Dear Readers,

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

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

How Many Books Did You Read in 2008?

Librarything is down so I did a little sleuthing to find out my number.

The total is 38 Books. Broken down:

14 books reviewed for Publishers Weekly
1 book for Venus Zine (American Wife)
And ~23 Books for Pleasure (reviews here) including:
  • The latter two His Dark Materials Books (read Golden Compass in Dec. '07)
  • All Four Twilight Books
  • A re-read of all 3 LOTR Books
  • 1.25 Books for my Bitch article on Jane Eyre and Rebecca (A quarter of Madwoman in the Attic and Daphne)
  • .75 of Little Dorrit (gonna finish it this weekend!)
  • The Tales of Beedle the Bard
  • The Historian
  • Scarlet Feather
  • Good in Bed
  • A Freewheeling Time
  • One-Hundred Years of Solitude
  • Great American Hypocrites
  • Sula
  • Cranford
  • .5 of The Gathering
  • The Terror Dream
  • .5 of He's a Stud She's a Slut and It's a Jungle Out There

How many books did you read? Ballpark it!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Solstice

...From me and Dar Williams.

I've really been enjoying my time in the northern part of our most liberal state, Vermont, braving sub-zero temperatures and various forms of precipitation to get amazing ski runs in and of course, bond with the nuclear fellow-ette family. But I'll be looking forward to returning to my urbane life and my life-partner in a few days. And to eating latkes. Hope you and yours are safe and happy during these darkest evenings of the year. More EBCing to come soon.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Snowy Sunday De-Lurk: What Are You Reading?

Greetings from a nook of the Hudson valley, where we have been snowbound for about eight hours, stalled on our way to Vermont.

So I finally finished the first book of Little Dorrit, all 450 pages of Victorian prose. I had to pause around page 200 to read/review a humorous novel about therapy and self-help novels, among other topics. Now I have to pause again to read/review a historical fiction about Jews during the Civil War, which seems pretty cool to me.

Little Dorrit, is great, interruptions aside. It's not David Copperfield-level breathtaking amazing Dickens, nor is it Hard Times level didactic Dickens. It's somewhere in between, and I love it. My favorite Dickensy characters so far are the effusive Flora Finching, the enigmatically angry Mr. F's Aunt, and the Society-mindful Merdle clan.

So, just like last time... let's have at it! My favorite lurkers, tell us what are you reading! And what are you planning to read over the holidays? How do you like or dislike it?

I wrote an end-of the year book wrap up for WeNews and a gift guide for RHRC if you're looking for ideas.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

My Thoughts on Obama's Choice of Reverend Rick Warren

...expressed, once more, through chats with my brother (we are both procrastinating).

For those who don't know the background, woman-hating, gay-bashing, creepy pastor Rick Warren is giving an invocation at the inauguration. ERGO my away message: "WTF barack??"

[bro]: why wtf barack?
me: rick warren is delivering the invocation at the inauguration

37 minutes
5:52 PM [bro]: saddleback boy?
me: yeah!
[bro]: fatty?*
no on prop 8 boy
5:53 PM [bro]: that is disgusting
screw obama
dawkins is right
why do religious people get a pass on everything
hate is hate
whether the hater wears a collar or not
[bro]: god i'm reading some stuff
warren is despicable
hopefully a haggard scandal breaks
where he's doing meth with some gigolo
9:57 AM me: yeah he believes wives should submit to their husbands!
nice man, that
me: atrios says people should turn their backs when warren prays
[bro]: nice
10:02 AM god hates bigots
10:09 AM [bro]: im researching hate speech
warren is an idiot

*UPDATE. We are referring, of course, to his fatty bulbous SOUL gorged on self-importance and not loving his neighbor. Making fun of people's appearances is never okay unless I feel like it their ugly souls happen to be reflected externally. Which I believe qualifies in this case.

My evening

I went to an Oasis concert tonight. It was free, and I was a teenage fangirl once so I had to go. I had a blast. Here is an account of my evening as chatted to my brother just moments ago.

me: it was fun
they played some crappy new stuff
but then at the end they killed it with wonderwall, dont look back in anger, champagne supernova etc etc etc
they filled all of MSG! i couldn't believe how many people actually paid $ to see them
i mean i wouldn't have!
12:36 AM ALSO
as we were walking out
there were some obnoxious drunk guys chanting something
and we get on the escalator
12:37 AM and i say to [boyfriend]] "you know who's probably here, [group of high school boys I once knew who went to every Oasis concert that I did.]
And then I turn around at that very moment and lo and behold, there are [member of said group #1], [member #2] [and member #3] right behind me!
they were the chanting douchebags!
all along.
ain't life grand?
12:38 AM brother:
those guys are huge herbs

The moral of the story is, sometimes it can be fun to go to Oasis concerts!

Also, feel free to wake yourself up with this song, which was the best of the night.

Quick Link: Stephen Colbert is a Janeite

The breakdown of Stephen's best Austen-moments over at No Fact Zone.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tuesday Poem: Happy Birthday Jane Austen

A Letter To Lord Byron by W. H. Auden

"... There is one other author in my pack
For some time I debated which to write to.
Which would least likely send my letter back?
But I decided I'd give a fright to
Jane Austen if I wrote when I'd no right to,
And share in her contempt the dreadful fates
Of Crawford, Musgrove, and of Mr. Yates.

Then she's a novelist. I don't know whether
You will agree, but novel writing is
A higher art than poetry altogether
In my opinion, and success implies
Both finer character and faculties
Perhaps that's why real novels are as rare
As winter thunder or a polar bear.

... I must remember, though, that you were dead
Before the four great Russians lived, who brought
The art of novel writing to a head;
The help of Boots had not been sought.
But now the art for which Jane Austen fought,
Under the right persuasion bravely warms
And is the most prodigious of the forms.

She was not an unshockable blue-stocking;
If shades remain the characters they were,
No doubt she still considers you as shocking.
But tell Jane Austen, that is if you dare,
How much her novels are beloved down here.
She wrote them for posterity, she said;
'Twas rash, but by posterity she's read.

You could not shock her more than she shocks me;
Beside her Joyce seems innocent as grass.
It makes me most uncomfortable to see
An English spinster of the middle-class
Describe the amorous effects of 'brass',
Reveal so frankly and with such sobriety
The economic basis of society..."

Monday, December 15, 2008

I network, socially... (part ??)

I'm twittering. Here is my official freelance writer twitter. And here is my fellow-ette ranty twitter.

And here is my friendfeed.

FUN TIMES, y'all, fun times.

Friday, December 12, 2008

JKR + JA Appreciation time

Sometimes I get down about stuff, you know, like life and modern society...and then I think about the fact that JK Rowling is the most powerful living writer in the world. And Jane Austen is probably the most powerful non-living novelist in the world.

And that is just awesome.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

I like the teevee

I've been meaning to write a "cultural consumption" post full of inelegant reviews to catch you/my up on everything I've been consuming since the 'oliday season came upon us... but the only thing I've really been doing is watching (excellent) TV. My reading of Little Dorrit has been suspended by a book review I had to do, and my vow to see a lot of movies is on hold til the vacation--which incidentally, couldn't come sooner.

So I've been watching True Blood (the whole first season) Friday Night Lights (the new season that's airing on directv now and will be on NBC soon) and Mad Men (starting season 1). They are all so so so excellent.

FNL is definitely my favorite because the characters--a bunch of Texas teens-- have become so beloved in my life. The show makes me cry and laugh in every single episode and this season it's gone back to being about the dramas of everyday life. It's lost all the desire to be soapy, and managed to stay gut-wrenching because life is gut wrenching. I can't recommend the show enough.

True Blood is stylized and gory. Very gory. But it's a lot of fun once you get past episode 4. The heroine is way more empowered than Twilight's, but the appeal is the same. Dark, undead hero who falls for our heroine because he sees her oddity as a special gift. Heroine torn between desire for hero and fear of his powers. Second love interest who is "safer" + also supernatural but less sexy. Think of it as Twilight for the non-mormon, non pre-teen set. Aside from the primary romance, the supporting characters are interesting and three-dimensional and very profane :).

Mad Men, the 50s ad-world drama, is really mesmerizing. The characters and scenes are totally stuck in my head after only three episodes of tense meetings, endless cigarettes, bed-hopping and the kind of sexual harassment that used to be called "banter." I can't wait to catch up on more. I have a theory about Don Draper being like a beautiful woman in a classic adultery novel (a.k.a a male Emma, Anna, or Hester, but I have to chew on it for a bit.) Also, I can't believe my parents grew up in that era! It really explains the 60s.

I really think TV has eclipsed movies these days in terms of the number of really really high-quality offerings. Thanks, David Chase!

[That being said, the Twilight movie was awesome. Campier than the book, a less zombie-ish heroine, a romance that didn't feel quite as disturbing and wrong. ]

Monday, December 08, 2008

Monday Song Lyrics: RIP John Lennon edition


Words are flying out like
endless rain into a paper cup
They slither while they pass
They slip away across the universe
Pools of sorrow waves of joy
are drifting thorough my open mind
Possessing and caressing me

Jai guru deva om
Nothing's gonna change my world
Nothing's gonna change my world
Nothing's gonna change my world
Nothing's gonna change my world

Images of broken light which
dance before me like a million eyes
That call me on and on across the universe
Thoughts meander like a
restless wind inside a letter box
they tumble blindly as
they make their way across the universe

Jai guru deva om
Nothing's gonna change my world
Nothing's gonna change my world
Nothing's gonna change my world
Nothing's gonna change my world

Sounds of laughter shades of life
are ringing through my open ears
exciting and inviting me
Limitless undying love which
shines around me like a million suns
It calls me on and on across the universe

Jai guru deva om
Nothing's gonna change my world
Nothing's gonna change my world
Nothing's gonna change my world
Nothing's gonna change my world
Jai guru deva
Jai guru deva

We miss you, John

Sunday, December 07, 2008


So this is a bit late due to Thanksgiving and the subsequent shock of going back into work full steam ahead with a turkey-hangover, but here's a piece I wrote about the literary/cultural history of vampires as symbols of socio-sexual anxieties.

With immortality, a killer instinct, and a life on the fringes, Vampires are a perfect conduit for musings on the human condition. "Vampires have long served to remind us of the parts of our own psyches that seduce us," writes Salon's Laura Miller (in a superb analysis of the Twilight books). But the metaphor is often less existential than that, as the vampire bite is easy shorthand for sex. Vampirism allows consumers to take vicarious pleasure in rule-breaking couplings, while also justifying phobias about sex-because the seducers do have lethal fangs, and their condition is quite contagious.

It was reprinted at Huffpo + Alternet and generated quite a bit of fang-tastic discussion (sorry) at the latter site and pickup around the web.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Evening Britney Break! JUST LIKE A CIRCUS

If my feminist ravings are the "egalitarian" part of this blog, and my many Austen + Bronte musings and book reviews qualify for the "bookworm" part, then I guess my interest in the world of troubled young pop stars and their adorable ex-boyfriends would explain the "(Chick?)" slice of the formula. So be it! Until the record label yanks this off youtube, enjoy an awesome cut off the indomitable (except by her evil controlling dad and managers ) Mizz Spears' new album. Brit's uptempo ditties are sure helping me get through my work and my solstice-season Malaise.

UPDATE: here's the official vid. aww yeah.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Romeo + Juliet still does it for me

When I was 13, Baz Luhrman's Romeo + Juliet was that teenage crack that Twilight is now. We all saw it multiple times in theaters and hung posters up and squealed and listened to the soundtrack so much that we actually gave the Cardigans a mega-hit.

The film was also an awesome tool when I taught the play in my public school classroom (which was the first of four years in a row I taught the play as a teacher/tutor... the exact number of years I've been in the game!).

But this teen sensation really holds up as a film, as I just reaffirmed once more while watching the last hour tonight on HBO. Shakespeare's plays are so robust and perfectly-worded that modern and innovative adaptations endure and never seem weird or blasphemous to me. That's why they tend to be my personal favorites, my deep appreciation for Kenneth Branagh's gorgeous film-making (and ability to commune with Will Shakes' spirit) notwithstanding.

Here, in no particular order, are my personal most-adored onscreen Bard adaptations. This isn't about objective quality AT ALL, or which adapt my favorite plays , but rather about which Shakespeare films I'd gladly sit down to watch for enjoyment like a favorite TV show. Which are your favorite Shakespeare films? Feel free to leave in comments.

Romeo + Juliet '96--perfect.

Hamlet (2000)--a re-imagining of the tale in modern day NYC, which is cool. But what really intrigues me about it is the re-imagining of Hamlet himself from angry, talky, thwarted heir to existential 20-something in a goofy ski hat whose moribund thoughts are his madness.

Much Ado About Nothing '93-- Back when Branagh and Thompson were a pair. Sumptuous, hilarious, emotional: it reminds us that the Bard's comedies have a depth and profundity which are sometimes hard to pick up from a straight read.

Throne of Blood. Kurosawa's dark, black and white version of Macbeth in Japanese is devastating, even without the poetry of the original text. I hear "Ran" (Lear) is even better.

10 Things I Hate About You. Ridiculous, I know. But if you've seen the film, you understand.

Honorable mention goes to the very mixed-bag Midsummer Night's Dream, only because it features a lovely, amorous Christian Bale before he got SO SERIOUS, and a perfect Michelle Pfeiffer + Rupert Everett pairing as Titania and Oberon.

Previously: song adaptations of R+J (appropriate now that Taylor Swift has this big hit)

Monday, December 01, 2008

Monday Morning Poem: Thanksgiving Reflection Edition

Those Winter Sundays
Robert Hayden

Sundays too my father got up early
And put his clothes on in the blueback cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I'd wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he'd call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love's austere and lonely offices?

This is one of my favorite poems of all time, and particularly appropriate for this season of family gatherings and cold weather. It fulfills the "blow your mind" requirement of good poetry in a quiet, devastating way.

NYT Follows Lucy Honeychurch through Florence

Even though this is an idea I (and every other overeducated bougie tourist in Firenze) already had, and wrote about, I forgive the NYT the style-pimping because it's such a perfect topic. A Room With a View is perhaps the most site-specific piece of literature, and the best literary tour-guide, out there. And the piece is very well-done (although it gets boring towards the end). Here is the best bit:

ENJOYING “A Room With a View” is easy. A love story that begins and ends in Florence, with complications in England sandwiched in between, it's short, cheerful and delightfully sly. Besides, there are two excellent and generally faithful film adaptations, the classic 1986 Merchant-Ivory production starring Helena Bonham Carter and Daniel Day-Lewis and a PBS version released just this year with enticing shots of Florence and a weird, unwarranted twist at the end. Once Lucy Honeychurch and George Emerson have kissed in a field of violets in the hills above the city (near Fiesole, about which more later), you know (spoiler alert) you're going to hear wedding bells at the end, no matter how many plot twists the crafty author engineers.

Enjoying Florence ... takes more time and more effort. But if you have with you your copy of “A Room With a View,” you'll find it easier to get along. Forster's supple, forgiving irony, his ability to satirize lovingly, combined with his firm but regretful insistence on not confusing art and life, is exactly what you need if you plan to share this intensely urban town with tens of thousands of sightseers for the five or six days it will take you to do just like them and see the sights.