September Sorrows

I don’t post a lot of personal stuff on this side of the writing. Not usually. Typically, I leave all that other blathering on JustCauseICan. I may write about the run or the island, a brief sentence here or there, but of little else…except for today. When you lose someone you adore it is hard to focus. That is precisely my problem today. I am shattered by grief and only put back together again by words. So, I must read. Here are the books planned for September. I hope they heal:

Fiction:

  • Babylon Rolling by Amanda Boyden – to remember Hurricane Ivan as it wreaked havoc on my 2004 September wedding.

Nonfiction:

  • The Most Offending Soul Alive: Tom Harrisson and His Remarkable Life by Judith M. Heinmann – in honor of Harrisson’s birth month being in September.
  • Life and Times of Miami Beach by Ann Armbruster – in honor of Hurricane Irma.
  • Workshop: Seven Decades of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop: 43 Stories, Recollections, and Essays on Iowa’s Place in Twentieth Century American Literature edited by Tom Grimes – in honor of Grimes’ birth month being in September.

 

Series Continuations:

  • Fuzz by Ed McBain – to end the series started in July in memory of McBain’s passing.
  • Case of the Man Who Died Laughing by Tarquin Hall – to end the series started in August in honor of Rajiv Ratna Ganghi, India’s youngest Prime Minister’s birth month.
  • Spring of the Ram by Dorothy Dunnett – to continue the series started in honor of Dunnett’s birth month (August).
  • Holding the Dream by Nora Roberts – to continue the series started in honor of August being Dream Month.
  • Tandia by Bryce Courtenay – to end the series started in August in honor of Courtenay’s birth month.

Early Review for LibraryThing:

Confessional: I am still reading Where Eagles Dare Not Perch by Peter Bridgford.


Pep Talks for Writers

Faukner, Grant. Pep Talk for Writers: 50 Insights and Actions to Boost Your Create Mojo. San Francisco: Chronicle Books. 2017.

Reason read: an Early Review for LibraryThing.

Confessional: part of the reason why I requested this book is because of the publisher alone. I admit it, Chronicle is one of my favorites.

When one thinks of a pep talk a didactic three hour seminar or an intense workshop that goes on for days usually does not come to mind. Instead one thinks of an arm-around-the-shoulder delivery of friendly words of encouragement. Cheer leading in the form of an overly optimistic You-Can-Do-It! attitude. That is exactly what you will get with Pep Talk for Writers by Grant Faulkner. 52 pep talks with a little infomercial about the National Novel Writing Month built in for good measure (more on that later). Faulkner’s advice giving approach is friendly, unassuming, and at times even comical. All he really wants to do is unblock your creativity and get you back to writing something… anything. This is the type of book you can buzz through quickly the first time around and then return to for slower savoring when you have more time..like when you are really truly stuck. Faulkner even designs his book that way. In the back lists the problems you might be having and the pages to flip to for possible resolutions. There is no heavy scrutiny of writing technique, no prose bogged down with researched factoids. The advice is simple, bordering on common sense. Be prepared – he draws a lot from what other writers do. Name dropping is a favorite pastime of Faulkner’s.
Now, about that infomercial: Faulkner does mention the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) of which he is the Executive Director many, many, many times. So much so that I was surprised he didn’t include information inviting writers (and wannabes) to get involved with NaNoWriMo next November.

Author fact: Grant Faulkner is the executive director of National Novel Writing Month. I said that already.
As an aside, November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Said that already, too.

Book trivia: 52 chapters implies 52 weeks of writing advice. If you can’t get rid of your writer’s block in a year’s time there might be something else going on with you. Just saying.


January’s Time

This year, more than ever, I am struck by time’s marching; the relentless footfalls of days and weeks passing by. I know that is mortality speaking, but it rings eerie in my mind nonetheless. Not helping the doom and gloom is the first book on my list, On The Beach by Nevil Shute. I wanted a different book from Shute but there isn’t a library local enough to loan it to me.

Here are the planned books for January 2018:

Fiction:

  • On The Beach (AB) by Nevil Shute (previously mentioned) – in honor of Shute’s birth month.
  • Clara Callan by Richard Wright – in honor of Sisters Week being in January.
  • Tea From an Empty Cup by Pat Cadigan – in honor of January being Science Fiction Month.

Nonfiction:

  • Partisans: Marriage, Politics and Betrayal Among the New York Intellectuals by David Laskin – in honor of January 26th being Spouses’s Day.
  • War Child: a Child Soldier’s Story by Emmanuel Jal – in honor of the end of the Sudan civil war.
  • Travellers’ Prelude: Autobiography 1893-1927 by Freya Stark – in honor of Freya Stark’s birth month.
  • Practicing History by Barbara Tuchman (AB) – in honor of Tuchman’s birth month.

Series Continuations:

  • Mrs. Pollifax and the Golden Triangle by Dorothy Gilman – started in September in honor of Grandparents’ Day.

For the Early Review program for LibraryThing:

  • Brain Food: The Surprising Science of Eating for Cognitive Power by Lisa Mosconi, PhD (finishing).
  • Pep Talk for Writers: 52 Insights and Actions to Boost Your Creative Mojo by Grant Faulkner (also finishing).

December Missed

Woops! December left us without me writing about the reading. Not sure how that happened (other than to say “life”), but anyway – here’s what was accomplished for December:

  • Beth Shaw’s Yoga Fit by Beth Shaw (an Early Review book for LibraryThing)
  • Cod by Mark Kurlansky
  • Flashman and the Angel of the Lord by George MacDonald Fraser
  • How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn
  • The Man Who Was Taller Than God by Harold Adams
  • Ringed Castle by Dorothy Dunnett

Here’s a belated look at January 2016 (already started, as you will see):

  1. Flashman and the Tiger by George MacDonald Fraser (the LAST book in the series on my list)
  2. Always a Body to Trade by K.C. Constantine (already read in honor of January being National Mystery month. Read this in a day)
  3. Blue Light by Walter Mosley (already read in honor of Mosley’s birth month. Another quick read)
  4. Checkmate by Dorothy Dunnett (the LAST book in the Lymond Series). It bears noting I am also consulting The Prophecies by Nostradamus (translated by Richard Sieburth) while reading Checkmate.
  5. Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya (an audio book in honor of New Mexico becoming a state in January)
  6. Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov (in honor of Nabokov’s wife, Vera. Pale Fire is dedicated to her and her birthday is in January)
  7. Up, into the Singing Mountain by Richard Llewellyn (to continue the series started last month).

I have been chosen to review a book about the photography of Dickey Chapelle but since it hasn’t arrived yet I can’t put it on the list. I was also chosen to review Liar by Rob Roberge, but I don’t expect that one until February.

On a personal note: December ended with writing to 12 complete strangers. I am really hoping one or two of them become pen pals.


In the Words of E.B. White

In the Words of E.B. White. Martha White, ed. Cornell: Cornell University Press, 2011.

It is hard to believe I started this blog/book review four years ago. This was a gift from someone in my family (mother or sister, I can’t remember) and I’ve picked it up and put it down several times. It’s not the kind of book you can read straight through, nor would you want to. It’s meant to be savored in bits and pieces.

Martha is Elwyn Brooks White’s granddaughter. She begins In the Words of E.B. White with a lovely introduction to who E.B. was to her, as a paternal member of her family. What follows are sections of E.B.’s writings on a variety of topics from aging and animals to writing and the weather and everything in between. These quotations were culled from a variety of places: essays E.B. wrote for the New Yorker, personal letters to friends, even introductions to books written by other people. Martha White left no stone unturned when looking for ways to quote her grandfather. So, pick up this book when you need E.B.’s thoughts on love or spiders or commerce, but expect to find a biography of the man hidden in humor and wit.


Drinking with Men

Schaap, Rosie. Drinking with Men: a Memoir. New York: Riverhead Books, 2013.

One of the very first things you will notice about Drinking with Men is that it is 100% unapologetic. Schaap makes some pretty decent arguments for finding a bar to call your own…even if you are a single woman (stereotypes be damned). Then all of a sudden it hits you, Schaap can really write. She is funny, sarcastic, and above all, a great storyteller. In most cases the introduction to anything is an invitation to yawn. I am not ashamed to say most of the time I skip an introduction to everything. Not this time. Schaap’s introduction is almost a warning, as if to say “Hang on because I am about to tell it like it is. I. Like. To. Drink.” and she tells it with such ease that you keep reading and keep reading. You don’t realize you have let dinner burn, the cats have moved out and your husband has ordered and finished the pepperoni pizza all on his own.

I try not to dabble with discrepancies but when reading about her friend Ed I couldn’t help but notice she intermittently called him Al. Was that something I failed to find the explanation for or what? Truth be known I didn’t go back to see what I missed. I just kept reading.

Favorite lines: I have a few but I’m not sure if they’ll remain in the finished publication so I’ll refrain from exposing them. Weak, I know.

Reason read: Early review program for LibraryThing.

I am hijacking this review for a second: Now seems like a good time to add that I have decided to change how and when I read Early Review/LibraryThing books. Because their arrival to my doorstep is extremely unpredictable I am no longer going to confine myself to reading them within the month received. It just doesn’t work. What if I get a book on December 21st? the old system would have me trying to choke it down in nine days. Because it came in December I was of the mindset it needed to be read in December. Enough of that. Despite it’s arrival date I will take as long as I need to finish it. One rule stays true though – if there is a expected publish date I have to finish at least two weeks before.


Art and Madness

Roiphe, Anne. Art and Madness: a Memoir of Lust Without Reason. New York: Doubleday, 2011.

From the start I struggled to find the purpose of this snapshot-in-time memoir. In the beginning there is a brief mention of Roiphe at age 11 but most of the book is confined to the 50s and 60s; Roiphe’s artistic coming of age. There is a parade of authors mentioned, name drops like Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, Salvador Dali and on and on. Despite a yo-yo’ing time line across the decades there is a constant in Roiphe’s dedication to holding her male counterparts up for success. It was an era when use and abuse of women was the norm and Roiphe takes it all in stride. As she says, she was the muse instead of the writer. Throughout Art and Madness Roiphe illustrates a different side of motherhood as she shamelessly bares the truth about toting her daughter all over predawn New York to answer the drunken beck and call of prominent men. But, with destruction comes the need to rebuild. In the end, Roiphe finds a self-proclaimed redemption. The muse becomes a writer in her own right.

Confessional: Art and Madness was something I would pick up and read voraciously for a day or two at a time. Yet, when I put it down weeks would go by before I would pick it back up again. I read it sporadically, compulsively, and yet, not obsessively. I have no idea why because it really was fascinating.