Saturday, January 28, 2012

Seattle is #2, Book Blog Convention and Mary Modern

Seattle has always been an extremely literate city, and usually places first in these rankings, but this year, the "other Washington" on the East Coast beat us out for first place. Still, being second is nothing to sneeze at!

Washington, D.C. topped the list of the most literate cities in the U.S.
for the second consecutive year, while Boston (up from #12 in 2010) and
Cincinnati (up from #11) made significant gains in the statistical
survey released annually by Central Connecticut State University
President Jack Miller, and "based on data that includes number of
bookstores, library resources, newspaper circulation and Internet
resources," USA Today reported. The top 10 for 2011:

1) Washington, D.C.
2) Seattle
3) Minneapolis
4) Atlanta
5) Boston
6) Pittsburgh
7) Cincinnati
8) St. Louis
9) San Francisco
10) Denver

What I wouldn't give to go to the BEA and Book Blogger convention this summer!
I could showcase this blog, which has been going strong for nearly 7 years.

Reed Exhibitions has purchased the Book Blogger Convention, which will
continue to be located with BookExpo America at the Javits Center and
integrated into the overall activity of the trade show. Co-founders
Trish Collins (Hey Lady! Watcha Readin'? and
Michelle Franz (Galleysmith launched the
first Book Blogger Convention in 2010, attracting more than 200 people
and increasing to 340 attendees in 2011.

"Trish and Michelle are devoted to their community and they have
invested a tremendous amount of their own personal time and energy into
building a major presence for their colleagues at BEA," said Steven
Rosato, BEA show manager. "We are pleased to be able to take this
responsibility over for them and to build even greater recognition for
the Book Blogger Convention by fully merging it with our BEA marketing
efforts, programs, and attendee outreach."

This year's Book Blogger Convention, scheduled for Monday, June 4, will
occur just as BEA is getting underway, rather than at the show's
conclusion, as has been the case previously. Rosato noted that the
change "will provide greater continuity for the book bloggers and will
afford them more opportunity. This way, the book bloggers can attend
their own event and then immediately participate in BEA or BlogWorld
East, which gets underway Tuesday, June 5, and which is also co-located
with BEA."

On BEA's blog The Bean,
Rosato observed that "the role of BEA is increasingly as a source of
discovery for new titles and bloggers are a critical connection for
readers of all kinds to learn about new titles."

I feel the same way about the ocean, which I love, and books, which are my passion, as Bo Caldwell, who says it quite well:

"When I was a little girl and my family would go to the beach, I wanted to somehow take it with me when we left. I'd try, by keeping the shells I'd found or a small glass jar of salt water or a handful of sand (which was extra special if it glittered with fool's gold), but whatever I chose lost its magic once we got home; no ocean, no gold. I learned early on that I couldn't contain the beach or the sea or the experience, but even now, years later and firmly in middle age, I still want to. I stare out at the blue expanse of ocean with longing, wishing I could keep it and knowing I can't. There isn't a vessel that can contain its beauty and mystery and vastness.
Which is where books come in, for they are wonderful and wondrous vessels for life and beauty and love and soulfulness, and they satisfy that childhood longing I still feel. Books let me keep what they portray for my very own: Pip and Magwitch will always be mine, as will Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester, and Scout and Atticus and Boo, and that lovely moment when Scout introduces her father to their neighbor in her brother's bedroom. If I am open to it, reading allows a sort of magical transference to occur: the characters and their story--their joys and sorrows and longings and loves--settle in my heart and become part of me, and I never have to say goodbye to any of it. For someone who hates goodbyes--whether to loved ones or experiences or places I love--this is gold, the real thing. It's like taking home a spice-bottleful of ocean, and still hearing it roar in my ear, miles and miles away." --Bo Caldwell, author of City of Tranquil Light and The Distant Land of My Father

Finally, I just finished a book called "Mary Modern" by Camille DeAngellis last night. It's the story of Lucy Morrigan, a young genetic researcher and her boyfriend Gray who live in a crumbling family mansion with a small group of young men who consider themselves a celibate religious order.
Lucy discovers that she can't have children, and, since she's a geneticist, decides to clone her grandmother Mary and implant her in her own womb. Lucy soon finds out that she's growing an adult, and will die if she doesn't have a c-section, so she has her friend Megan take out her grandmother, who, after a few months is already the size of a four-year-old, and place her in a simulated, or artificial womb built by her father.
Unfortunately, once Mary is decanted and is roughly an adult in her 20s, she doesn't remember anything past 1924, and still has all her old fashioned mores, habits and sensibilities, including her moral outrage at what her granddaughter has done to bring her back, when her own husband and children are all dead. Meanwhile, a horrible Christian fundamentalist minister has set up a protest on the college campus where Lucy works, purely to protest her departments genetic experiments on religious grounds.
Meanwhile, Gray appears to be able to deal with Mary much easier than Lucy can, though he's an African-American gentleman. Mary came off as a rather snooty, snobbish and ungrateful b*tch, who can't forgive her grand daughter for bringing her back and yet insists that her grand daughter go through the whole process again to bring back her husband Teddy, which means Lucy and Gray have to go grave-robbing. She's not even happy with the results, as Teddy's genes were middle-aged when he died, so his clone is 15 years older than Mary when he's 'reborn'. And Mary is never able to accustom herself to the modern world or technology and whines constantly about all that is gone and changed since the 20s. This makes her character seem somewhat pathetic and weak, when we've been lead to believe by her grand daughter that she was an adventurous and intelligent, capable woman. Lucy also seems somewhat cold and whiney, and it is no surprise that Gray begins to fall in love with Mary, who treats him with kindness and affection. Still, the ending of the book, with the betrayal by one of the young boarders and the minister doesn't really ring seems more of a hasty plot device.
This book had a lot of things to recommend it, including well-crafted prose, a strong plot and interesting characters, if not ones that you can really learn to like. But DeAngeles leaves us hanging at the end, by not telling us what happened to Mary and Teddy, and where Lucy and Megan both ended up after they abandon the mansion and destroy the artificial womb and all her notes. It's my belief that a strong novel with modern themes like cloning deserve a strong ending that wraps everything up. That's why this novel gets a C+, with the caveat that it would have rated a grade higher had the ending been satisfactory.

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