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October Texas Book Festival
9-17 October Litquake
8-10 October Southern Festival of Books
chocolate & zucchini
The food section
Women's travel writing 1830-1930: A Women's Studies Digitization Project Initiative
lucubration \loo-kyuh-BRAY-shun\ noun
: laborious or intensive study; also : the product of such study — usually used in plural
9.26 Jane Smiley & T.S. Eliot
terpsichorean \terp-sih-kuh-REE-un\ adjective
: of or relating to dancing
9.25 William Faulkner
schlimazel or shlimazel (SHLI-mah-zuhl) noun
Someone prone to having extremely bad luck.
[From Yiddish, from shlim (bad, wrong) + mazl (luck). A related term is Hebrew mazel tov (congratulations or best wishes).]
A schlimazel can be concisely described as a born loser. No discussion of schlimazel could be complete without mentioning his counterpart: schlemiel, a habitual bungler.
9.24 Jim Henson & F. Scott Fitzgerald
9.23 John Coltrane
soupcon or soupçon (soop-SON, SOOP-son) noun
A very small amount.
9.22 Fay Weldon
ananda (AH-nan-duh) noun
[From Sanskrit ananda (joy).]
9.21 Stephen King
9.20 Upton Sinclair
morganatic \mor-guh-NAT-ik\ adjective
: of, relating to, or being a marriage between a member of a royal or noble family and a person of inferior rank, in which the rank of the inferior partner remains unchanged and the children of the marriage do not succeed to the titles, fiefs, or entailed property of the partner of higher rank
sobriquet \SOH-brih-kay\ noun
: a descriptive name or phrase : nickname
shofar \SHOH-far\ noun
: a ram's-horn trumpet blown by the ancient Hebrews in battle and during religious observances and used in modern Judaism especially during Rosh Hashanah and at the end of Yom Kippur
9.16 James McPherson
9.15 James Fenimore Cooper & Agatha Christie
9.14 Alice Stone Blackwell
9.13 Sherwood Anderson & Roald Dahl
9.12 H.L. Mencken
9.10 H.D. (Hilda Doolittle)
whinge \ WINJ\ verb
British : to complain fretfully : whine
shivaree (shiv-uh-REE) noun, also chivaree, chivari, charivari
A noisy, mock serenade to a newly married couple, involving
[From French charivari (din, hullabaloo).]
bricolage (bree-ko-LAZH) noun
Something created using a mix of whatever happens to be available.
[From French bricolage (do-it-yourself job), from bricoler (to putter around, to do odd jobs), from bricole (trifle), from Italian briccola.]
9.8 Ann Beattie
anagnorisis (an-ag-NOR-uh-sis) noun
The moment of recognition or discovery (in a play, etc.)
vacuous \VAK-yuh-wus\ adjective
1 : emptied of or lacking content
9.7 Jennifer Egan, Isabella Gardner, Dame Edith Sitwell, & Queen Elizabeth the First of England (1533)
gulosity (gyoo-LOS-i-tee) noun
transmogrify \transs-MAH-gruh-fye\ verb
: to change or alter greatly and often with grotesque or humorous effect
9.4 Richard Wright
zeitgeber \TSYTE-gay-ber\ noun
: an environmental agent or event (as the occurrence of light or dark) that provides the stimulus setting or resetting a biological clock of an organism
9.3 Sarah Orne Jewett, Sally Benson, & Alison Lurie
State Encyclopedias Online:
9.1.1773 Phyllis Wheatley's Poems on various subjects, religious and moral published
tommyrot (TOM-ee-rot) noun
September 30, 2004
It's quickly turning into one of those weeks where I don't read at all. I may turn in my bookmark. Return all of my library books to the library, and forget reading for a while. Knitting is consuming more of my time as the holidays approach and I construct lovely gifts from fiber for my friends and family.
There's a fear that embedded journalists have become, in effect, "whores" of the armed forces. You know, spending all that time with the enlisted folk can cause the middle class journalists to identify with and possibly champion the lower classes. Read all about it in "The Media and the Military" in the Nov. 2004 issue of the Atlantic.
Did they really need studies to reveal that kids learn more if they study more? Well that's what Jonathan Rauch proposes as the reform to end all school reforms; also from the Atlantic.
Just because I don't know what a schnook (very models of the modern chief executive)is doesn't mean that others don't. In fact, there are books about them; again courtesy of the Atlantic.
By the way, readers are obsessively hungry for books about the South. Wow, and super-wow, a spate of books published about the region now appearing in the Atlantic (what to read this month). Rural Face of White Supremacy is provocative, but I'm dizzy with excitement about Picturing Faith: Photography and the Great Depression, by Colleen McDannell who analyzes the pictures of religious expression that Farm Security Administration (FSA) photographers took during the Depression. How I yearn for a copy.
September 27, 2004
Popping of political cherries? LA Weekly interview with Drew Barrymore about her new documentary that I watched the first half of last week.
Librarians toiling for erotica. Blurbed as The Swimsuit Issue's Fiercest Defenders: Librarians from the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
More from A.M. Homes at Nerve: Your mother was a fish.
Alas, no reading this weekend though I discovered a new-to-me journal that I gently thumbed through before buying. The cover was so very provocative, but I guess what lured me was an article called "Old Coke in the New South." I can't wait to read all of Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture; it teemed with a variety of subjects, not just the expected ones. The other thing, was that the articles include references and notes. Hurrah. Here's how it describes itself:
Gastronomica aims to make readers aware of food as an important source of knowledge about different cultures and societies. Combining the latest research with an appreciation of the pleasures and aesthetics of food, Gastronomica provides a forum for sharing ideas, provoking discussion, and encouraging thoughtful reflection on the history, literature, representation, and cultural impact of food.
September 25, 2004
All week I've been sampling from various Georgia O'Keeffe biographies. At least a half dozen of them. Deciding not to write about them was no grand debate, but now, with something about Another recently published O'Keeffe biography by Hunter Drohojowska-Philp, I have to. The review in the Ny Times reads "Drohojowska-Philp's account of O'Keeffe's life (like all the others I have read) becomes a fairly tiresome catalog of friends, enemies, love affairs, homes, vacations, illnesses, exhibitions, reviews, sales and awards. Drohojowska-Philp is not the first student of O'Keeffe who has aimed to cut through the myths and set the record straight, and she wants us to know that her book does go deeper than previous accounts into the details of Stieglitz's affair with Dorothy Norman, a well-to-do younger woman who came to his side in the late 1920's and whom O'Keeffe never accepted, although she was herself by then happiest when she was away from Stieglitz, eventually establishing a new life in the Southwest." It's doubtful that I'll read it, although apparently it chronicles the "high bohemian decrepitude of Taos in the 1940's."
Here's the run down on the various adult biographies that I had access to, which is by no means complete, although this bibliography lists bazillions of them:
Probably the first (I don't have the time to give definitive answers/information today) of the biographies, Portrait of an artist : a biography of Georgia O'Keeffe by Laurie Lisle provides a good introduction to the artist's life. It's pretty elementary, but covers all the events, developments, major turning points. Very definitely approached as a biographical subject, and not so much as an artist, the book is virtually devoid of any artspeak mumbo-jumbo. The narrative is sort of imaginative at times, something I'm not terribly fond of, but it seems to work for Lisle. For example, when Lisle reconstructs O'Keeffe's childhood, she writes about her psychological development as the eldest daughter, and takes on O'Keeffe's point of view; not my favorite technique. And this one is straight biography and the subject's life events, no analysis of great world events or the culture in which she came of age, etc.
And again, I've only read four-ish chapters from each of these books, so I can't really be certain of the books, these are merely sampled impressions. Onward to the next one, Georgia O'Keeffe: a life by Roxana Robinson is quite similar to the Lisle book, only there's a hint of bisexuality, which is dismissed immediately. This one also mentions Stieglitz's philandering ways and how his relatives kept their teenaged daughters away from him. Neither of these items were mentioned in the Lisle book, which I suppose is the cotton candy version of O'Keeffe's life.
My favorite one of all was O'Keeffe the life of an American legend by Jeffrey Hogrefe. WHile the salaciousness shocked me, it was well-written and it seemed as though he consulted lots of other sources from which he pulled his information. This is the one that mentioned both Stieglitz and O'Keeffe's bisexuality, which surprised me, as well as Stieglitz's roving eyes, hands, tongue, etc. Amazing in the pre-Viagra days, that he kept so busy. Hogrefe writes that O'Keeffe slept with Beck Strand, with whom Stieglitz had also diddled--I mean, what other word can I use? And that she also spent lots of time in Mabel Dodge Luhan's bed in Taos. Of all four that I looked through, this one is the one that I would return to. The writing was intelligent, as well.
Becoming O'Keeffe: the early years by Sarah Whitaker Peters was my least favorite because it was steeped in academese. Originally Peters' dissertation, it's filled with art terms that most readers won't understand, and the writing was academic, so no fun at all. However, it was printed on lovely thick glossy paper and included the best photographs of O'Keeffe and her work of any of these four biographies.
Really, it's wonderful that there are so many O'Keeffe bios, because that was the reader can find one to suit herself instead of being bound by only one interpretation and presentation of the subject's life.
Another one that I perused, Three Artists (Three Women): Modernism and the Art of Hesse, Krasner, and O'Keeffe was quite good as well, although it wasn't primarily about O'Keeffe. It certainly wasn't solely biographical, either. Its criticism and themes were excellent though.
Usually the one thing
that makes my day is book-related, but today while driving downtown,
I spied the best thing ever. While waiting at a red light, to my left,
one teenaged boy on roller blades filmed his friend trying to jump his
skateboard atop a cement bench, glide across its surface, and land successfully.
The first time he failed. He was very self-conscious though, either
because he's in the middle of downtown and there's a chance somebody
might see, or it may be the camera. The second time he made it, and
I didn't follow through with my urge to roll down my window clap and
hoot and honk my horn to celebrate his success. It did make me smile,
and that will last all day. Boys and their toys. Oh what fun.
September 21, 2004
Anne Rice complains that Amazon reviewers have used the site as a "public urinal to publish falsehood and lies" and to slander her as well. Readers wrote scathing reviews of her latest in the vampire chronicles, Blood Canticle. I gave up on her books about ten years ago; they lost their spark after she became such a commodity.
Hurrah, the Oxford Dictionary of Biography, twelve years in the making, was finally published. At sixty volumes and $11,000 to own...what else can one say about that? My library has online access to its content, and the print version too, so I am content, even though it's likely I won't use it often for my biographical research is contained within the US. If the Gwen John entry is the standard, then it appears to be an excellent resource especially for including concluding categories of: sources, archives, likenesses, and wealth at death.
Making cotton candy couldn't be simpler.
Rosabeth Moss Kanter's book, Confidence: How winning and losing streaks begin and end was published this month; one of her pearls is "Don't expect empathy from losers. Ms. Kanter points to a friend, a freelance writer who was treated shabbily by editors at a money-losing magazine yet treated well by those at its healthier rival. "Secure people are emotionally generous, while people who feel like failures will take their frustration out on you,'' she said. If you must deal with losers, flatter them shamelessly. "If you build their confidence," she said, "they may stop undermining yours.''"
Still reading Walk on the beach. The chapters are concise and easy to read, it's just that by the time I get around to reading each evening, I'm so tired that my eyes cannot stay open.
September 21, 2004
Taschen has published a new collection of work by Roy Stuart, described as "a grandmaster of the erotic camera." While the cover shot is provocative, most of the others that one can thumb through at the site are less than stirring. I find the photography that Nerve features much more interesting.
House was lovely and charming and heartwarming in
a non-nauseating way. I may have to buy this book for myself and others.
It was too quick a read. Drat! But, then I began Walk
on the Beach : Tales of Wisdom From an Unconventional Woman
Anderson. I read her A year by the sea when it was published a few
years ago, but skipped the follow up to that, An
unfinished marriage. So the best thing about this
book is that while Joan is strolling through the Cape Cod fog one creepy
February day, she meets a woman in her nineties and they become great
friends. The woman turns out to be Joan
Erikson, wife of Eric Erikson, THE psychologist. So far, the book
chronicles the development of their friendship and the manner in which
the Elder Joan helped the Younger Joan with her identity crisis. It's
filled with lots of great life information. For example, Joan the Elder
believes that learning from life is more beneficial than learning from
a book. Very interesting.
September 20, 2004
Fried butter: A food memoir was somewhat disappointing. I'm not sure what I expected, but it wasn't at all racy, although most of the food descriptions were tantalizing. It was never described as having any racy parts, but that's what I look for in a book, regardless. The author writes about his food experiences in several different countries and cities: France, Mexico, Jerusalem, Turin, Istanbul, etc. It was short book and easy to read. It was good, don't get me wrong, but it failed to stir me. The food lore was quite interesting, and now that I know my favorite food, avocado, essentially means testicle, well, what can you do but ask for another half, please?
Mrs. Kimble is the first of Jennifer Haigh's books that I've read, and that's right on because this is the only one that she's written. While it's basically about this changeling asshole of a man, Ken Kimble, who goes around marrying women and ruining their lives, the novel is told from the women's points of view and he's essentially a peripheral character. Haigh creates an extremely unlikable character in Kimble. Thankfully I love men, so reading this book didn't put me off them at all, but for women in limbo about how they feel about men, well reading this novel would likely make those women swear off men for good. Oh, he wasn't a horrible abusive type of man, but just very manipulative, self-interested, concerned with appearances, and didn't support the children that he abandoned. It's terrible that I even give him more attention, too. While a music director at a Baptist college for women in Virginia, he seduces Birdie and marries her before she's eighteen. They move to another religious college and eventually he leaves her for one of his students, Moira. He and Moira go to Florida where he meets wife number two, Joan, a career woman, whose inheritance lured him to her, despite the fact that she was the same age as he. And lastly, there's Dinah, Birdie Kimble's former babysitter who Ken meets up with in DC and convinces to have plastic surgery to remove a port wine birthmark in the shape of Minnesota from her face. Then she marries him, sweet little grateful girl that she is.
With her last two books, and now a collection of related stories, Blackbird House, Alice Hoffman has ascended my list of personal favorites to the top five, at least. These haunting tales of love are charming. They have a fairy tale sort of flavor to them. Set on an island in Mass.? (okay, I checked, it's Cape Cod) or somewhere in New England, my geography that far north goes fuzzy, most of the stories are set in a fishing village, and concern one farm in particular. Hoffman's stories about the different families that inhabit this farm are remarkable. They're quite simple, yet deep and engaging. I hate to move on to the next story because there's so much more that she could write about the last family. Her characters are fascinating, and she could easily expand each story to novel-length. With only three more chapters/stories to go before I finish, I'm torn about reading more. But, my appetite for good writing will outweigh any notions that I have of provident reading.
The queerest thing is that these books are all related in some way. There was something in Mrs. Kimble that reminded me of Fried butter, and the same with Mrs. Kimble and Blackbird House, and while I noted the similarities at the time (like frying up pancakes, for example), I can't recall them now, but keep thinking about how serendipitous it was. And odd. That rarely happens with my reading material.
It doesn't matter that books are getting bigger. According to this article, today's books could be tomorrow's fossils.
I've been thinking aboout New Zealand's literature lately. I've only read Keri Hulme's work, and hope to soon discover more writers of her ilk. With all of that Hobbit mess going on, my nautral aversion to anything over-hyped kicked in, and I've had to put NZ completly out of my mind.
September 17, 2004
Clothes make the woman and "Serena’s fashion sense, which dictates that you should be able to wear anything anywhere, is right in step with the designer fall collections this year."
Now it's coming back to me. I read the first two or three pages of Nine Hills to Nambonkaha: Two Years in the Heart of an African Village last night. I'm looking forward to immersing myself in it this rainy weekend. The author, Sarah Erdman, was a Peace Corps volunteer assigned to the northern Cote d'Ivoire and the book describes her experiences.
Admittedly, I am an
overlapper. I read fiction and non-fiction almost equally. Somehow that
has almost nothing whatsoever to do with the
rest of this article, which is about the book, Jonathan
Strange and Mr. Norrell, touted to entrance adults
the way that the HP series spellbound children.
September 16, 2004
Yucks. After taking this quiz, my spelling is not so good as I imagined. "You scored 13 out of a possible 23 Not bad at all. You have a good grasp of the language's tricksier words, and only have a few blind spots."
A bit about Jan Morris, "a master impressionist, whose instincts for a place are so sure and so well trained that she can walk around a city, taking in details and weaving them into a tapestry that seems to catch even the invisible features of her subject (what lies behind its gestures and disguises); other travellers, more haunted, carry questions, not answers or explanations, around with them wherever they go, and look to everywhere to give them some understanding, or even movement towards resolution, of the issue that is their lifelong companion."
I have one of her books checked out from the library, but haven't gotten around to reading it, as usual. Otherwise it's a dreary Thursday while we wait to feel Ivan's effects.
The week's best selling books. Yawn.
September 15, 2004
Hurrah for Judy Blume; she's receiving a National Book Award.
While constructing a marvy Amy Butler purse (I made the shoulder bag at the top, using the bottom fabric) last night cut into my reading time, I managed to begin and finish A hole in the universe late this morning. Morris is one of my favorite writers, and so I was sure to love her latest book. But, I didn't at first. The first chapter was so filled with dialogue that it put me off immediately. But, I kept reading. In the midst of it all, I kept thinking that the book was rather boring, kind of uninteresting, and it seemed to lack the characteristic Morris je ne sais quoi. It has been a while since I've read her work, and maybe the point of departure for me was that her main protagonist was male.
The thing is, I couldn't put the book down. Her writing is so seamless and her narrative so strong, that I was sucked into the story quite against my will. At 2 a.m. I thought I'd visit the bathroom and then tuck in for the night, but no, I kept reading and hour after hour clicked by until it was 5 a.m. It was very compelling. It's about a forty-something giant of a man, who has just been released from prison, where he's spent the last 25 years of his life; since he was 18. He smothered a woman, killing her and her fetus, while robbing her house. Now he's back in his family home, but his parents have died naturally and his younger, successful yet adulterous oral surgeon brother, keeps nagging him to buy a condo, move out of the neighborhood, let his brewery-owning father-in-law set him up with a good-paying job, and to date a rather annoying woman who wrote and visited him while he was incarcerated. Mostly it's about Gordon's readjustment to life outside. But, then he's never developed normally either, and is emotionally remote. And the pity is, that whenever any crime is committed in the neighborhood, the police question him first.
Yet another young-girl-turns-to-prostitution novel. I can't wait. "Very quickly she falls into an abusive relationship with an older couple, a relationship she knows is harmful to her but in spite of which—or more accurately because of which—she cannot bear to end. Soon she is in a rehabilitation center and forms a bond with a female therapist. Because of the protagonist's inability to relate to people any other way, this relationship too turns sexual."
September 14, 2004
Light and air: The photography of Bayard Wootten is a delicious distraction from what I should be reading. Bayard was a diehard pictorial photographer and North Carolinian who shot most of her photos during the early part of last century. She's best known for her photos that illustrated Cabins in the Laurel. The book is big and glossy, and the biographical section that I'm into just now is easy-peasy reading; interesting to boot. Ninety glossy pages of fine-smelling text...you know the kind of book that I'm talking about, and then 136 plates show only her finest work. She posed 'em, and liked a lot of control over her subjects, but that simply went along with the view cameras that she used. The author has just hit upon the change in her style/composition after she started using smaller 35 mm cameras in the 30s and 40s, so I'm eager to read more about that. I've always had a thing for women photographers and have read about Julia Margaret Cameron, Margaret Bourke-White, Lee Miller, and Therese Bonney, mostly. But, I'm trying to expand, broaden my knowledge of the subject.
September 13, 2004
Farming out is not the same as having something new to say:
"It's a problem that is very old in historical writing -- the atelier problem, the work that is a product not only of the author or artist but also his students and assistants," said a Brandeis University historian, David Hackett Fischer. "That sort of problem is growing, with more pressure on historians and others to be more entrepreneurial. Teams are becoming more important in every field."
Had to take a break from the dreary book that I'm not reading for pleasure. Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim was just the break that I needed. I had it read in a few short hours, and loved every bit of it. Sure, everybody believes that their family is the weirdest, but I'm glad to know that mine is not nearly as bizarre as Dave Sedaris's. Darn. He grew up in Raleigh, so it was easy, a joy in fact, to relate to. It's not all about his family though, there are bits about living in Paris with his lover, and how they fight when company's there. Lots of fun, wonderful powers of observation, and delightful writing made this loverly. Just loverly.
Also didn't get much reading done this weekend because I get carsick when I try it in a moving vehicle. I traded in my Jetta for a 2004 Passat. Hurrah. The drive to Blowing Rock was almost divine. Weather and traffic agreeable the whole time.
Americans are more interested in spending $$$ on experiences, not on durable goods. "In fact, the trend toward emotional value is exactly what psychological research would predict. Particularly as incomes rise, people find that additional experiences give them more pleasure than additional possessions."
Finally, dogs are included in historical accounts. A Dog's History of America shows "how dogs, who often "do not even appear in the indexes of early histories" of America, have contributed to the exploration, settlement and growth of the continent."
Porn stars wanting readers now. Jenna & Candida fight it out, for book sales.
Chinese Vogue rolling off the presses before you know it.
September 10, 2004
September 9, 2004
Pen Women mixing it up in the legal system; local chapters, Pen Women, as league members are called, said they were sickened and embarrassed by the lawsuit.
Yikes, Barnes & Noble has a publishing unit now.
Getting published is the easy part. It's dealing with the "disengaged and overloaded editors, about the central importance of your publicist, about the necessity of preferred placement in bookstores, about the impossibility of getting your book reviewed, about the tyranny of publishers’ catalogues and Barnes & Noble book buyers..." Another take on this article at about last night.
And, sci-fi may be beamed up, Scotty. It's all those soft sales and a creativity crisis.
From Atlantic Monthly: Interesting bit about Kerry's wife, which describes her visit to Wendy's as "a debutante at a tractor pull." ALso from AM, what to read and what not to read this month. Review/essay about the bitch in the house.
Hurricane Reporting for Journalists and Other Intrepid Types 101, thanks, Carl H.!
September 8, 2004
Still more to read about the south. Am reading the "seminal" Promise of the new south by Edward Ayers. It is dead dog boring. Okay, the first two chapters were dense and mind-numbing, but some of the later chapters aren't so bad. The problem is that the book covers the post-Reconstruction era, and so far has chronicled about a dozen years. Please, get me to the twentieth century! The chapter about the move to cities, and the once called dry goods, about local stores, have both been more interesting. While the writing in the first two chapters was average, the topics--railroads, which I can usually tolerate quite well, economics, and politics--were impossibly dry. The best part about the book is that Ayers liberally used primary sources--letters, diaries, etc.--to augment his narrative, so the reader hears diverse southern voices here and again.
September 7, 2004
Only had time to finish up Still fighting the civil war, which was interesting, and I learned a few new things, but it just fizzed out in the end. I'm overwhelmed with books to read and no time to do it in. It's so hateful when Tuesday feels like Monday.
September 3, 2004
Lo I write about reading something about the Civil War one day and the next there's something in my inbox reading What books of literary merit can you recommend about the Civil War? My answer would have to be none, really, because I haven't read any.
I sort of started reading the preface to The history of southern women's literature, a tome and a half. It is filled with essays like "Southern Women Journalists" and "Louisiana Writers of the Postbellum South," and "Women writers of the Harlem Renaissance." There are also essays written about individual writers like Mary Noailles Murfree, Zora Neale Hurston, and Sonia Sanchez. But those are just a sampling, for there are too many chapters to mention by name in this almost 700-page book.
While listening to
the last audio tape of Bryson's In
a sunburned country, I realized that I'd missed too
much of the book to really count it as something that I read. But, I'm
going to count it anyway. It was mostly charming, if a little light
on zany adventure. But he is from New Hampshire, and those folks aren't
known for zany. Or are they and I just don't know?
September 2, 2004
Started Still fighting the civil war last night. It's interesting enough, but not a subject that I'm very excited about. The writing is good and it seems to have good organization, too. The publisher's website says that the book "contemplates the roots of southern memory and explains how this memory has shaped the modern South both for good and ill."
Temperament and innate personality traits tell all: Biology sounds like destiny in Kagan's new book, The Long Shadow of Temperament.
A coup for Madame Bovary, described as the "most controlled and beautifully articulated formal masterpiece in the history of fiction."
More about Pam Anderson's book, Star.
Long lost Virginia
Woolf essay, Portrait
of a Londoner, rediscovered.
September 1, 2004
Patterns among bookbuyers show that liberals read liberal authors and conservatives read conservative authors; very little crossover at all.
for writers; they're
all doped up. That explains it.