Thursday, August 30, 2007

Reading Alert: Super September

Okay, readings.

Joyce Carol Oates
Sept. 5 @ 7 pm
Barnes & Noble, 82nd St. and Bway
From her new novel, The Museum of Dr. Moses. I haven't read any of her yet. Is that so wrong?

David Markson
Sept. 5 @ 7 pm
The Strand, 12th St. and Bway
From The Last Novel. I have Wittgenstein's Mistress on queue... but I heard he's great.

Junot Diaz
Sept. 6 @ 7 pm
Barnes and Noble, 17th St. and Bway
From Oscar Wao. I haven't finished Drown yet, but what I did read, I really really liked. I have mixed feelings about reading this book because of the New Yorker story, but I might pop by to hear him read, because it might sway my mind one way or the other. And because, well, it's Junot Diaz!

Paul Auster
Sept. 10 @ 7 pm
Barnes and Noble, 17th St. and Bway
From his new novel, The Inner Life of Martin Frost. I haven't read any Auster yet, but I mean, come on. Quitessential New York/Brooklyn author. Chainz? Want to stop by? :)

Melissa Plaut
Sept. 11 @ 7:30 pm
Barnes and Noble, 6th Ave and 8th St.
You know. That taxicab driver blog I like so much. Her book just came out soooo... media blitz time....

Yay! A reason to LOVE New York.

NY Mag fall preview psychs me up.

Holy shit, the past two days have been crazy. I love working in healthcare, but sometimes all the red tape can be maddening. That's when I escape into a good book.......

I was reading the Fall preview issue of New York Magazine on the bus this morning, and I got REALLY excited. So many good tibits!!!! So many good readings!!! Happy things for the bookishly inclined!!! [I am losing my mind, if you haven't been able to tell.]

Okay, I'll do a separate readings post, but in the meanwhile, a little line-up of the things I wanted to highlight from my reading today:

- Love in the Time of Cholera is finally becoming a movie! I had no idea. Out November 16.
- Interview with stars from movie version of No Country for Old Men
- NY Public Library is exhibiting manuscripts and pictures and stuff for the 50th anniversary of On the Road
- Short article on Philip Roth's last Zuckerman novel, Exit Ghost
- I just can't wait for Alice Sebold's The Almost Moon
I agree with their anticipation index on Denis Johnson's Tree of Smoke
Nice article on Junot Diaz and his book that's been 10 years in the making (The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao)
- Tibit on Edwidge Danticat's new memoir, Brother, I'm Dying as a sidebar to the Diaz story

I just want to finish this by quoting from that last article, something Diaz says that I also feel to be true:

Because in the end, writing for him is well worth the torture: “When I talk to people I’m such a dumbass,” he says. “When I enter that higher-order space that’s required to write, I’m a better human. For whatever my writing is, wherever it’s ranked, it definitely is the one place that I get to be beautiful.”

Right now I hate Blogger because it won't let me tag everything.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

And this one would be a red wine, maybe.

Started reading The Farming of Bones today on the commute home.

This is what I love about Edwidge Danticat-

Reading her is like drinking something slowly. Something deep and bold. Something beautiful but dark (not dark in the vampire way, but in the incredibly full and endless way). Something maroon.

Hell, her writing might be red wine.

There's something rich and wonderful about it, words that capture me in a way no one else's does. When I read her, I am immersed. When I read her, I feel like I am sinking into the thickness that her words surround me with. It's a pleasant thing - aching but wonderful.

She writes lyrically, ends her chapters perfectly. Here is the end of chapter 1:

When I was a child, I used to spend hours playing with my shadow, something that my father warned could give me nightmares, nightmares like seeing voices twirl in a hurricane of rainbow colors and hearing the odd shapes of things rise up and speak to define themselves. Playing with my shadow made me, an only child, feel less alone. Whenever I had playmates, they were never quite real or present for me. I considered them only replacements for my shadow. There were many shadows, too, in the life I had beyond childhood. At times Sebastien Onius guarded me from the shadows. At other times he was one of them.
--[pg. 4, The Farming of Bones]
Teach me to write like that, and I would die happy.

Sorbet for the reader.

Woohoo! I churned out a crappy first draft of a story for class tomorrow in three hours - record time. I normally NEVER let a story see the light of day if I haven't at least combed through it several times, but desperate times call for desperate measures, and plus, I'll see if I can make some time tomorrow at work. (hee hee!)

Anyway, I finished Goodbye Tsugumi today. I liked it. I'm a big fan of Banana Yoshimoto. There's something about her writing that is very spare, lonely and yet very dreamy and ethereal at the same time. Some of it feels very much like Murakami (though I wonder if it's because that's how Japanese translates), but it's lacking the weirdness he has, and always has an underlying nostalgia. Reading her always makes me think of environment, of snow or rain or the sea or something equally poetic that lends itself to the pervasive tone of her stories.

This story is quite nice, as are most of her books. It's very short, only 184 pages (and it's a very small volume), almost like a sweet dessert or something, a sorbet that leaves your palate feeling very clean and refreshed (out slips the food lover in me). She's got some really nice prose, but isn't heavy on it -- she's just very good at capturing a feeling, which I really like.

I did have a couple of issues with the book:

1) the beginning seemed like she hated her cousin but turns out not, as you learn within the next 20 pages. I feel like she might have written that in an earlier draft and not changed it adequately or something.

2) sometimes I felt the dialogue was kind of... inauthentic. Almost too poetic at points. Again though, this may be how it translates. It may be that it's perfectly normal for Japanese people to talk this way, but translated to English, it sounds verbose, even stilted. However, one funny example of this is the following:

"You're probably right. I knew that I couldn't just go on making a pest of myself at the inn forever, and of course I'm glad that your father and I have finally been able to come together like this, but somehow I just can't forget the feeling of living in a group with so many other people. It's in me even now, an unending presence deep within me, like the crashing of the sea."

Having said this, my mother pressed her hand to her mouth and slipped into a little fit of giggles. "My," she said, "aren't I the poet today!"
--[pg. 44-45, Goodbye Tsugumi]

Funny, because paragraph 1 and paragraph two are on opposite pages. I got to the bottom of that dialogue, and I was like, What? People don't talk like that! Then I got to the next paragraph and I had to laugh. It was almost as if she knew we'd think that way.

Anyway, Yoshimoto really hasn't disappointed me yet.

Monday, August 27, 2007

They make it too easy to stalk authors in NYC.

Reading Matt de la Peña's blog up at (the site for his book/movie Ball Don't Lie), he mentions something I read about about a month ago, and meant to post about. He is reading at the Brooklyn Book Festival on Sept. 16 in, well, Brooklyn (duh).

Now, the reason this festival caught my eye when I came across it was, besides the sheer number of REALLY AWESOME authors involved, the fact that Edwidge Danticat was listed. I will do anything to meet her. I'm not obsesssed with her to epic Nicole/JSF proportions, but I really admire her greatly. Her short story "Children of the Sea" is my #1 favorite short story ever, and it's what I read to put myself in the mood to write. [The story is a series of letters, written by two adolescent lovers, who never read each others letters, but keep writing anyway. It takes place during a Haitian civil war, and what follows are heartbreaking, parallel words of love, despair, hope and hopelessness.] Her writing is lyrical and nostalgic without being overly sentimental, and she manages to make even the most heartbreaking and tragic of tales incredibly beautiful. I've read several of her other books as well, and will soon be starting on The Farming of Bones. There is a quality about her writing that I want to be able to capture myself one day, and I'd consider her one of my biggest influences in writing. Not because of her content, or necessarily that we have similar styles. But she is just so damn poetic. The first time I read "Children of the Sea", the ending brought tears to my eyes. And it was right then that I scribbled a little note to myself on an older blog, vowing that I'd one day do for somebody else what she just did for me.

On a separate note though, Matt will be reading from his book Ball Don't Lie at this festival. I read his book while I was taking class with him a few months back. It's a YA book, with a center on basketball, so of course, at first, I was a little intimidated by the whole sports aspect (I'm a football girl myself...). But once I slowed down, and visualized it for myself, it worked really well for me, even though I'm not a HUGE bball fan. And then once you get past the first few pages, you realize it's actually pretty accessible for everyone. It's a really moving story about a kid in the system, trying to maneuver his way through all he's had to deal with, and trying to find himself. What makes him him. One of the really awesome things about this book is the rhythm (if you can't tell yet, I'm easily sold by the poetry of prose.), because it's just got this really edgy quality to it that's perfect for the subject matter. And yet it doesn't prevent the book from being acutely touching and heartbreaking at key moments. I also really like the fact that, well, it's not your typical teenage story. I've mentioned this before, but I went to this teen book thing a few months ago, and it was AWASH with teen chicklit. I counted maybe 3 books for guys. I think it's important that 1) there's books out there for teenage boys (because, as Moonrat's posts [this one and this one] illustrated, guys, even as adults, just AREN'T reading, and so the teenagers definitely aren't) and 2) that they're relevant, important, and offer a different perspective than your typical whiny teenage dramas. Which this book does fabulously. Anyway, I really love the rhythm of the book. It's words like these that makes you wonder how it would sound outloud. Luckily there's such things as book readings........

[Come on, we all sort of read our pieces outloud to ourselves to see how it sounds right? Well, I do, anyway...]

Other randoms I wanted to call out -

-David Bouley? Um, did I mention my third passion is food? And I love his restaurant?

-Gail Carson Levine - okay, I read Ella Enchanted when I was home for the holidays in college, because my sister had it. She didn't like it as much but I LOVED it (sucker for retold fairy tale concepts). There was a period of time when my sister was obsessed with her mini-fairy-tale series books (when she was something like 7). I even bought her a signed copy of The Princess Tale from a small children's bookstore on the UWS one year. It's too bad my sister isn't in NY for me to bring her... though she's not a big fan of readings. She thinks it "ruins" the book. Fair enough.

Of course all your other usual suspects from this area... too many good ones to name obviously.

Okay, so things like this make me wonder why I'm crazy that I want to go to school in Cali. The abundance of writers here is amazing.

Um okay, so, Moonrat, care to go author stalking with me? [I really need a life.]

Please tell me it's not true!

Okay someone please tell me what the truth is. They didn't die. Right? RIGHT???? :( I hear the glass of my childhood shattering inside my mind....

Moonrat: nah, people are stupid
i reread my childhood books periodically
they don't lose value, somehow
have you read the giver?
Angelle: yeah good childhood books are ALWAYS good
the giver was great
in college, i bought and read the sequel
Moonrat: how old were you the last time you read it?
Angelle: gathering blue, that was eh
Moonrat: aHA
Angelle: i heard the last one was no good (According to my sister)
Moonrat: listen to this--i read it when i was 11
Angelle: oh im not sure, its been awhile since i read the giver.. maybe sometime in college
Moonrat: i remembered the ending as Jonas lives and escapes with the baby
then i reread it when i was in high school and it was like, wait
Angelle: he does!! doesn't he?
Moonrat: they died!!
Moonrat: they freeze to death on the sled
Angelle: they were saved by people werent they?
Moonrat: no, the people were a mirage
Angelle: they were saved by ppl from the real world
Moonrat: the last image that jonas transmits to the baby
Angelle: NO THATS A LIE!
Moonrat: ...
maybe we should reread
Angelle: im going to cry now
this is going up on my blog RIGHT NOW
Moonrat: but it's just weird that you read it at one level when you're 11 and a completely different level lately
uh oh

I want a magic bookmark tooooo!

I said I was going to write about YA books, and then I sort of never did.

Okay, well, I wanted to start with A Wrinkle in Time, but I decided to hold off on that until I've reread it. So instead, I will start off with Anne Lindbergh's children books.

Now I happen to think that she's very undervalued, and that it's a shame that you can basically only get her books through used bookstores and such. She wrote such fun, imaginative books such as The People of Pinnapple Place and Three Lives to Live (SO GOOD), Shadow on the Dial and one of my personal favorites Travel Far, Pay No Fare.

This book was about a magic bookmark, basically. You stick the bookmark in a book, and next thing you know, you're transported into the book. The characters (whose names are currently escaping me) visit such books as Little Women and The Yearling. What I really loved about the book was how it took this idea of reading to transport you to a different world, and made it literal. I mean, I loved reading, so this was like my dream come true. Why else did I read but to be thrown into a new situation, a new environment? There was something so fun and exciting about reading a book about, well, reading. A meta-book, in some senses (yay for my use of meta, Moonie!). Highlighting the real joy that comes from reading.

Anne Lindbergh just isn't well known (other than for being part of the famous Lindbergh family), so I think it's a shame that her books aren't around. I've done hunting online and managed to secure a few copies of some of her books, just to have (and so my little sister can read them), but I really think they should be reprinted. Her books were so imaginative (and yet for all the fantasy, the backdrop often deals with some real issues on growing up) that I just can't imagine a kid reading them and not liking them.

More consensus on the fact that The Road is AWESOME.

Yay! Another win for The Road! GalleyCat reports that McCarthy's won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction, apparently UK's oldest literary award. If you've been reading my blog for long enough, you know about my love affair with this book. Yay!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Wait why do I want this writing life?

Mexx was having a huge 70% off the entire store sale last week. On friday, I decided to "stop by". After an hour of fighting the crazy crowds, I gathered up all my items. And then waited online to pay for 2 hours. In that time, I finished The Writing Life.

I liked this little book. It meanders a little, but it gives this accurate little sense of the lonely, yet ultimately fulfilling aspect of being a writer. She says that being a writer is hardly called living, that their external lives are colorless, but that this helps fuel the internal world of creation and invention. She describes the task of writing as something both dreadful/frustrating and something that you feel compelled to do.

Writing every book, the writer must solve two problems: Can it be done? and, Can I do it? Every book has an intrinsic impossibility, which its writer discovers as soon as his first excitement dwindles. The problem is structural; it is insoluble; it is why no one can ever write this book. Complex stories, essays, and poems have this problem, too- the prohibitive structural defect the writer wishes he had never noticed. He writes it in spite of that. He finds ways to minimize the difficulty; he strengthens other virtues; he cantilevers the whole narrative out into thin air, and it holds. And if it can be done, then he can do it, and only he. For there is nothing in the material for this book that suggests to anyone but him alone its possibilities for meaning and feeling.
--[pg. 72, The Writing Life]

I read this book, and I'm like, good god, what am I getting myself into? You almost have to be dumb to want to write. But then I read all the rest, about why we write, and I'm like that, that's why. Because I can't not.

Why are we reading, if not in hope of beauty laid bare, life heightened and its deepest mystery probed? Can the writer isolate and vivify all in experience that most deeply engages our intellects and our hearts? Can the writer renew our hope for literary forms? Why are we reading if not in hope that the writer will magnify and dramatize our days, will illuminate and inspire us with wisdom, courage, and the possibility of meaningfulness, and will press upon our minds the deepest mysteries, so we may feel again their majesty and power? What do we ever know that is higher than that power which, from time to time, seizes our lives, and reveals us startlingly to ourselves as creatures set down here bewildered? Why does death so catch us by surprise, and why love?
--[pg 72-73, The Writing Life]

I write partly because I'm selfish and I can't not; partly because I believe fiction, strangely enough, is one of the mediums best suited to exposing humanity's truths.

By the way, I ended up coming out of Mexx with 9 items, $88 less in my bank account... but it was worth it when I looked at my receipt and saw that I saved $300.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Nick Hornby joins the blogging world.

I know. I'm on a blogging rampage these days. It's because work has slowed down to next to nothing while plans and such are awaiting client approval, so I've had plenty of time to surf the web and all my usual blogs to find tibits of book-y news.

So now I present to you... Nick Hornby's blog! Fun! I love author blogs. I haven't read any of Hornby's stuff yet, but I thoroughly enjoyed High Fidelity, the movie version. Mostly because I love John Cusack. I figure I'll pick up the book one of these days.

I also love that he's public about his personal experience with autism. I love people with a cause. This is publicist in me coming out, but really, it's so hard to get coverage or awareness (and therefore public caring and support) about a disease or condition these days without some celebrity with personal experience with it, backing it up and driving it, and CARING about it.

Call it.

Ooh. Coen Brothers' No Country For Old Men (based on McCarthy's novel with the same name, of course) has its trailer out.

Chigurh isn't as creepy looking as I expected him to look. Hmm.

One more thing...

P.S. Penguin UK also lets you buy blank cover books, so you can design your own. Kinda neat, eh? Some of the ones in the gallery are pretty professional looking, but it'd be kinda fun to just doodle...

Penguin UK classic covers.

Speaking of covers, just read on GalleyCat that Penguin UK is reissuing recent bestsellers as part of their classics line, with new covers and everything. Look at this cover for Donna Tart's The Secret History.

New UK version:

Old UK version:

US version:

Interesting. I can't say I really like ANY of them though. I still haven't read the book yet though, though it's on my list...

I must say thought, that Penguin's covers for the most part do catch my fancy. (Did I really just say the word "fancy"? Must be the side effects of visiting the UK website.) Check out the blog I mentioned yesterday - he posted up a great post on the "Love" series in the UK. Those covers are really visually captivating. These Penguin folks do a good job with their cover designers. I also think their "Boy's Own Books" series in the UK has a nice aesthetic too. It's got that Dangerous Book for Boys feel to it.

I think I'm trying to avoid thinking about contents of the books I don't have time to read and the novels that I want to someday write by focusing exclusively on pretty cover art. Such an escapist!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Climbing a mountain.

Last February, in the middle of a weird (now laughable) drama, and born in a snowstorm, I started writing a story. Strange thing about stories for me - I almost always know the ending. I can see the ending in my mind, visualize it like a scene in a movie. It's the getting there that is always the mystery. In any case, I wrote a skeletal first draft to this story. Then I worked on it some more. In class, we did a couple of exercises, so I pulled things from there. Bits and pieces. It was coming together in bits and pieces. Gelling slowly. Barely gelling at all. I read my the finished ten pages I had, and though I knew everything vaguely, I knew this was barely the tip of the iceberg. But I just didn't know what was underneath.

This was during a time when I was forgoing all company, locking myself away at Starbucks every single day. Trying to bang it out.

In class, we were given a take home assignment. I labored on this assignment, a simple exercise in setting. I wrote this until one in the morning. In silence. Friday night. It was snowing outside. And it moved me.

That's when it clicked.

The next day, I just started playing around on the keyboard. Typing out dumb first lines. And this one just flew. And the more it flew, the more I started to understand that this was part of that other story, the one I just couldn't get together. I wrote it in two hours, in one sitting. When I was done, I got it. I understood.

Since then, this scene has been told to me as the best realized scene in the entire thing, the scene that makes my character sympathetic, an emotionally wrought scene. And it is among my two favorite scenes, a scene I can't do without, a scene that I need in its entirety. Sure, I've made edits, but in the end, I want the whole thing to stand.

Recently, I was told that it doesn't work in the construct of my story. That it takes up too much space. That the balance is off.

I haven't been able to come to terms with that. I don't know how to fix that. So I don't. I just put the entire thing aside, because squashing the thing is like squashing a baby. Either that, or I keep hoping I'll come up with a strategy to get around it. Or people who will tell me it's okay.

So I perfectly understand when Annie Dillard has the following to say about writers who have trouble throwing out work, scenes, bits of writing, even if it doesn't work. She uses this little anecdote that I love:

Every year the aspiring photographer brought a stack of his best prints to an old, honored photographer, seeking his judgment. Every year the old man studied the prints and painstakingly ordered them into two piles, bad and good. Every year the old man moved a certain landscape print into the bad stack. At length he turned to the young man: "You submit this same landscape every year, and every year I put it on the bad stack. Why do you like it so much?" The young photographer said, "Because I had to climb a mountain to get it."
--[pg. 6, The Writing Life]

I 100% understand that sentiment.

I still don't know what to do with that scene or that story. It's silly, but I almost rather chuck the whole thing around it, just to salvage that scene. To me, it's what makes the story. Even if it throws off the balance. It's the heart of what it all means. And I think, that's worth fighting for. So I guess it's the story around it that needs to be fixed then?

Covers galore!

We all know covers are important. You'd like to think that a book could sell based on the contents, but obviously, that's not the case. I mean, with billions of books in the bookstore, you have to filter somehow. With a wall of new books in front of you, the easiest way to filter is by cover. We all know this.

I used to read the blog of a friend who was a freelance designer for one of the big houses, and then later moved to another house for a permanent position. He used to post up different versions of covers (covers that they nixed, or that he knew they wouldn't like). He complained a lot, because, of course, while the writer's book is their art, his covers were his art in a way. Generic thrillers in a series were a bore to him. They were bad art in his eyes, even if they did the commercial thing of selling. He'd post of several versions of covers for the same book, and the one we all liked best, was usually never the one to be chosen. The marketing people had a clear idea of what sold books to what specific target audience, I guess, and even if the cover was haunting and beautiful, it didn't appeal right - consumers have their own ideas of what books of certain types should look like. A shame though, some of his book covers that never made it were really really good. [He has since moved his blog or taken it down or something. I suspect what he was doing probably wasn't exactly allowed.]

So three random book cover related things:

First, I just have to say that I LOVE the new softcover options with the jacketflaps coupled with the new contemporary cover art by Penguin. Like the new Anna Karenina or my recent buy of The New York Trilogy. The covers are wonderful because theyre so updated, and complete the entire art aesthetic. The edgy pages. The grainy covers. For a person who enjoys the sensory sensation that comes with reading (as I am), these books are wonderful. Hefting around my big copy of Tolstoy with the beautiful clean b&w photograph (and its solitary purple) feels like I'm not reading your average college required reading, but like I'm reading a piece of art. The whole freaking thing is a piece of art. Copies of these versions of books are slightly more expensive, but I'm willing to splurge for it. I think it's clever of the marketing people because it contextualizes older classics for a new generation of readers. In fact, I laugh everytime I pass by the copy of Lady Chatterley's Lover (which I will probably never read, considering my last fiasco with D.H. Lawrence, but still). The comic cover cracks me up. Now I'm not sure that it gives an entirely accurate portrayal of the book, updated or not (but I haven't read it, so who knows), but it's hilarious. These somehow make reading classics more fun. I, for one, am tired of blurry printset on newspaper thin yellowed pages.

Drab... vs. ...Fab!

Comely... vs. ...Comical!

This is nice.... vs. ... but this is so much cooler!

The second thing I wanted to mention was this great blog called The Book Design Review. It reviews covers of books that are coming out, which I love! I would never have thought to (or be able to) delve into book covers so thoroughly, since I am not a cover designer (or a visual artist by any means), but I do enjoy learning about what someone who knows what he's talking about has to say about covers. In any case, good for writers to know, because it's another aspect of the trade. Although if I'm ever lucky enough to get so far that I'm talking what COVERS should we use, I'll let the graphic designers do their job.

Lastly, just in case anyone ever was curious about the cover design process, Novel and Short Story Writer's Market's blog had a good post on this today.

Can anyone tell I don't have much to do at work today?

Hello, my name is Angelle and I am an addict.

Oh, woe is me and my lack of self-control.

I went online to find the cover of The Bell Jar for my entry in Moonrat's Book Book blog, and found out that it's part of BN's free paperback promotion for the summer. As in buy 2, get 1 free. As in, Angelle is about to spend more money "because it's a good deal". And because I've already identified at least 3 books in that list that I want.

Oh book addiction.

What! No further?

I confess I've gotten a little weird about the order in which I'm reading books. I seem to have a lot going on concurrently. It's not that I've given up on Tolstoy, it's just that I've realized I need to temper his density with easier reads. Tolstoy's become my afternoon commute read (mornings I'm too tired), although I'm really going to try to make it a goal to at least get through 50 pages a week, to hopefully finish the book by the end of September. It's just a slow slow process.

Haven't been in a short story mood as of late, so Carver sits on my bedside table, getting a little dusty after I've only read two of the stories.

Francine Prose -- well I just haven't been in an academic mood either.

But my newest addition to the list is Annie Dillard's The Writing Life. It's short (which will help that book goal along), it's light, and it's all about writing, which I probably need right now as I enter into the long process of MFA applications. I was first introduced to this book half a year back, in one of my fiction workshops, and immediately liked the passages we read. I think it's because it explains, in metaphor, so clearly the process that the writer goes through, and it's so easy to identify with. You read it and you think, "Yes! Exactly!" I find it overly anecdotal and/or metaphorical at points, but I think it's so spot-on most of the time, not to mention funny in this heartwarming way, that I can't help but like it. Granted, I'm only on chapter one. There's so many passages I like already though, that I don't even know where to start. But okay, let's just put up this section that I just thought so cute and funny, I was grinning on the subway reading it.

Few sights are so absurd as that of an inchworm leading its dimwit life. Inchworms are the caterpillar larvae of several moths or butterflies. The cabbage looper, for example, is an inchworm. I often see an inchworm: it is a skinny bright thing, pale and thin as a vein, an inch long, and apparently totally unfit for life in this world. It wears out its days in constant panic.

Every inchworm I have seen was stuck in long grasses. The wretched inchworm hangs from the side of a grassblade and throws its head around from side to side, seeming to wail. What! No further? Its back pair of nubby feet clasps the grass stem; its front three pairs of nubs rear back and flail in the air, apparently in search of a footing. What! No further? What? It searches everywhere in the wide world for the rest of the grass, which is right under its nose. By dumb luck it touches the grass. Its front legs hang on; it lifts and buckles its green inch, and places its hind legs just behind its front legs. Its body makes a loop, a bight. All it has to do now is slide its front legs up the grass stem. Instead it gets lost. It throws up its head and front legs, flings its upper body out into the void, and panics again. What! No further? End of world? And so forth, until it actually reaches the grasshead's tip. By then its wee weight may be bending the grass toward some other grass plant. Its davening, apocalyptic prayers sway the grasshead and bump it into something. I have seen it many times. The blind and frantic numbskull makes it off one grassblade and onto another one, which it will climb in virtual hysteria for several hours. Every step brings it to the universe's rim. And now - What! No further? End of world? Ah, here's ground. What! No further? Yike!

"Why don't you just jump?" I tell it, disgusted. "Put yourself out of your misery."
--[pg. 7-8, The Writing Life]

Tee hee!!! It's just cute because you totally know what she's talking about, those cute fuzzy green catepillars that have no idea what they're doing. Hee hee hee!!

Okay, I'll post up more relevant passages up later (like when I'm not at work). I haven't read any other Dillard yet - though I do mean to pick up The Maytrees when it's out on paperback, but I think this is a good light read to intersperse with Tolstoy for now.

And thus descends the bell jar.

I finished The Bell Jar. It was awesome. Not so much for the plot (because, let's face it, reading about a girl going crazy and trying to climb out of that pit isn't exactly your heartwarming tale) but because, as I've already mentioned in previous posts, so wonderfully well-written. Her book had me literally cringing at many moments, feeling so terrible for this poor girl and what she was going through. It was an easy read, but difficult to get through because of her adeptness at describing Esther's world. And I seriously can't get over that once upon a time, they thought electroshock therapy was a good idea. As a psych major, that reminder of the past of psychiatry still shocks me (no pun intended, hardy har har). I feel terrible that Plath herself had to endure this, and obviously it didn't do her a whole lot of good. It makes me very sad for her, reading this book that ends on a reasonably hopeful note, and knowing that the end of her story isn't so happy. That she couldn't conquer her depression, that the bell jar descended upon her again. This book was so well-written in its prose, it's such a shame she was never able to complete another novel. Now that I've discovered her, I completely mourn the loss of her. I know, I am a dork.

Now I'm tired. To bed.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Where I complain about applications and secretly display alma mater pride.

I miss those days where you could look at your SAT scores, look at your GPA, match it up with some columns in the big book of college stats, and figure out exactly where you could or couldn't get into ("I'll never make it into Yale, but I'll definitely get into Colgate, and let's throw Georgetown in just to see."). Instead, I have listings of hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of creative writing programs, with no idea where I might have a shot at getting in, where I should probably avoid (though I have a clear idea of what might be a complete stretch, what with acceptance rates of .5%). I forgot how much I hate applying to schools.

Speaking of schools though, my undergraduate alma mater has a sizable number of well-published writers, and a pretty great creative writing program. I've given myself a couple of good kicks over the years for not having taken more advantage of it, but this is what happens when you opt for a psych major over an English major, only to be told you can't do a "creative writing concentration" for a minor.

One of our alumni (and a current professor of my college) just came out with a new book. And is giving a reading this week. Except I just realized that if I posted the info, a sliver of detailed personal information would then be available to the general public. So I'll sit on this and ponder. I'm quite proud of the accomplishments of our esteemed alumni, and I tend to (in conversation with friends) point out "So-and-so is a XXX graduate" when a name gets dropped, but I may just have to learn to deal with reining in that urge on this blog. Alas.

**No, it's not Colgate, where I would have ended up had I not recieved my acceptance from my school (the last of the packets to show up), nor is it Yale, where I didn't apply, nor is it Georgetown, who waitlisted me and made me mad since I didn't want to go there in the first place thanks to a pompous old man who interviewed me and caused me to have an immediate dislike for the place.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Quarter-life crisis or the beginnings of depression?

I love this fig tree description/analogy Sylvia Plath gives. I mean honestly, up to this point, I'm almost like, dude, you're not suffering from depression. You're suffering from quarter-life crisis!

I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story.

From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out.
I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.
--[pg 62-63, The Bell Jar]

I think that's a marvelous little scene, this imagination of hers swimming before her eyes, her own doubts and crisis turning into visual metaphors in her mind. Later on, as she begins to sink into depression, she starts having a similar ADHD about her goals and the things she wants to do, except it gets more neurotic. Here, at least, it still seems normal - a young woman with too many options, and unable to make up her mind about what path to take. I feel like we all go through this because we think about how we only have one life, and we want to make the right decision to set us on the path towards that ultimate goal. Life, for some reason, seems so incredibly inflexible, as if, if you don't make up your mind now, you'll be screwed for life. But I've just arrived at the end of the chapter where you finally see her falling into her depression. And that, I must say, is incredibly well-done too. I feel the depression, the hollowness, sinking through me as if it were me. I'm becoming enamoured with Plath.

Another reason I heart Barnes over Borders.

Yes, I don't even want to ever SEE the book. Disgusting.
[I won't even dignify this book with it's own label. Blech.]

Barnes & Noble won’t stock O.J. book in stores
Will sell ‘If I did it’ online, rival Borders will carry it, but won’t ‘promote’ it
The Associated Press
Updated: 2:11 p.m. ET Aug 21, 2007

NEW YORK - If you're hoping to buy O.J. Simpson's "If I Did It," don't expect to find a copy at Barnes & Noble.

Citing a perceived lack of customer interest, the chain said the book would only be available by special order or for purchase online through Barnes &

"Our buyers don't feel there will be enough of a demand to carry it in our stores," Barnes & Noble spokeswoman Mary Ellen Keating told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

A rival chain, Borders Group Inc., said Tuesday that it would stock "If I Did It," a fictionalized account of the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. But spokeswoman Ann Binkley said Borders "will not promote or market the book in any way."

Simpson's book was originally scheduled to be published last November by ReganBooks, an imprint of HarperCollins, with an announced printing of 400,000. But "If I Did It" was dropped in response to widespread outrage. ReganBooks founder Judith Regan was later fired and her imprint disbanded.

Last month, a federal bankruptcy judge awarded rights to the book to Goldman's family to help satisfy a $38 million wrongful death judgment against Simpson.

Beaufort Books, a small New York-based publisher, is reissuing "If I Did It" in October, with Simpson's original manuscript intact and commentary included. The Goldman family is calling the book Simpson's confession — the same description Regan offered in justifying the original publication.

Denise Brown, Nicole Brown Simpson's sister, has accused Goldman's father, Fred Goldman, and other family members of hypocrisy for publishing a book that he had called "disgusting and despicable" when Simpson first planned to publish it.

Simpson has maintained his innocence in the 1994 killings in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles. The former football great, who now lives near Miami, was acquitted of murder in 1995.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Just because I'm competitive with myself and all.

I have finished 21 new books this year. This doesn't count my sneaking in HP re-reads and my little sister's kiddie books that I skimmed through while bored. I've completely slowed down in the past couple of months, which I attribute to a number of factors, such as the nice weather (which is also what I blame for my lack of writing output), a surge in stress and work at my job (I go home and all I want to do is glaze over in front of the TV), and lots of other fun things I won't go into.

That, and Anna Karenina is just incredibly long. It should count for at least 3 books, if not 4.

But anyway, my goal was 50 books this year (almost one a week!). Or was. But now down to the final 4 months of the year, I guess that's sort of unrealistic. I'll be happy with 35 at this point. Okay, 30.

Another useless post, but I forgot the actual interesting book news tibit I was going to share, so too bad for now.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Starbucks and Stardust.

I am in my favorite Starbucks in Union Square right now, trying to edit a story. Yes, I finally got myself out of my house and to start working... Except there is a man next to me talking to himself loudly, commenting on some news article he's reading, as if he were carrying on a convo with a friend who's not there. Starbucks is peppered with the crazies.

Anyway, I saw Stardust last night, and it was tons of fun. So I'm curious about the original book now. Anyone know anything about it? Is it any good? I've never read me any Gaiman. Not even the comics!

Skills with diarrhea.

Sylvia Plath is awesome. I'm only a little more than 50 pages in, but she's got a great knack for interesting descriptions. Her avocados are vibrant, her vodka is ethereal, and it's all just fabulous.

A line I really like, because I love sleep descriptions:

Slowly I swam up from the bottom of a black sleep.
--[pg. 51, The Bell Jar]

Simple, but hits it right on the nose.

But of all things I was most impressed by? Diarrhea! It's difficult to describe something so distasteful without being graphic, and yet still capturing all the discomfort of it.

I sat on the toilet and leaned my head over the edge of the washbowl and I thought I was losing my guts and my dinner both. The sickness rolled through me in great waves. After each wave it would fade away and leave me limp as a wet leaf and shivering all over and then I would feel it rising up in me again, and the glittering white torture chamber tiles under my feet and over my head and on all four sides closed in and squeezed me to pieces.
--[pg. 36, The Bell Jar]

Hee hee. Doesn't that make you squirm a little? So perfect in capturing the pain that often comes with a bout of stomach poisoning, without being graphic in the actual output.

[Those people who arrive at my site by way of poop searches... this probably doesn't help get rid of you, does it?]

This novel is nice and short so I hope to be done with it soon. But I'm really enjoying it so far!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

I just remembered...

So a little while back, I went to go hear Nicole Krauss and JSF read at a little bookstore in Brooklyn. If you've read my earlier entries, you'll know that I have a fairly unnatural obsession with them. Okay, maybe not unnatural. It's just that I'd like to be them. A couple of writers, married, living in Park Slope, with a kid and a dog. Oh, and not just any writers, but young, acclaimed writers. I don't know, maybe it's not glamorous or anything (right, because winning literary awards isn't cool or anything), but it's the kind of life I'd like for myself in my ideal world (well, my ideal world also includes winning the lottery so I never have to worry about money ever again - I did buy a ticket for the megamillions today!).

Anyway, besides the point. At this reading, Nicole read from a short story of hers called "From the Desk of Daniel Varsky". Read aloud in her quiet, affected voice, the little excerpt caught me the way I think good writing should. What can I say? For all the hype/criticism/controversy, I do love her.

Well, it was set to be in the June issue of Harper's. I actually went so far as to pick it up when I was waiting on line at Whole Foods. But then I looked at the price tag and thought how silly it was for me to buy a magazine just for one story.

Well, now I want that story. :(

Two random, unrelated book thoughts thanks to Barnes browsing.

After copious amounts of food (savory Setagaya ramen and delectable Kyotofu desserts), I am back in my apartment, all ready to.. um.. work.

Yes, I should be either working on my applications, studying for the GREs or writing/revising my stories. But it's Friday night, the tummy feels full and sleepy, and blogging just sounds so appealing.....

Today I went to Barnes with the full intent to buy a GRE book, but the options overwhelmed (Kaplan? Princeton Review? DVD? No DVD?) and I chickened away. Of course, instead I had a small book accident (more like a little slip), and acquired two new books that will now be thrown atop the never-shrinking pile of "books to be read" on my desk. Hello, my name is Angelle, and I am an addict.

Anyway, this isn't a post about my dependency issues, because although I clearly have a spending problem when it comes to books, I also have no desire to change, and as we all know, accepting you have a problem that needs to be changed is the first step towards cure. Well, I frankly don't want to be cured. Find me in a couple of years when I'm officially a starving, unemployed writer, and then we'll talk (remember when in La Boheme they start burning their books for heat??).

What I do want to just jot down are two thoughts I came across today at Barnes.

#1. Eileen Goudge is playing the marketing game. Back in the day, when I was starting to make the crossover from children's books to adult genre paperbacks, one of the first books I picked up (after a failed attempt at The Firm - hey, I was 11!) was Eileen Goudge's Garden of Lies. I loved that book (and had my first taste of racy sex in novels) - babies switched at birth, love triangles, hidden family secrets.... what was there not to love? [I'm a sucker for the easy drama of hidden family secrets that have yet to be exposed. Books like Memory Keeper's Daughter are an easy sell to me.] I cried and cried for Rose, the blood daughter sent to live with a poor family, and the injustice as Rachel, the other girl, managed to take everything from her that was rightfully hers, even her one true love. My pre-adolescent heart was smitten with this story, and for awhile, I snapped up any novel of hers I could find in the library, which wasn't very many. Her covers though, all had this sort of "secret garden" mass-market vibe to it, clearly identifiable, very genre, without being clearly anything like "romance" or "mystery" or what have you.

Today, I walked by her name in the fiction section though, and her name was plastered on the cover of something clearly identifiable as chicklit, which, if you've read carefully, I abhor. Now, I haven't read her books since I was about 14 or 15 maybe, so I can't tell you if her themes are still the same, or if she's decided to try her hand at chicklit. I can't tell you if the cover is plastered on there to make it more easily marketable to her supposed target audience, but actually is something quite different, or if she really falls neatly into that category. Hell, I can't even tell you if her writing is any good, because, well, frankly at 11-15, style wasn't exactly something I cared about much. I actually kind of thought "literary" writing was kind of snobby and stuffy, what with all the supposed "themes" and "symbolism" and all. But that's besides the point. I just thought it was interesting. The cover is sooo... Emily Griffin (Something Blue). Um... a rattle? A ring? White space (or rather blue)? Clean century gothic (or something like it) font? Totally stopped me in my steps for a second. Just interesting to see how an author evolves to stay in the game.

#2: Ooh so Junot Diaz writes this short story to get us to care about his characters? Junot Diaz's book The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is officially on shelves. I'm not sure when this happened (be on top of these things, Angelle!) but it's there, because I passed it today. Reading the jacket flap, I realized (as I somewhat suspected, but now confirmed) that "Oscar" in his book is the same "Oscar" in his recent New Yorker short story. Except that his short story was from the viewpoint of his older sister (they say "rebellious" in the copy, I say "crazy") who runs away and eventually (pages and pages later) ends up in the DR. Oscar gets little notice, he seems kind of sweet and innocuous, caring about his sister but not really quite sure what to do. I picture the nice chubby kid who stares at you openfaced whenever you do something surprising. Anyway, I didn't take to the short story so much (titled "Wildwood" if I remember correctly - it was in the same summer fiction issue as the delightful Miranda July), because I felt it dragged and dragged and never went anywhere. I really felt like he didn't think it through at all or anything. And now it's clear that it was probably hastily written and put into the New Yorker to help create buzz for his forthcoming novel. *shakes head* I mean, sure, it's kinda interesting, if were to read this new novel and love the characters and all, that there's this backstory from his sister's point of view. But really, if anything, this poorly constructed story dampened my appetite for the novel; if anything, the idea of spending 350 pages with these characters is just a really unappealing thought. And that's too bad, because I really wanted to like Junot Diaz. It's just sad to me, when I read things like that in the New Yorker, because while it may be to authors what a front page story in The New York Times is to PR professionals, the commercialization is almost a little too much to take. I'm sure Oscar Wao is a perfectly good book in its own right, but that flagrantly timed promotion sort of backfired, at least for me. I mean if you're going to use the magazine as a publicity tool, at least make sure the story is solid. It wasn't and sadly, Diaz's book is falling low on my list of to-reads.

Anyway, last but not least, I just wanted to say, Anna Karenina is taking me so freaking long to get through, and I'm starting to, you know, lose confidence in my ability to fly through books. To bolster my thinning ego, I've started (on the side) Sylvia Plath's Bell Jar which my coworker kindly lent to me. It's nice and short, so I figure I can get through it fast, and not feel so bad that I haven't finished a new book in like two months now (rereading every single Harry Potter doesn't count).

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Combining two of my passions.

I have two passions in life (three if you count food). I've struggled to reconcile myself with the two, trying to figure out how to fit both into my life or how to balance them. The two passions I'm talking about are 1) writing (duh) and 2) for lack of a better term - fighting the good fight.

Yes, yes, laugh all you want at my idealism, but there's something about working in an orphanage, doing community service, joining charity organizations - it makes you believe that you can help improve this world, even by a little bit, and I've always wanted to be part of that. Most of all, I'm interested in work to help children, especially orphans, and work in public and global health. Because I believe children have a right to be children and have happy childhoods, and because I believe health is the #1 most important thing a human being can have. I feel strongly about these things, and so for a long time, I've wanted to do something important, relevant, something that would benefit those less advantaged than me. Save lives. Make kids laugh. That sort of thing.

In the past year and a half, I've been struggling with this, mostly because while writing felt most right to me, in the basest, instinctual way, it also seemed incredibly selfish. I tried to figure out what path to take in life, career-wise, that would do the world the most benefit. I looked into non-profit organizations, I thought about going back to school for public health policy. And more than anything, I wanted to go to Vietnam for a few months and work with the orphans myself. But the pull of writing was so great, and while I was trying to figure all of that out, I kept writing and writing, and one day it just clicked, that this was who I was, this was my calling, and there was no way I could turn my back on it. And I felt happy, having figured it out. At peace with myself, finally. I could still go to Vietnam, I could still do charity work on the side, and maybe once I got into a groove with writing, I could divert my attention back to the bigger issues. But selfish as it was, there was no way I could deny the affinity I had for the word. This is what I wanted with my life, at least for now.

I have no doubt in my mind that there's a place in my life for the good fight. I look at my mother, who in her midlife, works extensively with orphans in China. She's always had an affinity for this kind of work but never had the time when we were growing up. Maybe right now is the time in my life when I need to settle myself, be selfish. You know, put on the oxygen mask first before helping others. I'd like to think that's what I'm doing right now. Self-actualizing a little bit more before I put on the big guns and try to save the world. [I'm idealistic, I know. But I hope that doesn't change.]

Anyway, the only reason I mention this is because, this January, a friend of mine passed along information on the HOW Literary Journal - HOW standing for Helping Orphans Worldwide. The journal aims to raise money for orphanages across the world, and this year it's focusing on an orphanage in Ethiopia. The journal now has a website, and its first issue is coming out in September.

I wish I had polished something in time to submit to this journal, because, well, it's a marriage of the two things I love the most. I think it's worth looking into, worth submitting to (because even though the fee is $5 to submit, it goes towards these orphanages, and getting into the journal gets you a pretty nice fee), and even worth subscribing to, because of the fact that they money is going towards these charities. It probably doesn't raise a lot, that the money isn't much, especially when you count all the overhead. But I think there's something to be said about taking a seemingly self-involved thing as writing and helping it go towards a bigger cause. I applaud the effort, and can only hope it grows and develops over the years...

Having said that, I'm definitely going to start submitting for their second issue.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

No, I don't think this is what you were looking for. I don't know what would be, but it's not this.

Completely not book-related, but I felt I should mention that it disturbs me that my site is often found by people doing google searches for "dress up poop". I'm not really sure why those words are put into the search engine together (ever!) but I guess this is what I get for using the concept of shitting words in my blog title.

Speaking of flinging shit, next time you get a rejection letter from said agent/publisher/editor/literary journal/prospective employer/prospective client/assholes of various types to whom you might owe correspondence, consider sending these lovely notes with a personalized message written in black fountain pen.

Double standards.

I'm cutting my writing class today. I've never cut my writing class before, ever, but the teacher is so unbearable, that I just don't think I can go through class today, when I'm as cranky as I am. The submissions for today are also only 4 pages and 8 pages in length, which means that workshopping will go by too fast and then we'll be left with hours of snoredom. Thus playing hooky for a class I paid good money for. [I kind of want my money back.]

Aside from that, I wanted to point out something that really bothers me when I was reading Anna Karenina. The double standard in society, any society, it seems back before women's rights and all.

The novel opens up onto the scene of an adulterous affair revealed. Poor Dolly has been cheated on. She doesn't know what to do. The household is a mess. Stiva isn't really sorry he thinks to himself, he's just sorry that he was caught. (Ugh.) Anna comes by and tries to make them make nice. And eventually they do. That simple. Well, no. Because then later Dolly and him fall into disarray again, and she thinks how unbearable it is that he doesn't love her, bla bla bla. It's all a very terrible situation. And the poor woman at the center of it doesn't really have much to do it seems, other than bear it.

Contrast that with Anna's infidelity. When at last her husband finds out, he can carefully consider all the options. Divorce? Separation. A duel? Ultimately he decides to stay with her. Why? To punish her! He wants to prevent her from going back to Vronsky and being happy! (I haven't read beyond this point yet so I don't know how that goes over, but given that there's 500 more pages, I wouldn't imagine too well.)

It bothers me to no end that this is consistent through many cultures - men cheat, and it's okay. Women can't say/do much (although at least here, Dolly is allowed to even give him the silent treatment and be upset). Women cheat, and they get punished. Even now we have the player vs. slut prototypes. A guy who sleeps around is almost normal while a girl who does is pretty much a whore. This world has been a man's world for too long, and the injustice of it makes me mad.

Beaufort huh?

Note to self: stay away from this publisher.

My question is - will If I Did It be marketed as fiction? Speculative memoir? Mystery? What genre does something this sick fall into?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Why why why

......... is OJ's IF I DID IT book getting a publisher? I mean REALLY. It offends my senses, and reminds me of everything ugly about the publishing industry.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Growing up with Judy.

Ooh! So I've been meaning to do a Judy Blume post now for several days, and things keep popping up about her everywhere. Publicity everywhere, and it's not even that she's come out with something new but that someone else wrote something about her!

Okay, let's backtrack. If you're a girl (and even if you're not) who grew up somewhere around the past 20 years, you will remember Judy. You will remember when Fudge swallowed the turtle (that was very sad) and the x-ray with the little guy inside. You will remember the mantra that would change your life by attracting the attention of boys all around school - "I must, I must, increase my bust!". You will remember Sally and all her crazy soap opera-esque daydreamings. And the cryptic signature she used that didn't make sense at the time - "Love and other indoor sports" (I used to get this image of people playing tennis inside, popping balls over coffee tables with cartoon hearts dancing above their heads. Now the phrase makes much more sense). And on and on and on.

Judy Blume explored very real problems that very real children dealt with, in simultaneously heartbreaking yet funny ways. Adolescence, puberty, sibling rivalry, divorce, being bullied, friendships, just plain growing up... Everything under the moon. And as a kid, I identified with all of these characters (I saw in Fudge the devil of my own little brother), appreciated that someone understood how I felt. Judy knew how much it sucked to have a little brother that seemed angelic. Judy understood how hard it was to be growing up an underdeveloped girl (although I didn't understand the eagerness for the defining monthly friend... as far as I was concerned, it could never happen for all I cared. I still stand by that opinion). Judy got it, and so did her characters. They were like me. When I was younger, I didn't go to ym or Seventeen for advice - I went to Judy. I cracked opened her books and looked for understanding, empathy, and a way to carry myself. Maybe not consciously, but I know for sure it made an impact on me.

Even her "more mature" book (and so controversial, as I understand it), Forever, had an impact on me, as I broke up with my first serious boyfriend out of high school. This quote in particular just sounded so on the mark at the time, like she just really got what it was like to be in a relationship at a young age. She never simplified it or wrote condescendingly about it. She wrote it like how it really was, like she got how important and yet difficult relationships were when nothing was permanent and you were young and you were still trying to understand yourself, and yet you felt like you had all your heart to give.

I wanted to tell him that I will never be sorry for loving him. That in a way I still do- that maybe I always will. I'll never regret one single thing we did together because what we had was so very special. Maybe if we were 10 years older it would have worked out differently. Maybe, I think, its just that I'm not ready for forever, and neither is he.
- [Forever, Judy Blume]

So there's a new book out edited by Jennifer O'Connell called Everything I Needed to Know About Being a Girl I Learned From Judy Blume. It's a bunch of essays on how Judy Blume's works have also impacted other women, writers themselves now, throughout their lives.

Very cool is that BN has an online book forum to discuss the book, and Judy herself has signed on. If you go to Pub Rants, Kristin has written a great post on how Judy herself showed up to Jennifer O'Connell's event.

And just in case you aren't Blume'd out yet, Paper Cuts did a q&a with her today.

And I wonder why I can't get my stories placed.

This is completely not book-related, but it's rainy today, I had a shitty commute, I'm going through some tough personal issues, etc etc... and the following just totally made my day by its absolute ridiculousness.

I bring to you an important news clip from South Carolina (WYFF-NBC if you wanted to know):

Giant Missing Muffin Found, But Now It's Toast
Prodigious Pastry Now Puddle Of Plastic
POSTED: 2:43 pm
EDT August 9, 2007
UPDATED: 9:46 am EDT August 10, 2007

GREER, S.C. -- A giant muffin that disappeared three weeks ago has been found, but the story doesn't have a happy ending.

The 4-and-1/2-foot-tall plastic pastry was stolen from a Bloom supermarket in Greer on July 19. Store managers said that the massive muffin was an important piece of company history and was worth about $4,500. The muffin made road trips around the Upstate as part of the supermarket chain's promotional campaigns.

Bloom Assistant Manager Joe Henderson said that the store filed a police report and offered a reward for the muffin's safe return.

Greer police said Thursday that there will be no safe return for the muffin. It was found burned into a puddle of melted plastic.

Officers were interviewing several juveniles when one admitted to know the whereabouts of the muffin.

Police went to the location near Highway 414 and Highway 253 in Greenville County where they found the muffin burned beyond recognition.

Bloom officials have decided not to press charges against the three teenagers, ages 15 to 17, so the teenagers’ names are being withheld.

The resident who helped police identify the vehicle used to steal the muffin will be given a $300 reward by Bloom. The grocery chain will also match that amount in a donation to Loaves and Fishes, a Greenville-based food bank.

Now there is a very important public relations lesson to be found in this. Diseases don't matter, books probably don't either. However, a giant pastry going being Thomas Crown Affair-ed is of the utmost importance. I mean, after all, it is an important part of company history.

Good grief.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

If I were omniscient, I'd listen to hunting dogs talk too.

I'm on page 197 of this tome. Out of 817. I really won't be reading much else lately huh?

There's a horse race going on right now. Actually kinda interesting (much better than farming).

But the thing I wanted to point out was, when Oblonsky went to visit Levin and they went hunting, there was a moment where Tolstoy had us slip into the DOG'S mind!

'Found a fine time to talk!' she thought. 'And there's one coming... There it is, all right. They'll miss it...' thought Laska.
--[pg. 165, Anna Karenina]

Wow, I mean, when they call it the omniscient third, I guess it's REALLY omniscient.

Oh, it's not me, it's the American publishers.

Ooh. Okay. Well this entry on Vulture explains (ie: gives me an excuse) as to why I haven't heard of some of the long-list books: they're not all available in the US!

The blog also gives a breakdown of some of the murkier ones... Oh those British people. The wonderful country that brought us Harry Potter and scones with clotted cream during high tea (two equally enjoyable delights). You have succeeded into tricking me into thinking I wasn't smart, the same way I feel sometimes, when I talk to someone speaking in a British accent. "Call you later, homie" just doesn't sound the same as "Shall I give you a ring later on this evening?" I'm also partial to "lift", "aircon", "carpark" and "queue".

No really.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

And by the way, aren't longlists supposed to be... well, longer than this?

Man Booker longlist posted today [thanks galleycat]:

Darkmans - Nicola Barker
Self Help - Edward Docx
The Gift Of Rain - Tan Twan Eng
The Gathering - Anne Enright
The Reluctant Fundamentalist - Mohsin Hamid
The Welsh Girl - Peter Ho Davies
Mister Pip - Lloyd Jones
Gifted - Nikita Lalwani
On Chesil Beach - Ian McEwan
What Was Lost - Catherine O'Flynn
Consolation - Michael Redhill
Animal's People - Indra Sinha
Winnie & Wolf - A.N. Wilson

It's moments like these I feel like a bit of a sham because, beyond Ian McEwan and The Reluctant Fundamentalist, I don't recognize ANY of these books OR authors. It's shameful, I know. I'm not a pseudo-intellectual, I'm a pseudo-literati. Sadness. It's moments like these that I realize there are just way too many books in this world for me to read, and, not being part of some literati circle makes it difficult for me to keep up with all of these books.

Okay, but seriously. Someone tell me - have you read any of these books? Were they any good?

I have to admit, I read last year's winner, The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai (my first book read this year), and I wasn't all too impressed. So I'm not sure a Man Booker winner seal would necessarily be any sort of tipping point for me to pick up a book and read it. But at the same time, a literature prize as well regarded as that is still something to note. So. What say you?

Monday, August 6, 2007

Sorry for the sporadic posts.

Sorry for my lack of posts (or sporadic is more like it). The truth is, I haven't gotten much reading under my belt as of late (or not as much as I'd like) due to a slew of personal and professional things that have arisen. And the last couple of books I've just finished are actually books about MFA programs. Yes, that is correct: I've made the decision to apply to a few MFA programs this fall, just to see if it's even within the realm of possibility for me. This means that those of you who have experience about this process, please feel free to throw them my way. I'm feeling a little overwhelmed with the things I have to do (GREs??) and decisions I have to make (three recommendations? Where am I going to find that???) and research that needs to be done (um, where do I even have a shot in hell of getting into?). Because of that, what little reading time I've had has been consumed by other, not as enjoyable reading.

But never fear, I'm still pushing through, and I'll most likely have more random comments on Tolstoy soon. I really do love the book so far, it's just so long that I feel like I'm not making much progress.

Okay, and I confess, I've also been picking my way through the Harry Potter books from the beginning at night, a chapter at a time. So Tolstoy gets set aside for the daily commute.

I've also been trying to reread A Wrinkle in Time so that I can write about it for my YA/children's series with all of it fresh in my mind. I realize that the way I remember it as a kid may not be the way I might read it now, but I think it'd be even more interesting to notice that sort of distinction.

Anyway, this was an explanatory post more than anything since I feel like there are enough of you who read this regularly now that I feel I should explain my absences or pitiful posts. Maybe I'm deluding myself into thinking I'm popular enough that this matters, but hey, everyone has to have some delusions of grandeur.....

[I also owe some of you personal correspondence; you know who you are - again, sorry about that, but I'll try to catch up this week...]

Hope everyone had wonderful weekends!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Who cares about farming anyway....

I'm a LAZY reader. I really am. I unconsciously skip through long boring passages of description, and then often times, later find out that I missed a crucial detail. I want to go straight to the plot, the dialogue, the part that keeps moving. [On a side note, firefox's spell check function told me I spelled "dialogue" wrong and I got really scared that I'd been spelling it wrong my whole life. But no, firefox is just retarded.] This is ironic for the kind of writer that I am, who spends a lot of time on detail and writing descriptive passages, trying to paint the perfect picture, but what can I say? I'm a much diligent of a writer than I am a reader.

In any case, I especially hate it when there are multiple lines of story to a book (or a movie, or an Asian serial drama), with one being completely not central and oh-so-boring. I tend to do a lot of skipping, because I just want to know what happens. If it turns out later that the lines converge or the lesser one is actually incredibly important, I'll go back and reread, berating myself. I try very hard now not to do this, but sometimes, I must admit, I can't help it.

So I just forced myself through something like 15 pages of boring Levin farming talk. Sowing clovers and looking at cows and getting mad at people for troughs being broken. Oh god. I really don't care. I care a little when he thinks about Kitty, but beyond that, I figure this is somewhere where he needs to cutcutcut. Okay, fine, I'm sure it has some great historical context, this contrast between his farmer life vs. big city life, showing the backdrop of the times, etc etc. Very nice. But I really don't care. It could have been half as long and it would have been good enough for me. It probably shows I don't appreciate the finer elements of this masterpiece or something, but seriously. Yawn. Cut to when Stiva shows up on his doorstep already.

Laziness. This is probably why I will never get through Moby Dick or anything. And consequently, I'll never be able to pass off as even a pseudo-intellectual. Alas.

Another new literary magazine.

I've been extremely negligent of this blog recently. Sorry. There's a mess of things I've had to take care of.

I recieved a comment recently by Celia Johnson, editor of a new literary magazine called Slice Magazine. She left a website for me to check the magazine out. Of course, from a website alone, I can't much vouch for its content, but as I'm intrigued by Junot Diaz, with whom the magazine has an interview for their debut issue, I'm curious to take a closer look. I'm also interested by their little mission statement:

SLICE IS A NEW LITERARY MAGAZINE CREATED TO PROVIDE a forum for dynamic conversations between emerging and established authors. Slice is the brainchild of three book editors who have had a firsthand view of how difficult it is for new authors to break into the world of publishing. Our mission is to pave a space for these writers who may not have a platform but show the kind of talent that could be the substance of great works in the future. We are equally dedicated to elebrating established writers, whose work moves beyond the boundaries of writing to not only redefine literature, but to inspire new voices to grow. Slice magazine's first issue will be available September, 2007.

Sounds good to me. As a would-be writer, trying hard to break in, I think we need more of these mags to help us little people along. And we all know I'm a big fan of literary magazines, especially new ones. Looks like this one is taking artists, too.