Archive for the '2007 Goals' Category

On Weddings, from “Les Miserables”

Friday, February 1st, 2013

Les Miserables was a long book full of thrills, snores, tears and laughter. This was one passage that made me smirk:

Wedding customs in 1833 were not what they are today. France had not yet borrowed from England the supreme refinement of abducting the bride, carrying her off from the church as though ashamed of her happiness like an escaping bankrupt or like rape in the manner of the Song of Songs. The chastity and propriety of whisking one’s paradise into a post-chaise to consummate it in a tavern-bed at so much a night, mingling the most sacred of life’s memories with a hired driver and tavern serving maids, was not yet understood in France.


Acorn, Tree, Etc.

Tuesday, December 25th, 2012

I was in my sons’ room, looking for a missing book. Here’s what I saw, “hidden” under 9yo Drake’s pillow:



Ransom and Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan, two scary books I loved as a kid.

7 Bookish Questions

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

Prompted by my friend at Mental Multivitamin, I am always happy to obsess nerdishly over books. I’ll try to keep this short.

1. What book (a classic?) do you hate?

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. Though it does remind me to be a better, less selfish person.

2. To what extent do you judge people by what they read?

I shouldn’t but I do. But when I see someone reading a book I’ve consciously decided not to pick up, or that I’ve tried to read and disliked, it’s hard to feel a kinship.

3. What television series would you recommend as the literariest?

The A & E Pride and Prejudice miniseries.

4. Describe your ideal home library.

Shelves enough for all. Nothing stacked on its side.

5. Books or sex?

Both (but probably in that order, to be honest)

6. How do you decide what to read next?

It’s a balancing act. I’m in 3 book groups, and I have many bookish friends (including my husband) with whom I share recommendations. It’s definitely a holistic process, taking into account calendar, whether a movie’s coming out, whether it might be spoiled, what others are reading, if I feel guilty about having bought it, length…

7. How much do you talk about books in real life (outside of the blogging community)?

ALL THE TIME! Which is still never enough. I’m in 3 book groups, 2 of which meet monthly, and the other ever 6 weeks. One of them I started and moderate myself. I talk about books whenever I can, and if I’m at a loss with a person in conversation, I ask what they’re reading.

Bookish, blogging friends, how about you?

My Ideal Bookshelf (?)

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

My Ideal Bookshelf (?)

My Ideal Bookshelf (?)

There’s a new book out called My Ideal Bookshelf, which I read about at Mental Multivitamin, then promptly put on my amazon wish list. She posted her Ideal Shelf, here is a stab at mine–hey, it goes to 11!

by A.S. Byatt
Life with Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
Middlemarch by George Eliot
The Illustrated Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, ill. Dame Darcy
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
Hamlet, The Tempest and Twelfth Night by Shakespeare
The Holy Bible NRSV

Also, please note, I picked particular Shakespeare plays rather than a collection. More challenging, no?

Wuthering Heights and A Wrinkle in Time almost made the cut. I think I’m missing a good, cathartic weepie. Probably should have put Anne of Green Gables on there, in lieu of Witch of Blackbird Pond.

What does your shelf look like/contain? You can print out an illustration at the Ideal Bookshelf site, too.

Staying Put

Thursday, November 8th, 2012

This past September I passed a couple of personal milestones. My husband, I, and 9yo Drake have lived in our current house for 8 years. I believe this is the longest time I’ve ever lived in one residence. My previous record was a house in a far-flung suburb of Columbus, Ohio. We moved there when I was 10 and I left for college at 18. I came back the following summer, but my parents and I clashed over my very bad behavior, so I began my sojourn on the East Coast, almost 11 years in DC and Philly. I lived in, at my best guess, a dozen different places during those 11 years. My husband and I got married and moved to MN when he got a job here. We rented in a close suburb for 3 years, bought a condo downtown (which was great until we had a baby, then it sucked) and then (finally I hope) bought a house in a family-friendly neighborhood in Minneapolis where we’ve been ever since.

As best I can figure, I lived non-consecutively in OH for about 13 years, and consecutively on the east coast for 11 years, and consecutively in one Ohio house for slightly less than 8. Other than that long stretch from when I was 10 to 18, I never lived in any one apartment/space longer than 3 years. I’ve now been in Minnesota for 14 years, and in the same house for over 8.

About five years ago (when we’d lived in the house just over 3 years), I became very anxious about the accumulation of stuff and where to put it, and bewailed my lack of organizational skill. I even made a category on the blog for Organization. (It has very few entries.) Then I realized–prior to that point, I moved so often that my life had purging built into it, and I was feeling anxious at about the time–3 years–that I usually moved. Now that I was and would be in one place, I no longer had the urgent excuse to purge that moving provided.

I wish I could say that realization made me shape up and get organized. It hasn’t. My house is filled with blowing and drifting piles of crap. Now that 6yo Guppy is in 1st grade we have the avalanche of school papers from 2 kids, and I am fast losing my ability to know what pile something’s in. I spent half a day last week looking for a particular piece of paper. I am and probably always will be a sporadic perfectionist (occasional compulsive?) which means I make dents now and again, but then entropy takes over, piles grow and the cycle starts all over again. I probably should figure this organization thing out, though, since our house is small and I’m eventually going to run out of room.

It’s odd seeing how other people live, those who stay put and put down roots. I have no intention of moving, but life sometimes decides otherwise. I’ll have to wait and see if my plans and the future align.

Book Mountain!

Friday, October 12th, 2012

“Magnificent Five-Story Book Mountain Library”:


via The Morning News.

So, What Did You Do Last Weekend?

Thursday, October 11th, 2012


I went to the Half-Price books Clearance Event in the grandstand at the State Fairgrounds and got a whopping two hours to cruise up and down the boxes of children’s books. Interestingly, 2 hours was not enough time. For just children’s chapter books. There were THAT many books. Also, my knees and thighs were sore the next day from the constant knee bends of looking through the box atop the table, then below it. Up, down, up, down for two hours. Ouch. Yes, used book shopping made my muscles sore; I’m THAT out of shape.

In my defense, about a third of these are for Drake and Guppy. But oh, last summer’s Shelf Discovery Readalong has made me a junkie for old YA MMPBs (i.e., Young Adult Mass Market Paperbacks)

Labor Day Weekend Book Bender, part deux

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

In my defense…oh, I’ll just shut up now. I do not have time to read these books, I cannot afford them, and I don’t have shelf space for them. Yet, I bought them anyway. Another possible epitaph for me.

Also, the blog is showing these pics in a fun-house format, and I have no idea how to fix it. I hope the books aren’t self-conscious because they look fatter than they are in real life.


The titles, and becauses:

Weight by Jeannette Winterson. A candidate for the book group I moderate. And: $2! Part of the Canongate Myth series, along with Buddha and A Short History of Myth by Karen Armstrong.
Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson. Because Stevenson was mentioned in Peace Like a River, and that’s all the excuse I need.
Saint Maybe by Anne Tyler. A candidate for the book group. (I’m auditioning them, doncha know? Also known as: nerdishly obsessing and compulsively buying.)
Oliver Twist by Dickens. The Penguin cloth-bound cover!
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. (Who was also mentioned in Peace Like a River, but this title wasn’t.) The Ruben Toledo Cover!

G. Grod to me: You aren’t actually going to read that again, are you?
Me: …
Him: You bought it for the cover, didn’t you?
Me: …

But oh, can you blame me for buying these books (at half price plus 20% off) for THESE covers?



Labor Day Weekend Book Bender, part 1

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

20% off at Half Price books over the long Labor Day weekend, and I had a very satisfying time combing through their Highland Park store in St. Paul:


The goods, and the becauses:

Semisonic Pleasure and All About Chemistry: we just saw Semisonic at the MN state fair, and decided to address these gaps in our local music collection
Buddha by Karen Armstrong. Because some members of the book group I moderate want us to read this. And I’d passed it up twice.
Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather. A candidate for the same book group.
True Grit by Charles Portis. $2!
Main Street. Oh, what, you remember me getting this already, recently. Alas, the print in the MMPB was too small. I chose to get this Modern Library edition for my aging eyes.
The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris. A candidate for the above book group.
Not pictured: The Deptford Trilogy by Robertson Davies. For my husband, because The Biblioracle recommended it. Also, $2!

2 Thoughts on 1 Book Stack

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012


(Note how artfully I included the receipt.)

Thought 1: This is actually restraint for me. There are at least 3 books I put back on the shelf and didn’t get today.

Thought 2: I am turning into my mother, buying books on religion and stacking them all over the house and not reading them.

Here’s why I got these particular lovelies today:

Elmer Gantry by Sinclair Lewis: candidate for my group that reads books on myth and religion. Recommended by author Marlon James.

The Great Divorce and The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. Candidates for the book group, and ones I used to own and couldn’t find when I went to look for recently. A scene in Peace Like a River reminded me of The Great Divorce, and I wanted to re-read it.

A Short History of Myth
by Karen Armstrong. Also for the book group. Passed over Armstrong’s Buddha for this, though one member has been lobbying hard for the latter. Think we’ll read this alongside Ragnarok by A.S. Byatt.

The Moviegoer
by Walker Percy. Also for the book group. (I’ve been nerdishly obsessing over what next year’s books are going to be. Alas, most were ones I didn’t already own.)

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
by Robert Louis Stevenson. On clearance for $2! Also, went to look for this after Stevenson’s books were mentioned in Peace Like a River, and found I didn’t own it.

Severe Book-Buying Problem, part deux

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012


Veronica Mars Season 1 DVD, because my husband and I both wanted to watch it again, and came to this decision independently
The Brothers Karamazov, because it was a brand new copy for $2!
Wuthering Heights, because it was the beautiful Ruben Toledo cover (details below)
This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff, because the Biblioracle said so
Miss Lonelyhearts and The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West, ditto
Nicholas by Sempe/Goscinny, because I wanted it, even if 9yo Drake didn’t
Dr. Who Time Traveller’s Almanac, because Drake wanted it
Star Wars Head to Head (who would win in imaginary battles between characters), because 6yo Guppy wanted it


I Have a Severe Book-Buying Problem

Thursday, August 16th, 2012


I can say with some confidence that the St. Paul Half Price Books on Ford Parkway, conveniently near Quixotic Coffee, has the best selection of used children’s and young-adult books around and a generous clearance section. I can also say I probably did not need to bring home FOURTEEN new (used) books.

But, but, I didn’t bring home even more, because I wanted even more, so that makes it better, right?

Um, yeah.

It is a problem because:

1. we don’t have unlimited funds (but this stack only cost $43!)
2. We ran out of bookshelf space a long time ago and now have teetering stacks…
3. …of unread books, because there’s no way I have time to read all I buy.

And yet, there is always a reason, which seems compelling at the time. I am a master of because reasoning. Herewith, the book stack and the becauses that are in addition to Drake being almost 9 and thus totally ready for many of these, right?

Main Street by Sinclair Lewis: for one of my book groups, only $1
Arm of the Starfish by Madeleine L’Engle: from Shelf Discovery, old-school MMPB
Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator by Roald Dahl: because nearly 9yo Drake just finished his dad’s old copy of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, unearthed from Grammy’s basement.
Matilda Bone by Karen Cushman: Trina Schart Hyman cover (my favorite children’s illustrator)
Ronia, the Robber’s Daughter by Astrid Lindgren: Ditto above
The Girl with Silver Eyes by Willo Davis Roberts: From Shelf Discovery, plus got a lotta love in the SD Readalong
Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh: Ditto above
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott: I love Oxford editions
The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder: one of my favorites as a girl; want to revisit after reading Shelf Discovery
Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank Gilbreth Jr and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey: from Shelf Discovery
My Sweet Audrina by V.C. Andrews: From Shelf Discovery, a teen edition(?!)
Pride and Prejudice: I am slowly collecting all the Austen novels in these lovely Penguin editions.
Here Comes Charlie Moon: by English author Shirley Hughes, whom I fell in love with after discovering her Alfie picture books
The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder: See The Egypt Game above.

Five YA Novels that Influenced Me When I was a Teen

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

A young-adult-lit friend sent me a link to author Rachel Carter’s post at Nerdy Book Club on the five young adult (YA) books that were important to her, and why, as a teen.

Since we’ve been discussing this all summer as part of the Summer of Shelf Discovery Readalong (discussing? We’ve been SOAKING in it, Madge.), I thought I’d post my five since my memory has been helpfully jogged by this summer’s YA reading bender.

1. Down a Dark Hall by Lois Duncan. It was creepy and compelling and taught me who Emily Bronte was. Kind of a tie here with Summer of Fear. Buyer beware: several of the Duncan books have been updated with clumsy references to modern tech, which is a shame, because I really like the new covers. Seek out previous editions.

2. Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson. It perfectly captured my older-sister angst.

3. The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare. Spoiled girl gets her comeuppance but finds love in the end. Yay!

4. A Wrinkle in Time by Margaret L’Engle. It was the first YA book I remember reading, loving, and re-reading. It helped make me a reader.

5. Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey. My cousin lent this to me when I was in seventh grade. A girl and her very own telepathic dragon—what could be better than that? Alas, when I re-read it, I found the suck fairy had gotten to it.

What would you pick as your five? You can post on this and link back, or leave in comments.

Vote for your Top YA Books

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

Over at NPR’s Monkey See blog, they’re having a poll for your top 10 YA books. I’m not nearly as well versed in the genre as I used to be, but still had a hard time narrowing it to 10. I felt they did still include many that I consider more kid than YA (Treasure Island) and had a LOT of more recent ones. (Whither art thou, Lois Duncan?) Nonetheless, an intriguing list of candidates:

Vote for your favorite YA books.

Speaking of Things I Didn’t Notice

Saturday, July 14th, 2012

As I’m revisiting the books of my childhood reading along with the selections of Shelf Discovery, I’ve noticed many instances where I remember a few random details and forget many more.

As I was re-reading Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. This little sentence gave me pause:

My mother and father didn’t plan for me to be an only child, but that’s the way it worked out.

I’m sure I skipped right over when I read it as a girl. Now though, having known so many friends who have gone through the blood, sweat, and tears of infertility, it had an entirely different resonance. Judy Blume was known for her empathy to children, but this sentence hinted to me at her empathy for parents, too.

“Telegraph Avenue” by Michael Chabon

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

My friend Amy at New Century Reading is part of a readalong for the upcoming Michael Chabon book, Telegraph Alley. The guy at Micawber’s kindly gave me an advance copy a few weeks ago, so I figured I’d throw my hat in the ring.

Well, after 60+ pages, I’m taking it out.

The writing feels overwrought, and the cast of characters unrealistically hyper-entwined. I love most of Chabon’s work, but not this. Sample sentence that burped me out of the story:

From the lowest limb of a Meyer lemon, a wind chime searched without urgency for a melody to play.

I understand that Chabon is trying to make the prose blues-y and such, but I’d rather return to Toni Morrison’s Jazz. This feels like Chabon is embodying his own character Moby–a trying-too-hard white guy.

Also, from the inside description:

a NorCal Middlemarch

Really? Really?!

Sir, I’ve read Middlemarch. And Telegraph Avenue is no Middlemarch.

So many books. So little time. I’m on, on, on to the next one. (That’s Foo Fighters.)

Summer Reading Project!

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

I’m posting this before I second guess myself. Lizzie Skurnick wrote a book called Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading based on a popular column, Fine Lines at Jezebel. It’s goes through the various books many of us read growing up, their themes, their strengths, their flaws, etc.

(It’s rather like a Teenage Girls’ Canon, a pop-cultural milieu many of us, especially those who came of age in the late 70’s/80’s/early 90’s shared.)

Examples: Chapter 1, “YA Heroines We’ll Never Return” includes A Wrinkle in Time (Meg!). Chapter 4: “Read ‘Em and Weep” includes Jacob Have I Loved and Bridge to Terabithia. Chapter 7 on Romance includes Forever, and Chapter 10, “I Can’t Believe They Let Us Read This”, includes Flowers in the Attic, My Sweet Audrina, Clan of the Cave Bear, Wifey and Domestic Arrangements. It’s one of the three chapters where I read all the books. Heh. The oevres of Judy Blume, Lois Duncan, Madeleine L’Engle are all well represented in it.

I don’t think there’s a way to do a reading challenge and ask that people read all the books she references even if they’re often super short–72! BUT there are ten chapters, and twelve weeks between June and August.

I propose a chapter a week starting the first or second week in June, and reading ONE book from the chapter a week, then coming here to discuss it. And I’d add an eleventh week (it’ll be so good it’ll go to 11!) for what book you loved that isn’t included. (Mistral’s Daughter. Ahem.)

SO, you’d be reading one chapter of Shelf Discovery, and one short YA book a week, perhaps one you already read as a child, and perhaps for you parents even one you could read WITH your kid. (Not Wifey, but maybe A Little Princess, right?)

Whaddya think?

If there’s interest, then a schedule and bibliography to come.

March Madness: Book Stack of Imminent Reproach

Thursday, March 1st, 2012


Also: A Bit of a Pickle; Painted Myself Into a Corner; Bit Off More Than I Could Chew; or It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time.

I am forever admonishing female friends who call themselves selfish, stupid, lazy, mean, bad mothers, etc. that this kind of self-denigration is hurtful because it’s not true. (Ironically, it’s the exceptional few who are selfish, mean, etc. who never make jokes at their own expense, and instead trumpet any good deed while never admitting a foible. Blergh, and get more therapy, are what I have to say to that.) How many men to you hear saying stuff like this?

So, I am not going to say any of the many self-criticizing things I might about my current biblio-conundrum., I actually think I go on book benders most often when my life feels least in my control. A book bender says I hope the future has more time for reading, and backs this up by piling up evidence of the priorities in my life.

Life’s been pretty life-y around here for some time. We’ve had multiple bouts of stomach flu, lice, an emergency family trip, and I was cajoled into a volunteer gig a whole lot more involved than the one I’d hoped for. As I said, life. In the face of the recent avalanche of mostly little things, my response has been to crave more reading time and to commit to more books. So my situation is not even as it often is when I buy more books than I can read. This time, it’s that I’ve committed to reading more books than I think is possible even when life isn’t bustling.

(An aside: WHY is life bustling in February? We’re supposed to be hibernating. This is a yin, not a yang season. February around here was like December. I blame global warming and the ridiculous non-wintry winter we’re having.)

Here, then, is my To-Read pile, which doesn’t even include everything I’ve said I’d read. I’d write more, but I have 4 chapters to go in Bleak House for tomorrow.

Please understand; not really complaining. Too much to read in too little time hardly qualifies as a problem.

Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes. for The Morning News Tournament of Books
Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson because it was recommended by a writing teach to me in the 90’s, and has been on my shelf since then, and a friend’s reading it now
Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It by Maile Meloy. I pressured a friend to read John Crow’s Devil. She pressured me back to read this.
The Last Brother by Natacha Appanah. For TMN ToB
Bleak House by Dickens for this readalong (darn you, Patricia)
Flannery O’Connor: The Complete Stories reading a story at a time to follow up on Wise Blood and Flannery from January.
The Best American Comics 2011, ed. Alison Bechdel. For one of my book groups. I love comics, yet I rarely even like many of the indie types usually represented in these compilations. I’m trepidatious about reading this one.

Not pictured: complete manuscript of colleague in writing group, partial manuscript of good friend, The Shipping News by Annie Proulx, the ten other books from The Tournament of Books that I haven’t read.

My Arm Was Twisted: “Bleak House” Readalong

Monday, February 20th, 2012

Oh, I thought I’d given up reading challenges, et al. But I’ve wanted to read Bleak House for a long time, and Patricia from O Canada Y’all linked to a readalong at The Unputdownables. Not sure this is smart, but I’m going to do it anyway. Story of my life.

The Scandal of Fatty Arbuckle

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

OK, who can tell I’m catching up on my feeds? But there was a reason I left these for myself to read later with time–I’m unearthing some fascinating stuff!

When I was in middle school, one of my favorite books was Moviola by Garson Kanin*. It was an utterly enthralling, trashy, historical novel about Hollywood. I loved it. I read it again and again. One of the stories that moved me most was about what happened to the actor Fatty Arbuckle, once famous and now obscure.

So it was with geeky delight that I found a story about this, “Scandals of Classic Hollywood: The Destruction of Fatty Arbuckle” at The Hairpin, linked to from ALoTT5MA

“Fatty” was just Arbuckle’s picture personality, the name given to his various characters in their endlessly hilarious approaches to “hayseed visits big city; hjinks ensue.” Off-screen, he refused to answer to the name, making explicit the distinction between textual and extra-textual persona that studio publicity worked so hard to obviate. Yet it was this off-screen persona that would eventually lead to his demise, when an alcohol-soaked weekend led to the most dramatic fall from grace in Hollywood history. I am not being overdramatic. This guy was ruined. On the surface, Arbuckle’s actions were the scandal. But as the details surrounding the event and its handling have come to light, it’s become clear that the true scandal was the willingness with which the studio heads threw their most prominent star under the figurative bus.

I would bet a dollar that Lizzie Skurnick, who wrote Shelf Discovery, read this too. This was part of the Judith Krantz/Jean Auel/VC Andrews/naughty Judy Blume stuff that I was devouring at the time.