what i read in...

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what i read in: 2006 : 2005 : 2004 : 2003 : 2002 : 2001 : 2000 : 1999 : 1998 : 1997 : 1996

animadvert (an-uh-mad-VURT) verb intr.

To comment critically (upon) or to express criticism.

[From Latin animadvertere (to turn the mind to), from animus (mind)
+ advertere (to turn).]

4.28 Harper Lee & Diane Johnson

perpend (pur-PEND) verb tr. and intr.

To reflect upon; to consider; to ponder.

[From Latin perpendere (to weigh thoroughly), from per- (thoroughly) + pendere (to weigh), ultimately from Indo-European root (s)pen- (to draw, to spin) that is also the source of pendulum, spider, pound, pansy, pendant, ponder, appendix, penthouse, depend, and spontaneous.]

4.26 Ma Rainey & Anita Loos
4.25 Padgett Powell

temporize also temporise (TEM-puh-ryz) verb tr.

To delay so as to gain time or to avoid making a decision.

[From French temporiser (to bide one's time), from Medieval Latin temporizare (to pass the time), from Latin tempor-, from tempus (time).]

4.21 Charlotte Bronte
variorum (var-ee-OR-um) adjective

1. Containing various versions (from manuscripts, earlier editions, etc.)
of a text.

2. Containing notes and commentaries by various editors and commentators.


Such a book.

[From Latin editio cum notis variorum (edition with notes of various).]

chrestomathy (kres-TOM-uh-thee) noun

1. A volume of selected literary passages, usually by one author.

2. A selection of literary passages from a foreign language,
especially one assembled for studying a language.

[From Greek chrestomatheia, from chrestos (useful) + manthanein (to learn) These two parts of the word ultimately derive from Indo-European gher- (to like or want) which gave us yearn, charisma, greedy, exhort; and
mendh- (to learn) that resulted in the terms mathematics and polymath.]

4.19 Sharon Pollock & Sarah Kemble Knight
feuilleton (FOI-i-ton) noun

1. The part of a European newspaper devoted to light literature,
criticism, and the like; also something printed in this section.

2. A novel published in installments.

3. A short literary piece

[From French, from feuillet (sheet of paper), diminutive of feuille (leaf), from Old French foille, from Latin folium (leaf). Ultimately from Indo-European root bhel- (to thrive or bloom) that gave us other descendants as flower, bleed, bless, foliage, blossom, and blade.]

4.17 Isak Dinesen & Cynthia Ozick
4.15 Bessie Smith
4.14 John Steinbeck
4.13 Eudora Welty & Alfred M. Butts (inventor of Scrabble)
4.12 National Library Workers Day, Be Big and Loud Day, & Beverly Cleary
colporteur (KAWL-por-tuhr) noun

A peddler of religious books.

4.11 Dorothy Allison & Wear Someone Else's Clothes Day
Cerberus (SUR-buh-ruhs) noun

A powerful, hostile guard.

[From Latin, from Greek Kerberos.]

4.10 Dolores Huerta, Paul Theroux, & Fantastic Fantasy Day
4.9 Rebel Against Your Past Day
dragon's teeth (DRAG-uhns teeth) noun

Seeds of discord. Usually used in the form "to sow dragon's teeth":
to take an action that leads to future conflict.

[In Greek mythology, the Phoenician prince Cadmus killed a dragon and sowed its teeth. From those teeth sprang an army of men who fought each other until only five were left.]

4.8 Barbara Kingsolver & Carmen McRae
Take a Wild Guess Day
4.7 Billie Holiday & Gabriela Mistral & No Housework Day

Minotaur (MIN-uh-tawr) noun

Someone or something monstrous, especially one that devours.

[From Latin Minotaurus, from Greek Minotauros, from Minos (a king of Crete) + tauros (bull).]

4.5 Ernestine Gilbreth Carey
4.4 Dorothea Dix & Annie Dillard
4.3 Jane Goodall
4.1 Nikolai Gogol & Anne McCaffrey

esprit d'escalier (e-SPREE des-kal-i-YE) noun, also esprit de l'escalier

Thinking of a witty remark too late; hindsight wit or afterwit.
Also such a remark.

[From French esprit de l'escalier, from esprit (wit) + escalier (stairs).



Wednesday, April 27, 2005
trip to a bookstore

I couldn't wait. I ran right out after work yesterday and bought Freakonomics. Amazon listed it's publication date as 1 May 2005. But, the author's website said something about the middle of April. I took my chances and scouted BAM for it. Couldn't find it. I asked for help from the guy working the info desk. He led me back to where I initially looked for the book. He didn't find it but said that he's seen it; that he knows they've had copies of it. Fortunately, I slowed as I approached the travel section, and just before I arrived at that section, I noticed lots of business-looking books, with Trump on the cover, etc., and there was my Freakonomics. Hurrah. I was meant to have it. I found the clerk doing a price check on non-book items and told him that I found a copy. I didn't have to do that. It was more to reassure him that he knew what he was talking about; that he wasn't crazy. So while it's a nice follow-up kind of thing for me to do, the more I think about it, the more I wonder whether I should have helped him, or the next person to look for the book, at all. I'm pondering white male privilege. And this clerk was white and male. And he doesn't need my help, he's had all the opportunities in the world. Then again, he's making minimum wage at a bookstore, so maybe white male privilege doesn't take one so far as it used to. Of course, the ideal is to be white, male and super rich and then you have all the privileges your money can buy.

The travel section was frustrating. There were so many titles that I ached to buy and bring home. See, the thing is, I have all these library books checked out, but none of them appeal to me when I run my eyes along their spines desperately in search of some way to occupy my mind. But, if I had an extra $200, I could have at least a dozen new titles to overburden my sagging bookshelves. Here's the short list of what I wanted: A year in the Merde, Stone boudoir: Travels through the hidden villages of Sicily, House on dream street: Memoir of an American woman in Vietnam, Into a Paris quartier, Birdman and the lap dancer: Close encounters with strangers, Slipping into paradise: Why I live in New Zealand, Time's magpie: A walk in Prague, Duende: A journey into the heart of flamenco, Embarrassment of mangoes: A Caribbean interlude, Venetian dreaming, Somewhere in America: Under the radar with chicken warriors, left-wing patriots, angry nudists, and others, and A thousand bells at noon: A Roman's guide to the secrets and pleasures of his native city. There was one about Spain. I forgot to note its title.

I've read a few of the kinds of books this article talks about: Ones that incorporate chat and email into the narrative. I didn't care for it at all. It was jarring. Out of place. But then again, I don't usually like any kind of foreign insertion in the narrative. Sometimes recipes are okay, but I'd prefer to find them in a cookbook, not in a novel. Thus, I keep away from fiction books that include recipes And then there's the occasional letter that once character wrote to another. Not my bag, either. Anyway, the use of email messages in narrative is supposed to mimic "the world we see." Blah. I don't read any genres that rely upon these ploys. I think of them as filler. And, I have yet to hear of anything lurid in the online world that translated to anything scintillating in the real one.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005
freaks, work, & dirt

This is the second time my attention was drawn to Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything . I cannot recall the first time, but there's an article in the Atlantic that cites research contained in the book. The article gives a breakdown of boys and girls names, i.e. baby names, by the mother's income and education. These are white babies, white parents. For example, someone's first name tells me about their socioeconomic background. Obviously names like Ellie Mae and Tommy Joe Jimbob clearly indicate their birth origins as would ethnic names. White girls' whose mothers have the lowest levels of education are called: Angel, Heaven, Misty, Destiny, and Brenda.

I started two other books: The human cost of food: Farmworkers' lives, labor, and advocacy and Domesticity and dirt: Housewives and domestic servants in the UNited State, 1920-1945. Funny how my reading is almost entirely non-fiction these days. Someone asked me what good fiction I've read recently and I had to think long and hard. I answered Prep. My step-father used to complain that all I ever read was fiction. This was when I was an adolescent. Surely he'd be proud if he knew that I'd turned that trend around. He knows that I read over one hundred books each year, but its likely that he thinks its all fiction.

Human cost of food is excellent. I've read the introduction and am into the first chapter. It discusses the hidden cost of food in the U.S., the farmworkers who labor for a pittance, without benefits, and under dangerous conditions. The book is a collection of essays written by farmworker advocates.

I'm barely into Domesticity and dirt, so have little to write about it thus far.

Monday, April 25, 2005
stinky books

Finding good reading material this weekend was difficult despite the two dozen books I have checked out from two or three libraries. I started The librarian. It was disappointing. I was turned off by the narrator's stereotypical depiction of a female librarian. Interestingly, he didn't have anything negative to say about himself and he was a librarian as well. Believe me, male librarians are far more freakish than female librarians. I work with some of the most normal male librarians in the profession, but there are very odd ones out there. The story was a little slow. After male librarian fires his simpering female librarian she finds a job in a private library. Only, there's some kind of problem. She needs to take a few days off from work, but can't. She tries to find a substitute at her old library. Nobody will do it, so the guy who fired her fills in for her. Then, she never returns to the job. That's about where I stopped. The book stank. It reeked of cigarette smoke. I couldn't bear to smell it anymore. That's as good a reason as any to toss something aside.

Fortunately Learning to bow: Inside the heart of Japan did not stink. I saw this title at a bookstore a few weeks ago. After noting that its publication date was 1992, I decided not to buy it. After all, one of the libraries in the region should have a copy of something that old. They did. I read it. It was good. The author spends a year in Japan, north of Tokyo in Sano, serving in essence as the circuit-riding English teacher. He travels from classroom to classroom in the junior high school teaching "Living English." Though there are the ever-present cultural snafus, he gets along well and reports a generally positive experience.

Friday, April 22, 2005
proper pronunciation

A separate circle turned out to be a good read. I understand the issues that divided the community between Orthodox and Reform, and while it still was difficult to keep all the family stories straight, they were pretty interesting. My main interest was in the immigration patterns that brought Jews to East Tennessee. Though I'm familiar with many of the Yiddish & Hebrew words scattered in the narrative, I have no idea about pronunciation.

Most of the essays I've read from Latino workers in the contemporary south are fascinating. Only the first one way beyond me and it was about ethnicity in the world system. Lots of lingo in that essay that I did not understand. Otherwise, it seems like a strong collection. There are essays on Mexican women in Atlanta, Mexicans in Dalton, Ga., Mexicans in the N. Ga. poultry industry, etc. I'm reading the essay about the Mexican diaspora in South Florida. Diaspora is one of my favorite words these days. It's so fun to pronounce, especially since I know how to pronounce it now. It's so good to be alive and learning something new each day.

James Houston, who wrote on Inuit life, died.

Thursday, April 21, 2005
young, savvy, and litblogging

Yet another story about litblogs from VV. I didn't read it though. I wonder whether there's much new to write on the subject?

My astrologist says that my mantra for the coming week is: My job is to entertain, and not to explain.

Most new magazines fail within the first year; that's 90 percent. The NYT features several upstarts in a story called "Odds no deterrent, as many try to start magazines." Most of them are marketed to niches.

More chronicles of the young and savvy: They're abandoning newspapers! I can't blame them. My local papers are boring. I've never enjoyed touching newspapers. The print gets all over my hands; really, a vile experience.

The first chapter of A separate circle: Jewish life in Knoxville, Tennessee is okay. They first settled there in the 1850s, or 1860s. So far, its themes are scattered. Are there themes? It's just a history, but there should be a thesis. Maybe it appears later on in the text. Or by the end, I'll be able to spout off about one. The book catalogs the various businesses and homes and early settlers, but what I don't like about it is that I can't seem to connect with the stories. They're brief; over before they've started. Anyway, it's interesting to learn the details of the vibrant Jewish community. Their historic neighborhood near Vine Street fell victim to overzealous razing during the urban renewal that city underwent in the 1960s and 1970s. Most interestingly though, the founder of the NYT, one Adolph Ochs, got his start in newspapers in Knoxville.

Monday, April 18, 2005
lit news & then some reading

Where does the status of employee end and that of private citizen begin? Well, if you work for a corporation, they can prevent you from blogging, so says this article from the NYT.

Something about literary bloggers who want to "stoke interest in books." And here's another story about this story.

On the First Fiction tour, one gets a chance see and hear newbie authors "before the heavy curtain of fame descends." It's always good to think positive, but it's best not to be too smug about these things; it's kind of like stapling your foot to the bedpost before you know anything about staple guns.

Is it normal to be so disenchanted with the web and literature?

Here's a story about an author who keeps cranking them out: Alexander McCall Smith of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency that I tried to read, but couldn't appreciate. I think it's a generational thing. Plenty of women old enough to be my mother love the series.

There's a new director of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, Lan Samantha Chang.

April must be the month for something, and I'm unsure how to characterize it. April is Author month? I heard John Egerton speak in Nashville about two weeks ago, and several days ago I listened and laughed to Rick Bragg. The Egerton speech was a bit disappointing; I hoped to hear him talk about food. I know two of his works: Speak now against the day and Southern food. The first proved that there were native radical/progressives in the south prior to the Civil Rights movement and the second I've already mentioned this month, a classic in food writing, Southern food: At home, on the road, in history.

Now Rick Bragg is another story altogether. He was not disappointing. He was lively, entertaining, and I'd listen to him again in a heartbeat. I read Ava's Man when it came out, so I had a basic familiarity with his work. But when most of the audience asked him questions about All over but the shouting, which is his memoir coupled with his mother's life story, I drew a blank. I borrowed it from the public library and read it. While at the event I bought his Jessica Lynch bio and a collection of his newspaper stories: Somebody Told Me: The Newspaper Stories Of Rick Bragg.

The Lynch bio was easy to read, and since I didn't follow the story on the news, much of its information was new to me. Ian is reading it now, and he thinks he knows much of the story already because I guess he paid more attention to the news than did I. I finished it in under two hours, and Ian, whose reading isn't as fast as mine, was more than halfway though it in about two hours.

Since I finished the dual memoir of race and class in Appalachia a few days prior to reading Bragg's memoir, I noticed that the differences between the two books were immense. First, Bragg's was interesting. Next, it was humble. Third, he was connected to his family and showed love, respect, and concern for them. And last, he gets it. The men in the other book: Let's just say that I'm not convinced that either of them get anything. Their life stories were always me me me... I did this, I conquered this, I commanded this, I lead this. And they did it completely on their own, without help from anyone. It's a wonder that I'd read a man's memoir after such a bad experience with Red, white, black & blue: a dual memoir of race and class in Appalachia. But all I have to say is: Thank god for Rick Bragg.

I have one chapter to go in John Finger's Cherokee Americans: The Eastern Band of Cherokees in the twentieth century. It's a bit dry, but otherwise contains great information. It could benefit from oral history, but that's just because I like reading about real people in their own words. Who is to say that books should be written to my every preference? The other thing is that it's male-centric, which is to be expected. And, it barely touches upon the haves and have-nots. More investigation into that would make the book well-rounded; inclusive, as they say. Major themes of the book are: Citizenship and enfranchisement, allotment, joblessness, and tourism.

Thursday, April 14, 2005
why it matters

Chick lit, again? Oh, it's teen chick lit. That's enough to scare a full grown man.

I feel grumpy, which is unusual for Thursday. I didn't sleep well, and now I have a headache, and there are LOUD people talking near my office. I can still hear them through my closed door. Reading, was there reading at all last evening? No. I got sucked into the lair of the bookworm, my favorite mind-numbing internet game. However, I attained the level of Grand Archivist one time; that's the highest rank I've earned in the game. The letters that you have to get rid of quickest are J, K, V, and C. The rest is cake.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005
why it matters

Leave it to a Californian to tell us why literature and reading matters.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005
reading about workers

It's appropriate that I read about the Maya of Morganton--workers in the poultry industry--last night, as today is National Library Workers Day.But, there aren't too many similarities between the nature of work. Except, that in poultry plants, they try to get workers to do more for the same amount of money. It's called multi-tasking in libraries. One more chapter to go and I'm done. The book describes the Guatemalan work force at Case Farms in Morganton, NC. In the mid-nineties they striked for better working conditions, but didn't receive squat because the company didn't want to sit with union representatives to agree upon a contract, and eventually the union backed out because their energies were focused in other industries. The writing is reasonable, for a scholarly work. I also liked his use of oral history in the narrative, it really made the subjects come alive. And now that I know that Leon Fink is a labor historian, I'll be on the look out for his other work. After further investigation, that is, following all the Fink links, it seems that I subscribed to Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas, but that's okay. It's sure to be good reading.

Next on my list is The human cost of food: farmworkers' lives, labor, and advocacy. I started Crossing over: a Mexican family on the migrant trail yesterday at lunch, but the intro and the few pages I read from the first chapter were disappointing. The author spends a bit of time talking about himself and his experiences while researching the book. Normally I like that, but in this case, it isn't working for me. Essentially, the book is about his attempt to humanize illegal aliens who cross over from Mexico to find work in El Norte. He follows one family, the Chavezes.

Monday, April 11, 2005
the joy of assigned readings

Interestingly, on the Sunday morning news on CBS there was a story about Blink. It tops the NYT Bestseller list. Even more curious is that I found an email in my inbox indicating that someone recalled Blink. That basically means that while my loan period extends to June, that someone can recall it and then I have to return it in a few days, thus cutting my borrowing time down from several months to less than two weeks, which is the amount of time that I've had the book. I don't think it's fair. And since I don't recall books, I'm feeling pissy about the whole thing. Perhaps I shall turn into a Recall Monster and give as good as I get.

I'm reading Red, white, black & blue: a dual memoir of race and class in Appalachia. I'm not sure I'll like it; it is assigned. Two men, one black, one white, who grew up in the same WV town write their remembrances of childhood and the year that their school was integrated. Though it will likely be an okay book, the part that I'm not terribly excited about is the linguistic analysis of the two men's texts. It may not be too bad, but I'm not holding my breath.

I have plenty of other more exciting and potentially engrossing books piling in several stacks at home that I cannot wait to get to. I will be very glad when this semester ends so that I can return to rapid reading for pleasure. Still, I have the greedy book disease wherein I know that I have no extra time for reading, yet I continually check out more and more books.

Saturday, April 9, 2005

This morning I finished Blink: The power of thinking without thinking. It was interesting. It's all about how in the blink of an eye, we can completely understand the meaning of something on a subconscious level. The book is filled with examples of blinking. What disappointed me is that it didn't include a section on training your blinks in other areas. The author states that people with certain types of knowledge are excellent in those areas. But what about the rest of us?

Friday, April 8, 2005
slow to read

I've been in Nashville. Finished reading Creeker, and have many other books to read, but haven't started any.

While in the country music capital, I heard John Egerton speak. He's the author of THE southern food bible, Southern Food.

What is book busking?

Monday, April 4, 2005
drib drab

The second wave of 9/11 novels march into bookstores.

Friday, April 1, 2005
four months & a creeker

August is still four months away, but I had to see who shared my birthday. Pete Sampras and I were born the same day and year. But who else claims 2 August? Kevin Smith (of Chasing Amy fame), Mary-Louise Parker, Apollonia, Rose Tremain, Wes Craven, Peter O' Toole, Phillipa Duke Schuyler, Betsy Bloomingdale, James Baldwin, Carol O'Connor, Myrna Loy, Elisha Grey, and Pierre Charles L'Enfant, among others.

Last night I read the first chapter or two of Creeker. It's the memoir of a woman who grew up in Eastern Kentucky and then went off into the big bad world of academia, thereby loosing her Appalachian charms, so to speak. I'm reading about her childhood and her kinfolks just now, but here and there her sense of humor emerges and makes for a pleasant experience.

There are probably all sorts of thrilling new stories about literature floating around out there today, but I'm too lazy to look for them, read them, and then type bits about them here. Okay, here's one that I can't resist. Jonathan Safran Foer urged friends to buy his new book. But since writers are usually shy, retiring, and keep to themselves, does he really think that he has that many friends who will keep his latest baby at the top of the NYT bestseller list?

And, I still haven't done anything fool worthy today.





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