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r e a d i n g r o o m

Willie Nelson's special day: 4.30 Annie Dillard's, too
Harper Lee's birthday 4.28
M-W Word of the day:
milquetoast \MILK-toast\ noun
: a timid, meek, or unassertive person

Gertrude "Ma" Rainey: 4.26
Jean-Paul Gaultier 4.24
Birthday of John Muir, 4.21

Resplendent water polo shot of 2004

Isak Dinesen's b-day 4/17
John May @ Malaprop's 5.9
Steve Almond @ DK 5.11
Sheila Kay Adams @ Malaprop's 5.21 & Spruce Pine 5.29
Grammar God!
You are a GRAMMAR GOD!

If your mission in life is not already to
preserve the English tongue, it should be.
Congratulations and thank you!

How grammatically sound are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Bessie Smith's b-day today 4/15
Wordsmith's word of the day (15th):
excrescence (ik-SKRES-uhns) noun

1. An abnormal outgrowth, e.g. wart.

2. A normal outgrowth, e.g. hair or nail.

3. An unwanted, unnecessary, or disfiguring extension or addition.

[From Middle English, from Latin excrescentia, from excrescent- (stem of excrescens), present participle of excrescere (to grow out), from ex- (out), + crescere (to grow). Other derivatives from the same Latin root are crew, crescendo, crescent, accrue, concrete, decrease, increase, recruit.]

4.14.1939 : Grapes of Wrath published
Wordsmith's word of the day (13th):

sententious (sen-TEN-shuhs) adjective

1. Full of pithy expressions.

2. Full of pompous moralizing.

[From Middle English, from Latin sententiosus (full of meaning), from sententia (opinion), from sentire (to feel or to have an opinion). Some other words derived from the same root are: sense, sentence, sentiment, sentinel, assent, consent, dissent, resent.]

13 April Eudora Welty's b-day
10 April Anne Lamott's b-day! & on 1925 Great Gatsby was published
Barbara Kingsolver's birthday is April 7
petrichor (PET-ri-kuhr) noun

The pleasant smell that accompanies the first rain after a dry spell.

[From petro- (rock), from Greek petros (stone) + ichor (the fluid that is supposed to flow in the veins of the gods in Greek mythology).

jlj: work

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



Friday, April 30, 2004
end of week potpourri

Nice analogy comparing miners going down the shafts without methane detectors and the porn industry's recent HIV episode.

Something about the Pixies.

New history of the orgasm hits UK shelves.

Lawrence Block writes: Signed books are a hot item. And he used a word I've not seen/heard before: gormless.

Pancake in the Atlantic.

Codex ended last night. I haven't decided whether I liked the conclusion. I got it, and thought it went along well with the novel's premise, but try as I might, I'm still a sucker for a good ending. Nobody died or anything, but illusions were lost and lives were curiously unchanged in the end.

No idea what I'll tackle next, but I have at least two dozen library books checked out to keep me going for the next short while.

Thursday, April 29, 2004
getting hooked on crafty medievalists

Bronx primitive was a quick read, entertaining and lovely. Filled with Simon's uncommon details and crafty way of writing. It captured the first thirteen years of her life. She graduated from grammar school and the second memoir Wider world: Portraits in an adolescence carries on. I have it checked out and I read the first paragraph which recaps her immigrant experience. She was Jewish, but her family was not observant. She described her father as an agnostic but they observed the thing on Friday, which she didn't name and I cannot recall Shabbat? All of my knowledge of Judaism has come from my reading; I haven't any firsthand experience, although I've been told that my husband's mother's family from way back were Jewish.

Codex has picked up and the story is moving along, though at times the pacing inches along. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing since it is a novel. Our boy is quite observant and we read all about it. Edward has met this tall thin academic woman called Margaret. He hired her as a consultant and she worked on opening the crates in the library with him. She's a medievalist working on her dissertation at Columbia and once she discovers the rare books, she's hooked. Then Edward is told to stop working on the project, that his services are no longer needed. Margaret convinces him to slip her the key to the place instead of returning it, and then she calls him late one night asking for him to bring things to her. They discover that one of the 12 crates is missing. All along, Edward is getting deeper and deeper into a role playing game and his sleeping habits are disrupted. And, he's thinking about blowing off his move to London. An interesting academic thriller; can't wait to read more.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004
mish-mash hump day

This isn't the first time that I've read about the exciting incentives that Paducah, KY has for artists. But this article reminded me of how important it is for progressive public leadership, which is ever-so absent in my own small city. It's frustrating when you live somewhere that is unresponsive to smart change and not just greedy land-gobbling ventures. I can complain about it because I VOTE in local elections.

Leave it to our fair Bowie to really mix up the musical pirates and mega-companies. He wants people to use his music and promises prizes to the most creative efforts. I knew there was some reason why I liked him besides his looks and music; smart man.

The beautiful and much-talented Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie won the Orange prize--all £30,000--for her fist novel Purple Hibiscus. I checked it out months ago, and tried to read it, but we didn't click. It could have been also that I was over-read and tired and frazzled and...listen to me make excuses. I missed out. Oh well.

And, now there are many responses to Brown's controversial theory, that he shared in the Da Vinci Code--that Christianity was founded as a cover up--from churches, clergy and bible scholars. And, way to go Ron Howard, for making a movie based on the book. It's ironic that those opposed to the novel's premise are claiming historical fact is on their side. History is "probably" more objective (because I have my own issues with the supposed objectivity of historiography) than the stories in the bible, and history supports Brown's scenario, not the story forced down our throats for millennia.

I've put pleasure reading aside and am immersed--almost halfway through--in Bronx primitive, the first third of Kate Simon's autobiographical trilogy. Simon was a travel writer who also worked in the publishing industry in many capacities for most of her life.

Wait, there've been no complaints about the collection development at my public library. Or lack thereof. I am still waiting to read Candyfreak. Odds are not in favor of any of the librarians selecting it and then buying it for the collection. I hate feeling as though it all comes down to me. Really. What a burden. And it's not as if they aren't nice, sensible folks. They don't have the time, or maybe the interest, to immerse themselves in sussing out timely, exciting things to read. Their median age must be over 45; is that fair to give as a reason? a theory? I simply cannot buy everything that I want. Nor should I have to spend my time sending them lists of suggested titles, or complaining as much as I do. Where is the chill pill when I need it?

Will I or won't I read the Jane Austen Book Club? Jury is still out. Haven't read any of Fowler's other work, either.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004
evil clowns & medieval codexes

Disapparation of James was quite good. A bit of a fanciful and psychological novel. Quite short, actually, but darn good. Ursu develops the character's inner turmoil as their worlds are completely changed by James' absence. The ice cold mother becomes warm, the warm sunny father becomes violent, and Greta, James' sister, channels her energy creatively by making a book of his adventures to present to him upon his return. And then there's Tom, the police officer whose assignment is to stay with the family during this time, to observe them and monitor who calls. He grows attached to Greta. And then there's the clown. There's nothing quite like an evil clown. Clowns should appear in fiction more often.

I read through the stories in the new Ploughshares this weekend. And I thought I'd read all the good library stories, but no, Rick Moody wrote a fabulous one called "The Free Library," and I'm jealous because his knowledge is such that you'd think he's an inside man. The issue was mostly poetry though, and I didn't read any of those. Still harboring lots of ambivalence about poetry.

Received the California issue of Zoetrope in yesterday's mail, and flipped through the journal, but will have to put of reading in it until this weekend coming. Too many deadlines of various kinds to have much time for fun stuff, although I did manage to finish the book last night and begin another.

At first Codex put me off. I didn't appreciate the beginning. But now that I'm two or three chapters into it, well it may turn out okay after all. Jacket copy reads that this is a literary thriller. Something about a medieval codex unearthed and all the mystery and suspense and diabolical characters. The plot in brief: Young up & coming stock-broker type has two weeks before he leaves NYC for London for an ever more fabulous job and he's asked to uncrate and catalog a huge amount of books for someone's personal library. It is beneath him and he figures he'll assign the task to a junior associate at his firm. Strangely enough though as he goes through the motions, he looses track of time while un-crating these books and does a fair bit of the work. That's as far as I've read. It seems that he may return to this task and see it through to the end. The writer, Lev Grossman, is attractive in that bald man with glasses kind of way. Lovely eyes and lush mouth, too.

Monday, April 26, 2004
dark minerals & circus boys

The Julavits book was excellent. I finished it Friday or Saturday, Can't remember exactly when. I admire her writing, which is unlike anything else I've ever read. Now I'll have to wait and wait until my public library buys her newer book. I requested it via ILL as well, but they usually will buy more recent works instead of borrowing them. If it wasn't too unseemly and cocky, hell I'd send them a list every week of titles that would strengthen their collection. I refuse to swallow anymore mysteries and bestsellers; never again will they force them down my throat. As I've aged, I've come to believe that some books should disappear, simply because they're badly written or drivel.

To recap, Mineral Palace is about Bena and her nasty little husband, the philandering physician who can't keep the fish in his fish pond alive. Bena is bored with living in Pueblo and takes a job at the newspaper where she writes the social column; this is 1934. She meets a pregnant prostitute in an alleyway; Maude is sucking the blood from discarded butcher paper as this is her only form of nutrition. Bena sees a cowboy, aptly named "Red," who takes care of Maude. Turns out they grew up together; her mother was the maid in his family's home. Bena is intrigued by Maude and wants to know her better. Bena and Red spend lots of time together and she grows enamored of him. And there's this Mineral palace thing that takes up space in the novel. Good space, no doubt. It's a decaying monstrosity that Bena decides was built so that the women of Pueblo would have something to save. You know, a project. Their charity extends to their cause d' jour, as they are unkind to the needy whom they encounter on the streets each day.

I read part of an article ("Fiction 21c: history as an occasion for literature" Poets & Writers Magazine, Jan-Feb 2002 v30 i1 p14(6)c) she wrote in which she discusses the problems of setting a novel in so much history. I didn't finish reading it, but may now since I'll know what she's referring to. But basically she wrote that there folks in Pueblo were boycotting her book because they didn't appreciate her stark, smarmy depiction of their fair city.

The disapparation of James is surprisingly good, too. No reflection on the author, Anne Ursu, it's just rare luck that I read two well-written books back to back. Something to do with my poor decision making when it comes to picking books off the library's shelves. Wouldn't be such a hit or miss operation if everything on their shelves was good, now would it? James goes to the circus with his parents and sister and disappears when a bad clown's magic powers go awry. Quite compelling story; jacket copy reads something about when the laws of the universe change, how do you reconcile your understanding of those laws with the reality you're facing?

Although I don't enjoy birds in captivity, they are quite beautiful when flitting about in their natural environments. I was quite close to a gorgeous robin yesterday. Her breast (or his?) was shiny and a copperish-brown, but the blue of her back was unreal. The blue appeared somehow manufactured, and not something that would occur naturally in the organic world.

I'm considering reading this new novel of sylvia plath. But, I'm not a huge fan, so i'm afraid that much would be lost on me.

Yesterday I wrote about thirty Elvis haikus for a friend's book project. Here's one:

black filipino russian
swivel and contort

Wednesday, April 21, 2004
Sulk factor, soldiering on, & always more to read

McEwan sulks about delayed entry to the US. Apparently, immigration officials at the Vancouver airport ruled that the size of McEwan's speaking fees ($5,000 in Seattle alone) were too large to be considered "honoraria." Everybody knows that writers really are just shills for the drug trade. He received an apology, but in all, it's quite ridiculous.

NEA unveils a new program called "Operation Homecoming" in which our returning service women and men will attend writing workshops given by Tom Clancy, Tobias Wolff and James McBride. The best submissions will be published in an anthology, scheduled to come out at the end of 2005. My question then is about the glaring absence of women writers from this program. Oh, I see, when I read on in the article it says that 26 authors will participate. Not sure that this makes it any better. Ah, writers are selected for their knowledge of the military. Wonder if Tim O'Brien will be asked to come?

In selecting writers, Gioia said his priority was knowledge of the military, whether personal background or subject matter. Poet Louis Simpson and fiction writer-memoirist Tobias Wolff are both military veterans. Another writer, Bobbie Ann Mason, is known for the novel "In Country," about the daughter of a Vietnam soldier. Contributors include such hawks as Clancy and doves such as Richard Wilbur and Marilyn Nelson.

Started reading Heidi Julvits's book Mineral Springs. And I love it. HJ has magic in her fingers or pen or whatever she writes with, because her phrasing is incredible. I'm envious. Only had time to read the first chapter. The main character, Bena is traveling with her physician husband to Pueblo, Co sometime in the thirties. They have a six-week old son and have had to move from Minnesota? (can't recall) because hubby did something scandalous in the office with the wrong woman. Bena is very wry, which I greatly appreciate. I'm enjoying her perspective and narration of the circumstances. Can't wait to read more of it. And more of her non-fiction work as well. She has much to say about book reviewing.

And, I'm looking into Susan Carol McCarthy's novel Lay that trumpet in our hands. The reviewers compare it to To Kill a Mockingbird. Very compelling. Guess I'll put it on my ever-expanding list of books to read. But, it's wonderful to be excited about reading again. One thing leads me to another, and that is the way that its supposed to be.

About Henry Miller: I don't think I can read TOC. The first page or so is terribly dense; a thicket of words and too many preachy self-revelations about the narrator. Not sure that I can go down this path with Miller. Oh how I love clarity. And then I read something in regards to Miller that essentially said, "who cares for plot and character and setting? not Henry Miller" (my paraphrasing).

Zoetrope is quickly becoming my favorite literary journal. I haven't read anything bad in it yet.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004
magic package & much ado about good parts

Lolita in the news again. I started reading it, when I was about the same age as she, but don't think I read much of it. Nobody had underlined the good parts. Are there good parts? And after watching the Uma Thurman special on E the other night, and receiving a letter from a friend who is reading Tropic of Capricorn, I'm thinking that signs are pointing me toward Henry Miller. Even more convincing is that I picked up an old issue of Tin House, their Sex Issue--since I didn't completely read it--and turned to one of the articles, "First erotic reading encounter," and saw that Donald Antrim wrote about a moment in Tropic. I first picked up the book in junior or high school, but didn't read it. The fact that it was banned and that there were "good parts," no doubt set me on that mission. Surely the writing turned me off, as I cannot recall ever finishing it. There is a Henry Miller library in Big Sur. All I need is another reason to visit there. Really, the landscape is enough.

Frightening trend: Special imprints for chick lit popping up everywhere.

And, something about writing, which I didn't read. Too much Freud, ego and science involved in its sentences.

Yesterday I received a huge package. Inside was a book about D.H. Lawrence's paintings that I am to review for Library Journal. Yippee. My editor changed jobs and I wasn't sure when her replacement would start sending books to me, so this is a good sign. I began reading it while at the reference desk, but then I was in demand and could not continue. This morning I received an email that Choice has sent me Historical encyclopedia of American labor to review; I can't wait.

I'm a chapter or two into The bookseller of Kabul. Anse Seierstad, a Norwegian journalist moved in with an Afghan bookseller's family in 2001, and the book is a family history. It's fairly interesting so far, and the writing is good. I have no clue what she means when she writes about the cities and geography of the area. It's just all one big desert to me.

Denver's saloons once competed with its libraries, offering the best newspapers, books, and even writing and reading tables with free stationery so tipplers could write home amid "all the appurtenances of a first class bar," including "chaste, costly pictures."

When students cannot find the books they need in our library, I don't send them to the saloon, but I do suggest they conduct their research in one of our mega-bookstores. Especially near the end of the semester when all the books are checked out.

Monday, April 19, 2004
practical reading

Instead of reading all those books I brought home with me this weekend, I ended up buying the practical writer and then I read it all. I was going to wait and buy it later this month, but I ended up buying a R.A. Salvatore book for sweetie-pie and I couldn't buy him a book and not one for myself. It just doesn't work that way. At the store I sat and read in the book for thirty minutes or so before purchasing it. Then I stayed up until 3 am reading the durned thing Sunday morning.

For the first time in ages I feel inspired to read. But the more I read, I discover even more that I want to read. I'm so poorly-read. My knowledge of the "Classics" is horrible as I've concentrated on mostly contemporary popular books from unestablished writers, or so it seems. It would be great to come up with a plan, but just thinking about all the books I must read exhausts me.

I read a few short stories yesterday, but didn't discover anybody that I liked and want to read more of. How sad is that? One story was from Ploughshares and the other from Atlantic Monthly, and it dismayed me that I was not more engaged with them. Although Rebecca Lee's story, "The banks of the Vistula," was quite good. That lead me to Fialta, which I loved. My trouble is that I like quirky and the other stories were not. Nor did they stir me. While looking at the Atlantic, I came across a story called "Mudlavia," that I liked, too. Very well done, nice details and good epiphany. It is by Elizabeth Stuckey-French, another graduate of Iowa (Lee was too), who has an offbeat novel called Mermaids on the moon that I might read sometime this month.

Saturday, April 17, 2004
tentative reading list

While searching for articles about Bobbie Ann Mason's work, I realized that I haven't read any of the primary southern women writers. At least, I guess that's who they are. Names like Lee Smith, Lisa Alther, and Gail Godwin kept appearing next to Mason's. And while read Mason's In country either in 1986 or 1987, I haven't read any of her more recent writings. Coming soon to my bedside table are: Kinflicks, Shiloh and other stories, Family linen, and Dream children. Plus I found two thick books on Southern women writers that I may browse as time permits.

Friday, April 16, 2004
crispy fly skeletons & monochromatic life

Pancake's stories were all pretty dark, and many had ambiguous endings, which I liked, but ultimately that ambiguity made me think that characters all came to a bad end. His stories were tight and dense, and occasionally I picked up on quirky details that made the story compelling, but most times, I remained confused and wondered what world I had entered into. His characterizations of women are misogynist. I'm not judging, but it is sad that his experience of women was so limited. What I liked least about the stories is that they were so serious. It seems that in the last one or two, that a taste of his humor shone through, and that's what I really craved. Being inside the covers of this book was like entering a dreary world covered in coal dust, and I'm still finding residue in all my nooks and crannies. Although I didn't have to force myself read the stories--the writing was excellent--I'm not sure I would recommend this collection to everyone. There's a lot of cultural translation that one must do, and while I thought I had a good handle on dialect and peculiarities of Appalachia, apparently I don't, because so much of the content was completely beyond my sheltered experience.

One of my recent pet peeves, totally unrelated to books, but dealing with words and language is hearing the phrase "To be honest" or "Honestly" or any derivation of the sort. Beginning written or spoken sentences with those words has always bothered me, but I've noticed its overuse on one particular show, Orange County Choppers (I am also dismayed that I did not win the sweepstakes prize) I'm unsure what the intended effect is, except that it makes me believe that the speaker is a liar. When you have to qualify your statements with "To be perfectly honest, this was the blankety-blank job of a lifetime..." that indicates to me that you're rarely ever honest, but in this one instance, you are oozing with heart-felt honesty, so we'd better pay attention and separate this lump of honesty from the usual tumor of lies.

The bothersome thing is that my honey-pie has inadvertently put this phrasing into practice and I have requested that he not speak such wretchedness in my presence. I am vindicated in my belief on this matter this very day. The Chicago Tribune offers insight into overused phrases & dim witticisms, and to be perfectly honest, I'm unsure whether the opening sentence is a lark or not:

To be perfectly honest, when you're submitting entries to a dictionary of so-called dimwitticisms -- expressions that are neither fresh nor witty -- it helps to be as unoriginal as possible.

Another quote that bolsters my argument is this:

Dimwitticisms are unbearably omnipresent," he said. "To my mind, it indicates how little people think about what they're saying. . . . People are not necessarily sincere in what they're talking about.

Bingo! But the best of all is this sentence about how language underpins our world view:

Part of the reason I'm so upset about this is that by using the same words and phrases repeatedly to describe experiences in life, people think and feel in a certain way," Fiske continued. "[Life] becomes increasingly monochromatic.

Said fear of ubiquitous monochromaticism of life is what prevents me from using trendy slang. Who wants to sound like everybody else 24/7? Sometimes I do it for effect--bling bling*--but mostly I avoid it. Seriously (as if i'm such a jokester), I do find the Urban Dictionary very useful when I'm vocab-deficient and feeling duller than a box-cutter.

Imagine the simplicity of a box-cutter. It graces the cover of Verso's spring 2004 catalogue, but actually is the cover of the new edition of Valerie Solanas's SCUM Manifesto. Strangely, the image brings to mind the William Carlos Williams poem the red wheel-barrow. Which then also reminds me that when we studied the poem in freshman comp, that the young woman who read the poem aloud for the class called it a wheel-barrel. Fourteen years later I still ache for her. You see, it's a very organic day with thoughts flashing and pinging hither and yon.

*Must share bling witticism here: Crafting at home, I make my own bling. As Martha says, "it's a good thing."

Thursday, April 15, 2004
showing up for the Hemingway of it

After spending two days off with my honey, I returned to work unrestored and imagining how lovely it would be to never have to work again. Well, work 9-to-5-ish, that is, at a regular old office job. I did find time to read though, and cast aside the Dear Mrs. Lindbergh novel. It was promising, but ultimately failed to hook me; I lacked sufficient patience to see it through.

Instead, I devoured Ursula Hegi's Sacred Time. She covers a great span of time deftly. Set in Brooklyn, or maybe the Bronx--I remember not--in 1953, it's about an Italian family; a family saga. Three books span about forty years, and each chapter is told from a different character's perspective. We begin with the boy, Anthony and it seems that we end with him as well. He lives with his mother and father in an apartment. His aunt and twin cousins have moved in. He hates sharing his room with the twins. And then he does something wicked and everybody's lives are changed forever. An excellent book. With all the multiple perspectives, I gained perfect sense of the family's dynamic and dysfunction. Credible and interesting characters all around. While I haven't read all of Hegi's work, I've always enjoyed what I do pick up. May look into getting her collection of short stories.

Read something alarming about how frequently writers are humiliated. A new book explores writer's most humiliating moments. For example, "a well-known American novelist who was invited back to her high school to read. She suddenly felt sick, ran into the bathroom and threw up noisily, forgetting that she was wearing her microphone." That's almost as good as the dream in which you give your valedictory address in the nude.

Curiously more Californians subscribe to the New Yorker than do NYers.

Am about a third of the way through The stories of Breece D'J Pancake. A West Virginian with mucho potential, his inner demons got the best of him and he ended it all. I read a profile of him in Poets & Writers, an old issue, I believe. At least, I read part of the profile and then decided to look into his work to see how I liked it. I'm always up for reading Appalachian writers. I do actually like it, but understand it? Not quite. In James Alan McPherson's foreword he notes that Pancake's style is Hemingway-like, but I'm not sure that is what is throwing me off. I tried to read that book H. wrote that's set in Paris (moveable feast), and balked like a randy mare. Pancake uses very colloquial language sometimes that flies straight over my head. And it's male West Virginian at that. I might get it if women were speaking. But his female characters are all whores and prostitutes. He has issues. The dialect he gives his characters is insanely perfect. I'm reading the fourth story now, "Fox Hunters." They're all very manly stories of coal mining, hunting, drinking and hooking up with whores, so naturally I cannot relate to any of the characters; they're fairly stoic and imbued with machismo. That must be the Hemingway effect.

Finally read the cover article of Harper's Bazaar today. It was about Drew Barrymore, who is "Far more interested in books than clothes--a voracious reader who made herself plow through The Odyssey." I took a trend test there which resulted in the advice that I go for a tailored tomboy look.

Got the new issue of Tin House yesterday or maybe Tuesday, can't remember which, but it looks promising as usual. Oh and then Monday I had Vendela Vida sign a copy of her book Girls on the verge. She gave a lovely talk to a bunch of us and answered all manner of questions that no doubt she's been asked time and time again. I didn't think up anything brilliant though. Usually I try to offer something scintillating, but I was tired. Mondays.

Among a dozen other books, I have Her husband: Hughes and Plath - a marriage checked out. It is overdue. I should try to read it and turn it in later this week. I am a bad library patron.

Monday, April 12, 2004
creeping along sentence by sentence

Julianna Baggott's book, Girl talk was lively and witty, but I got bogged down in the story about two-thirds of the way through the book. Both endings (in the frame and the story) were anticlimactic. The novel is a reminiscence of Lissy's coming of age. At thirty, she's unmarried, pregnant, and dealing with her best friend's marriage to her ex-roommate, a Korean-American stripper named Kitty Hawk, she thinks back to the summer that never happened--as she and her mother, Dotty, refer to it. The wit in this novel is superb, and Baggott's observations about class differences were particularly prescient. Set in Bayonne, NJ, the inner story takes place the summer of the Lissy's fifteenth year when her father, a gynecologist, leaves her and her mother for a fiery redhead named Vivian. Mother and daughter flee to Bayonne to stay with the daughter's biological uncle, Dino Pantuliano. Yep, it turns out that the gyno is not the Lissy's biological father. Then somehow Church, son of her mother's best friend, who then becomes Lissy's best friend and "first time," arrives on the Pantuliano's doorstep and they all spend a rousing summer together playing euchre. There was something about the book that I didn't like, yet I cannot put my finger on it.

I started another of JB's books, The Miss America Family, and I decided not to read it. Also set in Bayonne, it's narrative voice was eerily similar to the one in Girl talk. That was just a little too much for me to handle. Might try it again when I've some distance from the first one.

Confession: if the author's photo reveals them to be attractive, I'm more likely to read their book. It's really sick, I think, of me to judge a book by the writer's beauty or lack thereof. So when I'm struck by authorial beauty, I'm sunk.

Last night, I read the first chapter or two of Dear Mrs. Lindbergh: A Novel. It's about two former flying elderly people who disappear into the air one day and then their children read through their papers to discover facts about their parents lives that they never knew.

Just learned that Julia Stiles dumped her boyfriend for not liking John Steinbeck's work. What a supercool woman. And Theodore Dalrymple's Reflections on the oldest profession should be good. Reading that has made me interested in Maupassant's short stories.

Thursday, April 8, 2004
additions to my collection

My trip to the public library on Tuesday was productive as I returned home with far more books than I intended. Perhaps that is the day when they put out the new ones. Recently I've been able to get there on the weekends, when things are so picked over. I loaded up on books, and only hope to get through several of them over the long weekend.

I bought two books earlier this week, or perhaps last weekend, and two yesterday. Gee, sometimes I think I'm doing really well with kerbing my book buying frenzies, but then I go and do something like this. And, I should be getting another cookbook in the mail soon from my cook book bookclub. I don't make time to cook, but I so enjoy slobbering over the pictures.

Yesterday I bought Joanne Harris's new book, Holy fools. I read that it is set in 1605, closed the cover and said, " Done!" Had to have it. I loved Chocolat, Five Quarters of the Orange, and Blackberry Wine. I tried Coastliner's and couldn't get into it. Her writing is magical. Lovely and lush and I love it so. She's written an illustrated cookbook, too that I only learned about. On that same Harris buying trip I purchased Vendela Vida's Girls on the verge, which I have read, and hope to have her sign it while she's in town next week.

For free though, I grabbed two Anita Brookner paperbacks from a rack in Sherrod library. I've not read her, and wonder why. Maybe she's British? Or not? No clue. I've heard her name but never sampled her work.

Other two books added to my ever-growing personal library were: Inventing memory and Animal crackers, which is a collection of short stories. The first book is sci-fi meets the goddess, Inanna. But it captivated me in the store, so I brought it home with me. I wanted to bring home bunnies last week as well, but my plans were foiled. There were nice hutches for sale, as well. My dogs would devour bunnies. Sad that I can't have a floppy eared or velveteen to call my own.

I read Diary of a Psychic: Shattering the myths. Learning about the author's childhood experiences was interesting, but the writing was a little lacking. And, I would have liked it better if she had included more anecdotes.

And now am reading Girl talk. From it's hot pink cover and title, I shook my head and wondered why I had requested a chicklit selection. The cover is misleading though. It's so funny, I've been smiling a lot while reading this because Baggott is wicked funny.

Monday, April 5, 2004
bio no more

Finished the O'Connor bio, and it was very interesting except for one of the last chapters that discussed her book reviewing activities. Dry and uninteresting mostly because the books she reviewed were theology, etc. I appreciate her philosophy of and approach to writing, though it was really distilled in this book. I'm getting Mystery and manners soon, which I believe contains essays she wrote about writing and other topics.

Also finished the summer fletcher greel loved me, and am still in awe of Kingsbury's talent. I reveled in this book; it was simply damned good. Chapters alternate between Haley and Fletcher's perspectives. While they've always lived in the same small Mississippi town, Fletcher's father, Judge Greel, shipped him off North to attend private schools. He's home this summer between graduating and heading off to college. Haley is 16 and works with her dad at his stables. Her best friend Riley, who Fletcher is also friends with--that's how they're properly introduced--dates a black girl from a neighboring town, and much of the plot surrounds the problems the four experience because of racial tensions. But it's also a sweet story of first love, and that is brilliantly depicted. I want to read this again, and since I got it via ILL, I may have to buy it to do so. No thoughts on what I might read next, although I did read John Gardner's introduction to Dorothea Brande's Becoming a writer.

And, I got a notice earlier today that an ILL I requested has arrived: No Idle Hands: The Social History of American Knitting, so that might be what I read next.

Thursday, April 2, 2004
status quo

Still reading the O'Connor bio. Brainchild has a feature article about motherhood that discusses how things change financially, physically (forensics in a belly button, I never knew...), etc. when you're a mother.


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