13 books finished in 2015: Catcher in the Rye

13 books finished in 2015

I wrote this haiku mid-way through the book. I may have called it a Catcher in the Rye-ku:

Holden Caulfield is a punk.
Why do we read this?

(It was an exciting moment when I counted out those first five syllables.)

Let’s see…here are the things I knew about this book before I read it:
-Mel Gibson compulsively purchases copies of this book in Conspiracy Theory. And, from that movie, I also learned that the book is links to multiple assassinations.
-It’s found on most high school reading lists, and also on the banned/challenged book list.
-My eye is always drawn to that simple cover design.

I was a little surprised to discover that it was about a day in the life of a rich white prep-school kid from NYC. Of course, it was an unusual-ish day (or two), but it was much more mundane than I anticipated, especially with all the hype and murdery associations. I remember being surprised by this when I read Franny & Zooey as well. Maybe this is my own baggage, but I always have a strong sense of disassociation when reading about privileged teenagers. To be fair, I have plenty of my own privilege, but I guess I hold strongly to my suburban midwest public school upbringing. (Perhaps it’s the urban/suburban dichotomy that’s so jarring – I never snuck into nightclubs or took taxi cabs as a teenager. It was all about watching movies in basements and hanging out at chain restaurants where my friends worked.)

[Some of these complicated feelings about rich city folktales are related to a number of books I’ve read – it’s been jarring to me how many “classics” are focused on this small slice of the world population. Though I’m still committed to reading classics, I’m also very interested in seeking out authors with more diverse backgrounds. Reading, for me, is an act of empathy, an attempt to understand the world from another perspective, and with that goal in mind it’s reasonable that I’m disappointed by the number of highly-recommended books that have the exact same perspective.]

Okay back to THIS book. I realize, upon reflection, that it’s highly quotable. That probably contributes to its popularity. This line in particular really stuck with me:

The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.

I found Holden to be insufferable, but I realize that has a lot to do with my age. And perhaps some to do with the unhealthy ways our modern culture has adopted his outlook. I think angst and alienation are often defense mechanisms – excuses to keep people at arms-length or to avoid the work of understanding another or being understood. If I were to challenge Holden on any of these things, he’d say any number of reality show clichés – that he’s “just keeping it real”, or that he’s “not here to make friends.” His affectation of offensive charm isn’t charming at all.

Perhaps had I read this book as a teenager or young adult, I wouldn’t have been quite so hard on him. (It’s not lost on me that the one quote I wanted to share from the book is something an adult said to Holden while encouraging him to get some perspective.) Perhaps I’m not alone in finding this book repellent, and the reason it’s on so many high school reading lists is so that we’re challenged to discuss healthy and unhealthy ways to interact with society.

What are your thoughts?

12 books finished in 2015: March

12 books finished in 2015

It’s interesting to have read this immediately after The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. In Wildfell, a character makes incredible difficult, unpleasant choices and is praised for having strong character. (My criticism is that her choices seem unrelatable.) In this book, characters reveal themselves to be selfish and lacking any self-control, which I believe is supposed to make them more relatable to the modern reader, but instead leaves me with a real sense of disappointment.

those Little Women
might never hear these stories
from the Civil War

Some time has passed since I started this review, and in that time I viewed the 1994 movie version of Little Women. (Crying Claire Danes! Precocious Kirsten Dunst! CHRISTIAN BALE!) It was definitely interesting to consider what their father was doing while he was away, and how difficult it was for him to write such pleasant letters. So, overall, I liked what this book tried to do, but I disagree with some of the choices the author made.

11 books finished in 2015: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

11 books finished in 2015

I have a long queue of books finished, just waiting to be written about and posted. This book is my bottleneck right now. I was hoping to discuss it with Amy first, but she’s still waiting for a library copy, and meanwhile I’m filling my head with thoughts on OTHER books.

falling in love with
a mysterious lady
might be troublesome

Why am I reading this book? Someone said it’s better than Jane Eyre. Do I agree? Possibly. Their argument was that it had the same strong heroine and feminist themes as Jane Eyre, but without some of the more absurd pieces – like house fires, men dressing as gypsies, secret wives in the attic, hearing your love call to you in the middle of the night from miles away when you’re on the verge of making a TERRIBLE mistake and marrying someone else. But when I think about it, I love those absurd parts of Jane Eyre!

So maybe it’s not better than Jane Eyre, but this is GOOD. And it’s available for free on Project Gutenberg. There are some strange framing devices that make the narrative a bit clunky, but once you get to the center of that story sandwich, you’ll fly through the rest. My only complaint is that the heroine is too upright. (Or uptight?) I hate to disparage a character with strong morals, but she seems un-relatable in a lot of her responses to circumstances. Or maybe I’m just angry that her circumstances required her to CONSTANTLY be the bigger person, stand on the higher ground, be steady and continue to make good, hard choices. Like, she has NO reprieve! That would be exhausting!

Okay, I probably need to read this again, or at least need to hear some other perspectives. Have you read it? What were your thoughts?

sewing patterns from the 90s – part 3

Life update:
-I’ve thrown away two dress patterns since blogging about them. (Butterick 6404, aka the denim dress pattern, I couldn’t bear to toss just yet. I have no plans for it, but I couldn’t let it go.)
-I pulled out Butterick 6534 (aka the audrey dress) and started drafting some new pattern pieces for the bodice. I even made a muslin! I want to continue down this road, and re-draft pattern pieces for the whole dress. Hopefully, at the end, I’ll not only have a great pattern for cotton sundresses, but I’ll also know whether it could be bridesmaid-worthy in a more luscious fabric.

Now, let’s see what else is hiding in the pattern archives…

Vogue 7301

It’s Charlie’s Angels! (The McG remake, obviously.)

Not included in the pattern: any of those tops. Or the kitten heels.

Fun fact about this pattern: I cut out all of the pieces for the middle option, but never got around to sewing them up. By the time I thought about it, they were the wrong size. (Too small.)

I’m tossing this one. Not only do I have no interest in the style of these pants, I would have cut (not traced) the smallest pattern size, and I know that I’ll never be that size again.

Vogue 7280

Not included in the pattern: the bandeau-bra as shirt, the tank top, or the modest t-shirt. Please note the stunning variety of footwear on these models. AND THAT BROWN LIPSTICK!

This was obviously purchased in my wannabe hippie phase. I don’t think I’ve attempted to make any of these skirts. When I look at them now, I am mostly overwhelmed by the number of panels I would have to cut and the number of seams that would need to be sewn. (Which, now that I think of it, is a common theme in sewing patterns I purchased in the 90s.)

I’ll hold onto this, but loosely. If I don’t find a reason to make a knee-length version of one of these in the next year, it’s going to be tossed.

sewing patterns from the 90s – part 2

This series is already a success, because a friend has let me know that her 11th grade prom dress was probably based off Butterick 6406.

I wasn’t sure what to focus on for the second post, but decided to keep riding the 90s Prom theme.

Butterick 6394

I can NOT get over the idea that Jennifer Aniston is wearing the black and white version, even though the model looks nothing like her, facially.

I think it’s more of a Rachel Green look than real life Aniston, though, because I did some image searching and found this red carpet ensemble, which amazingly enough might have been the reason I bought this pattern. Check out this prom picture, from my first year in college, when I drove home for the weekend (16 hours roundtrip?) to go with a friend who was getting over a break-up and really needed the cachet of a cool older woman for a replacement date. The commentary in the tags of that photo says everything I will ever need to say about that outfit. (Though, somehow I forgot to draw attention to the stretchy elastic pink choker, which was braided, I believe. That…happened.)

Have you noticed that I’m sharing discreet links to the photos that are embarrassing? Hoping that you click away and laugh, but hiding them away so you can’t judge until I think you’re sufficiently prepared. Thankfully, I have ONE AND ONLY ONE prom photo that I am not afraid to post here.

Best senior prom picture.  Ever!

No, I didn’t make the dress. I just can not resist sharing this photo.

AND the success of the dress was the reason I bought this pattern:

Butterick 6404

I have only had two versions of this dress. One, made by my mom (my recollection that Mom didn’t sew anything for me after 9th grade is turning out to be spectacularly wrong), for no particular reason that I can place, was formal and two-tone, and eventually shredded to pieces so I could “model” for a roommate’s photography class.

The other, sewn by me, was made entirely out of denim. Because of Britney & Justin.


I never wore it anywhere – somehow no event in my life was well-suited for a formal denim gown. I have one photo of myself wearing the dress, but I’m not going to share it because, really, isn’t it enough to know that I made this? That it once existed? (I can’t find this unicorn of a dress anywhere, which means I must have thrown it away or recycled the fabric or burned it sacrificially in hopes that JT and Brit would get back together one day.)

Friends, these patterns have now fulfilled their destinies. Now that I’ve blogged about them, they’re both going into the trash/recycling bin.