r e a d i n g r o o m

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archives: 2006: jan feb mar apr may jun jul aug sep oct nov dec 2005: jan feb mar apr may jun jul aug sep oct nov dec : 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 feb mar apr may jun jul aug sep oct nov dec : 2001: may jun jul aug sep oct nov dec

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

Book sections @ papers
Atlanta Journal-Const.
Austin Chronicle
Boston Globe
Charlotte Observer
Chicago Sun-Times

Miami Herald
Philly Daily News
Seattle Times
SF Gate


6.29.1921 Edith Wharton first woman to win the Pulitzer
6.27 Alice McDermott
6.26 Pearl S. Buck
6.23 Alfred Kinsey
mendacious (men-DAY-shuhs) adjective

Telling lies, especially as a habit.

[From Latin mendac-, stem of mendax (lying), from mendum (fault or defect) that also gave us amend, emend, and mendicant.]

6.21 Mary McCarthy & Ian McEwan
dissemble (di-SEM-buhl) verb tr., intr.

To hide true feelings, motives, or the facts.

[By alteration of Middle English dissimulen, from Latin dissimulare, from simulare, from similis (similar).]

6.19 Tobias Wolff, Greil Marcus, & Salman Rushdie
6.18 Gail Godwin & Amy Bloom
6.17 James Weldon Johnson
6.16 Joyce Carol Oates
spondulicks also spondulix (spon-DOO-liks) noun Money; cash. [Of unknown origin.]
hubba-hubba (HUB-uh HUB-uh) interjection

Used to express approval, enthusiasm, or excitement. [Of unknown origin.]

6.14 Harriet Beecher Stowe
spruik (sprook) verb intr.

To make an elaborate speech, especially to attract customers. [Of unknown origin.]

6.12 Anne Frank, Djuna Barnes, & Brigid Brophy
6.11 William Styron
agio (AJ-ee-o) noun

1. The charge for exchanging currency.

2. The premium or percentage when paying in a foreign currency
to compensate for the exchange cost.

3. Foreign exchange business.

[From Italian agio (ease, convenience).]

peccavi (pe-KAH-vee) noun

An admission of guilt or sin.

[From Latin peccavi (I have sinned), from peccare (to err).]

oligopsony (oli-GOP-suh-nee) noun

The market condition where a few buyers control the market for a product.

[From Greek oligo- (few, little) + opsonia (purchase).]

6.9 Cole Porter
hodiernal (ho-di-ER-nuhl) adjective

Of or pertaining to the present day.

[From Latin hodiernus, from hodie (today).]

6.7 Elizabeth Bowen, Louise Erdrich, & Deborah Tannen
terete (tuh-REET, ter-EET) adjective

Smooth-surfaced, cylindrical, and tapering at the ends.

[From Latin teret-, stem of teres (round).]

6.6 Thomas Mann
6.5 Federico García Lorca & Hélène Cixous
6.3 Allen Ginsberg
6.2 Carol Shields

gamut (GAM-uht) noun

The complete range of something.


Thursday, June 29, 2005
food for thought

I read to page eighty-two and then gave up on My life in the middle ages. Really, it was my stopping place a day or two ago. Since then, my interest in other books usurped its place as number one on my queue.

The author's perspective in Food, Inc.: Mendel to Monsanto--the promises and perils of the biotech harvest is neutral, so he claims; I've not found anything to the contrary yet. He's not pro-agribusiness, nor is he an activist against GMs. First he introduced the reader to the issues regarding GMs or transgenic foods. Then, he provides the history of genetic mucking about starting with Mendel and his peas. Next, I read about the golden rice controversy, which was quite illuminating and distressful at the same time. Now I'm in the chapter on sameness which talks about how few varieties of foods are grown worldwide. Scary stuff. That's what I'll nibble on along with my lunch today.

Wednesday, June 28, 2005
slogging as reading, reading as slogging

Still slogging away at My life in the middle ages. The more time I spend in this book, I wonder why on earth I'm reading it. The obvious answer is that I can gain perspective ...a middle-aged Jewish mid-upper class male perspective on the world. I'm not sure there are any commonalities between us. Plus, I read a few sentences of a review of the book, and the guy wrote that it's a book about class disguised as a book about age, so I feel like this guy is tapping me over the shoulder the whole time I read, and I think that the potential good experience of the book is ruined. Normally I read most everything with an eye/ear/nose toward class issues. More so than class politics, I consider the book a great divide between rural and urban, which usually translates to class anyway.

The other thing is that I picked up Didion's Slouching towards Bethlehem. I read the last essay first, the one about her living in and ultimately leaving THE city, NYC. It was great. Then I slogged through first a piece of reportage on a boring little murder in California, and then...well, I remain bogged down in some kind of profile of John Wayne. The whole time there's internal monologue of "why I oughta" and "little lady," the two JW lines that somehow stuck in my craw. And maybe those aren't even his, but where did I pick them up? Yuck. I'm only reading it because Didion wrote it. I call that readerly respect, or maybe it's writerly respect: Where I read something not to my taste at all simply because I enjoy/respect the writer.

What I'm really excited about is...Back from the land: How young Americans went to nature in the 1970s and why they came back. It arrived yesterday, or two days ago: it's a ILL. And, I can't wait to start reading it.

Quinn Dalton makes a case for signed book reviews.

Tuesday, June 27, 2005
reading, spirituality, old age, & the Didion connection

To MFA or not to MFA? That is the question.

The fascinating publication history of Mein Kampf.

As I read Dispatches from a not-so-perfect life, I found it curious that Fox quoted from Joan Didion's essay "Goodbye to all that" in her seminal Slouching towards Bethlehem. It's just that a week or so ago I encountered the same quote. Kathleen Norris included it in her book, Virgin of Bennington. It's that line about "living a real life there" that rings true for writers, or maybe just women, or maybe even all people.

While in the lovely Columbia, Mo. earlier this month I browsed the aisles at 9th Street Books. Per my usual book browsing habits, I noted the titles of several books that I wanted to read but couldn't possibly purchase that day. One of those was Walking a literary labyrinth: A spirituality of reading. Prior to requesting it via ILL, I had only read its flyleaf, so I wasn't completely sure what it was about, and that's okay, because I enjoy a good surprise. Malone's writing was quite good. I especially enjoyed the personal bits about her lifelong love of reading and books. The spiritual stuff was okay at first, but it seemed that the further I read, the heavier the scripture got. Malone is an Ursuline nun. During her first two years, she was allowed to read the Bible and something else; I've forgotten what. She had to get permission from her MS to read Imitation of Christ and biographies of Christ during her third year.

What I liked most about the book were her thoughts on how reading is a meditative practice. She speaks to the popularity of book clubs as places where readers indulge in the desire for community. Interesting, in Dispatches from a not-so-perfect life Fox wrote how she found them as communities of escape; the women in her book group didn't want to read heavy feminist/motherhood tomes, but they were all for escaping via sf or other forms of fiction. Malone compares her approach to reading as all-consuming. She discussed how eating is universal; something that everybody does, and then speaks about how reading is really eating and digesting words on a page. There were wonderful and illuminating parts of the book and I feel as though I rushed through it. This books seems ripe for contemplation. But, all the talk of God and Jesus and the quoting of scriptures didn't capture my interest so much. I suppose I thought that the book would focus on the spiritual, but not so much the Christian aspects of spirituality. I thought it would be more vague, perhaps, more universal. Her recommended reading list at the end of the book is a fabulous resource that I shall, no doubt, take advantage of.

Now I'm reading something by James Atlas. It's called My life in the middle ages: A survivor's tale. It's sort of a memoir, but focuses on the author's middle years, so think of a "generational memoir." He's in his fifties and of the Sandwich Generation. The writing is good. The stories are moving, yet comical in their own bittersweet way. We'll see what comes of it.

Monday, June 26, 2005
girls, girls, girls

Back in May I read Alice Hoffman's Ice queen which was about a woman struck by lightening. This morning in Slate I read about people being struck and a gathering of over 100 folks in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. There's an international conference of lightening-strike and electric shock survivors.

Lost daughters of China was fairly interesting.The author, and her spouse, adopted an abandoned girl from China. The book details her experiences at home and abroad. This seems like a good book for potential parents of Chinese daughters to read, as you follow the author's wading through red tape and long periods of time spent waiting. But in the end, you also read about the joyful meeting of daughter and parents. And, the author provides context for the availability of all these girl children. She writes about China's one-child policy and how the culture's patriarchal bent made parents strive for sons and give up their daughters. She mentions how rapid industrialization brings rural women into the cities where they are oftentimes taken advantage of, and then end up abandoning their children.

I'm reading Dispatches from a not-so-perfect live: Or how I learned to love the house, the man, the child. Last night I finished up the section on childbirth. Fox had homebirths with both her sons, but with the second, she ended up going to the hospital after thirty-some odd hours of unproductive labor. Oh what fun. Hers is a memoir about being conflicted about motherhood and wifehood, or wifedom? She's honest about how tough things are, especially given her feminist background. Of course she focuses on gender inequality, but I'm not to that point, really, yet.

Friday, June 24, 2005
small, medium, or xl?

Does size matter? Long books seem short; short books seem long. Slim books crowd the shelves.

If there weren't already enough ways for one to self-identify, here's another: When selecting books to take on vacation, are you a Borrower, a Show-Off, a Re-Reader, a Slummer, a New Localist, or an Airport Shopper? Sadly, I'm really none of these. I usually bring at least seven--one for each day--books that I've borrowed from my public library along. My borrowing from the PL is different from the type of borrowing mentioned in the aforementioned article from the Telegraph.

So living and/or learning on the wrong side of the tracks is bad for you. I'm reading an article in Utne "Turn up the quiet," which is about noise pollution. The author cites research indicating that "grade school kids exposed to excess noise in the classroom-from nearby train tracks, for instance-have been shown to learn to read at a slower rate. Data also indicate that those who grow up in a noisy household have a harder time developing language and cognitive skills" (53).

The problem with books like Choosing civility: The twenty-five rules of considerate conduct, which the article mentions, is that only considerate people will read the book to learn how to deal with the inconsiderate when it's the noisemakers and rude people who need re-educating and who could really benefit from the book. Part of this whole tendency to make noise is that most people fear being left alone with their thoughts. In the end, the author writes that one should develop new tactics for dealing with unruly noisemakers. Instead of calling the police when your upstairs neighbor breaks into River Dance in his combat boots, he writes that we should offer to buy the offender a pair of fuzzy slippers.

There's even more interesting articles the further into Utne that I read. "The road we've taken: in a land with no speed limit on economic growth, how do we hit the brakes?" talks about housing apartheid, which reminds me of an NPR story last week concerning the median price of housing in San Diego being over 400K.

Thursday, June 23, 2005
reading for speed

Who knew that pcs and the internet could change the way people read? Some think that technology helps readers be more efficient. Snort. Who cares if readers are efficient? Oh, but I guess I'm one who believes that people read for fun. Should fun reading be efficient? Isn't the point of reading leisurely to take your time?

Wednesday, June 22, 2005
working & writing

January magazine promises new interviews with their latest incarnation.

Free time is rare this week as a plethora of social engagements sprung from nowhere. Nevertheless, I managed to read through better than half of Bookmark now: Writing in unreaderly times. I'm reviewing it for TL. I've enjoyed most of the essays. One that I finished earlier this morning is Benjamin Nugent's "Security." He writes about the importance of jobs as a central concern in the modern novel. I cannot agree more. As a culture, we are so defined by what we do, that it seems ridiculous not to make work a central part of fiction. While I read his essay, I was reminded of one of the sections of the Bret Lott book I read last week on the writer's life. I don't have book in hand to refer to, but Lott wrote about the importance of giving ones characters jobs. Early in his life, he worked as an RC Cola salesman. He gave one of his characters his old job, and his knowledge of the job invested his prose with authority. Anyway, I found it fascinating, if not serendipitous that within a week I read two writers who essentially say the same thing about occupation or work in fiction. But, that's just me.

Monday, June 20, 2005
weekend wrap up

UK library dumps rare books. Students and faculty scrounge through skips and unearth gems.

Rudyard Kipling's Kim returned to library 78 years late. The $550 late fines (accrued at 2 cents per day) were waived.

Still more about the dismal state of book reviews.

Virgin of Bennington was good. It was a combination of author memoir and a biography of her mentor. Other readers of the book called it hagiography. And, I guess that's what it is. Still, it was lovely.

Don't yet know what is next on my list of things to read this week.

Thursday, June 16, 2005
poetic revolutions

The thing that made Outlaw woman so exceptional, besides the author's skill at organizing her life story and her good writing, is that she's lived a very rich life. Unlike the spate of memoirs flooding the stores now which chronicle lives not even a quarter-lived, Dunbar-Ortiz lived and traveled in intellectual and revolutionary circles in Boston, San Francisco and LA, and New Orleans during the War Years, as she calls them. I enjoyed most of the book, but the chapter on her travels to Cuba with the Venceremos Brigade was probably my favorite. Dunbar-Ortiz searches to find her place in revolutionary movements, but eventually comes to the conclusion that most groups, particularly the feminists, were more interested in reform mainly because they were diehard capitalists. And then she attributed the failure, or fizzling out, of other movements to various causes. One is that they were not radical enough to embrace female liberation. Another is due to FBI and CIA infiltration of the groups and their push for groups to adopt violent and aggressive tactics. In the end, she wrote that the movements failed because the white male leadership could not envision alternatives to patriarchy. They wanted to keep the same privileges, but lessen some of the more disgusting manifestations like racism and violence. She says it better though "They were, after all, liberal politicians trying to devise an agenda to maintain the status quo while eradicating the ugly aspects--genocidal wars, virulent racism, overt sexism, strangling poverty. They were trying to work out the program for a more human counterrevolution."

Quite another account of some of the same years is Kathleen Norris's Virgin of Bennington. I thought the book focused on the author's four years attending Bennington College, but actually it's more about her early years as a poet. After college graduation, Norris worked at the American Academy of Poets in NYC. Much of the book details her filling, typing, and other duties there. But then also she described how she learned about the working lives of poets from Betty Kray. Then some of it is about coming of age as a woman and a poet. It's a fascinating book and may actually turn me back onto poetry, or at least renew my appreciation for it. We'll see...

Wednesday, June 15, 2005
revolutionary reading

Grotto in the news. And publishers may bypass bookstores altogether by selling their books via their websites.

Early this morning I hated to put down Outlaw woman. I'm two-thirds of the way through it, and if not for the threat of work and wont of sleep, I would have finished it. Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz was one of the founders of Cell 16/Female Liberation Front, a Boston-based female liberation group that began in the late sixties. In this memoir, she covers her movements in and out of various activist circles during the Vietnam War. Her story is fascinating. I'm so glad I'm reading it because she touches upon things that I want to learn more about; like people and places and events. She mentions the Diggers. When I went through my sixties phase, oh a dozen years ago, I read up on the counter cultural movement, but retained only the vaguest notion of the Diggers and Yippies and Weathermen. So it seems, that I may in fact try to read Peter Coyote's memoir for the third time. Needless to say, I'm anxious to return to my book. Funny, I bought Red dirt: Growing up Okie several years ago and couldn't get into it; it's the story of Roxanne's childhood, and now it seems that I should try to read it again, too.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005
nine down, more to go

Without set plans for our vacation last week, we ended up in Omaha, by way of Columbia, Missouri. Prior to the traveling, I read several books. On the road I read one book, rather, part of one book, the Singular Mark Twain, which I have not finished. Didn't stop in Hannibal to see MT's boyhood home, am saving that for the next trip. Normally reading the the car makes me car sick, but sometimes I can tolerate a few pages every hour or so. Thus, I managed to read up to about age twenty in the Samuel Clemens story.

First, because it was overdue at the public library and I'd had it two weeks without cracking its spine, I read Tipping point: How little things can make a bit difference. I wanted to see what all the flurry was about. I'm sure that when it came out in 2000, that it was a fine young thing. But mostly, as I read, I muttered "yeah, yeah, yeah, let's get on with it..." because the book reminded me of too many other things I've read recently. Gladwell wrote about the crime decrease in NYC, and attributed the decline to the police department's crack down on little crimes like graffiti and hopping subway turnstiles. But, I favor the Freakonomics theory that the criminals weren't being born thanks to Roe v. Wade. There were a few other things like that as well in the Gladwell book, so I really couldn't enjoy it. I should have read it five years ago; too much water under the bridge now. But, I like Gladwell's theory about how small efforts made big differences.

Lighthousekeeping was kind of funky. It is the story of an orphaned girl called Silver who goes to live with a lighthousekeeper when nobody else in her town wants to take her in or her little dog, either. The lighthousekeeper tells her stories; says that story telling is the only thing that we have, it's what keeps us human and keeps us real. He teaches her all the stories that he knows, and then she also picks up a few on her own. It's really sort of illogical and dreamy because the author jumps backwards and forwards in time and the point of view changes between two or three characters. It was a lovely book, though a bit confusing until I just let go of logic and reason and my need for chronology and consistency. It was beautifully written.

One of the books I thought about buying, but then found at ye olde public library was Love in the driest season: A family memoir. Written by the journalist Neely Tucker, it chronicled the story of his life in Zimbabwe. While covering African politics for the Detroit Free Press, Neely and his wife volunteered at orphanages and took in a sick baby called Chipo. They fell in love with her and began the fostering and adoption process. But, things are never simple in Zimbabwe. Most of the book focused on their difficulties with the government because Zimbabweans never understood why a white man (married to an African-American woman) would want an African child. Chipo thrives under their care, but eventually the grim political situation in Zimbabwe makes them take drastic measures to ensure that Chipo becomes their legal daughter. The peek into another culture was fascinating, but learning about the fate of orphans in the country was depressing. Most of the children are parentless and homeless because of AIDS. The orphanages don't have supplies to keep the babies fed and diapered and so the one orphanage that the Tuckers volunteered at had 18 infant deaths in one month. At least, I think this is the correct number; close anyway.

Never let me go surprised me. It was the first work of Kazuo Ishiguro that I've read. I loved how it was written and how things were left unexplained, but all the pieces came together in the end. It was eerie and fantastical, yet so real. It reminded me a bit of Katherine Dunn's Geek Love; just in the author's ability to make something so foreign and freakish into something seemingly normal. I don't want to get too much into the plot, because I'd hate to spoil this one for anyone and knowing ahead of time what the specifics are will definitely ruin the surprise. Kathy grew up at a special school in England. Much of the book includes her memories of the years she spent there. Now, she is a caregiver to a population of donors. She recently met up with two of her closest school friends and they bond and recall their youthful years under a very dark cloud that pressed down upon them presently.

I read Kite runner because it kept popping up on my radar. Normally it wouldn't appeal to me because it's about fathers and sons and relationships between men. Since I'm not any of those, I don't typically read about those experiences. Despite that, I found the book engrossing. Amir grows up in Afghanistan. He plays with his servant's son, Hassan. He leads a privileged life. He and Hassan enter a kite flying contest and Amir wins. Hassan is the best kite runner, which means that once the contest winner is determined by knocking other kites from the sky, the kite runner finds the fallen kites and wins esteem of his own. Hassan had a second sense about finding kites. They just came to him. Then there's a problem and the boys grow apart. Hassan and his father leave their masters house. Then Amir and his father leave Afghanistan for America where they rebuild their lives, yet never attain the kind of prosperity they enjoyed in their home country. Amir goes to college, marries, and has a stable life in California. One day, he receives a phone call and returns to Afghanistan to rescue Hassan's son. Ultimately it's a story of redemption, and I liked it best for that. The writing was good. I can't remember ever putting the book down.

The ending of Me & Emma was quite unexpected. If I paid closer attention while I read, I may have picked up clues far ahead of time. But, I did not. Carrie is an eight year old with a younger sister Emma. Their father died, and they live with their mother and her new husband, an abusive, alcoholic, no-good slob of a man. Still, Carrie tries to make the best of it. She plays with her friends and takes a job at the local drugstore helping out in the stock room. Then, Carrie and Emma learn that they are moving from eastern North Carolina to western North Carolina. They run away. But, the nasty step-father finds them. Carrie's circumstances worsen at the new house, although she does make a friend in the elderly neighbor who befriends her. He teaches her to shoot. He takes her to hear him play mandolin with his buddies once a week. But, he can't help her with the problems she faces at home.

Ciao, America is one of the books I ordered from my book club some time ago. I needed some kind of fun travel-ish thing after all the fiction I read. Mostly the author makes observations about how different the U.S., particularly Washington, D.C., is from Italy. He writes about air conditioning, RVs dotting the interstates, and how he cannot stand over-solicitous waiters and waitresses and then having to tip them. There's more. But overall, I'm not sure that I really enjoyed the book so much. There wasn't much of him in it. It was impersonal. He mentioned his wife once or twice, and somewhere in there the reader learns that they have a son. There were one or two sexist things that he wrote, but I cannot recall them now. Overall it was an okay reading experience, but I'm not convinced that I enjoyed the book. Or, maybe it's that I didn't get what I expected from the book.

I'm a sucker for books about writing, so when I found Bret Lott's Before we get started: A practical memoir of the writer's life at Ninth Street Bookstore in Columbia, Missouri, I bought it. After leaving it in the car for two days, I was dismayed to find that my new book had yellowed. Yuck. I enjoyed some chapters better than others. It's a lovely book; lyrically written, even. But, I fear that much of what he wrote was beyond me. It was rather philosophical and he quoted scripture often. Mostly, I liked reading what he wrote about being rejected by publishers, but his other chapters were fine as well. I've sent the book on to a friend, whom I hope will derive more from it than I did.

Then last night I started and finished Sign of the book: A Cliff Janeway Bookman novel. At first, I wasn't sure that I'd like it, despite being a sucker for the earlier books featuring the same character. Sections of the book are primarily dialogue. The exchanges weren't floating my boat. I got the impression that the bookman imagined himself some noir character out of a Sam Spade novel. So yeah, this bookman is an ex-cop. I got over all that eventually, and once immersed in the story, I actually enjoyed it. I didn't see the ending coming in this one either. I'm just dense, that's all. It's been a year or more since I read a mystery, and I'm not astute enough to pick up on things. When I'm in an intense mystery-reading mode, which probably will not happen again in my lifetime, I'm quick to figure out plot twists and denouements. The rest of the time...I'm just slow.

What to read next? I'm still working on the Katherine Anne Porter bio, the collection of Eudora Welty short stories, and the Mark Twain bio. And, I bought a used Complete stories by Flannery O'Connor (love the cover, it's peacock feathers). Strangely enough, before Oprah announced her Faulkner Summer, I thought about trying to read his novels soon since I'm sort of on a southern lit kick. But now, it's likely that I shall back far away from that notion. Anyway, most of those can wait. I'm leaning toward Outlaw woman: A memoir of the war years, 1960-1975.

Monday, June 13, 2005
short on narrative

Is this the death of book browsing? Oprah selected three Faulkner novels as summer selections for her book club. And apparently, Mississippi gains a slew of bookish tourists as well. Biographies and biographers in the news: Are they star-struck? Brazen? The scoop on Book Expo America. Readers faint at Palahniuk reading. The dark side of the publishing industry: Book Returns. Thriller writers feel like red-haired step-children of the mystery genre. Author hits the streets to hand-sell his book. Yep. The rapid MJ fan is from Tennessee, Knoxville, in fact, which only proves my belief that no good comes from Knoxville. And, here's something about big box bookstore behemoths (that could be a tongue-twister).

Nothing more until after 13 June 2005

Thursday, June 2, 2005
poets, Welty, sex radicals, lots of irony & more

There are several activities that humans engage in that turns my stomach. One in particular is miming. I don't care for whistling either, but that's another story. Lots of folks don't like mimes, but to deny your state a poet laureate because it might set a precedent for some would-be state mime to come along and demand to be the official state mime of Minnesota is faulty thinking. It's not like any of the other states that have poet laureates are beating away mimes petitioning the state for a similar position to be created for them. Minnesota's governor said this:

"Minnesota already has a state folklorist...this will lead to calls for similar positions. We could see requests for a state mime, interpretive dancer or potter."

But, it's not just the governor who is anti-poet laureate. This is probably the first article I've read about poet laureates that does not support them:

"I don't care about a poet laureate because no one else cares. Having one doesn't make anyone else buy poetry books..."
"I don't think putting anyone as titular head of anything accomplishes squat..."
"I'm leery of positions like poet laureate at the state or national level, because it runs counter to our country's egalitarian tradition and creates a kind of artificial hierarchy..."

Curiously though, at the conclusion of the article, the reader learns that Minnesota does have a state muffin; it's blueberry.

With all this talk of poet laureates, I wondered whether Tennessee had one. We do. Her name is Maggi Vaughn and she's served as PL since 1995.

I can quote Eudora Welty all day, everyday: "Writing fiction had developed in me an abiding respect for the unknown in a human lifetime and a sense of where to look for the threads, how to follow, how to connect, find in the thick of the tangle what clear line persists. The strands are all there: To the memory nothing is every really lost." (90)

The way that Welty's life was filled with letters was beautiful. Her grandmother and mother wrote one another daily, as did she and her mother when they were apart. It's sad how that, too, has passed from this world. On a carb-happier note, the key to finding an editor is having him taste your mother's waffles when he's visiting the state scouting for talent.

Last night I saw Welty in the flesh. I checked out a video featuring her and Reynolds Price. It was filmed at a writers' workshop in Asheville, NC in 1990. She was precious. So gracious and kind. She seemed like a wonderful person to know. It made me smile to watch her field questions from all the eager writer-wannabes.

Then I started Katherine Anne Porter: A Life. Thus far I've learned that Porter fictionalized her life story. She was born in Texas from modest means but constructed an elaborate facade that situated her at the center of some kind of Old South aristocracy. Very tricky, this one is. But, that makes for an interesting story, no doubt. KAP links: Handbook of Texas Online, Wikipedia entry, Papers at UM, & KAP Society.

Aaaaah, the Atlantic online. First, there's an article about infidelity and how it's not just men whose eyes, hands, and hearts roam. But, the bottom line is, according to the author, "to incorporate chemistry into our marital lives, not to snuff it out." And then five books about "endlessly inspiring, morally vacuous women." Those five are Edie Sedgwick, Kiki de Montparnasse, Marianne Faithfull, Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, and Leigh Bowery. Then, a review of the latest Nick Hornby book. It's called A long way down.

I'm reading about sex radicals; one in particular, Moses Harman. The thing that tickled my funny bone is that in 1892 he was sentenced to five years hard labor for printing a letter in his journal, the Lucifer, that included the word penis. Hard labor...penis.

Wednesday, June 1, 2005
perfect Welty Wednesday

Darn. I missed the symposium at Princeton's former library on the perfect little magazine.

Instead of reading more of Eudora Welty's stories, I'm reading her One writer's beginnings, which is autobiographical. This bit of her writing is lovely, and I'm enjoying every bit of it. Wonder why I can't get happy about her short stories? Sections of the book stemmed from three public lectures she gave at Harvard in 1983. They cover her childhood; how she learned to see and listen and learn. She related a bit of her personality to her approach to story-writing:

"I have always been shy physically. This in part tended to keep me from rushing into things, including relationship, headlong. Not rushing headlong, though I may have wanted to, but beginning to write stories about people, I drew near slowly; noting and guessing, apprehending, hoping, drawing my eventual conclusions out of my own heart, I did venture closer where I wanted to go. As time and my imagination led me on, I did plunge." (21-22)

And then there's something else that she wrote/said about chronology that sounded familiar, or at least that I agreed with, which is not to say that I find anything in the text disagreeable:

"The events in our lives happen in a sequence of time, but in their significance to ourselves they find their own order, a timetable not necessarily--perhaps not possibly--chronological. The time as we know it subjectively is often the chronology that stories and novels follow: It is the continuous thread of revelation." (68-69)

That said, I'm at the third section/lecture "Finding a Voice." No doubt, I'll finish the book today and then return to the short stories.

Book tours likened to Bataan Death March as they evolve from a major promo to a minor promo.






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