30 March 2012

After all that, I couldn't even pick the winner correctly. Patrick DeWitt's THE SISTERS BROTHERS wins the 2012 Tournament of Books as a Zombie pick (the other one was THE ART OF FIELDING) over Teju Cole's OPEN CITY. Put it on your lists!

Filmbook: "The Hunger Games" (2012)

Who's excited about going to the movies to watch a bunch of teenagers try to kill each other? Only all of America; "The Hunger Games" opened last weekend as the third-highest grossing movie of all time, beating all four TWILIGHT movies so far (though still not touching "The Dark Knight"'s record). It's refreshing and slightly disturbing how much audiences (and readers before them) have taken to this dystopian vision.

There is plenty of violence in Gary Ross' adaptation of THE HUNGER GAMES, although to maintain a PG-13 it's often presented in choppy, shaky motion. Still, bodies are dropping and our heroine Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), the competitor from a Dorothea Lange photograph of a city whom no one expects to survive, sustains some extremely squishy looking wounds in the Games. Ross amps up the "Truman Show" aspect of the original story (say, that movie meets the short story "The Most Dangerous Game") with a fair amount of focus on the diabolical creators of the Games, who throw everything in Katniss' way (or do they?) But a person might find herself wishing that the carnage would hurry up and start.

I don't think this was a purposeful stall, although that would have been clever. I shouldn't have been surprised that "Seabiscuit" Ross' adaptation clocks in at well over two hours, and I'm not opposed to long movies as a rule. But there are times when this movie is not moving anywhere, dwelling on the intimate exchanges and feelings leading up to the Games that don't serve its format. I went to this movie to see fighting, and the magnificent totalitarian architecture (and loopy fashions) of the Capitol! I didn't go to this movie to look at Wes Bentley's beard (although I am strongly considering calling my next band Wes Bentley's Beard) as, playing the Games head designer Seneca, he impenetrably ponders the advice of President Snow (Donald Sutherland, a little toothless) on how to advance this game.

The exception to the waste inherent in this short game is any material involving Lawrence, who could probably do anything after turning in this performance (as predicted). Her ability to naturally depict the loneliness, shock, fear, determination and boredom inherent in her position (who knew waiting for death was a lot like other waiting?) as fluid states changing from moment to moment makes a sometimes-unlikeable character someone to root for. Sometimes she looks like a tough woman, and sometimes like a little girl; she maintains that only she can take care of her sister Prim through winning, despite the support of her mother and her friend Gale (Liam Hemsworth, whose presence here is mainly to bookmark for future installments) but falls into pieces after being separated from her fellow gamesman Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) for only a few minutes. It's remarkable that I watched Lawrence for over two hours and never thought of her badass role from last year as Mystique in "X-Men: First Class," a character who shares certain adolescent dualities and secret strengths with Katniss. (Beyond that, the other real standout I could have watched for so long was Stanley Tucci as Caesar, the Hunger Games "host" doing a sort of psychotic David Letterman with a Mozart pompadour. I'm hoping for a DVD extra consisting of him narrating random things for 2 hours. I'd watch that.)

I'm not such an ardent fan of the trilogy that I came in ready to spot the differences -- enough people can do that -- but two major changes struck me as less than wise (spoilers): First, the movie scraps the book's ending (terrific) to borrow some scenes belonging to its successor CATCHING FIRE, allowing more closure and less climax. This is pure dumb Hollywood at work; didn't "Inception" prove audiences can handle a little cliffhanger with their endings? The scene they should have stopped on is visually so striking, that everything else can only subtract from that. (The Cornucopia, right?) I alluded to the other change earlier: While the entire book takes place from Katniss' perspective, the adaptations includes scenes from Seneca's perspective as well as random interspersed shots of the gamemakers' terminals as they (apparently?) watch the screen instead of doing their jobs, and there was a more effective way of incorporating all those things.

I didn't enjoy this movie as much as the book, but that's okay. I'm still in for the series unless they failed to sign Lawrence for all four movies (which would be mighty foolish).

Filmbook verdict: Read the book, then see the movie if you liked it.

29 March 2012

Fear and Possessiveness in BLUE NIGHTS

If there is an attractive side to grief, it is not shown in Joan Didion's latest memoir about losing her daughter Quintana. Even its sweet moments are tinged with a kind of desperation, as if reporting them is a show of the living. Didion repeats like a mantra something her daughter once said to her -- "Like when someone dies, don't dwell on it" -- but she can't follow that directive. She doesn't sound depressed so much as haunted, and ritualizing everything in order to ward off the haunting.

Losing her only daughter provokes two impulses in Didion: the fear of gradually losing Quintana's memory and of gradually deteriorating and dying herself, and the instinct to clutch tight to whatever she has of her daughter -- even the out-of-context quote above -- at the cost of practically bringing herself to a standstill.
There is no moving on, in fact there's hardly any moving. Everything she does, she does by rote. In the middle of this stage of grief the adaptation of "The Year Of Magical Thinking" opens on Broadway and Didion takes to eating takeout backstage every night from the same restaurant. If we still talked about records stuck in grooves... It's as if this rite could reverse the past, which of course, is impossible. Not to say that ritual doesn't have a part in grief -- but BLUE NIGHTS shows the captivating danger in them.

The issue of Quintana's adoption is not fully connected to the present and her death but creates an interesting tension related to these points. Quintana's death seems to underline something in Didion about the impermanence of the arrangement that delivered baby Q into her and her husband's arms, a much-wanted only child whose later medical problems, whatever they were,  seem unrelated to her upbringing. (A certain Atlantic writer used the tales of Quintana's childhood escapades to indict Didion and husband John Gregory Dunne for being inattentive parents, but the case is inconclusive based on evidence provided.) Perhaps it's just the severing of the last tie between mother and non-biological child that causes Didion to wonder how much of herself she ever reflected in her daughter.

BLUE NIGHTS reveals little about the relationship between Didion and Quintana, in fact may make it even more impenetrable than before, but expertly maps the landscape of finding oneself among the living after a death. The brittleness of Didion's sentences maps back to her sense of her own fragility, highlighted by the mortality of others. Not dwelling on it, after all, is impossible.

28 March 2012

"An Open Letter To My Sister, Angela Y. Davis" by James Baldwin: First in a series of "pieces of literature I found by the printer at the office." (Literature as opposed to emails, of which there are too many. Paperless office, am I right?)

And now: it is easy to forget
what I came for
among so many who have always
lived here
swaying their crenellated fans
between the reefs
and besides
you breathe differently down here.

--from "Diving Into The Wreck" by Adrienne Rich, who died today; she was 82.

27 March 2012

After 29 years, Tennessee Williams' final play "In Masks Outrageous And Austere" (catchy, right?) will finally get a world premiere in New York this spring. Yesterday would have been Williams' 101st birthday.

26 March 2012

One-Star Revue: THE MARRIAGE PLOT (was robbed!)

The Tournament of Books has not been going the way that I would like it to go. OPEN CITY's upset of THE MARRIAGE PLOT is a travesty and I can only see it as a rebellion against an accepted master to anoint a self-consciously "edgy" book featuring an "outsider" protagonist who is at his best when recording impressions outside himself because he has no apparent human feelings. Its difference works against it in the moment where the protagonist stops acting like a human and the novel essentially lets him get away with a crime, focusing instead on the thoughts that precede from him whose coldness is shocking. In that moment Julius is revealed to be a symbol instead of a man, and it feels like a betrayal.

Perhaps judge Alex Abramovich, who called THE MARRIAGE PLOT "grade-grubbing" and said it "does the work of making you feel smart, without having to have worked for it," might agree with some of these other people:

  • "If you are completely cerebral and angst-ridden and enjoy reading about others just like you, then this book is for you!" Okay, this one made me laugh. 
  • "I was annoyed that Eugenides throws in lots of literary references."
  • "There is not a single character that would not benefit by getting an actual life."
  • "Eugenides' desperation for 'intellectual' or 'creative' metaphors and similes seeps through the pages like a fat nerd boy sweating out his nervousness onto his World of Warcraft T-shirt while standing around thinking of how to impress a girl." 
  • "Perhaps, holding the book and feeling the pages might expunge my first impression--but I doubt it." What?
  • "I found the characters unheroic."
  • "The ending of the book was pretty cliche and made me feel that I have just run a fun circle of marathon and am still standing at the exact same spot." 
  • "When my book club chose this, I wasn't thrilled."
  • "Before I begin, let me clarify that I am a Doctoral student in Comparative Literature." Sorry, no resumes on Amazon please.

25 March 2012

It's a special day

I will have to take 2 hours off my reading today because "Mad Men" returns tonight! Don Draper, get on my television!

Source: Belle's Bookshelf

23 March 2012

Gwyneth Paltrow, mean girl author

There was an article in the New York Times last week about cookbook ghostwriters -- people who specialize in helping chefs, who are busy and maybe not the most eloquent in writing, refine their recipes and collect them into books. The article quoted a writer I had never heard of named Julia Turshen, who has worked with actress and self-proclaimed lifestyle guru Gwyneth Paltrow on some of her books and was described as "collaborating" and "writing with" Paltrow on her book MY FATHER'S DAUGHTER.

Apparently that was more credit than Paltrow was willing to give. She took to her newsletter, GOOP, to "defend" herself:

(Note: I inexplicably subscribe to but almost never read this newsletter.)

After the Times refused to print a correction, Paltrow also went on "Rachael Ray" to clarify that Turshen was her "assistant" and, "I wrote my book and it's all mine."

Okay, so maybe "ghostwriting" is not the exact term that Paltrow would use. But this is starting to reek like when Hollywood actresses (ahem) talk about themselves as "working mothers" and deny having childcare. (Impressive counter-example: Poehler, 2011.) I prefer the estimation of Sari Botton, who has worked as a ghostwriter (and isn't afraid to say it!):
So maybe Gwyneth uttered or typed every one of the words in her cook book. But I doubt strongly she put it all together without a great deal of Turshen’s help. No, fuck “help.” I doubt she did it without Turshen’s hard work.
Why is it so hard to admit that you have help? Every author has help. Some just pay more for it. Whatever the hell else Paltrow does with all her free time (I have no idea) she'd like us to think she sweated blood and tears over every single recipe in her books. But she probably had photographers to take the pictures -- and someone to get the groceries for the foods featured in the pictures -- and even if she hadn't worked with Turshen someone would have edited her writing, likely for content and mechanics. That is what editors do! And even if you don't have Paltrow-Martin levels of money, you could hire a freelance editor to help you with your manuscript, or just to get a fresh pair of eyes on the thing. And if you don't have any money, you could ask your friends to read it (this is my plan). Or your professors if you're in college or graduate school. Or your parents. Or your cat?

Getting into an unprofessional snit about it just makes her look, shall we say, less involved in her cookbooks than I might otherwise have guessed. (Or bad at non-disclosure agreements... take your pick.)

22 March 2012

21 March 2012

Breaking: Books popular again

Frank Costa and Derek Hedbany, 18-year-old freshman roommates at New York University, were subsisting on adrenaline and Red Bull. Mr. Hedbany said the [HUNGER GAMES trilogy] featured a lot of action, and Mr. Costa said he liked the pacing and vivid imagery. "It's not a happy ending," he said. "It's supposed to be a teen novel, but I think it's a clever metaphor for today's society."

--I have done a lot of crazy things for books, but camping out on a Manhattan street overnight is not one of them.

20 March 2012

"Read so hard, libraries gonna fine me"

I don't want to suggest that the worldwide overlap between Jay-Z and Kanye West appreciators and bookbound nerds is all that small, although among this readership I suspect it is. But in the off chance you had a day as terrible as mine and you maybe feel like the world is going to end... this ought to help. It must be really hard to be Katy Perry right now.

"Bitches in Bookshops," by Annabelle Quezada and La Shea Delaney, 2012.

Tournament of Books '12 Round 2 Picks

First, it's a good thing I don't have any money on this as you can see from my incorrect picks (in red).

Second, I'm crushed that OPEN CITY won yesterday. I finished this book over the weekend and, not to get into it, but I regretted running up the library fines to finish it. I guess this is how all you Duke fans feel?

Third, I made some new picks because I don't learn:

Now who do you think will be the zombies?!?!?!?!?!

19 March 2012

Breaking: Movies are no longer stupid, says well-known author

HBO has purchased a documentary about birds in which author Jonathan Franzen makes an appearance.

On EUGENE ONEGIN at least we are agreed

It is regrettable that Russian re-President Vladimir Putin did not announce his plan for a Russian canon of literature that will be required of high school dropouts by shooting a new series of beefcake photos of himself straddling a library desk or lifting stacks of Tolstoy and Chekhov.

17 March 2012

Nihil sanctum

"Horrified" is also the word I would use about author Mike Daisey's fabrication around his new show "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs," for which he seems to have made up interviews and described meetings with workers that did not take place. While it seems that the offenses Daisey described did take place (staffing with underaged workers and poisoning), they did not take place on his watch.

"This American Life," which aired some of his show in a special hourlong episode, has issued a retraction and will discuss that retraction in this weekend's episode. 

16 March 2012

"And in the midst of all that, I had this manuscript. I had figured that it was just going to be a matter of a couple of months of temping before I was raised aloft! [Laughs.] You know, published with great honors! Of course, it was nothing like that. I sent it to agents and it would immediately come back to me— it was like a boomerang. And then I would send it to friends, and they really did not know what to say to me." -- Jennifer Egan at The Days Of Yore on life before the Pulitzer Prize

Almost Fainting While Listening To Cintra Wilson

Last night I went to a comedy show at Greenlight Bookstore featuring a number of contributors to the Believer, on the occasion of their latest book of advice coming out this week. (Contributor Julie Klausner looked at the cover and sniffed, "I didn't know those were the cars. That's illegal.") The Believer's advice column is short on actual advice and long on wit, if you've never read it, but contributors had enough latitude to add jokes as necessary and I suspected some of those who read last night were ad-libbing at least a little.

I think I was most curious to see critic Cintra Wilson, who read from her forthcoming book about advertising and fashion (and some of her advice pieces, including a very funny one about needlepoint). Wilson has stepped back from the New York Times style section after criticism over this column about J.C. Penney, which was too bad because her Critical Shopper columns had a delightful bite to them that no one else replicates. (That I didn't find the column offensive is neither here nor there, really, but I'm pointing it out anyway.) Wilson has a voice in the Jerri Blank region and climbed up on a store table to read because, as she explained, not only was she short but she also had "totalitarian" impulses.

I took a friend from work who is a Michael Ian Black fan (who isn't?) and who, by chance, had never been to the bookstore, so I felt I had done my good deed by promoting it. Black read from his new memoir YOU'RE NOT DOING IT RIGHT about the first harrowing months of parenting and how they mysteriously seemed to double under the spell of advanced sleep deprivation.

The one regrettable spot to the evening was that it was very warm in the bookstore and midway through Wilson's "Fast Five" review (which I loved) I started feeling unsteady and dizzy and, with none of my adult grace, wobble-kneed it down to the floor for the rest of the reading. I'm not a fainter, but I wasn't the only one who was suffering from the heat. (Astonishingly it was much cooler at floor level and I was able to stare at people's Converse and Danskos and come back to myself.) Greenlight, if you're checking your referrals this morning, please open the door next time as I could probably take about 4 people down with me if I fell and you don't want to be responsible for that kind of carnage.

15 March 2012

Spotted in the neighborhood

Maybe I shouldn't have been walking by that house after dark. It was sitting on the front lawn of the house along with a few other items including (and I swear I only saw one) a gold-glitter knee-high boot. Free to a good home?

14 March 2012

Some sights of literary New Orleans

"A literary tour is the secular echo of a religious pilgrimage. The hope is the same as with saints’ relics: that some residue of genius will survive in the physical objects an author has touched, that the secret to his mind will turn out to be hidden in the places his body passed through — the proportions of a doorway, the smell of old stone." -- Sam Anderson

Before this plot held a hotel it was the major open-air slave market of New Orleans, the one chronicled in UNCLE TOM'S CABIN. In more recent but also tragic history, it makes an appearance in Ethan Brown's true-crime story SHAKE THE DEVIL OFF as the place where troubled war vet Zackery Bowen committed suicide after killing his girlfriend.

Truman Capote spent so much time in the Monteleone Hotel (halfway down the street, where the flags were) that he used to say he was born there. This was a slight exaggeration. Before I left I grabbed Capote's late-career story collection MUSIC FOR CHAMELEONS which I'd had sitting around forever, and in the one story in it set in New Orleans, everyone Capote talks to speaks exactly like him. I did not find this to be the case on my visit, although New Orleanians were very hospitable.

William Faulkner lived in this yellow house for just over a year while he was working on his first novel; now it's a book store, called, what else, Faulkner House Books. In terms of locations this would probably be my preferred one to live in due to its proximity to beignets at the Cafe du Monde (well, of course I did) and the view of the park across the narrow cobblestone street. Just before I ducked down the alley I watched a second-line wedding parade pass by the Saint Louis cathedral.

Tennessee Williams lived here when he wrote "A Streetcar Named Desire." There are no streetcars operating on the Desire line any more, but I was fairly pleased to find out that you can still ride in the streetcars for a very reasonable $1.25. Usually they aren't even that crowded.

Major landmarks I missed: statue of Ignatius J. Reilly of A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES (stored for Mardi Gras, apparently); half a dozen plantations claiming to inspire the ones in GONE WITH THE WIND, as well as any of the places Rhett Butler and Scarlett O'Hara went on their honeymoon (figured they would be too hard to find, but here's a good stab at it).
I'm ashamed to confess I'm at least 50 percent more interested in this FIFTY SHADES OF GREY story now that word is out that the novels began as a really long piece of TWILIGHT fanfiction. It's going to be a really hard case to prosecute on plagiarism if it comes to that. Fandom wins!

13 March 2012

NYC: "February House" arrives in May

The Public Theater is opening a world premiere musical based on the bizarre vignette of Brooklyn history where W.H. Auden, Carson McCullers and Paul Bowles all shared a house in Brooklyn Heights. Uncovered and named by Sherrill Tippins, the "February House" was kind of a glorious mess and it sounds like its inhabitants didn't get a whole lot of work done, just developed inappropriate crushes on each other (Paul Bowles' wife on Auden, who was gay, for example) and got cranky at fellow housemate Benjamin Britten for playing too much music. In other words, it's just like every roommate situation that ever was. (Anyone want to tell my upstairs neighbors that their bass playing is no good? OK then.)

"February House" was cowritten by two fellow graduates of the Best University Ever, Gabriel Kahane and Seth Bockley. I don't know them personally but I remember seeing Bockley onstage in college (most notably in Sarah Kane's "Crave") and think this is a really cool project. Also one of them, or their associates, is running a @FebHaus Twitter feed that is fairly incredible. Sample tweet: "Carson burned the soufflé, but the housewarming party last night otherwise went off without a hitch."

The dollar cart wins again

These are the gag books my coworkers got me for my birthday (yesterday) proudly displayed on my desk. Caption on GOING ROGUE says "I red books and things! Happy Christmas!"

That greenish item in the front is my real book present, Adam Christopher's dystopian New York novel EMPIRE STATE, which looks kick-ass. Nice job, coworkers. My heart leapt up when I saw that Strand bag.

12 March 2012

Authors born on this day include...

  • Jack Kerouac
  • Edward Albee
  • Millard Kaufman (BOWL OF CHERRIES)
  • Carl Hiassen
  • Dave Eggers

Letter To New York

In your next letter I wish you'd say
where you are going and what you are doing;
how are the plays, and after the plays
what other pleasures you're pursuing:

taking cabs in the middle of the night,
driving as if to save your soul
where the road goes round and round the park
and the meter glares like a moral owl,

and the trees look so queer and green
standing alone in big black caves
and suddenly you're in a different place
where everything seems to happen in waves,

and most of the jokes you just can't catch,
like dirty words rubbed off a slate,
and the songs are loud but somehow dim
and it gets so terribly late,

and coming out of the brownstone house
to the gray sidewalk, the watered street,
one side of the buildings rises with the sun
like a glistening field of wheat.

—Wheat, not oats, dear. I'm afraid
if it's wheat it's none of your sowing,
nevertheless I'd like to know
what you are doing and where you are going.
--Elizabeth Bishop. As invoked in David Rakoff's HALF EMPTY, where the author recites it to himself as he goes in for an MRI.

09 March 2012

The bag of my dreams

Keep your Birkins and your Louis. I don't need another tote bag but I NEED this BARTLEBY THE SCRIVENER one from (where else?) Melville House. It says it can carry a French bulldog, not that I have one, but still.

08 March 2012

Shit Franzens say

I was sorry that while Jonathan Franzen and I overlapped a little in New Orleans, I had left by the time he hunkered down on Tuesday night at Tulane to give a talk about why he hates everything and Edith Wharton isn't pretty enough. Just kidding! It was part of the school's "Great Writers" lecture series.

Jami Attenberg was, and from her report here are my three favorite quotes:

  • "I am committed to endings…I can no longer be mistaken for a post-modern author."
  • "Twitter is unspeakably irritating. Twitter stands for everything I oppose."
  • "I was taught to be nice to people, which is my credo even though I seem to have some small gift for offending people without intending to."

Sadly I missed the ensuing #jonathanfranzenhates series of jokes (in short, everything). According to the Tulane report he also said "Writing a novel is an experience. The process is more important than the product," which I'm definitely not sure I agree with. But Jonathan Franzen surely hates when we speculate on his process, and the best way to get us not to is to drop hints like this constantly and submit to major magazine profiles. Obviously.

Tournament of Books '12: Let's do this thing

This was a fun exercise! I recommend it! That said I only went 11 for 16 on this bunch. I had time to start OPEN CITY, but not finish it; library copies of THE SENSE OF AN ENDING, STATE OF WONDER and THE SISTERS BROTHERS were scarce, and I didn't get the gumption to start 1Q84. So I made my picks based on the information I knew and where I thought each match-up would break; the only one I really had no idea on was STATE OF WONDER vs. SISTERS BROTHERS. Anyone want to fill me in?

Edit: And in classic March Madness fashion my bracket is already blown. Oh, well.

07 March 2012

Tournament of Books '12: Hiding from THE DEVIL ALL THE TIME

For those who like their Cormac McCarthy just a little more tender.

Donald Ray Pollock created the rural Ohio area chronicled in (and giving the name to) his first book KNOCKEMSTIFF as a microcosm for mid-20th-century depressed America, venal and corrupted even when it tries to do good. Even the one true innocent in THE DEVIL ALL THE TIME is eventually turned by his environment, the poverty and lack of community in his small town slowly curdling inside his chest. America!

That innocent for me was Arvin, the son of a war vet and a waitress who loses both those parents in a manner so grim* the townspeople he encounters afterward are afraid of him.Taken in by his grandmother, who is also raising a girl abandoned by her father (whose mother also came to a grisly end), Arvin grows up wary and spoiling for a fight in a town of thieves, cheats and murderers, all with perfectly respectable public faces. It's like an even darker side of WINESBURG, OHIO. If there's anything fundamentally good left in Arvin, it's because his grandmother tries to shield her charges from Knockemstiff's worst faces as long as she can.

Finding out what happens to Arvin kept me furiously turning pages even as the people he crosses paths with go from garden-variety unsavory to icky to truly depraved. Sometimes it's impossible to read a character without wishing he would just be okay on some kind of cosmic level (even as you know it's not possible). In terms of plotting, Pollock really delivers in bringing several other characters around Arvin into his trials. He's a fairly new author (THE DEVIL ALL THE TIME is only his 2nd book) and I will be anxiously awaiting his next book even as I fear to crack the cover.

ToB first-round opponent: THE SENSE OF AN ENDING, a book I didn't get to because I was stubborn and refused to buy a novella at hardcover novel prices. (I didn't mean to get all fist-shaky about it, but truly it wasn't worth it to me. Why, that's nearly 14 cents a page!) That said, I'm predicting this one will fall Pollock's way because he's the underdog against Booker Prize winner Barnes. Later today I'll put up my whole bracket, because hey, the tournament is here! In fact, this is the first matchup, tomorrow (with Emma Straub judging).

*For me it was right up there with the famous tree in BLOOD MERIDIAN. The (spoiler) tree of dead babies. That gross and horrifying. Have fun! "Oh hey, what are you reading?" "Just a book with a tree of dead babies in it. How was your weekend?"

06 March 2012

You keep me under your spell

This post perfectly captures what it's like to completely fall under the spell of a book and just stay that way. Isn't that the best?

It's been a while since I felt like that; I'm not mad, it's just the reality of life. I'm thinking back to last fall when I was flying back to New York and I got so deeply into THE MARRIAGE PLOT I practically forgot I was even on a plane. Last summer when we were preparing for the hurricane, a guilty part of me hoped that the power would go out and I would have an excuse to hunker down with a flashlight for the day, because what was I going to do, go outside?? (Instead, we drank a lot of wine and by the afternoon I had such bad cabin fever I "broke into" the park to look for storm damage.)

Do you remember the last time you were completely captivated by what you were reading?

Kindle sale books of the month

I recommend: Two personal finance titles, Ramit Sethi's I WILL TEACH YOU TO BE RICH and Thomas Stanley's THE MILLIONAIRE NEXT DOOR.
I might be buying later this month but not now: Ira Wagler's GROWING UP AMISH.

05 March 2012

Kate Beaton on the delight of one-star reviews. (Visit her blog and related website for more LOLs.)

02 March 2012

Hey look, it's my shining moment

One more note before I'm out the door: The new head of the company where I work namechecked SUPER SAD TRUE LOVE STORY today and asked if anyone else had read it. Mine was one of two hands up.

"What did you think of it?"

"It was all right." Everyone laughed (clearly, they haven't been reading my prestigious blog, sir!). Okay, I hedged a little, but what if Gary Shteyngart had been his brother-in-law or something? He did not admit as much, so I think I'm in the clear.

Reading on the Road: Oh how I want to be in that number

Top five fictional New Orleans characters who, nevertheless, I would not like to hang out with
Edna Pontellier, THE AWAKENING
Stanley Kowalski, "A Streetcar Named Desire"
Willie Stark, ALL THE KING'S MEN
Blanche DuBois, "A Streetcar Named Desire"

And one I would: Raziela Davis, the ghost who narrates Ronlyn Domingue's novel THE MERCY OF THIN AIR. (A ghost tour guide! Oh, you fancy, huh?) If you read and loved Ann Rinaldi books when you were younger, you're going to love this book as a semi-grown-up version.

I am taking none of these ride-alongs, but I am taking a paperback to be named later (relax, I don't actually leave till tomorrow! Plenty of time to dither some more!) and hoping to get through GAME CHANGE on the iPad. So I'll just let the robot take over for a few days.

01 March 2012

Unbookening: The gauntlet is thrown

If I were a Pinterest user I would probably have a board for really beautifully organized bookshelves to shame myself into clearing mine up. (But maybe you shouldn't use Pinterest anyway until they get this copyright business cleared up.) That said: By next month I am going to have mine cleaned up to the extent that I can put up a picture. It's not going to look like the one at left (think: fewer plants, fewer typewriters). But as the major design feature in my living space I should be able to look at it and not worry that all my SECRET THINGS!!!!! are going to fall out.  

If you would also like to play along with this game, I can throw up a reminder later in the month and you can send me a picture of your shelf (or shelves, you lucky person, you). Really, you only need to clean this one thing. That's the messaging I'm going with and I hope you forgive me. But in any case, I will and then you can snoop at all my books.

On to the main event! 

Checked out 9 books from the library
Bought 4 books on Kindle
Borrowed 1
14 in

Returned 10 to library
Donated 1
11 out

Not spectacular, but I always have a plan.

Photo: finalgirl

Things I am looking forward to

1. Marilynne Robinson's new book of essays, WHEN I WAS A CHILD I READ BOOKS.
2. "Gatz," the 8-hour-plus complete adaptation of THE GREAT GATSBY, at the Public.
3. NW, Zadie Smith's first novel in seven years, out in September. Here's the UK cover (via On the Strand):