Tuesday, February 27, 2007
We will also switch books. There is a huge backorder for The Black City by George Sand, so we will read this book instead: Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague by Geraldine Brooks. It is now available at DeVille's.
Hopefully, we will be able to read The Black City for the November meeting.
In the New New Orleans, there is a severe labor shortage, because a lot of clean, affordable housing doesn't exist.
So, everyone at their jobs have to multitask like crazy. This is a great town for Type-Aers.
I was trying to decipher some tiny, French handwriting from 1827, touching the delicate paper. (I studied French in high school and college, but this is the first time that I have really used it for work.)
Then, I had to answer phone calls with the 20th century technology and switch back to English and go back to the ancient French when I was done.
I also had to give a quick computer lesson to other staff members on saving data on a network folder (instead of the usual print-outs), because a researcher wanted information to be stored on the jump drive, a wonderful 21st century invention.
When the researcher was done for the day, I was given the jump drive. The computer recognized new hardware, but I was having trouble with the messages that the jump drive displayed on the monitor.
The messages were not in English; ok, so what was it? It turned out to be Spanish. My spoken Spanish is stuck in the 20th century; I don't know computer terms in that language. I guessed at what I needed to do and learned something new at the same time.
I am so glad that I was working with the jump drive; otherwise, my non-Spanish speaking co-workers would have freaked. Even the great IT person that we have on staff wouldn't have been able to decipher the messages.
No wonder I am physically and mentally tired tonight.
Sunday, February 25, 2007
I did have a chance to finish The Inheritance of Loss for the book group. I am still thinking of questions, because most of the questions in back of the book are just plot summary questions. Explain the reason for plot revelations (not linear), are teenagers expected not to be self-centered in India (like their US counterparts), what is a family; these are some of the ones that I am going to ask at the group.
I also had a chance to start a non-fiction book about the cut flower industry. Did you know that most flowers sold now have NO scent? Did you know that you can use Viagra to make the flowers last longer in the vase?
I also did my taxes. Get more money. Get the telephone excise tax credit: 1040 form, line 71 or the 1040EZ form, line 9.
My free book, Mysteries of the Middle Ages, also arrived. I am salivating over it. Mr. Cahill has included some medieval illuminations in the text! My mother has grabbed the book and has started reading it! Thanks to Luke E. for sending it to me from NYC.
Have a good reading week!
One of the characters in The Inheritance of Loss worked in restaurants in NYC; he described in detail the rodent problems over there. I didn’t think it could be so horrible, until I read about the KFC- Taco Bell rodent fest in Greenwich Village. Reality was worse than fiction.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
As part of the Nan Talese newsletter, there was this request:
Announcement from The Center for Fiction at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mercantile Library in New York City
one of the foremost literary institutions in
Do you love fiction? The Center for Fiction at
the Mercantile Library would like to talk with
you about new programs we are developing for
readers. We are looking to talk with readers
interested in all fiction genres from all parts
of the country. If you would like to participate
in a brief interview, please send an email
including your name to:
(If you are outside of the US, send an email anyway.)
I spent about 15 minutes speaking to Eleanor. I found out a horrible fact; among the different genres of books, fiction is doing the worst in terms of sales. Yikes!
She is trying to speak to fiction lovers all over the U.S. to find out about their interests in fiction, their views on books, how they buy books, what reviews they read, etc.. The Merc also wants to reach out to readers in the the country, not just NYCers. There are several projects being proposed so that more people can participate.
It's nice that NYCers realize that other people exist in the US, not just them.
If I ever go back to NY, I would love to visit the Merc. I had never heard of it, before this email.
It looks fab.
And, I hope that the outreach is successful!
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
I received the Nan A. Talese Winter Newsletter from Random House. I always read them, because there is usually a book giveaway. I won one!
It's a non-fiction book, Mysteries of the Middle Ages by Thomas Cahill. I have read Gift of the Jews and How the Irish Saved Civilization a long time ago, so I am looking forward to this also.
Click here for the newsletter signup, so you can win next time!
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Sometimes people need to store items, and they don't have a garage or attic or extra rooms. So, they rent a little room in a tin warehouse-like building. Some rentals have air-conditioning, but Flan seems to go to places that don't have AC.
I have recently seen a lot of ads in the local newspaper for self-storage auctions. The items listed are not exotic: furniture, bags of items, boxes full of items. I always look for any mention of books, but I never find it.
The ads make me a little sad. Did those people's homes not survive the 'Kane and did they forget about them? Did they run out of money paying for home repairs or rents or live in a FEMA trailer, with no hope of having a decent-sized space in the near future?
Well, the story told in Self-Storage is from the opposite viewpoint, from a buyer of self-storage contents. Flan has sales every weekend to help support her family. Her husband is studying for his Ph.D., and they have two small children. Going to auctions and selling the items (including eBay.com) gives her the flexibility that she needs to pay some bills.
She creates many families; her own (with funny, foodie nicknames), the other auction members (who are not vicious), her fellow married-graduate student housing friends, and Walt Whitman (encouraging her through his poems).
Flan wants to go to college, but everything is on hold until her husband finishes his works.
Riverside, CA is not the idyllic West Coast city that is seen on television and movies. If you are not rich, it is a struggle to live there, especially in the summer heat.
One time, she bids on a unit that has only one box. She tracks down the owner, as is instructed. When they meet, she cuts the lady's hair. She thinks "this is the float and odor of hair. I remembered when my high school boyfriend hit a pheasant with his truck on our way out of Cleveland; feathers exploded into the air like earth-toned fireworks.."
So realistic; when I am thinking, I also have weird train of thoughts.
Events in the housing units cause Flan to become more involved with her neighbors.
This book is also a commentary on the post-9-11 legislation. Many of the international students are not terrorists, but some are treated like that.
I did enjoy reading this book. It was a fun book. Some of the events are too coincidental, but I will accept that. It does not drone on and on (one of my complaints about recent novels).
Summary: A quiet story, about a young lady, who has had bad luck in love before the age of 30. Sydney needs to earn some money and works as a live-in tutor in a New England family on their beach home during the summer of 2002.
While she is mourning the death of her second husband, she is slowly getting over her grief. Everyone in the family, except one member, learns to love her for different reasons.
The quiet family dynamics is changed, when some of the family myths are broken. A year or so passes, and another ugly truth rears its head.
Sydney finds the strength to continue with her life.
The only thing that I didn't like about Sydney is that when she falls in love, she gives up her goals for the guy. Does she search for love so passionately because she is a child of divorce? I wonder.
The beach scenes remind me of the times that I spent in Waterford, CT, Block Island, RI, and Newburyport, MA. But, Sydney could tolerate to stay in the cold Atlantic waters longer than I ever could.
The entire book is written in short paragraphs. Everyone seems to have short conversations, because getting too deep might lead to the reality.
I appreciate the fact that the 'Kane is started to be mentioned in novels. The 2005 section of the novel starts with "Biblical floods have destroyed a southern city." I am glad that writers are able to weave this event into their works.
This book will be published in April 2007.
A good thoughtful book, when you need some quiet time.
Sunday, February 18, 2007
I got some Advance Reader's editions of books. Not hard reads, but interesting. The 'Kane got mentioned by one book; it takes place in New England, but the main character muses that a major Southern city is almost destroyed. Thanks for the acknowledgement.
There were too many for me to read, so I drove to Fair Grinds coffee shop to give them away. The shop hasn't opened yet, but I do see progress in the neighborhood. The people gathered on the benches outside the shop were so happy to see new books. Books are still a luxury here; rents, utilities, and increased home insurance are raising the cost of living here.
I found a new place for used books: Bridge House. It's a home for people who are recovering from addictions. As part of the treatment, they operate two thrift shops and clean up the parks in the area. The hardbacks are $1 and paperbacks are 50 cents. I was able to find only one book; I need more time than part of my lunch hour to browse there. Maybe on a Saturday....
I am planning to spend a few days in Wigtown, Scotland in April. It's full of bookstores. Maybe this idea can be used to revive part of New Orleans?? Since I also market Katrina-Ku: storm poems, I have gotten to know several of the bookstore owners. There are several indie bookstores here; we have to get together to save the city ourselves....
This week is the Mardi Gras. I am happy that children have something joyful to look forward to. It's a nice time for them and they enjoy catching all the beads, stuffed animals, and plastic drink cups.
Well, back to my knitting and reading. Have a great week.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
(From Times-Picayune Newspaper)
This was supposed to be a post about a movie that I was supposed to see with some knitting group ladies.
However, we didn't go to the movie.
A tornado ripped through parts of New Orleans, and a suburb (Westwego)that didn't receive much damage from the 'Kane.
Besides these horrible damages (see below), and one death of a very determined lady to return to her neighborhood, there was no electricity in certain parts of the city, including the university where we were going to see the movie.
I am learning to be flexible. If there is an event, I don't promise to be there anymore. I say, "If there is electricity..", "If it rains, I won't be there (because the streets flood easily now)", "If I can take a hot shower..", then I can be there.
I feel sad for the people who want to rebuild their flooded out homes and just can't get ahead. It will be so hard to find a decent carpenter and low-cost, decent housing to rent is almost non-existant.
Instead, some of the knitting ladies went to knitting last night. Some members wanted to be with their sweeties on Valentine's Day; others didn't want to fight parade traffic.
I am going back tonight to knitting. One member is giving me some yarn for the Warm Up America project. Maybe we can find out when the movie will be shown again.
BTW, my home was spared. I have electricity.
Dorothy, please don't send any more tornados down here anymore. We don't need more problems.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
I have made some progress with the Warm Up America project. I am knitting the rectangles, but I will not sew them together.
Sources of my yarns: my leftovers, leftovers from my knitting group members, and some yarns from the Green Project.
I am feeling more relaxed as I work; I am not focused on myself so much. It is true what the experts say: if you do something to help someone else, you will end up helping yourself.
I also learned how to work with different colors of yarn. Before this project, I made intricate patterns, with just one color. I am now doing simple patterns with many colors. I will work up to making the intricate patterns with many colors next.
Monday, February 12, 2007
I didn't have a chance to reading anything this weekend! I went to four parades.
I enjoyed catching some beads and other trinkets; although, it's not my main reason for going anymore.
I like to spend time with family and friends in a free, outdoor situation, eat
cotton candy, watch the floats, and listen to the bands.
(I caught this bracelet two years ago.)
I was pleased to see more bands this weekend, as compared to last year, when many schools were still shut down or merged, due to the 'Kane's flooding damage.
The marching band, the flag girls, the drill team, and the cheerleaders marching give teens in New Orleans a positive outlet. Taking time to practice the music or dance/marching routines keeps them off the street and involved in positive activities.
There has been a rise in murders in the city; most of the victims are black and under the age of 21.
Kudos to everyone working with the teens!
Friday, February 09, 2007
I wanted to continue reading The Liberated Bride (A. B. Yehosua), but I just didn't want to discover new things about the bride; two weeks ago, I just couldn't wait.
I read only three pages of The New Life (Orhan Pamuk). What book could cause the protagonist's life to change? It felt like a deep moment; I just couldn't get into that mood though.
Then, I tried to go somewhere else; to Equador in The Darwin Conspiracy (John Darnton). Interesting premise, but I didn't feel like staying there.
Even my fav magazines, Smithsonian and The Economist, failed to grab my attention.
Maybe I am having the Mardi-Gras-is-coming, so I-need-to-go-see-a-parade-syndrome? Or it could be, the weather-is-so-nice, I-need-to-buy-some-cotton-candy-syndrome?
I hope to have a better reading week next week!
This was the first selection of the International Fiction Book Club for 2007. I started reading this book before Christmas and finished five weeks later, despite the many events going on at the time.
The book club members and I were intrigued by the premise of the novel: during the Black Plague in
The main problem with the book was the rambling tone of the writing. One topic is being discussed, and a digression occurs, and sometimes, the original topic is not covered again. One of the club members mentioned that Mr. Robinson does this in his Mars series books also. Several members found the beginning hard to get into. I especially hated it when Mr. Robinson mentioned, that so-and-such event took place and we have to go to the next chapter to find out what happens next.
The other problem was a lack of dictionary. Many terms were Islamic, Daoist, Confucian, and Buddhist. I knew some of the words or religious concepts; for example, jihad, reincarnation,
After I had finished the book, I found this site, which defined some words, but not all of them
Everyone in the group admired the research that Mr. Stanley did and commented that it probably took a long time to write this book.
My paperback version had a good timeline and maps of the places covered in each chapter. Just adding 600 years to the timeline let you approximate what real event happened. It was fun looking at the maps and guessing which cities and countries it really represented. A total mind workout.
Book 1 – Awake to Emptiness – Bold sees an empty church in an empty town in
Bold is later enslaved by Arabs and befriends a young African boy. They go through many miseries as they travel toward
At the end of the chapter, when everyone is dead, they meet in the bardo, a type of meeting place for souls. They discuss what they did right and wrong in this life and discuss what they will do right in the next life, even though they won’t even remember each other in the next reincarnation.
In the start of Book 2(Haj in the Heart), there is a wonderful explanation of colicky babies: “There are two souls in the same baby, and a fight breaks out…Then they are born and the shock of that ejection stills them for awhile, they’re fully occupied learning to breathe and otherwise coming to grips in the world. “ And the fight for baby’s body continues between the two souls, producing colic.
This chapter was a bit confusing. Lots of reincarnations happen quickly. Just keeping track of the names is a big task. Men still dominate the world, but women have knowledge of herbs to cure illnesses.
In the second half of the chapter, an enlightened Muslim couple start an Islamic religion that allows women more freedom than some that exist in our world. The more conservation leaders are not pleased by this, so everyone moves from what is now
This part of the chapter is very deep. You will need to concentrate a lot, especially during the religious discussions.
One of the followers has a funny event. He traveled from
Book 3 (Ocean Continent) deals with the first encounter with the Chinese and the American Indians living in what is
This repetition made our book group discuss this point. Would history follow a similar pattern in the alternate universe? Some members were disappointed that the alternate universe didn’t have different outcomes. We then concluded that humans are humans, no matter what culture, and some things just can’t be avoided.
Book 4 (The Alchemist) is similar to the time of scientific progress in
But, all is not science. Bahram comments, “God is love moving through all..the Sufis say this.” Iwang answers, “God is a mathematician. A very great and subtle mathematician.”
The problem that I had with this chapter is that is too long. The invention roll went on and on and on. This chapter could have used a lot of editing.Another point that the book group pondered on is why haven’t there been more inventions by Chinese and Arabic scientists in the recent centuries? They did a lot of work in the 1400s to 1600s in this universe, and in Mr. Robinson’s universe. We conjecture that the isolation of the societies may have contributed to this and the rise of conservative religion.
In Book 5 (Warp and Weft), Far West comes from
Book 6 (The Widow Kang) examines the relationship between two intellectuals from both of the powerful worlds, Kang (the Chinese world) and Ibrahim, an Arab. Travel and time for introspection allow them to explore themes, write literature and political essays. They somehow find out that they have met before.
I enjoyed reading this poetic book. Their powerful thoughts also helped to shape the future in their universe.
Book 7 (The Age of Great Progress) is the most confusing one to me. When I reread this book, I will try to understand it. The changes of the mindset of the Indian people in
Book 8 (War of the Asuras) is WWI, but prolonged. It didn’t make much sense to me. I need to reread this portion.
Book 9 (Nsara) is sort of a return to Book 1. It is
Women are starting to gain more freedoms by being educated and working. However, there are still many conservative forces trying to hold them back.
There is more travel in the universe. Budur studies a new major of archeology and wants to discover more about the dead Europeans. Her aunt is involved in nuclear research.
This chapter also explores an desire for people to have more freedoms and to be allowed to learn more and to select their path in life.
Book 10 (The First Years) was a bit of a disappointment for me. After all this sweeping action of this alternative history, this one seemed too quiet and rather whiny.
Despite the problems with this book, I intend to reread it. I know that I missed a lot of symbolism. I did enjoy the idea of the alternate history and how similar it is to what really happened. It was also joyful to see smart Arabs and Chinese people, who really enjoyed thinking.
Spoiler – Don’t Read this if you like to find out things on your own.
Kim Stanley Robinson states, near the end of the book, that the reincarnations of the various characters begin with the same first letter.
This is a partial list of the characters in the book. When I re-read the book, I will fill it in better.
One book club member mentioned that all S characters were leaders or persons in power.
Awake to the Emptyness M – Bold, Psin, Kyu, ZhenHe
F – I-Li
F – Bithari, Katima,
A – Kya
Ocean Continent M – Kheim, I-Chin
F - Butterfly
Alchemist M – Bahram, Khalid, Iwang
Warp and Weft M – Busho (aka, FromWest), Keeper of the Wampum
F - Iagogeh
Widow Kang M – Bao Ssu, Pao, Ibrahim
F – Kang
F – Bhakata, Butterfly, Peng-Ti
M - Piali
F – Pan Xichun, Kali
Monday, February 05, 2007
I have two books to nominate for the International Fiction Book Club:
The Street of Crocodiles by Bruno Schulz and After the Quake by Haruki Murakami. I didn't finish reading Street, because the library copy was nasty; I read a couple of chapters and thought it was enough for me to want to buy and read a clean copy. Plus Book Girl's review also convinced me that this book is not one to be missed.
Both of these books deal with the interior worlds of the characters. One book is set in a small town and the other in large cities, but the people don't interact with others too much.
I never have enough books read by Nomination Night, but now I am ahead of the game.
Some knitting group ladies want to socialize at other times besides on Wednesdays. I need new friends, so this is a great opportunity to see plays and other cultural stuff.
I am making progress in my planning of my trip to Scotland and England. I have narrowed down the places that I really want to see on this trip. It is impossible to see everything and I am not fretting about that anymore.I am getting a free issue of World Literature Today! If you are not in the US, special arrangements can be made for international shipping.
I found some year old copies while I was cleaning out some stuff this weekend. They were raving about Orhan Pamuk, author of Snow, way before he won the Nobel Prize and before he got better known in the U.S. So, it seems that they find the outstanding modern authors before the mainstream press does!
I haven't been able to find any recent copies in the bookstores, so I have no recourse but to subscribe.
I finally cleaned my silver jewelry. I got a dip and clean solution (no rubbing) but I was never home for a long enough time to do my pieces all at once. I was able to find some items that I don't want now. So, I have to find a place or website to sell them now. Or, should I save them and give them as Christmas presents? Mmm
(Go to the winter blog, search this blog under my nom de plume, workingwords100 , and see what I wrote.)
I have joined the Spring Haiku blog and have posted one already.
I do need some structure to my writing; otherwise, I forget to make time for it.
I attended a local writing group, but I don't think that I am ready for it yet. I just don't feel like dealing with the group dynamics at this time. I am trying to carve some time for my own writing (besides this blog) though. 10 minutes per evening, instead of watching 1 hour of television. Very doable.
Now, I also have to deal with a tech issue regarding my blogs. When I signed up for the Spring blog, I had to sign in under the Goggle gateway. My other blogs are in the older sign-up method. At least I didn't have to get a gmail email account (I have 5 email accounts already.) However, the Spring blog does not appear under my profile listings.
So, I can migrate to Goggle, but I am resisting. I hate having Goggle know what I am doing, but it might be futile in the end!