Wednesday, August 29, 2007

the bittersweet

the sweet, first: Maud Newton used the little blurb I wrote for her about Casco Bay Books, despite the fact that I totally failed to make good on my plans to write something longer and better, as well as my plans to ask her to link to me here if she was going to link to me anywhere.

the bitter: For the first time in years, my vacation to Maine was so whirlwind that I didn't make it to the store. Turns out, though, that I would have been even more sad if I had gotten there. Apparently, my favorite book store in the world is no more.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

in french, the word for vacation is always plural

What I read on my summer vacation:

Oh, man, do I have a crush on Scarlett Thomas. I've already blogged about reading PopCo, and I plan to write something soon about The End of Mr. Y, but for vacation, I turned to her genre fiction. Dead Clever was perfect airplane reading, almost good enough to make up for being stuck in the middle seat on a red eye.

Originally published under the pseudonym of Sally Mara, We Always Treat Women Too Well isn't one of Queneau's more famous books, but I had been wanting to read it for a while. Every bit as smutty and violent as the pulp novels it satirizes, it's also ridiculously funny, and at times startlingly disgusting. In short, awesome.

Lots of Josephine Tey: Brat Farrar, The Man in the Queue, and To Love and Be Wise. As I told my mom, I only read mysteries when I'm on vacation. In response, she handed me a pile of these old paperbacks, culled from yard sales and sidewalk book stalls. She's a good mom.

Amazon has been recommending Snow, by Orhan Pamuk, to me for months. They were kind of right. I can't deny that it's a good book, smart, beautifully written and thought provoking, but, all the same, it's not really my thing.

Reading mysteries on vacation is all very well, but reading mysteries in French makes you look so much smarter. Plus, having a glossary in the back makes it easier. Hence, my dad's old copy of Tournants Dangereux, by Georges Simenon.

Last but not least, Shelley Jackson's Half Life made the plane ride back feel almost short. I saw her read from it a few months ago, and have been wanting to read it ever since. Thanks to a late birthday present, I finally go to. Now I want to read it again. Her writing is so dense and vivid and weird and wonderful; it's the kind of thing you just want to immerse yourself in.

(Next up, books I got on my summer vacation, but haven't yet read.)

Tuesday, August 7, 2007


For the last few days, I've been reading One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. It's an amazing book, and I’m embarrassed that I hadn't read it before, especially now that I'm (like Mr. Kesey) an Oregonian. Of course, I've seen the film, which is a classic— I think I first saw it in a high school film class, where I watched intently, trying to pay attention to every detail. I've seen it once or twice since then, as well, so it's pretty well burned into my brain. Turns out, I remember it even better than I realized.

Maybe this is common, maybe it's nothing revolutionary or even surprising, but it's very strange to me to read a book and have Jack Nicholson cavorting around in my head, and to have my understanding of the ward's layout already fixed, even before I've finished the first (short) chapter. It's kind of neat, sure, but even more than that, it's distracting. It's harder to pay attention to the language, and I don't feel like my understanding of the book is evolving in the same way it does with a story I've never heard before.

I don't watch a lot of movies, and I do read a lot of books, so it's possible that this is truly the first time I've encountered the movie before the book. I can't think of another pair that I've experienced in this order, and this is certainly the first time I've had the two intertwine in this way, which makes me wonder. Does this happen to people all the time?

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

break 'em

I would say that Bookslut always makes me happy, but there was a review one time that made me so angry I had to send them an email. Later that day, Jessa Crispin herself (!) wrote back, with the perfect response. She hadn’t liked the offensive phrase either, but doesn’t believe in censoring her columnists. The result was, luckily, wonderful, but there was a moment or two there when I was displeased. Hence, they mostly make me happy, where mostly is a value of just slightly more than ninety-nine percent of the time.

At the moment, though, I couldn’t love the site more, thanks to a wonderful feature on the dangers of over-specialization, a feature that urges us all to diversify our written works, and does so in a way that can’t have been calculated just to appeal to me particularly, but works as well as if it had been. Ah, the well-crafted call to be more like Carole Maso. It gets me every time.