Thursday, August 30, 2007

A cheap Nick Hornby rip-off...

This weekend I attended a writer's group meeting in Wilmington, and while I can only say that it was a disappointment (huge HUGE disappointment), something positive did come out of it. This particular group meeting was held at one of my very favoritest independent bookstores, Pomegranate Books. While I was there, even though I've taken a vow to not buy books, I couldn't help myself. You see, I'm always eager to support a good cause by buying books, and I consider Pomegranate--an independent, progressive, community-oriented shop--a very good investment.

With this vigor to help the community in mind, I indulged a new obsession. The Essay (preferably of the personal variety). Elise has been a huge fan of the essay for years, even did her thesis on New Media and the essay, and it appears she's finally rubbed off on me in a big way. And, truthfully, I often wonder if I'd be better cut out to write essays, sundry columns and social critique than fiction. I have a big mouth, a sharp tongue (and fingers?), and I'm pretty snarky when caught in the right mood, so why not? Anyway, I indulged my new addiction with two purchases:

-The Polysyllabic Spree, by Nick Hornby, a collection of 14 installments of his column from The Believer magazine.

-Stranger Than Fiction: True Stories, by Chuck Palahniuk. For those of you who aren't familiar, he wrote Fight Club, and all of his fiction that I've read is equally, if not more, twisted than that. I can only venture a guess at how crazy his essays will be. In truth, I read through the first one, "Testy Festy," a short chronicle of his experience at a Montana testicle festival, that made me sort of want to die. But I'll press on.

The entire point of this post, is my admiration for Hornby's book. His column is a monthly chronicle of the books he's brought into his home and those that he actually reads. To any tried and true bibliophile the amassing of books is a sacred ritual. I, my self, only me, own approximately 400 unread books. I think. I haven't counted in a while and I shudder to think.

In the spirit of Hornby's monthly ritual, I'm going to do something similar here. Not only will you get a taste of my precious book hoarding, you'll also get a monthly recap of the books I've ingested. I have a shameful tendency to forget to review the books I read (even though I add them to the sidebar), so these will be bite-sized reviews for you to take and do with what you will. And, as we're seeing another perfectly good month to an end, what better time to start?

Andi's August Reads (2007, just in case you'd forgotten)

The Dying Animal, by Philip Roth - 8.5/10 - A fantastic, if
sometimes frustrating, book about a professor/intellectual celebrity
and his dalliances. However, as he ages, he finds that he begins to
fall for one woman in a way he hadn't been able to before. All is
not pleasant as he finds himself in the midst of an obsession. More
than anything, The Dying Animal is about aging, the death of
sexuality, and the death of vigor.

Unmasqued, by Colette Gale - 7/10 - An erotic (not to be confused
with romantic) retelling of The Phantom of the Opera. Gale takes lots
of new directions with the story, but this was a decadent good time.
Look for a review in this month's Estella's Revenge.

Eclipse, by Stephenie Meyer - 9.5 of 10 - Pure enjoyment! I love
this series, and I got my hands on this book as quickly as I could.
I was not disappointed, as so many were, because I saw this story's
twist coming from a mile away! (I won't say more than that to avoid
spoiling.) While I do have issues with facets of Meyer's writing, I
just can't resist the characters.

Norwegian Wood, by Haruki Murakami - 10 of 10 - This one will likely
be one of my top 10 of the year. Murakami's story of a Japanese
college student coming of age is often compared to the penultimate
coming of age novel, The Catcher in the Rye. However, that
comparison is pretty vague because the books are dramatically
different. Toru, Norwegian Wood's protagonist, is almost like a
blank slate compared to his friends and acquaintances. Instead of
judging those around him as so many written teens and young adults
do, Toru absorbs the life and habits of those around him, holding
the story together with his endearing honesty and openness. I also
understand that this is one of Murakami's most "normal" novels. I'm
really excited to read others and see what he has up his sleeve.

So, yes, four books read in August. While it's sad in comparison to the nine or so books I knocked off in July, I've had to work. I've gotta make a livin', people!

The sadder state of affairs is the sheer number of books that have wormed their way into the house this month (and I'm sure B. would throw up in his mouth a little if he read this). While, admittedly, it's not as bad as last month, they're still stacking up at an alarming rate:

-Reading Comics and What They Mean, by Douglas Wolk (review book)
-Hauntings and Other Tales of Danger, Love, and Sometimes Loss, by Betsy Hearne (review book)
-Blood and Chocolate, by Annette Curtis Klause (BookMooch)
-Norwegian Wood, by Haruki Murakami (from a Shelfari recommendation)
-Freaks: Alive on the Inside, by Annette Curtis Klause (Carl V.'s enabling and BookMooch)
-O Pioneers!, by Willa Cather (gift card!)
-Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, by Jules Verne (gift card!)
-A Walk in the Woods, by Bill Bryson (a gift, thanks, Les!)
-Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac, by Gabrielle Zevin (a gift, thanks, Heather F.!)
...and the two books of essays I mentioned before, of course.

Now, the up side to all of this is that I spent very little money. I'm tickled to have publishers that want to send me stuff for Estella's Revenge and really good friends who throw books at me. Not to mention BookMooch, which I affectionately call "the crack house."

In other (abbreviated) news, school is going fine. Week two is drawing to a close and I'm still standing. Except that I'm lying in the floor typing this. But that's neither here nor there. Work life is good, home life is good, creative life is good. I really can't complain.

With that, I'm off to teach a night class. Behave!

Calling Concerned Bloggers!


As a long time reader of the Baking and Books blog, I am absolutely thrilled to pass along word of the event and organization for which Ari is fundraising. She writes about the 76 books taking over her kitchen table:

The books are part of a raffle I'm running in order to raise money for the 2007 New York Jewish Environmental Bike Ride. But rather than just ask you to donate to this cause I decided to ask publishing houses like Hyperion, Ten Speed Press, Penguin, HarperCollins, Wiley and Chronicle to spice things up by donating some of my favorite books as prizes. Lo and behold they answered the call, and as a result there are currently 76 prizes up for grabs. For every $5 donation to this very worthy cause participants will be given one virtual raffle ticket - and yes, people with more than one ticket can win more than one prize!

The bike ride is held by Hazon (www.hazon.org), a Jewish non-profit organization that has been doing some incredible food work over the past few years, educating people across the US about organic farming, sustainable agriculture and food justice. Hazon has created 10 CSA's (Community Supported Agriculture projects), a Food Conference, and is currently working on food curricula that will teach kids & adults about a vast array of important topics surrounding food, nutrition and the environment. Hazon's bike rides raise money for environmental & peace making projects in the US and Middle East. They also fund the CSA's, the food curricula and the Food Conference - so you can see why I want to raise money for the NY Ride. I believe in what Hazon is doing.

For a full list of prizes & more details please visit: http://www.bakingandbooks.com/foodies-unite/ This event is a chance to help the environment, support education and win fantastic books - which sounds like a win-win situation to me. :)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The First "Fuck" (Don't Be Scared, It's Not What You Think)


This post brought to you by my new obsession for listening to author podcasts and sundry essays read online.

When I was 13, I went to a two-story school. I can't say it was in the best condition, as we had a ceiling fans come crashing down with some regularity, a number of people broke their legs on giant sidewalk cracks, and the gym floor was so warped that a basketball might suddenly refuse to bounce if it hit one of the dead spots. To no one's surprise, the school was condemned and closed and a new one built the next year, after I'd packed up my locker and moved on to high school.

It was in this very school that I first uttered--under significant duress I might add--that most golden and dirtiest of dirty words..."fuck."

Like most girls, my fall from grace began with a boy. I can't remember his name, and I certainly can't remember what we were talking about, but I remember his face and I remember the moments leading up to the fall. He was blond, very blond. Not dirty blond like I was, oh no. He was pure and radiantly blond with striking blue eyes and a quick wit. He had a penchant for giving me a hard time, and I, of course, gave it right back.

On this particular day, hovering on the precipice of my linguistic deflowering, we were simply walking down the stairs, on our way to lunch, when our mutual sassing did me in.

I remember, vividly, the last stretch of the flight of stairs. The hallway and descending staircase were dark, the walls covered in wood paneling and dingy carpet. The final descent opened into the hallway below and the stairs ended just in front of a row of ragged metal lockers blessed here and there with odd stains, the occasional patch of rust, and worn stickers from the days when my mom attended school in the same building.

Coming down those stairs, it was as if I suddenly had a premonition. Unluckily for me, I had the premonition only a fraction of a second before I heard the pop. As I made my way down the stairs, snarky and smarting off to my companion all the way, I stepped just the slightest bit wrong. I couldn't tell you now, and I certainly couldn't tell you then, exactly how wrong happened. All I know is that in that breath of a second after my premonition, my foot touched the next step down, my ankle turned with a sickening crack, and I lost my footing.

I sucked in a chest full of air before I began to plummet. I tumbled down the last of the steps, maybe only four or five, and my head hit the lockers. While I only remembered the head smash in retrospect, I like to think it had much to do with my actions after said fall including, but not limited to,
  • confusion
  • nausea
  • cold sweat
  • cursing like a sailor

The young lad escorting me, as any polite young lad would do, laughed. Until he realized that I was pretty significantly hurt. Once I recovered my senses, I got on my knees in a vague and pretty pitiful attempt to stand. As I waved him away--too embarrassed to milk the attention for what it was worth--I saw my two best girlfriends come into the hallway. I also saw one of the most despicable pieces of pre-pubescent crap at my junior high weasel his way into my eye line. He placed his hand on his knees and held his freckled face only inches from mine and said,

"Awww, poor wittle baby! Did it hurt?"

As I looked up and toward my girlfriends, this mongrel of a boy, all bad hair and body odor and filthy clothes, continued to heckle me. If I'd been in a better frame of mind and less involved in trying not to vomit from the pain I might've kicked, or at least punched, him in the balls. However, I found myself unable to move, to right myself, and in a desperate attempt to assuage the nausea and embarrassment, I looked him squarely in the eye and said,

"Fuck you."

And this wasn't any old adolescent "fuck you." This was no screechy, half-hearted, testing-the-waters-of-dirty-words "fuck you." This was a guttural, through-half-raised-eyelids "fuck you" filled with fire and brimstone and hurt.

I'm good with pain. In fact, I've had large needles shoved through various body parts on several occasions. However, piercings didn't touch this pain. My "fuck you" pain was white hot and blinding, threatening to pull me under and snuff me out. When my girlfriends were able to get me to the school office and my grandmother was on her way to pick me up for a doctor's appointment, I sat in a chair with my foot propped up, and I writhed. I know I'd never writhed before that experience, nor have I writhed since, and to this day I wonder what kept me from passing out.

I wish I could say that there's some justice to this story. That the mongrel boy fell down the stairs soon after and broke both ankles. But he didn't. I, on the other hand, had several weeks of crutches and no less than eight weeks of a plastic--removable only at night--cast. And my ankle still swells often and to this very day.

The greater lesson in all of this, is, I suppose, not a great one. It's not a lesson that helped me save anyone later in life. It's not even a lesson that made me a more obedient child. In fact, I only managed to demystify the use of the word "fuck." If you've been reading here for more than five minutes or you've ever ventured into my archives, you will know that it's one of my favorite words (much to my mother's chagrin). You see, that day, weeping in the hallway, I didn't get struck by lightning. No great hand of God came out of the sky and squashed me for using the dirtiest of dirty words. But, in fact, I did find some modicum of power in language. The mongrel left me alone, I made it to the office, and I got a half-day off from school--not to mention eight weeks out of gym class. And in that moment--staring into the eyes of someone beastly--I stuck up for myself, spoke my mind, and managed to repel someone with words. I harnessed some cosmic power that had been swirling over my head, that I suspected was there but could never quite grasp, and I hurled it in a flaming fireball at someone who would laugh at me while I was down, and might never have let me forget it.

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Joy of Language Meme

LitLove put this fantastic book meme together, and I couldn't help but steal it. Spread it far and wide, my lovelies!

List some of your favourite words: kumquat, roustabout, hootenanny, evanescent, crispy, pucker, svelte

What’s your favourite maxim or proverb? "No one can be caught in places he doesn't visit." --Danish Proverb

What’s your favourite quotation? "A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle."--Gloria Steinem (one of many...I keep quote journals)

What’s your favourite first line of a novel? It's cruel to have to choose just one....

"In their thirteenth summer, beneath a sky thickening with summer thunderclouds, four friends rode their bikes to Lafayette Cemetery where the dead are buried above ground." --A Density of Souls, by Christopher Rice

Other favorite: The opening (long) line of A Tale of Two Cities

Give an example of a piece of description that’s really pleased you in your reading lately: "I sat at my desk to write my Sunday morning letter to Naoko, drinking coffee from a big cup and listening to old Miles Davis records. A fine rain was falling outside, while my room had the chill of an aquarium. The smell of mothballs lingered in the thick sweater I had just taken out of a storage box. High up on the windowpane clung a huge, fat fly, unmoving. With no wind to stir it, the Rising Sun hung limp against the flagpole like the toga of a Roman senator. A skinny, timid-looking brown dog that had wandered into the quadrangle seemed to be sniffing every blossom in the flower bed. I couldn't begin to imagine why any dog would have to go around sniffing flowers on a rainy day." --Norwegian Wood (217).

It was the dog sniffing flowers that really got me. :)

Which five writers do you particularly admire for their use of language? Siri Hustvedt, Haruki Murakami, Philip Roth, Paul Auster, Zora Neale Hurston

And are there writers whose style you really dislike? John Steinbeck's in general, although I was quite drawn to East of Eden.

What’s the key to really fine writing, in your opinion? Believability and the ability to express some emotion or bit of intellectual goodness that others haven't quite been able to express.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The confessions of a moody reader...

Ok, ok, yes, I have plenty to write about other than high heels and other miscellaneous mindless burblings. So here we go...

The WONDERFUL and kind BookFool sent a Books-A-Million gift card my way for graduation, and I decided to put that puppy to good use this morning after my 8am class. BAM was having a buy 2, get one free sale on selected books, and I had every intention of taking them up on the offer. However, as I perused the sale table (which was woefully smaller than I'd expected), nothing really jumped out at me. There were memoirs by Augusten Burroughs, plenty of chick lit, and only a few "literary fiction" offerings. The one book that caught my interest was The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World. It's about the author's attempt to read his way through all the volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica. A quick flip through the book revealed an entertaining enough read, but I decided, since it hadn't really grabbed me by the nosehairs, to put it back and attempt to Mooch it.

With no luck at the sale table, I began at the very first book in the Literature and Fiction section in search of the perfect books to add to my already wavering piles. One of my first finds was a display of Oxford classics that did grab me by the nosehairs. While I've begun to mooch most of my classics, there are occasionally some books that I still have a hard time getting hold of. Recently I had my heart set on a copy of O Pioneers!, by Willa Cather, but the sender never came through.

After browsing through the classics, I decided to limit my choices until I was done perusing the other fiction. I settled on a copy of *20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (Enriched Classics), because 1) I've never read it 2) the little bit I read grabbed me 3) it sounded fun, and it's one of very few classics that I've never even contemplated picking up.

A quick trip through the rest of the Lit/Fiction section didn't yield any results, so I decided to go with this sudden urge to read classics by picking up a very inexpensive copy of O Pioneers!. It's a Mariner Books edition, a beautiful trade paperback, and it was only $7.00! I'll definitely be picking up more of the Mariner classics for such great prices, and they're pretty. What's not to love?

My sudden itch for classics has gotten me thinking (so rare). I'm not sure if it's a byproduct of my recent graduation and lack of current class taking, but every time I look at a piece of fiction that's not 1) classic 2) written by one of my favorite authors (Auster, Hustvedt, Roth, etc.), I feel sort of a gaping lack of interest. Admittedly, and quite sadly, despite my two degrees in Literature, I feel woefully underread in the classics. I'll be the first to admit that I'm a mood reader--a finicky, picky, stubborn mood reader. I can't even tell you how many books I didn't finish in college. I got a little better in grad school, but I should still probably be ashamed of myself for all the reading I didn't do. As a result, I now feel the urge to catch up.

Part of my renewed interest in the classics also comes as a result of a Yahoo discussion group I recently joined: Thematic Classic Reading Challenge. This group is particularly perfect for me given that picky reading nature I mentioned. I continually fail to read books on time for book groups because it feels too darn much like an assignment. At Thematic Classics the only guidelines for reading are monthly themes. Members are free to interpret those themes as they like and pick a book that goes along according to their own logic. Voila! A reading group I might actually READ FOR!

If you're feeling the itch to read a few classics, come on over and join us. So far we've had a great time, and voting is currently in motion for our first theme.

Listening: "Supermassive Black Hole" --Muse
Watching: CNN
Should be: Writing freelance articles!!!

*This isn't the exact edition that I bought, but Amazon doesn't want to recognize the ISBN

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Security!!!

The week is in full swing, and I'm ready to keel over! Actually, it's not quite that bad, but it is an adjustment to go from three months of 24-hour-a-day free time to a regular (busy) work week. Not that I don't still have down time--I'm in my pajamas at 12:53 pm until my night class at 6:00, but I digress.

Last night I rolled up to Far Away Community College to teach my nighttime reading class. I came in a bit early to run some copies and relax before class. When I approached the community office that the adjuncts are sharing for the time being, I found a very large stranger working at the computer. I passed on by the room with a thoroughly furrowed brow before coming back, poking my head around the door, and finally putting my stuff down on the desk on the opposite side of the room.

"Hi!" I bubbled.

"Oowwhh, hi."

He spoke with a thick Caribbean accent, weighed 350 pounds and could've broken me with his pinky finger, but he didn't look irate or anything. Turns out he "was going to ask permission, but the lady I saw didn't look like she worked here." I finally told him, after listening to a somewhat nonsensical account of exactly why he was using our office computer, that he would have to go to the open computer lab on campus. He was not a student, although he claimed to have been one in the past, no I.D., etc. I scooted him out of the office and promptly called security.

Turns out he isn't dangerous, but he also isn't supposed to be on campus given the fact that he's not taking classes. I think I'll start calling him the Computer Lemming because security assured me that he does this kind of thing regularly--although it's the first time he's infiltrated our office suite--before they trotted off to escort him off campus. Given, it's not as exciting as the guy in the Baylor computer lab who used to spit, or the one who was trying to hack into the CIA, OR the one who streaked through one dark and boring night. No, that that exciting. But it did break up the monotony.

Not bad for my second day, eh?

In other news, the classes seem to be going fine so far. The 8am class continues to be a pain in the tookus just for the fact that they're completely uninterested, but everyone else is very friendly and chatty (in a good way). I have one more class to meet for the first time (tonight at 6:00), and I hope they live up to the others.

The other big adjustment involved in going back to work is the wearing of the high heels. Otherwise known as Swollen Ankle-Fest 2007. I expect to have the well-muscled legs of a prize-winning filly shortly from all the prancing around in heels. I keep telling myself I'll get used to it in a week or two (I hear Elise's voice in my head as we speak).

Oh, and I saw one of the high school students I used to teach when I was 22. That was weird. He grew up. But I expect I've grown out.

That's about all I have to offer you today in my fried brain state o'mind. While I need to finish some freelance articles for the week, I'm really going to go lie down in the cool with a book and maybe take a nap. Last night's 7:30 to 9:45 class put me getting home close to 10:30, and I got back up at 5:45 this morning. So, as you might imagine. I'm a little draggy. I likes my sleep.

Be good, and I'll be back tomorrow.

I hope to take some pics of Really Close Community College tonight, so stay tuned.

Monday, August 20, 2007

R.I.P. II


The time has come for Carl V.'s second Readers Imbibing Peril (RIP) Autumn Reading Challenge. Somehow I missed out on this monumental event last year, but I'm not stupid enough to miss it twice, kids. Carl puts on a hell of a challenge, and I plan to be right in the middle of things!

As Carl puts it, the RIP Challenge is "a September 1st through October 31st celebration of all tales gothic, eerie, creepy, and dark."

And what's not to love about that???

Carl outlines several Perils, or reading plans for the challenge, and I've chosen the simplest and most flexible:

Peril the First:
Read Four books of any length, from any subgenre of scary stories that you choose.

But, of course, I have an assload more than four perilous books for the RIP challenge, so here's my Peril Pool from which to choose at least four books:

Heroes and Villains (Angela Carter)
The Little Black Book of Short Stories (A.S. Byatt)
Rebecca (Daphne Du Maurier)
The House of the Seven Gables (Hawthorne)
Frankenstein (Mary Shelley)
Blood and Chocolate (Annette Curtis Klause)
The Borden Tragedy, a graphic novel (Rich Geary)
Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)

This list represents books that have been on my "to be read" pile (TBR) for quite a while now. Longer than I'd like to admit in most cases (but isn't that always the case with my piles o'books?). The grand dame of the pile, though, is Wuthering Heights. I've started and tossed the book at least three times, never managing to get more than 50 pages in. So, if I can conquer that one, I'll be *very* pleased with myself.

Now, go join Carl's challenge. You know you want to!

School Daze


Whew!!! It's 10:30 and I'm already up, dressed, made a trip to Far Away Community College to teach my 8:00 class and back home!

Today's morning class was the typical 8am class. It's mostly freshmen college students, so they're more or less sleepy and terrified and trying to act aloof and fabulous all at the same time. It makes for an odd classroom dynamic for the first few days, but the weirdness should alleviate in approximately a week...once the work and reality of college life kick in.

After only a mild copier explosion, I managed to get my syllabus Xeroxed and ready for tomorrow (today was just introductions and a sneak peak at the course), and I'm currently relaxing in my pajamas.

I have the whole day to kill until my 6:00 course tonight. This time, English. Freshman English. They should be terrified and fun, too.

I was mistaken for a student on the elevator this morning which is always fun. It's sort of like being carded for alcohol when you're way past your 21-year-old prime. I'm likely to hug and/or kiss anyone who cards me, but I held back on the elevator today. I was asking the girls on the elevator if any of them were in Reading and when they said no, "We've already taken it!" they asked who my teacher was.

ME: "Well, actually, I'm teaching."

THEM: "Oh WOW! Really? You look fun. I wish I had your class."

It's the nose ring and fun shoes. Does it every time.

I'm contemplating perching in one of the desks in my night class and posing as a student until time for class to start. Then I'll get up and introduce myself. So fun. Is it wrong that I enjoy messing with their heads this much?

Off to write some freelance articles and catch up on my blog reading (heavy on the latter). "See" y'all later!

On the nightstand: Norwegian Wood (Murakami), Freaks: Alive on the Inside (Curtis Klause)
On ye olde iPod: "Wait for You" (Elliot Yamin)
DVD o'the moment: Pan's Labyrinth

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

And the winner is....

The time to draw for the winner of a lovely copy of Timothy Findley's Pilgrim is here, and the winner is...

Kristy, from Just Another Blogger!!

Thanks to everyone who entered the drawing. There was a much bigger turnout than I expected. Keep an eye out, I've got lots of books and nowhere to put them, so I'm sure there will be another contest in the near future.

And if you're looking for more freebies, you can always check out the monthly "Door Prize" book giveaway at Estella's Revenge. This month's book is The Lost Constitution, by William Martin, so go enter before time is up!

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

Just to report about everyday life, I have to say, I'm enjoying my last days of summer freedom. Tonight is adjunct faculty orientation at Far Away Community College, and I can't say that I'm looking forward to it. However, if I'm to look at the silver lining in this particular situation, it's a heck of a lot easier to find everything out in one night than trying to cull together all the bits of info that I wouldn't be getting otherwise. In the case of Really Close Community College I missed the orientation, and I'm culling as we speak.

I'm almost halfway through Haruki Murakami's Norwegian Wood, and I LOVE IT. Murakami's prose is so interesting! I don't know any other way to describe it than that. I know I'm probably the last person to jump on this respective book boat, but I'm glad I got some urging from a Shelfari group member to pick up some of his stuff. I'll save any in-depth thoughts for when I finish. And I'll certainly post some illustrative quotes to share the love.

For now:

Off to Really Close Community College to make some copies, turn in my syllabi, and pick up one of the books for the course.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Oh, and I graduated!

I keep forgetting that I graduated this weekend.

Yep, my Master's degree is officially behind me. I didn't fly back to Texas to walk across the stage because, well, have you seen the price of plane tickets lately? But, nevertheless, I graduated on Saturday afternoon, and I'm really relieved, if a little saddened to see the degree done and behind me. I had a wonderful time, I met some of the best friends I've ever had, and I found a little direction and peace in my life. I recommend it for anyone. :)

Move Over Hugh Laurie, There's a Literary Crush in Town

No spoilers! I wouldn't do that to you!

That's right, folks, one of the most delightful things has happened. Stephenie Meyer's new young adult novel, Eclipse, arrived on my doorstep (quite literally) from Amazon last week. I spent a few days finishing a review book for Estella's Revenge, and finally cracked the spine (figuratively) on Eclipse Friday afternoon. As of last night around 6:00 pm Eastern time, I turned the last page in tears and sighed a sigh of the truly satisfied and slightly heartbroken.

What's all the fuss about? A new literary crush, of course!

As you might have imagined, I've had something of a literary girl-crush on Estella of Great Expectations for a number of years now. I'll give you a minute to absorb the shock. I know, I know, you wouldn't have guessed if I hadn't told you.

Before I delve into the details of my obsession, let's talk a bit about the literary crush in general. For most of the bookish women I know, the most prevalent crush is on Mr. Darcy of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice fame. For there's something so perfectly, distractingly, fascinatingly wonderful about Mr. Darcy that the bookworm girls of the world have a hard time leaving him to his respective pages. For he is a man so wonderfully written that he jumps right off the page and into our collective hearts and panties. He's suave, he's smart, he's just a bit of a jackass, and he loves Lizzie. Awww. It makes us swoon. Swoon I tell you.

And my new literary crush, while certainly not a classic, is good enough for me. He is one of Stephenie Meyer's characters from her Twilight series, and he's played the biggest role thus far in Eclipse. His name, Jacob Black, his ancestry, werewolf.

As he's described in the book, Jacob is a member of the Quileute tribe--6'7" tall with russett skin and shaggy black hair. That's one tall drink of water, kids. And beyond the yummy physical description, we get the angst. As a Quileute and a werewolf, he's forever the mortal enemy of any vampire, even the (relatively) innocent Cullen family. Which means he's the sworn enemy of Edward Cullen, Bella Swann's, our protagonist's, true lurv.

Twisted? Oh yes. High school? Yep.

Does it matter? Hell no!

There's something so wonderfully tragic and sweet about Jacob that I just can't help but want to manhandle hug him. He's the best underdog (pardon the pun) that I've read in a very long time, and I can't help but wish he'd jump off the page and play space heater for me on a cold cold night.

Did I just type that out loud?

Anyway, if you've had any inclination to read Meyer's Twilight series, get your butt off the couch and run down to the nearest bookstore (or Wal-Mart) to pick it up. While Meyer's writing leaves a little something to be desired at times (some overused expressions, etc.) it doesn't matter. The story is involving and wonderful and if you're a hopeless romantic like myself, you will totally dig it. You'll be giggling like a 16-year-old girl before it's all said and done. Even you guy readers. Don't be scared. Embrace it.

Sticky post! Scroll down for new stuff!

In honor of this blog approaching 60,000 hits, I've decided to run a contest in honor of all the lovely readers crazy enough to keep coming here and reading my drivel. The prize, you're wondering?? A book, of course!


A pristine hardcover copy of Pilgrim, by Timothy Findley. I read this book several years ago after falling madly in love with the premise, and it didn't disappoint. Findley, a Canadian author, is terribly underappreciated, so I offer you this opportunity to get to know him a little better. Sadly, he passed away in 2002, but he left a rich literary legacy behind.

A little about Pilgrim:

Timothy Findley's Pilgrim is the story of a man who can't die even though he tries over and over to kill himself. Diagnosed as schizophrenic, in 1912 he's placed in a Zurich clinic where Carl Gustav Jung is hard as work trying to determine the perimeter of the collective unconscious. For Jung, this man becomes an embodiment of the psyche's mystery. Claiming to have no past history but to have simply arrived one day at consciousness, Pilgrim lives in a limbo outside individuality and subjectivity. He's everyone and no one. Is he a messenger? Or is he a basket case? As the novel gathers momentum, we realize that Pilgrim is a character much like Virginia Woolf's Orlando, traversing gender and time, a witness. But whereas Woolf is a feverish and emotional writer, Findley is philosophical and dry, playful and slightly pretentious. Imagining conversations between Pilgrim and Henry James, Leonardo da Vinci, and Oscar Wilde, this novel is like a party full of beautiful guests.

To enter the drawing, simply leave a comment along with your blog link (if it isn't suitably linked to your username). I'll draw and notify the winner on August 15th!!!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Farewell for the weekend...

Here's my weekly "farewell while I do weekend things" post. I woke up with a gawd-awful sleep hangover this morning. I apparently slept on my head last night because my neck feels as if I've been playing Twister with it.

So, what to post, what to post....

Books!

I finished Philip Roth's The Dying Animal early in the week or late last week. Can't remember. Time flies when you're planning courses and reading erotica.

Anywho, The Dying Animal is another stunner from Roth. It's told from the perspective of David Kepesh, one of Roth's most famous and enduring characters, to an unnamed person who only speaks at the end of the novel. It's a chronicle of his relationship with a student, Consuela, with whom he becomes quite obsessed. Obsession is something foreign to Kepesh, a notorious bachelor and lover of sex. The novel is a chronicle not only of their affair, but also Kepesh's realization of his mortality. The title is a hint at the various layers of the text and is an allusion to his dying sexuality, his waning manhood, his mortality, and mortality in general, as Consuela's fate is not terribly sunny.

It's just a fantastic, multi-faceted, thoughtful text. While T. assures me that the Kepesh in The Breast and The Professor of Desire is quite a different incarnation, I'm excited to read those books just to see what Roth has up his sleeve. He's a shifty one, and I love it.

Reading now:
Unmasqued, an erotic retelling of The Phantom of the Opera, by Colette Gale.

Up next:
Eclipse, by Stephenie Meyer

And in a bit of a sad twist of fate, since I'm teaching the Monday night class from 6:00-8:30, I won't be able to attend the face-to-face book club I'd planned to join. I just hope maybe I'll have a chance in the Spring when my schedule changes.

Happy weekending, all!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The Fall Schedule Meant to Kick My Ass


With the beginning of the semester approaching fast, I'm beginning to feel the familiar excitement of meeting new students and teaching new classes. Of course, one hopes that the classes won't be filled with douchebags, but there's always the distinct possbility.


This semester, I'm not only a little anxious and excited about the students, but also working for new institutions. Although, I have to admit, I'm beginning to wonder what I got myself into as I look over my grueling schedule.

It's shaping up a little something like this:

Monday - Friday, 8am class at Far Away Community College

Monday night, 6:oo-8:30 PM - Class at Really Close Community College

Wednesday nights - 6:00-8:30 PM - Class at Really Close Community College

Tuesday/Thursday nights, 7:30-9:45 PM - Class at Far Away Community College

So, yeah. I'm teaching four classes, three of which are at night and a really effin' early morning class. Now, the reason for this, and the reason I don't think it will continue. I was a late addition for the morning and night classes at Far Away Community College. Additionally, I was a really late addition at Really Close Community College, but by some chance, I managed to get two night classes that only meet once a week. They're 10 minutes from home, so who really cares when they meet.

I will also be tutoring in the Writing Center at Far Away Community College after labor day and through December. So, it breaks down a little something like this: full days with a few multi-hour breaks in between the tasks for sanity, working out at the fitness center and writing my novel/reading fun stuff.

The upside, is that I've taught all of these classes before, so I don't anticipate a whole heck of a lot of new planning. I also generally enter hellish semesters with an "I can do anything for four months!" attitude. Especially when it means getting ahead on student loan repayment and possibly buying a new car.

This car, just in case you were wondering. A Toyota Camry Hybrid! Wheee!

The English department head at Far Away Community College loves me and wants me to teach online classes and closer together in the day classes for him in the Spring, so I anticipate a break from this grueling schedule once this semester is over. It'll be tough going for a while, but I think once I settle into a groove everything will be peachy.

Either way, I'm very excited to start my new position. I'm happy that I won't have to take any classes of my own this semester, and I just hope it doesn't kill me. But, you all know that I'm hapy when I'm ridiculously busy. I'll probably bitch here often, but just remember, I really like the torture. Or at least that's what I tell myself.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Thoughtful post o'the day...

Over at Estella Scribbles. Click here.

If you're a troll and you know it, raise your hand!


A troll. That's what I've been over the weekend. Given, I've been out and about, running erraneds, hospital visiting and socializaing with B., but I've been a victim of biology. That's right kids, P-M-S. I was trying to explain it last night, and I think I got it nailed down:

PMS is like being in a pointless rage for days on end, except for those 15-minute intervals when crying is absolutely unavoidable.

I was watching Ocean of Fear on Discovery (20th annual Shark Week, after all) and found myself in tears. Given, it is quite a sad story about the victims of the USS Indianapolis sinking and the subsequent shark attacks and general horribleness that claimed the lives of over 500 sailors. But still, I cried. Watching the Discovery channel.

I also flew into a rage when the shaving gel bottle fell off of the shower organizer.

Thank you, Shejus, for making me a woman. (Bitch.)

In other news:

I got very little reading done this weekend. I have about 15 pages of The Dying Animal left to polish off today. I know that my copy of Stephenie Meyer's Eclipse is in the mail from Amazon (yay!), so that'll probably be my next book.

My social security card is gone. Therefore, I get to brave the wilds of the nearest Social Security card office for a replacement (fucking yay).

Pray for my soul.

I'm going to play SIMS2.

Oh, and yes, those are my fish on the header--pics from our koi/goldfish pond.

Friday, August 03, 2007

The weekend is upon us...

And I still didn't get some of the more thoughtful posts posted this week. Sheesh. You all are going to think I've begun to morph into Paris Hilton or something.

So, what does everyone have planned for the weekend?

I have about four articles left to write before Sunday at 7am (no problem). Today, B and I will be venturing out for some errand running--a new filter for the pond from Lowe's, some jeans for him, some bottled water and canned drinks from the hell that is Wal-Mart on NC's tax-free weekend (pray for our souls).

When we get home from town, he'll be working on our storage building, aka, "the man room," and I'll be straightening the house. "Andi, why are you conforming to such restricted gender roles?" you might ask. Well, quite simply, I don't like getting hot and sweaty (outside the house). So, it works out nicely that I stay in and wash dishes.

Random question of the day: Why, oh why, does Fergie wear that awful black hat in the "Big Girls Don't Cry" video? Oh well, I suppose it's better than pissing herself on stage.

It's been a slow reading week, but that's to be expected after last week's four books. While I'm enjoying The Dying Animal velly velly mush, I'm more involved in writing my own. B asked last night if he was going to be able to retire soon. I told him it might take until the second book. The first one is for my student loans.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Estella Answers Five



The August "revival" issue of Estella's Revenge is online as we speak! Go over and check it out. We have a ton of great interviews, articles, reviews, columns, and miscellany for you to dig through. For those of you who read here regularly, you'll find my "Finis, or a Treatise on Reading" a repeat from a post you saw here first (I'm a slacker!).

Johnny Yen recently tagged me for the "Five Questions" meme, and here's what he wants to know:

1. If you could be there to change just one event in history, what would it be?

Oh heavens, so many to choose from. Which atrocity should I choose? We'll go with the Holocaust. I would've picked Hitler off in a heartbeat if given a gun (or a really powerful slingshot). I suppose I have a new appreciation for the trials that those lost souls (both German and Jew) went through thanks to the wonderfulfantastic The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak. It's the tale of a little German orphan girl who just can't quite figure out all the hatred in the world. It's not maudlin or overwrought, it's just perfect. One of the best books I've ever read, and it's quite different from any other Holocaust fiction I've read. If you haven't already, dear God, give it a go. You'll wanna buy me shiny things as tokens of thanks when you finish it.

2. If you could be any actor or actress who ever lived, who would it be, and why?

Vivien Leigh! Gone with the Wind is my favorite movie of all time (in a constant race with Donnie Darko), and Vivien Leigh was one of the most beautiful women of all time. I'd give a kidney to look like that AND play one of the best bitches ever written.

3. What was your favorite Saturday morning cartoon show?

Garfield and Friends!!! I used to wake up around 7am every Saturday when I was little, and wake my mom up. She would toss me the remote and nap a while, and I always watched Garfield and Friends. I adored that show beyond all others, and a few years ago, for Christmas, B. surprised me with it on DVD. Yayyyy! Now I can watch it any time I want (although very rarely at 7am on Saturday).

4. Beatles or Rolling Stones?

Rolling Stones! All. The. Way. "Paint it Black" is one of the bestestest songs everrr. It never leaves my iPod.

5. If you could be any fictional literary figure ever, who would it be?

Um, Estella! Estella, from Great Expectations, is another one of those literary bad girls that I can't help but love to hate. Do you see a pattern here? The literary bitches rock!

If you'd like to perpetuate the meme, simply answer the following questions on your blog and let me know that you did so in the comments:

1. If you could be any pair of shoes what would you be?

2. What is your favorite movie to look at? In other words, which film do you find visually stunning above all others?

3. If you could learn to speak any language what would it be and why?

4. What was your favorite meal from childhood?

5. If you wrote your autobiography, what would the title be?

Charmed life? Maybe so!

One of my apprehensions about the potential to take the library job is the 8-5 format. Admittedly, I've never been very good at that type of work. I get antsy and weird if I'm trapped any one place for a fixed amount of time. In fact, that sense of freedom is exactly why I chose to pursue a trip in academia (whether college or university). Additionally, the vacation time, as a teacher of higher education, is killer! Who else gets a month off at Christmas?

So, while I've been excited about the library position, I'm also nervous about the potential of actually getting it. I've been cranking my brain for the last several days about the Fall job possibilities. Which job should I take if I get the library gig? Should I keep part of the teaching position I already agreed to? Same money, different hours, different vacation policies, different locations, etc. I would certainly prefer teaching, but as of yesterday the library's promise of stability and insurance was winning.

Then I got a call.

I submitted an application to another community college (where the library job is...not the one I'm already committed to for the Fall) a while back with little hope of them actually calling. They rarely have any turnover or need of a new teacher because their current faculty seem really happy (a good friend of mine, with whom I used to teach high school, in particular).

So, when they called to offer me a teaching job yesterday I was SHOCKED and THRILLED! It is part-time, but it's two night classes that meet once a week. One meets on Monday night, which I agreed to take, and one meets on Tuesday, which I can't take that one because of another commitment.

However, what this means is a foot in the door at two community colleges with hope of full-time on the horizon, an end to money woes for the foreseeable future, and getting that delicious vacation/free time back. You see, my obsession with free time has something to do with the hobbies to which I'm devoted. I love putting Estella's Revenge together and writing my novel just as much as any job -- another reason I went into a career as flexible as higher education.

This turn of events fits into what my mother considers my genuine good luck. For the entirety of my working life (16-26) jobs have, quite literally, fallen in my lap. When I was 16 and looking for a job with which to buy gas money, a teacher happened to walk through the Home Economics room where I was fiddling around before class. When she saw me, she stopped short and said, "Andi, you'd be good for this. Do you need a job?" A local florist and good friend of our family was looking for a high school student to do her computer bookkeeping.

A few months later another local store owner and another friend of the family caught my mom at his grocery store and asked her if I'd like a job. So, I took my 2nd job and worked both until shortly before my graduation from high school.

I later interviewed for a computer lab assistant position at Baylor University and was hired on the spot. When I left Baylor, a colleague of my mother's offered me a web design internship with a Fortune 500 company after my mom asked her to proofread my newly typed resume. Later in my college career, when I'd switched to an English major and needed some extra cash, a professor recommended me (without my knowing) as a writing center tutor. Even later, upon college graduation, I was hired on the spot for a high school teaching position. EVEN later, when I left North Carolina to move back to Texas in 2004 to start my M.A., a former high school teacher recommended me for a community college teaching position and they hired me before I'd even left the state of NC.

You see the pattern here. Jobs tend to fall in my lap, and I'm incredibly grateful that they do and that the trend seems to be continuing.

As that former high school teacher friend once said, "Wow, that's a God thing."

I'm beginning to think so!