Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Authors I am Thankful For

Yesterday I was browsing at Idlewild Books and decided I would pick up a short story collection or two.  There were many to chose from so I asked the (handsome) guy behind the counter if he was a short story reader. He said yes, much to my surprise, as I always hear that short stories are a dying form and collections unpublishable. 

He showed me a few titles that he was fond of and then asked what I had read recently that I had really liked. And let me tell you, dear reader, I had absolutely nothing to say. Seriously. It was embarrassing. I was silent and bug eyed as it slowly dawned on me that I had no idea who I liked to read. 

I managed to mumble that I was in school so I hadn't been reading much for pleasure lately. But the question rang in my ears: I'm a writer, how can I not have any favorite authors? How can I not know what I like to read? 

I've had friends go through MFA's in Painting express a similar feeling of discombobulation, the feeling that all you thought you knew has been ripped away and replaced with others ideas or empty spaces, like coming home to find that all of your furniture has been replaced and rearranged. But this was the first moment in which it had occurred to me that I was feeling this way. 

So, after some serious thought and home-bookshelf browsing I am able to articulate five authors that have inspired and continue to engage me as a reader and writer. 

1. Milan Kundera
2. Italo Calvino
3. Dorothy Alison
4. Emily Dickinson
5. Julia Alvarez

Which authors are you grateful for?

Monday, November 23, 2009


"Irony has always been a primary tool the under-powered use to tear at the over-powered in our culture. But now irony has become the bait that media corporations use to appeal to educated consumers. . . . It's almost an ultimate irony that those who say they don't like TV will sit and watch TV as long as the hosts of their favorite shows act like they don't like TV, either. Somewhere in this swirl of droll poses and pseudo-insights, irony itself becomes a kind of mass therapy for a politically confused culture. It offers a comfortable space where complicity doesn't feel like complicity. It makes you feel like you are counter-cultural while never requiring you to leave the mainstream culture it has so much fun teasing. We are happy enough with this therapy that we feel no need to enact social change."(Dan French, review of The Daily Show, 2001)

Who Creates Hate?

I strongly encourage everyone to take the time to read this thoughtful opinion piece by Robert Wright in the NY Times entitled Who Created Major Hasan? 

When I first heard about this tragic event I was fearful for the inevitable reporting and distribution of blame. I wrote on my Facebook page:

I'm so sad about the loss of life at Fort Hood. And I am nervous about the fallout this will bring for mental health professionals and Muslims. I hope the conversation will be about one man and his choices, not about groups of people, and that we can honestly talk about the damage that wartime has on the human psyche.

It is nice to see that Wright is also pushing the dialogue in this direction and that the NY Times has provided him with the platform to do so.

Middle Grade Reviews

No Laughter Here
by Rita Williams Garcia
(4 Scoops)

Walk Two Moons
by Sharon Creech
(4 Scoops)

To Reread or Not to Reread?

Charlotte's Web
by E.B White
(5 scoops)
A classic. 
The themes are still relevant and the language still gorgeous.

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret.
by Judy Blume
(1 scoop)
This book does not stand the test of time. It is poorly structured and the writing is bad. It is not funny, nor salacious, and doesn't even communicate any helpful information about puberty. Also, there is a sub plot, that I had no memory of whatsoever, regarding Margaret's search for an organized religion. It starts out interestingly, but concludes in a wishy-washy way that is extremely unsatisfying. 

The only thing that this book is good for is making fun of! 
See my submission to Book: The Sequel

— From God? It’s Margaret Again… (sequel to Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume)
I’ve got another question. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Project America's Amazing Race for the Next Top Author

I'm Busy! Life is crazy. So I am borrowing this AMAZING post from Literary Nathan Bransford (who I heart) that tells you what you can learn about writing from watching reality TV. Did I mention I heart him?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Two Moms = One Controversial Book Fair

Read this great blog post from Six Boxes of Books about the preposterous "controversy" surrounding Lauren Myracle's Luv Ya Bunches and its inclusion at elementary and middle school Scholastic Book Fairs.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Dollar Dollar Bills Ya'll

As a former recipient of an NEH grant to study Shakespeare & Performance in Ashland, Oregon I am heartened by this decision.

Congress Approves Budget Increase 
for Arts and Humanities Endowments
October 30, 2009- New York Times

The House and Senate on Thursday passed a budget increase for the National Endowment for the Arts and for the National Endowment for the Humanities. The Interior Appropriations Bill for fiscal year 2010 sets budgets for each agency at $167.5 million, up $12.5 million from last year. President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law shortly. The funding comes as Rocco Landesman, the new chairman of the N.E.A., prepares to start a nationwide “Art Works” tour next week. “It’s never enough,” Mr. Landesman said. “But we’re looking for progress at a time when every dollar is precious. For us to get a notable increase is extremely heartening.”

The N.E.A. is currently funded at $155 million, and the White House had requested an increase to $161 million. The agency received an additional $50 million through the stimulus bill. This summer, the House approved $170 million for the arts endowment, while the Senate proposed $161.3 million. The final budget was decided in conference this week and passed by a vote of 247-178 in the House and 72-28 in the Senate.

“This important budget increase recognizes the essential role the arts play in our lives, schools, and communities,” said Robert L. Lynch, president and chief of Americans for the Arts, an advocacy group, in a statement.