Friday, December 17, 2010

My New Listen

· The Rembrandt Affair


· by Daniel Silva

· Narrated by Phil Gigante

· Publisher Brilliance Audio

· Length 11 hours 27 minutes

Publisher's Summary

Determined to sever his ties with the Office, Gabriel Allon has retreated to the windswept cliffs of Cornwall with his beautiful Venetian-born wife, Chiara. But once again his seclusion is interrupted by a visitor from his tangled past: the endearingly eccentric London art dealer Julian Isherwood. As usual, Isherwood has a problem. And it is one only Gabriel can solve.

In the ancient English city of Glastonbury, an art restorer has been brutally murdered and a long-lost portrait by Rembrandt mysteriously stolen. Despite his reluctance, Gabriel is persuaded to use his unique skills to search for the painting and those responsible for the crime. But as he painstakingly follows a trail of clues leading from Amsterdam to Buenos Aires and, finally, to a villa on the graceful shores of Lake Geneva, Gabriel discovers there are deadly secrets connected to the painting. And evil men behind them.

Before he is done, Gabriel will once again be drawn into a world he thought he had left behind forever, and will come face-to-face with a remarkable cast of characters: a glamorous London journalist who is determined to undo the worst mistake of her career, an elusive master art thief who is burdened by a conscience, and a powerful Swiss billionaire who is known for his good deeds but may just be behind one of the greatest threats facing the world.

Filled with remarkable twists and turns of plot, and told with seductive prose, The Rembrandt Affair is more than just summer entertainment of the highest order. It is a timely reminder that there are men in the world who will do anything for money.

Monday, December 13, 2010

My New Read

Watch out, world. Here comes Stephanie Plum, a bounty hunter with attitude. In Stephanie's opinion, toxic waste, rabid drivers, armed schizophrenics, and August heat, humidity, and hydrocarbons are all part of the great adventure of living in Jersey.

She's a product of the "burg," a blue-collar pocket of Trenton where houses are attached and narrow, cars are American, windows are clean, and (God forbid you should be late) dinner is served at six.

Now Stephanie's all grown up and out on her own, living five miles from Mom and Dad's, doing her best to sever the world's longest umbilical cord. Her mother is a meddler, and her grandmother is a few cans short of a case.

Out of work and out of money, with her Miata repossessed and her refrigerator empty, Stephanie blackmails her bail bondsman cousin, Vinnie, into giving her a try as an apprehension agent. Stephanie knows zilch about the job requirements, but she figures her new pal, fearless bounty hunter Ranger, can teach her what it takes to catch a crook.

Her first assignment: nail Joe Morelli, a former vice cop on the run from a charge of murder one. Morelli is also the irresistible macho pig who took Stephanie's virginity at age sixteen and then wrote the details on the bathroom wall of Mario's Sub Shop. There's still powerful chemistry between these two, so the chase should be interesting.

It could also be extremely dangerous, especially when Stephanie encounters a heavyweight title contender who likes to play rough. Benito Ramirez is known for his brutality to women. At the very least, his obsession with Stephanie complicates her manhunt and brings terror and uncertainty into her life. At the worst, it could lead to murder.

Witty, fresh, and full of surprises, One for the Money was among the most eagerly awaited crime novels of the season.

Friday, December 10, 2010

My Latest Listen

Rowling proves that she has plenty of tricks left up her sleeve in this third Harry Potter adventure, set once again at the Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. Right before the start of term, a supremely dangerous criminal breaks out of a supposedly impregnable wizards' prison; it will come as no surprise to Potter fans that the villain, a henchman of Harry's old enemy Lord Voldemort, appears to have targeted Harry. In many ways this installment seems to serve a transitional role in the seven-volume series: while many of the adventures are breathlessly relayed, they appear to be laying groundwork for even more exciting adventures to come. The beauty here lies in the genius of Rowling's plotting. Seemingly minor details established in books one and two unfold to take on unforeseen significance, and the finale, while not airtight in its internal logic, is utterly thrilling. Rowling's wit never flags, whether constructing the workings of the wizard world (Just how would a magician be made to stay behind bars?) or tossing off quick jokes (a grandmother wears a hat decorated with a stuffed vulture; the divination classroom looks like a tawdry tea shop). The Potter spell is holding strong.

Monday, November 29, 2010

What I'm Re-Reading

Here, in one volume: Marjane Satrapi's best-selling, internationally acclaimed memoir-in-comic-strips.

Persepolis is the story of Satrapi's unforgettable childhood and coming of age within a large and loving family in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution; of the contradictions between private life and public life in a country plagued by political upheaval; of her high school years in Vienna facing the trials of adolescence far from her family; of her homecoming--both sweet and terrible; and, finally, of her self-imposed exile from her beloved homeland. It is the chronicle of a girlhood and adolescence at once outrageous and familiar, a young life entwined with the history of her country yet filled with the universal trials and joys of growing up.

Edgy, searingly observant, and candid, often heartbreaking but threaded throughout with raw humor and hard-earned wisdom--Persepolis is a stunning work from one of the most highly regarded, singularly talented graphic artists at work today.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Battle of the Readers

When I started listening to the Harry Potter series on audiobooks, I began with Stephen Fry as reader. And I LOVED him. But some people kept telling me that Jim Dale was much better. I couldn't really imagine how he could be, and I was so satisfied with Fry that I saw no reason to switch. Well, there were some technical problems half-way through Chamber of Secrets, so a friend who works at the library reserved their audiobook for me so I could finish the novel, and guess who's the reader? Right. Jim Dale. So now I can speak officialy on the matter.

Stephen Fry is the best. Hands down.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

My New Listen

Adam & Eve: A Novel
by Sena Jeter Naslund
Narrated by Karen White
PUBLISHER Harper Audio
LENGTH 13 hrs and 44 mins

Publisher's Summary

What happened to Eden?

Hours before his untimely - and highly suspicious - death, world-renowned astrophysicist Thom Bergmann shares his discovery of extraterrestrial life with his wife, Lucy. Feeling that the warring world is not ready to learn of - or accept - proof of life elsewhere in the universe, Thom entrusts Lucy with his computer flash drive, which holds the keys to his secret work.

Devastated by Thom's death, Lucy keeps the secret, but Thom's friend, anthropologist Pierre Saad, contacts Lucy with an unusual and dangerous request about another sensitive matter. Pierre needs Lucy to help him smuggle a newly discovered artifact out of Egypt: an ancient codex concerning the human authorship of the Book of Genesis. Offering a reinterpretation of the creation story, the document is sure to threaten the foundation of the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim religion... and there are those who will stop at nothing to suppress it.

Midway through the daring journey, Lucy's small plane goes down on a slip of verdant land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in the Middle East. Burned in the crash landing, she is rescued by Adam, a delusional American soldier whose search for both spiritual and carnal knowledge has led to madness. Blessed with youth, beauty, and an unsettling innocence, Adam gently tends to Lucy's wounds, and in this quiet, solitary paradise, a bond between the unlikely pair grows. Ultimately, Lucy and Adam forsake their half-mythical Eden and make their way back toward civilization, where members of an ultraconservative religious cult are determined to deprive the world of the knowledge Lucy carries.

Set against the searing debate between evolutionists and creationists, Adam & Eve expands the definition of a "sacred book", and suggests that true madness lies in wars and violence fueled by all religious literalism and intolerance.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

HP Jealousy

I've really enjoyed seeing my students' (and others') reactions to the news that I'm finally reading the Harry Potter series. They are SO excited and happy about it.

But what's really interesting is that they're jealous. Several different people have said to me, "Oooh, I wish I could read them again for the first time." And I know how they feel. There are lots of books I wish I could read again for the first time.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

My Latest Listen

OK. I know I'm behind the times. I'm just now getting around to Harry Potter. And I've really been enjoying the first novel. That is, I was until this morning. With only about one hour left of the audiobook, my ipod shut off. At first, I thought my battery was down. But, no. I turned it back on, navigated to roughly the same spot, and began to listen again. A few minutes of replay, and then . . . nothing. Again. What??
As soon as I got in from my workout, I got on my computer and checked itunes. It didn't work there, either. The rest of the book was missing.

Monday, November 8, 2010

What I'm Reading Now

All children should believe they are special. But the students of Hailsham, an elite school in the English countryside, are so special that visitors shun them, and only by rumor and the occasional fleeting remark by a teacher do they discover their unconventional origins and strange destiny. Kazuo Ishiguro's sixth novel, Never Let Me Go, is a masterpiece of indirection. Like the students of Hailsham, readers are "told but not told" what is going on and should be allowed to discover the secrets of Hailsham and the truth about these children on their own.
Offsetting the bizarreness of these revelations is the placid, measured voice of the narrator, Kathy H., a 31-year-old Hailsham alumna who, at the close of the 1990s, is consciously ending one phase of her life and beginning another. She is in a reflective mood, and recounts not only her childhood memories, but her quest in adulthood to find out more about Hailsham and the idealistic women who ran it. Although often poignant, Kathy's matter-of-fact narration blunts the sharper emotional effects you might expect in a novel that deals with illness, self-sacrifice, and the severe restriction of personal freedoms. As in Ishiguro's best-known work, The Remains of the Day, only after closing the book do you absorb the magnitude of what his characters endure. --Regina Marler

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Flattery Will Get You Everywhere

I just got an email from a friend and former professor of mine. She sent me a link to Deb Barnum's (Regional Coordinator of the Vermont chapter of JASNA and current bibliographer for Persuasions Online) BLOG recapping the 2010 JASNA AGM. "She talks about you!" my friend said.

Well, of course I had to check it out, and here's what Ms. Barnum had to say:

. . . Then off to the first of many break-out sessions – and what a task to choose! – each session offering such variety and depth – the choice so difficult – I decided to do at least one on the gothic literary features of NA, one on fashion and all that muslin, and of course, something on Henry Tilney. So my first was to hear . . .

Then off to see Stephanie Eddleman on “Henry Tilney: Austen’s Feminized Hero?” – One of the things that can get my dander up in a discussion about NA is talk that Henry is too feminine to be a true hero, or too condescending to be an equal lover to Catherine, or too distant as a character to engage the reader – so I was hoping that Prof. Eddleman would give me much needed ammunition! – and she did indeed: Henry as the one hero who stands apart – he is her only witty hero; he is feminized but not feminine, and unlike Austen’s other feminized male characters [Frank Churchill, Robert Ferrars], Austen is not critical of Henry. I most appreciated Eddleman’s answer to Marvin Mudrick’s contention that Henry is a detached, disengaged character – she feels that Henry develops intimacy through his intelligence and wit, always encouraging Catherine toward her own independent thinking. I hope this talk will be in Persuasions – it gives much needed support for Henry as True & Worthy Austen Hero.

With all these great thoughts in my head, off we ran to . . .

Wow. That was exciting!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Rainy Days

Rainy days make me just want to stay home and read, preferably something NOT for a class. And drink coffee.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Snooping on Planes

I always like to know what other people are reading, and airports/airplanes are good places to observe readers. Of course, I have to be careful. People start to wonder about you when you stare at them or get in weird positions for a view of their lap.

I saw fewer people reading this trip than I usually do (trend? chance?), but here's what I saw people reading:

Wally Lamb's The Hour I First Believed

John Grisham's Ford County

Thomas Friedman's Hot, Flat, and Crowded

a Mitch Albom novel, couldn't read the title

a Robert B. Parker novel, couldn't read the title

one guy was reading a chemistry textbook

one girl was studying a sign-language text (and practicing)

one woman was reading a paperback that, I kid you not, looked six inches thick. I tried and tried to see what it was, but no luck


a woman was reading a bodice ripper (couldn't read the title, but you know what kinds of pictures are on the cover; no mistaking them) and here's the kicker: SHE WAS HIGHLIGHTING TEXT. I am not making this up. Think of the possibilities . . .

Friday, October 29, 2010

I Know You're Dying to Know . . .

Here's the blurb for my presentation today:

Henry Tilney: Austen’s Feminized Hero?

In Northanger Abbey, Austen praises the novel form as she satirizes elements of the gothic novel, particularly the female gothic: the castle; the atmosphere of mystery and suspense; the inexplicable events; the powerful, tyrannical male; the woman in distress. Jane Spencer and other critics have noted an additional element: the weak hero. These critics claim that, in the eighteenth-century female gothic novel, the heroine triumphs over male authoritarianism by marriage to a “feminized hero,” achieving a union “where womanly virtue and patriarchal authority are no longer in conflict” (Rise of the Woman Novelist, 207).

This paper will explore the character of Henry Tilney as Austen’s clever acknowledgement and rebuttal of this feminization of the hero. Austen does “feminize” Henry. He is well aware of accepted female behaviors—“their delightful habit of journalizing,” for instance—and is eloquently able to describe the contents of the perfect feminine journal entry (NA 27). He “understands muslins . . . particularly well” and has often been entrusted with the choice of his sister’s gowns (28). He’s an avid reader of novels, although Catherine assumes that novels are for women and “gentlemen read better books” (106). Yet Austen, in her other novels, discourages even hints of effeminacy in her male characters and champions virtuous masculinity. So, how should readers view Austen’s “feminization” of Henry? Her other heroines triumph, not by acquiring weak, feminized husbands, but by securing one who is both manly and virtuous. Is this true for Catherine also?

Fascinating, right? :-)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

I'm Here

The JASNA conference is this weekend in Portland, OR. Beautiful part of the country! And I present tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Takin' the Long Way Around

I thought it was bad enough that I was supposed to fly to Portland, OR, today by way of Atlanta, GA I understand that LR is not a major hub, but flying east to go west still seems illogical. But after several delays and finally boarding only to find out that my flight had been cancelled, here's what I get to do tomorrow: Fly out at 6:55 am (you know what time that means I've got to get up, don't you?) And my new itinerary? Little Rock to Memphis, Memphis to Minneapolis, Minneapolis to Portland. I guess I should just be glad I'm getting there.

You Go, Girl!

Dian Sawyer: How many women on the Supreme Court is enough?

Ruth Bader Ginsberg: Nine.

Monday, October 25, 2010

What I'm Re-reading Now

In 1873, two women living on the Isles of Shoals, a lonely, windswept group of islands off the coast of New Hampshire, were brutally murdered. A third woman survived, cowering in a sea cave until dawn. More than a century later, Jean, a magazine photographer working on a photoessay about the murders, returns to the Isles with her husband, Thomas, and their five-year-old daughter, Billie, aboard a boat skippered by her brother-in-law, Rich, who has brought along his girlfriend, Adaline. As Jean becomes immersed in the details of the 19th-century murders, Thomas and Adaline find themselves drawn together-with potentially ruinous consequences. Shreve perfectly captures the ubiquitous dampness of life on a sailboat, deftly evoking the way in which the weather comes to dictate all actions for those at sea. With the skill of a master shipbuilder, Shreve carefully fits her two stories together, tacking back and forth between the increasingly twisted murder mystery and the escalating tensions unleashed by the threat of a dangerous shipboard romance. Written with assurance and grace, plangent with foreboding and a taut sense of inexorability, The Weight of Water is a powerfully compelling tale of passion, a provocative and disturbing meditation on the nature of love.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

My Current Re-read

In a startling departure from her previous novels ( Lady Oracle , Surfacing ), respected Canadian poet and novelist Atwood presents here a fable of the near future. In the Republic of Gilead, formerly the United States, far-right Schlafly/Falwell-type ideals have been carried to extremes in the monotheocratic government. The resulting society is a feminist's nightmare: women are strictly controlled, unable to have jobs or money and assigned to various classes: the chaste, childless Wives; the housekeeping Marthas; and the reproductive Handmaids, who turn their offspring over to the "morally fit" Wives. The tale is told by Offred (read: "of Fred"), a Handmaid who recalls the past and tells how the chilling society came to be.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

What I'm Reading Now

The contention between the "new" atheists and the devout is causing a resurgence in agnostic studies. Krasny (Off Mike) is a public radio host and a self-declared agnostic, maintaining a position that "stands open to verification of either side of the God question." Deftly balancing biography and literary scholarship, the book is both a personal examination of agnosticism and a balanced voice in the complex debate over faith's role in society. Krasny grew up a strong believer in his Jewish faith, until adolescent questioning led him to declare he just wasn't sure. Despite a lost connection with God, the young Krasny continued to seek a divine presence, even admitting to feelings of envy toward those possessing "the consolation of faith." In this book, agnosticism is a tool to philosophically engage with various manifestations of faith including organized religion, spiritual-but-not-religious sentiments, and even paranormal theories. Readers expecting a late chapter conversion will be disappointed; Krasny remains agnostic to the end, even while declaring his respect for the benefits religion can bring to believers.

You can access Krasny's NPR interview here.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Right Equipment

A woman and her husband were vacationing at a lake. The husband liked to fish, and the boat was full of his equipment, but one day while he was napping, the woman decided to go out on the boat herself. She found a nice place on the lake and began to read her book.

A warden pulled up and told her she was in a restricted zone (no fishing) and he would have to arrest her. The woman explained that she was not fishing; she was reading. The warden responded that she had all the proper equipment for fishing and he would have to take her in to the station.

"If you do, I'll charge you with sexual assault" she snapped.

Dumb-struck, the warden protested that he hadn't even touched her.

"Yes, but you have all the proper equipment," she replied.

The moral of the story? Don't argue with a woman who reads; it's likely she can also think.

What I Just Finished

If you've ever wondered why you just can't stop eating certain foods, even when you have admirable self discipline in other areas, this book is for you.

From Publishers Weekly:

Conditioned hypereating is a biological challenge, not a character flaw, says Kessler, former FDA commissioner under presidents Bush and Clinton). Here Kessler (A Question of Intent) describes how, since the 1980s, the food industry, in collusion with the advertising industry, and lifestyle changes have short-circuited the body's self-regulating mechanisms, leaving many at the mercy of reward-driven eating. Through the evidence of research, personal stories (including candid accounts of his own struggles) and examinations of specific foods produced by giant food corporations and restaurant chains, Kessler explains how the desire to eat—as distinct from eating itself—is stimulated in the brain by an almost infinite variety of diabolical combinations of salt, fat and sugar. Although not everyone succumbs, more people of all ages are being set up for a lifetime of food obsession due to the ever-present availability of foods laden with salt, fat and sugar. A gentle though urgent plea for reform, Kessler's book provides a simple food rehab program to fight back against the industry's relentless quest for profits while an entire country of people gain weight and get sick. According to Kessler, persistence is all that is needed to make the perceptual shifts and find new sources of rewards to regain control.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

My New Listen

There is no one in contemporary literature quite like Barbara Kingsolver. Her dialogue sparkles with sassy wit and earthy poetry; her descriptions are rooted in daily life but are also on familiar terms with the eternal. With Prodigal Summer, she returns from the Congo to a "wrinkle on the map that lies between farms and wildness." And there, in an isolated pocket of southern Appalachia, she recounts not one but three intricate stories.

Exuberant, lush, riotous--the summer of the novel is "the season of extravagant procreation" in which bullfrogs carelessly lay their jellied masses of eggs in the grass, "apparently confident that their tadpoles would be able to swim through the lawn like little sperms," and in which a woman may learn to "tell time with her skin." It is also the summer in which a family of coyotes moves into the mountains above Zebulon Valley:

The ghost of a creature long extinct was coming in on silent footprints, returning to the place it had once held in the complex anatomy of this forest like a beating heart returned to its body. This is what she believed she would see, if she watched, at this magical juncture: a restoration.
The "she" is Deanna Wolfe, a wildlife biologist observing the coyotes from her isolated aerie--isolated, that is, until the arrival of a young hunter who makes her even more aware of the truth that humans are only an infinitesimal portion in the ecological balance. This truth forms the axis around which the other two narratives revolve: the story of a city girl, entomologist, and new widow and her efforts to find a place for herself; and the story of Garnett Walker and Nannie Rawley, who seem bent on thrashing out the countless intimate lessons of biology as only an irascible traditional farmer and a devotee of organic agriculture can. As Nannie lectures Garnett, "Everything alive is connected to every other by fine, invisible threads. Things you don't see can help you plenty, and things you try to control will often rear back and bite you, and that's the moral of the story."

Structurally, that gossamer web is the story: images, phrases, and events link the narratives, and these echoes are rarely obvious, always serendipitous. Kingsolver is one of those authors for whom the terrifying elegance of nature is both aesthetic wonder and source of a fierce and abiding moral vision. She may have inherited Thoreau's mantle, but she piles up riches of her own making, blending her extravagant narrative gift with benevolent concise humor. She treads the line between the sentimental and the glorious like nobody else in American literature. --Kelly Flynn

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Girl Power

Josey and the Pussycats opening theme (1970)

Call for Papers

Christian Scholars' Conference 2011

The Path of Discovery: Science, Theology, and the Academy
June 16-18, 2011
Pepperdine University, Malibu, California

Crime Fiction, Science, and The Battle Between Good and Evil

A universal theme in Judeo-Christian literature is the battle between good and evil. This theme plays out in many genres—from Milton’s epic poetry to Tolkien’s fantasy novels, to Wilkie Collins’ Moonstone, a novel described by T. S. Eliot as “the first and greatest of English detective novels.” As Knutson notes, “The first practitioners within crime writing prepared the genre for a conservative worldview [in which] there was a binary opposition between right and wrong, good and evil,” and for the popular subgenre of forensic crime drama, the dichotomy still holds true. However, science has replaced God as the “good” and religion is often linked to evil (bigotry, intolerance, insanity) in the epic battle between good and evil. Submissions are welcome on any aspect of the role of science and/or religion in the battle between good and evil in crime fiction. This session invites submissions from both working scholars and PhD students.

Abstracts of 100 to 150 words and a brief bio should be sent in a Word attachment via e-mail by 21 December, 2010 to: Stephanie M. Eddleman,

Notice of acceptance of your paper will be provided by January 18, 2011.

For more information about the conference, go to

Saturday, October 9, 2010

What I'm Re-reading Now

Nearly forgotten after her death in 1970, Haushofer began to attract attention again when this novel was republished in the 1980s. Although it is described by the publisher as "a startling redefinition of ecofeminist utopian fiction," this first-person narrative has been characterized by most commentators as dystopian. It tells of a woman vacationing in a remote mountain hunting lodge who survives an unexplained catastrophe in which (almost) all the rest of the human world perishes. Imprisoned on the mountainside by an invisible wall, the unnamed narrator recounts her struggle to survive and her attempt to discover the essence of her own personality, femininity, and humanity. The minimalist plot is enhanced by rich description and wise insight, and the translation succeeds in capturing the author's fluid, lyrical style

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

My New Listen

Lady Chatterley's Lover
by D.H. Lawrence

Narrated by Emilia Fox


LENGTH 5 hrs and 16 mins

Publisher's Summary
Lady Chatterley's Lover was the subject of one of the most infamous trials of the 20th century when Penguin was prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act. However, with expert witnesses for the defence, including E.M. Forster, Penguin was acquitted and permitted to publish in 1960. The book became a best seller largely on account of explicit scenes of a sexual nature and use of four letter words. However, re-reading again over 40 years later, one realises that although the sex scenes are still graphic even today, the book is about much more than sex. It covers love, class, disability, family relationships, infertility, politics, and that 'bitch-goddess' success.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

What I'm Reading Now

Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice. But now that she's made it out of the bloody arena alive, she's still not safe. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge. Who do they think should pay for the unrest? Katniss. And what's worse, President Snow has made it clear that no one else is safe either. Not Katniss's family, not her friends, not the people of District 12. Powerful and haunting, this thrilling final installment of Suzanne Collins's groundbreaking The Hunger Games trilogy promises to be one of the most talked about books of the year.

Friday, October 1, 2010


If you do not enjoy laughing uncontrollably, do not read David Sedaris. Enough said.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

My New Listen

From Publishers Weekly

Sedaris is Garrison Keillor's evil twin: like the Minnesota humorist, Sedaris focuses on the icy patches that mar life's sidewalk, though the ice in his work is much more slippery and the falls much more spectacularly funny than in Keillor's. Many of the 27 short essays collected here (which appeared originally in the New Yorker, Esquire and elsewhere) deal with his father, Lou, to whom the book is dedicated. Lou is a micromanager who tries to get his uninterested children to form a jazz combo and, when that fails, insists on boosting David's career as a performance artist by heckling him from the audience. Sedaris suggests that his father's punishment for being overly involved in his kids' artistic lives is David's brother Paul, otherwise known as "The Rooster," a half-literate miscreant whose language is outrageously profane. Sedaris also writes here about the time he spent in France and the difficulty of learning another language. After several extended stays in a little Norman village and in Paris, Sedaris had progressed, he observes, "from speaking like an evil baby to speaking like a hillbilly. 'Is thems the thoughts of cows?' I'd ask the butcher, pointing to the calves' brains displayed in the front window." But in English, Sedaris is nothing if not nimble: in one essay he goes from his cat's cremation to his mother's in a way that somehow manages to remain reverent to both of the departed. "Reliable sources" have told Sedaris that he has "tended to exhaust people," and true to form, he will exhaust readers of this new book, too, with helpless laughter.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Next Installment

What I'm Reading Now:

Every year in Panem, the dystopic nation that exists where the U.S. used to be, the Capitol holds a televised tournament in which two teen "tributes" from each of the surrounding districts fight a gruesome battle to the death. In The Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark, the tributes from impoverished District Twelve, thwarted the Gamemakers, forcing them to let both teens survive. In this rabidly anticipated sequel, Katniss, again the narrator, returns home to find herself more the center of attention than ever. The sinister President Snow surprises her with a visit, and Katniss’s fear when Snow meets with her alone is both palpable and justified. Catching Fire is divided into three parts: Katniss and Peeta’s mandatory Victory Tour through the districts, preparations for the 75th Annual Hunger Games, and a truncated version of the Games themselves. Slower paced than its predecessor, this sequel explores the nation of Panem: its power structure, rumors of a secret district, and a spreading rebellion, ignited by Katniss and Peeta’s subversive victory. Katniss also deepens as a character. Though initially bewildered by the attention paid to her, she comes almost to embrace her status as the rebels’ symbolic leader. Though more of the story takes place outside the arena than within, this sequel has enough action to please Hunger Games fans and leaves enough questions tantalizingly unanswered for readers to be desperate for the next installment.

Friday, September 24, 2010

What I'm Reading Now

In a not-too-distant future, the United States of America has collapsed, weakened by drought, fire, famine, and war, to be replaced by Panem, a country divided into the Capitol and 12 districts. Each year, two young representatives from each district are selected by lottery to participate in The Hunger Games. Part entertainment, part brutal intimidation of the subjugated districts, the televised games are broadcasted throughout Panem as the 24 participants are forced to eliminate their competitors, literally, with all citizens required to watch. When 16-year-old Katniss's young sister, Prim, is selected as the mining distric's female representative, Katniss volunteers to take her place. She and her male counterpart, Peeta, the son of the town baker who seems to have all the fighting skills of a lump of bread dough, will be pitted against bigger, stronger representatives who have trained for this their whole lives. Collin's characters are completely realistic and sympathetic as they form alliances and friendships in the face of overwhelming odds; the plot is tense, dramatic, and engrossing. This book will definitely resonate with the generation raised on reality shows like Survivor and American Gladiator. Book one of a trilogy.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Dead Woman Walking

On Thursday, the state of Virginia will execute the first woman prisoner in 98 years. You can read the story HERE.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Digital Dilemma

It's obvious that I haven't posted in a while. Why, you wonder? Well, several reasons, actually. The semester has begun, I have four preps including one new class, and I'm a little stressed. But those are not the main reasons. Actually, I'm having a digital dilemma.

Facebook. Twitter. Blogs. Text Messages. The Internet . . . . All of them were vying for my attention, and I noticed that I wasn't always really in control of how much time I spent online. I'd get on to check Facebook, and before I knew it half an hour was gone. One blog would lead to another, one website to another, and before I knew it another half hour was gone. It was as if I were giving away little bits of my life without consciously making the decision that those activities were worth the sacrifice of time. Also, something's gotta be wrong when you start evaluating every life experience in terms of whether it'll make a great tweet or a cryptic status update.

Additionally, I began to feel a low-level of stress (the kind with physical symptoms) that I believe was a result of being constantly "in touch." There were always badges telling me I had messages or that someone had posted on my wall or that someone else wanted to follow me on Twitter. Even when I didn't want to check my iphone I felt compelled to. Compelled. Isn't that a characteristic of addiction?

So, I've backed off. I leave my iphone in my purse. On the weekends I turn off alerts and avoid my laptop. At first, it was hard, and it embarasses me to say that. But now, it's much easier. I forget about being connected for hours at a time. I feel better both physically and mentally, and I get a lot more done.

I haven't decided yet how dis-connected I want to be, ultimately. I have a community of online friends that I enjoy, but I also have a life that I want to live authentically and with purpose. I'm in the process of figuring it all out. Comments and suggestions would be most welcome.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

My New Listen

Faithful Place: A Novel


by Tana French

Narrated by Tim Gerard Reynolds

Publisher: Recorded Books

Running Time: 16 hours and 17 minutes

The past haunts in Tana French novels. That which was buried is brought to light and wreaks hell--on no one moreso than Frank Mackey, beloved undercover guru and burly hero first mentioned in French's second book about the Undercover Squad, The Likeness. Faithful Place is Frank's old neighborhood, the town he fled twenty-two years ago, abandoning an abusive alcoholic father, harpy mother, and two brothers and sisters who never made it out. They say going home is never easy, but for Frank, investigating the cold case of the just-discovered body of his teenage girlfriend, it is a tangled, dangerous journey, fraught with mean motivations, black secrets, and tenuous alliances. Because he is too close to the case, and because the Place (including his family) harbors a deep-rooted distrust of cops, Frank must undergo his investigation furtively, using all the skills picked up from years of undercover work to trace the killer and the events of the night that changed his life. Faithful Place is Tana French's best book yet (readers familiar with In the Woods and The Likeness will recognize this as an incredible feat), a compelling and cutting mystery with the hardscrabble, savage Mackey clan at its heart. --Daphne Durham

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

What I'm Reading Now

Cover Her Face is the debut 1962 crime novel of P. D. James. It details the investigations by her poetry-writing detective Adam Dalgliesh into the death of a young, ambitious maid, surrounded by a family which has reasons to want her gone - or dead. The title is taken from a passage from John Webster's The Duchess of Malfi: "Cover her face. Mine eyes dazzle; she died young."

Phyllis Dorothy James, Baroness James of Holland Park (born 3 August 1920), commonly known as P. D. James, is an English crime writer and Conservative life peer in the House of Lords, most famous for a series of detective novels starring her most iconic creation, policeman and poet Adam Dalgliesh.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Borrowed Ideas

Here's a post I ran across on the Becoming Minimalist blog. It's a read that's worth your time.

Contentment. People look for it in all sorts of places. Some look for contentment in a high-paying job, yet show their discontent the first time they are passed over for a raise. Some look for it in a large home, yet show their discontent by requiring countless improvements. Many have sought contentment in a department store believing that one more item will finally match their desire, yet they are always disappointed… despite the promises made on television.

Could it be that we have been taught to look for contentment in all the wrong places?

What if contentment is actually found in the exact opposite place that we have looking? What if contentment is not found in accumulating more, but is actually found in giving more?

We can easily understand how contentment leads to generosity – the less we need, the more we can give away. But could it be that the inverse is also true? That generosity also leads to contentment? That the two collide together in a way that encourages each other to exist all the more?

Consider for just a moment how generosity leads to contentment:

Generous people have a healthy understanding of how much they already own. People who give to those in need quickly realize how much they have to give.
Generous people value what they own. People who give away possessions hold their remaining possessions in higher esteem. People who give their time make better use of their time remaining. And people who donate money are far less wasteful with the money left over.
Generous people live happier, more fulfilled lives. Studies have shown that generous people are generally happier, healthier, and more satisfied with life. And once they find this satisfaction through generosity, they are less inclined to search for it elsewhere.
Generous people find meaning outside of their possessions. It is the American way to wrap up self-worth in net-worth… as if a person’s true value could ever be tallied on a balance sheet. Generous people find their value in helping others and quickly realize that their bank statement says nothing about their true value.
Generous people have more fulfilling relationships. People always enjoy the company of a generous giver to the company of a selfish hoarder. People are naturally attracted towards others who have an open heart to share with others. And a good friend is the best gift you could ever give yourself.
Generous people have less desire for more. They have found fulfillment, meaning, value, and relationships outside of the acquisition of possessions. They have learned to find joy in what they already possess and give away the rest. In other words, they have found true contentment. This contentment naturally leads to even more generosity which leads to even greater contentment which leads to…

Are you searching for contentment in life? If so, try giving something away today. And open up the door for contentment and generosity to collide.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Out of Breath

Lately, I feel like I'm running on a treadmill and someone keeps ratcheting up the speed. I've not been on top of my posting, but maybe I'll get it together soon. Hang with me.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Movie Time

We watched this last night. It's an eye-opener.

DIRT! The Movie--directed and produced by Bill Benenson and Gene Rosow--takes you inside the wonders of the soil. It tells the story of Earth's most valuable and underappreciated source of fertility--from its miraculous beginning to its crippling degradation.

The opening scenes of the film dive into the wonderment of the soil. Made from the same elements as the stars, plants and animals, and us, "dirt is very much alive." Though, in modern industrial pursuits and clamor for both profit and natural resources, our human connection to and respect for soil has been disrupted. "Drought, climate change, even war are all directly related to the way we are treating dirt."

DIRT! the Movie--narrated by Jaime Lee Curtis--brings to life the environmental, economic, social and political impact that the soil has. It shares the stories of experts from all over the world who study and are able to harness the beauty and power of a respectful and mutually beneficial relationship with soil.

DIRT! the Movie is simply a movie about dirt. The real change lies in our notion of what dirt is. The movie teaches us: "When humans arrived 2 million years ago, everything changed for dirt. And from that moment on, the fate of dirt and humans has been intimately linked." But more than the film and the lessons that it teaches, DIRT the Movie is a call to action.

"The only remedy for disconnecting people from the natural world is connecting them to it again."

What we've destroyed, we can heal.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

JA Day

It's an exciting day for me--I'm teaching Sense and Sensibility. I've spent all my time preparing for class and none coming up with something to blog about.


I'll try to do better tomorrow. :-)

Monday, August 30, 2010

Poetry at the Zoo

Yesterday afternoon, my husband and I decided to go to the zoo. It seemed like the perfect day for it, eighty something degrees after months of temperatures in the hundreds. And, not only did I get to laugh at the anteater, shudder at the python, and admires the giraffes--I also got to enjoy some poetry.

Poetry at the Zoo is a program paring wildlife exhibits with "poems that celebrate the natural world and the connection between species." I noticed poetry by the British poet Gerard Manley Hopkins (one of my favorites), the American Walt Whitman, and many African poets. The lines of poetry posted all over the zoo were an added dimension of enjoyment for me.

Poetry lovers, you should go to the zoo.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Move It!

They say confession is good for the soul, so here I go. I'm not a very patient person. I'm better than I used to be, but I'm not sure that's saying a lot. Also, I feel like I never have enough time to do all I need to do plus all I want to do. So, I'm usually concerned with doing what I need to do in a timely manner (read: I rush around madly) so I can get on with what I would rather be doing.

Well . . .

Yesterday afternoon, as soon as my last class was over, I headed to Walmart. Now, I didn't really want to go there, but I didn't want to give up any of my precious Saturday or Sunday buying groceries either, so I went.

I started out at a nice pace, quickly grabbing what I needed and tossing it into the buggy, but my efficiency didn't last very long. Somehow, no matter where I turned, there were two little old ladies on motorized carts in my way. They would park side by side in the aisle and talk. Or drive side by side. Or I'd go down an aisle that was partially blocked by a stocker and they'd be lined up and parked on the other side, blocking the whole thing. Several times I changed my game plan to get out from behind them, but it made no difference. Everywhere I turned, there they were. I made it to the produce section, and they'd beat me there, somehow, and pulled up to things in such a way that I couldn't even get around them. I felt rude just standing there, waiting, waiting, waiting . . . but I didn't know what else to do. At least I didn't sigh loudly and tap my foot.

I bet my blood pressure was through the roof.

I don't think I'm gonna be a very good little old lady.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Movie Time

I'm not quite sure why I haven't seen this film until now. It caught me in the first scene, when the bookseller pulls his cart through town hawking his wares, "Storybooks for women! Sacred books for men!"

Barbra Streisand portrays Yentl Mendel, a girl living in an Ashkenazi shtetl in Poland in the early 20th century. Yentl's Father, Rebbe Mendel (Nehemiah Persoff), secretly instructs her in the Talmud despite the proscription of such study by women according to the custom of her community.

After the death of her father, Yentl decides to dress like a man, take her late brother's name, Anshel, and enter a Jewish religious school, oryeshiva. Upon entering the yeshiva, Yentl makes friends with a fellow student, Avigdor (Mandy Pantinkin), and meets his fiancée Hadass (Amy Irving). The story is complicated as Hadass's family cancels her wedding to Avigdor over fears that his family is tainted with insanity, and decides that she should marry Anshel instead. Meanwhile, Hadass develops romantic feelings for Yentl (as Anshel), while Yentl herself is falling in love with Avigdor. After much turmoil, Avigdor and Hadass are reunited, while Yentl leaves Europe to go to America, where she hopes to lead a freer life.