October 22, 2008

Book Review: The Love Curse of the Rumbaughs by Jack Gantos

Let me just start by saying this book is weird. If you are the type that likes your stories odd, quirky, or just out of the norm, this book is for you. And although this book was in the teen collection, I imagine adults would enjoy it, too. The work is reminiscent of a F. Scott Fitzgerald tale. It's not set in the 1920s, but there is the same feel of magical realism and of characters that don't fit in normal society. It also reminded me of Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, OH, because it deals with life in a small town. Sometimes these small, seemingly quaint towns hold the deepest secrets.

The difficulty I have is giving a plot summary. It's one of those books that is really hard to describe. Rather than try to describe the plot, I will just tell you how the book starts. We meet Ivy, our protagonist, when she is seven years old. She tells us that she lives in a small town and that she is often in a drug store where the Rumbaugh twins live and work. We aren't sure why she spends so much time there, yet, but she is there often enough that the twins have a playroom for her. One day, she goes down to the playroom and she sees the twins' mother--the twins' mother, who happens to be dead--The twins' mother who happens to be dead and stuffed through taxidermy. Yes, that's right, just like Norman Bates. Although the twins deny it and say she's a stuffed bear, Ivy can't get this image out of her mind.

She is frightened and fascinated by what she sees. That's when she finds out about the curse of the Rumbaughs, who love their mothers to the point of obsession. What Ivy sees that day will connect her to the twins for the rest of her life.

Now, although this book is creepy, there's no murder or incest, so it's a far cry from Psycho. Gantos, who writes the popular Joey Pigza books, gets the combination of elements just right. The mood is that of a psychological fairy tale. It has the subtle creepiness of a Grimm fairytale.

Give this to older teens that enjoy darker reads such as Francesca Lia Block.

October 16, 2008

Commentary: The Movie Blindness and the Blind

So my loyal visitors will remember that a few months ago, I attended a national convention for the blind and visually impaired called the National Federation of the Blind. You can read about my take on this experience here. In any case, attending that convention opened my eyes to how this group of people looks at the world. In many cases, very differently! For example, many people in American are excited about energy-efficient cars. The blind see them as death machines. Because they tend to be silent or quieter than a gasoline-driven car, the blind have trouble hearing these and many blind have been killed or injured.

So, not too long ago a movie came out called Blindness. Keep in mind I haven't seen this movie. In short, the movie is about a place where all people start going blind. The city feels like it could be catching, so they quarantine all the blind people in one prison. As the new people try to deal with their blindness, they begin to act like animals, becoming more and more cruel.