Tuesday, October 20, 2009
At the end of August I wrote you an email to let you know how uncomfortable I was (and still am) about the Chamber's position on the current county commissioner recall. I told you that many members, including myself, do not share this view, and wondered why the membership was not polled or surveyed to find out whether this was in fact a position that the Chamber should take. Most of your members would prefer that you do not take political positions, as we are a diverse group. I never received any acknowledgement from you, if only to say you had received the note.
Now, adding further insult to many of your members, you have decided, in spite of our opposition to your taking any political position at all, to install a large "no recall" sign on Chamber property. As a long-time Chamber member, I respectfully ask that you remove this sign.
Or, perhaps you would consider posting a large anti-corporate-chainstore sign on your property, and taking an equally passionate position on the encroachment of these chains, including Wal-Mart, into our area, which will surely have a huge and direct negative impact on your members throughout the region. I have not heard a peep from the Chamber regarding this issue of import to your members. I would like to know what exactly your position is on the possible presence of Wal-Mart in our area. Wal-Mart is well documented as a predatory pricer whose stated business practice is to put all retailers and service providers selling anything that they also sell out of business. It is also well documented that when those pesky independent businesses do fail, Wal-Mart prices inevitably revert to the normal. So, I would hope that my Chamber would have something to say in support of their independent business members on this vital issue.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
CCC Performing Arts Center
16th & Franklin, Astoria
Saturday October 3rd beginning at 7:00
Celebrate the “Spirit of the River” with a festive evening of music, poetry, dance, spoken word, and fine art on Saturday, October 3rd at the Clatsop Community College Performing Arts Center in Astoria.
The evening begins with hors d’oeuvres, music and a silent auction of works by favorite regional artists at the Josie Peper building, next door to the PAC on Franklin St. The performance starts at 8 p.m. at the PAC, at 16th and Franklin. This third annual event benefits Columbia Riverkeeper and the opposition to liquefied natural gas (LNG) on the Columbia River.
Award-winning Oregon author Robin Cody is this year’s featured guest. Cody canoed from the headwaters of the Columbia to its mouth at the Pacific Ocean and in 1995 was winner of the Oregon Book Award for Voyage of a Summer Sun, an account of his Columbia River paddle. In 2005, his fictional book set in Oregon, Ricochet River was selected as one of top 100 literary works produced in Oregon in the last two hundred years. Cody has won national awards for his essays and articles and lives in Portland. Of the river, our region, and his relationship to it, Cody says: Mom graduated from Astoria High with "The Tall Firs" of basketball fame. Dad had his fatal heart attack while fishing near Buoy 10. My sister Sue lives in Astoria and works at The Daily Astorian. Her daughters -- Leslie and Brooke Duling -- bleed purple and gold, and I've been all over this river. One summer -- all summer -- I canoed 1,214 miles of it, from the Canadian Rockies to the West Boat Basin. Rivers have spirit, you know. Rivers will give you a bad time of you get cocky. Rivers can lift you when you're down. The Columbia River from Bonneville to Astoria has waaaaay lots of spirit, and is sometimes wild. The wilder the better, if you ask me. The idea of a liquid natural gas terminal on the lower river -- just the idea of it -- is like a fart in church.
On that note, don’t miss this year’s Spirit of the River event! Lucy’s is honored to “person” the book table and offer river revelers the opportunity to purchase Robin’s books. Part of the proceeds will go right to Riverkeeper.
It’s a huge fall season for book lovers. A lot of titles I have been waiting for in paperback are coming in, and an unprecedented number of beloved authors have new hardcover releases just out or coming soon. Highlights for yours truly include a new John Irving novel, and Michael Chabon’s forthcoming essay collection. Life is good.
An Unbelievable Fall for New Releases!!!!!!!
I’m pretty sure I shared with you the post-Michael-Chabon-talk giddy high I was on last fall, but perhaps not my long and failed quest to find the text of the talk he gave. I can’t be sure it will be there, but I’m strongly hoping that Manhood for Amateurs: The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father, and Son will contain it. I can’t wait to read this collection of essays by one of the modern masters of the written word (in my humble opinion of course)!
At long last, after an 11-year hiatus, the supremely gifted short story and novel writer Lorrie Moore returns with the novel A Gate at the Stairs. As Jonathan Lethem succinctly puts it in the Times Book Review, this “is reason enough to start Google-mapping a route to the nearest surviving bookstore.” Moore exactingly tackles class issues – from the micro- of neighboring farmers, to the macro- of the post-9/11 world.
See you when I see you, that is, don’t bug me ‘til I finish the new John Irving. I’m sort of beside myself with anticipation for Last Night in Twisted River. According to the publisher comments: In a story spanning five decades, John Irving’s twelfth novel depicts the recent half-century in the United States as a living replica of Coos County, New Hampshire, where lethal hatreds were generally permitted to run their course.
It seems like everyone is writing a book about eating, and food, and where our food comes from, and all the implications of all of that. So, I’m not sure why the incredible, eclectic novelist Jonathan Safran Foer has chosen to jump off this crowded cliff. That said, I’ll grab Eating Animals and dig in as soon as it comes in, as since I read a pre-publication excerpt of Everything is Illuminated in the New Yorker, I have worshipped at the altar of Foer. From the publisher: On the brink of fatherhood, facing the prospect of having to make dietary choices on a child’s behalf, he visited factory farms in the middle of the night, dissected the emotional ingredients of meals from his childhood, and probed some of his most primal instincts about right and wrong.
My daughter is going to be really jazzed when I bring home Sherman Alexie’s new short story collection, War Dances. I have to share my favorite-ever author photo of the great Alexie – he laughs with abandon, but if you’ve read him you know his incredible humor is the needle that stitches together quilts of incredible sorrow, rage, and love.
(I didn’t write the following – it’s the publisher synopsis! But I know nothing of the book except that I LOVE David Byrne….) Since the early 1980s, David Byrne has been riding a bike as his principal means of transportation in New York City. Convinced that urban biking opens one’s eyes to the inner workings and rhythms of a city’s geography and population, Byrne began keeping a journal of his observations and insights as he pedals through metropoles from Berlin to Buenos Aires, Istanbul to San Francisco, Manila to New York. Bicycle Diaries also records Byrne’s thoughts on world music, urban planning, fashion, architecture, cultural dislocation, and much more, all conveyed with a highly personal mixture of humor, curiosity, and humility.
It’s been Ta few years since Barbara Kingsolver’s last novel. In The Lacuna, Kingsolver explores new emotional ground and new geography in the journey of Harrison Shepherd from the Mexico City of artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo to the America of Pearl Harbor, FDR, and J. Edgar Hoover.
Tracy Kidder’s Strength in What Remains is now available. Kidder tells the unlikely story of Deo, a Burundian medical student and genocide survivor who, through determination and some luck, attended college and medical school in the U.S., then worked for Partners in Health, the worldwide global health organization founded by Paul Farmer, the subject of Kidder’s prior book Mountains Beyond Mountains. Deo has since founded a medical clinic in Burundi, which was always his dream.
Stieg Larsson’s explosive hit mystery The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo now has a follow-up, also translated and published post-humously. The Girl who Played with Fire will surely make Larsson’s many fans swoon, as the intense, quirky hacker Lisbeth Salander takes center stage.
Brie’s New Release Picks…
In his latest book Zeitoun, Dave Eggers (What is the What, McSweeneys) has found the perfect subject in Syrian born Muslim Abdulrahman Zeitoun to depict the ills of our times. As Hurricane Katrina headed for New Orleans, Zeitoun stayed to protect his property. Distributing aid after the storm, he was arrested for suspicion of terrorism leaving him unable to contact family or prove his innocence. Eggers spent three years with the Zeitoun family researching the story on these mistreated citizens and discovering more little reported, excruciating realities of post-Katrina life. The proceeds from this book will go to non-profit group The Zeitoun Foundation and will be spent on cultural revitalization in New Orleans. The fun stuff now... in The Wild Things, Eggers taps his never-ending imagination to create a sort of back-story for Maurice Sendak’s beloved book Where The Wild Things Are.
At long last, John Twelve Hawks (Traveler, The Dark River) is releasing the final book The Golden City in his Fourth Realm trilogy. How to quickly explain the intricacies of this series? When reading you may experience subversive politics, oppression, futuristic science and technology with a heart-pounding plot that keeps all synapses firing. My friend Hal would call this trilogy a hotdog of literature!
Tucker Crowe is a washed up musician raising his son and living in rural Pennsylvania staging a comeback album – Juliet, Naked – and unexpectedly finds love. Nick Hornby (A Long Way Down, About a Boy) returns blending humor, heartbreak, love and music into one juicy novel.
I thought Aravind Adiga’s debut novel The White Tiger was fantastic and am excited to read his new book Between the Assassinations. Set in Kittur, India during the years between Indira and Rajiv Ghandi’s assassinations, these stories are connected by place and time. Adiga writes with a biting wit and keen observation, shining a light into lives very different from ours in the western world.
Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann (Zoli, Dancer) is getting rave reviews as one of the best novels this year. Let the Great World Spin has a promising beginning with Philippe Petit (Man on Wire) walking a high wire between the Twin Towers in 1974. Four very different stories spring from witnessing this event which McCann weaves into one larger novel that focuses on the theme that we are all connected in both mundane and mysterious ways.
Fans of Jim Lynch’s debut The Highest Tide will be happy to know his latest novel Border Songs is available. Small town antics and international politics collide north of Bellingham, Washington, at the Canadian border. Smugglers of a variety of contraband are in danger of the Border Patrol’s newest employee Brandon VanderKool. Although Brandon seems harmless for all his height, severe dyslexia, and obsession with birds, he has a knack for catching smugglers. Neighbors from both sides of the border including a mysterious masseuse, a green card holding cancer patient re-enacting all of Edison’s experiments, and dairy farmers populate Border Songs with vigor and comedy.
Books I’ve Loved this Summer… Laura
My surprising and awe-inspiring top pick this summer is Nicola Keegan’s first novel Swimming. Olympic swimming sensation Philomena Ash is one of the most interesting characters I’ve ever read. Pip springs out of a small town in Kansas to take the international swimming world by storm, but her interior life, marred by family tragedy, is the real starting block for her personal transformation. Keegan channels this young woman in astounding and unique ways.
I guess most people will agree with absolutely everything or nothing that Alfie Kohn writes. I find myself in the former group. I keep quoting from the fine essay collection What Does it Mean to be Well Educated? in such a wide variety of contexts that though he mostly addresses the education community here, parents, students, and interested citizens of the world will glean much from Kohn’s unique perspectives on standards, achievement, rewards, and motivation.
I finally sat down with The Worst Hard Time, by Timothy Egan, and I stayed sitting for a long time. There was so much about the middle of our country, the plains, the Dust Bowl, Depression politics, farming… so much I had no idea about. Egan is a beautiful writer who makes the political personal, and weaves a particular historical time, place, and people into a can’t-put-down page-turner.
I moonlight as an elected school board member, and there is always discussion (because we always seem to have to eliminate programs) regarding the value of the “extras” – shop class, for example – as compared with straight academics. A must read is Matthew Crawford’s Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work. Crawford is a philosophy professor and motorcycle mechanic, with strong opinions on what is wrong with the relative values placed on high prestige white-collar work vs. the work of the hands. It’s a fascinating, well written, deeply felt philosophical treatise.
To reread or not to reread: that…is the question. Laura
While we were in Maine, the Bridgton library hosted a talk with awesome children’s author Andrew Clements. He gave a wonderful talk about his life as a writer to a packed house, and one thing in particular he said has stuck with me. A young person asked him the impossible question, what’s your favorite book ever? Charlotte’s Web was his answer, but the interesting part was that Clements suggested that E.B. White’s masterpiece is a book that one should read every five years for his/her entire life, and that with each reading a completely different experience would unfold. This made complete sense to me! It got me thinking. I don’t reread books, because I can never catch up on my list of haven’t-reads! And yet, books I yearn to read again began popping into my head.
I often recommend Hermann Hesse’s masterpiece Siddhartha to graduating high school students. I read it when I was eighteen, and while I have zero memory of the details (this should surprise no one who knows me), I remember that upon finishing I immediately started again. I was transformed and inspired by this fictional account of a young Indian mystic’s coming of age, but gosh darn it, I can’t really remember why! So, a strong #1 on the reread list.
It was many years ago that I read John Nichols’ The Milagro Beanfield War. It seemed so subversive then, that the “little” people had the last laugh on the corporate interests disregarding their lives (think southwestern water rights squabble turned epic). Now no matter who we are, we are probably those “little” people in one context or another, as those corporate interests have grown so monstrous. The book ended up comprising the first of a loose trilogy, and I never quite fell in love with the other two, but Milagro will forever have a huge, warm place in my heart.
I have a personal list of books about war that perhaps aren’t the standard ones – Brian Turner’s poetry collection Here, Bullet, David James Duncan’s The Brothers K, and John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany. Irving’s coming of age epic, like these others, makes our government policies personal, as characters we grow to know and love are affected by the wars of their eras. I have read Owen Meany a couple of times but would read it again in a heartbeat.
Maybe this seems sacrilegious but I’m going to say it. I miss the old Isabel Allende! More recently I have loved her memoir Paula, but recent novels have not held a candle to The House of the Spirits or Eva Luna. Rereading the great South American writers in their primes seems like a project worth doing. I would read the above, as well as One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera. Then I could spend another winter, after my Latin writers’ summer, rereading John Steinbeck’s American epics The Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden. Alas, what will I do about all the new releases?
New Fall Paperbacks
Julia Child: A Life: The cover photo of Julia in a burst of laughter is worth a thousand words. For the already or newly minted Julia-philes, Laura Shapiro’s award-winning biography is here. Julia’s own My Life in France is also highly recommended by my good friend Jane, the best cook I’ve ever known, and of course, Julie and Julia, Julie Powell’s memoir and the basis for the movie, is in paper as well.
You may know Isabel Fonseca for her incredibly thorough, brilliant history of the Roma people (Bury Me Standing), but I’m here to tell you she is brutally skilled at the marriage-on-the-brink novel as well. Attachment, which I put on my list after reading the NY Times review last year, is here in paper.
Terry Tempest Williams’ latest book, Finding Beauty in a Broken World, draws on her experiences in Italy, Rwanda, and home, finding common connections between humans and the natural world. Her writing, as in the past, promises to be expressive and exquisite.
I live with two parrot people, so Alex and Me, as well as Of Parrots and People, have been on my radar. You’re probably familiar with Irene Pepperburg’s 30-year long study of animal intelligence through her relationship with the African Gray parrot Alex. The book is made more poignant by Alex’s recent death. The latter title is Mira Tweti’s exploration of the strange unlikely relationship between these two species.
Brie loved this new paperback: Narrated in turn and perspective by two sisters, Julia Glass’s (Three Junes) novel I See You Everywhere is one of the best I read this summer. Strong individuals both, Louisa and Clem struggle with the love and rivalry that makes up sisterhood. Spanning 25 years, I See You Everywhere asks the question: can anyone really see another person as they truly are, or do we only see each other’s definition in relation to ourselves? Glass’s beautiful prose effectively portrays the complexities of family relations.
You’ll need to be patient until November for Thomas Friedman’s Hot, Flat, and Crowded. Friedman is the master of connecting us to the world through policy and politics. When I get the chance to read him, he strikes me as someone with common sense, and a vast comprehension of the big picture, a rare and valuable combination.
David Sedaris’ latest, When You are Engulfed in Flames includes his future classic story about quitting smoking. For his cult and not-so-cult following, it’s a worthy collection. Fans of Sedaris will find Sarah Vowell’s new book The Wordy Shipmates’ October release a happy occasion. Vowell’s brand of historical exploration focuses this time on the Puritan experience – both its historical and cultural relevance, and in classic Vowell style, its oddities.
I haven’t read Sarah Hall’s (Electric Michelangelo) work, but Brie is a huge fan, and has already brought home her copy of Hall’s new novel How to Paint a Dead Man. The Guardian calls Hall “one of the most significant and exciting of Britain’s young novelists.” Here she explores the lives of a dying painter, a blind girl, a landscape artist, and an art curator through five decades.
Toni Morrison never falters. Her novels continue to challenge and illuminate with their intense beauty and portrayals of people deep in struggle. I’m looking forward to reading A Mercy, which continues Morrison’s lifetime exploration of what lies beneath the surface of slavery, and within the relationships between mothers and daughters.
Nam Le’s collection of seven stories herald the presence of a stellar new voice. Born in Vietnam, Nam Le’s stories span the entire world. He is the winner of the Dylan Thomas Prize, and The Boat is a New York Times Notable Book.
I know, everyone is writing about food. But read Wendell Berry about food. This farmer has been extolling the virtues of local agriculture and what it means to grow, eat, buy food, for five decades. Berry is much more than a locavore or an analyst of trends; he is a philosopher, and one of the great moral voices of our country. Add a reverent introduction by Michael Pollan, and Bringing it to the Table is required reading.
Linda Hogan is the beloved author of the Pulitzer Prize winning Mean Spirit, and Dwellings: A Spiritual History of the Living World. Her latest novel, People of the Whale, explores the life of a Native American man returned from Vietnam to find his tribe in conflict over the decision to hunt a whale. Hogan once again addresses the most difficult Native issues with a reverent sense of spirituality and grace.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Thursday, June 18, 2009
My family was joking in the car the other day about how someday maybe my shop would be a museum-like stop on people’s search for antiques and depictions about the way life used to be. A book shop full of paper books would be like the Sturbridge Village of my childhood field trips, where people in Shaker village costumes showed us how people made butter, quilted, and entertained themselves in the “olden” days. People have begun to ask me whether I am going to start selling e-books. I muse on an interview with Sherman Alexie, in which he said:
"Have you ever fallen in love with somebody, a stranger, just because of the book they happened to be reading? And what about the recent awe of walking onto an airplane and seeing that forty or fifty people are reading the same Harry Potter novel? How many times have you talked to a stranger just because they happened to be reading a great book, an eccentric book, a book that you arrogantly thought that only you and the author and his or her mother had ever read? That's not possible with a Kindle.”
I hope you enjoy this newsletter after a brief hiatus this spring. I wish you all a peaceful, quiet, boring summer of watching the bird feeder, listening to the frogs and geese, and blowing off your chores.
Ani’s Winter & Spring Reads by Ani Graves, 13
I’ve read lots of books, both serious and funny, in the last few months, and they’ve all been great. I’ve been getting books from the Astoria High School library that the librarians pick out for me, and they’re always funny. (Mom says “Thanks library ladies!”)
Notes from the Midnight Driver, by Jordan Sonnenblick, is a hilarious yet very deep book. When 16-year-old Alex gets drunk, sneaks out in his mom’s car, and gets in a crash, beheading a garden gnome, his life gets even more complicated. With his parents divorced, his dad threatening to move out of the state, and his court trial for drunk driving coming up, Alex is overwhelmed. He gets sentenced to 100 hours of community service at a nursing home working with a grouchy old man. With encouragement from his best friend Laurie and the distraction of his new electric guitar, Alex and Solomon (the old man) become very good friends. They help each other out in every way, and Sol will reveal a secret that Alex never would have guessed…
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie, is a great book by a great writer. I’ve read a few others and loved them all. This book shows what it’s really like being an Indian. Junior is an Indian boy living on a reservation. He has medical problems, and is picked on by everyone except his best friend. When Junior decides that he’s had enough of everything, he starts attending a school with only white kids. It’s really hard for him to fit in, and to add to the tension, his best friend on the reservation hates him now for ditching their school. Everyone at the reservation except his family seems to have turned against him. Junior finds confidence in himself and even makes friends at his new school. This book is very funny, but shows the reality of hardships that Indians have.
Peeps, and its sequel, The Last Days, by Scott Westerfeld, are really good books. Scott Westerfeld is an awesome, funny writer. In Peeps, 19-year-old Cal is a parasite positive, or vampire – a peep for short. Cal’s job is to find people who have been turned into peeps and help them overcome the worst symptoms. When he meets Lace and reveals his secret, she helps him discover a huge cult of rat peeps, and they discover something unheard of (if you just can’t get enough of the vampire thing…).
Peace Like a River, by Leif Enger, is a well-written book. 11-year-old Rueben has a great life, despite his bad asthma. When two troublemaking teenagers break into his house and threaten his family, things get bad. One night they take it too far. Reuben’s brother Davy ends up in jail for defending his family, breaks out, and disappears. Reuben, his dad, and his sister Swede head out in their camper looking for Davy and there the adventures begin.
Ttyl (talk to you later), ttfn (tat ta for now), and l8r g8r (later, gator), by Lauren Myracle, are all in one of the best series I have read in a long time. They’re written in a very interesting style – the instant messages going between three great friends in high school. Angela (SnowAngel) who is always happy, Zoe (zoegirl) the good girl, and Maddie (mad maddie), who is wild and outgoing, are always together, always talking. They go through some tough times and hard situations, but always figure it out. Some are sidesplitting, some are heartbreaking, but the three friends always make up and get everything figured out.
Books for the “Middle-Aged” by Laura
Describing people like me as middle-aged is silly. I am an adult, have been for a couple of decades, and will (hopefully) continue on this path for a couple of more. Being a young teenager, however, seems to me to be the Middle Age. You are not a kid and you are not an adult. I have a pile of books with young protagonists, beautiful writing, and both relatability and an intellectual challenge for the reader. The trick is, then, to convince said middle-aged folk that they really do want to read the books that their mother suggests to them… Therein lies the middle age conundrum. Ani read Anne Frank’s diary recently. Though she chose not to review it, I think it’s a necessary and compelling read. To Kill a Mockingbird deserves strong mention as well.
Michael Dorris’ classic, A Yellow Raft in Blue Water, is the coming of age story of half black, half Indian, fifteen-year-old Rayona. Set in the harsh, wintry, yet beautiful Montana landscape, it is a hard, haunting, redemptive story of three generations of women.
Barbara Kingsolver’s The Bean Trees is one of my favorites to recommend when a young person is just too old and sophisticated for the kids’ section in the back. Taylor Greer is an independent minded teenager who leaves her Kentucky home in a beat up Volkswagen Beetle, with her mom’s blessing, at least after Mom takes off all the tires and makes sure Taylor knows how to put them back on. The adventure turns serious when a Cherokee woman hands Taylor her baby and disappears, and Taylor must muster her spirit and strength to appreciate the difficult gifts of her unexpected motherhood.
Bee Season remains a longtime favorite of mine. Myla Goldberg, pretty young herself when she wrote this lovely novel, is spot on in her portrayal of the world of competitive spelling bees. I got fascinated with watching the National Spelling Bee after reading it, and was amazed, appalled, and enthralled by the stress of it. Nine-year-old Eliza Nauman finds her own remedy to stress in this engaging novel of family, religion, and spelling bee stress.
I know years ago there was a small uproar (pre-Oprah even) about Forrest Carter’s beautiful memoir The Education of Little Tree, but the questions about whether or not it’s true have never distracted me from the beauty of this story of a Cherokee boyhood. If you can convince a young teenager to have some read aloud time this is a stunningly beautiful book to read aloud. My memories of reading a chapter a night of this on the deck of a boat at sea are priceless.
Briefly, because there are so many of these “middle age” selections, I will mention Chaim Potok’s The Chosen, one of my favorite novels, and a coming of age story in as distinctive a culture as many of us will ever encounter – that of orthodox Judaism in early 20th century Brooklyn, New York.
Mark Haddon’s novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, from the point of view of an autistic teenaged boy dealing with life’s challenges through his very unique lens, shimmers and explodes off the pages. Whether autism is a particular interest or not, the intensity of this first person narrative amazed me.
Random Reads by Laura
I was going to write about Flight on the previous page, but thought I’d better put it here. Ani loved it, and I read it, and thought wow, that is pretty mature for a kid who’s not a kid and not a grown-up. Sherman Alexie unbottles a lot of anger here, along with a lot of love if you’re patient. Zits (yes, Zits) is an angry 15-year-old foster kid many times over, his violent, turbulent skin a graphic metaphor for his anger and pain. Possibly Ani was taken with the time travel, possibly with Alexie’s winningly perfect writing – I’m proud to say my daughter is an accurate connoisseur of quality writing. In any case, caution to younger readers: the language and situations are as you would imagine from the point of view of an angry teenaged foster kid. Still, it’s in the end a beautiful story of our potential as people.
Nic Sheff’s memoir Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines will do its job as a total turnoff for any person tempted to try meth. It’s billed as a book for young adults, for the obvious lessons within, but be forewarned here as well about language and difficult situations. I found it compelling, and needed to read it after I read the beautiful and poignant memoir by Sheff’s father David Sheff, which documents Nic’s addiction as well but from his father’s point of view. Both Tweak and Beautiful Boy are eye-opening stories that taught me (yet again) to check my judgements and assumptions at the door.
It was difficult to pick up Elizabeth McCracken’s memoir but I’m glad I did. This wonderful novelist writes in An Exact Replica of a Figment of my Imagination about the death of her baby boy just before he was due to be born. There is only so much one can read about a subject like this, but from McCracken it is quite real and quite beautiful. She faces her pain head on and helps us understand, if just a little bit. Well worth reading.
I feel like my new obsession with Richard Price will cause some literate people to sigh with exasperation, kind of an adult “Well, duh….” Lush Life was the most outstanding vacation book choice I’ve made in years. Sadly I found myself rationing it, as my other picks didn’t pan out so well. I have never read such true dialogue, such perfect characterizations of city cops, “perps,” urban hipsters, and the whole fraught community of lower Manhattan seething with tension. I also read Freedomland, and found it equally satisfying, though much more sad than ironic. Price “gets” people in that same razor-like way that Tana French (In the Woods), John Burdett (Bangkok 8), and yes, John Irving, “get” people. If you know me, you know a bigger compliment I could not pay him.
If you ask me what is the best setting for a novel, these days I’d have to answer New York City. Adam Mansbach’s gem of a novel The End of the Jews situates its characters in the true melting pot of greater New York City. In no other setting could Mansbach’s characters come together in such rich and interesting ways. He links the lives of Nina, a young Czech photographer, Tristan, an aspiring writer steeped in hip hop culture, and Nina’s and Tristan’s parents and grandparents in an epic and poignant treatise on love and art.
I loved A Country Called Home, by Kim Barnes. It’s a quiet, small novel about an adventurous and idealistic couple that moves from the city to a remote piece of land in Idaho. After the birth of her daughter, the woman is paralyzed by loneliness and isolation, craving both people and the creature comforts she left behind. The story turns in surprising and powerful ways, and Kim Barnes (In the Wilderness) evokes the Idaho landscape and those who love it incredibly beautifully.
Poetry is an on-again-off-again love of mine, and I’m way on right now after reading an amazing New Yorker article about and then the collections of identical twin poets from Portland, Oregon. Matthew and Michael Dickman are yin yang poets, close, close brothers and compatriots, and fascinating chroniclers of urban life, in very different and beautiful ways. Matthew’s wild and exuberant language spoke more clearly to me than Michael’s, which is concise and spare. I loved Matthew’s collection All-American Poem, and as always, am storing poems away for my holiday book group poetry swap. Maybe we should share poetry more frequently – ladies? Michael’s collection The End of the West is equally powerful in a very different way.
Brie’s Spring Favorites
Several years ago a man and his daughter were reportedly living in Forest Park in Portland for nearly four years. Now local author Peter Rock has re-imagined their lives in his new novel My Abandonment. Thirteen-year-old Caroline narrates her secretive existence in the woods with her father, detailing their habits and her unconventional but effective schooling. Their alternative lifestyle requires a combination of paranoid vigilance and free spirited will. Once discovered, their lives take a turn through society with startling effects that bring Caroline’s father’s mental fragility into focus. Striking out on their own again, away from civilization, things go from bad to worse. As Caroline gets older, the lifestyle choices she makes are a product of her childhood. My Abandonment is riveting, as the story edges along between psychosis and free will and in the end questions where the line between the two is drawn.
Man Booker Prize winner The White Tiger, by Aravind Adiga, is a novel as rare as its title. The entire novel is formed as a letter to the Premier of China and gives a hilarious and heartbreaking account of Balram Halwei’s life. Descending from the baking class, Balram has scored a job driving the “air conditioned egg” around India for his master. It is hard to decide if the roads of Delhi or dealing with his master’s privileged and temperamental family require more dangerous negotiations. As this self-proclaimed “half-baked Indian” philosophizes and rants, you also get a feel for the geography, politics, and contradictory social norms of India. The White Tiger is a fictional masterpiece offering a character at once conflicted, angry, compromised, and dangerous; yet I found myself cheering him all the way to the end.
Summer Reading for ‘Tweens & Teens
No promise of advanced intellectualism here, but I will promise fun. Which is what summer reading is for, isn’t it?
Ani emailed me: “The House of Night series, by P.C. and Kristin Cast, is one of the better vampire series I’ve read (ed.: this is saying A LOT). In the first book, Marked, Zoey Redbird is marked as a vampire fledgling, and her life seems to have been ruined. She went to a good school, had a best friend, and a great boyfriend. All vampire fledglings have to stay at the House of Night until they are fully changed vampires, so Zoey has to leave everything and everyone behind. The House of Night turns out to be a great place and she makes lots of new friends. All she wants is to fit in, but that is very hard when you have been blessed with powers that no vampire has had before. These are great books!”
I have another young teenaged customer who chose a couple of interesting titles the other day, that on first glance might not seem to be for the age. But on second glance… My Sister’s Keeper – Jodi Picoult’s page turner about a child born to a family for the purpose of being a bone marrow donor for her sister. The ethical conflicts loom large, and the emotional hits never stop. There would be lots to talk about, if you happen to have the type of young teen in the house that likes talking!
The same lovely young woman chose Holy Cow, a memoir by Sarah MacDonald. I would gravitate toward this book just looking at the cover, for sure. Eleven years after a backpacking adventure to India in her twenties, MacDonald finds herself moving to New Delhi to be with the love of her life. She chronicles the chaos and contradictions of India – from war zones to spiritual retreats to Bollywood culture. Again, I may not have thought of it for teens, but why not?
I don’t know any girls that read Tony Horwitz’s Alex Rider series. A challenge to you girls out there, maybe… Then again, being a girl myself, I wouldn’t be reading them except that I am reading them with my son, who adores them. And what boy would not adore a teenaged James Bond-type guy working for MI6 and getting into scrape after deadly scrape with evil doers trying to blow up the world, clone themselves a thousand times over and take over the world, control the world through computer viruses, and on, and on, and on. Truly the excitement never stops – I only require of Tim that after every couple of Alex Riders, it’s my pick for one. Happily, the publishers are slowly putting the collection out in graphic novel form, for the reluctantly reading ‘tween boy in your life.
If your ‘tween is not an Astoria Middle School student, they won’t be at AMS for the “Everyone Reads” program there that started with James Howe’s absolutely wonderful The Misfits last year. However, they can certainly read the books! Next year the program will include a book for each grade, adding My Mother the Cheerleader, and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. The thread that connects these novels is the different ways people are bullied or oppressed and the gamut of worlds both large and small affected by it – from a middle school to the south of Ruby Bridges to the Holocaust. Kudos to AMS for tackling these subjects.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
For now, it's Crazy May in the school sense meaning, in our family of two students in two schools, one school board member, and one guidance counselor at two high schools, every night has something in May. That's why it's called Crazy May.
We are all looking forward to summer.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
My husband's 100-year-old, 100% Boston Irish grandfather, died in his sleep at his house on St. Patrick's Day morning. Our family will be traveling to Boston for his memorial the first weekend of April.
For now, we leave for Costa Rica tonight, a long-dreamed and long-planned adventure. Lucy's will be in good hands while I'm gone.
Thanks for your support of little, human-sized businesses!
Friday, February 13, 2009
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Lucy’s Books is a locally owned and operated independent bookstore in downtown Astoria Oregon. Owner Laura Snyder opened the store (with the help of her infant son Tim, daughter Ani, and husband Jon and his parents), in August of 1998, a bad time, some say, to open a small, independent bookstore. Bucking the national trend toward big box business, Lower Columbia residents from both sides of the river have spoken here with their voices and dollars of their commitment to vibrant communities.
Lucy’s Books is committed to the idea of community, through advocacy and events, through bringing people together toward a common purpose. From northwest fiction writers like Tom Spanbauer, to renowned naturalists like Robert Michael Pyle and Californian Freeman House, to acclaimed children’s author Petra Mathers to sex advice columnist Dan Savage, a rich variety of northwest talent has graced our space.
Lucy’s offers 20% off to the public school districts of the region. Lucy’s Books will offer you 20% off any book you buy to donate to our public schools. Lucy’s supports our local children’s museum, our local community radio station, and our Women’s Resource Center through an ongoing library development program. Lucy’s supports our local camps (VOCA) for girls and boys who have survived sexual abuse.
Lucy’s small space holds a rich, lovingly and carefully chosen variety of high caliber fiction, memoir, northwest regional lore, poetry, parenting, health, spirituality, nature and travel, and of course children’s titles. As well, you’ll find the perfect journals, calendars, and cards. Special orders are welcome, and almost any title in or out of print is accessible to you through Lucy’s Books.
Enjoy this web site, let me know what you think, and know that there is no substitute for the experience of holding a book, and having a kindred literary spirit with whom to talk about it. Shopping on line for books, while not as good as the real thing, can still support the independent spirit of local bookstores. Many independent stores have web sites; go there before the book/drug/electronics/toy store next time! You’ll be pleased by what you find.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Almost time to get working on the newsletter... I am compiling a huge list of books that are great for young teenagers, mostly adult books that are a great crossover. Ani has read Peace Like a River, for instance, and loved it. Then, I am going to put a call out for the young teen crossover family movie list. This is the hardest age to find movies to watch as a family! I'm game for suggestions.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
The poem was incredible. It will be published in February in an $8 edition. I am hoping for a larger collection of Elizabeth Alexander's poetry including that beautiful poem.
I hope for a better future for all of our children in schools operating without enough resources to do their best. And I hope for a better future for everyone in which our health, our education, our elder years, our working years, are addressed with dignity and care.
I think that's not an unreasonable hope, though I think it will take quite some time at the beginning of this paradigm shift.
Friday, January 9, 2009
We have really nice t-shirts for sale - the green are "girl" cut and the others unisex. $15 buys you lots of fashion here.
The Stephenie Meyer store... a fixture now.
Various lovingly tended piles of books...
And journals too...
Now to my next resolution - to read Midnight's Children, which has for some odd reason caused a block for me for years. Cheers, til next time.