Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Okay, I admit it -- I'm an American Idol fan. (Why do people, including myself I gather, always feel as if we need to apologize for possessing an affinity for pure entertainment? When did simple "fun" become a four letter word if television is involved?)While I'm confessing, I might as well tell you that I'm also an avid watcher of Survivor and that on occasion, I tune-in to Dancing With The Stars. (Okay...before you get up on your high horse to look down your nose at me, you should know that my only other routine show is CNN--got to have that daily, messy dose of political adrenaline, ya know.)Anyway, back to IDOL. In case you've been living in a cave and don't know it (or perhaps you're one of those people up on your high horse) David Archuleta went up against David Cook last night. They are two very different types of performers, both extremely talented. Because I have a soft spot for rockers, (the kind that strut and wail, not the kind you sit on--although I like those, too), I had my fingers crossed for David Cook. Then David A. sang John Lennon's "Imagine" and almost brought tears to my eyes. Wow, that seventeen year old kid can sing! His voice is beautiful. I don't care which David wins. I can't imagine that they won't both go on to have successful careers in the music industry.
Another thing I can't imagine: Bookstores without books. Recently I read a post on a loop in which an author predicted that in the not-so-distant future bookstores would contain catalogues rather than books. In these store, patrons will go in and, instead of browsing shelves of books, choosing selections, then buying them and taking them home, we will go in, browse titles and read "blurbs" outlining the plot, make our selections, and then a clerk will go to the back and print, bind, etc. the book and bring it out to us. In minutes.
Maybe I can imagine this, but I don't want to. For me, the joy of going to a bookstore is browsing the shelves. Randomly pulling out titles, holding them in my hands, looking at the cover art, flipping through the pages and reading random paragraphs, imagining the people that live within the covers, deciding if I might want to spend time with them, get to know them, share their adventure. And then there's the smell. Yes, books have a distinctive scent. If you are a book lover, I'm sure you don't need me to tell you this. The scent of a brand new book is different than the scent of an old one -- say, at the library. I love them both. A world without bookstores filled with books will be a sadder world, a poorer world, a drab world.
How would you feel about the bookstore of the future I've described above? Would you like it? Hate it? Do you think it's a possibility?
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Better late than never, I hope! I want to tell you about a very odd and intriguing novel that was the selection for my book club this month. It is THE VANISHING ACT OF ESME LENNOX BY Maggie O'Farrell. I actually chose this book for my group after reading that Amazon named it one of the best 100 books of 2007 and Barnesandnoble.com recommended it as a book club read. I've always been drawn to moody, haunting stories with a dark, gothic feel, and if a hefty dose of psychological suspense is sprinkled in, so much the better. Is there anything any more delicious than watching a Hitchcock movie late at night...alone...while it's raining outside? Or curling up under the covers on a winter night to read an eerie tale like Daphne Du Maurier's REBECCA? This is that sort of story--only stranger. I couldn't put it down. The author's method of unfolding the plot is very unique, and the women's issues of the past that are brought to light are both interesting and disturbing.
I had one complaint involving a situation in the setup of the plot that needs to be addressed in order for the story to be completely believable, in my opinion. I don't want to reveal too much and spoil the story for any of you that haven't yet read it, so I'll be vague, but it involves the funding of Esme's care. Did I miss something? If you've read the and can answer that question, let me know! Following is Barnes and Noble's synopsis of THE VANISHING ACT OF ESME LENNOX:
"In the middle of tending to the everyday business at her vintage clothing shop and sidestepping her married boyfriend's attempts at commitment, Iris Lockhart receives a stunning phone call: Her great-aunt Esme, whom she never knew existed, is being released from Cauldstone Hospital—where she has been locked away for over sixty years. Iris’s grandmother Kitty always claimed to be an only child. But Esme’s papers prove she is Kitty’s sister, and Iris can see the shadow of her dead father in Esme’s face. Esme has been labeled harmless—sane enough to coexist with the rest of the world. But Esme’s still basically a stranger, a family member never mentioned by the family, and one who is sure to bring life-altering secrets with her when she leaves the ward. If Iris takes her in, what dangerous truths might she inherit?
Maggie O’Farrell’s intricate tale of family secrets, lost lives, and the freedom brought by truth will haunt readers long past its final page."
Tuesday, May 06, 2008
Here's something to look back on and think about as we watch the cost of gas, food, and just about everything else skyrocket to unbelievable amounts, and as Americans face layoffs and a dismal job market....
A couple of months ago, I had the opportunity to visit with a delightful 94-year-old gentleman about his experience of living in the heart of the Dust Bowl as a young man. His memories of "that ol' blue/black dust" and the "half-dugout" his family called home, put a real face on a time in history I had only read about prior to our conversation. I came away with some wonderful research material for my book, a different perspective of the High Plains where I've lived most of my life, and an awed respect for the people who struggled to make a life here during one of the worst disasters of the last century.
But "Mr. J" also sent me off with another story I had not sought or expected. At the age of 20, he said, "I'd been on my own for three years...but I didn't have a home...I didn't have nothin." He struck out for California, hoping to find work. "I rode the freight trains a couple of years...I was bumming. I'd ride a freight, walk, or ride my finger." But even in California, Mr. J discovered that "there just wasn't hardly any jobs to speak of." And the competition for the few that cropped up was tough. The state--the entire country--was full of men just like Mr. J. who were looking for work without success. After some time, he finally did find temporary work on a ranch. The offer came when he was headed off to get some sleep. "I guess I got the only job in the whole country! Now that happened to me at night...in a town just out of L.A. The old boy stopped me as I was going on the other side of town to find a soft spot under one of those trees or something like that, and find a piece of cardboard -- one of those great big ol' boxes we used to fold up and crawl down in so you could have a little something over you and under you. That's about all."
Wow. I wonder if those of my generation and my childrens' generation could be as tough and resourceful as Mr. J and the other men and women of his time. And I hope we never have to find out!
My friend and critique partner Anita sent me the incredible photo above!
Thursday, May 01, 2008
I'm posting my Friday book recommendation a day early since I'll be away from my computer tomorrow. And please hop on over to author Candace Havens' blog to check out her book recommendation, as well. It is DARKEST NIGHT, in Gena Showalter's new Lords of the Underworld series, and it sounds like a fantastic read!
Now for my pick: I can't tell you how much I loved, Loved, LOVED THE BRONZE HORSEMAN by Paulina Simons, published originally in 2001. This epic World War 2 love story is told from the point of view of Tatiana, a young Russian girl in love with a Russian (American born) soldier. Author Paulina Simons dedicated the novel to her Russian grandparents, and I can't help but think at least some of the story is based on their own. Much of the book is heartwrenching, as Russia in WWII was not a cheerful place, and the characters' very true-to-history, difficult experiences are not sugarcoated in the story, but it is a compelling read. This is a big, fat book and, still, I was sorry when it ended. I found the follow-up, TATIANA & ALEXANDER, and enjoyed every minute of it, too.
Here is some of what Amazon has to say about THE BRONZE HORSEMAN: "...an epic tale of passion, betrayal, and survival in World War II Russia. Leningrad, 1941...two sisters, Tatiana and Dasha Metanov, live in a cramped apartment, sharing one room with their brother and parents. Such are the harsh realities of Stalin's Russia, but when Hitler invades the country, the siege of its cities makes the previous severe conditions seem luxurious. Against this backdrop of danger and uncertainty, Tatiana meets Alexander, an officer in the Red Army whose self-confidence sets him apart from most Russian men and helps to conceal a mysterious and troubled past.... With bombs falling and food becoming scarce, Tatiana and Alexander are drawn to each other in an impossible love that threatens to tear her family apart and reveal his dangerous secret -- a secret as destructive as the war itself. Caught between two deadly forces, the lovers find themselves swept up in a tide of history at a turning point in the century that made the modern world.
Mesmerizing from the very first page to the final, breathtaking end, The Bronze Horseman brings alive the story of two indomitable, heroic spirits and their great love that triumphs over the devastation of a country at war."