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r e a d i n g r o o m

Wordsmith's word of the day:
cock-a-hoop (kok-uh-HOOP) adjective

1. Being elated or exulting, especially in a boastful manner.

2. Askew.

[Of uncertain origin. Perhaps from the phrase to set cock on a hoop (to be festive).]

It's Marge Piercy's b-day; 3.31
3.27 Sarah Vaughn, Quentin Tarantino, & T.R. Pearson
3.26: Vine Deloria, Tennessee Williams, Joseph Campbell, and Robert Frost share birthdays
Flannery O'Connor (3.25)
Lawrence Ferlinghetti's birthday today (3.24)
On Saturday 152 years ago Uncle Tom's Cabin was first published.
Birthday of: George Plimpton 4.18
Kate Greenaway's b-day 4.17
Alice Hoffman's birthday today, 3.16.

Sylvia Beach's (of Shakespeare & Co.) birthday was Sunday the 14th.

And then Saturday (13th) was the birthday of Janet Flanner, also a part of Parisian expat community in the 20s-30s.

Women Come to the Front
GLBTQ Encyclopedia
Southern currents

It's the library that Andy built: 3.11.1901 Carnegie gave NYC 5.2 million to build 65 libraries.
Hey Jack Kerouac b.1922 this day.

Zelda Fitzgerald died on this day (3.10) in 1948 outside of Asheville, NC.
when you type in "novel where sushi is eaten off the body of a geisha" in google, my website appears first.
3.9 birthdays: Ornette Coleman & Vita Sackville-West
3.6 birthdays: Elizabeth BB & Gabriel GM
grimalkin \grih-MAWL-kin\ noun: a domestic cat; especially : an old female cat

Oxford conf. of the book

NC Literary Festival

SOKY Book Festival

what I read in:
1996 :
1998 : 1999
2000 : 2001
2002 : 2003
2004 : 2005

2006 :


jan : feb : mar
: may : jun
jul : aug : sep
: nov : dec

jan : feb : mar
apr : may : jun
jul : aug : sep
oct : nov : dec

jan : feb : mar
apr : may : jun
jul : aug : sep
oct : nov : dec

jan : feb : mar
apr : may : jun
jul : aug : sep
oct : nov : dec

may : jun : jul
aug : sep : oct
nov : dec



Wednesday, March 31, 2004
poultry redux

Finally I am vindicated in my belief that persons who keep birds as pets are odd. This has nothing to do with Flannery O'Connor; I am not equipped to make that judgment of her. Besides, from what I've read it seems that her birds stayed outdoors where they belonged, and never crossed her threshold. I'm almost halfway through the biography I'm reading, and would be done by now except for other pressing commitments that are sucking up my free time. But I digress. A few columns ago a reader wrote to Dan Savage about grandmother's amorous parakeet. In the meantime many other readers have written in with their own stories of obscene bird behavior. Their missives were enlightening and as if I ever had any guilt about not liking birds as pets I now take the high road in my beliefs that birds cannot truly consent to be kept or to be abused by their owners; they are choiceless creatures. And the pen is mightier than the beak. Several months ago I searched the web for ornithology fetishists, but never found the first peep. But perhaps Dan's column will bring bird lovers out of the cage.

More from the VV: Courtney can play the wild woman without frightenting the horses.

Monday, March 29, 2004
chicken hearted writers

Instead of reading in sfglm, I found a biography of Flannery O'Connor that I'm a few chapters deep into. It's interesting enough for a biography so far. I'm learning about her fascination with chickens and other birds. Of course I find this terribly alarming. I'm past the Savannah part and the family is living in Milledgeville, Ga.

Friday, March 26, 2004
what words

I am so loving the summer fletcher greel loved me. the writing is superb. almost every sentence is fabulous. Like one of Kingsbury's sentences is "Her voice takes up any leftover space in that crowded room" (47). That's not even the best one, but the one that I remember because I'm not too far past it. Hope to finish it up this weekend and move on to something else. I've got a half dozen books checked out and not enough time to read them in.

Thursday, March 25, 2004
dream journals

I've fallen behind in my reading, writing, and knitting, believe it or not. Although I am halfway done with my fifth sock I forgot about a friend's birthday. I bought special yarn to work something up for her. Today's the day and somehow it slipped my mind. Too much Scrabble. I won two games last night and might have trounced my opponent a third time except he claimed to be too distracted by the music playing in the background.

Instead of reading a published work, I read through a private journal last night. Volume one of my twenty-year personal diaries/journals. This one was dated 1984 & 1985 and I thought I had misplaced it since it wasn't bundled with all the others in my bedside table. I've thought to get a lock box for them, as those would be one of the top 3 to 5 things I'd save if my house burned down. Anyway, it's nice to read evidence of my burgeoning feminist predilection at ages 13 & 14. I always date it to the philosophy of feminism class i took my first year of college because i certainly didn't grow up in anything close to a progressive household; although we did talk about medical procedures and the body, so it wasn't totally repressive. And it was also helpful to read that my keen observational skills were at work then as well. I wanted to be a psychiatrist, a photographer, a journalist, or a young adult novelist, or a lawyer at those ages. Never a librarian.

Interesting interview with Marly Youmans at Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin. She talks about how her characters from the Wolf Pit came to her in a dream, and then she wrote them into the "real" world.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004
hair of the dog

I read a few chapters of Timoleon Vieta come home, a story about a mutt. The dog lives with his gay European master, and I think he runs away when a strapping young Bulgarian lad comes to stay. The writing is okay, and I think this is supposed to be comedic, but I haven't laughed yet. It's not told from the dog's perspective though and that was slightly disappointing. Could be that there are tons of in-jokes that I'm not getting. This seems really similar to a short story I read a month or two ago, can't think of what it's called, but it was about a young homeless gay man who came to stay with an elderly, slightly repulsive man.

Monday, March 22, 2004
st. basil's day

Last night I picked up Old school and started reading it. And then I finished it around midnight. It was quite good. A story of a scholarship boy in his last year at boarding school; set in New England in the 60s. He's a literary type. The school hosts famous poets and writers like Frost, Hemingway, and Rand. There's a writing competition among the students and whoever's submission is chosen by the visiting writer/poet, gets to spend an hour or so in private interview with the famous person. Our boy has a major jones for Hemingway. I ate up this book. It was so lovely and lyrical and literary. Lots of literary allusions and just straight out literary gossip. I feel as though I should read it again.

I returned birth of Venus today. I couldn't continue on. I'm not interested in that time period and the pacing was a bit slow for my taste.

Thursday, March 18, 2004
post-hump day malaise

I have read nothing. But somehow I managed to snag five old issues of Poets & writers. I may look through them today at break time.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004
st. pats & all that

Can one midori margarita make my head ache like this the next morning? It had fresh mango plopped on top, too. I'm a few chapters into the summer Fletcher Greel loved me. It's lovely, delightful; gorgeous sentences. Can't wait to read more.

I get postcards from Akashic Books announcing their forthcoming titles. This one that came today made me grin like a possum, which doesn't happen often at work. But the premise is so durned exciting, that I shall have to read a history of the African-American people [proposed] by Strom Thurmond: A novel. It's described as "A fictitious chronicle of Strom's desire to pen a history of African-Americans."

Tuesday, March 16, 2004
slinging books & ink

Stayed up until almost midnight deeply engrossed in a book called Skin deep: Of tattoos, the disappearing West, very bad men, and my love for them all. I plucked it from the shelf at the library and brought it home. Read it while half paying attention to mtv. It's a memoir of a tattoo artist who lives in Wyoming. She draws parallels between the com modification of the West and the cheapening of tattoos. Everybody's got one, so why shouldn't we? One being a wyoming ranch and a tat of yosemite sam on your shoulder. Her writing is good, and her story was compelling. There were a few anecdotes about her experiences with customers. And the first job she had was shelving books in a library. Her parents kept encouraging her to go to library school, but she wasn't interested in living a straight life. But, she also writes about her love of books. She was fired from her job for reading instead of shelving. Then she ended up hanging out at the library anyway so she could read.

Didn't touch the Birth of Venus, but I'm still carrying it around in my bag.

While looking through the spring-summer 2004 hardcover catalog from Harcourt, I came across a collection of stories that intrigue me Unkempt. But, it won't be published until the end of August, argh! That led me to Julianna Baggott, whose book Madam, based on the life of her grandmother who grew up in a house of prostitution in the twenties and thirties, looks very interesting as well. Another book to ILL; can't buy them all.

Monday, March 15, 2004
three in one fell swoop

How can it be the middle of the month when it seems as though the end should be drawing nearer? It's only the Ides! I read three books this weekend. Zipped through the Dewey decimal system of love. It was surprisingly fresh; where else can one learn about a librarian's feelings about anal sex? She's quite forthcoming, this librarian, this lover of the perfect martini. Well-written, but light enough for beach reading, for sure. Excellent characterizations, and I loved our girl's voice. She was plucky and quirky; those two tend to go together a lot. The plot however is that of a typical Harlequin romance. So much for cotton candy though. The story is about a forty-something librarian who wears her hair in a bun and hides behind glasses and high-necked blouses. So much for breaking any stereotypes; although there is a stunning transformation. This woman, whose name escapes me, falls in lust with a conductor (music, not trains) and then stalks him with her info-gathering skills. His wife haunts the library and is writing a murder mystery in which the first corpse is that of a conductor. It's not really a mystery though. It's a light fun read though. Does it fall into that new genre of chicklit? Perhaps, but the protagonist is older, so maybe not. Henlit might be a better characterization of it. Her website, which I really like, is desgined by FSB Associates. They're responsible for Susan Sontag's site.

I finished the two books I promised that I would. Leaving Atlanta was lovely despite its subject, but I really liked the last character, Sweet Pea, the best of all three. The book is written (good, solid writing here) in three parts from the perspectives of three children living in Atlanta during the eighties when black children were being murdered left and right. I can't wait to read more of the writer's books and stories. There is a gift in writing from children's perspectives, and I'm afraid I do not have it at all. But it was amazing to be inside each character's head. And their dialogue was so real. And the horrors of grammar school re-lived...well, it was too much. Brought back unbidden memories of yore.

And, I also finished the Gospel according to Gracey (the UK edition book cover did more for me than did the USA one) which coincidentally was set in Atlanta as well. Gracey tells the story of her life to two police officers who are questioning her about her ex-husband, a major drug dealer in the city. The story spans 24 hours and Gracey's tale alternates with that of several other folks who are drawn into Atlanta's drug-world. When I started reading her book last autumn, I was amazed at her turns of phrase. It was delightful. But then the more I read it, I don't think I noticed it so much. And the thing that put me off, though I got used to it, was that she doesn't use quotation marks to surround dialogue. Her novel was rich, indeed and the way she tied things up so neatly with all the connections between characters being made clear, wasn't the least bit contrived, either. I should be getting The summer Fletcher Greel loved me this week, as I requested it via ILL last week.

Tried Hotel world and tossed it aside after reading the first two pages. It's obvious when I won't get along with a book. The writing was too mercurial. Ethereal? Something. Not very grounded. Perhaps it was only a passing mood. God, but the soft back has a delicious pink cover! I could eat it up. After all, Pink is the new Black, or so I heard not for the first time, this weekend at knitting class. Ooops, seems "they" were wrong. Pink was the new black in 1999; has it come around again already? And then red was the new black in 2000..... It never ends.

Not quite as quickly though I tossed away Sting's autobiography. It failed to engage me. Okay, so yes I thought reading about his experience in Brazil with a mind-altering drug was a brilliant way to hook a reader into his story at its beginning. And maybe I should have soldiered on, but it did not happen. Alas, I will never know the inner workings of Sting's life. Oh well. Much poorer for it, I am, no doubt. I also wondered if he wrote it himself. I know that those mega-talented singer/songwriter/celebrities are overflowing with the stuff--talent, that is--but his prose read well. It was elegant. Since I didn't read on about his education, etc., then I'll never know if he wrote it or not. Ghostwriters abound, you know.

And, I'm nearly eighty or so pages into the birth of Venus; just one more in the spate of books out that fictionalize women in famous paintings (like girl with a pearl earring). But, I'm assuming that she models for a famous painting, but that may not be the case. Alessandra is 14, lives in Florence in the 16th century and is about to be married. Her father is a fabric merchant who has done well for himself and family. He has educated her along with her brothers. Also, she loves to draw. But, the road ahead for her doesn't include intellectualism or artistry, but marriage and motherhood. Opening with a scene in a convent, the reader learns Alessandra's eventual fate. I'm not sure that it's enough to keep me going in the book; how she gets from here to there. I'm much more interested in the girl and her artistic ambitions, but the author shares far more than I'm interested in knowing about the politics of Florence during a transitional period after Medici's death.

News about finally getting rid of the dread RPR (Recommended retail price) on UK books. Finally, there's a fascinating article (In searching we trust) about Google in yesterday's NYT.

Friday, March 12, 2004
camp, hike, sierras

The first four or five chapters of Range of Light went along smoothly. It's the story of two friends hiking in the Sierras. Kath and Adele used to be best friends, but something happened--its alluded to in the story and will no doubt be revealed further in the book. So 25 years have passed since high school and a camping trip they took with three other friends. At their 25th high school reunion the women meet again and plan to make another camping trip. But one of the women had disappeared long ago and never has been heard from. Another couldn't come because of surgery, and I forget the reason why the third is not coming. So, it's just Kath and Adele and there's tension between the two. It's very well-written so far, and I'm enjoying it; can't wait to get back into it. If it really rocks, I'll have to read more of Valerie Miner's work.

New book on the degradation of language looks interesting enough. I'll wait for the library to get it. Book clubs flourishing online, not on television; yet Oprah still has the magic touch.

And I still have in mind to finish two books that I haven't yet. Suzanne Kingsbury's Gospel according to Gracey and Leaving Atlanta by Tayari Jones. Maybe I can do that this weekend.

I encountered the most interesting thing. Knopf has selections from Julie Orringer's notebooks on a website. You can click to open a notebook and view photos, doodles, notes and drafts of her stories. How super cool is that? I like her handwriting.

Thursday, March 11, 2004
painterly librarians in ethereal words

Burt Reynolds is in a movie called The Librarians. I've never heard of it.

I didn't mean to read all of Muses among us: Eloquent listening and other pleasures of the writer's craft last night, but I couldn't control myself. Stafford's essays were short, and I burned through them like a pile of autumn leaves, kept on going and going until I closed the book. His voice was so familiar to me; it read like a letter from a dear friend. Quite freaky, actually and it did put me off for a bit until I made myself get over it. It is definitely in the top five of writing books I've ever read. His suggestions on keeping a notebook with one at all times was standard, really, but it was how he uses his notebook that's so outstanding. This isn't an exercise book, though he offered things to keep one busy. He touched on several key issues that I fail to recall today. My reading retention is horrible. And I sped through the book, but I'm planning to re-read it in another month or so. Give his ideas time to percolate in my brain before I read his words again.

The other thing that put me off was this underlying oovy-grooviness. Lots of references to the spiritual and ecological; real ethereal. But, it wasn't over the top like some things I've sampled. None of those "pretend you're a tree in the breeze and thank the supreme being for fluttering your leaves" kind of crap. I don't find that useful. It don't speak to me. Or any of that self-affirmative drivel that many buy into. It was quite tolerable. Obviously if I'm planning to read the book again, it can't be all that bad. Stafford's narrative is lyrical and dreamy and sometimes dense. But astonishing, really. The way he constructs sentences is amazing. And his vocabulary is stellar.

Strangely enough, reading his words made me want to paint again. I've toyed with the thought for years, but never followed through. Now that I'm in a knitting slump, painting might be just the thing. And, I stopped by an exhibit on my way back from lunch today. Emily Miller's watercolors and charcoals were haunting. I don't see enough art regularly. A trip to Abingdon may be in order.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004
sticky spines born and bred

Last night I finished the last few chapters of Death's Acre. It was one of the better forensic memoirs that I've read. Really well done with interesting stories as well as a few tidbits of personal information about Bass's life. Forensic anthropology is not a topic I habitually pursue, but I don't turn my nose up at it, either.

I have Dewey Decimal system of love. I glanced at it when it was first published, but decided not to buy it. It was on the new books shelf at the public library last week, so I picked it up despite the "romance" sticker on it's spine. I feel as though I should read it since it depicts libraries and librarians; a professional obligation, you see.

When I came into work today, I picked up an ILL book downstairs and I'm hooked. It's a reference books of sorts, called Women of achievement. It was published in 1940 and contains short biographies and photographs of remarkable women. Most of whom I've never heard of, but that doesn't mean much. They were all at the height of their fame in the mid to late thirties, I assume, and have fallen into obscurity since. They're sort of minor characters, which is fabulous as far as I'm concerned. But, there are a few heavy weights in here as well, like Eleanor Roosevelt, Margaret Bourke-White, Frances Perkins, and Margaret Sanger (someone wrote "sinner" in cursive next to her picture). This copy I'm looking at came courtesy of U of Southwestern Louisiana and it has been rebound in an orange cover; the original is leather and embossed with a woman's figure, described similarly to Wonder Woman, but that's not what I thought after I saw the image. I want this book. But it's rare. There are two copies available for purchase and each bookstore wants $150 for it. I've never paid so much for a book. But I must have this book. Just looking at the pictures of these women is fascinating, and through each I sense what remarkable stories they could share. A large percentage are natives or currently reside in NY. Some are smiling, some are grim. I'm drawn to the coquettes and the ones who have a slyness to their countenance. Some wear hats with veils and others wear glasses. I've noted a corsage or two as well. OThers, like Victoria Dike, has had a mustache and beard penciled onto her face.The photos are black and white and the women range in age and beauty and class. But that's the only thing black and white; it only includes white women's biographies, and is much poorer for it. Although, there might be one or two included after all, now that I've leafed toward the back, but they aren't identified as such and appear Caucasian.

An interesting new trend: Amazon Addiction. And, the National Book Critics' Circle Awards were announced last week.

Tuesday, March 9, 2004
short stories galore

Forgot to mention that I've read a few stories from Ploughshares. It's the Emerging WRiters issue that I'm reading from. So far the stories are quite good. The first was about a woman whose husband has died, and she's decided that it's time to bury his ashes in the garden that he loved so. She starts digging and unearths a dinosaur skeleton. But it's not all that clear whether it's really there or whether it's part of her old-age delusions. And then the next story was a lovely contemporary mermaid story. It sounds hokey, but it was rather excellent and intriguing.

And, I read about half of Death's Acre. It's a good solid book, and is basically the story of Dr. Bill Bass, head of the anthropology department at UTK. He tells about how the department grew and how the Body Farm developed, and also discusses several of the more interesting forensic cases he's worked on during his career. I'm in the chapter about the Zoo Man murders. This was a freak from Pigeon Forge who picked up Knoxville's prostitutes, took them to a secluded area to beat, rape, and kill them. Lovely. I like reading about forensics. I don't watch it on tv though. And I hate to see the photos, although most of the ones in the book are of bones or the author's family while they are living. Patricia Cornwell wrote the introduction.

This week is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Dr. Seuss. I can't decide what form my tribute should take.

Monday, March 8, 2004
two books, so little time

Last week I went to Canada. I could read in Canada. And I did read in Canada, but I also knitted way too much. I made two hats and worked on a sock until I could do no more: you see, I messed it up and had to put it down. Plus, I can knit with Dramamine in my system, but I can never read in a moving vehicle. I have many excuses. I finished up Sins of the Seventh Sister, and it was really quite good. I thought there were way too many parts that I considered "filler." Like about making apple butter and slaughtering hogs, your basic seasonal farm life stuff that I take for granted. Surely lots of other people don't know about moonshine stills and other Appalachian or rural peculiarities. It's set in Appalachia, Elkins, WV specifically. And the story is fabulous and mostly takes place in 1929 and 1930. Then there's maybe an entry a year up until the 60s or 70s, I can't recall now. But it's supposed to be the story of Stella's life. Stella is a transsexual opera singer who was castrated before the age of 12 or 13 because he killed his father. Really, the story is more about Huston Curtiss. It is told from his point of view, mostly from age 7 to 13, and then it skips to when he was in WW II and then once again closer to current time. There wasn't much about Stella on her own. A lot of the action focuses on Billy-Pearl, Huston's mother. She takes in at least a dozen folks to live with her when the Depression displaces them, It's wonderful how she creates her own community. How she's responsible for the deaths of many of WV's finest fictional KKK, and how she makes sure that black children and slow white boys are educated in her own home when the schools turn their backs on educating children of the community. And then her 9 or 10 or 11 other idiosyncratic sisters appear throughout the book. It was such a fun read.

I wish someone were waiting for me somewhere is a short story collection translated from French. The stories were short and ranged from Ikea furniture, to pregnancy, to women veterinarians, and they were all set in France. Gavalda has such skill with creating multiple points of view. Not within one story. Maybe I mean perspectives. Each story is unique. I identified enough likenesses in her writing overall that one could refer to as "style," but her characters are so diverse. The narrators, I mean. When I read a writer, sometimes there's a strong narrative voice, that of the writer that sometimes badly infects everything she/he writes. But this is not the case at all with Gavalda. She writes from the male perspective mostly, and her characters are so different from one another that you can easily identify her range.

Next to read: Death's Acres and The muses among us. Muses looked really good when I read parts of it at the bookstore last week. We'll see how it goes when I get into it in a few days.

Should readers be sheep?


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