Holocaust literature

Ug, sorry guys.  I haven’t been reading much lately; the sun’s come out so I’ve been out and about as much as possible – my energy levels increase dramatically as the amount of sunshine I get increase.   Also, I’ve been spending way too much time finishing series on Netflix instead of reading.  Oops.

This isn’t a book review.  It’s a rant/ask for suggestions.

One of my friends made a Holocaust joke last week. I hate Holocaust jokes.  They’re never okay and I seriously doubt they’ll ever be okay. I don’t know how one can think of the Holocaust without being at least tinged by horror and a peculiar sort of grief. Nobody laughed, I told her it was too soon (it will always be too soon), and she called us all overly sensitive. Except when 5 people (one of them Jewish, now that I think about it) don’t laugh…usually it’s just not that funny.  Okay, done ranting.

But I am fascinated by Holocaust literature.  Something about the horrors of it fascinates me.  That it could happen, that people actively worked to make it happen, boggles my mind. The depth and breadth of emotions evoked when trying to conceptualize genocide are worth exploring, if only to find the courage to stand up for injustice when you see it.

With all that said, I’m starting The Business of Genocide, a book looking at the middle managers of Hitler’s regime.  The paper pushers, accountants, and other seemingly ordinary white-collar workers who made the logistics of committing genocide possible.  I also have Schindler’s List, which I may read next if I can take it.

Any favorite Holocaust literature out? Fiction or nonfiction, what books do you find particularly compelling and why? What do I absolutely have to read in order to get a better understanding? Leave a comment below!


Female Love Interest

I’m currently reading The Wise Man’s Fear, Patrick Rothfuss’ sequel to The Name of the Wind.  I’m about halfway through it and I’m really enjoying it – I’ll write a review when I’m done – but first, a quick rant.  (Avast, mateys! Mild spoilers abound!)

Denna, the main character’s love interest, is driving me crazy.   She is mysterious and beautiful.  And mysterious and beautiful.  And  – oh look, she picked up a hobby relevant to the main character and did a stupidly generous thing for Kvothe, the main character and has a moment of deep insecurity in the second book, in addition to continuing to be mysterious and beautiful.   (A moment, mind you.  Not a developed theme or anything.  Just a completely predictable “beautiful-girl-who-seems-to-have-it-all-together-is-actually-vastly-insecure” moment.)

Arg! Seriously, Rothfuss? Seriously?! You have this intelligent, headstrong, complex daring main character who is having these fantastic moments of character development and all you can think of for a girl worthy of his love is – mysterious and beautiful? There’s not exactly a windfall of well-developed female characters in these (massive) novels, but, hell, any of the others would make a better love interest than Denna.  I feel I could easily replace her with whatever stereotype springs to mind when I say “mysterious, beautiful” lady and it would not detract from either the story or the love plot at all.

I can’t even give her credit for street smarts because 1) extremely stupid moment of generosity mentioned above.  Look, all I’m saying is if you’re constantly depending on others’ good will to support yourself, you often find yourself in straits, and you come into a huge windfall of money, don’t spend it all on a boy. And 2) she is being incredibly naive and gullible as it pertains to other mysterious people.

This is the only part of the book I sincerely dislike. But, oh, how much I dislike it! Please, people, if you’re going to make your books all about one character who’s amazing and super-intelligent and brave, ect., ect., can you take some time to write a love interest that seems realistically intriguing and engaging as a person?  Beauty and mystery are no basis for a relationship.


Contemporary Literature · Western

Country of the Bad Wolfes

by: James Carlos Blake

I did a short stint working events at a local bookstore in between graduating and my current job.  I was working this event – it was marketed as mystery – and I remember thinking, oh god. Wolves is misspelled.  A bad mystery author I’m going to have to sit through for a whole hour.  I set up the room, met the author briefly, and then sat down as he did his spiel, which was fairly interesting and short.  And then he begin to read.  James Carlos Blake is a fabulous storyteller. He has a gorgeous voice which lent itself well to the style of his book.  I became intrigued by the story and. after he was done, picked up a signed copy of the book to read.  (For what it’s worth, I believe that was the only time I’ve ever done so.) And then I settled in to read the book, which I did in two chunks several weeks apart.  I loved this book.

Blake is both a master storyteller and a fantastic writer.  Reading the book made me feel like I was listening to him tell it.  It’s an epic saga, based partly on his own relatives, telling the story of the Wolfe family as they make their way, through generations, from England to New England to Mexico to, finally, South Texas.  The family is largely morally straight but legally questionable and they play by the rules of the old West. Though the plotline of the book is focused heavily on the Wolfe family, Blake delves into the overarching issues of the time, like the Mexican-American War, class tensions, and Mexican politics. I truly enjoyed the way he combined knowledge of the time period with the actions of his characters to give the story historical depth. There are a few more graphic scenes, both violent and sexual.  Though the reader learns and follows the characters, we don’t quite get intimate with them. It works, in a John Wayne-type of way; never do we feel the characters are truly emotionally vulnerable to the reader, but never is it necessary to the story.

Read this book if you love old-fashioned storytelling, epic sagas, tales of the West – it’s not quite a Western, but it feels much the same in terms of actions and character types – or if you’ve been looking for that elusive crossover between Westerns and literature.  (I have no idea why this was marketed as mystery.)  If you’re looking for a Western genre book, light reading, or something purely action packed, this may not be the book for you.