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squib \SKWIB\ noun
1 a : a short humorous or satiric writing or speech
*b : a short news item; especially : filler
12.30 J. Rudyard Kipling
pinguid (PING-gwid) adjective
Fat; greasy; unctuous.
[From Latin pinguis (fat).]
12.27 Marlene Dietrich
12.25 Clara Barton
operose (OP-uh-roas) adjective
1. Tedious; diligent.
2. Requiring great effort.
Rasputin (ra-SPYOO-tin) noun
A person who holds great but corrupting influence on another.
[After Rasputin, the nickname of Grigori Yefimovich Novykh (c.1871-1916), a Siberian peasant. Rasputin gained entrance into the court of Russian Czar Nikolai II and his wife, the Czarina Alexandra, by improving the condition of their hemophiliac son. Over the years, Rasputin's influence over the Czarina, and the court, increased tremendously. He was notorious for his debauchery and was later assassinated by Russian noblemen.]
12.23 Donna Tartt
crispin (KRIS-pin) noun
[After St. Crispin, patron saint of shoemakers. He and his brother St. Crispinian were martyred as Christian missionaries. They made their living as shoemakers.]
12.19 Edith Piaf
lissotrichous (li-SO-tri-kuhs) adjective
Having straight or smooth hair
pileous (PY-lee-uhs, PIL-ee-) adjective
Covered with hair.
[From Latin pileus, from pilus (hair).]
atrichia (ay-TRIK-ee-uh) noun
Absence of hair, typically congenital. Also called atrichosis.
[From Greek a- (not) + trich- (hair).]
syllepsis \suh-LEP-sis\ noun
the use of a word to modify or govern syntactically two or more words
with only one of which it formally agrees in gender, number, or case
crinite (KRY-nyt) adjective
[From Latin crinitus, from crinis (hair). Ultimately from Indo-European root sker- (to turn or bend) that's also the fount of other words such as curve, crest, arrange, shrink, crow, and crisp.]
backwardation (BAK-wuhr-DAY-shuhn) noun
paid by the seller to the buyer for deferring delivery
[From backward, from Middle English bakwarde.]
whirligig \WER-lih-ghig\ noun
*1 : a
child's toy having a whirling motion
Danegeld (DAYN-geld) noun, also Danegelt
annual tax imposed on English landholders (c. 10-12th century)
2. Protection money, or some other coercive payment.
[From Middle English, from Dane + geld (payment, tribute), from Old English.]
contango (kuhn-TANG-goh) noun
A premium paid by the buyer to the seller for deferring payment.
[From alteration of continue or contingent.]
12.4 Rainer Maria Rilke
donnybrook \DAH-nee-brook\ noun
scry (skry) verb intr.
To predict the future by crystal-gazing.
[Shortening of descry (discover), from Middle English descrien, from Old French descrier (to call or cry out), from dis- + crier (to cry out).]
12.1 Matthew Shepard
December 29, 2004
Susan Sontag died yesterday. I still haven't seen a copy of New York Dog, but that's probably because I live far, far away from the city. Also in new and exciting periodicals, Found magazine complements the website. Interestingly, Polaroids serves as popular bookmarks and many arrived in the editor's mail as potential entries.
Not quite sure what to make of this, but it's interesting:
interview of the year
J M Coetzee: 'I regret to say that I have never heard of Kraftwerk'." From the Nobel prizewinner's Q&A with readers of a Swedih paper.
We live in the Age of Literary Journals. Hurrah. There are more than 1,000, more than at any other time in history.
Email messages deliver whodunits, in installments.
There is an International Water History Association. It came to my attention because its annual meeting is in Paris, France...in December! Wonder whether I could create a paper or presentation for it. But, December? Brrrr. Though, come to think of it, I appreciate miserable weather much more than I do songbirds and sunshine.
Taschen has a new clown book, 1000 clowns. Yeah, I wondered whether disturbing images filled its pages. Says so right on the publisher's webpage. More than I need to know: There are Eight Clown Commandments.
virgin. It was quite good. And I learned an enormous
amount about Ligurians. It's a culturally important book. Again, the
writing was good, as well. I never got bogged down in any ridiculous
language or strange sentence structure.
What bothers me about Extra virgin is that the book is rather impersonal. Hawes rarely writes with I, but usually employs we. We did this, we did that. And, it seems that she’s really a minor character in the book. She writes in depth about several of her neighbors. I feel that I know them better than I know her. Another problem is the chronology. Hawes and her sister moved to Diano San Pietro in 1983, and now as I’m in the eighteenth chapter, apparently four years have passed, but those years remain somewhat unaccounted for. The book’s strength lies in its importance as documenting a culture. The writing is good, but often I’m overwhelmed because the words on the page are so dense; I wonder what I’ve gotten myself into. Around page 140-something I thought to put it away, but that would break my rule about reading the first forty to fifty pages of a book. That’s the point when I decide not to finish something; not as far along as I am in this one. Plus, this is an ILL book, so I feel doubly pressured to read it to make it worth all the trouble the public library expended to get it for me. While it’s lovely, I keep waiting for something to happen. And, there is a drought. I’m reading about how terrible that was, and also the threat of fire on the author’s slice of land. Really, what is missing, I suppose is more of the author’s psychological state. That’s what I want to know. How has living there changed her?
Then today, I made a trip to the public library to drop off the Carl Hiaasen book that I still had not returned; Ian decided to read it. Instead of simply dropping off, I picked up at least ten books. Some of the more interesting titles are: Free culture: How big media uses technology and the law to lock down culture and control creativity; Consuming kids: The hostile takeover of childhood; Call of the mall; and Vinnie Ream: An American sculptor.
If that wasn’t enough, I traveled to Barnes & Noble to spend a giftcard. I justified my triple-digit expenditure by recalling that B&N supported the democratic party and amazon.com helped out the GOP. Here’s the list: Garden State (my favorite movie & soundtrack of the year); Quelqu‘un M’a Dit (for the Francophile in all of us); Careless love (exquisite!); Life studies: stories; A bit on the side; Easy knitted accessories; Sew easy; and Treehouses of the world.
And, a few days ago, the new Gourmet cookbook arrived in my mailbox. And speaking of new favorite cookbooks, I must say that everyone loved the grape truffles that I made from the Tyler Florence cookbook. His scone recipe is excellent as well.
Utne clued me into another potentially good book: Don’t think of an elephant: Know your values and frame your debate. Its intent seems obvious, but really, it’s a primer for progressives who want to counter conservative arguments.
What to keep was wonderful. It follows Denny over twenty-some years. Starting from 1976 the reader gains insight into Denny’s relationship with her parents and her motivations to be an actress. Then in 1990 Denny, who lives in LA and has an appointment with a director, ? Altman, has to decide what to keep from her childhood home in Columbus, Oh. as her mother packs up, sells the house, and moves to NY. By 2000, we learn that Denny moved to NY and works as a playwright. Exceptionally well-written, the characters are three-dimensional, and the themes Cline covers are timeless.
I’m sort of struggling with Extra virgin: A young woman discovers the Italian Riviera, where every month is enchanted. I returned to reading it last night during the commercials on TV. Hawes and her sister are Brits who took a job in northern Italy grafting roses. Hawes does an excellent job of describing the peculiarities of northern Italian culture and society through her interactions with the local folks. It’s a good slice of life type of book. At the point where I am in the book, she and her sister bought a rustico, a summer cottage that was once used as a temporary shelter for the landowner’s family when they came to harvest olives. She writes about the lack of indoor plumbing and having to tote her water uphill from their well which is located several terraces below the home.
December 23, 2004
The problem with this time of year is that everything else supersedes reading. While knitting last night, I watched Before Sunset. At first, it seemed super-self-conscious, but then flowed so organically that its ending surprised me. The surprise was not in its ambiguous ending, which I appreciated, but in that the physical ending of the film snuck up on me. I didn't see it coming; it could have gone on another hour or so and that would have suited me fine. The soundtrack was lovely and the characters were easy to identify with.
A new study proves what we all thought about Oprah and her book recommendations: There is a direct correlation between her personal endorsement of a title and sales of that title.
Also not news to me, there's no cultural consensus on how to lead your life anymore. Vast opportunities are great, but it's easy to feel like a deer in the headlights given such choices in the world; they bring many more shots to FUBAR your life. This article at the VV is is about debt and partners and achievement; sort of a where-are-we-know sort of thing. But federal policies fail to address the needs of all women.
Libraries have their Gloria Gaynor moment. Get your halcyon library memory grooving with this tribute to libraries as places not of dry scholarship, but living sensuality.
This is lovely as well: Veneration for libraries is as old as writing itself, for a library is more to our culture than a collection of books: it is a temple, a symbol of power, the hushed core of civilisation, the citadel of memory, with its own mystique, social and sensual as well as intellectual. Even people who never enter libraries instinctively understand their symbolic power.
January Magazine offers their Best of 2004 list. How out of it am I? I've read Zero of their fiction picks. However, I read Candyfreak; it made their non-fiction list. Looks like some great titles there, though, especially Hello, I'm Special: How Individuality Became the New Conformity and How to Be Idle. I ordered the first title, Hello, I'm Special and a companion book, The Rebel Sell: Why the Culture Can't Be Jammed. They should ship tomorrow. But they're coming from Canada. Could be next year (!) until I receive them.
Ah, another book that explores a subculture: Playing With Trains: A Passion Beyond Scale promises revelations like "Many of the top modelers have beards, which Posey believes makes them look a bit like locomotives (with cowcatchers)." It seems prefect for a public library.
It's no surprise that I didn't read any of the 10 best books of 2004 chosen by the editors at NYT.
The first few pages
to keep are engaging. Reads like a keeper to me.
Finally had a chance to read for fun. I'm a fan of Carl Hiaasen; nobody writes Florida better. But, I usually put my name on the list at the public library and wait my turn to read his new books. I've waited several months; maybe almost a year to read Skinny dip. That's not fair, nor is it right. For one thing, this is simply too long a time to wait. For two, this book reeked of stale cigarette smoke. Yech. I read several passages aloud to Ian. He liked. He asked whether I'd finish the book by noon on Sunday so that he could take it to work with him. I did finish, and he has it now. Hiaasen creates such common, quirky, and funky characters. I love them. For instance, in this book, there's a guy called Tool. Hiaasen describes him as having so much back hair that a poacher mistook him for a bear and shot him, thus lodging shot or a bullet of some sort in Tool's ass crack. But, he has his redeeming qualities. By the end of the book, he's seen the error of his racist ways. If things were only that simple in real life. Anyway, the story is about a wealthy woman, Joey, who on her second anniversary to Chaz, a ne'er do well biologist, is pushed overboard their cruise ship by Chaz. He thinks she's dead, but all these weird things start happening around his house. Like all Hiaasen books, this one is rollicking good fun. Great for planes, trains, beaches and automobiles; is you don't get carsick.
From here you can't see Paris: Seasons of a French village and its restaurant disappointed me. It's another of those American-goes-to-France-and-explores-cultural-differences-between-the-French-and-us. I've looked forward to reading it for a while, and expressly had not bought it because I try to get my tax money's worth from my public library by inundating them with ILLs. The author planned to write a behind-the-scenes account of a restaurant deep within the southwestern corner of France, but instead explored a broader topic, the village of Les Arques. From the beginning, I knew that I would struggle to read this book. The author's style didn't appeal to me. It was thick and heavy, and failed to engage me. Everything that I read doesn't have to be quirky, humorous, or adventurous. But, it does have to engage me. I suppose it was his approach as well that turned me off. He began by describing the scenery. It wasn't until several pages later that the reader learned that he came to France in whatever year for such and such. Ah, now I think I know what it was. The author kept a great distance between himself and the reader. There was very little first person. And instead of describing the townsfolk, or letting the reader glimpse the person through the author's interaction with specific people, he gave a paragraph on each person's job, beliefs, etc. I guess it was an unimaginative approach. But, I only read to about page sixteen; so it may have improved after all.
Hurrah, another seasonal quiz from the Guardian. Score your Xmas Lit knowledge. My results: You scored 10 out of a possible 15 Good try but the tinsel is looking a little tatty and your needles are starting to drop. Spruce up and give it another go.
And in other breaking news, folks in Calif. suggest that Merle Haggard should be their new poet laureate.
What I may start tonight,
if I have time between knitting and whipping up rice krispy treats,
is Rachel Cline's What
to keep: a novel. At her
site, the Salon review of her work is prominent. It reads:
another novel about parental neglect and a daughter coming to terms
with her own responsibilities to herself and others, an appraisal, naturally,
that includes her own version of motherhood.
Instead of reading books, I'm buying them left and right. I have time to point and click, but not time to entertain myself or learn anything new. Sigh. Perhaps things will be better after this nasty holiday has had its way with the world. Nasty because of everyone's expectations of gifts; I'm not knocking its other meanings so much. What I've ordered or bought in the last week: Simply felt: 20 easy and elegant designs in wool; Making leather handbags and other stylish accessories; Outlaw sea: A world of freedom, chaos, crime; Shadow divers: The True Adventure of Two Americans Who Risked Everything to Solve One of the Last Mysteries of World War II; The end of oil: On the edge of a perilous new world; Adam's curse: A future without men; Handwriting Analyst's Toolkit: Character and Personality Revealed Through Graphology; Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky; The Gourmet cookbook; Turn Your Passion Into Profits: How To Start The Business of Your Dreams; and Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam. A few are gifts; most are for me.
Dictionaries get democratized. Collins launched a Living Dictionary that provides "direct contact between the people who compile dictionaries and the end users." Log on, suggest a word, and then "wait for other logophiles to commend or berate you."
Literary tastes are relative when it comes to using bestseller lists and bowing to seasonal promotions.
I'll have a blue Christmas with my red wine, please. Book buying becomes partisan. "Does it make the decision easier for you to know that 98% of B&N's corporate political donations went to the Democrats, while 61% of Amazon's went to the Republicans?"
I've avoided reading Diane Johnson's books because they had an air of chick-lit about them. But, the interview with her in the Atlantic from 2003 interested me in her writing. She's responsible for Le Divorce, Le Mariage, and L'Affaire. Her writing is compared to Henry James, Edith Wharton, and Jane Austen. Plus, she wrote the screenplay for The Shining. How weird is that?
And, there's another great article from the Atlantic about the divide between people who shop at Wal-Mart and the Whole Foods Folks. With phrases like "emergence of these shopping paradigms," how can one resist reading the article? Additionally, there's a quiz you can take to determine which camp you fall into; if you don't already know. My answer to the statement: A few weeks ago, at the very start of the Christmas shopping season, the seemingly invincible Wal-Mart had a shocking stumble and didn't make its expected sales numbers. This news made you: was item b) Joyous. Wal-Mart is a cancer spreading across the land. Anything that slows it down should be applauded.
Couldn't resist buying two new books the other night. That's the problem with shopping for christmas presents. When I buy something for someone else, then I feel like I deserve something myself. That usually only applies with books and CDs. So I bought Ian two naval history books and picked up about four other books for myself. No, actually, i think there were five for me. Somehow this book-buying christmas thing is not working out like it should. In trying to be adult and less compulsive about my book buying, I sat down with the books and decided which ones I could live without for the time being. Usually, this means that if a book is more than two years old, then I'll just borrow it via interlibrary loan from work or from my public library. That was the case with Back to the front: An accidental historian walks the trenches of World War I. I know very little about WW I, and the premise of the book interested me, but not enough to cause me to buy it right away.
Hatless Jack: The president, the fedora, and the history of American style, was so cool. I really wanted this one, but put is aside, too. I love hats, and enjoy material history. From Amazon: The hat’s demise has over time been credited to President Kennedy, or "Hatless Jack," due to his reluctance to be photographed wearing a hat for fear it made him look old. But one president alone did not make or break a trend. In this quirky social history, Neil Steinberg traces the evolution of the hat over centuries, as a costly but necessary investment, as a symbol of social status, and masculinity, and as a global industry. The hat book reminds me of another hat book that I'll have to get, eventually: The Man In The Bowler Hat: His History and Iconography.
The third title, I've forgotten, but wrote down in my little black book that is unavailable right now.
But then, that reminds me of a book that I saw at Anthropologie (is it a sin to love a store SO much?) a few weeks ago, A Guide to Elegance: For Every Woman Who Wants to Be Well and Properly Dressed on All Occasions. It's a classic. It's author is French. What else is there to know about it? I'm sure I don't need it, really. I'll live without it, but, it would be nice to read, nonetheless.
The two books that I bought pour moi are, The mind at work: Valuing the intelligence of the American worker and Feeding a yen: Savoring local specialties, from Kansas City to Cuzco. And, I ordered three others this week. It's a sickness, I say.
Finished Two or three things I know for sure and Writing a woman's life. They were both good, but I got more from the latter and will likely purchase a copy to refer to frequently. And I restarted Woman warrior; hope to finish that tonight.
Yup, no time for reading in the evenings now. Started Appetites: Why women want by Caroline Knapp. It's mostly about her battle with anorexia, but also talks about how our culture trains women to have few wants, to make as few demands from others as possible. When that happens, then illnesses like anorexia occur. Women become promiscuous or compulsive shoppers. Knapp hasn't convinced me of her theory yet. But, I'm not sure I'll continue on in the book; it's kind of disconnected.
It's one of those weeks, the kind that my INTP personality has trouble easing away from.
The two books I bought while on vacation were: Sixty million frenchmen can't be wrong (why we love France but not the French) and Are you really going to eat that? Reflections of a culinary thrill seeker. I haven't started either of them.
The three that came while I was away are: Barefoot in Paris: Easy French food you can really make at home, An Action A Day Keeps Global Capitalism Away, and the 2004 guide to cooking schools.Common threads? France and food, though not always combined in one work.
I read about one of the actions from An Action A Day Keeps Global Capitalism Away "walking like the Buddha" in the December Utne and decided that I had to have the book. It is super cool and one of the most exciting direct action works I've happened upon in recent times. I'm making a list of people that I want to give the book to for the winter holidays.
December 3, 2004
While vacationing in Fla. last week I read five books, bought two, and found that three I had ordered prior to my trip arrived in my absence.
Michael Lee West writes comedic southern family sagas in which women are primary characters. Food and the kitchen are also frequent themes in her work, so it's no wonder that she wrote a food memoir of sorts, Consuming passions: A food obsessed life. She covers the basics of southern cuisine and offers up her family's recipes as well. One chapter discusses the importance of seasoning your iron skillets, and another includes recipes for love potions and the like. Her writing style is easy, almost colloquial, and readers will be pulled into the setting, which includes quirky aunts and other characters in her family. My only disappointment is that red velvet cake didn't rate a chapter of it's own, though she mentioned it once in a chapter on desserts. And, surprisingly, deviled eggs didn't appear, either. Otherwise, her coverage of southern comfort foods like Mayo, potato salad, fried chicken, and casseroles was right on.
Next, I read a memoir called Sickened: The memoir of a Munchausen by Proxy childhood. It was wild. Julie's weight was low at her birth because her mother was anorexic and smoke and drank. Her mother always knew something was wrong with her, and at some point Julie had to pretend to be sick to please her mother. The mental and physical abuse in the household was astonishing, and I wonder if events weren't sanitized for the public. Her Vietnam vet father basically stayed out of the mother's way and let her abuse their daughter. The book was eye-opening, and the writing was good, though it seemed that at several points in the story, the narrative bogged down a bit.
Then, on my way to the pool, I grabbed Rachel Cusk's The lucky ones: A novel. What first drew my attention the book was its cover, a pleasing image of a sofa resplendent with pillows; I'm quite shallow. As I lay by a fountain on the pool's perimeter, I decided that I didn't like the book at all and I didn't want to read it. Yet, I was too lazy to return to my villa to replace it with something else. It's more a collection of related short stories than a novel, at least, that's the way that it was conceived. The first chapter is set in a women's prison, and the character is pregnant and going into labor. Toward the end, she has a meeting with her lawyer about her appeal, but he can't come, so he sends a junior partner, Jane. In the next chapter, Jane is a peripheral character, one of several friends taking a ski trip together. That chapter focuses on a new father who has left his wife and child to join his friends on the trip. He bored me. I didn't care at all what happened to him. Surprisingly, the book improved the longer I read it and the characters grew richer and more complex.
Nowadays, I find that it's best to alternate between fiction and non-fiction. My tolerance for fiction is not a high as it used to be, but hot damn, how I love non-fiction. And, I'm terribly drawn to memoir anymore, so I approached Alice Steinbach's Educating Alice: Adventures of a curious woman with excitement. I read her previous book Without reservations: The travels of an independent woman a year or so ago, and found it to my taste. While neither are terribly exciting or adventurous, they are quite good; solid writing and narrative. Steinbach is middle-aged, though young at heart, and her choice of activities reflect her interests and abilities. And really, mine as well, despite a generation's difference in our ages. Her approach is educational, and each of her trips around the globe offers her new experiences. One of the most interesting chapters is the one about her experience attending culinary school at the Hotel Ritz in Paris. Her time in Kyoto is spent learning traditional expressions of Japanese culture. She learned to command border collies in their work with sheep and other farm animals while in Scotland. Steinbach writes about her trips to Florence, England, Havana and Prague and the lessons she learns from each.
I didn't know quite what to expect from Something from the oven: Reinventing dinner in 1950s America. The author's thesis was that the food industry plotted to replace fresh foods with frozen processed foods beginning in the 1950s. She does an excellent job of proving her point, and then she follows up by including other related chapters, though I didn't always understand their direct connection. The writing was good, and the topic was fascinating. In her concluding chapters she wrote how women were liberated from the tyranny of cooking in 1963 because that's when Betty Friedan's Feminine mystique was published. It was also the year that Julia Child began broadcasting her cooking shows on public television. Between those two events, women learned that housekeeping was unfulfilling, but also that cooking for pleasure was worthwhile and enjoyable; the food industry conspired to turn women against cooking and baking from scratch, but American women never accepted the use of mixes so much. Of course, now, in our fast-food society, it's not uncommon to find store-bought items brought to holiday parties. I'm a bit of a snob. If you don't have time to cook up something in your own kitchen, then stick to bringing the plates, napkins, and utensils. It's been my experience that that is what the men do. Somehow they believe that lugging in three two-liters of soda pop somehow, either monetarily or effort-wise, equals a marinated shrimp-kabab.
December 2, 2004
Why the Women's Review of Books folded.
Brutus 1, a computer program, generates fiction superior to that produced by humans.
It's no surprise to me that California and New York account for nearly 60 percent of the fictional settings for prime-time television shows going back to 1948.
book on Hollywood sounds interesting: Allen Scott uses the tools
The scoop on Neal Pollack's book tour.
Something about the second Lit Idol search for Britain's new crime writer.
Stacy Schiff reviews
Feast: A True Story of Food, Love, and War in the Orient
An article about Book Thing of Baltimore, an excellent idea for connecting readers with books and thus spreading love of books, for Free!
All hope is not lost after all for the independents, a Canadian bookstore owner opens a bookstore in Manhattan. Is she insane?
Should you read it or not? Books-of-the-year lists analyzed once and for all.
The so-called perks of book reviewing: Who owns review copies sent out by publishers? Aaaaah, do publishers intend for the book to be privately used, or do they expect the reviewer to donate the book to their institution?
Holidays in which we give and receive gifts are quickly approaching. Get your coffee table books ordered in time.
Douglas Rushkoff, our most prolific writer, died. But who gets all the back pay he's owed?