archives: 2006: jan
dec 2005: jan feb
: 2004: jan
feb mar apr may jun jul aug sep oct nov dec : 2003:
jan feb mar apr may jun jul aug sep oct nov dec : 2002: jan
apr may jun jul aug sep oct nov dec : 2001:
jul aug sep oct nov dec
what i read in: 2006 : 2005 : 2004 : 2003 : 2002 : 2001 : 2000 : 1999 : 1998 : 1997 : 1996
ebrious (EE-bree-uhs) adjective
1. Inclined to excessive drinking.
[From Latin ebrius (drunk). Two cousins of this word are inebriated and sobriety.]
2.25 Sister Wendy Beckett
temblor (TEM-bluhr) noun
[From Spanish temblor (trembling), from temblar (to tremble), from Vulgar Latin tremulare, from Latin tremulus (tremulous), from tremere (to tremble).]
pistolero (pist-LAY-ro) noun
A gunman; hired killer.
[From Spanish, from pistola (pistol), via German from Czech pístala (pipe, fife).]
2.22 Edna Saint Vincent Millay, Jane Auer Bowles, & Joanna Russ
mano a mano (MA-no a MA-no) plural manos a manos
In direct competition; head to head.
1. A bullfight where two matadors compete in turn, fighting several bulls.
2. A direct or face-to-face confrontation.
[From Spanish mano a mano, literally hand to hand.]
2.21 Anais Nin & Erma Bombeck
2.19 Carson McCullers & Amy Tan
2.18 Toni Morrison, Audre Lorde, & Helen Gurley Brown
misandry (MIS-an-dree) noun
muliebrity (myoo-lee-EB-ri-tee) noun
Womanly qualities; womanhood; femininity.
[From Latin muliebritas (womanhood), from muliebris (womanly), from mulier (woman).]
2.15 Susan B. Anthony
matrocliny (MA-truh-kli-nee) noun, also matricliny
Inheritance of traits primarily from the mother.
[From Latin matro- (mother) + -clino, from Greek klinein (to lean).
2.13 Elaine Pagels
2.9 Alice Walker & Amy Lowell
grisaille (gri-ZAI, ZAYL) noun
in tones of a single color, especially gray, to represent
2.8 Kate Chopin, Elizabeth Bishop, & Lisel Mueller
2.7 Charles Dickens
2.5 Margaret Millar, Susan Hill, & William S. Burroughs
2.4 Dietrich Bonhoeffer
2.3 Gertrude Stein
tribology (try-BOL-uh-jee, tri-) noun
study of interacting surfaces in relative motion and associated
[From Greek tribos (rubbing), from tribein (to rub).]
2.1 Langston Hughes & Reynolds Price
February 28, 2005
Finished Prep. The ending was realistic. I recall at least one epiphany. What I didn't like was the catching up in the last few pages. The narrator tells what happened to her friends. But, I can't remember whether she told anything about herself; how she turned out and all. Anyway, it remains the most excellent work of fiction I've read all year.
Reading Serpent & the spirit was for work, but I don't know best how to describe the project that I read it for. The book recounts the events of 1991 or 1992 wherein a Holiness preacher from Alabama was sentenced for ninety-nine years for attempting to murder his wife by making her stick her hand into a box filled with rattlesnakes. The chapters are basically monologues, so the author's voice exists in the book only in the preface and the conclusion. He starts with Darlene Summerford's perspective, and then we hear from Glenn, the preacher. And from his sons, his parishioners, etc. After reading the book, I'm convinced that he's not guilty and shouldn't be in prison.
Yesterday I started Hello I'm special: How individuality became the new conformity. The title appealed to me because I think that there's an awful lot of conformity that one must suck up in order to belong to various subcultures. It's really too much work to be a goth or a tattooed-maven or a pierced person. But then again, to belong to the bimbo subculture, you've got to adopt this perfect body, which is yet another way of conforming. How boring. But, really, the author says that we're all conformists because we all believe that we're special, that we're individuals. Somehow we've absorbed via pop culture that everybody can be a star, when that's just not true. Believing that one is truly unique and that ones talents are marketable is simply a load of bunk we're all fed so that we won't question the system. We're so busy thinking about ourselves and our "Creativity," that we act like sheep; all trying for the same way of being noticed instead of analyzing the systems that control us. The author gives this great example of one man who is an accountant and a deacon at church. Pretty boring, but in his free time, he's an Elvis impersonator. Without this outlet, he's just another unremarkable man, right? The author also wrote about how we teach children that the answer to all their problems is self-esteem. If they have self-esteem, they can accomplish anything. He says that this sets them up for disappointment because they only thing that they value, the only thing that they want to be, are celebrities. Hollywood is a closed system, and millions of wannabees waste their lives hoping for a big break. The book is quite provocative and while it sheds light on all sorts of insidious cultural forces, I hope that it does not disappoint in the end. I hope that it offers suggestions for counteracting these forces.
A few days ago, I read a blurb about a new book, Prep. Now, I can't recall where I read it, but it compared this book to ...maybe Salinger? It's terrible that my retention is so horrible. The first thing I did was check to see whether any libraries in my immediate region owned it, or had it on order. No. A big No. Then yesterday I went to B&N to buy a birthday book for my favorite newly-nine year old girl. I picked out the Westing game, one of my childhood favorites. But, I'm not a kiddie lit specialist, so the book could be beyond her reading level, though I recall reading it before age ten. Besides the Westing game, I got her a $20 gift certificate so that she and her mom can pick out something else, maybe something more on her age level. My other idea was to get the Madeleine L'engle series for her. I almost did, but again was stopped by whether she reads at that level. And, I didn't know whether she and her mom had already read them; they're working through the Narnia Chronicles currently. First thing when I walked through the door, I saw that B&N has Prep on display, front and center. I picked it up and carried it through the store with me. Also picked up the new Mary McGarry Morris book, though I'm sure my public library will get it eventually.(I hate to wait. And, I really hate to get nasty about it, but it's rare that they ever buy the books that I want to read. Usually one of the other libraries in a neighboring city will purchase the thing and then I have to wait at least six months until they decide it's not new any longer and can circulate outside it's home library) I wrote down titles of several books that interested me. Obviously, I couldn't buy all five of them: We are all fine here, Effects of light, Me & Emma, This life she's chosen, and Calamity & other stories.
Anyway, Prep is excellent; the best fiction I've read all year, which isn't as much of a compliment as it normally would be since I've only read two other works of fiction thus far. But, it's likely that it will remain one of my favorites this year. It chronicles Lee Fiora's, an Indiana native, four years at a boarding school near Boston. As a scholarship student, she's very different from her classmates. The writing is wonderful. I didn't want to put the book down last night, and read three-fourths of it, but decided that I had to get at least four or five hours of sleep since I had to be at work today and function at some minimal level. The only thing that bothers me are some of the racial remarks, or observations, that Lee makes. They seem out of character. Like, what does a thirteen or fourteen year old from Indiana know about ethnic groups, since Indiana is so homogenous? I wondered about the origins of her racial attitudes. Did she pick them up at Ault? And, also, some of her knowledge seemed dicey. Or maybe not. She criticizes an intern at the school, a woman from Iowa who teaches her English class, for not knowing the code at the school. Like what to wear, what jokes to make, etc. But then, I suppose if you're in that environment, you pick up fairly quick on those things. Can't wait to finish it.
Somewhere, somehow, I came to learn of Carolyn Bly's book The Passionate, Accurate Story. I'm not sure that it's doing anything for me. I'm reading its introduction, and instead of being introduced to the book's thesis, I feel as though I've been dropped into the middle of something very alien. But, I'll keep reading, at least for another few pages, to see whether I'll find it worthwhile or not. Her website describes the book as emphasizing "how writing helps self-knowledge and how we use self-knowledge to intensify our writing."
The Francine Pascal book was about what I expected. It turned out to be a time traveling book though, so that made it slightly more interesting. Funny, I wonder whether I read it when I was a pre-teen, and just don't remember it. Hangin' out with Cici was published in 1977. I started the follow-up. It came out two years later and is called My first love and other disasters. The same character is in this one, too.
The Tharp book is still excellent. I've got another hour or two of reading to do in it. But, one of the best things she wrote is about assumptions. While talking about creative ruts, number three on her list of how to get out of a rut is to challenge assumptions. Throughout the book she gives examples from history that are pertinent to what topic she discusses. So in this instance, she talks about Thomas Edison and how since he didn't have formal education, he had few assumptions. He hadn't been taught what he could and could not do. His possibilities weren't so limited. Here's the part that I liked:
"Before Edison hired a research assistant, he would invite the candidate over to his lab for a bowl of soup; if the candidate seasoned the soup before tasting it, Edison would not hire the individual. He did not want people who had built up so many assumptions into their daily lives that they assumed the soup wasn't properly seasoned. He wanted fresh minds that would make no assumptions, with an openness that allows ideas to wander in."
A couple other things that I noted were that she said that what you are today and what you will be in five years depends on two things: the people you meet and the books you read. Plus, she's a great advocate for reading. She talks about "reading fat," and that's not something I've heard of or do. In "reading fat" she means that when she's reading The Great Gatsby, she reads related texts as well; like a biography of Fitzgerald and/or his letters. She called it "a compulsive way to read."
Still reading the Tharp book. Started a book about slavery in the mountain south, yet I cannot recall it's name. Something like Slavery in the Mountain South to be sure. It's by Wilma Dunaway. I can remember that much at least. Frankly, it made me want to turn out the light and go to bed earlier than I planned last night. The first few chapters are all about percentages and fractions and a bit of demography; all of that made for difficult reading. Lordy, it's dense. When the narrative paragraphs occur, it's a joyous occasion. And, that's also when I feel as though I'm learning something.
It's a shame that I was assigned to read only two essays from Transnational West Virginia: Ethnic communities and economic change, 1840-1940. The essay topics are interesting, perhaps I will read through the text in the future.
Last night I read the first three or four chapters of Twyla Tharp's book on creativity.The creative habit: learn it and use it for life a practical guide is easy to read by virtue of the text's double-spacing and large fonts, but also the writing is clear. She talks about ways to subtract things from you life so that you're more receptive, a vessel, if you will, for creativity. Looks like I'm primed for it. She suggests limiting movies, cutting down on distractions by Not multitasking, living without anything to do with numbers, and getting rid of background noise. Anyway, it's inspiring and motivational. I suppose those are the same things. Tharp talks about ritual and its importance in our lives. Her ritual is taking a cab every morning to the gym. It's not going to the gym for two hours, but the cab ride itself. it helps her prepare herself for her workout. Perhaps I need more meaningful rituals in my mornings, which if I had my way, would not begin until at least ten or eleven. Alas, I am forced into an 8-4:30 work-schedule each day.
Oh my gosh. I almost forgot. Proust was in the news, or rather, in Time (the current issue, 21 February 2005 volume 165 no. 8). Keanu Reeves is reading Proust; and is up to volume IV or something. I know nothing about Proust only that it's difficult reading. Upon further investigation, I learned that "Proust is generally considered a pioneer of the modern novel."
And the winner of the title "Most romantic book of all time" is...Pride and Prejudice. I'm not a huge Jane Austen fan. I read P&P when I was thirteen; probably should read it again to gain "adult appreciation" of it. I recall finding its language quite a barrier to my comprehension of its plot.
The dear, sweet author of Candyfreak, one of my personal favorite writers, Steve Almond, writes about expressing his political views throughout the book at Moby Lives.
Here a book club, there a book club, everywhere a book club....The gist of the story at the Guardian is that "What is clear is that the book club is now a near-ubiquitous feature of bourgeois life. If you are not in one, you will know someone who is." But there's more to it than just reading. Besides taking back the book from crusty academics, the book club is about connecting with others who are like ourselves.
I read another memoir about moving to the Mediterranean and renovating a ramshackle home. Olive Farm: A Memoir of Life, Love and Olive Oil in Southern France by Carol Drinkwater was actually quite good. I appreciated her observation about the natural world. The stories she shared about her life outside Cannes were entertaining and written so well that I almost felt as though I was there. Her writing wasn't as dry as I sometimes find British prose. And, she didn't use smelt one time; what a disappointment. Drinkwater and her boyfriend go halvsies on an estate in the South of France. They are both in the film industry and have to spend time away from their labor of love. But, things come together, more or less and both are set in their love nest. And, they have olives on their property, so they have that lovely experience of placing nets around olive trees and then harvesting them.
Reader, I bought it. Even though I had a few more weeks time with the Orlean book, it was recalled and I turned it in yesterday as I left work. Earlier in the day I discovered who recalled it and decided not to delay its return. At that point, I knew I liked the book enough to buy a copy. And, I tracked down the Orchid thief in my library and checked it out so that I could possibly finish one Orlean book and dive straight into another. And then two other books I checked out were: Fashion under the occupation and The fashionable mind: Reflections on fashion 1970-1981. Methinks it's a bit redundant to use the same word in a title and subtitle.
I didn't get out of B&N so easily though. I found another travel book that appealed to me: Our hearts were young and gay. Its a memoir/travelogue written by Cornelia Otis Skinner and Emily Kimbrough. They toured Europe in the 1920s and lived through scads of adventures.It was made into a movie in 1944.
I'm done with Free culture. I'm disheartened at the state of intellectual property rights now. Lessig offered five suggestions in his afterword: (1) more formalities for registering copyright, (2) shorter copyright terms, (3) free use vs. fair use, (4) liberate music via p2p file-sharing, and (5) fire lots of lawyers.
A story at Slate sort of reviews the new Anna Wintour bio. The article is more about Wintour than the book, though it's possible the writer learned the info in her story from the book.
All hail Susan Orlean. I started My kind of place: Travel stories from a women who's been everywhere last night (but haven't finished the other books that I'm reading, so I'm flipping and flopping back and forth between several at one time). I love her writing. It's fresh and energetic and she makes any topic interesting. The first story was about the National Taxidermy Contest that happens every two years in Indiana or Illinois. While I have only a passing fascination with taxidermy, her story made me consider the artistry behind the mounting and stuffing of animals. And, I learned something new to boot: Body parts like ears, eyes, noses, lips, and tongues, that can't be preserved, are bought or home-made. Then I read about Midland, Tex., where that Bush man spent some time. It seemed like a creepy place. And then I read about children's pageants in Alabama. Yeah, that wasn't terribly interesting to me, but her writing was amazing. Her opening sentences are brilliant. Besides it's content, this book is valuable for the study of writing. Her manipulation and arrangement of words on the page, and ideas in the structure is truly wonderful. It's rare that I click with a writer and now I regret not having discovered her prior to this book. Oh, when I directed the Unicoi County Public Library I ordered Orchid Thief for our collection, but didn't read it myself. Another thing about Orlean is that she has a welsh springer spaniel. I have an english springer spaniel. Are there other parallels?
February 9, 2005
This boing boing story is tangentially related to what I'm still reading, Free culture: Chicago tax-payers spent $270 million on a sculpture that they aren't allowed to photograph because the sculpture is a copyrighted work. "Chicago is spending even more money policing Chicagoans who try to photograph it and make a record of what their tax-dollars bought." This is seriously out of hand.
The San Francisco Gate follows up on the freak-inspired Quill Awards. That article references something called the First Annual TMN Tournament of Books Champion, which is likely even wackier. The action is....um....there.
Instead of reading in my book like a good little reader, I spent 2 or 3 hours online playing bookworm. It's a lame game, but I'm not difficult to entertain.
A slow literary news day. The Guardian reports that the BBC's bookclub is that much closer to launching their program. They've culled their list of three hundred book titles down to a manageable twenty-four. And they are:
The most interesting thing about this list is that my dental hygienist told me about the Kite Runner this afternoon. After the dentist finished grinding and bonding my chipped tooth, she caught me on my way out and asked what I'd read lately that was good. I couldn't tell her anything. She reads fiction, and I've been into non-fiction lately. But, I read more of Free culture while in the dentist's slung-back chair. My favorite quote from the book thus far is on page eighty-four, "ideas released to the world are free." And then about Jack Valenti, only the third president of the Motion Picture Association of America, Lessig wrote: "As a Texan, Valenti has mastered the single most important political skill of a Southerner--the ability to appear simple and slow while hiding a lightning-fast intellect." Aw shucks, folks.
Times has a crazy story about the Cadillac of reading programs
that the Los Angeles Unified School District spent $50 million on. It
didn't work. I'm no neo-luddite, but in the case of reading, if it ain't
broke, don't fix it. Children learn to read from books. Not computers.
To follow up on children's ability to read, the
Guardian published a story about how rich kids read better
than poor ones. In fact, "the effects of an earned family
income on a pre-school child's educational attainment from their parents'
occupational status, education level and home environment, and have
found that it has a profound effect."
Aha, something in the news, a book review, actually, that follows up on Lessig's ideas in Free culture. This new book is called Brand name bullies: The quest to own and control culture. And it gives the example of the phrase "I have a dream" from MLK's stirring speech. Seemingly, the speech belongs to us all, but if you want to use the phrase, or any part of his speech on a product like a t-shirt, coffee mug, or apron, you must get permission from Coretta Scott King. And you have to pay. This new book discusses the same process by which the creativity of one generation builds from ideas of the previous one: "Every work of art builds on what has gone before, using ideas and images that entered the public domain long ago. For instance, T.S. Eliot plucked passages from Dante for his great poetry and Marcel Duchamp stuck a mustache on the Mona Lisa for a telling satire."
Over the weekend I finished Devil in the details: Scenes from an obsessive compulsive girlhood.Yeah yeah, so the cover is what appealed to me first. And then I figured that reading about a OCD girlhood would be interesting. It was. No doubt about it. Traig's writing is wonderful. I enjoy her sense of humor and ability to make such a serious disorder lighthearted. She had scrupulosity, a religious obsession and/or compulsion that drove her to wash her hands all the time and be overly concerned with purification. I didn't read the flyleaf, so I new nothing other than information in the title. I assumed she was Christian because those people have a proclivity for overdoing things. I was shocked that she is Jewish. But, apparently Traig fed on the multiple laws of Judaism and her disorder exploded within its strictures. The other thing I liked is how she juxtaposed she and her sister's personalities.The cultural bits from the late 70s and early 80s were charming as well and called to mind memories from my own childhood.
Last night I started The man who ate everything .I finished the first chapter. Or maybe it was the introduction. Anyway, it introduces a collection of Jeffery Steingarten's monthly Vogue columns about food. I wonder if this is a good one to read straight through or if it's better served in small snack-like bits.
Some weeks I'm bored with literary news. Like this week. So yeah, evolution disappears from classrooms, a book sends readers on a treasure hunt, book reviews are misleading, and then there's that damned machine that learns by reading. Nothing scintillating, or trashy at all.
I'm reading another alarming book, Free culture: How big media uses technology and the law to lock down culture and control creativity. Lessig believes that the Internet affects everyone even if they don't use it. And this is because companies are so alert to copyright infringement or "fair use" or threats to their intellectual property online that they influence laws that affect creativity in the "real world." Lessig gives the example of public domain and how Walt Disney used Grimm's fairy tales, which were public domain, and borrowed from other cultural manifestations which he then cobbled together into his cartoons and films. While this was perfectly legal then, it isn't now. In 1978 copyright was extended to 75 years, when it used to be 30 years. Thus, we have much less public domain work to borrow or build upon. Apparently western culture in general and american culture specifically has a long tradition of taking ideas or things and manipulating them to improve or alter them into something else. The news is filled with people who sue authors for stealing their work, or believe that someone made millions by selling derivative work. Early on Lessig convinced me of his argument because he draws from history to show how this process has evolved and how corporations have stanched creativity by claiming their intellectual property rights over ideas, processes, etc. His argument centers around two ideas: Piracy and Property. Maybe I should stop reading though, because I become more and more convinced that corporations are pure evil. I never thought they were that benevolent, but I didn't consider their reach into the lives of americans. Others are so bothered by information reveled in Lessig's book that there's an international student movement for free culture at Swarthmore.
How could I not be aware of Bookforum?
February 2, 2005
The last two evenings I've been reading Consuming kids: The hostile takeover of childhood, and it's wonderful. It's everything that I hoped that the Call of the mall would be and more. Consuming is written by a developmental psychologist and each chapter takes the reader through different ways that the media and corporations market their products to children. It's quite scary to think about how much children need to be protected from; overwhelming, really. Without extreme diligence, one could raise a monster. One of the main goals of advertisers is to create stress in the parent/child relationship by teaching children to whine until their parents acquiesce and buy the toy or sugary cereal that they've been manipulated into wanting. Linn, a progressive, finds herself in strange company on the issue of sex and violence being marketed to kids. And, she believes that freedom of speech is not the same as freedom of advertising. Basically, she talks about how television is a terrible way for children to spend their time and that children under two should not watch any television at all. Watching too much television and playing video games lessens children's innate creativity and ability to play. This is such a fascinating book, and I don't have children or particularly like them; though individual children hold special places in my heart.