Cheating on the book I’m (still) reading…

January 29, 2013 § 8 Comments


Arti will  understand. I began reading ANNA KARENINA weeks and weeks ago, at the beginning of Arti’s book challenge. I don’t regret a moment of it, tho’I’ve lagged and lost in terms of meeting any deadlines. I still have 250 pages of that magnificent novel to go. And not allowing myself ‘to see the movie ’til I finish the book. Yes, people like to say to me, “But you know how it ends, don’t you?”  Sure I do, but it’s the getting there that’s so entrancing, so full of detail and delight in the million little things that Tolstoy does. Still when reading such a tome, one is allowed to have a break, to cheat on the book, to take in another book, as it were.

And so I picked up a picture book the other day at the library. That is, it’s made to look like one. Actually, it’s a graphic novel by Audrey Niffenegger. She’s quite the talent, she is. Those who have read THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE and HER FEARFUL SYMETRY have an idea what she can do. I had no idea she could draw as well and come to find out, she’s done two other graphic novels, too.  But this one, the one I just finished titled THE NIGHT BOOKMOBILE has the look of a child’s picture book and none of the angst-y edge-y appearance that many graphic novels of our time posess.

I read it, wondering how it would go, with some of the enchantment of a child, wondering, anticipating how it could unravel, what could happen, not sure what would happen.

Seems this story of hers was a winner in ZOETROPE, Coppola’s story magazine (which has since grown into writing workshops in his Central America rancho location as well).  So I read it, delighted, somewhat disappointed as I neared the end, due to the turn it takes.  I should have guessed it. Had I paid more attention rather than getting somewhat lost in it, I might have realized what Niffenegger was going to do.

Still  it was  a lovely break from ANNA, tho’in retrospect, yikes, they share a certain alikeness.  But I read it with a certain delight based on its shape and presentation, it’s faux return-to-childhood based on its looks.  At one point  I was turning the book on its side to see what novels and stories were pictured on the shelves drawn on the pages. (part of the fun!)

Now that I’ve had my little dalliance, I can return to the land of Anna and the inner turnings of the 19th century Russian mind which is, I suspect, somewhat different from that vast country’s thinking presently.

Oh, all that cold and  those grand layers of fine clothes and people stashed in huge country houses trying to live a high life, and hearts breaking and unbreaking.

But for her part, Niffenberger wasn’t humorous, either; her picture book is, in fact, a little modern-lonely, but worth the break from the usual  read to see what one can do with “story.”  (Note: the 3 images used herein are from Google images.) (Another note, hours later: I just corrected spelling of the author’s name; apologies.)




Moving around…

January 12, 2013 § 7 Comments

The trouble with organizing stuff is that once it’s all in a nice tidy stack, on a shelf or in a drawer, so much thought and exertion went into achieving that cleaning-and-tidying that you feel finished with it and may not return to any of the now-organized matter…whereas a lovely old desk piled with tasks and treasures in a more casual manner, off to one side in such a manner if it’s a very large desk therefore leaving workspace, offers up treats, surprises and reminders as you muck through it, all the while aware of and ready to tackle whatever is the major task at hand.


This is how far I’ve gotten…all the stuff that was on this desk is now covering a quarter of the office floor. (Yes, the desk is dusty. Yes, I like pencils though I don’t write stories with them. I use them for making lists.)

And this is not even one of those heirloom desks with drawers, cubbies, pigeon holes and open-out space. It’s a little black build-it-yourself Swedish design though I’m sure that if you examined it closely, there could be a made in china allusion.

Ah, the other issue with organizing (no, it’s not a new year’s resolution) is that it’s procrastination, keeping one away from the blank page that needs filling.

TIP: Get something on that first page, whether it’s a zentangle, one word written in large letters, a postcard pasted there or an arrow pointing you to the next pages! Then you can begin on the second page.  (this tip, paraphrased, comes from the book RAW ART JOURNALING by Quinn MacDonald.  Art and writing – so intertwined.)


All over the place…

December 31, 2012 § 21 Comments


The post-year wrap-up is all over blogworld and a great topic ‘specially for those of us (prob’ly just me) who hem and haw ad hilarium on what to write.  

And so I turn to books, more specifically, my top reads from 2012 as topic. Note: This list could vary, (as any bookreader will understand), depending on the day it’s assembled.

1. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
So now we have a new classic literature romantic couple:  it’s Celia and Marco. Sure, sure, sure, there’s also Isobel and Tsuchichi (or something close to that) and Poppet and Lainie and a cast of dozens and Bailey, the “real” boy and the twins and illusion, illusion, illusion.  I’m not gonna say “magic” per se: this book is not just abracadabra. It’s about creating and maintaining illusion, and two “battling” illusionists (oh, darn and now you’re thinking of those movies from a few years ago including THE ILLUSIONIST and THE PRESTIGE but this book bears little resemblance to those stories.
Further, do not mistake my enthusiasm for this book as a dictum to run out and get it; it’s not gonna be a hit with everyone.  It just happened to be the right book at the right time for me. And the storytelling is fluent – no bumps, no flaws, not missteps, no over or under telling.  It’s about a competition between two illusionists set in a competition from a very early age and the circus that becomes their platform as well as a number of characters who run in and out, populating the pages in some unforgettable scenarios.  Placed in the late 1800s western Europe and east coast USA, the book hits  so many right notes, you gotta love it. Well, you don’t “gotta” love it, but it’s worth a look, a try, a page…

2. Firefly Summer by Maeve Binchy
Long, long long storyabout an American with Irish roots who returns to build a huge honking hotel in a quiet village of his parents birth and the uproar it causes among young and old. This is a perfect  book to read on the road; it goes and goes and goes and you keep reading it because Binchy can do that with her characters. Lotsa fluff, lotsa humanity and charming overall tho’  this one has a few hard edges. Still we cheer for the little family who owns the pub by the bridge. And some of us read anything by the Binchy, whose work we will miss going forward.

3. The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King
The book got better and better as I went along. This is the first one in the Mary Russell / Sherlock Holmes series. Yup, a Holmes afficionado can love this “take” on Holmes’s life after Doyle stops writing.  If you love a British-y book, and Holmes and some mystery with a strong female character mixed in (and no, she’s nothing like Irani Adler), then ya gotta try this one.

4. The Little Stranger by Sarah Water. I kinda have a love/hate relationship with this book. It’s not scary, but it is.  And uncomfortable sometimes. And curious. And because it’s a book, it’s fiction, you think yeah, well, maybe everything will work out.  Ha.

5. Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon.  Just sit down and read it. The writing is great, balanced. Not too this nor too that. The story borders on myth but not like fantasy or anything. The story never lets up. Something on every page will make the reader sigh. Yeah, this doesn’t tell you anything. Just read it.

 6. Crossing to Safety– Wallace Stegner. Don’t know what took me so long to get to this book. I love it. I might not read it again, but I might. Everything about it was right, from the setting, the culture, the people and the story (ok, ’til the end, but honestly, what did I think was going to happen?), from the language and familiarity with some of the settings,  to its themes, it was a great book. It will always be a great book. I still muddle over the title and the story and the many meanings in the former relating to the latter.

 7. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See. I danced around this one for ages. Then an author I met at a reading mentioned See as one of her favorite writers. And Lisa D also spoke highly of the See books. Then Snarl gave it to me for my birthday. I always take his gifts so seriously, honor them knowing he thought about choosing them and then searched it out. So the book was a surprise, a pleasant one (tho’the story is full of things that are tough to take not being familiar with Chinese culture at the time it covers, nor even now, come to think of it.) Anyway, if you love reading stories for character and a glimmer of cultural insight, this one is a must.

8. The Flight of  Gemma Hardy – Jane Eyre meets Cinderella. But I read it and it wasn’t half bad. And I”m putting it on this list so you’ll know that I try to read currently current stuff, too!

9. Bond Girl – forgot author’s name but she’ll be back. She wrote a good book and I liked it. Bright, chirpy and set in NYC finance world, it’s hip and entertaining.

10. The Book Thief – Yeah, I was late to the party on reading this one, but after all, even when I thought I didn’t like it cuz I just didn’t like the narrator, it was  a fabulous book, for its ending as well as every one of its pages prior to the ending.

11. The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani – I LOVED it. Long, descriptive, plenty of good characters, turn-of-the-century time period, set in Italy and NYC. The plotsweave in and out, rather idealistically, to dish up a really good story which was right up my alley tho’ likely not for everyone.

12. I Remember Nothing by Nora Ephron.  I don’t remember when I became a Nora follower/admirer/respector. Maybe it was after “when Harry met….” or maybe it was after I read her “Crazy Salad Days” or maybe it was after I saw a film clip of her praising Meryl Streep. I dunno. I miss her, that’s all. And this book was her goodbye. I didn’t realize ’til I was finishing it. It is a great little book, with humor and insight and stuff about writing and writers and NYC…I’m so glad to have it on my shelf rather than a library lend. Highly recommended.

I read 34 books this year – doesn’t it make you wonder about the other 22 not listed here? The complete list ranges from lite lit to writers-to-learn from and stuff in between.

Here’s to books and here’s to a fine if not fabulous New Year!


Anna Karenina….Part 1, almost

September 30, 2012 § 6 Comments


I joined this read-along with Arti and others about two weeks ago, that is, a bit late (OK, very late)  but I’m happy to have a reason and some friends with whom to travel the books hundreds of pages. I am still in Part 1 and while such a confession should have me blushing (as many characters in the novel do on a regular basis), I’m happy just to be in it, like a marathon runner who might end up walking, due to a sore knee or a distraction like a cloud or butterfly).

We are preparing for a wedding in the family. Somehow this involves readying the house, filling the kitchen cupboards, cleaning up the yard and taking inventory of sheets and towels to accommodate guests who are flying in. And finishing reception details. And keeping an eye on the Bride. And there a lot of questions and logistics. And lists. I have the MoB’s ultimate book of lists. It’s just they’re in different note”books” so far.

So…what better time to pick up the novel Anna Karenina as a bit of a “challenge?” I haven’t read Tolstoy in several decades. And following on the heels of some of the fiction and political reading I’ve done of late, Tolstoy shines.  I am interested in every detail he provide (even to the type/species of oyster they will have at dinner) especially since his details center on character more than story, though he takes his time with story and I love the pace.  It’s wonderful, lets you be there. Every look, every blink, every bite at the table, every step, every excitement, every plunge and rise of emotion with each character. And yet, so abrupt sometimes to the point of a phrase like “He walked out.” He gives the reader tie to draw a breath.

I offer no details or quotes at the moment; I have run to the store, right now. But I am compelled to mention that the book is a huge world, and a massive writerly undertaking to which I react more than to the story itself so far.  I’m nearly to the end of part 1. That’s ok; onward.

It is worth it. And I have the same Penguin edition that Arti is reading and I like it. (Often, but not always important that the book has an aesthetic appeal.)


Book Confessions…

September 19, 2012 § 17 Comments

I want to read but it’s just not something you do in the middle of the day at your desk.
I want to read but instead decide to sleep on the plane.
I want to read but waiting ’til bedtime (11-ish) just doesn’t work out always when Morpheus comes flapping around doing his go-to-sleep-now thing.
I want to read but sometimes it’s just not polite, even if the conversation is boring, to pick up a book and begin.

I crave reading like I crave chocolate, or quiet time or a ride in the countryside.

Instead of reading right now, though, I’ll herein spill some book truths, confessions if you will..and you might want to pipe up on some of it..

FREEDOM by Jonathan Franzen. More than 15 months since I started it, I still haven’t finished it. The suburban angst and the “drifting”around of characters is disturbing (and truthful) to me and not the escapism I’m likely to seek after a 10-hour work day.
But the writing is fabulous, full of writing language and human insight.
Plus, Franzen is from here, from Webster Groves.
Plus, I have it on my Nook.

I am only now reading THE BOOK THIEF.
I am reading it because I think I should. (I wrote that line 4 days ago.) But now, more than halfway through it, I’m liking it. There is some sharp and excellent writing in it.
It’s not (just) for young adults.

I am only 4 pages in to THE HUNGER GAMES. I am not yet addicted. I haven’t touched it in four months. I thought I’d be done with it by now, talking about it at the water cooler, yapping about the movie, but no. It’s still hovering near the TBR stack. Along with its two successors. Blech.

As for some of the hefty classics including  ANNA KARENINA, EAST OF EDEN, CUTTING FOR STONE, MIDDLESEX, HUCKLEBERRY FINN, DANTE’S INFERNO, THE ODYSSEY, ULYSSES, CRIME AND PUNISHMENT, IN COLD BLOOD, and ON THE ROAD to name a few, I haven’t read ém and I don’t know if I will. Maybe with the change of the season… Though I’d say my heart’s not in reading them, I realize I might fall in love with them. That’s nice, to be on the precipice of (book) love, non?

I am hellbent to read the books that are in the house. However, I find my buy-books addiction leaking into the purchase of magazines instead. My habit has morphed.

The bottom line, though: if I’m reading, I’m not writing.



September 8, 2012 § 6 Comments

There’s so much to tell you…



“weather in a word…”

May 3, 2012 § 9 Comments

On the last day of our Gulf vacay, this sign was just outside a lunch cafe.

Funny how even a grey weather day on a vacay stint just doesn’t matter. 
You have, by now, relearned livingwithin Nature, embraced by it, wrapped up in the balm of walking around in the air, have learned how to be beyond the office walls, and you’ve rediscovered the relativity of time without a clock, including all the things you can do or not do within a day that doesn’t involve desks, meetings or email.

In fact, you’re likely to tilt your head skyward, close your eyes, open your mouth and taste the rain. 



Books read on vacay: 
Lucia, Lucia by Adriana Trigiani.  I like her books (see her THE SHOEMAKER’S WIFE on the bestseller list!) for their mix of Italian language, growing up Italian in NYC and the occasional inclusion of fictional relatives in Italy. It recalls hours and hours at my mother-in-law’s kitchen table in Brooklyn.
The Art of War for Writers by James Scott Bell  is a decent read with inspirational value, some strong recommendations and one or two esoteric exercises.  Yes, read it. Even if you’re not a writer. But if you’re reading this, you  probably are.
And then there are the magazines but much reading time was replaced by “friend” time because we holidayed with best friends and I cannot tell you how luxurious it is to drop in (a few floors down) for coffee with a BFF at the beginning of a day.

Do we not have something of the same luxury wtih our blog friends? Indeed!


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