Thursday, December 31, 2009

What I'm Reading Now

I couldn't resist squeezing in one more Jodi Picoult novel before I have to start reading for school.


What happens when you do all the right things for all the wrong reasons? As an assistant district attorney in York County, Maine, Nina Frost prosecutes the sort of crimes that tear families apart. She helps clients navigate their way through a nightmare – even though the legal system is not always the faultless compass they want and need it to be. She learns that the easiest way to cross this devastating minefield time and time again is to offer compassion, battle fiercely for justice, and keep her emotional distance.

But when Nina and her husband Caleb discover that their five-year-old son Nathaniel has been sexually abused, that distance is impossible to maintain. The world Nina inhabits now seems different from the one she lived in yesterday; the lines between family and professional life are erased; and answers to questions she thought she knew are no longer easy to find. Overcome by anger and desperate for vengeance, Nina ignites a battle that may cause her to lose the very thing she's fighting for.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Alumni Benefits

This year, I was asked to be the judge of Delta State University's Confidante Literary Competition, formal essay division. It's a full-circle kind of thing for me because I won first place in that division when I was an undergraduate there.

Judging's a lot different than grading. It doesn't take nearly as much time. Basically, it is a process of elimination. I don't have to read very far into an essay to know whether or not it's top quality. If I'm not impressed, I set it aside. The more difficult part comes when I've narrowed down the competition to a couple of really good essays. Then, the hard work begins. I'm supposed to name a first place and a second place, and Honorable Mentions are allowed if I feel they are merited.

I've judged this competition once before, and the first time was much harder. I had two essays that were just excellent. I literally agonized over which one to give first place and which to give second, only to find out later that both essays had been written by the same student. Wasted angst.

This time, the essays didn't quite reach that same level of excellence, but there were some really good essays. I thought you might like to see what's being written about at good ol' DSU this year. Here are the titles:

  1. Julius Caesar: Blocks and Stones, Inflamed
  2. The Women of James Joyce's "Counterparts"
  3. "Nothing is right here!" A Feminist Approach to Esperanza Rising
  4. "A True Account of How Things Were": Natasha Trethewey's Poetry
  5. Understanding Jane Austen
  6. Love Relationships in Dubliners
  7. Hrothgar and Beowulf: Now those are Good Kings
  8. Stephenie Meyer: An Author with Bite!
  9. Women in Chopin's Fiction
  10. The English Novel: A Continuance of English Literature from the Beginnings through the Eighteenth Century
  11. A Powerful Seduction (an analysis of seduction by power in Chaucer's "The Pardoner's Tale," Marlowe's Dr. Faustus, and Shakespeare's Macbeth")
  12. Holy Perversion (an analysis of Joyce's use of Christianity to highlight corruption in "The Boarding House")
  13. Green-Eyed Innocence (an analysis of three of Joyce's stories about a young male narrator's journey towards adolescence)
  14. "O, These Men, These Men": Male Insecurity and Weakness in Othello
  15. Government Involvement in Student Loans
  16. Digging Deep for the Brain Pickers: Analyzing the Zombie Metaphors and Violent Mayhem in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Interesting list, no? And if you've wondering about all the James Joyce, Dubliners is the text for DSU's Advanced Comp class, so he always gets a good showing.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Booking It--Privacy

Wondering if your ebook info is private? Doesn't look like it. I'm not really surprised; I already knew Big Brother was watching. I'd just never thought about him spying through your ebook reader. Just click on the chart to enlarge it.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Pay Attention

I'm not an adventurous cook. I cook by the recipe, and I usually stick to recipes that are tried and tested, old favorites. I make a pumpkin bread that's pretty good, if I do say so myself. A couple of years ago my youngest son took some to work, and ever since then his boss has requested some at Christmas.

Well, if you've been reading this blog, you know that this Christmas I've been kind of behind. So, early Christmas Eve morning, in the middle of getting ready to go to my Mom's, I decided to bake the pumpkin bread.

I wasn't sure I had enough sugar, so I measured it out in a separate bowl to see. I did. I started putting the recipe together, but my mind was in a million places at once. As I slipped the bread into the oven, I happened to notice the bowl with the sugar in it pushed to the back of the cabinet. Yikes! I grabbed the bowl out of the sink, dumped the pumpkin bread mixture back into the bowl, added the sugar, then poured it into the pans again and slid it back into the oven.

About five minutes into the cooking time it hit me. I'd squirted dishwashing liquid into the bowl as I put it in the sink. Back came the pans out of the oven. Down the sink went the batter.

The moral of the story? Cooking does not lend itself to multi-tasking.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve

We're going over the (Little Red) river and through some (patches of) woods to grandmother's house today, but not in a horse-drawn sleigh. We'll probably eat a little too much and laugh a lot today. I hope you do, too.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Stress

Christmas shopping. Check.

Groceries and Cooking. Doing that today. Almost check.

Bookkeeping. Nope.

Syllabi for Spring semester. Nope.

Relaxing? I'm still waiting on that part.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

List Guilt

Every time I run across any kind of "Best" book list, it makes me feel bad. No matter how much I read, I never have read nearly enough of the books on the list to make me feel better about myself as a reader. This past weekend, Kane Webb's recurring "Best Books" article appeared in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. He admits that his list is "wholly objective" and "highly eccentric." Basically, he asks avid readers among his acquaintances this question: "What was the best book you read in 2009--and why? It doesn't have to be new, just new to you. Re-readings don't count, unless you can make a great case." Here's the list:

Blood and Thunder: An Epic of the American West Hampton Sides
Season of Life: A Football Star, a Boy, a Journey to Manhood Jeffrey Marx
The Road to Serfdom Friedrich Hayek
Oliver Kitteridge Elizabeth Strout
Finn Family Moomintroll Tove Jansson
Zeitoun Dave Eggers
Revolutionary Road Richard Yates
Beg, Borrow, Steal: A Writer's Life Michael Greenberg
Tried By War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander In Chief James M. McPherson
Huge James W. Fuerst

How'd I do? Well, I did read Revolutionary Road this year. And I bought Olive Kitteridge and am planning on reading it sometime this Spring. I'm consoling myself by remembering that Webb did say it was a eccentric group of readers and by the fact that Part II of the list is coming soon. Maybe all the books I've read are on there.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Booking It--Speed

What do you think of speed-reading? Is it a good way to get through a lot of books, or does the speed-reader miss depth and nuance? Do you speed-read? Is some material better suited to speed-reading than others?

This question made me laugh. Why? Because I remember taking the Evelyn Wood Speed Reading Class when I was in high school. Basically, what I remember of the procedure is this: you kind of cup your hand, palm down, placing your middle three fingers in the middle of the page as a guide for your eyes. Then, you move your hand down the page, focusing your eyes right above your fingers on the center of the text and trusting your peripheral vision to pick up the outer parts of the line. You then "absorb" the text without having to read every word.

It was a big waste of time as far as I was concerned. I already, instinctively, I guess, knew how to do this when searching a textbook looking for answers to plug in a homework sheet, or when I was skimming for specific information in a text. For those purposes, "speed reading" is a valuable skill. But to read for pleasure or to study literature, it's next to useless. You don't really get a sense of nuances in the plot, you don't enjoy diction or imagery, you miss valuable information, and there is absolutely no pleasure involved in the process.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

What I'm Reading Now

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Bestseller Picoult (My Sister's Keeper) takes on another contemporary hot-button issue in her brilliantly told new thriller, about a high school shooting. Peter Houghton, an alienated teen who has been bullied for years by the popular crowd, brings weapons to his high school in Sterling, N.H., one day and opens fire, killing 10 people. Flashbacks reveal how bullying caused Peter to retreat into a world of violent computer games. Alex Cormier, the judge assigned to Peter's case, tries to maintain her objectivity as she struggles to understand her daughter, Josie, one of the surviving witnesses of the shooting. The author's insights into her characters' deep-seated emotions brings this ripped-from-the-headlines read chillingly alive.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Semester's End

The end of a semester is bittersweet. On one hand, it's great. It's what I've been living for. The planning, and the preparation, and the grading are over. I get a break. No more living by the clock. There's more time for spending with family, recreational reading, and just plain relaxing.

But on the other hand, I get a little sad at the end of a semester. It seems as if I'm just getting to know my students--really know them--and then "boom," it's over, and in a little while I start all over with another group of unfamiliar faces.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Stephen King's Top 10

Stephen King published his Ten Favorite Novels of 2009 the other day in Entertainment Weekly. (Not all these novels were published in 2009.)

1. The Little Stranger, Sarah Waters

2. Revolutionary Road, Richard Yates

3. Hollywood Moon, Joseph Wambaugh

4. Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie

5. 2666, Roberto Bolano

6. Shatter, Michael Robotham

7. Drood, Dan Simmons

8. Gone Tomorrow, Lee Child

9. Ravens, George Dawes Green

10. Rough Country, John Sandford

I just bought the Sarah Waters novel, The Little Stranger, the other day. I was introduced to Waters by one of my professors at Ole Miss. We read her novel Affinity in a Gothic Novel class, and I read Fingersmith on my own. I also read Yates' Revolutionary Road this year. I've read several of John Sandford's novels, but not the one King recommends. Actually, to be more accurate, I guess I've listened to several of his novels on CD during my back and forth trips to Oxford.

I always feel better when I've read something on somebody's Top Whatever list, or at least have a passing acquaintance with one of the authors on it.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Booking It--Mark the Spot

What items have you ever used as a bookmark? What is the most unusual item you’ve ever used or seen used?

I've got some really wonderful bookmarks--leather souvenir ones from the homes of Samuel Johnson and Charles Dickens and one from the Jane Austen center in Bath. A former professor and now friend of mine gave me a leather one from Stonehenge and a woven one from Greece. I love these but hate to use them because I'm afraid I'll misplace them. Another friend gave me an elasticized beaded one that's beautiful, and I do use it. But, since I keep more than one book going at a time, the beaded one is not enough, and what usually happens is that I grab one of those card-like magazine inserts (there seem to be about 50 inside every magazine that I read) and make a temporary bookmark out of it. I've used bills, and index cards, and even photographs, but I don't make a practice out of that.

The funniest bookmark experience I guess I've had happened earlier this year. As part of my devotional reading, I'd been reading a Jewish prayer book, one prayer a day. The prayers are very beautiful. Anyway, as you can imagine, I have an odd assortment of cheap paper bookmarks that I've picked up in different places, and I'd grabbed one without looking at it and stuck it in the book. The next morning, when I reached for the book, titled Prayers for Shabbat and Weekdays, I noticed that the bookmark read "Jesus Loves Me."

Saturday, December 12, 2009

It's Baa-aaack Holiday Version

I wrote a post earlier about a creature who haunts our house called The Toilet Paper Phantom, and then later I shared an instance when he put a toothpick in my shoe. Well, I think he's back.

The other night, about midnight, I noticed that my husband had gotten out of bed and was wandering around the house. So, I got up and went to see what he was doing. "Do you have a mousetrap set anywhere?" he asked. I immediately knew why. In my sleep I'd heard something that sounded like a block of wood falling to the floor, but I think I'd incorporated the sound into my dream and didn't realize I'd really heard it until he'd asked me about the mousetrap.

Well, I only knew of one mousetrap, and it had been set in the back of a cabinet probably sometime last winter, but we checked it anyway and it was still set. So we began to go around the house looking for anything that could have made that sound. We finally made our way to the Christmas tree and noticed that, not one, but two ornaments had fallen off the tree. And not just any two. The two that had fallen off were both given to me by one of my best friends right before our wedding and they'd hung on our tree every year since. Weird. One was a traditional ball ornament, much too light to have made that noise, but the other was a heavy plexiglass disc with the date and snowflakes etched on it. I'm sure that it smacking the hardwood floor was the sound we'd heard. And even weirder is that it's not like one could have fallen off and hit the other. They were in totally different spots on the tree.

Stop playing that Christmas music. Cue the Twilight Zone theme.

Friday, December 11, 2009

This Is My Life

Grading essays. Grading journals. Grading response cards. Making out final exams. Recording grades. Doing administrative paperwork. Yep. That pretty much sums up my life right now.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Santa & Me

Before Thanksgiving I wrote a post about having some pictures restored, and I posted one of me and my second grade class. Well, here's the other one: Santa and me.

It looks like I'm keeping an eye on Mom and Dad just out of camera range, making sure they don't leave me with this weird guy, even if he did give me a candy cane.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

These Are the Best

The New Yorker just published its list of The Best Books of 2009. Here it is:

Lords of Finance, by Liaquat Ahamed (Penguin Press; $32.95). Central bankers and the disaster of the gold standard.
Somewhere Towards the End, by Diana Athill (Norton; $24.95). Reflections on life as a nonagenarian.
Why the Dreyfus Affair Matters, by Louis Begley (Yale; $ 24). A compact treatment of a complex case.
Germany 1945, by Richard Bessel (Harper; $28.99). A powerful picture of a nation in defeat.
Hiding Man, by Tracy Daugherty (St. Martin’s; $35). The life and work of Donald Barthelme.
Zeitoun, by Dave Eggers (McSweeney’s; $24). Caught between Hurricane Katrina and the war on terror.
My Paper Chase, by Harold Evans (Little, Brown; $27.99). Memories of the newspaper trade.
Eating Animals, by Jonathan Safran Foer (Little, Brown; $25.99). A playful yet serious vegetarian manifesto.
Flannery, by Brad Gooch (Little, Brown; $30). The quiet life behind Flannery O’Connor’s fantastic fiction.
Dorothea Lange, by Linda Gordon (Norton; $35). From society photographer to photographer of society.
Fordlandia, by Greg Grandin (Metropolitan; $27.50). Henry Ford’s Amazonian folly.
Go Down Together, by Jeff Guinn (Simon & Schuster; $27). Behind the myth of Bonnie and Clyde.
Beg, Borrow, Steal, by Michael Greenberg (Other Press; $19.95). Notes on a freelancing life.
A Strange Eventful History, by Michael Holroyd (Farrar, Straus & Giroux; $40). The linked lives of two nineteenth-century stage stars.
Marx’s General, by Tristram Hunt (Metropolitan; $32). Friedrich Engels, the industrialist who bankrolled “Das Kapital.”
Lit, by Mary Karr (Harper; $25.99). The author of “The Liars’ Club” finds God.
The Magician’s Book, by Laura Miller (Little, Brown; $25.99). Reading C. S. Lewis as a child and as an adult.
Trotsky, by Robert Service (Harvard; $35). Stalin’s rival is not to be romanticized.
A Paradise Built in Hell, by Rebecca Solnit (Viking; $27.95). Natural disasters and the power of community.
The First Tycoon, by T. J. Stiles (Knopf; $37.50). Cornelius Vanderbilt’s grand gambles.
The Death of Conservatism, by Sam Tanenhaus (Random House; $17). A movement’s maladies.
The Yankee Years, by Joe Torre and Tom Verducci (Doubleday; $26.95). A view from the bench.
The Parents We Mean to Be, by Richard Weissbourd (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; $25). Why we should beware of overpraising our children.
The Evolution of God, by Robert Wright (Little, Brown; $ 25.99). The development of religion from the Stone Age to now.


The Year of the Flood, by Margaret Atwood (Nan A. Talese / Doubleday; $26.95). Revisiting the post-apocalyptic world of “Oryx and Crake.”
The Anthologist, by Nicholson Baker (Simon & Schuster; $25). A crafty bagatelle on poetic themes.
The Way Through Doors, by Jesse Ball (Vintage; $13.95). A dizzyingly circuitous inversion of the Scheherazade legend.
The Collected Poems & Unfinished Poems, by C. P. Cavafy, translated from the Greek by Daniel Mendelsohn (Knopf; $35 & $30). Modern Greek’s great master.
The Immortals, by Amit Chaudhuri (Knopf; $25.95). Tradition and modernity in Bombay.
The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis , (Farrar, Straus & Giroux; $30). Small but perfectly formed fictions.
Sonata Mulattica, by Rita Dove (Norton; $24.95). A verse sequence about a biracial violinist who played with Beethoven.
Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi, by Geoff Dyer (Pantheon; $24). A diptych of cosmopolitan emptiness and spiritual seeking.
Every Man Dies Alone, by Hans Fallada, translated from the German by Michael Hofmann (Melville House; $27). A neglected classic about a couple’s resistance to the Nazis.
Wanting, by Richard Flanagan (Atlantic Monthly; $24). From Tasmania to the Arctic with Sir John Franklin.
Dark Places, by Gillian Flynn (Shaye Areheart; $24). A sinister thriller about a girl who survives her family’s murder.
The Magicians, by Lev Grossman (Viking; $26.95). An artfully self-reflective fantasy novel.
Tinkers, by Paul Harding (Bellevue Literary Press; $14.95). The death of a patriarch in nineteenth-century Maine.
The Believers, by Zoë Heller (Harper; $25.99). Family secrets and rivalries in the aftermath of 9/11.
Censoring an Iranian Love Story, by Shahriar Mandanipour, translated from the Farsi by Sara Khalili (Knopf; $25). Passion and repression in the Islamic Republic.
The Vagrants, by Yiyun Li (Random House; $25). A novel of political upheaval in China.
Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel (Henry Holt; $27). Tudor intrigue.
Upgraded to Serious, by Heather McHugh (Copper Canyon; $22). Poems of compassion and verbal intricacy.
Her Fearful Symmetry, by Audrey Niffenegger (Scribner; $ 26.99). A gothic yarn around a London cemetery.
Brooklyn, by Colm Tóibín (Scribner; $25). Emigration, love, and homesickness.
Love and Summer, by William Trevor (Viking; $25.95). Irish provincial life in the nineteen-fifties.
Lowboy, by John Wray (Farrar, Straus & Giroux; $25). A schizophrenic rides the subway.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Bouncing off Bushes

This past Sunday was our anniversary, and to celebrate we went away for the weekend to Eureka Springs. We stayed in a small log cabin and watched the deer roaming all around the area. We walked the steep streets of the town, checking out quaint little shops and even quainter people. We walked through the supposedly-haunted Crescent Hotel on Saturday night, but we weren't accosted by any supernatural beings. We lingered over a wonderful anniversary meal, and strolled again, looking at the Christmas lights and the Living Windows displays in some of the shops downtown. It's nice to get away from the everyday, to relax, and to spend uninterrupted time together.

But we couldn't go to Eureka Springs without visiting the site of one of our funny family stories. We hadn't visited the town since our children were small. When we were there back then, we took the kids out to see Christ of the Ozarks, a seven-story-tall statue of Jesus, high up on a mountain. Our daughter was only four or five I guess, and she'd climbed up the hill, near the statue, and then had turned and started back down as I watched from below. Things went fine at first, but then, as she came downhill she began to pick up speed. I mean a lot of speed. Before she knew it, she was flying down the hill, totally out of control, her steps covering huge amounts of ground, her eyes big as saucers. She was terrified.

And I was laughing hysterically. I realize this is not a "good mom" kind of thing, but it's the truth. I laughed so hard I grew weak. I positioned myself to catch her, but at the last minute she somehow changed course, bounced off a bush and then into me, knocking us both down. My husband witnessed it all. In his defense, he was too far away to help us. In my defense, he was laughing too.

For some reason, this story amuses me a lot more than it does my daughter.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Booking It--Participation

What’s your favorite part of Booking It? Why do you participate (or not)?

Ha. That's easy. It's one day a week that I don't have to come up with a blog topic. I just answer a question.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

It's That Time of Year

No, I'm not talking about Christmas. I'm talking about the end of the semester. Papers to grade. Tests to make out. Grades to record. Curriculum mapping to do (I SO love assessment--irony alert). And prepping and teaching don't stop for these fun activities.

I've got Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" playing in the background, and I'm repeating The Little Engine That Could's motto. Two weeks to go. Yeah. Piece of cake.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Guilty as Charged

OK. I stole this from JGR's blog, Fire in the Bones, but I don't feel bad about it because it's too good not to steal and, besides, I am giving due credit.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Going Rogue, Volume II (with a twist)

It's all in your point of view. And your spelling. And your subtitle.

From Publisher's Weekly:

Going Rouge: An American Nightmare, the left-wing critical take on Sarah Palin published by OR Books, is going to bookstores after all. The essay collection from OR - a new indie founded by Colin Robinson and John Oakes - was initially published as a direct-to-consumer title. Now, Florida-based publisher HCI has acquired rights to the book and began shipping copies to stores yesterday. HCI is doing a first printing of 50,000 copies.

Book Description from HCI:

Sarah Palin has many faces: hockey mom, fundamentalist Christian, sex symbol, Republican ideologue, fashion icon, "maverick" populist. But, above all, Palin has become one thing: an American obsession that just won't go away. Edited by two senior editors at The Nation magazine, this sharp, smart, up-to-the-minute book examines Palin's obscure origins in Wasilla, Alaska, her spectacular rise to the effective leadership of the Republican Party, and the nightmarish prospect of her continuing to dominate the nation's political scene.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Financial Poetry

The economy's got people down. Unemployment. Bailouts. Astronomical (unearned) bonuses. Foreclosures. Health care debates. You get the picture.

Want to do something about it? Write a haiku!

The Peter G. Peterson foundation has established a website called Fiscal Haiku. Foundation spokesman Myra Sung says that they launched the site "to constructively express the multitude of frustrations of the American public." If you'd like to contribute, all you have to do is express and submit your frustration in haiku form: three brief lines totaling 17 syllables--five syllables, seven syllables, and five syllables, respectively.
What are you waiting for? Start writing!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Angels or Demons

Did you hear about the Pamela Root/Southwestern Airlines controversy? Root boarded a flight in Amarillo with her two-year-old son Adam, who proceeded to yell, scream, and wail so long and so loudly that passengers could not even hear the safety announcements. It was so bad that the pilot finally returned to the gate and had a flight attendant ask the mother and son to deboard the plane.

If I were Root, I would have been terribly embarassed. But was she? No. Of course not. She was "appalled" and "angry" that the airlines would do that to her. She demanded an apology. And a free flight. And reimbursement for diapers and a portable crib she had to buy for an overnight stay at her parents'. Not once did she acknowledge the rights of the other passengers to a calm, quiet flight. Not once did she feel the need to apologize to the other passengers for her son's uncontrollable behavior and/or the subsequent flight delay.

I agree with Amy Alkon, a columnist for the Los Angeles Times:

"Parents like Root and others who selfishly force the rest of us to pay the cost of their choices in life aren't just bothering us; they're stealing from us. Most people don't see it this way because what they're stealing isn't a thing we can grab on to, like a wallet. They're stealing our attention, our time and our peace of mind.

"More and more, we're all victims of these many small muggings every day. [ . . . ] These little acts of social thuggery are inconsequential in and of themselves, but they add up--wearing away at our patience and good nature and making our daily lives feel like one big wrestling smackdown."

When I was a child and we went out in public--to eat, to shop, to watch a movie, whatever--my parents made it clear to us that good behavior was expected. We didn't yell and run around in restaurants. We didn't talk loudly in movies. We quietly stayed with our parents while they shopped, and if we didn't do these things we suffered the consequences and quickly got ourselves back in line. Dad's refrain was something along the lines of "These people didn't come here to be disturbed by you." In other words, we were taught to be aware of others and to show them respect. Consequently, we learned to respect others and ourselves.

My husband and I raised our children the same way. When they were babies, if one started to cry while we were in a restaurant, one of us would take him or her out. The other would watch the other children and finish eating; then we'd switch places. It wasn't fun, but it was our crying child and our responsibility. The other diners didn't deserve to have their meal ruined by a wailing baby, so we did the right thing. When the children got older, we shifted some of the responsibility to them. We explained how we expected them to behave in advance. We explained why. We explained the consequences of misbehavior, and we also told them that how they acted would affect how likely they were to be rewarded with future fun outings. The rules were the same if we were eating at McDonalds or a nice restaurant. Our children were not perfect, but they learned quickly, and I remember several instances of older couples stopping by our table and commenting on how nice it was to see children behave so well in public.

I understand and appreciate the sentiment. When our children were small, my husband and I didn't get many nice evenings out, and if we did, the last thing we wanted to hear was a crying baby or a screaming toddler.

Respect. What a concept.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Booking It--Thankful

What books and authors are you particularly thankful for this year?

Hmm. Well, I'm thankful to have discovered Jodi Picoult, an author who fulfills my need for recreational reading without forsaking literary quality. She writes with style and depth; her plots are complex and thought-provoking. I don't have to feel guilty about reading her, but I can also relax and be pulled along by the storyline.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

What I'm Reading Now

From Publishers Weekly

The second novel from Suri (The Death of Vishnu) follows Meera Sawhney from her unhappy 1950s marriage to aspiring singer Dev Arora through to her own son's coming-of-age. After an impulsive act forces Meera's marriage at 17, her complex, controlling father decries her tying herself (and, by extension, her family) to the provincial, lower-class Aroras. Meera soon finds herself pulled in different directions by her in-laws' religious orthodoxy, her father's progressivism (which doesn't run deep), her husband's self-pitying alcoholism and her own resentment. She finds salvation in the birth of a son, Ashvin; mother love, which Suri describes in intensely physical terms, gives her life passion and purpose, and overwhelms her adult relationships. But as India modernizes, Meera senses that Ashvin, and she herself, must live their own lives. Suri renders Meera's perspective marvelously, especially in small particulars (such as Meera's deliberations around the cutting of Ashvin's hair) and in the perils and conflicts Meera faces in her relationships with men. He also takes a close look at Hindu practices and charts the rise of religious nationalism in the years following Gandhi's death. Suri's vivid portrait of a woman in post-independence India engages timeless themes of self-determination.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Far from the Madding Crowd

Black Friday.

Yes, I've done it before. The early rising. Fighting the crowds. No parking. Long lines. Aggravation. And this is supposed to be fun?

No, thanks. Today, instead of celebrating consumerism, my daughter and I are going to Little Rock, having a nice, relaxing lunch, and spending the afternoon at the movies.

I guess I'm a rebel at heart.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Clarity is important, even outside the Comp I classroom. I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

List with a Twist Revisited

Last Thanksgiving, I posted a literary list of things I'm thankful for. I thought I'd do a rerun of my List With a Twist
here (with a couple of additions):

I decided to do a “What I’m Grateful For” list with a twist today. Of course I’m thankful for family, friends, my health, my home, my car, my job, and all the other wonderful things I’ve been blessed with. But here’s a list of things that I am also thankful for:

1. novels
2. bookstores
3. Jane Austen
4. similes & metaphors
5. libraries
6. short stories
7. epiphanies
8. puns
9. electronic databases
10. adults who read to children
11. poetry
13. Shakespeare
14. a well-crafted sentence
15. drama
16. interlibrary loan
17. anthologies
18. limericks
19. signed copies
20. journals & diaries
21. free verse
22. freedom from censorship
23. onomatopoeia
24. satire & spoofs
25. audiobooks
26. the willing suspension of disbelief
27. blogs
28. grammar handbooks
29. quotable lines
30. Microsoft Word
31. gripping plots
32. film versions (sometimes)
33. foreshadowing
34. book shelves
35. satisfying conclusions
36. the 23rd Psalm in the KJV
37. memorable characters
38. dictionaries
39. allusion
40. friends who read
41. alliteration
42. clear and present thesis sentences
43. whodunits
44. new words
45. the classics
46. shades of meaning
47. re-reading
48. imagination
49. reading out loud
50. sequels

Happy Thanksgiving!

I want to add

51. palindromes
52. book circles
53. Brit Lit students who love to discuss what they've read

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Front and Center

I love old pictures, and I also love to display them. There's one problem, though. They are extremely fragile.

Several years ago, for Christmas my husband gave me a glass curio cabinet that I promptly filled with old framed photographs and relics of our pasts. Along with pictures of a nice-looking gentleman standing by his Model T while his girl-friend perched on the running board (a couple who became my grandparents), the old general store run by my husband's grandparents, and both of our parents' wedding days were my baby shoes, his father's tie tac, my grandmother's thimble . . . You get the idea. I love all the things in that cabinet. It is our history--nothing with any intrinsic value but to us, priceless.

One day, however, I walked by and noticed that a couple of the pictures in front had been severely damaged by the sunlight--both pictures of a young me. I had the only copies of these photos, so I took them to a restorer and just got them back yesterday. One of them is above. That's a picture of my second grade class at Aubrey Elementary, and that's me, front and center, in the green dress. The other picture is of Santa and me. You'll have to wait until after Thanksgiving to see that one.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Booking It--Posterity

Do you think any current author is of the same caliber as Dickens, Austen, Bronte, or any of the classic authors? If so, who, and why do you think so? If not, why not? What books from this era might be read 100 years from now?

The first book that came to mind for me was Barbara Kingsolver's tour de force, The Poisonwood Bible. I definitely believe that book will go down as a classic, but I've sung her praises so much on the blog I'm beginning to sound like a broken record. To be honest though, I've been stuck in the 18th century for the last few years, at least in most of my reading life. I'm not as up on current authors as I'd like to be. However, I'm trying to remedy that now. So, as far as the best of current literature/authors goes, I'm certainly not the expert. Any ideas out there? Who or what should I be reading now that you believe will be read 100 years from now?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Saturday, November 21, 2009

I'm Tired

This has been a great year. I finished the degree; I'm back at work. But, boy, am I tired. I thought I'd have some time off between defending and going back to work, but with two new classes to teach this semester, that just didn't happen. And of course the prep from those two new classes has kept me busy, along with all the grading. And NOW I've got two new classes to teach in the Spring semester, so in addition to prepping and grading, I've been trying to do some planning.

So, I'm really looking forward to having some time off next week. I want to get up without an alarm. I want to go through the day without watching the clock. I want to do some recreational reading. I want to watch a good movie or two (NOT New Moon).

Maybe after that I'll be ready for the sprint towards finals.

Friday, November 20, 2009

National Book Awards 2009

Wednesday night, the National Book Foundation announced this year's winners:

Fiction: Let the Great World Spin, Colum McCann

Nonfiction: The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt, TJ. Stiles

Poetry: Transcedental Studies: A Trilogy, Keith Waldrop

Young people's literature: Claudette Colvin, Phillip Hoose.

Additionally, Flannery O'Connor's The Complete Stories was named Best of the National Book Awards Fiction. I'm really glad because that's the book I voted for. (And, yes, I know that sentence ends in a preposition, but consider the alternative: " . . . because that's the book for which I voted." Hmmm. I don't think so. It's like the Winston Churchill quote: "That is something up with which I will not put.)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

What Was She Thinking?

When I got my latest edition of Newsweek in the mail yesterday and saw the cover, I thought, "Surely, she didn't."

But, yes she did, just not for Newsweek. This picture originally appeared in Runner's World.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

What I'm Reading Now

From Library Journal:

In Christianity, the Eucharist emphasizes the relationship between Jesus' body and humanity, so it would seem logical that Christians would honor their own flesh and blood. Not so, says Paulsell, an ordained pastor currently serving as visiting lecturer on ministry at Harvard Divinity School. Her compelling book argues that while it is quite possible to regard highly the human physique, various societal and cultural conceptions go against the belief that human beings are "fearfully and wonderfully made" in the image of God. Paulsell writes about bathing and clothing the body, the necessity of exercise and rest, sexuality, and physical debilitations with their all-too-often negative connotations. The section on food is particularly fitting, since modern society places so much emphasis on physical perfection often with devastating consequences. Through this extremely well-written book, both lay readers and clergy will develop an appreciation of the body.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Another Must-See

If you care about the plight of women worldwide, you should see this film. It highlights the fear and despair experienced by Muslim women under Taliban rule. It is heartbreaking, yet beautifully filmed.

Osama (Persian: أسامة) is a 2003 film made in Afghanistan by Siddiq Barmak.It was the first film to be shot entirely in that country since 1996, when the Taliban régime banned the creation of all films.

The movie was filmed on location in Kabul, Afghanistan. Work began in June, 2002 and was completed in March 2003 with a budget of approximately $46,000 USD. All the actors in the film are amateurs found by the director on the streets of Kabul.

It is the story of a 12-year-old Afghan girl and her mother who lose their jobs when the Taliban closes the hospital where they work. The Taliban have also forbidden women to leave their houses without a male "legal companion." With her husband and brother dead, killed in battle, there is no one left to support the family—mother, daughter, and aging grandmother. Without being able to leave the house, the mother is left with nowhere to turn. Feeling that she has no other choice, she disguises her daughter as a boy. Now called “Osama,” the girl embarks on a terrifying and confusing journey as she tries to keep the Taliban from finding out her true identity--something she increasingly realizes is only a matter of time.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Booking It--Too Short

“Life is too short to read bad books.” I’d always heard that, but I still read books through until the end no matter how bad they were because I had this sense of obligation. That is, until this week when I tried (really tried) to read a book that is utterly boring and unrealistic. I had to stop reading.

Do you read everything all the way through or do you feel life really is too short to read bad books?

Yes, I do feel that way. Especially when my stack of "to-reads" is expanding exponentially and my list of "have-reads" seems to grow at a snail's pace. If a book is really slow but someone I trust has told me to stick with it, I will. And if I need to read the book for a class or some other important reason, I'll stick with it, but I'm very tempted to skim quickly to the end. If it's supposed to be a pleasure read and it's bad, then I don't waste my time with it. Too many other good books are waiting for me.