June 2010 Books

I’ve gotten a surprising amount of reading done this month; it is only June 11th, thank goodness! I have huge anxiety about the summer months disappearing before I get anything done and I have to go back to full-time teaching in the fall. I’m coming to realize, as I always do, that my word count goals are unrealistic and that I have so much more to figure out about my characters’ temperaments, relationships, obsessions. When I’m stuck in a vague place, say the middle of This Novel, I take a break to read, to immerse myself in other stories.

I’m thinking about how to create and maintain a gothic atmosphere throughout This Novel, how to create darkness in a love story, how to balance desire and control in my characters’ relationships.

When my son and I made our first summer pilgrimage to the library, I came away with books by only one author: Joyce Carol Oates. I’d wanted to pick up some of Oates’ novels anyway, but the books I chose were also influenced by the fact that my son was standing there waiting, having already chosen eight children’s books, which he so patiently held in his little arms. So I grabbed what looked good, what I hadn’t already read; there was no time to browse. This month of June:



To Read

Each of these works has been wonderful. I forgot how quickly I could move through some novels (this must be Pynchon’s fault). First Love and Beasts had a great effect on me; I’ll give them their own post later, as I’m still thinking about the connections they have to one another. I grabbed The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis off of the New Titles shelf; I remember liking her in grad school and I have not been disappointed. I always look forward to Tin House. Tinkers was an impulse buy on Amazon; I was drawn in by the idea of the New England home the protagonist built himself, the idea of channeling the dead, and the Pulitzer win never hurts. One Amazon reviewer discusses a connection between Paul Harding and Marilynne Robinson, at Iowa. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I loved Robinson’s Housekeeping.

All of these Oates books are great ‘summer reads,’ whatever that seems to mean to people these days. Go read!

May Chatter: Books

I’ve had several folks recommend I read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and I just saw a full-page ad for Stieg Larsson’s trilogy on the back of the latest issue of The New Yorker. It sounds like a lot of fun, and here’s an opinion on it that connects back to our earlier discussion of bad writing. Whenever this book becomes available at my library I’m going to check it out. It is currently at the top of the NYT Paperback Mass-market Fiction Bestsellers and Paperback Trade Fiction Bestsellers lists.

The Pregnant Widow, by Martin Amis, is another book getting plenty of publicity. There’s a review in the New York Times as well as an article at Salon that counters several critics: “Martin Amis’ New Novel: Why the Haters are Wrong.”

Nineteen Questions

“What should we do?”

“Do you have a book you don’t want?”

“The Ikea catalog?”

“Wait! Don’t use the 2009. You can use the 2008. Here.”

And that was the end of the gigantic roach and the 2008 Ikea catalog; farewell, good friend.


I’m returning from my hiatus. I haven’t been blogging lately because I have tendinitis in my hands…from typing. How freaking LAME is that? No, I didn’t tear my acl doing anything amazing, nor did I get scathed by a bullet while doing anything extra-amazing. I’ve been on a big dose of naproxen for a while so things seem to have eased up. I vowed not to do too much typing, but I just had to finish revising my novel or my head was going to explode over the fact that I only have TWO WEEKS and ONE DAY left until my comprehensive exams. Given this timeframe, I had to get that damn book out of my hair. So, I finished typing it. I would call it a failed novel. I love the characters and absolutely adore several of the chapters, but …I’m confident that next time around I’ll have a good go at it, a good go at a novel that actually has a PLOT. Heh. Anyway, there are many things I would like to write about right now–what? I shouldn’t be typing so much? This is true. Therefore, I’ll limit myself to replying to Stephanie, who tagged me with nineteen questions, and then I’ll get back to making my notecards for comps.

1. What are your nicknames? I don’t think I have any. Well, some folks probably call me a bitch, but that’s more like being called a name rather than having a name to be called by.

2. What is the first movie you bought in VHS or DVD? As a kid I remember a lot of taping from t.v.; I know I had Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland (the super awesomely-creepy version with Sammy). Both of those were the kind of recordings where you had to jump up and press pause on the VCR when a commercial came on to try and avoid taping it, and this was never accomplished 100%. 

The first VHS I bought for myself was in high school. I might have been 16. I joined a music video buying club, which I cannot remember the name of. It was sort of like Columbia House, but I received VHS in the mail. I suppose that is where some of my hard-earned money from working at the grand Target went. The only bands I can remember from those tapes are The Lemonheads and The Breeders. Remember the bowling ball?

3. What is your favorite scent? I like lavender. I also like authentic nag champa.

4. What one place have you visited that you can’t forget and want to go back to? Boston.

5. Do you trust easily? Trust has to do with my intuition. I may intuitively trust you upon meeting you. It’s that easy. But if there’s any unease, then no, trust will not come easily. I trust my gut.

6. Do you generally think before you act or act before you think? Think. sometimes for a very long time, which is not always a good thing. Sometimes expedience in action is wildly appropriate. Sometimes thinking for too long = putting up with b.s. for too long.

7. Is there anything that has made you unhappy these days? Dear Horse Flies, Where the f— are you coming from and what do you want with my house? Please go away. You are huge and loud and your big buggy red eyes squick me out. Thanks!

8. Do you have a good body image? Do you mean image as in my imagination, or image as in the public perception? Who knows. I’m sure folks say things like that girl always wears that same dress, because that’s how I am. 

9. What is your favorite fruit? Clementines. Fresh cherries are good too.

10. What websites do you visit daily? Aw, let us not spill all our secrets.

11. What have you been addicted to lately? Fine-point sharpies, decaf Colombian coffee in the late afternoon, making lists.

12. What kind of person do you think the person who tagged you is? Edearing, creative, and amazingly hard-working.

13. What’s the last song that got stuck in your head? Nick Cave’s Bring it On.

14. What’s your favorite item of clothing? A black sleeveless v-neck dress with thick cream lace along the hem and the neckline.

15. Do you think Rice Krispies are yummy? I don’t know, the cereal might be good on top of ice cream, pre-soggy stage. As for the treats, I like them if they’re vegetarian, which they very rarely are.

16.? I’m mystified.

17. What would you do if you saw $100 lying on the ground. Pick it up, and then order in some Thai food and place an online order from Old Navy.

18. What items could you not do without during the day? I think I need my make-up, my coffee, and my computer, and things with which to make lists.

19. What should you be doing right now? Um, making more NOTE CARDS about ALL of the novels and short stories and things and things and things…..for comps in TWO WEEKS. Cough.

I am tagging EVERYONE, because the last step of this game is requiring more decisiveness than I have right now. Pretend you are in the exclusive eight.

Top Ten Graphic Novels

From Guardian Books, Top Ten Graphic Novels by Danny Fingeroth. What are Fingeroth’s criteria?

“Here are my subjectively chosen top 10 graphic novels. But why these? The very nature of a guide is premised on the idea that, a) here are the things that someone with a reasonable amount of experience reading and thinking about comics feels are the coolest things out there, and b) here are some things that, like them or not, the author of said guide thinks are essential for anyone conversant in the medium to be familiar with.

“But for my top 10, I decided to take the crème de la crème, the graphic novels that I most enjoyed. These are graphic novels, some famous, some less well-known, that do what all great literature does, in that they give you such a pleasurable experience while reading that you’re simultaneously eager to uncover the ending, yet also dreading it, knowing that the experience will then be over.”

I like this list. If anyone would like to buy or send me any of these top tens, I will try not to object. It will be hard on my psyche to not reject such overly-lavish and fantasitic gifts, but by the grace of god I will work to do it. Test me.

Sap for a love story?

Stephanie has given us her list of Top Ten Hotties in Literature over at Natural / Artifical. Check out the blue hair, too. It is an interesting list of cute boys. Despite not being familiar with all of the beaus on the list, I took a guess at who # 1 would be, before scrolling all the way down, and I was right! Can you guess who the number one hottie in literature is? Can you?

Lists for 2007

Apologies for the hiatus; busy is as apt a descriptor I can think of without sounding whiny. So, for your reading pleasure I’m going to post the reading lists for two of the three literature courses I’m taking in the spring.  I’m not sure how I’ll actually get all the reading done (not to mention all the inevitable papers, etc) but I am looking forward to reading all of these books.  I used to be able to study any subject, read anything at all, without disliking it, but as my schedule has become more hectic over the last couple of years I’ve become more picky. For example, I might die if I have to sit through an entire course on Milton, or Chaucer.  A few years ago I would have done it cheerily.  Not anymore!  This is what I’m looking forward to:

Contemporary Fiction (focus: the role of history)

  • Robert Penn Warren, _All the King’s Men_ (1946)
  • Thomas Pynchon, _V._ (1963)
  • Ishmael Reed, _Mumbo Jumbo_ (1972)
  • Louise Erdrich, _Tracks_ (1988)
  • Toni Morrison, _Beloved_ (1988)
  • Julia Alvarez, _In the Time of the Butterflies_ (1995)
  • William T. Vollman, _Europe Central_ (2005)

The Craft of Contemporary Fiction

  • The Ecstatic, LaValle
  • Motherless Brooklyn, Lethem
  • Dangerous Husband, Shapiro
  • Jimmy Corrigan, Ware
  • The Devil’s Larder, Crace
  • Magic for Beginners, Link
  • Home Land, Lipsyte
  • The Intuitionist, Whitehead
  • Best Seats in the House, Morris
  • The Virgin Suicides, Eugenides

I’m also taking a single author study on Eudora Welty. I started Europe Central and am sufficiently intimidated. I have no idea what’s going on, and it might be the longest novel I’ve ever attempted to read. If you have any opinions about any of these books, please send them over.

Six Word Stories

Wired (a great magazine) gives us Very Short StoriesWe’ll be brief: Hemingway once wrote a story in just six words (“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”) and is said to have called it his best work. So we asked sci-fi, fantasy, and horror writers from the realms of books, TV, movies, and games to take a shot themselves.

A sampling:

Gown removed carelessly. Head, less so.
Joss Whedon

Longed for him. Got him. Shit.
– Margaret Atwood

Lie detector eyeglasses perfected: Civilization collapses.
– Richard Powers

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