Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Review: Superfudge

Written by Judy Blume
Published by Dell Yearling, 1994 and later
Originally published 1980

This review refers to the 1994 edition of the book.
Young Readers Challenge

Is Judy Blume still popular? I know she was wildly successful back in the 1970s and ‘80s. But do kids still read her books? She was one of those annoyingly over-achieving children’s book writers who seemed to turn out nothing but best-sellers. And then she started writing books for adults and did OK there, too. See what I mean about annoying?

Since I was already in college when she published her first children’s books and I don’t have kids of my own, I never had occasion to read any of her books until the Young Readers Challenge came along and made me start looking at all the kids’ lit I’ve missed in the last century decade or so.

There’s really no reason why I should have read this particular book. But I’ve been making a conscious effort this year, to read more children’s and young adult books that have boys as the central characters. In the past, I’ve mostly read “girly” books. So when I found this in one of the boxes of kids’ books I’ve got stored away, I thought I’d give it a look.

Get to the point, already!

Superfudge is a sequel to Blume’s earlier book about the Hatcher family, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing (which I haven’t read). This second installment is set a couple of years after that first book, and is narrated by Peter Hatcher, older brother of the unfortunately named Farley Drexel Hatcher (hence the nickname “Fudge”) who is four years old when the book begins. Peter is beginning sixth grade, and trying to live as normal a life as it’s possible to live, with a brother like Fudge.

Fudge is the baby of the family, and gets away with murder (almost literally – in the first book he apparently swallowed Peter’s pet turtle alive!). He is wild and uncontrollable, and naturally the apple of his parents’ eyes. No wonder then that Peter is upset when he learns that a new baby sister is on the way (eventually called “Tootsie”) – he’s positive the new sibling will turn out to be just another version of Fudge!

In this story, the family moves to Princeton, New Jersey for a year so that Mrs. Hatcher can go back to school (and have a new baby, too? talk about Supermom!) and Mr. Hatcher can spend some time writing a book. Peter isn’t happy about the move at first, but once he gets there and starts to make new friends, he begins to enjoy the place. The baby comes. Peter has his first mild crush on a girl. The boys have some funny adventures, and Fudge acquires a talking myna bird whose favorite phrase turns out to be “Bonjour, stupid!” It would be a cute story if it weren’t for the constantly infuriating presence of the abominable Fudge.

A couple of things struck me as I was reading this book, and doing a bit of research on it. One thing I found a little surprising is the fact that Blume “outs” Santa in the book. At one point, Peter talks about the fact that he never believed in Santa Claus because he’d seen his parents putting presents under the tree when he was three years old. And he doesn’t agree with his parents’ plan to let Fudge go on believing a little longer, since Fudge “thinks you can get whatever you want by just asking.” I suppose since the book is aimed at the just-pre-middle school crowd, this isn’t a big deal. But if a parent were reading it to a younger child, this might be a nasty shock.

I was also amused to learn that in later editions of the book, some things have been altered to bring the story a little more “up to date.” Christmas “want” lists are changed to reflect the times – records and record players replaced with CDs, etc. And the boys’ favorite TV shows are replaced with 21st Century shows. I suppose that makes sense from a marketing point of view, although I always hate it when history is tampered with that way, even in children’s books. It means missing a great opportunity for kids to learn a little something about the times their parents and grandparents lived through.

In the end, I guess this is just one of those books you’ve gotta be a kid to appreciate. Fudge did not charm me. I did not think he was super. At one point, big brother Peter says to him, “You are the biggest pain ever invented.” Yeah, I’d agree with that.

Tuesday Thingers: Banned Books List

This week is Banned Books Week, and Marie at The Boston Bibliophile has an appropriate project for the Tuesday Thingers group. Take the list of Most Frequently Challenged Books of the 1990s from the ALA website, highlight what you've read, and italicize what you have in your LT library.

It's a long list and I'm afraid my showing isn't very good, so I've edited it to show just the books I've read and/or have in my LT library. Here's my list:

  1. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain - Gets my vote for Great American Novel. I've read it many times.
  2. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck - I always thought this was pretty awful, but don't see why it's so often challenged. Just dull and boring.
  3. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger - One of the favorite books of my youth. Whenever I reread it today, I just end up thinking what a nasty little piece of work Holden is. He definitely had too much time on his hands. They should have pulled him out of that prep school, smacked him a few times, and sent him out to find a job.
  4. The Color Purple by Alice Walker - I've never read this and I'm very embarrassed to admit that. I'd make it my project for the week, except that I'm snowed under with challenge books right now.
  5. Earth’s Children (Series) by Jean M. Auel - Well, I haven't read the whole series - just the first book. I liked it, but not enough to continue watching everybody evolve.
  6. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle - Haven't read this yet, but it's on my list.
  7. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood - The only Atwood I've read. More cause for embarrassment.
  8. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee - First read this when it originally came out back in the 60s. Loved it then, love it now. Don't know why I don't have a copy in my library.
  9. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes - OK, I don't see this listed in my LT catalogue, but I've definitely got it around here somewhere because my husband just read it recently. He must be hiding it under all those guitar magazines in his study.
  10. Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling - Again, haven't read the whole series - just the first book. Don't imagine I'll read any others anytime soon. Not a big fan of Potter. Even less of Rowling.
  11. A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein - Great book. I think I've given a copy of this book, at one time or another, to just about every child I've known.
  12. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley - Huxley was a huge favorite of my "crowd" in high school.
  13. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut - If you were a college student in the late 60s, this was required reading.
  14. Lord of the Flies by William Golding - Strange, disturbing book from a strange, disturbing time in the history of the world.
  15. Native Son by Richard Wright - I've read some of Wright's short works, but not the novels.
  16. The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende - I've liked most of the "magic realism" I've read, so I really should try this one.
  17. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain - One of the first "long" books I read by myself. I'm pretty sure I read Tom before I read Huck.
  18. Where’s Waldo? by Martin Hanford - OK, tell me why anyone would challenge this book. There's really not much to read here anyway, is there?
  19. Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman - I loved this when I was a toddler. All those tigers melting into butter just seemed magical. OK, so I was a strange toddler. I'm pretty sure I own several editions, but I think they're all in storage with most of my children's books.

I find it interesting that the list from the 2000-2007 period is slightly different from the 1990s list. It seems strange that a book would make it on one list, and not another. I can sort of understand it when it's a new title. But why should Fahrenheit 451 all of a sudden become suspect? Or why was One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest acceptable in the 1990s, but not after 2000? Well, I suppose the answer has something to do with book banning not being a rational sort of practice in the first place.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Sunday Salon: A Festive End to Catch-Up Week

I feel like I accomplished quite a bit this week, although I’m probably just delusional. But last week’s Weekly Geeks assignment was a great inducement to catch up on a few of the things I’d been meaning to do. My post about it is here, but basically what I did was figure out which books I still need to be reading for challenges, and what reviews I still need to write. It was fun and useful at the same time and I want to thank Dewey at The Hidden Side of a Leaf for once again doing a wonderful job of coordinating everything.

Didn’t get a great deal of actual reading done this week. Just one book – John Bellairs’ gothic horror novel for young readers, The House with a Clock in Its Walls. I read it for the R.I.P. III Challenge being hosted by Carl V. at Stainless Steel Droppings. That one goes through October 31, and I’m going to be reading at least one other book for it – probably The Complete Ghost Stories of M.R. James. Nice and spooky.

Wrote a few reviews this week, too: American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld, So Long at the Fair by Christina Schwarz, and Mr. White’s Confession by Robert Clark. One hit and one miss and one home run – I guess that’s not a bad average.

Then yesterday, we topped off the week by driving into DC and attending the National Book Festival for a couple of hours. Didn’t buy any books. Didn’t have any books signed – the lines were miles long. The crowds were unbelievable. The weather was not outstanding – it was hot, humid and wet (typical Washington DC early fall day). And my allergies were driving me wild. So we just walked around a bit. Listened to James McBride and Geraldine Brooks (right). Had lunch at the Pavilion CafĂ©, in the National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden – one of my favorite eateries in the District. Ate indoors because of the heat, but it was still fun. Noticed they’ve removed the Metropolitain entrance gate, that relic of the Paris Metro that made the place so distinctive. Wonder what’s going on with that?

Well, anyway, here are a couple more photos from the Festival (and one photo of the free loot I brought home). And don’t forget – this is Banned Books Week (sponsored by the American Library Association). You might want to take a look at their lists of frequently challenged books, and pick something really dangerous and controversial to read this week (like Where’s Waldo?).

Friday, September 26, 2008

Weekly Geeks #18: Catch Up On Something – The Wrap-Up

This week’s theme for the Weekly Geeks group was “Catch Up on . . . Something.” Now that’s a challenge I can always use – I’m one of the great procrastinators of my generation. But this gave me a nice firm nudge, and I’ve been working really hard all week on getting my reviews caught up, and my challenge books organized. Really hard.

I ignored email and phone messages. I stopped cleaning the apartment. I let the laundry pile up. I chained myself to my computer and went without sleep.

OK, I lied about chaining myself to the computer.

But I worked very diligently. Like a little beaver. Like a madwoman. Like one possessed. I gave up cooking and hired Boy Scouts to bring me hot meals.

OK, I lied about the Boy Scouts.

But I did work on it a lot. And after a whole week of concentrating on catching up, I have to admit … I didn’t really get all that caught up after all. Could we please have catch-up week every week? Pretty please?

So this is what I did get accomplished:
Made a survey of the reading challenges I still have to finish up this year (five). Made a list of all the books I should be reading (fourteen), and when I should have them finished (too soon). Wrote a post about it for my blog.

Finished reading and wrote a review of my last LibraryThing Early Reviewer book, Mr. White’s Confession, by Robert Clark (see review).
Reviewed American Wife, by Curtis Sittenfeld (see review).
Reviewed So Long at the Fair, by Christina Schwarz (see review).

Pulled together a list of all the books I read during the summer that I still need to review (about half a dozen).

Updated my spread sheet database of ARCs. Also realized that I need to declare a bit of a moratorium on requesting ARCs until I can get some of my challenge books read and blogged about. [Note to self: Cut it out!]

Entered a bunch of recently-acquired books in my LibraryThing catalogue. This wasn’t something I’d planned to do, but it was definitely something I needed to catch up on. I’m up to 1,865 books now, with more to come.

Finished writing that novel I started twenty years ago, and sold it to Random House.
OK, I lied about the novel.

Review: So Long at the Fair

Written by Christina Schwarz
Published by Doubleday, 2008, 244 pages
This review refers to an Advanced Reader’s Edition of the book

The main narrative of Christina Schwarz’s novel So Long at the Fair takes place in the course of one summer day, and is basically the story of a marriage going through a rocky patch. Jon and Ginny are a childless couple, in their thirties, not really unhappily matched, but no longer head-over-heels about each other. Enter Freddi, Jon’s business associate – unattached and attractive – and things start to unravel for Jon.

It’s not a bad story, if a bit trite. The characters are well-drawn and interesting, although none of them are completely admirable or sympathetic. But Schwarz’s examination of adultery, love and betrayal is realistic and doesn’t pull punches. If she had limited the book to that story, I’d have given her full marks. But instead, she’s chosen to add on a couple of other stories which really just end up littering the landscape – a maddeningly shadowy and prolonged tale set in 1963, centering around Jon’s and Ginny’s parents’ generation. And another, contemporary to the saga of Jon/Ginny/Freddi, involving a creepy admirer of Freddi’s whose attentions become more and more sinister as the story goes on.

All these threads do finally come together in the end, but not soon enough or compellingly enough to stir much interest in the outcome. Occasionally the constantly shifting point of view and timeline had me completely disoriented. Sort of like that Seinfeld routine about moviegoers who can't follow the plots. I kept saying, “Now which one is he?” Or “Whose mother is she?” Or “Which one was he married to?” Or “But when did that happen?” I did a lot of flipping back and forth between chapters. I even made lists of characters and did a little family tree chart to try to keep everybody straight.

In the end, I found the book dissatisfying, but not a total loss by any means. I think there’s the germ of a really good novel here. And I admire Schwarz’s writing style – she has an appealing ability to paint wonderfully realistic portraits of character or place in just a few well-chosen lines. Her small-town setting seems vibrant and real, her dialogue authentic. And while I might not recommend this work whole-heartedly, I wouldn’t hesitate to try her future work. I just hope the next book doesn’t leave me feeling quite as puzzled and confused as this one did.

Review: Mr. White's Confession

Written by Robert Clark
Published by Picador, 1998, 341 pages

That is the sad thing about memory, I suppose. It goes without saying that search as we will, we cannot know the future; but it seems we cannot even know the past, however much we search it; and so we are always longing for it and seeing it beyond our reach, anticipating what is past as though it were to come. In that way, having a memory is terribly sad, like visiting a graveyard, where even at the loveliest of times one must finally confess that underneath the verdure there are only the dead and gone, that which is lost to us, the things we once loved, that we still love. . . . I suppose that is all memory really is, for the most part: the hunger for what we have loved. [p. 301]

Robert Clark’s Mr. White’s Confession is an atmospheric, genre-bending murder mystery, set in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1939. Someone is killing dime-a-dance girls in the city, and Police Lieutenant Wesley Horner is assigned to the case. His investigation soon leads him to a chief suspect – one Herbert White, a local eccentric with memory problems and a taste for “glamour” photography. White was a frequent customer at the dance hall where the two murdered women worked, and had taken their photographs just before they turned up dead. And when the police question him, his answers are unconventional and unsatisfying. Is it possible he’s using his claims of faulty memory to mask his guilt?

The book shifts back and forth between Horner’s investigation of the case and White’s diaries from the period. Herbert keeps detailed diaries and scrapbooks to help him remember things. Because of an injury at birth, he has a very quirky memory – he can recall his childhood and events from long ago, and things that happened within the last day or two, but has trouble with the time between – his “middle-distance” memories. And by the time Horner settles on him as the likely killer, we’ve already gotten to know and care about White through those diaries and scrapbooks – a circumstance which really adds to the suspense and tension of the story. But then there’s always the nagging question: Can we rely on him as a narrator?

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The characters – even the minor characters – are all interesting and believable. No one is perfect – even Lieutenant Horner is troubled and flawed. As a mystery novel, it’s probably only half successful, but that’s really not its point. Much more important is its exploration of themes of guilt and innocence, truth and fiction, past and present, love, faith, and memory. Especially memory. As Herbert White writes in his diary:

. . . it seems to me that perhaps at bottom all our knowing, all our seeing, is limited to what we have remembered: What is to come is, after all, beyond our ken; and what is happening at this moment, precisely now, we apprehend only after the moment is past, after it has become a memory. So memory is more than a souvenir of what was and is no more: It is in this sense everything we know and everything we have. [pp. 333-334]

I received this book through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer program, although it originally came out in 1998. Before I read it, I wasn’t familiar with Robert Clark’s works. But now I’m a fan. And I’m eager to read his earlier work, In the Deep Midwinter – if only for that wonderful title.

Blog Love

I want to say a big thank-you to Rebecca at The Book Lady’s Blog for awarding my blog the “I **Heart** Your Blog” Award. I love her blog, too – it’s one I read on a regular basis. Her reviews are always thoughtful and fun to read. And I also love her blog’s tagline:

Forget Freud…This is therapy by the book.”

Well, that’s what blogging and reading is all about, right?

Now I’m supposed to tag seven favorite blogs of my own, so I’ll have to give it some thought. I have so many favorites, it'll be hard to narrow it down to seven. That may take a while, but I’ll see what I can find.

Thanks again, Book Lady!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Challenge Countdown

This week’s Weekly Geeks theme is “catching up.” And one of the things I said I wanted to do was organize the rest of my reading challenges for the year – see what’s left to read, and how long I have to do it.

And after looking at my challenge blog, and checking the spreadsheet record I keep (well, I said I was a Geek, didn't I?), I realize that I still have about fourteen books left to read in the next three months. Actually, it looks like seventeen, but a few of those are cross-over reads, so it’s not quite as formidable as it looks. Well, actually it is pretty formidable at that.

So, the list:

R.I.P. III Challenge (ending October 31) – 2 books. Probably:
The House With a Clock in Its Walls, by John Bellairs, and The Penguin Complete Short Stories of M.R. James. I’m reading both of those right now, and enjoying them a lot.

342,745 Ways to Herd Cats (tl;dr) Challenge (ending November 30) – 1 more book, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon. I’ve started reading that one, too. Also enjoying it.

Man-Booker Challenge (ending December 31) – 5 books.
I’ve only read one of the six books for this challenge, so I’ve still got those last five to go. But one of them is Haddon’s Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, a cross-over with the Herding Cats Challenge – so only four “new” books for this challenge. The other books I’ve got lined up are:
Hotel Du Lac, by Anita Brookner
Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont, by Elizabeth Taylor
The Public Image, by Muriel Spark
The Road to Lichfield, by Penelope Lively
Young Readers Challenge (ending in December) – 8 books.
I know this sounds like lot, but kids’ books are usually very quick reads. And one of the books I’ll be reading is another crossover (Bellairs’ The House With a Clock in Its Walls), so only seven “new” titles. I made a list of books when I joined the challenge, but it’s sort of fallen by the wayside – I’ll probably just choose the books as I read them.

I also have the Short Story Challenge finishing up in December. But the M.R. James ghost stories will work there, too.

So, altogether, I think that’s fourteen separate titles. Now the question is will I be able to read (and blog about) almost five books a month for the next three months? All signs point to “NO,” especially since I’ll probably be traveling during a good part of that time. But I’m gonna give it a good solid try.

Booking Through Thursday: Well, That Was Different

This week’s BTT topic:
What was the most unusual (for you) book you ever read? Either because the book itself was completely from out in left field somewhere, or was a genre you never read, or was the only book available on a long flight… whatever? What (not counting school textbooks, though literature read for classes counts) was furthest outside your usual comfort zone/familiar territory?

And, did you like it? Did it stretch your boundaries? Did you shut it with a shudder the instant you were done? Did it make you think? Have nightmares? Kick off a new obsession?

Well, I guess I’d have to go back to a book I read for a class somewhere, sometime. Because I don’t generally read books “from out in left field.” I’m pretty selective about what I read, and if a book is likely to make me shudder, it’s also probably not likely to be one I’ll read. (Unless it’s a book of ghost stories, in which case I’ll actually be hoping for a few shudders.)

Hmmmm. Well, if we’re talking about works of fiction, I suppose the most unusual book (unusual for me, anyway) I’ve ever read would be James Joyce’s Ulysses. At least, that’s the first one that springs to mind. I had to read it for a college class on the modern English novel, many years ago. And now, of course, I’m glad of it – it’s definitely a modern classic and I think everyone interested in modern literature should read it. But it was a real struggle at the time. No, it didn’t kick off a James Joyce obsession. And it only made me think that I was really glad when I’d finished it.

The most unusual book I’ve tried to read but never finished would be Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons. The written equivalent of Cubist painting, it’s made up of short pieces supposedly on various subjects such as food, rooms, objects. But reading it is like trying to read a book that’s been chopped up into tiny bits and then had the bits reassembled in random combinations and juxtapositions. I think I understood what Stein was getting at in writing the book, but I finally decided that life is just way too short to spend much of it unraveling her puzzles. A pain is a pain is a pain. . .

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Random Notes: Coming Events

If you care about books, this Saturday, September 27th, is notable for a couple of reasons.

First, it’s the date of the 2008 National Book Festival in Washington, DC. I’ve never been to one of these, and I’d like to attend this one, but I’m not making myself any promises. For one thing, I think DC is supposed to be getting a lot of rain on Saturday, and I really can’t think of any authors I’d trudge around in the rain to see. Not any living authors, anyway.

The driving forces behind the Festival are, of course, the Library of Congress and Laura Bush. Over 70 authors are expected on the National Mall, to read, discuss and sign their works – including heavy-hitters like Salman Rushdie, Geraldine Brooks, Neil Gaiman, and Alexander McCall Smith.

For more info, see the Festival website. There’s also a National Book Festival Young Readers' Online Toolkit, which features a Hosting Guide with an overview of the site and ideas for holding local book festivals; an Author Details section including biographies and a “scoop” area that tells “the stories behind their stories”; and the 2008 National Book Festival Poster.

September 27th is also the first day of the American Library Association’s Banned Books Week (Celebrating the Right to Read). This is the 27th annual observance of the celebration, and it runs through October 4. The ALA has a Frequently Challenged Books webpage with various listings, including the Top 100 Challenged Books of 1990-1999 and 2000-2007. And there's a special Banned Books Week website, with information about local events around the country.

Some of my favorite books are among those listed as frequently banned. Huckleberry Finn, The Catcher in the Rye, To Kill a Mockingbird, Flowers for Algernon, The Handmaid's Tale. I suppose I can understand the reasoning there (though I would abhor it). But what about Where's Waldo?? Why the heck would anyone object to that? Obviously, I didn't pick up on the lewd, subversive undertones of the book. While I was ruining my eyesight, scanning every page for the little guy in the striped sweater, I was probably being corrupted and didn't even know it!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Tuesday Thingers: Favorite Authors

For this week’s Tuesday Thingers topic, Boston Bibliophile has some questions about favorite authors, as well as a little photo project:
Who do you have named in your LT account as favorite authors? Why did you choose them? How many people share your choices? Can you share a picture of one of them?

Well, first of all – I have a lot of favorite authors listed. Too many to name here. I’m not going to count them, but I’m sure there are over a hundred. And I chose them . . . because they’re my favorite authors! But also because when I was doing the list, I had just signed up for LT’s Early Reviewer program, and I had a theory that a lengthy list of favorites might help my chances when the mighty algorithm was applied. Don’t know how many people share my choices. Probably a lot. My list is fairly eclectic.

And for a photo, I’ll share this one of Barbara Pym, “borrowed” from the back of the dust jacket to A Very Private Eye: An Autobiography in Diaries and Letters, edited by Hazel Holt and Barbara’s sister Hilary Pym. I did check out how many other LT members share my Pym enthusiasm. Forty-six. Should be more.

Related post: Review of Barbara Pym's Civil To Strangers

Monday, September 22, 2008

Review: American Wife

Written by Curtis Sittenfeld
Published by Random House, 2008, 550+ pages

This review refers to an Advance Reader’s Edition of the book

It’s taken me a long time to get this book read. By now, I suppose everybody knows the story. So here’s the shortest synopsis I can come up with: Mild-mannered school librarian (who is not Laura Welch Bush) marries scion of a prominent political family, who turns out to be a future President of the United States (and who is not George Walker Bush), in spite of major social, philosophical and political differences, while at the same time wrestling with the emotional toll of past trauma and indiscretions. A little like a train wreck – it’s disturbing, but you can’t look away. Much too long and rambling, but overall I think it’s an interesting book.

I suppose I should start off by ‘fessing up – I came to this book with a real chip on my shoulder. Well, two chips, actually. First of all there’s the whole George/Laura Bush thing. And then there’s the generation gap thing. OK, three chips – there was also the name thing.

I’ll start with the name thing because that was the most ridiculous and the most quickly remedied. Curtis Sittenfeld. What kind of a name is that for a nice young female author? I was amazed to find that CS was a woman – I’d never heard of her earlier works (I mostly dozed through the early years of this century), so I was all set to read a book written by a male author. Not that I’ve got anything against female authors. Hey, two of my favorite writers are Barbara Pym and Muriel Spark and you can’t get much more female than those two. So, after I got over the initial surprise and feeling slightly deceived, I was able to move on.

For me, the George Bush connection was an enormous problem right at first (not that this is a book about George and Laura Bush, you understand – of course not). I’m probably Dubya’s biggest non-fan. Even before he became our fearless leader and the Decider and all that, the very mention of his name could set me off in an eruption of mindless rants and ravings (my husband said it made me foam at the mouth, but I don’t think that’s literally true). George Bush, after all, represents everything I was glad to leave behind when I migrated away from my home state. And the man isn’t even a real Texan – he was born in Connecticut, for heaven’s sake! See – there I go.

The generation problem was more serious (if not any less idiotic) than the first two hang-ups. Once I found out a little about Sittenfeld and realized she was in her early thirties, I again felt a bit deceived and discomfited. How could someone barely past adolescence presume to write about someone of my generation? To understand and portray what it’s like to have come of age during the turbulence of the sixties and seventies? To say anything meaningful about the doubts and problems of age now facing us Baby Boomers? Or the compromises and adjustments necessary to maintain a marriage over several decades? Authors many years older than Sittenfeld have failed miserably at the task. Who was she to expect to succeed? The hubris of the chick!

Well, after reading American Wife, I have to say I think she did a pretty good job. I felt the book was about a third longer than it really needed to be, but it held my interest all the way through (OK, I skimmed a few sections, but not many). She took a big risk, writing about such a recent period of history, not having lived through it herself. And she mostly got it right. Mostly. A few of the details are a little off – for instance, if I’d showed up at my high school in 1963 (or anywhere, for that matter), wearing a felt skirt or saddle oxfords, I’d have been stripped of my membership in the Youthquake Generation. But these slip-ups are few and far between and wouldn’t really rate a mention, if the book didn’t depend so heavily on a build-up of such period detail.

What she doesn’t do quite so well is persuade me that the Alice/Laura character could be (and remain) so attracted to and sympathetic with the Charlie/George character. From the beginning, they seem to have nothing in common. She’s well-mannered, self-effacing, bookish, and genteel. He’s arrogant, nearly illiterate, boorish, and crude. She’s working class and socially liberal; he’s old-money conservative. I know opposites are supposed to attract (especially in literature), but their relationship really does require a massive suspension of disbelief. I mean, the man has the brain power of a sand dollar, and yet she gives up her career for him! And abandons her best friend to marry him! And stays married to him for thirty years – and bears him a child! Oops, there I go – foaming at the mouth again.

Weekly Geeks #18: Catch Up on Something!

It’s been a while since I participated in Weekly Geeks – quite a while actually. But this week, the theme is perfect for my situation, so I’m dropping back in.

The instruction to go forth and catch up on something is exactly what I need right now. I’ve fallen so far behind in review writing, I might need more than a week to do any real catching up. But I’m going to give it a shot. I also need to get my remaining challenge books organized and see which ones I need to be reading in the next few months. I know there are a couple of challenges I’m probably not going to finish, but I’ve decided not to let that bother me too much – life is too short and there are too many books out there, calling my name.

I need to catch up on a number of other things, too – sleep, vacuuming, laundry, etc. – but for now I think I’ll concentrate on reviews and reading challenges.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Sunday Salon: Catch-Up Time

Just a short post today (and then it’s back to reading and the Cowboys). This morning I finished Robert Clark’s Mr. White’s Confession, and I’m still recovering. I don’t mean that to sound like I didn’t enjoy the book – I did. But it’s sort of a depressing read, with a fairly powerful emotional impact. I snagged it in LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer program last month, although the book originally came out in 1998. So either they’re bringing out a new paperback edition, or maybe the publisher just wanted to get some bloggers building up interest. Anyway, now I need to work on getting my review posted – hopefully tomorrow if all goes well.

I’m way behind in reviews – there are about seven or eight books I read this summer still gathering dust on the shelf above my computer, waiting to be reviewed. I should cover them up with a doily or some plastic flowers or something, so they wouldn’t make me feel so guilty every time I look up there.

Earlier this week, I did manage to get a little piece (an “appreciation,” I guess) written about Will Cuppy, one of my favorite humorists, who died in September 1949. I’ve loved The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody since I first read it when I was about twelve. I think it may have been my first experience with footnotes. As I grew up, of course, I was to find, much to my dismay, that not all “scholarly” works are so wonderfully entertaining.

In addition to falling behind in reviews, I’ve just begun to realize I’ve got a dozen or so books to read for challenges that are going to be finishing up soon. So I’ve certainly got a busy reading schedule shaping up for this autumn. I may not be starting back to school this month, but I definitely need to hit the books!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Will Cuppy

Tomorrow is the 59th anniversary of the death of the great American satirist Will Cuppy. Not as familiar or as widely read today as he should be, Cuppy was a very popular essayist and reviewer during his lifetime. And although a very private, even reclusive individual, he was well-known and respected in the literary world of his day. He published articles in the New Yorker, wrote the “Mystery and Adventure” review column for the New York Herald-Tribune, and also wrote for the Saturday Evening Post. In the 1940s he was the editor of three collections of stories in the crime and mystery genre.

But his finest works were his books of satirical essays and stories about nature and historical figures, starting with How to Be a Hermit in 1929. That book grew out of Cuppy’s experience keeping house for himself (he never married) in a shack on New York’s Jones Island. It became an immediate best-seller when it appeared and went through six printings in four months. It was followed by How to Tell Your Friends from the Apes in 1931, How to Become Extinct in 1941, and How to Attract the Wombat in 1949.

However, the book he’s most remembered for today (and my favorite) is The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody, which was pulled together by his friend and editor Fred Feldkamp, and published posthumously in 1950. It’s a wonderfully researched, and at times absolutely hilarious, book about the great figures of history from Khufu and Hatshepsut in ancient Egypt, to Captain John Smith and Miles Standish in Colonial America.

Cuppy was very serious about his subject matter, even though he was writing in a comic and satirical vein. According to Feldkamp:
. . . before writing a line on any topic – or even thinking about what he might write – he would read every volume and article on the subject that he could find – including, in many cases, obscure books no longer available in this country. This was standard operating procedure, whether the topic in question was the Giant Ground Sloth or Catherine the Great.

After having absorbed this exhaustive amount of material, he would make notes on little 3-by-5 index cards, which he would then file under the appropriate subheading in a card-file box. Usually he would amass hundreds and hundreds of these cards in several boxes, before beginning to block out his piece.
This research and scholarship shows itself, at least in the case of The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody, in the hundreds of humorous footnotes that accompany the text. And although Cuppy’s work is sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, you’re always aware that it really does contain quite a lot of legitimate historical fact, which somehow makes it even funnier. Cuppy employs a pseudo-scholarly tone, and the humor is gentle but relentless, and builds throughout each piece – which makes it difficult to give examples. But I’ll try a couple.

The book’s second tale, “Hatshepsut,” ends with this paragraph and its accompanying footnote:
Thutmose III died in 1447 B.C. in the fifty-fourth year of his reign, or the thirty-second counting from the death of Hatshepsut. None of his obelisks, inscribed with whopping big lies about his seventeen campaigns, remained in Egypt. They were picked up as souvenirs and carried to distant lands. One of them, known as Cleopatra’s Needle, although it has nothing to do with Cleopatra and never had, is now in Central Park, New York City, where it causes passers-by to pause for a moment in the day’s rush and inquire: “What the hell is that?” It is called Cleopatra’s Needle because the world is full of people who think up those things. If you ask me, it always will be.
[Footnote: In the reign of Amenhotep IV, or Ikhnaton, the Hittites grew so strong that the Egyptian Empire fell apart. I forget, at the moment, what became of the Hittites.]
Or, another example, toward the end of the chapter on William the Conqueror and his wife Matilda:
The Bayeux Tapestry is accepted as an authority on many details of life and the fine points of history in the eleventh century. For instance, the horses in those days had green legs, blue bodies, yellow manes, and red heads, while the people were all double-jointed and quite different from what we generally think of as human beings. . . .
[Footnote: I don’t know who the people were who made the thing, but I know plenty of people just like them.]
Maybe just a bit more (I love this stuff). Here are a couple of excerpts from the chapter on Hannibal, about the Carthaginians:
Meanwhile the Carthaginians grew richer and richer by peddling linens, woolen goods, dyestuffs, glassware, porcelains, metalwork, household supplies, porch furniture, and novelties all along the Mediterranean. They used a system of barter to start with, but they soon found out that there’s nothing like money. They had learned most of their tricks from their parents, the Phoenicians, who were the most skillful traders of antiquity.
[Footnote: They sailed by the stars at night, depending chiefly upon the North Star. Ask a friend to point out the North Star some night and see what happens.]

Phoenician sailors were the first to establish intercourse with foreigners, an idea which soon proved its worth all over the world. Nobody had thought of it before.
[Footnote: The Phoenicians employed an alphabet of twenty-one consonants. They left no literature. You can’t be literary without a few vowels.]
Will Cuppy died on September 19, 1949, at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Greenwich Village. He’d been suffering from declining health and depression, and had taken an overdose of sleeping pills ten days earlier. Decline and Fall was published a year later in 1950, and a second posthumous volume, How to Get from January to December followed in 1951. Sadly, most of his works have gone out of print over the decades. But a check of online sources shows that Barnes & Noble have an edition of Decline and Fall listed, and Amazon.com indicates David R. Godine is apparently bringing out a new edition of the book, scheduled to appear this month. And that’s good news indeed – everyone should know Will Cuppy.

Booking Through Thursday: Autumn Reading

This week's BTT topic:

Autumn is starting (here in the US, anyway), and kids are heading back to school–does the changing season change your reading habits? Less time? More? Are you just in the mood for different kinds of books than you were over the summer?

Well, we don’t have kids, so we’ve never experienced that “back to school” rush that parents of school-age children go through. However, being married to an English professor does mean that I’ve always thought of September as the real beginning of the year – the pace of life quickens and everything starts up again. And, of course, it’s always been the start of the biggest season for the publishing industry, too. So there are always tons of new titles out there, enticing me to expand my already ridiculously long “to be read” list. (Not, of course, that I’ll manage to read all those new books – I’m still working on the new releases from last year.)

I suppose the only change in my reading habits in the fall might come from the fact that the summer means reading a few lighter books. One or two things I can take to the pool or the beach. Other than that, I don’t think my choice of reading matter really changes from season to season.

And as for having more or less time to read – I always seem to have less time to read than I’d like, don’t you?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Tuesday Thingers: Quotes

This week, Boston Bibliophile has come up with yet another feature that was something of a surprise to me. The topic:

Have you ever added a quote to the quotation field in common knowledge? What's a quote you particularly like from a book, one that you know by heart?

I guess I had noticed the Common Knowledge feature, but as usual hadn’t taken the time to check it out. I really had no idea what it was when I read BB’s question. So my answer is no, I’ve never added a quote. And in the several titles I checked just now, I didn’t find any that had quotes added. Maybe folks are worried about intellectual property problems?

Gee, a quote I like. There are so many – although not a vast number that I know by heart. The first one that comes to mind (probably because I’m thinking about books and reading right now) is from a poem by Emily Dickinson. Well, poetry and lines from plays are always easier to remember, aren’t they?

There is no frigate like a book
To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
Of prancing poetry.

I may not have the punctuation right – Emily was always so idiosyncratic in her presentation. So, do you have a favorite quote to share? To read more responses or participate in this week's Tuesday Thingers, visit the website here.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Sunday Salon: Dead Dogs and Blog Hopping

Looks like I’m late getting to the Salon this week (what, again?). Don’t seem to be able to get anything written earlier in the day on Sundays, what with errands and shopping – and old movies and the NFL on the tube. Well, not really much football watching today, since the Cowboys play tomorrow night.

But I still haven’t been able to settle down for a good long read today. Just the Sunday book review supplements and a few pages of my current book, Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. I’m reading it for several different challenges, and so far it seems pretty good. Of course, I haven’t gotten very far into it yet. If you’ve read it, you know it has a rather vivid description of a murdered dog as its opening paragraph. It took me some effort to get past that, but I’m pressing on. I’ve heard good things about the novel, so I’m hoping I won’t be too grossed out as Mark and I proceed with the story.

Aside from that, my only other bookish activity today has been playing around with my WordPress blog, which I set up months ago and then never really used. Today I posted a bunch of reviews over there, just to see how the site works. Complete waste of time, I know, but it was fun.

I’m not sure whether I’d like WordPress better than Blogspot/Blogger. I know a lot of book bloggers seem to have switched over. And my cousins (who have wonderful taste and are a lot brighter than I am) have recently transferred their blogs to WordPress. So it must have advantages, yes? So far, WordPress seems fairly easy to use and I like their templates. But Blogger appears a little more versatile. What do you think? Well, I'm a creature of habit, and I think I need to play around with it a little more before I do any moving or transferring.

And that’s about it. The week coming up is Book Bloggers Appreciation Week. I haven’t really been doing much about that, but I’m looking forward to reading everyone’s posts. Should be interesting. After all, book bloggers certainly deserve a lot of appreciation – don’t we?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Villainy

This week's BTT topic is a serious one, indeed:
Terrorists aren’t just movie villains any more. Do real-world catastrophes such as 9/11 (and the bombs in Madrid, and the ones in London, and the war in Darfur, and … really, all the human-driven, mass loss-of-life events) affect what you choose to read?

And, does the reality of that kind of heartless, vicious attack–which happen on smaller scales ALL the time–change the way you feel about villains in the books you read? Are they scarier? Or more two-dimensional and cookie-cutter in the face of the things you see on the news?
Of course, I abhor the sort of wanton violence and mindless cruelty represented in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon back in 2001. I feel fortunate that I didn’t personally know anyone who was killed in those assaults, and I feel great sorrow and sympathy for those who did lose friends and loved ones. It’s a sad fact that all our lives have been changed since that day, and the world will never seem quite as safe or as comfortable as it did before that brutality exploded in our midst.

But having lived through several political assassinations and the Vietnam war, wanton violence and mindless cruelty are, unfortunately, not completely unfamiliar to me. And if I’m honest, I’d have to say that I don’t really believe the events of 9/11/2001 have had any lasting effects on my reading habits or choices. Well, maybe only in that I’ve mostly stayed away from books that are directly inspired by the terrorist attacks, or deal with them specifically.

And I don’t think the knowledge that villainy actually happens in the real world affects my reaction to it in books. Extreme violence or cruelty in books does bother me. But I still love a good scary horror story, or a hard-boiled police procedural, or a fast-paced thriller just as much as I did before 9/11. I don’t intentionally seek out books with violent content or themes, but I don’t really avoid them either. That hasn’t changed.

And I don’t think it will change. As much as possible, I try to divorce myself from the real world when I’m immersed in reading. I try to enter the world the author has created, and leave my day-to-day existence behind for a while. That offer of an escape to a new and different reality is one of the reasons I read in the first place.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Tuesday Thingers: Awards

This week, Boston Bibliophile’s topic for the Tuesday Thingers group is about book awards:

Awards. Do you follow any particular book awards? Do you ever choose books based on awards? What award-winning books do you have? (Off the top of your head only- no need to look this up- it would take all day!) What's your favorite award-winning book? LibraryThing's Common Knowledge feature tracks awards….

Well, once again we’re dealing with a LibraryThing feature I knew nothing about. It took me quite a while this morning just to find out how to get to the “Common Knowledge” feature, and I still haven’t found anything that looks like award-tracking. I’ll have to look around a little more.

As for award winning books, of course I do have some in my library. I suppose anyone with a fairly large collection is bound to have a few. Don’t know how many or what awards are represented. I usually do take note of which books win the Pulitzer and the National Book and NBCC awards every year. And the Edgar and the Hugo and the Booker and the Caldecott and Newbery awards. However, these days I rarely read the winners, and I’m not one to choose a book simply because it’s won a prize. In fact, I usually find I’m more likely to read the also-rans!

My favorite award-winning book? That would be hard to say. Especially if I include the Caldecott and Newbery books – so many of those are favorites from childhood. I suppose if I had to pick one adult favorite it would be Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry. It won the 1986 Pulitzer Prize, and I’ve loved it since I first read it back then – I guess it probably resonates a little stronger if you’re a Texan.

My other favorite award-winners are also from the Pulitzer list – Gone With the Wind (1937), To Kill a Mockingbird (1961), and A Confederacy of Dunces (1981). Hmmmm. They all seem to be set in the south, don’t they? Well, I guess that’s appropriate for a southern girl.

Added later:
OK, I found the author tracking feature. Had to click on the WikiThing link at the bottom of the page, and then Literary Awards under Member Projects. Wow, there are a huge number of awards listed. I've started going back through my library list and adding tags about the various awards. That should only take me about a year and a half to do, but it's what passes for fun when you're an obsessive-compulsive bookworm.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

The Sunday Salon: Reading in Fits and Starts

Today has been a very scattered reading day for me – haven’t really been able to stick to any one thing very long. Several reasons for that. All of them ditsy in one way or another.

First, the Cowboys are playing today and M is watching the game on TV in the living room, and I have to keep going in to check the score. I’m not actually watching the game because I have this personal superstition that when I watch their games, they lose. So I’m doing Wade and Tony and Terrell and the gang a big favor by staying away from the tube. But curiosity keeps drawing me in for little peeks now and then.

Secondly, the book I’m reading is driving me batty, so I can’t really stick with it for long periods without a lot of breaks for screaming and throwing it across the room. I’ve been trying to slog my way through Curtis Sittenfeld's American Wife this week, and it’s been very slow going (not to mention harrowing). Not that I don’t like the book – I’m not really saying that. Actually, I’m reserving judgment until I get all the way through it. I’ll just say that, at the moment, it’s really creeping me out.

Then I wasted spent quite a lot of time playing with the “blog following” feature on Blogger. When did they start that? I know, I know – it’s probably been there from the year one. But I just noticed it today. Transferred all the blogs that I usually read in Google Reader to my Blogger Reading List. Read about public vs. private following. Seems interesting and I like the idea of being able to read all my favorite blogs right from my Blogger dashboard page. So far, it doesn’t look like any of the blogs I “follow” have added the “following widget” to their sites – but then a lot of my favorites are on WordPress anyway.

Then I decided to update my ARC database (I use the Microsoft Works database program) and discovered I’ve got eight advance reading copies that I’ve never gotten around to reading yet (not counting American Wife). That’s way too many, folks. Especially for the world’s slowest reader. So I think I’m going to have to declare a little moratorium on ARC requesting for a while. Getting free books is lots of fun, of course. But I do feel an obligation to at least read the books once I’ve got them, even if I don’t go on to review them. I wonder how many is too many? How many unread ARCs do you have in your stack right now?

So that’s how my Sunday reading is shaping up so far. I guess it’s time to get back to Alice/Laura and see what new enormities she’s having to put up with from Charlie/Dubya. I’ll try not to do any more book flinging until I get to the final page. Oh, and right now the Cowboys apparently are ahead at half-time. I’m thrilled but I also apologize to any Browns fans who may be reading this.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

A Ghostly Challenge

I know I shouldn’t be adding another challenge right now – this fall is already shaping up to be a pretty busy one around here. But I just couldn’t resist that button – it reminds me of the Little Lulu comic books I loved as a kid.

And since I’m already reading spooky stuff during the next couple of months for Carl V’s R.I.P. III Challenge, I think I might as well join this one, too. It’s called A Ghostly Challenge, and it’s being hosted by Callista, of SMS Book Reviews. Here are the guidelines:

For this challenge, you have from September 1 to October 31 to read 2 books that feature ghosts or are otherwise ghostly. Use your discretion.
1. All books are allowed, audiobooks, picture books, non fiction, fiction, short stories, whatever.
2. Books of short stories count as one book though.
3. Crossovers allowed.
4. You can make a list beforehand or add to it as you go.
To sign up, sign the comments
[on the challenge announcement page] with either a link to your blog post or the url of your blog post where you mention your intention to participate. If you don't have a blog, just give me your list of books.
Well, I’ll probably be using the same list that I’m already using for the RIP Challenge – but maybe different books. Or maybe not. Have to see how much time I can make for reading before Halloween rolls around.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Review: The Gargoyle

Written by Andrew Davidson
Published by Doubleday, 2008, 468 pages

This review refers to an advance reading copy of the book

Just a short note about The Gargoyle. There’s not a great deal to say about the book that hasn’t already been said, and said again. Unless you’ve been buried in a coal mine for the last few months, or out mapping the migration of the yellow-headed parrot through Ecuador, by now you’ve heard all about Andrew Davidson’s best-selling debut novel.

Briefly, it’s the story of a nameless (unless I’m mistaken?) porn film maker who is badly burned in an auto accident. This happens in the first chapter, and the next hundred or so pages are mainly filled with pretty gruesome details about his hospital treatment and recovery. If Davidson were a less talented writer, most readers would probably give up somewhere around page 7 when the doctors are performing their first “escharotomy” – slicing through the main character’s charred skin with scalpels to give the swollen tissue room to expand.

But if you hang on, you get to the best part of the story. One day, a beautiful and mysterious sculptress of gargoyles appears suddenly at the burn victim’s bedside and begins to tell him tales of their lives as lovers in an earlier incarnation, hundreds of years ago. She insists her stories are true; and over the next months, she takes him into her home, nursing him back to health, and giving him more and more details about their former lives together. She tells him stories of other lovers, too. And reads Dante to him. And cooks him elaborate feasts. And takes him for midnight swims at the beach. All the while, madly sculpting more and more of her “grotesques” – until eventually their situations are reversed and our hero has to begin looking after his caretaker.

This is a first novel and, of course, it shows. It’s not fine literature, but it’s a darn good read. I took it to the beach this summer, and it kept me up late every night. The characters are engaging, and there’s quite a lot of humor for a book about such an appalling situation. It’s a really good love story – no, it’s several really good love stories. And it even has a bit of a literary mystery thrown in at the end. It'll make a terrific movie - I wonder if Johnny Depp has read it.

Booking Through Thursday: Peer Pressure

This week's BTT topic:
Have you ever felt pressured to read something because ‘everyone else’ was reading it? Have you ever given in and read the book(s) in question or do you resist? If you are a reviewer, etc, do you feel it’s your duty to keep up on current trends?
I’ll assume we’re talking about reading for pleasure, not for a class or a job. Of course, we’ve all had the experience of being “pressured” to read something that we’re not particularly interested in, because of a school or work assignment.

Well, I don’t know that I ever feel really pressured to read anything just because everybody else is reading it. I’m not usually a follower of fashions, in books or clothing or anything else. I generally find that if I do break down and buy something “just because everybody else is buying it,” I end up not reading/wearing/using the item and swearing that I’ll never do that again. I do keep up on current trends in book publishing – always have – but that’s because I’m interested in the subject, not because I feel it’s a duty or a responsibility.

In the past I seldom read books that I really had no interest in – no matter how enthusiastic the “buzz” about them might be. I’m not saying I’ve never read a book just to find out why it’s a bestseller. I’ve done that often enough (Advise and Consent, The Exorcist, Exodus, The Name of the Rose, the first Harry Potter book, and The DaVinci Code all come to mind, to name just a few) – but I always stuck with titles that sparked some curiosity or interest in me, something more than just a desire to be trendy.

That’s changed just a bit since I’ve started doing reviews online and getting advance reading copies of books – a few of those have turned out to be disappointments, books I would never have read without that obligation. But not many – I generally stay pretty well inside my comfort zone when it comes to choosing reading material, so I only ask for ARCs if the books really look like something I’d enjoy.

Now, as far as the Twilight books go – I’m not a big fan of vampires or teenage angst novels. So I think I can safely say there’s no way I’ll be doing any sampling there, no matter how hot the title might be.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

RIP III Challenge

If it’s September, it must be time for the R.I.P. Challenge. This year brings the third incarnation of the challenge, hosted by Carl V. at Stainless Steel Droppings; and since I missed the first two, I’m definitely getting in on this one.

The challenge runs from September 1 (yes, I’m a little late getting started, as usual) and runs through October 31, 2008. Once again, Carl is offering three different versions of the challenge – three different “Perils” – and including several different genres, so participants can tailor their reading to their individual interests and schedules. You can get all the info by visiting the Challenge’s announcement page, here.

Given that I’m a slow reader and I’ve already got a lot going in September and October, I’m opting for Peril the Second: Read Two books of any length, from any subgenre of scary stories that you choose. That sounds extremely do-able. Also sounds like lots of fun.

So, here’s my pool of possible reads:

All Hallow’s Eve, by Charles Williams
At the Mountains of Madness, by H.P. Lovecraft
Complete Ghost Stories, by M.R. James
Eva Moves the Furniture, by Margot Livesey
Lost Boy, Lost Girl, by Peter Straub
Nocturnes, by John Connolly
Tales of the Uncanny and Supernatural, by Algernon Blackwood
The Book of Lost Things, by John Connolly
The Empty House and Other Ghost Stories, by Algernon Blackwood
The House With a Clock in Its Walls, by John Bellairs
The Stress of Her Regard, by Tim Powers
The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher, by Kate Summerscale
The Woman in Black: A Ghost Story, by Susan Hill
We Have Always Lived in the Castle, by Shirley Jackson
Widdershins, by Oliver Onions

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Tuesday Thingers: Shared Books

This week, Boston Bibliophile has yet another interesting topic for the Tuesday Thingers group:

Members who have your books. Do you ever look at this feature? Do you use it to make LT friends, or compare notes? There are three tabs- weighted, raw, and recent. "Weighted," which means "weighted by book obscurity and library size" is probably the least self-explanatory of the three, whereas "raw" and "recent" are more so. Do you get any kind of use out of this feature?

Well, since I’m something of a natural snoop, I have to admit that I have used this feature once or twice to check up on LTers who have some of the same books I do. But I never really noticed the three different tabs (yes, I am an idiot).

And I’ve never used the feature to make friends with anyone. Actually, I only have one friend at LibraryThing – author Hannah Holborn – and that’s only because she contacted me. I’m really too timid to do a lot of “friending” (and I’ll fight anybody who says I’m not). I did send out a friend request to my cousin, who also has a LT account, but I’ve never heard back from her (Cuzzie! Check your LT profile right this minute!). Now if you can’t get your own cousin to be your friend, I guess there’s not much hope.