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

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Friday, May 30, 2003
three times conveys intent

The Visitor is deliciously dense; as in thick with story. Okay, it was tough going the first chapter or two and I still don't quite grasp all the strangeness of post-apocalyptic America. But, I got the Regime and understand about the demons now. Some things remain unclear. I've got maybe eighty pages until I'm done, but it seems impossible that Tepper could wrap things up so easily. Disme grew into her superpowers and she's finally got two men interested in her. One is Dr. Ladislav. Disme has been brought to his attention three times: "As the doctor's father had at one time pronounced: once means nothing; twice is amusing; three times conveys intent (179)." I tend to derive meaning from patterns of coincidence in much the same way. Call it personal philosophy of a sort. Her evil step-sister got what was coming to her, yet it was too tame and tidy for my gruesome imagination. The book is fabulous. I read for four or five hours into the early morning and forced myself to put it down. I'm not Teppered out, yet. I bought The Fresco last year (at lovely indie bookstore) and never read it. If I can find it, I'll read it next.

Returned a batch of books to the public library yesterday. Contemplated being a bookstore whore no more. I used to go into every book shop that I could find. I could browse for hours. Lose myself. It isn't happening so much anymore. Trying to curb my consumer urges. A good thing, no doubt. But am sadly out of touch with current market products.

Also read more of Sister's keepers. It's still chock-full of information and I can't imagine what else the author can throw in there. And I thought it was a short book. Funny, I've read one of the 10 most influential books of the past 10 years. Wonder how that happened. I'm looking forward to reading Eric Schlosser's new book, Reefer Madness, if we ever get it at the library. But, the new book that Barbara Ehrenreich edits awaits me at the library and I'll pick that up today.

I can't get enough book jacket design. Maybe there's still hope that I can one day become an art director. Jackets are diverse & thriving. Bill Smith writes: "Fine art, once the source of ideas and social change, is a withering vine. And graphic design is reduced to feeding off of pop culture and itself. At least it’s filling."

Just finished reading a provocative, scary article on germline engineering, that is: manipulating DNA to create perfect human beings. I try to be well-rounded; read things other than fluff. The more I read about germ-line gene therapy, the more it reminded me of the Dennis Danvers book I read a few years ago in which a slave race was created to serve humans. Their DNA was purposefully flora, fauna, and human so that the masters would find it easier to accept their status as slaves. Funny how predictive sci-fi usually is. It seems a good thing to "resist a biotechnology that would deepen existing social chasms or further undermine human identity and meaning."

Oh yeah, I read something else in Vogue the other day that hit home. It was about working shorter hours and vacationing more. Nothing new, really, but still it put a bug in my brain. Compared the number of vacation days that US folks take with those in other countries. That one can be more productive by spending less time at work. Working in creative bursts for a few days, then jetting off to Fiji for a few weeks.

Wednesday, May 29, 2003
real live book, or bust

Kept reading The Visitor last night. Managed three or four chapters before my eyes grew heavy. Disme is reading a journal that her ancestor wrote. Apparently Nell, the ancestor, was an astronomer who was aware of a great mass hurtling at the earth, later referred to as "The Happening". She built a shelter in her back yard. Her husband was a prayer freak and knew she was "lost" and didn't want their children to see the angels throw her into the fiery pit of hell. To humor his protectiveness of their children, she went along with about a hundred other scientists that the government secluded along with the best science, art & knowledge in a fortress. They were to be cryogenically frozen and awakened once every hundred years for a brief time. It was assumed that after one thousand years that earth would have returned to its normal state. I only get small doses of this story, which I find the most interesting of the lot, because there are three or four other plots ripping right along. Oh, the fun thing, which I have yet to learn the outcome, is that Nell made sure her house was outfitted with cameras so that if the angels came to save her husband and children then she would be damn sure to know whether she is right or wrong. At this point, the book seems to pit faith against science; both I feel are not THE answer to any questions humanity may have. One thousand years later though, the survivors, or the Spared, live under a repressive Regime that monitors all aspects of people's lives. Tepper is known for themes in which oppressive & fundamentalist religions ultimately fail because of the strength of human spirit and creativity. There's usually a strong feminist message as well.

Also read about 120 pages of Their sister's keepers: Prostitution in New York City, 1830-1870. It is out of print, but I have access to it via netlibrary. Preferences aside, the one good thing about an e-book is that note taking is as easy as copying & pasting. The actual reading though, is tedious. Give me a real live book any day. The book's content is quite interesting. Marilynn Wood Hill uses all manner of public record to identify prostitutes and madams. I'll probably employ several of her strategies with my own thesis. I'm already scouring court dockets, and will look through ordinance books, census records, tax assessment, and city directories. My instincts about women arrested for vagrancy and disorderly conduct were right on. From what Hill writes, prostitutes were frequently the focus of those types of arrests.

Finally received the new issue of Vogue after I've seen it for sale everywhere; what is the point of a subscription? I usually only look at the pictures, or am interested in the cover story. This issue there was an article about Mormon polygamy that caught my interest; I read the whole thing. The writer tried to link polygamy with the case of the missing blond Mormon girl. I can't recall the details, but she was rescued a few months ago. Then, there was the cover story about Reese Witherspoon. The writer kept coming back to her "Southernness," and was surprised when she called herself a feminist.

Tuesday, May 28, 2003
for want of a green umbrella and a garden table

A book I requested via ILL arrived yesterday. Purity and hygiene: women, prostitution, and the American Plan, 1900-1930 looks quite academic, endnotes and all. Actually, there were two others besides this one. Pretty heavy reading. I read the first two or three chapters of Pivar's book, mentioned above. I thought that reading about social hygiene would be more fun than what it is turning out to be. However I did learn that in the 1900s physicians frequently mentioned that there was more venereal disease among wives than among prostitutes. The other two books are: Response to prostitution in the progressive era and Red lights out.

Open air reading rooms succored the jobless during the depression. Outdoor library? Reading in the park? Sounds like a dream come true. Most days I ache to work outdoors and I frequently dream of a library without walls. No chance of that ever happening here though. An unsigned 1936 article in The New Yorker took note of "the young lady librarians, as brightly officious as Mrs. Roosevelt," and said that they "sit thumbing over cards at a white garden table protected by a green umbrella, or lovingly pat the books in the bookstalls, making sure they're still alphabetical."

I've got an urge to return all the library books that I have checked out. I want rid of them. THey just sit around, gathering dust. I won't read them; my interests have changed. Purging of library books commences tonight.

Monday, May 27, 2003
lost that bookstore feeling

Yesterday I visited big chain bookstore and didn't get that excited feeling in my tummy. Usually I glide excitedly from section to section looking for something new to read. Now that I finally have big chain bookstore, I don't want it. I did buy a book though. The Visitor by Sheri Tepper. Its a blend of sci-fi and fantasy. Started reading it last night, too. It was difficult to get into at first. Usually if I can slog through the first two short chapters, I'm in. The main character is Disme and she lives in a post-apocalyptic world in which the earth has changed; there are 400 days in a year now and very little sunlight in certain regions. Earth's inhabitants live in small tribes. From what I read on the book jacket, this Disme is supposed to be instrumental in changing life, all by leading a movement based upon a book. I am not quite understanding this society, nor all the different words for organizations, etc. I can't remember them now to explain.

Just finished a short article about the male muse. If something good is happening, you know a woman is behind it.

Wednesday, May 21, 2003
whores and hunter

Finally thumbed through the new issue of Oxford American. I don't like it so much anymore. The ink/pages smelled different than before. Silly, I know. That's not all. Their advertisements are rude. Too big, too bold and too obtrusive. The stories were okay, but most failed to capture my attention. After watching Matrix Reloaded last night I read about one hundred pages of Underworld sewer: A prostitute reflects on life in the trade, 1871-1909. It was written by Josie Washburn. Her writing style leaves a lot to be desired. She goes on and on about social evil and unnatural lusts. But, I'm wading through it, finding some good quotes for my thesis. One of the most annoying devices she uses is CAPITALIZATION. I usually skip over those parts. Her emphasis is not the same as mine. I suppose I'm about halfway through it; big type, generous margins.

News to me: Hunter S. Thompson is a hillbilly bookworm.

Tuesday, May 20, 2003
more fun than reading

Instead of immersing myself in a fabulous book last night, I surprised my hubby with a trip to our local arena where there was a WWE SmackDown! live event. I never use the words totally awesome because they are so trite, but Rey Mysterio was totally awesome. His moves were acrobatic and quick and immensely entertaining. Just wish that I'd brought my binoculars. All the better to see the wrestlers with; that was always my favorite high school sporting event to attend. Maybe next time I'll have a ringside seat. Watching the fans was almost as much fun as watching the performers. Images of crowds responding to Hitler immediately came to mind; it coulda been scary. Fabulous showmanship, though at times the action in the ring was too slow and kind of boring. And the divas... just not all that exciting. Guess they aren't allowed to do any real damage other than stripping off each others clothing. Another match between the women would have mixed things up a bit. Actually, the whole show was pretty tame. I guess my images of wrestling stem from childhood memories of vast amounts of blood flying all over the place. Aaaah, the glorious seventies.

Monday, May 19, 2003
thinking is not doing

Another mindless weekend spent in front of the tube. Started a new book Friday. Sat on the porch reading Shameless: The visionary life of Mary Gove Nichols. I so love it. Jean Silver-Isenstadt writes so well. Okay, it's very much historical biography, a genre that sometimes leave me cold. But her writing is infinitely accessible. It's academic, but not obnoxiously so. I don't need a shovel to dig through heavy-handed adverbs and verb tenses. Truth be told, I recognized her style as somewhat similar to mine. Or maybe I've imagined it.

Mary Grove Nichols wrote the first female anti-masturbation book in 1839. She was also a proponent of the water cure. And, a free lover, although she remained devoted and faithful to her second husband who didn't make mechanical demands upon her person as her first brutish husband did. She decided to become a Quaker without knowing any of them. She was the only one in her small NH town. She sort of got stuck with her first husband because he was the only eligible Quaker around. She loathed him. He convinced her that if she broke their engagement that she would burn in hell. He was one of those people who make nothing of themselves, only rely upon their wives/husbands to support the family. Once she started earning money from her lectures and writing and the school for girls that she opened, he took it all.

The book lay accusingly on the sofa next to me all weekend as I indulged in movies. Rented Real women have curves and Far from heaven. I want to finish the book, but I feel a slump coming on. Lack of motivation. Cannot stay on task. Tried to curb that fog by going to the library Sunday. Checked out books that I'm not sure I'll read. Seems like MFA candidates aren't reading either:

"And many programs are accepting or accommodating themselves to the disturbing notion that students will arrive with much less knowledge about literature. As there probably is everywhere else, there's a declining level of literacy at M.F.A. programs. If you go into a classroom and ask who's read Michael Cunningham's `The Hours,' half the students will raise their hands and say they've seen the movie. All of these students are interested in writing books. But more and more are finding it hard to keep their eyes off the brass ring that film represents."

Friday, May 16, 2003
when a book is a bad idea

Something that bothers me is when people who know nothing about books and reading, or perhaps have no professional knowledge of books and reading, open their mouths and make crazy statements. While browsing the most recent American Libraries, I turned to "Thus said," which is usually pretty boring column anyway, and found the words of Ms. Fleiss. That's Heidi to you and me. She said "People don't read anymore. To do a book now, you have to make it very visually appealing and concise." I do read. And I have an above average sense of book design. I borrowed Pandering from the Jonesborough library a few weeks ago and tried to read it. That was impossible. It's not made to be read. It is a hug coffee table book with exceptionally bad graphics, horrid fonts, and no flow. It is not a book. It is a visual nightmare. It assaults the eyes in a most irritating fashion. Should you buy it, keep in mind that you're paying for Heidi's mastubatory excretions, not anything resembling a memoir. It is a mess. Amazing that it was published, and even more impressive is that it appears virtually directionless. As far as madams go, Heidi is not as likeable as most of the others whom I've read about. Strangely enough I saw footage of her with Tom Sizemore the other night on E! She looked like a walking corpse. Give that girl a tan, good makeup, and fatten her up about thirty pounds, and no doubt, she's hot.

I'm about 30-something pages into Dinner with Persephone: Travels in Greece. Maybe I should have read a few pages before buying it. I usually enjoy travel writing by women, and in fact by some men as well. It was the cover (paperback: ripe pomegranate) and the back cover with description that drew me in. Patricia Storace writes for the New York Review of Books. She spent a year living in Athens and this book tells her experiences while there. I'm reading it for her personal experiences, obviously, and she interjects a fair bit of history into the pages as well. While I appreciate history as much as any other person about to finish a masters in the subject, I'm not terribly keen on Greek history. I don't care to know about it, but rather its people, and most importantly, its beaches and islands. Oh wow, it was also a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.

Thursday, May 15, 2003
avoiding another slump

My aspirations/horoscope this week:

LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): Just in time for zero hour, I'm happy to add a new term to your vocabulary: kairos. It's Greek for "time of destiny, critical turning point, propitious moment for decision or action." Kairos refers to a special season charged with significance and in a sense outside of normal time; its opposite is chronos, which refers to the drone of the daily rhythm. When you're in kairos, you have the power and duty to act like the sovereign of a sacred land.

This was the second time I tried to read Coyote's book. I was ready to toss it during the first chapter, but I read until the third or fourth, at least. It's very uneven. The sentences in one chapter are so intricately crafted that the text is too dense to read. Too much hard thinking. That slows me down. That's what I get from trying to read prose written by a poet. Hopefully I've learned that lesson now. The next chapter would read perfectly okay though. They flip flopped. It was too confusing. I couldn't enter a comfortable reading rhythm. I tried to hear his wonderful voice but couldn't manage to do even that.

After page 28 of All my life for sale, I just browsed. Its not a book that is fun to read straight through. The writer, John Freyer, decided to rid his apartment of his possessions, which he then sold on Ebay. He checked up on his items; often the new owner would send photos of it. He traveled to visit his former possessions and to meet their new owners. The travel narrative would have interested me most of all. Another book I did not complete.

I may be on the cusp of another reading slump. I do so well for a few weeks and then *kerpow* it happens. Curiously I read about that effect in the last issue of Readerville, wherein readers and writers gave advice for overcoming reader's block.

Yesterday I went to the library in Jonesborough and checked out several books. One was the new Tom Robbins. It's thin, perhaps I can make it through it. Today I'll probably go to the Elizabethton library because they have Lost in a good book, and my public library doesn't. Elizabethton and Jonesborough usually have the best books of the WRL system. They've got good book selectors. Plus, with my public library being larger, somehow they're the last to receive new books. Makes no sense to me.

I'm having trouble connecting to my ftp client. Hopefully that problem will resolve itself.

Wednesday, May 14, 2003
ubercyber heroine

Yesterday afternoon, book in hand, I sat on my porch and soaked up the sun. Reading outdoors is one of my favorite activities. It warmed me up as well. Working inside a liberally air conditioned building is quite unpleasant. Not having an outside window makes my workplace a chilly prison cell. I bask in the warmth of the sun and wish I could perform my job responsibilities in the plaza or another sun drenched area of campus.

Finished Pattern recognition. A smart, lovely, gratifying book. Cayce describes her gift as "It's about group behavior pattern around a particular class of object. What I do is pattern recognition. I try to recognize a pattern before anyone else does." Her statement completely reminded me of a Connie Willis book, Bellwether. I bought her last book Passage, but haven't read it. A shame. I'll have to get on that. Gibson's book was completely entertaining and enjoyable. At times I found it a bit difficult to understand some of his terminology. For example, I never learned an exact definition of mirror-world, but otherwise caught on quickly. Besides her main work with logos and brands, Cayce 's hobby is following specific footage that is released on the net. She and other forum members post their thoughts about the latest footage segments; quite a subculture. She's hired by a omnipotent advertising agency owner, a tom cruise look alike, to discover who makes the footage. She travels (UK, Japan, Russia) and has adventures, always with an eye turned towards fashion. Prada this, Armani that, etc. The other characters in the book are quirky, fun, and skillfully drawn. I tried to read Neuromancer a few years ago but couldn't take it. Now that I've completed one of Gibson's novels, I may go back and give that one another go.

I'll probably start the Peter Coyotoe memoir this afternoon, unless something else captures my attention.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003
what's a day without singing horses?

Finished Cases that haunt us. I've always thought that being a questioned document examiner would be rather interesting, and I suppose that's where my interest in crime and forensics lies. That and psycholinguistic analysis. Dream jobs, I suppose. No doubt I would soon become bored with them as well. It is the nature of my personality.

About three or four chapters into Pattern recognition and can't wait to get back to the book. Had to put it down so that I could try to sleep. Gibson's pacing is unlike anything I've ever read. I'm not sure what the story is about, really. Cayce has these violent reactions to brand names and logos. She's hired by corporations as a consultant to tell them whether their designs make her retch, which then means that the logo will be unsuccessful. Interestingly he and I employ the same kind of occasional absent object sentence construction. And, besides, some of his others are way out of the ordinary. A very promising book. Favorite phrase so far: the cinnamon blur of a cat. I'm sure there will be more.

I'm trying to decide what book to read to my grandmother. She's in a nursing home in Kingsport. I'm not sure she'd care for the Gibson book, and I thought maybe David Copperfield, but that doesn't seem right, either. I'm looking for a list of good books for that purpose, but haven't come across one yet. I'm still looking.

Monday, May 12, 2003
reading rapture, or not

There was another point I wanted to make about Packer's book, but I've forgotten what it was. Perhaps it will return to me. Bought Dinner with Persephone a few days ago. The author writes about her year of living in Greece. Am toting it along in my faded Feminist Press at CUNY book bag, but haven't cracked it open yet.

Received A round-heeled woman: My late-life adventures in sex and romance last week as well. I had ordered it from "goliath online bookstore" after reading a review of the book in the NYTimes. Jane Juska placed an ad in the back of the New York Review of Books that read: "Before I turn 67 — next March — I would like to have a lot of sex with a man I like. If you want to talk first, Trollope works for me." That was enough to entice me. Ordered the book and read it in a day. It was charming. The writing was good. Nothing too explicit. However, I really liked what she said about teaching. She gave a few tidbits of useful advice to teachers she mentored. I hope she writes another book on teaching. The book is not racy, though how its marketed may imply as much; fairly disappointing if you're looking for smut. Judge it by its cover; a brilliant fuchsia.

Another book that I ordered (from QPB though) came last week, too: Bare: On women, dancing, sex, and power. Elisabeth Eaves danced & labored at the Lusty Lady in Seattle (the one in SFO just closed): a peek show for those of you not in the know. Her memoir covers her life working there. Actually, a third to possibly half of the book is about her. The rest shares the experiences of several of her co-workers. I liked it better than Strip City: A stripper's farewell journey across America. Hillary Frey compares the two books in an article in the nation. Eaves' section about stripper's names was much more interesting. She said that most clubs won't let women use their real names. She also mentioned how the lush movement the tongue makes when pronouncing double L names like Leila, Lily, Lola, Lulu, Layla, etc. deeply invests the viewer's erotic perceptions of the dancer. That didn't make sense. I know what I meant. Having their names run off your L-convulsing tongue is supposed to get you feeling all liquid and groovy, I guess. The content was dense, but readable, and there wasn't anything explicit though there was some frankness here and there.

Interesting: Tracy Quan has a blog.

I read about twenty pages of Rona Jaffe's Room-mating season: a novel, but decided that I didn't have the patience for it. It's likely a decent read, but it started off rather slow. One of those four roommates in the early sixties in Manhattan. Definitely a girly book. I didn't think I could deal with it just now.

Instead, I started reading Cases that haunt us: From Jack the Ripper to JonBenet Ramsey, the RBI's legendary mindhunter sheds new light on the mysteries that won't go away. I think I've read something else by the author and just now I cannot recall why I wanted to read this one. I'll go through forensic spells and want to read something new. Read about Jack the Ripper and Lizzie Borden. Was already familiar with those cases because strangely enough I went through a macabre time as an adolescent. That's when I was a big Stephen fan, too. I read about Jack, Lizzie, Charles Manson, Jim Jones... who else? Can't recall, but I know I devoured those books. Thinking back on it, my reading tastes seem rather strange now. I never liked the photos though. I've had the opportunity to see many live ME shots (not those floating around online), but the thought completely turns me off. It must be the Jack the Ripper aspect of the book. I bought Patricia Cornwell's ripper book last year but haven't read it. Now I'm more interested in doing so. I thought to track it down on one of my many shelves.

A few library books I have sitting around to read: Pattern recognition/William Gibson, Sleeping where I fall: A chronicle/Peter Coyote, Tricky business/Dave Barry, Secret/Eva Hoffman, David Copperfield/Charles Dickens, All my life for sale/John Freyer.

That's right, Dickens. One of my goals is to interject one "classic" book into my monthly selections. I've never read Dickens, but from what I've read or heard, I think he might be tolerable. Certainly there are things I shall never read, Ulysses for one. And I tried Faulkner once and found him impossible. I should compile a list of classics that I have an interest in reading. Another goal.

The best thing about this weekend was that I was reunited with my favorite very young childhood book: Tillie the turtle. It was published in 1968 (Rand McNally: Tiny Elf Library). I can't find anything about the author, but I don't have the book in front of me, either. It's a small book with small illustrations, but the book reached mammoth proportions in my mind. It was one of two or three books that my grandmother kept for me at her house. She kept them even after I outgrew them, and then gave them to my sister when she was born fifteen years after I. Knowing how much I cherished the Tillie book, Jessica dug through her book shelves and presented me with my book this weekend. I wonder if she can find my other favorite nursery tale book. Somehow I don't think that the crayon scribbles and rough treatment the book exhibits were my fault, but I still love it just the same. I can't find a thing about the author, Bunty Lewis, but may have better luck with the illustrator, Jean Tamburine.

Wednesday, May 7, 2003

I couldn't put down Ann Packer's Dive from Clausen's Pier until I read the last page this morning at 5:20 am. It was that good. In the first few pages I had a bit of trouble relating to the main character, Carrie Bell, who narrates the story. Packer's crafting of sentences and choosing of words is very elegant, refined, intelligent. Carrie lacked depth and seemingly hid behind all these words that tumbled from her mouth. There was an elite, upper middle class air about her; something I didn't appreciate. As I eased into the narrative though, her words transformed into something altogether real and I wasn't so much put off by them. The story is about loyalty, love, friendship, and ultimately personal transformation. Instead of letting certain events or circumstances define us, Carrie intimates, we should wrest that control from fate, or divinity or what have you, and create the meaning oneself. Packer writes it much better than I can, and I am unable to flip to the exact page just now. Ah, page 318, but it also occurs earlier in the book: People aren't defined by what they do so much as they define what they do.

Carrie is on the threshold of breaking up with her high school sweetheart and fiance Mike, when a diving accident renders him a comatose quadriplegic. Driven by loyalty she remains at his side, visiting his room daily until he regains consciousness. When stressed she sews. "How much do we owe the people we love?" she muses. After isolating herself from her close friends, she tells Mike that she can't marry him and then takes off to New York to stay with friend Simon for awhile. She hunts down a fellow she met one night at a dinner party in Madison, Wisc., her hometown. He's very solitary and closed. He comes from great wealth but chose to live frugally and instead of having a real job he's a permanent temp. Very intellectual, very condescending. Carrie exists on her savings for several months, jobless, and eventually starts taking classes at Parsons. She already has an unidentified bachelor's degree. She settles into her urban routine and eventually begins to compare her two lives. She tries with Paul, who calls himself Kilroy, but there's always a dead end because he's so shut off. Her family and friends in Madison are disappointed when she doesn't come home for Christmas. When her best friend Jamie has a family crisis Carrie tells her that she can't return that this isn't a good time for her now. Then, she changes her mind, but by the time she's returned to Madison, Jamie won't speak to her. She stays weeks to work things out with Jamie. She renews her friendship with Mike; she's never removed her engagement ring. Then, she makes a decision about her life that she's comfortable with.

The bittersweet ending was not what I expected, and that was very, very good. It's best when an ending surprises me. Although I crave the typical happy ending like most people, something that tidily ties things up, life is not that way; it's ever-complex. In the best books, endings are left loosey-goosey. I really connected to the characters in this book. Carrie's experiences in the city and with Paul seemed powerful, universal, familiar. The only thing that Packer spends much time describing is fabric. I created a rich mental image of how things were within my mind from the simplest of her words. It was excellent. One of the best two or three books I've read this year. Phenomenal. I have a new favorite author and I can't wait to read what she puts out next. Bravo, Packer. Encore.

Oh, one last thing. Carrie worked in a library in Madison. In the rare books room. Her boss, the prim Miss Grafton is described by her co-worker Viktor as "She sees me and thinks of the agony of her dry, sexless life, but she is happy for a moment because I remind her of when it wasn't so (16)." Later in the book Carrie visits NYPL and decides not to apply for a position there because the page (one who shelves books) looks too sallow. I'm not happy with her characterizations of libraries and librarians. She must be one of those folks who've had bad experiences and can't get past them to allow greater perception to inform their attitudes. Those kinds of people are very sad.

Tuesday, May 6, 2003
three in one blow

Finished Crimson petal and the white yesterday afternoon. Superb conclusion. Things aren't neatly wrapped up, which leaves ample room for the reader's mind to respond creatively. The more I thought about it, the more it did seem like a Dickens/Collins hybrid. But, this author is much more skilled at writing, characterization, and plot than Miz Collins. Thoughts of Forever Amber flitted through my mind, but it's been such a long time since I'd read it, can't recall if Amber was a whore, and she did run off to America. Plus, the setting was 100 years or so prior to this book. There are times when the book limps along. You know, it gets a bit boring, but the author's attitude toward brothels and debauchery at the hands of prostitutes is really quite pragmatic. I doubt that few men would eagerly read this one.

The air conditioning was turned off in my workplace yesterday. I smothered and decided to call it a week. Or, at least until the air is turned back on. Modern architecture without functional windows are dreadfully ineffectual. Scads of time to read then.

Dirt music is the first book I've read by Tim Winton. I wasn't sure that I'd like it. First, because it's written by an Australian. And second because Winton doesn't use quotation marks around his dialogue. I got over the latter fairly fast. And other than the vocabulary (polariods for sunglasses, though there was none of that "throw another on the barbie, mate!"), reading Winton's work has made me curious about other Australian authors which is limited to The Thornbirds. Keeping an atlas, handy while reading this would have been a good idea. My Aussie geography is pretty limited, and there's a fair dinkum of traveling. Oh, and actually a couple of field guides would be good as well. Had no clue about trees, animals, plants, and fish he described. The story turned out to be much better than I first thought. Georgie is bored with her marriage to golden boy fisherman. Just outside her house on the lagoon, she notices a poacher, plays with his dog, and arranges to have him drive her to Perth after she disables her Land Rover (or was it a Range Rover? whichever is most expensive). The poacher, Lu, is emotional, deep, and wounded. Georgie is a nurse, by the way, who self-medicates with vodka and internet surfing. The rest of the book describes the repercussions that she and Lu face when their relationship comes out into the open. One of the best parts of the book is when Lu takes off for the northern coast for a walkabout, though its never called that by Winton and may not be an apt characterization since Lu is in his mid to late thirties. Lu is a reader who used to play guitar or mandolin in a bluegrass band. He lives on an island for several months, plays with sharks, and desperately wishes that he had brought any kind of book along to read. He fares rather well but the coming dry season coupled with his desire to stay in one place and become wholly attached to it helps his decision to return home.

Strange how a font and weird hairs can make one drop a book. All that lives: A novel of the Bell Witch is just such a book. Call me crazy, but I didn't care for the font (and it didn't have one of those pages at the end that reads "this book was printed in palatino..." and I have no clue what that page is called, but I do know the basic parts of a book) and there are hairs on almost every page. I fear that they may be my dog's hair for the book sat on the floor for weeks before I came around to read it. I did read the first chapter, about twelve pages, but the story didn't grab me. Also, the author is Californian and she's writing about a Tennessee topic. I always get possessive of my state's folklore/culture/history when outsiders appropriate them. Uh oh, looks like she was born in Tn., so I guess that makes it alright after all.

Moving right along to another fun, cotton-candy-beach book, I dove into Jennifer Crusie's Faking it. It's just a fun romance book, but so much better than any of those harlequin things I read in junior high. They are intelligent, and clever and well-written. Only, I don't care for all the musical references, though the references to movie characters and lines lent an interesting slant to character interaction. The characters aren't as complex as I normally want them to be, but they don't have to be since this is pure fun. Tilda paints murals and lives above her family's art gallery in Columbus, Oh. While trying to steal a forged painting from an ex-porn star, she hides in a closet, meets Davy, a con man, and they share a scintillating kiss. Their paths keep crossing, they fall in love but know that the other is not being completely honest with her/him. There are also mini plots in the book about Tilda's sister Eve a schoolteacher by day who dresses up as her alter ego Louise four nights a week. Their mother Gwen struggles with having a boring life by working crossword puzzles and drinking vodka. Tilda's niece Nadine is sixteen, trying on boyfriends and potential careers. It's fun, has witty dialogue, a happy ending and isn't the least bit subversive.

I may begin Dive from Clausen's pier tonight. Dare I skim the reading group guide beforehand?

Monday, May 5, 2003
bold & the bawdy

When my eyes begin to burn and blur and I can barely keep them open, I know it is time to call it a night and put my bawdy and bold book down. I more than met my goal last night: to get to page 400 in The crimson petal and the white. The book is 833 pages, a tome for sure. I can't say I've read a book of this length since maybe a Diana Gabaldon or Jean Auel book. Reading a book of this size is quite a commitment. I wasn't sure I'd have the time to devote to it and imagined that it would take be at least a week to read, but I started it Friday or Saturday and am more than halfway through it so far. Hope to finish it tonight or at least by Wednesday.

But what about the book? Once again the second-person aspect turned me off, but I muddled through it all and got to the good stuff. Occasionally the author gets back into that mode. The story is quite entrancing. In 800-something pages, one really gets to know the characters, all whom are well-drawn. The heroine, Sugar, the most sought-after prostitute in Victorian England, is a voracious reader and is writing a novel; basically the story of her life. William Rackham, heir to a perfumery fortune, sets Sugar up in a home of her own, lavishes her with furs, silks, and books. We also meet his wife, who has a brain tumor and acts wacky fairly frequently. And, there's his pious brother Henry, who is in love with the consumptive Mrs. Fox. The book is rather brilliant, and the writing is superb. It should be, Michel Faber spent twenty years conceiving, researching, and writing the book. Appropriately, the Guardian has serialized it. Uh oh, is it really Charles Dickens meets Jackie Collins? I'm not sure I would characterize it that way. The onion says it's a ripping good yarn. Apparently is also made several top 10 lists last year as well. And, many folks may be put off by its length.

Friday, May 2, 2003
free at last

Her was one of those cotton candy books that you indulge in when at the beach. Light, comedic, slightly zany. Very obsessive character. An excellent beach or airplane read. The genre is not something of which I'm very fond. Needless to say, it was a nice segue into pleasure reading; something that can inform my book selections at least through the end of the month.

I've read 40 books so far this year. At this rate I'll read 120 for the year. 120 is not an acceptable goal though. I'll have to set one. Late last night I read the last page of Sister noon. I'm struggling to recall the main character's name. Aaah, Lizzie Hughes. She is the treasurer for a San Francisco orphanage just before the turn of last century. Maybe that doesn't make sense. The Gilded Age, the 1890s. Unmarried but with an allowance from her wealthy father, she stumbles through life rather unhappily. That is, until a purported voodoo queen, Mrs. Pleasant, enters her life. Besides being benevolent to Negroes, Mrs. Pleasant is in the business of baby-farming. She places illegitimate children in the households of their fathers, quite without the "good man's" knowledge. She's also a bit of a motivating force and influences several women to change the course of their lives. She tells them. "You don't want to be the same person your whole life?" At times the book was difficult to read. Mrs. Bell is a strange character who lives in another reality, and when I read about her, I never knew what to believe. I imagine that all the historical aspects are authentic. There's quite an emphasis upon manners and one's place in society. Would I recommend it? Possibly, but to whom? It wasn't all happiness and light, but it did end on a positive note. A novel of growth and transformation.

On a totally unrelated note, I'm very pleased to have a highly balanced brain (Yet other individuals are equally strong in their systemizing and empathizing. This is called the 'balanced brain', or a brain of type B).

Thursday, May 1, 2003
obsessive stalking and reading about Her

I closed my eyes late last night after I'd read through about half of Laura Zigman's book, Her. I've wanted to read it since it was published but my public library didn't have it, and I've desperately tried to cut my book spending. I rarely buy fiction anymore. Zigman wrote Animal husbandry which was then adapted for screen in that Someone Like You movie starring Ashley Judd. Dating Big Bird is another of Zigman's books. The book is well-written, and it moves along at a fast pace. Almost breakneck, actually. Her heroine's energy pops right off the pages. And her worry saturates the book. You see, Elise and Daniel are engaged and their wedding is coming along in a few months. Daniel's ex-fiancee Adrienne is moving from NYC to DC and will live nearby. Adrienne is one of those ex's with whom Elise cannot compete: stunning good looks, great height, uber-boobs, intelligent, rich, and well-connected. I'm curious to see how it all turns out. Elise's friend thinks that Adrienne has swooped down to pluck Daniel from her hands. Fun, cotton candy book. I deserve it after the weeks of brain numbing stuff I've been reading and writing.