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Just as I am over my no good horrible very bad cold, Bookman has decided it looked like such fun he’d give it a try. Only he has discovered it is no fun at all. Whereas it took me a week to progress from feeling mildly under the weather to feeling bad and two days after that to make it to horrible, he is wasting no time. He began at bad for one day and then moved right to horrible the next. While I am sorry he is ill and has a dreadfully sore throat and no voice, I must admit it is refreshing to be able to babble on and not be interrupted. It’s marvelous to be able to babble at all. Bookman is quite the yakker and it is often difficult for me to get a word in. But now, now he can do nothing but listen. Granted, he is zonked out on cold medicine so I might as well be talking to a wall, but since the wall looks remarkably like Bookman, I can delight in being The Voice in the House.
It is also a good thing Bookman hasn’t been very hungry. While this girl can make a production in the kitchen for Solstice, when it comes to every day cooking, she is a fish out of water. Canned soup is a blessing. So is cereal. In two moments of lucidity Bookman did manage to make waffles for breakfast today and pizza for lunch, but I think it was because he was desperate for something besides cereal and soup.
Between his naps this weekend he managed to read Christopher Moore’s The Stupidest Angel. Through gesturing, he assures me it is funny and he laughed a lot even if it wasn’t out loud because his throat hurt too much. He decided to read the book because he needed something light and because he found out it is coming out as movie in November of this year. He has now passed the book over to me and indicated I had to read it as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, I am in the middle of too many other books to start that one at the moment. One of the downsides of having as many books on the go at once as I do is sometimes I find myself in the middle of all of them and nowhere near the end of any of them. While I don’t read in order to check books off a list or tot up the numbers, there is a certain satisfaction in finishing a book. When I find myself stuck in the middle of everything I am reading I get a bit of the doldrums. There is no excitement of starting something new and no pleasure in completion. This doesn’t happen very often, thank goodness, but when it does it is a bit of a downer even when I am enjoying what I am in the middle of. The book I am closest to finishing is The Canon by Natalie Angier and I still have about 150 or so pages until the end. I am liking it very much but hope to have it done by the end of the week or sooner.
Other things I read this weekend include the novel Testing the Current by William McPherson which is all kinds of good but slow reading. And I read some of How We Became Posthuman by N. Katherine Hayles. That book too requires slow and careful reading because it’s a thinking sort of book. I also read some good essays and reviews in both the London Review of Books and the New York Review of Books. On these both I am woefully behind the rate of their arrival. I was all caught up at the beginning of the year but have now slipped so I am two issues behind the current one for them both. I’m feeling like I need a nice long vacation just to catch up on my reading! I have to remember to buy a lottery ticket once it gets up to an obscene jackpot amount. If you recall, one of goals for 2013 is to win the lottery so I can quit my job and read all the time. I am aiming to achieve this in early April for the best birthday present ever. Don’t scoff. It could happen.
Ok, I have to cut the rambling short this evening. I need to go make myself a lunch for tomorrow because I can’t count on Bookman being able to make it for me in the morning. Then I have to set the coffee pot timer and generally get all my ducks in a row so I can get out the door on time sans assistance. After that I should be able to read for a bit before going to sleep.
Filed under: Books
, In Progress
I did not intend to take an unannounced break but I was able to fly out to California for my grandma’s funeral. The services were exactly right and though we were all sad, I feel like it was also a celebration of her life. Thank you all once again for the numerous kind thoughts and comments. You are all so very wonderful.
Since it wasn’t a vacation, airplane reading was a bit weird. I wanted to read but nothing really appealed so I ended up reading a London Review of Books on the way out and another on the way home. Which means, for the moment, I am caught up on my LRBs.
Monday was a holiday in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. and I had the day home from work. I watched President Obama’s inauguration with special anticipation for the poem by Richard Blanco. I liked it! It is a very American poem I think. Some chatter around the interwebs has noted echoes of Walt Whitman. Yes, I can hear those too, the celebration of the common, the everyday and the urgency that pervades the poem and propels it forward. I like how Blanco uses the light, sky, ground and moon to gather together all the individual pieces into one country. There is a definite feeling of e pluribus unum, out of many one, which is what the United States at its best is all about. What do you think of the poem?
I had hoped to be able to read more yesterday but I caught a cold while I was away and felt generally blah. I was able to focus for an hour or so and start reading Doctor Glas. So far I am liking this little book very much. It is written as a diary, a device that when well done I am always a sucker for. Oh, and how could I forget, I also read the introduction to Ben Yagoda’s How to Not Write Bad. He made some good jokes, but he always does. He says that there are plenty of books out there to tell you how to write well but not many that tell you how to not write bad(ly). He’s been teaching and grading for years and the book is going to focus on the mistakes he finds people make most often. It is intended for students but he also has non-students in mind he says, like bloggers and people who just want to improve their writing. I look forward to delving into the nitty-gritty shortly.
Last week I finished the third part of Margaret Atwood’s serial e-novel Positron. I liked parts one and two quite a bit but part three felt short and rushed. I suppose that is one of the dangers of serial novels.
In progress on my Kindle at the moment is The Wind in the Willows. I was in the mood for something easy and comforting. Except I never read the book when I was a kid. I had a picture book of a Frog and Toad story but I never read Wind in the Willows. Reading it for the first time as an adult, I am enjoying it, but there are also some weird things about it. Like the animals seem to keep changing size. First they are small like a water rat or mole would be but then they are riding in a coach with Toad being pulled by a horse. Wha??? And I find it rather disturbing that they eat bacon for breakfast and lobster is a dinner option. It is not magical like it would be for a child, but it is fun nonetheless.
Also in progress is Wolf Hall. I am enjoying it very much. I am reading it with Litlove and she is waiting patiently for me to finish since she has run along merrily to the end already. I’m about two-thirds of the way through.
Maybe Wolf Hall would be going along faster if I didn’t have so many other books on the go? Because in addition to all those above, I am also reading Stag’s Leap by Sharon Olds, Botany for Gardeners by Brian Capon (excellent book!), How We Became Posthuman by N. Katherine Hayles, and Why This World: A Biography of Clarice Lispector by Benjamin Moser. At the same time I am reading all of those, I am looking forward to when I can slip in Testing the Current by William McPherson and The Canon by Natalie Angier.
Yesterday I spent the book gift card that was burning a hole in my pocket on The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco and The Vet’s Daughter by Barbara Comyns. I have no intention of jumping into either of them when they arrive. I must get my in progress books under control. But I am looking forward to reading both of them. I just don’t know when that will be!
I could go nattering on all night but Waldo is giving me the look that says I have been at my computer too long already and I had better stop now before he takes matters into his own paws. So off I go to make a cup of tea to soothe my sore throat and I should probably read something too.
Filed under: Books
, In Progress
I was very sad to learn this morning of the death of Ray Bradbury. Even President Obama issued a statement on his death. And he got an obit on public radio too. The first Bradbury I read was Something Wicked This Way Comes. I had never found carousels scary until that book. And then in my early teens I read Fahrenheit 451 and was moved to tears. I’ve also read the wonderful Dandelion Wine and numerous short stories. Bradbury has also been an outspoken advocate of libraries. He will be missed.
I had no plans to read any Bradbury in June, but I might have to take one of his books of stories off my shelf and read one or two of them and then will likely find myself reading the whole book! Should that happen it will not be a bad thing, I can assure you.
Books I am planning on reading this month are many and I will be surprised if I actually manage all of them, but you never know!
Just finished, with a write-up forthcoming, Alberto Manguel’s new novel, All Men Are Liars. I am currently reading Persuasion by Jane Austen. It is my third reading of the book but since the last time I read it was 20 years ago it isn’t exactly fresh in my mind. As a result I am having lots of, “oh yeah! I remember that now” moments. I’m reading the book on my kindle and am about 65% of the way through. Captain Benwick and Louisa Musgrove just got engaged to give those of you who have read it an idea of where I am. It is such a delightful book and I do love Anne Elliot. I think of all of Austen’s heroines, she and I could really be friends.
I’ve also begun reading Marilynne Robinson’s book When I Was a Child I Read Books. It is not breezy reading but it is very good. There is a request queue for it at the public library so I don’t get to renew it and I fear that I will not be able to finish it in time. I thought to check the university library where I work and it is available there and I have requested it be sent over to me at the law library. Since I am university staff I get longer borrowing privileges than students do and the book will be mine for nearly the entire summer. I think I will finish before then. It is nice to know, however, that I will not have to try and rush through the book. Even if I could manage it, it would do the essays a disservice and I would miss a lot.
While I was requesting books at the university library I couldn’t stop at just one! To Write Like a Woman: Essays in Feminism and Science Fiction by Joanna Russ had come to my attention recently. Russ is a wonderful SF writer but I have difficulty finding her books. I saw this book of essays mentioned somewhere, the Tor website maybe, and it caught my curiosity. The essays in this book are about science fiction but also other topics like Willa Cather, Mary Shelley, modern gothic, and women’s writing in general.
While I am in the essay mood, I also requested The Made-Up Self: Impersonation in the Personal Essay by Carl H. Klaus. This was suggested by reader Cath in a comment not long ago. It is about the construction of self in the essay and looks fascinating.
My ancient Greek reading had flagged but Danielle’s recent foray into mythology has me pumped back up again. I’m making my way through Euripides and requested a volume that has Electra, The Phoenician Women and The Bacchae in it translated by David Grene and Richmond Lattimore. I also got An Orestia with Anne Carson as translator. I has Aeschylus’ Agamemnon and Sophocles’ Elektra both of which I have already read, and Euripides’ Orestes. Don’t know if I will ge
Oh rainy June, where did you go? I liked you much better than tropical July. Yesterday was a record-breaking one in terms of weather. The temperature reached 100F (38C) and the humidity was tropical making it feel more like 115 (46C). Our Independence Day celebrations did not involve much. We didn’t go outside until around 8:30 in the evening to water the vegetable garden and even then it was still 90 (32C). We spent our day indoors and celebrated by partaking of Bookman’s homemade vegan hot dogs. I told him I wanted ice cream too and he delivered. He made vegan Neapolitan ice cream (strawberry, chocolate, vanilla) using strawberries from our own garden for the strawberry layer. If the weather stays tropical we’ll be able to grow our own coconuts (we use coconut milk for the ice cream) and chocolate too.
A large part of the day was spent reading. I read a whole book! Granted it was a short book but I haven’t read a book in a day in ages. The book in question was The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes. I will be writing about that soon. I have a couple other recent finishes I have to post about too, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte and Orestes by Euripides in a fantastic Anne Carson translation.
The year is halfway over and I am heading towards reading a record breaking number of books. I usually average 54 books a year and this year I am on track to read over 60. I believe the most books I have ever read in a year is 62. Not having library school cutting into my time and reading short books really pumps up the numbers. But at the end of the day, reading is not about numbers it is about the pleasure that reading has given me. So far, it’s been great with only one abandoned book. Not bad.
My eyes were bigger than my stomach as the saying goes, and I had hoped to read far more than I managed in June. But no matter. I’ve got lots of books in progress so July doesn’t have a big line-up of hope-to-reads, more like a big pile of hope-to-finish. When I do finish books I hope to get to some of the books I planned to read in previous months and didn’t manage. And who, knows, maybe this will be the month I finally start that science books by women project I made a whole long list for. Natalie Angier’s The Canon is still sitting on the shelf above my desk scolding me for my neglect. I’ll get to it, I’ll get to, but you see I have these other books I need to read too.
Ah that previous paragraph has lots of hope in it. Is it just me or do readers tend to be an optimistic bunch?
One book I have not yet begun that I will read in July is A.S. Byatt’s Ragnarok. I will be receiving it in the mail shortly from Barnes & Noble since the store I went to didn’t have it in stock and I didn’t want to drive to another one across town in the heat. Better to have my good and wonderful postal carrier deliver it to my doorstep. Ragnarok is the next Slaves group discussion book. The conversation begins on July 31st and all are welcome to join.
I will be going to visit my family in San Diego for several days on the 19th. Bookman will be staying home and holding down the fort. I will be in need of airplane reading. I just began reading George R.R. Martin’s Clash of Kings last week (off to an awesome start btw) and it is such a chunky book if I am still reading it come the 19th it will go with me. There will also be my Kindle filled with other books because one can never be sure what one will want to read while traveling and visiting family.
My turn just came up for Jonah Lehrer’s Imagine. I read the introduction last night. It has possi
Just when I think I have got my book juggling act under control I suddenly find more books being slipped into the mix. Who is doing this? It can’t be me, can it? I’m sure it isn’t. I am sure there are evil book gnomes at my house, I can hear their gleeful evil laughter as they scurry back into the shadows after leaving yet another good book for me to read. As for the library books that keep arriving for me, I think the evil book gnomes have hacked into my library’s computer system and are manipulating the hold request queue so the books I thought I wouldn’t get for months suddenly all start coming to me at the same time. Stupid evil book gnomes.
Nonetheless, the growing pile is composed of books I am really excited to read. One book I actually bought, pre-ordered two months ago. That book is The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. It has many of the same characters in it as Shadow of the Wind and supposedly includes threads from that book as well as Angel’s Game. It is only 278 pages so relatively short. I also received a copy from the publisher that will become a blog giveaway soon.
I thought China Mieville’s YA book Railsea would be the first book of his I ended up reading. I also thought I wouldn’t get my turn for it until September at the earliest. After finishing Clash of Kings I decided I wanted to read Mieville now and began The City and the City. So far it is delightfully strange. And of course I just received notice from the library that my turn for Railsea is now and not in September. It has people in line for it behind me so I can’t dilly-dally.
A book that I just got from the library that I am especially excited to read is My Poets by Maureen McLane. It is being called a book of “experimental criticism” and is part criticism part personal memoir – a hybrid sort of book – about McLanes’s life and poets that have been important to her for various reasons. It sounds so delicious and I have high expectations. I hope it doesn’t disappoint.
Arriving in the mail is a biography of Clarice Lispector, Why This World by Benjamin Moser. I’ve been wanting to read Lispector for ages and know nothing about her. I assumed she was American but then caught on that she wasn’t. So I thought maybe she was French and wrote books like those of Maguerite Duras. But it turns out she is Brazilian and wrote in Portuguese. Oxford University Press is the publisher of the biography and they also sent some excerpts of her novels. However, I requested The Hour of the Star from the library, a novella, so I can have more than a sample.
Of course these books are in addition to all the books I am already in the middle of. Looking at my outstanding library requests it also appears it will shortly be my turn for A Naked Singularity by Sergio de la Pava. Yikes! I am going to need another vacation with several long plane rides in order to get through all these. How are your own book piles doing? Do you also seem to have an infestation of evil book gnomes?
Filed under: Books
, In Progress
Tagged: Carlos Ruiz Zafon
, China Mieville
, Clarics Lispector
, Maureen McLane
I am so glad the Olympics are over since they will no longer be a distraction from reading and blogging. Well almost done being a distraction since I have the closing ceremony on as I am typing this.
I did manage to get some good reading in yesterday though. Here’s a little conversation Bookman, who had to work yesterday, and I had at dinner:
B: So what did you do today?
Me: I biked over to the library and picked up a couple books that I had on hold.
B: What are they?
Me: A Naked Singularity by Sergio De La Pava and World Enough by Maureen McLane, the author of the My Poets book that I am enjoying so much. She’s a poet too so I thought I’d see what kind of poet she is.
B: Yeah? And you didn’t like it?
Me: Oh no, I read the first poem and loved it so I had to read a couple more. And then I started reading Naked Singularity too. It’s really good so far, I’m on about page 30. Oh, and then I started reading The Clarice Lispector book I already had from the library, The Hour of the Star. It’s really good too but it’s the kind of writing that is really dense and beautiful and has to be read slowly and not too much at one time. I read about ten pages.
B: How many books did you read today?
Me: Just those three. Oh wait, no, I also read a couple chapters of My Poets.
B: Is that all you read? (I was oblivious to the sarcasm dripping off that ‘all’)
Me: I also read an article too called “Happyism” about how a branch of economics thinks it can somehow quantify happiness but their methods are faulty.
B: *heavy sarcasm* No, you don’t have a problem
Me: Blank stare
And then the conversation pretty much degraded into juvenile “No I don’ts” and “yes you dos.”
Want to know the really funny part though? Before I went to sleep last night I had spent time reading two more books, The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafon and The Best of It: New and Selected Poems by Kay Ryan. All in a day’s reading.
No, I don’t have a problem.
Filed under: Books
, In Progress
Here's the last piece in this project, which is a smaller reply card where potential invitees are given the opportunity to donate to the theatre. This is the outside (unfolded):
And the inside:
Not terribly interesting visually, except maybe the cover. Still, I just love doing this sort of Photoshoppy collage sort of... stuff. Whatever you call it.
It was 80 degrees F (26 C) here over the weekend. The first time in recorded Minneapolis weather history that we have reached 80 in March. My tulips are up, my forsythia is starting to bloom, and my spring perennials are starting to appear too. Crazy! The library where I work has not turned off the heat in the building yet and when I arrived at 7:30 this morning it was 80 degrees inside the library with no air moving around. Stifling. I live in Minnesota. I am not a hothouse flower. I wilted. Of course just near the time for me to leave for the day, the building started to cool off a bit. Tomorrow I will go to work dressed for summer and it will end up being freezing cold.
But you aren’t here to read my complaints about building temperatures and weird weather. You are here for book talk. As usual I am in the middle of all kinds of books. I recently finished Summer by Edith Wharton and The Metamorphosis by Kafka. Both were excellent and I will post about them in the next couple of days. I read them both on my Kindle and now I am reading A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. I decided to go with that one as my Dickens selection for my year’s reading goals when I found out from Bookman that it is his second favorite Dickens book. Since I haven’t read it before I figured I should give it a go. My, how Dickens loves the repetition of words and phrases in this book! It is a rhetorical device that must have a name but I don’t know it. You know the book starts with “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times” and goes on in the “it was” pairing for a page or so. Well Dickens does this for other things too, descriptions mostly. It gets to be a bit much after awhile. When the technique gets used so often it loses its power in my opinion. I am still in the first third of the book so hopefully Mr. Dickens will chill out and find some other expressive methods to use soon.
Saturday from the library I picked up The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction by Alan Jacobs. I’ve been patiently waiting my turn. It is a slim book and I am enjoying it very much. I also brought home Q’s Legacy by Helen Hanff. For this I blame Danielle who has mentioned it several times so that she finally broke down my resistance.
I am slowly making my way in the review copy I have of Lionel Shriver’s The New Republic. It’s good, but I am finding it a bit slow and difficult to get into. I am getting a little tired of the chip-on-his-shoulder narrator and not much of anything happening when I am just shy of the halfway mark.
I’ve been so busy trying to keep up with all the library books that can’t seem to properly space themselves out, that I haven’t gotten the chance to read another Borges story or anymore essays from Auden’s The Dyer’s Hand. I did read another Nabokov literature lecture over the weekend, the one of Kafka’s Metamorphosis. It was good but not quite as satisfying as the other lectures I have read so far. I guess even Nabokov can have an off day, and really, his off day is what most normal people would consider a banner day.
I have yet to start the Willa Cather novella, My Mortal Enemy for the Slaves discussion on March 3st. It is short so I’m pretty sure I can read in over this coming weekend. I did borrow the Library of America copy though which also has essays and other things by Cather in it thinking I could read in addition to and add some interesting insights to the discussion, but I will be surprised if this ends up happening.
I still have Stephanie Staal’s Reading Women on my pile but if I don’t get to it soon it will have to go back to the library. Also on my pile is a book
I spent a good amount of time lately working on a mural for one of my favorite clients. I was excited about it, not just because it's a fun kind of project to begin with, but I was also interested in further testing this new style I've been playing with. I wanted to see if I could get similar (or better) results by doing it in a vector format in Illustrator, so I even spent time just figuring out how to make a custom brush that did what I wanted.
(As a side note, I hate referring to it as a "new style" because, to me, it sounds like I'm abandoning my old style, which I have no plans of doing. It's just fun to try new things...)
|I had planned on adding a simple label to the bottle, but didn't get that far.|
Unfortunately, I fell prey to one of the most common errors known to all illustrasigners / designastrators: I put my own creative interests ahead of what the client wants, or even what's best for the client.
Needless to say, they said, "Er.... no. Try again."
|The white area is where a window would have gone.|
Still, even though I didn't finish, I liked what I came up with. I'm not sure I'll stay in Illustrator, though—I'm just so comfortable nowadays in Photoshop. On the other hand, many times, we need to force ourselves to do what's uncomfortable to grow. Growth isn't always easy or pretty or convenient.
At any rate, I've started on a different look, and—fortunately—I like where that's going as well (that isn't necessarily always the case!). And who knows, I might get a chance to go down this road another time, for another client.
It’s the middle of April already, can you believe it? We also had snow this morning. Oh, nothing that stuck, but it was snow much to my horror. I just hope it didn’t hurt the blossoms on my apple tree or clematis. And it was 75F (24C) here yesterday. Crazy weather!
On the book front there is lots going on as usual. Nabokov, Auden and Borges have sort of fallen by the wayside. I’m still reading them, just not actively. You know how that goes. Right? Please say that you do so I don’t feel like a dork.
I just finished reading Lionel Shriver’s newest, The New Republic. I wasn’t wowed by it but it wasn’t bad either. More on that forthcoming.
Because of Danielle (don’t you love it when you can blame others for your book choices?), I borrowed Helen Hanff’s Q’s Legacy from the library a couple weeks ago. It is a marvelous little book I could gulp down in one go but I’ve been drawing it out. It will soon be over though whether I want it to be or not. The Q of the title is Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch Hanff, not being able to afford college, went looking for books that would teach her how to write and landed with Q. His book On the Art of Writing is available at Project Gutenberg (as are many or his other books). It is a series of lectures he gave when he taught at Oxford. I read his introductory lecture over the weekend and oh, it is delightful in that old educated British “pip pip old chap!” way. But it isn’t stuffy, oh no, Q has a marvelous sense of humor; not the laugh out loud kind, that would be too much, but the kind that makes you smile and shake your head with amusement, droll perhaps. I look forward to reading more of the lectures and will be sure to let you know if they continue to be entertaining.
Picked up On Rereading by Patricia Meyer Spacks from the library on Saturday and started reading that this weekend too. I just read its opening chapter and so far Spacks and I are getting on great together. Hers is not a light and breezy book though. Spacks is an academic, and while the book is for a general audience, she writes like and academic except without all the jargon. This is not a bad thing, only, if you want something cozy, she is not your gal. I find her style engaging and the questions she proposes to explore interesting. Among those questions are: what kind of security does rereading offer and how can it provide security at all? What possibility of surprise is there in rereading? What is the role of memory? Given that books change when we reread them, or rather, that we change, what does this say about the limits of interpretation? What does rereading tell us about reading?
I am hoping the book lives up to the promising start.
A little over a week ago I got an email from the library saying that my turn to download Murakami’s 1Q84 had arrived. I must have placed the hold request so long ago I have no recollection of even making it. I downloaded the book and started reading it after I finished Tale of Two Cities early last week. Even reading it a little bit every day I am only at the 10% mark. Am I right that this is kind of fat book in print? Because the way library lending works on the Kindle I’ll be able to keep reading the book even after the due date passes as long as I don’t turn on the wifi. I know right now I will be going past the due date and have been drilling it into my head every time I pick up my Kindle, “don’t turn on the wifi,” so when it matters I won’t forget. I hope.
Anyway, it’s a good book. I am enjoying it thus far. There are two storylines going on told between alternating chapters. One is about a woman hit man or maybe assassin is better since she is not a man. The other is about a man who is a math teacher by day and an aspiring writer by night. So far there has been no Murakami we
You may never guess it due to my calm, cool and always in control exterior, but behind the scenes I’m scrambling around trying to keep all the plates spinning, like this:
Only without a fancy costume and a whole troop of people but just as many plates. Ok, not plates but books, book spinning, a whole new art! I’m considering quitting my day job and joining up with the circus. My act is sure to be a hit. Please stop by when the big top comes to your town, I’d love to meet you.
What has brought me to this mildly distressing
plate book spinning juncture is two things: not buying books and reading at whim.
My TBR pile is so large, I’ve been really careful since last winter about not buying books. There have only been a couple of book splurges and while my TBR pile has grown, it has grown in such an incrementally small way that it hasn’t really been all that noticeable.
But, there is a dark side.
Instead of running out and buying new books, I am running to the library instead. The trouble with this is that the books I request from the library are usually new ones that have holds on them or are in the process of being purchased so I have to wait. And then I forget about them while I continue adding more book requests. Then I borrow other books “while I’m waiting.” And before I know it, I have a big list of outstanding requests and watch in horror as my turn starts to come around for them not one at a time, but in waves. And of course I am in the middle of all the other books I had borrowed while I was waiting. I keep telling myself I need to stop placing hold requests, but when I see I am hold number 250, I think, “well, I won’t get that one for at least three or four months or more and by then I’ll be done with all these other books.” That may be so, and if I only did that with one or two books I’d be ok. Do you see how this works and how I get myself into trouble?
All this time I am reading at whim, a supposedly good thing according to Alan Jacobs. And it would be, I am sure it would be, if I weren’t ignoring the TBR pile of books I bought on a whim over the years.
As much as I enjoy reading at whim, I also think there is value in having a reading plan like that one in my sidebar I made for 2012. The plan serves as a reminder that there are books and authors I’d like to read. I would read them on a whim if I didn’t always have so many other books on the go from my library hold list. While I have read a couple of the books on my 2012 list, I have not been very good at following it. If only there was a long hold list for Virginia Woolf or Nabokov, then I’d manage to read them! I am particularly disappointed I have yet to read more than one book for the science writing by women project I was so excited about. I’m still excited about it, but, but, but….
Obviously whim buying has turned into whim borrowing. And oddly, when I never feel compelled to read books I buy right away, I always feel that I have to read books I borrow even though I could turn them back in and borrow them again another time. I think it’s the due dates. To my brain due dates mean now or never. Yeah, I know I’m weird. I will fit right in with my new circus buddies!
A resolution seems to be in order. I need to restore some sanity. I will not put any more books on hold at the library no matter how many months from now I think it will be before my turn comes up. I will choose books from my own TBR piles. I am not completely banning library borrowing and I don’t expect to choose books only from my TBR piles. I just need to slow down on the requests I make on a whim. Maybe instead of saying no more library holds, I should say, think before I borrow. That will be my
We are gearing up for the big plant sale Bookman and I attend every year so my thoughts are a bit scattered since I’m having trouble thinking about anything other than plants. And German. Thinking about German too. More on that later.
There are book things going on, lots of reading! I just got a notice from the library of more books ready for me to pick up. One of the books is for the Slaves read this month, the Yacoubian Building by Ala Aswani. The book is about the various inhabitants of a downtown Cairo apartment building, a varied and interesting collection of people by the sound of it. The book is only 255 pages long and all are welcome to join in the Slaves reading and discussion which takes place on May 31st.
The other book waiting for me at the library is one I got in line for last October, A History of the World in 100 Objects. The book is the print result of a BBC show and it really sounds fascinating. There is a long list of hold requests still after me so I will have to read fast.
Just arriving in the mail today is a review copy of a novel by Alberto Manguel, All Men Are Liars. There are supposedly lots of literary references. The story explores where the truth might be found in a world ruled by lies. Intriguing, yes?
Meanwhile, I am reading Ninepins by Rosy Thornton. I’m enjoying it quite a lot and am not surprised by that since I have yet to read one of Thornton’s books that I didn’t like.
Also still reading On Rereading by Patricia Meyer Spacks. I have two chapters left and will get to those this weekend. Have I said lately how much I like this book?
I’m currently 60% of the way through Murakami’s 1Q84 on my Kindle. I’m enjoying this book too. The story is really different and imaginative. Murakami makes loads of literary references, which is lots of fun. Plus he’s just a really good writer. So much has happened in the story already I can’t begin to guess what else might happen in the remaining 40% of the book but I am so hooked into it I can’t wait to find out.
I have all kinds of other books on the go, half started, thinking about being started, but if I went into detail on those we’d be here all night and believe me, I need my beauty sleep.
And, oh, the German, I almost forgot. I am now on Duolingo and relearning German. I took German in high school for two years and another two years in college but with no one to practice it on and no reason to keep it up it has slipped into the twilight memory area of my brain. I’ve been wanting to work on it again and now I can.
Duolingo is a language learning site, currently in beta with a long wait for an invite to join. I get basic lessons and then an opportunity to put what I learn into practice by translating stuff from the internet. I get points and progress through levels and it is all very much like a game, so much so I “played” so long over the weekend my brain started going all fuzzy and crazy and I couldn’t keep all the vocabulary and tenses straight so I had to stop. But I practice a little on it everyday. At the moment the languages offered are Spanish, English, and German with the promise of many more. There is also a social aspect to the site with forums and the ability to follow other learners, ask questions and rate each other’s translations. Sylvia at Classical Bookworm is also doing Duolingo and she has more details and screenshots at the link. Check it out!
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Where did my holiday weekend go? I didn’t plan on being completely silent during the three days but I was having such a lovely time I couldn’t bring myself to sit down in front of my computer longer than it took to check my email once or twice and practice German at Duolingo.
As a result of not being online much, I had lots of time for reading, writing letters, writing in my diary, and just plain loafing. And Bookman and I took a great fun bike ride yesterday along some bike trails we had never been on before down by the Mississippi River.
I spent most of my reading time on The Yacoubian Building by Ala Al Aswani. I finished it Sunday. You’ll be hearing all about it on Thursday when the Slaves of Golconda discussion on it begins. In addition to that, I began reading Jeanette Winterson’s memoir, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?. Whoa, did she ever have a difficult childhood. I am liking the book quite a lot. It feels so weird to say that about a person’s unhappy childhood, but there it is. I also started reading a review copy of a new novel by Alberto Manguel called All Men Are Liars. It is about the life of a recently deceased exiled Argentinian author told by the people who knew him to the author’s biographer. Manguel makes himself a character in the story and is narrating at the moment, but he does it well and I am delightfully surprised. I’ve only ever read Manguel’s nonfiction, and thus far, it appears he can write a pretty good novel too.
Really what I wanted to tell you about was an awesome new toy that can also be useful for anyone doing research. It’s called Bookworm. It is the result of a collaboration between Harvard Cultural Observatory, Open Library, and Open Science Data Cloud. It lets users graphically explore trends across a huge digital library. It is kind of like Google’s ngram only it lets you do some more refined compare and contrast searches and, even better, when you hover over an area of a timeline, you can view a list of books that it is pulling the information from. Even better, a great many of the books are public domain and you can click and read them. So, for instance, you can do a search for suffrage and compare works by men and women and between countries like the US and UK. You can add all kinds of variables and make some interesting general or specific observations.
Go play, have fun, and if you make some interesting comparisons and want to share, feel free to post the link in the comments.
Filed under: Books
, In Progress
I just finished Murakami’s 1Q84 on the bus home from the train station this afternoon. I need to let it digest a little before writing about it, but let me just say, wow! Loved it!
Because my head is swimming with Murakami and because I am also trying to think about The Yacoubian Building for tomorrow’s post, I will provide you a passage from Jeanette Winterson’s memoir Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?. Just to be clear, Winterson has nothing to do with those two books, she just has some awesome things to say about books in her memoir and I want to share one of them with you. So here goes:
So when people say that poetry is a luxury, or an option, or for the educated middle classes, or that it shouldn’t be read at school because it is irrelevant, or any of the strange and stupid things that are said about poetry and its place in our lives, I suspect that the people doing the saying have had things pretty easy. A tough life needs a tough language – and that is what poetry is. That is what literature offers – a language powerful enough to say how it is.
It isn’t a hiding place. It is a finding place.
And this reminds me of an essay by the poet Audre Lorde called Poetry is Not a Luxury. In the essay she says:
I speak here of poetry as the revelation or distillation of experience, not the sterile word play that, too often, the white fathers distorted the word poetry to mean — in order to cover their desperate wish for imagination without insight.
For women, then, poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action.
Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought. The farthest external horizons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our poems, carved from the rock experiences of our daily lives.
Filed under: Books
, In Progress
Somethin' I been workin' on. I've been trying a slightly different style with this, just for the fun of it. Well, I guess I'm drawing characters the same, but the way I color it is somewhat different.
I’m slowly making my way through the essays in A New Literary History of America. When I say slowly, I mean slowly as in one every few days. Since there are 200 essays in this mammoth of a book I could be reading it for years. Except it is a library book so I will either have to buy a copy for myself of turn the book in and then check it out again over and over until I am finished. The essays are so far fairly interesting.
One essay, “Alvarez Núñez Cabeza de Vaca,” is about, obviously, Cabeza de Vaca, a man I’ve read about before. The interesting thing about the essay is not the extraordinary journey, but discussion of the difficulty travelers to America had in writing about the things they saw. I never really thought about it much, but imagine how difficult it must have been for writers to not only describe all the trees and plants and people of America to Europeans, but also to make it not seem like they were making up stuff. I mean, they couldn’t take photos or make tape recordings or anything so how to you provide proof of the, to the Europeans, fantastic things to be found in 1536 America? Tricky, eh?
So far though I have especially enjoyed the essay on the Salem witch trials. It isn’t an analysis of the trials themselves but a discussion on how the trials have become such a part of the literary fabric of America. One critic has noted that representations of witchcraft are often bound up with constructions of national identity. Nathaniel Hawthorne is the most obvious example. He is a direct descendant of Salem magistrate John Hathorne, one of the local magistrates involved in examining those who were accused of witchcraft.
But it’s not just Hawthorne whose writing is influenced by the trials. Other 19th-century writers also were fascinated by the topic. John Neal explored religious bigotry and scapegoating in Rachel Dyer (1828). There is also James Kirk Paulding’s A Puritan and His Daughter (1849) and John William DeForest’s Witching Times (1856), as well as an 1868 play by Longfellow called Giles Corey of the Salem Farms.
In the 20th-century we have A Mirror for Witches (1928) by Esther Forbes, a 1950 play by William Carlos Williams called Tituba’s Children, and perhaps, most well known, The Crucible, a 1953 play by Arthur Miller. Still later, in 1986, there is Maryse Condé’s I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem.
I think one of the things I am so far most enjoying about these essays are their tendency to be about very specific things. Everything is nicely placed in context, but the essays are only 2,000 words and so are tightly focused. There is no meandering to get to the point. While there might not be the space for a lot of details, at the end of each essay is a short bibliography just in case the reader would like to pursue the topic further. Now isn’t that thoughtful? I know my TBR list appreciates it!
Filed under: Essays
, In Progress
I’m reading Bill Bryson’s At Home on my commute and during my lunch break at work. I’m enjoying the book very much. It ranges far and wide. Bryson must either be an awesome researcher or know some awesome librarians. Just sayin.
I am currently reading the section on dining rooms and of course when you talk about dining rooms you also talk about the things people eat and where they came from. Like, for instance, did you know that
It has been estimated that 60 percent of all the crops grown in the world today originated in the Americas. These foods weren’t just incorporated into foreign cuisines. They effectively became the foreign cuisines. Imagine Italian food without tomatoes, Greek food without eggplant, Thai and Indonesian foods without peanut sauce, curries without chilies, hamburgers without French fries or ketchup, African food without cassava. There was scarcely a dinner table in the world in any land east or west that wasn’t drastically improved by the foods of the Americas.
The indigenous people of Peru had 150 varieties of potato, and valued them all. An Incan of five hundred years ago would have been able to identify varieties of potato in much the way that a modern wine snob identifies grapes. The Quechuan language of Peru still has a thousand words for different types or conditions of potatoes. Hantha, for instance, describes a potato that is distinctly on the old side but still has edible flesh.
Before the Europeans stormed into their lives, people in Central America had only five domesticated creatures—the turkey, duck, dog, bee, and cochineal insect—and no dairy products. Without European meat and cheese, Mexican food as we know it could not exist. Wheat in Kansas, coffee in Brazil, beef in Argentina, and a great deal more would not be possible.
As fascinating as that is though, I warn you to be careful if you are reading this book while you eat. This little passage did not help my appetite this afternoon while I was chomping on some carrots, apples and a peanut butter and banana sandwich at lunch:
No one has ever suffered more in the quest to get rich [from the spice trade] than Ferdinand Magellan and his crew as they sailed in growing disbelief across the Pacific in 1521. Their provisions all but exhausted, they devised perhaps the least appetizing dish ever served: rat droppings mixed with wood shavings. “We ate biscuit which was no longer biscuit but powder of biscuits swarming with worms,” recorded one crew member. “It stank strongly of the urine of rats. We drank yellow water that had been putrid for many days. We also ate some ox hides that covered the top of the mainyard … and often we ate sawdust from boards.”
Yummy, yum, yum! Desperate times call for desperate measures and at least they weren’t eating each other, but ew!
I am reading the book on my Kindle and if you’d like to see more highlights, you can view those passages on my Kindle page.
Filed under: Books
, In Progress
Aside from finishing Ulysses I am in the middle of so many different books but close to finishing none of them. In between times like this are hard I find. I want to rush to finish something but I don’t want to rush but I am antsy to begin something new that has been in waiting and sometimes I just go ahead and start it because I can’t wait. That’s one reason I usually have so many books on the go. I am so glad for the impending Thanksgiving holiday. I get a four-day weekend with nothing to do but read. I can hardly wait!
Do you know about Poetry 180 from the Library of Congress? It’s a poem a day for high school students. While I am not a high school student I still enjoy the poem a day I get in my email inbox. I thought you all might like today’s poem by Ted Kooser Selecting a Reader.
The Library of Congress is such a great resource. They also have a blog called The Signal that focuses on digital preservation issues. Today, the 48th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination, they have a fascinating post about preserving the assassination study data. It was all encoded on punch cards and in 2001 researchers wanted to do a study comparing public reaction from the assassination to public reaction to September 11th. But no one knew where the punch cards were! They were found but then came the problem of converting the data on the punch cards to data that is readable by today’s computers.
Back then, no one was thinking about digital preservation. But we are now thank goodness. That doesn’t mean mistakes aren’t made and data lost. There are gobs of data lost all the time. Sad when you think about it. The blog also talks about personal archiving in case you are wondering what you can do to preserve your digital life.
And now, I think I’ll go read. I have some books to finish.
Filed under: Books
, In Progress
As it happens, I've started working on two digital picture books lately. One is of course the afforementioned sequel to "Pajama Girl." Here's a list of some possible titles we're working on:
Pajama Girl 2: Electric Boogaloo
Pajama Girl 2: Judgement Day
Pajama Girl 2: I Still Know What You Did Last Summer
Pajama Girl 2: The Search for Spock
Pajama Girl 2: Back 2 Tha Hood
or maybe just
Pajama Girl Strikes Back
As for the other story, it's a fun little western tale that should be pretty awesome, I think. Almost immediately after reading the text, I had a number of images in my head of many characters, settings, etc. Here's a bunch of sketches thrown together.
This is a tighter sketch of what I've decided on so far. I'll soon be doing some color testing, so things may change. Never know.
It just occurred to me these two could very well be discussing digging up gold, or the best place to bury a body.
The final sketches for PJ2 are almost done. Here's a peek of my Photoshop files thus far. Some of these pages I may break up into two, but we'll see.
Once these are approved, it's on to final art!
Just for funzies, I thought I'd record the process of finalizing one of the sketches for the sequel to my blockbuster international sensation, award-winning eBook "Pajama Girl", written by the lovely and talented Sarah Perry. I made rough thumbnails for the whole book, then scanned them and tightened the sketches in Photoshop.
This isn't a time lapse video, though. Just so you know. I actually draw that fast.
Can't touch this.
I have so many books on the go at the moment. I’m making progress through most of them but enjoying some more than others.
One book I recently finished, The Lives of Margaret Fuller by John Matteson, I will be writing a post on in the next day or so. But in case you are wondering, it is really good.
There are three books I am actively reading at the moment. For my daily public transit commute, I am reading My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin on my Kindle. I am so very much loving this book. Sybylla, our intrepid young narrator is full of vim and sass and not a few misconceptions, but she is so lively and well-meaning that I just love her. The book sometimes has a Pride and Prejudice meets Jane Eyre in the Australian Outback feel to it. I’m about 70% through the book so I will probably be done or close to done by the end of the week.
In the evenings before bed I am reading The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet by Reif Larsen. It is the Slaves group read that is scheduled for discussion on January 31st. The story begins on a ranch in modern day rural Montana which sometimes doesn’t feel all that different from rural Australia. Sometimes. Our narrator is twelve-year-old Tecumseh Sparrow Spivet, T. S. for short, a precocious boy who loves science and feels compelled to map everything. This book is not a straightforward narrative though. Printed in a somewhat oversized format, there are margin notes and illustrations and maps by T.S. that slow down the reading of the main text but not in a bad way.
The third book I am actively reading is Rereading Women by Sandra M. Gilbert. This book is a must read for anyone interested in feminist theory and/ or literature by women. I’m into part two of the book and currently in the middle of an essay on the myth of the “Belle of Amherst” aka, Emily Dickinson. The essay prior to the one on Dickinson is about the mythology that has sprung up around the life and poetry of Sylvia Plath. One of the things I really like about Gilbert is that she writes in a highly accessible manner. You will not find an abundance of academic jargon in these essays. In fact, there is even an essay about academic jargon and whether feminist theorists are doing themselves and women in general a disservice by filling their essays and books with language that most women don’t understand. There is also the question of whether by writing in academic-speak, feminist theorists are trying to prove themselves to their male colleagues and fit themselves into a patriarchal idea of scholarship instead of subverting it as was intended by so many in the beginning.
I began reading Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James about two weekends ago and have been half-heartedly picking away at it hoping to like it but not doing a very good job of it. I had high hopes for this book, figuring if anyone could do an Austen spin-off it would be James since during a book reading of hers I attended once she commented that she reread all of Austen every year. Elizabeth and Darcy have been married six years, it’s the eve of a big annual ball at Pemberley, and someone is murdered in the woods of the estate. One of the difficulties I am having is that the characters feel flat. Darcy and Elizabeth are harmoniously and happily married, there is no spark, no witty repartee, no arguments, not even any bickering. They are dull and uninteresting. I am just past the 100 page mark and part of me is wanting to put it down and never finish it and another part is saying, well the murder just happened, maybe things will liven up a bit now so keep reading. If nothing else, if I finish it and don’t like it, I can “take one for the team” so to speak and warn you all away.
I’m also still reading Auden’s Th
I am reading Greeblatt’s The Swerve, a delightfully bookish book, and broke out into a giggle fit when I came across this passage today:
On the death of Petrarch on July 19, 1374, the grieving Salutati had declared that Petrarch was a greater prose writer than Cicero and a greater poet than Virgil. By the 1390s, this praise seemed to Poggio and Niccoli ridiculous, and they pressed Salutati to repudiate it. In all the intervening centuries, no one, they argued, had bettered the great classic writers in stylistic perfection. It was impossible. Since ancient times all there had been in their view, was a long, tragic history of stylistic corruption and loss. Indifferent or ignorant, even supposedly well-educated medieval writers had forgotten how to form sentences correctly, in the proper manner of the masters of classical Latin, or to use words with elegance, accuracy, and precision with which they had once been wielded.
Puts my grousing about Kimball’s article the other day into perspective, doesn’t it?
Seems like everyone’s a critic and in no time is the literature ever as good as it used to be. Something to keep in mind as many people commented on the Kimball article post, there is no way of knowing the future and what literature will come to be seen as representing our time and culture, what books being published now will be read in 100 years or more. And really, does it matter if the book you are in the midst of now is one that is or isn’t read in the future as long as you are enjoying it now? After all, we don’t get extra credit points after we are dead for having read the novel that is being taught in all the high school English classes in 2112. At least I don’t think we do. Is there a heavenly reading scoreboard no one has told me about? Actually, if there were a scoreboard it would definitely be located in hell with demons scratching up marks with their nails on a chalkboard.
Filed under: Books
, In Progress
, Literary Criticism
I don't know why, but I love blog posts where illustrators detail the process of a job. For some reason, it's alway fascinating, whatever method they use. So, I'm going to go ahead and assume all my loyal thralls out there would be equally captivated by my process.
Well, you're in luck. But this particular gig doesn't just involve illustration, but also some design, albeit a very illustrative sort of design. I "designustrated" it, if you will.
The project is for one of my favorite and oldest clients, the Oklahoma Children's Theatre. Every spring, they hold a formal fundraiser called the Fairy Tale Ball, and every year, I have the immense pleasure of designing the invitations, reply cards and programs. Every year has it's own unique theme, and this year, it was "Spellbound, Potions & Pixie Dust."
The first thing I typically do is develop a type treatment. I started with a font called Guttenberg MF (which you can find here for free).
After typing out the theme in Illustrator, I did a bit of manipulation:
Then I started getting crazy, adding all kinds of text effects and drawing all those little swirly-swashy things.
I was able to draw all the little swirly-swashy things due to a tool I hadn't used before, called the "Width Tool," which allows you to vary the width of a stroke in a very controlled manner. Very cool.
I originally chose a black background for the type, since this is an elegant, evening affair, but the client thought that it (in conjunction with the save-the-date card I designustrated, which you'll soon see) looked too dark and foreboding. So, it got lightened to a royal purple. I also placed the type in a sort of crest, including the remaining event information (which I only used a couple of times).
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In the very beginning of this job, my main inspiration was the ending credits from the movie "A Series of Unfortunate Events" (based, of course, on the children's book series of the same name). If you haven't had a chance to watch it, click here and get an eye full. Great stuff.
I liked the cut and paste approach, the subtle patterns mixed with textures and rough drawings. With words like "potion" and "spellbound" in the theme, I immediately thought of an old fashioned apothecary, so I tried to incorporate that kind of imagery, which led me to some Victorian drawings like these:
Next, I sketched out a few characters:
Then gave 'em the ol' Ingvard treatment:
Next, I'll wrap it up with putting the final thing together.