Category Archives: Books

Amazing Passages in Kid-Lit

I wish I could kiss this absurdist yet purely logical aside, stumbled upon while reading to my 9-year-old son. It’s so tightly written, and reminiscent of Lewis Carroll:

“By the way,  I am not Elizabeth Van Vreemdeling,” I said. “My name is Audrey, and I come from another plane of existence.”

“How adorable. She doesn’t know who she is,” Uncle Bernard said.

“I certainly do know who I am,” I said. “And I never heard of Elizabeth Van Vreemdeling until the other day.”

“Then how do you account for the fact that you are she?” Uncle Bernard asked.

“I don’t know that I have to account for it,” I said. “First, I am not she, have no recollection of being her, never heard of her, and besides, she lived a long time ago.”

“So did we,” Uncle Bernard said. “And yet here we are, us.”

“But, I assume you have always been you,” I said.

“More or less,” Uncle Bernard said. “But then, all of us are any number of people as we go along, if you’d care to think about it. I mean, once you were a baby, quite different from the girl you are now, and later you will be an adult, also different. Can you remember being a little baby?”

“No.”

“But you do not deny you ever were such a thing as a baby, do you?”

“Well, no.”

“Why not, since you don’t have any recollection of being one?”

“Because everyone starts out as one.”

“And how do you know that is so?”

“How do I know everyone starts out as a baby?”

“Yes. What makes you think that is so?”

“Observation?”

“Oh, so you have observed every single person starting out as a little infant and growing up to be a child, an adolescent, and an adult?”

“No, not personally observed.”

“Then why do you think it is true?”

“Because everyone knows it.”

“So, you believe it because there is a consensus of opinion about it.”

“Yes.”

“Excellent,” Uncle Bernard said. “Everyone who believes Audrey here is Elizabeth Van Vreemdeling, raise your paw.”

All the trolls raised their hands, Helen called from the kitchen, “I believe it,” and I saw that Molly had raised her hand too.

“It seems we have a consensus of opinion,” Uncle Bernard said.

“That is not proof,” I said. “You could all be wrong. I might just look a lot like her.”

“You have a point,” Uncle Bernard said. “Nothing is ever definite, but you have to admit there is more of a possibility that you are Elizabeth than you previously thought.”

— Excerpt from  Adventures of a Cat-Whiskered Girl (2010) by Daniel Pinkwater.

Sarah Vowell on KCRW’s Bookworm

Sarah Vowell is a total dork. Need proof? Here she is, pictured with sex columnist/writer/podcaster Dan Savage, and Ira Glass and Jonathan Goldstein from PRI’s “This American Life.”

Print & Radio dorks

Print & Radio dorks

Just being allowed in that picture ensures you that she sports some sincere 21st century hipster/nerd cred. However, she still primarily contributes her art in a floundering medium: printed books. She’s on tour to promote her latest, entitled The Wordy Shipmates, and subsequently stopped by Southern California public radio station KCRW to discuss it with Michael Silverblatt of the show “Bookworm.” He’s a fantastic interviewer of authors, if a bit snore-inducing at times. (It might be the aural eqiuvalent of Sleepytime Tea.)

Listen if you dare to Silverblatt get wrapped up in pop-culture references and subsequently diminish Ms. Vowell’s study of American Puritans to stories of the Brady Bunch and Happy Days. Also, marvel in the fact that Vowell seems to be put on the defensive, and is so unsure of exactly what position she’s supposed to defend. He also throws in a pop-culture reference of his own when he calls her the Mr. Kotter most kids never have as a teacher. It’s equally frustrating and entertaining to listen to.

You should also consider picking up Ms. Vowell’s book The Wordy Shipmates, as well as her other published works. Seriously, don’t even attempt to resist the powerful nerd/indie credibility you so desire.

November: Do That To Me Once Again

OK, I’ll keep this brief as I’m already running late.

Like last year, I’m committed to killing myself this November.

1. I’m partipating in NaBloPoMo 2008: National Blog Posting Month. Daily blog posts for 30 days.

2. I’ve picked up a copy of Lolita to join in the fun with Matthew Baldwin, the Defective Yeti, in NaNoReMo 2008: National Novel Reading Month.

3. I’m STILL trying to finish up my last assigment (original due date of SEPT. 30) in my Top 1000 Films Project. All I need is It Happened One Night, and I can start with a brand spanking new assignment challenge that I can’t possibly accomplish.

That’s all for now. I’m fighting sickness and already feel overburdened. We’ll see how epic of a failure I can make this whole endeavor.

Get thee behind me, November

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Gave myself a lot to accomplish by the end of the month. Let’s recap.

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NaNoReMo – Catch 22: Chapters 6-10

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NaNoReMo continues…

A big thanks to Matthew Baldwin at Defective Yeti for the link, and for letting me know that I am now offically 23.44% of the way through this exercise. It does help to have a signpost like that every so often when I’m struggling through Chapter 9 (Major Major Major Major) like nobody’s business.

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Nutshelling November

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Top 1000 Movies project:

Netflix just isn’t going to get the Sunrise or Pather Panchali in time for my November 30th deadline. Rather than admit defeat, I’ve chosen two other movies to take their place. Two Chaplin movies, City Lights and Modern Times, ought to fill the void nicely. They’re both a zippy 90 minutes and will have enough humor to keep these last few weeks manageable.

Watched All About Eve. And, of course, it’s a classic. Five stars. It seems to catch the real Bette Davis, too, which is somewhat uncomfortable yet thrilling to watch. George Sanders as Addison DeWitt rocks my lame ass.

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NaNoReMo: Catch 22 – Chapters 1-5

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“NaNoReMo” – that alternating caps thing is driving me crazy. How do the kids do it?

So, Joseph Heller wrote a book.

Don’t know what to say other than it’s like Duck Soup mixed with M*A*S*H. Can you tell that I watch more movies than I read books? Haven’t seen the film of Catch-22, featuring an unbelievable cast, so I can’t really reference that. But I’m guessing if you know it’s a satire of war when you begin reading, it’ll grab you and pull you in by both ankles.

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November is for Joiners

Lemmings

Because I’ve been so lax in updating this blog (crossing off titles from the Top 1,000 Movies really don’t count), I’ve decided to really start padding this blog with fluff join in the fun of NaNoReMo or National Novel Reading Month as a response to those of us who could never probably write a novel in 30 days.

Matthew Baldwin, AKA Defective Yeti, has thrown the gauntlet to anyone who wishes to join him in reading Catch-22 during the month of November as part of a big-ass online book club. Mostly, I’m joining in because I loved the book the first time, but that was 20 years ago. I’ve wanted to re-read it and perhaps get a different perspective on the novel.

I’ve got the book coming to me via Bookins.com, but time’s-a-wastin’ and I fear it may not come by Nov. 1. So, via Peerflix, I’ve also requested the movie, in the event I have to pull the old Constanza-Breakfast-at-Tiffany’s trick.

While I’m at it, I also decided to join in on Eden Kennedy’s NaBloPoMo or National Blog Posting Month. I’ll probably be adding comments about Catch-22 as well as other pithy crap about life, movies and Lindsay Lohan. I figure 30 days of constantly updating the blog won’t be too cumbersome or difficult, considering I don’t think I’ve had 30 entries this year so far.

Also, the latest deadline for my Top 1000 Movies project is due November 30th, too. And Netflix STILL doesn’t have two of the six films I pledged to watch. Depending on their availability and the madness of trying to accomplish all this stuff while pottytraining my son, I may need to consider dropping the missing two or replacing them with two movies more readily available.

See, already, I’m making excuses.

Maybe I’m getting in over my head. But November (other than Thanksgiving week) seems to be relatively open, so I’ll give it a whirl. Wish me luck.

Assassination Vacation

Assassination Vacation
by Sarah Vowell.

Amazon

As I’m more of a National Public Radio fan than a history buff, I was pleasantly surprised by the way author Vowell manages to take our nation’s history and make it relevant to 21st-century readers. She really breathes life into decades-old monuments and gravesites like no other modern writer, and finds the unique distractions and details to the stories of presidential assassination more interesting than the textbook versions. That said, I’d love to see forward-thinking high school teachers introduce this book into their American History curriculum.

The Washington Story

The Washington Story
by Adam Langer.

Amazon

In this continuation of his first novel Crossing California, Langer chronicles the same characters in Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood and points beyond, during the middle 1980s — specifically, the era when Harold Washington, Chicago’s first African-American mayor, held office. While not as memorable as Crossing, this effort provides further analysis of the characters’ interpersonal relationships, and offers a snapshot of American life of the not-too-distant past. Langer continually uses references to politics and pop culture of the day that weaves through our collective past, and thereby, makes his stories more universal. A satisfying read, if a bit of a disappointment compared to his debut.