Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Five Books Recently Read

I've managed to read five diverse books in the past three weeks, one autobiography by Christian music star Amy Grant and four fiction titles, one for my book group in July.
They are:
Mosaic, Amy Grant
The Night Bookmobile, Audrey Niffenegger
The Red Magician, Lisa Goldstein
One Vacant Chair, Joe Coomer
The Remarkable Life and Times of Eliza Rose,Mary Hooper

I was actually surprised that a favorite musical artist of mine from the 80s, Amy Grant, had written a book, as I'd never heard of it. However, once I snagged this copy at The Old Renton Bookstore, I found it was a well-written book that I was able to read in one sitting. Grant gives readers tidbits about her life and career interspersed with lyrics to her songs old and new. Though I am not a fundamental or charismatic Christian, Grant's heartfelt lyrics and pretty melodies have always attracted me to her work, as has her kindness and gentle spiritual persona. I've always felt that I could relate to her through her songs, and that if I ever actually met the woman, it would be like chatting with an old friend. That feeling only intensified after reading Mosaic, because Grant writes in such a personable fashion with all her Sagittarian charm. I'd recommend this book to anyone who enjoys knowing the story behind a hit song, and those who find the lives of musicians and poets fascinating, as I do, being a fellow creative.

The Night Bookmobile is the second book of Niffenegger's that I've read, having consumed her bestseller "The Time Travelers Wife" several years ago. The Night Bookmobile is an adult graphic novel/comic book that responds to the question every bibliophile has thought about, mainly, "What would happen if there were a library that held everything you'd ever read?" The protagonist of the book happens upon an old trailer one night that is full of books, cereal boxes, periodicals and all manner of items, curated by an elderly gentleman who is her very own "librarian." Though she's fascinated by this collection, she discovers that she can't stay in her mobile library and that it will take years before she can happen upon it again. Inbetween visits, the protagonist is moved to start volunteering at her local library, and eventually gets her MLS degree, becoming the director of the library in time. There is a furtive melancholy about the protagonist, who seems to become more depressed as the novel progresses, until she finds a way to become the librarian of someone else's "Night Bookmobile"...I won't spoil the surprise ending for you by telling you what happens. Suffice it to say that I wouldn't recommend this book to a melodramatic teenager.

I would recommend "The Red Magician" to high-school-age teens, however, because it lends a completely different facet to the story of the Holocaust than I've ever read before. Goldstein follows the life of a young girl in a small European village prior to WW2. The girl's close-knit family are surprised one day by the appearance of a red-haired 'magician' who challenges the authority of their village Rabbi, who has magic powers himself. Of course the teenage girl develops a crush or infatuation with Vorous (pronounced Vor-roosh) the red magician, and is horrified when she discovers that the Rabbi has decided that Vorous is cursing his daughter and causing demons to haunt the village. So Vorous leaves the village, only to return a few years later, and try to warn the village that bad things/bad people are coming to kill them. He is again run off by the rabbi, who seems to be a nasty character, and not long after the Nazi's come to the village, round everyone up and put them on trains bound for concentration camps. Though he doesn't find her until the camp is liberated by the Allies, Vorous manages to save the protagonist just in time for her to help Vorous keep the rabbi from killing him in a magical duel. This is a book that won't soon be forgotten, as its vivid characters and fascinating premise should keep readers turning pages into the wee hours.

One Vacant Chair is a book I'm reading for my KCLS book group, and though it started out slow, almost plodding, it eventually picked up steam and was a charming work of fiction. It's the story of a Texas family that have moved away from their hometown and now are returning for the funeral of their mother/grandmother. The main character has just discovered that her husband cheated on her, and is trying to get some perspective and space by staying with her Aunt, who took care of her mean mother for years until her demise. The grandmother insists, in her will, that her ashes get scattered all over Scotland, so the protagonist and the Aunt take off for Scotland, where they learn a great deal about each other and the power of forgiveness. I felt that this novel, though dotted with interesting and eccentric characters, could have used a deft editor to cut out the paragraphs that seemed little more than the author showing off his vocabulary and use of metaphor. Though I found the end sad, this was a book that left me feeling uplifted in many ways.

Not nearly as uplifted as I was by the Remarkable Life of Eliza Rose, however, which read like a Masterpiece Theater series. This tale is a juicy historical novel about a girl named Eliza who is thrown out of her home by her nasty stepmother, only to find that when she finally gets to London to try and track down her father, that it was on his orders that she was thrown out. Eliza is thrown in jail for stealing food, and is rescued by Ma Gwyn, whose daughter Nell Gwyn becomes the mistress of King Charles II, and takes Eliza with her to court to save her from life in a brothel. Everyday life in 17th century England is well delineated here, with an emphasis on the difficulties of young women in various strata of society. Though Eliza is a bit prudish, I found her likeable and her situation fascinating, and was enthralled through all of the twists and turns of the plot. An interesting novel for fans of historical romance and 17th century Britain in particular.

This is from Shelf Awareness, and I must say that I was thrilled to see Lois McMaster Bujold, Ursula Le Guin and Joanna Russ get some much-deserved kudos for their wonderful SF novels for a change.

Flavorwire featured "10 diverse sci-fi authors you should know
noting that "it's good to remember that the field has widened in the
past thirty years or so to be more inclusive. Now there are women,
people of color, and writers of all different kinds of sexualities
getting involved in the genre."

I would love to have a lamp like this, I just can't imagine eviscerating a book to make it:
How to make a bedside lamp in a hollow book
http://www.shelf-awareness.com/ct/uz3642037Biz11294364. Boing
Boing noted that the "book's cover is the switch, and the book's
designer says he wanted to prove that literature is illuminating."

Finally, though I am not a fan of Tom Perrotta, having found "Little Children" to be a horrid book, I agree with his taste in books:

My Half-Century Reading List by Tom Perrotta
I’m turning fifty this summer, and to mark the occasion, I’ve been re-reading some books that were published in the year of my birth. By chance, or some mysterious confluence of cultural factors, 1961 turned out to be a golden moment for American fiction. A glance at the nominees for the National Book Award of 1962 tells the story: Among the finalists are three landmark works still widely read today—Joseph Heller’s Catch 22, Richard Yates’s Revolutionary Road, and the winner, Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer—as well as books by I.B. Singer, J.D. Salinger, and Bernard Malamud. That’s a pretty impressive roster, a Camelot-era literary dream team.


What a GREAT idea! This could be like the Dublin-based Irish Writers Museum that my friend Muff and I saw back in 2000.

Retired businessman Malcolm O'Hagan, "an Irish engineer with a love for
great literature," is working on a plan to open the American Writers
Museum http://www.shelf-awareness.com/ct/uz3642037Biz11312631 in Chicago. The Tribune
reported that O'Hagan is optimistic about raising funds for his
ambitious project.

"We don't underestimate the difficulty of the undertaking, but it will
get done," he said. His initial idea was to house the museum in New
England, but "the more we thought about it, we realized it needs to be
in a destination city for both tourists and conventioneers, and it needs
to be in a large metropolitan city with a rich literary tradition and
culture. We've settled on Chicago because we think that's where it

Friday, June 24, 2011

Neil Gaiman, Pottermore and Tea and Books, the Perfect Combination

First up, from Shelf Awareness Pro, a great interview with the marvelous Neil Gaiman on his forthcoming television series of American Gods:

In an interview with MTV
Neil Gaiman discussed the newly released 10th anniversary edition of
American Gods, as well as an adaptation he is working on for HBO. Gaiman
is attached as executive producer and will co-write the series pilot
with cinematographer Robert Richardson. The project is being developed
by Tom Hanks's Playtone production studio.

"The overall plan right now is that the first season would essentially
be the first book, with a few interesting divergences," Gaiman said.
"You don't want people who've read the book to be able to go, 'I know
everything that's going to be happening here.' [They will] know a lot
more than anybody who's starting from here, but we will do things that
will surprise [them] too."

MTV also asked Gaiman about his plans for an American Gods sequel. "I've
been [planning] to do a second American Gods book since the first
American Gods book," he replied. "What I basically have right now is a
boxful of stuff. Things go into it. I always knew there was going to be
more story. The first book was very much about the grifters and the
lowlifes, and you don't really get to see much of the new gods and you
don't really get a sense of those gods who are doing incredibly well in
America. In the second book, I definitely want to go into both of those

JK Rowling's new website, Pottermore, was unveiled yesterday as being a site for e-books and for new tidbits about Harry Potter and his world. The reaction from booksellers was mixed, because they feel betrayed by Rowling selling e-books on her site and taking that money away from the stores that supported her work through the years. Others admire her marketing savvy for doing things in a way that will only bring more money into her already sky-high hoard:

Pottermore lives! And will sell e-books! With the launch of
Pottermore.com http://www.shelf-awareness.com/ct/uz3642037Biz11284428 yesterday, J.K. Rowling
"shocked and thrilled her fans in equal measure" with details about her
latest venture, which will feature "a wealth of new and previously
unpublished material about the world of Harry Potter," the Guardian
reported. Although there is not another Potter novel on the horizon,
"the fresh Potter material--to be unveiled later this year--already
stretches to 18,000 words about the novels' characters, places and
objects, with more to come."

"The Hogwarts' Express money train is riding back into town," noted the
Guardian's Sam Jordison
who gave high marks to the author for her marketing savvy: "Once again,
J.K. Rowling and her marketing team have left the rest of the publishing
world standing while she blazes a trail into the record books. I'll eat
my hardback copy of The Deathly Hallows if the Harry Potters aren't the
fastest-selling e-books in history by the end of this year--and I can
only tip my hat in admiration....

"The most impressive thing of all, though, is the way Rowling has
managed to present the whole thing as an act of altruism. 'I wanted to
give something back to the fans that have followed Harry so devotedly
over the years, and to bring the stories to a new generation,' she says.
This isn't necessarily hogwash: at this stage in her fantastically
lucrative career, money presumably isn't the driving force for Rowling
and there's every chance that she does love the fans who have made her
so successful."

The Telegraph
noted that while Pottermore.com may not be perfect, it "represents a
significant landmark for digital publishing. J.K. Rowling has not just
hauled out her manuscript and plonked it onto a website with a bit of
frilly window-dressing from a digital agency. Instead, she has labored
for a year in close collaboration with creative developers TH_NK to
curate an experience that really takes advantages of the unique
properties of the web."

The collaborative website will open initially to a million users who
register first on July 31--Harry's birthday. The full launch is
scheduled for October. Pottermore will also sell e-book and digital
audiobook versions of the Harry Potter titles directly to users
beginning in October. The digital editions, compatible with all devices,
will only be sold from the website, "thus disintermediating other
booksellers such as Amazon," the Guardian wrote.

This is exactly what I would like to do here in Maple Valley, in opening a Butterfly Books Bookstore with a tea shop inside:

In an article appropriately headlined "Tea for Two," Bookselling This
Week http://www.shelf-awareness.com/ct/uz3642037Biz11284417 spoke with a pair of
booksellers who have found their niche serving tea rather than the
ubiquitous coffee/books combo.

Gary and Kathy Robson, co-owners of Red Lodge Books
http://www.shelf-awareness.com/ct/uz3642037Biz11284418, Red Lodge, Mont., began selling loose tea in tins about a year ago and have since expanded by adding a serving
counter. BTW noted that even though the tea "comes from all over the
world (places of origin are marked on a large world map), Red Lodge has
made an effort to add local elements by offering tea accessories. The
bookstore sells alfalfa and clover honey from a nearby ranch, and
handmade pottery tea ware from a local artisan. The Robsons are also
working on developing some tea blends based on Montana-grown herbs."

Francine Lucidon's the Voracious Reader
http://www.shelf-awareness.com/ct/uz3642037Biz11284419 children's bookstore, Larchmont,
N.Y., also operates A Proper Cup. "It fits with the whole vision of the
bookstore," she said, "which is about slowing down, relaxing, and
spending time with the kids.... Tea is so much fun. It's all about
learning. It ties in with so many interesting things--it's a geography
lesson, a science lesson, and a lesson in heritage. It's fascinating,
and drinking it has more of a slower, more ambient feel."

Lucidon added that the tea shop adds a community feel to the location
and has attracted new patrons: "Sales have skyrocketed. People come in
and browse for longer, go over to the shop for some tea, and then
they're in such a good mood that they'll come back to the bookstore and
shop some more."

And finally, a booklist from Seattle's treasured book maven, Nancy Pearl, whose job I really want to have someday:

And on NPR's Morning Edition, America's favorite librarian Nancy Pearl
presented 10 Terrific Summer Reads
"When I'm ready for my next good read, I look for a book (fiction or
nonfiction) with a strong narrative voice, wonderfully drawn characters
and writing that makes me stop and savor the words the author has
written--all of which are present in these 10 terrific books."

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A New Writer's Union

I received an interesting email on Monday from a woman responding to a survey that I'd taken about the current state of freelance journalism. In the email, she said she'd be coming to town to talk to freelance writers like myself about joining a new freelance writer's union called the Newspaper Guild. I found this suspicious because I don't remember the survey, first of all, and second, I found the union admission fee of $124 to be a bit much in light of the fact that most freelancers are struggling to find work and make a living, plus there already is an established union called the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) Western Washington Chapter, in this area. So I responded to her email with this:

On Mon, Jun 20, 2011
Dear Ms Lum,
I am not sure that I see the value of joining the Newspaper Guild and spending $124 which could be used to feed my family on an untried union. What makes you different from the Society of Professional Journalists, who charge less for membership and are established in this area? The Western Washington SPJ also offered health insurance for awhile, until it became obvious that it was too expensive for most journalists and it didn't cover enough. They also offer a variety of classes to help freelancers get up to speed on new media, and they have an editors/freelancers mixer once a year that offers networking for veteran freelancers and newbies alike. Craigslist, Writers Weekly and Journalism Jobs and MediaBistro are among the many job boards that have local jobs, what there is of them. Where would you find jobs for your jobs board that weren't already listed in those places and available for free?
Thank you for your time,
DeAnn Rossetti
Freelance writer/reporter

Rebecca Lum, the advanced guard for this new union responded:

Hi DeAnn, and thanks for your input. SPJ is indeed a wonderful organization (I'm also an admirer of your state's Journalism That Matters).

What we offer is the power of numbers to affect change and win benefits and protections. Although you understandably describe our unit as untried, in the Bay Area we have been able to leverage our membership (some 200 or so) to develop some decent protections, programs and benefits.

I guess I'd say the primary difference between us and SPJ is that we focus solely on the needs of freelancers. Also, we deal primarily with the pragmatic and the political. This stems from the newsroom bloodbaths of 2008-2010 that jettisoned thousands of journalists (including yours truly). I felt heartsick watching reporters I had long admired struggling to make a living with no benefits, no security, no steady income -- and mouths to feed. I wanted to do whatever I could to improve working conditions across the board and the Guild fortunately shared my sense of urgency.

As for the jobs, I try to get to publications that are hiring people as freelancers. So maybe it's more like "gigs" and less like jobs. Some of our people would love to get a staff position again but others like the freedom and flexibility of freelancing.

But you make good arguments. If we don't fit the bill for you, I take no offense whatever, and I appreciate your getting in touch.

All the best to you.

Kind regards,

Check this out:

Yet if you visit their San Francisco website, you notice that they don't have any medical insurance in place, just a partial dental plan and promises of more to come. I saw little of value on the site that would make me want to spend what is for me a lot of money on dues when I wouldn't get much in return that I couldn't get from the local SPJ. That said, I will be interested to see if this whole thing pans out, or if any freelancers decide to take a chance on it and see if they find the whole thing useful.

Meanwhile, some nasty, sarcastic and interesting anecdotes about classic authors behaving badly, from Shelf Awareness:

"He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the
dictionary," William Faulkner once said of Ernest Hemingway. Flavorwire
featured the 30 harshest author-on-author insults in history
including Mr. Hemingway's retort: "Poor Faulkner. Does he really think
big emotions come from big words?"

Also, now I won't have to worry about another bookstore claiming that I took their name when I someday get to open my own Butterfly Bookstore:

Children's bookstore Butterfly Books
De Pere, Wis., is closing next month, according to the Green Bay
Press-Gazette http://www.shelf-awareness.com/ct/uz3642037Biz11258606.
Amy VandenPlas, owner of the 20-year-old store, said on the store's
website: "We have loved being a part of the community, meeting you and
sharing your love of books. Because of economic times, we can no longer
provide the quality service and product you deserve."

This is a fascinating little pictoral of people reading:

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Happy Bloomsday and Other Book News

From Shelf Awareness today springs all this great stuff, starting with this quote that makes me want to shout AMEN:

"There's a danger in perfectionism, in the compulsive attempt to make
every novel and story and essay an A plus, or to finish reading
everything we start. Yet there's also a danger in easy abandonment, in
the lack of persistence needed to push through the slow parts of War and
Peace or Infinite Jest, or in the lack of writerly belief in one's
powers of revision and discovery.
"In this way, as in so many others, writing and reading are metaphors
for living. In the end, you do the best you can, and then, in one way or
another, you let it go and move on."

--Frank Kovarik in The Millions

There are serious rumblings on websites and on YouTube about an upcoming announcement on JK Rowlings birthday concerning another book---what will it be about? Who knows?

Watch this space dept.: Pottermore.com
http://www.shelf-awareness.com/ct/uz3642037Biz11242264, a
mysterious website featuring "a pink holding page with the description
'coming soon' and Rowling's signature underneath," has been launched by
J.K. Rowling. The Bookseller
reported that Pottermore.com has sparked rumors that more Harry Potter
novels are on the way, but a spokeswoman for Rowling's PR company Stone
Hill Salt said, "It is not another Harry Potter book but we cannot
reveal any more at this stage, fans will have to keep an eye on the
website. It will be launching soon."

Where the Wild Things Are was one of my favorite books to read to Nick...because what could be more fascinating than a book that starts out with "The night Max wore his Wolf suit..."

"Wild Thing" by the Troggs, of course. Flavorwire's literary mixtape for
Max from Where the Wild Things Are
("Maurice Sendak's ultimate wild child") offers a musical selection for
a child who "goes out into the wild to discover something about himself,
then returns a changed man--er, boy--able to see the real world
differently. When he gets homesick, he climbs back into his bedroom and
finds his supper waiting for him after all, still hot, the love of a
mother paramount."

After all that, today is BLOOMSDAY, wherein all manner of literary celebrations take place to revel in the works and legend of Irish author James Joyce:

Ulysses meets Twitter
http://www.shelf-awareness.com/ct/uz3642037Biz11242275: All day today, a
brave cast of volunteer "tweaders"
http://www.shelf-awareness.com/ct/uz3642037Biz11242276 will post the novel's
text 140 characters at a time through @11ysses

For literary cartographers, Google Maps features "Bloomsday 2011
Worldwide http://www.shelf-awareness.com/ct/uz3642037Biz11242278,"
with which you can "navigate your way around the globe and see the many
events organized by Irish cultural centers, arts organizations and
enthusiastic individuals."

Parting words from Irish Voice
magazine: "Around the world these days there are thousands of Joycean
scholars who make their living parsing and reparsing the great man who,
perhaps much to his chagrin if he were alive, has become a symbol of all
things Irish to millions. So celebrate this Bloomsday and if nothing
else, read some of Molly's soliloquy. It is there that the greatness of
Joyce can be seen and the celebration of his masterwork is well
deserved. Happy Bloomsday."

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Neil Gaiman on Tour with American Gods

I can't believe it was 10 years ago that I read American Gods by the incredible Neil Gaiman, but apparently time has flown by, and now Gaiman has come out with an anniversary edition and a tour. I would love to get the audiobook, and I am deeply envious of Nicole Quinn, who won a contest to record the audiobook and hang with Gaiman, who in addition to being brilliant is also a screamin' hottie.
The following is from Shelf Awareness today:

Neil Gaiman has another reason to celebrate: American Gods: The Tenth
Anniversary Edition (Morrow, $26.99, 9780062059888) goes on sale next
Tuesday, June 21. The commemorative volume includes a bonus for readers:
Gaiman's preferred text--12,000 words of content that did not appear in
the original--along with an introduction by him.

A simultaneous audiobook (HarperAudio, $34.99, 9780062101914) features a
portion of text read by scriptwriter Nicole Quinn, who had the chance to
contribute after being tops in a contest. (Coaching by Gaiman and a trip
to New York City to do the recording were also part of the prize.) The
award-winning fantasy tale about a war on Earth between old gods and
new, centering on the adventures of an ex-convict named Shadow, is
currently in development as an HBO miniseries.

Gaiman's American Gods Tenth Anniversary Tour kicks off on publication
day with a double header. Although an evening appearance at the 92nd
Street Y in New York City is sold out, fans can catch him online that
afternoon. A conversation between Gaiman and author Kurt Andersen will
be broadcast on LiveStream.com, after which he'll answer questions from
fans via social media. The popular storyteller has nearly 1.6 million
followers on Twitter (@neilhimself http://www.shelf-awareness.com/ct/uz3642037Biz11228329).
Click here http://www.shelf-awareness.com/ct/uz3642037Biz11228330
for Gaiman's full tour schedule.

Monday, June 13, 2011

John Gardner Quote

"True art is moral: it seeks to improve life, not debase it. It seeks to hold off, at least for awhile, the twilight of the gods and us...that art which tends toward destruction, the art of nihilists, cynics, and merdistes, is not properly art at all. Art is essentially serious and beneficial, a game played against chaos and death, and entropy." John Gardner, from On Moral Fiction, 1978.

Indeed! Though it cost him considerable enmity in literary circles and with critics, Gardner took a stand against the darkness with the above book and vision, and realized that art is as important for the edification of the soul as religion.

This is another funny bit from Shelf Awareness:

Booze and books. Flavorwire couldn't "think of anything better than to
sip a cool drink while typing away at our--er, laptops--out on the porch
in the sweet summer night air." Thus, the inevitable feature: "How to
Drink Like Your Favorite Authors

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Joy for Beginners by Erica Bauermeister Debuts Today!

Today is the launch of Erica Bauermeister's latest wonderful novel, Joy for Beginners!
Bauermeister's first book, "The School of Essential Ingredients" was such a marvelous read I didn't think the author could top it, but somehow she managed to pull it off with this delightful, fresh and fun read:

"Joy For Beginners tells the story of a group of seven women who gather for an intimate, outdoor dinner in Seattle to celebrate their friend Kate's recovery from cancer. Wineglass in hand, Kate agrees to a pact: she'll go white-water rafting down the Grand Canyon, a journey which frankly terrifies. But if she goes, each of them must also do one thing in the next year that is new or difficult or scary – and Kate gets to choose their challenges."

Bauermeister and her fellow Seattle7Writers group friend, Jennie Shortridge, should someday be on the list below, from Shelf Awareness:

"The 10 Most Powerful Women Authors
were showcased by Forbes, which said that these particular writers were
selected "because of their ability to influence us through their words
and ideas. Collectively, these women hold readers captivated with
stories of fantastical worlds, suspense and drama, insights into the
complexities of minority experiences and cultures, and fresh takes on
societal issues and expectations.... not to mention, book sales of up to
800 million copies sold and a wealth of prestigious awards and
recognition including Nobel and Pulitzer Prizes. In other words, these
10 women can tell (and sell) a good story."

Though I must mention that I read and enjoyed books from only three of the authors on the list, JK Rowling, Maya Angelou and Isabel Allende, because so many of the other authors listed write formulaic garbage, like Danielle Steel (if you've read one of her books, you have read them all) or horrible prose like Stephanie Meyers. But of course they are not talking about the quality of what these women write, it's how much money they've made, how many books sold and how powerful they are. Never mind if their books are good, or worth reading.

I am intrigued by this, because if the price goes down far enough, I may be tempted to get one:
Citigroup analyst Mark Mahaney predicted that a $99 Kindle may be a
reality by the Christmas season this year: "We would expect a sub-$100
price level by late 2011. Our belief is that the current price levels
are attractive enough to broadly expand the potential Kindle buyer
base." PaidContent.org
called this the "price point that many believe is key to widespread
e-reader adoption by the holidays."

And I really, really want to go on this trip:
Jaunted.com featured "three havens for bookish travelers
noting that London "is teeming with bookshops that celebrate all things
erudite, stores that avid readers could easily get lost in for hours on
end. If you count yourself among this group, then take note of the
following three locales: nerd-tested (and we mean that in a good way),

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

A Bit of Housekeeping

Since I was unable to post in the past two weeks, due to pinch-hitting as the editor of Mercer Island Patch while the editor and his wife had a baby, I have a ton of saved-up bits from the fabulous Shelf Awareness to share with you. So we'll start out with this piece, which sums up my feeling toward A Room of One's Own:

As you prepare for the imminent deluge of summer beach read lists, take
a moment to savor Jessica Gelt's Los Angeles Times
piece, "A deep sense of kinship with Virginia Woolf." She recalls her
first encounter--in Tucson, Ariz.--with A Room of One's Own, noting that
"in the summer, reading took on a particularly heroic quality--it
provided escape from the searing misery of triple-digit heat. And in
August 1991, when I turned 15, it changed the person I was becoming with
a revelatory flash--the first, but certainly not the last, time
literature would affect me like that.... So, as I tiptoed into Woolf's
solitary room each day, leaving the sidewalks of Tucson radiating heat
in waves and the pungent scent of dry creosote for the grassy lawns of
early 20th Century Oxford, upon which Woolf, and women in general, were
not allowed to tread, I began to feel something I hadn't before.

"It was a deep sense of kinship--the delicate, magical string that a
good book can sew through the human experience. Pulled tight enough,
that string can draw the whole of history around your shoulders to make
you realize that you are not alone."

I loved this commentary from JK Rowling, creator of the wonderful Harry Potter series:

J.K. Rowling was interviewed
http://www.shelf-awareness.com/ct/uz3642037Biz11188842 by Words with
Jam, where, among other topics, she considered the eternal debate about
literary vs. genre fiction: "There has always been an overlap. The late
J.G. Ballard being the modern example that springs to mind; an
outstanding writer who 'transcended' the science fiction genre. I am
pretty indifferent to the distinction between 'literary' and 'genre'
fiction myself, and I hop pretty freely between the two as a reader
without feeling remotely as though I am 'slumming it.' So-called 'genre'
fiction has given us deathless characters like Sherlock Holmes, Ford
Prefect and James Bond, who have forever influenced our culture and
language; what is there to be snobbish about?"

This made me laugh, as it is such a stereotype of writers (and I don't drink):

Alternative Reel featured its selections for "Top 10 Drunk American
Writers with appropriately (or inappropriately) incriminating quotations

This is a great summer reading list compendium:

Yesterday NPR's Morning Edition featured "some of the books that our
trusty independent booksellers are recommending
for your summer reading pleasure." Featured guests on the segment were
Lucia Silva of Portrait of a Bookstore
, Studio City, Calif; Daniel
Goldin of Boswell Book Co. http://www.shelf-awareness.com/ct/uz3642037Biz11157596, Milwaukee, Wis.; and Rona Brinlee of the BookMark, Atlantic Beach, Fla.

The Christian Science Monitor recommended "11 excellent novels for
summer reading http://www.shelf-awareness.com/ct/uz3642037Biz11157597,"
noting that whether "you're on the beach, in the airport, or staying in
your own backyard, there's nothing like the perfect novel to round out
your summer vacation."

Flavorpill highlighted its "10 Most Anticipated Summer Reads


Amazon's recent announcement of its "most well-read cities in America"
list (Shelf Awareness http://www.shelf-awareness.com/ct/uz3642037Biz11157599, May 27,
2011) prompted a number of responses, including Flavorwire
which took "the top ten in reverse chronological order and created a
list of books that are based in each city to create a virtual, literary
tour for your reading pleasure."

The Christian Science Monitor
observed that a "similar list released by Amazon in February 2010 ranked
the 'Top 20 Most Romantic Cities in America.' The two lists varied by
only two cities.... Which raises the question: Do these lists prove
anything other than the fact that Amazon has a heavy customer base in
these cities?... What it seems that Amazon has really managed to measure
is the affluence of each city, which makes a lot of sense if you're a
retailer. But is there really any point in labeling these cities
'well-read' and 'romantic'? Why not just call a spade a spade and say
that these cities have money--and like to spend it online?"

This is a response to the above:
More fallout from Amazon's "most well-read cities in America" list:
Techflash http://www.shelf-awareness.com/ct/uz3642037Biz11164379
observed that the "list is dominated by college towns, an indication
that Amazon.com is a popular site for books among students."

In the Christian Science Monitor
Rebekah Denn wondered "if Portland, Ore., (#19) would have scored higher
if we could have factored in sales from independent bookstores. There's
always a healthy crowd and a line at the registers at Portland's
landmark Powell's bookstore. Then, how about towns with strong library
systems? Would Seattle, which regularly dukes it out for the #1 spot on
other literacy lists, have fared better if the list accounted for the
Seattle and King County library systems? King County is one of the top
library systems in the country by circulation--those are a lot of books
that people aren't ordering through Amazon."

This proves what I have always believed, that VS Naipaul is an over-rated writer, a sexist jerk and a putz:

Want to start a good fight? Ask V.S. Naipaul for advice on how to go
about it. Hours after ending a 15-year feud with Paul Theroux during the
Hay Festival, Naipaul stirred up a new controversy by telling the Royal
Geographic Society that he does not consider any woman writer to be his
literary match, the Guardian reported.

Considering Jane Austen, Naipaul said he "couldn't possibly share her
sentimental ambitions, her sentimental sense of the world." He also
observed: "I read a piece of writing and within a paragraph or two I
know whether it is by a woman or not. I think [it is] unequal to me."

The Guardian immediately formulated the "Naipaul test: Can you tell an
author's sex? http://www.shelf-awareness.com/ct/uz3642037Biz11178363"

Finally, a smart and sensible article on why it is important to write completely honest book reviews, something I always try to do, even if I hated the book: