30 September 2010

Banned Book Week: Strega Nona

Strega Nona: Her Story by Tomie dePaola.  ISBN: 9780399228186.

This one was banned because it presents magic as being good, and even a desirable profession.  I wonder how many people realize that this is set in Italy where the medicinal knowledge of old women roaming the countryside was revered even as the Roman Catholic God was worshipped.  Once again, children are missing out on an opportunity to learn about another culture and another way of life.

I'm half surprised that the "We speak American here" people didn't throw a hissy fit.  There are plenty of Italian words sprinkled throughout the text, but I guess since it isn't Spanish or Arabic it hasn't been targeted.  But I've noticed those also seem to be the people with misspelled signs, so maybe they haven't picked up a book in awhile.

The thing I don't get about the magic is that children think everything is magic. That's part of what makes them children.  And if you're against the magic of Strega Nona, are you still telling them about the magic of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, babies coming from the stork?  If Jesus and God are the only ones allowed to perform miracles, what about all the magic they see in the cartoons?  Do you still take them to see Disney movies and allow them to play pretend? 

Children are drawn to magic, they live in it in those first few precious years.  They see the world in a way that adults never will again, they may be able to glimpse it through their own children, or brief encounters of awe inspired by nature or pure love or religious experience...or drugs for some people.  If you want to protect children...wouldn't you want to protect the thing that makes them children?  And shouldn't that include their sense of wonder and their need to believe in the magic of the world around them, whether that magic stems from God, witch and wizards, or the love of their parents?

Because the magic is hurting our childrens.

Day 187: Obscene in the Extreme

Obscene in the Extreme: The Burning and Banning of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath by Rick Wartzman.  ISBN: 9781586483319.

This is an excellent overview of the political and economic circumstances surrounding the time when The Grapes of Wrath was banned in Kern County, California.  The major reason was of course the pro-Union sentiment.  I have very mixed feelings about labor unions.  They have done amazing, wonderful things for this country, such as the 40 hour work week, guaranteed lunch breaks, etc.  But recently it seems like I'm reading about unions capitulating on raises, etc. so that people can keep jobs.

I understand this on some level, but aren't they also supposed to stand up for a certain kind of American job?  Shouldn't companies continue to feel pressure to provide their labor force with humane conditions and living wages and retirement and health insurance when they're probably high on the list of reasons our health goes to shit to begin with?  I guess it's better to save the economy of the country than to improve the individual lives of millions of Americans, it's not like they're part of this country.

I feel so angry and so hopeless right now.  I can see why Steinbeck would write what he did, and even exaggerate it out of proportions to get his point across.  He probably felt just as angry on behalf of the Americans who were kicked and beaten and did the only thing they knew to do to support their families -- they moved half way across the country and lived in dirt poor conditions, in the very slim hope of finding work.  Work that was dirty and terrible and degrading.  So Steinbeck tried to give them a little more, by exposing their plight to more fortunate Americans and providing a means for the Okies to better themselves and their condition.  Unions.

And now my profession is under attack.  Before I have even had a chance to get started, my benefits are being ripped away.  I read this article on Monday in which libraries are being PRIVATIZED.  The first thing they do is to cut union employees.  They hire most of them back but state, "While the company says it rehires many of the municipal librarians, they must be content with a 401(k) retirement fund and no pension."  We are talking about people with Master's degrees; they went into debt in order to be public servants, in order to serve you and the community, and now we are turning them out to pasture when they're worn out.  We might as well send them to the glue factory, it would be more humane than allowing them to live on wondering how long their retirement funds will last, or whether their ever so wonderful 401(k) will be doing well enough so that they can retire.

What a great country we live in, where we toss people out on their asses and say, "Whelp, they should have worked harder," when that's all they've been doing their entire lives.  And then there's me, who wants to work.  I want to work so hard that I even signed up for the Take Our Jobs campaign.  No word back yet, but I might be under those same hard conditions as my grandfather faced in the Depression when he hopped rails to find seasonal work for his sisters and mother.  The only difference between us at this point: he had an 8th grade level education whereas I have a Master's degree.  Oh, and he ended up having a pension that I have no hopes of obtaining.

Who wants to be the new Steinbeck?

My review can be found on Goodreads.

The Grapes of Wrath was banned as Communist propaganda and for containing foul language and sex.  It was also most likely banned to prevent sympathies for the Okies and their plight

29 September 2010

Banned Book Week: In the Night Kitchen

In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak.  ISBN: 9780060254902.

Oh no, this book is so dangerous.  It shows a little naked boy.  And we are talking little.  This kid looks like he's maybe 3 tops.  And yeah, there's full frontal, but it's not like he's hip thrusting throughout the book, no one is looking at the penis in the book, and no one is touching it.  When I was a kid I barely even noticed the penis.  Then again I grew up with a twin brother and it wasn't until after I was five that I had my own bedroom, so I pretty much knew what naked little boys looked like and never would have thought it was a big deal to see it in a book.  I wasn't abused or anything, but naked just seems to happen with young children.

And you know what, I would rather that my daughter see her first penis in a book, even at the age of two or three or four than to have her first experience be a potentially degrading, "playing doctor" with an older neighborhood boy or an "I'll show you mine if you show me yours" incident.  And trust me, little boys will not be shocked about their own gender's nudity on the page.

What good does it do to instill shame about naked bodies to children?  Especially their own?  It prevents them from being able to talk about their bodies with you.  God forbid that anyone's child be touched inappropriately or molested as these are things that are hard enough to talk about, but adding the stigma that their bodies are dirty or shameful to begin with just increases the chance that they will not tell you if this happens.

Maybe some people are comfortable with idea of knowing they will never have to hear their child say, "Uncle Billy touched me," but I would rather know than to continue to allow Uncle Billy or any other sick bastard anywhere near my child.  If that means my child gets to look at line drawings of a naked three-year-old, I am more than okay with that.  And hopefully in the meantime that child will enjoy the story of Mickey and his adventures In the Night Kitchen.

Because penis is always bad.

Day 186: Gerald's Game

Gerald's Game by Stephen King.  ISBN: 9780670846504.

There are some books that don't belong in school libraries.  I will agree with that.  If any book didn't belong in a school library, even a high school library, it was probably Gerald's Game.  I am not saying I'm for banning.  I'm saying that this particular book probably should never have been purchased for the school it was banned from to begin with.  I'm sure some seniors could tackle it and handle a lot of the psychological issues presented very well...

Most of the eighteen-year-olds that I knew probably would have giggled so much over the idea of a woman being handcuffed to the bed for sexcapades and then kicking her husband in the balls that they wouldn't have gotten much further than that once they realized he dies and she stayed tied up for most of the book (this is not a spoiler, it happens in the first 20 pages).

Would I keep this in the public library?  Yes.  Definitely.  I would even allow high school students to check it out.  But high school libraries should carry materials more targeted towards the enrichment of minds, or at the very least fiction about issues that teens are likely to face.  This one was probably more an issue of poor collection development rather than outright censorship.  Although, it's entirely likely that this book had been sitting on the shelves for all of 10 years before some kid in 2002 picked it up because s/he had read all of the previous Stephen King books in the collection.  Or maybe it was recently donated and because of all the tax cuts (or lack of tax raises) that I'm sure Texas has voted for, they didn't even have a school librarian or anyone even vaguely familiar with popular literature.  This book might have been thrown on the shelves by someone who only had experience shelving without a thought to its place in the collection.

Yes, librarians do technically censor in their collection development.  Not because we want to, but because we have to.  There is no way we can house every single piece of literature published in the last 50 years, even though pretty much every librarian I know would love to work in the library that did just that and more.  So we have to make selections about what best fits our collection, what is likely to circulate, what has circulated, and where the collection is weak.  A good librarian, or possibly one who is less overworked than this person may have been, would have looked at this title and realized it was inappropriate for the collection and rejected it as a donation or not have ordered it in the first place.

I do hope that this book was offered to the public library rather than being trashed.  Just because I thought it was terrible, doesn't mean I want to see it stop circulating; I would just rather see high school students have easier access to the classics during school than this particular work.  If they're bored enough to read during school, they're bored enough to read Catcher in the Rye, The Scarlet Letter, The Three Musketeers, Frankenstein, or Pride and Prejudice.  Those are the books that need to be on the shelves of the high school library, or better yet, flying off of them.

Banned for sex, violence, horror, incest...basically for being a book written by Stephen King book.

28 September 2010

Banned Book Week: Sylvester and the Magic Pebble

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig.  ISBN: 9781416902065.

 I loved this book as a kid.  I loved it so much.  I still love it.  Who wouldn't love the idea of finding a special pebble that would grant you wishes?  And who wouldn't love the idea that once your misadventures are over you find that you don't need to make any wishes, because you have everything you want?

Pigs.  That's who.

Yeah, I'm calling you pigs, but not because you're police.  Because you're acting like pigs.  Who the hell gets upset over this (the one on the right)?

Apparently policemen in the 1970's across 11 states had giant bacon-induced coronaries over this particular picture.  They did not take into account that neighbors and other "people" in the book were depicted as pigs.  They just saw these two sympathetic looking porkers with a couple who have lost their child.  Maybe they should have paid more attention to the text above the piggy heads, "The police could not find their child."

Maybe they couldn't find the child because they were too busy trying to get a book banned because they were depicted as dirty, filthy, ignorant humans.  This kind of behavior from people who are supposed to protect us from crime bugs the hell out of me.  Especially since as a child, the pigs were the last thing I was focused on.  If you're worried about your reputation in literature, focus more on being a model citizen and a model policeman.  Protect the people you are supposed to serve to the best of your ability.  We know you're short on funds and overstaffed, and it's hard to take shit from the civilians, but you're supposed to be the best of us.  Act like it.

Banning books just makes we want to say two things: "oink, oink."

for representing the police as pigs.

Day 185: Gerald's Game

Gerald's Game by Stephen King.  ISBN: 9780670846504.

This book and I have some history.  In fact, this is the first and only book that I have ever, in my life, been prevented from reading.  And even then, it wasn't so much a prevention as a suggestion from my mother telling me I "probably wasn't quite ready for this one yet, here, read Pet Sematary instead."

Here's the story.

I was in the library one day in the kids' room and I decided that I was getting too grown up for kid books, and besides it was an awfully small room and I had read everything of interest.  In those days my interest was mostly high page count because I tended to zip through books and I wanted to make sure I had plenty of reading material between library visits.  So, I walked over to the adult section, and, remembering that my mother read a lot of Stephen King, found the K's, the King's, and finally King, Stephen.  I browsed the selection and picked one up that seemed to have the least amount of wear and tear.  It may have even been displayed.  Whatever it was that drew my attention, I grabbed that one and didn't think anything of it.  I even started to read a little bit.

At some point I got decided I would go ahead and check out the book by myself.  I had my own library card at this point, or at the very least they allowed me to check out materials under my parents' account after looking up my phone number, whatever they did in the pre-internet days.  The librarian glanced at me, and then at the book, and then at me, kind of fidgeted and said,

"Are you with your parents today?"
"Yes, they're looking at videos right now."
"I think maybe we should wait to see if it's okay with your mom before we check this out to you."

I nodded and went to go find my mom.  She and the librarian conferred and my mom took me aside.

"Amy, I'll let you read this if you really want, but I think there are a lot of things you won't understand and won't enjoy in the book.  If you really want to read a Stephen King book, we can find something that's a little more appropriate.*"

I nodded again and we traded out the book and thanked the librarian.  I was almost glad because it seemed like a very boring book anyway.  What interesting things could possibly happen to a lady died up to a bed with a dead man on the floor?**  Grown-ups find the strangest things scary.

Did you catch the part where I said the book looked new?  That's right, this book was published in 1992.  I was seven, maybe eight at the oldest as we moved to Oklahoma after my 8th birthday and I remember this being in California, and my mother was going to allow me to read this book, "if I really wanted to."  The only thing that prevented me from reading Gerald's Game was my mother's advice and the advice of the librarian.  If she had absolutely refused to let me read it, I probably would have found a way to get my hands on it.  I likely would have even saved my allowance and bought it myself.  If I had decided to go ahead with my reading choice, I'm sure I would have gone to my mother and asked her countless questions about what was going on and why it was happening and what it all meant.  This is the way to "ban" books.

The librarian did the right thing by, not preventing my reading, but raising the concern to my mother.  Maybe some people would see that as a violation of my rights, but the librarian did not insist, she politely asked to see my mother.  I half wonder if she would have allowed me to check out the material if I had affirmed that my mother let me read things like that all the time, but at seven I was not yet so good at lying.  I actually have the greatest amount of respect for the librarian who tackled this tough situation in such a diplomatic and fair manner.  Rather than denying me the book outright, she turned the decision over to the person it belonged to, my parent, who did not prevent me from reading it or similar materials, but suggested alternatives.

*Given my age at the time I'm not sure what the hell an "appropriate" Stephen King is, but I damn well took one home that day and read it.
**I was pretty astute about reading materials at that age.  If it weren't for this incident I probably would have put the book down 40 pages in and never thought about it again, but I've always wanted to tackle it again because of this memory.

Banned for sex, violence, horror, incest...basically for being a book written by Stephen King book.

27 September 2010

Banned Book Week: And Tango Makes Three

And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, illustrated by Henry Cole.  ISBN: 9780689878459.

First of all, I didn't actually like this book.  I didn't think it was really all that interesting or captivating text-wise.  I did find the illustrations somewhat charming.  It was okay, but not what I would call good, so really the banning is what makes it exceptional, as well as it being a first.  Not really all that special when it comes down to it.

There's actually very little homosexuality in the book.  The greatest leap is when the zookeeper notices that Silo and Roy were engaging in paired behavior and stated, "They must be in love" in the book.  Apparently Silo and Roy were never actually seen engaging in sex.  Other than that all we see the penguins do is bow, sing, and nest together.  Scandalizing.

What are the banners really upset about with this one?  That the penguins are cute and that their children will want to be...gay penguins?  Or maybe they want more warning about the content of the book before they sit down for bedtime?  But really...it's all of 20 pages long and could easily be read in a matter of seconds.  Somehow I doubt plastering on the cover, "Here there be gay penguins" would be satisfactory to the people who object to homosexuality in the book.  Just imagine putting it on the outside.

Maybe we should all go around with giant stickers and slap them on all the books that even mention homosexuality regardless of the context.  But seriously, there is no sex in this book and they are animals.  It would be like complaining about Full House because all the men are acting as a family unit, or how about Tom Selleck's forgettable 3 Men and a Baby?  If parents wanted to, they could easily spin this short and not very extensive tale any way they wanted to rather than outright refusing to let kids read it.  They could always say, "Oh the zookeeper was mistaken.  See, Silo and Roy were just practicing, Silo later paired with a female penguin named Scrappy."  This of course would require parents to not only be engaged with the material, but also *gasp* their children.

On the other hand, they could also recognize that yes, homosexuality does exist and then explain their beliefs to their child.  Right or wrong, people have every right to teach their children that homosexuality is wrong and to use whatever tools they want, including books about gay penguins.  Unfortunately the knee jerk reaction is to not have their children read or learn about it at all, because maybe if they have time to think about it, their children might come to realize that homosexuality isn't such a bad thing.  Terrible.  Children thinking for themselves.  Next thing you know they'll want to move out of your basement, and they're only 32 years old and so precious at that age.

Banned for "gay sugar-coated penguins."  Delicious.

Day 184: The Golden Compass

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman.  ISBN: 9780375838309.

I'm actually kind of surprised that the supernatural element of this book wasn't taken up more during the banning.  Nowhere did I see any objections to the presence of the daemon.  Then again, since they were presented as being human souls, I guess it wouldn't make much sense to object to their presence, even in "daemonic" form.

What should be upsetting is the supposed ability of people to live on without their souls and their connection to original sin.  I apologize if the following is news, but I assume that since this book is more than 10 years old, most people have read it or at least watched the movie.  I'll try to be vague enough that there won't be too many spoilers, but I have to be able to talk freely about the intellectual content here.  So basically souls and Dust (which we later find is "original sin") are connected, and of course the Church wants to free children and future generations from original sin, but in doing so it means separating them from their daemons (i.e. SOULS).

I like the idea that souls and original sin are connected.  I am a firm believer that knowledge not only gives us more power and control over our lives, but that it actively enriches our lives.  Without the original sin, we would still be as innocent and unaware as children.  Maybe that appeals to some people, but it makes sense to me that we would have to have that awareness in order to even have souls to begin with.  Why do you need a soul if you are God's perfect creation and incapable of sin?  The soul is theoretically what gets us to Heaven and as long as it follows the will of God it is good.

But then I've always had a problem with the idea of blind faith.  God threw challenges at just about everyone in the Bible, including his own son.  Jesus was allowed and even provoked into questioning his faith in God, so why wouldn't that be considered a good thing in your search for truth and meaning?  If you return to God, doesn't it mean that your faith is that much stronger than someone who has never asked why?  Or someone who has never even thought about what it might like not to have the love and strength of God, or at the very least explore other ideas about God/other Gods?  Regardless of your belief system, I don't understand the desire to limit knowledge when knowing about other cultures and beliefs can only help you in relating to your fellow human.  Jesus had to navigate dozens of different cultures, the Middle East being central to trade during that time.  If the goal of being a Christian is to be more Christlike...why attempt to isolate yourself and everyone else from different view points rather than learn to live with each other in respect and peace?

Banned for negative representation of Catholic Church/Christian organizations, use of alcohol by minors, and because the author is a declared and unabashed atheist.

26 September 2010

Banned Book Week: Dan Walker (guest blogger)

The Giver by Lois Lowry.  ISBN: 9780440237686.

So the main plot involves Jonas approaching the beginning of his Twelfth year, and the accompanying ceremony, in which he'll be given his Assignment, a post that he'll train in for a few years before working in the job the rest of his life.  The Assignments are made by the Elders who've watched the children, carefully recording what their strengths are.

Boy do I wish someone would do this for me.  Yes, choice in Jonas' society has been removed, to keep people from making mistakes, and that's part of the point: making decisions, even bad ones, is part of what makes us human.  Amy can sure tell you that I am severely hung up about needing to do things correctly, to the point of not trying if I don't think something can be done right.  But it has always seemed to me that everyone else in the world has always known what they want to do with their life, except for me.

See, I've got all these talents -- little things, mostly, like my penchant for making voices -- and I have no idea what can be done with them.  Something tells me I could be making a living doing something, but I don't know what that something could possibly be.  I may be missing my calling, for crying out loud, and not even know it.

For instance, I didn't discover my talent with languages until I took German in college, and that was after four years of high school Spanish.  I've bounced around from language to language, picking up bits and pieces of Swahili, Chinese, Russian, and French, to name a few.  And while I feel like each experience is helping me move toward some greater fundamental understanding of language as a whole, I can't exactly do anything with what I've already learned.  Unless there were, say, someone out there who just needs a little knowledge of a lot of languages.

Speaking of which, I didn't discover linguistics, now my passion, until my third or fourth year of college.  I could have been working toward a degree in that from a much earlier time if I'd known it even existed as a field.  Instead, I feel like I've wasted the last eleven or so years, and in some ways, I have.  A lack of direction in my early life plagues me now.  Maybe if someone had been there to say, "Hey, you're good at doing this, maybe you should try this," I would have at least been able to work towards a real life goal.

Dan Walker (pseudonym) is a writer from Northeast Ohio, who would be teaching ESL if he wasn't unemployed. He received a BA in Creative Writing from Wright State University in 2004 and a Masters in Teaching English as a Second Language from Kent State University in 2009. He will make some lucky librarian a wonderful husband someday. 

for description of drug use by children, lethal injections of babies and the elderly, suicide, and other reasons.

Day 183: The Golden Compass

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman.  ISBN: 9780375838309.

Oh, I do believe I might get my ass chewed out for this one.  Lucky for me, I have very little ass, so people should get bored with it pretty quickly and maybe find some fat to chew elsewhere.  The thing that pisses me off most about banning books for religious reasons is that it completely denies any of the good things about the book.  The religious zealots get so fixated on the "THEY KILLED JESUS" aspect that they completely blind themselves to any other (possibly) positive message, or the fact that maybe the "killing God" is meant as a symbol of something else and not actually, ya know, killing God per se.

But some of that comes up later in the series and I haven't read that far.  So let me share with some of you what our precious, precious children who must have their souls protected at every cost, might be missing out on.  The major thing this book teaches to our children, the main thing that I think adults should be terrified and upset about, is not the religious debate, it's the message that sometimes adults do not have the best interests of children in mind, and that they are willing to manipulate and use and even harm children to get what they want, and therefore sometimes it is up to the child to protect herself and her friends.

Oh Shit.  How did you miss that one?  It's because Pullman pulled one over on you and blinded you with your Kryptonite, which also happens to be your self-proclaimed Spinach.  Popeye the Superman...I just made myself die a little there.

I'm not even implying that you should be pissed off that Pullman wrote it.  If you were reasonable people you would be pissed off that it needed to be written.  If you're pissed off that Pullman presented the Catholic Church (which, to begin with, is in an alternate universe anyway) as an organization that has done terrible things to children and is trying to hide it...uh, maybe you should be less pissed off about that happening in fiction and more pissed off about the real occurrences?  It would be hard for Pullman's work to be so inflammatory if there wasn't some grain of truth. Otherwise it would be easy enough to just read it and say, "Meh, that's not true, but this is an alternate universe and therefore he must be talking about some other Catholic Church."

I don't see what the problem is with this novel.  I really don't.  A novelist can't kill God.  Or rather, he can kill God as many times as he wants: God is first and foremost and idea and the only way you can kill ideas is to stop thinking.  So if you want God dead, please keep banning books, because that is surely a good way to get people to stop thinking.

You know, I think there was a group of people who did that back in the Dark Ages.  They only allowed the clergy to be able to read and only held services in Latin so that the masses had to rely solely on the word of their priests.  Hmm...which group was that again...?

I just find it incredibly ironic and sad that Pullman is promoting self-preservation in children against adults wanting to do them harm, and all the book banners can see is the negative message against the Church.  (Note, I say the Church because I have yet to actually see anything about about Christians or Christianity as a belief system.  I am willing to believe that it shows up in the sequels, but I have yet to see it in The Golden Compass.)

Banned for negative representation of Catholic Church/Christian organizations, use of alcohol by minors, and because the author is a declared and unabashed atheist.

25 September 2010

Banned Book Week: Dan Walker (guest blogger)

The Giver by Lois Lowry.  ISBN: 9780440237686.

After he's been named the new Receiver of Memory, Jonas is given a (distinctly brief) pamphlet like the others receiving their Assignments, with instructions for his first day of training.  It tells him, among other things, not to discuss his training with anyone, and gives him leave to break a number of societal norms, including being able to tell lies and be rude.

I sure wish I had access to that last one.  I'm constantly afraid that someone is going to take some little thing I do or say as being rude.  This is especially true when I'm at work, I'm always finishing with customers and wondering, "Was I somehow rude...?"  I'm constantly concerned that I might have said something wrong, or said it a certain way.  Maybe I didn't wait long enough for something to happen.  Maybe my body language was improper.  There's nothing in my actions that stands out as having been rude, but I wonder if it might have been taken that way.  I just wouldn't know if it happened.

Of course, people are free to take offense at pretty much anything, for pretty much any reason.  Being offended is a choice, after all, but most people don't realize that.  (Think about it: if it wasn't a choice, then how could there individuals who are not easily offended by things like taboo words? racist jokes? dead baby jokes?  ...Are you?)  If it's easier to get your way by being offended all the time, why wouldn't you let that thong ride up your ass*?  After all, if people didn't choose to take offense, we wouldn't be 'celebrating' Banned Book Week now, would we?

That said, a license to be rude would be awesome for a different reason.  So many people in this world need to be set straight about their behaviors.  They need to be told that they're being obnoxious, selfish assholes.  They need to be told that it is not acceptable to be so demanding, especially when those demands infringe on the rights of others.  They need to be told when they're being rude, even though that is, paradoxically, rude in itself.  So a lot of the self-absorbed, self-entitled, customer-is-always-righties in the world get to go on about their merry way without anyone checking their behavior.  Forget a license to kill, I just want a license to say "STFU and GTFO".

Dan Walker (pseudonym) is a writer from Northeast Ohio, who would be teaching ESL if he wasn't unemployed. He received a BA in Creative Writing from Wright State University in 2004 and a Masters in Teaching English as a Second Language from Kent State University in 2009. He will make some lucky librarian a wonderful husband someday. 

*Phrasing generously loaned by Amy L. Campbell.

for description of drug use by children, lethal injections of babies and the elderly, suicide, and other reasons.

Day 182: Where the Sidewalk Ends

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein.  ISBN: 9780060291693.

Today is the start of Banned Book Week, and also Shel Silverstein's 80th birthday.  I'll be making two posts per day as I decided last minute to cover some of my favorite books as a child.  These were stories that I grew up with, that would not be available to other young readers if the censors had their way.

Shel Silverstein is a downright classic.  My brother and I read these poems over and over again when we were learning to read.  They were compelling in their silliness and snark.  I reveled in the irreverence, especially against authority figures, not necessarily because I wanted to duplicate them, but because it offered a means of vicarious enjoyment.  I couldn't rebel, but I could enjoy the idea of it.  Here's one of the poems I enjoyed that I think ties in well with the selfish prevention of someone else's reading pleasure:

I have nothing to put in my stew, you see,
Not a bone or a bean or a black-eyed pea,
So I'll just climb in the pot to see
If I can make a stew out of me.
I'll put in some pepper and salt and I'll sit
In the bubbling water--I won't scream a bit.
I'll sing while I simmer, I'll smile while I'm stewing,
I'll taste myself often to see how I'm doing.
I'll stir me around with this big wooden spoon
And serve myself up at a quarter to noon.
So bring out your stew bowls,
You gobblers and snackers.
Farewell--and I hope you enjoy me with crackers!

For anyone who has ever even thought about banning a book, you can take away my bones, my beans, and my black-eyed peas, but if you do I have two words for you, "Eat me."

Banned for suggestions of drug use, the occult, suicide, death, violence, disrespect for truth, disrespect for legitimate authority, rebellion against parents.

24 September 2010

Day 181: Blameless

Blameless by Gail Carriger. ISBN: 9780316074155.

I think Carriger posits an excellent question to her character Madame Lefoux when she is asked whether or not she is seeking immortality (as a werewolf of vampire).  I won't tell you the answer, but Lefoux, being herself, gives a very reasonable answer.

Before you make up your mind about it, here are some facts you must know about being turned in Carriger's universe:
  1. It is not always successful.
  2. Successful transition relies on the presence of excess soul, of which there is no means of measuring.
  3. Women very rarely make a successful transition.
  4. A successful transition means you must sustain yourself on either blood or raw meat.
  5. A successful transition usually involves losing artistic talents or creative abilities.
  6. A successful werewolf transition involves very, very painful transformations than never get less painful.
  7. A successful transition means that you will be beholden to either a vampire hive or a werewolf pack, at least until you are strong (read: old) enough to break off on your own, and then you will be looked upon with suspicion by everyone.
With all of these facts stacked up against it, there's almost no point in becoming immortal.  I suppose number 7 wouldn't be all that much different, as in Victorian times I would be bound by the patriarchal family structure anyway and becoming immortal may be a means of escaping it, even if only for another hierarchical form.  I think possibly the biggest concern would be the loss of artistic talents and abilities.

My brain is actually one of my favorite places to visit.  I would be loath to lose that in favor of prolonging my life.  I may not be incredibly smart, but I am clever, and I keep myself well entertained.  In fact, my brain is so inventive that sometimes it throws somewhat random images and word pairings together in a way that delights me to no end.  Most of them I would not dare to speak out loud or share, except apparently with my fiance as most of them come to me when I'm settling down for the night, but other times they lead to some turn of phrase or thought that I truly enjoy exploring and connecting in ways that might not occur to other people.

I know that my blog is not very big right now, that my audience is fairly small compared to some, but I would like to think that it is enjoyed enough by the people who do read it that they would come to miss the "soul" of my blog if it were to go missing.

An excellent and mostly spoiler free review can be found at this ain't livin'.  The blog author does an excellent job of summarizing the flavor of the book without going into boiled down summary (I am not a fan of summaries).

23 September 2010

Day 180: Blameless

Blameless by Gail Carriger. ISBN: 9780316074155.

Before I get started on the actual topic here, I just want to say I love the covers on these.  This is not my favorite, but I dig the black and white backgrounds with subtle supernatural elements with (one supposes) Alexia in the foreground.

I think the reason I love these books so much is that Alexia and Connall annoy the ever-loving crap out of each other.  To me, this is a realistic and healthy relationship.  Mostly because it resembles my own on so many levels.  Just the other night I was assisting my fiance with editing his guest posts for my upcoming Banned Book Week, uh, postings.  I was attempting to communicate with him, while he was busy A) being purposefully dense B) honestly not getting it C) being a bad listener D) being on a completely different wavelength than me on that particular moment when we normally finish each other's sentences and read each other's minds (usually about food; we are fatkids).

We even take more or less the same roles as the Lord and Lady Maccon.  I tend to be the more pragmatic one, able to socialize with a large range of people almost solely based on my manners, but with occasional blunders due to a habit of being a bit more blunt than is normally considered "polite".  Danny, on the other hand, tends to be a bit more emotional (publicly), relies mostly on a group of friends who share commonalities, and socializes according to the already established "pack protocol" rather than a broader, more acceptable set of behaviors.  This is not to say his behaviors are unacceptable or rude, but being part of the nerd culture sometimes involves "odd" customs and an even odder set of knowledge and conversational topics.

Strangely, I think these things actually make us closer to each other.*  If I didn't get absolutely irritated with him on occasion, we would lead terribly boring lives.  If we were both so agreeable that we gave way on every little thing that annoyed us, we wouldn't be happy with each other..  We aren't exactly happy with each other now, but the occasional victory or defeat is somehow more rewarding than watching my lover cave in every time I make a demand for him to change his behavior or the way he dresses or OMG stop exhaling breath into the phone every 10 minutes like you're some kind of telephonic whale beast.**

And on some level I even enjoy the bickering and raising our voices to each other out of frustration over stupid things.***  It makes it easier to have those really difficult discussions and not get upset about it just because the other person is yelling and oh shit, we've never had a fight before.  Instead, when we are actually fighting about something that actually matters, we are able to sit down and listen to what the other person is saying and to address those concerns and come to a solution.  We don't always necessarily do it without hurting each other first, we don't necessarily do it within 24 hours, and we aren't always 100 percent mature adults in our resolutions, but we also aren't afraid to call each other assholes when it's merited (and sometimes when it's not).****  At the very least it prompts us to fix minor problems before they become big huge hairy werewolf-sized problems.

An excellent and mostly spoiler free review can be found at this ain't livin'.  The blog author does an excellent job of summarizing the flavor of the book without going into boiled down summary (I am not a fan of summaries).

*Deeble. <3  (These are responses Danny left during the editing process, thought I would share.)
**No. >:-[ 
***I'm glad one of us does.
****Which is all the time.

22 September 2010

Day 179: Nemesis

Nemesis by Philip Roth. ISBN: 9780547318356 (ARC - publishes October 12, 2010).

One of the few things that I think this book captured very well was the human tradition of finding a scapegoat, and it was usually the one the characters tended to blame for everything else.  When the first cases of polio hit the neighborhood of Weequahic people wanted to blame a group of Italians who came by and spat on the sidewalk, or the burger and hot dog joint where all the kids hung out.  Later when the community (primarily Jewish) became the most afflicted of Newark, it was proposed that they quarantine the entire area at best...or burn it down with all the residents still inside at worst.

Bucky Canton, our, uh, hero, decides to scapegoat God, which seems like a good choice before he jumps to blaming himself for the spread of polio, which is utterly ridiculous and infuriating.  Personally, it seems like scapegoating God would be far more productive and a lot more healthy.  First of all, God theoretically loves you no matter what and shouldn't mind a little tantrum from one of his toddler creations, especially when He allows curve ball bullshit like polio to be thrown at children.  But the truth of the matter is that it's easier to blame something a little more tangible.

It's nice to see we still haven't outgrown that behavior, and when I say "nice" I'm being sarcastic.  It absolutely amazes me that we monkeys still divide ourselves and each other into these factions for the sole purpose of vilifying each other.  You would think several thousand years (at the least) and many, many, many belief systems and tenets of faith that insist on some variety of "love thy neighbor", often in many different words, would produce a species that would grow the fuck up.

Instead we get the Lefty Liberal Commies Versus the Fundamentalist Religious Republicans Versus Who Gives a Fuck All.  We're so busy blaming each other for everything that we can't figure out who is actually at fault, and even if we did we would still blame the other guy, because that's just what we do.  We're so busy blaming people that shit can't get done to actually change our situation.  Awesome.  Advanced society, we've advanced so far we're cock blocking ourselves.  I'm so incredibly frustrated with all the bullshit that I'm almost ready for a dictatorship if only so we can blame One Guy for all our trouble. 

At least then we might be able to work together on changing something.  It's so difficult when you think that everyone is involved in the same dick fight and the sides are about equal when I think most of us are just trying not to get slapped in the face by the ongoing wang-wagging in the hopes that maybe something will be accomplished during this stupidity.  But really, the only thing that happens during a dick fight is that the guy with the longest dick slaps the most faces, and no one benefits from that.  Yeah, I just equated our government to a juvenile game of junk jousting (trademarked for later use on t-shirts, bitches).

My review can be found on Goodreads.

*Oddly, I wrote this post before I watched the Daily Show for September 16th, but the intro to Jon Stewart announcing the Rally to Restore Sanity sums up my feelings in a way that is much more elegant than my immature analogy.  If you haven't seen it yet, here is the segment, from about 2:30-5:03 is the most relevant portion.

21 September 2010

Day 178: Nemesis

Nemesis by Philip Roth.  ISBN: 9780547318356 (ARC - publishes October 12, 2010).

It's been about 60 years since they discovered the polio vaccine.  I have lived in a mostly polio-free world.  I don't know anyone personally who is or was afflicted by it, but my grandparents must have lived in terror of it every summer.  They were born in the 1910's and 1920's, they likely knew people who died, they may even have played with a little girl or boy who didn't make it past their 12th birthday.

Do kids even know about polio these days?  I know about it only because we visited a museum where Franklin Roosevelt sought treatment and relief in special pools.  Do kids know how lucky they are to live in a world where they don't have to worry about whether they'll wake up one day to find that they will be trapped in an iron lung for the rest of their lives?  I half wonder if the constant fear of death lent a certain character to previous generations that later ones lack, a certain hardiness and understanding that they are specks of dust in the cosmos rather than the bright burning sun around which the world revolves.

It's hard to bitch about ruining your iPad (or not having one) when the kid next door dies and the one down the street lost the use of her legs.

I bet they don't know that polio is only a plane ride away.  All you have to do is hop a plane to India and come in contact with the wrong food vendor, shake the wrong person's hand, kiss the wrong stranger, take the wrong money as change.  Or come in contact with someone who has done these things.  It is not impossible for polio to make a come back; we're already seeing the return of whooping cough.  And while our flus are getting more pernicious and more likely to cause death, they haven't yet gotten to the levels of polio in its heyday.  I don't know that we'll be faced with population-decimating diseases, but I do know that this is the largest population we've had on this planet, and the times are ripe for large numbers of people to spread a highly communicable disease at a very quick rate.  Enjoy your life; if these are the worst days, I'll count myself lucky.

My review can be found on Goodreads.

20 September 2010

Day 177: The Time Traveler's Wife

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.  ISBN: 9781598872712 (audiobook).

I don't think I could stand having a lover that time traveled.  I think if I knew when I started dating a person that they had this problem, I would have to be pretty sure the relationship was going to last.  Imagine being in love with someone who popped in and out of your life, and you never knew when they were going to show up, or for how long, or which version of them it would be. 

One day you could be with your 20-year-old lover, and the next day you could be with him at 40 after you've just had a messy divorce and he hates your guts.  Or you could be with both at the same time.  Wouldn't that be fun.

I think the nice thing about linear time (at least as far as we can perceive) is that we only have to go through stuff like that once.  We get to be and deal with each other as 20-year-olds for only a year.  Imagine traveling back in time and watching your 20-year-old self doing stupid shit you know you're going to regret, and not being able to do anything about it because it's already happened, and therefore you cannot change it.  Or better yet, having your 20-year-old self travel forward in time and seeing how pathetic you become and dishing out the criticism, etc.  We're already self-critical of ourselves in the present; now imagine actually having that manifest in physical form.  You know you would kick your own ass, and not regret doing it either.

Now imagine having a lover, a person you became extremely vulnerable to and told all your secrets to and likely had many, many embarassing moments with (because sex is dumb like that).  Now imagine that lover can pop in and out of your life as a 20-year-old.  Sure, it might be fun when you're 36 and successful and still dating the 38-year-old version of your lover to take the 20-year-old version to bed, because damn that would be hot.  It's not so hot when you're 70 and starting to go senile and occasionally can't make it to the bathroom on time and your lover has been dead for 30 years and now he's popped back in and he is almost godlike in his youthful beauty and he is looking at you like, "Thank god I'll be dead and don't have to wake up to that in the morning."

As romantic as Niffenegger made it all sound, I somehow doubt it would all work together so perfectly, and there would be far more heartache involved than just time traveling back to your mother's fatal car accident or the night your ex-girlfriend committed suicide.  I think it would be terribly messy and you probably wouldn't live to the ripe old middle age that Henry managed to get to.  Give me regular linear time travel any day.  I'd rather my heartbreak only show up in the here and now and not come unbidden into my future.

I don't absolutely hate the book like the writer of this review, but I do think she points out all the major flaws (which I mostly agree with).

19 September 2010

Day 176: The Time Traveler's Wife

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.  ISBN: 9781598872712 (audiobook).

I think one of the major reasons to read books versus watching the movie is for little gems like this,

“I now have an erection that is tall enough to ride some of the scarier rides at Great America.”


Strangely I was not expecting this line from uh, literary fiction?  Science fiction?  Romance?  Where does this book really fall?  I don't know that there's actually enough science fiction in it to qualify it there, and not enough graphic sex scenes for it to be smut, although there's definitely more than enough.  It's not so literary as to be literary fiction.

In any case, I sometimes purposefully read romance novels expressly for descriptions such as this.  Because I bet you are also still laughing your ass off and imaging a giant penis standing in a roller coaster line next to one of those cartoon cardboard cut outs with the "Must be this tall to ride" signs.  The truth is, romance novels are such a guilty pleasure of mine that I almost considered starting a blog just for that.

The problem with a romance novel blog is that it necessitates reading romance novels regularly enough to write about them on a regular basis.  There is only so much titillation I can stand, and only so many descriptions of "pulsing purple warheads" and "round globes of flesh" I can read before it loses all meaning and what little charm it had to begin with.  On the other hand, I do read romance novels.  So you will at least someday see a post or two about them here on Lib's LIB.  Depending on your definition I've actually already covered two romance novels by Gail Carriger.  Personally, it's a little too plot driven and can stand on it's own without the sex, but I'm sure some uptight school marm might consider it smutty.

Do you want to know what my blog would have been, if things had been different? 

Title: Highfalutin Smut
Genre: Romance, Smut, Naughty Stories
Highlights: Best (i.e. most hilarious) description of male anatomy, female anatomy, and/or Other anatomy and/or orgasm.
Overviews of plot, characters, and whether or not I liked it.
Rating system: Inches, duh.  Each section would get a rating, how uh, enticing it is, how believable the plot, etc.  The combined score would be the Falute.  The better the smut the more Highfalutin.

Just think, you guys could be reading Highfalutin Smut right now.  Instead, I went for something a little more cerebral...  and I still write about oversized penises, glowing vampire poop, and sadistic ponies (although, Rupert isn't sadistic in that particular story).

I don't absolutely hate the book like the writer of this review, but I do think she points out all the major flaws (which I mostly agree with).

18 September 2010

Day 175: Ape House

Ape House by Sara Gruen. ISBN: 9780385523219 (ARC - published Sept. 7, 2010).

As fascinating as the bonobos were in this novel, the human reaction to them was almost more fascinating.  Once they were put on television, it was like people couldn't stop watching the hot ape on ape action, even as they were somewhat "mortified" by it.  I use quotations, because I doubt they were really mortified with the actual acts, but more the realization that they enjoyed the simian exhibitionist sexploitation.

We're human.  We are naturally curious about sex.  And we have the severe misfortune of also being nosy.  It's why I think we're moving away from being social creatures in-person.  It's easier to snoop and stalk and potentially offend online than it is to go through someone's trash unobserved.  And really, the observation is where we get in trouble with the other primates on our block.  You can pretty much be rude to or about anyone in private, but as soon as you bring that in to a public sphere (regardless of whether it's true), everyone is all, "Ohmygod, did you just fling poo?"  Even the people who participated in the behind the scenes poo flinging with you only moments before.  It's as if we can engage in honest behavior and conversations, regardless of how terrible they are, but they don't actually become terrible up until they are brought into the public or to the person in question.

Anyway, here's my theory.  I don't think we would be as vicious towards each other behind closed doors if we were more open about how we felt about each other.  Honestly, our cage has gotten mighty cramped in the past 50 years.  We are bound to exhibit stress behavior as resources (if you view jobs and social security, etc. as such) become more scarce and we're competing less with people and more with hordes of people.  So yeah, we're going to start flinging poo like crazy and participate in "catty" behavior as a response to territorial defense of perceived threats.

At least with monkeys and apes flinging poo you know when it's flying and it can only be a certain level of disgusting.  Some of the things I've heard out of other people's mouths about my coworkers...and even some of the things I've said myself, definitely worse than any turds I could have thrown at them.  You can wash that shit off, but it's hard to get rid of the taint of a tarnished reputation when you can't even defend yourself from unknown allegations.  It may be more hurtful... but at least we'll know where the stink is coming from and we can avoid the poo flingers instead of having lunch with them every day.

Also, I totally expect my search stats to go up after using the term "poo flinging" so many times.

My review can be found on Goodreads.

*On a side note, by 200th post is only 25 posts away.  Would you like me to do something special for it?  For those of you who missed it, my 100th ...er 102nd post was glorious.  Do we want more Rupert? Or something else...an interview of me? Of one of my guest bloggers?  My first foray into t-shirts perhaps?

17 September 2010

Day 174: Ape House

Ape House by Sara Gruen. ISBN: 9780385523219 (ARC - published Sept. 7, 2010).

Even though there aren't many of them, I loved the interactions with the apes in this book.  Gruen made them so dynamic and engaging that I just wanted to know what they would do next.  I've always been fascinated with animals.  I could watch ants until my eyes bled, just observing different sections of the colony and how it all functions together.

Animal behavior is so intriguing because it feels like I can almost figure out what they're thinking and why they do it.  But then I have to keep in mind that some of it is bound to be instinctual and there's the mystery of exactly how much is and how much isn't.

We've all had pets who were to dear to us because their behavior seemed so human and empathetic on one level, and inexplicably animal on the other.  I think it's why we sometimes trust our animals more than our best friends.  I think we still would even if those animals could communicate in a human language.  I've had cats that would curl up with me when I was crying or upset about something.  I practiced my French on Simon, and my room mate's cat thinks I'm a chew toy and more or less hates my guts most of the time.  Probably because I end up clipping his nails all the time, whereas my room mate is the one who gives him gooshy food.  You would think the liberal doses of catnip would even it out, but no.

Rocky was excellent at being almost human.  Rocky was my first cat, and I was in love with him in the way that only a five year old girl can be in love with her first pet.  He was very good at knowing exactly when I needed his company, going so far as to join me on anger fueled walks.  Sometimes he trotted ahead of me, seeming to scout the area and turning back to "mreowch" at me to make sure I was still following.

It really makes me wonder how we can possibly treat our animals the way we do.  I don't necessarily mean pets.  And I do understand the necessities of animal testing, but there is a level of understanding of what it means to have these animals.  It is particularly distressing to me when animals higher in cognizance than mice are used, because I'm deeply afraid on some level that they know what is being done to them and why, even if they don't know details.  And I think I worry that one day we'll have to answer for what we've done to them.

My review can be found on Goodreads.

16 September 2010

Day 173: The Fall

The Fall by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan.  ISBN: 9780061558221 (ARC - publishes Sept. 21, 2010).

This kept a really good dark tone for most of the book.  Except for the blog entries by Fet.  Really?  Blogging?  During the vampocalypse?

Dear readers, I promise you one thing: if things start going down where my family and I will potentially be attacked by vampires, I will not be blogging about it.  I will be hiding my ass away from the world.  Someone else can be the internet hero.  I think blogging is important; I think it is an excellent way to provide information to people who want it and an even better outlet for people to share their thoughts (even if it's only with 30-something readers).  I do not think it will matter so much during a time of crisis in which everything is going to hell.

I also found the concept a bit ridiculous.  The population of New York was decimated or turned vampire, brown outs were occurring constantly, cell phone towers were down, and yet somehow Fet had regular enough internet access to update his blog.  Even updating sporadically, this seems a bit far to ask us to suspend our disbelief.  And really, who thinks it would be a good idea to blog their way through the end times?

It probably won't be an issue.  Not because they won't come eventually, but because I doubt anyone will have time or the stability to do it.  But if you had the chance...would you?  Would you blog the apocalypse?

My review can be found on Goodreads.

15 September 2010

Day 172: The Fall

The Fall by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan.  ISBN: 9780061558221 (ARC - publishes Sept. 21, 2010).

These are not romantic vampires.  These are vampires that poop.  Everywhere.  All the time.  They are apparently related to rats, or at least share many characteristics with them, namely they can't throw up and they are incontinent...and their urine and feces glows in UV lights (with rats it's black light).  Applying this behavior to other vampires is hilarious.  Cullen squatting over a toilet constantly, whilst sparkling and dropping nuclear-glow turds definitely appeals to my puerile since of humor.

Another thing I liked about this was the vampires as parasitic viruses.  The virus seems to be carried and sustained by a worm, which prolongs the life of the host, but weakens it to sunlight and (for some reason) silver.  Somewhat similar to the superior Necroscope series, but I like the semi-scientific explanation of vampires and how they work.  On some level, it makes the vampires more and less terrifying at the same time.  Less terrifying because if there's a scientific explanation, there's a scientific solution.  More terrifying because it puts the phenomena on our level; it makes it real.  It makes everyone susceptible to it, because you don't have to do anything stupid like invite a vampire into your house or break a cursed seal on some bottle or be walking out on a full moon.

You know what else makes vampires terrifying?  Their humanity.  But it has to be that perfect balance of human and depravity.  I know for me, I'm not afraid so much of the monster, but of the human, and not knowing where the line is.  It's part of the reason I enjoyed the Buffy versions of vampires, the idea that the demon enhanced current underlying violent and hidden tendencies.  Even as they were making fun of the vampires (namely Spike), you could imagine them being placed in a different setting and completely wreaking havoc.  In the end, what's more horrifying than what we can do to each other?  We expect horrible things from monsters. To realize that we are the monster...who is safe from that?

My review can be found on Goodreads.

14 September 2010

Day 171: Jen Karsbaek (Interview)

This interview is part of Book Blogger Appreciation Week.  I signed up to exchange interviews with another blogger, and I had the pleasure and privilege of interviewing Jen Karsbaek from Devourer of Books.  This is an edited version in which I look less stupid, fix typos and spelling, and cut out some of the irrelevant chit chat.

LibsLIB:  Good evening O Devourer of Books.  I believe we have an appointment. 
Jen:  We do indeed, hello!  How are you this fine evening?

LibsLIB:  Not too bad, haven't been sleeping well lately, but I have the feeling that's due more to allergies and late night video game binges than ill health.  Yourself?
Jen:  I also didn't sleep well last night, but more because I was awakened right as I was falling asleep, then just couldn't get back.  I saw your posts about Mockingjay, did you stay up late reading it? 

LibsLIB:  I read it in two sittings, my room mate brought it home around 6, I think I started reading it at 8 and read it until almost 2am, and then picked back up at around noon.  I needed to put it down quite a bit to think about certain parts, so it took me longer to read than expected.  So how long have you been blogging and what got you started? 
Jen:  I've been blogging about two and 1/2 years now, I started in February of 2008 after finding out that such things as book blogs existed through a conversation on LibraryThing. Since many of the people in my real life were sick of hearing about what I was reading, I thought the internet might be interested (or would at least give me an outlet to express my thoughts).  Plus, I had so many people asking what I was reading and what I had thought of it, I thought it might be easier to just point them to my blog.

LibsLIB:  Have you had any posts that caused a great deal of uproar, either from spoilers leaked or disagreement about review, etc.?  If not is it something you worry about.
Jen:  I'm very careful not to give out spoilers or, if I am going to do so, to be very clear that there will be spoilers, so I haven't had any problems with that.  The only reader disagreements I have had with my reviews have come from young teens finding some of my YA or Middle Grade reviews that have been less than positive (Twilight and one or two others).  I don't worry about it too much, I either ignore them or, if they are too rude/abusive, I don't allow them the privilege of commenting. I don't care if people disagree, but I do care that they are civil. 

More obnoxious or worrisome are  comments from authors or people who are quite obviously friends of authors who take issue with negative reviews.  That doesn't happen often, but it does happen occasionally. and primarily with self-published authors.  This is why I just don't accept books from self-published authors any longer, and I haven't really had an issues since then.  Google alerts are a great thing for authors, but I think there are some authors who probably shouldn't be using them, if they cannot either accept or ignore negative reactions to their books. You're never going to do anything creative that is universally loved.

LibsLIB:  Ah see, I thought they just spent all day searching for themselves, didn't realize Google had that service.  How many books do you try usually read per week, and how often do you post?
Jen:  I try to finish at least 3 print and one audio book per week, depending on the length of the books. I generally post 5-6 days per week right now, but that is going to increase to 7 days a week next month during my special Chicago authors feature month, and will likely stay at 7 days per week, because I am planning to start a new 'Saturday Story Spotlight' feature on Saturdays to talk about the books my son is enjoying or I am enjoying reading to him

LibsLIB:  How old is your child, do you have more than one?
Jen:  He's one, actually, he's our only one right now

LibsLIB:  How do you manage to find time to read and take care of your family?  Do you work as well?
Jen:  Yes, I am working part-time. Audiobooks are a big way I sneak in extra reading time, when I'm driving, cooking, cleaning, etc. The other thing is that I end up prioritizing reading over doing things like putting away laundry, because it is my relaxation/escape, even if it is a heavier book.  Plus I just carry a book everywhere I go to squeeze every possible reading moment out of my day (like if my son falls asleep in the car, etc).

LibsLIB:  Do you participate in reading challenges or book blog memes?  What do you think about them in general?
Jen:  Last year was the first time I signed up for challenges and I think I signed up for 15 or so, but I've found that my reading revolves so much around my review copies and what I've taken out from the library (poor, neglected books I own!) that I never make a point to read anything for challenges. This year I'll only be signing up for a couple of challenges, and only ones like What's In A Name that I can complete by accident.

The only meme I participate in regularly is the Sunday Salon, and that's not really very meme-y. Every so often I'll do a Library Loot or Teaser Tuesday, but probably not even once a month these days.

I think memes have their place, particularly for people who are just starting out in blogging and can use them to connect to the community, but at a certain point  people need to move beyond them and just pick one or two favorites that they really embrace and sort of make their own, or they risk having their own voice lost amongst content largely developed by other people.

LibsLIB:  What is the best book you've read this year, and the worst?
Jen:  I've finished 160 books so far this year, so it is tough to pick just one! Among the best are "The Weight of Heaven" by Thrity Umrigar and "Red Hook Road" by Ayelet Waldman.

If I've read anything that was really terrible, I've DNF'd it and can't even remember now, but I think "The Captive Queen" by Alison Weir was the biggest disappointment, because the first 20 pages were pretty bad, and I generally like her work

LibsLIB:  How do you choose what to read, and where do you usually get your books from?
 Jen:  The majority of my books these days are review copies that come from publishers, authors, and outside publicists, as well as Shelf Awareness and LibraryThing Early Reviewers.  I decide what to read based on release dates, how long I've had the book, and pure interest/whim.

LibsLIB:  I noticed in your about me section that it says you're a knitter, if you were going to design a scarf for your favorite character/author who would it be for and what would it look like? 
Jen:  Well, it would probably be for Cathy from East of Eden. That's my favorite book, and she's the most interesting character therein who would wear a scarf...  I think it would have to be cashmere, mixed with something shiny in a subtle way, a dark scarf with a bit of a spark.  Plus an intricate design that I'd probably have to do a lot of research to figure out, something  that wraps around and repeats itself.

13 September 2010

Day 170: The Wave

The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean by Susan Casey  ISBN: 9780767928847 (Bound Galley).

The next time I really got tossed on my ass by a wave was in Hawaii.  I can't remember which island we were on at the time, because I've visited two.  I'm fairly certain we were on Hawaii (the Big Island) at the time.  It was the last real family vacation I ever went on, and we had both sets of grandparents along with us.  About a year later, my parents would be embroiled in divorce proceedings and my brother's drug problems and violence towards me would escalate.  But for the time, we were all happy and having a wonderful tropical vacation.

It was near the end of the vacation, and we had already packed in quite a bit.  We visited old lava flows and the petroglyphs and black sand beaches.  There was snorkeling and lots of time spent out in the sun, with all of the grandparents in full wide-brim hats and zinc on their noses to protect paper thin skin.  It was just me, my brother, and my parents out on the beach at that point.  The grandparents were tired, but my brother and I wanted to continue body surfing.  The tide was just starting to turn and the waves alternated between gentle swells and what seemed like giants.

I didn't have my back turned this time, so much as I picked the wrong part of the wave to ride.  For those of you who haven't been body surfing, you have to choose the exact right part of the wave.  You want to surf the top near the crest of the wave, but not so close that you'll end up in the whitewater (the part that crashes - either onto land or more water depending on how far out you are).  If you catch it too far back you won't go very far and it makes for a disappointing wave, whereas if you catch it too early...

This is what happened to me that day.  I jumped with the wave a little too early, and it decided to pipeline.  I was caught in a sort of horizontal water tornado.  It brought me up and up, and then I lost all sense of direction as it flipped me over.  At some point my head hit the bottom of the ocean, bruising my forehead.  Luckily we were on a soft sand beach (fine grains, with little to no rocks), but it was still enough force to make me dizzy.  When I finally found my footing I headed back for shore as quickly as possible, afraid that I might lose consciousness in the ocean.  My brother mocked me, but having previous experience with the ocean's moods, I knew better than to risk it.

You don't have to be a surfer to die in the surf.  You don't even have to be out in twenty, thirty, fifty, or eighty foot swells.  You can die just as easily on an eight foot wave.  Sharks are less likely to kill you than the ocean itself, but it's too hard to make a monster out of something so transient and ever-changing.  It's why we keep getting back in the water, and why it keeps reminding us that doing so, even in the calmest situations, is not always safe.  But then that's life.

My review can be found on Goodreads.
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