March 4, 2012 § 14 Comments
March 3, 2012 § 12 Comments
It’s been full tilt around here since then, either with planning and studying work stuff, getting around the country for meetings, getting the household on track and on schedule, doing taxes!, having excellent time with HM (who is also incredibly busy) and time with the kids when they visit, helping our lovely Nor plan her wedding, meeting up with friends, catching the occasional show on the telly, catching a few winks and reading. (None of the activities listed in the prior sentence have been prioritized in any way. In fact this whole blog entry is a melting pot meant solely to say I’m here and haven’t completely given up on blogging.)
Oh, you’d be shocked and appalled at my reading choices but when you’re on a plane or in a taxi or just waiting in line for something, you’ll read just about whatever is at hand, or that fits into your purse.
I have returned to Franzen’s FREEDOM, though, intending to finish it because I stopped halfway through it months ago. He’s just so darn real but the book hums with a disturbing undercurrent. Can’t put my finger on it.
I’ve barely picked up my camera, either, not to mention the pencils and yarn that show up in my prior blog entry. Harumph. That’s about to change. Like the weather. This morning had that very subliminal hint of spring in it, with that moment, that color, that says “spring is not far off!” And my journal waits patiently on the desk. Have not done anything but cram pictures, tickets and other ephemera into it. I missed journal class for good reason – HM’s band had their premier gig at a local pub and tho’ it was a Thursday night, the place was packed. A far cry from journaling, it was great – yes, dancing!
I will now stop treating this like a wandering entry in my handwritten journal and will go for a walk with my camera.
And think of something to actually say, to share and tell you.
signed, Oh, the new road warrior
I gotta go find those pencils and some paper.
January 21, 2012 § 25 Comments
Because it’s still January, and also because I told Arti that I would do it(!), herein a quick reflective write up on (only certain) categories of “tops in 2011.” Of course this is entirely subjective and duly note that some of “things” mentioned herein may not have occurred/premiered/published within 2011 after all. I tend to arrive late at “what’s hot” selections yearly.
Top Books (a very subjective view)…
A Walk in the Woods – Bill Bryson ….I, too, am surprised to see this book at the top of my list. But there are two (subjective) reasons: 1) He writes about the Adirondack Trail, a great part of which includes my old stomping ground on the East Coast; and 2) he made me laugh out loud. And furthermore, it’s a book I wouldn’t normally pick up but it was a gift and it turned out to be a perfect gift.
The Help – Kathryn Stockett… and I don’t usually fall for “mass” bestsellers but there you go, I loved this book (as mentioned several times).
A Roomful of Hovings and The Pines – John McPhee…just happened to discover McPhee’s writing. The way he can write about the length of grass on a tennis court or what Pine natives think of outsiders will stop you in your tracks and have you reading every detail. He’s an essayist, a storyteller, a writer who puts a variety of things under a writer’s microscope and just goes and you can’t help but follow.
Truth is, when I look at the list of books I read last year, I am pressed to tell you that most were read for sheer entertainment, like page turners, easy stuff OR books on art and journaling!
PS And I did love Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand. I really liked the Major. He seemed to have the right moves at the right time. And all was well.
The New Yorker – still holding its (personal) top position on my magazine list but that’s because of its local, its pace, its ads, its embrace of cartoons and fiction along with Talk of the Town. The magazine, its covers, its staff are all stories in themselves.
Fast Company – this one rose quickly to the top of my list because it scratches a “professional reading” itch but moves and jumps and flashes around so that I don’t get bored with any pedantic pages.
GRANTA – love it. Introduces me to new authors. Makes me read stuff I normally wouldn’t. And the photo section is full of stories in itself.
VOGUE – ah, my beloved VOGUE. Still hangs in there but is slipping. It’s look/layout is heavy-footed; some photo stories are annoying rather than breathtaking and overall, other than some (Euro) fashion pages, it’s not taking any chances with its articles or photos. ELLE magazine may surpass the big V in terms of presentation. Still, thank goodness Grace Coddington is still chez VOGUE or the wind would definitely be out of the sails on this great old schooner.
Poets&Writers – This one is for writers who don’t need to be told every issue how to do something. This one goes deep, is thought provoking with its essays on “Why we write,” its updates on the lit mag world, its spotlight on authors you might have heard of but then again, ah, maybe not and its complete section on contests and awards. This magazine feels good; the paper is excellent, the layout is fresh and readable with decent visuals/graphics. I carry this one around for a couple weeks before I even start to read it. And then I save them all, dogeared and annotated.
The Descendants – Absolutely not a comedy though certain previews might lead you to think so and yet it was not without its comic moments, just as life would have it. I was surprised in after dicussion of the film how much I did really like it after all. We love to look at families and see what they’re doing, how they’re doing and how they interact. Clooney was good and quite good at knowing when to be silent in this film; the elder daughter had uncanny strength while her younger sister showed the certain delightful guilelessness. All due to the script. Well written, I say. And the setting, Hawaii, was a wonderful treat though not intrusive. (It could have been). Yes, you’ll get into money and greed and the big machine and the play of family politics and although you’ll guess the end, you will be satisfied for having been there for it and will be glad you met this little family.
Midnight in Paris – Nope, did NOT like this film at first. Thought at first glance it was kitschy. Then, it grew on me. After all, it throws every literary and artistic character from the Lost Gen (expats) at you and then unravels further back and you guess who’s who before they do some clicheed identifier (Hemingway wanting to fight, Dali being weird, weird, weird, etc) but I liked it after all. And will seek to watch it again. Thank goodness Woody Allen believes in a little magic; we need it. His version, a bit lighter than time travel (as in the Time Traveler’s Wife) is fun and we have some laughs while witnessing the truth of the movie: we all are prone to believe that the century/time period prior to our own was “better.” Watch it and enjoy. This one is worth owning, to play in the background during a party or even while you’re dusting and vacuuming.
The Help – I read the book first. Thankfully. I’m sure I’d think otherwise of the film if I hadn’t. But I was terribly judgmental as I watched it unfold on the screen before me, comparing it unwittingly to the book all along the way. Still I enjoyed it. I might have cast it differently, especially Skeeter’s part (Emma Stone), but they did it “right” after all, they did it correctly and they did a good job. I cried where I cried in the book (no, I’m not telling you where or why) and I laughed where the book also made me laugh. The audience in the theater that night was participatory, too, which is always fun – when there’s laughter or clapping and then a collective sigh at the end. The biggest difference between the screen and the page for this one? The movie ended and we left whereas when the book ended, I didn’t to leave/stop reading. The movie was thin; the book was not.
Cowboys and Aliens – omg, this movie was awful I loved it. So silly, such a mixture of excellent talent (Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig) and sci fi and westerns!!!!!! It derives from a graphic novel, if that helps understand its mongrel self. I loved it. Ridiculous, it was. And corny. But Ford and Craig saved it and yes, cowboys have a certain appeal. No one sits a horse better. Anyway, this was pure entertainment (with a touch of “impatience” because everyone works together against the aliens of course which is the way it should be but it’s so darn in-your-face.) Tra lala. This one still wins anyway: horses, dogs and children survive blissfully and our heroes come through for us.
Harry Potter 7/8
Pirates of the Carribean Part #4
Top Events – not “global” events (there would be so many)
Game #6, World Series
Game #7, World Series, and was there!
Roger Daltry presenting “Tommy” at the Peabody Opera House, STL
The wedding of Will and Kate
New Year’s Eve in NYC
New Year’s Eve in Nashville (both via TV; glad for the latter since it’s in our time zone – at last, a ball (or guitar) that drops according to our central time zone.)
Top food trends
Seaside cheddar cheese at Whole Food
Hmmm….so many more categories could be contrived here but that’s for another time.
Care to share your favorite (recent) book-of-the-moment with me? I’m all ears!!!!!!!!!!!!!
December 6, 2011 § 7 Comments
At last, to catch up with a workable holiday theme, to bring a little of this, a little of that to the holiday buffet of favorite things!
Herein, a journal. It’s a tiny little gipper, brought to me by dear friend Linda of Haute Loire, when she took a cooking tour in Tuscany. This is actually a little journal, about 4×5″ and with a long thin leather strap to wrap it all ’round. Nope, this one remains untouched to date. And it doesn’t play well on the shelf (due to its leather string.) But it’s the real ‘ting, all lovely paper inside begging beggging begging for some written words – no matter what they are, to dress it up and make in sing (which it would likely do with a marvelous Italian accent!)
Why so compelled to journal?
It’s an old art, if not an ancient one. The history of the practice will zip you right back to 10th century Japan (ah, those ladies of the royal court…who wrote).
Journaling endures. Not just because people have time on their hands (like the Bennett sisters) but are, moreover, driven by a need to record things, about the world, about themselves, about what they see and don’t see…about fiction.
It’s notable in the two different journaling classes I attend that the attendees are always asking what they should write in a journal, in fact, what IS a journal? Others don’t say anything. They might read what they’ve written…or not. They might ask questions and have done no writing. They might come clutching a notebook of some sort and hope for….other people to talk with about writing? I don’t know. I go to for inspiration. I am fascinated by the teachers and their very disparate approaches. I am fascinated by those who attend. And such stories come out!
Sometimes I write while I’m there. (This is allowed and accepted.)
I would say a journal, frightening or not in its blank blanc-ness, is the ultimate gift, to be explored, to draw the adventures out and onto the page for the writer to then re-enjoy.
The gift that keeps on giving.
December 3, 2011 § 12 Comments
It’s reading season. It’s writing season.
This is the next journal (above)…having just finished filling a custom-rendered beauty that Jeanie made for me (below).
Yet, if one were to gage journaling success on pages filled from Dec 1 to now, ah, well, then, I’ve a ways to go. And that includes travel time and you know very well that a great deal of inner thoughts can be accomplished on a plane. But I did not write. I read a bit, wrapped my scarf like an Englishman because the piped air wouldn’t respond to the “off” position, and I smiled, not insanely, just enough so people would know I was pleasant although I did not want to talk. (I’m not a plane talker.)
Yet the most writing accomplished in these three December days is lists! Xmas gift lists. Then I forget where I put them. I write them again. I switch purses, bags, wallets. I write lists yet again. I jot lists in journals. Which one? the one I always always carry? (tiny, and from Etsy) or the ‘overall’ one (the likes of which are pictured above)?
While I may have intended to get someone on the list a collection of Billy Collins poetry, that person might now, in the list’s fifth or sixth or senventh incarnation, be relegated to getting a souvenir album of the Cardinals World Series win. And yet I have forsworn getting all nervous and jumpy about the gift part.
So as I write and sip at the dawn of this weekend morning and gaze at the boxes of Christmas lights that will somehow spring to order and stage themselves for outdoor and indoor decor, and wonder about getting out there into the holiday fray, a great deal of which I really do enjoy, but moments in Blogland are holiday-precious and full of friends and friends-that-would-be if actually here.
So, as a writing “dabble,” the following notes from holiday wanderings during lunch yesterday and then last evening with HM:
1) It is possible to read HUGO CABRET while sipping coffee at B&N. Then…plan to see the movie which is compelling simply because of Scorcese’s work and personal take on it.
2) The Charlie Brown Christmas Tree available at various stores (this is not an ad!) is really rather charming and not too in-your-face to have sitting on your desk at work. (Needs batteries; the ones supplied didn’t work. I will therefore guess the song it plays is the one from the Peanuts TV special of yore.)
3) Stray cats this time of year are to be fed and watered, not shooed away. Same with the rotund bluejays and redheaded woodpeckers who suddenly prefer the black oil sunflower seed to the lovely suet that HM bought for them and their big old beaks.
4) Coffee gets a makeover every year during the holiday season with scents and flavors and creams and bits of things like peppermint and salt and pumpking and sprinkles. I think the barristas are a tad disappointed when I ask for a mere “tall coffee.”
5) Is anyone else getting all kinds of decorating ideas and then wondering when and how said ideas will actually be accomplished? I have an idea for a garland that does not involve going out to chop down or shop for live branches….hmmmmm….more to follow!
Happy Day 3 of Advent!
November 27, 2011 § 4 Comments
(photo courtesy of Google images)
Browsing the bookshop’s magazines, I found this site on the back of a magazine. It’s simple, clean, and just might strike your fancy, for literal or just-for-fun shopping…. www.owlsquarepress.com.
Who doesn’t enjoy an artful “bookish” thing?
August 27, 2011 § 20 Comments
This list is for Litlove.
Having once mentioned that I love books about New York, that is, that take PLACE in NYC where the city might even be a wee bit of a character itself, Litlove was curious, wondered what I might have on such a list, if one existed.
Here it is.
The list is chaotic and incomplete. It stretches from the extreme of chick lit to that of literary classic.
And I do not love all the books on the list, though I embrace them, for one reason or another.
I FEEL BAD ABOUT MY NECK by Nora Ephron… A true urbanite and also a master of comedic timing, Ephron’s essays are so human, and so huge in scope and so down to the detail as well, you don’t have to be from the megalopolis any of it.
SLAVES OF NEW YORK by Tama Janowicz… I remember the first page and how I reread it because I was not sure what she was really talking about (what? really?…I was young) or where such writing could be going. Part of the 80’s writers brat pack, Tama weaves story through stories. She is iconic to me; I love her for the time she represents and for the writing she put on paper.
BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY by Jay McInerney… Putting aside the fact that this was written in the second person singular, more or less a “first” in fiction, I love the book because of the story, the character and the time. The 80s in NYC were particular, and this book handles a microscope look at them. OK, and our “hero” is a fact checker at The New Yorker. Instant cred.
EMMA WHO SAVED MY LIFE by Wilton Barnhardt… I read this book in order to review it. It was long. I don’t remember all of it. It is modern in essence, and slightly lonely. It’s not a favorite, but I’m glad i read it, and it’s “New York” after all but you see the angst that has pervaded since coming in this story.
THE AGE OF INNOCENCE by Edith Wharton…Now you don’t want me to on and on about how great this book is. Because it is. No one does character like Wharton. And this one is a winner. It’s always interesting to find that a person who seems made of butterflywing fragility is, in fact, not.
A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN by Betty Smith… If this is too shiny-faced, it’s cuz it’s to be read when you’re in your early teens. It’s a classic for a reason. It always works; it’s always true. Call it a coming-of-age thing.
MARJORIE MORNINGSTAR by Herman Wouk…..classic, maybe a bit banal (it is an older book, after all) but worth it to sense the “fever” that is New York.
CATCHER IN THE RYE by JD Salinger… also classic. So much has been said about Holden, and his creator. I’ll leave it to the deep-rooted critics. (I just might prefer Adrian Mole.)
BREAKFAST AT TIFFANYS by Truman Capote…. and yet another classic. I have trouble separating the book from the movie though they are inherently different.
THE GROUP by Mary McCarthy I don’t know what gets me about this book. It’s dated. It’s terribly well written and the story is maybe timeless in its way, in terms of character and characterization. About a group of college friends and their moving on into the real world. This was also a movie, but don’t go there first….do read the book first. The many faceted Mary McCarthy…
TIME AND AGAIN by Jack Finney If I talk about this one, maybe it’s magic will go away. That’s how I feel about it. It was a gift from my Gran, ages ago. I read it maybe at age 15. I have that copy still. I own the sequel (what’s it called?) and I save it as a treat, certain that it will be as good if not greater than its predecessor.
SOPHIE’S CHOICE by William Styron I couldn’t finish this one. But the writing is beautiful, the first chapters which I waded through, though not innocently since I’d seen the movie, those first chapters are like swimming luxuriously in warm water.
RAGTIME by EL Doctorow This was, for me, the first time a novel put real characters in fictional situations – could you do that? I don’t know why I was so aware of that. Surely thousands of books had done that already. Still, I was fascinated. And delighted to have found Doctorow who I’ve read astutely since.
SKINNY LEGS AND ALL by Tom Robbins Ah, this was such a romp, such a myth, such a cacophony of real and surreal and ridiculousness and I completely enjoyed it. Robbins rocks!
THE ALIENIST by Caleb Carr – a mystery with more Oomph and sometimes more than Raw than I would choose to read BUT it’s well done and different, partly due to its time period. Actually had me kinda nervous; I don’t aldways do suspense and scary really well.
PEOPLE LIKE US by Dominick Dunne I have read all his books. His own story is full of life and death and tragedy and perserverance. His stars on the page are socialites and fools and hard workers, too. Some of his tales get thin as his books kept coming, but if you started with THE OTHER MRS GRENVILLE, it’s worth working your way around to PEOPLE LIKE US.
WINTER’S TALE by Mark Helprin I cannot tell you the plot. I can only tell you that every bit of it held me magically in thrall. The writing is as fresh as the story that is spun. Magic. That’s all I can say about this book.
THE GASLIGHT SERIES by Victoria Thompson Each book is named after a Manhattan neighborhood where a myster (murder) takes place in turn of the century NYC. Sara Brandt is a mid-wife of a blueblood family which drives her parents crazy. Frank Malloy is an Irish cop who is working his way up in the department. They are an unlikely pair yet fate, and crime, manages to throw them together, and the reader is always glad!
THE EMPEROR’S CHILDREN by Claire Messud…. I had to read it; thought it was really going to be something. It wasn’t, quite. Still it’s on the shelf, and I’d hand it to you to read if you were sitting here.
THE FIRST WIVES CLUB by Olivia Goldsmith… chick chick chick lit. This one is luscious nilth, neither good nor bad. It’s entertainment. A trio of women “get revenge” (in the nicest way) on their exes. Some comedy, some truth, some universality – to say more would be giving it too much credit.
THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA – by Laura Weisberger… ok, this one is chick lit to the nth degree. But there’s just enough plot line on which to hang your hat if you can stop snort/laughing at how many times the heroine is dealing with juggling coffee for the people in the office. I love the movie only because I am a nut for fashion and the film has a ton of it, not to mention good old Meryl Streep who breathed life into the so-called Anna Wintour part.
ONE FIFTH AVENUE by Candace Bushnell… Author of the original Sex in the City, her writing skills continue to improve while I hear her personality, in real life, does not.
BERGDORF BLONDS by Plum Sykes… Silliness perosnified BUT I’d read Ms Sykes for several years in VOGUE and rather got a kick out of some of her short pieces. Nothing anyone needs. Neither is this book. But it’s nice to see her try her hand in writing fiction. There is some fiction you read just to get to know the author a little better. Ther’s more to her than shopping for lingerie, I’ll give her that.
STUART LITTLE by EB White… I loved this book. Have owned it since I was 8 years old. Didn’t understand it as a kid, and still see what doesn’t work, what does. I take that back – it all works. And EB is a fabulous writer (moreover, his essays and letters!).
MANHATTAN TRANSFER by John Dos Passos… What happened? I dunno. Again, caught up in the rhythm of the language and the energy, overall, of the book. Give it a whirl – take it for a spin, even if you don’t finish it
WASHINGTON SQUARE by Henry James I cannot commend my fascination with this short novel. Other than it is character-based (such readers will know what I mean by that) and therein, held my interest through to its finish. I will always give James his due though he would likely smirk to hear my accolade.
Yes, there are more, but there are also those why decry overly long blog posts. Therefore, I’ll go make a pot of coffee and ferret out the next fine book.
August 11, 2011 § 4 Comments
Poets & Writers is one of my favorite writing mags. It’s a support system, an info ship passing across my mental scape, a collection of well pointed essays on the writing scene, a flash of what we can be and/or apire to on the page, a summary of what’s new, what’s right/write, what’s deeper than puffery, what to look at…
And reading from cover to cover, the temptation to write down (nearly) every book that is discussed or mentioned in writer bios as their accomplishments turns one’s head from thoughts of writing to a compulsion to read….ah, the passive side of writing, the sina qua non of mentors, the thrilling read to fill the gaps when one is dancing around one’s desk, eyeing a manuscript in process and getting ready to approach it. At such times, it’s grand to have P&W there, cheering one on, pushing sweetly from the content of its pages.
Here are some of the books mentioned, referred to and/or touted in the May/June issue…cuz I’m often one behind…and I think they belong on (my) TBR stack (and check out some of the links for photos, actual stories by refernced authors to read, some wonderful “author” blogs and the grand old etcetera , as ee cummings would say):
SWAMPLANDIA! by Karen Russell – novel – it comes off the her short story “Big Ava” in her short story collection called “St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Rasied by Wolves.” I raved about this story a few years ago. Just. such. excellent. writing. And…bizarre but excellent story.
THE WILDING by Benjamin Percy – novel
REFRESH, REFRESH – Benjamin Percy – stories
THE LANGUAGE OF ELK – Benjamin Percy – stories
THE WORLD BENEATH by Aaron Gwyn – novel
DOG ON THE CROSS by Aaron Gwyn – short stories
WHERE ARE YOU GOING, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN? by Joyce Carol Oates
BLOOD MERIDIAN by Cormac McCarthy – novel
THE THINGS THEY CARRIED by Tim O’Brien – novel
The above “grouped”works will have some violence in them but done with taste and class (sounds crazy, but it’s true), as in, not showing the reader everything that happens, only inferring it. These were used in an article on how to use violence effectively (if you are including it in your writing. Right – it sounds bizarre but it was a damn fine article and a lot of this country’s fave writers use violence in their writing, actually.)
THE END OF BEING KNOWN by Michael Klein – memoir – he’s a poet so I suspect his memoirs, and he has TWO of them already (see just below) are likely well painted.
TRACK CONDITIONS by Michael Klein – another memoir
THE SUMMER WITHOUT MEN by Siri Hustvedt – novel – this author is a student of the Brain and its various functions, quirks and amazingness. Curious. Worth giving it a whirl, methinks.
SILVER SPARROW by Tayari Jones – novel – she has some significant writing freinds, including Judy Blume. Look for her blog: tayarijones.com.
LIVING ARRANGEMENTS by Laura Maylene Walter – short stories (coming soon)
TEN THOUSAND SAINTS by Eleanor Henderson – novel
AMERICAN WEATHER by Charles McLeod – novel
Oh, there are more mentioned within the magazine’s pages.
And in a very wrapped-up, intense meeting today, another bookaholic who happens to be from the West Coast leaned over to ask if I’d read Kingsolver’s The Lacuna. Well, no, I haven’t. But the seed has been planted and I can barely wait to get to the library, hoping to cheat having to stack another book on the TBR stack. Yeah, sure.
August 3, 2011 § 13 Comments
Hot enough to dry the oomph out of a starfish..
Hot enough to turn the pages of a paperback book brown (‘specially if left in the car during the work day)…
Hot enough to say things out loud that you normally wouldn’t, like “whew” and then pluck at your clingy tee shirt…
Hot enough to buy iced coffee rather than the regular temp brew even though you’re oddly not a fan of coffee flavor in cold things…
Hot enough to avoid a hug…(yup, near blasphemy for this little hugger)
Hot enough to avoid retail therapy…(impossible to slide clothes on and off in this weather)
Hot enough to sit in a darkened room and watch a movie (though it’s at the bottom of you things-to-do list…
Hot enough to influence even your reading choices – beach books win over all literature…(temporary!)
Hot enough to get shy non-swimming friends into the pool to enjoy some wallowing…
Hot enough to lose your appetite…
Hot enough to imagine snow…
And hot enough to proclaim a timeout in your room, resting and reading some of those beach books, like:
MAINE – Courtney Sullivan (in process)
BEACHCOMBERS – Nancy Thayer (just finished – get a long laborious “B”)
THREE WOMEN AT THE WATER’S EDGE – Nancy Thayer (read years ago but nostalgia gives it an “A”)
FORTUNE’S ROCKS – A Shreve I loved this book; reminded somewhat of something Edith Wharton would write
BEACH HOUSE – Jane Green not my fave of her works but hey, we’re talking summer reads here and we’re loyal Green readers!