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book·ish : Gatsby in My Purse.

I was that girl. The one that couldn’t go leave home without a book. The one that would get bored at social outings and find a corner to read. The one that would read in a car, in the store, at family reunions and during recess at school. I was painfully shy for a long time. Books were my portable haven when I felt lonely or awkward or bored.

As an adult I’ve mostly grown out of this deep-rooted introversion and found a thriving social life. I can leave my book at home and designate time for myself to read, but every once in awhile, the thin spine of a well-loved paperback finds it’s way into my purse just in case I can steal a moment to escape into its world.

Do you carry books with you? What are you currently reading now?

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book·ish/ˈbo͝okiSH/Adjective

  1.  (of a person or way of life) Devoted to reading and studying rather than worldly interests.
  2. (of language or writing) Literary in style or allusion.
  3. (of art and all manner of lovely things) devoted to the written word as a form of art and as a way of seeing the world.
  4. (of BethanySuckrow.com) anything of the aforementioned characteristics as they are found on the interwebs and reposted by Bethany, because bookish and writerly things always give reason for amusement.

book·ish : Twilight, Fifty Shades, & Feminism.

Confession : I’ve read all four Twilight books. I picked them up so that I could see what all the hype was about, and thankfully, my interest in them stayed there.

Reading the reviews of Fifty Shades of Grey, my first thought was of surprise that this hot new trilogy is published fan fiction of the young adult series. I mean, they really produce bestsellers of fan fiction? That someone finds value in that kind of writing scares me a little.

My second thought was that if Twilight itself was the basis for a BDSM novel series, then Fifty Shades was doomed from the start.

If you’ve never read Twilight, I would actually encourage you to pick up at least the first book. The writing is terrible and the plot is disturbing, but it turned out to be an interesting social study on women.

From my brothers’ teenage girl friends, to the college age girls in my dormitory, to the thirty-something women I waitressed with, they were all obsessed with the series. I discovered in Bella Swan something of an archetype that contemporary women love to indulge, a deep departure from feminism and gender equality that we want to believe has flourished in the last fifty years. Bella’s sole desire, absolutely singular from any hobby or personal interests, is to be with Edward. Bella is not interested in finishing school, going to college, getting a job, having a hobby, making friends with other girls her age, nothing. Twilight author Stephenie Meyer indulges Bella in all her fantasies and creates a world in which her complete lack of self-worth reaps positive results.

Fifty Shades author E. L. James takes this whole concept of a submissive, dreamless young woman to a deeper level with Anastasia Steele. She gives up her virginity and enters into a BDSM-style relationship with a manipulative, deeply disturbed partner and in the end Christian Grey is a changed man because of his relationship to Steele. Again, an extremely negative reality reaps positive results in this kind of fiction.

Without being too cliche or preachy, I have to say,

It’s a slippery slope.

Maybe I’m reading too much into this – pun intended – but really… on a micro level, it begins with a girl who doesn’t understand her own value, who doesn’t believe that she is capable of being whole and happy on her own, and this lack of self-worth manifests itself in literal ways in her relationships to men. On a macro level, millions of women vulnerable to this kind of story – who see themselves in Bella and Anastasia – read these books and the erotic fantasy of it seduces them into believing that this is how relationships are, that this is an acceptable role for them as women.

What is worse is that this is not subliminal messaging, but blatant acceptance. Fifty Shades has been hailed as “mommy porn,” fiction that can “spice up” women’s sex lives.

I don’t believe in censorship, but I do believe in smart consumerism. I believe that what we consume – what we eat, wear, watch and read – says something about our self-worth, about how we value our selves.

I believe in being one lessone less woman indulging in “harmless” fantasy that she subconsciously measures her love/sex life against, and one less royalty to smutty booksellers. It may seem to some that “casually” picking up a copy of Fifty Shades isn’t a big deal.

But I think that fact that so many readers find this kind of content casual and mainstream speaks to what our culture really thinks of women.

So let’s rewrite this portrayal of women – and of men, too. Let’s boldly face the reality that sexual abuse is a lot less gray and a lot more black and white than what certain books and movies would have us believe. Let’s read something else and be one less.

A few good articles on the subject :

Fifty Shades of Sexism.

When Sex Goes Grey.

Your ability to read an erotic book, see a movie that makes a joke of a male stripper, laugh about the idea of prostitutes, is not a decision that only effects YOU anymore. Was it ever? No… But what I can tell you is that there is a very real commercial sex industry out there, and it’s not ‘over there’ or ‘somewhere else’ it’s EVERYWHERE, and everything that we do that makes light of sex, of purity, of temptation, of pleasure, of monogamy, all of it perpetuates a societal blind eye to global sexual exploitation.” It IS a Big Deal.

And just for fun, the difference between Ginny and Bella and Hermione and Bella.

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book·ish/ˈbo͝okiSH/Adjective

  1.  (of a person or way of life) Devoted to reading and studying rather than worldly interests.
  2. (of language or writing) Literary in style or allusion.
  3. (of art and all manner of lovely things) devoted to the written word as a form of art and as a way of seeing the world.
  4. (of BethanySuckrow.com) anything of the aforementioned characteristics as they are found on the interwebs and reposted by Bethany, because bookish and writerly things always give reason for amusement.

book·ish : In Search of On The Road

Confession : I’ve never read On The Road by Jack Kerouac. After seeing the trailer for the upcoming film adaptation, I decided to snatch it up at the library last week so that I actually read the book before I see the movie.

As I get to know the characters, I find it really fascinating to know that many of them were based on real people, and that the plot is loosely based on Kerouac’s own life on the road. I’ve even found myself referencing a map as I read to see the route that Sal Paradise took on his journey.

Which is why I find it reassuring and fascinating that On the Road director Walter Salles made a documentary prior to the film, In Search of On The Road, in which he actually travels the Sal’s exact road trip, and speaks with Beat poets who knew Kerouac. I’m almost more interested in seeing Salles’ documentary than the film itself! It was screened at the 2010 San Francisco International Film Festival, but it doesn’t sound like Salles plans to release it for public viewing any time soon.

Have you ever read On the Road? Do you plan to see the film? 

[Photos : 1, 2, 3.]

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book·ish/ˈbo͝okiSH/Adjective

  1.  (of a person or way of life) Devoted to reading and studying rather than worldly interests.
  2. (of language or writing) Literary in style or allusion.
  3. (of art and all manner of lovely things) devoted to the written word as a form of art and as a way of seeing the world.
  4. (of BethanySuckrow.com) anything of the aforementioned characteristics as they are found on the interwebs and reposted by Bethany, because bookish and writerly things always give reason for amusement.

book·ish : Death in Fiction.

You may have already stumbled across it, but I thought I’d share this rad infographic from The Slow Journalism Company. Longlisters of the 2011 Booker Prize wrote about a lot of things, but all thirteen books nominated for the award involved death.

Joe Bunting of The Write Practice asks really good questions about this :

Think about your favorite novels and films. How many of them involve death? Why do you think stories involving death are so popular?

Personally, I think that the mystery of death itself is one that humanity is constantly processing. What does death mean? Is death a spiritual experience? Is it just physical? Or is it both? Where does the soul go from here? Is it permanent or temporary? How do we, the living, cope with the deaths of those we love, and even those we hate?

You’ll notice that the second most common theme is love, which, similar to death, we can spend our whole lives exploring and never fully understand.

I think that when we write and read fiction, we are able to process these themes in a manageable, compartmentalized way. We want to master mystery, and there are clearly defined boundaries in fiction that help us do this : beginning and end, protagonist and antagonist, right and wrong. The authors hold all the power, and readers, desperate to understand these things, turn the pages hoping that the author holds the answer they’ve been searching for. Fiction offers a level of control that we will never experience in life.

What about you? Why do you think themes of love and death are so recurrent in fiction? Do you agree or disagree with my theories? Share your thoughts here or on Joe’s post over on The Write Practice.

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book·ish/ˈbo͝okiSH/Adjective

  1.  (of a person or way of life) Devoted to reading and studying rather than worldly interests.
  2. (of language or writing) Literary in style or allusion.
  3. (of art and all manner of lovely things) devoted to the written word as a form of art and as a way of seeing the world.
  4. (of BethanySuckrow.com) anything of the aforementioned characteristics as they are found on the interwebs and reposted by Bethany, because bookish and writerly things always give reason for amusement.

book·ish : Curtner’s Textual Collages.

There are many different ways to create art from words, and writing is only one form. But Richard Curtner takes word art to a new level with as a talented Textual Collage artist in Palm Springs, Calif. Collages can look messy, but Curtner’s pieces are as vivid and emotional as paintings. A particularly bookish one I loved : ”Better than Fiction.”

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book·ish/ˈbo͝okiSH/Adjective

  1.  (of a person or way of life) Devoted to reading and studying rather than worldly interests.
  2. (of language or writing) Literary in style or allusion.
  3. (of art and all manner of lovely things) devoted to the written word as a form of art and as a way of seeing the world.
  4. (of BethanySuckrow.com) anything of the aforementioned characteristics as they are found on the interwebs and reposted by Bethany, because bookish and writerly things always give reason for amusement.

book·ish : Poetic Spines.

Here’s a fun and bookish project to try out : make poetry from book spines! I stumbled across the idea the other day, and knew I just had to go home and make my own attempt. The hardest part? Finding verbs to make it read more like a poem than a list of titles.
Speak bittersweet, good poems -
atonement, 
a great and terrible beauty - 
traveling with pomegranates 
a million miles in a thousand years. 

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book·ish/ˈbo͝okiSH/Adjective

  1.  (of a person or way of life) Devoted to reading and studying rather than worldly interests.
  2. (of language or writing) Literary in style or allusion.
  3. (of art and all manner of lovely things) devoted to the written word as a form of art and as a way of seeing the world.
  4. (of BethanySuckrow.com) anything of the aforementioned characteristics as they are found on the interwebs and reposted by Bethany, because bookish and writerly things always give reason for amusement.

book·ish : How Do You Choose a Book?

I read this really lovely quote the other day from Wentworth Dillon, IV Earl of Roscommon : 

Choose an author as you would a friend.”

It made me think about all the books I’ve read and how I met them. Most often, I choose books at the recommendation of someone whose opinion I trust. In recent years, those recommendations most often come from you – my blog community. But sometimes it’s a serendipitous happenstance that I recognize as a blessing in retrospect.

I rarely choose a book at random and enjoy it. The one exception was The Reader; it’s one of my favorites, and now Bernard Schlink is one of my favorite authors, and the way that I found it felt sort of providential, like I was supposed to find it. It was sitting on a shelf in my local library, where I worked as a teenager. Its cover was beautiful, but when I opened the book I realized that it was placed upside down – to read it, you had to flip it over, and so to the rest of the world it looked as though you were reading it back-to-front and upside-down. The description on the back cover was intriguing, but I felt compelled to read it because of the misplaced cover, because I noticed that if patrons picked it up and noticed that the cover was a mistake, they often put it back down and found something else. When I read it, the secret in the story made it feel like I was meant to read it and if someone else didn’t choose it because of the cover, then it was a secret between me and that book alone, one that I would always treasure. They didn’t know what they were missing and I wasn’t about to tell them.

No matter how we meet books or people, the relationship requires trust, mutual interest, shared language. I love reading a book and thinking quietly to the characters and author, “Me too.”

[Photo.]

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book·ish/ˈbo͝okiSH/Adjective

  1.  (of a person or way of life) Devoted to reading and studying rather than worldly interests.
  2. (of language or writing) Literary in style or allusion.
  3. (of art and all manner of lovely things) devoted to the written word as a form of art and as a way of seeing the world.
  4. (of BethanySuckrow.com) anything of the aforementioned characteristics as they are found on the interwebs and reposted by Bethany, because bookish and writerly things always give reason for amusement.

book·ish : My To-Read List

Do you remember my goal list for 2012? Reading more was one of my goals, and I’ve stuck with it pretty well. I wanted to read an average of a book per month. I know other people who devour books on a weekly basis, but my schedule doesn’t allow for that, sadly.

I read Bird by Bird in January/February and Blue Like Jazz in February/March. I just wrapped up Great House, which held some enlightening and intuitive passages, but I am now ready for a change of pace.

On my way home from work today I finally snagged a copy of A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway. It’s one of those that always seems to be checked out, but today was my lucky day. There are still a few others on my waiting list that I can never seem to catch, like The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides, or On the Road by Jack Kerouac.

After this I think I’ll either read Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott or The Writing Life by Annie Dillard.

So. What are you reading right now?

[Photo.]

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book·ish/ˈbo͝okiSH/Adjective

  1.  (of a person or way of life) Devoted to reading and studying rather than worldly interests.
  2. (of language or writing) Literary in style or allusion.
  3. (of art and all manner of lovely things) devoted to the written word as a form of art and as a way of seeing the world.
  4. (of BethanySuckrow.com) anything of the aforementioned characteristics as they are found on the interwebs and reposted by Bethany, because bookish and writerly things always give reason for amusement.

book·ish : The Great Minds behind Great American Novels

There are the books themselves, and then there are the minds behind them. Epic writers like John Steinbeck, Jack Kerouac, Henry Miller and Ernest Hemingway seem so much larger than life, this ordinary, often mundane life that you and I live every day. They have captured so much of life in these stories that we conclude that we will never attain that kind of wisdom with our words.,/p>

And then we unearth things like letters they wrote to loved ones or their daily rituals and habits that helped them write those words. Eccentric though they may have been, they were human, and it was their discipline that they helped them pen those great American novels.

I don’t think that everyone can write, or that everyone was born to write. But for those of us that feel it is our purpose and pleasure to wield words, it is a comfort to know that we’re not completely insane. I’m convinced that writing is equal parts eccentricity and discipline; we need enough of both to keep us imaginative and to keep us grounded.

Here are a few bookish links to the great minds behind great American novels, via Brain Pickings.

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book·ish/ˈbo͝okiSH/Adjective

  1.  (of a person or way of life) Devoted to reading and studying rather than worldly interests.
  2. (of language or writing) Literary in style or allusion.
  3. (of art and all manner of lovely things) devoted to the written word as a form of art and as a way of seeing the world.
  4. (of BethanySuckrow.com) anything of the aforementioned characteristics as they are found on the interwebs and reposted by Bethany, because bookish and writerly things always give reason for amusement.

book·ish : Brookish

Oh my, I’m in love. Brookish is an Etsy shop entirely devoted to bringing a little Jane Austen to your everyday happenings, complete with mugs, totes, and scarves. A little dose of Mr. Darcy with my morning coffee? Yes please.  

book·ish/ˈbo͝okiSH/Adjective


1. (of a person or way of life) Devoted to reading and studying rather than worldly interests.
2. (of language or writing) Literary in style or allusion.
3. (of art and all manner of lovely things) devoted to the written word as a form of art and as a way of seeing the world.
4. (of SheWritesandRights.blogspot.com) anything of the aforementioned characteristics as they arefound on the interwebs and reposted by Bethany, because bookish and writerly things always give reason for amusement.
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