Friday, June 26, 2009

No longer an Amazon associate

Amazon has closed all North Carolina associates accounts effective today. Amazon has taken this action in anticipation of the North Carolina General Assembly's budget bill, which may or may not contain a provision to try to collect sales tax from those who have bought items via click-throughs from Amazon associates in North Carolina, and which may or may not be passed today or at some point closer to September if North Carolina history is to be a guide.

I linked to Amazon prior to signing on as an associate simply because it seemed THE easiest way for readers to obtain the necessary info on a book--from ISBN to publishing date to an array of reader and professional reviews--no matter how they intended to obtain a book I'd mentioned that they wished to read, but I'm going to be rethinking that practice in the coming days.

Thank you to all of you who have purchased items through click-throughs here on the site. In addition to providing me with a bit of extra money to spend on books myself, I have enjoyed getting a glimpse at the other items people have ordered--from oatmeal to exercise bikes--and I was particularly amused when someone bought Montana Gothic for a penny (remember, this was a book I warned people about) and then returned it for a full refund.

Edited to add: Amazon cuts off North Carolina commissions

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Booking Through Thursday - Hot!

Now that summer is here (in the northern hemisphere, anyway), what is the most “Summery” book you can think of? The one that captures the essence of summer for you?

(I’m not asking for you to list your ideal “beach reading,” you understand, but the book that you can read at any time of year but that evokes “summer.”)

Growing up, I associated summer with cousins. I had cousins next door, living with their parents and my grandfather, and ten million cousins throughout the county, but the summer before fourth grade my cousin from Ireland came over to stay with us (and would live with us year-round once we got to high school) and my cousin from Alexandria came down to stay next door, and thereafter summer meant cousins (and horses and bikes and checkers and rummy and everyone. whatever their age, sitting outside in my grandfather's yard in the evenings trying to stay cool).

So when I had to read Anne Tyler's Searching for Caleb in a contemporary fiction class my freshman year at college, I felt a strong sense of kinship with Justine who loved her summers with her cousins:

In the evening they all went home. The four houses gave to illusion of belonging
to four separate families. But after supper they came out again and sat on
Great-Grandma's lawn, the men in their shirtsleeves and the women in fresh print
dresses. The children grew overexcited rolling down the slope together. They
quarreled and were threatened with an early bedtime, and finally they had to
come sit with the grownups until they had calmed down. Sweaty and panting,
choking back giggles, itchy from the grass blades that stuck to their skin, they
dropped to the ground beside their parents and looked up at the stars while low
measured voices murmered all around them. The oldest cousin, Uncle Mark's
daughter Esther, held her little brother Richard on her lap and tickled him
secretly with a dandelion clock. Nearby, Esther's twin sisters, Alice and Sally,
were curled together like puppies with Justine in the middle because she was new
and special. And Uncle Two's boys, Claude and Duncan, wrestled without a sound
and without a perceptible movement so they wouldn't be caught and sent to bed.
Not that the grownups really cared. They were piecing together some memory now,
each contributing his own little patch and then sitting back to see how it would
turn out. Long after the children had grown calm and loose and dropped off to
sleep, one by one, the grownups were still weaving family history in the

and despite the fact that I was raised Southern Baptist and was supposed to keep my distance from fortune-tellers (Justine's chosen career) and the like (e.g., my aunt had me trained to freak out at the mere sight of a Ouija board box there for awhile), I threw in with Justine and have lived happily on the dark side ever after. And that is what summer means to me, the end.

Booking Through Thursday

Monday, June 22, 2009

Latest batch of books

I ordered Dawn Powell's Dance Night last week for the Slaves of Golconda group read at the end of August and it hasn't arrived yet; otherwise, I'm not expecting any book packages until the new Lorrie Moore's published in September.

Paul Yoon's Once the Shore. (My favorite cover and one that squares perfectly with Lisa at Mappa Mundi's terrifically moving last Readerville the-sky-is-the-new-shoes post: Still Looking Up.)

Kay Boyle's Plagued by the Nightingale. (My last Readerville-inspired purchase. Sniff.)

Michael Dirda's Classics for Pleasure. (Because the libraries around here incredibly enough don't have it.)

The Writer's Notebook: Craft Essays from Tin House (A review copy including the likes of Rick Bass, Dorothy Allison, Antonya Nelson, Chris Offutt, etc. I was very happy to receive this.)

Alice Munro's Selected Stories (Took a risk bringing this home from the used bookstore, but there's less overlap with the Munro I already owned than I expected, so yay.)

Russell H. Greenan's It Happened in Boston?. (Recommened by N., who is a big Greenan fan. Plus, Anne Tyler blurbed it.)

Nicholson Baker's The Mezzanine. (Because I didn't already own it, and should have.)

Cees Nooteboom's In the Dutch Mountains (Because the last Nooteboom I read was gloriously weird.)

Alasdair Gray's Lanark (Because the people who read this usually just rave about it.)

Kate Atkinson's Behind the Scenes at the Museum (Because I didn't already own it, and should have.)

Nina Vida's The Texicans (A review copy that I'm very much looking forward to.)

Tess Callahan's April and Oliver (More shore than horizon on the cover of this one, but still lovely.)

Carlos Ruiz Zafon's The Angel's Game. (An ARC, reviewed last week)

And freshly loaded on the Kindle:

Kate Walbert's A Short History of Women (Lots of excitement for this one in the Book Balloon forums.)


Ninni Holmqvist's The Unit (Because of all the buzz on the blogs already about this one.)

Friday, June 19, 2009

Reading, that Great American Pin-Up Activity

edward runci
I'm not quite sure how my daughter came into possession of The Great American Pin-Up by Charles G. Martignette and Louis K. Meisel (her last trip to Germany? a friend's last trip to Germany?), but I though I'd amuse myself the other evening by flipping through its pages to find all the illustrations of women caught in the act of looking sexy while reading.

And fellow readers, I am sorry to report that pin-up artists don't appear to have been greatly inspired by the sight of a woman with reading material at the ready. There's a sexy teacher or two in the collection, but no sexy librarians.

There's the Edward Runci used by Trish at Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin'? seen above, and down below, three works by Edward D'Ancona, and singular paintings by Vaughan Alden Bass, Art Frahm and Gil Elvgren.

That's it.
I'm sure there's a moral or two to this somewhere. Please feel free to leave your suggestions of any that occur to you in the comments.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I usually make a summer reading list and have it ready in May, but this year I'm behind schedule. I tried to work on the list yesterday afternoon, realized I had too many library books on my holds list that would become available over the course of the summer, leaving me little opportunity to read anything from my Fill in the Gaps list or any of the other books that I own and might take a notion to read. I stewed over this fact for a few hours, compared the number of books I'd read this year from my own stacks to those from the library, despaired particularly over how few books I'd read from the stockpiles I've managed to purchase just this year, and then I summoned the wherewithal last night to inactivate all the books on the holds list.

It still isn't pleasant to dwell on how scuffy and cloudy all those Brodart covers are going to be if I'm not going to be one of the first to get my hands on the books, but otherwise I feel good about my decision. I'm reading A.S. Byatt's The Children's Book to discuss with a friend (and it's soooo good) and I can decide once finished what I'm in the mood for without worrying whether I'll have time to read it before its due date.

It seems a pleasant way to live.

And I would like to say thank you to Jeane at DogEar Diary for giving me the Lemonade Award during the time that I was Not Blogging for showing "great attitude or gratitude"--rest assured that getting this award is saving the rest of you from a long-winded, whiny post on why I've not been blogging, and trust me, some things are better not whined about in public.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Angel's Game: It's at your own expense

It's Great Expectations! It's Faust! It's a whole slew of other books and then it's Dorian Gray! It's the encore to the enormously popular The Shadow of the Wind, that's what The Angel's Game is, and I haven't had the refrain "This is stupid" running through my mind so many times since The Da Vinci Code. Not that I think author Carlos Ruiz Zafon is at all stupid, he's obviously exceedingly clever and well-read. But when the smart stuff in a book is only a McGuffinly means of getting the sensationalistic hoohah in motion, then I know someone's jerking me around instead of giving me anything meaningful. And I resent it. There's no reason for postmodernism to devolve into a mere amusement park ride if the reader's expectations have been raised to expect something more. Shouldn't a book that's so blatantly bookish do more than bombard us with thrills and chills?

Pip, er, David Martin starts out writing serialized melodramas for the newspaper in Barcelona at the age of 17. His father, an uneducated war veteran, had been the night watchman there before he was gunned down in the street outside the newspaper office's doors. Martin continues working there, as a gofer and an assistant to the owner's son, Don Pedro Vidal, a writer of thrillers himself, before Vidal encourages the editor to give his fiction a chance. Martin's work is so popular that his co-workers scorn him and Vidal then conspires to have him fired so that he can sign a contract to write penny dreadfuls under a pen name for a pair of unscrupulous publishers.

Martin is in love with Cristina, who convinces Martin to rewrite one of Vidal's manuscripts behind his back after Vidal's talent deserts him. Cristina then marries Vidal after the book is published to high regard and popular success. A serious novel Martin publishes under his own name fails, and he buries a copy in the Cemetery of Lost Books. And a doctor confirms that Martin's ill health and headaches are caused by a brain tumor that will kill him within a year. . .

And then Martin enters into a real contract with the devil instead of a mere metaphoric one with the greedy publishers, a contract that offers him riches and eternal life in exchange for writing a book that will create a religion, "a story for which men and women would live and die," and takes on a delightful young assistant named Isabella.

I am at the height of my liking the novel at this point because of all the witty dialogue and religious and writing discussions, and if Ruiz Zafon had continued in this vein I would have thought the book fabulous. Instead, after that enjoyable interlude, the book underscores again and again that it's a mystery/thriller, my "This is stupid" mental refrain kicks into high gear, and I spend the last two hours of reading wishing I were watching a movie so that I could take an extended pop corn/restroom break at the beginning of a chase scene and come back to my seat to have my daughter whisper, "You didn't miss a thing."

My reading tastes are outside the mainstream enough for me to realize that The Angel's Game is going to be as hugely successful as the novel Martin rewrote for Vidal turned out to be, but I regret spending my time on the latest Faustian fare when I could have been reading Mann's version or The Master and Margarita. I won't go so far as to say I sold my soul for an advanced reading copy, but I certainly could have made better use of my time.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

RIP, Readerville

I'm stunned. Absolutely stunned. Readerville has closed its doors.

The internet will never be the same.

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...