- Fizzy Thoughts: May 2009

Free Reader

Friday, May 29, 2009

As the #BEAtwitty party winds down, it's time to dedicate one last song to all the partying tweeps who didn't make it to BEA.

If I tweet here tomorrow
Will you still remember me?
For I'm off to read a book now,
And maybe go on a Powells shopping spree.
But if I stayed here with you, tweeps,
Things just wouldn't be the same.
Cause it's time to read now,
And this reader you can't tweet to.
No this reader, she won't tweet.
This reader, she's done tweeting.

Good night, it's been great fun,
Though BEA would've been better.
But please accept my thank yous
Although I can't sing.
Even if I stayed here with you, tweeps,
It just wouldn't be the same.
Next year we should meet in New York
Although I will not sing for you.
Cause this blogger's going to BEA.
It'd be more fun at BEA,
If we all went to BEA.
See you at BEA.

***
Thanks Jo...this was actually a last minute addition to the line-up. And I'm sure everyone joins me in thanking you for the shortness of your choice! So, I'll be needing your address too, please!

Thanks to everyone who made a request...I'm sorry I didn't have time to get to them all. :-D

But if you'd like a chance at the mysterious door prize/parting gift/swag (because I still have a handful left), feel free to re-rewrite the last verse of this song. Leave your attempts at songwriting greatness in the comments, and I'll have Simon choose a few winners later this evening.

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I'm so twitty

DJ Fizzy B back again with another song for my tweeps. While I prefer the earlier rendition of Margaritaville, this one goes out to all you fans of West Side Story...

Softdrink:

I feel twitty
Oh so twitty
I feel twitty and unwitty and not okay
And I pity
All the other bloggers not at BEA today

At least I’m not farming
Or darning
It’s alarming how uncharming I feel
But so twitty
That I can hardly believe I’m real
See the book blogger on her computer there?
Who can that book blogger be?
Such a sad blogger
Such a bad blogger
Such a pity party
Such a pitiful me!

I feel like running
From this evening
Feel like running
And hiding my head
For I’m home
And all my books are read

Bloggers:

Have you met Softdrink?
She didn’t go to BEA, the hag
You’ll know her the minute you see her
She’s the one without all the bags of swag

She wishes she’s the press
She wishes she’s in NY
She’s merely a dork
Think of all the books
And all the bags
And the goobledygook
And all of the swag
Getting away from her

Send for Hamburger, oh no
This is not the Softdrink we know
Festival of Books, yes
Book Expo America, no
Book Group Expo, yes
Why didn’t she go???

Softdrink:

I feel twitty
Oh so twitty
How can BEA go on without me
Or Book Zombie
Or even Rhapsody
I feel dizzy
I feel fizzy
I feel fuzzy, somebody give me more wine
It’s not so pretty
When I start to whine

See the book blogger on that computer there
(What computer, where)
Who can that book blogger be
(Which, what, where, whom)
Such a sad blogger
Such a bad blogger
Such a pity party
Such a pitiful me!

Everyone:

I feel like running
From this evening
And hiding my head
For I’m home, all alone
And all my books are read

***
This time you should be thanking Rhapsody for making the show tunes requests...and providing the opening lines! She's also responsible for inspiring this atrocity. Rhapsody, I have a door prize for you, too, so please email me with your address!

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It's time to BEAtwittyparty!

DJ Fizzy B checkin' in, ready to spin some tunes for the #BEAtwittyparty. Let's kick things off with a little revision of Margaritaville…

Hanging on tweetdeck
Hitting refresh
Wishing I was in NY having a ball
Composing my tweets
Eating some sweets
Oh no I'm not jealous, not at all

Tweetin’ away again at #BEAtwittyparty
Sipping on my chocolate malt
Some people claim that BEA’s to blame
But I know, it’s The Book Lady’s fault

I don’t know the reason
I’m not at the 4 Seasons
Nothin’ to show but my last tweet
Gotta keep it under one-forty
So it’s a real shorty
Sure wish I was at a BEA meet ‘n greet

Tweetin’ away again at #BEAtwittyparty
Searchin’ for my best one-four-oh
Somebody give me an @ reply
So I know
Twitter’s not slow

I bought a new book
Ordered pizza so I don’t have to cook
I was ready to spend my night all alone
But there’s tweeps on the net
And it’s a sure bet
This song will make you groan

Tweetin’ away again at #BEAtwittyparty
Sipping on my chocolate malt
But I know it’s my own damn fault
Some people claim that The Book Lady’s to blame
And I know it’s my own damn fault

***
Many thanks to booklineandsinker for offering up Margaritaville as a sacrifice. As promised, I have a very small something for you...I just need you to email me with your address.

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Nite at the Movies (take 2)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

So last Friday's movie night didn't work out, but we're going to try again this Friday. Same bat time, same bat station. In other words...

When: this Friday, 5/29/09 at 7 pm Pacific time (after the #BEAtwittyparty festivities)
Where: watch the movie in your own home, comment at twitter - our hashtag for the occasion is #niteatthemovies
Who: everyone is welcome!
What: we'll be watching the 1949 version of Little Women. Why that version? Well, because it's available on iTunes ($2.99 to rent) and I couldn't resist the amazon description:


Erstwhile tomboy June Allyson stars as Alcott's famed heroine Jo, the budding writer in Civil War New England who pines for adventure, independence, and her own career. With Father off to war, it's up to Jo, practical older sister Meg (Janet Leigh), frail sister Beth (Margaret O'Brien), and vain sister Amy (Elizabeth Taylor) to help Marmee (a saintly Mary Astor) keep the home fires warm while dealing with the rigors of adolescence. It's all poured on with a generous amount of syrup, including lavish sets, hoop skirts, and petticoats, but anyone who's ever read Alcott's book will take comfort in its familiar story line. The dialogue is clunky but earnest, but you'd have to have a heart of stone not to get caught up in Jo's plight. And rarely do you get to see such stars go at it with such gusto: Allyson and Peter Lawford (as neighbor and rich boy Laurie) are a match made in B-movie heaven, Taylor is spunky and hilarious in an early comic performance, and Leigh does the matronly thing with aplomb. And nobody, but nobody, cries and suffers like Margaret O'Brien!

A word of warning...it can take over an hour for the movie to download from iTunes, so start your download early!

See you on twitter!

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A special song

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Since many of our blogging buddies are leaving for NY soon, and the rest of us are crying in our beers looking forward to #BEAtwittyparty, here's a little song in honor of the occasion. And don't worry, I've got a couple more planned for Friday night's festivities!

Favorite Things

Book bloggers at BEA
Friends who say see ya
Creepy vampires with fangs
These are a few of my least favorite things

Now…friends who don’t flitter
And parties on twitter
Wasting time rewriting cheesy songs to sing
These are a few of my most favorite things

Who cares about tweet-ups
And book blogger meet-ups
I’m staying home, yes me
To join the #BEAtwittyparty

When friends go to BEA
And leave me (those creeps)
When I’m feeling sad
I simply twitter with my tweeps
And then I don’t feel so bad.


Thanks to rhapsodyinbooks for the inspiration (and yes, West Side Story is in the line-up for Friday night...although, could you have picked a longer song?!?).

And if you are going to BEA...have fun!! Really.

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Foreign Tongue

Sunday, May 24, 2009


Foreign Tongue
Vanina Marsot
April 2009
368 pages

Sick of seeing her ex-boyfriend all around (he has a tendency to pop up in the news and magazines), Anna decides to relocate. To Paris. Thanks to her French father, she is fluent in French; thanks to a year abroad, she has friends in the city; and thanks to her aunt, she has a place to stay. It's a pretty sweet deal. Except she's still miserable over the rat bastard that cheated on her.

Once in Paris, Anna manages to pick up a translating job. The work is a bit mysterious, though. The project is hush-hush...she does not know who the author is, and she only receives one chapter at a time to translate. And to top it off, the work is a bit risque. And not even poetically risque...more like this-is-crap-risque. Except, she kind of gets hooked on the story.

As Anna struggles with the nuances of translation and the puzzle of the author of the aforementioned risque book, she also struggles (again) with her love life. She meets Olivier, a French actor, and deals with issues of trust, commitment and honesty. Is her past affecting her ability to believe in her new boyfriend, or is he really just another rat bastard?

Also, there was the totally unexpected ending. Not so much with the mysterious author, because I did see that one coming, and not with Olivier, but something else came from way out in left field that made me go whoa. This book actually has a lot going on (not in a bad, confusing way) and all of the different story arcs make this more than just a girl-on-the-rebound novel.

Finally, if you have ever yearned to live in Paris, this book will just make that desire even worse. Foreign Tongue does not take you on a tour of the Paris tourist sites. Rather, it is set among the cafes and bookstores and apartments of everyday Parisian life. Added to that are quotes and words and phrases in French. This book made Literate Housewife want to study French. It made me wish I had paid more attention in my high school French classes. It also made me wish for more books like this.

And now, I'll leave you with a few photos from my last (brief) trip to Paris. Not my first choice of photos, but the rest are on a flash drive that is, of all places, at work.


la tour Eiffel

booksellers on the left bank

Notre Dame

more linkies:
interview with Vanina at Literate Housewife
Lisa's review at Books on the Brain
Festival of Books Window on the World panel with Vanina Marsot

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The A's have it

Friday, May 22, 2009

Congratulations to Ali and Anna, the new owners of Reading in the Dark. If you two would be so kind as to email me with your address, I'll send you your copy!

And since we're on an A theme, how about I offer up Angelina's Children next. You want? Since Alice Ferney is French, tell me about a another French author (and no fair using Muriel Barbery...I already know about her). I'll draw a winner from the comments on Monday.

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Caspian Rain


Caspian Rain
Gina Nahai
September 2007
298 pages

Last month I saw the author speak (at two different panels) at the Festival of Books and I was intrigued enough to hunt down a copy of Caspian Rain.

Publisher's synopsis:
From the best-selling author of Moonlight on the Avenue of Faith, a stirring, lyrical tale that offers American readers unique insight into the inner workings of Iranian society.

In the decade before the Islamic Revolution, Iran is a country on the brink of explosion. Twelve-year-old Yaas is born into an already divided family: Her father is the son of wealthy Iranian Jews who are integrated into the country's upper-class, mostly Muslim elite; her mother was raised in the slums of South Tehran, one street away from the old Jewish ghetto.

Yaas spends her childhood navigating the many layers of Iranian society. Her task, already difficult because of the disparity in her parents' worldview, becomes all the more critical when her father falls in love with a beautiful woman from a noble Muslim family. As her parents' marriage begins to crumble and the country moves ever closer to revolution, Yaas is plagued by a mysterious and terrifying illness. But despite her ailment, when she learns that her father is about to abandon her and her mother — to immigrate to America with his mistress — Yaas is determined to save herself and her family.

At once a cultural exploration of an as-yet-unfamiliar society and a psychological study of the effects of loss, Caspian Rain takes the reader inside the tragic and fascinating world of a brave young girl struggling against impossible odds.

So. I'm kind of stumped. Sounds great, huh? Thing is, I like the idea of this story, but I wasn't so keen on the actual book. I had a hard time getting into the story, because of the writing style. And I can't really explain why. I was never drawn into it to the extent that I forgot my surroundings. The chapters felt abrupt and the characters never fully engaged me. I did like the hints of magical realism (although I don't think the author would call it that...she made reference in one of the panels to how older cultures are more able to suspend disbelief) and the end pretty much floored me. But overall? Not really my cup of tea.

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Now taking requests

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Are you going to the party? The BEAtwittyparty hosted by the lovely Rebecca at The Book Lady's Blog?

Well, since every party needs music, I figure I'll trot out my mad songwriting skillz and pen a song especially for the occasion. I know, I know...you're wondering what you did to deserve such an honor.

Except, you know me...I'm pretty much incapable of creating anything original. So this is where you come in.

Inspire me.

Give me the name of a song you'd like to see parodied butchered rewritten in honor of BEA and our BEAtwittyparty. If I choose your song, I promise you equal billing (in either the fame or the lawsuit) and a small token of my affection.

So...name your tune!

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for the life of me I can't think of a title

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Well, well, well, what do we have here...

Here are your random numbers:

1

And here she thought the first commentator didn't have a chance.

Congratulations to Heather J. (and her Kiddo), who I'm sure will have a blast checking out all of the good stuff inside The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet. Tell Kiddo we will all be expecting a full report (single spaced, 1 inch margins, Arial 11 font...oh wait, that's the report I'm currently writing for the state)...just tell Kiddo to enjoy!


As for the rest of you, I have consolation prizes. Specifically, more books. Remember this one? Well, I seem to have two copies, and Powells won't buy either one! But if you are interested in one of the copies, you'll have to work for it this time:

1. Tell me if you prefer hardcover or paperback or if you really don't care (because yes, I have one of each)
2. Tell me about a book by an Irish author that you particualrly enjoyed

Once again, this is open until I feel like it's not. :-D At which time I will draw a couple of winners and then offer up more books. (Yup, the book closet is a little full and it's time to offload some books on y'all. But don't bother clicking on book closet tab to see what's in there...it's horribly out of date.)

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Through Black Spruce


Through Black Spruce
Joseph Boyden
April 2009
368 pages

Me reading this book was a total fluke. I was browsing the shelves at Borders (which honestly, isn't as much fun as browsing the shelves at B&N, but Borders has free parking) when I came across this one. First, the title piqued my interest. Then, the cover. And then the description. Plus, it's set in Canada, and I tend to have pretty good luck with Canada, book-wise.

The story alternates between narrators. Will Bird is a notorious bush pilot. Currently in a coma, he reflects back on the circumstances that have landed him in his current situation. His niece, Annie, visits her uncle in the hospital. In an effort to reengage her uncle in the world of the conscious, she tells him of her search for her missing sister, Suzanne, a search that took her far from their frozen, remote homeland. As Annie journeyed from Toronto, to Montreal and then to New York, she gets caught up in the same shallow world of modeling and drugs that her sister was living in. As Annie describes her search to Will, and Will narrates his past to Annie (not out loud, obviously, 'cause he's unconscious, but he is talking to Annie in his head), the reader comes to understand how they each came to be where they're at. Okay, that was a lame sentence, but I don't know how else to say it. Their two stories eventually intersect, and it's the combination of figuring what exactly happened to Annie and Will (and the missing Suzanne) and the language that makes this story so engaging.

I loved the author's use of language in this book. The Birds are Cree, and the syntax of their English is just different enough from my Californian English to be intriguing. Here are a few excerpts from Chapter 1, which is in Will's voice.

"Me, I preferred the first option, that Mother Nature was one angry slut. She’d try and kill you first chance she got.You’d screwed with her for so long that she was happy to eliminate you. But more than that, the first option allowed me to get angry right away, to blame some other force for all my troubles.The panic came much quicker this way, but it was going to come anyways, right?"

"And so me, I climbed out of my cockpit and onto the wing on that frigid afternoon in my jean jacket and running shoes, walked along the wing, fearful of the bush and the cold and a shitty death all around me. Push bad thoughts away. One thing at a time. First things first. I crawled quick as I could, trying to stand and walk, and I frankensteined my way to the trees and began snapping dry twigs from a dead spruce.

After I made a pile, I reached into my chest pocket, breaking the ice from the material that felt hard as iron now. My fingers had lost all feel. I reached for my cigarettes, struggled to pull one from my pack, and clinked open the lighter. I’d decided that if the lighter worked, I’d enjoy a cigarette as I started a fire. If the lighter didn’t work, I’d freeze to death and searchers would find me with an unlit smoke in my mouth, looking cool as the Marlboro Man. On the fifteenth thumb roll I got the lighter going."

"The snow’s deep here, nieces. I’m tired, but I have to keep walking. I’m so tired, but I’ve got to get up or I’ll freeze to death. Talking to you, it keeps me warm."

The author also peppers his characters' speech with the word ever, which as far as I can tell is a handy catch-all for totally, right on, whoa, as if, and probably many other things. I know "eh" is a Canadian thing, but I've never heard ever used to the extent that all of characters in this book use it.

Anyways...I just loved this book, although I don't know that I'd recommend it to everyone. It's a bit slow...it's beauty is both in the language and the slow discovery of what happened to both Will and Annie.

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The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet
Reif Larsen
May 2009
352 pages

This book is gorgeous. Although the story, while different, ends up being a little disappointing. However, that's easily forgiven, considering all the goodies that accompany the story.

T.S. (short for Tecumsah Sparrow) Spivet is a 12 year old mapmaker. He lives on a remote ranch in Montana with his absent-minded scientist mother, his reticent father and his wanna-be-an-actress older sister. T.S. is obsessed with mapping everything, from corn-shucking to the sewer system of Washington, D.C. And he's good at it. Aided and abetted by his mentor, Dr. Yorn, he even illustrates for the Smithsonian.

When the Smithsonian calls to inform T.S. that he has received a prestigious award, T.S. initially blows them off. Because he is, after all, only 12. And they don't realize that he's only 12. However, after pondering it for a bit, T.S. decides to go for it. So he packs up his most beloved treasures and hits the road. Or more accurately, the railroad.

On his way to Washington, D.C. T.S. has a few odd encounters. He may or may not pass through a wormhole, he discovers some old family history, and something dangerously weird happens in Chicago. Then he arrives in Washington and it gets even weirder. There's a secret society, lots of lies, and not much opportunity for match-making. And then, voila. A pretty anti-climatic ending.

However. The book is full of T.S.'s maps and asides. Almost every page has a drawing (or two or three) in the margin, complete with explanations. It's like illustrated footnotes, only on the side, not at the bottom. And the drawings are really good (and also done by the author). You can get a small taste of them at Nonsuch Book, which is where I first heard of this book.

I've decided that this is a book that needs to be shared, so I'm going to give it away. However, because it is an oversized, somewhat hefty hardback, I'm afraid I'm limiting this one to the US. Sorry. :-( Also, if you hate footnotes, please don't enter, because I can pretty much guarantee this book would drive you batty. However, if you love footnotes, YA, and/or illustrated books (in pencil...there's no color in this one), (and you live in the US), then please, let me know in the comments that you are interested and I will draw a name later this week. And no, I don't know when...just later this week some time...when I feel like it.

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Movie Night

Monday, May 18, 2009

Since there was a bit of interest in the idea of a movie night, we're going to give it a try. The details:

When: this Friday, 5/22/09 at 7 pm Pacific time
Where: watch the movie in your own home, comment at twitter
Who: everyone is welcome!
What: we'll be watching the 1949 version of Little Women. Why that version? Well, because it's available on iTunes ($2.99 to rent) and I couldn't resist the amazon description:


Erstwhile tomboy June Allyson stars as Alcott's famed heroine Jo, the budding writer in Civil War New England who pines for adventure, independence, and her own career. With Father off to war, it's up to Jo, practical older sister Meg (Janet Leigh), frail sister Beth (Margaret O'Brien), and vain sister Amy (Elizabeth Taylor) to help Marmee (a saintly Mary Astor) keep the home fires warm while dealing with the rigors of adolescence. It's all poured on with a generous amount of syrup, including lavish sets, hoop skirts, and petticoats, but anyone who's ever read Alcott's book will take comfort in its familiar story line. The dialogue is clunky but earnest, but you'd have to have a heart of stone not to get caught up in Jo's plight. And rarely do you get to see such stars go at it with such gusto: Allyson and Peter Lawford (as neighbor and rich boy Laurie) are a match made in B-movie heaven, Taylor is spunky and hilarious in an early comic performance, and Leigh does the matronly thing with aplomb. And nobody, but nobody, cries and suffers like Margaret O'Brien!

Sounds like there will be plenty of things to tweet about! Hope to see you there!

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Weekly Geeks: a literary tour

Saturday, May 16, 2009

For this week's Weekly Geeks we're taking a literary tour of our hometown. Or, in my case, my home county.


I live in Morro Bay, California, a small coastal town of about 10,000 (mostly retired) people. Morro Bay is in San Luis Obispo County, which is smack dab between San Francisco and Los Angeles...it's about a four hour drive each way. There's not a whole lot going on here in SLO County, although we do have a nuclear power plant, a fault line, a state psychiatric hospital and a state prison. Despite all that, it's actually a gorgeous place to live (and visit). See...


And if you dig deep enough, we also have a few literary connections.

Christopher Moore used to live up the coast in Big Sur. While Big Sur isn't in SLO County, he did borrow one of our towns for three of his books. The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove, Practical Demonkeeping and The Stupidest Angel are all set in the fictional town of Pine Cove, which bears a striking resemblance to Cambria, a small town about 20 miles north of Morro Bay. Cambria is also the home of Catherine Ryan Hyde, the Pay It Forward author...but since I haven't read her books, I'll move on.

Another author that uses a fictionalized version of my county is Earlene Fowler. Her Benni Harper quilt-themed mystery series is based in our biggest city, San Luis Obispo. Although she has renamed it San Celina, the town is definitely San Luis Obispo. And the northern ranching part of the county makes an appearance, too. I read the first few books in the series years ago, but then moved away from mysteries and lost track of what the author was up to. Imagine my surprise when I recently saw the cover of her latest book...with a picture of Morro Rock on the cover!


Other than the fact that the town and the sand spit seem to have disappeared, it's pretty recognizable as Morro Bay.


Jay Asher is another local author, and his debut novel 13 Reasons Why has received lots of notice. I have no proof, but I highly suspect a couple of the locations in his book are based on actual spots in San Luis, particularly the movie theater and the coffee shop (oh wait, according to his blog, Linnaea's is the inspiration for Monet's...I knew it!).


And recently I learned that Jack Kerouac lived in San Luis Obispo for awhile. In 1953 he came to SLO to work for the railroad. This article in our local free weekly paper describes how SLO pops up in some of his writings. From the first paragraph of The Dharma Bums:

"Hopping a freight out of Los Angeles at high noon one day in late September 1955 I got on a gondola and lay down with my duffel bag under my head and my knees crossed and contemplated the clouds as we rolled north to Santa Barbara. It was a local and I intended to sleep on the beach at Santa Barbara that night and catch either another local to San Luis Obispo the next morning or the firstclass freight all the way to San Francisco at seven p.m. Somewhere near Camarillo where Charlie Parker'd been mad and relaxed back to normal health, a thin old little bum climbed into my gondola as we headed into a siding to give a train right of way and looked surprised to see me there."

Okay, so it's a brief mention and not even descriptive...the article has better examples. But still...Jack Kerouac and SLO. I've lived here for 32 years, and spent 6 years at college in San Luis Obispo. I can't believe this was the first time I'd heard the two mentioned together!

And finally, the same New Times that I just linked to for the Jack Kerouac article is the creator of 55 Fiction. New Times, which is based in San Luis Obispo, has run a yearly contest since 1987. However, before you get too excited about me living in an area with such a cool weekly newspaper, I'll add that they usually manage to offend some part of the population on a weekly basis. This week it was me, with an extremely offensive editorial cartoon. So it's pretty much a love-hate relationship we've got going on.

I hope you've enjoyed this brief glimpse of San Luis Obispo County...if you've come across this area in any of your readings, let me know!

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They say it's your blogday...

Friday, May 15, 2009

Today Dawn of She Is Too Fond Of Books is celebrating her 1 year blogiversary! Woo-hoo!! Since Dawn inspired this masterpiece, I composed a song especially for her and her blog's special day (okay, so I had a little a lot of help from Lennon and McCarthy)...

You say it's your blogday
It's not my blogday tho, yeah
They say it's your blogday
We're gonna read a good book
I'm glad it's your blogday
Happy blogday to you

Yes we're going to a blog party
Yes we're going to a blog party
Yes we're going to a blog party

I would like you to read
(Blogday)
Only please not Candide
(Blogday)
I would like you to read
(Blogday)
Read

I would like you to read
(Blogday)
How ‘bout some Gott-Gott-Gottfried
(Blogday)
I would like you to read
(Blogday)
Read

You say it's your blogday
Sorry my song sucks, yeah
They say it's your blogday
You're gonna read a good book
I'm glad it's your blogday
Happy blogday to you


So head on over to She Is Too Fond Of Books and wish Dawn a happy blogiversary...rumor has it she'll be mixing up some margaritas!

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The suspense is killing me!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

So yes. I actually read some of the spam that makes it through gmail's filter, because they can be so darn entertaining. Case in point...

I know this mail will bring lots of surprises and inquisitiveness to you since there was no previous association before now between us, Please do not be offended & I will understand completely if you cannot be of assistance to me. I am the wife of Late Mr. Alexander Litvinenko (Mrs. Marina Litvinenko), former Russian spy.

My Husband tea was poisoned with polonium-210 by the Russia Government and died November 2006 at the University College Hospital in Central London because of the memorandum he wrote concerning numerous connections between top brass of Russian law enforcement agencies and Russian mafia groups, such as Solntsevo gang which they are after my life (Reason I will disclose Further).

Please I want you to assist in transferring my late husband deposited funds from a financial Diplomatic Vault with one of the biggest banks in the world. All I need from you is to take in charge of the funds transfer to your country for charity purpose and use your discresion on investment without any publicity involvement.

Do take this assistance as a contribution to fate because this is not an easy task for my situation and that is the main reason why I contacted you, more details on establishing relationship with me.

Russian spies! Death by poisoning!! Polonium-210!!! (WTF is polonium-210?) The Russian mafia!!!!

I love it. Major points for the Russian connection (how did you know I wrote my senior project on how the Russian Revolution affected the roles of women?). Bonus points for sending it to me in a language I can read. Except...if you say Reason I will disclose Further and you don't disclose? That's just mean. And you really need to work on those run-on sentences.

No money for you.

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A night at the movies (via twitter)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


A few months ago bethany and I had a marvelous time watching the Twilight movie together...even though she lives in Oregon and I'm in California. Thanks to Twitter we were able to trade comments back and forth throughout the movie...and we didn't even annoy anyone with our whispering. Well, unless you were on Twitter and got bombarded with our tweets.

So I've been trying to think of another movie that would lend itself well to this type of movie watching experience and I can't really think of anything that would be quite so cheesily entertaining. Although I am limiting myself to book-to-movie adaptations and also to movies that I can rent on iTunes. Oh, and to movies that I haven't seen, because I'm not a huge fan of re-watching movies.

The best that I can come up with is Little Women...the 1949 version, because it's got Elizabeth Taylor and Janet Leigh! There's got to be some fun in there, right?

So who's in? If I set a date and time (not this week, but probably next Friday or Saturday night), is anyone interested in synchronized movie watching and commenting via Twitter?

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Teaser Tuesday

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
"There was clearly a conceptual problem with this holiday, which essentially imposed a month of calorie, caffeine, and nicotine withdrawal on a half-hearted nation ambivalent about its Islamic faith. Without any hint of festivity or communal spirit of fasting to brighten the days ahead, the holiday loomed like one long rehab program."

from Lipstick Jihad, by Azadeh Moaveni, p. 103

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The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Monday, May 11, 2009


The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Sherman Alexie
September 2007
230 pages

Despite the freakishly long title (a little consideration here, title-people…if I get carpal tunnel from typing out long-ass titles, I’m gonna sue), this is a short book. I think it took it me a little over an hour to read. And that includes time spent checking out the awesome pictures that really enhance the story.

Arnold “Junior” Spirit lives on the Spokane reservation, a place of little hope. He is a frail kid, born with water on the brain. He describes himself as having a big head, big hands and feet, too many teeth, bad eyesight, as well as a stutter and a lisp. After he is suspended from school for throwing a textbook at a teacher (he was frustrated by how old the book was), Junior is inspired by that same teacher to enroll in an off-reservation school. Rejected by his best friend (as well as the entire reservation) for what is seen as a traitorous act, Junior also struggles to fit into his new all-white school. Eventually, he finds a place on the basketball team and makes new friends, but sometimes it is a real effort to make it to school. He doesn’t always have a way to get there (no money for gas, his dad is hung-over, the car is broken) and the stark reality of life on the reservation interferes. Junior is forced to deal with issues (poverty, alcoholism, frequent death, racism) that many of his new classmates are unfamiliar with.

Junior is also an artist, and the book is filled with his sketches...there are pictures of Junior, his parents, his sister, his sister's trailer, his friends, his grandma. Full of detail and little quirky captions, the pictures are a fantastic addition to the book. They even have little tape marks as if they were taped inside of the diary.

Ti had asked for recommendations for her 10 year old son who requested more mature reading material (he loved The Outsiders...wait, do 10 year boys say love?). I think this would fit the bill. The issues of race and poverty and "fitting in" give the book some teeth, and Junior certainly doesn't censor his thoughts. Life on the reservation isn't pretty, and this book reflects that.

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Population: 485

Saturday, May 09, 2009


Population: 485
Michael Perry
July 2007
272 pages

I picked this book up in a bookstore on Bainbridge Island, Washington. That was a fun day…I took the ferry over from Seattle and spent a few hours exploring the small town where the ferry dumps you off. At the time, I was feeling nostalgic about small town life, and a book about life in a town with 485 people sounded quite appealing. I even started reading the book that day. I think I read about one third of the book before I put it down and then got sidetracked by another book. And another. And another. Until suddenly, it’s a couple of years later and I’m on the Powell’s website and I notice the author has a new book out that sounds quite interesting (it’s called Coop, as in chicken…I tell you, I’m a sucker for rural stories) and that inspires me to hunt down the book and finish it. So I did.

Michael Perry returns to his hometown, New Auburn, Wisconsin. He joins the volunteer fire department and through a series of essays based around his escapades and calls with the fire department, he illustrates what life is like in New Auburn. He also shares bits of his history apart from New Auburn (he went to nursing school, he’s a poet, he’s worked as an EMT). And despite the fact that I enjoyed reading it, I really can’t think of much else to say. It’s definitely not for everyone, since life in a small town can sometimes be mundane. And life as a volunteer for the fire department can occasionally get gruesome and depressing. But since I spent 5 years of my childhood in a small (population: 500) town in Oregon, I actually like reading stuff like this. Go figure.

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This is where I turn down the offer of a night on the town

Friday, May 08, 2009

Despite the temptation of Victor's offer (see the comments on this post), the new reader of Shanghai Girls will be Carrie K. Congratulations!! If you would be so kind as to email me your address, I'll mail you the ARC!

And whaddya know...I finally managed to post on the wrong blog. This post briefly appeared on the Weekly Geeks site...ooops! I knew it was just a matter of time before I did that! If you're a Weekly Geeks reader, you might see it in your feed reader twice. I blame it on my hair color.

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Shanghai Girls

Thursday, May 07, 2009


Shanghai Girls
Lisa See
May 2009
528 pages

You all know I love Lisa See, right? I gush about her and two of her books (Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and Peony in Love) on a regular basis. I even told you a little bit about what she said at the Festival of Books. So you can imagine how excited I was to get my paws on an ARC of Shanghai Girls (and beaucoup thanks to Beth Fish for that).

But (could you see that coming?), I’m just a teensy bit disappointed in this latest book…despite the fact that it is an interesting and well-told story.

Shanghai Girls is the story of two sisters, Pearl and May. The story starts in Shanghai in 1937. Pearl and May live care-free, pampered lives. They spend their time modeling for calendars, going out on the town, and shopping. However, everything falls apart when their father’s gambling debts catch up with him and he arranges marriages for his daughters to cover his debts. Since Pearl and May consider themselves modern women who will marry for love, this sudden announcement not only ruins their vision of their perfect future, but also their trust in their father. The two sisters go through with the arranged marriages to the Louie brothers, but they have no intention of following through on their promise to follow Sam and Vern to Los Angeles.

Unfortunately for Pearl and May, the Japanese invasion of China further ruins their plans. As the girls struggle to escape, they eventually realize that Los Angeles is their only option. Months later, they finally arrive in Los Angeles, only to be further disillusioned by what awaits them.

Eventually, Pearl and May carve out lives for themselves and the years pass until we arrive at the end of the book. And this is where it all fell apart. Because I did not like the end. At all. Joy pissed me off (although I’m sure she’ll piss most everyone off), Sam, well all I can say there is WTF?!?, and the very, very end? Aaaaaagh! Am I to assume there will be a sequel? I wasn’t emotionally prepared for that possibility. I’m all about instant gratification…I need to know what happens!!!

Okay, now that I’ve gotten that off of my chest, I did like the book. Really, I did. It’s got all the classic Lisa See elements – great story, tension between characters, interesting historical details (and this time we get both China and LA...in fact, the glimpses into China City and Olvera St and LA during the 1940s and 1950s were fascinating). So don’t let the fact that I’m seriously annoyed with the ending stop you from this marvelousness. I’ll even give you a chance to share the joy (and frustration). If you’re interested in getting your paws on this ARC, let me know in the comments and I’ll draw a winner tomorrow morning.

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Sorry, I had to growl a bit more about the ending. I guess I haven't quite purged all of the frustration.

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A Thousand Voices


A Thousand Voices
Lisa Wingate
July 2007
336 pages

I picked this one up at the library, and never realized it was part of a series until after I finished it. Although it totally stood alone, so I don’t think it’s necessary to read the others before reading this one.

Dell Jordan has been wandering through Europe since she graduated from high school two years ago. She spent a year with a traveling orchestra, and then a year helping out in an orphanage. Back home, she is feeling pressured by friends and family to enroll in college and continue her musical studies. However, Dell wants nothing more than to find her birth father. Despite her adoption into a loving family at the age of 13, Dell has always felt apart, partly because she spent her childhood living in poverty and neglect, and partly because her Native American features set her apart from the rest of her fair-haired, blue-eyed adoptive family.

So Dell takes off on a covert mission (she doesn’t tell her parents where she is going, or what she is up to, for fear they will feel betrayed) to the Kiamichi Mountains of Oklahoma (where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plain) in search of her father and her Choctaw heritage. Despite a few roadblocks on the path to finding out information on her birth father, Dell does find an instant connection with a Choctaw family and enjoys the weekend celebration that she stumbles upon.

This was a light read, despite the potentially intense themes of adoption and belonging and family, and also in spite of the rushed ending (the words screeching halt come to mind). So while it may not be my usual fare, it wasn’t a bad way to spend a few hours.

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Speak

Wednesday, May 06, 2009


Speak
Laurie Halse Anderson
May 2006
197 pages

Speak is one of those short novels that pack a powerful punch.

This was Halse Anderson’s first book, and it won the Printz Award – and for very good reason, too. Speak is the story of Melinda Sordino’s freshman year of high school. Because she dared to call the cops on a summer party, Melinda finds herself starting high school as a social outcast. Not only have her friends have forsaken her, but no one else will even acknowledge her. Additionally, her distracted parents are a bit oblivious to her needs. As the school year progresses, Melinda says less and less, starts failing her classes, and sinks into depression. What no one realizes is that she had a damn good reason for calling the cops at that party. Unfortunately, she never told anyone why for fear of reprisal…and because when you find yourself a pariah, it’s hard to find someone to confide in.

Towards the end of the school year, Melinda starts to find her voice again. Scared for both her friend and herself, Melinda fights back. And then speaks out. The book ends on a positive note and the reader is left feeling that Melinda will find her inner strength and the support she needs.

I find it ironic that this book is often challenged. Melinda’s story is all too real, and just because some people may be uncomfortable with the topics doesn’t mean they should be ignored or censored.

This is what the author has to say about it: "But censoring books that deal with difficult, adolescent issues does not protect anybody. Quite the opposite. It leaves kids in the darkness and makes them vulnerable. Censorship is the child of fear and the father of ignorance. Our children cannot afford to have the truth of the world withheld from them.”

There are many reviews of this book around the blogosphere, but Lisa at Books on the Brain wrote one just last week…go check it out!

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Half of a Yellow Sun

Tuesday, May 05, 2009


Half of a Yellow Sun
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
September 2006
543 pages

Once upon a time I liked happy endings. But lately, I've been reading some pretty dark books...and I've been okay with the fact that everything isn't neatly wrapped and tied with a bow at the end. Half of a Yellow Sun falls in this category. This book is relentlessly real, from its descriptions of war and starvation, to its characters and their actions, and ultimately to the destructive effects of war on countries and classes and families and individuals.

This is an amazing book. Adichie takes a little known historical event (Biafra's attempt at independence from Nigeria), adds in some memorable characters, creates a strong story set against the historical event and then she jumps all over the 1960s in the telling of the story.

Half of a Yellow Sun follows the lives of five individuals as events lead them towards civil war. Young Ugwu serves as houseboy to Odenigbo, a university professor who is caught up in the politics of the era. When the beautiful Olanna, a sociology professor, joins the household, Ugwu becomes quite devoted to the couple. The story also includes Olanna's estranged twin sister Kainene, and her English lover, Richard. As the story jumps back and forth through the 1960's and the events leading to the massacres of the Igbo and the succession of eastern Nigerian and the creation of the nation of Biafra and the subsequent civil war, we see the effects of war on each of the characters (and yes, I know that sentence could use some work, but I'm too tired to bother). As Kainene and Olanna lose their privileged upper class status, they grow closer together. As Odenigbo is forced out of his middle class, university life his weaknesses become more apparent. We see Ugwu forced to grow up amidst the horror of war. And Richard...well, poor clueless Richard pretty much flounders around for most of the novel.

I think I've said this before, but I'm a sucker for books where I learn something important without feeling like I'm reading a history text or being preached to. And actually, the history in this book isn't readily apparent. I had to google a few things to get some additional background info. If you are going to read this book, it would be helpful to have a little bit of knowledge about the Hausa, Igbo (or Ibo) and Yoruba, as well as the brief existence of Biafra.

If you are at all interested in historical fiction set in Africa I'd recommend this book. And even if you're not, it's still a fantastic read, definitely worth the time and emotional investment.

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Precious

Monday, May 04, 2009


Precious
Sandra Novack
2009
270 pages

Bear with me, because I’ve been trying to figure out how to start this review for days. That’s because today I am very pleased to be a TLC tour stop for Sandra Novack and her debut novel, Precious. But I’m also afraid I’m going to come across like a total goombah in writing this review.

Because I loved this book. And I want to be able to say more than that, because Sandra and her book deserve so much more. I just can’t figure out where to start. So this may come across as disjointed ramblings…but let’s just see where my ramblings take us, shall we?

First, a synopsis. Lucky for me, there’s already one floating around:

The summer of 1978, ten-year-old Vicki Anderson rides her bike to the local park and goes missing. Her tight-knit blue-collar Pennsylvania neighborhood, where children roam the streets at night playing lightning tag, above ground pools sparkle in backyards, and flowers scent the air, will never be the same.

Down the street from Vicki’s house, another family is in crisis. Troubled by her past, headstrong Natalia Kisch has abandoned her husband and two daughters for another man. Frank Kisch, grappling with his anger, is left to raise their girls alone, oblivious to his daughters’ struggles with both disappearances: Eva, seventeen, plunges into an affair with her married high school teacher, and nine-year-old Sissy escapes to a world of imagination and storytelling that becomes so magical it pierces the reality of the everyday.

When Natalia unexpectedly returns, the struggles and tensions that have built over the summer erupt into a series of events that change the Kisches irrevocably—forcing them to piece together their complicated pasts and commitments to each other.

In this haunting, atmospheric debut, Sandra Novack examines loss, loyalty, and a family in crisis. Lyrical and elegiac, Precious illuminates our attempts to make sense of the volatility that surrounds and consumes us, and explores our ability, even during the most trying times, to remember and hold on to those we love most.

And really, this is one of the best synopsis I have ever read. I always feel like I’m cheating when I borrow a synopsis, but in this case, I think it does such a marvelous job of capturing both the story and the writing, it would be a shame for me to try to summarize it in any other way. I’ve heard that the child goes missing subject has turned some people off this book. I would argue that while that sets the stage for the novel, it is a small part of the book. Yes, it’s there, and it happens, and we are reminded of it, but ultimately, this book is about the Kisch family. And that’s where I’m going to go next.

Frank Kisch is the father, and he is struggling with things that are all too common. His wife leaves him, his eldest daughter is embarrassingly out of control, his job is in jeopardy. Although this book is set in the late 1970’s, Frank’s troubles transcend decades. Also, on a lighter note, I need to say that I have such a clear picture of Frank in my head…and he looks just like the dad from "The Wonder Years"…big, burly and angry. I don’t usually associate characters of novels with TV characters, or even real-life individuals, but I just can’t get the image of Frank as The Wonder Years dad out of my head. Which is probably why he's stuck with me, even though while reading the book I was more invested in the stories of Eva and Sissy.

And while I’m on the topic of ruining Sandra Novack’s characters, I’ll add that Natalia would be Nastassja Kinski…sort of fragile looking, but also edgy and elusive.

I’ll spare you my imaginings of the rest of the characters (only because my mind stopped with Nastassja and The Wonder Years dad), but I will say that the characters are what made me love this book so much. They are flawed, but they are real. And they are oh so easy to imagine. And in my newly acknowledged “characters are everything” mood, this is so important for a book’s success with me.

Okay, I’m definitely rambling, so let’s move on to the end of the book. And no, I’m not going to tell you what happens, but I am going to make a few comparisons, so if you are at all worried, move along to the next paragraph. Just like the characters, the end of this novel is real. Although the books are totally different, it reminds me of another recent favorite, Half of a Yellow Sun. Because honestly? That’s real life, whether we like it or not. Also, if you’ve read the book, you should go check out the Q&A’s on the author’s website…it offers some additional insight to the ending.

There is an excerpt from Precious available at the Random House website. You should go read that, too, so you can appreciate how beautifully written this novel is. Weeks ago I provided a quote from the book for Teaser Tuesday. Although I don’t think the quote reflects the intent of the book, or even the story, it is entertaining:

"My advice," Milly says, pointing a fork, "is always find a man who wears polyester. It's a fabric you can trust on a man."

One of the reasons this is such a favorite quote of mine is that it shows how Sandra's writing creates pictures in my head. Because I don’t know about you, but I’ve got the perfect image of fussy, uptight Milly in my mind. And she's wearing polyester, too.

Two more things that I’ve got floating around in mind. The cover and the title. I love the cover, and since I tend to blather often about covers, you might recall how important cover art is to me. The image of the vanishing young woman is so reflective of one of the themes of this book...I think it is just perfect. The title though...I'm afraid I had to put up with Gollum whispering preciousssss in my ear for most of the book. Sorry....but you know I'm all about honesty in reviewing.

So, in summary, two thumbs up. Unless you're hesitant about the missing child storyline (because really, if you're worried about it, it will stand out, although like I said before, it isn't the focus of the book), I'd really encourage you to give this one a try, especially if you love character driven novels that also have a strong story behind them. I think this would also be an excellent book to discuss, particularly around family relationships.

Finally, I just realized that I’m the first stop on this blog tour (ack!). Good thing I didn’t know that before I started writing this post. Oh well, at least I set the bar low for the rest of the reviewers...because really, I think I just rambled like I 've never rambled before. So, make sure you check out the rest of the tour stops. I'm sure there will be more insightful things written. And also guest posts from the author.

Wednesday, May 6th: Book, Line, and Sinker
Thursday, May 7th: Redlady’s Reading Room
Monday, May 11th: Musings of a Bookish Kitty
Wednesday, May 13th: Bookworm with a View
Thursday, May 14th: Pop Culture Junkie
Monday, May 18th: Literate Housewife
Friday, May 22nd: Booking Mama
Tuesday, May 26th: Book Addiction
Friday, May 29th: Diary of an Eccentric

And for my final finally, here's some author info for you:


Sandra Novack’s fiction has appeared in The Iowa Review, The Gettysburg Review, Gulf Coast, and Mississippi Review, among other publications. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize three times, and holds an MFA from Vermont College. She is the author of the novel Precious. Novack currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband, Phil, and many animals.

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FoB - S.E. Hinton

Sunday, May 03, 2009

The final panel I attended at the Festival of Books wasn't a panel. It was a conversation. Or maybe an interview...I forget the official title. Anyways, it was Jane Smiley talking to S.E. Hinton. And I was going to do a full write up, but you should really just go read this Jacket Copy post, because it pretty much nails it.

A few additional observations:

Jane Smiley and S.E. Hinton were quite the odd couple. I had serious doubts for the first 10 minutes or so that anything interesting would be said.

S.E. Hinton's husband thinks she can write soft p*rn.

She does much more thinking about her books than writing them.

And, she always has to become her narrator. Which is exhausting for her.

This ended up being quite entertaining. S.E. Hinton has a fantastic sense of humor...it took a while to make an appearance, but once she got going, this was a fascinating interview. If you ever have a chance to see S.E. Hinton, I'd highly recommend it...she is nothing at all like I imagined. The Jacket Copy post has a picture, so you can see what I mean. Realistically, I knew she wasn't twenty, but I still expected to see an edgy young author.

So there you have it...this brings me to the end of the Festival of Books. It was a fun, exhausting, long weekend filled with books and new friends and interesting authors. I'd totally go again...but only with fellow bloggers. Seriously. That is what made the weekend so much fun. I can't imagine facing such a horde of people without having a fellow book lover or two or three or ten by my side.

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FoB - Borderlines

Saturday, May 02, 2009

The Festival of Books continued...

On Sunday, I actually had tickets for two different panels at 11:00. One was entitled Borderlines, the other About Reading. When I realized that the moderator for Borderlines was Veronique de Turenne (the same moderator I raved about in yesterday’s post), that turned out to be the deciding factor. Borderlines featured three authors I had never read, but it turns out I at least knew who they all were. And they were…

Thrity Umrigar – author of The Space Between Us (which has been on my TBR shelf for a few months) and The Weight of Heaven (this is her newest book)

Luis Alberto Urrea – author of The Hummingbird’s Daughter and Into the Beautiful North (which is not out yet, but his publisher arranged to have copies for sale at the Festival. And yes, I bought it. Nee-neer-nee-neer-nee-neer. Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

Gina Nahai – again, from Saturday’s panel…she was a fill in for an author who had to go catch his flight.

This panel featured authors who were all born in (and write about) other countries. Thrity Umrigar was born in Bombay, India. Luis Alberto Urrea was born in Tijuana, Mexico (in a house on the way to the dog track). And Gina Nahai was born in Iran. One of the first questions they discussed was language. Thrity was educated entirely in English. Luis has lived in both Mexico and the US (his mother was American and did not speak Spanish)…he said he dreams in English until he returns to Mexico…then he dreams in Spanish. Gina spoke Farsi, then French (boarding school in Switzerland) then English (college in the US).

The focus of the panel was sense of place. On returning to Mexico, Luis stated “everytime I speak Spanish I go back.” For him, speaking Spanish brings back his families and memories.

Thrity was a journalist for 17 years before she started writing fiction. She says the move to fiction was “pure liberation.” She finishes a novel in about 6 months, and credits her journalism background with giving her a good work ethic. When they were discussing procrastination and the writer’s muse, she said she doesn't have this problem and she’s never met a plumber who said “lady, I can’t fix your pipes today because I have no muse.” On the difference between non-fiction and fiction, she said “non-fiction gives facts, well done fiction gives the truth.” Although The Space Between Us is not her latest book, she did talk a bit about it. She explained that India has a vast, cheap labor pool. Therefore, you don’t have to be rich to have servants. In fact, it is very common for the middle class to have domestic servants. She said there is a very nuanced and rich relationship between a domestic servant and the mistress of the household. She witnessed it as a child. It can be easy to caricature, but the reality is so much more complicated. Her Indian editor called it the “Indian apartheid,” and this is the theme that runs through the book. It is a class issue, not caste. She waited a long time for another Indian writer to write about this…and since no one did, she decided to.

Gina has never returned to Iran. She said it is not safe. She doesn’t remember her memories of Iran until she writes. The house from her novel Moonlight on the Avenue of Faith is actually her childhood home. She also stated that Americans, in general, are not very curious about other countries or places.

Luis wants his book to read like a translation to give more of a flavor of the culture and place. He mentioned how some readers will email him all irate that he doesn’t translate the Spanish in his books (I shudder to think what that person would think of Oscar Wao!).

This was hands down my favorite panel. Again, I credit the moderator with this. But also, these three authors were so relaxed and comfortable. It was also a smaller panel. I think there is a big difference between a panel with three authors versus one with four. I think three allows for a good conversation, and with only an hour, you are also better able to hear more from each author. I left this panel much more interested in all three authors, unlike the panels from Saturday, where there always seemed to be one or two authors that I wasn’t as interested in. I now own a book by each of these three authors…and I plan on reading them fairly soon. I’d say that makes this panel not only interesting, but successful.

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FoB - Intimate Strangers

Friday, May 01, 2009

More on the Festival of Books…

While I was more interested in the authors on the previous panel, the final panel for Saturday ended up stealing the show (at least for Saturday…my favorite-est panel was actually on Sunday). I cannot give enough credit to the moderator, Veronique de Turenne, who, after introductions, started off by having each author read the first sentence of their latest book. From there, she encouraged dialogue between the panelists, so it ended up being less of a question and answer session and more of a conversation. Also, the authors’ personalities really came out in this panel.

So…who was there?

Gina Nahai – Gina was born in Iran, but left for boarding school in Switzerland, followed by college in California. Due to the Iranian Revolution, she has never been back. She teaches at USC (in the writing program) and has written 4 (I think) books, as well as numerous articles. She also has degrees in international relations and has worked as a consultant for the Rand Corporation. This woman is no dummy. Her latest book is Caspian Rain, and I have it on order from Powells…I can’t wait to read it!

Jean Hanff Korelitz – Jean is the author of Admission, which you may have noticed is making the rounds lately. I’m not very interested in the book, but I will admit to loving the cover…it has a large A entwined with ivy. She spoke about how she worked as an admissions reader at Princeton (I think that’s the right college…someone correct me if I’m wrong) to prepare for writing her book.

Andrew Sean Greer – author of The Confessions of Max Tivoli and The Story of a Marriage. I had never heard of Andrew prior to this panel, but he was so entertaining and funny that I later bought his book (The Story of a Marriage, not the other one). At one point, who spoke about the writing advice he had received from Janet Fitch (something along the lines of make every sentence count or have a purpose, although I know I’m saying that all wrong).

Janet Fitch – author of White Oleander and Paint It Black. I loved White Oleander, so that was the main reason I ended up at this panel. Janet Fitch teaches at USC with Gina Nahai, and it’s obvious that she knows Andrew Greer, so the interaction between the authors was so fun to watch. They were all comfortable with each other, despite their different personalities. Janet Fitch sounds (and too a certain extent acts and even dresses) like she is still in the early ‘80’s (at one point she even used the word groovy, and it was just too perfect coming out of her mouth). In contrast, Gina Nahai is very cosmopolitan and outspoken, Andrew was a bit twitchy (but still delightful) and Jean Korelitz was just going with the flow. Honestly, I had so much fun listening to them that this is the only thing I wrote down (except for notes on what books they had each written):

Janet Fitch about place:
You see what is there. You see what was there. And you see what your mom said was there.

Do you think that is true? I do. She was talking about Los Angeles, since she grew up there…that when she walks down the street, she sees the present and the past…and not just her own past, but the past that her mother has told her about. And since the rest of the hour is somewhat of a blur (no notes, end of a long day), I’ll leave you with that interesting observation.

Ti and Florinda also attended this panel, so go check out their posts to read their thoughts.

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In a real sense, people who have read good literature have lived more than people who cannot or will not read. It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish. ~S.I. Hayakawa

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
~St. Augustine

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.
~Mark Twain

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