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Wednesday, July 31, 2002
Hawke cooties, girlish indulgences, and what else?

I have a feeling this will be a long entry. So much to write... And I'll need to wrap up the month. Although it's been LEO for a few days or weeks now, I always think of August as month of Leo celebration (moon is in Sagittarius). It seems as though I'm forgetting a book, though.

I finished reading Hawke's Ash Wednesday on Saturday night, just in the nick of time. I'm ambivalent about it. I may have to read it again. Good points were that he wrote from both the male and female perspective, which wasn't the case in Hottest State. Hurly-burly comes to mind in trying to characterize this second novel. I don't mean that it's disorganized at all, but that there's so much going on, and frequent and abrupt changes in time, that it leaves the read (or at least, me.) disconcerted. I was also a bit turned off by the religious content, wherein the once-lost lad returns to the fold of the Catholic church. That was unexpected, the religious component to the novel. Ultimately my interpretation was that via marriage he was redeemed and renews his relationship with Jesus.

My good friend Kellie went to Charlottesville with me. She likes EH, possibly more than I do. We saw the screening of Chelsea Walls, and I'm ambivalent about it. I still am unsure whether I liked it. Well, sure I did because I enjoy cinema that leaves lots of questions unanswered. Subtlty is a fine quality in most endeavors. I just wish that Steve Zahn was in more of the movie. He gives consistently excellent performances. After the screening, EH answered a few questions from the audience, the majority were pathetic. Two hours later at the ampitheater he read the first chapter of the book and then more Q & A. Again, the majority were stupid and were about his film career, not his literary accomplishments. So that really speaks loads about the assumed intellect of UVA students, bah! The mission of the trip was to get my copy of Ash Wednesday signed by the author. Mission accomplished. We didn't wait in line too terribly long and once I got up to the table, here's what happened.

EH looks up from the table.
RLT: Hi, I'm Rebecca
EH busily writing To Rebecca on title page
RLT: So, your next book is about a librarian, right?
EH looks up, stunned, or curious, or something
RLT: Because you know, I am one
EH: Are you a librarian here?
RLT: No, in Tennessee
EH: Then you'll be sure that my book finds a good place in your library
RLT: Yeah, sure (or maybe I just nodded because I was kind of stunned while trying to move along so that I don't cause the line to slow down)

Then, the most amazing and freakish thing happens. He reached out his right hand to me to shake mine. I had to do a weird backwards cross-over handshake with my left hand because my right hand was full. Then, I got out of the way and took a photo of Kellie getting her book signed. She was thrilled for me that he shook my hand. I was so silly and girlish and bubbly, etc. with all the "I'll never wash my hand again..." crap. I should mention that there was fluid exchange. It was 98 (105 including the heat index for humidity) that day and he was very sweaty, so was I. Kellie suggested that I lick my palm to truly absorb the essence of Ethan, ingest his DNA, but I refrained. I'm not that much of a freak, and really, I'm quite sure I'm not his biggest fan.

Author signings are such strange beasts. I try to be conscientious about apporaching a writer with something that they haven't heard a million times before. When I met Barbrara Kingsolver last year, I agonized over what to say, but in the end, I just mubled something about thank you and how kind she was to do this and how I so appreciated it. Plus, I was coming down with a debilitating flu, so I wasn't in top form. So Kellie and I were trying to think of something original to say to EH when we stood before him. I babbled about librarians because he's such a reader, but his characters never seem to read (except from the Book of Common Prayer in ash wed.), and I think they should. Then, earlier today I re-learned his committment to young novelist via the Young Lions award he helped set up through the NYPL. I think I said something like "It's such a pleasure to hear you lecture" to Wilma Mankiller, when she signed my copy of her biography (that was a true thrill, and I have a photo somewhere that my dear friend Melanie took of me asking her a question at the end of her lecture; we're both in the photo) and I have absolutely no idea what I said to Mary Daly. Probably thanks.

The conclusion was that the next day Kellie and I bought copies of the Charlottestville Progress which ran a huge photo on page two along with the article about Hawke's reading, but the text is online as well. And, we visited Monticello which was so breathtaking. Jefferson's favorite book was Don Quioxte, which I suppose I should read before I die.

Began Joyce Maynard's To die for. Apparently I picked up the wrong Maynard book. I've seen the movie, and she actually wrote the screenplay. I had a real problem in disassociating myself from the movie characters. It's now in the pile to return to the library. It turns out that I do have the Margaret Salinger book, Dream catcher and I may begin it this weekend.

Friday, July 26, 2002
Oh memoir, my memoir!

So the Maynard memoir was really great. I truly enjoyed it. Her writing style is close to perfect. Her story was quite interesting, and sheds light upon Salinger's chronic need for young women in his life. Now that would make a very interesting psychological study. So I guess he's still alive. Instead of reading a biography of his life, I'd rather read what his "women" have written about him. I understand that his daughter Margaret (I wonder if this is the Peggy mentioned in Maynard's book...) has written a memoir. I'll have to locate & read that. But, you know.... I'm thinking that I already have that. I'm not sure. I purchase so many books that languish on my shelves. I think the next thing I'll read is Madam 90210 : my life as madam to the rich and famous. I can't seem to find any reviews on it though... hope that's not indicative of anything.

And, not that it's at all related to reading (unless you like reading obituaries), I'm really sad today because I learned that a friend died and I didn't get to, quite obviously, say goodbye, but I didn't learn of his death until three days after his burial. So here's to you Mark. You were a clever, brilliant guy with such imagination and a gift for writing. And I looked forward to every email or real-time converstaion we had. You really knew how to make anyone laugh her (or his) ass off. The last thing he wrote to me on 5 July was "I know Ian is 'Joe Republican'; but someone is "cooking the books" in Nashville." Sigh....

Wednesday, July 24, 2002
doubting salmons & salacious salinger stuff

Just couldn't do it. Tossed Salmon of doubt. I read about 28 pages but then decided that it really wasn't what I thought it would be. The book was actually a collection of Adams's writings, essays, newspaper articles, and such. I wanted a novel, and that's not what I got. Oh well. Guess I'm just not that big a Douglas Adams fan.

Moving right along, I brought At home in the world by Joyce Maynard, her memoir of her relationship with JD Salinger, to work with me today to read while I'm at the helm of the reference desk for my three-hour shift this evening. Additionally I picked up her novel Where love goes from the library to see how I like her writing.

Read something really incredible in the Village Voice today. The government is spying on your grocery habits. I've always been ambivalent about using those Kroger Plus Shopper's Card & CVS ExtraCare cards. I knew they were using the results to chart my purchases and come up with some kind of freaky profile on whether I buy tampons and milk at the beginning, middle, or end of the month, but it was nice to save $5 on your grocery bill. Guess that's the price of freedom, right?

Tuesday, July 23, 2002
mercury, bestsellers, and salmon of doubt

I read a really fabulous book by a Tennessee author over the weekend. Mercury is by Cary Holladay who lives in Memphis. She's creative writing faculty at University of Memphis. At first I wasn't sure I would like it because the main character, gee, what's her name? I've already forgotten. Kaylynn, or something. Anyway, she's recovering from the effects of mercury poisoning that she suffered after a juvenile prank she pulled with 2 friends. By the end of the book it's easier to be sympathetic toward her, although she's a poor little rich girl who lives in a glass house overlooking a lake. Actually I really liked several other characters much better. Jerry & Dora were really great, but I didn't learn much about them. It was quite satisfying though.

Then, I read Michael Korda's Making the list: a cultural history of the American bestseller, 1900-1999. I guess the fact that the text was double-spaced should have tipped me off that it was a marginal effort. The "study" was very basic. In the introduction her writes that he's not making presumptions about what he'll find, but then there is no conclusion, so I wonder if he had any ideas about what he would and then did discover. Very poorly done. Who WAS his editor? The chapters were all pretty basic, and included each year's list of the top ten best-selling books. I think I could have written a better treatment of the subject. He also discusses "women's novels" but doesn't define what he's talking about. The book was poor especially because he didn't attempt to analyze the gender implications of "men's novels" and "women's novels". Very disappointing. Poor show, Korda!

I began Douglas Adams's Salmon of doubt, but have only read the prologue thus far. I read his Hitchhiker's guide... books when I was 15 or 16 and I suppose that's where my love of science fiction began. But, I did read Madeline L'Engle when I was very young, so perhaps that's truly how that preference started. I have a few other books already set to read, library books, that is, and I bought Ash Wednesday and hope to read it by the weekend. Must be prepared!

Friday, July 19, 2002
brain candy, not too fluffy

No surprises in Evanovich's newest book. Unless you consider (spoiler ahead... beware) her finally sleeping with Ranger at all surprising. It was anticlimactic. Hope she wasn't as disappointed with the act as I was. Finished reading the book in a few short hours, as expected. Some of her phrasing is so wonderful. I find Lula to be especially fascinating. Her dialogue rocks. I guess that's basically why I read the books anymore, Lula. Maybe she can start a whole series about Lula and her adventures, like what she's up to when she's not doing surveillance with Stephanie. I still have the Goodwin book to read. Hoo-ha! I'm so ready to read that. I have a feeling that I may only pick the book up again to return it to the library. I'm a book infidel, what else could it be?

Thursday, July 18, 2002
now, too much baseball drivel

I'm not sure where my impatience with books comes from these days. I decided to toss Catcher in the rye. Life is too short to read book about a boy's angst. I picked up Doris Kearns Goodwin's memoir, Wait till next year at the library a few days ago. I've read about 50 pages into it, and although it's mostly about baseball (I'm so sport phobic! argh, how will I ever make it through this?) it's really quite well-written and mostly pleasurable to read. Now, whether I finish it or not, that remains to be seen. I also picked up Janet Evanovich's latest book, something eight. Hard eight, that's it and her book tour only takes place in Calif.! What a shame, a crock, it's unfair, unjust. Oh well, it's not like anyone ever comes 'round here. Guess I'll just have to start driving to Mississippi to see decent authors. I've been on the wait list for it at the public library for months now, it seems....Just like cotton candy, I will go through it in a few short hours. Since I'm on my way to the hairdresser this afternoon for a "coloring," I'll be sure to start it there, under the dryer. I always take books with me to any kind of appointment. One never knows when the need for reading material will arise. Anyway, you cannot count on waiting rooms and beauty salons to provide quality reading.

Tuesday, July 16, 2002
too much boyish drivel

Didn't finish Breaking clean. It sat on my bedside table for a week and I couldn't quite make myself pick it up to read more. I have read 2 books since then and am reading another. I'm going to Charlottesville, VA next week to a book signing (and screening of Chelsea Walls) that Ethan Hawke is doing to promote his second book Ash Wednesday (released 23 July). To prepare, I read his first book, Hottest state something my library did not have... had to ILL it. It was an okay book. Not horrible, but not what I'd consider excellent. Too much boyish angst. Not drivel, that part is coming.

Martha, Inc. was really informative. Though I'd heard all the rumors, and probably have read articles about what a freak she is, this book was more about the genesis and evolution of her business. Quite fascinating, I must say. Martha Stewart is quite remarkable, truly brilliant, and her achievements are exceptional. I used to get her magazine and I own a few of her books, but once I truly caught on to the propaganda of her message, and the irony as well, I have had nothing else to do with her products. It's all fantasy. When it comes to that, I prefer science fiction, not the perfect household. Although the book reveals her true personality, or the two sides of Martha, she really is admirable. She gets such flack because she's a woman. You won't find any businessman attacked in the ways that she has been. It's a gender thing, no doubt.

Started reading Catcher in the rye, for like the 2nd or 3rd time. I read it when I was a teenager, and probably appreciated it more then than I do now. It's such a "seminal" book and I have no clue what it's about. It obviously didn't' stick with me. I'm several chapters into it now, and my gosh, it's just so juvenile and boyish and self-ejaculatory. Yuck. I suppose I'll finish it though. I'm committed to at least understanding why I have no memory of such a "classic" book.

Tuesday, July 9, 2002
steadily reading along

Over my much-needed "break" I did read three books. Not bad, but not terribly good either. I fell prey to the hypnotic and mind-dulling lure of the telly. Yuck. Luckily that's not an everyday addiction for me like reading is. Whew, relief! First, I read the Nanny Diaries, which was pretty good, but really quite frustrating because Nanny so needed to get away from the family she was working for. It was well-written though, I practically devoured the book whole.

Next I read The Eyre Affair which takes place in a alternate universe that holds literature and reading to be one of the highest forms of culture in their society. Quite clever and imaginative. A fun and absorbing book to read. Main character is a literary detective named Thursday Next. She tracks down stolen manuscripts and reveals forgeries. Everything goes awry when the evil man Hades kidnaps Jane Eyre from the original manuscript. Scholars watch as the pages of the novel go blank, and ultimately the story is rewritten with another ending. One of the top things I've read this year, for sure.

Lastly, I indulged in my interest for forensic sciences by reading Dead reckoning. It was a bit dull. Perhaps it was the writing, because Baden had several fascinating stories to relate, and I read all about schooling at various blood & bug workshops. It somehow left me with nothing. Actually this is not the first forensic "memoir" that I've read that's left me cold. Perhaps it's a problem with the genre. Oh well.

I started Breaking clean by Judy Blunt a few nights ago. Have read 3 or 4 chapters. It's memoir as well. The writer grew up in Montana, so that's why I found it appealing. The writing is good, but there are parts that I skim because I'm more interested in her life, not so much the physical descriptions of other things. Am still waiting for the meaty parts, if they exist. Oh, apparently they're essays. Hmmmm, they read more like memoir though.