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r e a d i n g r o o m

chez pim
chocolate & zucchini
The food section
is my blog burning?
saute wednesday
a full belly
edible tulip

daily olive
cheese diaries

becks & posh
new south cuisine
charleston's flavors
southern u.s. cuisine

southern foodways alliance

symposium for professional food writers

Nomad chronicles
Gary's Trip
travel writers

small spiral notebook
pete's candy store reading series


darbies (DAR-bees) noun

Handcuffs; manacles.

[Shortening of Father Darby's/Derby's bands (or bonds). Apparently after the rigid terms of a 16th century English usurer of that name.]

10.28 Anne Perry
superjacent \soo-per-JAY-sunt\ adjective

: lying above or upon : overlying

10.27 Sylvia Plath, Maxine Hong Kingston, & Zadie Smith
Cyprian (SIP-ree-uhn) adjective

1. Of, or pertaining to Cyprus.

2. Lewd.


1. An native or inhabitant of Cyprus; a Cypriot.

2. A lewd person.

[From Latin Cyprius (of Cyprus), from Greek Kyprios, from Kypros (Cyprus),
birthplace of Aphrodite (also called Cypris), the goddess of love and

10.25 Anne Tyler & Pablo Picasso
sardoodledom (SAR-doo-duhl-duhm) noun

Plays having contrived melodramatic plot, concentrating excessively
on the technique to the exclusion of characterization.

[After Victorien Sardou (1831-1908), French playwright; coined by playwright and critic George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950).]

10.22 Ann Rule & Doris Lessing
10.19 Susan Straight
10.18 Terry McMillan, Wendy Wasserstein, & Rick Moody
10.16 Oscar Wilde & Eugene O'Neill
10.15 Friedrich Nietzsche
fogram or fogrum (FO-gruhm) noun

A person with old-fashioned or overly conservative attitudes.

10.14 Katha Pollitt & Katherine Mansfield
10.13 Arna Bontemps
10.12 Alice Childress
hebetudinous (heb-i-TOOD-n-uhs -TYOOD-) adjective

Dull or lethargic, especially relating to the mind.

epistemic \ep-uh-STEE-mik\ adjective

: of or relating to knowledge or knowing : cognitive

coruscate \KOR-uh-skayt\ verb

*1 : to give off or reflect light in bright beams or flashes : sparkle
2 : to be brilliant or showy in technique or style

10.9 Jill Kerr Conway
bonhomie (bon-uh-MEE) noun

Friendliness; affability; geniality.

[From French bonhomie, from bonhomme (good-natured man), from bon (good) + homme (man).]

10.7 Diane Ackerman & Sherman Alexie
armillary (AHR-muh-ler-ee, ahr-MIL-uh-ree) adjective

Of or pertaining to rings, circles, or hoops.

[From Latin armilla (bracelet, ring), from armus (shoulder).]

An armillary sphere is an ancient instrument made up of rings around a sphere, depicting the relative positions of important circles of the celestial sphere. Nowadays, they are popular as garden adornments.

calefacient (cal-uh-FAY-shunt) noun

A substance (e.g. mustard) that produces a sensation of warmth when
applied to a part of the body.

10.4 Roy Blount, Jr.
10.3 Gore Vidal
10.2 Jan Morris & Annie Leibovitz
10.1 Tim O'Brien

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, October 29, 2004
railroad savvy

No matter how hard I might try to avoid food (I don't, this is simply a device), references to it appear in my inbox seemingly without my control. Over at Identity Theory Christian Bauman chronicles his French Laundry quest. The thing about FL is that if I've heard of it, that is; someone so gastronomically isolated, then it's either over, or has become a staple of the American culinary scene.

The circus book, Circus in winter, improved the more that I read it. The last two or three chapters/stories were better developed, longer, and the writing was tighter. And perhaps by this time, having been introduced to many other characters in earlier chapters, it all came together at the end. I admire Day's approach to writing the book; it worked better than I first expected it to. The only chapter that I took issue with was one featuring a railroad clerk. The narrative explored how the railway had merged over time from a real railway whose name I've already forgotten... then it became the Chessie system, which was also real. Then, instead of calling a spade a spade, something that Really Irks Me, she used a fictitious railroad TVX or TXV. C'mon, anyone with an ounce of RR savvy knows she's talking about CSX. The other thing that irritated me was that the character identified himself as "working for the railroad for so many years." That was fine enough, except that I suppose I'm a bit of a snob when it comes to that type of work. If you work in an office, like this character did, you're a clerk. You don't "work for the railroad." You work in an office. Pushing paper. Refilling empty toilet paper rolls. Sure, there's honor in any job well done. And while I cannot romanticize actually working for the railroad as a brakeman, conductor, or engineer (and these are not the only "REAL" railroad jobs, there's also the track gangs, the car shop workers, the yard crews, etc.), essentially I feel that unless you're physically working with an engine, cars, or the cross ties themselves, then you don't work "on the railroad." There's a difference between management/desk jobs and REAL workers. However, Day's character, having clerked for the railroad, had the lingo down; it could have been better despite the references to personal leave days, hopper trains, and the selling off of TXV paraphernalia by disloyal employees. But the way this character referred to himself, the reader was easily confused into believeing that he had an important role with fictional railroad. I had to go back to the beginning to figure out what he did, exactly. And at that point, I was disappointed. This whole railroad episode tied into the story indirectly with Clerk-Man mentioning how much he loved watching the circus's Pullman cars in the yard.

Thursday, October 28, 2004
new material for foodies

New grassroots food magazine, aimed at people who are passionate about food but have fairly primitive cooking skills, Chow, makes a tidy snack of a magazine. Don't pay now; pay later (subscribe online).

Holy crap, fatman. Those are some big sticky buns in Des Moines. Midwesterners and their sweet teeth; what to do? They celebrate Sweetest Day. It's one of those holidays in which butter and icing are slathered everywhere. Pie is a favorite, too.

In looking at the Resource guide for food writers, I've decided that very few of its chapters are worthwhile. Much of the information is available online, and the information, especially the websites and periodicals that the author lists change so frequently that the format of this book is bad. It doesn't seem like something that will go through various editions and revisions. Part one is basically a compilation of lists of bibliographies, library collections, periodicals; all information that...well, okay, that a librarian can find easily, and at this point, the general public shouldn't have difficulty with either. It is handy though to have this information in one spot, but I won't attest to its overall usefulness. Part two includes aids to writing, and bits about style, etc. Most of this is general, too. Just a list of writing style manuals. There are guidelines for interviewing chefs, and for writing recipes; those two items are fairly unique. And the list of food-writing programs could be helpful. For example, I had no clue that the Greenbrier offers a symposium for professional food writers. One of the more helpful things that Allen provides in his book is a copy of his book proposal, so that all the food writing wannabees have a model to work from.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004
history belches along & odd ducks of literature

Historical writing is in trouble. There's a great divide between those ever-popular, narrative-focused "celebrity" bios, like the one of John Adams, and "academic specialists whose jargon-riddled, often dour monographs ignore the ordinary reader."

Hurrah, A slice of life: contemporary writers on food is here; waiting for me to take it home.

Still reading about the circus. Began the fourth chapter, or maybe fifth last night, but I was so tired that I read very little.

From the Washington Post: Catcher in the rye and Old man in the sea panned by critic. He says they're both aging gracelessly. Since I'm no fan of Hemmy, I must agree. And Salinger? Well, I got the book when I read it as a pre-adolescent, when I could relate. But now? Please. They are two of the most durable and beloved books in American literature and, by any reasonable critical standard, two of the worst. Rereading "The Catcher in the Rye" after all those years was almost literally a painful experience: The combination of Salinger's execrable prose and Caulfield's jejune narcissism produced effects comparable to mainlining castor oil.

Monday, October 25, 2004
eating the circus out of pink snowballs

Women who eat: A new generation on the glory of food was okay. It included recipes. Several of the essays, while grammatically well-written, were crappy in theme. I hate to be so critical, but several were boring, and others were even more boring. Two-thirds of the essays were good, solid, appealing. One of my favorites was "On the importance of having a restaurant" by Kate Sekules. Her essay was one of the perkiest; it had vigor and moved along at a lovely clip while also imparting intriguing information. Basically, she wrote that it was a good thing to have a "home" restaurant. One place that you could go to regularly where the food & service were good. "Baking boot camp" shed light on another author's experiences at a five/six day cooking class she took at CIA. Interestingly, there were several women writing about their experiences as lapsed vegetarians/vegans. I lean that direction, but know that I'll never completely cut out meat. Chicken I can leave far far behind, but bacon, filet mignon, and every kind of fish I could never do without. My main criticism of the book lies with its lack of geographically diverse authors. The majority are from New York, San Francisco, and Portland, OR, so their food experiences, while authentic in their own right, are rather exclusive and certainly don't address foodways particular to the vast midsection of our continent.

My meat preferences are not new, but after reading Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen confidential: Adventures in the culinary underbelly, I realized that they were quite okay and generally fell along appropriate lines. Other than his sometimes stiff writing, the information conveyed is quite fascinating. From the beginning, his characterization of himself as a pirate king, his kitchen as a ship, and his crew, well, as his crew, leads the reader to believe that she is in for a rollicking adventure upon the high seas. And while the book is never short on testosterone, it's not clever or witty or all fun and games, either. Tips for the culinary minded are: buy the biggest Global chef's knife you can comfortably wield (this will serve one well for comparisons inherent within the phallocentric kitchen), learn Spanish, and have a tough skin. Bourdain limns a history of his career as a chef, beginning with early experiences through his attendance at CIA and then touches on the failures of restaurants he closed as he replaced original chefs. The best part, was in one of the later chapters when he walked the reader through a typical day. What amazed me was how impersonal the book actually was. While he was candid in referring to his substance abuse, there were no anecdotes, nothing about him hitting rock-bottom, nothing humble or gracious; very little of his actual self in the book. Then suddenly he's married. His frequent references to all the sex that chefs have in the walk-ins led me to believe that somewhere in there, there would be sex, but there wasn't. Where's the lurid kitchen that he promised? His revelation that the kitchen is a male-dominated, testosterone laden environment was no surprise, as my day as a patisier apprentice clearly demonstrated, but nowhere to the extent that he illustrated. Surprisingly, Bourdain shows a different kind of kitchen in one of the latter chapters, one that isn't abrasive or oozing with machismo, though it is managed by a male chef. Also in this chapter, he presents a model of three-star chef-hood (whereas AB might be two-star; that's never revealed) that completely refutes all of the rules for success that he set down in previous chapters. The sad part is that he recognizes how dismissive he is of women and their talents in the kitchen, but he doesn't do anything to change his thinking. Shall I read another of his books? Maybe. There were a few pages that desperately needed the hand of an editor to slice and dice some sentences, but overall the writing was serviceable, though mostly lacking in vigor. What I'm really looking for is an account of a different kind of kitchen, a different kind of chef. That said, another of my favorite chapters in the book was when he wrote of his visit to Tokyo. So, I may end up looking at A cook's tour, his newest book about traveling to a dozen countries in search of strange local delicacies.

Turning my attention to fiction, I tried Sue Halpern's Book of hard things. I really wanted to like it because it's set in the mountains and deals with issues of class, but I couldn't make myself read it. I didn't have the patience for it. When I've read non-fiction heavily, sometimes I find it hard to switch back to fiction. Unfortunately, this book caught me amidst the switch-over. Maybe I'll pick it up again later. It seems like a book of great potential. Basically, it's about this mountain boy from Vermont who makes friends with an older, educated man. The man teaches the boy to love poetry and literature, and somehow, the folks in town get bent out of shape about their relationship and twist it into something that it is not.

The same was true for St. Ursula's girls against the atomic bomb. While the main character seemed charming and manic and self-absorbed like all eighteen year old girls are, the story didn't move along quickly enough. Impatience again. I want to be at the heart of the action, not reading about the weeks before it occurs. And, like the Book of hard things, this one charts the relationship between the 18 year old girl and her older, childless-by-choice-yet-married male guidance counselor.

Of all the books on my night table, it seems that Circus in winter has captured my attention. I read the first chapter and a few pages into the second last night before bed. I love stories and books about the circus/carnival. The chapters are told from the perspective of different characters. The first was about the man who bought the circus when it was failing, and then made Lima, Indiana (the author's hometown is Peru, In.) its wintering place. The second chapter is about the woman who does the rope trick. Oh, there's some technically correct name for it, but she climbs a rope, and twists on and about it in mid-air, doing all sorts of tricks and such. Actually, the review I browsed describes it as a new collection of interrelated short stories. Who would have guessed it?

Friday, October 22, 2004
reader, I ate it

Times restaurant critic becomes sub-chief book critic.

Finished As nature made him the other night. It was eye-opening. I was infuriated most of the time that I was reading it though by the terrible decisions made by physicians concerning David's case. It was an excellent book, well-crafted and researched.

Heather Skyler's Perfect age: A novel turned out really well. After trudging through the first chapter or two, I warmed up to the topic, and became invested in the character's lives. The cover drew me to the book; it's lovely, very appealing to me, and it's hands-down better than the UK cover. The book chronicles three sequential summers in the lives of Helen and her mother. Helen is a hot young fifteen year-old lifeguard at one of the casinos in Las Vegas. Her father teaches Russian history at the university, and her mother catalogs each new wrinkle every morning in a notebook she keeps in her bathrobe. The switch of perspectives was jarring at first; it occurred too soon after introducing Helen. Told mostly by Helen and her mother, the perspective is also shared between Helen's father and her boyfriend. The reader gets an almost comprehensive feel of the situation from this device. Kathy, the mother, also goes through a sexual awakening when she embarks upon an affair. The father wards off students who find him attractive. Funny, I read something the other day describing the majority of academics as passionless, and seemingly Skyler's characterization of him was apt, despite the occasional busty young thing that slipped him notes or hugged him just a smidge too long. So while the coming-of-age theme was primary, Skyler's subtleties about class were excellent; I'm not sure that someone un attuned to those details would recognize her deftness or the undercurrents of the book.

After reading the first page or two of Blue bowl, I tossed it aside. Something about the writer's style turned me off. And then after musing over the scene a bit, I recalled that the book is written by one of the many writing Minots. Now I cannot remember where I read about the strife between sibs who wrote of the family's tragedies. Three have written of the mother's death, the father's alcoholism, and their restless and downward spiraling youngest brother; their lost soul. Maybe it was the NYT. Ah, yes. Dinita Smith's bit called "The Minots, A Literary Clan Whose Stories Divide Them," clued me in to the disputes about thinly-veiled non-fiction passing as fiction.

For something completely different I read Eating my words: An appetite for life, by Mimi Sheraton. She was a food critic for the NYT for years, and also wrote for Condé Nast Traveler. I thought the book was her collected writings, but actually it was more memoir than anything. The first few chapters were marginal; though the writing was very good, the early themes didn't interest me so much. A few chapters later though, and I was engrossed. Sheraton talked about her travels to foreign countries and sampling their cuisine, her experiences as a food critic, and also as a consultant with the Four Seasons. This was a good introduction to the food criticism world. Besides learning her criteria for writing a review, the reader learned about menu psychology, and taste perception. Sheraton touched on the disappearance of local cuisines, and I wish she'd gone into greater detail about that. Another interesting aspect of her research was on institutional food; prisons, hospitals, and schools. Rather than calling it institutionalized though, she referred to it as "captive audience" feeding; that also included folks on airline flights. My curiosity is piqued. I'll have to read more. Culinary biographies; yet another area for me to explore. There are culinary historians of Chicago, and New York. There's a Selective Guide to Culinary Library Collections in Canada and the United States (.pdf). And all sorts of other interesting places to visit online in search of culinary miscellany. Leave it to the beloved, the magnificent NYPL to have the only guide to culinary research in existence on the net.

Menus. Why collect menus? Cornell has the largest collection, and it supports the curriculum by providing inspiration for design students and anthropology students (who study food habits over time, culture, and geography). It's likely that historians would find evidence of manners, mores, and food habits to strengthen their research. Sadly, the collection at Cornell focuses on fine dining establishments. What about the delicatessens and pizza joints that truly represent the culinary habits of city-dwellers?

Wednesday, October 20, 2004
hump day blues

More about the obscurity of National Book Award nominees. And, a new celebrity and pop culture magazine appearing on radar. Ha. ha.

Started Women of the left bank: Paris 1900-1940, but I won't have time to finish it, as it needs to be returned to the library today and I cannot extend my borrowing of it. I wasn't sure how I'd like it after browsing its table of contents. And, the first bit of the first chapter was all about deconstruction and etc., but the author explained it so well, that I was able to continue on. It's very academic in nature though, but seems quite thorough and I appreciate the author's objective of describing what it was like to be a woman in literary Paris during that time period; roughly the Jazz Age. I'll have to buy a copy and until then, will wait to read about Natalie Barney, Djuna Barnes, etc. Sigh. That's okay though, since I have so little time to read for pleasure this month.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004
fly away home theme

A review of two new books about bird watching: A Bird in the Bush (with a lovely cover) and How to Be a Bad Birdwatcher (clever yet simple cover).

Can't pass up this one, on the invention of the corn dog, one of my personal favorite treats.

Monday, October 18, 2004
bird calls & all

Watched Winged migration last night. Actually enjoyed the making of better than the actual thing, though the movie itself was excellent. That is, for a bird movie. Birds in the wild are great. Macaws and parrots have to be the ugliest birds alive. Oh, their plumage is divine, but their faces are wretched. There are much prettier birds out there.

Picked up Cottage for sale, must be moved: A woman moves a house to make a home last week at the public library and read it Friday night. Basically a documentary-ish memoir of a woman's experience moving a cottage to her land on Cape Cod and then connecting it to her existing home. The reader is along for all the stages of the process, from the initial walk-through where she decides on which cottage she wants, to the health department, the conservation board, the tax assessor's office, and even to a city commission meeting. The writing was not terribly warm and fuzzy. While good overall, the writer's style was somewhat remote; very matter of fact. Her observations of the natural world were great, but they seemed out of place at times. The photographs in the center of the book were helpful as well, but I wanted more. And, my main complaint about books with photos is that I want them to appear as they accompany the text; that center stuff is a dreadful bore, but cannot be helped.

I'm way behind. National Book Award finalists were announced last week, and...I guess, I just don't care. I've not read any of the fiction finalists, nor heard of them, for that matter. But that is beside the point. It's just that so much that goes in the literary world seems irrelevant; wish that wasn't so.

Three books I bought this weekend were: All the available light: A Marilyn Monroe reader, West of Then: A Mother, A Daughter, and a Journey Past Paradise, and a collection of short stories that I cannot remember at all. As a former rapid Marilyn Monroe fan, something I outgrew quickly, but left me with a plethora of MM posters, books, and other memorabilia, I had to have the book. And the second one, I'd read about somewhere; a review or something. Plus, the cover was charming and alluring as well.

Oh Lordy, there's a new Vogue Knitting International and I didn't know about it; haven't seen it in stores yet (on sale today!). The preview shows several poncho patterns; aaaaah the ubiquitous poncho. Started on a sweater from the last issue last night. It's a close-fitting wrap that I'm knitting in a teal mohair; almost the same color as the background on this page. And I've almost completed the back.

Sorry for the aside, but this is important:

It’s hard to find anyone whose life has not been touched by breast cancer. After the success of Celebrity Scarves, which benefited AIDS research, we are hard at work on a second volume dedicated to knitting for a breast-cancer cure. Already, actors David Arquette and Kristen Davis, among others, are working on their scarves (this time the theme is pink) as we join with Avon to raise both funds for and awareness of this terrible disease. But you don’t have to be a celebrity to make a difference. We know there are many of you who would relish the chance to design for this worthy cause as well, so Vogue Knitting has teamed up with Book of the Month Club to sponsor a Scarf for Breast Cancer contest for our readers. We ask that scarves incorporate at least a little pink, and we encourage you to be as creative as possible with your original design. Three Grand Prize winners and ten runners-up will be chosen.
Trisha Malcolm
Editor in Chief
Vogue Knitting magazine

Use any yarn, stitches or pattern to knit or crochet a scarf that incorporates the color pink. Scarf must be an original, unpublished design. You may enter as often as you wish. For every scarf entered, attach an envelope that includes instructions for the scarf, labels from yarn used (one label per color), your name and address. Send scarf to Crafter’s Choice/Vogue Knitting Designer Scarf Contest, 1271 Avenue of the Americas, 3rd Floor, New York, NY 10020.

All entries must be postmarked by April 15, 2005. Scarves and designs will become the property of Crafter’s Choice and Vogue Knitting and cannot be returned. Should the scarf be republished in the future, the designer will receive credit for it. Scarves will be judged on workmanship and visual appearance. Three grand-prize winners will be chosen: one for a knitted scarf, one for a crocheted scarf, and one for a mixed-medium scarf. Each grand-prize winner will be awarded yarn, books and supplies valued at $500. In addition, 10 runners-up will be chosen. Each runner-up with receive a collection of knitting books valued at $100. Selected scarves will be published and toured in popular textile museums throughout the country. The decision of the judges will be final. Winners will be notified by mail. Entry constitutes permission to use the winners’ scarves, names, hometowns, likenesses and photographs of winners and winners’ scarves for editorial and public relations purposes unless prohibited by law. Employees of SoHo Publishing Company, Crafter’s Choice and their affiliate companies, representatives, advertising promotion agencies, and their immediate families are not eligible to enter.

There. The other book I read this weekend was a collection of short stories by Ann Packer. Mendocino and other stories was brilliant as to be expected, only, I don't always get her endings. Which is lovely since I love ambiguity, but somewhat disappointing. Oh, I'm sure if I really thought about it, I could figure it out. But I really hate to have to work to get the gist of something. It's a reissue from 1994, so while not entirely new, it was new to me. The cover was lovely as well; nice color and composition.

I'm a little confused about the collection of short stories that I bought this weekend. They're by Merin Wexler, and I was able to search google to find the title by remembering from the jacket copy that her MFA is from Warren Wilson. Anyway, the collection I bought is called Save yourself: And other stories which came out this year. Then there's a collection called The porno girl: And other stories that was out last year. So the title story from the second collection is also the first story in the collection that I bought. Something is fishy. Maybe, since Save yourself is paperback and Porno girl was hardback, the former is the paperback edition of the latter. But, wouldn't they have the same title?

Speaking of WW, I have a collection of stories, Strangers and Sojourners: Stories from the Lowcountry, written by another alum of their program. Hope to get to those later this week.

And then late last night, I began As nature made him: The boy who was raised as a girl. When it was published I decided not to read it because I heard the author interviewed on Fresh Air, and figured that Terry Gross asked all the right questions, so what more would I need to know? Don't remember where or how, but I heard that the book's subject, David Reimer killed himself earlier this year.

Friday, October 15, 2004
politics & biography

Body language of the candidates: Celebrity astrologer and body language expert lets readers in on what it all means in the bedroom.

Latest from Steve Almond, spreading the Fthevote gospel. Does it mean that Election 2004 has become an online pimpfest?

Finished Challenge of Feminist Biography: Writing the lives of modern American women, and it was exactly what I hoped that it would be. Each entry began with a biographical sketch of the subject, usually some woman like Emma Goldman, Mary Heaton Vorse, and Mabel Dodge Luhan. Then the essay itself, written from first-person perspective of the biographer, delves into the hows and whys of writing biography: problems encountered with research, relationship between biographer and the subject, etc. Fabulous book. Am starting All sides of the subject: Women and biography today, which is more of the same, maybe.

Thursday, October 14, 2004
smells like mean fiction

Writers have lost their sense of smell, according to V. Vida.

Hemingway's country villa, Finca Vigia, in Cuba becomes a preservation emergency.

Distinctions between fiction, reality, and history discussed in regard to the Lunenberg Case near Richmond: On a sticky June evening in 1895 a fifty-six-year-old white woman named Lucy Jane Pollard was found murdered in her farmyard in Lunenburg County, Virginia. She had been bludgeoned to death with a meat ax. Almost $900 was missing from the house.

Started another book about feminism and biography. Not far enough along in it to comment, though it seems like an easy, yet solid read.

My photos of mini bananas didn't come out like I wanted. I had the wrong file setting selected, and so they were small shots.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004
packages all around & stewarding book reviews

Derrida is dead.

More about amazon reader's reviews of Anne Rice's book. Did I get the possessive right, or should it be readers' review? I can't seem to do that well anymore at all.

Novelists are voting for.....

Accidental documentarian: Li Tianbing, one of China's hottest photographers.

Pitching to regional magazines. What are magazines like at the local level?

Six hundred and twenty-five pages: That's Speak now against the day: The generation before the Civil Rights Movement in the South. Rarely do I read that much for fun. Parts were interesting, especially learning about homegrown radicals and activists, but southern politics, heck politics of any kind, bores me silly. Entirely too much information. Lively text and narrative though. Egerton is a fabulous writer; just wish he'd got to the heart of the matter without setting such a gigantic stage first.

Representing Lives: Women and auto/biography is a collection of essays about women's biography and autobiography. The introduction put me off because it was filled with mumbo-jumbo, gobbledygook, and all that other postmodern/poststructuralist jazz. Most of the essays, while written from a British perspective, are well done and very understandable, no Brit/American english language divide to conquer. But I'm very keen on the use of the word keen. And smelt is another favorite Brit-english word used a lot in their language but not in ours; but it didn't appear in this book, at least not yet. I have two or three chapters to read and then I shall be done.

My Labyrinth books came while I was home for a break. The dogs announced the package's arrival, but I didn't go to the door until it was time to close and lock it and head back to work. It awaits my return home. But even before that, I had two packages at work this morning. One was from UT press, and the other from La. St. Univ. Press. The former contained a book that I've already browsed with a greedy eye for women photographers of the south, A history of Tennessee arts: creating traditions, expanding horizons. The other is the new Al Gore, Sr. biography by Kyle Longley. I've had the advance uncorrected proof for months, and after reading Egerton's books, Gore the Elder seems like someone I'd like to learn more about, as well as Estes Kefauver who, in the spirit of shoving crow down somebody's throat, donned a coonskin cap in response to the defeated Memphis boss Crump's assertion Kefauver was a pet coon. Lovely. Men in politics. As book review editor of Tennessee Libraries (formerly Tennessee Librarian), I get lots of great books that I have to sit on for weeks because the periodical is so far behind in the publication of its book reviews, that there's an embargo (not the best word, but it will do) on soliciting reviews for the two dozen books in my stewardship.

Almost forgot to mention last night's purchase of a new book, "There She Is, Miss America"
The Politics of Sex, Beauty, and Race in America's Most Famous Pageant
. While I'm not a fan of pageantry, and it is not a passionate interest of mine, the contents seem provocative enough to read through for fun.

Friday, October 8, 2004
all about pie, really

If I could make one of those appropriate meeeerrrroooowww noises, such as a cat might, I would do so about Nigella Lawson's article in the NYT this week. It's about duck. She writes: Duck has a traditional affinity with orange, and you don't need to go in for fancy sauces to prove that the combination works. But what's to die for is the chocolate lime pie: By replacing the eggs in a regular Key lime pie with cream, you make a pie that doesn't have to be baked, but just whisked and put in the fridge, which makes life very much easier. And isn't that what all of us want?

Like a total retard I almost bought a book that I already own. I read one or two stories from Animal crackers back in April, while sitting at the bigboxbookstore. Decided to buy it, probably never read it all, but I swear that I did, her stories are still so alive in my mind. Perhaps I forgot to write it on my list of what I've read. Hannah Tinti's stories are so quirky yet simple and somehow they exude great depth as well. The one that I remember clearly is “Gallus Gallus,” which is about a jealous husband who does away with his wife's prized pet rooster.

Best of LA issue is out. Best Bra-Knitting Classes caught my eye. But there is so Very much more. And who could resist Best Front for A Library?

Hurrah for Cambridge. I'm visiting Boston in January, and this travel guide to its grittier side may hold all manner of interesting opportunities for diversion.

Luckily my nightmares don't include diagramming sentences; neither do my daydreams, for that matter.

Thursday, October 7, 2004
most grievously underpaid of mortals

Most books' prefaces, forewords, and acknowledgements include the writer's debt to the librarians who've made their work possible, well, at least easier. Howard H. Quint, who wrote The Forging of American Socialism: Origins of the modern movement(1953) has this to say:

Second, I with to thank the librarians. Every scholar knows that with rare exceptions librarians are the most helpful, the most resourceful, and, may I add, the most grievously underpaid of mortals. To single out any one of them for special recognition would do injustice to the many others who assisted me in the preparation of this book.

Wednesday, October 6, 2004
slight update & social reading

Much ado about the third volume of the Graham Greene biography. The family claims that Sherry's final volume is vulgar, sensational, and focused on Greene's sex life.

Allison Lightwine writes about how French men take more of an interest in her now that she's a madame.

Becoming bicoastal at heart: How to feel like a participant when you're hundreds of miles away from the big apple.

Finished Like a family, which gave excellent insight into Piedmont cotton mills up to the time of the General Strike of 1934. Lovely example of how to best use oral history.

Started It didn't happen here: Why Socialism failed in the United States, but am not sure that I will keep reading. Am almost forty pages into it, and the writing is rather stilted, but I can still make sense of most of the content; good information. I've learned that the reason, or rather, one of the theories why Socialism failed to thrive in the US, is because Americans feel that our democracy fulfills their needs for populism and egalitarianism, both tenets of socialism.

I got a couple Joan Didion books at the PL, but haven't cracked their spines yet. This bibliography, though groovy, hasn't been updated to include Fixed Ideas: America Since 9.11. I can't wait to read her thoughts on how since September 11, 2001, there has been a determined effort by the administration to promote an imperial America—a "New Unilateralism"—and how, in many parts of America, there is now a "disconnect" between the government and citizens.

It has been weeks now since I ordered Last minute knitted gifts. I am anxious for it to arrive as I have a two-year-old's birthday party to attend on Saturday and haven't slipped anything on the needles for her yet. Alas, I may break down and actually buy something toyish from a chain store for her. But I doubt that would suit neither of us in the end.

The books I ordered from Labyrinth should arrive soon. All about photography, which is an ongoing obsession of mine, they are: Elvis and Presley (ssssshhh, is a gift for someone), From Adams to Stieglitz: Pioneers of Modern Photography, and Illuminations: Women Writing on Photography from the 1850s to the Present.

Tuesday, October 5, 2004
arts coverage

Is it any surprise that Arts coverage in American newspapers is not keeping pace with growth of cultural activities across the country?

, October 4, 2004
awards, youthful musings & photography

Winners of the third annual Hurston/Wright Legacy Awards were announced this weekend. In the debut fiction category, "Purple Hibiscus," the story of a Nigerian teenager growing up in a rich and troubled family, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie; in nonfiction, "In Black and White: The Life of Sammy Davis, Jr." by Wil Haygood; and in the fiction category, "Hunting in Harlem," the tale of three ex-cons in contemporary New York, by Mat Johnson. Other nominees in debut fiction were: "A Place Between Stations" by Stephanie Allen; "Knee-Deep in Wonder" by April Reynolds; "Daughter" by Asha Bandele; "Drinking Coffee Elsewhere" by ZZ Packer; and "Getting Mother's Body" by Suzan-Lori Parks.

Meghan Daum makes oboes interesting. I finished her collection of essays, My misspent youth, last night. And they were good. There's something about her writing that I find especially appealing. The first thing I read (in the New Yorker or Harper's, I think) by her was "Carpet is mungers" about her aversion to wall-to-wall carpeting, and that intrigued me. Though it wasn't her strongest essay, it was unique in subject and approach. This collection includes a stark portrait her grief when a twenty-two year old friend dies, an explanation of oboe and "Music is my bag" culture, and a few other wonderful pieces of writing. But I think that the one that I liked best of all was the title piece, "My misspent youth," in which she chronicles why she cannot afford to live in New York anymore. Oh, and I didn't even realize that I had read her bit on polyamorous collectives at Nerve until just now. Called "Husbands and wives," it's only available to premium subscribers. Next time I visit the public library, I'll grab her fiction, Quality of life report.

Otherwise, I'm faring horribly with reading for pleasure. But, my reading-for-school is not bad at all. Like a family: the making of a Southern cotton mill world is very good. Interesting content, excellent writing, and it draws from UNC's oral history archives.

Back to Nerve however, I was browsing through Mona Kuhn's photos at the site, taken from her book, Mona Kuhn: Photographs and while the nudes are lovely, I think I prefer her subtle photos better; the ones that aren't filled with breasts and penises. Like the one of two hands pressed together and another of a woman mock-biting her shoulder. And, her black and whites are more resonant than the color shots, too.

Gourmet attempts to enter the canon of cookbooks that are not only bought but also used. That's pretty tough though. Out of three or four dozen cookbooks that I own, I only use five or six regularly to cook from.

Also finished up Light and air: The photographry of Bayard Wootten last week. The photos were lovely, the biographical text enlightenting. Bayard was "a trailblazer for women photographers in the South," though there doesn't seem to be a clear path yet for those women. Name one famous southern female photographer other than Sally Mann. It's not like southern women photographers are taking the nation by storm.

This article, "All entertainment all the time," by Mark Edmunson is excerted from his work Why read? Don't know about the book, which I should and shall read, but the article charts how the university had merged almost seamlessly with the consumer culture that exists beyond its gates. Universities were running like businesses, and very effective businesses at that. Now I knew why my students were greeting great works of mind and heart as consumer goods. They came looking for what they’d had in the past, Total Entertainment All the Time, and the university at large did all it could to maintain the flow. (Though where this allegiance to the Entertainment-Consumer Complex itself came from—that is a much larger question. It would take us into politics and economics, becoming, in time, a treatise in itself.)

Friday, October 1, 2004
the gambling wars

American Indian casinos in California 101. Fascinating article: When Californians voted, twice in the last six years, to grant Indian tribes a monopoly on Vegas-style gambling, they did so convinced that, after being subjected to institutionalized injustice and marginalization, Native Americans deserved a chance to be “self-reliant.” At least, that was how the casino legalization was pitched to the public. Few voters, if any, realized, or could know or even imagine, that they were also giving birth to the fastest-growing industry — and fastest-growing political lobby — in California, one likely to shape the state’s destiny, economy and politics for decades to come. Schwarzenegger wants a piece of the action. Labor unions want in, too. The crux is that if the tribes wish to expand their casinos, they must compromise their sovereignty. And then there's a battle between the good Indians and the bad Indians.

I want to read Out of our Minds: Learning to be Creative which posits that the key to educational reform is cultivating creativity in the classroom. "This really is a remarkable book. It does for human resources what Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring did for the environment. It makes you wonder why we insist on sustaining an education system that is narrow, partial, entirely inappropriate for the 21st century and deeply destructive of human potential when human beings have so much latent creative ability to offer. A brilliant analysis." I learned about it in an article appearing the Chronicle about establishing a creativity index for colleges and universities much like all the other ranking systems that we have: "In short, creativity has become the sine qua non of a successful America. Nurturing it is seen as an important public good, not only benefiting individuals, but contributing to the economic health and well-being of the country at large. In spite of that, creativity remains an undervalued policy goal for colleges and universities. If anything, we take it for granted that higher education fosters creativity, without evaluating whether, in fact, our campuses are truly promoting and encouraging creative work (with the exception that universities are increasingly obsessed with protecting their intellectual property and counting the number of patents, copyrights, and trademarks they have secured)."



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