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Campus Circle > Culture > Books
32 Candles (Amistad) As far as romantic comedies go there seems to be a formula: Girl wants boy, girl gets boy, girl loses boy, girl gets boy back. 32 Candles by Ernessa T. Carter takes this formula and runs with it, taking the reader on an awesome and hilarious journey. 32 Candles is about Davie Jones, a modern-day ugly duckling who transforms herself into an interesting lady. The novel begins in a small town in Mississippi where Davida Jones is picked on at school because of her appearance and abused at home because of a cruel mother. The appearance of a new, ‘well off ’ family in town brings a lot of excitement, but Davida is only interested in the son of the new family. The sister of the boy Davida has a crush on targets Davida, which culminates in a cruel prank. Before the reader knows it, Davida takes a ride from a stranger and moves away to Los Angeles where she begins to find self-confidence through her job as club singer, which also enables Davida to put herself through school. After a calm couple of years in California where Davida becomes a self-assured lady, a chance meeting at Disney Studios with her childhood crush from Mississippi sends Davida’s ‘calm’ life into a tailspin. 32 Candles was a fun read from start to finish. But what makes it stand out from a typical romantic-comedy read is that the book makes it clear that nothing is black and white. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone has baggage from childhood or specific unhappy incidents that happen throughout life. An important part of the novel stresses that it’s important to be yourself and stay true to yourself to find real happiness, not just with a guy but also with life itself. Davida Jones (Davie to her friends) is a true modern-day symbol for chick lit. She doesn’t physically change herself to find happiness. She works within to make herself better and ends up with a life that anyone would envy filled with unlikely friends and career fulfillment. A fun shock comes towards the end of the novel where, through a series of surprising revelations, the reader realizes what Davie was truly capable of and the admissions explain many of Davie’s actions throughout the novel. If you’re looking for a fun read with satisfying character arcs then 32 Candles fits this format as a novel that’s hard to put down. From everything mentioned in this review it’s obvious that it could fit into a great Hollywood romantic comedy movie. 32 Candles unashamedly uses such iconic romantic comedies starring Molly Ringwald (16 Candles, The Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink) as inspiration for Davida’s love life. 32 Candles brings many of the classic ‘80s movies into a modern format. References throughout the novel about Hollywood life are also cool for anyone interested in some of the things that happen in the movie world. I also predict that the soundtrack to accompany a film version would be just as fun as the movie. If you’re ready to laugh, be inspired and discover a new literary heroine, check out 32 Candles. It’s not a novel that you’ll forget anytime soon, and you’ll find yourself wanting to know what’s next from the literary world’s newest talent: Ernessa T. Carter. Grade: A
Campus Circle 6.8.11 - 6.14.11
—Sola Fasehun 32 Candles is currently available.
A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter (Penguin) Jane Austen’s keen social observations and delightfully witty, sometimes foolish and occasionally loathsome characters have made her one of our most lasting writers – this year marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of her first novel, Sense and Sensibility – and earned her an avid fan base. But with adoring Austen a largely female pursuit, something nags: Can dudes love her too? That’s what A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter is ready to reveal. William Deresiewicz, a 40-something literary critic and former Yale professor, devoted part of his doctoral dissertation to Austen and has published a scholarly book about her, Jane Austen and the Romantic Poets. In this new book, he clambers down from the ivory tower and combines deft descriptions of her novels with something more, a memoir of growing up, with insights from Austen’s writings. It begins with the young scholar – hot on literary theory, the Clash and Dostoevsky – coming at Austen with skepticism. “Wasn’t she the one who wrote those silly romantic fairy tales? Just thinking about her made me sleepy,” Deresiewicz writes. He is candid when describing himself as an intellectually ambitious grad student. “I was not the easiest person to get along with. In fact, I wonder that my friends put up with me at all. Like so many guys, I thought that a good conversation meant holding forth about all the supposedly important things I knew: books, history, politics, whatever. But I wasn’t just aggressively certain of myself ... I was also oblivious to the feelings of people around me.” What turns him around is Austen’s novel Emma. The main character charmed Deresiewicz with her certainty and clarity of purpose – which, late in the book, is revealed to be not at all on target. Emma’s dawning awareness parallels Deresiewicz’s growing self-knowledge, and he comes to see Austen’s textual cleverness as having the same literary ambitions he had looked for in the works of authors like James Joyce. It makes for a nice circle: Deresiewicz sums up Emma with dash, adds a smart critical element and brings it back to his own life. The formula seems simple: one chapter for each Austen novel, blended with thoughtful literary analysis and one clear life lesson. It won’t be a spoiler to say that Austenites will predict that this light literary comedy will – and it does – end in marriage. But after Emma, Deresiewicz’s circles just don’t hold together all that well. While he is adept at writing readable plot summaries, his interpretations sometimes feel forced into lessons that don’t entirely fit. Pride and Prejudice, he decides, is about feeling free enough to make your own mistakes – with his rhetorical gifts, he can make the case. But I can’t be the only one who thinks Pride and Prejudice has a lot to do with the conflicted, buttoned-up, adorable Darcy and his ability to see Elizabeth Bennet clearly, including all her faults, and love her anyway. What the book lacks is a deep connection to Deresiewicz himself; he’s better at analyzing text than telling his own story. The details of his life crop up without connection. In one chapter he’s a 28-year-old grad student living in the same dorm after several years, with a futon on the floor, a blanket tacked over the window and a fixation on a comely 21-yearold. Probably to the relief of her parents, she didn’t return his affections. For all we know, he’s self-absorbed and arrogant, but in the next chapter, on the strength of his erudition and wit, he’s hitching a ride into the jet set on the coattails of an old friend.
What we don’t see is his evolution; nor does he show us his charm in action. And when he reveals late that the most important part of his life was being involved in a Jewish youth movement, it comes as a complete surprise – as if we don’t know him at all. In another writer’s hands, the revealed details might add up to something – a character we understand and care about. In fact, in Austen’s hands, they probably would. But Deresiewicz, as clever a reader as he may be, is not much of a memoirist. He doesn’t give a clear self-portrait – and with this center missing, the lessons he’s learning seem unfelt and academically constructed. This is the hazard of embracing a great writer as a subject, or even, as Deresiewicz has done, as a catalyst. As a critic, he has been able to measure up. But as a storyteller, he falls far short: He gets few memorable conversations on the page and creates no indelible characters. In Austen’s long shadow, he can barely explain him–self. Grade: B —Carolyn Kellogg, Los Angeles Times (MCT) © 2011, Los Angeles Times. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter is currently available.
The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches: Recipes, History, and Trivia for Everything Between Sliced Bread (Quirk Books) What it is: “The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches,” a 320page compendium of sandwiches from Susan Russo, who comments on (NPR’s “Kitchen Window”) and blogs (Food Blogga) about food. Her words are accompanied by the photography of Matt Armendariz. Praise and quibbles: If you take a spin through the table of contents, the list of sandwiches is not eye-popping. I mean, a roast beef sandwich? How difficult can that be? But go to the recipe. Kaiser roll. Swiss cheese. Tomato and red onion. Not bad. And then Russo really steps it up, explaining how to create advanced versions: beef on a weck, a Brazilian Bauru, the California roast beef. These variations – and some sound truly spectacular – give the book added depth. Meat-andpotato types may not get excited about some of the recipes, such as the toasted chocolate sandwich or the doughnut sandwich. Why you’ll like it: The book is compact, and the recipes are tempting and not overly involved. A nice touch is a sixpage ingredient index, listing breads, condiments, sauces, meats, cheeses, fish, vegetables, fruits and nuts that appear in Russo’s recipes. What to do with those pineapple rings in the fridge? There’s a recipe that uses them. Also, you have to like any book that opens with a page devoted to the wisdom offered by singer-songwriter Warren Zevon when asked what he had learned during his long, and ultimately losing, battle with cancer: “Enjoy every sandwich.” With this book, you will. Grade: A —William Hageman, Chicago Tribune (MCT) © 2011, Chicago Tribune. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches: Recipes, History, and Trivia for Everything Between Sliced Bread is currently available.