Monday, August 30, 2010

A Short Note on Steinbeck

I just finished Steinbeck's Cannery Row, and (I guess this is a confession) it's one of the few books I've read since college that I actually felt the need to study. I found myself wishing that I could discuss it in a classroom, instead of just doing web searches trying to figure out more about it. I'm not going to sit here and write a treatise on Cannery Row, although I'm sure every moment of that would be both fascinating and scholarly (naturally), but I will say this: everything I read about Cannery Row came back to the theme of loneliness. And having finished the book, I'm in complete agreement with that assessment. Though there were moments that made me laugh (when Mack and the boys go frog hunting, for one), at the end of the book, I was just sad. For everyone. And (since I'm not in a secular classroom discussion) I think that's just what you get when you don't have Christ. Steinbeck's characters didn't really have anything (or anyone) to live for. I doubt he did either. He talks about the morality of the prostitutes and the philosophy of the town drunks and the goodness of the marine biologist who carries out abortions on the side, but at the end of the day, there was a gaping hole where there should've been hope. Without which, there is nothing but a deeply profound loneliness.

That said, Steinbeck's writing was fabulous (he's not Steinbeck for nothing), and I now want to go to the ocean. Preferably at sunrise or when the tide is changing. And while I'm glad I read Cannery Row, since it truly is a classic in its own right, I'm not feeling any particular need to reread it. Pretty much ever. But applause to Steinbeck for an intriguing and beautifully written read.

PS Yes, this is one of the books that I can "actually brag about reading". Every once in a while I strive to be intellectual. msf

Friday, August 27, 2010

Story Time

I picked up a couple "just for Baby" books at the library this week, and we've thoroughly enjoyed reading them together. The Little Man really can't make it the whole way through yet without trying to rip out pages, eat the book, kick me in the shins, etc., but I'm such a fan of children's literature that I don't at all mind finishing them on my own time. I was pleasantly surprised by my fortuitous finds this week since I literally grabbed both books off the shelf and ran for my life from the Children's section. Someone with a large set of lungs had reached the end of his library tolerance and was more than ready to go home.

My favourite of the two was The Story Book Prince by Joanne Oppenheim, with some beautiful illustrations by Rosanne Litzinger. I tried to find a larger photo so that you could see the fun details included but had no luck. The book is about a prince who refuses to go to bed and the various tricks his parents try to get him to sleep. As you can probably tell, I liked the illustrations the most, but the writing was lovely as well. I frequently have to fight the urge to rewrite children's books as I read them out loud, but the rhyme and meter were well done and the story was enchanting to say the least. If I were giving out gold stars, Oppenheim and Litzinger could start their own galaxy.

Little Bub, however, was much more attached to book number two, Kiss Good Night by Amy Hest with illustrator Anita Jeram. Personally, I think he liked it better because it was shorter and the type was larger. And because it was about bears. Who doesn't like bears? Here he is to tell you about it:
And no, of course he's not eating the book. What kind of mother would I be to let him chew on a library book? Anyway, (ahem) Mama Bear putting Baby Bear to bed. I guess both of the books this week were similarly themed. Which was accidental. I would never try to brainwash my child into sleeping more. Baby stalls till Mama kisses him goodnight. It was cute. My favourite part was that it was a rainy night out, but then it made me sad that it wasn't raining here. My least favourite part: they drank warm milk together before bed. Have to say, that made my skin crawl. Little Man's favourite part: the way all those germs on the book tasted. Oh wait, did I just say that?


Littles and I have been having some fun hang out times lately. This includes early exposure to coffee:

Which, may I say, he took quite well:

I only gave him the best. No Folgers for us, of course. It's important to brainwash at an early age so that I can raise a little coffee snob just like me and the Man. We also made a quick trip to a smurf village. I did make sure to give him the "magical mushrooms" lecture. Just so you know.

We have such a delightful time together...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Yes, That's Me: Neighborhood Curiosity

I've made a discovery. And that discovery has enabled me to read this:

and this:

in the space of 48 hours without neglecting my child, husband, or housework. What modern miracle is this? you wonder. Did she hire a maid and a nanny or just buy a multi-purpose robot? I'll let you in on my secret...

I can now read while pushing the stroller.

I'm still looking for a catch phrase to use to sum that up. Stroller-booking? Read-walking? I don't know. But seriously, how awesome is that?! Little man gets crabby, so I chuck him in the stroller, grab my latest easy novel, and we go for a walk. It's a win-win-win. Win: I'm reading. Win: he's happy. Win: I'm being healthy (right?). Last win possibly sabotaged by the half dozen Oreos I just consumed.

On that note, since nap-time is evidently over in the nursery, I'm going to skip my typical waxing eloquent over Madeleine L'Engle (Troubling a Star was lovely), inform you quickly that I thoroughly enjoyed Ridley Pierson's The Academy (and that it was better than the first book of the Steel Trapp series), and go spend some time with my currently rather clingy son.

Maybe we'll "book it" around the block a few times. That was really bad...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Library Run

I hit up the library today and finally returned North and South--the late fine is paid and it was so worth it. Gaskell rather blew me away with her subtlety and brilliant use of words. I bow to her superior literary talent.

Anyway, I picked up eight (count them!) new books soon to be plowed through ranging from picture books for Alex (yes, those will get written about), some young adult novels for the days after sleepless nights, and a couple books that I can actually brag about reading (just for good measure). Trust me, as my reader you have a lot to look forward to.

I'm sure the suspense is killing you.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Slippers and Silence

It's raining (yay), and I'm in the mood to write. Since I've already updated my book blog (which you can find here), and Little Man is taking a nap while the dryer and dishwasher run, I figured, why not spend a little time just write? Besides my slippers are so cozy and it's rather wonderfully quiet. At least for now.

So here I am. It's raining outside, beautiful blissful rain that makes my toes cold and wets the hem of my jeans. I spent so much of college slogging through puddles on campus that wet jeans always remind me of Memphis. I love rain so much that the first thing the Man does when it starts raining is turn and ask me if I'm going to cry about it. Admittedly, I have: see? Don't mock. It's the little things.

Speaking of the little things, I spent the morning at Social Security trying to procure a social security card for Littles and get mine fixed so that it actually reads the same as my drivers license (how hard is that?). The MAn warned me that it was going to be in my top three worst American experiences ever, and while I'm not saying it was ice cream and chocolate cake, it could've been worse. I say that, and I'm having to go back later in the week for Little Man's card. Maybe that one will reach the top three...

One of my window's just started leaking. Rather a lot. I think the rain wants inside for a cup of tea and some scones.

The Never Ending Gaskell

As of late, I've been attempting to plow through Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South. To give you an idea of how long it's taken me to get through this book, I have now renewed it from the library as many times as I can and it's currently three days late. I'm not taking it back until it's finished. At this point, it is war between us, and Gaskell, teething, sleepless nights, and general exhaustion will not take me down.

So, here's what we're talking about:

Although, I admit, I watched the movie first so I guess I should say that this is what we're talking about:

I was interested because Richard Armitage (who plays the inscrutable mill owner, Mr Thornton) also acted in the BBC's Robin Hood TV series as... Guy of Gisbourne! I'm a sucker for Robin Hood, and Armitage's Gisbourne, well, as Maid Marian put it, "had qualities". Anyway, that said, I watched the movie (and loved it) and got the book out of the library (and have truly enjoyed it in spite of the ridiculously long time it has taken me to get around to reading it).

The fact of the matter is: Gaskell doesn't write fluff. And while I'm loving reading actual literature, it's hard to tune in for 10 minutes here and there while I'm nursing Little Man or standing in line at the grocery store or snagging a quick read at a stop light. Just kidding, I don't do that any more. I'm a mom now. For shame. (Although if you're wondering how I managed to read a 300 page Erma Bombeck book in less than 24 hours, the answer is in the traffic cameras.)

Favourite thing about North and South is the exquisite use of detail to further the story. Gaskell truly is a master of the "show, don't tell" method. She has an entire paragraph that talks about how Thornton is mesmerized by the falling of a bracelet on Margaret Hale's arm, and that's when he still thinks her a horrible snob. It was incredible. She picked what would've been an insignificant detail and capitalized on it, both furthering the plot and developing her characters. Absolutely fascinating.

On that note, I'm going to stop writing and go finish North and South before the library fines bankrupt me.

Monday, August 16, 2010


The reason for no recent blogs can be encapsulated in two words: teething and cousins. I'll leave you with this awesome picture and get back to my excitingly long To Do list.

Friday, August 13, 2010


There are already too many people who mistake a love of reading for a talent for writing.
-Stanley Ellin

I'm starting a book blog. There. I said it.

I'm somewhat terrified of commitment at this time because all my writing projects have fallen by the wayside in the wake of Hurricane Baby. I love the little man, but he's rather exhausting. I suppose this is my attempt to regain some sanity and some space in my life that's not about him. And here I am talking about him already!

Moving on, here's the plan: I am reading still, little bits here and there, in between times, you know, so I thought I'd take my writing time (what there is of it) to write about what I'm reading. That way I'm not trying to focus on a full blown book or even a short story--my attention span just doesn't make it that long--but I'm getting some writing in and hopefully doing some thinking, at the very least. Besides, I think I've always loved reading more than writing, so I'm just going to capitalize on that.

Don't expect intensely intellectual posts; just reflections on the written word. And I promise more interesting posts than this first one. And an occasional guest blogger. Genres will be across the board; I like a smattering of everything. And suggestions will be taken if accompanied by a compelling argument and a hard back copy of the book you want me to read. Or just a cup of coffee. Black. With the tiniest bit of milk and sugar. Whipped cream optional.

And that's that.