Monday, December 31, 2007

Bookslut, November edition... belated.

How did I fail to post this? I just found it in my drafts... oops. Well, December and the eagerly-awaited year-end round-up coming soon.

An easy (for you) month: I only finished five books in November, and I've already blogged about two of them separately. We had:
  • In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. More non-fiction that reads like fiction, my favorite kind. Another one for my Metaphors That Don't SuckTM File: "He had merely fallen face down across the bed, as though sleep were a weapon that had struck him from behind."

  • Burning Bright by John Steinbeck. I love theme-and-variations kinds of stories. This structure of the "Play in Story Form" was an interesting idea but hard to believe in as a new genre. This is a tiny book and yet it gets in deep and quickly, and still manages to keep being surprising. I really liked it.

  • The Haunted Bookshop by Christopher Morley. About this book I've said too much already.

  • Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk.

  • A Year in Van Nuys by Sandra Tsing Loh, also already blogged here.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Josh Heller style

So, each December I teach a workshop or two at a local Elderhostel. It's really fun for me because every year I get to go back and see all my old friends.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Two words: Tino.


So, that link is to the blog of Diablo Cody, who wrote the unbelievably wonderful "Juno", of course. (Thanks to El Gigante for the link there.) She writes:

"To answer an increasingly common and much-welcomed question, yes-- the reference to "Tino" in Juno is absolutely a MSCL shout-out."


II. Also, by the way, I Am Legend Los Angeles on Christmas Morning. Driving down Ventura at 10am on Christmas Day? De. Ser. Ted. But no cgi gazelles.

III. RDB can't resist the urge to out-geek herself. Favorite day-appropriate joke? Why do mathematicians confuse Halloween and Christmas? Because OCT 31 = DEC 25 !

IV. I told you RDB was dorkier than you thought.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Judaism: from the folks that brought you the weekend.

Fabulous quotation of the day, from

"Judaism is the world's most obsessive-complusive book club. Every week, religous Jews read a portion or 'parsha' of the Hebrew Bible, so that at the end of a year we've read the whole thing. Then we start all over again."

Ok, well, it's TIED with egg salad. For now.

Yup. My most-commented-on posting to date was something I wholesale copied from another website, without adding any commentary at all. I fixed some typos (of course) and made a slightly self-deprecating title (of course), and y'all commented more on that than on ANYTHING ELSE I'VE WRITTEN.

love you too.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Haunted Bookshop

Before we do the big November Bookslut BreakdownTM, let's spend a few moments with a chance encounter. I love to browse used bookstores, of course, and I usually end up buying 60 million things I hadn't exactly planned on buying... but there are many books floating about in my mind as things I intend someday to read, so if I find a used copy for some silly price, of course I'm gonna get it... I own many many books that I have not yet read, but that means that whenever I finish a book, I wander out into my living room/office/library and get to shop my own shelves for what to read next.

Anyway, I recently discovered the fabulous Iliad Bookstore and wandered in there and indeed bought 60 million books that I was delighted to find. Most of them were books I'd heard of, and things, like I said, that I already intended someday to read. But I did pick up one book that I'd never heard of, and which I took sort of on a whim. It was The Haunted Bookshop by Christopher Morley.

Now, I'd heard of Christopher Morley only by having seen a quotation of his in some other book I read long ago; I'd never actually read a book of his. But I liked the quotation an awful lot, and it was very near to Halloween when this chance encounter took place, in a newly discovered dusty and wonderful bookshop, and by god the name of the book is The Haunted Bookshop! I had no choice.

"For paradise in the world to come is uncertain, but there is indeed a heaven on this earth, a heaven which we inhabit when we read a good book." he says on page 26. Clearly, I was in love.

Now, may I quote at you until you cry?
Let me tell you that the book business is different from other trades. People don't know they want books. I can just see by looking at you that your mind is ill for lack of books but you are blissfully unaware of it! People don't go to a bookseller until some serious mental accident or disease makes them aware of their danger. Then they come here. ... People need books, but they don't know they need them. Generally they are not aware that the books they need are in existence... I am not a dealer in merchandise but a specialist in adjusting the book to the human need. Between ourselves, there is no such thing, abstractly, as a 'good' book. A book is 'good' only when it meets some human hunger or refutes some human error. A book that is good for me would very likely be punk for you. My pleasure is to prescribe books for such patients as drop in here and are willing to tell me their symptoms. Some people have let their reading faculties decay so that all I can do is hold a post mortem on them. But most are still open to treatment. There is no one so grateful as the man to whom you have given just the book his soul needed and he never knew it. ... The world has been printing books for 450 years, and yet gunpowder still has a wider circulation. Never mind! Printer's ink is still the greater explosive; it will win.
"Her cheeks were cool and ruddy from the keen air, her face lit with the tranquil satisfaction of those who have sojourned in the comfortable city of Boston." --p38

Printer's ink has been running a race against gunpowder these many, many years. Ink is handicapped, in a way, because you can blow up a man with gunpowder in half a second, while it may take twenty years to blow him up with a book. But the gunpowder destroys itself along with its victim, while a book can keep on exploding for centuries... When you read that book you can feel it blowing up your mind. It leaves you gasping, ill, nauseated--oh, it's not pleasant to feel some really pure intellect filtered into one's brain! It hurts! --p115
Check this one out and note that this book was published 90 years ago. 90!
"We had to beat [Country], yes, but the absurdity lies in the fact that we had to beat ourselves in doing it. The first thing you'll find, when the [X] gets to work, will be that we shall have to help [Country] onto her feet again so that she can be punished in an orderly way. We shall have to feed her and admit her to commerce so that she can pay her indemnities--we shall have to police her cities to prevent revolution from burning her up--and the upshot of it all will be that men will have fought the most terrible war in history, and endured nameless horrors, for the privilege of nursing their enemy back to health. If that isn't an absurdity, what is?" --p114
"All right," said the bookseller amiably. "Miss Chapman, you take the book up with you and read it in bed if you want to. Are you a librocubicularist?"
Titania looked a little scandalized.
"It's all right, my dear," said Helen. "He only means are you fond of reading in bed. I've been waiting to hear him work that word into the conversation. He made it up, and he's immensely proud of it."
"Reading in bed?" said Titania. "What a quaint idea! Does any one do it? It never occurred to me. I'm sure when I go to bed I'm far too sleepy to think of such a thing." --pg170
"But we are what we are, and Roger was even more so." --p172

Monday, December 17, 2007

This is funny; Or, RDB is dorkier than you realized.

Vocabulary lesson (Tom Kraemer)

I was visiting my brother's family recently, watching nieces and nephews chase their new kitten around. The kitten would escape pursuit by jumping up on the sill of an open window, and I warned them, "Hey, be careful kitty doesn't defenestrate herself!"

My brother, whom I consider well educated, asked me what the heck 'defenestrated' meant, so I told him to look it up. He produced a fairly thick paperback dictionary, flipped through it for a few seconds, and declared that it wasn't a real word.

I took the dictionary from him and looked, and sure enough there was no listing for 'defenestrate'. So, I threw it out the window.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

On Not Writing

What English-language poet has not at times rebelled against a language in which the suffix -s makes a noun plural and a verb singular? ---W H Auden

So, as I've mentioned before, people around me seem to think I'm meant to be a Writer. I myself haven't really believed this since around about the 6th grade, but at least a few of my friends are convinced I will someday write novels and lots of other people are always asking, "Do you write?" with an unmistakable tone of "You idiot, why aren't you Writing?"

Also as I've mentioned before, I recently went to see Ann Patchett, author of the fantastic memoir Truth & Beauty and the lovely novel Bel Canto, read from her new book Run. The reading part was great, but the Q&A that followed was even better, and one of the best bits was the story about this extremely humbling conversation she had with her stepson on the day she had completed both writing her latest novel and reading one by Henry James. "Oh, you finished the new book, that's cool," the son remarked. Then, "Wow!! You finished the James? That's great! Congratulations! What did you think?!" and on in this breathless excitement.

Why did the former accomplishment garner such lukewarm praise, such a muted response in comparison to the latter? "Consider how many people have read all of Wings of the Dove compared to how many have written a book," he told her. She had to admit he was right; in a way, it was a larger accomplishment to have been the consumer than the producer. In this instance, the consumers, the readers, were a far more elite group.

Smiling ruefully over this anecdote later that night is when I first happened on the snarky and wonderful 101 Reasons To Stop Writing. Messages from the universe, gentle reader?

Well, but then I post a nothing post about *not* posting in response to someone messaging me "why don't you write in your blog anymore" and I immediately get five comments urging me to keep writing. Mixed messages from the universe, then, my five gentle readers.

Monday, December 10, 2007

On Not Posting

I. RDB takes a sabbatical.
A. But why?
B. No one knows.
C. Not even RDB herself.

II. RDB has posts lined up in her head, but doesn't post them.
A. But why not?
B. No one knows.
C. Not even RDB herself.

III. For example?
A. Another post about signs, possibly being environmental and recycling the title "Signs and Portents; or, The Importance of Signs" to include:

1. Fantastic local Egg Salad: there is a sign on Ventura Boulevard at Pierce College that advertises a fun fall thing they have there every year, a maze. Made out of corn. IT'S A MAIZE MAZE. OH YES.
2. There is a sign on Burbank Boulevard that says, I kid you not, "We buy dental gold." Um, OUCH??? EW??? UGH??? Worst and scariest sign ever.

B. A post about writing and about not writing, to include a link to 101 Reasons to Stop Writing and that story about Ann Patchett I never told.

C. A post about how I don't do a lot of community-service type things, but I strongly believe in donating blood and did so today, for THE THIRD TIME THIS YEAR. I AM AMAZING. BOW DOWN TO ME AND MY WONDERFULNESS. Or don't, but give blood yourself instead, before 2007 is up. Check out the many convenient options at Give Life.

D. A post about how I hated "Knocked Up" and "SuperBad", whether I want to admit it or not, but how I COMPLETELY FUCKING LOVED "Juno". I want the soundtrack NOW. What do you mean, it isn't out until January? WTF??