joseph O’Neill’s Netherland declares that it is not only a national bestseller but also the winner of the Pen/Faulkner Award and a New York Times Book Review Best Book of the Year, accomplishments that make it both a critical and popular success. Plus, President Obama loved it, and who doesn’t want to take book recommendations from the President of the United States? It recently took me a couple weeks to read Netherland, despite being a volume of 256 pages, and while there were points where I was ready to declare O'Neill my new favorite writer, at many others I was lost, wondering why he was writing what he was.

Netherland is the story of Hans, who is from The Hague, but is working in London's financial sector around the turn of the 21st century, when he and his wife Rachel, a lawyer, decide to relocate to New York. We know what that means — September 11 is going to play a role. In New York, Hans begins to play cricket, a sport he played in his youth, and which unearths memories of his childhood in the Netherlands.

Hans’ friendship with Chuck Ramkissoon, a Trinidadian immigrant, cricket umpire and businessman, and his relationship with Rachel, which is beginning a slow decline into irrelevance, are smashed together in Hans’ chronologically mixed up tale. O'Neill weaves the stories together in such a way that neither feels like it is being fully told — not necessarily a problem, but here I wished for more.

When I began Netherland, I was sitting in the library and read the first 10 pages before dinner. Afterwards, I told everyone at dinner how I just started the most brilliant book, one reminiscent of an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, like this passage from the second page:
Now that I, too, have left that city, I find it hard to rid myself of the feelng that life carries a taint of aftermath. This last-mentioned word, somebody once told me, referes literally to a second mowing of grass in the same season. You might say, if you're the type prone to general observations, that New York City insists on memory's repetitive mower — on the sort of purposeful post-mortem that has the effect, so one is told and forlornly hopes, of cutting the grassy past to manageable proportions.
The next time I picked up the book, it felt like an entirely different work, one without the same magic I found in the introductory pages. I found myself caring less and less about Hans' mid-life crises and about nearly anything that involved Chuck. O'Neill devotes less time to the motley crew that resides at the Chelsea Hotel than I would like. But I kept reading, and there were sections where 50 pages would slip away with little effort, and I found myself re-reading lines, the surest sign that I admire an author's writing. While Netherland isn't the impeccable gem I thought it would turn out to be, it is a wonderfully-written novel, and a melancholy assessment of post-9/11 life.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

The Invention of Hugo Cabret, with its hundreds of charcoal illustrations, film stills and hefty length, may be an atypical children’s book but the 2007 tome received much-deserved praise — it was awarded the Caldecott Medal last year and is being adapted for the screen.

Author Brian Selznick made a name for himself as an illustrator of children’s books, but The Invention of Hugo Cabret should make him a household name in the world of children’s literature. But with complex narrative structures, a richly imagined plot and more than 500 pages, The Invention of Hugo Cabret holds appeal for adults as well, particularly those with an interest in early cinema, a topic Selznick explores with a combination of deftness and whimsy.

The story, which is set in the 1930s, follows 12-year-old Hugo Cabret, who lives in a Paris train station, repairing clocks. An orphan, Hugo lives with his uncle, who mysteriously disappears one night, forcing Hugo to maintain a façade that his uncle is alive so he will not be sent to live in an orphanage.

Keeping him going is the fact that he holds a notebook bequeathed to him by his father, who repaired an automaton that he discovered in an old museum and wrote step-by-step instructions on how to do so in the notebook. A fire at the museum destroys the automaton and kills Hugo’s father, so for Hugo, finding and repairing the mechanical figure is imperative, since he is convinced that his father will be able to send him a message through the automaton.

Unfortunately for Hugo, who has brought the broken automaton to the station, he is forced to hand over the notebook to the man who runs the toy shop in the train station after he tries to steal toy parts. Hugo is unable to fix it until he meets a young girl, Isabelle, who wears the key to the automaton around her neck. Isabelle lives with the old man who runs the toyshop and she steals the notebook back for Hugo. Once repaired, the automaton draws a picture that sets the lives of all the characters in flux as strange histories and relationships emerge.

Words and illustrations pick up where the other left off seamlessly: pictures don’t illustrate the text; rather they stand alone, carrying the story forward. This device allows Selznick to tell a story that blends the literary and the artistic, appealing to the senses and drawing the reader further into the imaginative world that the author inhabits.

Selznick’s style, consisting of short paragraphs and sentences, is perfect for the 9-12 range, but The Invention of Hugo Cabret is more Hemingway novel than Dick and Jane book. Selznick writes:
Sometimes I come up here at night, even when I’m not fixing the clocks, just to look at the city. I like to imagine that the world is one big machine. You know, machines never have any extra parts. They have the exact number and type of parts they need. So I figure if the world is a big machine, I have to be here for some reason. And that means you have to be here for some reason, too.
The Invention of Hugo Cabret is closely tied to the early days of cinema — Selznick delves into a semi-fictionalized plumbing of early French filmmaker Georges Méliès, who appears as a character in the book, and includes film stills from Méliès’ A Trip to the Moon, a classic 1902 short. The focus on early film, coupled with illustrations, gives the book a cinematic quality that filmmakers will likely find easy to harness.

Adapted from a review originally published in the Washington Blade.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Portraits and Observations: The Essays of Truman Capote

It seems that in the past few years Truman Capote has transcended his status as a writer. The subject of two biopics (Capote and Infamous, released in 2005 and 2006, respectively), Capote also threw the famous Black and White Ball that was the topic of a recent book (Deborah Davis’ Party of the Century: The Fabulous Story of Truman Capote and His Black and White Ball). This recent Capote-mania has sealed his status as cultural icon, a position that isn’t dependent on his literary output, which gets a re-examination in Portraits and Observations: The Essays of Truman Capote.

Released in late 2007, the book is a collection of all the essays Capote ever published, some of which haven’t been released since their initial publication. The book seems to be an attempt to revive Capote’s reputation as a serious writer, and though hardly successful overall, some of the essays are a delight to read.

The chronological arrangement of Portraits and Observations traces the arc of Capote’s writing career. His body of work undergoes a distinct change around the time of In Cold Blood’s publication in 1966 — early pieces that are bright and promising give way to weary essays that miss their mark. Capote’s writing, like his life, peaked with In Cold Blood, a novel that drove him to drink and resulted in a steady decline in literary success.

The essay topics in Portraits and Observations are wide-ranging — everything from travel snapshots to meditations on celebrities to Capote himself comes under his discerning eye. His writing is descriptive and rich, and his slightly longer observations are the best examples of his nonfiction writing, suggesting that it generally takes more works for Capote to successfully present his subjects — despite believing himself to be a “spare” writer.

A snippet of “Self-Portrait” explains Capote’s seeming arrogance in his work:
Honestly, I don’t give a damn what anybody says about me, either privately or in print. Of course, that was not true when I was young and first began to publish. And it is not true now on one count — a betrayal of affection can still traumatically disturb me. Otherwise, defeat and criticism are matters of indifference, remote as the mountains of the moon.
A number of the 42 pieces are fine examples of what Capote can do, but there are also some that are simply frivolous — self-interviews with Capote give us insight into his psyche, but don’t do much to help his literary reputation. The same is true with brief snippets culled from a book he did with Richard Avedon — these “portraits” don’t really say anything about their subjects (on director John Huston — “He is a man of obsessions rather than passions, and a romantic cynic who believes that all endeavor, virtuous or evil or simply plodding, receives the same honorarium: a check in the amount of zero.”)

A later highlight is “Handmade Coffins,” Capote’s “nonfiction account of an American crime” from 1979, written as an interview and achieving the narrative voice that Capote seems to lose sight of as time passes. Other compelling pieces are “Lola,” a story about Capote’s pet raven, and the famous 1956 profile of Marlon Brando, whom Capote meets at a hotel in Kyoto.

Portraits and Observations begins with a look at New Orleans, where he was born, and leads into essays about a New York and Brooklyn that seem to be indistinguishable from the Southern city. The book closes with “Remembering Willa Cather,” which Capote wrote the day before his death in 1984, and touches on his relatives in New Orleans and Alabama. Each of his writings is imbued with an inescapable nostalgia for the South — despite calling the Big Apple his city, his writings suggest that the tormented writer never really left his bittersweet childhood behind.

This review was originally published in the Washington Blade.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Boyfriend List

Todd, who is also known as my boyfriend, contributed this post on The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart. To contribute a review or other literary musings to Attic Salt, e-mail


A friend of mine (and contributor for The Misfits' Book Club) has been relentlessly throwing young adult fiction at me all year. Her most recent recommendation was the work of E. Lockhart, who's had her name on seven books in four years with an eighth due in 2010. Her 2005 debut was The Boyfriend List, which follows the exploits of high schooler Ruby Oliver as she suffers through a particularly heartbreaking sophomore year. This is the first in a series. If you told me last week I was going to get really into the four-book saga of a heartsick fifteen-year-old girl, I might've doubted you.

The book is structured against Ruby's list of the fifteen boys that have been, in one way or another, subject to her affections. Each gets his own chapter as Ruby dissects the relationships (or lack thereof) with her therapist. Sure, it sounds groan-worthy, but the novel, like any good work unfairly ghettoized onto that "young adult" shelf, quickly transcends its gimmickry thanks in part to expert plotting but mostly to Lockhart's uncanny ear for her young protagonist's voice.

Ruby is a dazzling creation. She makes coy use of footnotes and slang and has favorite words that she overuses. Ruby is the most lifelike narrator I've read in a while, flawed and selfish yet self-aware, in pursuit of self-improvement and validation. She's also profoundly sad and misunderstood, the victim of a social network that emphasizes labels and hierarchies and flourishes through texting and emailing but fails to promote any kind of real communication.

As with most high school-set stories of heartbreak, teenagers' inability to communicate honestly with each other is the thematic focus of The Boyfriend List. Ruby allows herself to be groped in a movie theater by a jock she barely knows (she discovers she kind of likes it); she responds to a sincere display of friendship by Boy #14 with a harmful and cruel "Fuck off." It's one in a string of devastating moments, leading me to desire throughout the story that I might sit Ruby down and impart some brotherly advice.

But the mistakes of adolescence are as easy to rue with perfect hindsight as they are to make, blindly, in the moment. The book is filled with astonishing set pieces that are far more exciting and suspenseful than I would've expected from a first-person coming-of-age story such as this. One breathless sequence revolves around the day the senior class is passing out roses and carnations ordered by friends, crushes, lovers and secret admirers among the underclassmen. Ruby waits all day in the hope that she will receive the right flowers, watching as friends count their stems like so much loose change. It unfolds like the final-act heist in a crime movie.

The Boyfriend List comes across as Mean Girls without the satirical sheen — the harsh truths imparted here with comic relief as opposed to the other way around — and it works just as well. In fact, there are several plot points which mirror that film. It leads up to a girls' room confrontation by two former best friends which poses Ruby on her knees, her lap soaking wet. As symbolism goes, it's pretty weighty for a YA book, which just goes to remind you that you can't ignore something just because you're not in the marketed-to demographic. I have a hundred other books to read, but the sequels to this are going to leap high in priority just as soon as I pay off my overdue fines at the Chicago Public Library.