You haven’t read that?

My friends are very well-read. They’re teachers and editors and writers themselves, so what are you reading? and what should I read next? are questions that come up often in our conversations. So it was a little bit of a surprise when one of my well-read friends admitted to never having read Charlotte’s Web. Immediately, we pounced on her.

Were you raised by wolves?

But, I’ve met your mother. She seems nice enough!

Maybe we can’t be friends with you anymore.

OK, OK, no one said that. Nobody even teased her about it. We had all assumed she’d read it already, but she was the one who judged herself and felt that she’d come up short. So she recently rectified that by reading Charlotte about a week ago, in addition to other kids’ classics like Dear Mr. Henshaw, and Mixed Up Files.

Then this weekend, my husband and I were watching a remake of Dorian Grey with Colin Firth (mmmm…. Colin Firth…) and I said something about not remembering one of the more racy scenes from the book. At which point, my husband said he didn’t know much about the plot of the story. And then I fell down. Because The Picture of Dorian Grey is one of my favorite books of all time, and I started wondering if I’d married the right guy.

Fortunately, a few minutes later I came off my high horse. Even great writers know we can’t read everything. I call myself a science fiction fan, and I’m yet to read The Hitchiker’s Guide to the GalaxyThere are other things to do, like eat, and shower, and stalk Colin Firth. And maybe it’s enough to have the gist. Otherwise we’d all be going blind from reading, and nothing else would ever get done, like, you know, a cure for cancer, or flying cars, or Colin Firth clones for all.

Besides, not having read everything is good news. It means you’ll never run out of things to read.

Books 20 & 21: CATCHING FIRE & MOCKINGJAY

I finished THE HUNGER GAMES trilogy this weekend, partly because the books were due back to the library on Monday and partly because I really couldn’t put them down. Suzanne Collins created a world that I couldn’t possibly have conceived of. And future dystopia isn’t new in literature, the world that she evoked with Panem and it’s brutal laws was something both shocking in its unfamiliarity yet still within the realm of reason. Why? Because as uncomfortable as that world is, dystopia seems always on the horizon when we look at current events in both politics and the environment.

At a recent @LitChat, people compared THE HUNGER GAMES series to Orson Scott Card’s ENDER’S GAME. The consensus was that they present a similarly violent future, but that GAMES was far more violent in its execution. Yes, the main character kills off several people. But the games are meant to be a violent reality show where children kill other children. I’m not sure what people were expecting to happen. One of the people who commented said that he wouldn’t allow his 12 year old to read that particular series, and I take exception to that. A kid can read any book they want to attempt in my house, only if I think it may be age-inappropriate, I will read it along with them and make sure that some elements are discussed. For example, my very sensitive 8 year old may not be ready for CHARLOTTE’S WEB, but if she wanted to read it, I’d read it with her, and we’d discuss what happens to Charlotte at the end.

But violence and what may be deemed inappropriate aside, what I most enjoyed about the series was the incredible writing. Thank the sweet heavens for good writing. It has really been lacking in my reading material of late. Collins has pulled off the impossible feat of making good writing into best-selling material. Sadly, I find most best-sellers so lacking in their prose, that I’m often pissed I wasted my time. What’s that Flannery O’Connor quote? “There’s many a bestseller that could have been prevented by a good teacher.” Which isn’t to say that Collins managed to sustain the level  of writing throughout the series. THE HUNGER GAMES starts out with a bang, and is impossible to put down. CATCHING FIRE was less riveting, though the frustration level for the reader at watching a further injustice probably is the thing that glues us to the page. But by the time we get to MOCKINGJAY, the plot has dropped so far below the original, that the book’s easy to put  down. The ending was particularly disappointing in light of the promise of Book 1’s opening. One of my friends described it as ending with a whimper. Main character, Katniss, so full of fire in the first two books, has petered out at the end, and merely drifts toward her happy ending.

Still, an excellent read, and I recommend it. The movie is also coming out, and the motion poster they’ve designed for the book is beyond awesome.