Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Having Deja Vu with Allison Pearson

Full disclosure, I am the same age as Allison Pearson, and I have read her first book "I Don't Know How She Does It." Now she's come out with a new book about what it is like to be 13 and in love with teen idol David Cassidy, and I am having deja vu, because I was also 13 in 1974, and also had a crush on David Cassidy after watching countless episodes of the Partridge Family (and wishing I could be Susan Dey so I could just look at him every day, squeal!)
Here's NPR's take on the book and an interview with the author, whom I'd love to meet.
But first, I HAVE to get a copy of this book!

When writer Allison Pearson was growing up in Wales in the mid-1970s, she thought she knew exactly what it would take to woo David Cassidy, the teen idol who played Keith in The Partridge Family.

The color brown. And lots of it.

"I had read, when I was a child, that his favorite color was brown, and so for about 18 months during my precious adolescence, I had worn brown," she says. "And I looked absolutely dreadful in brown because I was a very skinny, sallow little girl. I looked yellow in brown."

But Pearson didn't only change her appearance. She also worked on her diction. A Welsh accent, she was sure, would never attract Cassidy's attention.

"I taught myself lots of American expressions just so he wouldn't think that [I] was a stupid Welsh girl," she says. "Americans say 'mad' meaning 'angry,' not 'crazy.' And [they say] 'bathroom,' not 'loo.' These crucial distinctions were going to endear me to him ... just in case David Cassidy happened to be in South Wales, which was 5,000 miles away from his home in California, but you never knew when you needed to have all of the facts about him at your disposal."

Pearson, now 50, eventually stopped pining for Cassidy. She became a columnist for London's Evening Standard and Daily Telegraph and wrote a best-selling novel about middle-class working mothers called I Don't Know How She Does It.

I Think I Love You
By Allison Pearson
Hardcover, 336 pages
List Price: $24.95

But now she's translated her teenage obsession with Cassidy into a second novel, I Think I Love You. It's about, not surprisingly, a teenage girl named Petra who's living in Wales in 1974, who falls madly in love with David Cassidy. In 1998, when Petra is nearing 40 and has her own children, she decides to take an all-expenses-paid trip to Las Vegas to meet her teen idol — and re-examines her youthful passions in the process.

So why did Pearson choose, out of all the teen idols in existence, the Partridge Family's dreamy star David Cassidy?

When I told my female friends now that I was writing about a 13-year-old girl, without exception they all said, 'I would not go back to being 13 for a million pounds.'

- Allison Pearson

"I was 13 in 1974 and he bestrode my teenage world like a Colossus in a white jumpsuit with silver embroidery," Pearson says. "Girls slightly younger tended to be Donny Osmond girls or Michael Jackson girls but for my generation, it tended to be David Cassidy."

But it wasn't just the obsession with her teen idol that Pearson wanted to explore. It was everything about 13-year-old girls — the teen magazines, the fan culture, and conflicted feelings of vulnerability and passion — that she immersed herself in before writing the book. And that wasn't always easy, she says.

"One of the challenges in recreating that 13-year-old mind-et is that you're still constructing yourself," she says. "You're still wondering who you are and trying to get that kind of feeling of transparency, of looking back to that young girl. One thing that did give me pause for thought, when I told my female friends now that I was writing about a 13-year-old girl, without exception they all said, 'I would not go back to being 13 for a million pounds.' "

But she did, eventually, go back to Cassidy. In 2004, Pearson was asked to interview him for a magazine profile. And to prepare, she decided to read his autobiography.

"It was absolutely jaw-dropping stuff about groupies and the kind of life he had," she says. "And what struck me, so forcefully, was that, as a grown woman and the mother of two children, I was not shocked by what he was writing about, but I could feel within myself, the 13-year-old girl who had loved him was really shocked. And I thought, 'Now isn't that interesting.' We carry our younger selves with us our whole lives and we can measure out of lives by music we've loved or icons we've loved. So that was my first real vertiginous falling perception, that this creature David Cassidy that I had loved was a manufactured being."

Before she interviewed Cassidy in person, Pearson says that she remembered thinking just one thing: that she didn't want to pity him.

"It was very important to me, to [not pity] someone who had loomed so large in my imagination," she says. "But the book isn't just about David Cassidy. It's about love and its delusions."
Allison Pearson is a staff writer for the Daily Telegraph. She lives in Cambridge with her husband and two children.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Mulligatawny, A Stew of Stuff

When I moved to Washington state back in 1991, there were 365 bookstores in the Seattle area, one for every single day of the year. I nearly swooned with bibliophilic delight! Now, as with newspapers, the book industry is drying up, becoming smaller and there are far fewer bookstores to be had. Still, I am fortunate to be able to shop at Island Books on Mercer Island, Baker Street Books in Black Diamond and Elliott Bay, now on Capitol Hill in Seattle. And when we go to Portland for my husband's favorite past time, Drum and Bugle Corps competitions, I get to sneak into Powells City of Books, one of my favorite spots in Oregon.
So I was delighted to read the following in Shelf Awareness:

As the digital age continues to draw a bead on traditional indies, the
Everett, Wash., Daily Herald observed
that "the cultural coroners are out in force again, pronouncing the time
of death for all bookstores. But people like bookstores. They especially
like, and are loyal to, independent bookstores. People who write books
also especially like bookstores. That's where they give readings
(libraries too!) and meet people who read their books....

"Community is key. In the Northwest, we are lucky to have plenty of our
own examples: Village Books in Bellingham,
Watermark Book Co in Anacortes,
Elliott Bay Books in Seattle, Auntie's
Bookstore in Spokane and Powell's Books in Portland. Funny how a 'dead' business also
continues to sound like one of the best things that could happen for the
future of downtown Everett."

I've just finished reading three books, The gorgeous "The Bards of Bone Plain" by my favorite fantasy author Patricia McKillip, "Destiny Times Six" a book written in Astrology's heydey in the 1970s by Katherine de Jersey and the final book in the "Fever" series, "Shadowfever" by Karen Marie Moning.
McKillip's prose was, as always, splendid and spellbinding, and the story sad and glorious, while Ms de Jersey had some fascinating takes on people via their astrological chart, and I felt that I learned something about astrology and how the planets influence us, or don't, as the case may be.
Shadowfever was a juicy tome full of climaxes, confrontations, and background/explanations of what and who everyone really was, including the main character, whose journey was long, twisted and in the end, worth all the pain.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Layoffs at Powells City of Books

From Shelf Awareness comes this bad news about one of the greatest bookstores in America, Powells City of Books in Portland, Oregon:

Citing "an industry-wide decline in new book sales, rising healthcare
costs, and the economy," Powell's Books, Portland, Ore., yesterday laid
off 31 employees, the Oregonian
reported. The affected booksellers represent about 7% of the company's
400 employees, mostly floor workers and seven or eight in the group
managing the company's website.

Ryan Van Winkle, a representative for Powell's union, said that the
affected employees were members of the union and that no management or
security guards had been laid off. According to a memo to employees, pay
for non-union staff has been frozen for at least a year and the company
has suspended contributions to its 401(k) plan.

Van Winkle told the Portland Mercury
that Powell's and the union had worked together during the past year to
avoid layoffs by reducing hours, among other changes. Van Winkle said
that the union is "worried about doing more work with less people and
also, frankly, being sure that this doesn't disrupt the work the union
does, like filling those cut jobs with managers or temporary workers."

The company said of the layoffs: "This undesirable course of action was
taken only after serious consideration of other possible options and a
careful evaluation of the future."

In the memo to the staff, Powell's said that sales this fiscal year are
down, with "the largest decreases" in new book sales, "a clear
indication that we are losing sales to electronic books and reading
devices." The company expects new book sales to continue to erode "over
the next year" and that it can compensate only in part "with solid used
book sales and growth in gift sales."

It is just horrifying that this far into the recession, there are still people losing their jobs, especially in the book industry, an industry that I love more than I love my own media industry with it's host of jobless journalists (or underpaid ones, like myself). I've heard many people spout the nonsense that the recession is over, and the American economy is in 'recovery' but I have yet to see where anyone, outside of the banks and auto companies that got bailouts, has really recovered at all, when most seem to be daily trying not to sink.

Also from Shelf Awareness, some interesting bookends:

Bookends "are more than just decorative (and in some cases, dangerous)
objects--they're also pretty darn useful," Flavorwire observed in
showcasing "10 Shelf-Worthy Bookends"

And finally, the wonderful Nancy Pearl has revised her rules of reading (and I totally agree with her findings, I might add):

Nancy Pearl's Revised 'Rule of 50'

"On the spur of the moment, with no particular psychological or literary
theory in mind to justify it, I developed my Rule of 50: Give a book 50
pages. When you get to the bottom of Page 50, ask yourself if you're
really liking the book. If you are, of course, then great, keep on
reading. But if you're not, then put it down and look for another....

"This rule of 50 worked exceedingly well until I entered my own 50s. As
I wended my way toward 60, and beyond, I could no longer avoid the
realization that, while the reading time remaining in my life was
growing shorter, the world of books that I wanted to read was, if
anything, growing larger. In a flash of, if I do say so myself,
brilliance, I realized that my Rule of 50 was incomplete. It needed an
addendum. And here it is: When you are 51 years of age or older,
subtract your age from 100, and the resulting number (which, of course,
gets smaller every year) is the number of pages you should read before
you can guiltlessly give up on a book. As the saying goes, 'Age has its
privileges.' And the ultimate privilege of age, of course, is that when
you turn 100, you are authorized (by the Rule of 50) to judge a book by
its cover."

--Nancy Pearl (librarian, author and action figure) in the Toronto Globe
& Mail

Friday, February 04, 2011

Save the Libraries (in the UK) on Saturday

It would appear that libraries in the United Kingdom are in as difficult financial straits as many American businesses and institutions. Yet libraries are the bedrock of any community, as necessary as city hall and city councils. So I support these folks in Britain with my heartfelt hope that they can reopen the libraries and with my eyeballs reading tomorrow.
From Mediabistro's GalleyCat:
Save Our Libraries Day Is Tomorrow
By Maryann Yin on February 4, 2011 3:47 PM

Tomorrow (February 5th), readers around the U.K. will gather to protest the more than 350 possible library closures in England–Voices for the Library’s special “save our libraries day of action.” The group’s Facebook page already counts 740 participants.

The day of action will feature read-ins around the country. In addition, author appearances and storytelling events are also planned.

Librarians and information professionals formed Voices for the Library last August with this goal: “[To create] a place for everyone who loves libraries to share their stories and experiences of the value of public libraries. We don’t want to lose our libraries, and we aim to ensure future generations continue to enjoy access to free unbiased public libraries and librarians.” (via Publishers Weekly)

And last but not least, a very funny video about getting kids to read the classics. from Shelf Awareness:
"Did Charles Dickens like jam, Dad?" Buzzfeed featured a video exploring
the funny, if unlikely, potential for getting kids to read the classics
with tasty editions like Dickens' Fruit Corners It's
a book... and it's jam.