about : me : contact : I read : others read : Reviews of books
Thursday, February 27,
Wednesday, February 26, 2003
Though I didn't finish Snobbery, I am several chapters into it. While the author discusses the historical origins of the phenomenon, he also mixes in enough popular culture references to make it zing right along. The amount of humor in his writing makes reading his prose a joyful experience. He's also a bit playful, and that's incredibly refreshing and delightful. I don't get the sense that he takes himself so seriously.
Everywhere I look I find articles about Adolf Wolfli. There's one in the Nytimes, Must outsiders be above selling? and The Giant creations of Adolf Wolfli in the Chronicle of Higher Education. I'm sure there are more that I haven't seen. I have the book they refer to, but I doubt I'll get to the exhibit it documents. I reviewed it for Library Journal. Wolfli's art is dense and fascinating, truly remarkable. It's something that I'd like to crawl inside and roam around in for a few hours. You could get lost so easily. There's so much art being created that has no feeling. Its flatness leaves you cold, unmoved. Maybe that's a reflection of the artist. And, it's so similar to reading/writing.
I got a new book yesterday. The introduction is by Francine Prose. It's called Hell hath no fury: women's letters from the end. It is almost impossible to find reviews of nonfiction books on the internet. Okay, maybe it's just the books that I read, but my reading is fairly broad and I shouldn't encounter this problem as often as I do. This book, edited by Anna Holmes, is a collection of break-up letters that women have written. One of the brief reviews I found stated that it is comprehensive. I love letters, reading and writing them, so this book will be fun, I hope.
Tuesday, February 25, 2003
Reading an interesting article about John Cusak who plays sarcastic, cerebral, flawed characters. Wow, there's a John Cusak Test which tells you the character you're most like. I'm Rob Gordon from High Fidelity. I thought I'd be Lloyd Dobler because you see, when you give someone your heart and all you get in return is a pen, that sucks.
I started two books last week and know for sure that I won't finish one. You'd think that any book you begin reading in front of a roaring fire should win hands down, but No ordinary lives: one man's surprising journey into the heart of America was just a little bit slow. I failed to click with the writer and his stories. The author is a reporter living in Iowa, I think, and he goes through the phone book picking people randomly to interview because he believes that there are no ordinary lives, much like Andy Warhol's fifteen minutes assertion, that every person has a unique story, etc.
The second book is No. 1 Ladies detective agency. The first two chapters moved along slowly. I'm not sure that it is to my taste. Just remembered another book that was recommended to me, Jackdaws by Ken Follett. I've never read anything written by him prior to this book. The first fifty pages were somewhat interesting, but the story was a bit slow and bordered on the dull, although there was a shoot out between the French Resistance and the Nazis at a chateau and the main character's philandering husband took one in the bum, for the home team, naturally. If I'm ever really desperate to read something I may pick it up again. Believe it or not, I liked the one Tom Clancy book I read much better than this Follett book.
Another book that I'm currently reading and will probably complete is Snobbery: the American version. It is promising. I'm only seventeen pages into it. Joseph Epstein is a professor at Northwestern. His is an historical review of the subject, and the book is touted as "the first book devoted exclusively to the subject since Thackeray's The Book of Snobs."
Friday, February 21, 2003
Finished Prose's book just this afternoon while I tended the reference desk. It was not a terribly busy time. Most questions were directional. I found it noteworthy that of all the women Prose profiled in the book, that Yoko Ono was written about negatively. Prose presented the other women, even Gala Dali, with sympathy or at least neutrality, but she gave a harsh characterization of Ono. In concluding the Ono chapter, Prose sounds like an apologist. It's unfortunate that the entry is so unbalanced.
The chapter on Lee Miller was wonderful. I knew nothing about Lee, although I'd seen the photos that she modeled for, and knew of her relationship with Man Ray. Of all the women, she is the one whom I connected with most. On page 230 Prose describes Miller's "most notable quality--curiosity, the near-pathological allergy to boredom that made her restless and resourceful, the lively sense of humor that enlivened her photography--are not traits we automatically associate with musedom."
Further, Prose lists the unique traits that helped Miller move beyond Muse and become an artist in her own right: avidity, her ease at picking up technical & professional skills, aesthetic acuity, sheer physical bravery, and high quality of work. It seems that the only thing that ultimately did her in was motherhood: a common theme I find in reading women's biographies and memoirs. I've requested a Miller biography so that I can earn more about my newfound idol.
Between Miller and Ono were two chapters; one about Charis Weston, wife of photographer Edward Weston and a chapter about Suzanne Farrell and George Balanchine. The Weston chapter was okay, but nothing very special. However it captured my interest more than the Farrell/Balanchine story. While I enjoy and appreciate opera, symphony, and ballet performances, reading about it, at least in this context, didn't thrill me. I found Farrell's ballerina/choreographer relationship the most boring chapter. But, the most provocative thing about their muse/artist relationship was that they were never physically intimate, nor did they marry each other. Balachine had an obvious pattern of falling for his ballerinas, becoming involved with them while married to his previous ballerina, and then divorcing old ballerina for new ballerina. Kind of like the New Cow/Old Cow Theory, based on the Coolidge Effect, that Laura Zigman writes about so pertly in Animal Husbandry, which was then made into the Ashley Judd film, Someone Like You, which seems obviously named after the Van Morrison song. Everything is interrelated, no? Only four degrees from cows to Van Morrison.
Jean loaned me the No. 1 Ladies detective agency after I spotted it in her bookbag and inquired whether she liked it. I hope to read it over the weekend. I've been aware of it for months, and almost bought it several times, most notably at Cantos Booksellers in Roanoke, but resisted the urge to spend money on books, mainly because I kept hoping that the public library would shake its tailfeathers and buy it. Perhaps I should start sending a list containing my suggestions for new purchases each month. That might be cheeky, but I have been characterized as Brassy (shamelessly bold, NOT resembling brass especially in color) several times in the two weeks. I usually only ask them to purchase 3 or 4 books per year. One of my finest librarianship skills is in collection development. If that was all I ever did, it would be akin to winter holidays every day (pardon my anti-christmas bias).
Alas, I shall not get to the SC Book Festival this weekend. I am sad. I told a former employer that I'd work this weekend since they're experiencing a turnover crunch. It will allow me ample time to read though. I wanted to see Jeffery Deaver, Kaye Gibbons, Silas House, Sue Monk Kidd, Sena Jeter Nausland, and Dori Sanders. The festival features a lot of fine authors other than the ones I mentioned, but those are my picks out of the bunch.
If I continue at this pace, reading one chapter each night, then I should finish the Prose book in five more evenings. Each muse is a bit more enchanting than the previous one, and that's a good thing, for it means that the best, Yoko Ono, is saved for last. Lou Andreas-Salome (1861-1937), a serial muse, was a fascinating woman. She defied conventions and restrictions women endured throughout the late 19th century. She influenced Nietzsche, Rilke, and Freud. Her approach to life can be understood in this quote from page 149:
Gillot was the first of many men who shocked Lou by proving so dim and unevolved as to confuse the intellectual with the carnal. Gillot's plan was to leave his wife and two teenage daughters and marry Lou so horrified his pupil and her mother that they fled St. Petersburg for Zurich. Lou's welcome escape from the increasingly confining city of her birth offered an early, instructive testament to the power of thwarted male desire.
I began the chapter on Gala Dali last night. No doubt that will be enlightening reading. I once was a Dali fan, and believe that I have one or two prints of his work somewhere. Never framed them though. When I started reading about his life though, I was turned off. He's really weird. Weirder than the average Surrealist. Prose writes that all the other Surrealists thought he was just a little over the edge, he made them uncomfortable, and that's why Gala left her husband for him. I haven't read enough to grasp much about her character. At this point she's just a cardboard image. Lee Miller is next, and I'm so looking forward to reading about her life.
February 19, 2003
February 18, 2003
Francine Prose is an excellent writer. It's all very tight and composed, and technically perfect. However, there's something missing. I find her writing lacks humor, or perhaps her personality doesn't shine through; it does not completely fulfill me. Really, it's very well-written, I don't mean to complain or harp or carp for that matter. I'm sure I'll grow into it. It may pick up. Did I read her book Blue Angel?
"The man [Bush] has not read enough books to have a developed moral sense. It's the un- and under-educated who speak in moral absolutes. The fewer books you read, the easier it is to become fundamental. I'm not going to listen to a President who only reads one book pass judgment on other people who read one book.
some ways my antiwar stand here is also a stand on
anti-illiteracy. Someone should get G.W. into a reading
program, get him to join a book club. Have him read
Hamlet, King Lear."
February 14, 2003
How appropriate for a manufactured holiday (aren't they all?) like Valentine's Day. I checked out Sultry climates: travel & sex just the other snowy day, but haven't started reading it yet. It has potential, though. I can't find any reviews of it, and that is always crappy. Okay, so there is one. The description at the website reads: "Littlewood's subject is the Grand Tour, the tradition that began in the 18th century of yearlong Continental sojourns undertaken by young Englishmen as part of their education and seasoning." But then the reviewer goes on to say that the last third of the book is especially relevant for gays and women looking for outlets for their sexuality. Alas, it is not terribly juicy according to the reviewer.
February 13, 2003
I read the first few pages of Opening the lotus: a woman's guide to Buddhism. First problem is that it's a NetLibrary book, and I'm not down with reading ebooks. The experience is so different. The physical and mental distance is great. And, it is difficult to connect with the author, connect with the text. Perhaps it's just a luddite personal failing that I should deal with, but my preference is for the real thing. Boucher's writing is okay, but I'm not connecting with it, for one reason or another. There are several other NetLibrary books I have access to regarding Buddhism, so perhaps I'll not limit myself to this one.
Other things I read yesterday... The new issue of American Libraries was thin, disappointing, and bland. There wasn't anything terribly interesting in College & Research Library News either; definitely a better showing though. Oh, and I received my new issue of Women's Review of Books, which contained a nice collection of what else, book reviews. Very lengthy they were.
I've requested The Forbidden Experiment: The story of the Wild Boy of Aveyron from the public library. I read Jessamyn's review of it and... well, she can make almost anything sound good. But, honestly the subject matter does sound rather intriguing. Wow, there's a feral children site. It's amazing what's out there, although I still haven't come across an ornithology fetish site. Frankly, I hope that I never do.
February 12, 2003
A dear friend referred to me as a punkass. What does that mean?
The solace of leaving early is an excellent book. Haven Kimmell made Book's list of Ten who made it big, part of the magazine's "first-ever Newcomers" issue. The editors have crowned her "The new Carson McCullers." It is the perfect example of the kind of book I love to read. I enjoy the way the author's mind works and how it then manifests on the page. Very thoughtful and intellectual, but not inaccessible. Amazing writing, too. It wasn't as simple, sparse, and to the point as I prefer, but I didn't have to wade through thick, self-conscious verbiage. Quite a treat. I brought it home from the library a few weeks ago and have renewed it once or twice because I've had other reading to do. The major characters are readers and bandy about book titles like... where's a good analogy when you need one? Though they mostly read Paul Tillich, other theologians, and philosophers, too. Such a rich book. The characters were very present, and their stories were very human, very interesting. Small town story of an English PhD candidate who walks out on her orals, returns home, and hides out in the attic. There's also the Brethren minister who has a crisis of faith. The two are thrown together when they start taking care of two orphaned catholic girls who communicate with Mary. Kimmell (who attended seminary at Earlham) also wrote A girl named Zippy, which I've meant to read for months but haven't gotten around to it yet. Done. The library will have it couriered over to me in a few days. The boon in memoirs is simply amazing. Perhaps it is that I am just more aware that they're being published. And by folks who are my age, or not much older. Wouldn't you want to jazz them up a bit? Add more drama?
Also completed Running with scissors. It was rather sad, but interesting in that train wreck sort of way. You can't help but peek at the mangled limbs. I find it truly amazing that such vast dysfunction exists in the world. My latch-key existence as a child of divorce seems brilliant, happy, and normal in comparison. I read that Julianne Moore will play the mother in the movie. I'm sure they won't include the cunnilingus scene, among other things.
Also read the latest issue of Speakeasy and finally had time to finish reading the last issue, the aptly and TIMELY themed "How to stop time" of the former Utne Reader. That sentence so did not make sense.
February 10, 2003
Took Hegel with me to Jacksboro this weekend, but didn't have time to read much. The trip is related to reading in several ways. I saw the Hours, which I had read a few weeks ago. My friend has at least as many books as I do, so I had a lovely personal library experience and flipped through several books. Didn't borrow any. Such a varied and literary collection. And we have so many of the same books, CDs, etc. Eerie. Scary that we think so much alike. Not really, it's more soothing than anything.
Once I was home again, I read a few chapters in Running with scissors. It was calming before sleep visited me. The chapters were pretty interesting, and the characters in the memoir are quite memorable and strange in their own questionable ways. The writing is accessible and good and I could have stayed up a few more hours and finished it. There's a lot of nudity (but no photos) and public bowel evacuation, to put it politely, and screaming, too. Amazing what we can process as real or acceptable. Just trade one reality for another. Straight up. That humans can and do that is marvelous and remarkable and humbling, too.
February 6, 2003
Relief or dismay? I don't have to read City of God in it's entirety. Turns out I should only be reading certain sections. Seems I'll be taking the easy way out and Not struggling through the whole thing after all. Yes, it's cheating, but since I won't read it all, I won't count it as one of the books I've read this year.
There's an interesting article by Daniel Goleman in the NY Times today: Finding happiness: cajole your brain to the left. I followed up by visiting Investigating the Mind: Exchanges between Buddhism and the Biobehavioral Sciences on how the mind works. Very provocative.
Began Hegel's Reason in history. Am still in the editor's introduction.
February 5, 2003
No reading last night. Spent the evening on my feet listening to & watching Aimee Mann at the Orange Peel, where she and her band closed with "Sweet home alabama." Interestingly enough, I can tie this into reading & books. Dennie Danvers, a favorite science fiction writer of mine, used her lyrics and modeled a character after her in two of his books, Circuit of Heaven and End of days. I can't find any good review or author sites for him though; it's such a shame. I wonder if Mann has read the books.
Early this morning I started I don't know what I want but I know it's not this: a step-by-step guide to finding satisfying work. I'm about fifty pages into it. I'm slightly disappointed, I expected something else; perhaps something more inspirational, encouraging. It is filled with all those self-assessment quizzes that help you determine what kind of work environment you thrive in, whether you're an introvert or extrovert, etc. Once I finish all those and then get into the meat of the book, perhaps it will be alright. Useful. Helpful. Not a waste of my time. I feel pretty silly reading this genre. I thought I was past that stage of "career development."
February 4, 2003
City of God reads like a sermon. I'm still in book one, one of the something-teen chapters. I was warned that it would be dreadful, redundant. Where's the so-called history? I went to bed early, before 10pm so that I would have a good excuse to put the book down. Must get a good night's sleep and all. Not that the book helped lull me into any kind of slumber. I can't attribute my very strange dreams of escaping a facility that contained Arturo-like aliens, living in the bush in Alaska (in a home with entirely too many windows) being married to an Inuit man, and paddling down the Yukon River. There were more, but I can't remember them all. Can I blame it all on St. Augustine?
February 3, 2003
One of the books I bought at PMA, the title I couldn't recall in an earlier post, is 20th Century photography. It's not a book that I would sit down and read page by page, because it is more of a reference than anything. The editor included a fair number of nudes, which is always important in a book of photography, or any book for that matter. The publisher is Taschen. When I unearth and rub the jinn's lamp, one of my wishes will be for one of everything that they've published. They have intriguing ecards as well.
Still reading City of God. That is my main reading objective this week. I stopped by the library over the weekend and had several books to choose from while waiting in the car for my other half to finish his business with a scope. I read the first few pages of Running with scissors. It is very promising. A memoir about Burroughs' boyhood: he grew up living in his mother's therapist's home. The author is cute, too in that "man with a goatee & glasses" way. Most men I know fit into that category, so I'm an expert of sorts on that aesthetic. I regret watching too much TV this weekend, otherwise I'm sure I would have zoomed through his memoir. Not that there are any indications that the content is lightweight, just that my reading almost reaches supersonic speeds when I'm enjoying myself.