about : me : contact : I read : others read : Reviews of books
11/6-11/9/2003 Asheville Film Festival
Fav authors :
Friday, October 31, 2003
My favorite Carlson story from Hotel Eden was called "Mr. Slime." It was about amateur wrestling for a Mormon crowd. While I enjoyed Carlson's stories, several which had themes of Mormonism, baseball, and fishing, they were pretty normal. From reading the flyleaf, I expected something a bit more bizarre.
I looked at Orringer's collection of short stories sitting atop my coffee table and thought about finishing up the last story so that I can say that I finished the collection, but I knitted instead. Actually, I ripped out a project that had been languishing for a year or more, and used the wool & mohair in a new project on bigger needles. Maybe I won't make this one for me, but pass it on to someone in need.
Read an article about teaching creative writing this morning. I don't have words to comment on it. It's neither good nor bad; it's just there.
At the library last night I picked up several books that I hope to read in the coming week: Circling the drain, Strapless : John Singer Sargent and the fall of Madame X, and Art of deception: controlling the human element of security. There are others, though. These three are the most interesting just now.
My short story campaign has been successful. If I read it, I will like it. That's not always the case, but I won't hesitate now when someone asks my opinion about short stories. I don't like reading them in magazines though. Give me a book, a collection, and I'll be fine.
Thursday, October 30, 2003
Read "Dumb foxglove," a short story by Annie Trumbull Slosson a New England local colorist who died in the mid-twenties. I have the same titled collection that includes a few other stories, and I started something called "Apple Jonathan," but had to rest my eyes from it. Instead, I traded to Elizabeth Stone's interesting book, A boy I once knew: What a teacher learned from her student. After Vincent died, she received a box filled with diaries he kept from 1984 to 1995. He wanted her to remember him, learn some truth about his life, write a story about him. It's as much her story as it is his. Symbiotic, that is. It was a quick read, well-written, one of those smart Algonquin Books in a pleasing shape and size. But a previous reader had bent down several page corners. The feel of that was distracting.
Hotel Eden is a collection of short stories by Ron Carlson. I've read "Keith" already, but there are eleven other stories to read. It's likely that I'll start that tonight.
Wednesday, October 29, 2003
Moore loves libraries. And reading. Like me, she hates to read a book that someone has marked up. And she spent her childhood summer days navigating Hawaii's bus system for library visits. She reads compulsively. Talked about her aunts thinking her reading was out of control because it was so indulgent. She can't read just anywhere; I can, within reason. I've never made a soundtrack for the book I'm reading, either. Interesting concept. I'd fill the soundtrack for In the cut with Tom Waits, Cowboy Junkies, and maybe something else, but those came to mind immediately. Finished In the cut at lunch Monday. I may read it again; it was that powerful. It was outstanding. It ended suddenly. With some books that's not a problem, but I really liked Frannie and wanted to spend more time with her. I understand that the movie ends differently than the book. Campion said that her Frannie is a stronger character.
Left work early yesterday, went to bed with a migraine, and thus a day's reading was lost.
Doesn't everyone love Pablo?
Monday, October 27, 2003
I didn't read Music for torching because somehow the library lost it. So I tried Homes' novel In a country of mothers, instead. This is the first Homes novel I've read. I think I like her short stories better. This one limns the relationship between a film student and her psychologist. The shrink becomes strangely obsessed with her patient, and the young woman eats up the attention. I may try the End of Alice next; give her long fiction another chance.
On demographics: CSM article.
Started In the cut last night. I forced myself to put it down and get some sleep. Such an excellent book. It's the one the newly released Campion film is based on. It's crazy, but I can't think of the main character's name. She teaches creative writing to freshmen at generic university in NYC, or is it Manhattan? God, it's all the same to me; one big blighted blur. The writing is superb. The scenes are awesome. It's sensual, provocative, and the narrative moves along like an oily snake among spaghetti noodles. Thirty-seven pages to go. I'll finish it at lunch. Our girl writes books about language. One of her students, Cornelius, wants to help her; give her words and shit. He's the one who writes his paper on John Wayne Gacy. So yeah, clowns appear in this book, but just as an aside. Oddly, several men are following our girl, noting her comings and goings. Pretty creepy, but it gets the job done. This is one of those rare books that I won't be able to keep away from for very long. I keep glancing at it. It was a mistake to bring it with me to work, but a woman needs something to read during breaks.
If I read thirteen more books by the end of December, I will have read the same number of books as last year: One hundred and six. That's an average of 2.03 books per week. But, I started five or six books before finding something engaging: Moore's book.
Finally read Steve Almond's story at Nerve a few days ago. I knew exactly where he was going with the character who has a fake eye. It's good to know that I'm not alone in my sensibilities or imagination.
Oh, and since I'm not one of those people who picks up Playboy for the articles, I was surprised at the fiction they publish in the magazine. Occasionally I'll read that so-and-so was published in Playboy and that's supposed to mean something, I guess. The story I tried to read yesterday, was in the issue that Daryl graces, didn't do a thing for me. So unengaging. Wretched, really. Oh, now the writing was okay, but the subject, some sort of town or other, was so boring. If I had quills I would have pulled them from my body in teeth-gnashing angst. Thankfully, I'm not a porcupine this month.
Friday, October 24, 2003
Finished One pill last night. I'm still not sure how I feel about it. The last few chapters were very tense, but the conclusion was anti-climactic. I'm ambivalent about the ending. I'm not sure who I would recommend it to.
I dreamed of dictionaries this morning. Had a fat Merriam Webster in my hand and Scott Foley at my side. Told him to keep the dictionary away from me, or I'd open it and just read for hours. I can't recall books appearing in my dreams before this, or Foley, either.
Will start Isn't it romantic this evening, see how it goes.
Thursday, October 23, 2003
It must be great living in a city that has a book culture. Instead, I live in a bubble of self-generated book culture in my disgusting little city. Oh the things I'd do if I ran the circus!
Yesterday the gossip I repeated about Book magazine was heresy. But, NYT has the scoop today. Unfortunately the periodical, which lost a million already this year, was funded by B&N who decided to withdraw support. This doesn't surprise me at all. B&N co-opted the magazine and turned it into their mouthpiece. There was an obvious difference and blatant agenda in their pages after their relationship with B&N began. The outlook appears hazy for book magazines. Having Nicole Kidman on the cover of the last issue should have tipped me off to their downward spiral. Now that we actually have a B&N, I avoid it. Their selection is terrible. So too is their coffee. Since I've stocked up on stationary and have more than I can use up in three years of active correspondence, I won't go there now for that, either.
One pill; one word and one contraction: I'm disappointed. The book is quite good, but not what I was expecting. It totally succeeds as the author wrote it, but it doesn't answer my questions about the characters. I read something recently about reviewing a book on its merits and not pointing out what you'd do differently if you wrote it. One thing I don't like, really stupid on my part, is the amount of time Dierbeck spends on description. Alice's observations are interesting for about a paragraph, but a page is too much. I get Alice. I know what she's about, what she's feeling. Those aspects of the book are perfectly drawn. I'm more interested in seeing how she reacts to other people. More dialogue would be nice. The strongest parts are when Alice learns about art. She's at a summer camp and the sculpture instructor has taken a special interest in Alice. The reader gets to sit in on Noko's lectures and read Alice's notes on the slides she sees. Instead of focusing on Alice's artistic development, I've had to read about her inappropriate relationship with JD the drug dealer for the last two chapters. They're at a lake. He's probably thirty. He admitted to her that he's trying to seduce her. She doesn't know what the word means, since she's only eleven. Obviously NOT a reader, this one. Nor does she own a dictionary. Eighty-seven more pages until this is done. Oh, and the thing about JD is that Alice's Aunt Esme, who is actually her half-sister, had a relationship with JD when she was ten, about six or seven years ago. Creepy. Just creepy.
More creepiness just in time for All Hallow's Eve: children's books written by celebrities, oh my! The article praises JL Curtis and J Lithgow for having talent, but lambastes all the others for whom writing children's books is just another way to expand their celebrity franchise. It's a shame that celeb writers take shelf space away from real children's authors.
Wednesday, October 22, 2003
I just called my husband and had him pull a book off my bookshelves. I can't remember when I bought Rise of the creative class, but I haven't read it yet. An article in the Globe and Mail has convinced me to read it, or at least get it physically closer to me and away from the stacks on my shelves. It didn't tell me anything that I didn't know or guess already: A city's prosperity can be measured by a gay index -- the more gay-friendly a place, the higher rates of economic growth it enjoys. He also noted, which is what has caught the arts community's eye, a bohemian index that similarly suggests a link between a city's wealth and the presence of artists.
Read a few more pages in One pill makes you smaller this morning while eating my wheat chex without milk; it was in a bowl though. I'm not a wolf. I don't eat it straight from the box. Alice took a bus to an art camp in NC and met a set of weird twins. Before that though, she pretends to be her mother when a limo driver meets her at the bus stop and takes her to the camp.
I'm going to finish How to breathe underwater today. I'm confused about my place in the book because I've got it marked in several areas. I either have one story to go, or three. I should be able to read them all between fielding questions at the reference desk this evening.
Last night I watched Jane Campion, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Meg Ryan, and gorgeous Mark Ruffalo do an interview on public tv about their film In the cut. Charlie Rose, that was it; it was his show. Campion talked about how much she and a group of her friends loved the book, the "material" and that they had to make it into a film. She did say that the end was different in the movie. I'll have to read this book now, before the film opens; this weekend its in NY & LA. I may have a few more weeks before it comes soon to a theater near me.
My feelings for the Paris Review aren't strong either way. I wasn't impressed with the few issues I've read, but it seems that it will continue along despite Plimpton's passing.
Tuesday, October 21, 2003
I didn't plan to read all of the good parts: the best erotic writing in modern fiction in one sitting, but I did. I read almost all of the stories except for three that I had already read: A.M. Homes' "Chunky in heat," and excerpts from Jennifer Egan's the invisible circus and Scott Spencer's endless love. And then there were the parts that were boring and uninteresting. I'm no fan of Bellow, Roth, Styron, or DeLillo, so I scanned those sections, searching for anything at all engaging, but never found it. Alas, it must be a personal problem on my part. The editor did a really cool thing in her/his introduction. He/she gave examples of men's writing and women's writing of sex scenes. The guy's writing sucked next to JCO's bit. I made up my mind at that point that women write sex better than men do. But, Steve Almond came to mind. Okay so he's the exception that proves the rule. Not quite. Harold Brodkey wrote such an excellent, moving, insightful bit in his story "Innocence." So remarkable that I had to toss aside any notions I had about which gender writes sex best. I don't actually believe in pitting the genders against one another so much anymore, but it was fun to imagine that women are better for a while. The weirdest thing of all is that two stories had characters named Rebecca. I think that was the only name repeated within the book. Reading about characters named Rebecca was surreal. I have associations with certain names, but really none with my own. None of the characters were me, but still, it was a strange sensation.
Listening to cd 6 of Dry. One more to go. I don't like audio books because it's too easy for me to become distracted. I can't only listen to the audio book, I have to be productive in some other way as well. I think of audio books as cheating. I don't feel like I can say that I read that book when I listened to the audio version of it. So often, those books are abridged anyway, and I hate that. I'm sure I would have a better sense of this book if I'd gotten inside its pages, though listening to Augusten approximate a southern accent is entertaining. Oh, and then yesterday he spoke/read about Pintos. He likened men to cars. He's looking foe a Lexus, but somehow ends up with Pintos; he's tired of broken down Pintos.
So-so article about Jhumpa Lahiri whose father is an academic librarian. The best part: For a writer, being caught between two cultures can be the irritation that produces the pearl. "It allows you to step outside of yourself more easily," she says.
Monday, October 20, 2003
No book excites me just now. I've scanned the first few pages of several books and they left me wanting. Okay that's not fair to the one book that has engaged me.
Yesterday I started One pill makes you smaller. Am using a purple scrap of wrapping paper as a book mark. It is just the kind of book I love reading: coming of age novels. And, it takes place in the seventies, a favorite time period of mine. Alice is eleven, five seven, and has breasts. As the most precocious girl in the sixth grade, she's teased mercilessly by her classmates and given unwanted and improper attention from male teachers, her friend's fathers, men on the streets. She looks seventeen. She's part of a medical study about girls who "develop" earlier than the norm. In the first fourteen pages I've learned that she lives with her drug-addled aunt who bangs away in NYC's Punk scene. Alice's mother abandoned her, said she'd come back for her someday. Her aunt's friend, Rabbit, longs for Alice. Alice makes collages, feels weird and gawky and is ill at ease in her skin.
Even though my command of singular and plural possessives sucks and I fail to recognize when I'm constructing sentences incorrectly, there are times when the errors of others are even obvious to me. Church signs, for instance. Instead of "You're going straight to hell," (this is only an example, not an actual sign I've seen) the sign reads "Your going straight to hell." And though it's rarely seen on signs, my particular pet peeve concerns "PIN numbers" and "ISBN numbers" and "ISSN numbers." It's like saying "I drive a sport utility vehicle vehicle." I am not alone. Others question grammatically incorrect advertisements. Thank the Buddha for language columns.
Goody, I'm first on the list to read American woman: A novel, And now you can go, and See through: Stories. Plus, I finally found Monique Truong's Book of salt on the shelf, where it hasn't been for weeks and weeks. Nor was it checked out. It's likely that another librarian spirited it out of the building without going through the correct process. Another dirty secret of librarianship revealed: We have ways. Like any profession, the rules we set for patrons/clients/customers don't apply to the practitioner.
Okay, so this is turning out to be a perfect Monday. Big package in today's mail. Rarely am I so pink on Monday. Tickled, that is. Huge mailing envelope stuffed with, what else, an exciting art book jammed with color plates! And, I'm familiar with the work. Have seen it on postcards everywhere and in gallery windows in NOLA. He's the blue dog guy: George Rodrigue.
Friday, October 17, 2003
I read Romeo & Juliet in ninth grade. Haven't read it or any Shakespeare willingly since. But watching Valley Girl last night was almost the same. The special edition includes interviews with Cage and the director. Oh, and the screenwriters admitted that they wrote the screenplay in ten days. Based on Romeo & Juliet, they spent a few days in the Sherman Oaks galleria listening behind potted plants to get the lingo down. While I cringe through most of the film (how could I ever like this?), Nick's performance is stellar. I swoon for angst-filled new wave boys. He's just like tripendicular. Those huge brown eyes (and eyeliner), spiked dyed hair, weird belts and boots, and the wax harp he plays as he stares out over the valley... His real teeth, before he had them done. And best of all, his punk chest hair. And that he wears black frequently.
Still listening to Augusten's Dry. Have made it to disk four of seven. The bulk of the first cds describe Augusten's substance abuse and subsequent rehab. Now fresh from rehab, he develops relationships with folks he meets at AA meetings.
Thursday, October 16, 2003
Interpreter of maladies was such a lovely collection of stories; it should be, it won a Pulitzer. Each was tightly crafted, though there were three or four that I liked much better than the others. Although the stories were not as bizarre as I prefer, they were perfectly executed. Here's to reading more Jhumpa Lahiri.
In the background I'm listening to Dry: A memoir by Augusten Burroughs. I'd rather read it, since I'm not much for audio books, but this was as good as it got at my public library. He reads it; so yeah, it's like he's sitting on top of my monitor this morning. Just now he's getting lectured by his colleague about how detrimental it is to show up to work drunk and how he's going down.
Wednesday, October 15, 2003
With all this time away from work one would think I would be reading like mad. Alas, I have not. Finished the Vida book. Finished I am Madame X: A novel. While interesting, the narrative was a bit too journalistic at times, too much reporting on events like the Civil War and something else that happened in France; shelling or what not, I fail to remember exactly what. Written in first person, the story is told from the perspective of the model for John Singer Sergeant's painting Madame X. This was the author's first fiction though she has published several biographies. It could and should have been racier. Sergeant's muse was supposed to be promiscuous, and there was very little about that. Speaking of that, there is an excellent essay at Nerve about writing sex scenes. But, its only available to subscribers. The character wasn't drawn richly enough; adequate, but not outstanding. Still, it was an okay book with an interesting story based in part upon facts about Madame Pierre Gautreau.
I skipped most of one of Sarah Vowell's chapters in the Partly Cloudy Patriot. I think it was the one about Lincoln and Gettysburg. I love history, but only certain parts. I've read the first three or four chapters of the book. It is brilliant, of course. Her collection melds American history with popular culture in what is best described as the Vowell-Way. Had to put it down the other night though to indulge in my latest reality tv passion on Discovery channel, American Chopper (OCC).
And, Marly Youmans has a new young adult book, Curse of the Raven Mocker, set in the Blue Ridge Mountains (W NC & E TN) that I'm looking forward to reading. But even more so, her collection of poetry comes out at the end of this year. One of her books, Wolf Pit won the Shaara award in 2001.
Friday, October 10, 2003
One chapter to go and I'll finish Vida's book, Girls on the verge. Vida is a good writer, but the book sheds little new light on its topics. Well, okay I didn't know anything about Wiccan women under the age of 25. And I knew a little about the fifteens, the coming of age ritual of Latina & Hispanic young women, so that chapter added to my knowledge. But there's nothing sensational going on. This is a good solid book, but gosh, there's nothing happening. The most interesting chapter is this last one about Burning Man, but I haven't figured out how this ties into girlhood rituals. Maybe it's a cultural or personal thing, but I need the unexpected details, and Vida only scratches the surface. The unusual and bizarre work exceptionally well for me.
Thursday, October 9, 2003
Finished Safety of objects, and it was excellent. I had read "A real doll" before, somewhere. Maybe in a collection. It's the one where the boy slips valium into diet cokes that he feeds his sister's barbie doll, who then talks to him and, ahem, a relationship of a curious nature develops between the two. The brilliant A.M. Homes is my favorite short story writer. I'm so proud that my campaign to read and enjoy short stories is going so well. I practically eat them for brunch now.
Got Vendela Vida's book about girls. It's non-fiction and about coming of age rituals like rushing a sorority, coming out at a cotillion, getting married in Vegas, and practicing in a coven. There might be more, but those are the things I recall her mentioning in the introduction. In the first chapter she writes about pledging KD and the Tri-Delts at UCLA. Interesting enough, but nothing terribly juicy. Here's a list of reviews of her novel, And now you can go.
Wednesday, October 8, 2003
Yuck. Borders wants to price books according to demand instead of going with the publisher's printed price on the book jacket. I think it's a mistake. Rebellion among readers foments.
And as if Wal-Mart wasn't already scary enough, magazine publishers are kowtowing to the evil empire by censoring materials that the stores stock. Last week I read something else about this evil store... oh yeah, they're using radio frequency devices to track consumer's habits; those grocery store cards weren't enough.
Haven't read a lick in several days. Oh, that's not right. I did read the introduction to Sand in my bra & other misadventures: Funny women write from the road. It's a collection of travel writing, and Sarah Vowell's essay came from her Cannoli book, so I'm not sure that any of these essays were written specifically for the book or if this is merely a collection after the fact. So the crappy thing is that there's a book tour, and it's going to Memphis and Atlanta, but nowhere in between that I can drive to in under five hours.
Monday, October 6, 2003
Describing Beyond the words as beyond words is the easy way out. I'm not getting into it so much. I'm starting chapter four; chapter three was " read," or why writers should read widely so that their ideas will percolate. I'm really trying to like this book, but the tone puts me off. It has spiritual elements and she's got interesting exercises, like staring up at the clouds for twenty or thirty minutes (as a percolation method), but the prose pushes me away, thus making it difficult to consider anything she writes. There are three sections of the book: Percolation, Revision, and Going Public. But anyway, I'm almost brain dead, so it's not a good day to try and find nice things to say about anyone's book.
I can do it though. Two days ago I bought and started reading Suzanne Kingsbury's The gospel according to Gracey. I bought the book because she taught a session at the Lost State Writer's Conference on Friday. Besides being physically stunning, engaging, and vivacious, she's an effective writing coach and an excellent writer. I've read the first four chapters. The other book I bought while there is Denise Giardina's. It's about time travel, hurrah! And, I got her to sign it for me.
Sarah Vowell was there as well and she was totally awesome; such an impressive speaker. When she signed my copy of Take the cannoli, she underlined a sentence on page 215. The American Goth essay describes her experience being made into a goth princess. Her goth coaches ask her to pick a name for her goth persona: I tell them the most perverse name I can think of is Becky. It turns out that by saying the magic word "Becky" I have suddenly moved to the head of the class, gothwise.
She wasn't psychic. I wore a name tag but she asked about the current spelling of my name. I replied that friends, family, etc. sometimes called me Becca, Beck, Barecka, or Becky. Tah dah, there was the Becky connection. Then I rambled on about how my parents named me Rebecca but called me Becky for the first eighteen years of my life until I went to college and decided to go with the more mature, and less nauseating Becky. It's a cheerleader's name. There are scads of us out there: those who carry wounds from parental decision about naming. Vowell saw my point when I confided that Nicole was the worst name I could think of, though Leslie, Jennifer, and Ashley are very close behind.
Oh, and the editor who inherited The dive from Clausen's Pier was there, too. And Robert Morgan. He gave a lovely talk and read from his new book which revolves around Cowpens and the Revolutionary War. His voice is so pleasant, soothing.
The writer's conference was better than I imagined it might be. Like most of life, I expect nothing of new experiences and people. With this approach, I am usually, pleasantly surprised. GMI is a great space. Greenville is a lovely historic town with great potential. The catering was excellent for conference food. The sessions were generally very good, but like almost any endeavor, and especially writing gatherings, there are certain types who always attend and make their presence known to all. LSWC drew a retired crowd, which isn't a bad thing, but it's not my scene. Like most people, I prefer hanging with my generation.
Instead of reading either of the books that I bought this weekend, I'm going through my library stack and reading a few pages to decide whether to return the book or not. Disco bloodbath didn't engage me. But, Boy on the bus really intrigued me. So I've read about fifty pages, but I'm doing so reluctantly. Mother greets her son who rode the bus home from school. But, she's convinced he's not hers. Little things about him are off. I'm totally hooked into the book, but I don't like reading it because the writing doesn't speak to me. Once I get back into it, I can place my finger on what irritates me about the prose. This is so crappy though, I totally don't want to read the book, but I do want to know whether the mother is psycho or if there was an alien abduction type thing going on. And the father...he's absent, but is humoring the mother, his wife, about whether the boy is really their son or not. They sit in the kitchen making a list of what is not right about the boy. Great, I just read a review that said the book gets more bizarre as it goes on, which is fabulous, but the reviewer also wrote that there are no precise answers at the end of the book. Torment. Pure torment. Should I read it, or should I not? Will I regret not reading it, or regret spending the time on it?
My visit to the
public library yesterday was comforting. It closed early,
at 4 p.m., all last week and I didn't get a chance to get my weekly
Visiting my public library is one routine in my week that I look
forward to and when I'm prevented from that, I get the DTs. Naturally
overdosed by taking out a dozen books. Now known to all as book
whore. Except there's no money exchanged. Sometimes fines when
they're overdue, but I'm the one parting with coins.
Thursday, October 2, 2003
On the first day of October I entered my office and found a creepy hand on my desk. I brought my camera this morning to take a photo of it, but it moved outside my office into a departmental area. You know how these hands can be; they have minds of their own. I thought the pickle jar was a nice touch though.
Onto reading. I got Bad boy of gospel music: The Calvin Newton story in the mail yesterday. I'm reviewing it for TL. It's a thick quality paperback with 317 pages. I almost requested the book about catfishin', but when I read the blurb about Netwon's sexual charisma, I figured his story would be a might bit more interesting than learning about the habitats of catfish.
I read the first three or four stories in an A.M Homes collection, Safety of objects. And I just learned that this collection was made into a movie by the same name (Glenn Close, Dermot Mulroney, Mary Kay Place, etc.). And, I've seen it. Don't remember much about it though. Haven't made any headway into the other books I'm in the middle of reading: Fugitives and refugees & Beyond words. Reading lots of articles and photocopies about Annie Trumbull Slosson. Am writing a 3,000 word entry on her for DLB: American nature writers before 1900: Prose. Also been reading about Mildred Gilman Wohlforth, a writer and journalist. That leads into all the grant writing books that I have littering my desk. I'm going write a research proposal to study her papers, and then who knows where that might lead to?