Wednesday, March 22, 2006


Well, it's been the literary equivalent of a cloudy, drizzly, cold and damp week or so. Not a dry spell--that's different. This has just been the kind of stretch that makes you think God has a head cold and is taking it out on you. Metaphorically.

First, I have to admit that I gave in to an inexplicable urge to read a book by a woman named Lurlene. Perhaps I shouldn't judge, but that doesn't seem to be stopping me. In a search for fiction about Amish people, I wound up with a young adult romance novel called Angels Watching Over Me, by Lurlene McDaniel. I did not realize how awful it would be; I would have stopped reading it but the whole thing took about two hours, so by the time I realized how bad it was, it was too late to stop. Embarassingly, I realized when I read the blurbs in the back of the book, she also wrote a number of books I recall fondly from my youth, including Too Young to Die, I Want to Live, and Six Months to Live. Do we see a common theme?

For my future Amish literature needs, instead of reading the rest of this trilogy (Lifted Up by Angels and Until Angels Close My Eyes, and aren't you glad I read these books so you don't have to?), I'm going to go with Jodi Picoult's Plain Truth. I think that'll fill my Amish needs.

In other sadly abortive attempts at bettering myself, I had to surrender The Diary of a Country Priest, as well. With this one, I can't be fully sure it wasn't that I just wasn't in the mood to work that hard. It's a sad book, first of all, about a priest who finds his small country parish to be uninspiring, and who doesn't manage money well and seems a little less than admirable himself. But the problem with the book, really, was the long, uninterrupted paragraphs of description and characters with long monologues about the nature of the priesthood, etc.

It's hard for me, but I think I might as well just let it go. I have to remember that if I die not having read every book that ever crossed my path, it will not be the end of the world. It's all about mortality, you know?

And finally, I also gave up on The Last Report of the Miracles at Little No-Horse. This book might have been good, actually, but it was really very much not up my alley. I'm always suspicious of a book with a geneology chart in the front. And long paragraphs rhapsodizing about music don't usually win me either. It doesn't actually have any magical realism in it (not in the first 36 pages, which was the 10% test I gave it), but it came very close--they removed the wall of the house to get the piano in, and the woman plays the piano nude in the middle of the night, with the whole world flowing around her. Then there's a flood and she dresses as a man and becomes a priest.

I don't know. I feel like maybe I should try--the story had promising things in it. It was very much my kind of book in many ways. But I just wasn't enjoying it.

Well, what're you gonna do? I'm reading other books now, and enjoying them. I went to the library and have 12 items checked out now (according to my account). There will be others.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

In Absentia

Where have I been? What have I been doing? Don't I know how you worry? Don't I care that you've been pacing the floor wondering if I'm okay, or if I'm dead in a ditch? You don't think I care at all about your feelings.

Well, I'm very sorry. I was away for a weekend, and then I was pushing a major course live, which I'm proud to say was pulled off by various magical tricks and diverting slight of hand techniques.

So there's what I've been reading, and my (for me) exciting upcoming experience. Regarding the first, I'll just say that I've been testing a number of books only to discover that I don't actually want to take them on. More on this later, and possibly a little cosmetic update to the klog (as Mike calls it--for booklog).

But the upcoming event--never let it be said that you haven't seen karma in action--I'm going to the Public Library Association National Conference at the Hynes this week! Though I have rather given up on my little dream of being a librarian (seriously, I've not even organized enough to be a project manager--if I'm going to jump careers, I'll really need to do something LESS rigorous, not more), I'm so thrilled to get to wander their exhibition halls and see what happens. I understand there are a lot of publishers there with books--and maybe swag! I'm all tingly.

And this wonderful thing came into my life because I volunteered to do a favor for an internet stranger. I almost didn't, either, because it seemed presumptuous to answer a request for help that was tossed out into the blogosphere intended for actual librarians. But I live in Boston and have a car, so I'm delivering boxes for Bill Barnes of Overdue Media, creators of the excellent webcomic Unshelved. I understand I'm going to walk away with a T-shirt, and I hope, a really great glimpse inside the world that brings me all the things I treasure--BPL, Minuteman Library Network, my beloved Malden Public Library, etc.

On, to glory!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Done and Done

So what have I finished? I reread Ender's Game last week--excellent stuff. Orson Scott Card may be a bigot and a crackpot fundamentalist and may have a really hard time figuring out how to end a book, but darn if he isn't a gifted storyteller. Like his super-genius characters, the secret to his gift is great empathy. You know the character as he knows himself, and therefore can love and despise him all at once.

Our Man in Panama, by Graham Greene (or was it The Tailor of Havana? No, I remember--Our Man in Havana, an Entertainment. But I've said too much already). Seriously, John Le Carre totally stole from Green, but Greene is better. Well, I've never read Le Carre....but Greene is so funny! I like the subtitle, too: An Entertainment. A comedy of errors, really.

My Sister's Keeper, Jodi Picoult. The romatic subplot was thin (you really need a better reason than that to keep people apart for 15 years), and the reader of Julia's character being horrible didn't help. (You know how on SNL you can tell they're reading off cue cards? Like that, only in audiobook form. LONG pauses at weird moments.) The core conflict and story, the family's story, were good. There were parts where I wanted more meat, but I will say formally that I enjoyed this book a lot and would recommend it.

Am I going to get into trouble if I admit that I just finished Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay, which is designed to help you decide whether to break up with your significant other? I'm not considering anything like that, as I warned Mike. But how does the book tell you what to do? Turns out, with a series of "diagnostic questions." And it was an interesting view into the mind of someone who's staying in a miserable relationship, or who thinks of leaving every time a problem comes up. I think I would recommend it to someone who was looking for advice on this subject. But again (DISCLAIMER), this is not me.

So now I'm reading Crossin Over: One Woman's Exodus from Amish Life. First of all, it's accurate in that it's really just the one woman's story--it's barely about the Amish, it's barely about anything except this twenty year old girl falling in love with a fifty year old, thrice divorced man with gout. Also, I'll tell you--she hates the Amish. Loves her family, hates Amishness. Sounds like her dad was verbally abusive. I don't know if you can blame all the Amish for that, but you can barely tell from this amateurish book.

I'll finish it though. It's shorter than this blog entry.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


What. The. Heck??? I can't go into this without spoilers, but I will try by not telling you what book. But WHY did you end the book like that? Why? Why did I read about all those things, all these people, why did they go through all these specific trials and torments to end up like that? Unlikely! Even perverse fate is not so perverse.

Did you ever see City of Angels? At least when they used that ending, it made a certain thematic sense. That movie was requesting that I think about certain things, and that ending made me think about those things in a different way, more complex. The issues this book was asking me to consider were THROWN OUT THE WINDOW with this ending.

If you know what I'm talking about and have read this book (hint: I've mentioned it here before), and you get why it ended like this, please let me know.

I've actually finished a bunch of books in the past few days, but that will come later, so I don't give away what book makes me want shake the author.

Edited to add: You know what it's like? It's like on TV whenever someone gets pregnant and they're thinking about getting an abortion, and then before they can go to the clinic they have a miscarriage. So you don't have to deal with the fallout of a real, difficult choice with no easy right answer. It's a cop out, I tell you. Grr.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Them Wacky Amish

I'm not worried about insulting the Amish in my post, because they don't use the internet or read blogs.

I'm on about page 2 (literally it's page 10, but the text started one page ago) of Crossing Over: One Woman's Exodus from Amish Life, and I can tell that this is not a book about someone who loves the Amish. I don't know what else I would expect from these leaving religion books that I'm getting into now, but I was a little surprised.

But what I've learned already! Apparently the Amish were founded in 1693 by someone who left the Mennonite church because he felt they "did not carry shunning far enough." Hear that Amish? Be more shunny!

But the best part is that this guy who founded the Amish later excommunicated himself from the Amish.

This is already fun.

ps. Can one woman have an exodus? In a related grammatical nitpick, can you really have a "mass exodus," or is that redundant, like (nod to Becky) "very unique?"

Friday, March 03, 2006

Drunken Librarying

At the work party on Wednesday, I did a little too much open barring, if you know what I mean. I always assume wine isn't going to do anything, but it hits me much harder than I expect. Anyway, after the party, I went to the library to return some stuff. Then...I went a little nutty. I was clutching the bannister to keep from spinning down the stairs. But the wonderful thing about being drunk at the BPL--you're never the only one. There's always a hobo.

So when I go to the library but am not in complete control of my faculties, it turns out (surprise, surprise) that I check out a buttload of books. Like ALL the books. And the really horrible part is that, counting them in the sober light of day, even after ready all 8 of the book I checked out, I won't bring my list below 50. I used to have a goal of staying below 30. I am really not being good with goals this year.

I went nutty on the "religious subculture" books--several on the Amish and the Hisidic Jews. Also, a relationship book that has nothing to do with my life but that I was really curious about (it's called Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay). Not because I have that question, but because I see people online recommending it all the time, and I'm curious--how does a pop psych writer answer that question? So far, she's said that you should leave if you've been physically assualted more than once or if you can't ever remember a time when your relationship was good. And the funny thing is, I can imagine people who need that advice, and I'm glad this lady is there to give it.

Also: rereading Ender's Game. Closing in on the end of My Sister's Keeper (I find the lawyer/guardian ad litem (sp?) romance subplot to be a) poorly read and b) totally useless; otherwise, a very lovely and emotionally thoughtful book). Setting aside The Subtle Knife for a couple of days anyway, because you want to spread those things out. And Our Man in Havana is desperate and hilarious.

I keep myself busy. And tipsy. Good combo!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Error in Judgement

Yeah, so I finished Morality for Beautiful Girls (Alexander McCall Smith, another Mma Ramotswe novel, excellent) and started Our Man in Havana, by Graham Greene. First of all, he's very sly and brilliant and jaded, this Graham Greene person. "Isn't it lovely how you always get what you pray for?" I had to read that sentence twice before I spotted the "r," and then I laughed out loud on the train.

But I did make a mistake that screwed up my initial understanding of the book. When Wormold tells his friend that they're going out to buy a bottle to celebrate Milly's 17th birthday, I was a little grossed out that his wife was so young. It didn't really surprise me that much, though. But then he starts talking about her at the age of 13, and I'm so skeeved out! Yes, skeeved! And then he tells the guy she's his daughter so he doesn't look like the gross old letch he is...

No wait. I flip back through the first 23 pages of the book. Nowhere does it say he's married to Milly. She is his daughter. That's why he's known her since she was 4 (and, presumably, before). So when he refers to her mother, it's not about him buying her off some poor woman when she was 12, it's that he was married to her mother, and fathered a child with her.