Sunday, October 14, 2007

And now I feel terrible.

Curse my impecunious state! If only I'd bought more books from A Common Reader! After writing that last post, I tried to access the website and found to my horror that the company went bankrupt a year and a half ago. What a loss to the reading world, and how sad to see yet another small business go under. I wish I were not forced to buy books inexpensively, when I do buy them; I try to shop at Powell's when I can, but the rest of the time, Amazon is all too tempting.

Well, even though it won't bring back A Common Reader, in their memory I will do my best to support small local bookstores from now on. Buying books is always a hardship, but somehow I'll manage...
Vexatious reality! How rarely you fulfill anticipation!

When A Common Reader recommends a book, I am all attention. After all, it was in those diminutive newsprint pages that I was first introduced to Edith Pargeter, Alice Thomas Ellis, and Patrick O'Brian, to name a noteworthy few. And to label a book a TGR--well! I don't even have to write that title on my list--it burns there in letters of gold.

Sadly, my impecunious state usually keeps me from purchasing A Common Reader's delightful tomes, and I rely on the library system to supply what it can. Thus Elisabeth Luard's Emerald had been on the list for years--since college, at least--with no luck in the libraries of New Mexico, Colorado, Alaska, California, Tennessee, or Oregon (yes, I have library cards in all but one of those states--as previously mentioned, I have an addiction), until I happened to think of it, purely by chance, last week in Lake Oswego. I'll admit my fingers trembled a little as I took it down from the shelf, though that may have been owing more to the sheer exhaustion of hauling around a teething, highly active eight-month-old in town all day, than to the wonder of finding that the book existed after so many years of anticipation.

But vexatious reality reared her ugly head. Emerald is indeed a fast-paced drama with steamy twists and turns, following the adventurous and mysterious life of the daughter of Edward VIII, the man who would not be king, because of Mrs Simpson; but if it had not been recommended by A Common Reader, I would never have read past the first page. How do these first novels ever get published? What editor unleashes on the world such cliches, such unending pages of simple sentences, such clunking prose? What writer doesn't know the first rule of writing--"show, don't tell"?

Oh dear. After David Herter's email, I was supposed to be nicer to writers. Hrm. Ms Luard, my apologies. I'm sure you wish your novel were better written, too. And I will freely admit that I stayed up late to finish it. Even if I can't echo A Common Reader's accolades, I can give Emerald that much recommendation.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

I may at some point post about books again; in the meantime, you can read about our farming adventures here. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

I should be crocheting right now, in an attempt to finish an afghan for a friend's baby shower on Friday, but the child is sleeping and I'm feeling vaguely inspired. My reading addictions lately have been even more eclectic than usual--I'm hooked on Trollope, Barbara Kingsolver, Colin Dexter, and Joel Salatin. I don't know why I never got into Trollope before; I read one of his novels as a teenager and enjoyed it, but not enough to seek out more. Then, a couple months ago, when looking frantically for a quickly-accessible book to read while breastfeeding, I picked up Barchester Towers on a whim and found myself sucked into the Dorset life. I loved the protagonist, Mr Harding--a character who managed to be thoroughly good without being boring or unbelievable. And, when he's deep in thought, he plays an imaginary cello--one can gauge his level of emotion by how agitated or melancholy his movements are.

I've gotten through three of the Barsetshire Chronicles now, and am anxiously awaiting Odious's return tonight with the fourth (he forgot it at the library last week). It doesn't often happen, as it did with Doctor Thorne, that I look forward so eagerly to reading further in a book. Often I'm driven to finish in one reading, but that's more of a TV-like mania, not actual enjoyment of the book itself.

And I'm having that mania with Colin Dexter, both in print and on the screen. My mother introduced me to Inspector Morse, whose character and that of his sergeant, Lewis, I like much more than the actual mysteries. It's hard to pass up a policeman who drinks good beer and reads poetry and sings Mozart and listens to Wagner, especially when he's accompanied by a solidly humorous and prosaic straight man. They're a great combo.

I'm also not sure why I never got interested in Barbara Kingsolver before. I'd read her essays, and enjoyed them, but other than The Poisonwood Bible hadn't read any of her novels because of a vague idea that they weren't quite my style. Then my mother finally convinced me to read Prodigal Summer, which was one of the best books on my list last year, and I recently picked up The Bean Trees and found it nearly impossible to put down, even when the child was screaming. [Book... Baby... So hard to choose...] Now I'm scouring her shelves for the rest of Kingsolver's books.

My love affair with Joel Salatin is also thanks to my mother, who read and recommended Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma (another favorite on last year's list). Salatin is a farmer in West Virginia whose farm is featured in Pollan's book; he's also written several books himself. From the first we read of him, it was clear that we thought alike on many matters, and could only admire his brilliant ideas and farming techniques. So I found You Can Farm: The Entrepreneur's Guide to Start and Succeed in the Farming Business at the library and made my way through its 500+ pages with considerable ease. His writing has a conversational tone, though a decidedly opinionated and unflinching one, and his advice is invaluable. All farming books are inspirational, but this one is in a completely practical way--it is possible to succeed in farming as long as you stay away from the conventional model and work closely with the natural world. We're all ready to get serious about it, which is good because we have two goats due to kid next month, two new beehives buzzing busily, a greenhouse bursting with seedlings, and 55 chicks on the way as soon as the new coop is finished, not to mention a couple of half-grown lambs growing promising wool coats and beginning to eye each other amorously. Spring has sprung!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Cutest Baby in the World

Sam was born January 30 after putting his poor mama through a three-day marathon; fortunately he's incredibly sweet and smiley and we love him beyond belief. Life is good!

Friday, January 12, 2007

I started a year-in-review post on our computer at home, but since I'm now at the library I'll skip ahead and post my haphazard list of Books to Read in 2007. I'm rarely, of course, at a loss for something to read, but I found it was helpful last year to have a goal to work towards--it kept me from reading nothing but junk and introduced me to some wonderful works I might not otherwise have read. Over the course of the year the list did change somewhat, and I'm sure the same will happen this year. Here, however, are my tentative and random goals for 2007:

Shakespeare--the plays I never read or may as well not have read
Stendhal--The Charterhouse of Parma
Balzac--Pere Goriot and others
Proust--as much of Remembrance of Things Past as possible
Milton--Paradise Lost
Sigrid Undset--Kristin Lavransdatter
Dickens--Nicholas Nickleby
Rudyard Kipling--Kim
Katherine Mansfield--Journal

I'll probably also keep working on the Modern Library list of 20th century best novels--I did quite well on it last year, and will post about that soon.