Dear Readers,

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

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Crowdsourcing: Help Us Choose Our Honeymoon Books!

Simon and I are headed off across the pond for a delayed honeymoon, and we're agonizing over which books to bring. I'm definitely bringing "The Hunger Games" and we're thinking of bringing "Cold Comfort Farm" to share, but what else? We need books that are fun with a little bit of meat, great for the beach or the train but not something you can finish in three or four hours...and we've both been reading a lot of very dark stuff and will be when we return. so no thank you on that.

Please help us out with your summer read suggestions.

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: My Take

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: Why we should cheer Lisbeth Salander -

"Salander is a controversial figure; feminists and other observers are divided over the message she sends to women today. That debate, while valid, misses a key point: We should all celebrate the emergence of an utterly original female literary character. In an action-story landscape where women are too often relegated to girlfriend, sidekick or prey in need of defending, Salander grabs the spotlight and refuses to let it go."

Read more.

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Call for Austen Mash-ups!

Salon's Laura Miller has had enough. She wants our suggestions, at Open Salon, on how we can use mash-up format to bring Austen's superior understanding of relationships and human nature to liven up action and horror genres, instead of vice versa. Saith she (among many other witty quips):

Surely action movies, as well as horror films, could benefit from an injection of Austenian wit, social satire, moral insight and depth of characterization? Because, let's face it: Too much of popular entertainment relies on fight scenes to gin up "excitement," and the dirty little secret is that, for a lot of us, the never-ending parade of fisticuffs, martial arts and car chases gets pretty dull.
My suggestion? "Inception 2: Pride and Inception". Instead of dodging endless, extremely boring dream-projections with machine guns, our crack team of dream infiltrators must weasel their way past a wit and social-status bearing army of scheming Lady Catherine and insinuating Caroline Bingley types in order to reach the Darcy at the center of the subconscious.

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Monday, July 26, 2010

To e-read or not to e-read?

After spending yesterday morning setting up my dad's nook, I'm seriously considering springing for one myself. I read so much, quickly and efficiently for work and now for school, and my bookshelf at home is literally overrun by piles and piles of books just spilling out of every crack and tottering dangerously in various stacks, that it seems logical. Plus, the price just dropped. Are any of you kindle or nook users and if so, what is your advice?

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Friday, July 23, 2010

Very Short Book Reviews

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, Mary Anne Shaffer and Annie Barrows

This is a must-read for EBCs and Anglophiles alike. It is an epistolary novel about a British columnist who takes an interest in a group of Guernsey Island natives who, by accident, formed a literary society during their occupation by the Germans. It has a lot of the requisite British stuff, a cast of varied characters of various classes, mostly good-hearted. A few snobs and cads are thrown in as well. It's light in tone and form but not in content--and really more than a novel about books it's a novel about survival during World War I, including some ugly stuff about slavery and concentration camps. It's also deeply funny and romantic and full of exquisite descriptions of the characters' beloved island home, perched in the Channel waters between the UK and France. GLPPS is a lovely summer read through and through.

The Moons of Jupiter, by Alice Munro

This was my first foray into Munro, and she's just as masterful as everyone says. I've been brainwashed by VCFA into thinking from a "craft" perspective on short stories, and what she does better than anyone else I've encountered is successfully write short stories that leap forward and back through long periods of time while still feeling tightly focused. One way she's successful in doing that is by maintaining a through line of place and landscape (she writes about Canada), but another technique is just making her flashbacks and leaps forward intrinsic to the general momentum of the plot. There's no doubt I'll be reading much more of her work and thinking hard about what makes her so good.

NOTE: Due to a ginormous brain fart (and the fact that i'm catching up on reviews from months and months ago) an earlier version of this post heinously confused Alices Sebold and Munro. For this, I sincerely and humbly apologize.

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Monday, July 19, 2010

James Frain and Tom Hardy: We Saw You First

So recently two of my absolute favorite UK-based actors, both notable for playing slightly unhinged (or worse) characters, have popped into the popular consciousness, big time. I just thought I'd point out that before they were mainstream, they were BBC/ITV idols starring in highfalutin' adaptations of timeless British literature classics.

JAMES FRAIN: Before he was deranged vampire Franklin Mott on "True Blood" he played a closeted, clock-fixated member of the upper nobility, Julius Folyat, Duke of Trevenick, in "The Buccaneers" the Wharton adaptation with which I'm most obsessed, (the character in the book is the Duke of Tintagel, and he's not gay). And Frain also weirded it up playing loving but controlling hunchback Philip Wakem in the ITV production of George Eliot's "The Mill on the Floss," across from Emily Watson's enigmatic Maggie Tulliver. Also, of course, he played Thomas Cromwell in "The Tudors."

TOM HARDY: Before he won American hearts as sassy counterfeit man Eames in Chris Nolan's "Inception," Hardy smoldered and avenged himself across the moors as Heathcliff in Coky Giedroy's "Wuthering Heights." And he terrorized gold-hearted prostitutes and street urchins most magnificently, (along with his dog Bulls-eye) as murderous bloke Bill Sikes in Giedroy's "Oliver Twist."

It was nice to see his lighter side, even in this not-so-lite movie!

Austen Gets the Twilight Treatment

In the YA section of my local B+N.

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Torture Your Protagonist

Writing advice from Janet Fitch, whose White Oleander is one of my (and Oprah's) favorite freaky women's fiction novels. This is the piece that spoke the most to conflict-avoidant moi"

10. Torture your protagonist.
The writer is both a sadist and a masochist. We create people we love, and then we torture them. The more we love them, and the more cleverly we torture them along the lines of their greatest vulnerability and fear, the better the story. Sometimes we try to protect them from getting booboos that are too big. Don’t. This is your protagonist, not your kid.

Read the rest of Janet Fitch's 10 rules for writers, at LA Times' Jacket Copy.

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Few Vermont Pics

My workshop with Doug Glover and Connie May Fowler.

Ts I got for my brother and Simon at Bear Pond Books.
Rainbow over Montpelier:

Plus don't forget to check out my slideshow of the Montpelier July 4th celebration: This is Vermont. (Montpelier, July 3rd 2010) from My tumblr.

Dead in the Family

A review via gchat with my new sister-in-law, the queen of Egalitarian Bookworms. To give you some background; this book deals with all sorts of family issues, from Eric's maker to Sam's mom to Bill's "sister" to Sookie's little cousin, who has the same "disability" that she does... and the fairy war that wreaked so much havoc on the characters in the last book has just come to a bloody end. This is probably the last part of this post you'll understand.


me: Did you also feel like it was a little disappointing?
5:12 PM Molly: Yeah well it was a lot of buildup and then only like one thing got resolved
THere was so much talk about all the vamp politics, and then nothing happened with that - I wish it had!
5:13 PM It felt like a lot of it was preamble for the next book like calm before the storn
me: yes i agree
a bit of treading water
5:14 PM also the sookie and Eric relationship went nowhere
and some more fairies showed up
5:15 PM like cleaning up the detritus from the last book
that being said i obviously read the entire thing in a few hours
5:16 PM Molly: yeah exactly
hahah me too
5:17 PM yeah it seemed like the bridge between last book and the next
even like all that time dealing with sookie's emotional/sexual aftermath of the fairy attack
5:18 PM also the first half of the book had a lot of like... i think i'll eat some biscuits and gravy. i think i'll sit in the sun and make a phone call.
which i like normally but it was a little unbalanced in this one
5:19 PM me: yeah and then the second half shit got too crazy
i was telling the guys last night during true blood that what makes the books better is the mixed pacing
a little small town life
a little vampire nutso stuff
Molly: yeah def
me: I wonder what the next one will be called
and when it will appear
5:20 PM Molly: yeah has she not said when the next one will be?
also yo did you feel like in this one
the whole erics maker thing
5:21 PM the pASSION with which sookie wants him dead
wasnt really well established
like she doesnt like the fact that someone has sway over eric
plus her blood bond was all confused because of it
but he didnt DO anything to make her hate him really
5:22 PM me: true
her sentiments were UNMOTIVATED, as the folks at VCFA would say LOL
5:23 PM Molly: hhaha yeah they are!
5:24 PM i also thought
the were stuff was a little boring this time around
like great sookie's on drugs - but besides that who cares abt another were gathering
5:25 PM i thought in gen she spent too much time on that, too much time wrapping up
and then she introduced such cool shit that she never followed through on - i guess she will next time
me: haha the drugs were great but yes
Molly: I liked the whole Bill /bill's sister thing i wish sookie had gone over to see them or we had seen some more of that
me: the were thing was way overdone
5:26 PM and I agree re: Bill's sister, that was really intriguing the way she lit up when she realized Lorena was a goner
Charlaine sure can spin a yarn
I just hope she's not suffering from JK Rowling/SMeyer "my editor won't touch my work cause I'm so famous" syndrome
Molly: hahaha yeah
5:27 PM hopefully shes saving it and next book everything will explode

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Friday, July 09, 2010

Gender and Writing Submissions

My amazing ten days in the Green Mountain State has given me lots to think about re: writing and life, and at the moment I'm also overwhelmed by catching up on the news and all it the web has had to offer while I was gone. Like any good writer, to compensate for said overwhemed-ness, I've spent the day intensely focused on shopping for Important things like a new shoulder bag, with pockets in it for pens and stuff, and a new water bottle so I can save the environment. Also purchasedthe latter because my beloved put poorly constructed VCFA-emblazoned water bottle spilled all over my Montpelier "Bear Pond Books" bag this morning and killed my cellphone. Again. (Shoddy merchandising, oh institution that I kind of love already.)

Anyway, here is one article that grabbed me even while I was immersed in my hectic schedule up Nawth; you may have already it seen (or not). The Awl published a brief run-down on the way men and women pitch articles to their site. Needless to say, the differences the author found were stark, and the self-promotion and breeziness was largely on one side of the gender divide, while the apologies were on the other. Quelle suprise. It really made me think about my own shabby ability to self-promote, as well as the way strength and talent is perceived in the literary world vis a vis the way writers present themselves.

And lest you think I'm the only feminist ruminating on these findings, here is a follow up post on the issue: "How men and women pitch differently" from Feministe

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

My First Semester @VCFA Reading List

Doing the American short story canon, with a minor emphasis on stories "of manners"

Short Story Cllections

  • James Joyce--Dubliners
  • O-Connor--A Good Man is Hard to Find
  • Isaac Babel--Red Cavalry
  • Raymond Carver--Where I’m Coming from
  • Tim O’Brien--The Things they Carried
  • Ernest Hemmingway --In Our Time
  • Edith Wharton --Old New York or Madame de Treymes
  • Richard Yates--Eleven kinds of loneliness
  • Lorrie Moore-Birds of America
  • Gish Jen--Who’s Irish?
    1. Alternatives/selected stories: Willa Cather, Alice Munro, Sherwood Anderson, Katherine Mansfield, New Yorker readings, etc
    VCFA reading lists are notorious for morphing until unrecognizable. How much will it change over the semester?

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    Saturday, July 03, 2010

    My Latest Literary Article

    Hi from Vermont. My summer book round-up is up at Women's eNews. It's always good to have another photo of a lady reading stuff.

    Larsson's 'Hornet Girl' Stirs Summer Book Buzz: "

    summer reading(WOMENSENEWS)--Female authors this year have produced something for every type of summer reading, from light, fluffy and popular to feminist tracts and epic literary explorations.

    read more