Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Recent Work/Reading

My new (in the 4th month, is it still new?) job as librarian in a junior high (grades 7-8) has been a bit frustrating at time. I have read so few of the books that my students read/should be reading. I taught high school, mostly juniors and seniors, English for fifteen years, and I have no children. I hated the Children's Literature class that I took two summers ago. I haven't yet acquired a taste for much young adult literature either. So, I looked forward to reading something by an author that I knew and respected. I wasn't disappointed either.

Years ago, I read one or two short stories by Sherman Alexie, and I had seen the movie based on some of his short stories, Smoke Signals. I have heard him interviewed on radio and television, but I have never read one of his novels. When I heard that he won the National Book Award for Young People's Literature this year, I was excited for two reasons. First, I actually knew the author of a book that I might want to purchase for my school's library collection. Second, I remember enjoying the stories and the film and enjoying his interviews--he seemed like an affable, funny guy.

The whole time I was reading The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian I kept thinking about Whitman's "Song of Myself." (I'm sure some smarter critic has already pointed out the similarities, but I can't find evidence of it online.) At first I thought the similarity was just a physical similarity--the printed pages looked like some (much?) of Whitman's poem: The short, sometimes only one sentence, paragraphs and the use of cataloging, parallel structure, and repetition. After I finished reading the novel, I thought more about the thematic similarities, and I kept trying to remember Whitman's line with "barbaric yawp" in it. The next morning at work after I finished the novel , I pulled a book of Whitman's poems off the shelf--ah! the joys of working in a library. I browsed through "Song of Myself" to find the line, which is in the final part. I read through this part of the poem several times, and I really think that the whole part sounds like Arnold Spirit, Alexie's protagonist.
"The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me....he
complains of my gab and my loitering.

I too am not a bit tamed....I too am untranslatable,
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.

The last scud of day holds back for me,
It flings my likeness after the rest and true as any on the
shadowed wilds,
It coaxes me to the vapor and the dusk.

I depart as air....I shake my white locks at the runaway
I effuse my flesh in eddies and drift it in lacy jags.

I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,
If you want me again look for me under your bootsoles.

You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,
But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,
And filter and fibre your blood.

Failing to fetch me at the first keep encouraged,
Missing me one place search another,
I stop some where waiting for you."
(I wish that I knew Ginsberg's Howl better, and I might be able to make some connections between it and this book too. I know that Howl has been much compared to Whitman's "Song of Myself. " I could go into a detailed comparative analysis here, but since I'm not an English teacher or student right now, I'm not. Plus, it would bore and/or scare off my few remaining readers, and I wouldn't want to do that. )

Arnold Spirit is this boy who has so much bad in his life that it would be easy to accept him giving up and settling for a life of too little everything except bad. Instead, he strikes out on his own and succeeds, but not without struggle and not without the help of family and friends along the way. Wow! What a trite summary. I promise this novel is not trite!

I think this novel tells a great American story. And you have to love a book with a character who compares the joy of reading a good book with getting a boner. :-)

Thursday, November 29, 2007


"I wondered if that was how forgiveness budded, not with the fanfare of epiphany, but with pain gathering its things, packing up, and slipping away unannounced in the middle of the night."

"It was only a smile, nothing more. It didn't make everything all right. It didn't make anything all right. Only a smile. A tiny thing. A leaf in the woods, shaking in the wake of a startled bird's flight.
But I'll take it. With open arms. Because when spring comes, it melts the snow one flake at a time, and maybe I just witnessed the first flake melting."

What beautiful words to end a book that has so much of the ugliness of mankind in it. I have finally read Kite Runner. It had been in my to-read periphery for a long time. I started it a couple of weeks ago and wasn't really that impressed with the opening chapters, so I put it aside to read Beige (a work read). I was worried that Kite Runner couldn't satisfy or impress me enough to live up to its reputation--everyone that I know who has read it raves about its greatness. I shouldn't have been worried. Once I went back to it, I started being drawn into the story. I cried more than once as I read, and I wanted to read the book constantly. The last book club read was such a disappointment that I had been feeling rather listless about reading. I needed to fall in love with a book. Kite Runner cured my reading blahs.

I wasn't that impressed with Khaled Hosseini's prose style, but the plot of this novel is great. When I finished the book this morning at work, I wished that I knew how to talk about music. The language of this book is not musical, but the last three or four chapters felt like a symphony to me. Or I felt like a symphony should be the background music to this ending. I really can't explain what I mean, but my first thought after I read the last sentence was this: What an ending! I wish I knew musical terms. If I figure out how to explain myself, I will post more on Kite Runner later.

I think I will go read one of the stories in the latest book club selection, No one belongs here more than you, and go to bed. Oh wait, before I go, I just have to say one thing: What about those Cowboys! 11-1 and a clinched playoff berth. Woohoo! :-)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A Picture Perfect Day

Today was a gorgeous day! A breezy 66 for the high, and the sky was beautifully blue. I wish I had a photo to post to show you how glorious it was today.

After lunch today, I walked down the street to the middle school next door to the junior high where I am librarian. I took the long way to and from the other school so that I could be outside for as long as possible. On the walk back, I realized how good my life is right now. Even though I am not completely happy with my new job (I miss being in a high school but I'll save that story for a future post), I am so happy not to have to worry about submitting grades for students by the end of the day tomorrow. All week, my teacher co-workers have stressed over getting their grades submitted before the Thanksgiving break begins. It truly is a nice feeling not to have to worry about that kind of thing anymore. :-)

In addition to work, I am almost finished with my next to last semester of grad school. The 4-hour course that I am taking this semester is the hardest course that I have had to take, and I will be so glad when it's over.

Most importantly, my personal life is great! I will write specifically about that later, but, for now, I just want to say that I am very happy.

It's been over a month since I have posted an entry here, but I plan to post more regularly once this semester is over. Maybe I will regain those five or six readers that I used to have. If not, maybe I will find some more.

Have a great Friday everyone.

Friday, October 05, 2007

A Reading Challenge

I haven’t been blog reading or writing much lately. I just can’t seem to find the time. Last night, while sitting in my website development course, I browsed the most recent entries from the blogs on my feeds page.

Reading blogs about books inevitably leaves me wishing that I had more time to read or planning a trip to the bookstore or both. Last night was no different. Danielle at A Work in Progress posted her list of books for Ex Libris's Russian Reading Challenge. I have only attempted a couple of challenges in the past, and I don’t believe that I successfully completed either of them. Therefore, I was pleasantly surprised to see that for this challenge only four books in a one year are required. I might be a slow reader, but even I read more than four books in a year. So I think that I will participate in this challenge.

Here is my tentative list of Russian reads and some comments:

War and Peace - Do I dare take on such a lengthy book?
Fathers and Sons – I have wanted to read this book for since one of my former AP students did a research paper on it.
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich – I read Gulag Archipelago as a teenager. I don’t remember much about it except that if was a long book.
Something by Nabokov – probably not Lolita, perhaps Pale Fire – for a while, every where I looked, people were talking about him.
Some Chekhov plays/stories
The Brothers Karamazov - I loved Crime and Punishment and feel like I should read more Dostoevsky.
Something by a female Russian novelist?
Russka by Edward Rutherford – I bought this book at Half-Priced Books a while back. It might be a good review of Russian history.

Surely I can find the time to read at least four of these in 2008. I will be finished with grad school in May and should have lots of free time next summer.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

So much to blog about, so little time to blog

I want to blog about Gloria Steinem's lecture and book signing last night. However, I'm too tired now and will write about her later. For now, I will just say that I am still in awe.

I also need to blog about Michael Chabon's reading last week and about recent reading. Maybe I will find the energy and the time tomorrow.

Now, I'm going to read myself to sleep.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Is there a 12-step program for book buying addicts?

Hi, my name is Kim, and I'm addicted to buying books.

I went to Borders with Valerie today. She has been lusting for a new computer game, which we found out Borders does not carry. I had no intention of buying books although I should have bought books for the website development class that starts next Thursday. I did, however, want to look at a graphic novel, American Born Chinese, that I will probably purchase for my library's collection. (I love being able to say my library's collection.) Anyway, I looked at that book and browsed past the 3-for-2 table, but I really didn't see anything that I felt like I had to buy. Then a salesperson passed by and informed us that there were more 3-for-2 tables and the 3 could come from any of those. Damn the friendly salesperson! Why couldn't she just pass by and smile and go on about her business? Why didn't she ignore us? Of course, I ended up finding Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel, a book that I really wanted, and since I was buying one, I thought I should buy another, Wild Stars Seeking Midnight Suns by J. California Cooper, which meant that I got one for free, Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl.

When I was paying for those books, I realized that I should have brought the titles of the books for my class and bought those instead, but I did not put my purchases back or even consider doing so. Now, I will have to go back to the bookstore this weekend and get those two books. Maybe I should just order them from, which would keep me out of temptations way. I don't seem to have book buying binges when I use Amazon. Oh well, what's done is done.

I think I'll go read for a while now. Later.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Updates - New Job, Recent Reading, and Other Stuff

New Job - Week 3
School started yesterday, and I had a good, busy day. Students spent the day with their advisory (homeroom) teacher, and each group came by the library for a brief introduction to me and the library. I am really looking forward to opening the library for business in a couple of weeks. I will be teaching lessons to the reading classes on a regular basis, but I won't have to grade their lessons, so I am looking forward to teaching them.

I am figuring out how to handle library business. I had hoped that I would have some kind of training on how the automation system works, but I am teaching myself. I am asking lots of questions and probably driving people crazy, but once I learn how to do things, I will feel much more confident. If my past is any indication, I will become one of the experts in the district. I may never know children's/young adult lit as well as some of those other librarians, but I will know the technical aspects of the job better than most of them. I'm not bragging. I know me, and I know this will happen. Well, maybe I am bragging just a bit. ;-)

So far, I like my new job and my new co-workers. In other words, no one has pissed me off yet. Today, for the first time, I heard someone griping about working there. It was really kind of strange last week when we spent a day listening to a presentation about inclusion (a hot button issue in education these days) and no one became hostile with pessimism. I don't know if the faculty was just on its best behavior, but when people asked questions, they seem to earnestly be trying to better understand or voice sincere but not fatalistic doubts. It was not a bad day at all. I, for one, was trying to be on my best behavior. I paid attention and even participated when required. Remember, I'm new here.

Recent Readings
Last week, or maybe it was the end of the week before, I finished reading The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood. I have to preface my review with this statement: Margaret Atwood is one of my two favorite authors, so I'm probably not an objective reviewer of her works. Still, I really enjoyed this retelling of the myth of Odysseus. This book is part of series of authors retelling myths. In this retelling, Penelope, Odysseus's wife, defends herself against blame for the killing of the suitors and especially twelve maids, who were slain by Odysseus and their son Telemachus after Odysseus returned from his twenty-year journey. Not only does Penelope tell the story but she tells it from hell. I found the story interesting and bitingly humorous as Atwood's always are. I really enjoyed Penelope's jealousy of Helen, and the portrayal of Helen is especially funny.

Before The Penelopiad, I also read Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson. This short autobiographical novel was really good, and I thought that I would post a blog specifically about it, but I just haven't done it yet. Maybe I will do it later, but I am not making any promises. For now, I will just say that I think this is great book. It is the second Winterson book that I have read, and I am officially a fan of hers now. I plan to read more of her works very soon. I even put myself on her mailing list so I can read her monthly columns posted on her website.

Now, I am reading Interpretation of Murder by Jeb Rubenfeld for my book club. It's a mystery which I usually enjoy, and it has Freud and Jung as characters, which so far is interesting. I am really enjoying the setting--1909 in New York City.

Other Stuff
Actually, I have run out of blogging steam and want to go to bed and read for a while. Maybe I will write about other stuff tomorrow. Later.

Sunday, August 19, 2007


I LOVE shoes, and I love shoe shopping, which almost always has a good outcome. I can't say the same for clothes shopping, which is almost always a depressing experience. However, I haven't been on a shoe buying binge in a very long time. Three years ago, I moved and purged my very large shoe collection, and I have not let myself rebuild it much since.

Last week, I decided that if I couldn't wear capris or knee-length skirts sans hose at my new job then I would just have to wear cute shoes. While I understand the desire for teachers to look professional, I do not understand how anyone can justify requiring hosiery in the state of Texas from March through October. Actually, I think the hosiery requirement is sexist and could probably be fought in court, but I don't think that's a battle I want to pursue as a new employee.
A couple of weeks ago, I went shoe shopping with Valerie before she started her new job. I tried on a pair of Nurture shoes and liked them, but I resisted buying them then. Today, I couldn't resist them or the other two pairs that I bought after an hour and a half of trying on shoes at Dillards. Before we went to Dillards, we had already spent some time browsing and trying on shoes at two other places.

Valerie had never been shoe shopping like this with me, and I'm not sure that she was prepared for it or enjoyed it, but she did stick it out and never got pissy. I felt sorry for the shoe salesman though. The store was very busy--the annual tax-free shopping weekend really brings out the shoppers--and I kept finding one more pair to try on.

So, now I need to find some cute pants and cute longer skirts to wear with my cute shoes. Finding those items won't be nearly as easy or as much fun as finding these shoes:

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Early wakeup call

One good thing about my new job is that it is 30 minutes closer to home and it doesn't start quite as early. So I should be able to get up an hour later to get ready, which is what I have done so far this week. Today, however, I was awakened over an hour before my alarm was to go off--a very loud clap of thunder and very bright lightning--Tropical Storm Erin had arrived. I couldn't go back to sleep, so I got up early.

I'm looking forward to today's new teacher training because it is my first day of job-specific training. I have been officially at work for the past three days and, except for yesterday when I was in training, I have mostly pretended to work. I haven't had network access so I couldn't even pretend to work in the library collection.

Surprisingly, I'm not feeling stressed about my new job, at least not in a way that I recognize. I'm sure I will feel stressed some time in the next few weeks, and I hope that I don't walk in on the first day and feel completely overwhelmed. I think I will probably be okay until I teach my first library orientation, which will probably be the 3rd or 4th week of the school year. Hopefully, by then, I will feel like I belong there and know what I'm doing.

My biggest concern about this job is isolation. I don't know anyone at this school, and I tend to be a loner. I don't mingle very well, and I don't make friends easily. I don't have a library aide, and I'm the only person in my "department" so I don't have anyone that I can tag along with to lunch and not feel like I'm imposing.

I have met several teachers over the past few days. They have been there doing what I used to do, making copies, decorating their rooms (well, I haven't done that in a long time, but I did do it), and planning lessons--yeah, I don't miss those things at all. Maybe one of them will feel sorry for me and invite me to lunch with them next week when we have staff development. (Is it just me or do I seem overly concerned about lunch?)

Funny thing about the vast majority of the teachers that I have met so far--they are so young! I feel like I will be the oldest person on the campus. I guess younger students attract younger teachers. I hadn't expected there to be that much difference in the teachers' ages than the high school.

Well, I have rambled on long enough. It's one snooze past the time that my alarm would have gone off if I hadn't gotten up early. I guess I better start getting ready for work. I should probably leave early since I will have to brave the rains of Tropical Storm Erin.

Maybe this weekend I'll find time to write about the books that I've been reading lately. I hope so. Later.

Monday, August 13, 2007

New Librarian Day 1

Today was my first official day on the job as a school librarian. Unfortunately, I didn't have computer access and won't get any job specific training until Wednesday afternoon. So, I spent my first day doing very little except pretending to work. I did try to get my office organized and went through a summer vacation's worth of mail, but I was extremely bored for much of the day. I made a list of pretend tasks for me to do tomorrow, just in case I still don't get computer access.

It's really too bad that I have to wait until later in the week to have access to library software because there is lots of real things that I could be doing. There were lots of teachers there getting ready for back to school activities, making copies, and hanging team-related decorations. I felt like a real slacker, but there really wasn't anything I could do about it.

The most fun that I had was setting up my librarian action figure. Valerie surprised me with not just the action figure, but the deluxe action figure set. I took a photo with my camera phone. It's a crappy photo, but I didn't have a good camera. I'll try to take a better photo and post later. Here it is:

It's hard to see, but she is shushing you. When you push the button on her back, her finger moves to her mouth to shush. It's quite funny!

Well, it's late, and I have another day of pretend work tomorrow. I guess that I better get to bed now.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

No Harry here

I didn't spend my weekend reading the new Harry Potter or one of the other Harry Potters. I spent last night (all night, literally) doing grad school work, which seems like all I do these days. I am going to Corpus Christi for three days, and I'm taking my computer with me so I can do grad school work at night. I have a major project due next weekend and a quiz to take by midnight on Thursday.

I have done some reading lately, but I haven't had time to post anything about the books. I mentioned in an earlier post that I read The Inheritance of Loss for the book club that I am in now. I have things to say about the book, but I don't have time right now.

I also finished The Book Thief, which I had begun during the spring semester silent reading time in my classes. This book is categorized a young adult fiction, but I loved this book. It was sad, funny, horrific--World War II in a poor neighborhood of a Munich suburb. I cried more than once finishing this book. I hope to write more about it later.

The last few days of this week, I was able to squeeze in enough reading time to finished reading We, which I had read during silent reading time in my classes during the fall. At some point, I interupted my reading and never went back to it. It's a Russian dystopia that predates both Brave New World and 1984, which have been required reading for several years in my English classes. Maybe I'll find time to write about this book soon.

Now, I need to do some reading for one of my grad school class, but I think I will go to bed now and get up early and read before I leave for Corpus. I'll read myself to sleep with Twisted, which I am enjoying so far--a quick read even for this slow reader. Later.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Book club reading feels like work

I have written more than once that I am a slow reader, and I knew that my slowness coupled with my grad school workload might be a problem when I agreed to join a book club. Well, the club meets tomorrow, and I still have over 100 pages to read, and I am the host--I chose this book. I wouldn't be as worried if it weren't for the fact that I am going to the Astros game tomorrow, so I really have to finish tonight.

I really don't enjoy trying to zoom through books, especially books like The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai. I would like to have the time to wallow in such wonderful use of language as Desai's and ponder her insights into humanity, but I really haven't been able to do that with this book. Next time I get to choose, I might pick something less literary.

If I didn't have so much reading to do, I would post something longer tonight. I would post about how much I enjoyed 1408, and I would post about the clever lyrics in Panic! at the Disco's songs. Oh yeah, I would also post about the great time I had at the True Colors concert, especially how great Cyndi Lauper was.

Alas, though, I have to read now. Maybe I'll find time to write later.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Moving Out

These trash cans (there are two more trash cans that I failed to put in the photo) and boxes hold fifteen years of my work life. Actually, I would have had a lot more teaching past to dispose of had I not had a different classroom for each of the last two years. Thursday, I resigned from my teaching position and cleaned out my room. I will be a librarian in the fall at a different school in a different district. Being a librarian instead of a teacher will be a big change, and I know that I will miss some of aspects of being a teacher. I will NOT miss the grading papers part of teaching. :-)

Despite my unhappiness for the past three school years, I will miss working at my old school. So many of those people are like family to me, and I can't imagine not seeing them every day and not knowing what is going on in their lives. Of course, I will keep in touch with some of them, but it won't be quite the same.

I'm really looking forward to my new career, but I am not having a very fun summer, taking classes to prepare for my new career. I barely have any time for fun stuff, like movies, reading, or traveling. I have been to a concert, and I plan to blog about that soon. (I can't do it now because I have an assignment to get started on--it's due two days from now and it's a big one.) Today, though, I did go to the Astros game and watched them shut out the Rockies, first shut out of what has been a very long and disappointing season and it's not quite half over yet. Maybe the second half will be better, like it has been for the past few seasons.

I better get started on my assignment now. Later.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Belated Father's Day Post

Yesterday morning, I read the Father's Day edition of PostSecret and laughed and cried. In addition to father-themed postcards, the site posted several anecdotes detailing funny "lies" fathers told. Reading these made me miss my father who died just over a year ago and was a big teaser. He loved to make us laugh, especially at ourselves.

Here's a good example. In the late 80s/early 90s, I was working in a convenience store about two blocks from our home. One afternoon, my younger sister came into the store, and she was all excited because some guy had called me. I guess she thought someone wanted to date me, which didn't happen very often. She said Dad had told her to come to the store and tell me that I had had a phone call from Ben Gazarra. I started laughing and asked her if she was sure that he said Ben Gazarra. She said yes, and I knew immediately that she had no idea that Ben Gazarra was an old actor. (Dad knew that I would know since he and I shared a love of old movies.) I explained to her who Ben Gazarra was, and I'm sure she left the store cursing Dad but not with any real anger. I'm also certain that when she returned home he met her at the door laughing, his eyes twinkling, and eventually, sooner rather than later, she laughed right alone with him. I'm sure he bragged to everyone at home that day about his success at tricking her. He loved to tease and trick us.

Unfortunately, my dad was sick for a long time before he died, and he had stopped being the Dad that I knew and loved best. So I really mourned him before he actually died. Since his death, I don't think I have really missed him very much. I am ashamed to admit that, but I think it's true. I do think about him often, but I thinking about him and missing him are not the same. Yesterday, Father's Day, I missed him! When I got home from the Astros game, I watched the exciting ending of the US Open golf tournament and missed him even more. My dad loved golf, maybe more than he loved us--not really, but golf was a very close second. ;-)

Belated kudos to all the great dads out there.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Summer Blues 2

What is it about the blue water of a swimming pool on a hot summer day? Their comforting cool wetness just seems to call me. I love to lie on my couch and watch the shadows of their reflection dance on my ceiling. I go to the window several times a day and look down into the pool. I long for a swim each time I walk from up the stairs to my apartment. The really weird thing is that the pool in my apartment complex is within easy reach of my apartment, yet I have resisted the temptation to baptize myself in that cool blue. I'm not sure why I have hesitated, but I'm sure it has something to do with how I look in a swimsuit.

This weekend, I attended my niece's wedding at the old country club in my hometown. When I drove past the swimming pool area, I started thinking about all time I spent at that pool, working on my tan, flirting with boys, and hanging out with my friends. We would even go swimming on Monday when the club was officially closed, and night time swimming was always a summer option. I remember one night sitting on the poolside watching a lunar eclipse with friends.

The summer blues of a swimming pool -- ahhhhhh! Good blues!

Summer Blues 1

It's only the second week of summer school, and I am already tired of doing my course work. So much of it is repetitive, and I can't seem to ever figure out how to not be stressed at deadline times. Despite my plans to do otherwise, I always procrastinate and end up submitting too many assignments just before the deadline. I really should be better at this by now, and it's a good thing that submissions are done electronically. I would hate to think that I had to actually go somewhere and physically turn things in. Man! Think of how the time I would waste driving and walking. ;-)

I can not believe that it has been so long since I posted to this blog. I actually started a post on June 1, but I never finished it, so I deleted it just now and started over. My summer started off with a bang. I got a job offer at the end of my first interview for a librarian position, and my second interview went very well. I had hoped to be an official librarian by the end of this week, but there has been a delay with, of all things, my criminal background check. Despite those salacious news reports of people getting jobs with criminal backgrounds, it seems that some districts do check that before they let you sign a contract. Of course, I know there is nothing in mine to prevent me from getting the job that is being held for me, but I still am a bit discouraged by the delay.

The second job that I interviewed called this morning to tell me that I was still at the top of their list (I had assumed when I didn't hear anything last week that I was out of the running), but they had one more applicant to interview. The woman that I spoke to said this last interview was only being done because the applicant new someone. I'm not sure if I find that comforting to know or not because the school is private and knowing someone might be enough to get a person a job.

In addition to wanting to get a new job nailed down, I am ready to resign from my old job and say my goodbyes. I really don't want to drag that out for another month. :-( I guess I could go ahead and resign since I know the one job is being held for me. However, my parents raised me to believe that it wasn't right to quit a job until you had another one. (Yes, Valerie, I know I encouraged you to not sign your contract.) I guess once I have the word that the background check is completed then I might just go ahead and resign. The school board's approval is only a formality, right?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Poetry Wars and Today's Poem

Every work day of this month, I forward to the faculty and staff on my campus the poem of the day from Usually, nothing happens. Occasionally, someone will reply that the poems are too sad or too hard to understand. Twice this year I have received brief messages from co-workers describing how the day's poem connected to their life, past and present. These messages made me feel so good about being a poetry pusher.

Last week, state testing week which is always a stressful time, one of my co-workers started a poetry war. He shared a couple of funny poems last April and had shared one at the beginning of this April. Only one other co-worker had answered his initial call with an original poem, so he challenged everyone, complete with a menacing photo. At first, little happened, but then he made a male chauvinist comment in a new poem, and the poems started flying. Thursday and Friday afternoons were filled with volleys of verses. It was great fun! Some of my co-workers are surprisingly good poets and quick thinkers.

Today, things were back to normal. I sent out the poem and got no response at all. I wasn't surprised because I am not sure what to make of today's poem. I'm going to reprint it here and maybe one of my readers, all of whom are smarter than me, can help me figure out what it means or at least offer some suggestions. Maybe it is just a poem about a couple abandoning their baby, but I think there is something more going on here.

(I can't seem to make the spacing work right, so if you want to see how the lines should be formatted, click today's poem above.)

The Baby
by Kate Northrop

The shadows of the couple
enter the dark field, cross
silent as a seam

having left at the center
a white box, white
as a box

for a birthday cake. Inside,
the baby.
Abandoned there

in the tall grass,
in the night wind,

he wants for everything: food, warmth,
a little
baby hope.

But the world
swirls around the box. The world

like a forest goes on

and paths go on through it
each road leading nowhere, leading away

from the baby. Still
in the center of the field,
his breath

rises quietly. Grasses shiver.
Overhead, through trees

a sound approaches, like wings,
or this time, scissors.

From Things Are Disappearing Here, Copyright © 2007 by Kate Northrop. Reprinted with permission of Persea Books.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Ten Favorite Words

A few weeks ago, I got an email about the longlist for the Orange Prize, and I had only heard of a couple of the books on the list. So I spent some time checking out the unfamiliar ones. When I searched for A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers by Xiaolu Guo, I learned that it was only available in on Amazon UK. I was so intrigued by the synopsis and the excerpt on Amazon that I decided to splurge and order the book. I have never done that before. So far, I'm glad that I splurged (of course, the book is now available in the U.S.). The shortlist for the prize was announced today, and this book is on the shortlist.

Each chapter (vignette) begins with a word and definition followed by what amounts to a journal entry related to the word/meaning of the word.

In a chapter that begins with "chinese cabbage + english slug" (both cabbage and slug are defined), the narrator Z, a young Chinese immigrant, asks her lover, a much older bi-sexual Englishman, to name his favorite words:

'What your favourite words? Give me ten,' I say when we are sitting in the garden. I want to learn most beautiful English words because you are beautiful. I even not care whether if useful.
A piece of blank paper, a pen.
You writing it down, one by one.
'Sea, breath, sun, body, seeds, bumble bee, insects.' You stop: 'How many are there now?'
'Seven,' I say.
'Hm...blood...' you continue.
'Why you like blood?'
'I don't know. I feel blood is beautiful.'
'Really? But blood violence, and pain.'
'No. Not always. Blood gives you life. It makes you strong.' You speaking with surely voice.
You see things from such different perspective from me. I wonder if we change perspective one day.
'And why breath, then?'
'Because that's where everything is from and how everything starts.'
You are right.
'So, what else? Last favourite word?' I say.
'Suddenly! Why you like suddenly? Suddenly not even noun.' You strange brain, I think.
'Well, I just like it,' you say. 'So what are your favourite ten words?'
I write down one by one:
'Fear, belief, heart, root, challenge, fight, peace, misery, future, solitude...'
'Why solitude?'
'Because a song from Louis Armstrong calling "Solitude". It is so beautiful.' I hear song in my ear now.
'Where did you hear that song?' you ask.
'On your shelfs. A CD, from Louis Armstrong.'
'Really? I didn't even know I had that CD.' You frown.
'Yes, is covering the dust, and look very old.'
'So, you've been through all my CDs?'
'Of course,' I say. 'I read your letters and diaries as well.'
'And looked your photo.'
'What? You've looked through all my stuff?' You seeming like suddenly hear the alien from Mars attack the Earth.
'Not all. Parts that diary are make me sad. I can't sleep at night,' I say.

I love how she uses his word suddenly at the end there. This book is very much about language and the power of words (god, I hate it when all I can think of is something trite, but it works here and it's late).

Since I read this chapter late last night, I have been trying to select my 10 favorite/most beautiful words.
rain, solitude, darkness, exacerbate, freedom, sublime, haunting, silence, enigma--that's 9. I think I have to go to bed now, but I'll ponder the 10th word and update this post tomorrow.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Catching up

I seem to spend a lot of time catching up lately--catching up on grading, catching up on grad school work, catching up on reading--but I can't seem to get caught up enough to blog regularly. I have so many things that I have wanted to blog about in the last month or so, but I have found little time to do it. Hopefully, I will have more time to blog on a regular basis when I am finished with teaching, and I should be finished on May 26 (May 25 if I'm not required to attend graduation as an honor teacher this year).

Some blog topics that I didn't get caught up enough to post:
  • Spring Break in London - I have been to London three times before, but I actually saw some things this time that I had never seen before: Stonehenge, Bath, and the Natural History Museum. The Natural History Museum building is worth seeing for itself, regardless of the exhibits. As a young person, I wanted to be an architect, and this building made me wish that I knew much about architecture. Stonehenge was cool too, but I wish I could had sat in the middle and meditated for a while. Bath was a surprisingly bustling city, but time prevented me from seeing little more than the baths.
  • Currently reading - A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers by Xiaolu Guo. This interesting novel is now available from, but I had to order it from Amazon UK when I first heard of it. I got an email about the Orange Prize longlist and checked out the books on the list. When I read the info on Amazon UK about this book, I decided that I had to have it even if it cost me more than if I waited until it was available in the U.S. I am really enjoying it, so I don't mind that I paid so much for it.
  • Kiran Desai and Anita Desai read in Houston a couple of weeks ago. Interesting reading -- they were introduced by another Indian female author (I'll check my notes and fill in the name later) and interviewed after the reading by another Indian female author (must check notes for this name too). I was surprised that the audience was so overwhelmingly white. I expected more Indians to be there. As for the reading, both authors made me want to read her books.
  • Astros had a bad start to the season. They didn't win until the fifth game of the season and are sitting at 4-6 now. Of course, the baseball season is very long, so I won't give up on them.
  • Job hunting - I have applied for one library job so far, but I really plan to apply for as many as possible. I figure if I flood the market that I will have a better chance of getting into a library. Even if I don't get into a library, I seriously will not teach again after this year.
I guess that's enough for now. Hopefully, I will find more time to blog this week. Later.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Written on the Body

It's late, and I really should be in bed asleep, but I stayed up late grading papers--YUCK!

Before I go to bed, I have to write something about Jeanette Winterson's novel Written on the Body. I started this short novel after reading Book World's rave review of Winterson's Oranges are Not the Only Fruit. I finished it tonight before I started grading those papers. If I hadn't been so busy lately, I would have finished it much faster--a page-turner of the best kind.

Written on the Body was my first Winterson reading experience, and I will definitely try some of her other novels too. In addition, I may have to start reading Winterson's monthly columns. According to Callie at Counterbalance, there is "always something meaty" in her columns.

Because it's so late, I won't go into detail about why I liked Written on the Body, but I will share two incredible paragraphs:
In a vacuum all photons travel at the same speed. They slow down when traveling through air or water or glass. Photons of different energies are slowed down at different rates. If Tolstoy ahd known this, would he have recognised the terrible untruth at the beginning of Anna Karenina? 'All happy families are alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own particular way.' In fact it's the other way around. Happiness is specific. Misery is a generalisation. People usually know exactly why they are happy. They very rarely know why they are miserable.
Misery is a vacuum. A space without air, a suffocated dead place, the abode of the miserable. Misery is a tenement block, rooms like battery cages, sit over your own droppings, lie on your own filth. Misery is a no U-turns, no stopping road. Travel down it pushed by those behind, tripped by those in front. Travel down it at furious speed though the days are mummified in lead. It happens so fast once you get started, there's no anchor from the real world to slow you down, nothing to hold on to. Misery pulls away the brackets of life leaving you to free fall. Whatever your private hell, you'll find millions like it in Misery. This is the town where everyone's nightmares come true.

What a great description! I would love to say more, but it's already after 1:00a.m. and the alarm will go off at 5:00a.m. I better go to bed now.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Snow is finished, Finally!

I finally finished reading Snow by Orhan Pamuk. As my regular readers know, last month I was considering giving it up because it was moving so slowly. My stubbornness won out, and I decided not to give up on it. Thanks to Bookbinds, I know that I am not the only person who thought it moved like softly falling snow, but I'm not sure how I feel about the book in the end. I'm not sure that I believe that it was worth my time, which is sad when you think about how many other books I still want to read. I think I will do some reading of blogs and reviews to see how other people reacted to the book. Maybe I will write a more detailed review of the book later.

For now, I will say these three things: 1) In the beginning, I did find some of the descriptions to be quite beautiful, especially the descriptions of the snow. 2) As a wannabe poet, I hated to see poetry portrayed as some kind of effusive burst of creativity as if the poems were handed down by some poetry god--I'm sure there is something more working in this characterization, but it's too late and I'm too tired to articulate it. 3) One sentence near the end of the novel has been added to my collection of the most depressing passages/lines in literature--I think I have blogged about some of these lines before.

The new addition to my collection: "By now it was getting late, so I made my way back to the hotel, plodding slowly through the snow like a traveler without a friend in the world although laden with all its sorrow." I'm not sure how it stacks up against other lines in my collection, especially the one from 1984 or the one from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Maybe I'll post about that later.

Now, it's just after midnight, and I need to go to bed. I hope I can stay awake to read a page or two of my new read, Kiran Desai's The Inheritance of Loss. Desai and her mother are reading next week in Houston. I won't finish in time for the reading, but I will at least have read some of the book.

Friday, February 23, 2007


Thursday night I was reading myself to sleep except that I wasn't getting sleepy fast enough. My eyes and head were hurting from my recent fainting spell, so I had to put the book away before I was sleepy. As I lay there, waiting on sleep, I suddenly thought, I think this book is boring me. I've been reading Snow for a few weeks now, and I thought I was enjoying it. Now, I'm not so sure. I think it's moving too slowly--moving like the snow falls, softly, quietly--but I don't read books for plot, so a slow moving books isn't necessarily a loser for me. I wanted to like this book.

I'm not going to give up on it yet. Maybe it's just book lust. Or maybe it's my new bookshelves--moving books around makes one more aware of all the books waiting to be read. Or maybe it's a cultural thing since I know nothing about the Turkish culture described in the book. Or maybe the book is boring to me. I just don't know, but I have trouble giving up on a book. I will give it a few more chapters, I guess.

Two weeks - one hectic and one painful

I can't believe that it has been almost two weeks since I posted to my blog. For the first week, I only have a busy work and grad school schedule to blame. For this last one, the painful one, all I can say is that it is not wise to get into a fight with a tile bathroom floor.

I am always looking for a way out of work, but taking a path through the tile floor with my face leading the way was not a good choice. I am too old for an injured body--middle-aged bodies don't bounce back like young ones do, and my body has had lots of opportunities to bounce back from injuries. Perhaps the problem isn't that my body is too old but that it is too sober.

My life has been filled with accidents but most of the adult ones were accompanied with alcohol, which eased the pain before and after the accident. This one just made me feel stupid and old. Last Saturday I was sick with a bad cold or the flu, and I had very little to eat or drink, and I guess I was dehydrated. Sunday morning, I went to the bathroom and passed out cold on the tile floor, resulting in a busted lip requiring 16 stitches and a slightly fractured nose. Luckily, Valerie had stayed Saturday night to take care of me, or I might still be lying in a pool of blood on the bathroom floor.

So, I had a week off work, but it wasn't fun. It hurt to read for very long, and it hurt to work on the computer for very long, and it hurt to look in the mirror and see my black eyes and fat lip. It's a good thing that I gave up being pretty a long time ago.

I got the stitches out today and my lip is still fat and not in the Angelina Jolie sexy lips way either. The doctor said the swelling would go down, but I'm not sure that I believe her. I know the horrible bruises around my eyes will go away but not before they become a lovely yellow color. My friend Lois said to get some witch hazel to put on the bruises to make them go away faster. Maybe I'll pick some up at the drug store tomorrow and see if it works.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Sunday Snippets

As I sit here procrastinating on my grading and watching the end of the Grammy awards show, I thought I would post a blog. Lately, I have had so many things that I want to post about, but I just can't seem to make the time or find the time to post anything lately. I either need a vacation from work or a vacation from my life--of course, I would choose work. I will have a vacation from work very soon, but I'm going to spend it in London. Maybe I'll find a moment to post a blog or two from there. For now, I'll just post some snippets from possible future blogs.

When I started this blog in March 2005, I said that "I plan to use this blog as a place to talk about literature, art, politics, work, and anything else I can think of." So here are some snippets about all of those things.
  • Literature -- I have been reading Snow by Orhan Pahmuk for a few weeks now, and I like it, but I feel like I need to take a day just to wallow in it for a while. One thing I have learned from it is that I have too little knowledge of Turkey and Turkish history. Actually, I have too little knowledge of so many places and their history. I guess that's what happens when you spend too many years as an accounting major because you want to make lots of money then switch to English as a junior and decide to be a teacher. Perhaps if I hadn't been an aspiring yuppie, I would have had a good liberal arts education and not feel so lacking in adequate background knowledge.
  • Literature 2 -- Even though I am not even halfway through Snow, I have already been thinking about what I will read next. Actually, I'm always thinking about what I will read next. Here are the books that have been put in the queue: Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (current choice), The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst, Evil in Modern Thought by Susan Neiman, and Written on the Body by Jeanette Witherspoon. Feel free to place your votes to help me decide. Of course, as slow as I read, you have plenty of time to weight in.
  • Art -- The Masterpieces of French Painting from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: 1800-1920 -- I am so excited about this new exhibit at the The Museum of Fine Arts Houston (well, it opened last Sunday, SuperBowl Sunday, but I was too busy with football watching to blog about it then). I'm such an arts nerd that I find it truly exciting to think that I will get to see some of the most famous paintings in the history of painting--I want to say that I will get to see them in person, but the English teacher in me won't let me say it. I haven't seen it yet, but I will see it very soon. If you are in Houston anytime between now and May 6, you should see this exhibit.
  • Politics -- The 2008 Presidential Race -- I am so excited about the chances of being able to cast a meaningful vote for a woman and/or an African American. AND I am already so sick of the press worrying about whether America is ready for a woman and/or an African American. Americans need to wake up in the 21st century and get over the whole white man bias.
  • Work -- I hate working for a school district that blatantly censors students for no legal reason. First, last year, I had to tell a student that he had to take a sentence out of his short story or not get it published in the district's online literary magazine. The sentence said something about a boy sitting around with "his thumb up his butt" instead of doing his class assignment. Then this year, two students posted something to myspace about a district administrator, something negative, but not threatening or libelous as I understand it. Finally, in the most recent issue of the school paper, the article about the myspace incident and another recent incident on campus had the district administrator's name blacked out. From what I gathered, our principal made the newspaper staff black out the name or not distribute the paper. The article in the school paper is slanted toward the school's point of view, and I believe it lies to students about their rights, so, for me, the censorship, in this case is needless.
  • Anything else? Just before the beginning of the year, I blogged about wanting to eat better. Surprisingly, I have been eating better, but mainly because I am commiserating with Valerie in her quest to get her very high cholesterol down. I have found it much easier to eat healthy than I thought. I have even eaten healthy breakfasts out on occasion and liked it. My healthy breakfast of choice has become oatmael with brown sugar and blueberries. I love eating breakfast out, especially omelets, hash browns, pancakes, biscuits and gravy, bacon--all a bunch of artery cloggers but yummy nonetheless. I would have never ordered oatmeal in a restaurant in the past, but now, it is my first choice for breakfast out.
Okay, I think that is all the procrastinating that I can do for tonight. Later.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Real news or a big non-story?

Insurgents getting hands on your car

Someone please explain how this is a story? I can be stupid sometimes, and I am trying to do my homework while I watch the local news. Also, I do realize what a big seller the fear of terrorism is, but I just think this story was a complete waste.

Two statements that I have a problem with in the story in the story, first, the point that the reporter makes about the U.S.-Mexico border being a sieve--not a new idea and one that sounds like anti-immigration propaganda to me. Second, this quote from the end of the story, "...the common perception of auto theft as a victimless crime. 'Right now, it’s report it to the insurance company, get my money and go out and get another car. But if I know that something happened to one of our guys? People feel it,' Bimonte said." Please! Give me a break! I'm supposed to feel bad if my car gets stolen and is used to hurt some soldier. Even for a guilt-plagued person like me, I find this statement ridiculous.

Okay, back to my homework now.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

I hope I don't get fired for posting this from work, but I just couldn't wait.

I know that some might find this hard to believe, but I have not always been such a "serious" reader. Yes, I used to read trash, lots of trash, and I enjoyed it. :-)

This morning on the way to work, I heard that the author Sidney Sheldon had died. The NPR story highlighted his writing for I Dream of Jeannie. However, when I hear his name I think about all the excellent trash that he wrote and that I gorged myself on in the 80s and early 90s. His books were page-turners, full of love, lust, sex, intrigue--soap operas in print. As a teenager and a twenty-something, I loved his novels like Bloodline, The Other Side of Midnight, Rage of Angels, and If Tomorrow Comes. His trash took place on a grand scale, all over the world--a world that a girl from a small East Texas town couldn't possible know except through books. His books were a great vehicle when I needed an escape from the mundanity of my life. And any miniseries made from his books were just as tasty and even less intellectually nutritious. What fun!

While I don't read this kind of novel anymore, I do sometimes long to escape into formulaic, mind candy, but my brain just won't let me enjoy it anymore. The closest I can come is to read some kind of mystery or suspense novel, and those have to be better than the formulaic ones produced by most of the writers whose works can be found on grocery store and Walmart shelves and even on today's bestseller lists.

On a poignant note not related to Sheldon's novels, the newspaper article that I read to remind myself of the titles of some of his novels included a mention of The Patty Duke show that he produced and wrote. I'm too young to have watched the show when it aired originally, but I do have some fond memories of watching it on Nick at Night with my dad. He really liked to watch those old sitcoms. In the show, Patty called her dad Pops, and I used to call my dad Pops too. My dad was a great Pops! :-)

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Winter Stacks Challenge

Over a week ago, I finished Pale Horse, Pale Rider, a very short novel by Katherine Anne Porter. Last October, I posted about hearing about this novel on NPR's You Must Read This. As planned, I only read the one short novel in the from the book of the same name that contains three short novels. It was my third book in the five-book Winter Stacks Challenge.

The novel is set during World War I and an influenza epidemic--fear is pervasive, which makes this book very relevant today. The main character Miranda, a reporter, has fallen in love with Adam, a soldier waiting to be shipped out. She fears that he will never return from the war, but she is stricken with the flu, and he nurses her until she can get a room at one of the overcrowded hospitals. Porter's descriptions of Miranda's delirious thoughts are amazingly unsettling. I will have to find the time to read more of Porter's novels in the future, especially the other two in the book Pale Horse, Pale Rider.

I have started Snow by Orhan Pamuk, the Turkish novelist who won the Nobel Prize this year. If the blurbs on the back cover and inside the front cover are accurate, I should enjoy this book immensely. It is a political thriller, and I usually like those kinds of books. So far, I have found it very interesting, but I have not found enough time to read it--work and now grad school are keeping me too busy.

I spent a solitary Monday, grading papers for hours, and I am still not caught up. I have much reading to do between now and Wednesday, when I have to submit a response to my reading before midnight. I haven't even started on the assignment that is due next week, and, unfortunately, I have to go to work the rest of the week. I can't call in sick every day, but I wish I could.

I guess I better go to bed now though. It's late, and I can't be late in the morning. Maybe I can read a page or two of Snow before I go to sleep.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Silly Teenage Boy!

Because of my library science classes' face-to-face meetings and my unwillingness to brave the cold on Wednesday, I only worked two days last week. I seldom have to truly battle discipline problems in my class; I have a reputation for not putting up with students' bullshit. However, I do occasionally provoke students' ire with my "dark sarcasm in the classroom" (any Pink Floyd fans out there?). Friday was apparently one of those days.

One of the boys, let's call him STB, in my class got pissed off about my answer to his very stupid question (yes, there are stupid questions) and walked out of the room without permission. I didn't even react except to quickly fill out a discipline referral that I would turn in later in the day. I proceeded with the class as if nothing had happened. Except that when I looked for the paper that he had turned in, the only student in three classes who didn't follow my written directions, I made a smart-ass comment about how odd it was that the sub had told everyone to turn in the assignment, but he was only one who did. The class laughed and another boy volunteered that he had refrained from saying to STB that he didn't hear the sub say to turn anything in, but he decided to stay quiet--not sure of his motivation. So the class progressed through the vocabulary check, did our fifteen minutes of silent reading, and started on the main assignment for the day.

Later in the class period, the guidance office called my room and requested that I send another boy (AB) to see his counselor, which I did immediately. AB wasn't gone very long, but when he returned, he had a vocabulary workbook in his hand. I asked if he gone to his locker and retrieved his workbook, which he had not had when I checked vocabulary work earlier in the period. He said in a rather sheepish voice that STB had asked him to bring his workbook back to class and ask me if I would check it for him. I wasn't able to hide my mirth from the class, many of whom joined me in amusement. Of course, I am not a total bitch of a teacher, and I did check his vocabulary work, and I will collude with him tomorrow to act like nothing happened on Friday. Too bad, teaching doesn't amuse me everyday. :-)

Monday, January 15, 2007

2 Books Down & 3 to Go

On Saturday, I finished the second book on my From the Stacks Winter Challenge list. Moral Disorder is Margaret Atwood's latest book of short stories. Until a couple of years ago, I seldom read books of short stories, but then I read and loved Jumpher Lahiri's Interpreter of Maladies. Since then, I have tried to keep a book of short stories going while I read a novel. It's hard for me to read more than one book at a time, but if one is short stories, I don't feel like I'm neglecting one for the other. I wouldn't want to hurt a book's feelings. :-)

Okay, enough babbling. I was not surprised to find Moral Disorder an enjoyable read. I am a big Atwood fan. The Handmaid's Tale is one of my all-time favorite books, a book that I push on students every spring. Moral Disorder is a book of connected stories that tell the story of a couple's relationship. It begins with old age, goes back to the woman's childhood through adulthood and their relationship then ends with old age and childhood. All of these stories have Atwood's very enjoyable and intelligent biting satire.

Ultimately, this book of short stories is about how our lives are stories and, sadly, all stories and lives end. This passage is at the end of one of the later stories in the book: "But what else could I do with all that? thinks Nell, wending her way back to her own house. All that anxiety and anger, those dubious good intentions, those tangled lives, that blood. I can tell about it or I can bury it. In the end, we'll all become stories. Or else we'll become entities. Maybe it's the same." In the final stories of the book, Atwood shows vividly the effects of aging on our life stories. The main male character in the book's stories has had a stroke and his daughter, the narrator of his final story, tries to read him a story, but for him, "Stories are no good, not even short ones, because by the time you get to the second page he's forgotten the beginning. Where are we without our plots?" Such a simple question, but if you equate plots with life, that simple question becomes extremely poignant. I think Atwood has explored a relatively new theme--loss of identity through aging--or maybe it's just one that I noticed more because of my father's recent passing and his condition for the last few years of his life. The last story in the book is so sad. A mother, bedridden, deaf in one hear, is in the final pages of her life story and all that remains of her younger self is some remnants of stories that she told her daughter. Her story is ending as the book is ending.

Some miscellaneous passages that I liked:
  • In one of the early stories, the main character, a young girl, said, "We read detective stories and bought women's magazines, which we leafed through in order to rearrange ourselves, though only in theory." In this sentence, Atwood has definitely captured the appeal of women's magazines.
  • "She'd been in love, a state of being she thought of as wiping the mind clean of any of the soothsaying abilities or even ordinary common sense it might otherwise have had." I just love Atwood's humor, especially when it bites perfectly.
  • In one of the later stories, Atwood introduces Lillie, a real estate agent who seems to become a mother figure to her customers. The narrator of one story shares this about the way Lillie thinks: "Dead was not an absolute concept to her. Some people were more dead than others, and finally it was a matter of opinion who was dead and who was alive, so it was best not to discuss such a thing." Lillie is very much alive in this page. She is a great character!
I know that my review is not doing this book justice, but I really liked it and recommend it, especially if you like Atwood's other works.

Hopefully, I will be able to finish at least two other books on my Winter Stacks Challenge list. My grad school courses started this week, so I probably have no chance of getting all five done, but I will try.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

The Night Watch by Sarah Waters

Last weekend, I finished the first book on my From the Stacks Challenge list, but the business of starting back to work kept me from finding time to post my review of it. Well, here it is.

The Night Watch
begins just after WWII in 1947 then goes back in time to 1944 then goes further back to 1941. While I enjoyed some of the characters and the stories of their relationships, I was not satisfied by the outcome of this book. Usually when a story is structured in reverse chronological order, there is some significant event in the present of the story that is explained with the past events. I didn't feel that the past of these characters and their relationships lived up to the promise of the structure of this novel. I thought the past left too many questions in the present unanswered.

While I wasn't impressed with the plot of the novel, I was extremely impressed with the mood of the novel. I felt the uncertainty and fear of living in a war zone with the very real threat of being killed by a bomb night after night. The description of the devastation to people and buildings is particularly vivid.

I have never read any of Waters's other novels, and I am not a big fan of historical fiction, but I don't think either of these facts are what kept me from being satisfied with this novel. I never felt drawn in enough by the characters or events. Maybe the distance was intentional or necessary to create the fragmentary feeling of living in a place literally being torn apart by war. Except for the 1947 section, most of the events of the novel occur at night, hence the title, and I think that might have had something to do with the distant feeling, but I can't quite articulate why.

I have read a bit more than half of the next book on my challenge list, Moral Disorder by Margaret Atwood. I hope to be finished with it in a day or two and be faster with my review of it.

Monday, January 01, 2007

A Beautiful Beginning to a New Year

I hope today's weather is a good omen for the year to come. It is absolutely gorgeous!--55 degrees, light wind, clear blue sky. If I had a patio with a chaise lounge, I probably would have donned a light sweater or jacket and read all day long. Instead, I did laundry and read some blogs, semi-watched a couple of movies. I did all this in my living room, which does have a big picture window, so I kind of feel like I'm out on a patio with the blinds open and the sun shining in.

I finished one of my Stacks Reading Challenge books yesterday, The Night Watch by Sarah Waters. I'll post a review tonight. I might also post about moviest that I have seen during my holidays, which haven't been as many as I had hoped to see. I'm off to see Dreamgirls now. I wanted to see it on Christmas day, but it wasn't showing at the my East Texas hometown's local theater or the closest larger theaters.