Author Archive

Barnes & Noble Celebrates Teen Books

Thursday, June 9th, 2016

For you Twin City-ans and young-adult book lovers, Barnes and Noble is having a teen book fest this weekend with some great readings and events around the cities. I have copied this almost verbatim from Twin Cities Geek, which did a great job of compiling the info.

Barnes & Noble just announced its first-ever B-Fest Teen Book Festival, three days of free YA-centric events at B&N stores around the country June 10—12, including all of the locations here in Minnesota.

In addition to a set schedule of activities happening at all stores throughout the weekend–like trivia, giveaways, and a spelling bee, with advance reader’s copies of yet-to-be-released books as prizes–individual stores have been hard at work booking authors and groups to join in the festivities. Everyone I contacted was eager to talk about everything going on for the event.

“We are super excited,” said Janet Waller, who manages events for the Roseville location, which is tied with Mall of America for the largest number of author appearances scheduled. “Super excited” were the same words used by Regina Eckes at the Eden Prairie Center store, who added, “We want to be the place to go for teens, for YA literature, and celebrate everything it has to offer.”

Theodore Evans at the Ridgehaven Barnes & Noble in Minnetonka noted that not that long ago, the YA section was almost nonexistent–something that’s changed for the better in a big way over recent years. “The teen section has really blossomed, and anyone who’s anyone reads it,” he said.
B&N-Wide Events

The following programming will be going on at the same time at all Barnes & Noble locations:

Friday, June 10, 7:00 p.m.: B-In the Know

“We’re kicking off the festivities with Trivia Blast, created by Penguin Teen and Random House’s First in Line. One winner in each store will win advance reader’s copies of the most anticipated new books for teens.“

Saturday, June 11, 11:00 a.m.: B-First

“Come check out exciting giveaways, plus sneak peeks of new stories from favorite authors, including James Dashner, Ransom Riggs, and Veronica Roth.”

Saturday, June 11, 2:00 p.m.: B-Part of the Fun

“Join us for a spelling showdown, story ball, games, and activities featuring popular teen series, plus a chance to win prize packs, swag, and more!”

Sunday, June 12, 2:00 p.m.: B-Creative

“Join us to participate in a story development workshop created by Adaptive Studios and learn how to write a log line, create a spark page, and reimagine popular characters.”

Store-Specific Events

Each of the stores around the Twin Cities and beyond is doing a little something different for B-Fest, and I’ve collected everything into one big list just for you. Names marked with an asterisk (*) indicate authors who will be visiting more than one store during the course of the weekend. Note that some stores are still finalizing their event lineup, so there may be some additions between now and June 10.

This list was updated June 6, 2016.

Minneapolis–Calhoun Village
3216 West Lake St.
Minneapolis, MN 55416

June 10, 5:00 p.m.: Carrie Mesrobian* (Cut Both Ways) and Shannon Gibney* (See No Color)
June 11, 11:00 a.m.: Pete Hautman* (Godless)
June 11, 1:00 p.m.: Laurie Wetzel* (Unclaimed)
June 12, 1:00 p.m.: B-Mighty with Mighty Media–“Join us for the inside scoop on publishing and get a sneak peek at the upcoming The Peculiar Haunting of Thelma Bee by by Erin Petti!”
June 12, 3:00 p.m.: Meet Monica’s YA Writing Group–“Sneak a peek at the process with a local group of budding YA authors. Join the discussion with and work through the writing with the star of our store’s Kids section.”

RSM Plaza
801 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis, MN 55402

June 10, 11:00 a.m.: Kelsey Sutton (The Lonely Ones)

Burnhaven Shopping Center
828 West County Road 42
Burnsville, MN 55337

June 11, 2:00 p.m.: Andrea Cremer (Nightshade)
June 11, 4:00 p.m.: Kristin D. Van Risseghem* (The Passage, a Dance, and a Little White Dress)

Duluth–Miller Hill Mall
1600 Miller Trunk Hwy. #L25
Duluth, MN 55811

June 11, 11:00 a.m.: Tom Isbell* (The Capture) and Margi Preus (Enchantment Lake)

Eagan Promenade
1291 Promenade Place
Eagan, MN 55121

June 10, 7:00 p.m.: Anne Greenwood Brown and Jacqueline West (Lies Beneath)
June 11, 2:00 p.m.: Kristin D. Van Risseghem* (The Passage, a Dance, and a Little White Dress)
June 12, 2:00 p.m.: Loretta Ellsworth (In a Heartbeat)

Eden Prairie Center
8251 Flying Cloud Dr., #3000
Eden Prairie, MN 55344

June 11, 11:00 a.m.: Kristin D. Van Risseghem* (The Passage, a Dance, and a Little White Dress)
June 11, 1:00 p.m.: “From Page to Screen” discussion with film critic and blogger Paul McGuire Grimes
June 12, 1:00 p.m.: Molly Beth Griffin (Silhouette of a Sparrow)
“Diversity in Teen Fiction” discussion
“Fun for Parents” discussion

3225 W 69th St.
Edina, MN 55435

June 11, 11:00 a.m.: Gary Bush* (Sail into Treachery: A Jamie Sharpe Adventure)
June 11, 1:00 p.m.: Kirstin Cronn-Mills and Jaqueline West* (Original Fake)
June 12, 2:00 p.m.: Teen Writing Workshop with Jane St. Anthony (Isabelle Refuses to Die of a Broken Heart)

HarMar Mall
2100 North Snelling Ave.
Roseville, MN 55113

June 10, 7:00 p.m.: Monica Ropal* (When You Leave); Kristin D. Van Risseghem* (The Passage, a Dance, and a Little White Dress); and Gary Bush* (Sailing into Treachery)
June 11, 2:00 p.m.: Carrie Mesrobian* (Cut Both Ways); Bryan Bliss* (Meet Me Here); Peter Rennebohm (Shepherd Lake); and Rachel Gold (My Year Zero)
Sunday, 2:00 p.m.: Geoff Herbach (Anything You Want)

Mall of America
118 E. Broadway, Suite 238
Bloomington, MN 55425

June 10, 6:00 p.m.: Tom Isbell* (The Capture)
June 11, 9:00 a.m.: Monica Ropal* (When You Leave)
June 11, 11:00 a.m.: Aurora Whittet (Bloodmark)
June 11, 1:00 p.m.: Tate Hallaway (Vampire Princess of Saint Paul)
June 11, 3:00 p.m.: Jacqueline West* (Dreamers Often Lie)
June 11, 5:00 p.m.: Laurie Wetzel* (Unclaimed)
June 12, 2:00 p.m.: Jenna-Lynne Duncan (Aftermath)
June 12, 4:00 p.m.: Bryan Bliss* (Meet Me Here)

Maple Grove
8040 Wedgewood Lane
Maple Grove, MN 55369

June 10, 3:00 p.m.: Roseanne Cheng (The Take Back of Lincoln Junior High)
June 11, 12:00 p.m.: Nick Hupton (Stone Ridge)
June 11, 4:00 p.m.: Shannon Gibney* (See No Color)
June 12, 1:00 p.m.: Besodiah J. Nolen
June 12, 5:00 p.m.: Nick Healy, Pete Hautman*, Melody Heide, and Kasandra Duthie (editor and some of the contributors to the collection Love & Profanity)

Maplewood Mall
3001 White Bear Ave. North, Suite 1030
Maplewood, MN 55109

June 12, 2:00 p.m.: Lea Richardson

Northtown Mall
710 County Highway 10 NE
Blaine, MN 55434

June 11, 12:00 p.m.: Sarah Ahiers (Assassin’s Heart)

Ridgehaven Mall
13131 Ridgedale Drive
Minnetonka, MN 55305

June 10, 7:00 p.m.: “Rock the Genre” writing class by English composition teacher and Loft instructor Gail Milstein, covering poetry, fiction, and nonfiction
June 11, 11:00 a.m.: Dawn Klehr (The Cutting Room Floor)
June 12, 2:00 p.m., Nora McInerny Purmort (It’s Okay to Laugh)

Apache Mall
1201 12th Street SW, Suite 425
Rochester, MN 55902

June 11, 1:00 p.m.: Jessica Stevens (Within Reach)
June 12, 2:00 p.m.: Tosca Lee (The Progeny)

Woodbury Village Shopping Center
7020 Valley Creek Plaza
Woodbury, MN 55125

June 12, 2:00 p.m.: David Oppegaard (The Firebug of Balrog County) and Pete Hautman* (Godless)

BLINDNESS by Jose Saramago

Friday, March 18th, 2016

Blindness by Jose Saramago was on my TBR pile, (to-be-read, but you knew that, right?) for a long time, one of those big-themed books others deemed a classic. I remember when the movie came out and people complained that it wasn’t as good as the book, and somehow this book got built up in my mind that it was a masterpiece that I SHOULD read, and was somehow deficient for not having read it. So, I finally read it.

And while maybe when it came out, it was big and important, I’m willing to go out on a limb and call it “Not a lasting classic.” Like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, it’s an ambitious book about what happens when things in the world go off the rails. And I wonder if book like this are like American presidents–they get elected, hang out for four or eight years as the dystopic fear story, then get slowly forgotten. I mean, how many people still read Neville Shute’s On the Shore? Or: Lucifer’s Hammer, A Canticle for Leibowitz, The Stand, Blindness, The Road, or your apoca-fic choice.

In Blindness, people start going blind, it’s catching, and eventually everyone is blind and things are violent, chaotic, and literally shitty. What is interesting and unique about this book as opposed to the zombies, nuclear apocalypse, sun going out, what have you, is that a virus of blindness is more easy to imagine than zombies, yet how completely it did, and likely would really, shut the world down. That one thing, sight, would bring the world to a half if it were gone. How would we feed ourselves? Like the sun in The Road, if vision is gone, if food stops being produced, then how can things continue?

If, before every action, we were to begin by weighing up the consequences, thinking about them in earnest, first the immediate consequences, then the probable, then the possible, then the imaginable ones, we should never move beyond the point where our first thought brought us to a halt. The good and evil resulting from our words and deeds go on apportioning themselves, one assumes in a reasonably uniform and balanced way, throughout all the days to follow, including those endless days, when we shall not be here to find out, to congratulate ourselves or ask for pardon, indeed there are those who claim that this is the much talked of immortality.

Like The Road, Blindness is bleak and horrible, and has very little hope. While it has moments of loveliness, like a ritual cleansing in the rain of several characters, they weren’t enough for me to want to stay with this book. I read it, I thought about it, saw what it was saying, decided it spent too much time on ugliness, and I’ve moved on.


Wednesday, March 16th, 2016


As soon as I heard about Mary Karr’s book The Art of Memoir from this interview at NPR, I wanted it, wanted it RIGHT NOW in the way that I often crave books by authors whose work I both like and admire. First with The Liar’s Club and most recently with Lit, Karr has won me over with her ability to tell a good story in a strong voice. If you haven’t read Karr, did you like Jeannette Wall’s The Glass Castle? That book probably couldn’t have found an audience if Karr hadn’t paved the way with Liar’s Club.

Art of Memoir hit a sweet spot for me in that it’s both a memoir plus a book about writing memoirs. I’m attempting, and more often lately failing, to put together a memoir of my own about specific times in life, and rather than sitting down to the do the hard work of writing about hard things, I’m often flitting about the internet on Facebook, Twitter, or hey, even taking time to blog here! So her book is a good reminder for me to stop cussing around and get to work, already:

After a lifetime of hounding authors for advice, I’ve heard three truths from every mouth: (1) Writing is painful — it’s ‘fun’ only for novices, the very young, and hacks; (2) other than a few instances of luck, good work only comes through revision; (3) the best revisers often have reading habits that stretch back before the current age, which lends them a sense of history and raises their standards for quality.

(Distracted aside: I don’t care if the blog is dead. I’ve been doing this for 14 years, and I love it and while I don’t do it as regularly as I did in the years prior to social media, I’m still not gonna quit.)

If you read and liked (enjoyed, loved, admired, what have you) any of Karr’s other books, I think you’ll like this one too. She gives gritty behind-the-scenes insight about what went into the writing of those books. When she does go into details about writing, she sets those sections off for those who are more interested in the memoir part than in the writing craft part. But for those of us nerds who love both? This is like the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup of books: two great things that go great together.

If you haven’t read Karr, go check out Liar’s Club and Lit first; I wouldn’t recommend this one to start with. Unless you’re a writer, and then this is as good a place as any.

LOCALLY LAID: How We Built a Plucky, Industry-Changing Egg Farm–From Scratch by Lucie B. Amundsen

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016

Locally Laid by Lucie B. Amundsen

Locally Laid by Lucie B. Amundsen

The cover is an answer to that old joke. Guess what?

Chicken Butt!

Lucie is a friend–our kids went to preschool together. I would say nice things about Locally Laid: How We Built a Plucky, Industry-Changing Egg Farm–From Scratch no matter what, but since it is charming, sweet, sad, funny, well-written, and educational I won’t need to euphemize. (That’s a word, right?)

I hope you’ve heard of Locally Laid, the farm. They’re located in North Minnesota, which is not an ideal place to start a farm. When Lucie’s husband Jason lost his job, he thought it was a good idea to start a chicken farm. They’d had good luck with back yard chickens, and there weren’t many locally sourced, ethically farmed eggs in near Duluth. How hard could it be?

Lucie did not think this was a good idea, but she and their two kids went along with it. While Jason started the farm, she took various writing jobs, pursued an MFA in the Twin Cities, washed eggs and became Locally Laid’s “marketing chick.”

My favorite chick was the tawny-colored Buff Orpington. She promised to one day be a bodacious plus-sized model of a chicken, wearing fluffy pantaloons under full feathery skirts and with as charming a personality as her appearance suggested. Predictably named Buffy, she didn’t mind being handled and rather seemed to enjoy the company, clucking softly with a closed beak as I picked her up and stroked her silky feathers.

While the farm’s name has a cheeky double entendre, it is meant first to be taken literally–these eggs are from local chickens raised on pasture and allowed to roam outdoors.

Reading the details of how this farm came to be, with the numerous obstacles, setbacks, and reality checks along the way, is an emotional roller coaster. I wanted the farm to succeed. I wanted Jason to sleep. I wanted Locally Laid to win the Super Bowl contest. I wanted to hear more from Lucie’s son Milo, because he stole the scenes he was in. Some of these things happened, some didn’t, and some sorta kinda did.

Locally Laid is a lovely mix of memoir and education on the state of agriculture in general, and chicken farming in particular. I was reminded more than once that I’m one of many people who has thoughts, opinions, and feelings about chickens, yet has never actually wrangled one. If you’ve read and enjoyed Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma, or Mark Bittman’s Food Matters, then belongs next to them on the shelf.

Support a writer and farmer; buy this book, read this book. It will make you smile and you’ll learn stuff.


Sunday, March 6th, 2016

I keep trying to put an image of the journal here, but the blog displays it wonkily.

I will try one more time:


I’ve been writing regularly in a journal since January of 1994. I was 25, about to be 26, and seeing a therapist because of difficulties with my then boyfriend. Because I’m lately trying to write about that ex-boyfriend, I spent some time this morning putting my shelf of journals in chronological order.

There are 37 of them.

I am 48 years old. I have been writing in these 37 books for just over 23 years. Will I get to the point where my number of journals matches my age? Probably not–I have gotten better over the years at picking good journals, ones that have enough pages for a year or more, rather than a month or two.

I’m reading Harriet the Spy aloud to my boys right now. Drake is now 12, Guppy 10. Like Harriet, I’d be in a lot of trouble if people were to read my journals. I put my ugliest self in there, in the attempt to not say that stuff aloud. I also try to write out my bad moods, which are many. Best that they’re burnt without reading when I’m gone, I think.

I flipped through some of them. They don’t make good reading. They’re boring, repetitive, maddeningly vague if I’m looking for something specific, and mostly just me trying to figure things out. Story of my life, right?

HOW TO BUILD A GIRL by Caitlin Moran

Saturday, February 27th, 2016


I feel about Caitlin (pronounced CAT-lin) Moran’s novel like I do about the writer in general–she says some amazing, provocative, hilarious things. But her enthusiasm could often use some judicious editing, as well as increased awareness.

The novel is a barely disguised autobiographical novel about Johanna Morrigan, who grew up poor in Wolverhampton in public housing and went on to brazen out a career as a music journalist starting in her teens.

I read and mostly enjoyed Moran’s How to Be a Woman, though I think it would more accurately be titled How to Be a White Woman. So the details of teen life in this book are familiar. Johanna is smart, does embarrassing things, is obsessed with sex and music.

Where this book shines is in the frank, realistic talk of teen sexuality, and in the unvarnished portrayal of living in a poor family. Johanna is both funny and heartbreaking. Where it falters, though is in the loosey-goosey time and tense switches and frequent adult voice flashbacks, e.g., “Currently she has post-natal depression –but we don’t know this yet.” (18) My friend Amy was really bothered by the utter lack of birth control/STD protection. And while it makes sense that a teen in the 90’s would have been cavalier about it, Moran might have even mentioned it, even to insert something like, “I know know how utterly irresponsible it was, and how ridiculous coming from a family where my mum cried for years after having unexpected twins.”

Here, go read these quotes, because they are too numerous and good to choose from, and include ones both funny, sad, and insightful.

The Guardian’s Digested Read does a good job of showing the good/bad.

And yet, it’s funny and charming. Johanna makes terrible mistakes, but as she tries out her new personal, Dolly Wilde, the titular built girl of the title, she often amazed and impressed me with her humor, her smarts, her moxie. Ultimately, I found this winning, but I wish this had gone through another round of strict edits so Moran’s exuberance, insight, and humor would shine more brightly.

ORIGIN by Diana Abu-Jaber

Monday, February 22nd, 2016


Let’s talk about shelf-sitting books. Origin by Diana Abu-Jaber was one of my shelf sitters. I bought it at a book festival in October of 2011, having heard her speak on a panel with some other authors, whose books I also bought. Abu-Jaber’s novel Birds of Paradise had just been released in hardcover. While she talked, she mentioned that a book group in Minnesota had recently read her previous novel, Origin and really liked it as a winter group read. I bought other books that day at the festival, ones that I purged in last year’s Marie Kondo-inspired book clearing, because when I picked them up, I felt guilt, but when I picked up Origin, I still wanted to read it. That one small endorsement, about it being an atmospheric book for winter, had stuck with me.

I selected Origin for one of my book groups to read this month. I’m happy to report that I found it fabulous, I tore through it, I’m so glad I kept it around, sorry only that I didn’t read it earlier, and I’m recommending it highly.

What I’m not happy to report is that my library system and the ones around it have just a tiny number of copies of it. I picked the book for the group before checking the library (rookie mistake). I’m sad because it appears that this book is a fading gem, one that got great reviews when it came out, but not the attention that other similar books have. Before I write about the book, then I’m going to say that if you’re a fan of Kate Atkinson’s Case Histories, or Ann Patchett’s Sense of Wonder, Smilla’s Sense of Snow, or other literary,psychological thrillers, I think you’ll like Origin, too.

In Syracuse New York’s winter, crime-lab tech Lena Dawson is approached by a grieving mother whose baby’s death has been ruled as SIDS. The mother insists this is a mistake, and has contacted Lena because of rumors that Lena has special insight into children’s cases. Lena is disturbed by the encounter, not only because it’s emotionally jarring, but also because it shakes loose painfully vague memories Lena has of her own past.

The two mysteries–of the crib death and of Lena’s past–unfold in gorgeous prose, stunning imagery, and great psychological layering. Lena struggles to navigate her work and relationships, and the clues are dropped like delicious breadcrumbs, which drew me quickly through the book.

In the end, one of the mysteries was less compelling than the other, but the sum of the book, its mysteries, its many shocking reveals, the satisfying “click” as pieces fall into place, all make it one of my favorite reads in recent memory. I loved it, and can’t wait to talk about it with my book group.

MY YEAR ZERO by Rachel Gold

Saturday, February 20th, 2016


I was given an advance e-copy of Rachel Gold’s teen romance My Year Zero in exchange for an honest review.

When I met Blake, I had no idea that she would destroy my life. She was this small person, darkly incandescent, vibrating with nervous energy. Eyes blue-gray like a kingfisher’s wing (moving as fast). I should have known by the way she went on about infinities and zero. Who falls in love with zero?

But I’m ahead of myself. The story doesn’t start with Blake. As with most great stories, it starts with sex. Excerpt From: Rachel Gold My Year Zero (advance review copy).

Lauren is a sixteen-year-old artist who lives in Duluth. More than just about anything, she wants a girlfriend, but candidates are pretty rare in northern Minnesota. Then she meets Sierra, a first-year student at the University of Minnesota. Sierra invites Lauren to the Twin Cities and introduces her to a group writing an online space opera. Lauren’s a fan of manga and anime, so her storytelling abilities, both written and artistic, make her an immediate darling of the creative group.

As Lauren becomes more involved with the story group, her already difficult relationship with her lawyer father becomes further strained when she tries to assert herself and spend more time in the cities. Lauren and Sierra begin to date, but rather than the fairy-tale romance Lauren envisioned, the reality is emotionally neglectful and abusive. Lauren grows closer to Sierra’s friend Blake, whose struggles with bipolar syndrome help Lauren see how her own emotional issues might be exacerbating things with her father and Sierra.

Lauren and the group of storytellers are a varied and interesting bunch, even when they behave immaturely and unlike-ably, which they all do–they’re in their late teens, after all. The story they’re spinning is a book-within-a-book, so really My Year Zero is two books in one.

Lauren is an appealing character. Her relationships with her father and Sierra are upsetting and all too believable. They make the book complicated and intriguing. There were many great details about the Twin Cities, though I wished for a bit more about Duluth and Lauren’s life there outside of her relationship with her dad. The pace slowed a bit in the middle, but was strong toward the end. I enjoyed going on the journey with Lauren as she fell in and out of love, tried to figure out who she was, and tackled the challenges in her life rather than hiding from them.

Middle School Band Concert

Monday, February 8th, 2016

Or, my personal version of hell.

Both my boys are in the school band, Guppy in 4th (the first year kids can take it) and Drake in 6th. We recently had the winter concert for grades 5-8 (the boys attend a K-8 school), and when I dropped off Drake at the 6:15 call time for the 7:00 concert of the 5th, 6th, and 7/8 bands, I asked the band director if I could help in any way.

He asked if I would simply stay with the 6th graders in the band room, as they were the last to perform and wouldn’t be going on until about 7:45. I said sure, thinking that it might be nice to not have to sit through the others grades’ performances.

I wasn’t really doing the math, though. Because what I agreed to was staying in the small band room with an ebbing and flowing group of kids with instruments who were alternately tuning, practicing, running around, shrieking, gossiping, and more. Worse, there’s a back room to the main room, where some students would go to escape the cacophony, yet other students would join them and incite chaos and I’d have to shoo them all out of the back.

I was not the only responsible adult during that time. The computer teacher was also there to herd kids back and forth from their performance times, and I was in the room with another mother whom I didn’t recognize. Then she came up, introduced herself, said her kids had only recently started at the school, and began making small talk. After a bit, I told her, “I’m an introvert, and this whole experience is really overwhelming to me. I’m happy to meet you and talk but all the noise makes me feel anxious.” She said she was feeling the same way, and went outside the room to read on her phone, which freed me from the small talk but left me alone in the room to say things like: “Liam, does your sax belong on the floor?” or “Hey you, stop poking Ellen with your flute,” or “Adam, please stop choking David,” or “Keith, stop banging that bongo with a water bottle.”

So by 7:45, when it was finally time for the very restless 6th grade band to go on, I felt justified in leaving the room with them, and watching their performance from the wings.

When my husband G. Grod found me after the concert, he asked where I’d been. He and Guppy had watched the whole thing. I told him what I’d done.

“Why on earth would you agree to THAT?” he asked. “Do you not KNOW you? You are the worst person for that task?”

And thus I add middle school band concert to the pile of What Was I Thinking. Or, Mistakes Were Made; Lessons Were Learned. Or, “Wasn’t Sure It Was a Good Idea; Did It Anyway.”

In any case, I did learn a lesson, one that I hope sticks: be careful what I volunteer for. Middle school band is for those with iron constitutions and placid dispositions.

“Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert

Saturday, February 6th, 2016

Elizabeth Gilbert is a controversial writer. Some people love her books, some hate them. Some people think she’s a great writer, others think she’s terrible. Eat, Pray, Love was an international mega-bestseller, one that I liked a lot. I never read her two following books, Committed or The Signature of All Things, but I heard similarly divisive things about them.

The wildly divergent opinions on her and response to her work is a big reason I enjoyed Big Magic, her book on “Creative Living Without Fear.” She discusses her work, the responses to it and her response to it so lightly, so un-offendedly, that it’s a pleasure to read. And that’s even before she talks about creative process, how ideas are living things that can thrive or live and die, or how writers shouldn’t quit their day jobs. It’s not even just about writing, either, but in general about living a creative life, and doing things that stretch your brain or body in ways that are joyful and celebratory.

When I talk about “creative living” here, please understand that I am not necessarily talking about pursuing a life that is professionally or exclusively devoted to the arts….I am speaking more broadly. I’m talking about living a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear. (p. 9)

This is an excellent book to borrow from the library, and would be a delightful gift for the creative and curious people in your life. I’m afraid if I recommend it too highly than one of the many people who doesn’t like Liz Gilbert will say they can’t believe they paid $25 for it. But there’s a lot of smart stuff in here, alongside a lot of common sensical stuff that might be dismissed as obvious. But, especially for writers, there is a great anecdote about Gilbert and writer Ann Patchett that I liked so much I shared it aloud to my husband.

Others who have read it, what did you think?

This Puzzle is the Enemy of Joy

Thursday, January 21st, 2016


That was the title of the one-star review I submitted at CB2 for the puzzle pictured above. The rest of the review was:

I bought this as a gift for a good friend, and I can’t apologize enough to her. This puzzle is a fun vacuum. Many, many of its pieces are so close in shape to others that it has numerous “false friends” or connections that seem right and need to be undone when other parts come together. Thus, much of this puzzle is done by tedious trial and error. This is not only NOT fun, but also problematic because the puzzle is not sturdy enough to withstand the necessary attempts to fit the pieces together, and many of the coatings on the connector nubs separated from the cardboard, so the end result is a puzzle with many sticky-up-py flaps.

This present would be a great gift for someone you DIDN’T like, as it would send them into a spiral of frustration, and make them question their self-worth that they can’t complete a simple 500-pc. puzzle. This puzzle would be lovely if it had better shape differentiation in its pieces, and was better made to withstand more than one connection attempt. As is, it is a very expensive pretty box that, like Pandora’s, only brings pain and suffering when opened.

Interestingly, I got a confirmation when I submitted the review, and another that said it was live and gave me a link. But when I clicked the link, it went to the general site, as happened when I clicked the link for customer service. Badly done, CB2.

When I searched the site for the puzzle, both the item and the reviews (the other review besides mine was also one star) were gone. Did they remove it because it sold out, because they don’t wish to offer a shoddy product, or because the reviews were so damning? I don’t know. But it’s gone and I still had some spleen to vent about it. Thus, I am posting it here for my fellow puzzle geeks to be warned in case it’s still out in the world: pretty box but bad puzzle.

Great Graphic Novel Gifts FOR EVERYONE

Friday, December 11th, 2015

This could easily have been genderfied and written as Great Graphic Novels for Girls, but that does everyone a disservice. What I love about this list is that these books are for all ages, genders, whatevers. Most of them feature strong female protagonists, and many are written or drawn by women. But the titles in this post have been read and approved of by no girls in my house, just my 40-something husband, myself and our 12 and 9yo boys Drake and Guppy. Heroes are all shapes, colors, sizes, and in some comics, species. Here are some of our family favorites.

nimona2Nimona by Noelle Stevenson. Nimona is a young woman who wants to be the sidekick to a supervillain. But the villain she pesters isn’t so villainous, and the hero who opposes him isn’t so heroic. The government is doing bad things, Nimona has a secret, and everything gets exciting and intense on the way to a very satisfying ending. Nimona is a terrific adventure, and perhaps our family’s favorite book of the year.

boombox_lumberjanes_001_aLumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson and many more. I have to admit. I bought the first issue, read it, didn’t love it, gave it to my boys, who did love it, then I didn’t read it again. Till last week. When I devoured all twenty issues and wonder how the junk I didn’t immediately fall in love with this series about a group of five friends at summer camp who get into magical hijinks. Because now I am totally in love. The friendships, the magic and myth, the humor, the art, all creates one of my favorite ongoing series in a long time. It was originally scheduled as an 8-issue mini series, but early critical acclaim and strong sales got it the nod to be an ongoing series. It’s collected in two 4-issue trade paperbacks, or an awesome hardcover edition of the first 8 issues as well as all the covers and song mixes. The hardcover Lumberjanes To the Max edition would make a GREAT holiday gift and would stand up well to the multiple readings it is sure to get.

marvelMs. Marvel trade paperbacks volumes 1-4. Marvel made the news when Muslim teenager Kamala Khan was gifted with the powers of Ms. Marvel. Kamala’s a normal kid, living in Jersey City, with overprotective parents and the new superpowers don’t make life easier at all. The creative team of G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona has been strong and steady in the spinning out of Kamala’s transformations. This series is fun and sweet, but with a serious core about tough issues that make it one of my favorite releases every month. Buy all the graphic novels, then pick up the relaunched Ms. Marvel #1.

squirrelCompletely un-serious is The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, another super heroine in the Marvel universe, rescued from obscurity as part of the Great Lakes Avengers, and given her own book last year that kept selling out. Doreen Green is a computer science student at a community college but secretly has the powers of…you guessed it, a squirrel. Which wouldn’t seem that intimidating, and yet, she is super strong, fast, plus her squirrel sidekick Tippytoe gives her inside information against the bad guys. There is a running commentary at the bottom of every page, and this comic makes us laugh out loud. The two graphic novels collect the original series, and the new series is 2 issues in–look for them at your local comic shop.

smile1Smile, Sisters, and Drama by Raina Telgemaier. Smile is the artist’s own story of how she knocked out her permanent teeth when young, and had a long strange journey to replace them. Sisters is the sequel about her challenging relationship with her sister, and Drama is a standalone graphic novel about a girl in the drama club. The stories and art are charming and easy to relate to.

eldeafoEl Deafo by Cece Bell has a similar feel to Smile–a young girl loses her hearing, and has to navigate girlhood with hearing aids. The characters are drawn as rabbits, and this is a moving tale.

powerupPower Up is a miniseries that is about to finish. The last issue, #6 is due for release on December 23. It’s about a group of four oddballs–underemployed Amie, middle-aged mom Sandy, construction worker Kevin, and Silas the goldfish–who receive superpowers without warning or explanation, though they’re immediately attacked by enemies before they can figure it all out. They have to figure out how to work together (and communicate with a FISH) and I can’t wait to see how it ends.

These titles are just some of our favorites–I don’t have the time to go into the others we’ve enjoyed–check the links out for more info on Roller Girl, Mermin, Zita the Space Girl, Bandette, Secret Coders, and Cleopatra in Space. These are just the ones we’ve read–there are so many more we haven’t gotten to yet! So visit your local comic shop to see these lovelies in person. It is a great time in comics, with a wealth of diverse titles across the genres. Go–read–enjoy!

Fall 2015 Books

Monday, November 16th, 2015

I have been meaning to write this post for weeks, and now that I finally sat down and did, I’ve ended up deleting most of it. Argh! Quit? I don’t think so. Here’s my post-summer reading.

lathe1The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. LeGuin. For one of my book groups about a man living in a future dystopia who can “fix” things by dreaming. LeGuin gives good dystopia.

askingAsking for It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture and What We Can Do About It by Kate Harding. I sought this book out after I read Jon Krakauer’s Missoula. Harding’s book is smart and provoking about how we can fix seriously broken systems and attitudes.

secrethistoryThe Secret History by Donna Tartt. I re-read this for one of my books groups. I thought it would be interesting to re-visit, as I’d read it when it came out and my memories amounted to little more than: cool secret, too long, cream cheese and marmalade sandwiches. After a second reading of this big book crammed into a small package with small font, margins, and spacing, I remember a lot more detail, but the summary is the same. Great idea, great writing, way too long for what it is, and I prefer Tana French’s homage, The Likeness, to Tartt’s original.

jekyllDr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. For one of my book groups as a Halloween read. I enjoyed reading this novella again because it is different from what everyone thinks they know about the book.

nomercyNo Mercy graphic novel by Alex de Campi illustrated by Carla Speed McNeil. I’m a huge fan of McNeil’s and her Finder is one of the longest running comic series there is, and one of my favorites. Here she’s doing the art for someone else, but the result is still terrific in this story of a group of mostly pampered smart kids who go on a trip to South America and things go horribly wrong.

graveyardThe Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, for one of my book groups. A re-read, and one I mostly read aloud to my kids though we did get the audio book from the library and listen to Neil himself read it, which I highly recommend. There is also a bigger production but I think the author reading was quite perfect. Graveyard Book is a boy-who-lived story, reminiscent of many others, but Gaiman’s spooky spin on details makes it fresh and engaging.

And, as anyone who has visited the blog lately knows, I’ve been leading a small brave group of readers through Infinite Jest while reading a commentary, Elegant Complexity, for help in parsing its IJs many mysteries. I highly recommend the group read for Infinite Jest. We started with the 70ish pages a week schedule done by Infinite Summer groups, but slowed down to about 40, which was so much more manageable. This was my second time through IJ, and I found it rich, challenging, and enjoyable.

So, that’s it for the last few months–a mixed bag indeed: sci fi, sociology, modern literature, Victorian lit, a graphic novel, a children’s book, Infinite Jest and a commentary. Whew!

What have you read/enjoyed this fall?

INFINITE JEST readalong pp 941-THE END!

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015


Don’t you feel now that you’ve finished Infinite Jest that dropping the book, like dropping the mic, is appropriate, and makes a satisfying meaty thunking sound?

Oh few, happy few, we band of readers, we made it!

First, brief summeries:

pp 941-958 Hal in room while Mario and Coyle who is young watch a disturbing JOI film accomplice, in which we learn why Stokely McNair was nicknamed Darkstar, for his KS mark. We find why Troeltsch was coming out of Axford’s single–he switched rooms, I’m guessing because he ate cheese about Pemulis. Coyle is Stice’s roommate, and noticed that the furniture is indeed acting weird. Is it JOI as the wraith who claimed he couldn’t affect physical objects, but which the Coke can proved otherwise?

Hal notes that Otis P Lord had the monitor removed, presumably from the bed next to Don Gately which was getting the weird metal braces put on in pages 918-920. Hal remembers JOI’s advice to Orin about adult films, which is both touching about JOI and yet another log on my furiously flaming bonfire of hate for Orin, who next to Randy Lenz might be THE WORST. (Discuss).

Hal also knew, as he knew of the powdered milk, that CT and Wayne had both slept with Avril.

p 958 Joelle back to Ennet House and in future tense says hopes for quarantine, and will tell Pat about wheelchairs, presumably making connection with Marathe’s appearance and chat previously. Sees Middlesex County police, who probably are there for Don’s old suspended license infraction (463).

p 958-960 narrated by someone in a veil but maybe not Joelle? Someone named Mikey with a temper who talks about acting badly then going back to apologize

pp 960-964 ADA that Don fears meets with Pat, and talks about how he’s trying to make amends to Don and we learn how complicated things are for him, too. Unlike Mikey of the previous section, he can’t bring himself to apologize. Yet.

pp 964-971 Back to ETA but it’s anonymous first person, not Hal and we get the backstory of Barry Loach, and could we love Mario more?

Poutrincourt is missing–could that be her covered in snow in the stands? If not, who? WHO?

Reference to Brothers K who are perhaps analogs to the Incandenza Bros: Mario is like Alyosha, Hal the rationalist Ivan, and Orin the shitheel to women Dmitri.

pp 971-972 Orin’s uppance has come.


pp 972-981 Don at present is in fever and his tube is finally removed (it might have caused fever based on smug doc’s comment on p 921. He then regresses in time to finish the story about Gene Fackelmann, which was horrific, but was not even Don’s “bottom: that led to sobriety, which would taken even longer. Don is at a low point, but we know he rises from what went previously. The book finishes on the to-me Gatsby-ish:

it was raining out of a low sky, and the tide was way out. (981)

Heidi has already commented that she thinking poor dead DFW threw poor dead Linda McCartney under the bus in this section, but since it was the music chosed by soon to be poor dead but pretty non-likeable Bobby C, I don’t think it was an endorsement.

The book’s non-ending urges you to go back to the beginning and read again looking for details, looking for how to explain why a year later Hal and Gately along with John Wayne will be digging up JOI’s head, which is on both p 17 but also part of Gately’s fever dream about a sad kid on p. 934.

In describing JOI’s artistic intention on p 839:

His most serious was was: to entertain.”

In the commentary I’ve been reading, the excellent Elegant Complexity by Greg Carlisle, GC asks,

What could be more entertaining than a novel that espouses conversation and interchange about interesting questions that are difficult to answer definitively, thereby promoting the ongoing connection of the participants in those conversational interchanges? (479-480)

And but so: Congratulations. What did you think, and what questions linger?

INFINITE JEST readalong p 902-941

Monday, November 2nd, 2015


It’s the penultimate post for the Infinite Jest readalong, #InfiniTC, which was supposed to end in September but had to be stretched out so people could fit this honkin’ book into life.

We remain mostly with Gately in bed, intubated, in the hospital.

pp 902-906 Don Gately had a promising football experience in high school but got kicked out for low grades, then started doing drugs regularly, and then poof, no more football.

pp 906-911. Hal again, thinking about one of his dad’s films with a droning professor. Pemulis comes in and tries to talk to Hal but it interrupted by other kids. Why the section-ending sentence, “Then this to began to seem familiar.”?

pp 911-916. Gately after HS became an enforcer for Whitey Sorkin.Though he did little enforcing once he started he couldn’t stop.

p 916. Pemulis goes to his stash but the ceiling tiles are down, the stash is gone.

pp 916-934. Don recalls how his friend Fax got caught in a scam and how he was killed. He had to drag the story out of this then girlfriend Pamela Hoffman-Jeep (echoed in the character name Shanna Mallwae-Tweep on Parks & Rec?, who are fans of the show, hence the lawyer’s office name on one of the episodes.) And Lyle appears as a wraith–can he do this if not dead?

p 934 Joelle is taken by Steeply.

pp 934-938 a horribly detailed description of what a Dilaudid binge looked like. *shudder* Ending with Don having a dream in which a sad kid (Hal) digs up something and mouths, “Too late”. (Jim’s head?)

pp 938-941 We have Steeply in the Charlie Brown narrator Qs, with Joelle’s answers, that she was in only two scenes of IJ and that any master would have been buried with Jim, who is buried in one of the overgrown parts of the Convexity.

I very deliberately did not binge and read till the end so I could try and limit my talk to just this week’s pages. Meet us back in a week and we can talk about the whole damn thing. You have questions? I have answers! Let me know in the comments or on Twitter.

Next week, 11/10/15: The End!

INFINITE JEST readalong pp 855-902

Monday, October 26th, 2015

We’re in the home stretch, everyone! Fewer than 80 pages to go! Hang in there, or catch up already, because reading this is a process, and finishing is an event! We are mostly going between Don and Hal in this section, and Hal comes to life, even as he hardly moves, in ways he didn’t previously in the book. Unlike last week’s section, we don’t see the wraith in Don G’s room.


pp 854-864 Don wakes to Joelle in his room for real, wiping his brow, and he doesn’t remember her previous visits. She talks about a meeting she went to, he realizes that if he treats the pain like sobriety, just taking it a moment at a time, he can abide.

He hadn’t quite gotten this before now, how it wasn’t just the matter of riding out the cravings for a Substance: everything unendurable was in the head, was the head not Abiding in the Present but hopping the wall and doing a recon and then returning with unendurable news you then somehow believed. (861)

Don imagines then tries not to entertain fantasies of him and Joelle in the future. He reminds himself she’s only about three weeks sober, yet it’s more like 9 days, so his subconscious is already playing with him.

In Boston AA, newcomer-seducing is called 13th stepping and is regarded as the province of true bottom-feeders. It’s predation. Newcomers come in so whacked out, clueless and scared, their nervous systems still on the outside of their bodies and throbbing from detox, and so desperate to escape their own interior, to lay responsibility for themselves at the feet of something as seductive and consuming as their former friend the Substance. To avoid the mirror AA hauls out in front of them. To avoid acknowledging their old dear friend the Substance’s betrayal, and grieving it…One of Boston AA’s stronger suggestions is that newcomers avoid all romantic relationships for at least a year. (863)

(Aside from yrstruly who got in a relationship at 6 months with someone who had 9 months. The relationship lasted five years, exploded spectacularly, and is a great example of why the “no relationships in the first year” suggestion is rock solid and should be respected.)

pp. 864-876 Hal continues to narrate in first person. A display says it’s 11-18 but in reality it is 20 November as noted on p. 851. Time is slippery in this section and in the book in general. Hal encounters Ortho Stice, who has his forehead stuck to a window in a weird suction event. Ortho says someone (the Wraith?) had been behind him a while back and asks if Hal believes in the ‘parabnormal’. Hal goes for Kenkle and Brandt, the janitors, whose banter is reminiscent of the gravediggers in Hamlet. They ask Hal why he looks like he’s laughing, and we get another incident, as happened with Kate Gompert and Kevin Bain, where hilarity and grief are hard to tell apart. Troeltsch comes out of Axhandle’s room, raising (NB not ‘begging’, an incorrect usage at which DFW would likely shudder) the questions of where Axhandle is, and why Troeltsch is in the room. (Hiding from Pemulis because of the Tenuate/Seldane switcheroo that caused the John Wayne on-air meltdown?) Also, who is the figure in the bleachers letting themself get snowed on?

pp 876-883 Transcript of official meeting about an upcoming PSA to be released in the Year of Glad for kids featuring Fully Functional Phil, literally an ass, telling kids to avoid mysterious cartridges. Tine Jr is tapping a ruler (like the one his dad uses to obsessively measure his penis?) and Tine Senior is annoyed but also tapping with a retracting pointer (like the retracting ruler he takes on the road to measure his penis.) We have more of the absurdist humor of the Inner Infant meeting, and while the cartridge is blamed on those pesky Canadians, we the readers know it originated in, gasp, BOSTON. And if it spreads, then the year of Glad will have a whole bunch of people who are both glad and flaccid receptacles.

pp 883-896 Don gets a visit from a doctor who tries to talk him in to painkillers and his sponsor who advises him to ask for help. But then, it’s a dream! Gately is reminded of how much he loved Demerol

Kite used to say Gately shot cement instead of narcotics. (893)

He’s visited by McDade and Diehl who have just come from visiting Dooney Glynn, who accepted painkillers for his diverticulitis, further tempting Don. They say that Lenz has been seen, high and in disguise, and that he likely has the missing .44. (This is before Lenz is taken by the AFR to the Antitoi’s shop), yet the gun wasn’t listed among Lenz’s possessions in the inventory on pages 717-718.

pp 896-902 Hal gets dizzy and goes into Viewing Room 5 to lie down. On the bottom of p 900 and then 901, we get details of Avril and Tavis, which are that Avril’s dad married a homodontic (like Mario, or not?) dwarf who brought an infant into the marriage, which was Charles, so if Avril was adopted by the new wife, she would be the adoptive sister of CT, plus a half sister, as they would have the same adopted mom and different dads. In any case, effed up. Both Hal and Gately are horizontal, and yet are mentally lively narrators. Are they the heroes of non-action, from p. 142?

What did everyone else think?

Just two more weeks: catch up and keep up!

11/3 pp 902-941
11/10 941-981 THE END

INFINITE JEST readalong pp 809-854

Monday, October 19th, 2015

Imagine this on Gately's forehead

Imagine this on Gately's forehead

And, once more into the fray as we begin the last chapter, 28, of Infinite Jest.

I’m going to jump right into the summaries. This chapter reminded me of the run-on ones in Ulysses where breaks were few and far between.

pp 809-827 The return of Don Gately! Yay! Don is one of my favorite fictional characters. I might even be a little in love with him. He’s in the hospital, the ceiling is breathing, and Otis Lord whose head is in a TP post-Eschaton is next to him in the room. Don keeps having bad dreams and people keep showing up and sharing deeply personal stuff with him. He’s in pain, not on drugs, and can’t respond.

pp 827-845 More Gately, and a ghost, and it’s JOI, and Gately wonders why JOI isn’t haunting his son, but hey, maybe that’s why Hamlet went mad, seeing his dad’s ghost and all. Ghosts apparently can zip around really fast, and appearing to someone and talking with them in their head is really difficult.

pp 845-846 is a short section, but things come together. Randy Lenz is the worst, isn’t he? And, well, poor Tony. Canadians are going to do bad things but in the service of their country, so that makes it OK. Where is Kate?

pp 846-851 Gately dreams of Joelle and there’s more tragic backstory. Gah.

pp 851-854 Hal returns, in first-person POV! 20 November is four days after the Gately section, and is in the period between Interdependence Day (hence the Gaudeamus at the start of the section) and the Whataburger tournament, and there’s supposed to be an exhibition with kids from Canada, though we know they’re going to be delayed and replaced with AFR guys after mirror shenanigans(though usually it’s the FLQ who do mirror stuff) .

Hey, aside from the moderator here. I just learned TODAY that Whataburger is an actual southwest purveyer of burgers! I thought it was just an IJ joke, a fake company.

And, that brings us to the end of this week’s section. Who’s still with me?

A favorite sentence, though this section had many great ones:

“The whole right side of himself hurt so bad each breath was like a hard decision.” (818)

Just three more sections/weeks till we finish on November 10, just in time for the next Minneapolis meeting at Indeed Brewing of Books and Bars, which will be for Neil Gaiman’s Graveyard Book, as some of you know.

10/27 pp 854-902
11/3 pp 902-941
11/10 941-981 THE END

INFINITE JEST readalong pp 755-808

Thursday, October 15th, 2015

Welcome back, Infinite Jest-ers. This post is a little late due to my cramming in the ending of Donna Tartt’s Secret History, which I now regret, as that book is way better for the first 3/5 and cramming in the rest on a beautiful sunny day, albeit on a porch, filled me with retroactive resentment.

Also because, ahem, a handful of you are slacking, though of course for perfectly understandable reasons because, life. Anyway, let’s all of us make an effort to catch up/keep up for these next few weeks, and the final chapter, 28.

This was the penultimate chapter, 27. It was the longest, as Circe was in Ulysses. Also, do you see a resemblance in these two images?


I posted this during the Ulysses readalong, and it’s from Amanda Visconti’s Literature Geek, and it’s a chart of the crossovers of the many characters in the Wandering Rocks chapter of Ulysses.

It looks kind of like this from Brain Pickings on visualizing Infinite Jest, no?


Chapter 27 is when many of the many characters overlap, and we find out much more about all of them.

Fair warning. If this seems like DFW is ramping up to weave all the threads into a satisfying whole in the last chapter, I’d say instead to beware of the holes. Like Penelope, he’s weaving a lot, but not with the goal of a whole tapestry, but rather a hole-y one. (Oh, I shudder to think at the puns Vince might make, here.)

He said the books was like a Sierpinski gadget, depicted on Pemulis’ wall in the book, and it is full of holes:

Sierpinski gadget

I’m going to have to leave this for the moment and go to work, so a more detailed breakdown of the pages to come, but for those who are up to page, please comment and ask questions.

Greg Carlisle in Elegant Complexity, notes that chapter 27 is concerned in each subsection with horrors, secrets, pursuits, and surprises.

A few quick notes before I go.

1. Did Pemulis HAVE to put up that joke flyer about how often 17 goes into 56? Would Avril be so hell bent on expelling him? Also, why DOESN’T he now shout from the hilltops that Avril was diddling John NR Wayne? Did Wayne let that out in his Tenuate induced verbal vomiting?

Oh, Mikey Pemulis, I fear for you, I really do. Did you notice how he was removed from the main text, and only appeared in notes to reflect his disappearing status in the novel?

2. Don Gately is similarly mostly missing in this chapter. He’s shown sleeping in a flashback to before the Nuck event from last chapter, then he’s getting his brow mopped by Joelle. Carlisle notes that there’s a Don Gately shaped hole in chapter 27.

Oh, and how about Molly Notkin’s interview, one of several things that gives us tons of info we’ve been wondering about, like the acid attack, like how Avril might have been diddling Orin, and yay Molly for giving fake names and saying Joelle is far away. Go, Molly!

Avril has an ONANTA blue blazer hanging in her office, is it from the urine analyzer, and did she confer favor on him to protect Hal? Why is there pom pom hanging out of her trash can days after Pemulis caught her with them with John Wayne? Has there been a repeat performance?

More later.

And here is the more, later! Edited to Add (ETA, heh, heh)

pp. 755-769 Mario is on walkabout filming, then going to see Avril, who is so creepy as a mother trying way too hard, perhaps explained by coming from two generations of abusive alcoholics.

pp 769-774 Mario and Hal talking but not connecting. Mario is asking Hal for specifics, but Hal is talking about dreams.

pp 774-782 Kate Gompert went into a bar where Marathe is, they bond and Marathe offers to take her to see the Entertainment.

pp 782-785 Hal admits to Mario that he’s been smoking pot, and they talk about lying. Note 332 has the now offstage Pemulis tutoring Hal in math plus giving dodgy advice to Hal about quitting drugs.

pp 785-787 Johnette is filling in for Don at Ennet House when Hal comes in asking for a guide to meetings in the area, which were also known as “Where and Whens” when yrstruly, the moderator here, was attempting recovery in DC

And for your entertainment, a DFW-ian digression. Before leaving rehab, I was handed a Where & When and told to pick the meeting I would attend on release. There was one near where I lived that night. I walked to it in the January cold, up and down M Street but there was no number that matched the address, only a black metal gate on an alley in the approximate space where the address said it was. I shook the gate and called out, then returned home, paranoid that this was a sign from the universe, and that I would promptly start drinking again because I hadn’t followed directions. I called the number on the booklet, and was told that since the booklet was so new (the opposite of Hal’s problem) it listed the address of a meeting that was moving, and was still in its old space, about a block away. I went there the next day, and continued to not drink.

p 787 is note 324 with Pemulis again offstage counselling poor Possalthwaite.

pp 787-795 Molly Notkin is interviewed by Rodney Tine Jr and the USOUS and we learn that Joelle really is hideously injured behind the veil. Molly steers them away from Joelle by giving false info.

p 795 is note 334 where Pemulis is given the shoe by ETA.

pp 795-808 is an excruciatingly detailed segment on how Hal goes to the wrong meeting because of an outdated guide. He sees Kevin Bain, older brother of Marlon, Orin’s former doubles partner. This section walked the line between funny and painful. I was amused by the guy feeding yogurt to his teddy bear.

OK, I’m off now to detail the next section, but wanted to embiggen this one properly. Hope this helped.

INFINITE JEST readalong pp 711-755

Tuesday, October 6th, 2015

Soccer season is giving me the howling fantods, y’all. Thus, this will be brief.

Your song for this week is Violet by Jeremy Messersmith because it’s about a girl who got assaulted, like Kate Gompert, who keeps seeing violet, rather than the usual running-theme in IJ of blue.


Streaks of earth matted in her hair
Beaten down, but she won’t scare
Blinks her eyes, battered green and blue
Ignorance can leave an awful bruise

So get up!
Get up!
Come on and get up, Violet!

Blade of grass in her aching fist
Sets her jaw, no she won’t quit
She’ll take the fight to streets and avenues
A little dirt can make a flower bloom

Anyhoo, the reading this week.

pp 711-714 More Blood Sister.

pp 714-716 Poor Tony has snatched purses and Kate Gompert is hurt while Ruth is in pursuit and there’s a creepy smell guy who yells about being “a witness”

pp 716-719 Randy Lenz again, delusional and high on coke, following some Chinese women and about to snatch their bags. Oh, we hope this dude gets what’s coming to him, in his sombrero and fake mustache.

719: AFR is going to get more agressive in trying to find the master copy of IJ the movie. Bad news for the family.

719-721 Poor Tony’s POV, running.

721-723 Marathe and Fortier in the Antitois, looking for tape, still

723 Fortier is the guy who came to Orin’s hotel door in past.

723-24 Joelle has dreams of teeth.

724-728: more in the Antitoi’s. FLQ is rival Canadian terrorists, whose dog Lenz killed. AFR has a teacher (Poutrincourt?) student (Wayne?) and new recruit (whom?) at ETA. Defensive in bed refers to something earlier about MIT being “in bed” with ONAN Defense.

728-729 Lenz has snatched bags and run, in same region as Poor Tony is running from Ruth.

729-735 Marathe pretending to be addict. The real note 304, which we now understand much better later. Who is Bernard Wayne, the one who didn’t jump? Creepy guy who talks to Marathe is Kate G’s witness.

736-747 Joelle cleaning while Marathe is downstairs, looking for her.

747-751 Marathe in Pat’s office, thinking about killing her, sees two blank smiley cartridges (promoted from ETA’s dumpster by Clenette presumably)

751-2 Joelle still cleaning.

752-755. Darnit, Marathe was the horrible person who killed the mute Antitoi brother. Sniff. Even if he has lost stomach for work, he still did it. Sigh.

That’s all I got for now. Late for work. What did everyone else think?

To end of section for next week, 808.

INFINITE JEST readalong pp 665-711

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

Blood Sister design by Chris Ayers

Blood Sister design by Chris Ayers

Welcome back! Time is short, the post is late, and I’m tired, so I’m going to jump right in.

pp 666-673 A bunch of the younger ETA boys are in the tunnels, underneath the Ortho/Hal game, cleaning up as punishment for the Eschaton debacle, yet also as an excuse to look for a large rodent that Kent Blott claims to have seen. My little boys also like dark, small spaces, so I thought it interesting to contrast young to older boys, and to females, even “the butchest” ones, thanks for the sensitivity, DFW, who never wastes an opportunity to verbally kertwang on a large or masculine female. They put a bunch of unlabelled tapes in bag. Clenette is later seen carrying a full backpack of dumpster pilferage. Could a copy of the Entertainment be heading down the hill?

PP 673-682 The match, again, this time with Steeply talking to Thierry Poutrincourt. They talk about transcending or getting sucked into celebrity.

pp 682-686 Older brother Matty Pemulis in a bar, sees Poor Tony walk by–is this after his seizure on the train? A horrifying childhood rape story similar to the one told about the woman with the catatonic adoptive sister. Yikes. No wonder Michael Pemulis is dead set on never returning to Allston.

pp 686-689 After supper of the match, Hal goes up the viewing room, starts to watch old tapes of his dad’s, note: all of them labelled.

pp 689-691 Poor Tony survived the seizure! But, I fear for his long term viability.

pp692 Geoffrey Day almost misses Lenz. Penises.

pp 692l-698 the difference between mild depression, anhedonia, and clinical, like Kate Gompert’s.

pp 698-700 Kate Gompert and Ruth Van Cleve, and then these are the women Poor Tony is pursuing, thinking about snatching their purses.

700 Troeltsch, surrounded by Seldane, or is it the Tenuate he’s “promoted” from Pemulis’ stash?

Pemulis checks his DMZ stash in the ceiling.

Lyle hovers.

p 701 Schtitt and Mario go for ice cream. Similar to downhill swooping of AFR kidnappers with WHYY guy.

Avril calls Moment Magazine.

pp 701-711 Joelle is in hospital, mopping brow of unconscious Don. He lives! Hal watches Blood Sister: One Tough Nun, based on his father’s experience in Boston AA, and people keep coming in to watch with him.

Vince wanted to know on Twitter if note 290, about Blood Sister and the veiled character, is addressed to the reader: how she may or may not be actually physically scarred, and the older kids hope she’s not as that would be too “gooey” or sentimental, or obvious. Is DFW poking at the reader’s curiosity about whether Joelle is really scarred under the veil, or just hiding her debilitating prettiness?

Gotta get to work, so this is all I’ve got this week. What did everyone else think?

Only six more shortish sections to go! Is anyone going to throw caution to the winds and just read on through?

10/6 pp 711-755
10/13 pp 755-808
10/20 pp 809-854
10/27 pp 854-902
11/3 pp 902-941
11/10 941-981 THE END