Monday, June 30, 2008


When I uncovered the birds this morning, Leo the cockatiel was on the bottom of his cage. It took monumental effort on his part to pull himself onto the lower perch, where he had to spread his wings to balance, unsteadily at that.

I called the emergency vets' office up in Huntersville, assured them he'd been perfectly normal until this morning, and found out that the avian vet would be in at 8, which gave me just enough time to get there same time as she did.

I'd decided on the way that it had to be his kidneys; all the evidence--Ezra's chronic kidney disease, Claudius's passing of crystals last month (turned out he didn't have a uti after all), even my son's suspected passing of stones/crystals back in March--everything pointed in that direction.

Blood work showed I was right--Leo's uric acid levels were in the 50s. Because Leo flew into my in-laws' garage several years back, we'd never known how old he was, but the vet thought he was already in his 20s, "a little old man with gnarly, gouty feet." Because of his age, because he'd been too old to tame by the time we got him, because the vet said she'd never had the luck treating cockatiels with kidney disease that she's had with conures, we agreed it would be best not to put him through the effort.

So I brought the cage back empty, with Leo inside a green cardboard box.

We will miss Leo's dancing--an activity his gnarly feet never curtailed. We will notice how much quieter the house is without him.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

2008 Edition of 1001 Books: New Additons

The 2008 edition of 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die is out, and Ashleigh has posted the updated list in its entirety. The revised list is more international this time around; I've not heard of most of the books or authors in the updates, so the additions listed below should keep me from ever experiencing a sense of being well-read.

I hate that Rebecca West's The Birds Fall Down was cut from the revised list, am happy that Christina Stead's The Man Who Loved Children and Joan Didion's Play It As It Lays made the grade, and cannot understand the inclusion of Robert Merle's The Day of the Dolphin at all. And psst, Amos Oz's A Tale of Love and Darkness is a memoir.

Edited to add: And they took out The Brothers Karamazov! The horror!

The additions to the list (the few I've read in bold):

: Pre 1800 :

0002 : The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter . Anonymous *
0003 : The Tale of Genji . Murasaki Shikibu *
0004 : Romance of the Three Kingdoms . Luó Guànzhong *
0005 : The Water Margin . Shi Nai'an & Luó Guànzhong *
0007 : Tirant lo Blanc . Joanot Martorell *
0008 : La Celestina . Fernando de Rojas *
0009 : Amadis of Gaul . Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo *
0010 : The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes . Anonymous *
0012 : The Lusiad . Luís Vaz de Camões *
0013 : Monkey: A Journey to the West . Wú Chéng'en *
0015 : Thomas of Reading . Thomas Deloney *
0017 : The Travels of Persiles and Sigismunda . Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra *
0018 : The Conquest of New Spain . Bernal Díaz del Castillo *
0019 : The Adventurous Simplicissimus . Hans von Grimmelshausen *
0051 : Anton Reiser . Karl Philipp Moritz *
0054 : A Dream of Red Mansions . Cao Xueqin *

: 1800s :
0065 : Henry of Ofterdingen . Novalis *
0066 : Rameau's Nephew . Denis Diderot *
0068 : Michael Kohlhaas . Heinrich von Kleist *
0077 : The Life and the Opinions of the Tombcat Murr . E.T.A. Hoffmann *
0084 : Eugene Onegin . Alexander Pushkin *
0089 : The Lion of Flanders . Hendrick Conscience *
0092 : Camera Obscura . Hildebrand *
0093 : A Hero of Our Times . Mikhail Yurevich Lermontov *
0098 : Facundo . Domingo Faustino Sarmiento *
0099 : The Devil's Pool . George Sand *
0113 : Green Henry . Gottfried Keller *
0116 : Indian Summer . Adalbert Stifter *
0151 : Pepita Jimenéz . Juan Valera *
0152 : The Crime of Father Amado . José Maria Eça de Queirós *
0155 : Martín Fierro . José Hernández *
0167 : The Regent's Wife . Clarín Leopoldo Alas *
0173 : The Quest . Frederik van Eeden *
0175 : The Manors of Ulloa . Emilia Pardo Bazán *
0178 : Under the Yoke . Ivan Vazov *
0179 : The Child of Pleasure . Gabriele D'Annunzio *
0180 : Eline Vere . Louis Couperus *
0184 : Thaïs . Anatole France *
0187 : Down There . Joris-Karl Huysmans *
0194 : The Viceroys . Federico De Roberto *
0202 : Compassion . Benito Pérez Galdós *
0203 : Pharaoh . Boleslaw Prus *
0206 : As a Man Grows Older . Italo Svevo *
0207 : Dom Casmurro . Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis *
0210 : Eclipse of the Crescent Moon . Géza Gárdonyi *

: 1900s :
0212 : Sandokan: The Tigers of Mompracem . Emilio Salgari *
0214 : None but the Brave . Arthur Schnitzler *
0223 : The Call of the Wild . Jack London *
0224 : Memoirs of my Nervous Illness . Daniel P. Schreber *
0225 : The Way of All Flesh . Samuel Butler *
0230 : Solitude . Víctor Català *
0241 : The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge . Rainer Maria Rilke *
0250 : Platero and I . Juan Ramón Jiménez *
0261 : The Underdogs . Mariano Azuela *
0262 : Pallieter . Felix Timmermans *
0263 : Home and the World . Rabindranath Tagore *
0267 : The Storm of Steel . Ernst Jünger *
0272 : Life of Christ . Giovanni Papini *
0275 : Claudine's House . Colette *
0277 : The Forest of the Hanged . Liviu Rebreanu *
0288 : The New World . Heruy Wäldä-Sellassé *
0295 : Chaka the Zulu . Thomas Mofolo *
0299 : Under Satan's Sun . Geroges Bernanos *
0301 : Alberta and Jacob . Cora Sandel *
0306 : The Case of Sergeant Grischa . Arnold Zweig *
0326 : I Thought of Daisy . Edmund Wilson *
0333 : Monica . Saunders Lewis *
0334 : Insatiability . Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz *
0339 : The Return of Philip Latinowicz . Miroslav Krleza *
0341 : The Forbidden Realm . J.J. Slauerhoff *
0344 : Vipers' Tangle . François Mauriac *
0346 : Cheese . Willem Elsschot *
0347 : Man's Fate . André Malraux *
0359 : On the Heights of Despair . Emil Cioran *
0360 : The Bells of Basel . Louis Aragon *
0370 : War with the Newts . Karel Capek *
0376 : Rickshaw Boy . Lao She *
0379 : Ferdydurke . Witold Gombrowicz *
0380 : The Blind Owl . Sadegh Hedayat *
0388 : Alamut . Vladimir Bartol *
0392 : On the Edge of Reason . Miroslav Krleza *
0403 : The Man Who Loved Children . Christina Stead *
0404 : Broad and Alien is the World . Ciro Alegría *
0406 : The Harvesters . Cesare Pavese *
0410 : Chess Story . Stefan Zweig *
0412 : Joseph and His Brothers . Thomas Mann *
0417 : Pippi Longstocking . Astrid Lindgren *
0424 : Bosnian Chronicle . Ivo Andric *
0425 : The Tin Flute . Gabrielle Roy *
0426 : Andrea . Carmen Laforet *
0427 : The Death of Virgil . Hermann Broch *
0429 : Zorba the Greek . Nikos Kazantzakis *
0431 : House in the Uplands . Erskine Caldwell *
0438 : Midaq Alley . Naguib Mahfouz *
0439 : Froth on the Daydream . Boris Vian *
0440 : Journey to the Alcarria . Camilo José Cela *
0441 : Ashes and Diamonds . Jerzy Andrzejewski *
0445 : In the Heart of the Seas . Shmuel Yosef Agnon *
0446 : This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentleman . Tadeusz Borowski *
0463 : The Guiltless . Hermann Broch *
0464 : Barabbas . Pär Lagerkvist *
0474 : The Hive . Camilo José Cela *
0479 : Excellent Women . Barbara Pym *
0480 : A Thousand Cranes . Yasunari Kawabata *
0485 : The Lost Steps . Alejo Carpentier *
0486 : The Hothouse . Wolfgang Koeppen *
0489 : The Dark Child . Camara Laye *
0490 : A Day in Spring . Ciril Kosmac *
0495 : The Mandarins . Simone de Beauvoir *
0497 : Death in Rome . Wolfgang Koeppen *
0498 : The Sound of Waves . Yukio Mishima *
0499 : The Unknown Soldier . Väinö Linna *
0503 : The Burning Plain . Juan Rulfo *
0506 : The Tree of Man . Patrick White *
0508 : The Devil to Pay in the Backlands . João Guimarães Rosa *
0517 : The Glass Bees . Ernst Jünger *
0521 : The Manila Rope . Veijo Meri *
0522 : The Deadbeats . Ward Ruyslinck *
0528 : The Birds . Tarjei Vesaas *
0532 : Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon . Jorge Amado *
0536 : The Guide . R.K. Narayan *
0538 : Deep Rivers . José María Arguedas *
0542 : Down Second Avenue . Ezekiel Mphahlele *
0551 : The Magician of Lublin . Isaac Bashevis Singer *
0552 : Halftime . Martin Walser *
0554 : Bebo's Girl . Carlo Cassola *
0555 : God's Bit of Wood . Ousmane Sembène *
0556 : The Shipyard . Juan Carlos Onetti *
0563 : No One Writes to the Colonel . Gabriel García Márquez *
0565 : Memoirs of a Peasant Boy . Xosé Neira Vilas *
0569 : Time of Silence . Luis Martín-Santos *
0574 : The Death of Artemio Cruz . Carlos Fuentes *
0575 : The Time of the Hero . Mario Vargas Llosa *
0578 : The Third Wedding . Costas Taktsis *
0579 : Dog Years . Günter Grass *
0591 : Three Trapped Tigers . Guillermo Cabrera Infante *
0594 : Back to Oegstgeest . Jan Wolkers *
0595 : Closely Watched Trains . Bohumil Hrabal *
0597 : Garden, Ashes . Danilo Kis *
0601 : Death and the Dervish . Mesa Selimovic *
0602 : Silence . Shusaku Endo *
0603 : To Each His Own . Leonardo Sciascia *
0606 : Marks of Identity . Juan Goytisolo *
0612 : Miramar . Naguib Mahfouz *
0613 : Z . Vassilis Vassilikos *
0615 : The Manor . Isaac Bashevis Singer *
0618 : Day of the Dolphin . Robert Merle *
0621 : The Cathedral . Oles Honchar *
0637 : Jacob the Liar . Jurek Becker *
0643 : The Case Worker . György Konrád *
0644 : Moscow Stations . Venedikt Yerofeev *
0645 : Heartbreak Tango . Manuel Puig *
0646 : Seasons of Migrations to the North . Tayeb Salih *
0647 : Here's to You, Jesusa! . Elena Poniatowska *
0648 : Fifth Business . Robertson Davies *
0649 : Play It As It Lays . Joan Didion *
0651 : A World for Julius . Alfredo Bryce Echenique *
0656 : Cataract . Mykhaylo Osadchyl *
0660 : Lives of Girls & Women . Alice Munro *
0666 : The Twilight Years . Sawako Ariyoshi *
0667 : The Optimist's Daughter . Eudora Welty *
0676 : The Dispossessed . Ursula K. Le Guin *
0677 : The Diviners . Margaret Laurence *
0681 : The Port . Antun Soljan *
0683 : The Commandant . Jessica Anderson *
0684 : The Year of the Hare . Arto Paasilinna *
0686 : Woman at Point Zero . Nawal El Saadawi *
0695 : Blaming . Elizabeth Taylor *
0699 : Kiss of the Spider Woman . Manuel Puig *
0700 : Almost Transparent Blue . Ryu Murakami *
0702 : The Engineer of the Human Soul . Josef Skvorecky *
0703 : Quartet in Autumn . Barbara Pym *
0706 : The Wars . Timothy Findley *
0710 : The Beggar Maid . Alice Munro *
0711 : Requiem for a Dream . Hubert Selby Jr. *
0715 : The Back Room . Carmen Martín Gaite *
0720 : So Long a Letter . Mariama Bâ *
0723 : A Dry White Season . André Brink *
0725 : Fool's Gold . Maro Douka *
0727 : Southern Seas . Manuel Vásquez Montalbán *
0729 : Clear Light of Day . Anita Desai *
0732 : Smell of Sadness . Alfred Kossmann *
0737 : The House with the Blind Glass Windows . Herbjørg Wassmo *
0738 : Leaden Wings . Zhang Jie *
0739 : The War at the End of the World . Mario Vargas Llosa *
0742 : Couples, Passerby . Botho Strauss *
0752 : The Book of Disquiet . Fernando Pessoa *
0753 : Baltasar and Blimunda . José Saramago *
0759 : The Christmas Oratorio . Göran Tunström *
0760 : Fado Alexandrino . António Lobo Antunes *
0761 : The Witness . Juan José Saer *
0765 : Professor Martens' Departure . Jaan Kross *
0767 : Larva: Midsummer Night's Babel . Julián Ríos *
0771 : Democracy . Joan Didion *
0779 : The Young Man . Botho Strauss *
0780 : Love Medicine . Louise Erdrich *
0782 : Half of Man is Woman . Zhang Xianliang *
0787 : Blood Meridian . Cormac McCarthy *
0789 : Simon and the Oaks . Marianne Fredriksson *
0791 : Annie John . Jamaica Kincaid *
0794 : Ancestral Voices . Etienne van Heerden *
0795 : The Beautiful Mrs. Seidenman . Andrzej Szczypiorski *
0800 : Memory of Fire . Eduardo Galeano *
0806 : Ballad for Georg Henig . Viktor Pasokov *
0810 : Of Love and Shadows . Isabel Allende *
0812 : All Souls . Javier Marías *
0814 : Black Box . Amos Oz *
0819 : Kitchen . Banana Yoshimoto *
0823 : The First Garden . Anne Hébert *
0824 : The Last World . Christoph Ransmayr *
0829 : Paradise of the Blind . Duong Thu Huong *
0831 : Gimmick! . Joost Zwagerman *
0832 : Obabakoak . Bernardo Atzaga *
0833 : Inland . Gerald Murnane *
0838 : The Great Indian Novel . Shashi Tharoor *
0846 : The Shadow Lines . Amitav Ghosh *
0853 : The Daughter . Pavlos Matesis *
0856 : The Laws . Connie Palman *
0857 : Faceless Killers . Henning Mankell *
0858 : Astradeni . Eugenia Fakinou *
0865 : Memoirs of Rain . Sunetra Gupta *
0869 : The Dumas Club . Arturo Pérez-Reverte *
0875 : All the Pretty Horses . Cormac McCarthy *
0876 : The Triple Mirror of the Self . Zulfikar Ghose *
0877 : Uncle Petros and Goldbach's Conjecture . Apostolos Doxiadis *
0880 : Before Night Falls . Reinaldo Arenas *
0882 : The Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll . Álvaro Mutis *
0883 : Remembering Babylon . David Malouf *
0884 : The Holder of the World . Bharati Mukherjee *
0890 : The Twins . Tessa de Loo *
0894 : Waiting for the Dark, Waiting for the Light . Ivan Klima *
0897 : Deep River . Shusaku Endo *
0904 : Our Lady of the Assassins . Fernando Vallejo *
0907 : Troubling Love . Elena Ferrante *
0908 : The Late-Night News . Petros Markaris *
0913 : Santa Evita . Tomás Martínez *
0923 : A Light Comedy . Eduardo Mendoza *
0924 : Fall on Your Knees . Ann-Marie MacDonald *
0927 : Margot and the Angels . Kristien Hemmerechts *
0929 : Money to Burn . Ricardo Piglia *
0938 : The Heretic . Miguel Deliber *
0941 : Dirty Havana Trilogy . Pedro Juan Gutiérrez *
0942 : Savage Detectives . Roberto Bolaño *
0945 : Pavel's Letters . Monika Moron *
0946 : In Search of Klingsor . Jorge Volpi *
0947 : The Museum of Unconditional Surrender . Dubravka Ugresic *
0948 : Fear and Trembling . Amélie Nothomb

: 2000s :
0949 : Bartleby and Co. . Enrique Vila-Matas *
0958 : The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay . Michael Chabon *
0960 : I'm Not Scared . Niccolò Ammaniti *
0961 : Soldiers of Salamis . Javier Cercas *
0967 : Snow . Orhan Pamuk *
0972 : The Namesake . Jhumpa Lahiri *
0973 : Vernon God Little . DBC Pierre *
0974 : The Successor . Ismail Kadare *
0975 : Lady Number Thirteen . José Carlos Somoza *
0978 : A Tale of Love and Darkness . Amos Oz *
0979 : Your Face Tomorrow . Javier Marías *
0981 : The Swarm . Frank Schätzing *
0982 : Suite Française . Irène Némirovsky *
0985 : The Book about Blanche and Marie . Per Olov Enquist *
0986 : Small Island . Andrea Levy *
0987 : 2666 . Roberto Bolaño *
0988 : The Line of Beauty . Alan Hollinghurst *
0989 : The Accidental . Ali Smith *
0991 : A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian . Marina Lewycka *
0992 : Measuring the World . Daniel Kehlmann *
0993 : Mother's Milk . Edward S. Aubyn *
0994 : Carry Me Down . M.J. Hyland *
0995 : Against the Day . Thomas Pynchon *
0996 : The Inheritance of Loss . Kiran Desai *
0997 : The Kindly Ones . Jonathan Littell *
0998 : Half of a Yellow Sun . Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie *
0999 : The Reluctant Fundamentalist . Mohsin Hamid *
1000 : Falling Man . Don DeLillo *
1001 : Animal's People . Indra Sinha *

Also new:

The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas by Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis
Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset
Retreat Without Song by Shahan Shahnoor
The Street of Crocodiles by Bruno Schulz
Untouchable by Mulk Raj Anand
Crossfire by Miyabe Miyuki

Final Read-a-thon Update


I've had a blast as I hope everyone else did. I read exactly 900 pages.

Wow, I could've finished Les Mis.

Completed during 22 hours that I read:

Was This Man a Genius? Julie Hecht

Requiem, Mass. John Dufresne

Partially read during the readathon:

When You are Engulfed in Flames. David Sedaris

My Sister's Hand in Mine: The Collected Works of Jane Bowles. Jane Bowles

The Horse-Stealers and Other Stories. Anton Chekhov

Everything That Rises Must Converge. Flannery O'Connor

Interpreter of Maladies. Jhumpa Lahiri

The Calling. Inger Ash Wolfe

Read-a-thon Update the Seventh


There's no way I'll finish it before the read-a-thon ends, but I'm now reading Inger Ash Wolfe's The Calling, a book about a serial killer that I'd have started last night if I hadn't been sidetracked by the new Dufresne.

Inger Ash Wolfe is a pseud for a "North American literary novelist," presumably a Canadian one. Figuring out The Calling's author has become a recent parlor game at Readerville. Last week someone linked to an Alice Munro interview which didn't rule out her switching to another genre of writing. The main character's name is Micallef--an anagram of Alice M F, possibly? Munro kept her first husband's name to write under, but her second husband's name starts with an F. Of course, she's known more for short stories than novels anyway.

Seventh reading update:

Inger Ash Wolfe's The Calling. 62 pages

Read-a-thon Update the Sixth


A shower. Breakfast. I started the new David Sedaris, which I'd rather not read all in one fell swoop, so I then turned to a deliciously weird story by Jane Bowles.

Sixth reading update

From David Sedaris's When You are Engulfed in Flames:
"It's Catching"
"Keeping Up"
"The Understudy"
"This Old House"
"Buddy, Can You Spare a Tie?" 62 pages

From My Sister's Hand in Mine: The Collected Works of Jane Bowles:
"Camp Cataract" 42 pages

Read-a-thon Update the Fifth


Was within 50 pages of finishing my current book last night when my brain up and departed. Went to bed at 10 (I am soooo pathetic, I know), but set the alarm for 3. Took about 15 minutes for the brain to return to body and I've now finished a wonderful book I'll wait to review once the read-a-thon's over.

Fifth reading update

John Dufresne's Requiem, Mass. 316 pages

Total pages read to this point: 632 pages

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Read-a-thon Update the Fourth


Any meaning is better than none. Ask any Catholic or Methodist or Hutterite or Hmong. You believe in a God who, in his exquisite loneliness, created the universe and little you. Or you believe that we, in our terrifying loneliness, created God. Doesn't matter which. Ask any Vietnamese child kneeling in the mud, praying, choking on her tears, feeling the hot muzzle of an M16 at the nape of her neck, hearing the screams of her grandparents, inhaling the sting of smoke and cordite, knowing that this soldier here behind you, dear, is about to make his own meaning by firing a burst of bullets through your head. At that moment there is no arrow of time for you, there is no there, no then. There is only this singularity, this Planck instant, the big bang. At that moment you are borrowing energy against time and shaping your brief life into a quantum of meaning.

--John Dufresne, Requiem, Mass. 168 pages

Read-a-thon Update the Third


The Amazon package thrown on the porch this morning contained John Dufresne's latest, which I'm happily reading now.

Curiously though, a minor character (at least at this point), a wheelchair-ridden jerk who aspires to be a nightclub comic, quotes Ann Coulter's "corn-fed, no-makeup, natural-fiber, no-bra-needing, sandal-wearing, hirsute, somewhat fragrant hippie chick pie wagon" line about the women at the 2004 Democratic convention without providing attribution. Is this something a non-political junkie is likely to know?

Third reading report

From Jhumpa Lahiri's Interpreter of Maladies:

"A Temporary Matter" 22 pages

"When Mr. Pirzade Came to Dine 20 pages

John Dufresne's Requiem, Mass. 54 pages

Read-a-thon Update the Second


I was reading about Andy Kaufman running the movie projector at children's birthday parties as I walked through the house when I stepped in cat barf.

Second reading report

Julie Hecht's Was This Man a Genius?. 170 pages

Read-a-thon Update the First . . . with mini-challenge


It's the official starting time for Dewey's 24-Hour Read-a-Thon and I'm starting with a confession: I started at 9 am Eastern time instead of waiting till 9 am Pacific. Dewey said it was okay to customize "to meet your needs" and I felt I needed to tweak since I've never been able to pull an all-nighter in my life and I'd like to read more than the 18 hours I managed last October. If, perchance I manage to stay up all night (I'm saving a thriller for the wee hours), I'll subtract these first three hours from the totals.

But for now, here are my answers to the first mini-challenge (I didn't do mini-challenges last fall, don't know if I'll do more than the first one this time): an introduction meme:

Where are you reading from today?

Most of my reading will take place in the large leather chair in our living room with a cat in my lap. I'll try to get in some time on the treadmill at some point.

3 facts about me …

I have a family that humors me when I come up with excuses to read excessively.

The mail carrier just threw an Amazon box on our front porch.

I'm hoping everyone's in favor of Chinese carry-out this evening.

How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours?

I've brought a dozen books downstairs from the study and have them stacked up fairly neatly at the moment on the ottomans. I don't intend to read them all, just dip into various collections as I read an assortment of short stories before switching to longer works.

Do you have any goals for the read-a-thon (i.e. number of books, number of pages, number of hours, or number of comments on blogs)?

I'd like to read more pages/read more hours than I did last year, which of course is why I jumped the gun and started at 9 am my time this morning. Less than 500 pages competed last year--oh, how I want to beat that! I wish I read faster.

Any advice for people doing this for the first time?

Have fun!


First reading report

From Anton Chekhov's The Horse-Stealers and Other Stories:
"The Horse-Stealers" 23 pages
"A Dead Body" 7 pages
"A Story Without a Title" 6 pages

From Flannery O' Connor's Everything That Rises Must Converge:
"The Enduring Chill" 26 pages
"The Comforts of Home" 22 pages
"Judgement Day" 20 pages

Friday, June 27, 2008

Alison Bechdel on compulsory reading and the EW New Classics list.

Summer reading: ack!

I didn't post an official summer reading list on the blog back in May, but of course I did make one. I'm relieved that I didn't embarrass myself in that way this year because I've revised it so much already that I'm at the point of putting all lists through the shredder and never making another in my life. I'm just too distractable. Someone ought to take away my library privileges so that I can stop prioritizing by due date and start following either a more internalized Read at Whim! program or an honest-to-goodness rational plan.

The latest books to follow me home from the library:

The Well and the Mine. Gin Phillips

The Horse-Stealers and Other Stories. Anton Chekhov

The Calling. Inger Ash Wolfe

Winner of the National Book Award. Jincy Willett

Burr. Gore Vidal

As Above, So Below. Rudy Rucker

The Collected Works of Jane Bowles

Sing Me Back Home: Love, Death, and Country Music. Dana Jennings

And I've got holds on four more which should come in next month.

Tell me I don't need them.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

We like to think of our beliefs, and disbeliefs, as founded on reason and close, thoughtful observation. Only in theory do we begin to suspect the power of aesthetics to shape our lives.

--Tobias Wolff

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Writers' rooms.

I would feel very much at home in Claire Tomalin's study.

Spider and egg sac

If it looked like this on Monday evening and by Tuesday evening mom had put the leaf above into service as a low roof, how long before the baby spiders hatch?

Entertainment Weekly's New Classics List

We had 13 voters at our precinct yesterday. Thirteen. We got there at 5:45 am to set up and then didn't have a single voter until a couple minutes before noon.

Ah, well. That gave us time to learn the new equipment a little better. It is possible to declare a voter deceased and then transfer him to another precinct. Not that we would actually do that or anything.

I've bolded the titles read from the Entertainment Weekly list, added a comment here or there.

1. The Road, Cormac McCarthy (2006)
2. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling (2000)
3. Beloved, Toni Morrison (1987)
4. The Liars' Club, Mary Karr (1995)
5. American Pastoral, Philip Roth (1997)
6. Mystic River, Dennis Lehane (2001)
7. Maus, Art Spiegelman (1986/1991)
8. Selected Stories, Alice Munro (1996). I have read many a Munro story, but don't know how well they correspond with the ones in this collection.
9. Cold Mountain, Charles Frazier (1997)
10. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami (1997)
11. Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer (1997)
12. Blindness, José Saramago (1998)
13. Watchmen, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (1986-87)
14. Black Water, Joyce Carol Oates (1992)
15. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Dave Eggers (2000)
16. The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood (1986)
17. Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez (1988)
18. Rabbit at Rest, John Updike (1990). I've read Rabbit, Run and Rabbit is Rich.
19. On Beauty, Zadie Smith (2005)
20. Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding (1998)
21. On Writing, Stephen King (2000)
22. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Díaz (2007)
23. The Ghost Road, Pat Barker (1996)
24. Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry (1985)
25. The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan (1989)
26. Neuromancer, William Gibson (1984)
27. Possession, A.S. Byatt (1990)
28. Naked, David Sedaris (1997)
29. Bel Canto, Ann Patchett (2001)
30. Case Histories, Kate Atkinson (2004)
31. The Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien (1990)
32. Parting the Waters, Taylor Branch (1988)
33. The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion (2005)
34. The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold (2002)
35. The Line of Beauty, Alan Hollinghurst (2004)
36. Angela's Ashes, Frank McCourt (1996)
37. Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi (2003)
38. Birds of America, Lorrie Moore (1998). Most of the stories, not all.
39. Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri (2000). Maybe I'll start reading from this this weekend. . .
40. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman (1995-2000)
41. The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros (1984)
42. LaBrava, Elmore Leonard (1983)
43. Borrowed Time, Paul Monette (1988)
44. Praying for Sheetrock, Melissa Fay Greene (1991)
45. Eva Luna, Isabel Allende (1988)
46. Sandman, Neil Gaiman (1988-1996)
47. World's Fair, E.L. Doctorow (1985)
48. The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver (1998)
49. Clockers, Richard Price (1992)
50. The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen (2001)
51. The Journalist and the Murderer, Janet Malcom (1990)
52. Waiting to Exhale, Terry McMillan (1992)
53. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Michael Chabon (2000)
54. Jimmy Corrigan, Chris Ware (2000)
55. The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls (2006)
56. The Night Manager, John le Carré (1993)
57. The Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe (1987). I got pretty far before deciding I didn't care.
58. Drop City, TC Boyle (2003)
59. Krik? Krak! Edwidge Danticat (1995)
60. Nickel & Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich (2001). Downstairs on S.'s designated shelf
61. Money, Martin Amis (1985)
62. Last Train To Memphis, Peter Guralnick (1994)
63. Pastoralia, George Saunders (2000)
64. Underworld, Don DeLillo (1997). Started. Never finished.
65. The Giver, Lois Lowry (1993)
66. A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, David Foster Wallace (1997)
67. The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini (2003)
68. Fun Home, Alison Bechdel (2006)
69. Secret History, Donna Tartt (1992)
70. Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell (2004)
71. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, Ann Fadiman (1997). I want to read this.
72. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon (2003)
73. A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving (1989)
74. Friday Night Lights, H.G. Bissinger (1990)
75. Cathedral, Raymond Carver (1983). Some of the stories.
76. A Sight for Sore Eyes, Ruth Rendell (1998)
77. The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro (1989)
78. Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert (2006)
79. The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell (2000)
80. Bright Lights, Big City, Jay McInerney (1984) . I love second person.
81. Backlash, Susan Faludi (1991)
82. Atonement, Ian McEwan (2002)
83. The Stone Diaries, Carol Shields (1994)
84. Holes, Louis Sachar (1998)
85. Gilead, Marilynne Robinson (2004)
86. And the Band Played On, Randy Shilts (1987)
87. The Ruins, Scott Smith (2006)
88. High Fidelity, Nick Hornby (1995)
89. Close Range, Annie Proulx (1999). Some of them, including my favorite "Brokeback Mountain."
90. Comfort Me With Apples, Ruth Reichl (2001)
91. Random Family, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc (2003)
92. Presumed Innocent, Scott Turow (1987)
93. A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley (1991)
94. Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser (2001)
95. Kaaterskill Falls, Allegra Goodman (1998)
96. The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown (2003) .
Worst book on the list.
97. Jesus’ Son, Denis Johnson (1992)
98. The Predators' Ball, Connie Bruck (1988)
99. Practical Magic, Alice Hoffman (1995)
100. America (the Book), Jon Stewart/Daily Show (2004)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Read-A-Thon fast approaching


Not that I've informed the family yet, but I intend to participate in Dewey's 24-Hour Read-a-Thon this weekend.

I will probably get in lots of warm-up practice tomorrow since North Carolina is having a primary run-off for commissioner of labor--whoever wins gets to run in the fall against the woman with the rhyming name whose picture is displayed in every elevator in the state. No one is predicting a large turn-out; we'll have only two voting panels at our precinct and we did such a smashingly fine job at the primary in May that we don't have to get lectures and/or training from the regional supervisor. That means I should have plenty of time to devote to The Glimpses of the Moon.

I'm not sure what I'll indulge in during the read-a-thon other than Julie Hecht's Was This Man a Genius? and lots of short stories--Byatt, O'Connor, Chekhov, maybe a story or two from The Interpreter of Maladies. Perhaps I'll start the book still waiting for me to swing by the public library to check it out (mid-week, I promise!): Gin Phillips's The Well and the Mine.

See everyone on Wednesday!

Victor Hugo says. . .

Here we withhold all theories of our own, we are merely the narrator; we place ourselves at Jean Valjean's point of view and merely reproduce his impressions.

blog readability test

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Sunday Salon: Petty Reading

The Sunday

I've focused on three books this past week, a small number for some of you. Yet I'd much prefer concentrating on one novel at a time and I kept hoping all week that one would grab my total attention instead of leaving me internally agitating to start one of the many library books that came into my possession over the past few days that seemed much more promising than those already in progress (more on the library books later).

Most of my time was spent on Les Miserables. I read Fantine in April, set the book aside in May since I knew I was too distracted then to make it through 50 pages of Waterloo, and am now determined to finish Cosette in the next day or two (I hope tonight); I've just "Cemeteries Take What is Given Them" to go.

I have always considered myself a great fan of literary disgressions, of authors going off on tangents. But Tristram Shandy poked a hole in that idea last summer and Hugo's doing the same this. Actually, Hugo's sewer systems defeated me years back, so I don't know why I expected things to go better this time around, in a novel even longer than the one attempted before.

All I can say at this point in Les Mis is without a bit more plot and character, I may resort to (that dread word) skimming. As Stephen Colbert would say: Les Mis, you have been put on notice.

Last weekend in the book store I spotted David Rabe's Dinosaurs on the Roof, a just-published novel of which I'd missed any previous mention. I was interested in how the writer would expand upon the opening premise--an older woman asks her best friend's daughter to take care of her animals because the Rapture's occurring that evening and she's to be taken--since it seems better suited to a short story than a novel. Instead of waiting to get it from the library, I bought a copy for the Kindle. It's okay, but so far I'm still waiting to get over the snit fit I had when Rabe claimed that the older woman watched both The Guiding Light and General Hospital--how can she when the shows are rivals? According to the acknowlegements at the end, tons of people read this book prior to publication; obviously, they all grew up in homes way too refined for the watching of soaps to have occurred, but surely it should have crossed someone's head to check a TV listing.

I have no petty complaints to make about Elizabeth Gaskell's Cranford. It's my exercise book, however, and I haven't been on the treadmill nearly enough this week.

I'm looking forward to starting the next book for the Slaves of Golconda, Edith Wharton's Glimpses of the Moon and I probably ought to start working out some of my readerly frustrations with Flannery O'Connor's Everything That Rises Must Converge. I'm sure my mood will improve quickly once these books are underway.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Monday, June 16, 2008

Gore Vidal

Who's read Gore Vidal? Where would be a good place to start? After reading this q-and-a, I want to.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Dickens vs. Johnson: a literary dispute

Captain Brown and Miss Jenkyns were not very cordial to each other. The literary dispute, of which I had seen the beginning, was a "raw," the slightest touch on which made them wince. It was the only difference of opinion they had ever had; but that difference was enough. Miss Jenkyns could not refrain from talking at Captain Brown; and, though he did not reply, he drummed with his fingers, which action she felt and resented as very disparaging to Dr. Johnson. He was rather ostenatious in his preference of the writings of Mr. Boz; would walk through the streets so absorbed in them that he all but ran against Miss Jenkyns; and though his apologies were earnest and sincere, and though he did not, in fact, do more than startle her and himself, she owned to me she had rather he had knocked her down, if he had only been reading a higher style of literature.

--Elizabeth Gaskell, Cranford

Friday, June 13, 2008

What's the internet doing to our brains?

Thanks to the ubiquity of text on the Internet, not to mention the popularity of text-messaging on cell phones, we may well be reading more today than we did in the 1970s or 1980s, when television was our medium of choice. But it’s a different kind of reading, and behind it lies a different kind of thinking—perhaps even a new sense of the self. “We are not only what we read,” says Maryanne Wolf, a developmental psychologist at Tufts University and the author of Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain. “We are how we read.” Wolf worries that the style of reading promoted by the Net, a style that puts “efficiency” and “immediacy” above all else, may be weakening our capacity for the kind of deep reading that emerged when an earlier technology, the printing press, made long and complex works of prose commonplace. When we read online, she says, we tend to become “mere decoders of information.” Our ability to interpret text, to make the rich mental connections that form when we read deeply and without distraction, remains largely disengaged.

--Nicholas Carr, "Is Google Making Us Stupid?"

Where you from? Wanna read this review?

Respondents who identify themselves as residents of planet earth (62%) are much more likely than are those who self identify as residents of America or their city or town to agree that book reviews make them want to buy a book

--Zogby's Reading and Book Buying Habits of Americans survey

(via Readerville)

The changing face of the universe

For Bonaparte to be conqueror at Waterloo was no longer within the law of the nineteenth century. Another series of acts was under way in which Napoleon had no place. The ill-will of events had long been coming.

It was time for this titan to fall.

The excessive weight of this man in human destiny disturbed the equilibrium. The individual alone counted for more than the whole of mankind. This plethora of all human vitality concentrated within a single head, the world rising to the brain of one man, would be fatal to civilization if it endured. The moment had come for incorruptible supreme equity to look into it. Probably the principles and elements on which regular gravitation in the moral and material orders depend had begun to mutter. Reeking blood, overcrowded cemeteries, weeping mothers--these are formidable plaintiffs. When the earth is suffering from a surcharge, there are mysterious moanings from the deeps that the heavens hear.

Napoleon had been impeached before the Infinite, and his fall was decreed.

He annoyed God.

Waterloo is not a battle; it is the changing face of the universe.

--Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

I'm finally reading Les Mis again after ignoring it since April. Less than thirty pages of Waterloo to go. If any more horses fall into a ravine to die I'm going to throw the book across the room.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Happy eighth birthday, Readerville!


I love book forums. I love message boards that contain book folders or book threads. Because I spend so much of my day online, the opportunity to refresh a page and see brand new book recommendations or a wild frenzy of punning or an ongoing intelligent conversation has provided a dependable, nourishing break as I go about my work. Book bloggers don't post near often enough for my quotidian habits.

I love Readerville, which officially turns eight today. I've been there since it officially opened its gates and I appreciate greatly what Karen Templer has accomplished and permitted to develop. Thanks to Readerville, I've met some wonderful people, received many a free book, and spent countless online hours in the company of some of the best people out there (as well as a few who are, well, just out there). I often wish I weren't just as introverted in an online group as I am in a real life group since many are no doubt unaware that I'm there, nodding in agreement or edging away from a particular pontificator whose position I don't agree with and am tired of hearing repeated yet again, but a lot of people in real life haven't noticed I'm there either (invisibility has its benefits).

The Readerville forums are at a transitional stage right now. I hate for the place to change, but I know I'll be there regardless. I was nostalgic enough over the changes to find what I suppose to be my first Readerville post. It was made on June 20, 2000, in a Kate Atkinson discussion:

Human Croquet is my favorite of the three. Please don't be scared off by the magical realism and postmodernism designations. Last summer I insisted a Tom Clancy-loving friend HAD to read HC, and while she started out bitching and moaning, the book had her totally charmed once she quit her initial thrashing about.

Emotionally Weird isn't as good as the other two, but there are parts and characters I remember so fondly that I know I'll be reading it again. I love Atkinson's word play and how she's not afraid to take chances.

Huh. That was probably one of the longest posts I ever made there outside the inner mule post, which I reposted here.

Happy birthday, Readerville. And if you've never dropped by before, please do. You'll like the place.


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A combo of two suggestions by: Heidi and by litlove

Have you ever been a member of a book club? How did your group choose (or, if you haven’t been, what do you think is the best way to choose) the next book and who would lead discussion?

Do you feel more or less likely to appreciate books if you are obliged to read them for book groups rather than choosing them of your own free will? Does knowing they are going to be read as part of a group affect the reading experience?

I haven't belonged to a local book group in years, but in the three that I was involved in at one time, individual members would choose the book for the month which she'd be leading. Sometimes a member would let the others vote between two or three titles she was considering, but this certainly wasn't necessary.

Unfortunately, the first group I was involved in was really just a bunch of women who wanted a coffee klatsch--best sellers reigned and my selections always revealed what an odd duck I was in that group. I was actually told that only a "strong" person like myself could enjoy reading Anne Tyler!

The second group was much better. I read my first Anne Bronte with that group and the trashiest book we read was by Rebecca Wells. But Oprah's bookclub happened and the members got lazy and wanted to read her selections instead of coming up with ones of their own. It wasn't worth the drive out to Huntersville to keep attending.

The third was a group with my friends at the library. I enjoyed this group the most--we read Orhan Pamuk together--but now we get together to play cards or go out to eat instead of discussing books.

These days I prefer online reading groups with other obsessive readers who share similar tastes. I've been much more appreciative of the new authors I've encountered this way.

Booking Through Thursday

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

After the storm

The greedy pig edition

Actually, these represent the last three months of book purchases. I think I should now have the willpower to make it till August without getting twitchy.

Guard Your Daughters. Diana Tutton. (Dovegrey Reader-inspired)

The Voluptuous Delights of Peanut Butter and Jam. Lauren Liebenberg. (Eve's Alexandria-inspired)

Know Nothing. Mary Lee Settle.

The Writing Class. Jincy Willet. Received it yesterday, finished it this morning. Loved, loved, loved it.

Maps and Legends. Michael Chabon

Blood and Milk. Sharon Solwitz.

Fall of Frost. Brian Hall

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. David Wroblewski (Readerville Journal-inspired; I'll take a book recommendation from Pat D. any day of the week)

The Quiet American. Graham Greene (Girl Detective read it for the same reason I intend to)

Ice Land. Betsy Tobin (Danielle-inspired) Have I mentioned we're hoping to go to Iceland next year?

Moo Pak. Gabriel Josipovici (Sandra raved over this one a year or so back; Stefanie raved about Josipovici much more recently)

When You Are Engulfed in Flames. David Sedaris. A birthday present for L. from R., but of course I want to read it, too. I bought tickets for us to see Sedaris this fall and the very next day L. received word that his class reunion will be taking place the same weekend. Eep.

Man Descending. Guy Vanderhaeghe

And for the Kindle, although I'm trying to read free classics on it for the most part: Julie Hecht's Happy Trails to You and George Saunders's The Braindead Megaphone (Dorothy-inspired).

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The size of a teen-age eagle? Really?

We were all delighted when David Sedaris's latest, When You Are Engulfed in Flames, showed up in the mail yesterday. I left it for the others to read and admire, though, turning my attention to library fare, particularly David Guterson's The Other (I think I do want to read this one, but I'm going to wait till it shows up at the university library), until close to bedtime when I thought I'd quickly speed through the first offering.

To my dismay, I was thrown out of the story on the second page by this:

In Paris once, I went to my neighborhood supermarket and saw a man shopping with his cockatiel, which was the size of a teen-age eagle and stood perched on the handle of his cart.

Methinks Sedaris must have seen a cockatoo. If he'd actually seen a cockatiel he'd have phrased it thusly:

In Paris once, I went to my neighborhood supermarket and saw a man shopping with his cockatiel, which was the size of a steroid-taking parakeet and stood perched on the handle of his cart.

Sorry, Leo.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Sunday Salon: Latest stack from the library

The bulk of these, fortunately, comes from the university library which means I have more time to get them read before their due dates.

The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye. A.S. Byatt. Eva's review prompted this check-out.

Was This Man a Genius? Julie Hecht. I think I might read this during Dewey's Readathon later this month. I'm a little obsessed with Julie Hecht at the moment.

Split Estate. Charlotte Bacon. Recommended by Katharine Weber.

Thirteen-Gun Salute. Patrick O'Brian. Time for another adventure with Stephen and Jack!

The Other. David Guterson. I read a terrible review of this last weekend, so bad, in fact, that I intended to cancel my library hold on it. Imagine my surprise when I saw that it was already on the shelf waiting for me. I'll read a chapter or two before deciding now if it's right for me.

The Plague of Doves. Louise Erdrich. It's been several years since I've read anything by Erdrich. . . I miss her.

The Comedies of Machiavelli. Niccolo Machiavelli. For Imani's ILL Challenge.

Shelter. Susan Palwick. Artificial intelligence and climate change. It's huge, but the customer reviews at Amazon make it sound as if it'll read fast.

The Mitfords: Letters Between Six Sisters. Charlotte Mosley. I probably ought to wait until the paperback version comes out in the fall and buy a copy instead of attempting a library book this big.

Collected Stories. Ellen Gilchrist. Already in progress. . .

The Sunday

Thursday, June 05, 2008


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Have your book-tastes changed over the years? More fiction? Less? Books that are darker and more serious? Lighter and more frivolous? Challenging? Easy? How-to books over novels? Mysteries over Romance?

My first impulse was to say yes, my tastes have changed considerably over the years, but then my eyes fell on a book that I checked out from the public library over the weekend--Charlotte Bacon's Split Estate, which has a gorgeous photo of a grey horse on the front cover--and now I'm not so sure if I'm anything more than a grown-up version of the child-reader I once was.

I lived and breathed horse books throughout my childhood, preferred the Trixie Beldens to the Nancy Drews because the characters were much more fully developed and enjoyable all the while knowing I didn't really care one way or the other about the actual solving of mysteries, and, although I wasn't exposed to more than a handful of classics before I was a teenager, took to the type of book studied in English class like a duck to water. I took an intro to fiction class my freshman year of college that focused on contemporary literary fiction (the Anne Tyler and Margaret Drabble I read there still count as all-time favorites) and contemporary literary fiction has remained my default setting ever since.

Ways I've changed: I read a lot of Zane Grey, Alistair MacLean, Emilie Loring and Grace Livingstone Hill when I was an early adolescent because that was what the relatives foisted onto me; other than an interest in reading the Zane Grey that's set in Torey, Utah, at some point, I can't see ever returning to these authors. I read a lot of science fiction when I was right out of college; I have no interest in returning to the planet of Pern although I did give dragons a try a couple years back with Naomi Novik and I read far more Animorphs books with S. than I ought to admit to, so I haven't completely turned my back on that type of thing. I was slow to warm to Jane Austen--I thought those characters lived awfully tedious little lives the first few times I tried them--and now I like her quite a bit.

Booking Through Thursday

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Poor Claudie. He has a uti.

Poor us. He let us know he wasn't feeling well by peeing all. over. the. sofa.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Mourning dove

This little fella was practically underfoot yesterday afternoon while I hung out laundry (our heat pump died on Saturday, and I'll not be running the dryer until we have air conditioning once again) and he helped L. water the plants in the front yard in the evening.

Today he was m.i.a. and I worried about him, especially after I saw the hawk scoping out the back yard on one of his fly-overs--he's reduced many an adult dove to a dusting of feathers who should have had more of a sense of caution about him than this little one has had a chance to develop.

Finally, well after supper, I spotted him doing that little head bob that he does back in the woods.


Now, if Ellie would just be a better sport about having to stay inside. . .

Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You


The problem is I don't ever learn anything from learning experiences. In fact, I make a special effort not to learn whatever it is the learning experience is supposed to teach me, because I can't think of anything drearier than being somebody whose character is formed by learning experiences.


People always think that if they can prove they're right, you'll change your mind.


The main problem was I don't like people in general and people my age in particular, and people my age are the ones who go to college. I would consider going to college if it were a college of older people. I'm not a sociopath or a freak (although I don't suppose people who are sociopaths or freaks self-identify as such); I just don't enjoy being with people. People, at least in my experience, rarely say anything interesting to each other. They always talk about their lives and they don't have very interesting lives. So I get impatient. For some reason I think you should only say something if it's interesting or absolutely has to be said. I had never really been aware of how difficult these feelings made things for me until an experience I had this spring.

A horrible experience.

--Peter Cameron, Someday This Pain Will Be Useful To You

Sunday, June 01, 2008

What fun: Truth to Power.

I used to wish everyone in Congress would read The Grapes of Wrath. I'll ponder what the individual presidential candidates should read on my trip to the library to pick up holds.

What books would you recommend?

A bang, not a whimper

  Two months into L.'s retirement, and I'm finished with the stockpiling of books. No more book purchases! Or at least, no purcha...