Monday, March 31, 2008

Quirks

Check out this week's "Finicky Reader" column to read about my obsession with my favorite writers' quirks. My curiosity then leads me to discuss some of the quirks of readers because the writers can't get all the crazy credit.

Click HERE.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Sunday Salon - Spring Break Wrap Up

On this last day of Spring Break, it's time to take stock of the week's reading. I can safely say my reading has been the most productive part of my break. I managed to finish a record five books in a week. It sounds more impressive than it really is because they were very short for the most part, but it's still a nice feeling to have finished--and enjoyed--so many great books over the course of the week. The Bloody Chamber, Arabian Nights (and Days), Wolves, A Girl Named Zippy, and Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac were wonderful choices, and I feel certain that I'm officially over my reading slump now. Joy!

I spent a good deal of time yesterday, and a couple of hours on and off this morning, reading Gabrielle Zevin's newest novel, Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac. It's been a while since I've read a book that I could sink into so easily. I became immediately engrossed in the story of Naomi, a teen who falls down the stairs of her high school, hits her head, and loses four years of memory. Stuck with a new identity--view of self, opinions, and friends she doesn't always remember--she must rebuild her life, start fresh.

I had really high hopes for this book. Some of them were met and some weren't. On an academic level, I was really looking forward to issues of identity in this book. I can't shake that part of me that taught adolescent lit, and this book sounded like something tailor-made for S. and the book she's currently writing. I will still recommend it to her, but some of the complicated and intriguing issues of identity didn't pan out in this novel. What could've been a really intricate journey for the protagonist was enjoyable to read, but not nearly as wonderfully twisty and difficult as it could've been.

On a general readerly level, it's a great book to sit back and relax with. I loved Naomi's voice. It was truly teenagery but without a lot of the complete obnoxiousness that teens often posses. There's no trace of Holden Caulfield in this novel, in other words. Naomi is a good person who does some stupid things, but one can't help but empathize with her throughout most of the novel. Zevin sets up some nice roadblocks and relationships for the young amnesiac, and I had a great time riding along with her.

I also read this book for the 2008 TBR Challenge. Yay for marking another one off the list!

Now, the big question is what to read next! I'm looking forward to pawing my shelves for possibilities in a few minutes. I'll update later today if I manage to sink into something.

By the way, if you're hankering for a grand book giveaway, hop on over to Nymeth's blog. She's celebrating Buy a Friend a Book Week in style!


9:20 P.M. - I can gladly say, I've already settled into another book! After two degrees, library work, school school school, and bountiful goading from friends, I am reading To Kill a Mockingbird. Last person on the planet...yet again. I'm not sure how I never picked this book up, but I would guess it had something to do with the fact that all teachers crammed the movie down our throats every year, my class saw a live production, AND everyone says it's the best book ever. I've been offered money to read it, first born children, shiny things, and mutitudinous other bribes from wise friends like Heather F. and CdnReader. However, somehow, I absolutely never once felt compelled to pick it up.

Until now.

I'm about 20 pages in, and I'm completely charmed. I can't wait to spend more time with it. Maybe I'll have some down time tomorrow in the writing center since it's the first day back.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Lights Out



Join in on Earth Hour:

On Saturday, March 29, 2008, Earth Hour invites people around the world to turn off their lights for one hour – from 8:00pm to 9:00pm in their local time zone. On this day, cities around the world, including Copenhagen, Chicago, Melbourne, Dubai, and Tel Aviv, will hold events to acknowledge their commitment to energy conservation.

Read more about it at Google.com's Earth Hour page.

Literary Dealbreakers

I love the NY Times Review of Books blog, Paper Cuts. I really do. They're just as obsessive compulsive about reading as I am. It sort of helps humanize a group of writers I would normally classify is way higher brow than myself.

In "Literary Dealbreakers" post, Rachel Donadio writes, "Suffice it to say that for those of us cursed with literary interests — and no small amount of intellectual snobbery — taste in books can have a limiting effect on our romantic lives."

I know what she means. I can tell you for certain, when I was dating, whether or not someone read was indeed a heavy-duty interest of mine. Now, I can't say that I would never date a non-reader, but it certainly earned a man brownie points if he was literary. Remember the Barrister I found on Match.com? He had a woooonderful library, leather chair and all, and I was drooling before we even got to the homemade dinner of pork cutlets, honey mustard sauce and roasted root vegetables. Sadly, we all know he turned out to be Prince Charmingless, but at least I got to pet his books before things crashed and burned.

I've been with B. on and off for a long time now. We've known each other for almost ten years, and this is our second year of living together. While he is not the obsessive compulsive book hoarder and book reader that I am, he reads like a mofo. As much as I do, I'm sure. His proclivities tend toward any manner of news media online as well as a bunch of other sites that are tailored to his interests. We both keep our laptops in the living room, and many a cozy night has been spent in our respective chairs tapping away at the computer reading whatever we're most interested in. For that, I'm truly thankful. And the fact that he doesn't seem to mind--on the whole--the fact that I'm an obsessive book hoarder. He's a fan of gentle ribbing in regards to my leaning stacks, but he doesn't give me too hard of a time. If he did, then we'd have a literary dealbreaker on our hands.

Back to the article. Some of the comments were truly hilarious and ring a weeee (more than a wee, maybe) bit true.

"The dealbreaker? After dating a guy for the second time, trying to bring up the subject about my latest read and New Orleans literature a la the Tennessee Williams Festival going on, he says 'Oh, I don’t read. It’s a waste of time. I get most of what I need to know from my buddies and TV.' Damn, but he was sexy. Oh well. Can’t do, just can’t." --Lyne LeJeune

"During an online dating phase, I discovered that anyone who named The Alchemist as his favorite book was basically revealing that he was a sensitive stoner—to be avoided at all costs. I have fallen in love within minutes of a conversation in a bar, simply from a mention of Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory. And one of my most romantic moments in a twenty-something relationship was reading Nabokov’s Mary to one another one rainy Seattle night. There is nothing more wonderful than connecting romantically to just the right literary spirit. "
--Kim

...and my favorite...

"I just realized that I have Fight Club and Atlas Shrugged prominently displayed on my bookshelf, remnants of a jaded youth.

It looks like I have some reshuffling to do lest an anarcho-capitalist yuppie high-schooler fall madly in love with me. " — Posted by Michael

So, how about you? Any literary dealbreakers that come to mind?

On a wholly unrelated note, we went loafing yesterday just as I suspected. We ended up at a huuuge outlet mall complex with a bookstore! Of course, since I was saving $1 per book I had to buy two of them! I picked up:

  • What is the What, by Dave Eggers at the recommendation of my friend T. without whom I never would've read Cormac McCarthy. I trust his judgement even though the thought of Eggers titling his memoir A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius makes my butt pucker and makes me never want to read Eggers at all. It might be ironic, but I'm not willing to find out at this point. Bring on the Lost Boys in What is the What, I say.
  • A Great and Terrible Beauty, by Libba Bray. This is one of Heather's recommendations, and she's my reading sooouuuulmate, so I had to give it a go. I've been lusting after it and trying to mooch it for a while now, but I can't ever get my paws on it. Can't wait to start. Oh, and Libba Bray has a great Livejournal blog that I've been reading for a while now. She's hilarious.

I also had The Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan, in my hot little hands, but I realized at the last minute that it was the large print edition, and I just can't do large print. For me, it's more distracting than teensy tinesy print.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Winding down...

Hard to believe I've been off work for seven days now. Which means, sadly, only a few more to go. I'm astounded by the amount of stuff I haven't accomplished over the last seven days. I've had a great time reading, napping, playing with Daisy, and doing sundry errands, but at the end of the day (week) I still have student papers to grade and some house cleaning that needs to be done. B. will be home shortly and I'm sure I'd much rather go loafing with him than do my work, which means it'll be put off another day (or two), and I'll curse myself into oblivion on Sunday night.


But at least I know all this about myself. I can prepare.

Daisy cuteness? Shall we?



Her favorite perch atop my reading chair. She often stretches herself around my neck when I'm sitting here.


Perch, again. And determined not to move.


Naught girl. She loves to chew on a sock.

To do list (for my own reference since paper is likely to be lost to Daisy or the troll that steals my lists):
  • Play SIMS 2 (very important for national security)
  • Go to he post office
  • Grade papers
  • Grade online "papers'
  • Put together a conference panel (by next Friday)
  • Clean the kitchen

Meh. Maybe I'll just read.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

A Girl Named Zippy


Yet another book that I'm certain I'm the last person on earth to read. You might remember, I said the same thing about David Sedaris. I started Haven Kimmel's memoir of a childhood in Mooreland, Indiana a couple of months ago. I had every intention of traveling to Wilmington, NC (just down the Interstate a piece) to see her speak at the University of North Carolina's campus there, but with teaching and other grown-up responsibilities (boo!) I couldn't go. Alas, I put the book aside to attend to some obligation or other, and I just came back to it in the wake of my slump.

It's hard for me not to compare David Sedaris and Haven Kimmel.

1. They're both really funny.
2. They're both from NC (Sedaris grew up in Raleigh, Kimmel currently resides next door, in Durham)
3. They're both really funny.

In all seriousness, I adored Kimmel's memoir for her ability--like Sedaris--to tap into the humorous, the touching, and the tragic that seems to accompany childhood. One such example came to light in the essay, "The Social Gospel." Little Haven, aka Zippy, finds herself enamored of a girl named Sissy Bellings that comes from a family of 15 and lives in a two-room house. Zippy, despite her Quaker upbringing, does not believe in God, but she begins to talk religion with the devout Sissy in a thinly veiled attempt to get into the house so she can see the workings of the 15-person Billings family firsthand. Along the way she chases opportunities for good works in an attempt to win Sissy's trust and admiration but finds her attempts foiled at every turn. In the end, she finds an unlikely opportunity to do a good deed when a close friend of hers confesses the ill intent of their band teacher during "private lessons." As a result--even though she's unsure whether or not the teacher has caused her friend harm or what harm he might be able to inflict--she refuses to allow her friend to be left alone with the teacher. It's a moment of clarity and insight for an otherwise mischievous and troublesome child.

On the humorous side, the opening lines of "Interior Design" present a great example of Kimmel's humor:

"Decoupage hit Mooreland pretty hard, as did antiquing, and hand painting one's own ceramics. My dad was especially good at decoupage, and made a number of very beautiful things to hang around the house. My personal favorite was the Bill of Rights, which he burned around the edges and affixed to a large flat piece of cherrywood. He screwed a ring into the top and it hung on the wall in the living room. I used to stand and study it. It survived until one afternoon when Dad was trying to repair the wiring in an outlet below it. At that time, we had a cat named Abednego who performed no end of evil tasks, and as Dad knelt there, Abednego went scampering right up Dad's back, using, of course, his claws. Dad raised up in alarm and hit the Bill of Rights, causing it to fall squarely on the back of his head, and before I knew what had happened, Dad had grabbed the plaque and slung it in fury across the room. He missed the cat, but hit the window seat, and the wood cracked in half. Abednego was nowhere to be seen--he was in pursuit of other happinesses, no doubt--so I picked up the wood and tried to fix it, but it was beyond repair."

She goes on to detail the keen ability of her acquaintances at hooked rugs, ceramics painting, and myriad of other crafts that threw me immediately into flashbacks to my own childhood. Scary stuff.

If you're in the mood for a laugh, a nicely written essay, and a quick read, definitely give A Girl Named Zippy a go.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Fables: Wolves (vol. 8)


And the graphic novel kick continues. There's nothing quite like knocking off a whole book in an evening when still recovering from a reading slump. I just can't deal with big novels exclusively right now, so finishing up (my) available Fables graphic novels has been just the ticket. I still have a B&N gift card burning a hole in my pocket, so I suspect I might have to order Sons of Empire before the day is up.
In Wolves, Mowgli of Jungle Book fame goes looking for the exiled Bigby Wolf. Upon finding him, Bigby must complete a covert mission for the Fabletown higher-ups before returning to his beloved Snow White and their cubs.
This is a long-awaited issue, as those who are currently into the series up to the Storybook Love volume will already know. I'll be cryptic and closed-mouthed, but this volume certainly lived up to expectations with lots of "ooh ahh" moments and just the right amount of mush.
I've already wooed over this series this week, so I'll save you from my usual gushing, but I really do recommend any and all comics fans, fairy tale fans, or adventurous readers unused to either genre to give this series a go. It's so very smart and funny and clever and wondermous.
Ok, so I gushed a little. It really couldn't be helped.
This is a book that satisfies requirements I set forth for myself for the Graphic Novels Challenge and Once Upon a Time II.
Currently reading: Cat's Eye, by Margaret Atwood - I'm back to it and enjoying it.
Thinking of reading: another graphic novel. Maybe Mark Kalesniko's book, Mail Order Bride.

Recipes, finally!

I know, it took me long enough, eh? First, the frittatta recipe that I showed you a pic of below (I know, I first said quiche. I don't know the difference):

Low Fat Frittatta

1 package (12 oz) of turkey bacon, heated and chopped
6 ounces of uncooked angel hair pasta
2 tsp olive oil
1 small onion sliced or diced
1 red bell pepper, sliced or diced
8 eggs (or you could use the egg substitute)
1 container (5 oz) of fat free ricotta cheese
1 cup of shredded, fat-free mozzarella cheese
1 cup of shredded, reduced fat Swiss cheese
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 package (10 oz) frozen spinach, thawed and squeeze drained

Cook and drain pasta. Heat oil in a large skillet and cook onion and pepper over medium heat until tender. Combine egg, cheeses, salt, pepper, and cooked pasta. Add veggies, spinach, and bacon. Spray 10-inch quiche dish (or I used a 9" round pie pan) with nonstick cooking spray; pour mixture into dish. Bake in preheated oven at 350-degrees for 30 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve with salsa. Serves 8.

Andi says: I used ham! I found the dish a bit on the bland side the way it's written, so the next time I cook this recipe I might add a little hot pepper sauce to the eggs, use cheddar cheese instead of mozzarella, or I might use sausage. Sure, I'll blow the "low fat" part out the window, but who cares. I need flavor!

Dirt Cake:

1 (8 oz) package of cream cheese
1/2 cup of confectioner's sugar
1 (3.5 oz) package of instant vanilla pudding
1 (3.5 oz) package of instant chocolate pudding
3 1/2 cups of milk
1 (12 oz) container of whipped topping, thawed
32 oz of Oreo cookies

Chop cookies into a fine powder with a food processor (or if you're me, a big freezer bag and the back of a skillet). Mix cream cheese and sugar in a bowl. In a separate large bowl, mix pudding, milk, and whipped topping together. Combine pudding mixture and the creamed mixture. Layer in a flower pot (lined with plastic wrap) beginning with cookies and ending with cookies on top. Chill until serving time. Add artificial flowers, a trowel, and gummy worms if desired.

I also did this one for Halloween when I was younger, and we made it in a 9x13 pan with candy pumpkins, whipped cream ghosts, and little headstones on top. So cute!

Monday, March 24, 2008

God Bless Spring Break

It's sogood to be doing nothing. I slept late this morning (well, 6:30...that's late for Daisy), lounged around, ran errands before noon, played with the pup, read a bit, and now we're readying ourselves for puppy school at 7:00.

The evidence of my Spring Break good times:


This is the "dirt cake" I made for yesterday's Easter lunch with B.'s parents. If you peak under the cute little flowers you'll see...dirt. Made of Oreos of course. Recipe forthcoming.

This is today's culinary adventure. A quiche recipe I found in a new cookbook. I had a keen time (welcome to 1956) shopping for fresh mozarella cheese and other goodies to go in this big honker of a brunch. Recipe forthcoming, too.


Daisy has the Spring Break spirit. This is from this morning before either of us got up and around very much. You'll notice she's in my reading chair on top of my favorite blanket. *sigh* Is nothing sacred anymore? Nah, not really.

I'll be back after puppy school to add the recipes to this post.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Sunday Salon (Post the Second)


Yes, I'm back again with a second Sunday Salon post. Again, a review of a great book that revolves around fairy tales.

I just finished the seventh volume of Bill Willingham's Fables series, Arabian Nights (and Days). For the uninitiated, the Fables series chronicles the plight of a group of fairy tale, fable, folklore, and nursery rhyme characters from many a varied cultural tradition (although the European tales take center stage). In this installment several Arabian characters--Sinbad, first and foremost--visit the Fabletown complex in New York City to discuss an alliance against the Adversary that's slowly taking over Fable homelands. Alliance building is a tricky business, and as the blurb on the back cover asserts, the Arabian Fables are concealing Weapons of Magical Destruction!

As silly as it might sound in blurb form, this series is one of my favorites for several reasons, two of which are:

  • Its ability to wonderfully and cleverly reimagine classic folk and fairy tale characters in extremely unique ways. Willingham pays homage to classic tales from the Grimms, Charles Perrault, et al, and simultaneously reinvents them for a contemporary audience. For more on this, read my Master's thesis, "More Than 'Interesting Dead Things': The Reanimation of the Oral Tradition Through Narrative Subversion and Visual Narrative Performance." It's all about this concurrent truth to tradition and reinvention.

  • The whole series is a witty and biting critique of current race relations and political endeavors. Willingham makes reference to Jewish diaspora, contemporary race relations in America, and now, obviously, America's relationship with middle eastern nations and weapons of mass destruction.

It's just all so extremely well done--veiled inside a web of intertextuality and fun. Breathtaking. Just freakin' awesome.

If you haven't yet started reading the Fables series...get on it. You're missing out otherwise.

And for the sake of recordkeeping, this is my first book for the Once Upon a Time II challenge, the 2008 TBR Challenge, AND the Graphic Novels challenge.

The Bloody Chamber - The Sunday Salon Review



It is with great pleasure and relief that I tell you today...my reading slump seems to be over. After a good month of struggling to read, I finally found a book that seems to have busted the Bookworm's Curse (the title and subject of tomorrow's BiblioBuffet column). And, finally, I have some reading to report for The Sunday Salon!

I don't remember exactly how many years Angela Carter's, The Bloody Chamber, has been lying unread on my stacks. I tried reading it a couple of times, but it never clicked. Carter's ornate language definitely requires a certain...lyrical mood? Yeah, that's it. It's lyrical, and I always have to be in the mood for lyrical.

I've read a huge amount of fairy tale retellings through the years
--it's my thing--so I've gotten to a point where very little seems new anymore. However, I'm tickled to say, Carter's writing and her unique take on great fairy tales really felt quite original, which is enough to make me dance with joy.

The title story is a great take on the story of Bluebeard, wherein the protagonist is married off to a rich man, taken to his castle, introduced to sex (ooh!) and he soon hands over the house keys, heads off on a journey, and she finds all the bodies of his former wives locked away in his private chamber. Nothing new there. However, Carter puts a decidedly feminist twist on her tales, and the young woman's savior takes a very distinct form compared to the other Bluebeard tales I've read.

Carter also tackles other well known tales like "Little Red Riding Hood" and "Beauty and the Beast." At first I was a little put off by the recurring retellings. That is, included in The Bloody Chamber are multiple retellings of the Red Riding Hood story and Beauty and the Beast. At first I thought it would be quite repetitive, but I was delighted to find that Carter does a nice job individuating her tales and making multiple retellings feel very unique and fresh.

I'm certainly a convert now. I have another of Carter's works, the novella Heroes and Villains, on my stacks. I suspect I may revisit Carter before the end of the Once Upon a Time II challenge! What better way to celebrate fantasy writing than with a supreme artist like Carter?

Additionally, this is the first complete book of stories I've finished for the Short Story Challenge! I'm excited to be able to tick another completed book off of my sidebar. And what a rich, seductive experience it was!

In other news, I'm currently reading two books:

  • Fables: Arabian Nights (and Days), by Bill Willingham, for the Graphic Novels challenge and the TBR Challenge.
  • Sorry, by Gail Jones, an Orange Prize nominee for review at BiblioBuffet.

I may post an update as the day goes by and I get more read. We'll be adjourning next door for Easter lunch, but I suspect it will be a very readerly afternoon. Happy holidays!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Bookshelf Etiquette?

Has anyone not read this piece from the NY Times Paper Cuts blog about bookshelf etiquette? Funny, I never thought it "wrong" to display unread books, but it just so happens that I've always put the books I've already read in the public spaces of my home, while the "to be read" stacks remain in my bedroom or shut up in the office. Go figure!

Thoughts?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

What Do I Know?


I am weak!!! I know that.

I vowed not to join any more challenges for the year, but I forgot about one that is impossible to ignore. It's the second year for Carl's Once Upon a Time Challenge, and I'm SO READY.

As with the RIP Challenge, Carl offers several "plans" for completing the challenge. This one's focus is fantasy, folklore, fairy tales, and mythology. Right up my alley, I know. I thought the same thing!

I've chosen the most relaxed of the options, and I'll be embarking upon "Quest the First:"

Read at least 5 books that fit somewhere within the Once Upon a Time II criteria. They might all be fantasy, or folklore, or fairy tales, or mythology…or your five books might be a combination from the four genres.

While I would love to embark upon a challenge with the promise to read one book in each category, I prefer the flexibility to read all fairy tale-oriented literature if I want to. See, I have a boatload of retellings and fairy tale interpretations on my stacks--one of which I'm reading now, The Bloody Chamber. Therefore, I reserve the right to gorge on fairy tales if I wanna.

Some books that spring immediately to mind from my stacks:

the rest of the Fables series, by Bill Willingham
Bluebeard's Egg and Other Stories, by Margaret Atwood
Grimm's Last Fairytale, by Haydn Middleton (languishing unread on my shelf for nearabout the 10th year)
Not to mention...
The Book of Lost Things, by John Connolly
Transformations, by Anne Sexton
Little Black Book of Short Stories, by A.S. Byatt
...and a host of others that fall into categories fantastical, science fictional, fairy taleish, and mythological.
Join us, won't you?
Watch for my reviews! Coming soon!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Or Maybe I Was Right...

...and The Bloody Chamber is the perfect book to cure my slump. A delicious quote?

I saw him watching me in the gilded mirrors with the assessing eye of a connoisseur inspecting horseflesh, or even of a housewife in the market, inspecting cuts on the slab. I'd never seen, or else had never acknowledged, that regard of his before, the sheer carnal avarice of it; and it was strangely magnified by the monocle lodged in his left eye. When I saw him look at me with lust, I dropped my eyes but, in glancing away from him, I caught sight of myself in the mirror. And I saw myself, suddenly, as he saw me, my pale face, the way the muscles in my neck stuck out like thin wire. I saw how mcuh that cruel necklace became me. And, for the first time in my innocent and confined life, I sensed in myself a potentiality for corruption that took my breath away.

Don't ya just love it? Deeelicious.

Monday Mishmash

There's a distinct possibility I'm coming down with the flu B. has had. I lounged around all weekend, slept late a few days, was generally worthless, and I'm still so exhausted that walking and breathing are huge efforts. If I feel much worse tonight, we may not be making it to puppy school. Ugg.

Speaking of puppies, isn't she growing like a weed? I have no idea what she weighs now, but I would guesstimate 10-12 pounds and ALL LEGS.


Play position. She cracks me up begging me to throw a ball, toss a shoe, or let me let her chew on my toes.


Too excited for rawhide.


Finally, big enough to get on the couch all by herself. This presents a problem since we'd taken to stashing all of our things (including shoes and her leashes) on the couch out of her reach. It required a whole new level of puppy proofing. Pardon the weird lamp in the corner. We used it one night when she was younger, scared, and in a different crate. I haven't bothered stashing it back in its hiding place just yet.


So maybe I wasn't completely worthless this weekend. B. and I put new red mulch around our shrubs (which required digging out the existing pine straw and pulling up a plethora of wild onions) and installed this GORGEOUS new rose bush. These are Mardi Gras roses, and I'm in love. I've wanted an orange rose bush for ages now, but this orange/yellow/pink hybrid captured me immediately.


Finally, and this is really the best part, I have bookshelves!! Two, 6-foot, cherry bookcases to be exact. And guess what? They hold ALLLLL OF MY BOOKS with almost two whole shelves left over. I'm trying my best not to fill up those last shelves. I have a stack of books to donate to the library and I pass them off via Bookmooch when I can. I only keep the ones I really love and will re-read.
In reading news, I'm still not. I've decided to wipe my plate clean (bye-bye Cat's Eye and People's History of American Empire). I'll come back to them, but I need a fresh start. I grabbed Angela Carter's short story collection, The Bloody Chamber, from the shelves before I left the house this morning, but now I sort of wish I'd taken the 7th Fables installment, Arabian Nights (and Days).
And since Chris tagged me for the 6-word Memoir meme, here are several I came up with on Friday:
Late students, late papers, migraine headache.
Reading is what life's all about.
Dazed, confused and utterly put out.
Hungry and tired, not dead yet.
Mean, green, and not very lean.

Oh, and if you enjoy irony, remember how I named my car Pandora? Pandora like the goddess that opened up the box o'trouble for the world? Welp, the car has to go to Toyota tomorrow because the bladder inside the gas tank isn't filling correctly. Yep, shot myself in the arse, I do believe.
Finally, this week's "Finicky Reader" column is about how my teaching has affected my reading. Give "The Cold Stare of the Disinterested" a read if you have a moment.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Exhausted


I'm done. DONE. Done meaning exhausted, tired, sleepy, weary. Pick an adjective.

I'm taking the weekend (and maybe Monday) off from blogging to nap, eat good food, hang out with the puppy and the boyfriend and the fam, and mayyyybe get some reading done. Between grading papers.

Final thought: 47.7 mpg in the Prius. Hot damn. That car payment doesn't seem so bad now.

Reading:
  • Cat's Eye, by Atwood - moving slow. Not really in the mood.
  • Leaving a Doll's House, by Claire Bloom - my GOD she likes herself MUCH more than I do!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Short Story Time! (And Booking Through Thursday)

I promised to provide links in my previous post on "A Rose for Emily," but I forgot! I'm also including the link for one of my other short story favorites, "August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains." Ray Bradbury is a god.

"A Rose for Emily"
"August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains"

Watch for more of my favorite short story recommendations coming up!

Very little time to blog today. I had to teach a couple of classes this morning, put together my display for Open House tomorrow, and I've had a full schedule of consultations in the writing center this afternoon. I plan to play with Daisy and play SIMS 2 when I get home. If I'm really lucky there might be a nap in the cards. Tomorrow's another early day, and I can't wait for this week to be OVER.

The greatest news: SPRING BREAK is right around the corner! We're out from Good Friday (21st) through the 29th, so I expect I'll do lots of reading, maybe have some meals with friends, and generally be lazy.

For now I'm off and running. Might be back with some lit-chat and blog hopping tonight.

Edit: And while I'm at it, why not Book Through Thursday?

This week's question:
__________ would have been a much better book if ______________________

Andi's answer:
Moby Dick would have been a much better book if Herman Melville hadn't written it!

I loathe and despise Melville with every fiber of my being. Loathe. Really.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Break for Picture Books


Since my reading is at such a standstill, I decided to head downstairs to the children's collection, and nose around a bit. I'm a sucker for a good picture book given my love of art AND stories. It's a match made in heaven really.

When I was poking around the stacks I happened upon a book I haven't read in ages, Tuesday, by David Wiesner. This is one of those picture books that I was never introduced to as a youngster (since I was 17 when it was published), but I spent quite a bit of time with it in graduate school.

There's a reason I'm so endlessly attracted to picture books and comics. Quite simply, there's a whole lotta magic in the way a writer and/or artist can string together images to communicate a narrative. The great part about Tuesday is that it's told almost exclusively with images. There are only two pages of words: "Tuesday evening, around eight," and "Next Tuesday, 7:58 P.M."

This mostly wordless picture book relies on graphic narrative style frames and the transitions from page to page to tell the story of a very special Tuesday night on which frogs take to the air on their lillypads and zoom, unbeknownst to the human residents, around town all night.

Besides being a really fun book with gorgeous illustrations, the narrative technique is almost seamless. Before I got really into image studies I never would've noticed the way a reader must fill in the action between the frames (gutter) of a comic or the pages in a picture book. We as readers do SO MUCH of the storytelling all on our own without ever thinking about it.

In fact, all this narrative technique stuff is the subject of the paper I'm giving at the Children's Lit conference in July. I'll be focusing on Gary Crew and Steven Woolman's Australian picture book, The Watertower. It's probably one of the most unique marriages of text and image I've ever seen, employing film-like reel sequences and unique "shots" of narrative action.

If you haven't yet, get hold of a David Wiesner picture book for yourself. The Three Pigs is fantastic, and his newest offering, Flotsam (2006), won a Caldecott medal. While it might be hard to lay hands on it, The Watertower is a great read for all ages.

Valium, please.

Whoa, what a week (and it's only Tuesday). A bulleted list of what's shakin' in AndiLand:

-Pandora the Prius is up from 40 miles/gallon when I got her to 44 miles/gallon. I have a picture and a running total on my office door, and the colleagues get a kick out of it.

-I'm up to my nose hairs in papers to grade. I'm teaching two Argument & Research courses (one online, one f2f), two Lit-Based Research courses (one online, one f2f), and a Tech Writing. All of them have turned in or will turn in papers this week! Stupid me for setting the schedule like that!

-Daisy has reached a whole new level of puppy craziness. I was on the phone with my mom last night when she ran by, grabbed my finger where it rested on my leg, bit down, and stripped the skin off below the nail. Ironic since she should learn not to do things like that in puppy school, and puppy school was cancelled last night. She redeemed herself by falling asleep in the recliner with me at 9:00 last night and napping with me from 5:30-6:30 this morning.

-I found out yesterday I can refinance my new car (that I just financed with Toyota last week) with my credit union for 1% less interest, AND I can defer my payments during the summer when I'm not teaching. Hot damn! I'm convinced.

Bulleted list complete.

Yesterday I actually had a few minutes to sit down and read--between Daisy being staked out to play in the backyard and giving her a bath--and I gulped down a chunk of Cat's Eye. Love it. LOVE. IT. Atwood is such an acquired taste (for me), but her characterization of really horrible, backbiting women is spot on. God, women can be so cruel. I would've been a much better boy in that respect (don't enjoy gossip and backbiting), but I really like tiaras. Hmmm.

I'm taking the afternoon off from responsibility. Well, as much as a woman can who's at work writing "I'm taking the afternoon off from responsibility." I will certainly meet with my one appointment, and I'll have to do Daisy responsibility when I get home, AND, well, I know students will be e-mailing from my online courses about the upcoming due dates, BUT aside from that, I'm taking off. I'll be blog hopping as soon as I click "Publish Post."

Adieu!

P.S. I have the newest SIMS 2 expansion pack, "Free Time," waiting at home for me. Get out of the way!

Sunday, March 09, 2008

The Sunday Salon - A Late Participant

I apologize for my untimely absence the last couple of weeks. With a brand new puppy, the transition from first to second quarter, and a bunch of classes to teach, I really haven't been reading. Sad but true; I'm starting to have withdrawals.

In truth, I suppose I have been reading, I just haven't been reading what I would normally choose for myself. You see, I'm teaching a class this semester called Literature-Based Research, and essentially it's an introduction to interpreting and writing about lit. As such, I'm re-reading a bunch of old favorites in hopes of bringing enthusiasm and insight to my students. Our course is split into three sections: Short Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. If you've been around this blog for a bit, you know I love me some short stories, and while I do have a great love for my favorite poems, I can't say I read as much contemporary poetry as I should. When it comes to drama, I tend to rely on my old favorites completely.

We just finished our Short Fiction section, and I taught several of my favorite stories including, "A Rose for Emily," by William Faulkner; "August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains," by Ray Bradbury; "Hills Like White Elephants," by Ernest Hemingway; and "Everyday Use," by Alice Walker.

I've discovered through years of teaching various courses, including Children's Lit and freshman composition, that my reading changes dramatically when I have my students in mind. This realization might seem really obvious, but it sort of hit me when was teaching a Children's Literature course as a graduate student.

I read my graduate school texts for my own courses with discussion in mind. Looking for symbolism and associations, intertextual references, and all that other good stuff. However, when I was reading with an eye toward explaining a text and its concepts to my students, I noticed even more discussable issues than when I read for my own classes.

My favorite story to revisit was definitely "A Rose for Emily," by William Faulkner. I first read it as a sophomore in high school (the same year I read "There Will Come Soft Rains"), and it was one of those really formative moments when I came to love literature on a whole new level. I've always been a fan of the warped and macabre, so Faulkner's slow build to a disturbing twist was right up my alley. It was one of those first moments when I realized even really "good" literature could take a walk on the wild side.

As I read the story this time, I saw new levels of meaning that I hadn't paid attention to before. Faulkner's story is a biting juxtaposition of the ideals of the Old South in direct opposition to the ideals of the New South. And symbolism...yum. Lots of great imagery that informs the story in ways I never realized before.

If there's anyone left out there who hasn't read it yet, go, right now, and give it a look. It's a quick read and endlessly enriching.

And I'm happy to report...my students loved it.

The Weirdest Parts of Prius Ownership

1. No key. There's a "key fob" that can either be put into an ignition-type slot in the dash, or you can just have it in the car somewhere. Same thing with the door locks; if you're standing close enough with the fob in a purse or pocket, you can hit the button and unlock the car.

2. The lack of noise. When I'm sitting at a stop light and the car is running completely on battery, there's absolutely no noise. I have to let off the brake just to remind myself that the car can move.

3. The fact that I've driven 62 miles in it thus far, and the gas gauge has yet to go down from full at all.

4. The backup cam! It's one of my favorite features, but it still freaks me out. When you put it in reverse the cam automatically comes up to show you what's behind. And it beeps inside the cabin, garbage-truck style.

5. Which leads me to the next weird thing...the touch screen! All of the car's controls are via touch screen (with the exception of some controls on the steering wheel). Audio, trip info, and climate are all controlled by touch.

6. The transmission. There isn't a proper gear shift, just a stubby little handle sticking out of the dash that's used to put it in drive and reverse.

7. Which leads to the last, most obvious weird thing: push-button start and park. Just a button. So weird.

The evidence:


Shining green and sparkly in the sun.


Lots of cargo space for hauling books! There's storage space under this area, and the seats fold down flat.


My beloved backup cam. Great for short people like me who have trouble seeing out the back of anything.


Two glove boxes. More room for books.


Birds playing around it. It's a friend of the animals already! There were a bunch of them, but most flew off when they saw the camera (shy).

Friday, March 07, 2008

Holy Crap.

Or holy shit, more like. I'm a new car owner! I got a pretty darn good deal on the Prius. Now I just hope I haven't overextended myself. I'm a total cheapskate. CHEAP I tell you.

Pics tomorrow.

Whee!


I'm driving one of these today! No, I haven't bought it yet, but they let me drive it to work today while they put numbers together. Isn't it cute?! Go GREEN, I say! And the backup camera is the shizzle. How did I ever live without one??
I felt like a complete and utter bad@ss when I walked in and said "I've got an hour, I don't need to test drive it, here's my trade in. I will not finance over 3-4 years, and my interest rate is 5.75%. GO!"
I think I might like this wheelin' and dealin' thing. More news later, when I get numbers.

-

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Steve Carell is singing in my head...


I don't know why--if it's the Springy weather or pure boredom--but I have that scene at the end of The 40-Year-Old Virgin with the cast singing and dancing stuck in my head. It's not a bad thing given my unquenchable desire for all things Steve Carell, but it's still weird.
I've been absent. I do apologize. B has the flu, Daisy is getting big enough to jump on furniture, climb into odd places, and generally terrorize us in new and unique ways, and I've just been too beat to blog.
I can't say there's anything terribly exciting going on, but between puppy homework ("off" command and "focus" leash training) I've been finding some time to read!
I've discovered that the easiest way to handle Daisy-Lou, otherwise known as Pumpkin, Pumkinhead, Puddin', Dollop-O-Daisy, and Baby Puppyyyyyy, is to run the energy right out of her. I typically take her out for about 15 minutes of obedience practice when I get home and then stake her out in the yard for an hour or so to run and frolick as she will. While she's digging in the dirt, eating divots out of the yard, and attacking dandelions I read on the back steps.
I've been having a hard time with the Howard Zinn graphic novel version of A People's History of American Empire. It's not the book's fault at all...it's just big and hard to carry around, so it's been neglected in the midst of my midterm nuttiness.
Yesterday I decided I wasn't in the mood for Rick Moody's Demonology, so I scampered downstairs to pick up Cat's Eye, the March book for the Year of Reading Dangerously. So far, so good! Margaret Atwood is an acquired taste for me. I started with The Handmaid's Tale way back in the day, and I couldn't get into it to save my life. However, with a few years worth of patience, I returned to it and ate it up. My second go at Atwood was The Robber Bride at a friend's recommendation, and I loved it. Although, I have to say, what I originally disliked about Atwood's style is still very apparent whenever I read her stuff.
She's aloof. Cold. Detached.
Atwood is not one for the warm fuzzies. I find her writing quite cerebral, very thoughtful, chock full of interesting bits, entertaining always. But she won't be accused of being a warm hug of a writer. No no.
Cat's Eye is a whirl of metaphor and literary goodness:
"Why do we remember the past, and not the future?", wonders Stephen W. Hawking in "A Brief History of Time". This seems to be the question that constantly echoes behind Atwood's writing in "Cat's Eye", and the axis around which the novel revolves. In attempting to present her own interpretation of "time", Atwood simply achieves to prove that "nothing goes away", as time is a multi-dimensional shape which exists only in our minds, enabling us to travel around dimensions and be a different person in each one.

"Cat's Eye" presents the retrospective of Elaine Risley, a middle-aged acclaimed artist who discovers that she cannot move into the future as she is still trapped in the past, because of the childhood trauma caused by Cordelia, Elaine's tormentor and soul-mate.
Synopsis yoinked from Nabou.
There are a lot of cold villainesses in Atwood's work, and I'm looking forward to getting to know this Cordelia. Zenia, from The Robber Bride, remains a favorite character of mine. It's been far too long since I've read any of Atwood's work, and it's good to be back to it. Come along with me, won't you?

Monday, March 03, 2008

Estella's Up, and Some News I Forgot!

Want your very own autographed copy of Cathleen Schine's newest novel, The New Yorkers? Want to read interviews with Sara Zarr and Mary Doria Russell? Want to peruse some fantastic articles and reviews?! Say no more. Just go check out the March issue of Estella's Revenge. It's got a new look, too.

And I totally forgot to mention it earlier, but I got accepted to a swanky international conference on children's literature. It's in June (or July? Gotta look at my registration again). Anyway, it's in Illinois, hosted by the PhD program I bowed out of. I'm kind of surprised I got in. But I'm looking forward to it very very much.

Crazy Daze!

Wow, it's only 11:11, and my day is already jam-packed. Here we go...

My NEGATIVE review of You Must Be This Happy to Enter, by Elizabeth Crane, is up at BiblioBuffet. Click HERE to read more. Negative reviews always present the biggest challenges for me, but I hope I've pulled this one off in a fair, even-handed, humorous way. It wasn't all bad, but it wasn't good either.

I'm in the throes of haggling over a car. Yep, I think I'm gonna trade in Silvia, my beloved 2003 Honda Accord. She's got 85,000 miles and climbing every day because I commute about 75 miles round-trip. Therefore, I'm looking to buy a hybrid. I have my eye on a 2008 Prius, but based on the crap offer I got this morning, I might consider a Honda Civic Hybrid as well. We'll see. I plan to drive a hard bargain.

This week is the changeover from the first quarter to the second quarter. While, technically, we do operate on a semester system, we offer "accelerated" courses on a quarter schedule as well. I teach Literature-Based Research and Technical Writing for the duration of the semester, while I taught a "college student success" course for the first quarter, and second quarter I'll teach an online version of the Lit-Based Research course. Should be fun trying to cram in 2 short papers, 2 tests, a research paper AND an annotated bibliography (not to mention discussion forum assignments and response papers) into 8 weeks. Pray for my soul.

And while you're at it, pray that I can get my butt away from anything and everything long enough to wrap up next week's BiblioBuffet column today, get Estella's Revenge online (almost there!) and take Daisy to her first installment of Puppy Kindergarten tonight.

And I'm hungry! Gotta go scrounge up something to eat.

Reading and loving: Demonology, by Rick Moody. More about that later.