The pressure is on

A friend begged me to watch a movie. They'd found it transformative and felt that I should share in their experience. So, being a good friend, I put it on Netflix and it's almost at the top of my queue.

I've often dropped everything and read a book when a student comes and tells me that they really, really loved it. And I do try to put myself in their place as I read it: what was so special (if they weren't able to articulate it for me beforehand). Sometimes, though, the love just isn't there. At those times, I try to come up with ways to talk about the book that validates their experience without making them feel that somehow there was something wrong because I didn't have the same reaction.

My fear with this movie is that it won't transform my life, that it'll be ok and nothing more. Facing my friend and explaining that might not be so easy.


Thing Two asks

At the end of his comment here, Thing Two asks:
PS - Apropos of the "not the intended audience" thing. I am interested in the mental gymnastics which older readers mus go through when they read this stuff as part of their job. Is this a learned behaviour which comes with training, professionalism and experience?
Now, he knows that I read many, many books for which I am not the intended audience. So, how do I do it?

Well, part of it is what C.S. Lewis once said:
"No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally – and often far more – worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond."

"A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest."
(ok, he said two things. sue me.)

Thing is, I do sometimes question what I've read. Is it a bad book, or is it that I'm just too old to appreciate it? Often, as in The Case of Origami Yoda, I can see why younger readers will like it even if it doesn't really excite me. A book like Savvy, on the other hand, can interest both me and teen readers (even though a year or so later, we now remember the interminable bus trip and little else). Sometimes I check my reaction by asking students at MPOW what they think (there's a great group of readers I can led ARCs to when I'm puzzled); it's rare that we have wildly divergent opinions.

Maybe that means that I'm not a good reader. Certainly I'd fail as a reader in the way the English teachers would like for me to read: I don't care about most of the elements that they want students to find and analyze. "Close" reading is beyond me. And maybe that's a good thing given the books I read.

I dunno. What do you think, reading peeps?


Shock of recognition

I don't often talk about my family, and even less about my sister. She's younger than I and we're very, very different. Our political, religious and intellectual lives don't intersect, nor do we connect on any emotional level. We also do not look anything like each other, so if we were all at the same party and you were only introduced to us by first name, you'd never guess there was a relationship.

About a month ago my parents called. They're revising their wills and wanted to make sure that they'd gotten right the list of things that I and she wanted. That way, there'd be no fighting over the important stuff (everything else is to be divided pretty much equally). Unsurprisingly, there's almost no overlap in what I'd like to keep and what she'd like to keep.

The one area of overlap is a figurine. It's a hippo made of some metal substance, not particularly exceptional in terms of beauty or craft. What makes it important is that it lives on a shelf in the front hallway to my parent's house and serves as the paperweight underneath which things like letters, signed notes, money and stamps were left. When I left for school in the morning, my lunch money would "under the hippo"... something to be mailed would be "under the hippo"... you get the picture.

We both wanted this hippo. I guess we're related after all.


FW: Ever thought about adopting a greyhound?

)from a friend at MPOW

Ever thought about adopting a greyhound?

In October my family adopted a greyhound named Shawn from a local organization called Greyhound Rescue and Rehab (http://www.greyhoundrescuerehab.org/). Greyhounds have been in the news recently since many states have closed their tracks due to the economy or new regulations banning greyhound racing. The Massachusetts track where Shawn raced closed in December, and there are now approximately 150-200 hounds who need forever homes.

Greyhounds are calm, docile and very friendly. Contrary to what you might have heard, they do not need a lot of exercise and are described as 40 miles per hour couch potatoes. Shawn runs around my fenced-in yard for 10-15 minutes and then sleeps. Seriously this is what he does all day!

If you have ever thought about adopting a rescue greyhound, please go to the GRR site and check out the Available for Adoption tab on the left. I've also added a link below to a video news piece that aired on Fox 5 News yesterday. The other link is to the reporter's blog about her adoption process. January 20 on-air segment. Lisa Murphy’s blog

Thanks for letting me share Shawn and GRR with you

Put the brakes on loshon hora

I used to see that bumper sticker on all the station wagons parked in the neighborhood I lived in pre-Thing One. Of course, being the bad Jew that I am, I had no idea what that meant, but I did look it up. It's human nature that when you're with a group of friends, sometimes it's not easy to engage in a little gossip, a little "I know this about that person/event"... but sometimes it goes a little too far for my comfort.

The other day I was speaking with a colleague. She has a new head of department this year and I was asking how things were going - was this being a good year for her professionally? She said yes, it was, that the new head was bringing in some new ideas and had been helpful to her in thinking about the program. Then asked if the rest of the department was having an equally good year. She replied that she avoided talking about these things because she didn't want to hear the gossip and nasty backbiting that some of the others delight in.

I was thinking about this as I returned from ALA to find e-mails from friends who has not been able to attend. Some asked about the YALSA pre-conference, others about committee meetings and gatherings. A few asked about mutual friends. And a couple pointedly asked "what gossip did you hear? what about [name] or [name]? what happened with [event/situation]?" The thing is, I'm not comfortable running down colleagues professionally, or personally.

Yes, there's a fine line between saying "I heard that [name] is going through a difficult time" while trying to figure out a way to support them, or sharing information/news about a school program or colleague, and it's another to (as the Torah says) make derogatory or damaging statement against an individual.

One of my goals is, as those bumper stickers reminded the community, to put the brakes on loshon hora.



Despite being only .5" over the cut-off from being "petite", I don't think any one would accuse me of being small. Most might apply "zaftig" to my physique.

So could some one please explain to me how it is that I am unable to get The Boys to allow me to get out of bed on the side closest to the bathroom? I mean, I'm at least 10x their size!


A few well-spent hours

Good things sometimes happen when I'm at a conference... and this time, quite a few were packed into a mere 36 hours.
  • hanging with friends and meeting some incredibly smart people
  • the Death March to nowhere
  • getting carded partway through that Death March (watching the doorman's face when he saw my age on my ID, then Amy's age on hers? priceless)
  • 47 ARCs in 30 minutes
  • Flour Bakery
Best part? Exploring a new area of Boston, city of my birth!

Are you a real friend?

I'm thinking about trust in the sense of "can I trust you to tell me the truth". There are some things going on in my life that I'd love real feedback on, not loving reassurances and biased thoughts. I admit, some of my concerns about the truthfulness of the comments come from my parents. They were the kind of parents that believed whatever book they read on how to be good parents that one should always encourage their child's endeavors. Now, I'm all for encouraging. But really, I never believed them when they suggested that I was a budding Pavlova... Chagall... Julia Child. If I knew I was really just adequate (and sometimes not even that!), why didn't they?

Back in the present day, I tend to be wary of people who overpraise what I've done or who provide no critical component to their commentary. It's one of the reasons I like being with Thing Two. You see, he doesn't like me all that much and that seeps into his comments. What's the phrase? "I must be cruel to be kind"?

So, can I trust you?


Ninja-gal strikes again*

That's the pile of 47 (yes, 47) ARCs I got a ALA Midwinter - most of them in one half-hour surgical strike during the exhibits opening celebration. As of this morning, I'm two down, 45 to go... and if I keep up last year's pace, I should be finished by late March,

(* the ninja title was given to me by mk and Amy)


Don't yell at me!

I'm not talking to you, gentle reader, but to authors. Two authors specifically, but others have also crossed the line. What line? The line between writing and yelling, between forcefully making a point and polemic that hurts to read.

During my recent Winter Break, I read Doctorow's Little Brother and then recommended it to Thing Two. His feeling was that the points being made (about security and privacy) were being made Forcefully, and that perhaps he (being almost exactlly my advanced age) was not the intended audience. That ties in to my reading of the book: its hyperbolic stance on privacy and the overreaching of government agencies in the name of security are intended for a younger audience, and one that is less well-informed about what's going on in the world today. Goading readers into being informed and involved does not always make for a good read.

The other book was Lionel Shriver's So Much For That, which I actaully could not finish. The characters appeared to exist only to advance his cause (the inequities of the health care system), with diseases and problems so intense that they couldn't possibly have been created for another reason. There was no moderation here, no character that made me, the reader, feel that I was seeing the action through their eyes. Instead, the constant lectures made me run as fast as possible to another, calmer read.

I'm not saying that having a cause, or that the need to inform/cajole is a bad thing when writing. But to me, the best books are those that don't make that their only raison d'etre. Those books that do owe their lives to a cause don't feel organic, they feel forced. The characters are there to serve the cause - rarely living in my mind as I'm reading.

So please, authors, if there's something that you desperately need to convey to your readers, consider waiting until a story happens; hammering a square character into a round plot just leads to dead trees and weary readers.


Say hello!

Credit: National Delurking Week logo by Breastfeeding 1-2-3 from Computer Monitor with permission from weirdvis (feel free to copy with link to both)

Yes, it's National Delurking Week. Stop by, say hello - I'll be doing the same over on my favorite blogs (see sidebar)

Notable Quotes

Most people want to connect with authentic people. People they can be themselves with. Not people they feel they need to compete with.

We run ourselves down trying to keep up with our image. When the image is just a mirage anyway. And our bodies become weary, our souls dry until there is even less of our real selves.

Soon only the image remains.


A new meme

I found this meme while looking at Cam's Small Pond and am dragging it here!
f you leave a comment on this post, I will:

1. Tell you why I befriended you.
2. Associate you with something - fandom, a song, a color, a photo, etc.
3. Tell you something I like about you.
4. Tell you a memory I have of you.
5. Ask something I've always wanted to know about you.
6. Tell you my favorite user pic of yours.

In return, you must post this in your blog.

For those of you too lazy to go over to her blog, here's our Q&A:

1. Why I befriended you: Well, we're obviously not LJ friends, but we friended each other back on the old ReadersVine, and there must have been a reason. :-) Can't recall whether we met in a chat room or via a random IM, but as you were in the "Lewis" family and I have always had a thing for CSL, that was probably an early point of contact.

2. I associate you with... New York City!

3. Something I like: You have great taste in comics! I've picked up several favorites from your links list.

4. Favorite memory: At least once, you pointed my then- blogging hero Terry Teachout to a post of mine, and then forwarded me the short email response from him indicating that he'd read it (and maybe even thought it was interesting-- wouldn't you know, I can't find the email at the moment, though I keep everything!). This tickled me.

5. Question: How did you find your way to the Quakers from... your background is Jewish, right? (If this is too personal, say so-- I can delete this comment & try again.)

6. Favorite pic: I like the Facebook one with your nose peeking above the book.

For the record, the answer to Q5 is rather long and complicated - it starts in 1976, when my mother's father died (along with most of my Jewish faith) and ends in 1995, when I started working at a Quaker school. The rest, as they say, is history. If that's not enough of an answer, clamor here and I'll fill in all the blanks... or at least those fit for publication.


It's the humidity...

Since moving to my wonderful "country home", I've noticed that Bogie (aka Monster) has spent more time grooming, and been more... well... determined about it. We went to the vet, who couldn't find anything wrong and suggested Feeliway to alleviate any stress. That seemed to work but then, winter hit again and the aggressive grooming started again - he's now got patches on his arms and legs that are nearly bare.

Was all this country living getting to him? Did he pine for the noise of Brooklyn (or the horribly cold cottage we lived in between Brooklyn and Country Life)?

Then I had a brainwave: I have an oil heater. My skin was dryer than usual, perhaps his was, too. So now we have a humidifier in the bedroom and he seems to be much happier.

Best purchase I've ever made, and one I highly recommend to anyone who uses oil heat.


Notable Quotes

The margins of a book can be well trodden pathways, where there is always the chance if an unexpected meeting


Year End Reading Round-up

Counting down from last year's 3773 books left to read, I've got 3581 more books enjoy. 319 of them are sitting on Mt. Bookpile as I type!

What did I think about books I've read this past year? For lists, go here, here, here and here.

And here's the 2009 reading analysis (2008 numbers in parens):

number of books read in 2009: 192 (180)
best month: March - 35
worst month: September - 7
average read per month: 16 (15)
adult fiction as percentage of total: 17 (6)
children's/YA fiction as percentage of total: 51 (65)
mystery as percentage of total: 5 (13)
Advance Readers Copies: 115
books read that were published in 2009: 140
books that will be published in 2010: 10

Five star reviews: 12
One star reviews: 10

192 books... Never thought I'd top last year's 180, but, well, I did (yay me)! What will 2010 bring? Fewer, I suspect. Of course, my goal of eroding Mt. Bookpile down past 300 was not met. No, sadly, I added 185 books, so there was a net loss of 8; at this rate, I'll level Mt. Bookpile in, oh, 2040.

Other reading/book round-ups:
Asking the Wrong Questions
So Many Books
Core Collections
The Guardian (two articles!)
Hey Lady, Whatcha Reading?
Bookgirl's Nightstand
Bookshelves of Doom

And many, many links at Semicolon


Notes from Mt. Bookpile

Another mild quarter: 44 books read. All reviews over on Killin' Time Reading.

  • Finding My Place; Traci L. Jones
  • Lit; Mary Karr
  • Under a Red Sky; Haya Leah Molnar
  • Inside the Jihad: My Life with Al Qaeda; Omar Nasiri
  • I'm Down; Mishna Wolff
Children's/Young Adult
  • Candor; Pam Bachorz
  • The Time Pirate; Ted Bell
  • Stealing Death; Janet Lee Carey
  • School of Fear; Gitty Daneshvari
  • The Magicians; Lev Grossman
  • The Thirteen Treasures; Michelle Harrison
  • Freaks and Revelations; Davida Wills Hurwin
  • Fallen; Lauren Kate
  • The Faceless Ones; Derek Landy
  • Birthmarked; Caragh M. O'Brien
  • Witch and Wizard; James Patterson
  • The Boy Who Couldn't Sleep and Never Had To; DC Pierson
  • The Book of Samuel; Erik Raschke
  • Keeping Corner; Kashmira Sheth
  • The Rescuers/Miss Bianca/The Turret; Margery Sharp
  • When You Reach Me; Rebecca Stead
  • Kiss; Jacqueline Wilson
  • Everything Asian; Sun J. Woo
  • War Dances; Sherman Alexie
  • The Dower House; Annabel Davis-Goff
  • Little Brother; Cory Doctorow
  • So Much for That; Lionel Shriver
  • An Irish Country Doctor; Patrick Taylor
  • The Way We Were; Marcia Willett
  • The Chosen One; Carol Lynch Williams
  • The Eternal Kiss: 13 Vampire Tales of Blood and Desire; Trisha Telep
  • The Brutal Telling, A Fatal Grace, A Rule Against Murder and Still Life; Louise Penny
  • Queen Victoria and the Bonapartes; Theo Aronson
  • Walking Chicago; Ryan Ver Berkmoes
  • Totally Wired: What Teens and Tweens Are Really Doing Online; Anastasia Goodstein
  • Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend; Irene S. Levine
  • American-Made: The Enduring Legacy of the WPA: When FDR Put the Nation to Work; Nick Taylor
Science Fiction/Fantasy
  • Nation and Unseen Academicals; Terry Pratchett
  • Things We Didn't See Coming; Steven Amsterdam

Links Galore