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  Monday, December 30, 2002
lobster, pi, & other boleyns

Lobster chronicles was an okay read. I liked it slightly better than Greenlaw's previous book. This book seemed a bit more personal and about the author, yet it was still lacking something. Just barely scratched the surface, it seems. What did I take from the book? Work can be tedious even when someone is working at something that they love. Not much of a lesson, but perhaps others will come to me.

Life of Pi was an excellent story. I was engrossed. For the most part, the book completely captured my attention. The beginning was slow, and the end didn't come as quickly as it should. Otherwise, this story of survival and faith and hope was remarkable, enchanting.

I read around twenty pages of Linda Hogan's Woman who watches over the world. I really love her fiction, but the memoir...Let's just say that I wasn't ready for it. I'm rarely ever in the mood to read this type of book. Strange, but I can't put my finger on what turned me off about it. The obvious is that the book reeked of cigarettes, and had been completely submerged in water at some time. Can you believe the library has the audacity to offer such a book to the public? Regardless of its appearance, I tried to read it, once again going for content and not appearance. It was too somber, I believe, and that is why I could read no more. When am I ever somber?

Around 5:00 am this morning I finished the 664th page of The other Boleyn girl. Historical fiction, I know. Mindless cotton cany for my brain, too much and it will pickle in my skull. Right up there with bodice rippers. I've never read Philippa Gregory before. She's got a PhD in 18th century literature, so I can be assured that her facts are accurate. It was a well-written story, and I couldn't put it down. It was the story of Mary Boleyn, sister to Anne (mother of Elizabeth), who married Henry VIII and was later beheaded. Mary was the king's mistress first, and then came Anne. It touched on quite a few gender issues and the Boleyn family's use and "putting forward" of their girls to better their own station. It's funny that the press release about the drama based on the book at the BBC calls the book "a tale of sex and royal intrigue" because I could write better sex scenes in my sleep. They were insignificant, bland, nothing at all, really. Quite surprising that they weren't better since the book was entirely about bedding Henry. This is not the first Anne Boleyn book I've read, the last one, a few years ago, as I recall, was quite sympathetic towards Anne. This one painted her as the devil. Henry VIII and his wives... something fascinating and abhorrent about it all.

I'll find something better to read, or just write it myself.

Sunday, December 29, 2002
reading groove

I've read two books while I've been on "vacation" and have another two, oops, three... going. I finished Passionate marriage last week and ordered its sequel Resurrecting sex. Started reading that, and am around the third or fourth chapter, I believe. Put it down, because there were other things that I was more interested in reading.

For example, Dan Savage's Skipping toward Gomorrah: The seven deadly sins and happiness in America came in the mail, and I read it in no time flat. It was really quite good, although I found it hard to believe that it was written by the same man who writes the Savage love column for the Village Voice. I'm so used to his acerbic wit, and it was completely missing from his book. And, where oh where had his potty mouth gone? Savage travels across the nation indulging in the seven sins....Anger, greed, lust, gluttony, envy, sloth & pride. It's interesting to see how it all works out. Clever, really.

I stayed up until around 1:00 am to finish reading the Last American man by Elizabeth Gilbert. I'd read a book of her fiction some time ago, Stern Men, so I was confortable with her writing. This book is about Eustace Conway, a rather extraordinary man, and I must say that what originally drew me to the book was its cover. The photograph is perfect. He looks like Jesus. Penguin Putnam describes the book as "fresh cultural examination of contemporary American male identity and the uniquely American desire to return to the wilderness." I've dreamed of simplifying my life for quite sometime, but have never gone through with it, and ideally, there's no other place I'd rather be than on top of a mountain with a book handy. The other thing that drew me to the book is that Conway lives off the land in the Southern Appalachian Mountains. Actually, southeast of Boone, NC. About seventy miles away from where I live. I was in Valle Crucis/Boone/Blowing Rock yesterday, eyeing property. The book was in the back seat of my car, freshly picked up from the library earlier in the day. Curious how close I was to the man I ended up reading about for four hours last night.

That's not likely to happen with the book I just started, nonfiction about Maine. Lobster Chronicles is by Linda Greenlaw, I read her book The Hungry Ocean when it came out a few years ago. Actually wrote her a letter and told her why I liked the book and how I thought it could be improved. Didn't get a reply. See if I ever write her again. Ungrateful so and so. The newer book was published early in the spring. Guess I'm behind on my reading, but I'm not likely to rush out and buy every new book that is published. I do have to wait on my public library though. That's always the problem, slows my reading down tremendously. I'm on page 25. This time, Greenlaw describes a season of lobstering in Isle au Haut, Maine.

Also read the introduction to Junk English the other day. It's a short book, probably best to read it in small bursts, about the decline of vocabulary in modern society.

What else? I got two books for Christmas. One I asked for, the other I did not. Got Jamie Oliver's (he looks so tanned on his website, I think I like him best on the pastey side)latest "naked chef" book. Interestingly, while playing trivial pursuit (which I must admit I rock at, even though I'm always given the sports category when I enter the center of the board for my final winning question. Those usually get me, but sometimes I get very very lucky.), there was a Jamie Oliver question. I knew the answer, but alas my opponent did not. Knowledge is power, and librarians are such repositories of trivia. Draw your own conclusions.

The other book was also a cook book. A locally published thing. Every recipe has apples in it. It was published in conjunction with the Apple Festival in Erwin, TN that occurs annually. I did get a $50 B & N gift certificate. I ordered Sarah Moon's Coincidences, but it hasn't arrived yet. I've wanted it for months and months, but couldn't bring myself to buy it... coffee table book with lush photographs.

Thursday, December 19, 2002
last stretch

I have less than a chapter to read in this marriage book. I shall finish it tonight. It's been tough reading it, mainly because I have no time to spare, with the season being upon me and all. Only fun reading ahead, no doubt about it. There was a fascinating article called the secret life non-readers. it's long, but provocative. It may not appeal to everyone though.

Wednesday, December 16, 2002
bad sex writing & marriage (not to be confused with each other)

Looked at the "Extracts from the shortlist for the Literary Review Bad Sex Prize 2002" today. Turns out that a book I've read made the list. Hawke's Ash Wednesday made the shortlist. Fortunately it was the only one that I had read. Guess it's hard to write authentic sex scenes. Must plague some writers; literary impotence.

Started reading Passionate marriage a few nights ago. I'm not really into self-help books, but this one was highly recommended. The writing is full of psycho-babble, at first, but once you get through it to the sexually explicit parts, it's not too bad. Actually, it's been a helpful book. The author is a sex therapist and has great insight into the dynamics of relationships. I'm at chapter eight. It's a lenghty book. About 400 pages. After I finish it, hopefully this week, I can go on to all the fun things I've been dying to read.

Wednesday, December 11, 2002
"dark, sleek morality tale"

Ian McEwan's Atonement has lingered on one of the tables in my office for two months at least. Since the semester is winding down and I may have more free time for reading, I stuck it in my bag to read at some point last night. And, I had full intentions of doing so while I did 2 hours of fill-in time at my old part-time job. But, I was busier than I thought I would be. I did crack it open, and I looked at the list of other books McEwan's written. Imagine my surprise to find Atonement on the Village Voice's list of 25 Favorite Books of 2002 this morning. His was the only book on the list that I had any passing familiarity with, other than the Eggers boy's fictional debut.

Tuesday, December 10, 2002
sex, sex, and still more sex

I've read one essay, the one about Nevada brothels, from Sex for sale: prostitution, pornography, and the sex industry this week. Just randomly going through it. I may read the whole thing, the essays seem well-written and information practically bursts forth from the pages.

Monday, December 9, 2002
reason to read about cannoli

I bought Sarah Vowell's book Take the cannoli: stories from the new world soon after it first came out. Now, I may have a reason to actually read it, besides owning it. A friend asked me to Ashland, Va., the self-purported "center of the universe" to a Vowell reading, or lecture. I'm not quite sure what it is. As long as it's not a bowel reading. I shudder.

Sunday, December 8, 2002
gimme a jump start, please

I'm going through one of those periods in which my desire to read disappears. Yes, it is frightening, but usually short-lived. The desire has always returned. I suppose it's that Secret history kind of dragged along around page 340-something. It seemed to take an awfully long time to tie up the lose ends of the book. I did finish it. I'm not sure if I'm better off for reading it. There are few books that have had a lasting affect on me.

I also finished up The white earlier in the week. I took it along to my appointment with the optometrist. Still perfect eyes. No glasses for me, yet. Someday though, I keep hoping. Could always get fake ones. Why bother? Declining eyesight will come soon enough. Luckily though, I was able to read the last ten pages or so the book before my eyes fully dilated. Skip it, unless you like overly poetic books. I didn't get anything from it, really. I do like books based on historical events, and this one was well done, anyone else might enjoy it. There was something lacking in it.

Read the first chapter of The club Dumas last night. Couldn't keep my eyes open to read any more. It's translated from spanish. I wonder if that will trouble my reading. It is the only book that I have from the public library right now. Hope to keep it that way, there are entirely too many books in my house that I need to take care of before going out looking for other books to borrow and read. Club Dumas is an "intellectual thriller" about a rare book sleuth who is trying to authenticate a manuscript chapter from Dumas's Three musketeers. Sadly, I've never read the book. I'd much rather read about three, no four, women going on adventures. Men just do the same old tired things. Not nice to think, I know. But, the male adventure genre is so tired and overdone. Perhaps someone can breathe new life into it.

Bought two books earlier this afternoon. Frommer's irreverent guide to Amsterdam and the National Geographic city guide for Amsterdam. While it would be excellent to use them in the coming month, if that doesn't happen, then at least they will be good references for the next opportunity that comes along. I like the Irreverent guides. They've been useful to me in several cities. The NG I got because the last one that I bought, for New Olreans, had great information about accomodations. That's how I found the great B & B on at Algiers Point. I could easily live there if that whole area wasn't an environmental accident waiting to happen. There was an excellent, yet scary article ("Drowning New Orleans" by Mark Fischetti) in the October 2001 issue of Scientific American that examined the high risk of flooding due to a hurricane-driven surge of seawater. Anyway, perhaps it was a bad reason to give NG another go when I'm more a Rough Guides or Lonely Planet kind of traveler.

Monday, December 2, 2002
secret history

I'm up to about page 140-something, or 170-something in the Secret history. My eyes were swimming this morning when I closed the book to sleep sweet dreams of dancing sugarplums. I was hooked within the first 20 pages. Tartt's book is the best thing that I've read in a long time. The obvious reason that I love it is that the word library appeared 9 times within the first 90 pages. I counted. The book is incredibly well-written. Her characters are fully dimensional beings. The story has a timeless quality to it that's just remarkable. It's about a privileged group of college students who study Greek together. They accidentially kill someone while recreating Dionysian ecstatic rituals. Then, there's another murder. It's been alluded to, but I'm not at that point yet.

Once again I refrained from buying books this weekend. I wanted Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader. Picked it up, carried it around, put it back on the shelf. It wasn't expensive, that's not what stopped me. It was the thought that perhaps the library had the book. And, this isn't the first time I've been about to buy that book. I think it happened the last time I was in a Borders, too. Confession. I do go to Borders. Davis-Kidd closed their Knoxville store some time ago. I drove past a Mc Kay Used Books & Cd's and didn't venture in. Oh, but wait. I am a book snob. No used books for me. I really had no clue how many bookstores there were in Knoxville. Did this search and found 43.

Am eyeing the new Lee Miller book as a holiday gift for a friend. If you can't give books as gifts, then what's the point in gift-giving?