Friday, June 27, 2008
Wendy Werris started working in the book business when it was still mostly independent bookstores in all parts of the US.
A native of New York, who grew up in California, decided not to go to college right after high school, but learned a lot about books and life through her career. (She later received her bachelor's degree, but not in Literature.)
Werris' first job was at Pickwick Bookshop in Hollywood, CA. The owner, Lou Epstein, was very wise. "Money buys everything, but except brains" was one of his favorite sayings. He also realized that for a bookstore to stay solvent, the owners needed to keep a backlist (or books on hand) of the most read books instead of stocking just the best sellers. And Werris believes that it's true for independent bookstores now as was in the 1970s.
Werris shows that she is flexible when it came to her career. When she noticed a trend changing, she would change her work to to accommodate the new status.
After she left Pickwick, she started being a book representative. She started in one company and then worked with partners to represent several publishing houses. As more publishing companies merged and national booksellers started to come in existence, she moved toward representing university presses and became an author escort.
Werris notices that things are not easy for authors either. "Books have to be hawked and promoted or else they stand little chance of finding their share of readers. Gone are the days when companies could afford to publish books they loved but had dubious sales potentials and no promotional budget. The financial risks are higher now, so when authors are paid substantial advances for their books, they are expected to hit the road to increase sales."
Her life is not all work. Werris also relates stories about her parents, her relationships, and her wry sense of humor. Despite being a top selling representative for the Microsoft Publishing books in the early 1990s, she used a Mac laptop!
Despite being surrounded by the financial ends of the book business, she never loses her love of books. "The turning of a page might actually change the course of our existence..Truth strikes at the very heart of books and readers who turn themselves over with great trust to finding the essence of themselves."
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
This is book 2 in the Russian Reading Challenge and the Chunkster Challege.
I don’t know much about European/Asian history, so I am educating myself through non-fiction works and movies.This work is about the German army invasion of
Braithwaite provides three excellent maps that show:
- The progress of Napoleon’s army toward
versus the German army more than a century later. (Guess what? Napoleon moved faster with horses than the Germans did with their modern machinery.) Moscow
- The towns that the Germans captured before their attack on
- A map of
, showing major landmarks. I was able to follow both the German and Russian troop movements. Moscow
Braithwaite interweaves the decisions made by Stalin and his staff, how the generals and soldiers had to struggle to implement the plans, and how everything eventually affected all citizens.
For example, Stalin didn’t want all the factories to be blown to bits by the German bombers, so a decision is made to send the factories east. The process to move a specific factory is detailed fully, including all the chaos. People’s diaries recount the horrible and cold train rides toward the Urals, and then once they arrived to the new town, the residents did not welcome them with open arms, because the townspeople didn’t know that anyone from
Many women participated in the front lines. 33 female pilots/navigators were made Heroes of the
Those who stayed in
The government did try to make life a bit bearable. When people had to spend the night at the subway during bombing raids, they were entertained by concert brigades or movies, the children were taught how to sew or draw, vendors could sell books or magazines, and everyone received good drinking water.
The people who suffered the worst were Russians who were German POWs. The NKVD (secret police) thought any exposure to the outside world would taint the socialist view, even if one was captured against one’s will. Lev Mishchenko, a very loyal Russian citizen, was sent to a couple of concentration camps and factories in
The German forces got very close but were not able to destroy
Monday, June 23, 2008
Henrietta Lovely bought too much yarn, so she has to disguise her hoard by telling her family that it's a new spider, Archania Colorida.
Actually, the spider symbolizes my yarn hoard. I braided together small strips. Don't ask me how many skeins I have. (I don't dare to count them.)
Henrietta is an unknown lady showing a 19th century English day dress. I used watercolors in combinations that would have scandalized Queen Victoria.
Give this book to any idealist who believes that government and social programs can solve ALL problems. (Yes, we do need the governments for a lot of things, like roads, rules, leevees - I just want some that don't break -, and other big issues).
Also, corporations, role models, charities, bad support systems won't solve your problems either.
O'Reilly advocates family support, and if they fail you, then find good friends who will tell you the truth and guide you well.
He also presents examples of people, companies, and agencies who really don't care about the little person. And uses his own life as examples of what NOT to do and end up having no friends. Learning how to be a team player at work was really hard for him.
Some of the political and cultural references are a bit out of date, but once I remembered them, they were good examples of bad role models or very selfish people, who cheated others and seemed to have no regrets.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
This novel was written in 2000 and set in the late 1980s or early 1990s. Ben has grown up, left home, and is living in London with an old lady named Mrs. Ellen Biggs, who is on a fixed income. She accepts Ben as he is and tries to civilize him a bit. She tells him not to gobble food down, to use the fork and knife properly, to change his clothes. Sometimes when he is filthy, she gives him a shower, even though he is eighteen. and it's ".. as if washing a dog."
Ben knows he is not like other people. When he needs more meat than Mrs. Biggs can provide, he goes to the park, kills a pidgeon with his bare hands and eats the bloody mess. Other wild animals in parks are fine meals also.
Ben has to control his rage to stay out of jail, but it's hard sometimes. Normal city life in London really sets him off. "... sounds that he could not understand until he had isolated each one" really bothered him. He also had to check "all the smells in the room " to feel safe.
One day, Mrs. Biggs can no longer take care of him, and Ben tries to survive in London. He meets up with a friendly prostitute who cares for him in her own way. But other people try to take advantage of him, including a director who takes him to Brazil to film a movie. They talk about the genetic throw-back and are surprised by his posh English accent.
At this point, the novel falls apart for me. Ben does meet nice people, but I don't know. Can so many nice people exist or is the cynic in me resisting this part of the plot?
If you want to know the ending, email me and I will tell you. I can't reveal more.
The first 2/3 of the novel does help me understand the Ben in the previous novel, because we can read his thoughts. The last 1/3, oh what can I say?
P. S. I redid my selections for the What's in A Name Challenge and this book in now in the First Name Cateogory
I read The Asylum's Review of this novella and had to read it.
A view of modern life that still applies today. A young English couple from the 1960s/1970s decides to have many children in the age when birth control was started to become the norm and so were divorced couples.
Everyone is aghast that Harriet wants so many children, and she begins to pop them out almost every year and brings them to her large Victorian suburban home. What she doesn't realize that anyone who owned a house that large in the 19th century had a least one servant and one nanny to help run the household. She gets overwhelmed and her mother starts to live with the family almost full-time. David has to ask his father for more money to support the growing family and he has to work more hours at his firm.
When Harriet gets pregnant with the fifth one, it's not a normal pregnancy from day one. "Sometimes she believed hooves were cutting her tender inside flesh, sometimes claws." In order to survive the pains, she took a lot of tranquilizers, some prescribed, some as gifts from friends.
When Ben was born, he took over the family. He was not a normal child.
This slim novel asks, "Should one child be allowed to rule the home?" "What is the responsibility of the parents toward the other children?" Should the Star Trek-Vulcan rule, "The needs of the many out weigh the needs of the one" apply in this case?
As you read, you wonder what will happen next and what is Ben capable of doing.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
In the present, I forget where I put my keys.
So, I was inspired to make my own key chain and depict some forgotten items.
Writing in cursive - ask someone born in the late 1990s to do this and they will complain - "It's too hard and takes too long."
Card Catalog - "You mean that there were actual cards?"
Hose - "They were worn everyday? Not just for a wedding day or some romantic event?"
Tie a ribbon - "Who does this anymore, besides the Boy and Girl Scouts?"
I rolled up and glued some glossy paper on some string and made the beads of the key chain. I recycled the top of a soda pop can to join the key chain to the ribbon. The background is an old book with watercolor washes.
Sunday, June 08, 2008
I couldn’t start this novel immediately. I put it down twice, due to the
language,but on the third try, I was spending as much time as possible
to finish it!
Yes, the language is different from other novels, but once I understood the
rhythm,I went with the flow.
The novel is set in New Zealand. Three damaged humans form a family. There are
some portions that are hard to read, such as when Joe beats Simon and
when Joe and Kerewin would drink so much to become blottos, but it’s not all
dreary and hopeless.
For some members in my book group, the beatings were just too much for them
and set them against Joe. However, they all agreed that the writing was unique
and they enjoyed reading the flow of the language.
The novel is so multi-layered, that some book club members mentioned events
that I completely missed and visa-versa. This is one novel I need to re-read.
Kerewin and Joe have mixed blood: Maori and European. But, they both identify
themselves more as Maori. But, they have the bad habits of drinking too much,
like other people who have been conquered by Europeans.
Kerewin is very educated but doesn’t act snobby about it. She makes all sorts
of literary and historical allusions that sometimes when over my head and most
certainly over Joe’s head, who finished high school and never really left
Kerewin moved into the town, after winning the lottery. She built a home on the
beach: “… to build a hole or a tower; a hole, because she was fond of
hobbits, or a tower – well, a tower for many reasons, but chiefly
because she liked spirals stairways …”
One day, the town terror and Joe’s “adopted” son, Simon comes and doesn’t
want to leave. He was found as a small child and is different from everyone
in town with his blond hair and green eyes. He is also mute.
Despite his age, Simon thinks a lot. When Kerewin wants to touch his hands,
he flinches. Simon believes, “… hands are sacred things. Touch is personal,
fingers of love, feelers of blind eyes, tongues of those who can’t
Eventually, Joe goes to a remote town to try to cleanse his soul. He meets
a kaumatua (wise man) who says he had been waiting all his life for Joe to
pass on Maori knowledge. The wise man says, “..An island has eroded into
the sea. An island has eroded in silent pain since my boyhood, and reefs
have become islands. Yet the old people used to say, people pass away,
but not the land. It remains forever.
Maybe that is so. The land changes. The land continues. The sea changes.
The sea remains.”
This passage resonates so much with me, since I also live in a state that
loses so much land to erosion every day. And, also water surrounds me,
although it’s not the sea, but a river, a lake, and bayous.
Make sure to find the glossary in the back of the book to follow the Maori
phrases. If a phrase has already been defined in another part of the book,
Hulme doesn’t redefine. You need to look for it again.
And, also, have your print or electronic dictionary on hand. Hulme uses
a lot of big words through Kerewin.
Plus, you need to be in the right mood to read this novel. If you can’t
read it on the first try, no worries. No one in the book group was able
to do it either.
An unnamed man in an unnamed country lives in a non-descript tin house.
His nearest neighbors are live about a mile or two away and visit rarely.
The house is hit by wind and sand. The man is happy.
One day, a friend’s friend comes in and stays. At first, it bothers him but
as time goes by, he warms up to Mary.
Life goes on in its pattern, until one day his friends dismantle their homes
and move to be closer to Michael, who convinces everyone to dig a canyon.
The man resists Michael’s influence for a long time.
(I can’t tell you anymore after this point.)
This novel is short but written very well. I read it in about 4 hours.
But, I am still thinking: what is it about? Free will? Socialism? Mind control?
Commentary on modern life? The influence of the landscape on human relations?
Logical thinking? All of the above and more?
A good book to reread to gain different insights.
I picked up my first Magnus Mills’ novel in Wigtown, and I have been a fan ever since.
Mills writes about UK people that no one really reads about: the working man (mostly) and women (a few).
This novel starts in the late summer in the Lakes District of England, land of the Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter poets such as Shelley, Scott, and Wordsworth.
However, the story is about an unnamed young man who is taking a week to enjoy the lake before taking off on a train trip to Iran, Turkey, and India. He doesn’t stay in an elegant mansion, talking walks, and such, but in a little tent in Tommy Parker’s campgrounds, that has already shut off the hot water in the shower area.
He spent the earlier part of the summer spray painting recycled oil drums, and now looking forward to his trip.
In exchange for a weeks’ free rent at the campgrounds, he paints a fence. He goes into Millford and drinks helps to finish off the last of beer that the local pub buys for the tourists and buys the last of the baked beans that is also favored by the tourists.
He wasn’t able to leave as scheduled, due to rain. Mr. Parker moves him into a smaller trailer in exchange for chores. He postpones his trip until winter.
But will he ever leave? The townspeople ask him a lot of questions about his personal life, the grumpy grocery store owner gets more beans for him, the pub owners order more of the touristy beer to keep him happy and invite him to join the dart team, and everyone wants him to take over the milkman’s route, even though there is one in town already.
The young man also gets into trouble by not knowing the local gossip. They accept him so much that they expect him to know all about the fights and bets among the townspeople, and when he finds out about something by accident and messes up the balance, everyone gets mad at him!
And, it reminded me of the times that I was in Wigtown. I spent about four days there and walked everywhere, because I was not going to learn how to drive on the wrong side of the road. People thought I was moving in, and a lot of people asked me personal questions, that I gladly answered, because they were basically harmless questions. I was probably a source of entertainment as the unnamed young man.
This is a delightful story about the regular people who live in a touristy place and keep it going for visitors for the next year and are happy being who and where they are.
Thursday, June 05, 2008
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
I was invited to be a speaker at SALALM to talk about the types of documents available at the archive where I work.
After the presentation, I went to the bookfair and spend a good hour looking at all the selections and got some information!
I did buy ONE book, a book of poems by Washington Cucurto called Como un paraguayo ebrio y celoso de su hermana (Like a Jewish Paraguayan and jealous of his sister). OK, I bought it for the cover. There were other Vox publications, but this one spoke to me. One of the funnier poems is a prayer to God at the supermarket. Another one criticizes the current US president (FBI - don't come after me; I am just reporting the facts!).
I also picked up a catalog about Spanish cultural magazines. The cover is so cool with the colored pencils and inside are so many magazines that I am jealous of Spain.
I was able to get one copy of these magazines: Revista de libros! It's a cool magazine and will soon be available on-line. It's great to get another prespective of English language works and other European writers that I might never hear of.