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Monday, June 30, 2003
Narrowly avoided a trip to Walmart this weekend. I actually spent thirty or forty minutes reading inside a library on Saturday. It was relatively quiet. I started reading For better or for worse: divorce reconsidered. I wasn't sure I would like it. That's why I read about 50-60 pages while still at the library. I've never believed that my parent's divorce was devastating for me, although people like to make comments about "children of divorce." This book proved that children of divorced parents do not follow one path towards destruction. A high percentage of girls, especially, are highly successful in life, love, etc. Since I'm not a recovering anything, never had a teenage pregnancy, or venereal disease, and don't have a criminal record I feel I've done well. The book itself was really easy to read; I was sucked into it with no problem at all.
Then I read Blue shoe. This Anne Lamott book didn't have a lot of humor. I missed that. The story was great: A newly single mother deals with her ex-husband's new wife & babies and her mother's decline and fall into assisted living, while struggling with feelings for her married best friend. Oh yeah, her daughter self-cannibalizes and her son has nightmares and wets his bed. There was a definite passage of time in the book, which takes place during a two to three year period. And Lamott makes those seasonal transitions flawlessly. Oh yeah, the other thing is that the main character and her brother start learning about their father's secret life. There's a librarian named Noah who is a world traveler, skater, and dog owner. The library appears at least twice during the course of the book. Mattie and her brother Al are at the cove (the book is set in northern CA) and they spot a bird struggling in the surf. Al wants to save it, but Mattie tell him to forget it, "Because there's no fixing and there's no saving, Al. There's helping sometimes, but not this bird." Lovely symbolism for another relationship in the book. Mattie tracks down an old friend, Abby, who lives in a shack by the sea. Doesn't try to save her, just brings her warm socks and foodstuffs. One of the reviews of this book spoke of how dysfunctional Lamott's characters are. I didn't pick up on that, but I think it's impossible to make characters interesting if they're cardboard cutouts. I can think of worse dysfunction. These folks seemed normal, but with blurred edges.
Started Swan yesterday. It takes place in Georgia in 1975 and is about a sister and brother who are basically orphans. They're in their twenties, but when they were children their mother shot herself and died. A few years later their doctor dad had a stroke and was institutionalized. Their aunt raised them. Ginger is an archaeologist working in Italy and J.J. lives in a shack in the woods and spends his time reading, writing, fishing, drinking, and whoring around. The sheriff calls Ginger to come home because of an emergency at the cemetery: her mother's body has been exhumed as part of a prank that included black paint smeared all over her grandfather's tombstone. The book is full of secrets, and that's what has kept me interested. The writing is good, and there are occasional prefect sentences that make me pause and say wow. However, Mayes's transitions are sketchy in the first quarter of the book. J.J. swims in the river, finds an arrowhead, and the next thing I know, he's dressed in khakis. There was no transition between his contemplation of the arrowhead and how he got home and got dressed. It happens a few more times, but I haven't noticed it in recent chapters. I'm on page 208; there are 319 total.
Saturday, June 28,
This morning I read Rescuing Patty Hearst: Memories from a decade gone mad. Great cover art, by the way. Virginia Holman's memoir about living with her schizophrenic mother was well-written. I have no complaints. But she's got an amazing mouth. Physically, I mean. It's not a porn mouth, but well-shaped and it's her bottom lip that is most lovely. Her photo is on the back flyleaf. As an adolescent she was told that she looked like Kristy McNichol.
Once when she was reading Steinbeck's the Pearl, her mother insisted that the book was bad. She searched for matches to burn it, but couldn't find any dry ones. Plan B was to drown the thing in dishwater. Virginia rescued the book and tried to dry it out, but it swelled to three times its size. Instead of telling the librarian what had happened, she said that she lost it. She was fined. Since she never paid it, and hid all the notices from her mother, Gingie, as her parents called her, lost her borrowing privileges. Her love of reading and books, primarily a means of escape from her freaky home life, drove her to steal books from the library. Mostly paperbacks. She had to sneak out to the woods to read them. She left them there and they would mold. She couldn't return them to the library in that state and so she would bury them deep within her neighbor's compost pile. Something her dad said after Gingie's mother had been institutionalized for years, hit home with me: You have to realize that in a way she is dead. I sort of think of Mom as an old relative in a nursing home. I care, but there's not much that I can do. I have to go on. It doesn't do any good to spend your whole life mourning. It's not going to save her and it hurts you and the people who love you (232).
Before I started this book this morning I tried to read The conquest of cool: Business culture, counterculture, and the rise of hip consumerism. I'm not in the mood for it though. I had to put it down after a few pages. It's very academic and based on the author's dissertation. No doubt it's a great book and I may try it another time.
I have at least two dozen library books piled on the couch right now. I'm making an effort to go through them to decide which ones to actually read. I'm in the midst of a checking-out-frenzy. Books are the safest things to OD on. I've had a collection of best stories from the south 2000-something sitting on the top; that's the first on my list. But, I do have Anne Lamott's Blue shoe, and I'm anxious to read that, too. Later today, my plan is to visit the Elizabethton library because they have some of the best books in our regional system. But, I also want to browse a new fabric store there that I've been meaning to visit for months now.
June 27, 2003
I'm not reading a thing. Oh, unless you count the articles in Playboy (Miss August weighed in at 125 and looked healthy and well-formed) and Newsweek. Also checked out a few summer reading lists: (1) list (2) list. But then, I began to wonder what Beckham reads. Seriously, the questions I want answered are not being asked in interviews. Amazing, I learn that Strom died from the Boston Globe. The one day I don't go to NYT first! It's Friday. I'm tired.
June 26, 2003
Maybe I'm not giving the author a chance, but Words fail me: what everyone who writes should know about writing is not for me. It is well written. Chipper, even. But, I don't think I'll find it terribly helpful. It's not so much about style or anything. There are sections on verb tenses and prepositions. It seems like more of a grammar guide; not what I need at the moment. There was another book I read, or tried to read, recently that freaked me out in much the same way. Too much emphasis on grammar. At least I can move on to another book quickly and without remorse. None of the summer reading books at msnbc are particularly appealing. okay, maybe one or two.
Made a run to the public library after work yesterday. Left with two grocery sacks full of books. I don't spend much time browsing shelves at the library. The opac (online public access computer for the non-librarians) is pretty cool because it has the callslip feature enabled. I search the catalog (from a remote location), find a book I want and then request it via callslip. When I go to the library, all the books I've requested are at the circulation desk waiting for me. Plus, our regional library system uses a courier system so if I want to read a book that the Greenville or Gray libraries have, I use callslip to request the book. Then it is sent to my library. Or, if I was spending lots of time in Elizabethton, I could have all my books sent there instead. It's a totally wonderful service. I have no idea how many patrons use it, but as a hardcore library user, I couldn't live well without it. Like most cities our commission tries to reduce funding for the library every year. I swear that semi-excellent library service is the only benefit I receive from living here. The roads have gone unpaved for at least 10 years on my side of town while all the vulgar new french provincial developments suck up all the city's $$$ for new roads. The infrastructures are crumbling on the south side. And, we have a gorgeous new library building that doesn't have near enough new books, nor do they have the $$$ to staff it like they should.
June 25, 2003
Read about invisible writers the other day. Seems like most writers are invisible. Finished Bird by bird by Anne Lamott. I've read a few of her books, and she's one of my favorite writers. Every once in a while she'll throw in these humorous sentences; wish she'd do it more often. I enjoy her offbeat dribs and drabs. But mostly her thoughts on the literary life resounded with me,
"There are a lot of us, some published, come not, who think that the literary life is the loveliest one possible, this life of reading and writing and corresponding. We think this life is nearly ideal. It is spiritually invigorating, says a friend, who converted at eighteen from Christianity to poetry. It is intellectually quickening. One can find in writing a prefect focus for life."
There's more, of course, but taken out of context, it looses just a bit. Infinitely readable; this was a wonderful book. I never doubted it.
Now I'm sorta bookless, but not really. I received four in the mail yesterday. I'd have to think really hard to tell you what they were: My life in heavy metal: Stories, Leaving Atlanta, Book that changed my life: interviews with the national book award winners, and Things you should know: A collection of stories. I wait and wait and wait for my public library to get the books that I want to read, but somehow they can't read my mind. What's up with that? I should probably send them masses of suggestions, but I don't want to cause them to loath me.
Books I dragged along in my book bag today are: My life in heavy metal, Words fail me, and Beauty before comfort. If I have a spare moment, like at lunch or at the reference desk, I'll pull one out. I've read several good reviews of Steve Almond's My life in heavy metal and am eager to delve into his stories. Even after reading the reviews though, I didn't decide to actively pursue his prose until I read Slippy for President at Nerve. He writes about getting closer to his three hot college roommates while they're all on X; in the early eighties. I wanted to read Leaving Atlanta because Tayari Jones is teaching a creative writing course here this fall. Her book got mixed reviews, though I think that most were positive. I thought that my public library would purchase the one about the national book award winners, but no, they have not. And, I've also read positive reviews about the other collection of stories that I'm planning to read. Words fail me is another writing how-to book that I've had for ages but never really read. I can't recall where I fist read about Beauty before comfort, but it appealed to me because of its focus on Appalachia. Allison Glock writes a memoir of her maternal grandmother who came of age during the Depression in WV. I'm eager to read it as well. There's almost nothing like being surrounded by good books that you're excited to crack open.
June 24, 2003
I might actually like Margaret Atwood's new book. It's about the dystopic future.
Finished Modern library writer's workshop last night. There was a bibliographic essay at the end that suggested further reading. One of the books sounded especially familiar. Turns out I read it about a year ago and have since forgotten it's content. Or, maybe I've absorbed it so well that there is no divide between it and me.
Found Bird by bird on my shelf. Can't believe I never finished it. My bookmark is on page 106, about halfway through, but I started over at the beginning. I'm not sure I could pick up in the middle of the book/thought.
June 23, 2003
Am not getting any reading done this month. Seems like there are too many diversions. Now that the rain has stopped, it's much more pleasant to be outside. I took 2 books to the pool with me yesterday, but barely made it through four or five pages. I'm an avid people watcher. That (and my imagination) goes into overdrive in a pool environment. All the diving and promenading; there's so much to take in. When I was reading, it was the same old book I've been piddling around with forever, Modern Library Writer's Workshop. There are some good quotes in it, and I may stick them here eventually, but I'm feeling too lazy to flip through to the bookmarked pages just yet.
I watched Inside the Actor's Studio last night. Drew Barrymore was the featured artist. While describing her technique, she mentioned something about knowing what the character reads. Didn't go into it anymore that that though. A shame, as usual. She's quite the reader. One of the Harper's interviews with her a few months back reported that she has six books going on at one time. And I found somewhere else that her favorite room in her house (this was a few years ago before moving into the one that burned down) is her library.
Oh, I did buy an issue of creative nonfiction. I sat at pseudo big chain bookstore during a pre-potter frenzy (NYTIMES: "What they suggest -- both by implication and sometimes literally (as when Hermione repairs to the library to look something up and get her friends out of a fix) -- is that reading (which is to say the act of imagining) is not that hard and that it sets you free. Eventually maybe even free enough to pick up another, more challenging kind of book. No spell lasts forever."). Read the editor's message and the first essay which quickly drew me in. I skipped one and then stopped at another; it's bookmarked, but I had company coming so i had to let it alone. Strange how I had completely forgotten about it. Now I'm all anxious to return to its pages.
June 17, 2003
Wow, Tin House was pretty good reading. My only problem was that it wasn't always evident whether the article I was reading was fiction or creative non-fiction. I had to refer back to the table of contents. Most of the short stories were intelligent yet quirky (my favorite combination), and I wonder if that is always the case because this was the special sex issue. Anyway, I can't say there was anything that was terribly disappointing. An early article was a collection of writer's answers to the question: What was your first exposure to sex in literature. While reading the responses, I tried to recall mine. Endless Love came to mind. The movie was based on this book (I was a huge Brooke Shields fan), which I read between the ages of 12 and 13. I brought the book to school and shared a passages with my classmate. She was freaked out, but suitably impressed (she remembers me to this day, 20 years later). I have a vague recollection of it though. Prior to that, I recall a steamy book I toted off to summer camp that I found in my grandmother's stash; she bought paperbacks by the bagful at the flea market each Sunday. Every night at camp I read a different book, flashlight crooked between my neck and shoulder, while snuggled deep within my borrowed sleeping bag. Even prior to that though, I had read sections of Nancy Friday's My secret garden. And that remained a perennial favorite to delve into. Share with sleep over friends. Along with all the ob/gyn medical texts that stocked the shelves of my step-dad's study. Quite an education....for us all.
Tin House writer's commonly answered that their first exposure was the Bible. You know, all that "they lay with one another" or "she knew him," kind of stuff. Speaking of the Bible and sex, there was an interesting article on sandals in the NYT today, "Curb Appeal: Seduction From the Ground Up." The first two paragraphs explain it better than I can:
"She ravished his eye with her sandals. Honestly, that's what the Bible says. In Bethulia, an ancient Jewish city besieged by the army of Nebuchadnezzar, a widow of bravery and beauty took it upon herself to enter the enemy camp. According to legend, the widow, Judith, entered the tent of Holofernes, the general who led the invasion, and then, aided by maidservant and some lovely footwear, she managed to lop off his head. For centuries, this deliriously gory narrative has provided subject matter for artists from Artemisia Gentileschi to Cindy Sherman, as well as meat for scholars, who dissect and analyze Judith's tale for its protofeminist import. The fact is, however, that hardly anyone beyond the poets who wrote the Apocrypha ever mentions the pivotal role played by Judith's footwear. How can that be? What is it about the bared foot that, even today, has the power to turn otherwise sensible people into prudes? Why is it a virtual secret that nearly a quarter of the footwear sold in the United States last year was sandals? What, one wonders, are the mystifying properties of the naked foot."
Back to Tin House, though...One article was about "furries." The author attended a convention; she went as a raccoon. The thing that fascinated me most was the subculture's vocabulary and their use of beanie babies. Poor Trixie, writer's furrie alter ego, ran into a male raccoon but he didn't return her affections. She asked him if he wanted to go play. You know, go raid some trash cans or something. There were bunches of poems, but I didn't read any of them. The other article that captured my attention dealt with the online proliferation of the sex toy industry. Let's just say that the manufacturer was divinely inspired. I learned that a barrel of silicone is $4,000. It's easier to mold, carve, and it retains heat. There are quite a few hygienic advantages, too. I can't wait to read the next issue, or find back issues...see what they're all about normally.
June 16, 2003
Finished Writers [on writing]... Generally, it was pretty good. There were four or five essays that I couldn't read; John Updike's was one. Tried to, but didn't have the energy. Some pieces simply do not engage me. They tire me from the beginning. Definitely an energy sucker. Anyway, there were a few pages I marked and planned to note herein. I left the book at home though. Found the half-read Modern Library Writer's Workshop that I started reading in April and haven't finished yet. I'm sure I could wrap it up this week, but I've been curiously drawn into....no, it's much stronger than that. Sucked into watching Felicity every night. Scary. I dropped off about ten books at the public library. Books that I never cracked. My periods of disengagement from reading seem to occur more frequently. Disturbing.
To counter such burnout, I frequented big chain bookstore over the weekend. Also shopped for appropriate holiday gifts for the fathers. When you're a child, your parents try to protect you from yourself and often won't indulge you in whatever freaky passion you're pursuing that week. I respect my parents no matter how misguided they might be. If someone asks for a Bill O'Reilly book because they think like him, no matter how wrong they all might be, I still indulge their childish flights of fancy. A good daughter I am. Bet your bottom dollar on that. Also had to buy a few things for myself though, to counteract the nasty books I begrudgingly bought. There's a collection of short stories from the New Yorker that I selected. And, a journal of sorts that publishes short stories. Short stories, yuck. Never had the patience for them. Rather be immersed in a great 1,000 page novel. Trying new reading tactics to remain engaged. Thought a new genre might inspire me. I've always avoided short stories. Don't care for poetry either. Oh, there was that early adolescent stage of liking Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath. Teenage drama and suicidal thoughts. Yes, that stage. I like Emily Dickenson; don't read her too often. Haiku does it for me. Keeps my attention: Short, sweet, and to the point. Guess I can't appreciate the finer things in life after all. Back to the New Yorker. Never really appreciated it, either. Still don't. I read most of the stories in the recent issue, and they certainly weren't bad. But they didn't thrill me either. Perhaps I am not That Audience. I can't think of the name of the book, but most are listed here. Couldn't recognize the book cover, either. The literary magazine was Tin House. Their sex issue. Haven't started it. As it laid on my couch, I watched it's cover curl up in my air conditioned den. Not a good sign.
June 13, 2003
Anne Frank finally got a room of her own at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, which I hope to see sometime this summer. The article in the NYT says that she's the "only voice that has broken through the horrors and captured readers' imaginations generation after generation..." Most of her writing never left the Netherlands, and certainly were never made public.
Other than required reading in school, I've not read much Emerson. Never been terribly into dead men. Perhaps I should be. Forensics fascinates me. He wrote that writers should think for their readers: "The most interesting writing," Emerson says, "is that which does not quite satisfy the reader. Try and leave a little thinking for him; that will be better for both . . . A little guessing does him no harm, so I would assist him with no connections."
Dissertations=dull. Dull=safe. Other differences between dissertations and books:
A dissertation fulfills an academic requirement; a book fulfills a desire to speak broadly. A dissertation rehearses scholarship in the field; a book has absorbed that scholarship. A dissertation can be as long as the author likes; a book's length is strategically arranged for optimal marketability. A dissertation suppresses an authorial voice; a book creates and sustains one. A dissertation's structure demonstrates the author's analytic skills; a book's structure demonstrates the author's command of extended narrative. A dissertation stops; a book concludes.
Went to pseudo-big-bookstore-chain the other day. Bought a few magazines: Utne, New Yorker, How, and Poets & Writers. The store was morgue-like. Besides being almost completely empty--I'm sure the bodies were well-hidden, too-- it was meat locker cold inside. No doubt everybody is over at new big-bookstore chain. Saw the coolest book cover (A sweet quartet) while there. When I flipped though How last night, there was an article about the art director who did that cover and other examples of the artist's work. How creepy is that?
Wimped out with the best non required reading thing that I picked up. Guess I read up to about page 80, but then my desire for the book petered out once I realized the audience was younger than I. Silly reason to quit a book, but I'd rather have a reason to do so than to not.
Though I can't recall when I bought Writers [on writing]: Collected essays from the New York Times, I finally decided to read it the other day. Am about halfway through it, on page 204 now. The essays are pretty uneven. Oh, they're all good, no doubt. But, some appeal to me more than others. Anne Bernays writes: "No one wants to read polite. Ii puts them to sleep (26)." Rosellen Brown writes: "To me, all reading is escape reading. To assume the lives of fiction's more interesting characters--their needs, their enthusiasms, their turns of thought--is to be freed of my all-too-familiar self for a while, to be on the most intimate terms with people who intrigue me exactly because they are not me (30)." One of Nicholas Delbanco's thoughts was particularly striking: "Imitation is deeply rooted as a form of cultural transmisson... the impulse toward individual expression is a recent and possibly aberrant one in art (46)."
So far, Thomas Fleming's essay was the one to hit closest to home. Titled "Instant novel? In your dreams!" he writes about how his rich dream life provided most all his characters and plots. He mentions a book, The Veracious Imagination, and talks about the imagination being "...an intellectual tool, closely wedded to the writer's intelligence.(62)" I picked up Mary Gordon's memoir a few years ago and couldn't get into it. So while I've never read any of her prose prior to what is included in this book, I'm tempted to do so. She writes about notebook culture. Really fascinating. Probably not for lots of folks, but for me, almost a dream. Wherever she travels, Gordon seeks out and buys notebooks. She has a shelf entirely devoted to notebooks, and uses them for different tasks. The story of it all was quite fascinating. Apparently the French specialize in "...soft-covered smallish notebooks (80)." And, Maureen Howard writes about reading being sexy: "...there is an intimacy with the reader. We are in this game together. Reading, real reading, is a strenuous and pleasurable contact sport. Fun, but it's not television. In Art Objects Jeanette Winterson calls reading sexy. I'll go along with that smart idea. Reading, I might say to my students, is not like dating; it's a matter of full engagement (102)."
June 12, 2003
Had the opportunity to read a few chapters of Global Woman: Nannies, Maids, and Sex Workers in the New Economy while tending the reference desk yesterday afternoon. So far, women from third world countries migrate to first world countries to enter the care industry as nannies, domestics, etc. Why? Because first world women went to work in droves and they can't care for their children anymore. Domestic workers from third world countries can't tend their own children because they're busy looking after 2-Career Family's offspring. Third world children are emotionally deprived because the "...nannies enable affluent men to continue avoiding the second shift(9)." One more example of American imperialism. Any wonder why our culture is so reviled? False family values.
June 11, 2003
Found out today that the Sandburg Celebration of Books and Authors was Saturday past. Never have read any of Sandburg's work which is a shame since he settled so close. There were three or four writers in attendance whose work I was familiar with, but they haunt most of the book celebrations in these parts, so access to them is fairly easy and guaranteed anyway. Which is not a bad thing.
A favorite childhood book that I didn't discover until well into adulthood is Joan of Arc by Jay Williams. It includes my favorite depiction of St. Joan, which I failed to find several years ago on the internet but now exists here. It's a sculpture by Henri Chapu and was modeled for the Chicago Institute. The sculpture is pretty vague though, I've not done a lot of research into its provenance. Seems like every webpage has something different to say about it. I have a drawing of the sculpture that my mom bought at an estate auction. She said it reminded her of me. It hangs in my living room.
The series mentioned yesterday was called "Childhood of famous americans" and it was published by the Bobbs-Merrill Company. Of course, the old covers are far superior to the new ones. I wonder if the content has changed at all. And, while my first thoughts were to compile a list of the biographies, it has been done already. I'm pretty sure that I read all the ones about women, at least all the ones that were made available at various libraries. And, I'm sure I read the ones about Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett. Always liked the pioneers. Funny, they have a "noted wives and mothers" section. Included within it are: Abigail Adams, Dolly Madison, Jessie Fremont, Martha Washington, Mary Todd Lincoln, Nancy Hanks, and Rachel Jackson.
Found evidence for my impression that Mailer was a misogynist (in 'bad manners and bad faith'): "As a parting shot from the old crowd-pleaser, misogynist phase Mailer remarked that he might not have read the letter anyway because he "didn't invite Secretary Shultz here in order to be insulted, to be, uh, pussywhipped." Now there's something he'd never have said in front of the secretary. Which brings us to the question of bad faith (Nation, Feb 1, 1986 v242 p116(4))."
June 10, 2003
Cynthia Ozick describes Helen Keller as bookish. That's not so bad. Far too many folks believe that bookishness equates geekdom or some other equally horrid fate. One of Helen's best quotations is: "The bulk of the worlds knowledge is an imaginary construction." I'm sure I read her biography as a child. I devoured a certain series of biography that almost every school library had. I went to three different elementary schools, but I only remember the school librarian at the last one I attended. I guess it was because her name struck me: Mrs. Darling. Who couldn't remember that? Another thing that came to mind: in that library there was a huge dictionary on a stand. Certain people in my class would always leave the dictionary open at the page where curse words were displayed. So sixth grade. I don't remember being impressed by any of the school libraries that I had access to. They all seemed interchangeable. I specifically recall reading about Annie Oakley and Helen Keller, but nobody else springs to mind. I'd love to have the whole series. That would be dreamy.
June 9, 2003
I've read the first four or five essays collected within the best American non required reading 2002. It's purpose is to engage the under-25 crowd. Alas, I've learned that too late. I'm not sure I'll continue with it, though I did read something good about freeing Tibet. It's edited by Dave Eggers. When his Heartbreaking work... was published, I checked it out from the library but never actually read it. Now, I'm not sure that I ever will. I've read good reviews, but generally I shy away from that "flavor of the month" phenomenon. Same thing happened with Zadie Smith (I checked out white teeth and never read it). Maybe I'll read those writer's work someday, but then again, maybe not.
I'm struggling with serendipity or perhaps it is synchronicity. They are close, but not identical. If fused together though, that might explain it all. I once had a book on the topic but I sent it away in a care package to an unhappy camper. I thought it was by Robert Anton Wilson, but maybe it was Jung's book on the topic.
There doesn't seem to be anything around to read that really interests me. I have entirely too many books from the library, one is something about baking from which I've found three good recipes; I think two are pies and one is a cake. And then there are all those heavy prostitution books that I dread getting back into. They torment me from the edge of my bedside table. I think I'd rather watch movies. Saw a strange one this weekend: the shape of things.
Curiosity got the best of me. I had to read about Strom's 100th birthday celebration. But that was last year. Really, I was reading about pre-prepared obituaries sitting on the CNN webserver. I've always had a passing interest in the man since I went to summer camp with his daughters. His eldest daughter died in 1993. At camp, she was spunky. Terrible to hear about these things ten years after the fact. I don't remember her being blonde though.
June 5, 2003
I don't normally mention books that I'm not reading for pleasure. I have been reading, just nothing terribly fun. In quest of Jesus: A guidebook, is a book I'm reading for class. So far, I've been reading about the authorship and true chronology of the four gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke & John. Five weeks, five days a week: All the Jesus I can take. I haven't opened a Bible in at least ten years. I asked my husband if I could use his, which is a new international version, because the only ones I have are the dread King James version and a student's bible (probably KJV) that I asked for while still in high school. Technically I own three Bibles, but one is with my sister. It was my first Bible, and I'm sure most southern baptists of a certain age all had the same one. It had lovely technicolor plates that I always looked at instead of reading the thing. Then I have a KJV with red covers that I got from my grandmother's free will baptist church when I was 11, or maybe 13. All this talk of Bibles has jogged my memory about a white zippered Bible, though I'm not sure it was ever mine. It came in a handy cedar box with a latch. I was never one of those good church nerds (and a PK to boot) who memorized the order of the books of the Bible. Anyway, he was very particular about his Bible, though he never uses it. I told him to put it back on his shelf, that I'd never touch it again. I asked a colleague to borrow one of her Bibles; she's Catholic so it's a complete Bible. I'm interested in reading the Apocrypha. Thinking about KJV makes me sick. It's a censored version of the Bible. How could anybody feel right about giving that to the people?
June 4, 2003
I forgot to mention that Vowell writes a lovely tribute to the Chelsea.
Started Mailer's The spooky art: Some thoughts on writing. I've purposely steered clear of reading anything he's ever written because at some point I absorbed intimations that he is a misogynist. When I went through the phase, which lasted about a year or two, of not reading anything written by men, his name stood out. Maybe I was confused about Mailer. I'm not searching for evidence of his wrong ways now, because it doesn't matter to me anymore. I'll take what I can from him and get out quickly.
June 3, 2003
The ending of the Visitor was anticlimactic. After the long slow build up of the novel, the soggy ending left me wanting. Regardless, it was a fine work. Found my copy of The Fresco and also discovered two other paperback Tepper books on my shelves that I have yet to read: Family Tree and Six Moon Dance. The Fresco is a contact story. Aliens appear to a forty year old Hispanic woman. In doing so, they change the course of her life. She travels to DC to act as an intermediary between the aliens and the President. There's drama, intrigue and subterfuge. It's a wonderful sci-fi novel; actually I enjoyed it more than I did The Visitor. The aliens morph their appearance to match what each person imagines an alien would look like. Sometimes they appear as dead actors like Tyrone Power. They have a sense of humor. Always important in aliens.
Over the weekend I zipped through several books besides the two Teppers. Finally decided to read Sarah Vowell's Take the cannoli: Stories from the new world. It was a short collection of essays that I read in three or four hours. There were occasional interruptions. Her essays were easy to read, well-written, thoughtful, and mostly interesting. There were a few essays that didn't do it for me. One was about a certain corner in Chicago. Another was about the Trail of Tears, which I've read lots about before, so her history was nothing new, though her experience of traveling the Trail was compelling. Most of her essays were about men: her father, Frank Sinatra, that Corleone guy in the Godfather. In fact her title comes from the movie's dialogue: "Leave the gun. Take the cannoli." Those guys immediately sprang to mind; I'm sure there were others. Maybe I should try her other book. Or, maybe not, reading about politics puts me to sleep. Aha, a cure for insomnia that Vowell has not yet tried. I liked it best when she talked about getting carsick as a child. She described herself as the Lady Bird Johnson of puke. She also write about one of her beaux, who "called the second he'd finished reading a novel and just had to tell me about it, and I know it sounds hokey and kind of librarianish to say so, but i just swooned when he did that (168)."
While Dinner with Persephone: Travels in Greece is still unread on my bedside table, I took The summer of my Greek taverna off my bookshelf and devoured it? Maybe that's not the right word, but there were provocative recipes at its back end. May have to try some. Here's the story of a man named Tom who with his wife and two children, move to Patmos, a Greek island, to run a taverna for a summer. There's not so much Greek history or culture. The author doesn't instruct the reader, but in reading his story, one gains a sense of culture and history. What I mean to say is: it's not rammed down your throat. Overall, a pleasant book to read, but not my favorite travel memoir. Lukewarm to good.
Regardless of what you might think, I did not read Caught inside: A surfer's year on the California coast because of surfgirls. Although I watch the show and am a sucker for most all of mtv's reality series, I bought the book in January, thinking that reading about surfing and sand would be a good antidote to winter. Daniel Duane writes about living in or near Santa Cruz and surfing one specific point almost exclusively. It is well-crafted. An excellent book. Duane's sentences are magical. He's truly gifted. I liked the book best when he wrote about himself and his experiences. Far too much of the book describes nature. That's a lovely subject, really, one of my favorites: to experience, not to read about. Sometimes it seems as if the book is completely not about surfing and more of a natural history study. Really, it's a brilliant book, but it wasn't completely my taste. There was one sentence that made me sit up and go wow, but I didn't mark it, and now it's lost. But, he writes
"...I now know for certain, not at all the thrill of risk or the pride of achievement, but rather the dailiness of well-spent time, the accumulation of of moments that will never translate into anything but a private sense of well-being (211)."
Duane is also a frequent library user. Twice he mentions academic libraries he visited for research purposes: sharks and historical stuff about Spanish settlement of Santa Cruz. He has only the best to say about the interlibrary loan "technicians," as he calls them, who put into his hands books from the 19th century that first describe surfing. And one surfer floats over his way to confess that he failed so miserably in college because he'd go to the library to study and would end up spending five hours reading for pleasure, "Reading whatever books looked cool (145)." Duane delves into the history of surfing, surfers, and popular culture. He also thinks about the surfer stereotype: A Yahoo peasant. Jeff Spicoli came to his mind. He packed a lot into this book; very impressive.