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r e a d i n g r o o m

Anacreontic (uh-nak-ree-ON-tik) adjective

Celebrating love and drinking.


An Anacreontic poem.

[After Anacreon, a Greek poet in the 6th century BCE, noted for his songs in praise of love and wine.]

6.30.1936 Gone with the Wind published
6.29.1921 Edith Wharton is first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize
6.20.1893 Verdict in Lizzie Borden trial announced
6.19 Tobias Wolf
caitiff \KAY-tif\ adjective

: cowardly, despicable

6.18 Amy Bloom & Gail Godwin
labrose (LA-bros) adjective

Having thick or large lips.

[From Latin labrosus, from labrum (lip). Other words derived from the same Latin root are lip, labial, and labret (an ornament worn in a pierced lip).]

6.14 Harriet Beecher Stowe
6.12 Anne Frank
6.11 William Styron
obtund (ob-TUND) verb tr.

To blunt, deaden, or dull.

[From Middle English, from Latin obtundere (to beat against), from ob-
(against) + tundere (to beat). Other words derived from the same Latin root are pierce and contuse.]

deracinate (di-RAS-uh-nayt) verb tr.

1. To uproot.

2. To displace someone or something from a native culture or

6.7 Gwendolyn Brooks & Louise Erdrich
6.4.1919 19th amendment passed allowing women the right to vote
entente (ahn-TAHNT) noun

1. A friendly understanding or agreement between two or more parties,
governments, etc.

2. The parties to such an agreement.

[From French entente (understanding), from Old French entente (intent), past participle of entendre (to understand, intend), from Latin intendere, from in- (toward) + tendere (to stretch). Other words derived from the same Latin root are attend, extend, pretend, tense, and tender.]

bouleversement (BOO-luh-vers-MAWN) noun

1. Reversal.

2. Violent uproar, upheaval, or disorder.

[From French bouleversement (upheaval), from bouleverser (to overturn), from boule (ball) + verser (to turn).]

6.1 Colleen McCullough
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



Monday, June 28, 2004
crash, burn & fall down

No chance to update last week because my PC crashed. This is the time when I am happy that I learned html before all the wysiwyg's came along. However, editing this page with notepad is no fun. Havenít read too much, anyway. Iíve started four or five books, but not completed them. The effect of living backwards is lovely, but since I put it down, I havenít felt compelled to get back into it. I love the way Julavits writes. On page fifteen she describes an upholstered seat in this manner: ďwhile trapped in a creaky old theater seat, its navy upholstery frostbitten with mid-century semen stains.Ē And then on the next page she natters on about ďa foul fecal slick.Ē Perhaps Iím giving the impression that she writes about nasty things, or that this is ďthat kind of book,Ē but itís not. Itís quite clean, so far; no sex. But her way of characterizing inanimate objects is excellent. Anyway, the story flip flops around in time, and thatís a bit distracting, as always. But, itís basically about two sisters, Alice and Edith. Theyíre on a plane to Spain or maybe Morocco, Iíve forgotten, because Edith is marrying a Spanish man. While theyíre on the plane, it is hijacked. Iím not to that point, yet. It began with Alice, the narrator, entering some sort of terrorist institute as an employee, or student, Iím not quite sure. Then she recalls all of her time on the plane. Itís fairly strange at times, which is always a plus.

Relentless feminist film reviews become boring. To male readers, perhaps. There was never any doubt in my mind that Bush is Not woman-friendly. I saw Mommy Myth: The Idealization of Motherhood and How It Has Undermined Women at my public library, but decided not to check it out because I figured that it would provide lots of good criticism of the problem, which was figured out long ago, but wouldnít be very insightful with a solution. I donít have time to read, or remind myself, of social problems unless thereís a good three-step or ten-step solution in the concluding chapter.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Five books read during my "vacation." The first was Hidden latitudes by Alison Anderson. A few years ago two fictionalized accounts of Amelia Earhart's survival were published, and from what I recall of the reviews, this was the better of the two. Lucy and Robin are living Robin's dream: sailing across the world. They are unhappily married. Robin's mad at Lucy because she won't have a kid with him, and Lucy has no faith that Robin will get them out of this adventure alive. When their engine breaks down, they drift at sea for a few days, eventually coming in site of a deserted island. But, Amelia has lived there for the past forty years, and she has to decide whether to remain on her fantasy island or stowaway and get back to civilization.

Finally got to read Candyfreak: A Journey Through the Chocolate Underbelly of America, though I found it disappointing. No sex. Okay, one mention of self-palpatation, but otherwise a squeaky clean and sugary ride through the demise of independent candy makers of America. I learned that most grocery stores charge candy manufacturers a $20K stocking fee to place a product alongside the cash register/check-out lane.

Good grief was one of those warm-fuzzy stories. Woman's husband dies of cancer, so she leaves silicone valley for oregon and starts her life again. It was good, but not excellent. Well-conceived and executed.

Tried to read Tama Janowitz's new book about a woman with a huge sex drive, but it didn't seem to be getting anywhere. I read about 40-50 pages despite being incredibly repulsed by the lice scene in the first chapter. It swung back and forth through time and I found that too jarring to withstand.

Apprentice to the Flower Poet Z. was fun and delightful. About an undergraduate named Annabelle who has an assistantship with a famous poet who writes about flowers. In the end, Annabelle learns about art and artifice, but does beaucoup scut work along the way.

Although it wasn't my favorite book, Flashback, by Jenny Siler, held my attention well. It was one of those thrillers where someone has amnesia and then much piece together their past. Eve lived at a convent with a pack of nuns until one night they're all murdered. Eve wasn't there. So then she goes to Tangiers to try to pick up her old trail. Interesting twists along the way, but nothing unexpected. Good writing, the plot moved along quickly. Probably an excellent plane, train, or beach pick.

While away I received Between Ruin and Renewal: Egon Schiele's Landscapes to review for LJ. Hurrah. Schiele is one of my top five artists, though I appreciate his figure studies best of all.

Lots of other books to read this week, too.

Friday, June 11, 2004
fair to middling

I can't come to a conclusion about Come up and see me sometime. It's a collection of short stories by Erika Krause. They were interesting and written well, after all I completed the book. But, I didn't get their endings; I don't always with some writers, anyway. The stories were about women in bad situations, or recovering from bad relationships. There were one or two stories that I liked more than the others, and her style is semi-spare, so I liked that as well, truly easy to read. I wouldn't recommend this one though for pleasure reading because I didn't love it. Studying her form though could be a nice project, if one had the time. Oh, and I forgot, "each story revolves around a quote by Mae West." My reaction to her collection is atypical. On her website she says that people either love or hate Come up, there's nobody in the middle. Except me. I guess the thing is, that her stories weren't bizzare or quirky enough to suit me. They were good and normal.

George Singleton's These people are us stinks like cigarette smoke. I may not be able to read it. A splitting headache may not be worth it, but I liked his other stories... What a quandary. This is what checking out public library books gets me, odoriferous tomes. If it doesn't rain today, maybe I'll set the book in the sun to absorb some UV rays. That might kill the stink. Glad a cat didn't piss on it. You can't ever get that smell out of books.

Thursday, June 10, 2004
the truth about french women

Decline and fall of the short story at Doublethink.

Levy wins the coveted Orange Prize.

Meet haunted-looking individuals who organise poetry readings.

Posh etymology tales to entertain and invigorate.

Novelty in names, or the Apple of her eye: patriarchal naming customs are declining.

Flanagan, who claims to never have changed a bed linen, thrives on readers' misconceptions of her "revealing and not" persona.

Yesterday I found Edith Wharton's book French ways and their meaning (1919) rather difficult to read. Instead of coming right out and saying what she means, Wharton makes all these allusions that the reader cannot make sense out of because her writing is circular and lengthy. Sections of the book were better than others. I particularly enjoyed "The New Frenchwoman," but that is essentially why I picked up the book anyway. Her main argument about the French is that they are so wonderful and superior to Americans because they have the weight of history behind them, and therefore, they are grown ups, while Americans are mere babes. Okay. Several of her statements about women were contradictory; I suppose she thought she could have it both ways?

Then I stayed up late to finish Entre nous, the book about finding your inner French girl. It was interesting, but in the end, too much. It approached ridiculous lengths of "what the french girl has in her fridge," which I found to be more than I cared to know. The best parts where when the author related anecdotes, or elaborated on her friendships with French women, who all had interesting names like Agathe, Chloe, Helene, etc. However, it perfectly captures and explains the psychology of the French girl; it's really more of a cultural study. Ollivier peppers the text with titles of books and films that further enlighten readers/viewers on the subject. Interestingly, Ollivier arrived at the same conclusion as did Wharton (that French girls/women are more grown up than American women/girls), which is not surprising, as her text frequently quoted Wharton every chapter. And Ollivier's experience with French women paralleled that of Sarah Turnbull's which she wrote of in her book Almost French: Love and a new life in Paris. French women don't like other women. They aren't friendly, they aren't forthcoming, they are difficult to get to know, and sometimes after 5-8 years of socializing with them, they might share something personal with you about their lives.

Wednesday, June 9, 2004
tricky peach tongue-lashing

Shoot, Candyfreak can't break into the bestseller list because of all the silly books about politics. Kurt Vonnegut speaks to the younger generation, but he's anything but silly.

Nothing suits me. I started two or three books last night and shut their covers for one reason or another. The Forest lover looked great, started off very well, but did not interest me. It's a fictional account of Emily Carr's life. She painted and traveled in Alaska and Canada at the early part of last century. What's not to like? The weight of it: the story of two sisters, one thin and one fat, looked good. The writing was fine, but I wanted to read about the sister's relationship and the author didn't get to that part quickly enough. Monkeys was too confusing and overwhelming with all the cast of characters introduced immediately. It's a story of a bunch of siblings with a distant, alcoholic father and a blithe mother, who eventually dies in a car accident, I think. But, I may return to it. I appreciate Minot's minimalist style; she wrote the screenplay for Stealing Beauty.

I'm reading in the third chapter of Gotham Writers’ Workshop: Writing Fiction. And, I suppose that it's a lot like any other writing book you'll find, only it seems rather helpful. I'm actually taking notes from it. Have read about character and am now reading about plot. This morning I immersed myself in the first chapter or Entre Nous: A woman's guide to finding her inner French girl. From what I've read so far, I am the French girl. I just lack the language and the shoes. Sigh, I'll have to pull out Amelie again and study the great Tautou. It seems like more of a psychological profile of the French girl/woman, and almost motivational in parts. Strange, but hopefully entertaining, and maybe I'll learn something new. Plus, the author keeps referencing Edith Wharton, so once again, I'm setting a goal for myself to read Wharton's work, especially her essays on France. Lord, she was prolific.

Tuesday, June 8, 2004
transiting columns & gender

Alas, I did not witness (with proper or improper eye-protection) the transit of Venus this morning. I stood on my sidewalk, searching for the sun at just the right time, but the sky was overcast. Of course, I was not looking in the right direction. I checked out back, decided the house behind me blocked my view, and returned to bed.

Last night I was reading Anna Quindlen's latest collection of columns. That makes for disjointed reading; not something I can dig into. I'm finally at the political chapter. Hurrah. While I appreciate her perspective, and agree with her on most accounts, I've noticed that the trappings of her privileged lifestyle, or maybe it's just the northeastern lifestyle with all it's private schools, etc., keeps distracting me from the poignant issues on which she writes: poverty, hunger, etc.

I read up to page 44 in Susanna Moore's new book, One last look, before casting it aside. Set in the late 1830s in India, it's the story of two sisters who, after the death of their father, follow their brother, who becomes a British official in the Indian colony. It's beautiful, really, and promising for sure, but I had no patience with it. It was all description. I kept waiting for the plot to unfold, and it didn't do it quickly enough for me.

She's not there: A life in two genders was quite good though. I'd been wanting to read it for months, and finally found it at a nearby library. Jennifer's memoir about the differences between being a man and being a woman was engrossing. She was once James, a father and professor at Colby College in Maine. Now she's a mother, and still a professor at Colby. The writing was good, sound, and witty at times for such a serious subject.

Audi sponsors Azar Nafisi's book tour, "Azar is to literature what Audi is to cars".

58% of British public's most cherished contemporary novels are written by men.

The top 50 essential contemporary reads

(As nominated by a sample of 500 people attending the Guardian Hay festival. In alphabetical order)

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth
American Pastoral by Philip Roth
Atonement by Ian McEwan
Being Dead by Jim Crace
Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres
Cloudstreet by Tim Winton
Disgrace by JM Coetzee
Enduring Love by Ian McEwan
Faith Singer by Rosie Scott
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
Fred and Edie by Jill Dawson
Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels
Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier
Grace Notes by Bernard MacLaverty
High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman
Hotel World by Ali Smith
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie
Misery by Stephen King
Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow by Peter Hoeg
Money by Martin Amis
Music and Silence by Rose Tremain
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson
Riders by Jilly Cooper
Slaughterhouse-five by Kurt Vonnegut
The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
The House of Spirits by Isabelle Allende
The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
The Passion by Jeanette Winterson
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
The Rabbit Books by John Updike
The Regeneration Trilogy by Pat Barker
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
The Shipping News by E Annie Proulx
The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass
The Wind Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
The Women's Room by Marilyn French
Tracey Beaker by Jacqueline Wilson
Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh
Unless by Carol Shields
What a Carve Up! by Jonathan Coe
What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt
White Teeth by Zadie Smith

Monday, June 7, 2004
all the more books for Wendybird

Three books arrived in the mail Saturday and then I went out and bought two more yesterday, and my order of four (?) hasn't yet arrived from amazon. Call this book gluttony month.

I started Body for life. Not so much for myself, because it doesn't interest me, but the partner wanted a copy. Then he decided that the one from the library wasn't good enough for him, that he wanted his own copy. I've started reading it to see what its about. It's likely that I'll read more of it than will he. When it comes to diet, exercise & nutrition books, I'm usually the one who reads them and then interprets them for him. I must stop that. He's a natural English reader/speaker, so I just don't know what's up with that.

The two books I bought last night are Holy cow: An Indian adventure and Remembrances of things Paris: Sixty years of writing from Gourmet. The three books that came in the mail Saturday are: Vernon Little God, Gotham Writers' Workshop: Writing Fiction, and McSweeney's Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales.

Between collecting and organizing all these new books to my collection, I finished up Lost girls by Laurie Fox. The idea of the book was great., and the execution was okay. it seemed like parts of it fell rather flat, and i can't go into greater detail than that. while i'm sure it was successful and met the writer's goals while she wrote it, something about it was a major let down. But still, it was really quite good, and I would recommend it to certain types who like books about strong women and their relationships with their mothers.

Aha, vacation reading list from NYT. Have already read: Amateur marriage, SKIP birth of Venus, Codex, There are Jews in my house, and that's just the fiction. Not enough time now to get through the non-fiction, though it's likely I've read none of it. Am late for a date with the reference desk.

Thursday, June 4, 2004
glassy eyed catfish grin

Chicago's Lit 50 announced. Why marry, the French believe its oveur.

As usual, lots of soon-due books that I must plough through. Again, instead of getting back to the Prose book, I read Berg's Art of mending. Quick and good, but not as filling as some of her other books. It seemed inordinately short. I would say skip this one unless you're a die hard Berg fan like me. Strange though that I have her book on writing yet haven't read it, yet.

City of glass was unusual and clever. An acquaintance recommended it. It's the first in Paul Auster's New York trilogy and is about a mystery writer, who used to be a poet who wrote lit crit, etc. until his wife and son died and then he had no juice left. To support himself, though he tells his friends that he lives off his late wife's trust, he writes mystery novels. After he receives a strange phone call one night, he becomes involved in a real life mystery. The man who hires him was locked in a dark room for nine or so years by his father and now the father is to be released back into the world after doing his time either in prison or a mental hospital; it was never made quite clear. Therefore Quinn's job is to tail this man and make sure that he doesn't try to kill his son. It wasn't a lengthy book, and that was good for I could begin yet another book.

Lost girls might be clever; it's premise, that is. So far the writing is good and steady. And in the first few chapters I've learned about four generations of Darling girls who go off with Peter Pan. Obviously the first was Wendy, but now she's a great-grandmother to the second Wendy, who narrates this story. Between Wendy and Wendy were Margaret and Jane. The family legacy is that Peter comes for the girls around age twelve, but he didn't come for Wendy II until she was 13. And now she's 19 and has waited and waited for his return, which he promised but has never happened. The doctors believe that the first Wendy is batty and delusional and they try to medicate her into normalcy.

Here's the review I wrote of Darwin's Wink. After I sent it, I had one of those Doh! moments when I realized that I didn't mention that it was Mesmerizing; I didn't want to put it down:

Anderson, Alison. Darwin's Wink. November 2004. Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press. 288 pp. ISBN 0-312-33199-1. $23.95

Isolated from the mainland, Fran and Christian strive to save a species of bird from extinction on an island near Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. Reticent to reveal their personal losses to the other, their relationship remains professional until a combination of human sabotage and a typhoon push them into a deeper bond of mutual reliance. Much like Hidden Latitudes (LJ June 1, 1996 v121 n10 p146), the story is told from both characters’ points of view, takes place on a remote island, and pits human survival against the harshness of nature. Devoting her life and academic career to studying and saving the birds, Fran empathizes when infertility assails them, and catalogs the failure of her marriage and the untimely death of her lover, while Christian forgets the horrors he experienced as a Red Cross delegate in Bosnia with a beautiful indigenous woman. Anderson lends her wise observations of human psyche to another lyrical book and perfectly captures the conjunction of colonialism, gender issues and Third-World economic development. Highly recommended for all libraries.

Wednesday, June 3, 2004
it stung me

Writers and their horrific experiences or, when book events go wrong. I've put the Prose book aside for a day so that I can read and return the Art of mending to the library, as it is terribly overdue. I got stung on my left ring finger by something yesterday while cutting back my lamb's ear. While it did swell and is still swollen this morning I can only guess that the venom coursing through my bloodstream is what caused my sleepless night. I was slightly paranoid though because last fall I found a black widow spider in the wood pile on my porch. Methinks this was only a bumblebee, or possibly some other stinging, non-poisonous insect. This morning, then, I feel loopy, almost. I do prefer Elizabeth Berg over Kaye Gibbons, though they are similar in style and subject. And Berg is laying on the suspense rather thickly, but that is okay. Art of mending is about a forty-ish women who goes home for their family reunion. Then her sister drops a bomb, starts asking questions about their childhood because she has repressed memories. Lovely, engrossing book. I can't wait to finish it.

Tuesday, June 2, 2004
reader, I ate it

I was about halfway finished reading Paradox of choice when I decided that I didn't care to complete it. But, I made myself. Not because I'd regret not finishing it, but because I'd already invested a small amount of time in it, and the last 20 or so pages were notes. It fell flat. I didn't buy the guy's argument. Well, okay maybe just a little bit. I don't think that the book will appeal to the over-consumers who really have the problem. He's preaching to the choir, as far as I can tell. So, skip this one. If you read enough reviews of the book, you can get the gist of it.

Actually, even before I duly picked up Paradox... again, I read Passing for thin: Losing half my weight and finding myself, which was excellent and compelling. It's probably the best book I've read on eating disorders, though I've not read widely in that genre since it's not a concern of mine. Frances Kuffel was overweight all of her life before losing 150-170 pounds in a year or two. She chronicles her journey and its attendant baggage, both physical and mental. Lovely writing, good flow, mesmerizing tale. I can't wait to read more of her work.

And then I topped off the evening by reading Kaye Gibbons's latest book, Divining women. Though I enjoyed it, and read it it under three hours, it seemed lacking in some fashion that I cannot place my finger upon. Set in small town North Carolina during the Great War and Influenza epidemic, this bleak tale is told by Mary, a young woman from DC who has gone south to tend to her aunt Maureen during the last few months of pregnancy. It's very much a feminist novel with strong female characters and themes. There's nasty uncle Troop, who Mary confronts on various issues including politics and race. I question Mary's feminism though, and worldliness. But really for no good reason, there were feminists all throughout history, yet Mary seemed anachronistic. Nonetheless, it was a solid book, though it was over almost after it began.

This morning, while munching my cereal, I began Francine Prose's Sicilian Odyssey. Despite the fact that my yen for Italy is much less than for France, I'll read anything she writes; she's an excellent writer. Plus, it's published by National Geographic, and I love their stuff. Working as a photographer for them was my adolescent dream.

Monday, June 1, 2004
choicest fiction

A formula for fiction? Fiction in the New Yorker analyzed by mathematical models. As if we couldn't guess, "one main conclusion was that male editors generally publish male authors who write about male characters who are supported by female characters".

Have been reading Paradox of choice: why more is less. Schwartz says that as consumers, when we are given too many choices, that we end up depressed for several reasons. One is because it takes more time to decide what to buy and then we're caught up in decisions about what product is better, best, etc. I'm a bit disappointed in the book, because its almost as if he's promoting restrictions. Then it seems very pop psychology oriented. And, the other thing is that at least in one occasion, he's contradicted himself. In writing about marital vows he say that "if you have no way to get out of a marriage, marital commitment is not a statement about you; it's a statement about society. if divorce is legal, but the social and religious sanctions against it are so powerful that anyone who leaves a marriage becomes a pariah, your marital commitment again says more about society than it does about you. But if you live in a society that is almost completely permissive about divorce, honoring your marital vows does reflect on you." So here he says that remaining in a marriage is a good thing, shows your strength of character. Then a few dozen pages later while explaining regret and "sunk costs," he says that people "persist in relationships not because of love or what they owe the other person or because they feel a moral obligation to honor vows, but because of the time and effort they're already put in." He wants to have it both ways, and I doubt it really works like that.

I've been glancing through Writing red: An anthology of women writers, 1930-1940 and am learning lots about radical women writers, but won't read every word in the book.

I tried to read Chris Bohjalian's Idyll banter over the weekend, and simply did not find it interesting at all. Maybe it was a mistake to start with an essay on dairy farmers? I like milk and I like cows, but this essay didn't draw me into the volume.


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