Friday, April 25, 2014

Most Influential Book People, Melissa Etheridge, Happy Librarians and Getting Waisted by Monica Parker

 I am chuffed that John Green, author of the most wonderful YA novel written in the past 5 years, (The Fault in Our Stars) is on Time Magazine's list. He's also a constant presence on the marvelous Mental Floss videos on You Tube.

Time 100's 'Most Influential' Book People

Time magazine released its annual list of the "100 Most Influential
People in the World," and while the book
world was considerably less than dominant, the seven bookish people
showcased more than tripled last year's total :

Donna Tartt "While
we've been carrying on with our lives, Donna has given herself over to
the lives of her characters. If she took a break in the past 12 years, I
don't remember it," Ann Patchett wrote.

John Green "He treats
every human he meets as their own planet, rather than simply one of his
moons. He sees people with curiosity, compassion, grace and excitement,"
Shailene Woodley wrote.

Arundhati Roy "In
an age of intellectual logrolling and mass-manufactured infotainment,
she continues to offer bracing ways of seeing, thinking and feeling,"
Pankaj Mishra wrote.

Binyavanga Wainaina "The best-known
Kenyan writer of his generation, he felt an obligation to chip away at
the shame that made people like his friend die in silence,'" Chimamanda
Ngozi Adichie wrote.

Barbara Taylor Brown "An
acclaimed Episcopal preacher and best-selling author, Taylor lives
quietly on her farm in northern Georgia, writing spiritual nonfiction
that rivals the poetic power of C.S. Lewis and Frederick Buechner,"
Elizabeth Dias wrote.

Alice Waters "She
proved the power of a chef, showing an entire generation that one
passionate person can reshape the eating habits of a nation," Ruth
Reichl wrote.

Jeff Bezos "Nobody
else reinvests almost every cent of profit in growth, as Bezos still
does. Amazon is immensely valuable today, and almost all of its value
comes from the future," Peter Thiel wrote.

This book, the History of Rain, sounds exactly like my kind of novel, full of weird characters and beautiful prose. Plus, it's got the Irish landscape going for it, and I've always been a fan of all things Irish, more so since my visit to the Emerald Isle in 2000.

Review: History of the Rain

The rain soaking the Irish landscape in Niall Williams's (Four Letters
of Love) luminous novel History of the Rain is as dark and unremitting
as Ireland's poetry and storytelling are its miracles.

Ruth Swain is ill, confined to her attic bedroom after collapsing from
an unexplained illness while at college. But her world is as large as
those contained in the almost 4,000 books her father, an unpublished
poet, left her when he died. From here she receives visitors like the
adoring Nick Cunningham and her old teacher Mrs. Quinty, who comes to
read her latest installment of the history of the Swains, whose
peculiarities are renewed each generation as they fail to live up to an
Impossible Standard. From here Ruth reads, to understand her world and
find her father. Here, in the face of her own possible mortality, she
writes his story to keep him.

Ruth is ironic, self-aware and very funny. She is a young contemporary
woman wrapped up in Ireland's history and literature. She's a
nonbeliever in a deeply Catholic parish. Like Emily Dickinson, she has
the habit of capitalization and admits her writing suffers from an
Eccentric Superabundance of Style. It's also peppered with tributes to
her literary heroes, chief among them Dickens and Yeats. Ruth's voice is
wonderful, bursting with wry observations: Mrs. Quinty's face is pinched
"as if Life was a narrow thing you had to get through." It also aches
with love and loss. There's her father, her golden twin brother Aeney,
her illness, and her inability to stop herself from pushing away the
devoted Nick. The language is gorgeous and surprising. If there is
writerly excess here, Williams has accomplished the neat trick of making
it Ruth's excess while leaving the reader to marvel.

In the novel's only false notes, Ruth's mother doesn't quite come into
clear focus. Likewise, her illness doesn't seem quite real; despite
references to worrisome blood tests or the side effect of the drug
interferon, her ailment never fully rises above metaphor. Overall,
however, History of the Rain is charming, wise and beautiful. It is a
love letter to Ireland in all its contradictions, to literature and
poetry and family. It acknowledges that faith itself is a paradox, both
impossible and necessary. And faith carries this novel--faith that
stories can save us, that love endures, that acceptance is within reach,
and finally, that it is possible to get to the other side of grief.

Shelf Talker: A two-time nominee for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award,
Niall Williams (Four Letters of Love) has written an incandescent novel
about family, Ireland and the magical power of stories.

The Japanese are going to love Harry Potter, probably even more than they've learned to love Disney. 

Japan's Wizarding World of Harry Potter Opens in July
Universal Studios Japan, which was originally unveiled
ago, has set a July 15 opening date
for its Wizarding World of Harry Potter
in Osaka, reported. An announcement ceremony held Friday
included Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, U.S Ambassador to Japan
Caroline Kennedy and Harry Potter production designer Stuart Craig, who
helped plan and build the attraction. The Japanese version of the
Wizarding World "will include Hogwarts castle--the first of the new
attractions to be unveiled today--Hogsmeade and multiple attractions," wrote.

I've been a fan of Melissa Etheridge's music for the past 25 years, and this seems to be the kind of thing she does all the time without thought of any publicity for herself. She's just a good human being. 

Singer Melissa Etheridge, who was in Harrisburg, Pa., for a concert in
Hershey last night, stopped by Midtown Scholar Bookstore
partner, Linda Wallem, she "sipped tea and browsed the book selection,"
PennLive noted, adding that what happened next "made one lucky fan's

"I looked at her, and it looked like her and I was like 'It can't be
her.' I was like shocked," said David Kern, the bookstore's events

Etheridge asked Kern if he and his husband, Joe Currin, would be
attending the show, but Kern said "the couple had got married a month
ago in Maryland, and couldn't afford the concert tickets due to wedding
expenses," PennLive wrote.

"She gave us tickets as a wedding gift," Kern said. "She was just so
amazingly sweet."

 Great Quote:
              from Wassily Kandinsky: "Everything that is dead
quivers. Not only the things of poetry, stars, moon, wood, flowers, but
even a white trouser button glittering out of a puddle in the street....
Everything has a secret soul, which is silent more often than it

I happen to be a huge fan of the song "Happy" because it speaks to me musically and emotionally, as I am, for the most part, a happy person. Plus, I love Minions!
So here's a combination of two of my favorite things, librarians and the song Happy!

The staff at Port Washington, N.Y., Public Library
had their dancing shoes on and were recently captured on video
Williams ubiquitous hit song "Happy."

I am hoping that this show will be available on Netflix so that I can watch the fun Rose Tyler, Doctor Who's companion, Billie Piper, play a prostitute.

 A new trailer has been released for Showtime's Penny Dreadful
a new horror series featuring "some of literature's most famously
terrifying characters, including Dr. Frankenstein and his creature,
Dorian Gray and iconic figures from the novel Dracula," Entertainment
Tonight reported. Eva Green, Josh Hartnett and Timothy Dalton star.

In the trailer, "the show's leads attempt to persuade--or
reassure--viewers that their dark tendencies are simply human nature. Or
are we all just monsters masquerading as men? The drama, set in
Victorian London, does intertwine the origin stories of various classic
horror characters, after all," ET wrote.

Getting Waisted by Monica Parker
Fair disclosure, I received a copy of this book free from the publisher in exchange for a review, provided here.
As a woman who has struggled with her weight since childhood, (when I was put on cortisone for my asthma and allergies), I was expecting this book, with it's subtitle of "A Survival Guide to BEING FAT in a society that LOVES THIN" to be inspirational and uplifting in it's message of self acceptance and defiance of societal norms about women's bodies and beauty. 
Instead, it's really not a survival guide at all, it's an amusing but somewhat bitter memoir that details Monica Parker's rather horrendous life, including childhood abuse at the hands of her vile, vain mother and her mentally ill and weak father. 
Parker starts each chapter with the weight loss details of one of the many crazy fad diets she has been on in her life, and the hows and whys each didn't work. Usually, they don't work for the same reason, because she grew up in an abusive household and was then raped as a teenager and she uses food to deal with her pain, because food is soothing and allows her to push the pain and grief down farther into her mind/heart so she doesn't have to face it or work through it. Parkers binge eating takes on a vicious edge when things go awry in her life, especially when she's dealing with her cruel crazy mother. Because she can't seem to tell her mother to shove it, she instead shoves her anger into the junk food she shovels into her mouth. 
After awhile, though Parker has a successful career as a TV comedienne and marries a wonderful Frenchman from Quebec, as well as producing a healthy child from the union, the constant whining about her terrible mother, her overeating and her self-loathing all become pathetic, boring and over-wrought. It's as if she hasn't learned anything about accepting herself as she is over all the years, and instead continues to try extreme diets and exercise, only to gain more weight than she lost each time. It is only in the final 3-4 pages that Parker starts to come to terms with her size and her appetite. The final paragraph is inspirational and delineates a realistic attitude about people being like horses: "There are Palominos and there are Clydsdales--racehorses and working breeds." So though she still claims to want a "smokin' hot body" she's accepted that taking control of her own body, just as it is, is really the only way to live. 
The reader is left wondering, however, if Parker is through with the ridiculous fad diets that have done nothing but bring her pain and more weight gain. There's also no discussion of Parker getting to the root of her emotional eating by talking to a therapist about her horrible parents and the rape that sent her into a tailspin of pain and grief. As a successful wife, mother and actress/comedienne, I would sincerely hope that by now Parker has a handle on her issues and is on her way to recovery from emotional eating. I would also hope that she's finished with dangerous diets and surgery, and has learned that she's valuable and wonderful at whatever size she is. Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all, as they say, and I know it's a hard road for those of us who are plus-sized. Yet I have made strides toward self acceptance myself, so I know it's possible, if not easy to do.
I'd give this memoir a B, and recommend it to anyone who struggles with emotional eating, diets, weight and self acceptance.

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