Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Russell Wiley Made Me Laugh...And Cringe

Russell Wiley Is Out To Lunch
Richard Hine

Russell Wiley Is Out To Lunch made me laugh out loud.  Reading the story of Russell Wiley, trying to survive the downward spiral that is the daily business paper that employs him, was almost like watching an episode of The Office.

Russell Wiley's daily paper is facing a do or die fight for survival.  Politics run rampant through the office. Loyalty is tantamount.  Russell's trying to keep his job, and the jobs of his team, safe.  He's got a bit of a crush on a co-worker. And he's writing astute business articles under a pseudonym.  On the home front, things aren't much better. He and his wife are in a dry spell, and no matter what he tries, Russell can't seem to connect with her. Add to this mix the arrival of the Process Consultant to save the day, and Russell feels as though he might drown.  Until he comes up with his own fail proof plan for survival.

But I also have to tell you about what made me cringe in this story.  And cringe in a good way.  See, I've been that Process Consultant (capitalized here much like Superman might be).  I've been perceived like this Judd has. And I've seen the political office game be played.  The cringing comes from those situations that are so realistic, you know you've been in them, you know what's coming, and you're powerless to stop it, but you're still compelled to watch it unfold. 

Like so many of us, Russell started out young and idealistic, intent on changing the world. Fast forward fifteen years, and Russell is like so many of us formerly young and idealistic kids- schlepping away in a middle management job that doesn't excite him. He's somewhat loath to change his circumstances- there's security, change is hard, and do we really have it in us once we hit our mid-thirties to still change the world?

But you can see in Russell's articles- written under a pen name, and often taking a scathing job at the failings of his own employer- that he has a real passion existing deep within him.  He's frustrated with where his life is, both personally and professionally, and he's desperate for something, anything, to happen.  He gets, in many ways, more than he bargained for.

I found Russell Wiley Is Out To Lunch to be witty and snarky.  I recognized so many of the people and the circumstances as I read through the book, and I found myself cheering for Russell Wiley.

Monday, October 11, 2010

So, I Met My Goal. Now What?

When I started this little blog, I was going to read 52 books in a year.  I planned to blog my thoughts here, and that would be that.

Except that I finished early.  And I like doing the blog.  So what now, since I've read all 52 books?

I worked with Marian Schembari, who gave me some fantastic pointers on ways to improve the blog. And I'm going to spend time over the next few weeks working with folks who know a lot more than I do to migrate this blog to a new bookfetish domain, and implement said changes.

In the meantime, I'm going to keep reading and keep blogging.  I'm reading slowly right now.  I'm re-reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in preparation for the next film.

That's a slow one for me to read. There's so much going on, and I read it so quickly the first time that I know I missed things.  I want to take time to really enjoy it and catch all the action with this reading.

So, stay tuned, and keep checking in. I'll update as I'm reading new things. Although now that I've met my goal, I may slow down my pace a bit.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Simply My Favorite Book, Ever.

Book 52: To Kill A Mockingbird
Harper Lee

I've loved To Kill A Mockingbird since I first read it, in Mrs. Reid's ninth grade honors English class.  It was, I think, the first book of assigned reading that truly captivated me.  I've re-read the book countless times since then. In fact, I used to re-read it at least once a year. That frequency has died off a bit in the last few years, but it is still easily my most beloved book.  When I set out on this little quest of mine, to see if I could read 52 books in 52 weeks, this was the only book I knew I would read, and I knew that it would be book 52.  It is a coincidence that I also read it during banned books week, as it has been one of the most frequently challenged book since its publication in 1960.

What can I say about To Kill A Mockingbird that hasn't already been said, probably with greater eloquence than I can hope for, by innumerable people before me?  Not much, perhaps. But I can tell you why I this book means so much to me.

My mother's family is from a small town in Alabama.  Lee's description of the town and its inhabitants is as familiar to me as my own family, despite me not growing up in either the era of To Kill A Mockingbird, or having ever lived in such a small town myself. The admonishment to not "take a check from the Delafield's without a discrete call to the bank first..." is so true of a small town where every family knows every other family, and their business.  I think it is that sense of connection that first drew me in to the story.

Scout.  What a terrific heroine!  Running around with her brother Jem, just a bit precocious, getting into trouble. Yet smart, and fiercely loyal.  With a child's sense of justice, and a child's world view.  

Boo Radley. Misunderstood. Shy and quiet. An example of persecution and misunderstanding as much as Tom Robinson.  But also loyal and courageous, and a hero.

But, most beloved to me is Atticus.  Lee really shaped what a hero is, what integrity is, what character is, when she wrote Atticus Finch.   An intellectual, older than the other fathers in the town, Atticus is at first a dubious hero in the eyes of his children. As the story winds on, though, we see that Atticus embodies what we should all strive to be. His definition of courage- fighting a losing battle even when you know you are beaten before you start, because it is the fight itself that is important- resonates just as soundly today as it did in 1960.  

Lee's central theme, that all people should be treated equally, and with respect, regardless of the color of their skin,  carries through today. Race, still, is a divisive factor.  Let's throw into the mix religion and orientation as well.  Sadly, Lee's is a message we need just as much now as we did when the book was first published.

I could go on and on about this book. Had I not been reading a 50th Anniversary hardback edition, I would have had notes and highlights throughout the book. I couldn't do that to this one. But as I was reading it, I pictured in my mind the notes from that first purple, paperback copy, "Foreshadowing. Courage.  Metaphor."

I think, simply, Harper Lee said what she needed to say with To Kill A Mockingbird. I for one, am glad that she did.