Dear Readers,

I now consider this blog to be my Juvenelia. Have fun perusing the archives, and find me at my new haunt, here.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


by Justine Picardie

I'm not going to expound too much on this novel, because I've already been working on an article (whether it will see the light of day or not remains to be determined) that relates to it...

But it's an important book for those who have egalitarian bookwormy tastes like mine, in that it uses fiction to really address the cult of the female reader and her relationship to the female writers who have come before her.

Basically, Daphne is two stories: one involving Daphne DuMaurier and her obsession with Branwell Bronte, her obsessive quest to "unlock" his secrets, and her back-and-forth correspondence with a weird old British scholar with some secrets of his own.

The second story involves a DuMaurier and Bronte-loving narrator, nameless, who's involved in a marriage with a domineering older man who scorns her taste in literature, and who pines over his lovely, charismatic ex, a sexy poet named Rachel.

The allusions to Rebecca here (and thereby to Jane Eyre) are obvious, and there are also tons of references to other literary folks, like JM Barrie and more, and that's the worst part of Daphne: too literary inside-baseball, even for me. It gets confusing.

But Picardie's quietly strong storytelling and her musings on the relationships between women, each other, and the books they love is really compelling. I felt for the narrator, even in her ignorance at times, and I thought Picardie was quite astute, and sometimes painfully so, getting into these two women's heads. As for the sweeping cliffs of Cornwall and the rattling streets of London--yes, the scenery that backgrounds good old British Fiction endures the test of time quite well!

I have to say it's a must-read for fans of DuMaurier and the Brontes and all who are interested in the concept of a female literary tradition... which brings me to the Madwoman in the Attic, my next review, which you shall receive forthwith.

So stay tuned:)

Shana Tovah

Ah me, the mixed emotions of a secular Jew on the high holidays.

Still, I love me some apples and honey, and I was happy to hear the Shofar. The Jewish New Year is so much more logical than the Roman one--fall is definitely a time for reflection and endings and beginnings, whereas the dead of winter is a time for being stuck in an idiotic rut!

Let's hope this year brings some good news, in our own lives and in the life of this country.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Monday Evening Mp3--Seriously manic

I really wish it were Sunday.

Manic Monday - Bangles

It's Banned Books Week...

which is like Tishe b'Av for Egalitarian Bookworms. 

And yes,  it's particularly relevant since we have an erstwhile book-banner in contention for the VP slot.

What's amazing is how many classics (or modern classics) get challenged in our wacky nation. Take a look at the ALA's website for more info. And read a banned book!

O, The Writing Life

I just came back from my first ever (creative, not journalistic) writers' conference, the Algonkian NYC Pitch and Shop extraveganzapalooza. I won't immediately say it was my first and last, but it's going to be a while before I hit another one. It was freaking exhausting.

But I did meet a genuinely lovely group of fellow writers (all women--the sexist pigs smooshed us into the same group ;)) and get some good tips...

I was the baby of the group, and the least far along the magical path of publication--meaning I haven't even left my doorstep yet. Which was actually a great spot to be in, because I felt like I was just absorbing the wisdom of my sisters in penning.

So we'll see what the future holds. For now, back to the freelance grind!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Clooney vs. Pitt in My Fair Lady

Romancing the Tome has a very important question to ask you about who should play Henry Higgins in a new My Fair Lady adaptation. Go answer it!

I'd like to add that my mom, upon seeing this amazing painting of Pygmalion and Deucalia at the Met, said "McCain and Palin?" weeks before MoDowd compared them for a full column's length to their literary descendants (via Shaw) Henry and Eliza.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

On another note...

I washed every single one of my jeans, scarves, tights, and jean jackets yesterday to get ready for fall. It was a sudsy marathon. BRING ON THOSE BRISK DAYS!!

YA for Obama

Apparently the world is coming to an end or something, what with markets crashing and campaigns being suspended and all manner of hijinks ensuing. 

But egalitarian bookworms fight on... in the form of YA for Obama, a new 'ning social networking site where awesomely popular and beloved YA writers like Judy Blume, Meg Cabot and Libba Bray rally to the cause.

Right on, EBCs. Right on.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Scarlet Feather

So we all know that I'm a Maeve Binchy fan--in fact my post-snobbery discovery of her warm-Irish-sconey/cup-of-Barry's tea-on-a-rainy-day goodness is like, the raison d'etre for this blog.

Scarlet Feather is part of an interconnected group of Binchy;s Dublin books. By this I mean that all the characters in this novel, Tara Road, and Quentins all work in the food industry in Dublin and pop in and out of each others' stories and pages--which is super fun for the avid Binchy reader. As in its companion novels, food in Scarlet Feather is only used to represent all the things Binchy values in life: comfort, honesty, hard work and perseverance and taking care of other human beings, providing nourishment of the soul, body, spirit etc etc. The Dublin books are by far her best because she knows the city, its rhythms and changes, the types of women and men who walk its streets, so intimately.

This book took me about 30 hours of nearly straight reading. It was that absorbing and lovely.
It's about Cathy Scarlet and Tom Feather, two youngish Dublin chefs-in-training who dream of starting their own catering business. They are both in relationships that hit troubled spots over the course of the first year of Scarlet Feather, (the newly-formed company, not the novel) and as always, Binchy introduces a cast of supporting characters including a strange pair of neglected wealthy twin-children, a loveable older man who's hopelessley addicted to the race track, an "independent woman" who has given up some of her dignity in exchange for a lavish lifestyle, and more. Of course, they all help each other cope with various crises, there are a few mysteries solved, and some sad endings sow the seed for new beginnings :)

Binchy understands love, ambition, loyalty, and the unintentional hurt well-meaning people causeeach other every day because they're focused on their own struggle for survival. But she also gets what it means to heal and move on.

I couldn't adore her writing more.

Monday Morning Poem: Autumn Edition

A little Verlaine:

Chanson D'Automne

Les sanglots longs
des violons
de l'automne
blessent mon coeur
d'une langueur

Tout suffocant
et blême, quand
sonne l'heure.
je me souviens
des jours anciens,
et je pleure...

Et je m'en vais
au vent mauvais
qui m'emporte
de çà, de là,
pareil à la
feuille morte...

Literal translation

The long sobs
of autumn's
wound my heart
with a monotonous

Wholly breathless
and pale, When
the clock strikes,
I remember
the old days,
And I weep.

And I set off
in the ill wind
that carries me
here and there,
a dead leaf.


2.The agonized
Mourning, of Autumn’s
boughs on strings,
Fill me with a heartache
Dull and desolate.

All is smothered,
Chilled, and white
At the toll of passing time
I remember our brief love
And weep.

I will come, sweet memory
with the first fall wind
That will carry my frame
Like a dead leaf,
To your icy lips.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Good in Bed

I adore Jennifer Weiner's blog, so I figured that her books must be good too. I decided to start with her debut, Good in Bed, which is about the love and life travails of a "larger" woman, Cannie, whose ex-boyfriend starts writing a sex column for a woman's mag--a humiliating, and incredibly brilliant, opening premise.

Supporting characters include Cannie's newly-gay mom + said mom's brilliantly acerbic partner, Cannie's dog, her serial-dater best friend, a Hollywood "it girl,"--oh yeah and Cannie's unintended pregnancy and her postpartum depression. What starts as a light romp ends up being a seriously touching book. It even jerked a few tears out of my cynical eyes (oh who are we kidding, I'm a sap!).

I definitely recommend Good in Bed: the book isn't formulaic. There's not much shopping to speak of and only a few margaritas.

So it's in the fine tradition of Bridget Jones but less whimsical: emotional, thoughtful, pop-culturally savvy, hilarious fiction about the interior and exterior lives of an urban, modern woman, proving that the whole "chick-lit" moniker has sexist overtones. If it were written by a guy it would be straight up literary fiction.

I've long been looking for the citified Jewish equivalent to Maeve Binchy's Irish charm and Anita Shreve's WASPy New England heatbreak.

Jennifer Weiner is it. Hooray!

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Please give what you can today!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Monday Evening Song Lyrics

"Empire" by the lyrically gifted Dar Williams.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Slim Bloggins'

Between now and November, folks, as I try to accomplish several personal and political goals. As sometimes happens in my life, I have found myself with less free time than a creative dreamer type like me needs, and when I have that time, I'm addicted to my lefty-hippie-blogosphere, which makes me freak out with anxiety about the future of my country. I mean, I still have hope. But I worry.

Still, thou readers, I owe you and myself reviews of the following books (and yes, I'm deep in white-chick-emotional book reading land right now. I need it and it makes me happy and not think about bad bad Republicans):

  • Good in Bed, Jennifer Weiner
  • Daphne, Justine Picardie
  • A re-read of certain chapters of The Madwoman in the Attic
  • Scarlet Feather, Maeve Binchy
  • The Midnight Sun leak.

And I promise to get you reviews of those tomes.

Til then, take a look at my fellow book-bloggettes. Special shout out to egalitarian book-blogger Kat, at South in the Winter, a great reader and writer and discusser of the literary.