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Thursday, August 29, 2002
reference reading

Finally! The laser printer spit out a JSTOR document that I asked it to print fifteen minutes ago. Besides living the dream of "academic librarian extraordinaire," I'm also a part-time history graduate student. No excitment now, it's not for the PhD, just a lowly MA; but it is a start. I began by studies, one class per semester in the Fall of 2000. My target graduate date is December 2003. I do lots of reading for those classes, and my thesis will have something to do with prostitution; because it interests me, and it's an area rich for research.

As Timothy J. Gilfoyle wrote in the article I just printed off: Before 1980, the prostitute was 'pornogaphic.' Few historian considered prostitution an important topic and studies of the subject commonly played to the sensational and salacious. The small body of significant scholarship concentrated on ideas, social movements, and campaigns to control or abolish prostitution.

Since my specialization is US History, I'm required to take six hours of non-US history. Thus, I enrolled in Ancient Society this semester. I hope to study temple or "sacred" prostitutes in Greece and/or Rome. It can be a chapter in my thesis... So far no luck finding articles, though I have found a few books that might do. And there's a fabulous bibliography about modern sex work at the Prostitutes' Education Network. Anyway, I think I'll have great experience and learn a lot too, as my professor comes very highly recommended.

Wednesday, August 28, 2002
late for a very important date

I procrastinate, therefor I am. Suddenly there are six or so deadlines looming over me in the next 3-4 weeks, so I just don't have time to read. Before I "really" got down to work I started Marly Youmans' Wolf Pit, which won the Michael Shaara Award for Excellence in Civil War Fiction. Her writing is so well-crafted; each sentence is perfect. I've read probably the first 70 pages, and had to put it down to concentrate on other things. Yeah, the Civil War theme really turns me off and that's why I decided not to buy it; then I did. Then I wasn't reading it, but I began corresponding with Marly and it seemed like the proper thing to do [reading it] especially since I really loved her prior books. I hope to pick it up again soon though. The story ping-pongs (sorry for lack of a better word this early in the morning), between the story of a CW soldier, and that of a recently freed mulatto. I like reading the woman's narrative better at this point.

I did read through The first five pages: a writer's guide to staying out of the rejection pile, and frankly it was really boring. That's a bit strong. It wasn't particularly helpful. I glanced through the first few pages and thought it would be of service. And, too, I don't seem plagued with the problems Lukeman describes. So basically this was a waste of money? The jury is still out. It also happened during a controlled book buying frenzy, wherein I purchased the Carolyn See book that I've already read, this one, Margaret Atwood's Negotiating with the dead: a writer on writing, and She's gone country: dispatches from a lots soul in the heart of Dixie by Kyle York Spencer. I must admit that the only book I really liked of Atwood's was Handmaid's Tale. I tried reading Cat's eye and that more recent one, but guess my brain just wasn't up for 'em. And this She's gone country book I'm approaching with a healthy dose of skepticism. After just visiting the author's website I can see that she really doesn't have a handle on southern colloquialisms.

I'm also reading We are many, an autobiography by Ella Reeve Bloor, but not entirely for fun, you see. You may know her better as "Mother Bloor," she was this radical woman in the early part of last century who fought for women's suffrage, worker's rights, labor unions, and then traveled all over the US organizing the Socialist Party and then later the Communist Party after the Russian Revolution. It's simply amazing all that she did and with six children. It's good to see a woman not let her kids drag her down; it's too easy, as Ella says, to become a household drudge.

Thursday, August 20, 2002
1,000 words a day & charming notes

I bought Making a Literary Life: Advice for Writers and Other Dreamers by Carolyn See on Sunday. Her website says that it's on shelves 1 September, but hey I bought it sooner than that. I read it last night. There were odious parts, like when she had examples of dialogue, but it was a decent enough book. I'm not sure that I appreciated her "voice" though. It's not that she was too chatty, but...well, I can't exactly put my finger on what it was that irritated me so much. She did have good advice. She said to write 1,000 words a day and write a charming note to an author, editor, or agent whom you admire. Rest on Saturdays and Sundays. Don't know what I'll read next, though I have skimmed through several books about Woody Guthrie in the last week. He's a fascinating person. Argh! so many books, so little time!

Thursday, August 19, 2002
reading about writing

I finished How to read/write a dirty story by Susie Bright. Only, now I wonder whether my version is different from the one on her site. I got mine via the Venus book club (I'm a member of almost every book club out there). The covers and titles are different. Have I been bamboozled? It was a quick read. Quite light. Had good history of the genre, but wasn't particularly helpful. I think she could have said what she needed to in far fewer pages. But, I'm sure it was written for the newbie writer, so it did have a few sections about all that.

But, I also finished what must be the best book I've read on writing. The forest for the trees: an editor's advice to writers was excellent. I felt as though she was writing especially to me. Silly.... It wasn't a how to do this or that type book. Betsy Lerner wrote about writers, the writing life, and the publishing industry. Highly recommended though there were a few paragraphs that I had problems with.

I tried to read two novels over the weekend, but I guess I'm just not in the mood.

Thursday, August 15, 2002
hooks & patience

Last night, just before falling asleep (not that the two are related in any way), I read the first two chapters of Neal Stephenson's Diamond age. I loved the other book I read by him, Snow crash. I seem to recall a bit of difficulty in reading it at first, but once I was there, it was fabulous. So now I'm trying to decide whether to continue on, or maybe wait until later to read it. I really must be in the right mood. Sometimes my impatience makes reading anything impossible.

Wednesday, August 14, 2002
paradise ends

I finished the last chapter of Paradise Park, finally. I never should have spent time reading it. It was not my cup of tea. The protagonist goes through life searching for the ultimate religious experience. A religious quest, if you will. Normally that kind of thing doesn't immediately turn me off, but I was really annoyed by the character. And while I was raised a WASP, I frequently read and appreciate Jewish fiction, most of which describe Judaic religious tradition. I didn't like her or her "voice." My boss saw that I was reading the book the other day and she recommended one of Goldberg's other books, The family Markowitz, she said it was her best one. I don't know exactly what I'll read next. I haven't thought that far ahead, yet. I have several science fiction paperbacks that I checked out from PL. Octavia Butler, Neal Stephenson, and Sean Stewart. And, I picked up a memoir by Geraldine A. Larkin about her spiritual Buddhist pilgrimage called First you shave your head. Although I haven't read her book yet, the thought of spending a week or so at a retreat is really appealing.

Tuesday, August 13, 2002
skipping thorough paradise & book snobbery

I stayed up until about 1:30 this morning hoping to finish up Paradise Park. I didn't. I hoped to stay awake until around 4-ish when I plannedto pop outside to view the meteor shower, but alas I was fast asleep, and in fact, overslept this morning. Forgot to mention that I read the first dozen or so pages in Book Business: Publishing Past, Present & Future a few nights ago. I may not pick it up again for some time. The writing didn't particularly move me or anything. In fact, it rather turned me off. But, I assumed that it will be informative. Since I checked out at least a half dozen books from the public library last night and have as least that many from my academic library, well, you can imagine that I have tons of books to read at the moment, though I did just purchase two new books about an hour ago.

I think that I may already own William Zinsser's On writing well, and may have to return it. I don't already own Modern historiography: an introduction (by M. Bentley). Upon further exmaination of that book, apparently I didn't pick up a good copy. Its bottom edge is damaged. Well, it's a quality paperback, what did I expect? I should have been more careful my selection. Double sigh. I used to think that people who were so anal about their books were laughable. Now I'm one of them. I don't want to purchase a book or magazine that has been obviously pawed or damaged in some way. If it has color plates or glossy pages, I check to make sure that nobody's oily fingerprints have stained the pages. You know what I'm talking about.

I readily admit that I am a book snob (meet another one with a different version of the affliction. gosh, there are others!). I don't purchase used books, well I take that back. I have purchased out of print books through abebooks.com, but as a general rule I don't patronize the various used book stores in my area that deal in mass market paperbacks. I'm very sensitive to odors, and cannot read a book that was owned by a smoker, or one that someone's cat pissed on, or one that reeks horribly of mold (I have allergies, asthma, and migraines). This is also a problem with library books that I've checked out. There really should be some kind of rule that smokers cannot borrow materials, but that's so drastic and really anti-freedom to read. Obviously this is a library issue and there should be an odor maintenance team that sniffs out these problems and sanitizes each book upon its return. Although the CDC or whomever has said that you can't catch anything from books, I really wonder sometimes. I've encountered some pretty disgusting mucus, blood, and other body fluids in library books. Of course, that's just my best guess on what those smears were. I go into an automatic gingerly-touching-the-book mode once I've come across such nasty things.

On ocassion I have had to purchase used text books because there was nothing else available. I loathe having to read through someone else's notes in the margins and vulgar highlighted pages. Obviously, I'm not going to think the same points are important, but my eyes cannot help being drawn to nasty highlighted phrases. I do not mark books in that way. I will place book marks between the pages or use some of those fancy place markers that you find at Levenger (it's so cool that they call supplies in that area Tools for Reading!). Books are pristine. I don't do bookplates. I don't write my name anywhere in a book. I cringe when I receive books as gifts and see that the well-meaning person has written a personal sentiment inside. I am guilty of this practice. It was a past behavor that I have since corrected. I was not always this way. I think it has to do with the indoctrination I experienced in libary school. Not all librarians express these strong feelings, no do they necessarily share them. I am not representative of my profession... or maybe I am. Afterall, what DO I know?

Monday, August 12, 2002
writing, young lions, & more writing

I read the Insider's guide to getting a agent by Lori Perkins, gosh last week or something. It seems like such a long time ago. But I just popped it in the mail to a dear friend less than ten minutes ago. Quite good, as far as explaining the role of the literary agent in the modern publishing world. I've owned the book for ages, but just decided on a lark, what else? to read it.

Also read Sol Stein's How to grow a novel: the most common mistakes writers make and how to overcome them. No doubt good advice, and a quick read, but he really irritated me in his preface. He wrote something about although most of his writing students are women that he chooses to use the generic "he" pronoun through the course of his book because it's more acceptable or rolls of the tongue easier than "they." Crazy stuff, really. But then at one point in the book when he's making a hypothetical point he writes about an instructor rather negatively but chooses to use "she" as the pronoun. Again, crazy stuff, and it really cast him into the pit of the unforgiven. Serendipitously enough, I read jessamyn's journal entry for 08 August, and she discusses this very same phenomenon.

Read In my sister's country, a provocative and somewhat unsettling book. The ending though was rather disappointing. Almost a cliché. But here's something more about the novel from the web:

Writer Sven Birkerts has said that Lise Haines' main character in her debut novel, "In My Sister's Country," is "Holden Caulfield rechanneled as a desperado on a wobbly pair of heels." It's true that Molly, the 17-year-old sassy voice of "IMSC," and Holden Caulfield have the same disdain for phonies, but did Caulfield ever seduce his older sister's boyfriend in the back of a cab?

Then, I whipped through Rainer Maria Rilke's Letters to a young poet rather quickly. Probably too quickly. I don't carry any sense of their meaning with me now. But, I'm not a terribly deep person... very surface, so that kind of introspective writing about solitude and the "writerly life" usually leaves me cold. Possibly will need to read through them again. Perhaps the timing was not right.

I decided to read books nominated for the Young Lions award that the NYPL sponsors each year. Bee season was really very very good. I believe this is possibly the third time I had borrowed the book from the library. The other times, I think I didn't have time to read it and had to send it back unread. Or maybe I read the first few pages and couldn't get into it. Anyway, I'm quite glad that I gave it another chance, because it was so very good. It's the story of an underdog who wins in the end. Very complex characters and topics. Religious searching and meditation, coupled with interesting manifestations of mental illness. I would highly recommend it to anyone.

I tried Chang and Eng: a novel by Darin Strauss, but it didn't hook me. I'll be the first to admit that topics like Siamese twins interest me, but if it doesn't capture my interest, well... what can I say?

Am currently reading Paradise park by Allegra Goodman. This is another Young Lions book. And this is the second time I've started reading it. I've made it further this time than last time. I'm not convinced that I like it though. I get the feeling that it may not be what I like. I'm trying to give it a second chance though, a rarity for me on all accounts.

I've read the first three or four essays in bell hooks' Remembered rapture: the writer at work by bell hooks (a bell hooks infoshop fan page). hooks writes, To read and write was to partake of a sacrament as holy as our eating the body and drinking the blood of the divine in communion and remembrance.

Wednesday, August 7, 2002
librarian sleuths, childless executives, & Hollywood consumer culture

I reread Seneca Falls inheritance: A Glynis Tryon mystery last night. I orginally read it in 1997. I'm writing an entry on Miriam Grace Monfredo for a second edition of The Detective as historian: History and art in historical crime fiction, and needed to refresh my memory of the series.

Prior to that though, I read the first chapter or two of Creating a life: Professional women and the quest for children by Sylvia Ann Hewlett. It received a lot of press recently (more press and then there's Oprah's press), though I understand that it's not exactly hopping off the shelves.

My public library borrowed a book for me, Hollywood goes shopping. I've been anxiously awaiting it only to find that it really didn't appeal to me. I must have not known what I was getting. I thought it was about celebrity consumer culture and it is really about consumer culture in the cinema. Most of it is over my head with all these references to Lacan, etc. After all, I was a philosophy minor until I changed to women's studies. Guess it's just too academic for me, though I did read the chapter that compares Pretty Woman with Pygmalion, and someone included a section about Madonna in one essay. What a disappointment. Guess I need to take some film theory classes.

Then, I read the preface and introduction to A lady of the high hills Natalie Delage Sumter, a book I'm reviewing for the Southern Historian. Will likely read that later next month as the review is due the first of October. But still, it looks like such fun.

Tuesday, August 6, 2002
ky libraries & African Americans

Read the first chapters of Library Service to African Americans in Kentucky, from the Reconstruction Era to the 1960s. Also skimmed through a book I've had for quite some time, I think it's called Into Print, but I can't seem to find it on any major book search engines, so maybe that's not what it's called. It's basically a collection of essays, or how-tos that were previously published in Poets & Writers. Okay, I tried that search again and had no luck; I don't have the patience or interest in really figuring out the title today because I have a near death headache and cannot concentrate. Very few of the essays really appealed to me, though the one about running your own publicity written by Terry McMillan was a stand out. Obviously it worked because she IS a household name.

Monday, August 5, 2002
no time for weekend reading

The title above is pretty explanatory. Although I took at least 3 books with me, including the official scrabble players dictionary, I had no time at all to read. "Vacations" are supposedly great times to read, alas my trip to Ohio included just enough time to rush around frantically visiting family members. And, I failed to buy any books on my two visits to Borders. I sheepishly enter those stores because I'm such a supporter of independent bookstores, yeah right, then what was I doing inside a Borders? I believe the explanation is one in which theory departs from practice.

I've carried Margaret Salinger's book around in my book bag for at least a week now. But, I have several other books that I must write reviews of, and it will, no doubt, take a back seat to those titles. One is Appalachia: A history by John Alexander Williams, another is Library Service to African Americans in Kentucky, from the Reconstruction Era to the 1960s and a third is Drawing my times. Plus, I'm waiting to receive several others to review.