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October Texas Book Festival
9-17 October Litquake
8-10 October Southern Festival of Books
8.31 Medulla released in USA
8.31 Maria Montessori
8.30 Mary Wallstone Shelley & Molly Ivins
8.27 Theodore Dreiser (1871) & C.S. Forester (1899)
flambeau \FLAM-boh\ noun
What does it mean?
stolid \STAH-lid\ adjective
: having or expressing little or no sensibility : unemotional
nabob \NAY-bahb\ noun
1 : a provincial
governor of the Mogul empire in India
hector \HEK-ter\ verb
What does it mean?
trochal (TRO-kuhl) adjective
Resembling or revolving like a wheel.
[From Greek trokhos (wheel), from trekhein (to run).]
precocial \prih-KOH-shul\ adjective
: capable of a high degree of independent activity from birth
dudgeon \DUH-jun\ noun
: a fit or state of indignation
8.19 Bill Clinton (1946) & Coco Chanel (1883)
bruit \BROOT\ verb
rumor — usually used with "about"
8.18.1955 Lolita published & birthdays of Roman Polanski (1933) and Meriwether Lewis (1774).
liminal \LIM-uh-nul\ adjective
1 : of or relating to a sensory threshold
8.17 David Crockett & Mae West
QWERTY \KWUR-tee\ noun
: a standard typewriter keyboard
froward \FROH-erd\ adjective
: habitually disposed to disobedience and opposition
8.14 Alice Adams
8.11 Louise Bogan & Andre Dubus
jimjams \JIM-jamz\ noun plural
quiddity \KWID-uh-tee\ noun
*1 : whatever
makes something the type that it is : essence
8.5 Wendell Berry
Rail car offered for sale on eBay for $185K
8.4 Louis Armstrong
gloaming (GLO-ming) noun
[From Middle English gloming, from Old English glomung, from glom (dusk). Ultimately from Indo-European root ghel- (to shine) that is also the source of words such as yellow, gold, glimmer, glimpse, glass, arsenic, melancholy and cholera.]
hebetude \HEB-uh-tood ("oo" as in "food")\ noun
: lethargy, dullness
forfend (for-FEND) verb tr.
1. Defend; protect.
2. Forbid; prohibit.
3. Prevent; secure.
8.2 Isabel Allende, James Baldwin, Helen Morgan, Myrna Loy, Mary-Louise Parker (& me) ; also on this day in 1869 George Eliot began Middlemarch
8.1 William Clark (of Lewis & Clark) born 1770 & Herman Melville born 1819.
August 31, 2004
Huzzah! A book review I wrote now appearing in a Gwen John bibliography.
The value of reading in yet another article from Cleveland.
More backside news.
The shame is that I cannot remember how Fig leaves ended. It was rather disappointing. Oh wait, she graduated from University of Wisc. and then moved to Chicago to live with a maiden aunt so that she could find work in the big city. Her progressive themes were fairly interesting, and she hit upon several midwestern prejudices towards Jews and African-Americans, but all the characters besides Lydia were flat.
Fortunately, I started reading Around the bloc the other morning after breakfast. It is excellent. The writing is marvelous. Stephanie "escapes" southern Texas and spends a year abroad living in Moscow while attending UT. After she graduated with a degree in journalism, she goes to Beijing where she edits a magazine. Then later she spends time in Cuba, but I'm not to that part yet. Her insights into cultural differences between the Russians and Americans and Chinese and Americans are exactly what I expect from a book like this. It is wonderful. Such a joy to read. Her prose is smooth and logical and engaging. Very good writing, excellent perspective on the world, and her experiences make for a darn good travel/memoir book.
August 26, 2004
Finally am reading Fig leaves. Written in 1925 by Mildred Evans Gilman, it is the story of Lydia Carter a girl from the midwest. It's mostly a chronicle of her life thus far. The reader meets her sometime prior to fifth grade. While I've found multiple problems with her writing style, which does not promote the party line "show don't tell," who can blame her since most books of her time were written in the "tell don't show" vein? Now Lydia is off at college and has taken up with a homely boy whom her sorority sisters do not approve of. I believe the novel may be one of those chronicles of womanhood that chart the character's burgeoning consciousness. At least, I hope that's it with this one. Interestingly though, the character comments upon sexual inequality fairly often and I wonder if the proto-feminism is more Gilman's than Lydia's. And, there's also much speculation about sex, but no real information. Poor Lydia, whose own sexual education at the hands of her mother was very vague, fretted for three months after she let her boyfriend kiss her because she thought that was how babies came about.
While I've had peripheral knowledge of Sarah Orne Jewett for years, I've never read anything of hers. Recently while researchingAnnie Trumbull Slosson, another regional local color writer from New England, and an "amateur" entomologist to boot, Jewett's name kept popping up all over the place. Because, you see, she is the mother of the genre. But, the write up about Jewett at Library Dust intrigued me and now I've put The Country of the Pointed Firs on my "to read soon" list.
Getchur Booker Prize looooooooong list. I've read approximately zero of them, having heard of only one, Purple Hibiscus, which I recall borrowing from my public library. I tried and failed to read it. Just didn't feel it.
As usual, I'm toying with the idea of starting a book club, but probably won't see it through because I may not have time this fall.
August 26, 2004
Between watching the (Hamm-fisted) Olympics (go Svetlana!) and busily knitting a new purse, and visiting the Appalachian Fair (photos to come soon, maybe?), my hands have not touched a book with intent to read all week. Oh, now I did begin the first bit of The essential agrarian Reader while working at the reference desk at lunchtime, but I had too many eager students who needed my help and so I barely absorbed words and phrases like corporate conglomerate, agribusiness, farmers being statistically irrelevant and anachronistic in our global economy.
But I did select a brainles book to read, should time allow. From its primary colored cover, Oyster blues might be written in the same style as a Hiaasen or Dorsey, but I dunno. Yet. I plucked it from the revolving shelves of my library's paperback exchange which usually contains a robust number of bodice-rippers.
Heaven forbid. And along came dick lit.
August 23, 2004
Little magazines: Endangered or on the verge of a renaissance?
Learned a lot about Australia while listening to the audio book, In a sunburned country this weekend. Will need to take another road trip to finish up the last two cassettes. But I feel guilty about counting this audio book as something that I "read." My retention is bad with audio books as well. I'll get sidetracked by goats grazing in a field, or caught up in a traffic snarl and will have missed a few pages of the book.
Bought a lovely new book about scarves at Angel Hair in Nashville. I bought Scarf Style: Innovative to Traditional, 31 Inspirational Styles to Knit and Crochet as much for the photography as for the patterns, which are lovely, of course. Other than that, not a good weekend for reading.
I browsed my issue of Bust that came last week, but feel that perhaps I am getting too old for Bust. I didn't read any of the articles. Nothing spoke to me. Oh that's not true. Actually I read the article about Sassy magazine, hoping for some trashing of its editor (because that's usually what the gals and guys at Bust are wont to do), but the piece was basically a big dry thing, strictly magazine history and financial-ish things. Boring.
Anyway, I'm much more interested in yarn and fabrics at this point in my life. There were no bookstores on my list of places to visit in Nashville, horror of horrors! I'm pretty sated with books, as far as buying them. And, as usual, I have a slew of them to read from the library.
August 19, 2004
Literary olympics in absentia.
Bugmenot is not working at this moment so I cannot read about the death of the Blair Witch's cinematographer somewhere near Key West because I don't care to register my personal information with the Miami Herald. Sigh. You get used to a service and then it disappears, or doesn't function anymore.
Readers drawn away from traditional Harlequin romances. Oh my.
In a new book, Atlantis From a Geographer’s Perspective: Mapping the Fairy Land, to be released next month, Plato's descriptions of Atlantis match... Ireland, which is just the latest island to be identified as the lost civilization of Atlantis.
Grannies are doing it for themselves, and others. A new book chronicles a worldwide movement of activists older women who call themselves Raging Grannies.
Booker judge declares that publishers have no taste, after slogging his way thorough 126 novels that he was forced to read; several he declared execrable. Here's an excerpt from his comments:
What have I learned? Distaste for the middle class was one common denominator. Writers are entitled to berate and conjure whatever they want, but it was curious to see how the middle class (particularly the white, home-counties middle class) got clobbered: racist, xenophobic, childkillers or just generally evil.
Any prostitute, beggar, asylum-seeker or non-caucasian was likely to have a heart of gold. The conformity was such that I felt sometimes that only members of the Socialist Workers Party were allowed to publish novels (I never want to see the words "miners" and "strike" adjacent again on the page).
August 16, 2004
New findings in the field of deceptions research.
The only exciting thing I read about yesterday was a French publication that gives tips to French workers about how to appear busy: Always carry a pile of file folders. Corinne Maier "has become a countercultural heroine almost overnight by encouraging the country's workers to adopt her strategy of "active disengagement" - calculated loafing - to escape the horrors of disinterested endeavor." The French work fewer hours than most other nations, and their government wants them to work longer hours to bolster their slumpy economy. Maier asks "Can we work in a corporation and contest the system," she asks, "or must we be blind and docile and adhere to everything that the corporation says?" Anyway, I ordered it from amazon.fr as an excellent excuse to put my schoolgirl french back to work. The only problem was that the postage to mail to from France was about the same $$$ as the book.
Then there was the impossibly frightful new publication barking forth this fall, The New York Dog.
August 16, 2004
Perhaps my first impression of Untangling my chopsticks was unfair. I don't know if my attitude changed after the eights chapter, or if the writing improved. The author moved in with a Kyoto couple and she seemed to have more to write about her interpersonal experiences, which beefed up the book a bit. Still, the same things really annoyed me: those highly descriptive passages about the tea ceremonies and food served, and their utensils. I need more than words for those things that I am unfamiliar with. Photos, or maybe even drawings, would have helped.
And then I read the first page or two of A girl like Che Guevera, and that's not enough to know whether I like it yet.
August 13, 2004
An excerpt from Pam Anderson's novel, Star. Will probably skip it.
August 12, 2004
It must be the ass on foreign-exchange.
Starting another book whilst in the middle of reading the first one is not a good sign. I'm taking a break from all things Japanese and am reading about Kyrgyzstan. So many enemies, so little time: An American woman in all the wrong places is written by Elinor Burkett, a Fulbright scholar who taught media ethics to university students in Kyrgyzstan. At forty-some pages into the book, I've learned a small amount about the culture there. Mostly about the women and men selling items in the streets, and before I closed its covers, I was reading about university students and how they felt that their president deserved privacy; not a good philosophy for journalism students to have. Anyway, the creepy thing is that Ann Coulter's blurb on Burkett's previous book, Baby Boom, is on the back cover of this book. Makes me wonder if I should read this with my hackles raised.
Just bought Crossroads: A Southern Culture Annual, and am eager to read it's contents. I browsed it, mostly looking at the images.
In the mail yesterday came three books I ordered: Around the Bloc: My Life in Moscow, Beijing, and Havana, A Woman's Europe: True Stories (Travelers' tales), and Monsoon Diary: A Memoir With Recipes.
August 11, 2004
Sex lives of cannibals was an excellent book. There was never much about sex or cannibals though, so while the title may not be terribly descriptive of the book's contents, at least it is eye-catching and memorable.
I was so looking forward to reading The girl in the fall-away dress: Stories. And I did read the first fifty-ish pages, but I simply could not engage with the stories. They were good stories, great potential, but somehow they were missing a special ingredient whose name I do not know myself. I guess I really liked the book's cover, and too, I thought that characters with roots in the South would be ones that I naturally take too. Not so. I hate it so when I don't click with a book, but that's not something that you can force, and so I remain not a fan of the book/author.
Speaking of clicking and forcing oneself to read something, I fear that may be the case with the book I began last night, Untangling my chopsticks: A culinary sojourn in Kyoto. Since I know near to nothing about Japan, this is an excellent book for me to begin with. The author, who has culinary training in Paris, moves from NYC to Kyoto to learn about kaiseki, the ceremonial tea cuisine that stems from the Buddhist tradition. I'm around the eighth chapter of the book, which chronicles her adventures with food, and sometimes people, in the city. While the recipes she includes are helpful and a lovely addition, I find them distracting. The likelihood of my throwing together a Japanese dish is minimal. After all, there is not an Asian market/store within fifty miles of me. How depressing is that? As far as information goes, this book is packed full of it. It is primarily descriptive of ceremonies and history, and that's the part that tends to fall flat. The book is unbalanced in its content. It's supposed to be food writing/travelogue/memoir, but the author's voice is not well-developed. There's very little of Her in the book thus far, and that's why I read a book, to connect with it's writer. I get the sense that she's leaving vital parts out of the book, and we're given only a smidge of insight into her experiences. There's potential for her to paint her acquaintances with intricate brush strokes, to really bring out their personalities, but instead, they're all depicted by the broadest stroke imaginable. It seems that she connects more with the city than with people. Her descriptions of the beauty of Kyoto are lovely and make me want to see the sights with my own eyes. Actually, photographs would be an excellent addition to this book because I have no visual references for what she describes.
August 10, 2004
Finished up Holy cow, and it was very good. While the overview of religions practiced by Indians was fascinating, MacDonald's personality and voice was the thread that held the thing together. This is probably my favorite travel book I've read so far this year, though Sex lives of cannibals: Adrift in the equatorial Pacific may give her a run for her money.
But first, or really but next, I finally finished reading Sand in my bra & other misadventures, a collection of humorous travel essays written by women from (or on?) the road. Reading them made me want to travel abroad, or at least to encounter the wacky here in the states, which is really not terribly difficult to do. My favorite story was Jen Leo's about visiting Patpong's red light district. And then I enjoyed one about the writer who encountered men's privates wherever she went. But, there was also an essay about working illegally at a bar in the Australian outback that I enjoyed as well. All were entertaining, except for the one by Ellen, that comedian, who wrote about her fear of flying. Her humor is not to my liking, but I read it anyway. Really only skipped one essay that was impossible to understand.
Then, delight of delights, I began Sex lives of cannibals, which is brilliant. The writing is wonderful and witty and sarcastic. Troost makes even the dullest, most dreary facts tolerable. And, he brings uncommon liveliness to everyday existence. After graduating from Georetown with a master's in international relations, he takes temp jobs here and there while trying to figure out what to do with his life. His girlfriend Sylvia gets a job on Tarawa, a remote South Pacific island in the Republic of Kiribati, and he comes along, too. His descriptions of the culture are insightful and always blessed by his humor. His writing style is slightly cocky, in the best sense of the word, yet also strangely humble. And it translates well to the page. Very engaging. The heat is terrible, a shortage of beer on the island is a hardship beyond compare, and when the tuna dries up, because of the commerical fishing boats that plague the island, he scrambles to find alternate food for he and Sylvia. The most oppressive challenge he overcomes is countering his neighbors' blasting of "La Macarena" with Miles Davis once his CD collection arrives, seven months late. Ubiquitous on the island and local radio station, the song drives him nearly insane. It turns out that the islanders love up-tempo songs, and the Miles Davis hurts their ears. He blasts Miles, thus curing the neighbors' penchanct for repeadetly playing "La Macarena." And that's only half way through the book. I cannot wait to read more of his observations on the I-Kiribati. Cannibals and their sex lives have yet to make an appearance.
Something yummy came in the mail yesterday: Frank Stitt's Southern table: Recipes and gracious traditions from Highlands bar and grill. Overzised with beautiful photography that just may do the food justice, the new book smell permeates it's glossy pages. Inhale, exhale. The recipes are divine, and I'm eager to try a few. A delish pumpkin cheesecake makes an appearance, with pecan and gingersnap crust, and there's also a recipe for bleu cheese bread and butter pickles that I may try, even though I am no fan of the pickle. Really, the aesthetic of the book is fine. And besides the glorious photos of food, there are charming shots of agricultural products and implements which endear the book to processes and not just the finished product. This may actually be a coffeetable cookbook that can and should be used in the kitchen as well. It's a real shame that I didn't know about Highland's Bar & Grill when I visited Birmingham. I ended up eating at a crappy Arby's that night instead of getting something good. oh yum, choosing between grits and Apalachicola Gigged Flounder or a nuked/deep fried chicken sandwich? And I son't think I'll live if I don't have a bite of his Honeysuckle Ice Cream with Pistachio Butter Cookies. My lunch was small. Otherwise, I would not go on so much about a cookbook. Please excuse.
August 9, 2004
Finally, I'm far into Holy cow : an Indian adventure. Finished up Madras, and was shocked by its ending. I'm halfway through Holy cow though. Sarah is an Australian journalist who chucks it all to move to India with her boyfriend who is head of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in New Delhi. Each chapter chronicles her experiences in the country. Other than the interesting and charismatic Indian people that she meets, and the cultural events she attends, her experience reads as rather negative. No doubt it's difficult to live somewhere that doesn't have a Western infrastructure, so that would be the biggest challenge. She is investigating the different religions that the people adhere to. Her experience at a Vipassana retreat near Dharamsala was interesting to read about, as was her visit to Miri Piri Academy at Amristar where Western Sikh's study the religion. Her writing is lively and engaging; I will definitely read her work again. I am anxious to get back into reading it. Since I'm into this Indian genre thing, I'm yearning to travel there, which may actually be more of a possibility than I first thought. Assumed that I'd be hard pressed to find anyone to come along with (and traveling there alone would be frowned upon), but last night I asked Ian if he thought he'd like to travel there. Figuring that I already knew the answer, I was surprised when he said he thought it would be an interesting trip. Cautioning him that accommodations would likely be less than what we're accustomed to here, he still seemed amenable. An mentioning the lepers and beggars didn't seem to turn him off, either. Shocking, just shocking. He's more fastidious than I and doesn't like B & B's because he might have to share a bathroom and he can't be sure when it was last cleaned.
August 6, 2004
News to me: Proliferation of the Blook--a blog that is later published as a book.
NYT brings back serialization of literature (at Globe & Mail username: pablo901 password: pablo901 or try Bugmenot for access to username/passwords to other sites that ask for personal information before letting you read their stories.)
You gotta love Mexico.
Still reading Madras on rainy days. I grew impatient with it because the first 80 or 90 pages dealt with the five days of the character's wedding; it was descriptive of the rituals. Great cultural information, but it didn't move the story along for me. Still, it's pretty interesting and now Layla is getting to know her husband better. She's moved in with his family. I am learning a lot about Indians who are Muslim, so I feel like I'm not wasting my time, and the writing is generally very good, and when I'm actually reading the book, I'm into it. But when I think of it, like now, I'm not feeling it. Still, I plod on, knowing that if I make it through this book, I have several other potentially yummy books waiting.
August 4, 2004
Russell Smith (of the Globe and Mail) questions the relevance of romantic lexical territory, or, in plain terms: the ability of any character to immediately identify the names of plants that they encounter along their merry way.
No reading yesterday. Too many other things to get into.
August 3, 2004
There is room for you (Rosellen Brown recommends it) was solid, good, but I didn't absolutely love it. I don't think that I ever really connected with the main character, Anna. She seemed somewhat remote, distant from her life and experiences. However, the novel was beautifully written and was easy to read. Anna travels from Delhi to Varanasi and then to Calcutta. My favorite parts where when Anna interacted with the native women, sharing tea while staring at the river, or sitting in the sun while Indian girls braided her hair into a bridal crown. Really, I suppose it was the last third of the book that I appreciated most.
Since I'm on an India kick (Holy cow is lowing from my bedside table, waiting to be milked for all it's worth), I began Madras on rainy days by Samina Ali, who must quite possibly be the most stunningly beautiful woman on the planet. I'm sure this is the second or third time that I checked out the book, but never got around to reading it. I'm almost 40 pages into it and must admit that I didn't transition into it well at all. The prologue was too subtle for me, but I'm coming into it slowly. The characters aren't so firm at this point, so I'm not attached to them yet. But, I am interested and want to learn more. Layla was born in America to Indian parents and grew up in Minneapolis. Every year she and her mother return to Hyderabad so that Layla will not forget her identity. Layla has been engaged to an Indian man, a young engineer, for a year now, and she has returned for her wedding. Only, she's pregnant with an American boy's baby. But, she's been popping her birth control pills and is bleeding everywhere, so she thinks that she has resolved this problem. From what the jacket copy reads, things work out between Layla and her husband on their wedding night, but I'm not to that point yet.
August 2, 2004
Madam: A novel was good. The beginning put me off a bit at first. Set in West Virginia in 1924, Alma and her husband, Harry? Henry?, leave their three children behind to go to Florida on the husband's whim. Alma knows that her husband is a dreamer and that they're only courting heartache, but she goes along for the ride. After his hopes are dashed, he gives her the car and tells her to return home. She does. She picks her daughter up from the Catholic orphanage, but leaves her youngest son there, who strives in the structured environment. Instead of returning to the cotton mill, Alma decides to run a whorehouse out of her home, formerly a boarding house. The first bit of the story, is all this history that I've described. I thought the book should have begun when Alma was the madam, and then maybe we could learn the back story as flashbacks. In the end though, it turned out to be interesting enough. The writing was fine.
Next I read Jane Austen book club. One, it was difficult to keep all the characters straight. There are six who meet monthly to discuss Jane Austen's books; five women and one man. Of course, there must be a male as a love interest. I was bummed about that, but what can you do? The other problem for me, was that I've only read one JA book, Pride & Prejudice, and that was twenty years ago. I've seen the film adaptations of the other books, all except for Northanger Abbey, so I really have no clue about the stories, characters, or setting. Since the book club does discuss all those things, I had to pretend that I knew what they were talking about. It wasn't so bad. And the rest of the book was charming enough. Light and witty.
Ticket out was well-done for a first mystery novel. The protagonist is Ann, a film critic who lives in Hollywood. Burned out from writing film reviews, she is assigned a story on a local cop, Lockwood, I believe, and then, when a body turns up dead in her bathtub, she gets that story, too. There's a mythical screenplay, Hollywood & film history, and secret tunnels. Knode did a great job in veiling the murderer until the very end, I hadn't figured out who he was when she let it drop. I didn't like that our heroine falls in love with the cop. That's pretty tired as a plot technique. She doesn't realize that she's down for him until some display of affection on his part. But, it was one of the better mysteries I've read.
I started the Lucia Joyce book, but I'm not sure that I'll actually read it. James' daughter, Lucia was an avant-garde dancer, and battled psychiatric problems. There are one hundred pages of notes. The book is very thick and I wasn't in the right mood to read any further into it this weekend. Instead, I started There is room for you. Anna is 35, her father's dead and she's recently divorced from her husband of five years. She travels to India to find herself and to understand her mother who was born there to British parents in the 1920s. Before she leaves on the trip, Anna's mother Rose presents her with a type-written manuscript containing her memories of the India of her youth. I'm halfway through the book and should finish it up tonight.