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r e a d i n g r o o m

what I'm reading now 

what others are reading

listening to:
Shirley Horn

10/10-10/12 2003
Southern Festival of Books

New York Review of Books

Women's Review of Books

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Wednesday, April 30, 2003
visions of dungeons danced in her head

Whipped through Sex tips from a dominatrix last night in an hour and a half. It wasn't a long book, and there were illustrations: Knot-tying techniques and yoga cool-downs. Curious story about how I came to read it. I bought the book a few years ago as a novelty when it was published (1999). It's part a series, the other book was something to do with sex tips for women from a gay man. Though the book has graced my shelves for years now I had never seriously considered reading it. Last week I saw Secretary. It was fresh and remarkable. Quirky, good clean fun. James Spader always plays the cold asshole so well.

Next, Dan Savage's column answered a letter from a fifteen year old gay boy who was contemplating becoming a 38 year old man's sex slave. I decided to read my book. This morning while sharing a photo of a tethered cow, totally innocent, I might add, a colleague remarked about the photo being BD--what with the chain and all so prominent in the foreground. Ever feel like there's a force in the universe conspiring against you, trying to direct your attention to one place? Oh, but I've almost forgotten! The most brilliant aspect of the book is that there is a cartoon depicting a librarian admonishing someone whom she just gagged for ignoring the "no talking!" sign on the stacks. I would scan the image and link here, but don't want to violate copyright.

With BDSM dancing through my head last night, I could not sleep. My thoughts raced because all the pieces for an interesting book came together in the crazy quilt of my mind. Thanks to all these influences, I now have yet another dazzling book idea. And, the great thing about it is that I could write it up in less than three months, I'm sure. If you look for patterns, because let's face it, that's the way our brains are wired (there's nothing doing about it), you'll find that serendipity has its way with you in the end. Honestly, I could never plan serendipitous events any better than the Force, for lack of a better word, does.

Apologizes for the digression. The book, STFAD, was quite well-written. The author attended one of the seven sisters schools. Her vocabulary is uncommon, something I did not expect in a book of this type. The cover lends it a campy frivolity. I thought it would be a chatty book, but it was straight up, bordering on an academic tone. As far as content, her tips were for dominants and submissives; she addressed both audiences. Other than the knot-tying section and an introduction to equipment, her tips were basic common sense-type things that I had previously learned from reading Dan's column. Like 1) don't get gagged your first time with a new person and 2) remember that your brat is a person; don't ever strike in anger. She didn't address any etiquette, either. Perhaps some research is in order.

Monday, April 28, 2003
reading for love

The Tracy Quan book was okay. Not fabulous, but not horrible. It is written as diary entries. The last two entries were about 5 or 6 months apart, and I never pay attention to dates when reading books written in that format. I was perplexed about the last entry and then had to go back and what amount of time that had elapsed. Kooky, I know. The story is pretty good though, there's a 10 year old boy blackmailing a call girl, stalkers, and overly-inquisitive potential sisters-in-law. There was one slightly explicit scene after all. And, the further I read in the book, the more calm it seemed. Not so much exclamation!

Though I am maintaining self-control as far as book buying goes, I did pick up The modern library writer's workshop: a guide to the craft of fiction. It is quite good so far. And, I totally appreciate the author's insistence that writers must read. I'm midway through at this point, and it was difficult to concentrate on the book yesterday. I was trying to read and watch TV and was preoccupied about things afoot in my neighborhood. I shall be fully engaged in the work soon.

Stephen Kich wrote: "Reading and writing are, in fact, so intimate that they almost merge." He also recommends reading only what really matters to you, not reading things because you should or because they won an award or top some arbitrary list. He almost makes reading sexy: "Find a book you want, a book that gives you real trembling excitement, a book that is hot in your hands, and you'll have time galore." There's more: "Read for love. Every writer ought to fall in love with some new writer or work with fair regularity, and the passion should hit with a fervor that makes each new book a hot date and every stolen fifteen minutes of browsing an intoxicated rendezvous. Only love can join another writer to your own being. Love makes you reread, and it is in rereading that the really deep events take place." I have no time for rereading. As an adolescent, I used to reread Norma Klein's (drat! there's only one NK "page," and I'm not thrilled with it.) books. I suppose I've reread quite a few of my childhood favorites, like the silver crown. But, the only book I've reread as an adult on purpose is Katherine Dunn's Geek love.

Thursday, April 24, 2003
escort business

Am still halfway through the Quan book, but in the meantime, I devoured Sydney Biddle Barrows's Mayflower Madam. There were no salacious anecdotes. No explicit technical advice. But, the business information was most interesting. There's a brief bit of family history at the beginning that limns how Barrows' family was listed in the society register and whatnot. After she was arrested for operating her escort business, one of the Biddles remarked that Sydney had managed to make a bit of money, unlike other recent Biddle descendants. Along that same vein, I checked out Heidi Fleiss's Pandering, which is a glossy oversized scrapbook that is too difficult to read.

Wednesday, April 23, 2003
diary of a call girl

I got sucked into reading Tracy Quan's Diary of a Manhattan call girl: A Nancy Chan novel. I didn't mean to start reading it. I've had it for months but didn't start it because I thought it was a reiteration of her Salon column. I was wrong. It is new material. The first few pages were had to get through because the character's dialogue was heavily punctuated with exclamation and question marks. It read as too hyper, too exclamatory. On page 88 the character confides that as a child, she dreamed of becoming a librarian. Who knew? The book isn't as explicit as the column though. But, I'm only halfway through it, so perhaps I have yet to reach the "good stuff."

Monday, April 21, 2003
favorite books

Alas no time for pleasure reading. But, I checked out what presidential candidates are reading, ahem, pretending to read:

What a candidate chooses to read may seem like a small thing. Yet a person's literary tastes can be very revealing, as anyone who's ever scanned a stranger's bookshelf can attest. Book choices are especially prized by reporters, who use them as material for the narratives they write – narratives that often define candidates in the eyes of voters.

[snip snip]

But there is no better example of how books provide an insight into a candidate's persona than Bill Clinton. A legendary campaigner, Clinton famously had something to please everyone – including a different book for every constituency. (Not only did he feel your pain, he read your books.) As a voracious reader, he talked about books with gusto. If you asked him straight, he'd tell you his favorite was Gabriel Garcia Marquez's "One Hundred Years of Solitude." For ivory-tower types, the answer switched to Lord Blake's "Disraeli," a biography of the colorful 19th-century British prime minister. For the Oprah crowd? Clinton was a big fan of best selling page-turners like Tony Hillerman and Sara Paretsky – Sue Grafton, too. In his unique way, Clinton's exuberance about books was genuine, something that voters picked up on. Indeed, the now ex-president continues to share his reading choices – he's even considering starting a book club through his not-yet-built presidential library.

Thursday, April 17, 2003
arsenic and old bones

I haven't decided how I feel about Clay's quilt. I finished it yesterday. The story was good enough, and the writing was as well. Something about it left me blank? can't quite put my finger on it. Clay's spiritual connection with nature was one of the highlights of the book. I appreciated it, but I tired of it quickly. Strange how I reacted to it. I enjoyed Silas House's second book, A parchment of leaves much more.

Mystery novels are some of my favorites. Or were. I've hit a dry spell with them. Its possible that I was too enchanted by them. Sucked in, and I had to fight my way out of the genre. Now that I've turned myself off to their siren songs there are few that appeal to me anymore. It usually depends on the author. There are standards who come to mind. Not this second, but usually I can think of one quick enough to suit an interrogator. Although I can't recall ever reading any of Linda Fairstein's other novels, The bone vault is fascinating. When a fresh corpse is found in a sarcophagus, Alex Cooper is drawn into the worlds behind the scenes at two museums, the Met and the American Museum of Natural History. I'm learning a lot and having fun, too. No doubt it would only appeal to those who like museums and artifacts, baseball fans beware: this is not to your taste.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003
temptation averted

I regret not taking a book on tape along for the long drive to Bowling Green, Ky. Highway 80 was lovely, but not bookish. Lots of horses, cows, bluegrass, and signs for Amish buggy crossings. The Southern Kentucky Festival of Books was kind of fun. The convention center was hot and stuffy. There were people running around in animal costumes. Obviously, tons of books there too. Some good and others not so good. I do judge a book by its cover. And, some of those covers were really bad. Guess those smaller presses don't really care enough to hire an art director. There were at least half a dozen books I wanted to buy. But, I talked myself out of it.

Here's the list of books that could and should have been mine:

This Rock by Robert Morgan
Plant Life by Pamela Duncan
One Leaf Rides the Wind illustrated by Susan Kathleen Hartung
Pigs Rock! by Melanie Jones Davis
The Third Witch by Rebecca Reisert
Subversive Southerner: Anne Braden and the Struggle for Racial Justice in the Cold War South by Catherine Fosl

Friday, April 11, 2003
appy fiction

I have no excuse for not having already read Clay's quilt. I'm sure I checked it out and probably even started reading it when it was published. As with Silas House's second novel, his dialogue is wonderful, comforting, and a refreshing change from black and white books. You know, the ones that have no local color? The story is a little slow, like molasses. The main character, Clay, works in a KY coal mine, has fallen in love with a fiddle-playing divorcee, and then what? Oh, he struggles because his step-father killed his mother when she and Clay left him. He never knew his father, who went to Vietnam and never came back. There's more struggle though. Think Johnny Cash. Clay was brought up in the Pentecostal church, although he hasn't attended a service in the course of the book as of page 202, but he drinks and fights and all that. I thought I'd finish reading it last night, but I left it somewhere and didn't have the heart to begin another book.

Wednesday, April 9, 2003
la de da de da

Finished Lucky last night. The words moved right along. There was never any struggle to read it or complete it. Very clearly written, easy to understand.

Read and browsed the business of studio photography. Lots of great information, but I had to wade through quotes of famous people and unknown business gurus. The book is densely packed with so much useful information. And, after picking up on the salient bits, it was obvious to me that the photographer who shot my wedding had read the same book and incorporated the best niche marketing practices into his business. Too bad he couldn't change his slimy personality.

Also found several items of interest. Over at the independent women's forum, a site that I am not advocating, there's A Reading List for Every Young Woman. The other day I found a cool project courtesy of Jessamyn: the miniature book library. It's one of those cool mail art projects.

Tuesday, April 8, 2003
feeling lucky @ the East Tennessee connection

I'm about halfway through Alice Sebold's Lucky. It was eerily familiar. I know I started it a few years ago, but didn't finish it, otherwise it would appear in one of my lists of books I've read. That's the only way that I can keep things straight anymore. I can't recall why I didn't finish it, probably because it is a pretty harsh reality. Sebold writes about her rape which occurred at the end of her first year of college at Syracuse. The writing is good. Sometimes the transition from topic to topic is a bit weak, but it's her first book. Scintillating tidbit: Her grandparents live/d in East Tennessee.

Monday, April 7, 2003
tepid and dull

Bought no books in Chattanooga and only went in one bookstore. I'm entering another reading funk. Finished the obvious diet. Good stuff, easy read, easy information. Tried to read Predicting new words, but failed. The one time I don't take 3 or 4 books with me to suit my every reading need, was the time that I wanted something else to read. Have given up on Predicting new words.

Returned home and finished Perma Red. It was an above average read. The ending was a surprise. I learned that the main character Louise, was given the disparaging name Perma Red, which was the worst slur an American Indian woman could be given in that town, time, place, etc. Isn't it great when you actually learn the reason for the title? I may stick with Louise Erdrich though. However, I was unable to read one of her last books because it was too dreamy or otherworldly. Don't know how to describe it, really.

Also finished Child no more, Xaveria Hollander's latest memoir. It was a bit dull. Tame really, especially after her other books. After thirty or forty pages I was ready to chuck it, but since I wasn't reading anything else and I had time to burn, I saw it through to the bitter end. Xaveria writes a family memoir; basically the story of her parents lives, etc. It was tepid. I wouldn't recommend it unless you're a happy hooker fan who devours everything she writes. The writing was fine, although there were some narratives from each parent's perspective that I wasn't too keen about.

Wednesday, April 2, 2003
reading rodeo

My reading was diverted to Hotel Honolulu because it is overdue at the public library. I read the first dozen pages and decided that I couldn't get into it. Italicized text turns me off. I like straightforward books that don't have dream montages or alternate realities or any of that. My mind is creative enough on its own.

Picked up the Obvious diet at the library last week and started it last night. It's chatty, well-written, and tolerable at this point. Makes total sense, of course. The author's premise is that if you make the rules for your diet then you'll be more likely to follow them than if they are arbitrary and don't relate at all to your life. I'm taking that and Predicting new words to Chattanooga (there is one in Oklahoma, but I'm not going there), although I've got at least six new, tempting library books in the back seat from my trip early this morning.