Sunday, July 31, 2011

Mississippi Sissy - Keven Sessums

Read (and blogged) about this book a while ago - but I think it was on a different blog which I have since merged into this one.  Anyway, my recent trips to Jackson and tours through Bellhaven (Thanks, Giselle), have made me think about it again. 

Here's the original post:
Finished this book - it was really, really good. There are like two explicit scenes, but it's worth it to get to see glimpses of the inner circle of Jackson's most cultured - Eudora Welty for example - and some of the New Stage Theatre crowd. The ending of the book was just....Wow.
Some of my favorite bits:

"They liked jazz too - Miss Welty had done a lot of club-hopping in Harlem - and taught me that bourbon was never to be augmented by anything other than maybe an added ice cube if one simply must when yet another Mississippi August demanded such a dilution, and sipping at a slightly watered-down potation was the only reasonable exertion that such heat and humidity humanly allowed."

"...[My mother] taught me that a companionless soul could comfort itself with the beauty of a well-chosen word, a well-written sentence, a well-parsed phrase. Salvation, she imparted, was offered in a paragraph's perfect form when one was capable of reading it with understanding, empathy, and purpose."

"My imaginary friend, a replacement for Cecil once she had arrived on the scene, was a tiny thing just like Matty May, who was but a bent slip of a woman, a comma typed onto the white world around her." (this made even better knowing that his imaginary friend is called Epiphany).

Updated Top 10 authors

I first blogged this list here:,   but I've read a lot since then and I need to revise. 

The problem is I don't really want to bump anybody, but I have to add

#1 David Foster Wallace.  I will re-read his books.  All of them.  Multiple times, and I don't do that.  When I re-read a book, I think of all the time I'm wasting when I could be reading something new.  I know that if I read DFW's 100 times I'll get something new every time. 

He is getting that #10 spot that I couldn't ever 100% decide on. 

Jonathon Safran Foer is quickly making his way into the list too.  I LOVED Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and Everything is Illuminated.  I can't read his new one, Eating Animals, because I know it will disturb me to an extent that may result in my commitment to a long-term mental health facility. 

Here's the old list: 

  1. Neal Stephenson - Cryptonomicon, Quicksilver, The Confusion, The System of the World, Snow Crash, Zodiac, The Big U, The Diamond Age
  2. John Irving - A Prayer for Owen Meany, The World According to Garp
  3. Douglas Adams - Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, Long Dark Teatime of the Soul
  4. J.D. Salinger - Franny and Zooey, Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenter and Seymour: an Introduction, Nine Stories, The Catcher in the Rye
  5. Tom Robbins - Still Life with the Woodpecker, Skinny Legs and All, Another Roadside Attraction, Jitterbug Perfume
  6. Terry Pratchett - ALL
  7. Kurt Vonnegut - The Sirens of Titan, Breakfast of Champions, Cat’s Cradle, Slapstick
  8. Sena Jeeter Naslund - Ahab’s Wife, The Four Spirits, Abundance
  9. Gabriel Garcia Marquez - Love in the Time of Cholera, One Hundred Years of Solitude
Potential 10's:
  • Orson Scott Card (Thanks for the suggestion Pat!) - I do love Ender's Game, Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, Children of the Mind, and The Worthing Saga. In that same sort of vein, I also do love
  • Frank Herbert - Dune, Dune Messiah and Children of Dune

On love, choices, and having something larger than yourself to stand on

From Infinite Jest - David Foster Wallace (starting page 107)

(Marathe speaking)...'You [Americans] do not seem to believe you may each choose what to die for. Love of a woman, the sexual, it bends back in on the self, makes you narrow. Maybe crazy. Choose with care. Love of your nation, your country and people, it enlarges the heart. Something bigger than the self.'...
'Choose with care. You are what you love, no? You are, completely and only, what you would die for without, as you say, the thinking twice. You, M. Hugh Steeply: you would die without thinking for what?"...
'This, is it not the choice of the most supreme importance? Who teaches your [American] children how to choose their temple? What to love enough not to think two times?...For this choice determines all else. No? All other of our you say free choices follow from this: what is the temple, thus, for [American's]? What is it, when you fear that you must protect them from themselves[?]...

(Steeply speaking)...'What if sometimes there is no choice about that to love? What if the temple comes to Mohammad? What if you just love? without deciding? You just do: you see her and in that instant are lost to sober account-keeping and cannot choose but to love?

(Marathe speaking)...Then in such a case your temple is self and sentiment. Then in such an instance you are a fanatic of desire, a slave to your individual subjective narrow self's sentiments, a citizen of nothing. You become a citizen of nothing. You are by yourself and alone, kneeling to yourself.
'In a case such as this you become the slave who believes he is free. The most pathetic of bondage. Not tragic. No songs. You believe you would die twice for another but in truth would die only for your alone self, its sentiment.'
'You in such a case have nothing. You stand on nothing. Nothing of ground or rock beneath your feet. You fall; you blow here and there. How does one say: "tragically, unvoluntarily, lost."'

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

@ work in the Brady Bunch dungeon.

I think they really, really like coffee. 

Either that or they are really bad at sharing, and each person has their own coffee pot. 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Yes Sandy, we still love you too.

Best Parents

My brother and his wife, Alex, are the best parents ever.  They have read Good Night NOLA every night now for > 365 nights.  Kaylin loves it. 

Scot Smith's clone



Walkin' around at Kay-Kay's

Behold the CURLS

Uncle Wooding

With his favorite giant schnauzer and giant-schnauzer-ish-type being. 

Living in nature is going to take some getting used to

I have not ONE fig left, I've eaten maybe 1/10 of my own tomatoes, and now the little bastards are getting in the sugar baby watermelons.  Rats. Yep.  I've seen them in my fig tree and last night I saw one running along the top of my fence.  And I think raccoons maybe too, although I have only seen the tail of one so far. 

And then there are the foxes.  Cavorting in the driveway, playing king of the hill on top of the dirt pile, barking at me through the fence.  I'm sure they just want to play, right? 

Night views from the 10 ft. inflatable pool

Reflections on the wall of the studio
Deck and elm tree
Dooda-ish creature that obviously just ate dinner

Merry National Ice Cream Day

Yums from the deep south!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Reading 2011

These days I'm getting book ideas from a couple of different sources. Primarily, the long list for the Morning News Tournament of Books:

And from the podcasts. Although I'm liking their recommendations only about half the time right now. I'll have to try out a few more recommendations to see if I'm really on the same page with what they like.

I also turn to award lists - Pulitzer, Man Booker, National Book Award, and yeah, I've been known to dip into an Oprah pick every now and again.   

I haven't read "real" books as much this year as I usually do (Jason always tells me audible books don't count).  I guess the move, getting the house together, getting adjusted to work, etc. But this summer I've been devouring books.  Especially now that the pool is operational.  I love to float and read.
So as of the halfway mark of 2011, here's what I've gotten through so far (I included audible books - because I think they DO count). 

I SHALL WEAR MIDNIGHT - ALL Terry Pratchett is required reading in my universe. 
THE BLIND ASSASSIN - Margaret Atwood (non-apocalyptic).  Book within a book within a book...awesome. 
OLIVE KITTERIDGE -   Yet another Pulitzer that I don't get.  It did hold my attention way better than The Shipping News.  It's well written, but a Pulitzer?  Really?
THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER - I needed to see what all the hype is about.  It was ok, but I've read better coming-of-age novels. 
HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG - I've heard of this one so long, and I thought it was about China or Vietnam for some reason.  But ooooh was it ever NOT.  This was amazing and sad.  It got mixed reviews, but I loved it.  It was one of the rare books where I was actually surprised at the events and found myself saying OH NO out loud. 
BEAT THE REAPER - This one was fun!  Jason and I listened to it together.  Someone on Amazon described it as "House" meets "The Sopranos".  I get that. 
KAFKA ON THE SHORE - Liked this, but yeah, it was weird.  I had to let it sink in awhile.  But it has stuck with me more than some other things I've read.  I keep thinking about parts of it, trying to figure it all out. 
SKIPPY DIES - On the long-list for several awards.  I think in another year without Freedom (which I think was way over-hyped), and A Visit From the Goon Squad, it would have won more.  However, it's described as a "comic" novel, and I don't get that. Maybe there were a few funny lines, but I disagree that makes is a comic novel. 
THE HUNGER GAMES/ CATCHING FIRE/ MOCKING JAY - never ending.  It could have been 1/2 the length.  Other than that, great.  I seriously thought I would grow old and die before Mocking Jay ever ended. 
QUICKSILVER - Yeah I've already read it, but's NEAL STEPHENSON and this was the UNABRIDGED audible version, so I had to listen now didn't I?
PRACTICAL DEMONKEEPING - Christopher Moore cracks me up.  This book made me NOT want to find a Genie in a bottle....
FREEDOM - Runner up in the Morning News Tournament of Books and won a lot of other junk.  It's a good story depicting a typical 2000ish American family and blah blah blah.  Nothing all that inventive, but well-written. 
A VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD - Won the Morning News Tournament of Books. Oh yeah and the Pulitzer too (although I put way more faith in the Tournament of Books) and some other prizes.  I get it (unlike many Pulitzer winners).  It's a little different.  Sort of short stories, but interwoven, and just kind of different.  There's a kid in it (autistic but brilliant) who is obsesses with the pauses in rock songs and how important they are.  Have I mentioned I seem to be drawn to books involving brilliant kids?
GREEN RIVER, RUNNING RED - Non-fiction about the Green River Killer.  Y'all knew I used to want to be a psychiatrist who worked with serial killers, right?
THE LONELY POLYGAMIST - ok this was surprisingly funny.  I loved it.  I recommended it to friends, and I recommend it to you.  Also involves a difficult kid.  I laughed out loud during parts, and other parts were really hard to read (emotional). 
THE THOUSAND AUTUMNS OF JACOB DEZOET - Think Pillars of the Earth, only more action.  And set in Japan.  But with dutch people. 
THE LITTLE STRANGER - I felt like reading something scary, and this book was mentioned on one of the Books on the Nightstand podcasts.  I wanted more madness than ghosts, and this was an ok compromise.  However, I'm still looking for something more madnessy-scary. 
THE FINKLER QUESTION - Oy Vey.  Too long.  But there were some clever parts and some funny lines that made me chuckle.  And it made me think about how wrong we can get our stereotypes sometimes. 
A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN -Another one about which I wanted to understand the hype. And I get it.  Really good for the first half, really dumb the last.  If you fall in love in 1 day with a person who is not at all who they portray themselves to be, and then mourn that lost lost the rest of your life, that is not a good thing.  Duh. 
THE PALE KING - Oh David Foster Wallace, why did you leave us so soon?  Only you could make me want to read three pages of nothing but a second by second description of what happens in a silent room full of 100 IRS auditors. 

99% of these I've listened to (I use, but I've got a couple of "real" books going right now.  Jason is using the Kindle to read all the Game of Thrones books and I also FINALLY got him to read GONE AWAY WORLD. Which he liked but complained about throughout.  And REALLY complained at the end and said he wasn't going to finish because he was mad, but then he totally snuck and finished it.

Gotta go float in the pool and read now.....later.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

I thought Jesus was INclusive

Picture this.  Two playgrounds, side by side.  One surrounded by a tall chain link fence and lockable gates.  The other, open to the public.   The public one has nice equipment for a variety of ages.  The confined one has a soccer net (one), and a pavillion, and a little one-kid play thing. 

And giant signs at each gate: 

(The Blue and Yellow equipment is not behind a fence). 

It just struck me as weird.  I'm no Jesus expert, but I don't think he'd put up a big fence around his playground.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Burying my Head in Books

I'm realizing how long it's been since I've blogged about what I have read, so here's the list of the rest of 2010.  I'm limiting myself to a 1 line comment on each...(yeah, right). 
THE ART OF THE STEAL- great fun for people like me who think fraud is fun (finding it - not committing it). 
THE HOUR I FIRST BELIEVED - I love Wally Lamb, and I REALLY loved this book.  Amazing.
DIRTY JOB - Bwwahahaha! Demons! Reapers! Giant Dogs! What more could one want from a book?
THE GRAVEYARD BOOK - great YA book.  Easy read.
FRAGILE THINGS - I only read 1/2.  It was 'meh'.  Maybe I just wasn't in the mood for it. 
THE PILLARS OF THE EARTH - endless, but ok.  Not my favorite but it did hold my attention.  I know a lot of people love it dearly, but I'm thinking they have obviously not read THE BAROQUE CYCLE because PILLARS pretty much pales in comparison.
CHE GUEVERA - A REVOLUTIONARY LIFE - Ego-maniac, much?  I mean it's one thing to rise to power as a dictator in your own country because you think you know best for your people, but to drift from country to country looking for one that will put you in charge? That's a whole 'nother level of narcissism. 
CAN'T WAIT TO GET TO HEAVEN - ugh.  Boring.  Couldn't finish it. 
LET THE GREAT WORLD SPIN - This was really good.  About how different people of different social classes deal with the same grief. 
THE PASSAGE - Jason and I listened to this one together.  Vampires and viruses.  Fun stuff.  Can't wait for the next one in the series. 
THE GUERNSEY LITERARY & POTATO PEEL SOCIETY - Not at all what I expected.  It did have funny moments, but it was much, much more.  I feel like I know what it feels like to be in BFE England during WWII now.
DEADEYE DICK, BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS  I was on a Vonnegut kick.  Deadeye Dick was new to me, and I can't remember a darn thing about it now.  BoC is one of my all-time favorites. 
WHEN YOU ARE ENGULFED IN FLAMES - Sort of makes me want to go check myself in to an alcohol and drug treatment center even though I'm not addicted to alcohol or drugs.  But you meet such interesting people. 
NATION -"That’s what the gods are! An answer that will do! Because there’s food to be caught and babies to be born and life to be lived and so there is no time for big, complicated, and worrying answers! Please give us a simple answer, so that we don’t have to think, because if we think, we might find answers that don’t fit the way we want the world to be."
THE TRUTH ABOUT THESE STRANGE TIMES - I really liked this. Friendship second-guessed.  The pressure of genius.  Doing the wrong things for the right reasons.  I tend to love books about kids who are brilliant. 
BUT THEN AGAIN YOU END UP BECOMING YOURSELF - Transcript of an interview (over multiple days) with David Foster Wallace.  If you love him like I do - read this. 
THE ISLAND OF THE SEQUINED LOVE NUN - of my least favorite Christopher Moore books along with THE LUST LIZARD OF MELANCHOLY COVE. 
NOTES FROM A SMALL ISLAND (and two others in a collection)- Bill Bryson.  I only want to live places with functioning plumbing, K thx. 
ORYX & CRAKE - excellent.  Goes with THE YEAR OF THE FLOOD.  I love Margaret Atwood.  She makes me wonder...
GONE AWAY WORLD - Fun fun!  I loved this!  I read the whole thing on my kindle, wrapped in two ziploc bags, while floating in my 10 foot wide inflatable pool.  And now every time I get in the pool, I think about this book.  I can see myself re-reading it someday.  Dystopia.  I was on a dystopian kick in 2010. 
BAREFOOT IN THE PART - I wanted to know what all the hype was about.  It was alright.
YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING - This was a tough one to read for me.  About how this woman dealt with the death of her husband.  Yeah I know.  It's not the same as losing your Dad.  But still, losing someone is hard regardless. 
THE WIND-UP BIRD CHRONICLES - Weird.  But weirdly addicting too.  About this weird guy who runs into this weird woman who is a car psychic, and there's this weird 15 year old girl, and she throws him down a well but he's not really in there.....just.....odd.  I couldn't stop reading it. 
MY MAN JEEVES AND OTHER EARLY JEEVES - Wanted to see what the hype was about.  Very..."family affair" meets sherlock holmes. 
THE WIND-UP GIRL - Dystopia and robots and can robots become human and what should we do about that. 
THE ROBBER BRIDE - oooh drama!  Very real-housewives-of-the-OC meets Margaret Atwood meets Ann Rule writing about serial killers.  But there are no serial killers.
 PARABLE OF THE SOWER - Dystopia.  "The Road" meets my favorite book of my teenage years " The Girl Who Owned A City".  I could read this again. 

ok That's all of 2010 (along with the 1st post about 2010). 


Fox Infestation

So...yeah we have foxes.  They walk from the preserve down the street down who knows where - I guess to the harbor - although they are apparently also hunting for grubs in the leaves on the side of my driveway. 

It is driving Jasmin INSANE.  She sits every night at the front door (which is all glass) on FOX WATCH.  We've seen them in the street several times, and last week Jason saw them lolling about in the driveway like....."Oh Hey !  How ya doin'?  We's eatin' bugs in your leaves.  Your dog has a ca-raaaazzzzy bark!  We brought our friendz over to hear it."

And like that. 

And my poor Greta, she is losing her hearing.  But when Jasmine starts "barking" (I need to come up with a better name for it), Greta will come running.  Well, once she wakes up enough to figure out where all the activity is happening.  She generally gets up and starts barking at the BACK door before she realizes the action is at the front door. 

Managed to snap this classic photo of her running to see the foxes last night: 

Look how gray her beard is.  She would still kick those foxes' asses if I opened the door for her. 


Kaylin playing with Jason's hat. 

Appealing to whom?

The girl's new glucosamine chews.

Thank you....Thank you very much...

Jasmine doing what we lovingly refer to as "Elvising"