Tag Archives: reading

Book junkie


I’m moving In a few weeks, and I’ve been busy packing up my life. Altogether too many crafts, every type of drinking glass, too many kitchen implements, and fourteen! boxes of books. I live in an apartment. I’m moving to a smaller one. Those books will ensure the apartment never gets blown over…

So, as I packed the boxes, pitying my movers and worrying about space for the cat, I sorted some out to take to my local used book store, a fantastic kingdom called Doull’s. I’ve written about this place before, but just to remind you, gentle reader, it is a paradise of serendipitous finds filled with staff who can find anything, anywhere. I love this place more than any bookstore I’ve ever entered.

Part of the magic involves the apparently careless piles of books everywhere. I say apparently because I’m onto you, Mr. Doull. I know you are sprinkling bread crumbs to lure your bibliophiles further into the lair, where they will find untold must-have treasures. Tasty titles topple on wobbling towers, begging for rescue.

I find it hard to get down the first hallway without five urgently-needed books in hand unless I close my eyes and plunge dangerously forward. Did I mention there are New Yorker note cards in one corner? They stack very well on top of my seven books (it’s a bit down the hallway).

The wonderful Mr. Doull assessed my cargo, and gave me a value. It wouldn’t have mattered how much he offered, frankly, though he was very fair. In front of me following the transaction lies a glittering trail of books that soon will be mine…once I move, set up my bookshelves and shave the cat.

It’s better than the yellow brick road.

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The really bad thing about good used bookstores


Went to Doull’s bookstore today.
Now, bear in mind I am moving in a few months and this is one of my bookshelves…and I have seven. Seven! Many of which I am selling to friends so I can get matching ones for my living room. They are all full.

So I walk into the store, ostensibly to buy textbooks for my son for school. He wanders off with one of the staff, who knows where everything is and constantly astonishes me by this since his store holds 1000’s of books, in piles and heaps and shelves and more piles.

I’m trapped at the door. Already I’ve found three books I really want to read, now. I pry myself away, vowing to get more than three feet in today, and in search of mysteries as my brain can’t handle much more these days…

Twenty minutes later, my son and I pile up the finds. Nine for me, twelve for him.

I ask the genial owner, he of the white beard and twinkling blue eyes (always my downfall) if he would take some of my discards. He looks a bit shamefaced. “We’re only offering store credit,” he says. “Had to do some roof work.”

Somehow I don’t think that will be a problem. If I didn’t force myself out of there I’d need another seven bookshelves and I wouldn’t have anywhere to sit in my place!

It’s a treasure trove, and fun to share with my son, who is so well read and still wants more more more, just like his mum. We already have two huge totes full of books to move to his student digs in a few weeks.
Well, at least our places are well-insulated.

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Reading “Why I read”, by Wendy Lesser


9780374289201Don’t you just love it when you open a fresh new book and, especially if you are the very first one to get it from the library and it has that scent of new adventure all over it, and you turn to the first page and realize the author is a friend you just haven’t met yet?

I’m on page EIGHT, for heaven’s sake and already I see the rest of the day before me, curled up with Ms. Lesser and a cup of tea and wallowing in her excellent writing and wisdom.

She starts off addressing the readers of her book, something she says she’s not done before, as usually she writes what she writes and hopes people like it at the end (apparently they do, judging from her publication list). This time is different, she says:

But with this book – perhaps because it so often contemplates the very relationship between writer and reader, speaker and spoken to in the works of literature I have loved – I find myself wondering about who you are? Are you a young person…, or are you an older person…? Do you come from a background similar to mine, or are we completely unlike in all sorts of ways? I would hope that the answer might be “all of the above”, and perhaps it can be, for the written word, at least as embodied in the English language, allows “you” to be both singular and plural. It’s not only the writer who can say, with Walt Whitman, “I am large, I contain multitudes”. That truth applies to readers as well. (p.8)

I think I may just take my multitudes for a gentle stroll through this book for an hour or two before I start my writing day. I can already see tea with Ms. Lesser is going to be interesting, comfortable, and stimulating. How I love meeting a new literary friend!

The lie that tells the truth that tells the lie, or how hanging out with novelists is bound to give you a richer life


too-many-booksAnd isn’t it delightful!

Just reading the Paris Review interview with Julian Barnes, well worth a stop…

There’s something about reading writers talking about other writers that makes me wish I could go back and start my life all over again, waste less time watching the sitcoms on must-see Thursday on NBC back in the day, buy myself a good flashlight, and take to reading Russian novels in the dark under my blankets earlier in life. There’s such tremendous richness out there to read and I will never ever get done with it all. Why did I bother with university, with child rearing, when I could have immersed myself in a solitary world of such glory, me, the book, a light source…

My father would tell me I am too social a creature to hide myself away, and he’s right – I need regular drenching in humanity and nature and moving about life to keep my moods stable, and I wouldn’t have given up my kids for the world.

But there they are. The books. All of them, calling to me, begging me to peek under their covers. And the books I’ve already read, who call to me to visit them again, put my mouth once again under their thirst-quenching prose, gulp them back or sip them, masticate them, laugh and cry with them.

How can I leave Nancy Mitford on my shelf for another week? What of the latest Linwood Barclay thriller? Or the beauty of an author as yet undiscovered, who I just know has a book for me hanging out in Doull’s Bookstore down the way?

It doesn’t matter – short story or novel, these books cloak the truths of life in the cover of a make-believe story, so that as you read them, the truths slip out, unseen, barely felt, until your heart senses them firmly ensconced. The story may slip away, you might have the author’s name on the tip of your tongue at parties and never be able to satisfyingly retrieve it, but when the truths are there (see: Nuala O’Faolin, for example), the feeling stays with you.

And that’s the kind of book I want so much to write – one that does just that, curls up inside someone, providing comfort even after they forget my most common name (though I must say DA Brown will give me a great shelf spot, alphabetically speaking).

And I’ll get right on writing that book, just as soon as I finish reading this stack over here…

WIshing…


I’m having one of THOSE days. You know them – the kind where you pick up one thing and then, bored with it, put it back down. You pat your cat, but he stomps away. You think about cooking dinner but it seems too much trouble. You struggle with a new task but it doesn’t go well. You start a million things and toss them all, bored and frustrated with everything.

I blame the weather. It’s been mad here today – snow and freezing rain and howling winds. My window sprung a leak and I spent a fair bit of time trying to prevent a flood. But in general the day slipped by quickly, with little accomplished. I hate when that happens.

Must be part of my Catholic guilt burden, but I figure I SHOULD be doing important stuff with my day, accomplishing things, sorting things out, striding forward into the day.

At the end of such a day, I wish I had the time back, the whole day. The hours I’ve spent watching movies and farting around. I’d use them differently, I figure to myself. I’d ACCOMPLISH stuff.

But I know, on a stormy day like today, my brain is tossed, too. There’s something about a good storm that makes me want to curl up with a good book (which I did) or write letters (did Christmas cards) and a cup of hot cocoa (Bailey’s) and maybe speak with loved ones (which I managed). SO perhaps the day wasn’t wasted after all.

 

Performance-Enhancing Drugs for Writers and more from Grant Snider


Performance-Enhancing Drugs for Writers and more from Grant Snider.

 

love this!

Overwhelmed with reading others’ writing


In Desiderata, the author tells us to avoid comparing ourselves with others as it will leave us either vain or bitter – there will always be those greater and lesser than ourselves.

How right, how true. Especially when it comes to writing.

Sometimes I wander through a bookstore or see what books are being launched every week and am humbled, defeated by all those wonderful stories out there that others are telling much better than I ever could. My writing seems unnecessary except to me, unimportant, wasteful of time and resources. My friends, when they see me in despair, say “why are you doing this, anyway?”, and then there’s always Dorothy Parker and her advice to tell budding writers to give it up while they are still happy.
I become bitter by turns, think hateful thoughts about successful authors, grumble to myself.

And then I read some stories and can feel glee and schadenfreude creeping over me.
“Oh, this is perfectly horrid,” I think. ” I KNOW I write better than THIS!”
Suddenly I feel inspired, right to write, even feel I must write if only to help repair the damage done to literature by these sloppy attempts.

I sway between these points, always awash in despair or joy. Madness.

But can I share a pet peeve?
I am so so tired of people thinking that merely putting things down on paper is writing. That it requires no practice or training or editing or research or even (gasp) reading.
Sheesh.
Sure, there’s such thing as inspiration. I have that a lot. It’s easy to come up with little ditties.
Putting together a coherent story?
Well, that takes practice and damn hard work.

I am agog with admiration at those who succeed at this. And frustrated beyond belief by people who throw a few words down on a plate like a pile of spaghetti and think they are on the same level.

Not that I haven’t done some of that myself, mind you. I apologize to all of you out there who have had to read my messes. You have my sympathy.

But hey, for a moment, didn’t you think, even to yourself, how happy you were about your writing, in contrast to mine?

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.

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?