Monday, February 28, 2005

New York Review of Books=Bunch of Jerks

They won't let me access Michael Chabon's review of His Dark Materials from last March without paying $3.

I can't get in through Pitt or through the Carnegie Library's site. I think this is EVIL. Would it kill them to make their archives free? Would it?

Tournament of Books Results

I'm so happy for Cloud Atlas! :-)

Sunday, February 27, 2005

His Dark Materials

I feel like I can't write properly about HDM because I didn't take notes as I read, but I do want to get to talk about it. I'll start with some random thoughts--please chime in!

I summed up the trilogy when recommending it to a friend by saying it was as if CS Lewis and Madeleine L'Engle had a love child called Philip Pullman. Yes?

We've already talked about daemons, so I'll leave that out.

I cried--and I don't mean I teared up--I bawled so much that I used several tissues and had to clean the explosion of tears off my glasses, when Lyra had to leave Pan. I can't remember EVER reading of a young character going through so much pain. Can you?

Mrs. Coulter: I would have been happier if she hadn't redeemed herself. I despise that monkey.

Iorek Byrnison: Is it wrong that I was attracted to a polar bear?

Mary Malone: I love her. I love the mulefa. I wish I could live in that world.

Will: I nearly stopped reading when the gost of John Parry mentioned that everyone has to live in his or her own world, because I knew that Will and Lyra were going to have to separate. I cried at their separation, of course, but not like I did when Lyra left Pan. (Because I knew it was coming? Because a part of me knows they're "just kids"?) How I love this boy. I love him more than I love Calvin O'Keefe. I hope Teddy grows up to be like Will.

I like the idea of Dust, and I cried when when Lyra and Will led the ghosts out of the land of the dead; that whole notion of your essential energy being released back into nature has always been the one I'm most comfortable with. And I like the idea of building the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth.

I'm fascinated with the idea of God's being just as much an oppressor as organized religion.

Okay, I've gotten us started. I have to work on my fake library project.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Hulk . . . tasty!

No, he didn't eat The Hulk. This is Teddy after eating some Fun Dip. No one should eat Fun Dip.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Ugh

I feel like hell so I will make this brief. I am almost done Edith Wharton's The Buccaneers and I don't want to finish it. I love the main character, Nan St George, and I know there's no way it can end happily for her since it's Wharton and not Austen. Very sad.

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I emailed Jessa Crispin with book reccs today; she's asking for them on Bookslut. I feel as though I just shook hands with the the President or something!

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In a few moments at Half Price Books today I picked up:
The Crimson Petal and the White - this keeps crossing my radar and it's time to check it out
The Beekeeper's Apprentice (for the collection as I've already read it)
The Lovely Bones - Am the only person on the planet who hasn't read this apparently; I did read Sebold's powerful and moving Lucky so I am looking forward ot this
Custom of the Country - another Wharton, 'cause I'm a masochist
A Denise Mina (Suzanne recc'ed her ages ago)
Object Lessons - Anna Quindlen
Burden of Desire - Robert McNeil, read this ages ago and remember liking it and it was only a buck

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Speechless

I don't know what to say to this, other than . . . eeewwww!

food and books

I had to post about this because what Gina said about not having any strong associations with food and books struck a chord. I was surprised to realize that I too have no particular foods associated with particular books. Especially surprised because I am a serious foodaholic. I positively adore food.

I have plenty of books that I love about food (Laurie Colwin, MFK Fisher, John Thorne, Michael Lee West); I have plenty of books that I love with good food in them (any English novel is sure to contain a description of some amazing afternoon tea). And I almost always eat while I am reading - I mean, not constantly, but a cup of tea and a snack while reading a good novel is one of life's finest pleasures. I have books with pink corners from pistachios and redhots; books with chocolate smudges, jam smudges, tea stains...a veritable record of my eating habits thru the years. But I don't associate a particular kind of food with any one book. And I can just as happily munch away while reading some gory forensics book as I can while reading Jane Austen. (Stomach of iron...when I am not pregnant, anyway...)

Although I will say that one of my earliest book memories, as well as one of my earliest food memories, is about reading one of the first Bobbsey Twins, when the twins get lost in the woods and make hot chocolate from melted snow and melted Hershey bars. I always wanted to try that. Alas, that suburban NJ snow again...

perfect madness of motherhood

isn't that why they make Zoloft? Anyhoo...

Ok I was going to rant and rave but why bother? Other people have done it so much more thoroughly, eloquently, and sensibly than I ever could. Go read them, they make a lot of sense. I will content myself with telling one slacker-parent story, and go on to more interesting things.

Salon’s take
New York Times book review
Chez Miscarriage - she took the time to do all the archival work, and I appreciate her for it. She makes excellent points and backs them up with quotes from experts from all eras.

Gina had this to say, and as usual, she functions as my voice of reason:
That Salon article on the motherhood book should make you feel BETTER about making time for yourself. I read something somewhere that said that making your children the center of your universe does them several disservices, one being that they have no reason to want to be a grown up. We need to make sure to do adult things so our kids can see that being an adult is more than drudgery. I like that.

It does make me feel better, and it strengthens my resolve not to let my
kids – or me - get crazy(ier). My brother-in-law told us about this community soccer and was Si interested, his son (also 4) was going to play. When we asked when it was, he said Monday at 530. I just shrugged and said, That's the day they go to daycare and I work, and we are lucky to get home by six, and then we eat dinner, and after all, he's only four and let's face it, not too athletically inclined just yet.
It was like I'd shot the cats dead in front of him.
"Well, the kids just eat after, and I leave work a little early..."
I just said, "I am not interested in making *myself* nuts to get him to
soccer by 530, and making him wait to eat, for something he's not in love
with anyway." I mean, he's FOUR! (And his mother is selfish!) Isn't it enough that I provide stimulating and interesting toys and activites and leave him plenty of time for stuff he does love to do like drum and listen to music? I think so, but what the hell do I know? I mean, those kids may play soccer, but did they get to have a Mardi Gras parade? : )
But you know, Si's only four and it's already starting. Brace myself, right? I didn't do anything in grade school except go to school, come home, do homework, and play Barbies with my little friends across the street. Summer was for lazing around the wading pool, eating popsicles, riding bikes, and playing Kick the Can and Jailbreak until the street lights came on. I think I started gymnastics once a week in 5th grade, and I did do a week-long day camp for gymnastics that summer. But mostly we did lots of nothing. And I managed. I know it's a different world these days but I don't think it's THAT different yet. Not for me.

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Now for the really interesting thing – The Tournament of Books.
Go Cloud Atlas! You can kick Charlotte’s ass!

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I don’t understand the point of the new International Booker Award. It’s given for an author’s lifetime work, and it’s given every two years. Why not just hand out all the prizes to the extensive list of nominees right now and save the hassle of having to nominate the same authors over again in two years? Because let’s face it, it’s not as if some brilliant new writer will come on the scene and garner a nomination for a lifetime achievement award, so we’re working from the same pool for years.

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Last night I finished Patricia Heaton’s Motherhood and Hollywood: How to Get a Job Like Mine. It was at times laugh-out-loud funny; her take on middle-class suburban summers rang so true and was so hilarious, I laughed so hard I almost threw up. Heaton seems pretty down to earth and might be fun to hang out with. It’s always nice to read a book like that.

Salon Suggestions

Did you see these? I think The Manhattan Beach Project could be a good time, but I've never read Peter Lefcourt. And I'm going to request Enchantments from the library as soon as I finish this post.

I'm also interested in How to Fall, which is short stories. Andrew O'Hehir actually makes it a point to say that these aren't short stories in which nothing happens. Against my better judgment, I think I'm going to request this from the library as well. It's not like I can lose, right? But if they're good stories where something happens, I bet I'll just end up frustrated by the fact that I'm not reading a novel.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Will Dave Eggers Please Shut Up?

It doesn't help that the kid doing the interview comes across as Uriah Heap, but MAN! I like A Heartbreaking Work . . . I liked hearing how a young guy dealt with raising his brother, and blah, blah, blah. Sometimes I get a huge kick out of McSweeney's, especially these Dispatches From a Public Librarian, but somesomehow I just can't stand Eggers.

I read Heidi Julavitz's The Effect of Living Backwards, and it was fine. I have nothing against her, or The Believer, or 826 Valencia, or Vendela, or ANYthing.

But I don't think I ever want to read another interview with snooty-pants Eggers.

How you gonna keep ‘em down on the farm?

Lancaster County’s in a state of alarm
How’re they gonna keep ‘em down on the farm?
How’re they gonna keep ‘em down on the farm?
They’re never gonna keep ‘em down on the farm…
Once they’ve been
Philadelphia chickens, swing, slide, and roll,
Philadelphia chickens, up, over, and stroll.


Every time we listen to Sandra Boynton’s marvelous Philadelphia Chickens CD and this song plays, I can’t help but think of my sister-in-law Rebecca, whose parents live in Lancaster, and whose grandparents run a dairy farm. We spent the past weekend there, and it is one of the most relaxing places on earth. Rebecca’s mom is the most gracious of hostesses - Mrs. Smith lets you "help" by doing things like filling water glasses for dinner. No real work allowed; she makes everything look so easy, even feeding 9 people delicious meals and snacks. All I did all weekend was lie or sit around, read magazines, chat, nap, and eat food prepared for me. The Smiths are just so easy to be with and we always feel so welcome; I’d try to get them to adopt me but I think with five kids of their own, they have enough in the way of children. I consider myself very fortunate that they don’t seem to mind running the Lancaster Home for Wayward Matuses.

Simon followed Mr Smith around all weekend, helping him make bird suet and filling all the feeders, building the fire, walking over to his parents' farm to look at the cows and play in the hayloft, throwing the Frisbee for Meg the dog, taking cart rides and tractor rides. Very down-home; I think Si may want to be a farmer now : ) I do know we are going out tomorrow to buy a bird feeder and make suet. Yum!

So the weekend made me start thinking about farm books I have known and loved. The list isn’t very long but the feelings are strong. See, I am just a peasant at heart

Understood Betsy- Delicate, sensitive Elizabeth is sent to her relatives’ farm in Vermont. Where of course she becomes hale and healthy and beloved, and eats tons of good food. I always wanted to pour warm maple syrup on snow and make the candy they describe in this book, but alas, the snow is purer in Vermont apparently than in suburban NJ (shocking, I know), and plus, my mother never bought real maple syrup, and Aunt Jemima doesn’t quite cut it.

Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm – Yet another little girl sent away from the bosom of family into the cold arms of distant relatives who all turn out to be loving and kind in their repressed New England way, and of course, they all do farm work and make their own clothes and eat copious amounts of delicious food.

The Good Master – Kate is sent by her father in Budapest to live on her uncle’s ranch on the Hungarian plains. Having had the measles, Kate is of course – say it with me now – delicate and sensitive – but by book’s end is hale and hearty and able to out-eat any farmhand. I particularly loved the European feel of this book - you find out about all kinds of the old Eastern European traditions and folktales. The Easter chapter is especially wonderful.

Farmer Boy – The Laura Ingalls Wilder book detailing Almanzo Wilder’s boyhood on his father’s farm. The food in this book is simply incredible. I defy anyone to read any part of it and not be hungry; this passage immediately leaps to mind: Almanzo went to the County Fair and “he ate ham and chicken and turkey, and dressing and cranberry jelly; he ate potatoes and gravy, succotash, baked beans and boiled beans and onions, and white bread and rye’n’injun bread, and sweet pickles and jam and preserves. Then he drew along breath and he ate pie. When he began to eat pie, he wished he had eaten nothing else. He ate a piece of pumpkin pie and a piece of custard pie, and he ate almost a piece of vinegar pie. He tried apiece of mince pie but he could not finish it. He just couldn’t do it. There were berry pies and cream pies and vinegar pies and raisin pies, but he could not eat anymore.
Doesn’t that just make you want to go eat more pie than is really good for you? It does me. Of course, I don’t really need much to make me feel that way.

Big Red Barn – My favorite line is “the little black bats flew away, out of the barn at the end of the day.” The illustrations are subtle and lovely and so evocative.

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There’s been much media hoo-ha over Judith Warner’s Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety, and just like everyone else, I am full of opinions about the book and the trends it discusses. So tune in tomorrow for what I call my “Are you abusing your four-year-old by not making him take Suzuki violin and cross-country and underwater macrame?” talk. Check out Salon’s take on it in the meantime.

Reading Like a Grown-Up

A guy from my Library Management class just recommended Upside Down: A Primer for the Looking Glass World, which is a South American scholar's look on our first-world culture. I just requested it from the library, along with T.R. Reid's United States of Europe. Reid is always on NPR, and if his book is half as interesting and readable as Reid's radio personality leads me to expect, this will be a great book.

So am I reading this adult stuff to compensate for my recent glut of things like His Dark Materials and Neil Gaiman? If I am, it's because I feel like I need to ground myself in reality a little more, and NOT because I feel like I'm reading too much that's "easy" or for kids. The fantasy stuff may not be difficult reading, but I think it's certainly enriching and worthwhile nonetheless.

And now, sadly, I must work.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Soy un Perdidor

Remember when Beck was all weird and dreamy and fun and cool? Now he's sad and crushed, and frankly, I don't need that. I do just fine on my own.

Anyway, I am a loser, baby. I've not done a moment's worth of reading for school since Thursday. And you know what? I don't care! I've done some lovely, lovely reading of my OWN!

Marvel 1602 was wonderful. Wonderful! I finished that on Friday night, and I wanted to run out to B&N for more of the same. When I got there, though, I was let down by the selection. I think I need more guidance for one thing, and I also think I need to look in a place where there's a better selection. I picked up Coraline, because I know that Neil Gaiman is a safe bet, but that's not really what I'm looking for. I want this. I think I first heard of it on Bookslut.

Okay, so I finished the Marvel book and then I read the new Douglas Coupland, which was his best so far, I think. I'm not a huge Coupland fan, but I really liked the female narrator in this one. And the story was flakey, of course, but I really cared about the people.

Then I got about 3/4 of the way through The Subtle Knife. Love! However, I got sidelined and instead of finishing that last night, I read this from cover to cover. I love reading about food, although I felt like a sheepish lemur for buying it. (Can you BE a sheepish lemur?) But the recipes! The recipes, I say! I can't wait to buy some lovely produce at Whole Foods, so I can make what seems like an incredible vegetable soup. And I want the poached pears. And the pork chops with apple. Lots of simple recipes, but beautiful foods!

So that's it for me and my weekend reading. Teddy's all happy because the tenth in his beloved Andrew Lost series came out, so I got to thrill as I watched him walk into school this morning . . . READING! Let's hope ALL of his apples fall from my side of the tree! :-) He's also working on a short biography of Theodore Roosevelt so he can dress up as the man for school on Friday (one of Carl's sport coats over a pillow, a pair of glasses with no lenses, and a teddy bear should do the trick), and we'll start Half Magic soon.

Reading is good. Maybe I take back what I said about being a loser. But I don't know how to say "I'm a winner" in Spanish. Sorry, Beck.

Friday, February 18, 2005


Mardi Gras Parade Posted by Hello

Happy Anniversary!

Someone please tell me why I want to see this movie: For all my years of complaining about what a lousy actor Keanu Reeves is (did you see him in Much Ado About Nothing? Painful.), I find myself in a strange sort of lust for him. See, I told you: tall, dark, and difficult. Although I even liked him as Tod in Parenthood: tall, dark, and goofy.

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Just when you think you deserve to start feeling like an adult, you go and do something like LOSE YOUR RETAINER. Yes. I am 34 years old and I lost my retainer. I can keep track of two children (more or less), but I cannot keep track of my retainer. Or, to be completely fair, the top half of my retainer. Jeezum. I expect I’ll find the cats playing with it someday soon.

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You know what we really need: a library delivery service. No, it's not enough that I can go online, request any book in the system to be transferred to the library closest to me, and be emailed when they arrive for pick-up. I want them delivered to my doorstep, too.

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Ten years ago today, February 18, 2005, at 9:15 in the morning, I was wandering around the downtown Barnes and Noble, in sweats and running shoes, looking for something to read on my flight to Italy, and a good dictionary of saints with which to enhance my viewing of Italy’s finest religious art. I suppose I should have been getting into my wedding gown, having my make-up done, and fussing with my hair, but my maid-of-honor had those tasks covered. I had to find something to read on the plane.

If there’s one good reason why Dan and I have lasted ten years, it’s that we’ve worked really hard at figuring out what our marriage should be, and learning not to care if it conforms to societal expectations of the perfect marriage. But if there’s a second reason, it’s that my husband has never once uttered the sentence, “Do you really need all these books?” He’s never suggested we get rid of some, or put some in storage, even when we lived in a tiny one-bedroom apartment. He never questioned my desire to have a room in the new house for use just as the library, and he did not make fun of me when I catalogued all our books using the Library of Congress system. He even listened to me debate the relative merits of LC versus Dewey. He has never given me a hard time about the money I spend on books; in fact, sometimes I think he feels bad that he doesn’t spend more money so I don’t feel so guilty. He has never once questioned my need to take half a dozen books on a week-long vacation, or my compulsion to carry a book with me when we go to family functions. And when I say, “It could be worse, I could have a heroin habit,” he has the good grace to smile. All in all, a stand-up guy. Happy anniversary, Danno. (Not that I’ve been silly enough to give him the URL to this page…)

Thursday, February 17, 2005

A tempest in a ...teapot?

While noodling around looking for the wonderfully titled American Journal of Insanity (mentioned in Gracefully Insane), I found some interesting abstracts for which at some point I will hunt down the full articles. This one particularly piqued my interest: "The tempest in my mind": Cultural interfaces between psychiatry and literature, 1844-1900.

For some reason it brought to mind a William Styron book I once read for a consumer health resources class, Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness. Not that I thought the book was particularly good; here’s the review I wrote for the class assignment. As you can see, even then I was not brimming with the milk of human kindness or suffering from a surfeit of compassion.

Styron’s book describes his bout with depression in the summer of 1985, beginning while on a trip to Paris to accept an eagerly anticipated literary award. He actively describes his depression as “a howling tempest in the brain.” He begins to feel tired all the time, a “general malaise,” and this quickly develops into a clinical depression- he cannot eat, he cannot (literally) speak, and his behavior is erratic and at times frightening to those who are around him. He briefly discusses the possibilities of the cause, never having really been a “depressive” for most of his life – his theories abound: overly liberal doses of prescription sleeping pills, an ineffective therapist, a “devastating loss” in childhood, a few other vaguely worded ideas about his work and his commitments.
He details empathetically the worst parts of depression- the hopelessness, the feeling as if you will never feel or get better, the lack of any direction or ambition, the loneliness – but this is the only instance of empathy I encountered in this book. He tends to the melodramatic; particularly noteworthy as example of this is his insistence that none of the available medications could work quickly enough (to me, this is like assuming that one bout of chemotherapy is going to cure your cancer). In fact, he contends that he is in the “distinct minority of patients whose affliction is beyond control.” He goes on to say that he doesn’t want to be “insensitive” to those people whose treatments worked (“successful treatment ultimately enjoyed” are his words, as if anything at all about depression can be enjoyed) but then he seems to positively delight in the fact that he is apparently impervious to medications prescribed and that his therapy sessions are ineffective. (Find another therapist. Try different drugs. Try different treatment. Try something, anything else, rather than just reveling in this misery, for God’s sake.)
His other melodramatic affect is a “wraithlike” second self who observes all that the depressive is enduring, and Styron himself admits at this point that this is “theatrical” and “melodramatic”. I lost patience when he gleefully described himself planning his own suicide, devilishly reviewing his delicious and gory options, but (fortuitously) he stopped himself just in time to seek help.
I truly don’t mean to demean his pain and solitude, but throughout most of the book I received the distinct impression that he was actually enjoying this experience. Even though he describes the agony and the anguish in minute detail, he relishes the horrible details and, particularly, the strains it places on his relationships - almost as if he is indeed living up to his “tortured artist” image. I might not have felt like this quite as strongly if he didn’t do everything in his power to belittle and deride the various therapies and treatments attempted by his wife, his therapists, and his doctors in the hospital in which he finally finds himself.
One of the few truthful and touching moments occurs when he describes and vaunts the immense efforts expended on his behalf by his wife – “the endlessly patient soul who had become nanny, mommy, comforter, priestess, and most important, confidante – a counselor of rocklike centrality to my existence.”
He does a thorough job describing the history of depression and its treatments and place in psychiatric history. I just didn’t see evidence of or feel the honesty or emotion I have encountered in other accounts of depression. Styron was telling a very detailed and carefully-thought-out story about something that happened to him but might just as well have happened to one of his characters (most of whom could not be described as stable, incidentally). Was it helpful, uplifting, encouraging, informative even? Not particularly. It read only like a self-indulgent diatribe against an unlucky episode in the life of the deep, (pseudo)introspective, tortured artist.


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My bad - turns out Baby 81’s birthmark isn’t – it’s a mottu, a sign to ward off bad luck, applied by the nurses who helped him when he first came to the hospital. Seems like it worked.

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I am halfway through one of Ayelet Waldman’s Mommy Track mysteries, Death Gets A Timeout. It reads very much like her blog – witty, funny, breezy. The mystery is sort of peripheral, really, but her characters and their lives are honestly portrayed and interesting, especially to those of us who are living somewhat similar ones, i.e. trying to maintain sanity with multiple children and ridiculous schedules. Death Gets A Timeout also has one of the most amusing covers I have seen in a while. The first Mommy Track mystery, Nursery Crimes, is waiting at the library for me to pick up; I’m looking forward to reading the rest of Waldman’s work.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

isn't today some arcane holiday I could use for a heading?

My four-year-old is drumming Beatles and Radiohead tunes, in his bathrobe. (The white one with the rabbit ears, I might add.) How very…Keith Richards, maybe? Dan thinks it’s more Red Hot Chili Peppers… I think it’s exactly what I deserve for letting him wear a bathrobe with rabbit ears.

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Mimi Smartypants is irrationally pissed off at laundry-hanging ballerinas; I am irrationally pissed off at Mimi Smartypants. Why does a ballerina’s laundry hanging around irritate her? Why? Ballerinas need clean clothes too, and so the clothes they wear are cute and tiny. Would it be better if she was an enormous garbage man hanging up huge blue coveralls? Sadly I think the truth is that Mimi reminds me more and more of a friend of mine who is very much the …how do I put this? …foreign-film-appreciating type. God forbid you go see something mainstream. Even worse if you enjoy it. If you’re not an obscure foreign film star or minor poet or indie rock singer/songwriter, you’re beneath notice. I feel like Mimi is verging on that. Or maybe she’s just PMSing. Maybe I am just grumpy. That’s the most likely explanation all around.

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Ok, while looking for a photo or some interesting link for the huge blue garbageman coverall, I found this. It's a hoot.

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I finished Gracefully Insane last night; no idea what I will pick up next. I’ll be sure to let you know. Ha! As if you could escape.

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I was excited by this bestseller list, because Khaled Hosseini's Kite Runner is Number One. And it's about damn time a really GOOD book topped a bestseller list. But then I realized whose bestseller list it was: Powells. I mean, it does count, but it's not as if Hosseini bumped John Grisham or Danielle Steele off the New York Times bestseller list. (I wish. Oh how I wish. Alas my cynicism a la Jonathan Franzen re: the American reading public abounds.)People who tend to buy at Powell's (gross generalization ahead) tend to be slightly more, shall we say, literary, than the average Joe Schmo on the street who buys a book at the airport to read on his flight. As I mix my metaphors. So when Hosseini tops the airport-book-buying bestseller list, then I shall know that there is hope for the American literary scene. After all that raving, turns out that Kite Runner is merely second on the NYT list, sandwiched between, God help us, John Grisham and Dean Koontz. And I thought Hassan got a raw deal...
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A friend of mine claims that he goes days without opening a book - the very thought terrifies me, as that would be like asking me to go days without breathing, except maybe worse. But the last book he read that he says might even interest me was John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany, and what did I think of it? Well, I like John Irving, even if his more recent stuff is incredibly formulaic and some of his novella/short stories are just plain strange and semi-incoherent. Garp is a classic (and the movie is almost as good as the book, one of the few ever that measures up to its source); my personal favorite is probably Cider House Rules. I need to reread Owen Meany before commenting even somewhat meaningfully on it – I vaguely remember something about a dwarf? But then again, that could pretty much be in any John Irving novel…

Which brings me, not at all in any logical sequence, to my next thought. In an NPR interview with Ketzel Levine, John Irving said that he is an enormous Charles Dickens fan. He has read everything ever written by Dickens except Our Mutual Friend, and he doesn’t plan on reading that anytime soon because he is saving it so he has something good to read on his deathbed. And I started to wonder, are there any books like that for me? Books guaranteed to be good, so I need to save them for moments when I need a sure thing? Jane Austen immediately leaps to my mind. I have read the biggies, although I could stand to reread Persuasion, Sense & Sensibility and Northanger Abbey; I have only read them once each. But I haven’t read the minor, earlier ones: Lady Susan, The Watsons, and Sanditon. I am indeed (and till now sort of subconsciously) saving them for an unspecified point in time when I need something I know will be good to read. Whenever that may be.

I know I am saving John Galsworthy’s The Forsyte Saga for a nice long relaxing vacation; this is on Anna Quindlen’s Ten Big Thick Books That Could Take You All Summer to Read (but Aren’t Beach Books) list (from her gem of a book, How Reading Changed My Life), and none of the others I have read from that list disappointed: Lonesome Dove, Gone with the Wind, East of Eden, Can You Forgive Her? (which opens up another whole set of terrific books by Trollope in the Palliser series). Possibly some Edith Wharton or George Eliot would be a sure thing? Maybe Salman Rushdie’s older stuff? I was so disappointed by his last novel, Fury, that I know I can’t count on loving anything new, but I still haven’t read Shame or The Moor’s Last Sigh. There is definitely a list of authors that I am always sure to check for new stuff – AS Byatt, Richard Russo, Beth Gutcheon, Margaret Atwood – but again, no guarantee with new novels. But the Deathbed, Sure-Thing Novel? That’s a toughie. I think for me it’s gotta be the minor Austens. How could Jane Austen EVER disappoint?

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

in a calm conversational tone...

A parent’s nightmare (or if you’re like me, at least one of them…)
http://www.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/asiapcf/02/14/baby81.result/index.html
Thank God that the little guy is back with his mama and dad. (But can I ask an ignorant question? Take a look at the birthmark on the baby’s forehead. I mean, c’mon, how could you forget that? Wouldn’t requiring a listing of identifying marks have cleared this up much more quickly? Or maybe the baby’s pictures were too publicized for that to be feasible?)

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Jude has just discovered that his little stuffed Blue that his cousin Connor gave him has magnets in her paws and so can draw on his Magnadoodle. Oh frabjous day! I wonder if this gets me off the hook from drawing umpteen family portraits on the dang thing? It’s harder than you might think to get a decent likeness of my husband on the Magnadoodle, but at least I wear glasses, so that helps *my* self-portrait. I wish I had a scanner or a digital camera so I could post my feeble efforts. My rendition of Jude’s balding, battered baby doll Mimi is heartrending.

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I LOVE this:
http://www.themorningnews.org/tob/

I am pulling for Cloud Atlas since in my opinion, it got robbed for the Booker.

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OK, there was an entry on Bookslut yesterday about this book that I have seen everywhere for the past few years, called A Child Called It. In the interest of full disclosure, I haven't read it; I am not interested in reading it; I *have* read a number of reviews. Turns out there is a good chance the guy made it all up (link courtesy of bookslut); first his brother said he did indeed fabricate the whole shebang, but then the brother jumped on the bandwagon and wrote his own godawful book.

Now here’s the question (in a roundabout, ranty kind of way). As a parent, I find it incredibly difficult to even read the newspapers some days. The things people do to children – often their own children - are nauseating and heartbreaking and make me want to scream. And we’re talking newspaper reporting here, no salacious details or gory descriptions. And yet *apparently normal* people are paying good money for a book that details in excruciating particulars the horrific torture and abuse allegedly suffered by these two men as children. At the hand of their natural mother. I am not arguing that it is impossible. But WHY would you want to read about it? Isn’t it uplifting enough that these children overcame their horrific, abusive lives and grew up into respectable, somewhat normal people? Do you need to read all about the disgusting things their parent did to them to make it more inspirational and uplifting?? Huh? Do you?

A few years ago I read Richard Russo’s Empire Falls. A decent book, with Russo’s typically deep and well-drawn characters, albeit with a slightly more sensationalist ending than I have come to expect from a writer as careful as Russo. But what I remember most from that book is a brief paragraph about halfway thru, where the police chief explains to one of the main characters the abuse the teenage boy in the story underwent at the hands of his young druggie parents: When the toddler was fussy or they just didn’t feel like coping with him anymore, they would put him in a laundry bag and hang him from the back of the door, where he then would cry and kick and scream his way to exhaustion and sleep. So his parents could shoot up in peace. There’s a lot going on in this book, but this is what I remember most clearly. I was horrified then, I am still horrified. Why do people like that bother to procreate? Why bother with pregnancy and birth if you don’t care about the child? In my mind, actions like this clearly go way beyond neglect - it's active torment.

I understand psychotics like Andrea Yates more than I understand people who torture their children for kicks. Which I suppose is good. While I have never even once contemplated killing my kids, thank God, I have certainly been at the point where I was ready to walk out the door and never return, or kill myself, or at least lock them in their rooms for an hour of peace; I have certainly whacked them on their butts on occasion, when called for. But I have NEVER, EVER, and I venture to assert that no normal parent ever has, thought of torturing my kids.

I happen to adore my kids, I would gladly take a bullet for either one of them. I would save them before I would save my husband (a Sophie’s choice I hope I never have to make). But I don’t think I am a particularly good or morally upstanding person. What makes a person capable of parenting -- and what is it that prompts other people to want to read in stomach-sickening detail about the parents who fail miserably?

To wrap up my rant (which, sorry, turned into a two-pronged rant rather than a single one), here’s an applicable quote from one of my favorite movies, Parenthood:
“You know, Mrs. Buchman, you need a license to buy a dog, to drive a car - hell, you even need a license to catch a fish. But they'll let any butt-reaming asshole be a father.”

Monday, February 14, 2005

Happy Valentine's Day!

Gotta love this sincere sentiment from Amazon: “Paper hearts get crumpled. Candy gets eaten. Flowers lose their petals and wilt. This year, give your sweetie something as enduring as your love. Show your affection with a…book.” You’re speaking my language, baby!

My picks for the best books about love, in no particular order:

Lolita – Humbert Humbert is indeed a pervert but he also really does love Dolores Haze and goes to great lengths to win her. Which seriously screws up everyone’s life –ain’t love grand? (See my anti-love list as well. I’m sorry, didn’t mean for the love cynicism to creep into the V-Day entry.)

Pride and Prejudice – ok, so I’ve been having lascivious dreams about Colin Firth as Mr Darcy. Females (and assorted males of my acquaintance), look me in the eye and tell me you haven’t. (Ditto Firth in Bridget Jones…mmm, mmm…”Nice boys don’t kiss like that…”) But I suppose Emma is the truer love story, and Mr Knightley isn’t quite as big a pain in the ass as Mr. Darcy is.

Rebecca – Truly one of the most romantic books of all time, right up there with Jane Eyre. Max deWinter, Mr. Rochester, Mr Darcy, Mr Knightley - I clearly like my men tall, dark, and difficult. (See Jitterbug Perfume below.)

Gone With the Wind – I adore Rhett, and so does Scarlett. I am just smarter than Scarlett and never found Ashley at all attractive to begin with.

The Beekeeper’s Apprentice – Subtle love story running throughout a mystery with Sherlock Holmes and his younger, female apprentice, Mary Russell. I was rooting for Mary from the word Go. And who knew Sherlock could be so sexy?

Bel Canto – You might think it’s merely Stockholm Syndrome, but it’s so much more.

The Golden Compass/The Subtle Knife/ The Amber Spyglass - Lyra and Will haunt me.

The Time Traveller’s Wife – Intriguing blend of sci fi and romance, and Henry deTamble is a librarian – see, it obviously exudes romance.

Around the House and in the Garden. Dominique Browning, the editor of House and Garden, is a lovely, contemplative writer, and this book about dealing with the aftermath of her divorce is, oddly, quiet and soothing.

Bridge to Terabithia. The meaning of real friendship, and its attendant joys and pain.

Jitterbug Perfume – I don’t remember much about this book but I do remember that it was the first book my husband ever gave me to read, and it was magical. It brought us together, for better or for worse as they say, and we’re still here. We’ve been through some seriously tough crap and learned a lot along the way, but we get better at it every day.

Daddy-Long-Legs and its sequel, Dear Enemy. Delightful love stories, and yes, that is the perfect word to describe them. Sorry.

*************************

Simon and I both really enjoyed the heffalump movie. It was funny and sweet and made its compassionate, friendly point without being overly didactic (can you be normally didactic? Without being all preachy?) I personally loved when Rabbit opened his front door wearing curlers in his ears and a pink bathrobe. Watch out, here comes Jerry Falwell!
And I must admit, that baby heffalump was so insanely adorable that I want one of my own. Complete with Australian accent (or maybe it was Cockney) – at any rate, adorable with a capital A.

It was Simon’s first movie in the movie theatre, and it was so fun for me to watch how excited he was, by things I have long taken for granted. He couldn’t wait for the lights to go down; he couldn’t wait for the previews to be over and the movie to start; he kept asking if the movie was over because he did not want it to end and was anxious that it was going to just *stop*, and he made us sit all the way to the very end of all the credits “just in case” (just in case what? Pooh made a personal appearance? Who knows? Who cares, I waited.) He was even enthralled by the little animated Mickey Mouse logo at the end that came onscreen with a paintbrush and “painted” the Disney castle, a la the Wiggles. He was thrilled to eat popcorn and drink his lemonade, and had a blast walking around the lobby looking at all the posters for the movie. He now knows how to spell heffalump (very handy, that).

And I enjoyed thoroughly sitting in a movie theatre holding my baby on my lap, smelling his hair at will (he uses this yummy mango shampoo and normally he groans, “Mooooooooommm…” when I dare to sniff his head. When I think of how I used to have to sniff his butt to see if he was poopy…. sigh. Parents are so underappreciated.), hugging him, and reveling in his every giggle and smile. I highly recommend taking a four year old to a movie as an insta-cure for world weariness and cynicism.

********************************

Good news: Ayelet Waldman now has a regular column on Salon. Check it out.

Bad news: Because she is now writing a regular column for Salon, Ayelet is no longer writing her blog, Bad Mother. I am thoroughly bummed; I just discovered her blog and felt as if I had found a friend worth cultivating. I’ll miss you, Ayelet, but I’ll catch you on Salon.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Marie of Roumania

Life is a glorious cycle of song,
A medley of extemporanea;
And love is a thing that can never go wrong;
and I am Marie of Roumania.

Dorothy Parker is the quintessential anti-love writer. Probably just why I love her so.

In this spirit I offer you my anti-love books:

Lolita tops both my anti-love AND love lists. Weird and conflicted, I know, but so is Humbert Humbert.

House of Mirth and/or Ethan Frome – in fact, one could argue for anything by Edith Wharton. She certainly does like to examine the seamier side of love.

Jeffrey Eugenides wrote The Virgin Suicides, possibly the best recent anti-love book, and then he followed it up with Middlesex, also an excellent anti-love book. Maybe he is our age’s Edith Wharton? He’s not quite as seamy but is just as astute and sharp. You hurt for his characters in much the same ways that you ache for Lily Bart, Ethan and Mattie, and even the insipid social-climbing Mrs St George.

Henry James’ Portrait of a Lady. Poor Isabelle Archer. Love sucks. Ditto Tess of the D’Urbervilles. If this one doesn’t turn you off love, nothing will.

Anything Ernest Hemingway. His men are noodles (and no, that wasn’t a cheap shot at Jake Barnes…well, maybe it was…), and his women aren’t too much better. Everyone knows Papa was a misogynist.

The Corpse Had A Familiar Face – Edna Buchanan was a police reporter for the Miami Herald for 16 years, and the things people do to each other in the heat of passion can be downright shocking.

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In other news, Si and I are off to see the new Pooh heffalump movie. I have always had a sneaking sympathy for the old heffalumps, so I hope they don’t make them too harmless and happy (although I am afraid – I mean, look at the heffalump in that website – could he BE any cuter?). After all, if Eeyore is my favorite Pooh character, why wouldn’t I love the original grumpy, scary heffalump? (Although I must say I like the spotty heffalump even more…). And I couldn’t even find an online image of the patchwork heffalump. Those heffalumps are wily creatures indeed.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Gracefully Insane

I ditched Housekeeping (after skipping to the end to find out how it finished up – I know, I know, so shoot me…) and picked up Alex Beam’s Gracefully Insane: Life and Death Inside America's Premier Mental Hospital. New England’s McLean Hospital was essentially a mental hospital for the well-to-do, or to quote an Amazon reviewer, “the mental institution equivalent of the Plaza Hotel.” (I’ve had tea at the Plaza and I must say that *that* was pleasant…) All kinds of famous people were treated there, now adding to my list of books-to-read Girl, Interrupted, Susanna Kaysen’s memoir of her stay, and Sylvia Plath’s Bell Jar, a fictionalized memoir of Plath’s time there. Gracefully Insane is readable, conversational yet professional in tone, and delves into the architectural and civic as well as the medical history of the place.

I must say, I could do with a spell there myself, but since I am anything but gracefully insane ---well, let’s just say that if I were to have been born two centuries earlier, I’d have been locked up in the stereotypical lunatic asylum (like Renfield’s prison in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, or even the infamous Charenton Asylum in Marat/Sade). It’d probably be all about wandering around in my nightgown, drooling. No high class treatment for me, if indeed I even made it so far as getting some treatment. As has been sensitively pointed out to me in the past, when you’re a penniless peasant, who has time to be depressed and/or give into your obsessive compulsions? But having the luxury of being a stay-at-home mom with an advanced degree and enough cash, I am perfectly positioned to indulge my inner lunatic.

So when my Zoloft runs out, and I am still waiting for my pharmacy-by-mail order to arrive, and my shrink isn’t in his office to dispense a handy bottle of samples, and I discover that my therapist/shrink bills are no longer fully covered by my insurance, I will just dream of being independently wealthy sometime in the late 1800s, and taking up residence in one of McLean’s lovely residences, complete with private bath and maid. Ah, bliss.

Random lunatic asylum links that I found cool:

Life in a Victorian Lunatic Asylum. Just reading about the Gyration Chair made me want to vomit. Thank God for modern pharmaceuticals. They might make you fat but they shouldn’t make you vomit.

Life at the Texas State Lunatic Asylum
Just the title of this one is enough to scare the crap out of me!

Twelfth Night at the Hanwell Lunatic Asylum
Isn’t this a jolly little picture? Way to keep those lunatics happy.

King of Hearts - I’ve never seen this movie, but I’ve always wanted to. It’s supposed to be hilarious. I mean, what could be funnier than lunatics on the loose?

Anyway, this is simply fascinating to me, and I could go on all night. But I won’t. (I’m not totally crazy…)

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Screw Disneyworld, the library is the happiest place on earth.

That is my favorite new saying. Thanks, Gina! I am going to put it on a bumper sticker.

I am fifty pages into Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping. For all the hype the book got, I expected to be enthralled – and I’m not. It’s a very quiet, nicely written novel, with quiet characters and some lovely imagery. As one reviewer said, it's fairly 19th-century and at the same time, it reminds me of Kent Haruf’s Plainsong more than anything else. I guess the huge gap between books has something to do with the hype for her second, Gilead, but I am not anticipating great things anymore. Look at Donna Tartt – The Secret History was good, but I doubt her second one, The Little Friend would have made as big a splash (although eventually it did sort of fizzle out) if it had been written only two or three years after her first. (And if she weren’t such a mysterious and sexy person…wonder how mysterious and sexy Marilynne Robinson is?) However, in Tartt’s defense, at least her books are memorable. I am not sure I’ll remember reading Housekeeping at all. Unless it’s for my disappointment in it.

Simon is listening to the Clash and jumping on his bed. (He did this Sunday and fell off the bed, clonking his head on the footboard. Ouch. When I arrived at the Super Bowl party without him, and met some new people, they assumed Simon was my husband until it came out later in conversation that Simon is my four year old. I can’t even imagine what sort of moron these people thought I was, marrying a man who spends Sunday afternoons jumping on the bed to the Clash?) At any rate, I am merely expressing my gratitude that Si is back into the Clash, and the horror of Wilco’s Spiders (Kid Smoke) are to be avoided today at least. God I hate that song. Unfortunately Simon likes it. I think it’s this generation's In-a-freaking-Gadda-Da-Vida or however the hell you spell that song. Jeff Tweedy, you may be a genius, but Kid Smoke SUCKS. Also, Jeff, speaking of kids smoking, if you’re reading this, could you please *quit* smoking? I am tired of seeing my four year old wandering around the house with his guitar in hand and a Tinker Toy stick in his mouth.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Truman Capote in a hat

Truman Capote not in a hat but considerably younger and quite hot

Jesus H. Christ on a crutch...no, just kidding...no pics... it just seemed to flow.

in the interest of artistic integrity....

or something like that, here's the link to our old blog and its archives.
http://babelonium.blogspot.com/
For reasons we are not at liberty to disclose, we had to create a new blog.

We also planned to blog in disguise but I am finding it hard to type with these silly glasses on.

What we really need here is the Blogger Protection Program:
[a clumsy homage to one of my favorite Simpsons episodes ever, Cape Fear]

BPP agent: OK, Babelbabe, you are now going to be Jane Doe Blogger. When I say hello, you say Hello back to me.
Me: ok
Agent: Hello, Jane Doe.
Me: (blank stare)
BPP agent: Babelbabe, you are going to be Jane Doe.
Me: oh, ok. yeah.
Agent: Hello, Jane Doe.
Me: (blank stare)
Agent: When I step on your foot and say "hello, Jane Doe" you say...

[You get the idea... I LOVE that episode. Thx for bearing with me. - bb]

Happy Chinese New Year!

Leaving the library, I saw a school bus with the script MIL Transit on its side. What a great idea! Where do you suppose they send all those pesky mother-in-laws, and where do I sign mine up?

I finished a book while I was waiting at the doctor’s today. Poor planning on my part – but they wanted another doctor to check out this previously unfascinating mole on my back, and I had already finished the book I brought. Do you suppose many other people feel panic when they are faced with a, oh, I don’t know, ten minute wait without something to read? Or is it just me? Fortunately there were some intriguing posters of various skin diseases posted on the examining room wall, they kept me busy for the ten minutes.

I finished the third Kate Martinelli mystery. I say I am not in love, but I must be, because while I argue that they are formulaic and inconsistent, I plan to go buy the fourth as soon as I get my cash this week. Also, I am halfway through In Cold Blood. At a party on Sunday, one of the other guests said that Truman Capote knew how to wear a hat. It never occurred to me that you could NOT know how to wear a hat, but now I have to go Google the dude and see what he looked like. His writing style is oddly old-fashioned yet likeable. I find I don’t really care about any of the characters, they might just as well have come out of a Dick and Jane text for all their depth so far, but I think I’d really like to have sat down and had a few drinks with Mr. Capote.

Quick, what do these books have in common?

The Botany of Desire – Michael Pollan
The Falls – Joyce Carol Oates
A Return to Modesty – Wendy Shalit
One Day The Ice Will Reveal All Its Dead – Clare Dudman
Housekeeping – Marilynne Robinson
The Shark Chronicles – John Musick and Beverly McMillan
FBI Girl – Maura Conlon-McIvor
Gracefully Insane – Alex Beam
Under the Banner of Heaven – Jon Krakauer
Maggots, Murder, and Men – Dr Zakaria Erzinclioglu
Bitten – Pamela Nagami
Truth and Beauty – Ann Patchett

If you guessed that these are the books I staggered out of the library with, after fifteen minutes sans children, you would be correct. Quite the eclectic collection, it looks like I participated in one of those shopping sprees where you have a grocery cart and five minutes. Mostly in the medical section (you find the most interesting ones in the RA-RC section, for you librarian types out there…), but really a fair scattering of other topics, fiction and non. Unlike at a bookstore, I am almost completely indiscriminate in my take-home choices, since they are FREE. Well, except I never ever get them back on time, but in theory they are free. So if I don’t like a book, or don’t get to it, or get halfway thru and am fed up with it, there is no guilt. Isn’t this a wonderful country? God bless the USA and its free library system.


Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Pronunciation Guide, Please

Teddy has been having a good time reading the Wayside School books by Louis Sachar. This is great, and I'm glad, and I hope he wants to read Sachar's other books, including Holes when he gets a little older. However, how can you encourage your kid to love an author whose NAME YOU DON'T KNOW HOW TO PRONOUNCE?!?!? Is it "SACK-er"? "SA-char"? What?!?!

The same goes for Michael Chabon. Is it "sha-BON"? Because I really want to know.

I know there are other authors' whose names I can't pronounce--or else mispronounced for a long time (none of us were born knowing how to pronounce Goethe, I'm sure).

So who wants to pronounce Sachar and Chabon properly for me? And are there others you can think of?

Happy Mardi Gras!

Mardi Gras! Whoo-hoo! Since my days of jetting off to New Orleans are over for a little bit, the boys and I are staging our own Mardi Gras parade, complete with beads, feather boas, and crazy hats. (I believe Jude will be sporting his ever-popular-with-the-old-ladies “Magic Hat.”) Afterwards, we will convene in the kitchen where we will eat doughnuts (the closest I can get to beignet) and listen to Cajun music. After all, it is FAT Tuesday, may as well go with it. If you can’t eat doughnuts now, when can you eat doughnuts? To quote the wise Homer, “Donuts. Is there anything they can’t do?”

My reccs for New Orleans books:

Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. Now, I have to admit that I was not as in love with this book as other people I know, but it was amusing, and it made me wildly happy to see the actual Lucky Dog hot dog carts in New Orleans after reading about Ignatius’ adventures with them. And I assume everyone knows the story associated with this book (blurb from Amazon):

"Toole wrote this novel in Puerto Rico during a hitch in the U.S. Army. In 1966 it was rejected by Simon & Schuster. In 1969 Toole committed suicide. Toole's mother then tried to get it published. After seven years of rejection she showed it to novelist Walker Percy, under whose encouragement it was published by Louisiana State University Press. Many critics praised it as a comic masterpiece that memorably evokes the city of New Orleans and whose robust protagonist is a modern-day Falstaff, Don Quixote, or Gargantua."
And then it won the Pulitzer, too.

Madeline’s Ghost by Robert Girardi. And I am excited to find that Girardi has a new novel, The Wrong Doyle, which I must go buy immediately.

Many of Ellen Gilchrist’s characters are from New Orleans, or have lived in New Orleans, and some of the stories are set in New Orleans. I remember being green with envy over one of her protagonists who was a knocked-up teen living in a dive in the Garden District. Pooh to poverty, pregnancy, and overwhelming heat; the girl was hanging in the Big Easy! What did she have to complain about?!

I *know* someone is out there saying, Wait, you forgot Anne Rice. No, I didn’t, I left her out on purpose. I personally think her books suck. Along with Lestat. However, she lends some nice local flavor, as she *is* a bit eccentric: for example, you can’t see it in this photo (or --bummer-- maybe it’s not there anymore) but Ms. Rice has this huge black dog statue that hangs out on her balcony. It’s oversized enough that it’s obviously not real, and frankly, I found it downright creepy. Creepy enough that I took a picture of it, which I do not have online so cannot post - sorry. But it was sort of what I pictured the Baskerville hound would look like...that's neither here nor there as far as her writing is concerned, for me; I just don't think she's all that great a writer. Prolific, yes; great, no. So no Rice recc from me.

So, go have a Hurricane, party a bit, and pretend you're in N'Awlins. Because tomorrow we die. Or at least some of you give up chocolate for Lent, which is practically the same thing.




Monday, February 07, 2005

I am so dumb, I am so dumb....

They just keep coming...the books I lent and never got back, the books I weeded. Heed my advice: Hoard your books! Don't let them out of your sight! They may never return.(This is where I'd like to make an incredibly tasteless "sort of like your children" joke...) But it's distressing that I read an article linked from bookslut about titles of books, and I used to own the book Adam Langer discusses, BUT I DON'T ANYMORE. Argh. Can you tell I am wildly fustrated? Perhaps I need therapy to get over this issue, but as I mentioned before, my book-buying funds are limited, and I hate being so dumb. And I wanted to look at that book now.

The hot book at the moment seems to be Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx. It shows up everywhere lately - in Mimi Smartypants, Sara Nelson's book, was it in Polysyllabic Spree or do I just think every book that crosses my radar anymore came from a Nick Hornby recc? And I think Gina read it. Gina? Was it good? Should I read it?

I have been delving into Ayelet Waldman's blog, Bad Mother, and I love her. If I didn't already, her latest post One of Us, One of Us would have clinched the deal. I don't understand why oddities of medicine fascinate me, or viruses or pathology or diseases. (When I was growing up, I *so* wanted to be Quincy. I would have made a great forensic pathologist, maybe not as cool as Jack Klugman, but close.) I read all sorts of odd books like Mary Roach's Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers (one of my missing books, sadly), and very likely distress my local librarian by requesting books like Scene of the Crime and As Nature Made Him. So I was delighted to find a cadre of weirdos just like me. I don't get off on it, I just find that sort of stuff intellectually interesting and in some cases, artistically interesting.

However, I am not completely without hope of redemption. rotten.com was much too...prurient...for me. I could handle *looking* at the stuff, it wasn't that it was any grosser than anything else I've seen, but I just felt it was on display for the wrong reasons. (And likely without any sort of permission from subject and/or photographer?) Not that I am passing judgment, it just crossed my personal threshold of comfort. Anyhoo...I'm weird, and I know it. But having said all that, I spent an hour in Borders this evening looking at anatomy coloring books, and I really want one. They're so freaking gorgeous.

Miss BiblioManners

What is the first thing you do when you walk into someone's house, a house where you haven't been before?

I am probably wildly ill-bred (raised by wolves in a barn with the door wide open and all...) but I make a beeline for the bookshelves. Nick Hornby said in Polysyllabic Spree that "All of the books we own, both read and unread, are the fullest expression of self we have at our disposal." (Nope, no pressure there! Excuse me while I go burn my Judith Krantz collection : ))

So I walked into David and Marisa's house last night, ostensibly to watch the SuperBowl with friends, and parked myself in front of the bookshelves. David's a sci-fi guy, not my interest, but Marisa....Marisa had books on her shelf I have 1) read and loved, 2) wanted to read and haven't gotten to yet, or 3) read, wasn't crazy about, but was thrilled to find someone to talk to about them anyway. And even better, she lent me a book at the end of the evening. Does it get any better than that, I ask you? Screw the SuperBowl (the "Pastriots" won; Simon was mad...), I came home with a Paul Theroux I hadn't read, and several author recommendations. Yay, Marisa!

I am so excited to have discovered (been pointed in the direction of) Paul Theroux. Becuase I don't have nearly enough books in my to-read pile now...

And speaking of bibliomanners and lending books, I think I have to severely restrict my booklending-out. I have too many books floating around out there that I am obviously never getting back. And it upsets me. I hate to buy To Kill a Mockingbird and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn AGAIN - I have other, new, books to spend my fifteen bucks on. But I still want to own them. And stupid me, I even lent out books that had sentimental value. Dumb. If I spent my teen years reading and rereading a copy of a certain book, I want THAT copy on my shelves, darn it! So, unless I turn Librarian-Avenger, I have to suck it up and be very very careful about lending my books. What a world, eh?