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Yesterday I tested as Glucose. Today, giving the same answers, I am suddenly an Enzyme:
Tuesday, December 23, 2003
Typing with blistered index finger is difficult. Arlie Hochschild at AlterNet. Fun with books; they are luxury items. And, more about punctuation. I always have questions about how books get their titles, but I'm rarely satisfied with the answers I get. But, here's 20 tips for writing your first novel; one small thing about titles.
I read the first few pages of Thin pink line, and it was okay. The writing is quite good. I don't think I can read it though. It doesn't suit my mood this week. But, it's about this woman who pretends she pregnant. I'm sure it's clever and witty, and is seemingly British. I can't figure it out though, because the author lives in Ct. There's nothing in the blurb indicative of UK origins, but the vocabulary and cadence are British. I'm sure I partly wanted to read it because the author has worked as a librarian at some point in her life. Her publisher, Red Dress Ink, wants to set themselves apart from the average products of the chick lit revolution.
I returned at least a dozen books to the public library over the weekend. There's no time to read, and I can't have those books just sitting around gathering dog hair. But, there will be a whole week full of reading (or painting) coming along soon enough.
Thursday, December 19, 2003
Deciding which is my favorite book should be impossible, but really, it has to be Geek love. I may have discovered what could be a perfect job for myself: Fiction buyer for major chain bookstores. And just because you research something, like say satanism, doesn't mean that you want to practice it.
I'm too caught up in knitting scarves in time for the holiday to give proper attention to books. However, I did read a few chapters of Food and loathing: A lament. So far the writer has been a chubby child, experienced astounding success as an OA member, but is in the midst of a relapse. It's an interesting tale of a woman's relationship with food and the cultural horrors of body image conformity. I read Lerner's Forest for the trees: An editor's advice to writers earlier this year, or maybe last year, and enjoyed it. I think it is one of my favorite books on writing. I enjoy her voice. Her narrative is smooth and interesting. I started this one while at the reference desk, and then read a bit more in it while waiting at my hairstylist's salon.
I've bought at least three books on knitting in the past six weeks. First was Weekend knitting: 50 unique projects and ideas. I spied it at a charming shop in Boone (somewhere on West King Street, I forgot its name) several weekends ago, but didn't buy it because I was being good with my money. Ordered it at half.com for a reduced rate. Haven't made anything from it yet, but those flower-shaped chenille washcloths are tempting me mightily. Then, while stocking up on yarn at EarthGuild, I couldn't resist Simple Knits for Cherished Babies. The projects are precious and the photography is some of the best that I've seen in knitting books. And, I love the UK edition cover much better than the USA one.
Monday I bought Simplechic: Designer Knits, Superquick! There's a sweater pattern I'm eager to work through, and an adorable christmas tree stocking hat for babies. Since I'm in this crafty-frenzy, I decided to join Crafter's Choice, a book-of-the-month type club. That way I can get four books for a dollar and an extra one for $9.95. These are the ones that I picked: Green Mountain Spinnery knitting book, Blue ribbon afghans from America's state fairs, Knit one, felt two, Hollywood knits, and Handmade bags. And then I placed at least a half dozen books on my wishlist.
Looked at American
Photo yesterday. They have annual contest that is called "Win
the 2004 American Photo Library." It is a complete set of twenty
new photo books chosen by their editor as the best of the season. I'll
enter. But can only enter once. Drat! To win the exclusive library,
once should send letter or postcard to: Book Collection 2004, American
Photo, 1633 Broadway, New York, NY 10019. Entries must be postmarked
by March 1, 2004. The books look fabulous. In fact, much of the issue
is devoted to reviews of them. Which ones look good? Lebovitz's American
Strippers, Mann's What
Sex in Asia, Hollywood
splash, and the Cindy
Wednesday, December 17, 2003
Reading the whole of Seeking enlightenment hat by hat: A skeptics path to religion didn't appeal to me. I tried. But the language put me off. Too much about Him. However, the book is really browseable In fact, I read at least five chapters of the thing before turning out the light last night. It would be perfect as a bathroom book, or something to keep by the phone should a telemarketer call. There were at least twenty short chapters, all with titles like "sin," "commitment," "evil," etc. It was really the first chapter or two that had lots of Him in it, maybe the rest of the book is actually more philosophical than religious. Probably a good gift book for someone. And, it may be something I come back to later.
A bit about LeGuin's book Changing planes, which I tried several months ago but could not read. Seemed a bit hokey to me.
And, I could be reading Cold Mountain sometime soon. I started it several times many years ago, but never could quite connect with it.
Tuesday, December 16, 2003
After reading Namesake, in which Russian writers were an important theme, I have it in my brain to try some for myself. I've never read any living or dead Russian writers. Forces conspire to push me in that direction. First Lahiri's influence, and now a pert article on St. Petersburg.
I tried reading several books this weekend, but only finished one: What was she thinking? [Notes on a scandal]. It was lighthearted enough for me to stand. The story is told by Barbara, a forty-something teacher who seems socially awkward. Her only friend is Sheba, the new pottery teacher who has an affair with a 15/16 year old student. It was rather lighthearted, comical almost. I can't recall much about it now, but it was entertaining. Sadly, no references to smelt or plasticine.
The other books I tried were too heavy; I was desperate for something light. So I only read the first chapter or two of Sena Jeter Naslund's Four spirits. It takes place in Birmingham during the 1960s: Civil Rights, bombed churches, etc. I enjoy her writing, but wasn't up for an issues book.
Moon tide was promising. Very lyrical and concerned with character's inner longings and landscape. It was one of those multi-generational stories that takes place by the sea (oh, Westport, is that Ct.?). The story culminates with the Hurricane of 1938. The characters were compelling, but my patience was sorely lacking. Tripp spent so much time explicating two of the character's childhoods, that I had to put down the book. I wanted her to get straight to the action instead of this interminable build up. Most times that wouldn't bother me, I could work right through it; but not this weekend.
I also tried Millicent Dillon's A version of love, and only read a few pages of that book. It began in a car. I love the road trip genre, but this one lacked something that I cannot put my finger upon. The man and woman traveling together are doctor and patient. They've run off together. It is the 1950s.
Yesterday I finished Married to the job: Why we live to work and what we can do about it. The author, a Bay Area psychotherapist, has encountered many patients in her practice who invest too much in their workplace. Her patients were truly sad. The things they did at work were unreal. Apparently, many workers are critical of janitorial staff. After hours, these "married-to-the-job types" would come in with their own cleaning supplies and vacuum cleaners to properly scrub out the toilet bowls and sweep the carpets. I was never afraid that I was married to my job. I'm just very interested in work. Two of the blurbs on the back were by Barbara Ehrenreich, my favorite social critic, and Arlie Hochschild, my most favorite sociologist. The book itself was exceptionally well-written. A bit on the academic side, some jargon; nothing too alienating though. Phillipson relates her case studies, discusses how marriage to a job seems to afflict women more so than men, and gives strategies for prying yourself apart from your job. She also talks about how women's entrance to the workplace has changed it. Women make it more familial (muffins, birthday celebrations, etc), and have also brought about changes for the good. And lastly, there was a self-diagnostic test. If you answered yes to more than 2 statements, you were "married to your job." I said yes to "I feel lucky to have my job." There was another statement that I agreed with, but cannot recall at the moment. One was something about dreaming about your job; night-time asleep type of dreaming. Of course I answered no to that, and what do you know, for the first time ever, I dreamed about my job last night. More like a nightmare with my colleagues wanting to lay out some kind of long-term schedule of my workflow. Horrors. Work and the workplace fascinate me. I hoped that Phillips would discuss more about how identity can blur between work and home, and I suppose that she did in a roundabout manner.
What others have not been reading this year. Wow, Madonna a PhD? There was a list of books in Utne Indie Culture 2004 that I wanted to muse about, but I've forgotten to bring the magazine along. Perhaps tomorrow.
Friday, December 12, 2003
Indie Video stores used as research libraries?
Classic books are seemingly bursting from the shelves.
Memphis in the national news regarding the economics of hip.
Oh what fun it is: repetitive reading.
French novelist was the pioneer of drug transcendence.
More about the lovely Lucia, daughter of Joyce.
Homosexuality as a theme that haunts most writers.
Some women carry books around with them as "conversation starters." Those are physical items designed to prompt curiosity and provoke interaction for women taking the MBA approach to finding a mate.
While lunching at a lovely pizza joint, I thought it wise to bring a book along. I chose Saul & Patsy by Charles Baxter. I just learned that it is a failure. But, the first few pages sucked me in. Imagine Scrabble as foreplay. Tiles places invitingly along a midriff, and then anointment by tiles. From what I've gathered, because I don't always read the front flyleaf of books that I've previously read reviews of, the story is about an inter-faith couple who live in a dreadful part of the midwest. It might be Michigan, or Iowa. Saul is compelled to contribute to the world as a teacher and so Patsy comes along, too.
Thursday, December 11, 2003
Design fascinates me. How I love clever people and their ideas. There are bunches of both included in Inside design now, a lush celebration of almost every kind of design imaginable. Most of the inclusions were brilliant, but there were a few pale designers. Could be software problems or my aesthetics running counter to their designs. There were two book designers who caught my attention Lorraine Wild and Maira Kalman (lots of New Yorker covers & children's books). But detailed stills from the Royal Tenenbaum's set, designed by the extraordinary Wascos, were there, too. And Paul Elliman's colorful typography. Demeter Fragrance Library gained kudos for their unusual fragrance designs (my favorites are Fig Leaf, Mango, Gin & Tonic, Thunderstorm, and Dirt), at least, I think it was the fragrance and not the bottles design that won notice, but I am unsure. Kelly Christy's whimsical hats, especially "Bird's Nest," captured my eyes and may well stimulate action on my part with regards to my abiding interest in millinery design. And both of Critz Campbell's lights (Luna & Eudora) fascinated me. It went on: industrial design, stages design, knitwear and textiles, furniture, clothing, fonts, surfaces, etc. It was an overwhelming experience and now I yearn for fabulous designs in my everyday life.
Yesterday I read "Artemesia's Trial by Cinema" from Singular women: Writing the artist. It was short and discussed how the recent film departed so dramatically from the troubling events in the artist's life.
What of tedious day jobs, though? It takes a certain type to be a writer mentions the dreary ways that writers have had to support themselves; either before or during, that's my question. There's a new travel anthology spanning 1950-2000. I'm not sure how appealing it will be. I have a headache and didn't read its review.
Last night I read two books in under seven hours. But, they were both thin. I started Alva & Irva: The twins who saved a city with a very bad attitude. Nothing to do with the book though. I was mad at myself for forgetting that I had to work the reference desk from 4-7. I hadn't had lunch, and had been at work all day, and had a nasty headache. So reading the first few italicized pages was no fun. The book is the story of inseparable twins. One loves adventure and does the talking for the both of them. The other, Irva, well she's the wet sock. But, she creates a model of their city with plasticine, so I suppose that she's an artiste. The narrative is chirpy, almost. What I liked best about the book is that the author, Edward Carey, used the work smelt at least 5 or 6 times by page 73. I don't hear smelt enough in everyday conversation, and truth be known, it is one of my favorite words. But, the story of the twin's lives was fascinating, I was quite engaged with the book. The book is structured as a guidebook, and there are incidental chapters about Entralla that describe the train station or a cafe or historic landmark. It was novel to write in this way, and I applaud the writer for his daring, but I didn't care for it. Parts of the book take place in the library, and at one point Alva, our narrator and the eldest, outspoken twin admits to ripping pages from library books. But the part that got my heart pumping was from page 85: I have always found libraries sexual places. And then it goes on for a long long paragraph, and it's quite lovely and one of the most astute things I've read about how library patrons feel whilst inside the building. I may photocopy it. Or, it would make a charming cross-stitch or embroidery embellishment. And, I totally love the UK edition book cover. I thought the US edition was lovely, but the UK cover is much more compelling. And I found this cover, too, while I was there. I'm tempted, but I paid £6.98 for shipping on the last book I ordered from the UK, and I'm not sure it is worth it. I need a book buying excursion to London.
I randomly selected Alva & Irva from my pile of books at the office, but specifically went for Oranges are not the only fruit when I got home because it is due at the library today or tomorrow, I forget which. Encountering smelt within the first 6 pages of this book was rather freaky, and then, somewhere within the first chapter or two, there's a reference to plasticine: Two books, lots of smelt, and plasticine? I was astounded at the coincidence. I'm developing a theory that British children have close relationships with plasticine and are very sensitive to odors. There's always something to be smelt. I heard about Oranges years ago and its been on my mental list ever since. It is the story of an adopted girl whose parents, especially the mother, are quite religious. Jeannette's (also the author's name; this is fiction, btw) mother teaches her to read by using the Bible, so when J is forced to attend school, her knowledge of animals and spelling is antiquated. She frightens the other children with her tales of Hell, and her teachers don't appreciate her contributions to the classroom, either. She's active at church, sings, hands out tracts, collects for missions. Oh, and she's a lesbian. It's really a coming of age story, but her sexuality is approached in an incidental manner. The writing is sharp and clever. However, there are sections between chapters that include parables or fairy stories, I supposed. I read the first few ones, but by the end of the book I couldn't take it anymore, so I skipped them. That was probably a bad decision, because I'm not sure I got the ending. But, I could relate to the book because I was raised in the same tradition. And, I imagined that this fundamentalist upbringing was unique to the USA, but it's comforting to know that it is an international affair.
I read an interview with Anne Lamott this morning, and something she said struck me as being so true: Most writers I know have a combination of self-loathing and great narcissism. It's very easy to think that everything you've thought or done or heard is really interesting, and it's obviously not. Everything I write, I write many drafts of. Even a Salon piece probably takes five drafts to make it sound natural. Then people say, "Oh, you write just like you talk." But it took me five drafts to get it to sound that way.
I looked at D. Brian Nelson's work at Nerve today. They have the yummiest photographs. And while Nelson's nudes were provocative, I think I prefer the shots he takes of clothed models better. His aesthetic is excellent; and I'm a fool for portraiture anyway.
Wednesday, December 10, 2003
Imagine my surprise
when I opened the box from the Strand
the other day. I completely forgot about ordering books from them. I'm
not sure how that happened. I'm normally very aware that I have new
books coming my way. It's just that with this season upon me, I have
packages at my door each day, and they tend to blur. What drew me in
and closed the sale was their offer of a free
bookbag with every order. That is my weakness. Give me a bookbag,
and I'll...we'll not go there. It is black with a bold red logo stamped
on its front. Seeing it made me happy in the most unusual way. Simple
designs using simple colors sometimes have that effect on me. I got
a Rick Moody book for under $5; Black
veil: a memoir with digressions. And the other book
I bought is Neal Pollack's
And, there's this sad, ugly letter to girls who work in chain bookstores. The whole McSweeney's thing boggles my mind. A visit to their website panics me. Although, surprisingly, there is something about bluegrass living on their server.
I'm looking for a good guidebook to San Diego. There will be no trips to the zoo. Wonder if there's a literary tour of SAN? Do writers live there? Do readers? My favorites are the irreverant guides, but there's not one for SAN. It's down to the lonely planet or the whole of california rough guide, and who knows if I'll ever have use for all that kooky CA info.
The Voice lists its favorite 25 books of the year. I've read two, own one, have two currently checked out, and tried to read two others and failed. So, I've had relations with roughly 1/5 of their recommendations. But the best thing about their list is that not all the books are from major publishers; lots of indie representation. And that means that unless I buy them via the internet, then I'll never find them locally on shelves of any sort.
Painless spellbinding political commentary? This I gotta read. Landau scours the "ideological circus that is the Bush adminsitration."
Oh, and yummy. I got another book to review in yesterday's mail. No doubt Death's acre: Inside the legendary forensic lab the body farm where the dead do tell tales will be most interesting. I can't wait to learn uncommon knowledge. I flipped through the glossy photos in the middle of the book, and thankfully there aren't any explicit gory ones. Speaking of the dead, I've never played with Obituary File before, but it could be useful. You can search by occupation, and when I typed "librarian," I got tons of results going back at least through 1960.
It's good to know that the dictionary I use daily ranks the highest of them all.
Finally started Almost French: love and a new life in Paris. I'm about three or four chapters into it; too much knitting, not enough reading. I bought it months ago. It's about an Australian writer who moved to Bucharest. She meets a Parisian guy, goes for a visit with him, and eventually moves in and they marry (i think). I'm at the point after her initial trip where she's gone to London for a bit. She thinks there's something to their relationship and she wants to return. She does, and then I got the impression that the rest of her book is a treatise on her cultural assimilation.
Friday, December 5, 2003
Namesake ended in a way other than what I expected, but that's okay. I don't usually like happy endings anyway. They're boring and unreal. Bittersweet works well though. This was a happy ending of another sort. Gogol reads. The end. While I can't say this was my favorite book of the year, it certainly ranks in my top three. Much like the way that I feel about humans, I love books in different ways for different reasons. They serve specific purposes while expressing multiple realities and moods. The remarkable thing about Namesake is that it is truthful and elegant. It reminds the reader of the unspoken but universal human experience. It's snuggly puppy good without being cutsie-pie or sappy, though ultimately optimistic.
Just like Lahiri, A.M. Homes's work reveals Truth and I gravitate more towards her outlook, rather than the snuggly puppy stuff. It's more Wiley Coyote on heroin. I started Music for torching early last night and ended up finishing it. I couldn't stop. It was rubberneckin' car wreck good. And overflowing with truth, but stark truth, like when a cast iron skillet slaps you upside the head. The novel is based on characters Homes first developed in "Adults Alone," which was in her collection Safety of objects. In that story, Elaine and Paul crop their sons off at the airport for a flight to Florida where they'll stay for a week with Paul's mother. They have a respite from their children, the house to themselves. They smoke crack. Their story continues in Music for torching. They set their house on fire with their barbecue grill. On purpose, because they want to start their lives over. They end up back at the house though, and they renovate it. Their sons are farmed out to stay with friends and Elaine and Paul stay with another couple for a few days. I make this sound really boring, but it is anything but. Their lives are quirky, their experiences bizarre. The ending is ambiguous; the best kind. I can't help it, I've fallen in love with gothic despair. I'm sure my attraction for it stems from the cultural legacy of good old fashioned Appalachian fatalism. Yee ha and pass the peas.
Lovely thing about expression by email and how it pales in comparison to the good old fashioned letter. And on the questionable topic of epistolary romance via the internet, there's this bit about Stepford novels by Dale Peck. I haven't read it too closely yet.
Thursday, December 4, 2003
I've read 112 books this year. Already six more than I read last year. Yeah, I'm bragging, but it's an empty accomplishment. I spend so much of my time inside books. But, most of my spare time in the last two weeks was spent in a knitting frenzy, readying scarves for the lucky ones on my christmas list. With all this reading it's easy to have forgotten that I finished a book or two and didn't remember to mark it down. I've been thinking for months that I just needed to read one last story in Julie Orringer's collection How to breathe underwater to include it on my list. But, I toted the book along with me yesterday, thinking that I'd wrap it up in a few free moments in between the rush of end-of-the-semester reference questions only to realize that I've read all the fricking stories. It's no big deal, just one more thing I didn't have to drag to work yesterday. My end of the year reading goal is to finish up about three or four books that I started and got halfway through, but didn't finish. Maybe I'll find out that I've really finished them after all.
It's time again for the Literary Review's Bad Sex Prize. And the winner? Is frightfully bad.
Michael Griffith is so clever. His sentences are snappy. I love his writing, but I was impatient to finish Bibliophilia. I read most of it a few months ago, but got stuck on this one story "Hooper gets a perm." Normally I love gay characters, but this one wasn't working for me. I think it was the gorilla rescue at the local sideshow that turned me off. But, I pushed through, and then read the last two stories, which weren't bad. Obviously I loved the novella which was set in a library. The story that stays with me though, and I've forgotten what it is called, is about a father-son relationship. It's precious in an unusual way. The father is a former amateur wrestler turned waste management specialist at the dump (what's the PC word for that these days?). He encourages his son to go to college to study better waste management practices, only the son is more interested in chess. The son gets his town hyped up about playing chess and stages a massive game in which his father is a pawn, or something. I can't remember now, but it's a lovely story. Quirky, too. Not your average father-son fluff piece.
Namesake is marvelous. I feel honored to read this one and it has universal appeal. I'm not Indian or an immigrant or from New England, and I didn't attend Ivy league schools, and I've never been to Calcutta, and have had one or two Indian acquaintances, but I completely related to each of the major characters and their perceptions of life. If I was one of those folks who jumped on the Luminous bandwagon, I'd have to call her work Luminous. Actually, it is simply divine. Lahiri does the multiple point of view thing, which you could also call an omnipresent narrator, but I'm never sure because I'm not conversant in literary terminology. The narrator enters the minds of several characters, but it is so seamless that the reader doesn't notice when it happens. Lahiri is the Streisand of transition; it's like butter. It is sinful really, how easy it is to sink into Namesake. With some books, there's a distance between the reader and the writer; some kind of barrier that doesn't allow complete revelation and connection, but that's not the case here. It's all laid out on the page; kinda like an open book. The story is excellent, the details are compelling, the characters are multi-dimensional; so real you can taste them. Gogol's parents move to Cambridge, Mass. from India and this is the story of his family and his journey to manhood. It's about living between two cultures and never feeling part of either. Lahiri captures the immigrant experience and has a great sense about class distinctions that the upwardly mobile are blind to. The characters are soulful even without all the positive influence of libraries and librarians. I can think of one or two minor characters who aren't readers and don't visit the library, but Gogol, his parents, and his eventual wife are all bookworms who spend their time working, reading, studying, and falling in love at the library. I'll finish it tonight. I've got about forty pages to go.
And my horoscope? Something about wielding my mojo responsibly.
Wednesday, December 3, 2003
Hopefully my troubles with possessives can be remedied soon: Eats, Shoots and Leaves. It's on my list. Truss received a $120,000 advance for the US edition. Amazing.
Last night I learned the truth about "Staff Picks" at the chain and independent bookstores (yeah, Booksense "recommends" titles for indie stores to display). Oh sure, I knew deep-down that the people who work in those stores don't really pick anything. Or read; they're all corporate drones, man. Okay, unfair. There must be a small percentage of bookstore clerks who work there because they love books and who actually read, but for most workers, it's about the pitiful paycheck. Publishers pay stores $15K a week for prominent shelf placement of titles they're pushing this month. Book markets, yuck. Reading about the stagnant landscape of pregnancy prevention didn't cheer me up any this morning, either. What could after my faith in staff picks was so rudely shaken?
I didn't read the review of Curve in the Voice because I don't want to be influenced by it when I write my review, but I did read reviews of other coffee table offerings, and Brothels of Nevada: Candid Views of America's Legal Sex Industry is not what you think. No nudity folks, just devoted to tacky architecture. Maybe I should buy it though. For my thesis. Speaking of truck-stop prostitution...
As much as I love books and reading, I'm not so sure I would sell my kidney for a complete OED, but maybe for a small private library, about 20K volumes let's say. But this guy, loves his sax, not his organs. Alas my wit has returned.
The NYTBR may have a new image, but that doesn't mean I'll read it regularly. When I did give it a glance, it was filled with weighty biographies of world leaders and literature by those canon authors... those types. It didn't hold much appeal for me.
Tons of books read over the holiday. I hate when I have no opinion of a book. I neither hated nor loved Vida's And now you can go. Yeah, it was quick-paced, easy to read. About a girl living in Manhattan who is held at gun point in the park by this guy who wants to kill himself and doesn't want to go alone. He lets her go, sorry to spoil the surprise here, but she can't stop thinking about him. She knows she'll run into him again, and most of the book occurs while she waits to see him again. She reflects on her life and has bad relationships with men, a strained relationship with her roommate, and takes a mission trip to the Philippines with her mother. The trip part was the best bit, and I also liked the interaction with her sister which takes place over one of the two autumn holidays in San Francisco. I never got bogged down in her prose. But I can't think of what I gained from it. Reading helps me make sense of the world, and I didn't learn anything new. I'll look forward to her next book though.
The O. Henry Prize Awards were surprisingly hearty & filling. Yummy in the way that oatmeal in the morning way sustains you all day long. Usually I end up skipping a good third of stories in collections like these, but not so with this one. "Train dreams" by Denis Johnson wasn't my favorite, but two of the jurors loved it. It was okay, and I especially liked the wolf girl. The story was the rambling epic story of a hermit's life during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I remember it mostly because it was the last story. "The thing in the forest" by A.S. Byatt was the first story, and it was about a worm creature that two young English girls encounter when they're sent to a children's home during a WW II evacuation of London. There were other good stories, but those two overshadow them in my mind, and I'm not happy about that. The only reason that I remember Anthony Doerr's "Shell collector" is that it was also picked for BASS 2003, which I'm in the middle of reading now. My retention is horrible. I'm ashamed.
My reading of children's stories is pretty limited, since I'm no longer a child, nor do I have children of my own to read to. I read Because of Winn-Dixie because Silas House recommends it, not because it won a 2001 Newberry Honor Award. And it is a good story. One of those warm fuzzy makes-you-feel-aw-shucks-like, like when things work out well in the world because you've got a damn good dog for a best friend. Dog stories are the best. They beat cat stories every time. Thomasina can't hold a candle to Where the red fern grows. As a former cat owner/lover turned doglover & defender, I can say this with conviction. Because of Winn-Dixie is the story of a lonely preacher's kid whose alcoholic mother left her and her father because she couldn't endure the public scrutiny that accompanies life as a preacher's wife. Nonetheless, Opal remains perky despite her plight as a motherless child. Though friendless after she and her father, who she refers to as Pastor, move to a trailer park in Florida, Opal has plenty of time to explore her neighborhood. It's summertime and she makes friends with a witchy woman, takes a job sweeping up in a pet store, befriends a musical jailbird, hangs out with the ancient librarian at the library, and adopts a dog that she names Winn-Dixie. It's a lovely heartwarming tale with a sweet message about friendship's many forms in all ages and colors. It is also about coming to terms with appreciating what we have instead of concentrating on what's missing in our lives.
Totally unrelated to reading, I'm frustrated that my new Missy Elliot CD will not play in my PC.
Blindsighted is a mystery. A police procedural type thing. I'm so bad with mystery sub-categories. It for sure was not a cozy. Sara is a small town Georgia pediatrician who doesn't have enough to do, finds her work less that fulfilling, so she works as the county coroner as well. Her ex-husband is the police chief. She meets her sister for lunch at the best greasy-spoon in town and finds the gutted, bloody body of a blind ag professor atop a toilet in the ladies room. I should have known who the killer was, and at one point in the book, Slaughter, the author, gives a huge hint that fails to clue in our girl, who you'd think would be more savvy in her line of work. But, she's distracted by other cases and her personal life. Hard to be on top of things when life gets in the way. It kept my interest. The writing was good. A top pick of its genre, no doubt.
I had to stop reading Hey, Nostradamus! I was near page 30 when I cast it aside. The best part was the cloth ribbon marker. Kudos to the art director for that lovely, uncommon touch; if only I could recommend the book on that point alone, but there's only so much one can do with a black cloth ribbon marker. The subject matter was so dreary: school shootings, ala Columbine. Organized in four parts, by narrator, the first section was Cheryl's, and I could not get past it. She is writing "from beyond" in some kind of holding area between Earth and Heaven; not purgatory as far as I could tell. She was secretly married in Vegas and pregnant at seventeen and soon after she tells her teenaged husband that she's carrying their child, she's killed in a school shooting. She's targeted because she was part of this religious group that held themselves apart from the regular folks, probably something like Younglife. Coupland captures the mentality of a seventeen year old girl really well, except she was so shallow, so non-dimensional. There was nothing about her to like or care for. I like, totally, like could not like, relate to this character at all (she doesn't talk like this, the thing about this book is that it makes me want to do so, and that is not the least bit totally awesome). She writes these "dear god" letters questioning her faith, etc. in the afterlife. The other chapters are written from her husband's perspective, who never tells anyone that they were married and pregnant. Another section is narrated by the woman who eventually falls for the teenaged husband, but she can't heal his problems. That's all I know about the book. It didn't work for me. As someone endlessly fascinated by obsessions and their people, I should totally dig Coupland, whose "most recent novels have been vehicles for his increasingly morbid obsessions."
I must read Namesake. It's overdue.
The three books I circulated on my inter-family Christmas list were: Celebrity scarves, Jamie's kitchen, and How to Eat: The Pleasures and Principles of Good Food. Why? Because they're easy to find in most book stores.
Monday, December 1, 2003
Haslett's stories were quite good. Universal, even. On several ocassions, I've found short stories written by men to be entirely too masculine and difficult to relate to. Haslett's topics and treatments have universal appeal. Other things I read over the long break were: Vida's And now you can go, The O. Henry Prize Awards, and Blindsighted. I'm in the middle of Hey Nostradamus, Best American Short Stories 2003, and Bad boy of gospel music: The Calvin Newton story. I'm having trouble focusing today, still adjusting to these glasses, so looking at the screen, and then my hands (since I taught myself to type years before I took the class in high school) makes for an unpleasant experience. I have lots of thoughts on these books, so perhaps tomorrow I can write about them.