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r e a d i n g r o o m

Joan of Arc burned at the stake 30 May 1431
5.28 Fred Chappell
cavil \KAV-il\ verb

*1 intransitive sense : to raise trivial and frivolous objection
2 transitive sense : to raise trivial objections to

raffish \RAF-ish\ adjective

1 : marked by or suggestive of flashy vulgarity or crudeness
*2 : marked by a careless unconventionality : rakish

5.16 Adrienne Rich
5.15 Katherine Anne Porter
clodhopper (KLOD-hop-uhr) noun

1. A clumsy, awkward fellow.

2. A strong, heavy work shoe.

[Apparently modeled after grasshopper: clod + hopper.]

5.14 Daphne de Maurier
polyvalent (pol-ee-VAY-luhnt) adjective

1. Having many layers, meanings, values, etc.; multifaceted.

2. (In chemistry) Having multiple valences.

3. (In medicine or biology) Effective against multiple agents.

[From poly- (many) + -valent (having a valence), from Latin valere (to be strong). Ultimately, it derives from the same Indo-European root wal- (to be strong) as the words valiant, avail, valor, and value.]

5.12 Katherine Hepburn
heteroclite (HET-uhr-uh-klyt) adjective

1. Deviating from the ordinary rule; eccentric.

2. (In grammar) Irregularly inflected.

polyhistor (pol-ee-HIS-tuhr) noun, also polyhistorian

A person of great or wide learning.

5.9 Joy Harjo
5.8 Gary Snyder & Thomas Pynchon
verjuice \VER-joos\ noun

*1 : the sour juice of crab apples or of unripe fruit (as grapes or apples); also : an acid liquor made from verjuice
2 : acidity of disposition or manner

May Sarton 5.3
Word of the day:
\KLEH-ruh-see\ noun
: intelligentsia
Bobbie Ann Mason 5.1
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, May 28, 2004
debut animals & freak affairs

Amazingly, Miramax Books shelled out $600,000-plus for Bergdorf Blondes. I doubt it's subject matter would interest me at all. And, it's plot has been likened to a "lesser volume of Sweet Valley High." One of those thinly veiled shopping books that happen in NYC. I'm trying not to gag.

New issue of L.A. Weekly has a literary supplement discussing this season's debuts. The Pink institution sounds interesting, though I couldn't tell much about it, other than its about a "fucked-up a dynasty of Deep South “white trash”." It has a cool cover, though. Oh, the authors lives in Asheville. I should have guessed; it's such a Mecca.

Finished Half-mammals, and was not disappointed. Also read a review copy of Darwin's wink, which was captivating. Lots of ecological themes, murder and intrigue. And a little bit of love, but I can't write more about it until after I've written my review. Slow to start but excellent. It's not out until November. Okay, here's what the jacket copy reads "exquisite story of two naturalists who are haunted by ghosts of the past--yet find unexpected love while working to save a rare species of bird."

A French affair: The Paris beat, 1965-1998 was quite readable. Mary Blume is an expat who has lived in Paris for three decades. The book contains articles that she published in the International Herald Tribune. I learned lots more than I ever expected to know about Paris, but still feel slightly empty, like I should live there for thirty years and figure it out for myself.

Now I'm at the third or fourth story in Because they wanted to. I have Mary Gaitskill's first novel, but never finished it. I remember it being slightly freaky in the best sense of the word, but these stories are a bit tame. Oh, there's all sorts of underlying strangeness going on, but I find overt freakishness refreshing. Mary is a KY native, so that's great as well. And, she's a year younger than my mother. Wow. And, her story "Secretary" was made into the recent movie, one of my favorites, with Maggie & James.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004
chiggers & such

Hurrah! Oxford American finds a new home at University of Central Arkansas. They shelled out $490,000 to be the magazine's new home. That part of the state, if I remember correctly, ain't pretty. It's the far northwestern corner that's lush and reminiscent of my appalachian mountains.

While easing back into reading, I've discovered that building up my tolerance might be necessary before diving whole hawg into a book. Already I've tossed aside two books. Daughter's keeper was sort of interesting, the writing was good, and the story was promising, but that multiple point of view thing was so jarring that I dismissed it after reading the first ten pages. Then, I started Adventures of the artificial woman, and probably would have finished it, except that it's already overdue at the library. Nerd-man who lacks social & gender skills creates the perfect woman who soon tires of his boring expectations, leaves, and then becomes president of the USA. Then she goes too far, at least that's what the jacket copy read. But, I guess I'll never know...

Anyway, I'm reveling in George Singleton's collection of short stories Half-mammals of Dixie. They are superb despite their masculine orientation. I read Show and Tell in the Atlantic a few months ago. He cleans up real good, too. Haven't read the title story yet. What I love about his work, besides the setting in western South Carolina which I am fairly familiar with, is his language and wit. Then there's the veiled snideness, and all those flea market references. Truly wonderful work. I can't wait to read more, and to finish up this collection. If I owned this book, I'd pass it on to at least four other people, for I know they would enjoy it as well.

Modest mouse: my new favorite band.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004
tipping point

Ten tips for writing the great Northwest novel. Ehrenreich questions women's moral superiority to men via Iraqi prisoner abuses.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004
less than tasty fiddle faddle

Rules and regulations of book signings, i.e. signature management. £1.25m advance for a first novel? oh my. I don't find the Thursday Next novel compelling. Of course, my social life is cutting into my reading somewhat dreadfully, as I am too tried to read after such a busy evening. But normally a little tiredness wouldn't stop me from devouring a tasty book.

Monday, May 17, 2004
lit sweeps

Literary magazines sweeping the state of Ca. And I'm not reading at all. Probably won't get much in this week. Though this bit about burlesque and stripping caught my eye.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Used book stores blamed for drop in 2003 books sales figures.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004
read on my wayward con

Publishers take large chain bookstore managers to Pompeii; indies upset that they don't receive the same perks.

Francesco Petrarch was a woman?

Still reading in the Forde book. It's still amusing, but too complicated to write much about. I don't have a good handle on how his world operates. There's always something new popping up, which is great of course.

Monday, May 10, 2004
travels in book land

The difference between mom and dad: who reads what? The true story behind mother's day.

Fiction readings turn into performances.

For some reason The Well of Lost Plots is not as exciting as I hoped that it would be. I think I'm distracted, but actually, I was so tired the past two evenings, that I only managed to read a chapter each night, and that's obviously the problem here. The third in the Thursday Next trilogy places our heroine in the well of lost plots, a place similar to purgatory in that badly-written/plotted novels languish in this half-world, in hopes of rescue or redistribution. Next is pregnant is it seems that she will irrevocably alter the listing detective fiction novel that she's living in. I so admire Forde's imagination, he's brilliant. The trilogy is about an alternate reality in which literature reigns supreme. Otherwise, I can't say much else, but can recommend the series as just plain fun for bookworms. Apparently I am way behind, as the fourth book, so it's not a trilogy after all, will be released this summer. The simple fact is that the author is having way too much fun.

Wednesday, May 4, 2004
Yes Virginia, there is a reader!

Sickness has set in. I can't seem to get to sleep before 2 a.m. It's all the fault of books. I wrapped up Lady and the unicorn yesterday afternoon and started on Bet me last night. Couldn't put it down. Crusie is a master at what she does, and each book is better than the one before, which isn't saying much because her writing is superb and her wit is amazing. But, I like her more and more after every book. She god her start writing romance novels, those cheap thin interchangeable paper things. And I've gone back to read one or two of them, and they aren't half bad for what they are. But her comedic romances, which is how I'd characterize her writing, totally transcend that Harlequin genre. Okay, yes, she does use the formula, but she does it better than anyone I know. Her characters are smart and brave and usually feminist; the women that is. Bet me is a love story about Min and Cal. Min's boring boyfriend dumps her and then bets Cal, who doesn't know Min or anything about their relationship, that he can't get her into bed within a month. The bet is 10K. Min overhears the bet. So when Cal approaches her, as ex-boyfriend looks on, she accepts his offer of dinner and then it's on. Kirkus calls her chick-lit, but that's not how I would characterize her writing. She had several books published before that whole trend emerged. Perfect summer beach reading; light, entertaining, fun, uncomplicated.

So about Lady and the unicorn. It was okay. Not all that spectacular, really. My favorite books of Chevalier's are Falling angels, which I consider her best work, or at least what resonated with me most, and Girl with a pearl earring. What I liked about LATU was the different viewpoints; there were at least five or six, and it told the story pretty well, moved things along. I'm not sure that I'll read anymore of the novels that she writes about paintings or tapestries, though I love the premise, I'm not sure that they really do much for me in the end. My reaction is "Oh." Not, "Oooooooooh." With the other two novels of hers that I mentioned, the characters were developed enough to connect with, and I didn't feel that way with LATU.

Next on my list to read is 12 bliss street.

Last night I shot digital photos of several leaves so that I could identify the kind of trees I have growing in my yard. One was a beech tree, I guessed that right away, but the other I had no clue about. I looked through my personal library and couldn't find any kind of leaf identification guide. The books I have about trees offer landscaping information. When I was in school, I don't recall ever having to do leaf identification projects, so I feel like a real dummy on this one. While searching the web, i found a fabulous site called What Tree is it? that allows you to identify the tree by leaf, fruit, or name. So well done! Librarians had a hand in this site. Is it any wonder?

Tuesday, May 3, 2004
all about art & headaches

In looking at the new Vogue, I came across a list, 100 years of being single in the city, and here's what's included: House of Mirth (E. Wharton), After Such PLeasure (D. Parker), A Time to be Born (D. Powell), The Group (M. McCarthy), The Bell Jar (S. Plath), Sleepless Nights (E. Hardwick), Slaves of New York (T. Janowitz), Manhattan, When I was Young (M. Cantwell), The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing (M. Bank), and The Good People of New York (T. Nissen).

Also read a review of Better than sane: Tales from a dangling girl, which I think I might enjoy reading. And, there was an article that caught my eye on new preventative medication for migraine: Botox.

Have been reading through the D.H. Lawrence book that LJ sent me to review. His paintings are uneven in style, and mostly celebratory of the cock. Not the fowl. I've found one that I really like called Dance-Sketch which depicts a man, a woman, and a goat dancing around naked (but for the goat, who has not been shorn for any purposes) in a glade. And his watercolor called Leda (of Leda and the Swan fame) is lovely as well.

Last night I took on Tracy Chevalier's Lady and the unicorn. It has kept my interest, I think by TC's liberal use of multiple points of view. It seems as though each chapter in the story is told by a different voice, and I must say that they are distinctive. I've noticed a drastic change in tone with the newest chapter I've been reading told from the blind character Alienor's pov. Set in the fifteenth century, A Parisian painter, Nicholas, creates scenes for a family, while trying to seduce its women, which will then be used by weavers in Brussels to make six tapestries to adorn the family's walls. Instead of the battle scenes that the patriarch wants, his wife, Genevieve convinces Nicholas to depict a virgin's seduction of a unicorn. Much like Girl with a pearl earring, this is the story behind the tapestry.

Monday, May 3, 2004
four in one blow

Having time to read four books in one weekend is delicious.

First I tackled Heavenly Days: A novel by James Wilcox. It was lovely and fun. I read his work for the first time last fall, when I was in Key West. The story was about a frazzled woman, Lou Jones, who works at a weight watching organization that's organized around Jesus and the Bible. And I'm not going to make it sound good at all, it being Monday. Wilcox has an ear for dialogue, and this story is set in Louisiana. Lou's a do-gooder and so neurotic all the time and consumed with helping others that she can't help herself. She's estranged from her husband and can't connect with his mother's former maid, who Lou has inherited upon her mother-in-law's move to Arizona and subsequent death. It's actually quite witty, filled with brilliantly drawn characters, but I cannot do it justice this morning.

Then I read Furies: A novel by Fernanda Eberstadt. I didn't like it at first, but stuck with it because the premise interested me, and I wanted to learn this writer's take on whether relationships are doomed. It's one of those NYC stories, and I was a bit put off by that, simply because I have absolutely no context for the cultural or physical geography of the place. And, the writing seemed rather cold, detached, and that made it difficult to empathize with the characters. But then it seemed unnecessary whether I liked any of the characters, though Eberstadt switches point of view frequently so that the reader glimpses both sides. Successful woman Gwen, falls for communist puppeteer, Gideon. This was a long, thick book. The author charts the incline and decline of their relationship. It's very well-done. I kept reading it because her writing was quite good, and her insights into relationships were depressing as hell, but still right on as far as I figured. But the ending was unexpected, which was good, but...oh gee, I guess it was supposed to end that way. Tragedy all around.

Goat: A memoir by Brad Land wasn't all that perky either. Why do I read such depressing material? Oh, it wasn't so bad. Really, I picked up this book because of it's great cover. And my public library had it. And, actually bigboxbookstore had it prominently displayed, which I never would have known if I hadn't dropped in there yesterday, several days past the fateful day when I checked it out. This memoir tells about the author's experience being kidnapped, assaulted, and having his car stolen from him after a party. He sort of recovers, but not really because he's dealing with post-traumatic stress syndrome. His younger brother goes off to Clemson, pledges a frat, and then Brad soon follows, pledging the same frat to please his brother, even though the pledge period, with its unofficial hazing, upsets him tremendously. It's honest and spare and filled with great emotion. Also liked that I had a feel for the culture, since SC is merely a short drive away. But, I didn't learn anything about frats that I didn't already know or suspect.

I don't know how I decided to pick up a biography about Bruce Chatwin by Nicholas Shakespeare. But I did. And I tried to read it. Honestly, gave it a good few pages, which had really small text. While I read the acknowledgements, I wondered how is the best way to begin a biography? How would a writer capture his reader's interest? So when I read about Chatwin being at a site where an important archaeological discovery was made, and then it dragged on and on and on about that, mentioning very little about him, I decided that Shakespeare's beginning didn't work for me. I know virtually nothing about Chatwin, only that he died of AIDS in 1989 and that he was married to a woman called Elizabeth who apparently turned a blind eye to his homosexual lifestyle (but it's not something I'll ever know more about because... well, you'll see), and that he traveled like a cheetah, and that he wrote about it too; a real adventurer who lived a singular life. As a reader, I need something personal to draw me into a biography, and this wasn't cutting it. Fossil or character? fossil or character? I'm not a paleontologist. The decision is easy. But Chatwin's work itself? I may look into.

Then I turned to yet another book on my nightstand, True and outstanding adventures of the Hunt sisters: a novel. It's an epistolary novel, which means its entirely written in letters. In this case, there were emails and faxes as well. At first, I wasn't sure I'd like it. It took me a few pages to get into it, but once I was in there, I was pleased and ended up reading it straight through. It's really well done. Olivia is the letter-writer, and she's in the movie industry, a producer. So one of the cool things about this book is that it gives a good idea of what all those folks really do. Olivia's trying to set up this deal to make a film of Don Quixote. Her younger sister, Maddie gets leukemia, and so Olivia spends a lot of time back home in Ohio instead of setting up her movie deal, which gets stolen from under her. The weird thing is that I could so see this novel set in the south. It seemed more southern than midwestern, somehow, but I can't quite put my finger on the specifics. It is kind of chatty and Olivia tries to lighten her sister and family's moods by playing the jester. And the more I think about it, it seems as though it's quasi-chick-lit with all the popular culture angles. But, I doubt that books in the Chick-lit genre deal with heavy topics like their sister's bone marrow transplants. I'm not going to go into lengthy narrative about the reviews I've read of this book, but I will say that of the three reviews I read, two were written by women, who liked the book. The one male reviewer commented on the vapidity of the story and criticized the author for not addressing the sexism in the movie industry, especially when Olivia self-references her own feminist leanings. However, this reviewer failed to point out that instead of moving off to live in New Mexico with her artist lover of six years, who demanded that she do so and make him the sphere around whom she revolved, Olivia keeps to her path and is determined to meet her own needs first.


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