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Mommy, am I cult?

A former literary snob making her way back to commercial reads.

Currently reading

The Silver Linings Playbook
Matthew Quick
You Should Pity Us Instead
Amy Gustine

Raven Sisters

Raven Sisters - Gabi Kreslehner, Alison Layland This is a whodunit with enough observations about human nature for me to say that it has a tinge of literary fiction.

Sometimes that tinge of literary fiction comes very poetic, to the detriment of believability... or not.

"I'm an eagle", Hanna cried, laughing, running, flying. "Who is the wind's bride to carry me aloft?"
I will, Gertrud thought. I will, let me be the one...

Sometimes, it's not poetic at all, and you just think: Really, recently-found-antagonist? You're using "melt like butter" as a threat in this super tense scene?

But that doesn't mean the story is bad. In the beginning, it's all about the relationship between those two sisters: Hannah is beautiful, creative and all around social superstar. Gertrudes is none of these things, and spends her whole life as a shadow of her sister. (Female jealousy is a very interesting subject to me, and I wish it was exploited more.) When we discover one of them is dead and the other, missing, right after we are presented to a plot twist that subverts any chance that the sister-jealousy plot would go on an entirely predictable path. That plot twist took the novel to a whole new level, and was the start of abackstory that is different than a lot of mistery novels we read out there.

Add that to characters who are developed enough for: a) at a certain point, you think there is no clear antagonist; and b) everyone is kind of a victim of the situation.

For instance, Franza, the cop that investigates the murdering case, is a middle-aged divorceé with a body that is actually compatible with her age. So are her levels of confidence and insecurities. She was very believable, and one of the best written 40-something women I read about in the last years.

But why only three stars?

The writing is good, and will teach you something about human nature... and you'll get a murder mistery in the mix. I'm just not sure if it's very entertaining in the first half. It took me 11 days to finish these book. And some creative choices take away a little from the surprises (I won't be able to talk about them without spoilering).

Not to mention the intense POV-switch. Changing POVs all the time can be fast-pacing, but also dangerous. Sometimes the POV changed inside the chapters. Every once in a while there was a very short chapter (from a misterious POV) that served as nothing but a tense builder, which is a good thing in murder misteries... if well executed. Since the number of characters was big (and sometimes so was the list of suspects), the whole thing just became confusing.

I really wished all these issues should be trimmed down in order to give a more clean, concise narrative. The result would be way more entertaining. It felt all over the place. But if you don't mind the cluttering, I guess you could try to read this.


Marina - Carlos Ruiz Zafón This starts as a romance with an European juvenile flair. The protagonist is a teenage boy that runs from he boarding school from time to time to wander through Barcelona, until he falls in love with Marina, a beautiful 16 year old blonde pale girl (now that I think about it, what's up with blonde pale girls and this book?) who lives in an decaying aristocratic house with her father. The boy keeps getting away from the boarding school to meet her, until Marina shows him a mysterious widow visiting a cryptic grave at the cemetery.

That's when they start to be tormented by apparitions who stinks like rotten flesh. But this doesn't derail to a silly slasher-book. On the contrary, we have a backstory to explain all the persecution. I found that explanation beautiful AND messed up. So if you want a sophisticated romance/horror YA, this is the book for you.

But not exactly the book for me. I heard a lot about [a:Carlos Ruiz Zafón|815|Carlos Ruiz Zafón|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1444199853p2/815.jpg]'s excellence in [b:The Shadow of the Wind|1232|The Shadow of the Wind (The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, #1)|Carlos Ruiz Zafón|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1344545047s/1232.jpg|3209783], but I didn't fall in love with his style here. The action scenes felt a little bit "telly" and dry to me. Sometimes, I just he would "show" me more. But I'll still read [b:The Shadow of the Wind|1232|The Shadow of the Wind (The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, #1)|Carlos Ruiz Zafón|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1344545047s/1232.jpg|3209783], as it's supposedly a love letter to books and almost a must-read for Latins.

Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?

Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? - Joyce Carol Oates, Elaine Showalter So... JCO is a genius. She is. Not all of us see it, because her narrative cleverness is delivered in the less pretentious way possible, but the way she describes without describing, with emotions portrayed mostly by dialog, I think it's rare. And genial.

The Fall

The Fall - Justin O'Brien, Albert Camus The ramblings of an asshole, whose every act of generosity stems from validation, turned into philosopher.

The Martian

The Martian - Andy Weir I thought a laptop would be fine outside. It's just electronics, right? [...]

It died instantly. [...] Turns out the L in LCD stands for Liquid. I guess it either froze or boiled off. Maybe I'll post a consumer review. "Brought product to surface of Mars. It stopped working. 0/10."

That passage embodies really well how it feels to read [b:The Martian|18007564|The Martian|Andy Weir|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1413706054s/18007564.jpg|21825181]. Technical matters delivered in excruciating details and a bit of humour every now and then.

So beware: this was a book written by a science geek for science geeks. If you're not interested in knowing how space travel, orbital aerodynamics or some (very) mild chemistry, you'll find yourself skimming a lot of technicalities, which are, frankly, one of the major strengths of this book. But if you are interested in such subjects, this is a full plate of curiosities. And they interweave with the story so seamlessly that you'll find yourself screaming from the inside: OH MY GOD WHAT A HELL IS GOING TO HAPPEN I NEED TO KNOW MORE.


Awoken - Sarah Noffke One of the challenges of fantasy is that we have a whole new world to assimilate, and sometimes we get so lost trying to understand the technicalities of this new world that we lose focus on the main objective: simply enjoying the book.

This was one of my pet peeves. I don't mind about "the Chosen One saves the world" trope, it's something to be expected in fantasy. The novel that started so good: from the writing style, I could sense it was a sophisticated [b:Divergent|13335037|Divergent (Divergent, #1)|Veronica Roth|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1328559506s/13335037.jpg|13155899]. I was curious about the immersion of the protagonist in her new reality, and in her challenge to survive the training conduced by an organization she couldn't trust... to kill the biggest villain in the world. But having to stop every 3 minutes to assimilate a new concept or learn how this battle detail will work was draining to me. (It's only 300 pages long and I took almost a month to read it.)

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie - Ayana Mathis Following the story of Hattie and her 11 kids from different POVs, this book provides a good example of 'what it means to be black in America' without victimism. Here, African Americans are not goody two shoes, perfect examples of human beings who turn to be just tokens/objects/plot devices to showcase racism. No, Ayana's characters are complex well-built human beings, with their own set of flaws and prejudices.

So we have the flawed and prejudiced Hattie, who suffers a lot raising her myriad of children... and standing her husband's infidelities. All her energy is spent feeding, working and taking care of the kids, so there is no space for affection... and the family suffers from it.

But it is far away from recriminating Hattie for not being a perfect woman. On the contrary, it empathizes with her without being too apologizing. (Still, strict moralists won't approve.) At the end, the message that stayed with me was that shit happens, it sucks, but let's practice forgiveness and rise to life's challenges.

Really, it is one of the most inspiring books I read lately, without being saccharine or patronizing. It also interested me how sexually liberated the average mid-century African American woman is, if this book is any indication.

o moralista

o moralista - Rogério Gomes Finalmente consegui botar minhas mãos no ebook. (Nunca paguei tão caro por um, mas é o preço por se ler um autor português contemporâneo!)

Work Rules!: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead

Work Rules!: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead - Laszlo Bock One of the most insightful and innovative business books I ever read. It's fun (although a bit dry when it gets too detailed), but it conserves the data-driven mindset that Google itself worships.

This should be obligatory for HR people or entrepreneurs.

Whore Diaries: My First Two Weeks As An Escort

Whore Diaries: My First Two Weeks As An Escort - Tara Burns This is a sad erotica. Or not even an erotica at all: the sex scenes are so dry and the portrayal of prostitution so unglamourous (responsible, even), that I don't think it s even meant to be erotica a all.

But the biggest highlight is the undeniable, intermittent WTF moments in this novella.

Seriously, it doesn't stop.

At first it's a client that says “fucking money” and compares himself to god every 5 seconds (I almost stop reading at this point). We see some very witty one-liners by the narrator, until the narrator decides it's time to stop stripping and become a prostitute. And the stream of WTF-uckery begin.

“...I just felt tired. Couldn't men just agree to pay me without m having to prance around and stroke their egos first?”
I told you it was sad.

She lives with Dream, a disabled adoptive mother who can't walk by herself very well. It is to give a better support for her that she becomes a prostitute. She decides to prostitute herself in Canada, and comes this:

“I wrapped Dream in blankets and put her in my black plastic sled, and I pulled her out to the road, warmed the van up, and started the long drive south.”

Is that how you transport people in Alaska? By making a human burrito? On a sled?

“...just like I instructed in the etiquette section of my website”. Apparently, escorting sites have etiquette sections. (Boy, I'm curious).

“whore tour for a couple of weeks.” Are there whore tours?

“I rub his semen into my breast. This is the elixir of life.”

“I'm glad that I can get my noncommittal super casual yet meaningful intimacy by selling it instead of being someone with a penis who has to buy it.”

“Usually people are rapists because they don't want to admit the gaping hole of need inside them.”

And I finally learned to plural of penis:
“I need to fuck more old dudes to learn about their penii.”
(Note here that we're talking about a prostitute who's committed to performance improvement.)

And, to finish, my favorite:
“I'm supposed to lap the praise from his hands like a needy little puppy who hates herself the way women in patriarchy are supposed to.”

Preconceito Linguístico

Preconceito Linguístico - Marcos Bagno Ainda me falta ler uma obra politizada que não incorresse em um pouco de hipocrisia... mesmo que concorde em geral com suas ideias. A razão é óbvia: partindo de seu próprio viés, o autor escolhe quais críticas cabem a seus oponentes, e quais delas não cabem a si próprio. Tendenciosismo político? Isso é para os outros.

Exemplo? Logo no começo, Bagno alerta que não há como se falar em preconceito linguístico sem incorrer em política. De onde eu vim isso se chama “não quero analisar os dados de forma científica, por isso vou usar o blablablá político”. Que irônico que Bagno, em sua defesa de um mundo melhor, incorra à mesma postura argumentativa assumida pelos piores chefes e gerentes que encontrei em minha carreira corporativista, coisa de capitalismo antigo, ruim, bem a la Wall Street de anos 80. Ai, ai, ai.

Este GIF foi inserido de propósito para enojar os esnobes literários que acham que linguagem corporal “é para os fracos”.

E mais longe, ele se ofende por ser “acusado” de “esquerdista de meia-pataca”. Afinal, meu amigo, você é esquerdista ou não? Não foi você que afirmou há 100 páginas atrás que não há como sujar as mãos com política ao falar de preconceito?

Mas demos um desconto ao autor. Seu objetivo foi, nas palavras de Bagno, “simplificar (talvez demais) os conceitos da Lingüística para torná-los acessíveis a um público mais amplo.” E isso é louvável. A verdade é que, toda vez que um intelectual escreve uma dessas obras intragáveis de ler, que só os universitários obrigados a aguentá-los terminam, inadvertidamente aliena-se a camada da população que mais precisa dela. Por um lado isso é necessário (na academia, não dá pra abrir mão de rigor científico, embora eu veja muitos intelectuais que não o observam sendo louvados – e pior – referenciados nas ciências sociais da vida), mas nossos brasileiros “comuns” também precisam de mais conhecimento. E para isso, precisamos de mais intelectuais que abram mão um pouco do prestígio acadêmico, desçam do cavalo e expliquem “a grosso modo” alguns conceitos básicos de sua área. Assumir a postura de “educador das massas”, para mim, é mais útil do que a fábrica de preciosismo intelectual e falácias ad hominem que é o “cenário intelectual” (isso existe?) de agora.

Para educar o leigo sobre linguística, o autor escolhe uma trilha bem interessante. Primeiro, vai perfilando os mitos sobre nossa língua e mata-os na cabeça, um a um. Esta é de longe a parte mais divertida do livro, e também a que contém os argumentos mais fortes...

O que aconteceu, ao longo do tempo, foi uma inversão da realidade histórica. As gramáticas foram escritas precisamente para descrever e fixar como “regras” e “padrões” as manifestações lingüísticas usadas espontaneamente pelos escritores considerados dignos de admiração, modelos a ser imitados. Ou seja, a gramática normativa é decorrência da língua, é subordinada a ela, dependente dela. Como a gramática, porém, passou a ser um instrumento de poder e de controle, surgiu essa concepção de que os falantes e escritores da língua é que precisam da gramática.

Ou seja, o que aconteceu com a gramática foi o mesmo que acontece diariamente com milhares de processos burocráticos em nossas esferas pública e privada: nasceu com boas intenções, mas depois se perdeu. O carimbo, a assinatura, o papel, a gramática, todos eles obedecem a si próprios, e não ao objetivo ao qual foram inicialmente criados.

... se Chico Buarque, Manuel Bandeira e Machado de Assis (que [...] escreveu: “Mas aonde te vais agora,! Onde vais, esposo meu?”) não servem como exemplos de usuários da “língua culta”, quem servirá?

Lendo a desmistificação de várias balelas que circulam por aí e que servem como alicerce do preconceito linguístico atualmente, me espantei porque desde sempre li muitos livros, e "falei bem" o português por causa disso, e só agora percebi que não e preciso estudar gramática para falar e escrever bem!… E que erro de português é uma coisa, erro de ortografia é outra, mas que muita gente que ensina português não sabe a diferença? Minha parte favorita diz respeito ao mito de que no Maranhão se fala o melhor português do Brasil (balela).

E o engraçado é que, mesmo bem intencionado, Bagno comete erros:

É sabido que no Maranhão ainda se usa com grande regularidade o pronome tu, seguido das formas verbais clássicas, com a terminação em —s característica da segunda pessoa: tu vais, tu queres, tu dizes, tu comias, tu cantavas etc.

Como maranhense, sei de primeira mão que o autor está desatualizado. Conjugávamos bem o tu nas décadas de 50 ou 60, porém, com a crescente imigração de pessoas do interior, o tu vem “sofrendo”. Mas até hoje ouço ludovicenses batendo no peito e dizendo que “São Luis fala o melhor português do Brasil, porque não temos 'sutaque'.”

[...] um instrutor de auto-escola quer formar bons motoristas, e não campeões internacionais de Fórmula 1. Um professor de português quer formar bons usuários da língua escrita e falada, e não prováveis candidatos ao Prêmio Nobel de literatura!

Mesmo cientes do quão tendencioso o autor é, às vezes os argumentos são tão bons que a gente liga o foda-se e só quer que ele suba no palco e sambe!

poucas instituições houve no Brasil tão obtusas, nefastas, injustas, antidemocráticas e perniciosas quanto o vestibular. Nunca consegui entender por que uma pessoa que quer estudar Direito precisa fazer prova de física, química, biologia e matemática, se o que ela aprendeu dessas matérias já foi avaliado na conclusão do 2° grau. Com o fim do vestibular, desaparecerá também toda a indústria que se formou em torno dele: os nefandos “cursinhos” onde ninguém aprende nada, onde não há nenhuma produção de conhecimento mas apenas reprodução de informações desconexas, onde centenas de alunos se apinham numa sala, onde tudo o que se faz é entupir a cabeça do aluno com “truques” e “macetes” que em nada contribuem para a sua verdadeira formação intelectual e humanística."

Mas faltam alguns esclarecimentos. Ao defender-se de suas acusações de ser “demagógico” ou “relativista”, Bagno diz que os linguistas na verdade defendem na escola o ensino da norma-padrão. Ué? Mas eu, sou ignorante em termos de linguistas, como vou saber que diabos é essa tal de norma-padrão? É a variação culta de nossa língua portuguesa, como falada pelos membros mais “cultos” de nossa sociedade? É uma versão acessível da gramática atual? O que é isso?

E ás vezes, é difícil levar o autor a sério:
“Ninguém comete erros ao falar sua própria língua materna, assim como ninguém comete erros ao andar ou ao respirar. Só se erra naquilo que é aprendido, naquilo que constitui um saber secundário, obtido por meio de treinamento, prática e memorização...”

Mas fofinho, falar uma língua estruturada não é tão natural ou intuitivo como andar ou respirar. Aliás, até andar como bípede depende de contato com outros humanos, segundo pedagogos. Aprendizado é um processo social, e a língua se situa neles. Então não engulo de todo o argumento de que “não há erro de português porque falar é algo natural”. Emitir grunhidos, talvez. Mas falar uma língua com um mínimo de estruturação? Não creio, e que fique bem claro que essa é somente uma asserção minha e que não tenho conhecimentos científicos para corroborar minha posição.

E é esta a impressão geral que tive ao ler este livro: concordei com a ideia chave de que precisamos utilizar menos a língua como instrumento de exclusão, mas a série de tendenciosismos e pequenas inconsistências que permeiam o texto o torna difícil de ser levado a sério como um todo.

The Soul of Man under Socialism

The Soul of Man under Socialism - Oscar Wilde If you 're a woman who decided to wait until 30 to have kids, or don't even know if you'll have them at all, then I guess you've been called a lot of these adjectives: “selfish”, “nascissistic” or “immature”. I know I was.

And then comes Oscar Wilde:

“...a man is called selfish if he lives in the manner that seems to him the most suitable for the full realization of his own personality; if, in fact, the primary aim of his life is self development. But this is the way everyone should live. Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live. And unselfishness is letting other people's lives alone, not interfering with them.

Oh, yeah. The essay has “socialism” in its name, but it's not all about politics. You'll be granted with ramblings about how popular art is “unhealthy” (apparently, Wilde was the original hipster), a few arrogant (and justified) remarks on journalists and his own concept of individualism (and how it is supposedly good).

In sum, it is a reflection of how the public psyche can change under socialism's focus of ending poverty.

And in case you're wondering if he is favorable or not to socialism, Wilde does a good job of exposing the Authoritarian Socialism trap...

“if there are Governments armed with economic power as they are now with political power; if, in a word, we are to have Industrial Tyrannies, then the last state of man will be worse than the first.”

… But compliments the broader, generic socialism in a way that is disturbing to the modern eye:

“Socialism […] will be of value simply because it will lead to Individualism.”

And Wilde's Individualism is not such a bad thing:
it is simply the state in which we can dedicate ourselves to our interests, not worried about the pursue of material goods (a.k.a. paying rent, or in Wilde's gross generalization, “property”).

That doesn't mean he is in love with socialism. Wilde feared that, by giving the poor what they want would only turn them in well fed slaves, enabling their mediocrity and subjection to conformity. The best poor man is not the one content with what he's got, for his conformity perpetuates current relations of power. The best poor man is the rebel:

"He who would be free', says a fine thinker, 'must not conform.' And authority, by bringing people to conform, produced a very gross kind of over-fed barbarism amongst us."

And conformity leads to the tiranny of the people:

There is the despot who tyrannises over the body. There is the despot who tyrannises over the soul. There is the despot who tyrannises over the soul and body alike. The first is called the Prince. The second is called the Pope. The third is called the People.

… and the tyranny of public opinion, its damage to the arts, journalism and personal freedom of thought:

Selfishness always aims at creating around it an absolute uniformity of type. Unselfishness recognizes infinite variety of type as a delightful thing, accepts it, acquiesces in it, enjoys it. It is not selfish to think for oneself. A man who does not think for himself does not think at all.

But the future is not so grim to Wilde: as poverty diminishes, so does the scope of socialism, until the job will be entirely done and we won't need it anymore. At this day, we could finally live dedicated to our own interests, like arts, engineering, philosophy or science; and the machines would do all the boring, repetitive work.

Those extremely long terms predictions reminded me of the words of modern technologists like Vinod Khosla or https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4403625.Peter_Thiel">Peter Thiel. This last one, in Zero to One, rationalizes about how the man-machine integration will lead us to intelligence, greatness and innovation; computers and robots do the manual, automatic, bureaucratic labor, as we humans focus on the creative, critical and transactional part of business. This 100% analytical man is the modern equivalent of Wilde's individualist, to him the only ones with lives worth living.

The Deal (Off-Campus Book 1)

The Deal (Off-Campus Book 1) - Elle Kennedy Writing? Funny.
Plot? High schoolish.
Characters? Stereotyped, until a certain point.
Dialog? There's bickering. Sometimes, it's annoying. Sometimes it's fun.

The Chef

The Chef - Andy Weir This is a plot trust kind of short story that resembles a writing exercise.

The author's note asking the reader to read it again might sound presumptuous.

Read it full here:


The Demonologist

The Demonologist - Andrew Pyper Imagine reading about demons at 2 a.m. in the morning. You're alone at your bedroom. The night is eerily silent... and your cat makes noise all of a sudden just to keep you at the edge.

That wasn't enough to scare me. Although "The Demonologist" is not a bad read, it was delivered in a way that just failed to speak to me in a deeper level.

It was like a wrong book at the wrong time.

Wrong book for the weird sensorial parts (a place "smelled like past"), the proverbial articulations with abstractions that lacked some bite ("a mind is your own place"... or something like that) and the under use of physical descriptions of the demons involved. Besides, it was telly for a genre so visceral like horror. Not exactly bad, just not my taste.

And I just discovered I don't mind that much about Christian mythology. Even though the Miltonian vision of Satan was complex and very, very interesting. Definitely not what we learn about the devil at church school.

Nonetheless, some passages can turn credulous religious into paranoids. And the Brazilian edition was beautiful:
The binding emulated an old book.




Imagine seeing this after a violent cliff hanger.

And this demon lounging just before the last page!

Nice job, Darkside books.

The Bride

The Bride - Abigail Barnette There is a fundamental problem with erotica. When the characters are compelling, the couple is enchanting and the plot is well delivered, there comes a point where you really don't care about how the characters have sex: you just wanna see where they end up.

And this doesn't get better with long series like this. That's why I found myself skipping most sex scenes. I couldn't care less how Sophie and Neil had sex. The gay that BDSM is so over right now doesn't help.