Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Just When You Thought It Was Finally Over

According to Publishers Weekly, everyone's favorite author (sarcasm alert), Stephenie Meyer, will be coming out with a new book:

"Little Brown Books for Young Readers will publish Meyer's The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner: An Eclipse Novella on Saturday, June 5. . . . [This novella] tells the story of a newborn vampire introduced in Eclipse, who will also appear in the film version of Eclipse, scheduled to be released on June 30. The book was originally envisioned as part of Meyer's The Twilight Saga: The Official Guide. 'I'm as surprised as anyone about this novella,' said Meyer in a statement. 'When I began working on it in 2005, it was simply an exercise to help me examine the other side of Eclipse, which I was editing at the time. I thought it might end up as a short story that I could include on my website. Then, when work started on The Twilight Saga: The Official Guide, I thought the Guide would be a good fit for my Bree story. However, the story grew longer than I anticipated, until it was too long to fit into the Guide.'"

Lucky us!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Self Editing

I've been thinking lately about how often we edit ourselves. I don't mean stopping before we blurt out some potentially hurtful comment, or even the process of consciously phrasing or presenting things in ways that won't hurt the feelings of those we care about. What I'm talking about is how often we feel compelled to hide our thoughts, our questions, our doubts, or our musings because we are afraid of what people will think of us, how often we can't simply be real.

It makes me sad. And frustrated.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Booking It--Break

Do you take breaks while reading a book? Or read it straight through? (And, by breaks, I don’t mean sleeping, eating and going to work; I mean putting it aside for a time while you read something else.)

Not really; kind of; and, it depends.

Novels, I read straight through. As quickly as possible. Using any available minute of the day, if it's an especially good one.

However, I'm usually reading one actual novel and listening to one audiobook at any given time. But this works because I only listen when exercising, driving, cleaning, etc.--only when reading is impossible or dangerous. So, although technically I guess you could say I'm taking breaks between books, I'm not really. I read straight through and I listen straight through, and never the twain shall meet.

I usually keep one non-fiction-type book going that I read only a chapter a day of. This is an early morning thing. And I keep only one of these going at a time.

But, if I'm re-reading a book for a class I'm teaching, all I'm really reading for is to get the details back in my head. So, I might read for a while and then stop, not worrying too much about it as long as I have it finished by the time I teach it. This might go on at the same time as I'm reading a novel for pleasure, or not. But it doesn't interfere because it's in the "work" category.

Confused? I know I gave a convoluted answer, used fragments, began sentences with conjunctions, and ended a sentence with a preposition, but it seems crystal clear to me. And I was feeling slightly rebellious. So there.

I can only imagine what an editor would do with this post. . .

Saturday, March 27, 2010

My Next Listen

Talk about sensual prose . . .

My newest audiobook is enthralling. I was hooked from the very beginning--as much by the language as by the plot.

(Simon and Schuster Audio; 15 hours and 40 minutes; Narrated by Bianca Amato and Jill Tanner) Review

Settle down to enjoy a rousing good ghost story with Diane Setterfield's debut novel, The Thirteenth Tale. Setterfield has rejuvenated the genre with this closely plotted, clever foray into a world of secrets, confused identities, lies, and half-truths. She never cheats by pulling a rabbit out of a hat; this atmospheric story hangs together perfectly.
There are two heroines here: Vida Winter, a famous author, whose life story is coming to an end, and Margaret Lea, a young, unworldly, bookish girl who is a bookseller in her father's shop. Vida has been confounding her biographers and fans for years by giving everybody a different version of her life, each time swearing it's the truth. Because of a biography that Margaret has written about brothers, Vida chooses Margaret to tell her story, all of it, for the first time. At their initial meeting, the conversation begins:

"You have given nineteen different versions of your life story to journalists in the last two years alone."

She [Vida] shrugged. "It's my profession. I'm a storyteller."

"I am a biographer, I work with facts."

The game is afoot and Margaret must spend some time sorting out whether or not Vida is actually ready to tell the whole truth. There is more here of Margaret discovering than of Vida cooperating wholeheartedly, but that is part of Vida's plan. The transformative power of truth informs the lives of both women by story's end, and The Thirteenth Tale is finally and convincingly told. --Valerie Ryan

Friday, March 26, 2010

Too Much Sex

Title get your attention?

On Tuesday of this week, I taught The Thousand and One Nights in my world lit class. As the students were coming into class that day, I overheard one student say, "Man, I hope we don't read anything else with this much sex in it this semester."

On Thursday, I taught Boccaccio's Decameron. The same student said, "Man, this was my favorite thing we've read all semester."


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Women's History Month 2010

From the National Women's History Project Website:

2010 Theme: Writing Women Back into History

2010 will be the 30th anniversary of the National Women’s History Project. When we began mobilizing the lobbying effort that resulted in President Carter issuing a Presidential Proclamation declaring the week of March 8, 1980 as the first National Women’s History Week, we had no idea what the future would bring. And then, in 1987, another of our successful lobbying efforts resulted in Congress expanding the week into a month, and March is now National Women’s History Month.

The overarching theme for 2010 and our 30th Anniversary celebration is Writing Women Back into History. It often seems that the history of women is written in invisible ink. Even when recognized in their own times, women are frequently left out of the history books. To honor our 2010 theme, we are highlighting pivotal themes from previous years. Each of these past themes recognizes a different aspect of women’s achievements, from ecology to art, and from sports to politics.

When we began our work in the early eighties, the topic of women’s history was limited to college curricula, and even there it languished. At that time, less than 3% of the content of teacher training textbooks mentioned the contributions of women and when included, women were usually written in as mere footnotes. Women of color and women in fields such as math, science, and art were completely omitted. This limited inclusion of women’s accomplishments deprived students of viable female role models.

Today, when you search the Internet with the words “women’s +history + month,” you’ll find more than 40,500,000 citations. These extraordinary numbers give testimony to the tireless work of thousands of individuals, organizations, and institutions to write women back into history. Much of this work was made possible by the generous support of people like you.
We are inviting other women’s and educational organizations as well as women’s history performers, authors, historic sites, and museums, unions, military units, universities, and women’s history programs and parents, grandparents, and interested individuals to join us in recognizing the importance of women in history.

Now, more than ever, the work of this movement needs to continue and expand. Each new generation needs to draw information and inspiration from the last.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

What I'm Reading Now

"Jack St. Bride was once a beloved teacher and soccer coach at a girls' prep school - until a student's crush sparked a powder keg of accusation and robbed him of his career and reputation. Now, after a devastatingly public ordeal that left him with an eight-month jail sentence and no job, Jack resolves to pick up the pieces of his life. He takes a job washing dishes at Addie Peabody's diner and slowly starts to form a relationship with her in the quiet New England village of Salem Falls. But just when Jack thinks he has outrun his past, a quartet of teenage girls with a secret turn his world upside down once again, triggering a modern-day witch hunt in a town haunted by its own history… "

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

EnGendering Conversation

Tonight at 7:00 I'll be conducting a conversation on Social Justice and Feminism at the Underground. The event, EnGendering Conversation, is sponsored by the Harding student group HUmanity. "The purpose of the organization HUmanity is to be advocates and activists in bringing about social change regarding issues directly affecting the marginalized of the world and surrounding community. The organization will accomplish this goal through practical education of the student body and surrounding community as well as creative implementation of ideas, which will lead to change regarding peace and social justice. Members affirm that humanity's standard of living can be bettered by grassroots activism implemented through peaceful, Christ-like action to bring about positive change in the global community. The organization holds no affiliations to any political party or political ideology. The organization HUmanity bases its actions on the guidance given in Micah 6:8 that all mankind must live lives of mercy, justice, and humble acknowledgment of God." Come on out and join the conversation.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Booking It--Sensual

Which do you prefer? Lurid, fruity prose, awash in imagery and sensuous textures and colors? Or straight-forward, clean, simple prose?

(You thought I was going to ask something else, didn’t you? Admit it!)

Well, both. But not at the same time.

I do like to wallow in "sensuous" prose, to marvel at the skillful use of language, at image and metaphor, at sensory detail and poetic diction. The last novel I've read that I'd describe as having sensuous prose is The Historian. Actually, if you've been following my blog, you'll know I listened to it as an audiobook. I chose the unabridged version (26 hours 8 minutes) over the abridged version (11 hours 42 minutes), and I'm really glad that I did--for this very reason. As I lost myself in the beautiful descriptions, the philosophical musings, and the detailed correspondence in which characters spoke not only of the events of life but also revealed their feelings and musings, I realized exactly what I would have missed if I'd chosen the abridged version. Oh, I'd have gotten the plot all right, but not the descriptive digressions, the historical interpolations, all the nuances that make good literature so much more than plot.

I'd say that Nabokov's prose is sensual (at least in Lolita), and so is Ian McEwan's in Atonement. Any sensual prose writers that you'd like to suggest?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Overheard at Walmart

It's been quite a while since I've overheard anything at Walmart that was worth repeating. Of course, that could be because I put off going there until it's an absolute necessity, and then while there I rush from aisle to aisle, snatching what I need off the shelves in a desperate rush to get out.

However, a little girl made my recent trip there worthwhile. She and her mother rounded the end of the aisle, making their way toward me. The little girl was chattering; the mother was nodding and making "um-hmm" kinds of sounds as she scanned the shelves, not really paying her daughter any attention.

LITTLE GIRL: Yada yada yada . . . And my ear was really hurting. Really hurting. It was an emotional pain.

MOM: (beginning to laugh as the little girl's words finally get her attention) Oh, really? And what is emotional pain?

LITTLE GIRL: It's a special kind of pain. And it hurts really bad. I don't like it when my ear has emotional pain.

Boy, me neither.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Confession is Good for the Soul

OK. I confess.

I was doing really well with my simplification plan. My life was becoming more and more orderly. I felt calmer. I felt . . . righteous.


That was the first of the semester. Now, all the grading has hit and I feel like I'm barely keeping my head above water. Oh, I haven't given up. I'm not quitting. But I'm not always "following through," either. Some days I toss my bag on the floor when I get in from work instead of putting it in its place. I don't always sort and put the mail in the nice little container I bought just for that purpose. My desk is not always a clean, organized expanse when I leave for the day.

I think I need to re-boot.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

My New Listen

This book has been recommended to me by several people over the last few years, but I'd never found (or made, I guess) the time to read it. So, after a recent recommendation, I decided to make it my next audiobook. I'm about two-and-a-half hours into my listening experience, and I'm enchanted.

From Publishers Weekly
A fabulous romp through an imagination by turns ecstatic, cunning, despairing and resilient, this novel is an impressive achievement "a story that will make you believe in God," as one character says. The peripatetic Pi (ne the much-taunted Piscine) Patel spends a beguiling boyhood in Pondicherry, India, as the son of a zookeeper. Growing up beside the wild beasts, Pi gathers an encyclopedic knowledge of the animal world. His curious mind also makes the leap from his native Hinduism to Christianity and Islam, all three of which he practices with joyous abandon. In his 16th year, Pi sets sail with his family and some of their menagerie to start a new life in Canada. Halfway to Midway Island, the ship sinks into the Pacific, leaving Pi stranded on a life raft with a hyena, an orangutan, an injured zebra and a 450-pound Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. After the beast dispatches the others, Pi is left to survive for 227 days with his large feline companion on the 26-foot-long raft, using all his knowledge, wits and faith to keep himself alive. The scenes flow together effortlessly, and the sharp observations of the young narrator keep the tale brisk and engaging. Martel's potentially unbelievable plot line soon demolishes the reader's defenses, cleverly set up by events of young Pi's life that almost naturally lead to his biggest ordeal. This richly patterned work, Martel's second novel, won Canada's 2001 Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction. In it, Martel displays the clever voice and tremendous storytelling skills of an emerging master.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Eng 403/503

Here's the flyer for my Women's Lit class this Fall. I'm excited!

Fall 2010
Eng 403/503
Women’s Literature & Feminist Literary Theory
Dr. Stephanie Eddleman

We will explore the contributions of women authors to literature by reading and analyzing works by women from diverse eras and cultures. Further, we will trace the development and characteristics of feminist literary theory and explore feminist literary criticism. The novels for this class are

Austen's Sense and Sensibility
Bronte's Jane Eyre
Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea
Pym's Excellent Women
Haushofer's The Wall
Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale
Shreve's The Weight of Water
Satrap's Persepolis

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Where Are You?

Where are you politically? Not sure?

On her blog the other day, a friend posted something really neat. It's the Nolan Test, a political test which, based on your answers to 10 questions, will classify you as either Liberal, Libertarian, Conservative, Statist, or Centrist.

If you're interested, you can give it a try HERE. Oh, and check out her blog too. It's a great read. It's called Lost in Arkansas, and it's also linked in the sidebar.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Booking It--Illustrated

How do you feel about illustrations in your books? Graphs? Photos? Sketches?

Well, it depends. Illustrations in children's books are often the best part. And I'm not against illustrations in the fiction I read; however, they seem unnecessary--I already "see" the characters, the places, the events, in my head. My imagination is enough for me. In fact, sometimes an illustration is unsettling. I've read books before and then later run across an illustrated edition only to be quite disturbed because the illustrations didn't match the pictures in my mind.

As far as non-fiction goes, sometimes graphs, charts, and photos can help me conceptualize the author's ideas, but I've never bought a book on the basis of whether or not it's illustrated.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Spring Break Matinee

I didn't just read during Spring Break. I got away to Little Rock one afternoon, had lunch at On The Border, and went to Market Street to see The Last Station. All in all, it was an afternoon well spent (although historically based movies, or novels for that matter, always make me want to go to the library and do research. What was real? What was invented? What actually happened? Curious minds want to know!).

Helen Mirren, Christopher Plummer, and James McAvoy lead an impeccable cast in The Last Station, a sweet comedy-drama about the final days of the Russian novelist Tolstoy. Nineteenth-century paparazzi lurk outside of Tolstoy's estate, hoping to snatch a picture of the rumored strife between the world-famous writer (Plummer, The Insider), who's launched an antimaterialist movement, and his aristocratic wife, Sofya (Mirren, The Queen). Also lurking is Tolstoy's aide, Chertkov (Paul Giamatti, Sideways), who despises Sofya and pushes to change Tolstoy's will to prevent Sofya from inheriting the royalties from Tolstoy's books. Into this nest of conflict comes a young secretary, Valentin (McAvoy, Atonement), who idolizes Tolstoy and strives to live by the principles of abstinence and vegetarianism… only to find his purity tested by sensual temptations (including a headstrong young woman played by Kerry Condon of Rome) and an unexpected sympathy for Sofya. Moments of sly comedy keep The Last Station from becoming overly literary. The movie as a whole lacks the emotional punch it reaches for, but every scene is a polished jewel, expertly and passionately crafted by the actors and writer-director Michael Hoffman (A Midsummer Night's Dream), rich with feeling and social detail. Mirren, of course, is superb, with a wonderful portrayal of a woman who can't help turning her genuine passions into a performance that repels her husband. --Bret Fetzer

Friday, March 12, 2010

Spring Break Reading

One of my goals over Spring Break was simply to read for pleasure. So, what'd I read? Well, I've finished two want-to-reads and I'm re-reading a have-to-read for my Honors Class. I'd recommend all of them.

From Publishers Weekly

Set in 1907 Wisconsin, Goolrick's fiction debut (after a memoir, The End of the World as We Know It) gets off to a slow, stylized start, but eventually generates some real suspense. When Catherine Land, who's survived a traumatic early life by using her wits and sexuality as weapons, happens on a newspaper ad from a well-to-do businessman in need of a "reliable wife," she invents a plan to benefit from his riches and his need. Her new husband, Ralph Truitt, discovers she's deceived him the moment she arrives in his remote hometown. Driven by a complex mix of emotions and simple animal attraction, he marries her anyway. After the wedding, Catherine helps Ralph search for his estranged son and, despite growing misgivings, begins to poison him with small doses of arsenic. Ralph sickens but doesn't die, and their story unfolds in ways neither they nor the reader expect. This darkly nuanced psychological tale builds to a strong and satisfying close.

From Publishers Weekly

Fans of Picoult's fluent and absorbing storytelling will welcome her new novel, which, like Harvesting the Heart, explores family dynamics and the intricacies of motherhood, and concludes, as did The Pact, with tense courtroom drama. In the small town of New Canaan, N.H., 33-year-old Mariah discovers that her husband, Colin, is having an affair. Years ago, his cheating drove Mariah to attempt suicide and Colin had her briefly committed to an institution. Now Mariah's facing divorce and again fighting depression, when her eight-year-old daughter, Faith, suddenly acquires an imaginary friend. Soon this friend is telling the girl how to bring her grandmother back from the dead and how to cure a baby dying of AIDS. As Faith manifests stigmata, doctors are astounded, and religious controversy ensues, in part because Faith insists that God is a woman. An alarmed Colin sues for custody of Faith, and the fear of losing her daughter dramatically changes meek, diffident Mariah into a strong, protective and brave womanAone who fights for her daughter, holds her own against doctors and lawyers and finds the confidence to pursue a surprising new romance with TV atheist Ian Fletcher, cynical "Spokesman of the Millennium Generation." Though the novel feels a bit long, Picoult's pacing stabilizes the increasingly complicated plot, and the final chapters, in which Mariah fights for Faith's custody in court, are riveting. The mother-daughter relationship is all the more powerful for being buffeted by the exploitative and ethically questionable domains of medicine, media, law and religion; these characters' many triumphant transformations are Picoult's triumphs as well.

And my re-read: Review

"They carried all the emotional baggage of men who might die. Grief, terror, love, longing--these were intangibles, but the intangibles had their own mass and specific gravity, they had tangible weight. They carried shameful memories. They carried the common secret of cowardice.... Men killed, and died, because they were embarrassed not to."

A finalist for both the 1990 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award, The Things They Carried marks a subtle but definitive line of demarcation between Tim O'Brien's earlier works about Vietnam, the memoir If I Die in a Combat Zone and the fictional Going After Cacciato, and this sly, almost hallucinatory book that is neither memoir nor novel nor collection of short stories but rather an artful combination of all three. Vietnam is still O'Brien's theme, but in this book he seems less interested in the war itself than in the myriad different perspectives from which he depicts it. Whereas Going After Cacciato played with reality, The Things They Carried plays with truth. The narrator of most of these stories is "Tim"; yet O'Brien freely admits that many of the events he chronicles in this collection never really happened. He never killed a man as "Tim" does in "The Man I Killed," and unlike Tim in "Ambush," he has no daughter named Kathleen. But just because a thing never happened doesn't make it any less true. In "On the Rainy River," the character Tim O'Brien responds to his draft notice by driving north, to the Canadian border where he spends six days in a deserted lodge in the company of an old man named Elroy while he wrestles with the choice between dodging the draft or going to war. The real Tim O'Brien never drove north, never found himself in a fishing boat 20 yards off the Canadian shore with a decision to make. The real Tim O'Brien quietly boarded the bus to Sioux Falls and was inducted into the United States Army. But the truth of "On the Rainy River" lies not in facts but in the genuineness of the experience it depicts: both Tims went to a war they didn't believe in; both considered themselves cowards for doing so. Every story in The Things They Carried speaks another truth that Tim O'Brien learned in Vietnam; it is this blurred line between truth and reality, fact and fiction, that makes his book unforgettable.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


My plan to get more reading in by using audiobooks is working splendidly. I listen during my morning walk/run, on my way to and from work, and any other time I can steal. The first novel I listened to was Kathryn Stockett's The Help (which is wonderful--I highly recommend it), and now I'm a little over half-way through Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian. This novel is simply amazing, rich and textured, with multiple storylines and widely varied settings, both geographically--New England, Oxford, Amsterdam, Istanbul, Budapest, Transylvania, Bulgaria--and through time. There are personal narratives (from academics to peasants), letters, and excerpts from ancient texts. It's a literary feast.

What's been funny to me, though, is that as I listen to this novel (and, I must admit, see it like a movie in my head), I keep wondering how the text looks on the page. What font is used? Are the epistles offset? Is this narrative italicized? Is the dragon woodcut reproduced or just described? How does that foreign name look in print? Is it spelled like this? or like that? How are the sections in each chapter separated? And on and on. I think that when I finish this audiobook, I'll have to stop by Hastings and take a look at the real thing.

The "real thing." Hmmmm. I guess that shows my prejudice. I love audiobooks; I really do. But there's just something about holding a book in my hands, feeling the weight of it, examining the texture of the paper, seeing the words in print.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Wish I'd Said That

"To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion; to be worthy, not respectable; and wealthy, not rich; to study hard, think quietly talk gently, act frankly . . . to listen to stars and buds, to babes, and sages, with open heart; await occasions, hurry never . . . this is my symphony." --William Henry Channing

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Yeah, right.

Hmmm. The African scam doesn't seem to be working anymore. I know! I know! Let's pretend we're British! Everybody'll fall for that . . .

Lady Jessica Powell
No,11 old cape road
United Kingdom.

Here writes Lady Jessica, suffering from cancerous ailment. I was married to Sir Richard Powell an Englishman who is dead. My husband was into private practice all his life before his death. Our life together as man and wife lasted for three decades without any child, as a result of this my husband and I made a vow to uplift the down-trodden and the less-privileged individuals as he had passion for persons who can not help themselves due to a physical disability or financial predicament. When my late husband was alive he deposited the sum of 20 Million British pounds which were derived from his vast estates and investment in capital market with a bank here in UK. Presently, this money is still in the bank.Recently, my doctor told me that I have limited days to live due to the cancerous problems I am suffering from and the stroke in addition.With this that has befallen my family and me I have decided to donate this fund to you and want you to use this gift to fund the upkeep of uplift the down-trodden and the less-privilege since i have no child and my late husband's relatives are bourgeois and very wealthy persons I do not want my husband's hard earned money to be misused. I shall give you the contact of the bank in UK and a Letter of Authority that will empower you as the original beneficiary. You can contact me through my personal email
Best Regards,
Lady Jessica Powell. [sic]

I feel really sorry for Lady Jessica. It's tough having bourgeois relatives.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Booking It--Grammar

In honor of National Grammar Day … it was “March Fourth” after all … do you have any grammar books? Punctuation? Writing guidelines? Style books?

More importantly, have you read them?

How do you feel about grammar in general? Important? Vital? Unnecessary? Fussy?

Well, in my office I have several grammar handbooks, and I have one at home. The Little, Brown Handbook is my favorite, probably because it was my undergrad grammar textbook/handbook. Of course I have Strunk and White's Elements of Style--who doesn't? Other than that, I have Eats, Shoot, and Leaves, but I must confess that I haven't read it. Grammar, to me, is important and necessary--vital, even. However, it doesn't rate as entertainment. I'd rather spend my time reading correctly punctuated, grammatically correct, well-written literature than reading about grammar. But, hey, if that's your thing, don't let my negativity hinder you!

Furthermore, I don't enjoy reading "how-to" books about writing, either. They are so technical, and they seem to rob the craft of its mystique and authors of their personality. However, I do love it when good writers write about how they write (writing that sentence made me smile)--especially when they get away from the technicalities of writing to the realities of being a writer. What really intrigues me is how the ways they choose to live and experience life impacts their writing and their analysis of this connection. I really enjoyed Eudora Welty's One Writer's Beginnings, and Anne Lamott is a favorite. I've got Stephen King's On Writing, but I haven't gotten around to reading it yet. I've read plenty more "writing memoirs," but I can't recall them right now. Mostly, what these books do for me is remind me that each life has moments worthy of preserving through the written word, if one is only observant enough, thoughtful enough, and willing to do the hard work of expressing life and meaning through the written word.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Oscar Weekend

Well, this is Oscar weekend. I love movies, but I don't get to see nearly enough of them. Here are the ten (ten! too many, I think) nominees for Best Picture:

The Blind Side
District 9
An Education
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire
A Serious Man
Up in the Air

. . . and I've only see three of them: The Blind Side, The Hurt Locker, and Precious. I went to Market Street the other afternoon and saw A Single Man with Colin Firth, who's been nominated for Best Leading Actor for this role (a really well done film, in my opinion. One of those that gets more and more brilliant as you continue to think about it). Several films are playing there that I really want to see--An Education, The Last Station, The Young Victoria, and Crazy Heart, all of which have received various nominations for Actor/Actress in a Leading Role, Actor/Actress in a Supporting Role, and Art Direction.

I'd love to be in a movie club--something like a book club, where you get a group of friends together, watch a film, and then discuss it.

So many movies, so little time.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Sarah, Again

Sarah's still writing. According to HarperCollins, Palin will author a new book that is "a celebration of American virtues and strengths." The book, as yet untitled, will "include selections from classic and contemporary readings that have inspired her, as well as portraits of some of the extraordinary men and women she admires and who embody her love of country, faith, and family." No release date has been set.

Ever heard the old saying, "Strike while the iron's hot"?

I'll leave the comments up to you.

UPDATE: I was flipping through the channels and heard that Palin may be in the market for a reality show. They also said she's hoping to get as much as $1 million an episode. Don't know if it's true or not, but I wouldn't be surprised it if were.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

What I'm Reading Now

From Publishers Weekly
Thirteen linked tales from Strout present a heart-wrenching, penetrating portrait of ordinary coastal Mainers living lives of quiet grief intermingled with flashes of human connection. The opening Pharmacy focuses on terse, dry junior high-school teacher Olive Kitteridge and her gregarious pharmacist husband, Henry, both of whom have survived the loss of a psychologically damaged parent, and both of whom suffer painful attractions to co-workers. Their son, Christopher, takes center stage in A Little Burst, which describes his wedding in humorous, somewhat disturbing detail, and in Security, where Olive, in her 70s, visits Christopher and his family in New York. Strout's fiction showcases her ability to reveal through familiar details—the mother-of-the-groom's wedding dress, a grandmother's disapproving observations of how her grandchildren are raised—the seeds of tragedy. Themes of suicide, depression, bad communication, aging and love, run through these stories, none more vivid or touching than Incoming Tide, where Olive chats with former student Kevin Coulson as they watch waitress Patty Howe by the seashore, all three struggling with their own misgivings about life. Like this story, the collection is easy to read and impossible to forget. Its literary craft and emotional power will surprise readers unfamiliar with Strout.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Sorry, Quirk, But Life's Too Short

A while back I wrote that Quirk Books had asked me to read and review an advance copy of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls. And, although I wasn't quite sure when I'd be able to read it, I said, "Okay, if I have time." After all, I'd really enjoyed P&P&Z.


This one just didn't do it for me at all. My first clue should have been the author line on the front of the novel. P&P&Z's cover read: by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith. And it was. Much of the fun of P&P&Z was being able to recognize Austen's beautiful lines (many, many of them) amidist the witty zombie mayhem created by Grahame-Smith. Additionally, Grahame-Smith seemed to extend Austen's characters, to make them more fully themselves. Some of my favorite lines are the ones in which he has Elizabeth actually say what readers (or at least me, but maybe I'm the only rude one) assume she is really thinking when dealing with her mother or younger sisters. He frees Elizabeth from the constraints of society and of ladylike behavior, and I loved him for it. This book made me laugh out loud. Repeatedly. It was just plain fun.

In contrast, P&P&A: DD's author's line reads: by Steve Hockensmith, and boy is Jane Austen sorely missed. And Grahame-Smith, too, for that matter. Hockensmith tries too hard. His comic attempts simply aren't funny, and many of Austen's characters become flat under the weight of his heavy-handed attempts at humor and horror. Mary changes into someone I don't recognize, and Mrs. Bennet is no longer funny and annoying, she's simply pitiful.

The biggest problem with the novel is that Hockensmith never made me care. I forced myself to read about half of the novel, even getting to the point where I was saying I will read one chapter a day . . . I will . . . until finally, I just gave up. Life's too short, and there are too many great things to read.

If you're still interested in winning one of the 50 Quirk Classic Prize Packs (worth more than $100.00), click on this link to register.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

My Latest Audiobook

If your pulse flutters at the thought of castle ruins and descents into crypts by moonlight, you will savor every creepy page of Elizabeth Kostova's long but beautifully structured thriller The Historian. The story opens in Amsterdam in 1972, when a teenage girl discovers a medieval book and a cache of yellowed letters in her diplomat father's library. The pages of the book are empty except for a woodcut of a dragon. The letters are addressed to: "My dear and unfortunate successor." When the girl confronts her father, he reluctantly confesses an unsettling story: his involvement, twenty years earlier, in a search for his graduate school mentor, who disappeared from his office only moments after confiding to Paul his certainty that Dracula--Vlad the Impaler, an inventively cruel ruler of Wallachia in the mid-15th century--was still alive. The story turns out to concern our narrator directly because Paul's collaborator in the search was a fellow student named Helen Rossi (the unacknowledged daughter of his mentor) and our narrator's long-dead mother, about whom she knows almost nothing. And then her father, leaving just a note, disappears also.

As well as numerous settings, both in and out of the East Bloc, Kostova has three basic story lines to keep straight--one from 1930, when Professor Bartolomew Rossi begins his dangerous research into Dracula, one from 1950, when Professor Rossi's student Paul takes up the scent, and the main narrative from 1972. The criss-crossing story lines mirror the political advances, retreats, triumphs, and losses that shaped Dracula's beleaguered homeland--sometimes with the Byzantines on top, sometimes the Ottomans, sometimes the rag-tag local tribes, or the Orthodox church, and sometimes a fresh conqueror like the Soviet Union.

Although the book is appropriately suspenseful and a delight to read--even the minor characters are distinctive and vividly seen--its most powerful moments are those that describe real horrors. Our narrator recalls that after reading descriptions of Vlad burning young boys or impaling "a large family," she tried to forget the words: "For all his attention to my historical education, my father had neglected to tell me this: history's terrible moments were real. I understand now, decades later, that he could never have told me. Only history itself can convince you of such a truth." The reader, although given a satisfying ending, gets a strong enough dose of European history to temper the usual comforts of the closing words.

This audiobook is over 28 hours long, unabridged, but I'm already about an hour and a half in, and I'm hooked. I don't think the length will be a problem at all. The problem will be that I'll want to listen all the time.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Booking It--Why?

I’ve seen this quotation in several places lately. It’s from Sven Birkerts’ ‘The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age’:

“To read, when one does so of one’s own free will, is to make a volitional statement, to cast a vote; it is to posit an elsewhere and set off toward it. And like any traveling, reading is at once a movement and a comment of sorts about the place one has left. To open a book voluntarily is at some level to remark the insufficiency either of one’s life or one’s orientation toward it.”

To what extent does this describe you?


First of all, I'm not sure that reading is volitional with me. In a way, of course, it is. No one's holding a gun to my head, and I'm not reading to earn a grade. So obviously I'm choosing to read.

However, I think that, rather than being a person who chooses to read, I am a reader. It is a part of my identity. Maybe it's a compulsion, I don't know. But I do know that I need to read. I can't imagine life without it.

And I'll agree that reading's like traveling; it's a movement away from the world I'm in into new worlds, new times, new identities, new possibilities.

But "insufficiency"? If this quote means that I constantly yearn to know more, to experience more, to always learn and grow, then okay. I'll give you that. But if it means that readers only read because their own lives lack substance and we pathetically struggle for meaning through the pages of someone else's imagination, then no, this quote does not describe me at all.