Tag Archives: books

Returning to modesty

I picked up this book the other day – bought it new! Thought it might have some pertinence in our lives of TMI, loudness, lack of privacy or respect, rape culture writ large and small.


It’s not that the author is a nutter, exactly. I mean, she does have some good points about modesty and keeping oneself for those who honour you with a relationship. Though I don’t want to come straight out and talk about my misspent youth (which was about four years ago), I have found that intimacy is MUCH better with someone you like, or better still, love. I do feel that the “hookup” expectations are of more benefit to men, who enjoy that sort of thing, than to women, who often react better sexually in a place of safety.

Me, I always made certain I could physically take down the men I dated if I needed to.

Until one time, I couldn’t. And that was the end of taking the risk. Because someone took me, without permission.

So then you get to being distrustful and all that and maybe that isn’t where you want to be.

So she has a point.

Maybe being more hesitant, more modest, more unassuming would help things, reduce assaults. Fair enough, she encourages men to be modest, too.
But not very firmly. It’s mostly about women.

And then she starts going on about the shame – about how masturbation is a sin, about how lying with a woman who is menstruating is a sin, and all that stuff that simply makes sex and bodies “dirty”, and she loses me.

Yes, I want to be respected and treated with concern and care. But no, I’m not going to cringe in the dark, afraid of the sexual being that I am. I’m not going to insist men only hold my hand on the third date, and never kiss til the sixth or seventh.

Life is too damn short.

The author says she got hate mail when she originally published the book. I’m not surprised. It’s not so much her idea of abstinence that is offensive, because that is always a viable choice, but her slut-shaming women who take the pill, who have more than one partner, who enjoy their bodies. We’ve had enough of that, don’t you think?IMG_0264.JPG

Authors Beware—High Drama for Authors

Authors Beware—High Drama for Authors.

Well-worth-a-read discussion about pay for publishing presses. Way to break an author’s heart…

And hey, join SPAWN. Work together for decent treatment. http://www.spawn.org

Don’t ever get old: review

cover14292-mediumWhew. In the first pages excerpt of this book (available online from NetGalley) so much is told, so much is started. I am awash in books to read and yet I’ve put this one on my “to grab soon” list. Friedman can write, powerfully, and I’m dying to see if the rest of the book pans out.
Though I have to say I am building up a resistance to the following: Thrillers involving Nazis; anything involving autism; anything involving children being put in harm’s way; more stories about the Great Wars that focus only on the American/British side of things. Or the French Resistance. Or anything with the words “50 shades of …” in the title. Or female porn loosely written up as if it was a good, mind-nourishing tale of female submission and torture.

This book looks like it might have two of my resistance items. But it also has one of my favourite things – a crusty old main character, who isn’t any better than he should be, who is a bit selfish and crabby and still holds grudges. I love characters with grudges.

I’d have a lot of them, myself, except for the memory loss I’ve suffered with MS.

But grumpy I can do. So I want to hear what this fellah Buck Schatz (even love the name) gets up to. Must go round up the whole book.

Writing tips and tricks and techniques and all that bumpf…

I have a zillion “how to write” books. They seemingly multiply on their own in my bookshelf, but if I think my way through it, they all appear when I am feeling uncertain about my writing and feel the need for a “helpful book” to sort myself out. I buy them, maybe peek through a bit of them, and then toss them for the next novel.

Jodi Meadows, in Pub(lishing) crawl, has written a blog entry that really says all you need to do:

1. Read. Read lots and lots and lots and lots.

2. Write. Write lots and lots and lots.

3. Critique.

I’d probably add #4, since that’s where I fail worst: Send stuff out.

I think the critiquing and sending stuff out parts are the most important for me, anyway, at this point. Critiquing your own work is one thing, but learning to critique others’ is even better. The Canadian Authors’ Association has these carefully defined critique groups, with rules that are followed religiously and which result in real progress with writing. The process allows writers to hear criticism of their work without the duty to respond, and let’s them take away the critique and choose whether to use the info. Because of this everyone takes the time to write a careful, thoughtful comment on the story. I’m a member of the Early Reviewers and Member Giveaways groups on LibraryThing, and in exchange for free books, you are asked to write a review.

Some I’ve sloughed off, I admit, mainly because I either didn’t like the book or couldn’t remember it (argh!)(I do read a LOT).  But others I try to write a good review for, with few details of the story but creating the desire in someone to read it. It helps me see the good parts of some not great books, and the review as a whole helps me find the problems in my own writing.

The sending thing in is a battle for me. So I’ve made a pinky swear to send in at least one of my mystery stories for publication. I’ve got my class holding me accountable. That, and contest entry deadlines, mean that I do send things in occasionally. I realize I should be keeping track of them in a book somewhere, or on my computer, and I’m thinking now, ooh, I should get that organized RIGHT now.

But then I would be falling down on my #2 – time for me to write a lot. I am so far behind in Nanowrimo I may never catch up! Yikes!

When I have a little money, I buy books; and if I have any left, I buy food and clothes.

Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus knows me well. I am helpless in the face of books. I read about them and long for them – hardcovers, softcovers, and the crack of readers everywhere, ebooks. Used, library, bought. I am helpless in a library – hundreds of books and all of them free! I always come home with way too many to read before the loan time expires.

Used book shops used to suck me in for hours before I lost my ability to stand for long periods. Now I bring my walker and sit…and buy. I dress in cast-offs from Value Village, I enjoy frequent nights of pasta and Kraft Dinner, but my bookshelves, virtual and actual, groan under their weight.  I am actually looking at purchasing MORE bookshelves.

But the thing about ebooks is that you can gather hundreds of them in one tiny space. So the feeling of being enclosed by books vanishes and you can merrily stack up “to be reads” in a secret cupboard that only you know about (well, and your credit card company).

Lately I signed up for Librarything http://www.librarything.com/, where I immediately volunteered to be an early reviewer. It is madness. You can skim through books coming out soon and then select ones you are interested in and the authors send it to you in exchange for a review!!! Life is very good. For an addict like myself, it allows me to feed my craze with no payment other than writing, which I should be doing already. It’s like cutting back on chocolate by eating caramels.

True, early reviewers have a time limit on reviewing, and many of the books are not as worth spending time with as others, but it’s fun to see what’s out there and sometimes you are very pleasantly surprised. I just finished reading “Dirty Little Angels” by Chris Tusa, for example, and initially wasn’t prepared to like it. All the characters seemed unlikable, no one to root for in it all, the geography was grim in terms of visuals and people. It seemed totally grey. And yet…I got sucked in. I found myself unable to put it down, this story of helpless people surviving in a nasty place. It took me a while to figure out that the protagonist was a girl (I blame reading it at night), and even before I did, I could feel affinity for her creeping in. Heck, I wanted to invite her over and give her hot chocolate, poor wee mite. But she isn’t a poor wee mite. She’s bristly and dangerous in her own way, but with an inner life that is seriously messing with her or saving her. It’s hard to tell.

I never would have picked up this book. But now I know the author and will keep my eyes open for more. So, library thing, you rock.

Stop me before I hurt myself….

I can’t keep up!  Everywhere I look there are books books books I want to read read read! I have a stack of to-be-reads that is threatening to squash the dog, and then there are the ebooks that no one can see but me, but they are growing in piles, too.  And yet, and yet – everywhere I look there is another one I feel I must read.

I thought I was safe reading Geist Magazine. It’s published in Vancouver and usually altogether too twee for me. I feel as if I should be smokin’ some BC gold and threading my toes through long sweetgrass if I am going to read that magazine – and it’s so Vancouver-centric I often smell the pacific blowing through. Being more of an Atlantic gal, I like my stories needlessly grim, preferably involving weather, religion, and perhaps some abuse. Or laughter and families. So first, it blew me away with a lukewarm review of Johanna Skibsrud’s The Sentimentalists. This Giller prize winner left me cold. I did HAVE to read it, though, and bought it on an e-book so I could consume it as soon as possible, while the publishing house scampered to ramp up production. I would have expected a glowing fawning report, like so many of the other reviews. It wasn’t. How refreshing.

But the killer was “The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them” by Elif Batuman. Now, who could resist such a title? The excerpt, where an Aeroflot employee talks about a Russian phrase, “resignation of the soul” just poured spice on the review and I felt I had to read this book, now.

I can’t stop myself. It’s like eating a box of chocolates – you read (or eat) and read and read until you feel you must burst, and then, you read some more. I have three books out from the library now. I hate the library. First of all, it’s like free candy and I inevitably grab more than I should.  It’s too wonderful, the way books leap out from everywhere with tempting titles and back copy and subjects. They beg me to take them home.  But only for a while. And there’s the rub. I am always in the middle of at least two other books, and when I bring those library ones home, they want to be read first. But the other books object. “Just finish me”, they whisper seductively, “you know you want to…”

Or they say, “Hey, the print on that library edition is too small, don’t you prefer to read me?” My e-book thingie is a terrible temptation. It weighs nothing, it holds huge books without hand strain, and I can read it without my glasses on my very worst sight days.

But I can’t use it in the tub. Or the library books. So of course I need more books, of the bathtub variety. Or magazines. Like Geist. Or the excellent New York Review of Books. Which just starts the whole thing again.

Added to that is the feeling I should be writing my own books. So my brain wrestles endlessly between the need to read to learn how to write, and the need to write to learn how to write. And then there are the books specifically on how to write, which I buy and then never read. But they are there, sending me ethereal vibes, throwing dust on themselves so that I feel guilty about not reading them.

I feel like I am on a moibus strip, endlessly travelling, unable to pause. And it’s all glorious. For the first time, I can wallow in reading. Unless the dog needs walking, or I need to write something, or I feel the need to move.

The old addiction questions come back to me:

read alone? yup.

read before breakfast? yup

affecting budget? yup

people speak to me about my reading? yup

is it disturbing my ability to work? yup yup yup.

I suppose, years from now, I’ll be on the street corners, begging for loose change for the used book store, but for now, I’m going to plunge the depths of my addiction. Now is that Russian book available for Kobo?

Winter and the feeling of impending doom

They are threatening a “snowpocalypse” today throughout North America – a huge storm spanning from Texas to Nova Scotia, throwing fistfuls of snow and spitting ice on everyone in-between. Everyone is talking in breathless tones on the weather channels, speaking of disaster warnings and the need for shelters and calling out the National Guard. On the weather channel today, a man in Oklahoma stood in a full inch of snow talking about how all the public buildings were shut down in this disastrous storm.

When I was a kid, I don’t remember this total sense of panic about big storms. Maybe it existed and I just wasn’t clued in, but I can’t help but think that part of this is the inflation of news hysteria.  As a weather broadcaster, these are the things you live for – the moments where you might make the main news broadcast instead of just the weather at the end of the news, after everyone has dozed off.  So the weather becomes hyped to the max, creating panic. It’s the only time the weather broadcast can out hype war reporting or political squabbles.

I read somewhere on Facebook about how they really wanted to read that bookstores were mobbed in preparation for the storm. It’s a lovely thought.  What if, instead of panicking, we all just settled in and appreciated winter’s might, its beauty, the roar of a fire, and the opportunity to slow down and read a book, talk to one another, play a board game by candlelight, hold each other. Yes, I’m not denying that the weather can be dangerous, and there’s a need to protect those without appropriate heating and support, but a lot of the danger would be minimized if we just stayed home and relaxed into the storm. Roads would be safer, there’d be a smaller demand on infrastructure, we could all calm down.

But calmness doesn’t work on the news.  So weather reporters get more and more hysterical as the storm approaches.  Everyone races out to buy enough food for a month. And no one seems to cancel anything, as if everything we are doing is totally important – children have to go to practices, school just can’t be missed, work can’t rest for a day. And yet, if we paused everything, it might just be okay.

And maybe we could all read a book.  And how lovely would that be?