2011 Year-end Reading Round-up

Counting down from last year's 3381 books left to read, I've got "only" 3131 more books to enjoy. What did I think about books I've read this past year? For lists, go here, here, here and here.

And here's the 2011 reading analysis (2010 numbers in parens):

number of books read in 2011: 250 (200)
best month: August/29 (July/37)
worst month: May/12 (September/7)
average read per month: 20.8 (16.6)
adult fiction as percentage of total:  21.2 (14.5)
children's/YA fiction as percentage of total: 54.4 (43)
mystery as percentage of total: 9.6 (11.5)
Advance Readers Copies:  (106) - to be updated later
books read that were published in 2011: 172
books that will be published in 2012: 15

Five star reviews: 18 (20)
One star reviews: 11 (6)

This is what I said last year: "200 books. A nice, neat, tidy number, but wholly unexpected. I'll be very surprised to repeat that feat in 2011. And since I added 184 books, Mt. Bookpile only shrank by a mere 16, leaving my goal of <300 for next year." HA!  What did I know?  250 books read (not matching Wendy's exhortation to read a book a day, but still not bad), and despite adding books, Mt. Bookpile is down to 290!

Given that my circumstances will change in 2012, 250 is optimistic, but we'll try for 200 and further reduction on Mt. Bookpile.

Oh, and if you're looking for other lists (and To Be Read inspiration), Sherry over at Semicolon has done an amazing job of collecting booklists and year-end-round-ups.  Go.  Make a list for your 2012 reading.  Enjoy.

Notes from Mt. Bookpile

Whew! What an amazing year of reading... and this quarter brought 60. Reviews in the usual place.

Children's/Young Adult

The Road to Petra; D.C. Baramki
Mysteries of the Middle Ages; Thomas Cahill
The Perils of Peace; Thomas D. Fleming
Exploring Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials; Lois H. Gresh
The Story About the Story; J.C. Hallman
Sympathy for the Devil; Virginia A. McConnell
Living With Ghosts; Prince Michael of Greece
A Train in Winter; Caroline Moorehead
The Filter Bubble; Eli Pariser

Science Fiction/Fantasy


Notable Quotes

Things are better now, but for a while it seemed like there was a Puritanism running through children's publishing that bore no resemblance to reality.  Kids were thought to be unable to separate the mildly gross from the debauched -- to my mind, a horribly patronizing attitude.  My children adored Roald Dahl, and they had no problem separating out his diet of squashed worm sandwiches from their real dinner.  Fortunately, the socially correct tourniquet around children's books seems to be easing, but a new Big Brother arrived on the scene.  One that says, "We mustn't frighten children with long words and complexity."  It's curious to note that a first-time submission of Alice in Wonderland would probably be passed over by the majority of present-day children's book publishers, and Lewis Carroll would be piling up those little rejection slips.  It really shouldn't be a matter of choosing between Grimm and bland, but as long as we underestimate our children as much as we overestimate ourselves, we will reap the inevitably unpleasant rewards.
Nick Bantock, Artful Dodger


Another Thing

I almost called this post tertium quid, but that's an inside joke and the insiders don't read this blog... anyway, let me introduce to you Thing Three.

Who is Thing Three?  He's my BFF from college, so predates Things One and Two (and I just realized that I've numbered the Things in reverse order of how long I've known them, which must mean that a putative Thing Four would come from my HS years... or earlier).  Thing Three and I were often assumed to be "in a relationship" but never were - just ask his girlfriends.

Yes, we spent many a night together but it was talking or teching.  We originally hung out on different fringes of the same larger group but by Spring Semester of our first year, we had a schedule that synced one afternoon after lunch, so hung out and chatted while others did labs or something else.  Turned out we were both Government majors, but he was pre-theological seminary.  I was still pre-law at that time, but by junior year that dream ended as I found other things that interested me more.  He was my go-to guy for quick shopping trips off campus (or to my parents' home), for testing new recipes and for general hanging out fun.

When graduation happened, we both came to NYC.  He to start his career as a minister, me to start mine in non-profit theatre management (no, neither of us really wanted to make money then.  how idealistic we were!).  It was such a blessing to have someone nearby who was up for going to theatre (I got a lot of free tickets back then) or movies.  And yes, having a good friend in the Big Bad City made things more bearable.

Then, in 1988, he left for his first congregation.  We spoke on the phone and sent letters/cards back and forth but the inevitable happened - he met his lovely Lady Wife and I met Thing One.  For a variety of reasons we lost touch, but thanks to a mutual friend and Facebook, we're back in each other's lives.  Not the way we were, obviously, but still... I'm so grateful that he's there.

Despite my desire to declutter, having another Thing around feels good.  I'm sure you'll be hearing more about him as the blog rolls on.


Notable Quotes

I certainly believe we all suffer damage, one way or another.  How could we not, except in a world of perfect parents, siblings, neighbours, companions?  And then there is the question, on which so much depends, of how we react to the damage: whether we admit it or repress it, and how this affects our dealing with others.  Some admit the damage, and try to mitigate it; some spend their lives trying to help others who are damaged; and then there are those whose main concern is to avoid further damage to themselves, at whatever cost.  And those are the ones who are ruthless, and the ones to be careful of.
- Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending


Meeting Musings

Today was one of those days when my two religious faiths collide: the Judaism in which I was raised and the Quakerism I've chosen. Yesterday was Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, and during Meeting I mulled over this blog post about a Day of Non-Atonement Atonement.

Now, the author here seems to have stuck her tongue in her cheek, but I did think about the intent: things that I'm not particularly sorry I've done, because they were done honestly and with a pureness of spirit. For example, there are people who read this blog and believe I've blogged about them when in reality, I'm blogging about someone else (I was actually accused of this by one reader). That they read a post about a person or event, felt that it was about them and were hurt is not my fault, and if they've taken some of what I said on board and thought about changes, well, that's all to the good. Another example is when I've had to tell people things that aren't pleasant to hear but that were necessary - like when, as the head of the student theatre group in college, I had to tell a director that his play would not be produced because after weeks of rehearsal, it was no where near ready for the public. The difficult conversation should not be atoned for, ever (delivery is another thing, obviously).

This isn't to suggest that I've let myself off scott free, and there are people I'm reaching out to to say "look, I'm sorry if I made your life more difficult this past year - please forgive me for that".

The other thing that I started to mull was getting rid of my to do list. The fall is a time for beginnings, right? School starts, tv seasons start, etc., and for many of us it's another opportunity to rethink how we're doing things. So when I read Kill Your To Do List, it started to resonate with me... and then Lifehack showed me the value of a Not To Do List.

What's the tie-in between the two? Number One on my Not To Do List is to not allow others to make me feel the need to apologize because they've decided I need to - unless I have, however inadvertently, hurt them. Number Two is that I will not dwell on Number One past the conversation (whether or not there's an apology given).

May all of you be sealed in the Book of Life for this year.


Notes from Mt. Bookpile

A better-than-good quarter, with 73 read. You know where to find the reviews.

Children's/Young Adult
Science Fiction/Fantasy


Notable Quotes

"That may be true, Max," Simon said, "but I think Shelly was talking about a more imminent end.  What if you found out you only had a few months to live? Or even weeks? Do you whip out your list of 'things you need to do before you die' and race to check things off? Or do you lock your loved ones in a cottage somewhere and hug them until they can't breathe?" ...

"When you get to my age, you would hope that there wouldn't be much left to cross off.  And that's exactly how it was before I met Rose, to be honest.  I was nearly done with my short but respectable list.  But now," Jonathan said, "my list has grown quite long.  Afternoon tea, quiet walks, rainy mornings -- nothing I haven't done before, but everything I need to do now with my Rose as many times as I can, while I can."
Before Ever After, Samantha Sotto



Two years ago I posted a list of groups/musicians I've seen live. Clearly, it's time for an update, so, in no particular order:
    Eric Clapton (again) 
    Jeff Beck 
    Charlotte Gainsburg 
    Jessie Baylin 
    kd lang (again) 
    Cima Trio 
    Blondie (again) 
    Bruce Daigroponte (left off original list) 
    David Johansen 
    Larry Coryell 
    Rachid Taha

On the horizon - another visit to Sybarite5, and Ray Davies.


One of the Partner A/Parnter B's that I wrote about earlier has split up after 30 years together. 30 years. I'm sad, because while I'm related to one, I like the other (not just like - really admire) and hope we don't lose touch. Guess I'll have to take my own advice re: invitations, should the occasion arise.

Speaking of invitations, rumor has it that the wedding invitation mess has still not been resolved. The bride-to-be called Partner A in tears, only to be told that the person to apologize to is really Partner B. Thus far, Partner B has heard nothing...


In January I set a personal goal of reading 200 books (based on having read 200 books in 2010). My bigger goal, of course, is getting Mt. Bookpile below 300. Well, with 3.5 months left in the year, I'm on book 182 and Mt.B is down to 323. Of course, AASL is around the corner but I really think I can do it. Ya gotta believe, people!


You know it's a bad book when...

I have really been trying to get away from being a "clean plate reader" and moving towards recognition that life is too short for me to read bad books. 

Now, some books I do slog through because I think they'll help students or be of interest to their YA target audience, or even because I've been asked to read it for professional review.

But recently I read a book that was so bad it was almost laughable.  I read a couple of sentences to Thing One, who thought I'd read well above and beyond what was needed - I compared the book to a car wreck, so bad you just had to see what would happen next.

One of the things I love/hate about Mallory is that he tends to nuzzle what I'm reading. It's loveable, because he wants to be with Mommy, but it's annoying when I'm actually trying to read. Occasionally he loves the book so much he'll bite the pages and (once or twice) head butt my hands away from it. He didn't come near the book I just read beyond an initial nuzzle. Today, it's lying on my bed and he just literally jumped away from in as though it had shocked him. I've
never seen that reaction before.

Do I need to change my rating system from stars to nuzzles?


Meeting Musings

At the rise of Meeting the Greeter asks for what in Brooklyn we called "Not Ready for Prime-Time Messages" - officially known as Afterthoughts. These are Messages that are perhaps not quite prompted by the Inner Light but are things that have occurred to us all the same (FCE has a great flowchart describing what a Prime Time Message is here).

During yesterday's afterthoughts, one Friend said that she and her mother had been watching some of the September 11th remembrances on tv, and how she noticed that there was an attempt to include some silence during the reading of the names. She commented that today, a "moment" of silence usually was fewer than 30 seconds and how uncomfortable people are even with that length of time.

Another Friend mentioned the difference between these events and those of the 10th anniversary remembrances of the last major attack on the United States on December 7, 1951. Then, she said, there was more time for silence and it felt more somber. The barrage of images, public speakers, movies and our current need to be publicly seen to be mourning/remembering made her uncomfortable.

We agreed that as a culture, as a country, we could benefit from more silence, particularly at times like these.


Notable Quotes

"Yes," said the Inimitable, smiling towards Ceclie Macready as if in apology for the interruption of his narration. "You know the incomparable and - I would dare say - unique feeling ne has when reading. The focus of attention to the exclusion of all sensory input, other than the eyes taking in the words, one has when entering into a good book?"

"Oh, rather!" cried Dickenson. "The world just fades away. All other thoughts just fade away! All that remains are the sights and sounds and characters and world created for us by the author! One might well be anaesthetisied to the mundane world around us. All readers have had that experience."

Drood, Dan Simmons


Judging a book by its cover

You may (or may not) be interested to know how I choose which books I read and in what order.  It's a really simple system: I get books in, I put them in a pile, I semi-sort them by release date/level of interest, then I pull the top book off the pile and read.  Sometimes I mix it up a little, so that I don't read five dystopian YA novels in a row.  But mostly, that's the system for new books.  Older (Mt. Bookpile pre-2007) books are just pulled off the bookcase in clumps, put in a pile, and then read as I get to them.

I'm down to a mere ten books gotten at ALA, and so for most I don't even remember the cover.  The other day, I pulled Tempest, by Julie Cross off the pile... and promptly screamed "aaarrgh".  Then I took a photo of the cover and complained to Aravis; I then decided to share my dismay with all of you.  Note: this is my reaction to the cover, without having read the book.  My reaction to the book was actually far better!

  1. "A major success already in the making" - say whaaa???  How can it be a success in the making?  Aren't you a success after you've been made???
  2. The only way Summit Entertainment could "pre-empt" something is if they advertised Film A and then when audiences went in, surprise: It's Tempest! What they mean is "Optioned by Summit Entertainment". Seriously bad use of the language.
  3. "epic trilogy" - unless I'm really wrong, this could have been edited down to one really good book.  Plus "epic"?  Trust me, it's not on the scale of LoTR or the Iliad. Now those were epics.   Even GWTW is an epic.  This?  No.
I'm also wondering when I missed the memo that states that 99% of all debut novels are "incandescent" or "luminous".  There are many other words I see mostly in blurbs, rarely in real life, that set me off.  At least I'm not reading limn that often...


Meeting Musings

15 (or so) years ago I began attending Meeting in Brooklyn. The Meeting is relatively large, and there are usually a few messages each week. For the past six years I've been attending another, much smaller Meeting, but today I back went to Brooklyn for the first time in years.

A few things struck me: on the facing benches were seven people, with probably another 30-40 on the other benches. My current Meeting is lucky to get seven in one week! Brooklyn has heat and electricity, my Meeting does not (well, not in the Meetinghouse, but the First Day School has both). And Brooklyn has people who serve as Greeters, those who close Worship and then a social hour committee - at mine, you do everything on "your" week (and if it's winter, you get there 2-3 hours early so that the wood stoves can warm the place up for others). It was good to be back at Brooklyn, but the outside noise was city noise, while I've become accustomed to country noise.

That led me to thinking about one of the people I follow on Twitter, @robinmsf. She's been live-tweeting Pennsylvania and New England Yearly Meeting, among other things. And BBC Radio 4 has a broadcast called "Sunday Worship". I can't imagine live-tweeting my Meeting - what would one say? - much less broadcast a Meeting for Worship!


Sometimes, life is good

The past few days have really made me realize how lucky I am in terms of many of the people in my life. Somehow, without quite realizing it, I've ended up with many really great friends and I am truly grateful.

Two quick examples:

Yesterday I went to see Comedy of Errors at Boscobel. It was suggested by a former colleague/friend - we'd picnic and then see the show. Now, she's not just someone with whom I worked, she's also a member of the "80/84" club, and the mother of two of my students (one of whom is featured in my upcoming webinar). So this wasn't going to be the two of us, it'd be all four. And it was fun seeing her and the boys, as well as another student currently working at HVSF. If someone had asked me last year, I'd have never considered her as someone to spend time outside work with, but I'm so glad I did.

Then today I spent time with my sister-in-books, Aravis. She's helping me rework the Meeting's website* (to be honest, I'm not doing much more than providing login information while she's doing all the heavy lifting). Once again I realized how lucky I am to have her in my life. We talked books, health, school, etc. and then got down to work. All this and I got laptop envy (she has this, which isn't available any more so I got this to replace my dead laptop and soon-to-die desktop). What'd she get out of the bargain? Lunch and a bag'o'books (mostly ARCs). Seems unfair somehow.

And those are only two examples! I've gotten some great phone calls and e-mails from people recently, some with invitations to get together with friends... it's almost enough to make this homebody/lazygal get busy socializing!

* credit also to Thing Two for helping with the initial set-up of the site


Culture Vulturing

So, how does Lazygal spend her time January through June, besides reading? Well, this Lazygal watched a ton of tv... rented 31 movies and 8 tv series from Netflix... and then there were the shows and concerts. Herewith the reviews:

January brought John Gabriel Borkman at BAM. Don't know the play? Then you clearly weren't reading my blog back then, when I reviewed the play.

February was That Championship Season, with Keifer Sutherland, Chris Noth, Jason Patric and others. The language was dated - but the themes were timeless. If you don't know the play (or movie) it's the reunion of a championship basketball team at their coaches. Things Get Said... Incidents Revealed. Of course there's tension and the Big Resolution scene. The surprise for me was Jason Patric, whom I really didn't know as an actor. Noth was, well, solid and Keifer had a few Jack Bauer-like moments, but it really was Patric that struck me. Someone to watch for!

In March I spent a wonderful night listening to the Sima Trio play at an unusual location - DROM. The combination of ethnic and classical music in a more rock setting was interesting, as was the crowd. It was a short concert, only five numbers, but it felt like more would have been too much. They're playing similar, small venues and I recommend seeing them.

April was not the cruelest month - it was the busiest. First came Company, the all-star concert version that has been playing in movie theatres and will probably become a whine week staple on PBS. Much of it was enjoyable, but nothing grabbed me and made me think "wow!". Maybe it was the all-star casting, some not known for their musical abilities (Stephen Colbert) or the fact that they didn't have much time to rehearse as an ensemble. Most numbers were sketchy in terms of choreography, which was understandable. The two disappointments for me were Patti LuPone's "Ladies Who Lunch" and Neil Patrick Harris' "Being Alive". While Patti's voice didn't do that annoying warble it occasionally lapses into, I didn't feel the song the way I have done (as when Elaine Stritch or even Barbara Walsh sing it); NPH was perfectly fine up to the end, but, sadly, his voice just didn't carry "Being Alive". All-in-all, this was an all-star version of a high school production.

Then came King Lear, starring the incredible Derek Jacobi. The set was very minimalist, so your imagination had to take you to the locale: the rainstorm was one of those amazing stunts that will stick in my mind. Of course the acting was up to Jacobi's standard, with Gina McKee's Goneril reminding me a little of her Irene Forsythe. The other sisters were credible, but the real drama was the Edmund/Edgar conflict, with Edmund chewing what scenery there was and Edgar quietly going about his business.

Finally, there was kd lang previewing her new album at La Poisson Rouge. Despite a long wait to get into the venue, and the overheated space, it was so worth it. She's in good voice, and the intimate setting highlighted that. Having seen her at much larger spaces (Radio City, for example), I can say that the smaller space is better. So if you have the option, grab it. And kd? She could sing the phone booth and sound incredible. It's still one of the great puzzles that she's not a bigger star than she is.

Finally, we come to May and War Horse. Sniff! The story is obvious, with the big emotional moments telegraphed from miles away. Since this is based on a children's book, there's little subtlety. And yet... somehow, it works. Yes, those are puppets (amazing puppets, but puppets all the same) on stage. And yes, the message hits you over the head. But if you don't respond to the show, well, there's something wrong with you. My favorite puppet was actually the goose, which was really one of those push toys the children have, but within a few moments the goose had become real. I went with Thing One and another friend; the friend and I were in tears, as was most of the audience, while Thing One was dry-eyed. Says a lot about Thing One, doesn't it? And I honestly believe that the Speilberg movie version will lack that emotional punch, so come to NYC and see the play instead.

This fall is currently a little sparse, with Blondie at the Highline my only current plans.  However, one never knows... and Thing One did want to see a lot of ballet last year.  Maybe this year, we will.


Notes from Mt. Bookpile

Not as stellar a quarter as last quarter - "only" 48 books read. And, of course, going to ALA added a great number of books to Mt. Bookpile so I'd better get reading! Of course, all reviews are over on Killin' Time Reading...


Children's/Young Adult
Science Fiction/Fantasy


Cue Lena Lovich!

I've got a new toy:

What was that about demolishing Mt. Bookpile?


A now-that-summer's-here PSA

Coincidentally, this evening I was purchasing groceries and overheard the following conversation between the check-out girl and the bagger:

Check-out Girl: are we really going to Jones Beach later?  because if we are, I need to get some suntan lotion
Bagger: Oh, I've got some
Check-out Girl: It can't have high SPF because I want to tan - I'm so pale

Me: NOooooooo!  I just got back from having two biopsies at the dermatologist; last time I tanned was over 30 years ago and now's when I'm seeing the damage.

Friends don't let friends tan.  Seriously.


Book semi-rant

I recently read a book, The Borrower, that disturbed me. Not in a good way (as Drought did for several students I loaned my ARC to), but in that angry way that made me feel that some of my time had been wasted.

Why? Because I just didn't buy the premise. An English teacher friend said that fiction only works if you buy the premise, believe the world created. For example, Ethan Frome didn't work for me because the idea of suicide-by-toboggan just isn't credible. That small – but critical – part of the book ruined the rest of it for me. Anyway, I just couldn't believe Lucy's character. There were several reasons:
  • She firmly believes in the First Amendment. This is stated several times, and she argues that this might be because she isn't “really” a librarian, not having a MLS, which somehow means she's not covered by the Library Bill of Rights. Now, I'm not for censorship (I was raised by parents who, for better or worse, allowed me to read virtually anything I wanted – Jaws being a notable exception, one I'm still puzzled by over 30 years later). But working in a school you learn that you need to understand your community, and if a book's not appropriate, it's not appropriate. I wouldn't put a book like Lolita in a Lower School library, but if a parent wants their 4th grader to read that book, they're perfectly free to buy or borrow a copy elsewhere. And if a parent says that they don't want their child to read a specific book, I can ask why or discuss it, but I won't go behind their back. Lucy does, vis-a-vis Ian. All the time.
  • Her love of the First Amendment does not extend to the Second Amendment. This is something I've noticed elsewhere (Pastor Jones, are you listening?!). If the reason a book is off-limits to a child is because it doesn't fit with the family's religious leanings, who am I to say that their religion is wrong? Years ago, one of my students told me she wasn't allowed to read Harry Potter because of the magic elements. Could I help? I suggested she ask her mother what exactly the objections were – there are similar elements in the Narnia books, there are no magic 'recipes' for students to follow, and the themes of good v. evil and standing up for/with your friends were central to the plots. She talked to her mother and was allowed to read them. Had her mother not changed her mind, I would not have helped her circumvent her mother's wishes.

Those two elements, contrasted with her passivity in all other areas, just made her a completely unbelievable character.

This isn't just a rant, it's a question: can one character or event ruin a book for you, too? Or is it just me?


Notes from Mt. Bookpile

Even for me, this was a banner quarter: 71 books read. Reviews over on Killin' time reading...

Children's/Young Adult





Books on Mt. Bookpile: 336
Added: 93
Net gain/loss: Treading water... I think...


Tyrranny of the Reply All

Today, going through my e-mail, I've noticed a marked increase in the number of Reply All messages.  It makes me wonder why...

There are definitely times when it's important, as it was when some friends and I were setting up times to talk about a presentation.  Then you want to make sure that everyone is seeing that you saw the previous posts and are able to make a decision based on previous information (rather than something in some side conversation).  And there are times when brainstorming or joking also builds on previous comments.

But most of the time, like if you're asked to participate in an event, or if a general query is thrown out to a large group, that it just becomes so much e-mail clutter.  It seems to happen most on e-lists, when several people will give the same (public) answer over the course of an afternoon - of course, many aren't reading the responses, just quickly trying to be helpful.  Still... e-mail clutter.  Sending a private message, with the assumption that some sort of round-up of responses will be forwarded to the larger group.

What most goes through my mine?  "Are you responding because it's important to the conversation, or because it's important that you are seen to be responding to the conversation"

Thus endeth today's rant.


Notable Quotes

In a shipwreck, someone always drowns.
Henrik Ibsen, John Gabriel Borkman


Culture Vulturing

Earlier this month, my friend the E-techer and I were having lunch and she mentioned the culture vulturing post I'd recently done.  Apparently her otherwise wonderful husband wouldn't even consider going to these events, and she was jealous that not only did Thing One want to go, he'd suggested some of the plays (her amazement and jealousy grew when I said that Thing One originally said this was the year "he wanted to see more ballet").  Of course, Thing Two is closer to Mr. E-tech's way of thinking, so...

Let's not dwell on the fact that I had squealing teen girls in my car on the train ride down, shall we?  Instead, let's focus on the fact that Cyd is settling in nicely, and seeing The Girls was something to which I was looking forward.

Considering that I've had a place to lay my head in what's known as "Brownstone Brooklyn" since 1993, you'd think I'd know more places to eat than I do.  Problem is, I tend to be a creature of habit and places like Cafe on Clinton were a good habit to have.  So it's a bit embarrassing that I learned about a wonderful French restaurant via a British blogger, Swisslet.  Last night was our second dinner there (we've also had brunch there once) and once again we left saying "we must eat there more."  The soupe aux oignons was among the best I've had, and the osso bucco was yummy.  Dessert for me was a trio of creme brulee, and while the regular and Nutella versions were ok, the lemon version was heavenly.  (Thing One enjoyed his meal, too, but he can rave about that in the comments if he's so moved).  Also, who knew that Michigan had good vineyards?  Seriously?  Well, Gamay Noir has made it on to my Must Drink list.

Two bottles and a good meal later, we left to head to BAM.  Thanks to the snow, and it being a Saturday evening, buses along Atlantic Avenue weren't running frequently, so we walked to the theatre.  Remind me to get new snowboots.  Our seats were in the balcony, and I'm not the best at heights but they were wonderful seats.  What were we seeing?  The Abbey Theatre's transfer of John Gabriel Borkman, an Ibsen play. The big draw, of course, was Alan (squee!!) Rickman... but I've seen Fiona Shaw before and had just finished watching Lindsey Duncan in "Shooting the Past" (haven't see it?  add it to your Netflix queue now! and ignore the fact that Timothy Spall is now ubiquitous).  

My first thoughts were that I hoped they hadn't spent money on the set (sparse furnishings among snow drifts) because I was sure that the parking garage next door could spare a few shovelsful.  When the play started, I was happy that the audience didn't do the awful American thing of applauding the Big Star when he or she arrives on stage, before they've said (or sung) one word.  As for plot, think Madoff... Lay... or any financial scandal of the past few years.  How prescient of Ibsen to write this over 100 years ago!  John Gabriel Borkman (referred to by his wife as "Him" or "the bank manager") embezzled a fortune, of course it was for the good of the people but it still led to 11 years of official incarceration, and 8 years isolated on the second floor of his house, now owned by his sister-in-law (and first love), who bought the house when it was auctioned off to recover assets.  

Ella and Gunhhild are locked in a battle over Erhart, the heir to the Borkman name and hope for its redemption.  He, on the other hand, is involved with Mrs. Wilton, a - gasp! - divorcee and wants nothing more than to leave Norway with his love.  Much declaiming and speechifying later, Erhart is gone, John Gabriel is dead, and the twin sisters are left holding hands in the snow.  Of course the acting was excellent, and the script was surprisingly fast-paced (none of that second act drag).  Had we seen this at the start of the run, the snow set (including second act snowstorm) wouldn't have been so humorous.

So that was the first of my planned theatrical experiences this year... stay tuned for further adventures!


Fashionable changes

I forget which of my friends suggested that I watch The Last of Sheila (Cam?), but it's one of those Great Cast films the 70s were noted for: James Mason, Raquel Welsh, Dyan Cannon, Ian McShane and others all having fun cruising the Mediterranean playing a mystery game based on the hit-and-run accident that killed Sheila.

This isn't great acting by any stretch, and the unnatural speech patterns (reminiscent of how my grandmother spoke thanks to her rhetoric classes) are sort of funny in retrospect. What's interesting is not just the outdated hairstyles, but the body types. Men have hair, not just above their eyes and on top of their heads, and none seem to have "gym bulk" or 6-packs. Women aren't size 0 (or less), but have slender - but realistically so - bodies.

I've heard many times that by today's standards, Marilyn Monroe would be considered fat (yet is still thought to be gorgeous by many people). Seventeen magazine decided, several years ago, to focus on "normal" body types yet managed to have a complete disconnect between editorial and advertising. Milan ruled that there were to be limits on how thin runway models could be. Healthy does not equal near-starvation weight.

So why are we still obsessed with unnaturally thin? Maybe our national obesity crisis would lessen if we didn't aspire to an unattainable goal. What do you think?


Airing the laundry

I know it's fashionable in most librarian circles to hate the Annoyed Librarian - he/she/it is soooo negative, or soooo reactionary, or some such. Of course, I take the "I never read the blog" statements with as many grains of salt with which I take "I never watch tv (except for certain PBS shows... documentaries... the occasional Iron Chef marathon... sports)" comments. If you know what AL is saying, you're reading the blog. One of the AL's overriding themes is that critical thinking about our profession is akin to airing the family's laundry in public.

A while ago I was involved in what could have been a controversial article in a national library-related publication. One of the darlings of my professional world was being called into question, and people were up in arms that the editor would dare to do this. The article was never released because of the pressure. No, there's no paper trail, and if I have any proof it's lost somewhere in my backed up files in cyberspace.

Here's the thing: we should publicly call into question our own deepest beliefs, personally and professionally. We should ask pointed questions about why we hold certain truths to be true, forcing ourselves and others to assess the situation. Perhaps we're wrong. Perhaps we've been right all along. But to not allow public questioning and comments? To say this piece of research or that trend doesn't seem quite right? That seems antithetical to being a librarian.

Doesn't it?


Culture Vulturing, future tense

I'm so psyched: my theatre plans for the next few months are all in place, thanks to Thing One's quick thinking (and ordering).

January is a trip to BAM for John Gabriel Borkman (an Ibsen play I've never heard of, have you?).  Then February brings That Championship Season, while April is back to BAM for Derek Jacobi's portrayal of  King Lear (haven't seen him live since Cyrano).  Finally, May is the NT's transfer of War Horse.



Year-end Reading Round-up, 2010 edition

Counting down from last year's 3581 books left to read, I've got "only" 3381 more books to enjoy. What did I think about books I've read this past year? For lists, go here, here, here and here.

And here's the 2010 reading analysis (2000 numbers in parens):

number of books read in 2009: 200 (192)
best month: July/37 (March/35)
worst month: September/7 (September/7)
average read per month: 16.6 (16)
adult fiction as percentage of total: 14.5  (17)
children's/YA fiction as percentage of total: 43 (51)
mystery as percentage of total: 11.5 (5)
Advance Readers Copies: 106 (115)
books read that were published in 2010: 125
books that will be published in 2011: 10

Five star reviews: 20 (12)
One star reviews: 6 (10)
(don't know if this means I've gone soft, or if there was more "good stuff" this year)

200 books. A nice, neat, tidy number, but wholly unexpected. I'll be very surprised to repeat that feat in 2011. And since I added 184 books, Mt. Bookpile only shrank by a mere 16, leaving my goal of <300 for next year.

Notes from Mt. Bookpile

The final round-up of 2010... Reviews are over on Killin' Time Reading...

Children's/Young Adult


  • Integrated Advisory Service; Jessica E. Moyer