Reading Lolita in Tehran was a wonderful window into life during the Iranian revolution. One of the things that struck me in particular was the description of how the mandate for women to wear the veil not only upset the liberal women who did not want to wear it, but upset many religious women as well. This was because when they had worn it by choice, it was a symbol of their faith and special to them, but when it was mandated, they lost that, and felt it was cheapened. This had never occurred to me.
While I expect I would have drawn more from this book if I had read some of the books they talked about, (I have never actually read Lolita, and many moons have crossed the path of the sky since I read The Great Gatsby, many of the discussions made me WANT to read the books they were discussing, like Daisy Miller, which is a point in the favor of the author. As a literature professor, she is very enthusiastic about her material, so I think for those of you who are actual literature students/afecionados, this will be a doubly awesome read.
The thing that struck me the most, though, was how appreciative her students were of her classes. Several times, former students would mention her classes to her, or audit her classes, or approach her in teahouses to thank her, and that amazed me simply because I took so many of my classes in college for granted, as well as the freedom I had to TAKE those classes. It is a weird kind of epiphany to realize the courses I bitched and whined about were more of a lucky privilege than I had ever dreamed.
Also, oh the irony, there are several mentions of how during this war, the USA was on the side of one Saddam Hussein. Perhaps you've heard of him. Anyway, wonderful read, especially for lovers of cultural comparisons and lovers of literature.
I would like to take this opportunity to point out that I think whoever set rules on the fifty books challenge is kind of a snot. Who cares if someone is reading "high literature" or Harlequins? Get over yourself, it isn't a contest about who is the smartest most high-minded. It is an invitation to pick up a book. Sheesh.
That said, the second book I read was the novelization of a video game, and was indeed pretty much pure fluff. I was a little disappointed that the book, which promised me "the full story of the Seventh Guest," didn't add as much detail and background as I would have liked. There was some background information to fill in the scenes from the game, and some explanations of the scenes in the game that confused me, but the book didn't venture too far outside of the confines of those scenes, which made me very sad. Some of the scenes are even left out completely, which... MAX TEARS.(The novelization for the movie Willow, for example, branched out considerably and contains a buttload of additional, compelling material.)
What the book DID do admirably was keep the intrinsic feel of the game, which begins in the best way EVER, with your unseen avatar asking himself, in the beautifully crafted foyer of a haunted house, "How did I get here? I remember nothing." You learn bits and pieces of the story as you go, and as you see bizarre things in the haunted house. The book keeps that creepy, nervous feel of anticipation that I felt when I played the game, that feeling that as I was sitting there struggling to solve a puzzle, something was watching me.
SO. In the end, this book was a fun, light read that kept the feel of the game, but the transitions between the chapters are rough and jarring, and quite possibly difficult to understand for those who haven't played the game. If you're a fan of The Seventh Guest like me and already love the story, it's worth a read for the snippets of background on the magician alone. If you've never heard of The Seventh Guest, it isn't worth your time to track down a copy of this out-of-print bear and read it; it's more for nostalgic value than anything else.