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Wednesday, December 19, 2001
miracles and other nonsense

I read Jane Alison's novel of Ovid's life, Love-Artist, over the weekend. Thank goodness it was brief. Ancient times do not normally interest me. I usually prefer modern treatments, as well as selected historical novels based in the 16-19th centuries. I don't think I could have endured a lengthy narrative at this point. I must say that what attracted me to the book was its provocative cover. It wasn't overtly sexy or anything of the sort, but the woman on the cover intrigued me.

However, there was another book that I read just prior to Love-Artist. Its title escapes me at the moment, and that is quite bad. Let me think a moment, perhaps something will jog my memory. Oh yes, Mirabilis. I did finish that, and it was quite interesting. It was a bit difficult to suspend my disbelief and get into the story at first, but my diligence paid off. It was most entertaining with its multiple perspectives (although the sculptor's fevered ramblings left me bored, I simply skipped them), lesbianism, dwarves (or little people), accusations of witchcraft, and breastfeeding extravaganzas. The author, Susann Cokal, is a Creative Writing professor. Here's an interview with her. And I must say, it Was indeed creative!

I'm reading All souls: a family story from Southie by Michael Patrick MacDonald. I think I finished the third or fourth chapter last night. At this point in the book he's still quite young and just relating family stories and everyday events. While I spent about 6 years of my young life in a housing project as well, got free lunches and dental through the school system, there is no doubt that there is little to compare between our experiences (his in urban Boston, mine in bucolic East Tennessee). We were never on food stamps nor did I eat gov'ment cheese. Hmmm, maybe I wasn't really in a project after all, perhaps it was just low-income gov'ment-subsidized housing? There certainly were worse-off people in other projects around town.

I've got Cold comfort farm on my bedside table. It is quite short, so I should be able to whip right through it in no time. I saw the movie and then decided to read the book by Stella Gibbons. However, I can't seem to find a really good page that has biographical and bibliographical information about her...though I DID come across something nasty in the woodshed. And speaking of woodsheds, a recent biography of her life is called Out of the Woodshed: The Life of Stella Gibbons. Well, it does surprise me that there isn't a devoted Internet space to Stella Gibbons. Perhaps that can be yet another project that I take on. I'm afraid that I won't break my own record set last year for number of books read. I think it was something like 150 books or so, and this year I think I'm just over 100, maybe in the 100-teens.

Wednesday, December 12, 2001
ho ho hum

I'm not consuming books at quite the pace I had hoped to. Suddenly free of required reading or required evening activities, I can't seem to drag myself away from the TV. I suppose I want my mind numbed. Over the weekend I did finish Conspiracy.com. RJ Pineiro's novel seemed like a techno version of The Firm. You know, upcoming whippersnapper of a boy genius is courted by a company that makes great promises, etc. However, instead of being tied to the Mafia, the guy in Pineiro's novel fights to disarm, both figuratively and literally, this Cuban fellow who fancies himself Castro's successor. The Cuban guy has amassed billions of dollars to pump into Castro's regime, so by the end of the book, Marines or whomever intercept this cargo ship bound for Cuba that's got all the parts and pieces to construct nuclear warheads. Thrilling, I'll tell you. Actually the VR and AI parts of the book were most interesting, and the plot wasn't all bad.

I read about 118 pages in Cloud sketcher by Richard Rayner. I finally had to put it down because; well I suppose I just didn't have the time tot invest in it. It didn't flow well, or at least to my liking. It was quite lyrical, and I found myself skipping the lovely beautiful parts just to get to the action. I like a book that comes straight to the point. While allusion and all manner of literary devices can be quite cool, I'm usually not in the mood to immerse myself in the imagery or the author's quaint use of words. Maybe it's because the writer is British-born. It's no secret that I have very little use for British writers, that's why I've avoided the Harry Potter miasma so well. Oh, and the book will be a major motion picture as well, with none other than Brad Pitt starring as Esko. I'm sure he'll have fun with prosthetic masks that make him look like a burn victim. Oh well, it worked for Kevin Spacey in that crappy movie Pay It Forward (although in the book by Catherine Ryan Hyde, his character was Black--and that made the plot infinitely more effective) that starred that nasty little boy who "smells dead people".

I read through the first chapter or two of Mirabilis by Susann Cokal. I haven't made any decisions about it just yet. It is intriguing, but a bit strange in the beginning. I found a book group guide to the book, but didn't come across any reviews or biographical information about the writer, yet.

Tuesday, December 4, 2001
forgetting it by the book

I just remembered 2 other books that I've read, one last week and the other a month or so ago, that I failed to mention here. The most recent one that I read was Cornel West's book from the early nineties Race matters. Very interesting, he walks a fine line between conservatives and liberals yet calls himself a progressive. Definitely something everybody should read. Many of his statements are universal and not just pertaining to Blacks. Okay so I'm not young enough to feel comfortable calling them African-Americans (and NOT old enough to be blithely derogatory). It's too long...seven syllables actually!

I saw Ice Storm on Bravo a few months ago and the screen adaptation intrigued me enough that I wanted to read the book. Rick (interview at Paris review) wrote it in 1994. Although the movie was dark and intriguing, it failed to do justice to the book. Well, it's not as if the movie could recreate a few explicit sex scenes dealing with lesbianism and rape that stuck out in the book, now could it? The movie failed to capture the density, complexity, and hopelessness of the characters--though it did a fine job portraying the breakdown of the family.

Monday, December 3, 2001
oh the complications

I must say that although I enjoyed Allen Kurzweil's (how did I know he'd have his own homepage??) book The Grand Complication, I didn't exactly appreciate it. A better title might be "The Grand Constipation." First, all the librarians in the book, at least the ones he develops--NOT the female librarian whose back--which reads Librarians Do It By The Book--is to him while she smooches someone in the stack, are all Male!!! And, he characterized most of them as quite anal and controlling and icky. But, he did that with most characters except for the main character's posse. Perhaps he was trying to create an atmosphere in which the poor chap is hopelessly oppressed and this makes solving his case more difficult. Well, if his librarians were helpful and kind--as most tend to be-- he wouldn't have encountered near as much opposition/resistance...oh gee, the correct work is NOT springing to mind immediately. Males are a distinct minority in librarianship. Although I cannot be 100% sure, there is no library in existence with a predominantly male staff. So maybe the Vatican library would qualify, but does it really count? Alas, it was a piece of fiction, but must it be fantasy as well? Sigh. Double sigh. So the novel basically read like a return to the old boys club, blah and yuck and double blah again! However there were a few tasty quotes, which I've included here... "Make no mistake. Libraries are packed with danger." (65) and the other is "Remember," Sharansky bellowed. "Library work is not a science, whatever claims our profession might make. Never forget that luck and errors are the handmaidens of all research." (199) Isn't it horrible to forget a book? Well, perhaps not if it's really crappy but somehow I manage to remember those with ease.

A month or two ago I had a free night so I read a book I bought at ALA's annual conference (in San Francisco!) in June. Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill had a booth there and on the last day of the conference publishers sell off their stock for usually half-price. Algonquin is probably my favorite publisher; they have some of the greatest books imaginable. I bought The Hero's Walk by Anita Rau Badami because the woman working their booth spoke so highly of it. I also bought Educating Esme and 100 vegetables and where they came from (a gift for someone but I would have gladly kept it all for myself!). Hero's walk didn't turn out quite as good as I hoped, though it was satisfying. It ended quite happily, and that's usually good as far as I'm concerned. Oh joy, just a few more days and I can read until my heart is content, which is close to never, but a few weeks of solid reading, one of two books per day will be my holiday gift to myself, hurrah!