30 May 2009

No BEA? Books anyway!

I started my "No BEA? Books anyway!" buying a day or two early. I can't help it; I work in a bookstore (and we have employee appreciation days coming up...score!).

Items purchased over several days from my bookstore:
What's Next? Dispatches on the Future of Science: Original Essays from a new Generation of Scientists edited by Max Brockman
Fearless Girls, Wise Women, & Beloved Sisters: Heroines in Folktales from Around the World edited by Kathleen Ragan
Beowulf on the Beach: What to Love and What to Skip in Literature's 50 Greatest Hits by Jack Murnighan
Angels and Insects by A.S. Byatt
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Oranges are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson

Items bought today at the local independent:
Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary by N. Katherine Hayles (it comes with a CD-ROM!)
The Cambridge Companion to Gothic Fiction edited by Jerrold E. Hogle
A Gravity's Rainbow Companion: Sources and Contexts for Pynchon's Novel (2nd edition, revised and expanded) edited by Steven C. Weisbenburger

Item that arrived on my doorstep (courtesy of BN.com editors):
The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L. Sayers (this is for the book group I r-mod at BNBC - it starts on Monday!!)

I guess I'm most excited to read Beowulf on the Beach (already started, actually) not because it's like a crib sheet to the world's greatest but because the professor who writes it is a stitch (how many euphemisms for the word "sex" can he use in one book?)! I'm also really interested in Electronic Literature because that seems to be the way the world is going these days and Angels and Insects since I must have my Byatt fix (the Angels and Insects movie was very interesting.....very interesting indeed) because we Americans suck and won't get her new book until fall.

But what I'm most excited to read is Of Bees and Mist with the First Look Book Club on BNBC - it's really good and I've been holding myself back!

If you went out and supported BEA by buying books make sure you link your post up with Mr. Linky here (which is what I'm going to do now).

PS: I'm a nerd, if that wasn't already apparent.

29 May 2009

Missed the #BEATwittyparty?

Me, too, and we had all the crazies at work so no one was terribly sympathetic about not having fun. And when I logged into Twitter everyone was done - no drunk-tweeting! I don't know whether I should be impressed or disappointed....hahaha!

Be sure to visit Fizzy Thoughts to see the songs she wrote for the Twitty Party - they are hysterical!

Natasha is lovely and hosting a Twitty Party - even though she's in New York at BEA - giveaway at her blog (including a mystery surprise from BEA) so see her post for instructions.

If you were trying to follow the #BEATwittyparty chat I guess it was moving really fast so be sure to check Rebecca's blog to see all the winners.

Don't forget - "No BEA? Books anyway!" is still on.

Sarah Prineas: May 30, 2009 @ 2pm

Heads up!

The lovely Sarah Prineas, author of The Magic Thief and The Magic Thief: Lost, will be reading and signing her books at the Barnes and Noble in the Coral Ridge Mall at 2pm tomorrow (May 30). She's helping to kick of B&N's Summer Reading Program. Yay!!!!!

So come meet Sarah and stay for the Kick-Off Party at 4pm!

If you're not going to BEA...

Many of us in the book-reading, Twittering blogosphere are stuck at home instead of attending Book Expo America in New York.

BEA attendees have been Twittering about the seminars, panels, booths, signings - jealous!

Those of us non-attendees are having a BEA Twitter Party tonight from 8-10pm Eastern hosted by Rebecca at The Book Lady's Blog. This post lists all the BEA Twitty Party participants and this post shows all the goodies up for grabs between the party participants (please follow Rebecca's instructions and thanks to all the generous giveaway donors). Follow the party on Twitter using the #BEAtwittyparty hashtag and make sure you have fun because I will be stuck closing at the bookstore only to log into Twitter at 1130pm Eastern and find everyone drunk-tweeting (stinks, but someone has to sell the books). Rebecca also has links to other giveaways and stuck-at-home-for-BEA fun including the BEA Pout-a-thon 09 hosted by the amazing Laurie Halse Anderson.

For those of us who might need a little retail therapy to get over being BEA-less, Jen at Devourer of Books is hosting "No BEA? Books anyway!" all weekend (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday). See her page for more details but in short: 1) go buy books (anywhere you like, as long as you buy them), 2) blog about your book purchases, and 3) link up your blog/purchase details by using Mr. Linky in Jen's page. As mentioned above, I'll be working at the bookstore Friday, and Saturday and Sunday, too, so I'll expect to see you out and about to support publishing, authors, reading, book, etc!

28 May 2009

The Whole Five Feet

I borrowed The Whole Five Feet by Christopher Beha - I was interested in Beha's take on the shelf because my father has been trying to acquire a set of Harvard Classics (aka "The Five Foot Shelf of Books" among other names) to read; I find the "to read" part a little odd because my father is a systems engineer (my mother is more the reader of my two parents). At a crossroads in his late twenties, Beha decided to read one volume per week from the Harvard Classics over one year; his grandmother owned a set and it never ocurred to him as a child that his grandmother might be more well-read than he realized. The Whole Five Feet chronicles Beha's reaction to his reading, his thoughts on the composition of the Classics, and how events from Beha's life impacted his reading during that year.

I want to say I liked this book. I really do, but the most reaction I can summon up is "It was okay." And that's kind of it, in my opinion. Beha's not a bad writer; he has a nice style and his aunt Mimi would be very proud of him because the chapters when he talks about his aunt and her terminal illness are very moving. I think I was expecting more along the lines of intellectual cross-examination interspersed with the memoir and musing on Charles Eliot's motivation in editing the Classics and there was at times some good criticism (the "Tintern Abbey" section is quite good) but I just didn't find it very interesting. In the Afterword Beha notes that he came to literature through a love of novels and he concentrated more in undergrad on contemporary fiction. I'd like to see what Beha would do with a book of essays about modern fiction.

Booking Through Thursday: Unread

"Booking Through Thursday" is hosted by Deb. In the perfect follow-up to last week’s question, as suggested by C in DC:

Is there a book that you wish you could “unread”? One that you disliked so thoroughly you wish you could just forget that you ever read it?
My immediate thought was, nope, I've not hated anything or wished it back enough to want the memory of reading a particular book gone from my mind. Then I started thinking back to things I perhaps had to read or forced myself to finish.
So, I admit, my number one, absolutely-wish-I-never-read-this-in-the-first-place is....The Grapes of Wrath. Surprised, right? Well, we had to read it in American Lit in high school(and since I was in the advanced program I was a sophomore and everyone else was a senior) and since the entire class was packed with senior slackers the teacher assigned a quiz per chapter. On every. Single. Chapter. It's enough to put one off reading permanently. I've read other Steinbeck's since then and liked them and I'm going to be braving The Grapes of Wrath for Connie's BNBC Classics group in July. I'd really like to "unread" that high school experience so I can start fresh.
Runners-up for the "wish I could unread this one" award are:
- Breaking Dawn (I was enjoying the series up to the last book - it seriously wasted my time - and I pretty much had to finish because of the "can my 10 yr old read these books" questions)
- Mr. Darcy's Daughters (bleck)
- some romance novel I found lying around my parents' house that I read because I was bored one day and the poorly written/badly imagined sex scenes are now burned into my memory (it doesn't get the big prize because I've managed to actually forget the title - it was a red mass market, not unusual for the romance genre)
What about you? Got a reading experience you'd rather remove from your brain with an ice pick?

27 May 2009

One Lovely Blog Award

DeSeRt RoSe gave me a "One Lovely Blog Award" - thanks! This one's given to new blogs/blogging friends recently discovered.
I suspect that many of the blogs and people I follow already have this one (I'm rather late in the game to the book blogosphere), but I'll pass it on to a few I've recently found/discovered:
Medieval Bookworm (and she's got a hysterical review of Breaking Dawn)
Thanks for the reviews and ideas!

26 May 2009

Photographic Evidence

I love things that appear to be anachronistic (or actually are in many cases). I got a few pictures this weekend of random oddities I spotted. I almost never have a working camera on me and I only recently figured out how to get a few pictures off my BlackBerry so bear with me here.

Item #1: Even poetry aesthetes must look like soccer moms on the weekend.

A lovely, sedate silver minivan with the bumper sticker saying "I'd rather be reading Bukowski" spotted parked next to my car when I returned from fetching my dinner at Panera. That poor parent was probably being held captive in Hollister/Aerie/insert-name-of-overpriced-teen-clothing-store-here when he or she would probably rather be at the B&N in the mall. I was also amused because the van owner placed the sticker not on the bumper but at about shoulder height on the trunk hatch.

Item #2: Twilight has started invading all aspects of life.

This is a reading list for an English course in 18th Century British Literature, subtitled "Gothic Literature." I thought, "Cool - Gothic literature is fun to read," until I got to the last title. Can you see what it is? This picture is alot fuzzy because I had to snap it on the sly at Prairie Lights (the local independent bookstore - they sometimes take course orders from the humanities professors); this is also known as "Kinnearing" as developed by The Yarn Harlot. I ran it through the photo editor to enhance the contrast but if you still can't read it here's what the full course title and list says:

Title: Lit & Culture of 18th Cent Britain: Gothic Lit (there's a course number but it's cut off)
- The Castle of Otranto
- The Cambridge Companion to Gothic Fiction
- The Monk
- Northanger Abbey
- Dracula
- Twilight

I was stopped dead in my tracks. Literally. I was going to give them Northanger Abbey and Dracula even though Stoker was a number of years removed from the 18th century. But Twilight? Huh. So I went to the UI's ISIS system (I still take ballet, remember, so I have access to the course registration system) and pulled up the course decription. This is what it says:

"This course winds its way through the creepy classics of Gothic literature, from mid-eighteenth-century “graveyard poetry” and the first Gothic novel in English, Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto (1767) to the contemporary blockbuster success of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight (2005).

En route, we’ll also experience Matthew Lewis’s The Monk (1796), for which its author was threatened with charges of blasphemy, as well Jane Austen’s gentle ridicule of Gothic readers in Northanger Abbey (written 1798-99). We will consider why the Enlightenment gave rise to such dark literature and what this body of texts reveals about British culture, sexuality, family life, religion, and politics. Our study of the early Gothic novel will earn us the right to fast forward a bit a by the end. We will read Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897) pondering the meaning of the vampire for the Victorians, and we’ll finish inquiring about the legacy of the Gothic for us today as we read Meyer’s bestselling Twilight. We will also screen modern film adaptations of two or three of the texts we read, considering them as interpretations of the novels in their own right. Students will take quizzes, write two brief response papers, and make two presentations."

At least they're going to talk about the "legacy" of Gothic literature but is Twilight really necessary? Were I an undergrad in Enligsh, this one might have been a deal breaker for me; Twilight was an fun read but Bella does tend to make me gag just a bit. The class is only reading two early Gothics and one Gothic parody - not even an Ann Radcliffe - and they're skipping over a number of other Gothic novels to focus exclusively on the Vampire. If that was the focus, then perhaps the course could have been reformulated to focus on the Vampire from the beginning. I find it interesting that this course is listed without having any prerequisites so it feels more like a sot to get students to take a short summer course. If I took it the only things I'd need to read are the remainder of The Monk and the assigned essays in the Cambridge; I've read everything else. I also find it a little bizzaro-world that this course fulfills two areas of the English major:

"For English majors, AREA: Modern British Literature and Culture; PERIOD: 18th-Century Literature."

Say what? Only five novels, and one of them American, and this course still fulfills an area and a period? Oy.

Teaser Tuesday - The Link

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

1. Grab your current read
2. Open to a random page
3. Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page (BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS!) Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

The very first people who were more or less like ourselves - who would not have attracted too many stares on today's public transportation - date from about five hundred thousand years ago. The earlier types are commonly called archaic, and some of them are ascribed to their own species, such as Homo heidelbergensis.
- The Link by Colin Tudge with Josh Young, p 199

I would also like to put in a plug for the History Channel's programme about Ida, the 47-million-year-old fossil described in The Link. It was a very well-done show, entertaining, too, so if you can watch it on a re-airing or via Internet you should do so.

25 May 2009

Musing Mondays - Gift Certificates

Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about gift certificates…

Do you give gift certificates to book stores as presents? If so, do you give for actual stores or online stores? Do you like to receive them yourself?
Yup. I do. My one brother and I read so much I think we've been passing the same $25 gift card back and forth for years because we can't always remember what the other owns or has read already - we're B&N shoppers (never had an occasion to use a gift card online) - even though this year I bought him a book (I hope he doesn't have it yet). I also like to give my other brother a B&N gift card; he's not always a book reader but he does like movies.
And if it's not already that obvious I love gift cards to bookstores. Eeee. Fun.

Snow Angels

I bought Stewart O'Nan's Snow Angels about a year ago intending to read it before watching the movie. As anyone with a massive TBR mountain knows, it's all about good intentions.

Kat got the movie via Netflix (she also had intended to read the book first, but never managed it) so Media_zombie and I went over, had some chicken burrito goodness, and watched Snow Angels with Kat and Aaron. It's a good movie, well-acted particularly on the parts of the actors playing Glenn and Annie (Sam Rockwell and Kate Beckinsale), Amy Sedaris was fantastic in a non-comedy piece, and the movie seemed to be well-adapted but I couldn't be sure since I hadn't read the book. My only complaint is that the set dressers and stylists seemed to be doing a "retro revival" version of the 1970s because the sets and costumes looked eerily similar to modern retro 70s fashions and household items. None of the cars looked particularly period, Kate Beckinsale so did not have seventies hair (actually, none of the female characters did), and the Chinese restaurant didn't look terribly 1970s (and was run by a Russian? Greek? eastern European?). There only seemed to be hints of the 1970s - the television shows, vinyl and 8-tracks, the picture people at the mall, and the fact that everyone smoked (and everyone smokes in the boonies anyway, so that really didn't pin-point the era); a reference to putting fast food in the cafeteria makes the movie sound more 1990s but out in the sticks.

So I came home, dug out the book, and sat down to read a few chapters. Four hours later, at 430am, I finished the book and passed out for the night/morning. It's a good book; O'Nan really has a gift because he can wrap up a sad situation with everyday mundanities and make it compelling (Songs for the Missing was also like that). The characters are real, they all make mistakes, and they all have to feel their way through the muck of life with the rest of us. The three couples in the story act almost like a circle showing the destructive path of the relationships - Arthur and Lila are finding themselves and starting a first relationship; Arthur's mom and dad are in the process of divorce with the possibility of working things out or things may not work out at all; Annie and Glenn have a relationship that is irretrievably broken but they must still interact because of their daughter. There are beautiful passages where Glenn is praying, but the passages are also disturbing because the mind revealed in the prayers is not sound.

In contrast to the adaptation, the book is actually narrated by a grown-up Arthur and while that worked for the book I'm glad they didn't try to add that as a layer to the movie because there would have been too much distance between the audience and the characters. Other than that, David Gordon Green stuck quite close to the book's original plot line, beginning with the gunshots and backing up to tell the story leading up to that moment (Green has one major divergence with a plot line, and I don't quite like it now that I've read the book, but it's a spoiler and I won't be able to talk about it). The book is far more anchored in the 1970s with more pop-culture references, sports figures, music groups and the fixed time-period lends an understanding of how situations are handled. I find the movie endearing, not because of the horrifying aspects of Glenn and Annie's relationship, because Arthur is a band geek and Lila is a geeky girl and they are really, really cute together (I have a partiality to band geeks because I was one myself).

I really need to read some more O'Nan, particularly Last Night at the Lobster because that's been recommended to me more times than I can count, so he definitely goes on the front burner. I also highly recommend the motion picture adaptation of Snow Angels; it might be hard to watch if you're a mom but I think the acting performances are great and worth watching. This is an instance where I don't think it's necessary to read the book first.

Sexing the Cherry

I finished Jeanette Winterson's Sexing the Cherry nearly a week ago and I've been rolling this book around in my head since then. And quite a lot, too, which is rather odd for me to do with a novel (Randy Shilts's And The Band Played On followed me around in my head for weeks, mostly because I was pretty irritated about things I couldn't change). Sexing the Cherry is an odd novel, very unique....and I'm not sure quite what to do with it! You know, sometimes I read a book and I think, "OK, that was weird, on to the next" and then I start reading another book without another thought but in this case I feel like I need to read this another two or three times to understand the nuances.

StC is most definitely a book that requires further thought to get into all the layers (I've ordered a Vintage Living Texts book about Jeanette Winterson novels because I fully intend to read more of her work). The novel has very little plot beyond telling Jordan's story and even that is not really "plot-driven" as things go. The strength of the novel rests on Winterson's extraordinary description of Jordan's Stuart/Commonwealth/Restoration world and Winterson's fantastic invention, Jordan's mother (who I'm thinking isn't actually named in the book so I'll have to check on that for a re-read); Jordan's mother is like a fun-house mirror's version of a Shakespearean bawd and makes for really interesting reading. I was only partially surprised to find that Winterson was raised to be a fundamentalist/evangelical missionary (I'm not sure which) because the overly-pious clergy suffer very interesting fates in this book. Other themes I can indentify in StC include love, motherhood, family, sex, lesbianism, homosexuality, self-discovery, and environmentalism. Adding to the fantastical nature of the book is the fairy-tale of the Twelve Dancing Princesses, very cleverly woven into Jordan's story.

I'm going to have to apologize for the rather jumbled nature of the post. Everything is still ping-ponging around in my head. Since I borrowed the copy I read from the library I'll need to get my own so I can scribble in it, etc., on a re-read in the future. I'll get another go-round with Winterson later this summer when I read Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit with some friends.

22 May 2009

Is that my ass?

My supremely awesome friend Kate has created a blog in which we, and all the friends we invite, may chronicle our adventures in battling the bulge or not becoming a chronic-disease statistic or whatever.

It is called "Is that my ass?" I totally love the name (and URL) and, unfortunately, I am totally forced to agree with the disbelieving tone because my posterior looks nothing like I want it to (probably never will). Most of my Be Healthy/diet/food problem posts will migrate in that direction. Come visit. Wish us well.

21 May 2009

BTT: A second first time?

BTT: What book would you love to be able to read again for the first time?

You know, I'm not really sure. Would it be Jane Eyre so I could follow Jane for the first time again? Would it be Winnie-the-Pooh so I could hear my mom and dad read it to me again? Would it be And the Band Played On so I can experience the growing sense of dread and righteous indignation because with the realization that my generation got majorly screwed by the Reagan administration and the conservatives?

I guess I would have to pick Winnie-the-Pooh, but only if one of my parents reads it to me. I still love Pooh but I can never have the magic of being a child and having my stories read to me again.

(Note: I've decided to start doing a few more memes - they are fun and I always enjoy reading all the other responses)

The Lemonade Award

I received the Lemonade Award from Cathy at The One-Eyed Stuffed Bunny and ... - thanks very much!

According to the rules I'm supposed to pass this on to ten blogs that show great attitude or gratitude (show gratitude?, just FYI chain letters are not my cup of tea)...

As far as attitude, I have to go with The Media Morgue, The Film Noir Experience, Please Don't Eat the Books, Eh, tu Mr. Destructo? (not for the faint-hearted), The World According to Me, Bridget Zinn (go support Bridget, she's a fighter), and I'm totally going to cheat and give it to Meredith even though she's sans blog but she's a great reporter for The CR Gazette (Twitter link). As for gratitude, definitely going to The Forgetful Librarian (for her Swine Flu post, thanks much), Booking Through Thursday, and Nick Hornby (total cop-out because he doesn't allow comments on his posts but he does great things with books, movies, and charities for kids).

The Rules:
1) Put the Lemonade Award logo on your blog or post. (done - it's in the left-hand column)
2) Nominate at least 10 blogs that show great attitude or gratitude. (hmmm)
3) Link to your nominees within your post. (done)
4) Let the nominees know that they have received this award by commenting on their blog. (might take a bit)
5) Share the love and link to the person from whom you received your award. (done)

19 May 2009

Caddie Woodlawn

I was a big Laura Ingalls Wilder fan, had all the books in the pretty hardcover bindings, and read them cover to cover many times, the whole series through. They were a gift from my grandmother. My grandmother is also the one who introduced me to Caddie Woodlawn but I don't remember ever owning a copy so I must have read it at my grandmother's house. I was always very partial to Caddie; she and Laura were very similar, even from the same area of the country, but for some reason Caddie always seemed a little more "real" to me and I can't quite put my finger on it. Re-reading Caddie now I think it's the author/subject that causes the difference; while Laura wrote from an autobiographical stand-point, Carol Ryrie Brink wrote about her grandmother, the real Caddie (nee Woodhouse), and perhaps that created more space between writer and subject, however small.

The new edition of Caddie has a note from Brink - something missing in my grandmother's old copy - and it was very nice to read a bit about how Brink and her grandmother interacted. There are some things I did not remember from my childhood readings and, strangely enough, the biggest hole in my memory centered around Caddie's father; I completely forgot he was from England which is huge because that fact informs several other plot points in the book including the final chapters. I do realize now that I read Caddie long before I had a good hold on the historical timeline (I believe I first read this in second grade because we hadn't moved to the new school district at the time); there are a number of facts related to the Civil War that I have a far better understanding of having had fifth-grade history. A hold-over from childhood is my lack of knowledge of the folk songs Robert Ireton sings; I'd not heard of any of them at the time but this time 'round I have Google so I can search for the music.

Caddie lived in Wisconsin about ten years or so before Laura so the setting is slightly altered. There is more interaction with Native American tribes in Caddie than in the Little House in the Big Woods and there seems to be better communication with the rest of the US at large in Laura's time than Caddie's. Brink seems to include a subtle lesson on racism and tolerance which I don't recall from the Little House books. While the Ingalls' don't seem to mind the neighboring Native American tribes but interact little with them, Mr. Woodlawn actively seems to offer friendship and assistance to John's tribe; Brink also treats the biracial Hankinson family with sympathy, showing how the father's cowardice and lack of tolerance drives his wife to return to her people, leaving her children behind. Mr. Woodlawn also relates the stringent nature of the class system in England through the story of his childhood.

The one thing I'm not quite sure on was Brink's stance on women's rights. She wrote Caddie in 1935-36 so women were in the workplace, had the right to vote, etc. but still had a bit to go. in the 1860s of Caddie's childhood, she was allowed to run and play with her brothers as a counter against the poor health that killed a younger sister; she can do just about everything her brothers can but her mother constantly pushes her to act like a proper young lady of the 1860s (like her elder sister Clara). In a scene near the end of the book Caddie's father comes to comfort her and talks of how women are meant to be good, and keep house, and tame the wild fathers and brothers (a bit like the "Angel in the House" Victorian concept, which wouldn't be off time-period-wise); I'm sure it was decently close to the real conversation between Caddie and her father. Caddie decides that she ought to start learning to help Mother....but Brink doesn't let us know how Caddie feels, truly. Caddie enjoys her first foray into ladyhood - learning to quilt - and seems to like being in the kitchen, too, but the book ends shortly after. I get the feeling that Caddie won't go over to the "accomplished" side like Cousin Annabelle, but I feel like Caddie's voice gets lost at this point in the book. There is a follow up volume, Caddie Woodlawn's Family, so I'll probably need to read that (which I've never done) to see where Caddie's life takes her, if the book extends that far.

The vocabulary list is quite long this time; I pulled words and phrases that I'm sure I didn't actually know as a second grader and inferred the meanings for myself:
inseparable, hassocks, "hot pitch", indignation, leisurely, disinherited, lofty, taverns, frail, "public houses", escapade, titters, smarting, inconsolable, disgrace, massacre, victuals, obscurity, insure, impassive, enthralled, remote, irksome, cowards/cowardice (cowardice is the actual word), pendulum, unfathomable, weariness, abolition, aristocrat, homesteads, sportsman (in the upper-crusty sense of shooting), wholesale, slaughter, haymow, smirk, reproaches, drenching, whippersnapper, "treading on air", trinket, darning, sulphur, gravely, pompously, wheedled, enterprise, daintier, challis, sedately, muffler, dassn't, sledge (I might have known this one), tumultuous, picallili (guaratee I didn't know what that was), soliloquize, titillate, muskrats, breeches, clogs, gimcracks, clambered, notions, guttural, tactful, bewilderment, proteges, capered, jostled, coaxed, arbutus, "accomplished", anticlimax, trilliums, hepaticas, impartial, wistful, churning, vicissitudes, apparition, cultivated, quaint, rustic, impish, fatigued, vivaciously, momentum, pandemonium, stupendous, distraught
(sorry for the paragraph - the list was way too long)

Next up in the Newbery reading is From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler - who wouldn't want to run away and live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art?

Current book-in-progress: Wives and Daughters, Sexing the Cherry, The Palace of Illusions, The Liar, A History of God, Burnt Shadows
Current knitted item: Karma's poncho - one stripe repeat left
Current movie obsession: Ian McKellan's Richard III should be in the mailbox today
Current iTunes loop: Lost in a Good Book is in the car; have some yummy classical CDs winging their way to me from B&N

Teaser Tuesdays: Sexing the Cherry

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

1. Grab your current read
2. Open to a random page
3. Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page - BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
4. Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
LIES 8: It was not the first thing she saw, how could it have been? Nor was the night in the fog-covered field the first thing I saw. But before then we were like those who dream and pass through life as a series of shadows. And so what we have told you is true, although it is not.
(p 106, Sexing the Cherry by Jeanette Winterson; a new edition is here)
For more teasers, visit MizB's blog!

15 May 2009

Water Ghosts

I received a copy of Water Ghosts via a drawing on Twitter from PenguinPress/PenguinUSA. Let me tell you, I might not have picked this novel up since I've already got so much on my plate but I'm very glad that receiving a copy gratis forced me to read it right away. It is beautiful.

Shawna Yang Ryan's debut novel is a beautiful, heartbreaking look at a forgotten segment of American history. Every one of Ryan's characters - Corlissa, Sophia, Richard, Howar, Chloe, Poppy, Ming Wai - has been lovingly rendered to the point that the prose of the novel becomes tactile, almost real. You can taste the salt Ming Wai leaves behind, feel the heaviness of the air as Corlissa works; a major sensory focus of the writing is smell and scent. The book covers a space of only a few months in 1928 but the narrative loops back and forth, like interconnected short stories, and changes narrators when convenient so that all the stories are eventually brought to the reader's attention. Intertwined with the story of the boat women are tales from Chinese folklore and mythology and this contributes to the "ghost story" feel of the novel. There is also an ethereal quality to the work but instead of floating in air it's like floating under water, like the rippling of silk; the characters struggle to float free of their pasts, to avoid sinking under the town of Locke, California. While the political climate and laws of immigration in 1928 are not directly a focus of the narrative, ideas regarding sexuality, morality, racism, and culture lie beneath the characters' stories; the whitegirl brothel, the lack of ethnic Chinese women among the immigrant community (only merchants could obtain a visa to bring a wife to the US from China), the mix of Christian ideology with Chinese tradition, and the notion of honor all come to play in the novel. I particularly enjoyed Ryan's debut novel (originally published as Locke 1928 by El Leon) and I hope her next published work isn't very far in the future.

11 May 2009

I hate SPAM

Some jackass has gotten hold of the "All Internal Medicine" email list at work and is now occupied in sending all of us spam email.

Which, in turn, prompts everyone to get pissed off, hit "Reply all," and request that their email be removed from the list.

Which we all get since about 1000+ of us are listed in "All Internal Medicine" - probably more.

And all of these emails come through on my BlackBerry.


A Canticle for Liebowitz

I spent the weekend reading and didn't turn on my computer once (I did check email/Twitter via Blackberry). It felt kind of odd - I feel sort of behindhand now since I have BNBC posts and blogs to catch up on and there are a lot of both.

One of the things I finished this weekend was A Canticle for Liebowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr. I still can't believe I never read this book until now given that I have an affinity for dystopic/post-apocalyptic science fiction. Even though the book's events are inspired by the nuclear arms race of the 1950s I think it is quite applicable to the 21st century as well. The idea that the world will succumb to nuclear annihilation, entering a dark age, only to have knowledge resurrected by the Church is an interesting one and still an idea that may or may not come to fruition in the real world. The characters of A Canticle for Liebowitz are an intersting collection of the secular, the sacred, and the divine, right down to the omnipresent buzzards, so there are moments of humor and levity in Miller's dark world, too. I was also pleased by the construction of the storyline; I have a continual complaint regarding books that over-forshadow their own plotlines and I loved how Canticle didn't reveal the book's trajectory until the latter half of the third section. I only wish I could read Hebrew characters left by the wanderer/hermit character - I could type the Latin into a translator to figure out the monks' messages, etc., but I wasn't able to do so with the Hebrew. Miller also sets up an interesting dialogue about suicide and euthanasia near the end of the book; this dialogue is never really finished, particularly given that the section is narrated from the perspective of the Church, but it seems to side with the position of the Church (I think, unless the position is meant to be ironic and Miller is siding with those who believe in suicide/euthanasia). We'll never get a good answer because Miller committed suicide in the 1990s.

I bought more books this weekend and am now undecided as to what I should plow through next.

07 May 2009


I've spent the last week and a half drowning in schadenfreude because of the flu. My boss looks like hell (she looks a bit better this week), everyone else is running up and down working on disaster preparedness in case every crazy in the region wants to be tested for swineflu, and I get to sit in my nice, quiet office drinking my tea and playing with my database. I feel a little bad; I keep asking if anyone needs help but I keep being told that everyone is fine so I guess I will keep playing with my database and try not to worry about it.

I keep playing on Twitter. It's turning into a lucrative past-time because I've acquired three books via contests/give-aways on Twitter plus I was introduced (also via Twitter) to a VP from a publishing firm who is interested in sending me promotional copies (I think I'll share with Kat). I recently received a copy of Burnt Shadows via a PicadorUSA drawing (that's two from them now) and a copy of Water Ghosts is coming from Penguin. They both look very good. I feel a bit greedy now that I've got three plus the possibility of more...am I always this ridiculous? It does keep me on my toes as regards my reading since I really have to finish things if I get them gratis and the Book Clubs have a good May line-up.

Speaking of the BN Book Clubs, you can follow them on Twitter, too, haha (BNBookClubs). They've also just announced enrollment for the next First Look Book Club to start on June 1; the editors have picked Of Bees and Mist, a debut novel by Erick Setiawan, and it looks to be a wonderful piece of writing. To enroll in the FLBC you need to sign up for a My B&N account at http://www.bn.com/ (click on the red My B&N button); then go to this thread and follow the instructions (you'll need to have your "Private Message" function, aka PM, enabled to enroll). There is a limit to the number of books available so sign-up soon! While you're waiting for your book to arrive, visit the other groups - I moderate "Literature by Women" (shameless plug, I know).

On a side note I've been very good as regards the diet, er, healthy eating, since I managed to find the grocery store last weekend. I'm already dreading the idea of going back but I have to (HAVE TO) get back in the habit of going frequently so as to keep the fridge full of good fruits and veg. Prevents me from making rice as a "snack" (bad, bad habit).

PS: Dead serious, I'm being followed on Twitter by someone who goes by the name of Jane Eyre (Thornfield Jane). Odd.

Current book-in-progress: Wives and Daughters, The Palace of Illusions, A Canticle for Liebowitz, A History of God,...anything else?
Current knitted item: Karma's poncho, now about 2/3 done
Current movie obsession: Time Bandits (how is it that I've never watched this movie?) and Three Days of the Condor (also, given my parents' affinity for Robert Redford, how is it I've never watched this?)
Current iTunes loop: Blue Monday by New Order (had to get this from iTunes because the Muzak at the store was taunting me) and Thursday Next on audio (first book is abridged, bah!)

The Story of a Marriage

I received The Story of a Marriage via a drawing/contest on Twitter from PicadorUSA. I'm still a little stunned because I've only recently learned how many book give-aways exist on the web, so thanks @PicadorUSA!

Greer's book is a quiet, meditative reflection on marriage told through the eyes of the narrator and wife, Pearlie; as the first-person narrator, she is always told what Holland might be thinking or needing and never truly asks for herself so it sets up an interesting commentary on 1950s repression. Because the novel is set in the 1950s of the Korean War, the McCarthy hearings, and the Rosenberg execution, real events also shape Pearlie's story and thoughts on her marriage. Of particular interest is Pearlie's fixation on Ethel Rosenberg and how Ethel is reflected in Pearlie's thoughts; the ramifications of silence and inaction are at the heart of Pearlie's story, too, and Pearlie has learned to find her voice and path at the end of the novel. The real beauty of the novel lies in reading Pearlie's reasoning and decision-making process which is particularly gratifying because I figured out the central problem of the marriage in about twenty pages and that was about twenty-five pages prior to the problem's unmasking. The most interesting character in this novel is Buzz, of whom I won't say much more because anything you know about him spoils part of the story, which is interesting because while Pearlie's story is central to the novel, you can't get rid of Buzz because he always shows up.

I've read some reviews where this was called tedious or confusing; while the book is quiet and slow I didn't find it tedious and most certainly not confusing. I also read a reveiw that noted Greer should have mentioned Sonny's polio more often aside from the few sentences at the beginning. Well, considering there were often mentions of Sonny's odd gait and his need for new leg braces, Greer does mention Sonny's condition from time to time but since ad nauseum description of a medical condition would not be in line with Pearlie's character (an uneducated Af-Am woman from a poor Kentucky town) that would be out of place in a story Pearlie is narrating. I liked the book. Pooh on everyone else.

The Princes in the Tower

I finished this a few weeks back and my posting schedule got interrupted because of that dratted flu and associated panic. Everything got interrupted, let's just put it that way.

The Princes in the Tower differs quite a bit from the previous Weir histories/biographies I read recently. For one thing, Weir is writing with a far more scholarly tone because she is evaluating the veracity and accuracy of historical documents used in reconstructing the history of Richard III and his nephews, Edward V and Richard of York. She backs up several times to go over different events with different contemporary sources. So the intimacy that I felt when reading about Eleanor or Katherine isn't there because the focus isn't on one person but many people involved in a singluar event in history. The book is shorter than the others, too, but that doesn't make it any easier to read. Weir comes down firmly on the side of those who hold Richard III responsible for the deaths of his nephews and she tells you why she thinks that way; however, she does present all the evidence both against Richard and that used to "prove" his innocence although she does debunk the innocent side of the story so you might be persuaded to side with her anyway.

This was an interesting read; Weir actually took time to explain why her interpretation of the historical record differed from the BBC judicial program (which found Richard III innocent) which I found to be very nice because she essentially covered all her bases then. If you're a Richard III "revisionist" you won't like this book; if you like Shakespeare's play then you need to read this book because it gives depth to one of literature's most famous villains.

06 May 2009

Buyer Beware

When the nice saleslady at Ann Taylor Loft asks if you want to upgrade from the company charge card to the new Ann Taylor Loft MASTERCARD (because you are such a good customer, blah, blah, blah) she is lying if she tells you the balance from the company card will roll over to the new MC.

It doesn't.

I have to pay TWO Loft bills until I can figure out how to pay the Loft store card with the new Loft MC. However, if I play my cards right I might have the Loft store card paid off in a few months, huzzah for that, so it might not come to a pissy phone call to customer service.

02 May 2009

Mother's cupboard is now somewhat full

Back from the grocery store - I went before noon and it was surprisingly easy to navigate around New Pi because it wasn't busy, yet (I didn't attempt Hy-Vee). There was also a farmer's market occuring so that might have had something to do with it.

I now have some yummy veggies, bread, and deli meat so I can at least feed myself at home rather than always seeing what take-away is available.

The kitty-boys are now on their extra-best behavior because I also have cheese. And they like cheese. Dante is also trying to wash my face since that shows he loves me and lovey kitties get treats.

Or so they think. Dante is the fat kitty; he and I are in the same boat diet-wise.