June – July Reading Round-Up

June – July Reading Round-Upfeatured

I feel like it’s been forever since I’ve written one of these. Funny how two months can go by so fast and at the same time, the end of May seems like forever ago, right?

June - July Reading Round-Up {the ponytail diaries}

Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination by Neil Gabler

Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination

A few months ago I mentioned that I’m not usually one to not finish books that don’t immediately grab my attention. People, this book is why I try to stick it out.

It took me over two months to read this thing — it’s very dense, and very slow at the beginning especially, and whenever Gabler went into intricate detail about contracts and legal issues (which was a lot). But it was also fascinating, and I’m really glad I plugged all the way through it.

I read Steve Jobs a little over a year ago and from the start, I couldn’t help comparing Disney to Jobs — both their similarities and differences as leaders and my experience reading about each. Personally, it was a bit of a struggle to read about Jobs right around when I was deciding whether or not to leave my office job. A year later, it was much easier to read about Disney now that I have a little “entrepreneur” experience (sort of). What struck me with Disney was how often and how badly he failed — several of the Disney films we see as wonderful classics now were complete flops in the 30s and 40s. I also — this may be the historical fiction fan in me — loved putting myself in that time when animation was so new. Things we take for granted now in animated films had to be invented and developed first. I totally want to watch Snow White and early Mickey Mouse cartoons and Pinocchio and Dumbo now and pay more attention to the animation style and techniques.

So my favorite parts, hands down, were the sections on the animation processes and then the development of Disneyland. Gabler’s research is very evident throughout, but I found myself skimming paragraphs that had more than three dollar signs because I just could not make myself care as much about the details of different contracts and negotiations. Gabler also seemed to stay pretty unbiased; he stated different controversies Walt found himself in or accusations of, say, anti-Semitism and if he made a judgement call, he usually backed it up with primary sources, like letters or memos Walt sent to friends or employees.

Bottom line: Good read for Disney fans and entrepreneurs especially, but be prepared for a long, slow read.

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

Go Set A Watchman

Oh man. I almost don’t want to write about this. I literally just finished it last night and I think it’s the kind of novel you need to sit with for a few days, at least. I’m also hesitant to jump into the whole discussion of should/shouldn’t it have been published at all and what does Harper Lee really want. I’ve seen posts and thoughts from people I admire — thoughtful, kind, smart, good people — eager to read the book. I’ve also seen posts and thoughts from people I admire — also thoughtful, kind, smart, and good — explaining why they’re not planning to read it. And I don’t know.

If anything, my question is “why now?” Surely the at least some editors and publishers involved in making this decision were aware of the possible controversy. And…well, not to be indelicate, but by all reports, Lee probably doesn’t have too many years left. The public didn’t even know about this manuscript until last year, so surely nothing would have been lost by waiting to publish it posthumously, when Lee’s intentions might have been made a little clearer. Why was there such a push to publish it now? (Have I simply missed Internet discussion on that topic?)

One of the “don’t read it” posts I read (I think from tumblr?) said Go Set A Watchman was actually written before To Kill A Mockingbird — it may have been Lee’s first finished novel. And it was never polished and perfected for publication like Mockingbird was. This post called it a “first-time novelist’s first draft,” so it’s not fair to publish it and have people expect a polished, finished novel.

And I can see that. The beginning was slow, the ending a bit rushed, the pacing and some of the characters uneven. And there was at least one major, glaring inconsistency between Watchman and Mockingbird.

But I think Lee’s most impressive gift is her ability to place you in the story. I’ve never lived in a town anything like Maycomb and I never will, and I have such a clear, sensory picture of that place. I feel the summer heat, I taste Calpurnia’s lemonade, I smell the cakes Alexandra serves company. When I first saw the (brilliant) movie version of Mockingbird, I didn’t like it because they took out most of my favorite scenes — mainly the ones with Scout and Jem playing with Dill, showing me this seemingly-idyllic small-town childhood.

You’ve probably heard that, especially if you idolize Atticus Finch (like I do), this is extremely hard and upsetting to read. And it is. But I also think that’s what makes it so important to read. Watchman, like Mockingbird, is a coming-of-age story, just a much harder one.

My thoughts are still all over the place with this one.

Bottom line: You’ve probably already made up your mind whether or not to read this.

What have you read lately? 

photo via pixabay // cc // modified in photoshop