That was a dirty trick. You think this is about Star Wars but really it’s just a dirty trick. Last month I said I would review one of two books: Aisha Tyler’s “Self-Inflicted Wounds” or “There’s no Toilet Paper on the Road Less Traveled” by Various Authors. I almost halfway held up my end of the bargain. I have only one reason for you and it’s that September was crossed out on all of my calendars and re-named “Crazytown”. Literally, I did that. Physically crossed out the word September and wrote CRAZYTOWN in all caps. I normally have no problem reading/listening to 3-4 books per month but with three weddings and travel plans, I just dropped the ball. I hate it when people say they’re too “busy” to do something they love, so I shall refrain from that excuse. We make time for whatever is most important at any given juncture. I did not plan my time well and on more than one occasion, sleep was more important to my life than reading. WHOOPSIES.
Now that I’ve appealed to your sympathies, I’ll explain the AT-AT title. I did decide to read Aisha Tyler’s book, “Self-Inflicted Wounds” (SIW) after my last review but I’d already started something in the interim that I wanted to try to finish first. That book was “The Rules of Civility” (TROC) by Amor Towles. Get it now? AT-AT? Aisha Tyler and Amor Towles? WHAT a coinkidink! The symmetry in my literary choices is off the damn charts. Back in August, I’d posted a link to an article about how rare it is to find a book with a female protagonist that isn’t centered around the task of finding a man. It was articulate, brave, honest, and correct. It IS hard to find a complex literary woman who isn’t ultimately tied to a man. Even those written with gumption, inexorable free-will, and an intelligent wit somehow end up finding their value in a relationship. I get it. Love sells. But what if we could sell independence too? How can we do that? All of this and more flitted through my brain as I read the article. My friend, Michaela, saw the article and told me about TROC. She warned me that it wasn’t devoid of a romantic love story but it was as close as she’d come to a truly self-satisfying female protagonist. So I decided to listen to it on audible. Surely, I would finish it with plenty of time to read SIW before writing this blog and making my Book Tubesday video on The FlibGib. **SIDE NOTE: I said last time that I was going to start my YouTube channel called “The FlibGib” and I totally did it. How proud are you?! I already have 4 videos up including the one that coincides with this blog. Ahhhthankyou, ahhhhthankyou.** But as you might have gleaned, I did not finish it in time. If I had known it was ELEVEN hours long, I might have read SIW first. But alas, here we find ourselves, halfway through two books by authors that both have the initials AT.
So let’s proceed chronologically in the order I started reading/listening. TROC is a period piece set in the 1930’s, post-crash and post-prohibition. People are starting over, some with more luck than others, some with more resourcefulness than others. The story follows a group of 20-somethings in different careers, with different aspirations, and vastly different means of achieving those aspirations. The main heroine, Katie Kontent (pronounced like the feeling, not like the stuff in a drawer), is a keen observer of her peers, her superiors, and her surroundings. She is lively but aptly reserved when necessary. She is quick-witted but slow to make decisions. She finds herself stuck between wanting something more from life and not wanting to cut ties or circumvent her supposed friendships. She struggles to find the balance between passion and money. She questions her desire for solitude and simplicity amidst a world of fur, feasting, and frivolity. She is a modern 20-something without the smart phone. She is a book-toting, introverted, independent woman with a constant hankering for cheap gin.
The characters orbiting her story (Eve, Tinker, and Wallace) possess similar complexities that mirror modern life but inevitably all roads lead back to Katie. Listening to Towles’ language is a tantalizing indulgence for the mind. I added more bookmarks in the 7 hours I’ve listened to this than in any other audible title. He personifies the most peculiar objects, enabling the reader/listener to feel the setting rather than just visualize it. The character’s flaws are portrayed with a forgiving, even empathizing tone. Each person willingly makes the decisions that ultimately shape their life, but as readers, we are challenged to seek understanding rather than pass judgment. Poor decisions and questionable motives are not to be ignored and forgotten, but rather understood and forgiven. Instead of forgive and forget, Towles asks whether forgive and understand is a better course of action. I could use that literary voice in my real life approximately 365 days of the year.
Here are some of my favorite lines in the 7/11 hours I’ve listened to thus far:
“One must be prepared to fight for one’s simple pleasures, and to defend them against elegance and erudition, and all manner of glamorous enticements.”
“But I’ve come to realize, that however blue my circumstances, if after finishing a chapter of a Dickens novel, I feel a “miss my stop on the train” sort of compulsion to read on, then everything is probably going to be just fine.”
This is a thinker. There are big words and significant emotional moments. You’ll inevitably ask yourself an existential question…or twelve. I believe Towles would consider that a triumph. So if you’re looking for a good kick in the pants, this book is for you. If you’re kontent with your circumstances, read it anyway. You just might learn something.
Now on to someone who really could’ve used the term ‘hold on to your butts’ from an early age. Aisha Tyler is a successful actress, comedienne, and all-around badass…now. From the sound of it, she barely made it out of elementary school alive, let alone middle school and high school. SIW is a set of memoirs in which Tyler retells the most embarrassing stories of her childhood and adolescence. She screwed some shit up. I mean, she inadvertently set multiple things on fire. She almost sliced herself in half when she was five. She remembers the consistent tribulation that was her height and invites the reader into the hippie-tastic, vegetarian-academia paradise that was her parent’s home. She talks about her parents divorce with a candor that only manifests when the child can see the situation through adult eyes. It sucked at the time, but it was the best decision for everyone involved. At the beginning of the book, I was slightly apprehensive about her overly gratuitous use of curse words, but I came to find that it really only fueled her humor. She has exceptional timing as a comic and she proves that timing again in SIW. It’s almost as if she wrote a story for each of the best epic fail videos on Vine and YouTube and compiled them into one book.
She is raucously hilarious, with a poignantly thoughtful statement thrown in occasionally for good measure. Another place where we can find some relatable tidbit, assuring us that we’re not alone in our epic fails.
I’m enough of the way through each of these books that I don’t forsee my opinion changing, BUT, if it does, you’ll know first thing in my October review. Like I mentioned earlier, there is a video companion to this blog over on The FlibGib. Be sure to check that out and subscribe if you’re on YouTube. Videos go up every Tuesday and they’ll range from books, to fandoms, to wedding attire, to travel vlogs, and oh so much more.
I picked my books for next month (one to audible, and one to read…giving this another go) in my video so if you want to know what’s coming next month, go have a looksee!
Try not to set yourselves on fire and hold on to your butts.
P.S. I finished writing this while I was waiting to get the screw taken out of the flat tire I got on the way to work today. Thanks for the jinx, Aisha. Damn it.