about : me : contact : I read : others read : Reviews of books

r e a d i n g r o o m

what I'm reading now

what others are reading

what I read in:
1996 :
1998 : 1999
2000 : 2001
2002 : 2003
2004 : 2005

2006 :


jan : feb : mar apr : may : jun
jul : aug : sep
: nov : dec

jan : feb : mar
apr : may : jun
jul : aug : sep
oct : nov : dec

jan : feb : mar
apr : may : jun
jul : aug : sep
oct : nov : dec

jan : feb : mar
apr : may : jun
jul : aug : sep
oct : nov : dec

may : jun : jul
aug : sep : oct
nov : dec

Wednesday, April 25, 2002
remarkable woman

I completed Memphis Tennessee Garrison: The remarkable story of a black Appalachian woman last night. The text is derived from an oral history interview that Garrison did when she was in her eighties. Her story is so inspirational for those who think they can't change the world because they live in an isolated area. She was a teacher, arts program administrator, NAACP chapter organizer and then so much more. It is amazing that she managed to accomplish all that she did. But, she had no children and her husband basically kept out of her way and died young--she briefly mentions their courtship and occasionally makes reference to him, but he obviously was not a big part of her life. Am now finishing up the Coal towns book. Then, I'll have to consult my pile of library books....

Monday, April 23, 2002
that seventies book

Currently I am reading The Seventies : The Great Shift in American Culture, Society, and Politics by Bruce Schulman. It's on my bedside table, and I believe I've completed the introduction, which is witty and provocative, so I'm thinking that the book itself will be great, too. It may be a few days before I can go back to it, too much other reading that I'm supposed to be doing. Read about it at the Sacramento Bee. Of course I'm particularly interested in that decade because I was born then and one of the most remarkable things about the 70s was the Elvis/Nixon meeting (hell yeah, Presley's gift to the President, a World War II-era Colt 45, is now on display at the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace in Yorba Linda, CA). When such freakish events of history almost seemingly naturally occur, well that particular space in time has got something going on for sure. No doubt about it. When I visited the NARA a few years ago, I bought one of the T-shirts for an ungrateful person who has never worn the thing and was visiting the air & space museum while I was trotting around the microfilm room at the NARA (and I saw the Constitution, too!). This is the same person who professes an ironic interest in all-things-Elvis for whom I bought a lovely TCB shirt (pencils, too) when I visited one of the many gift shops across the street from Graceland (didn't get a chance to visit the King's Palace though, maybe next trip to Memphis).

Saturday, April 21, 2002
gross misconceptions

Just finished reading Naomi Wolf's Misconceptions: Truth, lies, and the unexpected journey to motherhood. I'm not a mother and am resistant to the idea...really because I read too much. Wolf's is not the first book I've read that doesn't candy-coat labor, delivery, & motherhood. Basically this book was a reiteration of...I've forgotten the title now, but a book that I read a few years ago on the topic that also tells it like it is. Wolf says great things about Ina May Gaskin, and this is one of those times when I'm glad that I live in Tennessee, even though the Farm is 8 hours away. Maybe that wouldn't be an option... oh well.

Misconceptions was pretty interesting and informative, but ultimately I felt like Wolf was just another pregnant sheep. I mean, she criticizes the medicalization of pregnancy/l&d, and then what does she do? Goes to a hospital to deliver her second child. Talk about someone not learning anything from her own research (although she says she had not investigated the topic fully at the time of her second delivery), or from her own experience! I am too critical, it is not a simple issue. But her birth decision completely invalidates the whole premise of her book. Still, the book it is quite interesting, indeed, quite compelling. And while she does rely on some anecdotal conversations, which actually make the book somehow more "personal" and relevant, she includes one she had with her brother that was quite shocking and ultimately, quite telling.

Naomi asks, "But how do you all negotiate that [that men are not going to sacrifice a career opportunity] if you have equal partnerships? I mean, can't the wives just say no [to relocation], or ask you to take turns [providing child care]?" He replied, "Bottom line? We know they won't leave us," he said, laughing gently. "A: They love us. B. Because of the kids." Pretty freaky, eh? And this is why I am childless and quite possibly will remain so.

Tuesday, April 17, 2002
tossed it

Yes, sad as it sounds, I tossed Yonder stands your orphan onto my bedroom floor last night after reading the first 5 or 6 pages. Just not for me. Granted, both plot, characters, and setting sounded kooky in a hybrid Southern-Gothic-Deliverance-meets-Tom-Robbins tradition, but one thing that I cannot do is read lengthy passages of italicized "inner dialogue" or musings or whatever that crap is. It immediately turns me off, ahem... alienates me from the work. Please note this is different than when I italicize quotes from books that I think are fabulous, noteworthy, or otherwise interesting. As for reading, I'm sort of cast afloat for now, bookless...in limbo... but I do have several things that I must read in the next week.

I must finish up Coal towns, read Memphis Tennessee Garrison: The remarkable story of a black Appalachian woman, and read Jose Clemente Orozco in the United States 1927-1934 which I need to review for Library Journal.

Sunday, April 15, 2002
long and winding trail

More on Author unknown...To reiterate, Foster writes on page 13 that ...it is the perception that the mind of a writer (poet or felon, no matter which) cannot be understood without first inquiring after the texts, including television, film, and even music CDs, by which that mind has been conditioned. You are what you read. When you write, your reading leaves its imprint on the page.

Foster also describes something that I learned about in Library School from my main adviser Dr. Beatrice Kovacs. I took collection management with her, as well as several other courses, but especially in collection management she stressed that in making policies, procedures, etc. to always Cover Your Ass (CYA), or in less profane language Cover Your Tail (CYT). The CYT was for all the school media librarians who would be greatly offended by the word ass, or any other word used by adults. But, I digress.

Foster writes on page 70 that Attribution is the one field within literary studies that requires one to state opinions, right or wrong, about matters of fact, and it is a wise attributer who peppers his statements with "perhaps." Scholars call this practice "due caution." The rest of the English-speaking world calls it "covering your ass." CYA is actually a time-honored literary convention, at least as old as Socrates and Aristotle. Aristotle covered his, and thrived. Socrates, who didn't, was forced to swallow hemlock.

Yee-ha to Foster when he writes on page 112 With a little persistence, the Unabom case might even have been solved using no other resource than a good academic library. As much time as Foster spends in libraries, I'm most assured that he is a true fan of libraries and friend to librarians. On page 136 FC, aka Kaczynski ...moved about from Illinois to Utah to California, he borrowed words, ideas, and addresses from particular libraries that he visited along the way. His favorite hangouts included the libraries of UC Berkeley, UC Davis, and CalState Sacramento, where he borrowed academic journals, East Coast newspapers, academic and business directories, and his favorite magazine Scientific American.

That's about all that I care to quote from Foster. Sometimes I get carried away, like with the Lippman library references. I'm trying to get a handle on my bookish enthusiasm, but I must confess, that it is doubtful that I ever shall. I fibbed when I said that I would read Bourne Identity next. Since I own the mass market paperback now, I'm reluctant to read it because I have oh, at least a dozen library books checked out from the public library and probably at least another dozen from my academic library.

Sitting before me as I type is Yonder stands your orphan. I admit, my reading is almost entirely controlled by the public librarians who chose what books to purchase for the library. It's really quite a shame, because I feel as though I have little choice in the matter. Books are so expensive and I really cannot afford to buy each one that catches my fancy. I rarely find the titles that I'm dying to read at my local public library. It's usually one of the branch libraries in this county or in the adjacent county that have all the great new titles I crave. I picked up this Barry Hannah novel because it takes place in Mississippi (someplace I've just recently driven through for the first time in my life, and I must say, it was unremarkable except that I had the heebie-jeebies the whole time).

I enjoy southern fiction (why I even have a subscription to the Oxford American, and I've been waiting on that next issue forever!) it's a genre that I try to read widely within. And, how could I resist a fly/book cover (what are they called anyway?) that reads Man Mortimer, a pimp and casino pretty boy who resembles dead country singer Conway Twitty, has just discovered that the only woman who's ever truly moved him is also being moved by another. Now that, was what clinched it for me. It sounds like a rollicking' good time.

Sunday, April 15, 2002
getting satisfaction

Author unknown was really such a joy to read. I finished it last night and meant to bring it along with me so that I could quote certain passages. This is one of those books in which I leave scraps of paper (acting as place/book markers), so that I can return to the thought later. Each chapter describes a separate investigation that Foster worked on. One of the most interesting parts was the chapter about Ted Kaczynski. Apparently he literally haunted libraries and used reference materials to identify his victims. Further, Foster gives lots of information regarding Kaczynski's literary influences, which I always find fascinating regardless of whom the person is or has become. One of the statements that Foster made that really sticks with me is (and this may not be exact): You are what you read.

I brought Crane's blue book of stationery with me to look over while I do my time at the reference desk this morning. I'm sure it will be enlightening. Also this morning I've been reading about Carol Sheilds (Pulitzer, National Book Critics Circle, and Orange winner that she is), in the NYT. While I truly enjoyed the Stone Diaries, I haven't read anything else that she's written. The article in the Times, titled Final Chapter, since she's dying of cancer, is quite interesting. What caught my eye most of all was this sentence: She describes her Oak Park childhood as bookish and happy. Really, it was the word bookish.

I searched for it using google late last week and found it everywhere, and although I certainly have an idea of what it means (to me leastways), I wonder if it's not used entirely too often and takes on rather negative connotations in the hands of the evil anti-bookish persons in the world. And why has there been no Bookwoman superheroine, or bookman for that matter? The OED gives 3 definitions: 1. Of or belonging to a book or books; literary 2. Addicted to the reading of books; studious. b. Disparagingly: Acquainted with books only 3. quasi-adv. = next. And, I'm not even looking at bookishly nor bookishness at the moment. I believe that an investigation of "bookish" is thus, in order.

Thursday, April 12, 2002

I never thought I'd be willingly reading about Shakespeare. Well, at least it's NOT Shakespeare, himself. Perhaps I would have a better feeling for the author if I wasn't force-fed his plays throughout my public schooling years. Strange how forced-reading can exert such an effect upon a body. I'm a few chapters into the Foster book, and though there are parts that are obtuse, like with grammar and stuff (I know how to decently put words together, but if you ask me whether it's an adverb or anything really complex, I'm lost), it's really quite fascinating. And, of course one of the great things about him and his research is that it requires him to spend an enormous amount of time in libraries. No doubt, he's quite pro-librarian, though I haven't encountered any exclamations or proclamations on their very indispensability.

I found a website, or list, rather, today that I've seen before but had forgotten about. It's called Who reads what? and is sponsored by our jolly good friends at Gale Research. The Gardiner Public Library of Gardiner, Maine mounts the list on their site. Pertaining mostly to celebrities, the list apparently runs from 1988-2001, as there is yet to be an entry for 2002. The celebrity name index can be a handy creature to use, if it works properly, which it didn't when I went to look up what Christina Ricci's been reading. The problem seems to be a bad link, perhaps somebody fell down on the job. But I did see that she was listed in the 2000 year, so I backtracked there and discovered that Ricci, who has posed for an ALA Read poster and holds Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead, recommends C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia. If you are diligent, you too can discover what your favorite "celeb" recommends that you read. That's about it for now, but I hope I can remember to write about the two or three really fabulous book sharing book release, free books, kinds of places there in the world that I really want to share with everyone!

Wednesday, April 11, 2002
marley in my head

I finished Chris Bohjalian's (here's a link to the column he writes for the Burlington Free Press) new book Buffalo soldier last night. Actually it was early this morning. I have trouble sleeping somewhat normally, and with this crappy springing forward in time thing, that just makes it worse. But, it's even more difficult to sleep when I'm in the middle of a great book, and once again Bohjalian does not disappoint. What's really cool is that my mother-in-law has just discovered him too, so that's pretty exciting. She and I both enjoy mysteries, although she also likes those Jan Karon books, which I can't seem to talk myself into trying...just on principle alone, you see.

I'm in the middle of reading the new Nathan Oliveira exhibition catalog. His work is brilliant. I especially love figurative painting, but his sensual colors and mysterious aesthetic are so evocative....sigh. Oh, can I have one to hang in my house, please?

I started reading the first few pages of Author unknown: on the trail of anonymous, which promises to be fabulous. Don Foster, professor at Vassar and literary forensic scientist (the guy who confirmed that T. Kaczynski wrote the Unabomb Manifesto), catches those anonymous authors we've all wondered about via their literary DNA. Read more about the book at Salon, which I used to look at daily until they started pulling that "salon premium exclusive" crap wherein you must pay to read certain articles. Such a pity.

I did purchase Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Identity (I couldn't wait to just check it out from the library, just one of the many facets of my bibliomadness, speaking of which....Nicholas Basbanes will be in Chattanooga later this month and I'm hoping to attend!), mainly because I want to read the book before I see the movie, I'm just that kinda gal. Gotta set myself up for disappointment when the movie turns out differently from the book. Guess that's all, folks...for now leastways.

Tuesday, April 3, 2002
kudos to lippman!

I must say that I really enjoyed Lippman's In a strange city. It was fabulous, though a bit slow at times. I totally didn't figure out who the bad guy was, it came as a complete shock, guess I just didn't pick up on something? I'm usually really great with figuring out plot devices and endings and all. I didn't really care for the parts that concerned Tess and her boyfriend and the renovation of her house, but the whole Edgar Allen Poe connection/mystery was so intriguing, wow! One of the best parts is that the Enoch Pratt Free Library is featured and Tess develops a relationship with a librarian, while making several wonderful observations about him. Here are some of the choicer bits (the book is riddled with scraps of paper so I could mark the ranges of interest!). In reference to a character who was recently murdered she writes:

Originally from Pennsylvania, he graduated from the University of Maryland with a bachelor's degree in English and a master's degree in library science. But he had been a waiter for as long as anyone could remember...Why does a man with a college degree end up waiting tables? Probably because it paid better than library work and the patrons who patronized you at least washed first (56). Later in Chapter 10 she writes: The Enoch Pratt free Library always lifted Tess's spirits, and she was in need of a lift when she walked through its doors later that day (85).

On the next page, a tribute to the Pratt: But Tess would go a long way out of her way to end up at the Pratt. She loved everything about it, beginning with its name, which came from the merchant who had poured his fortune into it (86).

And, now comes the good parts where she tells it like it is, she breaks your long-held beliefs about the nature of libraries and librarians. We ease into: But the Pratt remained the Pratt and managed to hold on to its dignity, even as it moved into the computer age and tried to bring its ancient branches up to code...Best of all the Pratt wasn't a hushed, somber place. Sounds bounced from the ceiling to floor and back again--respectful, librarylike sounds, but sounds nevertheless. In all her years of coming here, Tess never heard a librarian say "Hush" (87).

If that wasn't tantalizing enough, she goes even further in writing: She also had never met a librarian quite like the young man who sat at the Information Desk on this particular day. her aunt Kitty had been a school librarian [currently a bookstore owner], so Tess was not given to bun-and-bifocal stereotypes. Still, she was not prepared for this ruddy-faced young man, who would have looked more at home on a rugby field or in a bar afterward, lifting a pint. Sweetly rumpled, with light brown curls that looked as if he had just gotten up from a nap, he brought to mind the bookish heroes that Tess had encountered in her childhood reading. He was Louisa May Alcott's Laurie, Maud hart Lovelance's Joe Willard, Lenora Mattingly Weber's Johnny Malone, Jules from the All-of-a-kind Family books. His shirt was half in, half out, his fisherman-knit sweater was fraying at the collar, and Tess would bet anything that one of his shoes was untied (87).

Shall I go on? He may not look like the clichéd librarian, but he admonished like one (88).

And just so you know he sets Tess straight about who he is and what he does: I have the authority. I'm a librarian, not a receptionist. And there are other people waiting (88).

Then, Tess learned more about Daniel Clary: How long have you been at Pratt? Ten years. It's competitive, isn't it, getting a job here?...Yes, the Pratt is still a desirable posting, even with private industry going after librarians. Most people don't realize it, but trained research librarians are very much in demand right now. I could make a lot more money working somewhere else. But I became a librarian because I love books. An anyone who cares about libraries has to be thrilled, working at the Pratt (89).

Their conversation soon turns to library theft and biblio-kleptomania, a thrilling topic, but not covered in depth in this book. There's more dialogue between the two until the chapter ends. Tess and Daniel go out for a bite to eat and he tells her: Would you believe that he [Bobby] made more money working part-time as a waiter than I made working full-time? He loved telling me that (94).

Note the recurring emphasis on how low librarian's salaries are. Big issue in libraryland, indeedy. One of the great things that Tess says to Daniel later is: What a librarianish thing to say (100) in reference to how POE would write it.

Sometime later Tess visits Daniel's home which: ...might not have felt so small if it hadn't surrendered a foot of wall space on every side to shelves, which reached from floor to ceiling (154). Tess remarks: I guess I shouldn't be surprised that a librarian has so many books, but this is a little overwhelming...In a good way, I mean (154). Then she references a movie featuring Ali McGraw in which the hero is a male librarian. Daniel goes on to speak about how his collection of old beat-up books that look valuable impresses girls. He tried for a roguish smile but ended up looking merely bashful. Well some girls. The male librarian doesn't cut a lot of ice in a world where everyone else has stock option and new cars and condos with water views, but there's a certain bookish subcult that is amenable to our charms (155).

Then much later on there's talk about liberating books from libraries. That's about all for that. Thanks for your patience, and indulgence.
I also read a thesis this evening while doing my time at the reference desk. Only 88 leaves, Judge Samuel Cole Williams : businessman, lawyer-jurist, dean and historian by Billy J. Crouch was interesting reading. Published in 1956, well I guess it was just written then since it never received interest from an publishing houses, its style was so-so, maybe even golden for its age..... I know of SCW mainly from the books he wrote on historical subjects specific to East Tennessee, though he did a few about Tennessee in general. He did write a biography of Gen. John T. Wilder which I also read, well, basically skimmed this evening,too.

Tuesday, April 3, 2002
a week without reading is like...

I did finish Wren's Gift upon the shore, and one of the most interesting things about it has to do with the conflict between books/learning/information and fundamental Christian beliefs. The showdown at the end pits 2 women against each other. One tries to blow up a shed containing quite possibly the last few books in existence while the other woman, thirty or forty years her senior handcuffs herself to the building. The elderly woman, Mary, I believe wants to preserve this legacy for humanity. She and her housemate, Rachel scavenged up all the books they could find and sealed them into a shed so that they could be preserved for future generations who could make copies of the texts.

I read an autobiography/memoir about the only woman to serve in the French Foreign Legion, Susan Travers. Tomorrow to be brave was quite fascinating (here's the NYT blurb). Travers was quite a wicked woman and wants to be sure that her legacy stresses that above other things. Born into English privilege (which I guess is more decadent than most, or perhaps just manifests itself distinctively?) Travers grew up in Cannes, I believe or somewhere along the French Riviera. The contrast between her early years of excess and later deprivations during the war were great indeed. I always enjoy reading about women who took chances and lived exciting lives, though the excitement seemed to wane after her marriage, who would have guessed that?

I suppose that the next thing that I read was Jonathan Franzen's Corrections, which I'd been on the library's waiting list forever. And, it was actually quite good. I guess you could say that I devoured it. As an aside, I always have trouble spelling Jonathan. It's one of those weird names that has several variations, and one never knows quite how the owner spells it.

My reading then turned to something more fun, Beth Saulnier's latest mystery in the Alex Bernier series, Bad seed. Great topic though, Frankenfoods and GMO's, really pits the community against one another. While I enjoy reading the Bernier series, I'm waiting for Saulnier to develop more as a writer. I don't think the books are as tight as they could be though the plots are well-conceived and the characters are real enough.

Now I'm reading Laura Lippman's In a strange city. More about it later, but it's really quite fabulous, except for a few things...