Monday, May 19, 2008

The Big Move

I've been thinking about switching to wordpress for a while now. And today is the today. Please update your feeds and links:

Oh, What a Literary Weekend!

Friday night, I met Stephenie Meyer, vampire authoress extraordinaire. The thousand-seat venue was, of course, packed. The doors opened at 5:00 p.m. The event started at 7:00 p.m., when Stephenie took the stage and answered preselected questions for maybe fifteen minutes. Then we (me, my mother-in-law, and three of my sisters-in-law) waited for three more hours for our turn to have our books signed. We went. We met. We had our books signed. Good times.

On Saturday, my sister-in-law Maren and I went to the Provo City Library to meet Shannon Hale, fairy tale authoress extraordinaire. Shannon was scheduled to arrive at 2:00 p.m., but had not shown by about 2:35 p.m. Whilst we were waiting, Maren and I made two predictions, both of which turned out to be true.

Prediction #1. Our spot in line was directly in front of the elevators. I predicted that Shannon would step off of this very elevator and we could just convince her that this was the front of the line. Well, my prediction held partly true—Shannon did get off of the elevator right in front of us, but we did not attempt our line lie.

Prediction #2. Maren mentioned that she thought that Shannon Hale and Stephenie Meyer were good friends. Maren then postulated that Shannon was late because she was hanging out with Stephenie Meyer. As we finally reached the front of the line and engaged in witty banter with Shannon, the truth came out. Shannon was late because she was hanging out with Stephenie. Maren and I, in our line-waiting, chocolate-enhanced silly moods, reacted to this news as if we were thirteen year olds. We turned and pointed at each other and screamed something like “We knew it!”

I have to say that meeting Shannon Hale was better than meeting Stephenie Meyer. Poor Stephenie Meyer was already in her third hour of signing books (with at least two more hours ahead of her) when we finally reached the front of the line, and we could tell she was a little past her peak. On the other hand, we reached the front of Shannon’s line about forty-five minutes after she arrived. Shannon was pleasant and engaging and told us a funny story about Libba Bray. She also personalized our books.

I’m glad that I live in an area that authors actually visit. I really want to support current writers and their work. Leif Enger is going to be doing a reading and a signing in Salt Lake next week, right during book club. Dilemma.

Comfort Food

I requested Comfort Food from my local library after Trish’s pseudo-review of it. (In fact, she blames her inability to review other books to CF’s readability.) I have, of course, seen the Friday Night Knitting Club sitting on the bestseller’s shelf of my local Borders for months. Trish’s review, though, made me want to read CF first. I did, even though it took me a while to get into it. In fact, I read The Host and Maps and Legends after starting CF. However, once I got into the rhythm of the thing, I couldn’t put it down. Literally. I stayed up WAY past my bedtime last night finishing it.

Gus, our hero, is a food TV star who has hosted a number of her own shows. As she approaches her fiftieth birthday, she is informed that the ratings are way down on her current show, Cooking with Gusto!, and that she is to be part of a new show with the former Miss Spain. Hilarity, of course, ensues. The story is lovingly weaved by the author. Though the ending is wrapped up tight with the bow, I could tell that Katie Jacobs loved her characters too much to end it any other way.

The writing was charming and, at times, hilarious. I liked the current-ness of the subject matter. References are made to a number of recent events and pop culture icons. Also, I liked the behind-the-scenes feel to the TV show. Most of all, I liked the friendly tone of the novel. (Despite my overall positive reaction to the book, I must mention one pet peeve--everyone is thin!! Even the former tennis star turned junk food addict. I hate that.) CF has no pretentions and will likely appeal to a large audience. It’s definitely not high brow literary fiction, but I’m okay with that.

Comfort Food, by Katie Jacobs (75) * * * *

Maps and Legends

I’m not a big nonfiction reader. I generally prefer my books with to be fictive. Sometimes, though, a nonfiction title will catch my eye, as did Maps and Legends, recently released by Michael Chabon. Maps and Legends is a collection of Chabon’s essays. The essays and their arrangement were infinitely readable. I scarfed down essay after essay about maps and comic books and Sherlock Holmes and Israel. My favorite essays, though, were those that comprised the last half of the book—the essays about Michael Chabon’s own writing adventures. I love writing about writing, which is the main reason I checked out this book.

Michael Chabon has a nice writing style that is difficult to describe. It’s affable and talkative and at the same time, erudite and literary. I’m now working on The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. I'm sure I'll be as pleased with it as I was with Maps and Legends.

Maps and Legends, by Michael Chabon: (55) * * *

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Booking Through Thursday (6)

This week's meme:

Scenario: You’ve just bought some complicated gadget home . . . do you read the accompanying documentation? Or not?

Do you ever read manuals?

How-to books?

Self-help guides?

Anything at all?

I usually don't read the "accompanying documentation" if I can help it. Yawn. I can usually figure things out without the manual. However, I did read the entire manual for my digital camera and went out and purchased a manual for Adobe Photoshop. It's the exceptions that make the rule, eh? My husband and I cannot assembly to-be-assembled things together. He reads each step in the manual very methodically while I like to jump in and start building.

As I mentioned last week, I don't read how-to books or self-help guides. I generally loathe the self-help genre. I eschew the section in the bookstore. I spit in its general direction. Of the self-help books I've read, most of them could have been whittled down from 250 pages to about 10.

Yes, yes, I read. Mostly, though, I read the fiction. Lots and lots of the fiction.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Host

Stephenie Meyer’s new book, The Host, is about aliens, the way her Twilight series is about vampires. The Host is being billed as Meyer’s first novel for adults. I was therefore expecting more from this book than from the vampires. However, this book is written in almost exactly the same style as the teen romances found between the covers of the Twilight series. Once I stopped expecting literary fiction and accepted that the only thing that made this an “adult” book is the fact that the main character is twenty-one rather than seventeen, I enjoyed it more.

The world has been taken over by aliens. Aliens who inhabit the human bodies and live exactly the way humans do. Sort of. Without all the violence and money. Anyway, Wanderer, our hero alien, has previously lived on eight planets and has decided to give the newly conquered earth a try. She gets inserted into Melanie’s body. Melanie was a human insurgent, who tried to commit suicide rather than be used as a host. Most humans fade away when an alien is inserted into them. Not Melanie. Melanie and Wanderer are forced to coexist in the same body, sharing the same memories and experiences. They eventually unite in their hatred of a Seeker (an alien who hunts down remaining humans) and fall in love with the same human. They go off in search of the human and find romance, adventure, and true happiness.

The story is good, even, dare I say, spellbinding, if a little treacly. The main characters, Melanie and Wanderer, are well drawn. But, at 600+ pages, this novel could have used a trim. In spite of the length, I cruised through the slow patches. The major theme--the nature of humanity--was nicely touched on but not wallowed upon. I thought the desert setting was very effectively used. Finally, in the interest of full disclosure, I must note that I think the author should have stuck with the first ending and not ventured on into the happy-let’s-see-how far-I-can-stretch-believability ending. Overall, worth the read.

The Host, by Stephenie Meyer (75) * * *

(I'm excited to meet Stephenie Meyer on Friday!)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Poetry Tuesday - Mary Oliver

During the summer of 1997, my aunt gave me a copy of Mary Oliver's New and Selected Poems. The collection won the National Book Award. My aunt's copy was dog-earred and loved. I have loved it (and Mary Oliver) ever since. Here's one of my favorites:


The poppies send up their
orange flares; swaying
in the wind, their congregations
are a levitation

of bright dust, of thin
and lacy leaves.
There isn't a place
in this world that doesn't

sooner or later drown
in the indigos of drakness,
but now, for a while,
the roughage

shines like a miracle
as it floats above everything
with its yellow hair.
Of course nothing stops the cold,

black, curved blad
from hooking forward--
of course
loss is the great lesson.

But also I say this: that light
is an invitation
to happiness,
and that happiness,

when it's done right,
is a kind of holiness,
palpable and redemptive.
Inside the bright fields,

touched by their rough and spongy gold,
I am washed and washed
in the river
of earthly delight--

and what are you going to do--
what can you do
about it--
deep, blue night?