Thursday, March 26, 2015

Books In the Cloud(s)

I'm flying away from Korea in about 20 minutes. Here are the books that are in my bag to enjoy on the plane:

1. Kindle (lots of books to choose from)

2. Brooklyn Follies - Paul Auster. Thanks to Paul Cunningham for this going-away gift!

3. Game of Thrones - George R.R. Martin. I'm still on page 500. Maybe I'll finish it during the flight.

That's it. Time to fly.


Sunday, March 22, 2015

Even If the Sky Falls Down Book Giveaway WINNER

Sorry I'm late posting this. The winner of my e-book giveaway is Kayla Stratton.

Congratulations, Kayla! A copy of Even If the Sky Falls Down will be sent to you soon.

Thanks to everyone who entered the giveaway or left a nice comment about having already purchased the book. That means so much to me; you can't imagine.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Jude the Obscure

I'm SO glad that I read this novel! It's not Middlemarch, but it's right up there in my affections. But why? Why did Thomas Hardy stop writing novels after Jude? He'd finally hit his stride. He lived another 30 years. I mourn to think of all the great novels stoppered up inside him. Sadly, I know why he quit and went to poetry. Couldn't he have just blown cigar smoke in his critics' faces and told them to shove it?

I'm trying to pull myself together enough to write about this novel. Sue Bridehead was hard work. My friend Mike commented that she was the original Manic Pixie Dream Girl. I understood her impulse to question everything and go with her gut, but after a while I wanted to shake her. It was a relief when she was out of the novel for a bit and Arabella would come clomping back in.

 And poor Jude! It's interesting that Hardy made him a stonemason, for he was always butting his head against stone walls, especially the academic ones that he longed to pass through. Even though he couldn't have what he wanted, he was continually willing to make the necessary adjustments to go on. Jude the Obscure reminded me of Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth, with doors endlessly slamming shut. Heartbreaking. Depressing. I was a wreck; I love this book so much. Why did I think I didn't like Hardy? Now I have to go back and read all his novels. Where should I begin?

I started out reading Jude on my Kindle, but switched to listening sometime after Sue ran away from the teachers' college. The audiobook is on YouTube and it's wonderful. It's even better than Hugh Laurie's brilliant reading of Great Expectations. I wish I knew who the reader is; his voice is gorgeous. I'd listen to him read the Kansas City phone book while washing out his sweaty socks by hand.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

11th Blogiversary + Book Giveaway

Blob turns eleven!  11 blog years. How much is that in dog years?

To celebrate, I'm giving away a free copy of my novel, my e-book, Even If the Sky Falls Down. To register for this giveaway, leave your name and email (@ and . spelled out of course) in the comments section. This giveaway is open to international participants. A winner will be randomly selected on March 20 and announced on March 21.

Wow, it just dawned on me (never very good at math, hence the slow realization) that next year will be twelve years. One dozen. I can't wait.

Thanks so much for being a part of my Read Life. Even after all these years, I'm still awestruck that cyberspace is large and contains multitudes of book lovers.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Then You Can Start to Make it Better

2015 is just barely underway and I'm already in my second book slump! Last weekend I felt the slumpiness coming on and I deftly fended it off with the fresh and witty Farewell, Dorothy Parker by Ellen Meister. I love the idea of a series with Mrs. Parker as a ghost. The quips flow like alcohol, but Meister did her homework and the reader gets to see the Dorothy with a strong social conscience and unresolved personal issues. The specter is also...hmmm, how can I put this delicately? Horny!

Anyway, a fun read. If I'd had any sense, I would have gone on with Meister's just-released follow-up Dorothy Parker Drank Here. But no. I must have shown the soft, white part of my neck because the next week found me mired in slumphood and moving through these three books as if swimming in molasses:

1. A Game of Thrones - George R.R. Martin. I am enjoying the story, but I've hit a wall. It's not Martin. It's me.

2. Vincent van Gogh - Naifeh and Smith. I'm halfway through, but it's hard work even when I'm not in a slump. I don't understand. Naifeh and Smith have an engaging style. I fairly whistled at my reading when I read their biography of Jackson Pollock which is also a lengthy tome.

3. Burmese Days - George Orwell. I threw Orwell into the mix because I've learned over the years that he can fix anything. Also, in these last days of my expat life, I thought it would be something to hang onto and ride out this arid interval. No joy.

Thursday found me moodily clicking through my blogroll. Everyone can read but me. I happened upon my longtime favorite Shelf Love and Teresa was talking about A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara and how it's dark and depressing. She mentioned Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure.

 I sat up straighter and ceased scowling. In one of those flashes that illuminate everything, I knew that it was time to read Jude. Jude would get me out of this reading slump. I searched my Kindle and found a copy that I had downloaded during a short-lived fervor to read only 19th century authors.

Now it's Sunday afternoon. So far, so good. Or bad, as is the case with Jude Fawley. Actually, he's on an upswing because his barbarous wife Arabella has just decided to quit him and emigrate to Australia and he's once again free to pursue his studies. I've just started Part Second, as Hardy calls it and I'm reading! Really really reading. What a relief.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

"Either This Wallpaper Goes, Or I Do"

Because Dorothy Parker and Vladimir Nabokov lived in hotels, I really thought I would like to as well. When the lease was up on my apartment and I still had a month or so to go in Korea, it was exciting to finally realize one of my literary fantasies.

It's been about ten days and I've decided that I couldn't do this on a permanent basis unless I had a hotel suite rather than just a room. That was a possibility, but I had to stay within a certain budget. I've got two weeks to go, but who's counting?  I am.

To begin the virtual tour, it's a room with no view. There is some kind of steel thing in front of the window. If I crane my neck upward, I can get a glimpse of the sky. Good thing there's television because it keeps me from having to look at the wallpaper. 

Did I say wallpaper? I meant to say wallpaperS. I counted one morning, and there are six different wallpaper patterns in that one room:

1. Zebra - This is the main pattern. It covers two-and-a-quarter walls.

2. Shiny Black Roses - This is on two beams. I think they are beams.

3. Cellular Mitosis - This is on the window-with-no-view wall. A two-foot strip. The background is cream-colored and the cells are black and blue.

4. Shocking Lime Green - The headboard.

5. Brown Gingham - This comes after the cellular mitosis, finishing off the window wall, and continues on to the wall opposite the bed, where the TV hangs.

6. Red-and-White-Checkerboard - This is around the light fixture on the ceiling, and nowhere else. Meant as a flourish, or did the decorator just get tired? Nausea is also a possibility.

There is a long counter that runs the length of the TV wall. It's bright green.  A small dining table with two chairs are next to the window wall. The chairs are covered in lime green crushed velvet. The bedspread is orange and pink.

The bathroom -- fixtures, floor, walls, towels -- is stark white. It's restful. There's a bathtub, so I go there often.

When I'm in the room, I find myself unable to read more than a few pages at a time. Writing? Forget it. I watch a lot of CNN and BBC.

Oscar Wilde died in a cheap hotel in France. During his last illness, he famously remarked something along the lines that he was "...fighting a duel to the death with this wallpaper. Either it goes or I do." I wonder what his wallpaper looked like.  What would he have made of the haphazard pastings in my room? Perhaps they would have killed him off weeks earlier. I prefer to think that they would have jolted him back to life.


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

That Time I Called Up Barbara Kingsolver

“What really knocks me out is a book that, when you're all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn't happen much, though.”
― J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

After almost eleven years of blogging I thought I had unpacked alllllllllll my bookworm stories.

When I saw the above quote on Goodreads yesterday, I was reminded of the time I called up Barbara Kingsolver more than a quarter of a century ago. I had just finished reading The Bean Trees for the second time and was seized by an impulse. Raymond Carver had died a few months earlier, shortly after I first discovered him and his short story "A Small, Good Thing".  I had wanted to call up Raymond Carver. I had waited too long.

Well, I wasn't going to make the same mistake. Kingsolver was young and as far as I knew, in good health, but the world was an unpredictable place.

I called Information and gave her name and city. Surprise! She was listed! I dialed the number, heart pounding. A woman answered on the second ring. I asked if I could speak to Barbara Kingsolver.

The woman said, "This is Barbara Kingsolver."

 I gasped and got the conversation off to a fine start by babbling something like, Wow, you answered the phone yourself. (Memory has been kind and not allowed me to remember the exact phrasing I used.)

Kingsolver must have been wondering what kind of ditz she had on the line, but she replied calmly, "Well, of course. Why wouldn't I?"

Pulling myself together, I said that I had read The Bean Trees twice and LOVED it so much. The story. The characters. Everything. I thanked her for writing it. I told her she was a wonderful writer. The praise was interspersed with much hyperventilating and exclamations of disbelief that I was really really REALLY talking to Barbara Kingsolver.

Kingsolver asked me, "Where do you live?"

I actually couldn't remember for a moment. "Oklahoma."

"Oh, Oklahoma. I have a question: Did I describe the landscape accurately for that part of Oklahoma? I've actually never been there."

"Oh yeah, it's fine. It's wonderful. I was convinced you'd been there."

"I'm relieved," said Kingsolver.

It's hard to remember all of the conversation accurately because so much time has passed and I was in such a rapt state of fangirlhood during the call. I remember my face and lips feeling numb. I could barely hold onto the receiver because my hands were slick with sweat.

Here's one bit I remember: "You're not going to let anyone make The Bean Trees into a movie, are you?"

"No one from Hollywood has called me."

"I hope they don't, because ... well, remember The Color Purple?"

Kingsolver laughed. "That's funny. One of my friends had the exact same warning."

I don't remember how the call ended. I do remember that Kingsolver was patient and kind and she didn't hurry me off the phone.  I have the impression that I thanked her about fifty million more times for writing the book and for talking to me. After the call ended, I sat with the phone in my lap for almost an hour staring at it, my pulse still galloping.

Even though the phone call was a success, I've never had the audacity again. I've written a few fan letters and gotten warm responses. I've met a couple of favorite authors face-to-face. In each case, I hope if they remember anything, it would be my warm enthusiasm and not my inane burbling.

Have you ever called up an author or contacted him or her in some other way? What kind of response did you receive?