Monthly Archives: January 2013

ISBN: 0-393-31929-6

 

I have a gust blogger this week, my best friend M. I let her take over my blog because I promised her, many a time, that I would join a book club with her. Well, that, and I love her. This is her first time ever blogging. She’s an optometrist by day and an avid New Yorker reader by night.  Be sure to give her ‘likes’ and leave her lots of comments. I know she has a lot to talk about when it comes to this book.

 

“Let’s start a book club!”  This was the wonderful idea that my best, C, and I had about two years ago.  Many books were started, many were mentioned, many more were purchased, and some were even read without the others participation.  But only one was completed by both and discussed by our great minds.

And how lucky were we that it was Invisible Monsters, by Chuck Palahniuk. I give a big high five to D for the recommendation.  It certainly gave us a lot to talk about.  What I find most interesting is that after reading the book, a moment occurred for each of us separately. A moment of, “what the heck did I just read?”

Invisible Monsters took us through the journey of the narrator, a former model, who lost half of her face during an accident.  It introduced us to characters that constantly try to be the most unique and dysfunctional, all the while commenting on how unoriginal the world is.  Their desperate drive for substance and originality created a space in which they all start to unfortunately be very much the same.

So we asked ourselves, “was that the message?”  Was the whole point of this flash back, flash forward, flash present plot to reveal to us how easily it is for us to be consumed with trying to be the most original, the one set apart?

An even better question was what was the main characters name?  We were able to name every character but her.  Were we just absent-minded readers with too much on our minds?  Is the author really that clever?  Was that the whole point!?!

To our surprise, looking back, she did have a name.  I felt that I had read this book cautiously as I wanted to be able to discuss it with my fellow book-clubee.  I thought that I had taken the time to really think about the main issues and what message was trying to be slammed into my mind.  Not once, reading this novel of 297 pages, did I even realize that I couldn’t indentify her real name.  And that is what makes this a great book in my opinion.  This novel has many levels that a reader can choose to delve into, and whether those were the intentions of the author or not, it succeeds in enticing you to give it another read.  Well done, Mr. Palahniuk. Well done.

Thank you for having me as your guest blogger this week.  I can now only further appreciate how difficult it is to put all the thoughts and feelings about a book into more than 200, but less than 700 words.  You’re amazing C! On to the next one.

 

*Image from: Amazon

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UNSAID V.6 N 1

 

Unsaid

Unsaid

This past October Husband and I went on a road trip to Ann Arbor, Michigan to visit EH, a close friend and fellow writer. No, we did not make it to the famous Zingerman’s Deli—which I am totally over, I swear—and despite the fact that I wasn’t able to convince Husband to let me purchase an antique chair from the Treasure Mart (It would have fit in the car! If we pushed…), I still had an enjoyable time.

Ann Arbor has that typical college town flavor mixed with, ‘I want to be more urbane, but there’s a farm ten miles away.’ There were so many funky local businesses that I just don’t have the space to highlight them all here (like a magic shop/sports memorabilia store in a somewhat creepy basement and one of the largest comic books stores I’ve ever been in). The only store that I must mention, because I found a yellow fashion scarf with swallows on it—the exact scarf I imagined Katniss Everdeen would wear if she had an MFA—was Heavenly Metal.*

Vicki, the shop’s proprietor can be seen here:

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And these are some of her wares:

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Because of time and space, I can’t go on and on about how funky the store was or the friendliness of the staff, but I will say this—if you happen to be in Ann Arbor, Heavenly Metal is worth checking out.

Between stuffing our faces and window-shopping, we had time to visit the State Of The Book symposium where I met David McLendon, editor of Unsaid, the journal of new and lasting writing.

I wanted to blog about Unsaid earlier, but after I read it, I was left speechless.

This journal is uniformly disturbing in a very good way, like walking though an art museum or reading a Miranda July story. Not only is it mind candy, but it’s a departure from the classic narrative, the stuff that’s getting routinely published every where else. The whole time I was reading it, I felt like I was eavesdropping on a smart conversation about art and our emotional response to it.  This volume of Unsaid contains fiction, poetry, lyric essay, and even a lecture from sixty-two different writers.

It’s a great place for up-and-coming artists to showcase their work, so buying a copy would be the equivalent to shopping locally.

That’s all I got on Ann Arbor, for now, but if you know of some more hidden treasures, please don’t be afraid to comment.

 

*207 E Ann Street, Ann Arbor, MI (734) 663-4247  http://www.heavenlymetal.com/

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AWARDS

It seems I’ve been given two new awards. The Reader and The Liebser. I like blogger awards because it makes me feel like someone is actually reading this thing. Plus, I think the awards are a good way to expand your reading audience.

Rules:

1. Provide a link and thank the blogger who nominated you for this award.

2. Answer 10 questions.

3. Choose 10-12 blogs that you find a joy to read.

4. Provide links to these blogs and kindly let the recipients know that they have been chosen.

5. Include the award logo within your blog post.

 

THE READER

ReaderAward

 

ONE: Thank you to Evan Kingston at Oldest Jokes In The World.

TWO: The Questions

 Your favourite colour? Blue

Your favourite animal? Can’t pick, love them all.

Your favourite non-alcoholic drink? Smoothies. Any fruit will do except papaya. Gross!

Facebook® or Twitter®? Molskine!!!

Your favourite pattern? Paisley.

Getting or giving presents? Making presents!

Your favourite number? 7

Your favourite day of the week? Tomorrow. There’s just so much promise in it.

Your favourite flower? Lily of the valley

What is your passion? Sharing ideas.

 

THREE & FOUR: I’m only going to choose 5 blogs. They are:

And Now I Can Die Happy

True Stories. 

Susan Hunter Mysteries

Donna Jean McDunn

… In progress notes on one writer’s life

And on to The Liebster:

Liebster_Heart

 

ONE: Thank you to Maddie Cochere over at Susan Hunter Mysteries

TWO:

1. What prompted you to start your blog? I wanted to read all of my books and there was nothing that seemed to make me keep a schedule except the idea of a blog.

2. Do you have a favorite book from all that you have read? Yes. A Farewell to Arms by Hemingway.

3. If someone would write a book upon your life, it would be named _____. Why ? Swan Feathered Sky. Because I’m currently writing it.

4. Who was the last person who made you laugh and what did they do? K. She yelled out, “Say What?” for no reason at all when we were shopping. You had to be there.

5. What is your favorite genre of music? Indie Rock. My Pandora station is called, “Writing For A Deadline.”

6. What are you presently writing? A novella called, “Evolution,” a short story, a novel with the working title “Loon Island,” and a memoir of my life.

7. What is your favorite thing to eat? Tuna ceviche or sushi. I could eat sushi until I puked and then I would eat that puke again.

8. How many blogs do you read a day? I read about 30 on Wednesday.

9. Do you own a webcam? Yes.

10. What is your favorite joke? Why doesn’t anyone play cards in the jungle? Because there are too many cheetahs.

THREE

The Amateur Librarian 

Bored American Tribune 

Shelf Life

Stuff I Tell My Sister 

Seyisandradavid

 

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ISBN-13: 9781441306234

RedLDiary

I don’t have a system for reading through my bookshelves. I try my hardest to read the books that were lent to me, given to me, or suggested to me first. This week’s book— The Red Leather Diary, Reclaiming a Life Through The Pages of a Lost Journal by Lily Koppel—got picked because my aunt sent it to me for my 30th birthday. This is the same aunt who once owned an independent bookstore, ate organic foods before they were trendy, and came out openly as a lesbian for as long as I have known her. She’s my godmother, and I love her very much.

She’s the first person who explained the sliding scale of sexuality to me, and at the age of nine or so, I learned that it was okay for me to like girls, too. Thank god for that information! My twenties would not have been as much fun without it. She was also the first person to take me to a farm to see how people make cheese.

So when this book came in the mail, I couldn’t wait to read it.

The premise of this nonfiction tale is that Lily, a twenty-something aspiring writer living in New York, finds a diary in an old steamer trunk in a dumpster on her way home from work. Lily becomes enthralled with Florence, the diary’s original author. She connects with Florence’s witty and passionate insights on life, New York, and the arts. A chance encounter with a detective provides Lily the break she needs to find Florence and interview her at ninety years old. The book is not so much a journal, but a story written in a straightforward journalistic manner about the five years that the journal spans in Florence’s life from the age of 14 to 19. The details of a 1920s/1930s New York are stunning, and for that alone I would recommend the book.

I wondered what would happen if someone found one of my diaries seventy years from now. I wondered how Chicago and Minneapolis and Denver would have changed, what people would think about my trips to Paris and London with an older man I met in Las Vegas. I wondered which of my friends would become famous artists, and laughed about my escapades in Mexico. I think a future reader would be so confused by my notes that they would likely stop reading after the first page:

I like the way my shoulders look. Why are bananas always thirty-nine cents? Guys with lip-gloss, dad with braids, Madonna girl, professor—people at Raven’s on a Wednesday night.

It’s not quite as insightful as Florence contemplating art or her bisexual encounters. Yes, bisexual encounters—she was way ahead of her time. But that’s not what matters to me. What matters to me, is that I was able to take a step back and look at my life, and see how fortunate I am.

I never chronicled all my kisses with Indiana boys on Indiana nights, nor my flirty dirty dancing with girls in seedy nightclubs, but I lived hard and fast—drunk on passion, and this book reminds me to keep living that way (only in a bit more mature and married manner).

Aside from the young writer thing, I think AJ sent me the book as encouragement for the blog. It gets pretty confessional around here. . . so in keeping with the theme of the book, and if this blog is something of a virtual diary for me, here’s my bisexual confession: I check out girls at the gym. Thank god for short shorts. What? We all need a little motivation on the treadmill every now and then. . . you know, keep the heart rate up . . . Holler!

Thanks for the book, AJ. You know me all too well . . .

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I was a guest blogger this week for … in progress. Check it out. 🙂

walking to bars ... in progress: notes on one artist's life

And now for something completely different.

Beginning with this entry I hope to have periodic guest bloggers. Maybe once a month. Maybe less, maybe more. This is something that I wanted to begin back in October, but life and schedules got in the way. So, new year, new adventures.

This first guest blog is written by my good friend Charlie , who is blogging her way through her bookshelves at her own blog, That Girl Who Read Books. I met Charlie during new student orientation at Hamline and then we started off our MFA journey together, sharing two classes that first semester (we finished it together too, last May). She is a wonderful writer and I feel privileged that I’ve shared so many moments in her creative journey. Since this is January and I’ve been on a little bit of a kick here about resolutions, goals, etc., I gave Charlie…

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ISBN: 978-0-14-303874-0

This Book Will Save Your LIfe by A.M. Homes

This Book Will Save Your LIfe by A.M. Homes

I was resistant to read This Book Will Save Your Life by A. M. Homes because I thought it was some sort of nonfiction survival guide or chronicle of the wilderness. The dramatic title and big cat on the cover turned me off.

E lent me the book over two years ago, but didn’t do a good job of selling it.

“It’s a good book,” E assured me.

To spend a few hours of my life twisted in a story, I need more of a pitch, so I never even bothered to read the back flap summary. If I had known the book was categorized under ‘psychological fiction’ I probably would have read it sooner. My main motivation for picking the book up again was to unclutter my bookshelf and give the book back to E.

This time around, I instinctively knew what I held in my hands was fiction. Maybe reading through my collection helped with that, or maybe I’m in a different place in my life now, but last week, strangely enough, the title appealed to me. It had urgency. It was like hearing a song for the hundredth time and finally understanding the words.

This Book Will Save Your Life read like a three hundred and seventy-two page short story. I couldn’t see the strings when I was reading it. That means I had no idea where the book was going, why characters were introduced, and I couldn’t untangle the plot before the final sentence. To say the book was random would be a gross understatement. There were fire ants, noise-canceling earphones, a horse in a sinkhole, a big cat on the prowl, a doughnut shop, and a middle-aged male protagonist who was just as clueless as the reader.

For me, the major transformation that took place in the novel was openness to life. AMH was saying, this is life; it’s rocky and uncertain, and it’s not guaranteed to anyone. The best one can do is go with it, take it to where it leads, and let those around know that you love them. In other words, live life. It seems easy doesn’t it? Perhaps. But first one has to recognize that they are dead inside, or disconnected from the rest of the world, and therein lays the trick, the irony, the beauty. Live life, and this book will save your life.

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ISBN-13: 978-0-393-32862-2

The History Of Love by Nicole Krauss

The History Of Love by Nicole Krauss

I couldn’t write a novel about the history of love because I wouldn’t know where to begin. I wouldn’t know how to transform that abstraction into something tangible. I would find the topic debatable. I understand Nicole Krauss’s urge to do so, and feel that by naming her book The History Of Love—which also doubles as the fictional book that her narrative centers—she is addressing like concerns.

The use of multiple narrators was a paramount factor in accomplishing this herculean task. Try explaining the sea only in terms of lagan. Now jetsam. And flotsam. But put these brethren together and one has a better idea of the sea’s enormity and power. It wouldn’t be a complete picture, but it would be a start.

NK weaves parental, romantic, and friendship love with voices both old and young in such a convincing way that she made me stop and meditate on the different loves in my life. This led me to wondering what my world would be like if I was taught to say, “I love you” the same way I was taught to say, “Thank you.” Would it cheapen it?

Sometimes I go to the grocery store and linger in the aisles just to be near people; writing can be lonely. In this way, I identified with many of the characters. I imagined myself looking at the girl who bags my groceries and telling her, “I love you.” Then I fantasized saying, “I love you” to everyone I know, the dog groomer, the post office attendant, my neighbor, a stranger. I wanted to mean it, not casually, but my imagination could only go so far.

It would be crazy if I went out and really did that, right? But The History Of Love connects strangers through love and the medium is only words. In some weird way it gave me hope that humanity could rewrite its history and learn from our mistakes because not only do we have multiple types of love that all hinge on each other, but we also have multiple ways of expressing this love.

At this point I should mention that while reading this story, half way through I got confused. My confusion stemmed from who the original author of fictional book The History Of Love was, and instead of trusting NK, I went over to Wikipedia. The ending was spoiled, but I came across a lesson I already knew—love is confusing and our mediums of expressing it aren’t perfect. And yet. We love.

NK’s larger message, for me, was learning how to decipher what our mediums don’t say. That space between words, that pause between touches, and how in its own way absence of love can be love—which is something I’ll think about the next time I’m in the grocery store, the post office, the dry cleaners. It all reminds me of this song- (click here).

I don’t believe there is a beginning or an end to true love, so I couldn’t write the history of love. Semantics.

And yet. I love.

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