r e a d i n g r o o m

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

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

book sections @ papers: Atlanta Journal-Const. : Austin Chronicle : Boston Globe : Charlotte Observer : Chicago Sun-Times : Miami Herald : NYTimes : Philly Daily News : SacBee : Seattle Times : SF Gate : Guardian : Independent : The Age : NZ Herald :

misc. reading: : The Book Standard : Conversational Reading : Elegant Variation : reviews of books : Welcome to the hinterlands : Typeface : Reading matters :

etc.: Edith Wharton Society : Susan Glaspell Society :

1.30 Maud Hunt Squire & Barbara Tuchman
1.29 Thomas Paine, Edward Abbey, & Anton Chekhov

1.14 @ 7:00 p.m.
Sheila Kay Adams
JBO Storytelling Center

1.13 Elizabeth Searle, Edmund White, Carolyn Heilbrun

1.12 Edith Cooper, Jack London, & John Singer Sargent

1.9 Simone de Beauvoir & Phillipa Gregory

1.7 Elvis Presley

1.7 Zora Neale Hurston & Nicholson Baker

1.6 Joan of Arc, Carl Sandburg, Alan Watts, Khalil Gibran, & E.L. Doctorow

1.5 Umberto Eco

1.4 Jacob Grimm

1.3 JRR Tolkien

1.2 Stephen Crane & Isaac Asimov

1.1 EM Forster & Katherine Phillips



In San Antonio 20-25 2006 check back after the 26th for more

Thursday, January 19, 2006
lives and murmurs and real things

Clueless me. Yesterday I started reading Unfinished life. The beginning was too familiar. I knew I'd read it before. Apparently so, but I didn't keep on with the book. Wonder why? This time though, I read it. The story was good but the writing was basic. When I read a book I get this feeling. It usually corresponds to the book. Some books are thick and fuzzy and others are... well, I'm not sure how to describe it because I know the feeling but haven't analyzed it so much. Books create a mood from the way their words are cast out on the page and from their complexity of language. This book was simple; everything was at the surface. I hate it when words fail me. At the end I read the acknowledgements and learned there is a screenplay. A screenplay? Oh yeah, this is the Morgan Freeman, Blonde man---what's his name? Robert Redford, and Jennifer Lopez movie. I watched the trailer after finishing my reading and I never cast any of those folks in the story. The girl, Griff, is nine, but she appears to be 13-ish in the trailer. Griff and Jean, her mother, take refuge with Jean's estranged father-in-law after Jean's last boyfriend punches her in the face. Einar, the father-in-law, lives on his farm in Wyoming with his buddy Mitch. They served in Korea together. Mitch was mauled by a bear and takes daily morphine injections to deal with his pain. Einar is not happy to see Jean, who he blames for his son's death. Eventually he warms to Griff, and teaches her how to drive his pick up and ride her father's horse, Jimmy. Then there's Roy, the cast off boyfriend who followed Jean and Griff from Iowa to Wyoming because he wants Jean back. There's also the bear that mauled Mitch. The local petting zoo, who also has a snake pit containing at least 150 rattlesnakes, has a new grizzly that Einar and Mitch think is The One. Mitch asked Einar to feed it.

Started Aspects of the novel (1927) also, but it is dry reading so far. Its popped up in my reading several times as a classic writing instruction tome. I've not read any of Forester's work. Soon, I hope, I shall arrive at the meat of the book. Successfully hunted for and found the Emily Dickinson book I mentioned yesterday. It is A murmur in the trees (1998). I bought it as much for its illustrations as for its words. And then also read one or two short stories by Doris Lessing last night. They were from The real thing (1992). I think I liked them alright, I guess. Will continue on and see what they're about, but am not so sure...

Looking at photos by Marcel Theodore Anthony Bosch at Nerve. Great aesthetic, use of color, and shadow. But I also really liked David Hillard's stuff that I saw a few weeks ago.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006
something about the dog & Donovan

Holy skirts was interesting, mostly for its depiction of madness. Set in Greenwich Village during the Great War, Elsa flits about town wearing strange fashion, usually sporting postage stamps for beauty marks. I recall reading about her in the Peggy Guggenheim bio I read last year and her name popped up elsewhere. Perhaps in the Djuna Barnes bio? Trouble was: Much of the book's focus was on her NY years when she lusted after Marcel Duchamp. She opined:

Marcel, Marcel, I love you like hell, Marcel.

Her husband, the Baron, left her in NY to travel for Berlin for money from his parents; he was a gambler and didn't want to work for his money. She was on her own, couldn't pay her bills, and was thrown out of the Ritz. It seems he was detained by the French and once released, he hanged himself. She made money by sending her poems to the Little Review. Silly to say I was mostly worried about Elsa's dog, Pinky, a stray who came to stay. I knew Elsa went to Paris and worried that she would leave him behind. She did not. Really, he was probably her only friend. The book ended in Paris with her death in 1927 I think. But, there were no Paris parts to the book.

I breezed through Jane Yolen's Take joy last night until I got to the part where she described voices. Mostly the book is a pep talk for would be writers. There were several interesting points that she made. Plus, there's a short chapter on poems, which I really appreciated. But the voices... they were disturbing. She talks about finding your voice as a writer and then she gives examples of several styles: Bardic voice, schoolboy voice, Josephus voice, Boogerman voice, Dark angel voice, Midtown mab voice, Dave Broder voice, and Hemingway voice. Immediately I was struck that all these voices are male. That quite ruined the book for me and I questioned whether I could trust anything else from the book. Really, it was it's colorful cover that attracted me most of all. Two bands of green and mostly red. Its only illustration is a wedge of watermelon. And then there's it's smart typography.

Highlights: Yolen quoted Aidan Chambers "Reading is an act of contemplation. Writing is simply a part of that ritual activity. I write that I may read, and so contemplate what I have written." She quoted Emily Dickinson a few times and that reminded me that I ought to drag out my favorite ED book from my shelves and immerse myself in it for a bit. Oh yeah, like many guides to writing, Yolen quotes other folks, though that was established two sentences ago. Happy accidents are something to be prepared for, she says. And then she quoted Louis Pasteur: "Chance favors the mind that is prepared." Actually, her suggestions were helpful. I'm stuck with a story I'm writing and don't know where it's going, but her guidance may pull me out of a rough spot. It doesn't hurt either that I'm listening to Donovan and the phrase "electrical banana" tumbles through my brain every fifteen seconds. It's that kind of Wednesday.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006
Thanks, Dr. K.

Book Critics Circle Awards announced Saturday.

Having yesterday off from work was a most wonderful thing. I read all day. Before that though, I finished From plain fare to fusion food and started a history of the Art Students League but am not going to finish it as it is overdue at the library. Instead of attending to it I picked up Love, work, children. Set in Morningside Heights, NY it follows a sixty-something successful lawyer who wants his children to be happy. After his wife, and their mother, lingers in a coma for several months, he determines that he's lived an unsatisfying life and cuts back on his time at the law firm for pro bono work with an arts foundation. Though he's supposed to be the main character, there are dozens of characters the reader meets; mostly folks with whom lawyer and his children come into contact. The thing I didn't like about the book is the frequent shift in perspective. It wasn't so much an omniscient thing because the story is told from the perspectives of several characters, but in one paragraph I went from being in one person's mind into another's. I got used to it, but still don't like it. Otherwise, the story was engrossing. I pulled for the characters and hoped for happy endings. Besides the good story there were a lot a class issues popping up in the plot. The focus on upper middle class characters reminded me of Wharton's work.

Sunday I saw Brokeback Mountain. It was stunning and sad and disturbing. Having not read the short story prior to seeing the movie, I was eager to compare the two. Yesterday Ian and I went to a bookstore where I pulled the book from the shelf--because it's published as a stand-alone book instead of being inside a work of short stories--and read it in 10-15 minutes and did not but it, but may do so. Am trying to figure out whether I feel guilty about doing that or not. Not really. I buy so many books from my local bookstores that I should receive a year-end bonus or recognition of some kind. Reading the story clears up one or two ambiguous things about the movie. And most of the movie's dialogue is word for word from the short story. Plus, my curiosity about how one covers twenty years time in a short story was satisfied as well. Oh Annie Proulx, you are a jewel.

Another reading-related resolution I made is trying to memorize poetry. That's all part of my plan to make over my life into something resembling musical theater or a work of fiction. Folks break out into dance and song and quote long stanzas to each other. Another thing is that I've re-read old journals and discovered, or remembered, that I used to copy down poems (and most excellent pick up lines) for safe-keeping in my journals. I haven't done that in years. The poem that moves me most, that resounds in my head is Auden's "Funeral Blues". John Hannah's recitation of it in Four weddings and a funeral was brilliant. But the thing about memorization is that I've forgotten how to do it. I recall memorizing the "Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner" and parts of Shakespeare's "All the world's a stage" from As you like it, but they didn't stick in my long-term memory. I've forgotten how to memorize. So much of my schooling was not about rote memorization. I asked Ian how to memorize, but he didn't remember, either. I'll take it line by line and go from there.

In my reading about the Greenwich Village art scene in the teens of the twentieth century I came across references to Else von Freytag-Loringhoven. She contributed to Dada. There's a fictionalized account of her life called Holy skirts that I'm reading. It began with a bang when Elsa admits she's never been squeamish about her body.Her father is abusive and remarries three months after her mother dies. She leaves home for Berlin where she works at a cabaret and goes with men after hours. When she sees the doctor about strange bumps on her leg, he tests her and tells her that she was born with syphilis. Her mother died from it eventually because she was embarrassed to seek treatment.

Friday, January 13, 2006
bars & British fare

The tender bar was a fabulous coming of age story. I recommend it highly, and my mind is racing to pinpoint someone to share it with. One of the author's revelations was:

I saw that we must lie to ourselves now and then, tell ourselves we're capable and strong, that life is good and hard work will be rewarded, and then we must try to make our lies come true. This is our work, our salvation, and this link between lying and trying was one of my mother's many gifts to me, the truth that always lay just beneath her lies.

Then for a bit of dry reading, I tucked into From plain fare to fusion food: British diet from the 1890s to the 1990s. It's rather interesting once you get around all the charts and tables and boring bits. I'm afraid that my ideas of British wealth and diet were dashed by this book. I learned that the majority of British meals consisted of bread and scrape (butter, jam, etc.). Unbeknownst to me, the major part of British foodstuffs were imported by the 1890s and a large percentage, something like seventy or eighty percent, of their grasslands lay fallow. Most folks bought their food from shops. Only the rare folk in the country grew their own veggies. And then it was less expensive to buy bread from the baker than to spend money on fuel to bake one's own bread. Before the Great War many Brits were malnourished. Their diets were mostly bread, potatoes, sugar, and a bit of meat, if you were male. Now I'm midway through the century and reading about rationing during the Second World War, which was also done on a smaller scale during the Great War. Every dozen pages or advertisements appear so the reader gains a sense of how food products were marketed to the mass consumer audience.

Thursday, January 12, 2006
200 books & still one boy

The Book Standard lists the top 200 best selling books of the year. I've read eleven of the top fifty. But, it doesn't surprise me that I don't have a taste for best selling literature, er, books.

Then what else? Still reading The tender bar. Mostly the men saddle up to the bar and complain about the bitches. Some are perceptive about alien super powers possessed by women:

"Ever notice the peripheral vision broads have" he said. "A man sees a woman, say, on the train, he stares like a bird dog staring at a dead duck. He can't help himself. But a woman can size you up without turning her head. When you're staring at a woman, she knows, pal, she knows, and she's staring right back, even it it looks like she's reading her paper. They're aliens, I tell you."

Another passage I connected with dealt with the perception of control that books offer readers. It was earlier in the book, when the author worked at a bookstore:

At fourteen I felt more vulnerable than ever to chaos. My body grew, sprouted hair, shuddered with urges I didn't understand. And the world beyond my body seemed equally volatile and capricious. My days were controlled by teachers, my future was in the hands of heredity and luck. Bill and Bud promised, however, that my brain was my own and always would be. They said that by choosing books, the right books, and reading them slowly, carefully, I could always retain control of at least that one thing.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006
boys & brits

Instead of reading more of the engrossing tender bar, I had to turn my attention to yet another book that must be returned in no short time to the library. This time it was Twentieth-century Britain: A very short introduction. I have another book from the series, probably the one on Nietzsche. The series is put out by Oxford University Press. They're handy and brief; everything in a nutshell. Some parts were difficult to follow. For example, I have no clue about their political parties and whether Left and Right mean the same thing in the UK as it does here. Nor do I have an inkling of how their government is organized. It seems similar to the US, but different as well. What else? I was disappointed when the book mentioned the Beatles in the Sixties, but was mum on the punk movement of the Seventies, yet touted the Spice Girls as a British export. England has much the same regional problems as does the USA except the axis is reversed. Its the south of England that prospers and the industrial north that decays.What else? Oh, yes. The remarkable similarities between the USA and the UK. After the war Britain experienced a severe imbalance of trade with North America. And its retreat from Empire plus its entering with the US in NATO virtually bound the two countries together. We enjoy a special almost symbiotic relationship.

The tender bar makes for good reading. I'm halfway through it, and it's not the terrible testosterone-dripping tome I imagined. It's quite good. The author presents his life sensitively. He and his mother moved to Arizona, but he came home to Manhasset each summer to work and spend time at the bar with his Uncle Charlie. In Arizona he worked in a bookstore and the manager and assistant manager turned him on to good reading; got him set onto a program. They encouraged him to apply to Yale. That's where I left him. He's not doing well there. LIke many students who excelled in their pithy public school, he's just one of many bright students at Yale.

Monday, January 9, 2006
after book club (7:28 p.m.-ish)

This evening my book club met. I didn’t provide much input about Case histories. I enjoyed it and perhaps read it with blinders on, as I read everything. It satisfied me, but most everyone concurred that it failed as a mystery, but worked as a novel of loss. Also, most everyone agreed that Jackson was a sympathetic character, which is a good thing, for Atkinson has another Jackson Brodie book coming out sometime this spring. Actually, Amazon UK gives its publication date as August; it’s called Jolly murder mystery. I fear I shall never be savvy enough to read books and say whether they work or fail. My analysis rarely goes beyond if I enjoyed it or not. Attending book club is a healthy exercise, for I benefit from the wisdom of folks much better-read and better-versed than I.

During my dinner I read Tales from fish camp. It was short. Henderson chronicled her experiences at a fish camp in the Bristol Bay region of Alaska. She cringed at the squalor in which she was supposed to live. She ferried the wounded workers to the clinic. Sometimes she drank whiskey and performed karaoke. She outran two brown bears who woulda made a short snack of her. The trouble is that her book was so short. It was a collection of vignettes rather than a full-scale memoir. She lives in Anchorage. Surely her life there is filled with interesting things. She should meld the two into a “My years in Alaska” tome that gives the reader something meaty. Still, it was humorous and plucky.

Besides my Edith Wharton plan (I brought Touchstone home with me on my last library trip), I wish to read more British writers. I have a list. I just need a strategy. Also brought home a collection of Doris Lessing’s stories, Real thing: Stories and sketches with just that in mind. Almost picked up a Rose Tremain title as well, but there were a dozen on the shelves and I had not the first clue which one to take.

Other things on my list for this month include: The next title that the book club is reading, Cormac McCarthy’s Orchard keeper (1965) and Elizabeth’s George’s For the sake of Elena (1993), which was given as an example of an excellently executed mystery. I read In pursuit of the proper sinner (1999) in 2000, but that was before I wrote about what I read and I cannot recall anything favorable about it. Since I haven’t tried another George book since, perhaps I did not care for it.

For once, I’m rather excited about reading and hope than none of my slumps overtake me. I have dozens of books in my possession and lists of others to acquire. I shall keep busy.

Monday, January 9, 2006
four books, one weekend

The American Dialect Society announced its top word of the year: truthiness. It is defined as the quality of stating concepts one wishes or believes to be true, rather than the facts.

I read four books this weekend: A thousand years of good prayers: stories, Women of Provincetown: 1915-1922, No country for old men, and Switch and bait: the (futile) pursuit of the American dream.

Last week I read an article in the Washington Post about A thousand years of good prayers: stories. Its author seeks residency in the US, but is turned down. She attended the Iowa Writers' Workshop, boasts James Alan McPherson for a mentor, and was called "the real thing." Li's stories were excellent. They're unlike anything I normally read. Most are set in contemporary China, but two feature Chinese immigrants in America. Each one deals with big issues, not like much of the short story fluff produced by American writers of the same generation.

Two years ago I read a biography of Mary Heaton Vorse. The Provincetown Players got their start on her wharf. Last year I read biographies of Dorothy Bryant, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Djuna Barnes, and Oona O'Neill Chaplin. The first three had their plays produced by the Provincetown Players and Millay and Bryant starred in some productions. Chaplin's father's work saw its first success at Provincetown. That bohemian group in Greenwich Village just after the turn of the twentieth century interests me, and many of its denizens were part of the PP. Naturally I needed to read Women of Provincetown: 1915-1922. Besides remembering the women I'd read about, I learned of dozens of other women who were involved in the theater. Black's study is the first to focus on women's contributions. In fact, she discovered that most of the women associated with PP were involved in the feminist movement. One of the conclusions she makes is that women's participation in PP declined as men asserted direction over the theater as it started drawing in big bucks. It wasn't that the PP was unsuccessful when women had more control over running it. In its early days plays produced were more experimental, but in its last years the focus changed and plays were produced for commercial appeal.

After reading No country for old men, I suggested that Ian read it. He said, "That doesn't sound like your type of book." It wasn't, really. I sold it to him on its constant gunplay; an H & K here, a Colt there, clips and safeties and submachine guns, etc. He asked how authentic McCarthy's descriptions were and I told him I couldn't tell, that it was for him to determine. I read it because McCarthy is a great writer and though not a native (he was born in Rhode Island) of Tennessee/Appalachia/the South, he grew up here and attended school in Knoxville. McCarthy got his start by writing about Appalachia, but then made the transition to writing Westerns. No country for old men is a western, but not the typical cowboys and Indians story that one thinks of. Horses appear in one scene only. This is more like law enforcement verses Mexican drug lords/dealers. After an unsuccessful shot at a herd of antelope, Moss, a Vietnam vet, stumbled upon a drug deal gone bad: vehicles, bodies, heroin, and blood. He follows a bloody trail and finds a case containing $2.4 million. He takes it. And then it is on. Two warring parties are after Moss to recover the cash. Sheriff Bell, a WW II vet, tries to protect Moss but only manages to show up at motels after the fact; after shoot outs occur. The story was good, but the writing was excellent. Heck, I guess McCarthy's storytelling is pretty excellent, too. The fact is: I started this book Sunday morning after 1 a.m. and could not put it down until I finished it at 4:30 a.m.

As a Barbara Ehrenreich fan, how could I not read Switch and bait: The (futile) pursuit of the American Dream? This time Ehrenreich went undercover using her maiden name to investigate the dearth of white collar corporate jobs. While searching for a corporate position in PR she undergoes career counseling, attends networking events, and submits her resume to various online websites. All to no avail. The only job offers she received were from AFLAC, in sales, and Mary Kay, also in sales. It seems that corporations got rid of jobs in the $50K-$100K range and those folks struggle in their "survival" jobs at big box stores. Ultimately they get fired for giving one too many suggestions for improvement to management or because they can't dress down and get into the jeans and t-shirt workplace uniform.

Last night I read the introduction and a few pages of The tender bar. It's a memoir written by a fatherless boy who found male mentoring from the men who frequented Dickens (a bar in Long Island). I've come across it several times as it's getting lots of media attention; the author won a Pulitzer Prize for his journalism. Alas, I must turn my attention to another book, Tales from fish camp: A city girl's experience working in an Alaskan fish camp. It sat too long on the ILL shelf behind the circulation desk and must be returned tomorrow. It's a memoir about a woman who works at a fish camp in Naknek. It's size is sweet and its cover is pink and features a leatherman-like tool.

Recent acquisitions: Jane Smiley's Thirteen ways of looking at the novel.

Ordered today: Consuelo and Alva Vanderbilt: The Story of a Daughter and a Mother in the Gilded Age, Lee Miller : A Life, A Dash of Daring : Carmel Snow and Her Life In Fashion, Art, and Letters, and Luxury Knits : Simple and Stylish Projects for the Most Desirable Knitwear.

Thursday, January 5, 2006
Consuelo connection

There's a new short story by Aimee Bender at Nerve. Got to have that premium scrip though to read it.The problem is that I don't enjoy reading short stories at a terminal. It's only three pages. Better to print it out and read it for real than stumble along not enjoying the experience.

Since 2005 is not so far in the past, I'm tempted to deem Case histories as the best book I read in 2005; I liked it that well. It outshines the other book I've read this year. I loved Atkinson's writing. It was plucky and smart. The bits in parentheses verged on snarky. As early as page three I loved the narrative voice:

Sylvia had recently developed an unhealthy obsession with religion, claiming that God had spoken to her (as if God would choose Sylvia).

This was unlike any other mystery I've read. Mostly because it was excellent and that genre is formulaic and written for a mass audience. Seeing how the stories intersected was breathtaking as well. Naturally I had certain plot elements worked out ahead before truths were revealed to the characters, but then certain other aspects surprised even jaded-by-mystery-plots me. Not having been around many persons born in Cape Town I was taken with Jackson's mimicking of Binky Rain's accent. She's the woman with all the cats. She talks about "bleck men" and "men in the benk." But my favorite was:

“Efrican,” Binky said. “Efrican?” “Sarth Efrican. Diamond mines. In charge of the blecks.”

However, all of Atkinson's characters are rich. The richest I've met on paper in a long time. Even the most boring person who appeared for a sentence or two had some verve about her/him. They were complex and their personalities quite detailed. Am I falling in love? I cannot wait to read Atkinson again. She makes me want to read more British writers. [1.9.2006: Jackson listens to my kind of music: Lucinda Williams, Gillian Welcj, Emmylous Harris, and Alison Moorer.]

Then yesterday while flipping through research notes I made for a paper about General Wilder I came across Consuelo Vanderbilt's name. She's the one who married the Duke of Marlborough. A few weeks ago I learned that Edith Wharton wrote the Buccaneers based around Consuelo. I popped in at the public library to borrow the book, which I returned approximately a week ago unread. It seems I am on the Wharton program path without any goals or objectives. Not sure structure would work. Discipline is a problem for me. If I outline a course of study, it's likely that I'll refer to it disdainfully and cast it aside for good.

Another thing is that instead of keeping Buccaneers with me, as if to actually read it, I brought Love walked in along today in case I take a break, get caught in traffic, or there's a devastating network crash, and I catch a chance to read. SJP blurbed it, but that's not why I bought it. I skimmed the first few pages and found the writing agreeable. I found it's cover aesthetically pleasing.

Wednesday, January 4, 2006
on the case

Made it through the dread Daisy Miller last night. It was a miracle. While in Rome Daisy cavorts with an Italian man. All of good and proper society turns their back upon her. Somehow she falls ill from the night air, dwindles, and dies. She got what was coming to her, ignoring the strictures of polite society and flaunting herself in public. Oh, how dreary. But, it is done. I may never try James again after this. However, I am drawn to Edith Wharton and may embark upon a reading plan featuring her writing. I read Ethan Frome years ago and always remembered it as a favorite. Even had a gorgeous hardcover special edition of it that I got while working at the long-gone Book Place, only I haven't seen it since I moved out of my mother's house.

It was after 1:30 this morning (then I should have stayed up to read because I didn't fall asleep until 3:30 and then Ian came home at 4:30, thus making for a morning of much-disturbed sleep) when I reluctantly put down Case histories. Something about it, oh excellent plotting, maybe? Atkinson's cool touch upon the pages? made me go on and on. Had to stop though. The hour grew disreputable in light of my impending workday. First, I was introduced to three stories, case files, if you will. The first involved the disappearance of a little girl, Olivia. In the second, a lawyer's daughter's throat was slit by a mysterious man wearing a yellow golf sweater, and the third case file described a new mother splitting open her husband's head with a wood axe. Then there's Jackson, of course. He's the private investigator who investigates these three dead cases. One of his clients is an old lady with dozens of cats in her home. She swears that her black cats are being taken. The first one to disappear she called N_____ (you know, the "n" word). The stories are set in East Anglia, which thankfully I can point to on a map of England. The cat lady, whom all children in the neighborhood regard as a witch, arrived there by way of Africa and treats anyone she encounters as though he/she was her servant. The book is delightful. I love the narrative voice. If I could, I might actually kick myself for not reading this sooner. But, Atkinson has four or five books published. All is not lost.

There was one last thing. There's an article in the Chronicle about academics working as consultants on movies. It cited a website that tracks script and book sales called Done Deal.

Tuesday, January 3, 2006
new year with Henry & Kate

First, I'm such a dunce. Somehow I overwrote my file so that the last entry (12/29) I made from 2005 no longer exists. Reconstruction will come eventually, but I can't worry with it today. Maybe it exists in a temp file on my home pc. I can hope.

Second, I'm reading Daisy Miller. That's Henry James. I didn't finish The Aspern Papers and I'm not motivated to finish Daisy Miller, either. The trouble is all mine. I cannot determine what makes James' writing so great. It's rather boring. The story plods. The dialogue is redundant. His physical characterizations of DM are hard to follow because I don't know what they mean, exactly. About her face he wrote: It was not at all insipid, but it was not exactly expressive; and though it was eminently delicate. Daisy Miller is about an American girl who travels to Europe and gives all American girls a bad name because she's so common and flirtatious. I've heard the book described as the "classic" American girl abroad story that all others are based upon.

Third. Is there a third? Oh yeah. I'll read Case histories soon; I've got six days. I've had the book for months and didn't get to it. But, one of my NY resolutions is to get out more, not be so insular, so party-of-one. I'm the youngest person of the folks attending that particular book club. The others have children my age. These are the books we're reading:

  • January 9: Case Histories by Kate Atkinson
  • February 13: The Orchard Keeper by Cormac McCarthy
  • March 13: Beowulf translation by Seamus Heaney
  • April 10: Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
  • May 8: Arc of Justice by Kevin Boyle






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