Thursday, March 26, 2009

I went to Union Terrace School in Allentown yesterday to meet with the librarian there, lovely Donna Forsythe, and the Reading Specialist, delightful Barbara Mahoney. Barb is a BIG Twilight fan and was able to explain some of that series' appeal. I'm not so big on vampires.

I was there to set up a storytelling event sometime next month. On the way across the playground, I heard a little girl say to her friend, "Let me tell you a story..." Warms the very cockles of my heart.

Are you telling stories? You should! Telling stories helps you figure out who you are. No, really. There is something to be learned about a teller from the stories that he or she chooses to tell. If you have little people in your life, the stories they hear should come from you - not from the TV or the computer.

HOWEVER, there are some very good storytelling websites. StoryBee posts hundred of stories told by storytellers from all over the country, including our very own Chaz Kiernan. On StoryBee, he tells a story of a fish story gone awry.

Other stuff, in my life...I am on the hunt for a new accordion. Alex Meixner, Accordion God and my sometime teacher, is helping me. I will keep you posted and I might even post a picture of my new accordion, when I get it.

I found a series by Marion Chesney that is about far from vampires as a series can get. And it's not really new, just new to me. The Traveling Matchmaker is the series and the first book is titled Emily Goes to Exeter. It follows the adventures of former housekeeper, Hannah Pym. Left the sizable fortune of 5000 pounds when her master dies, Hannah decides to travel. She has yearned to take the stagecoach, the Flying Machine as it is called, for years. So, even though it is winter, she buys a ticket to Exeter. It is a trip of several days made much longer, and more perilous, by a blizzard.

Hannah meets a runaway bride-to-be, a jilted bridegroom, a rich widow and her gold-digging fiance and other colorful characters. She foils a murder, is almost robbed and saves a couple of people's lives. Quiet, little middle-aged Miss Pym has the adventure she always wanted. Next, she plans to travel to Bath. And I plan to go right along with her.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Whenever I see "Click here to get a free copy of this book", it's a real struggle not to click. And this is why I have piles of advanced readers' copies all over my house.

And it's also why I started reading Retail Anarchy : a radical shopper's adventure in consumption by Sam Pocker (Running Press, April 2009).

Pocker calls himself a "stand-up economist". This book is basically a rant about retail turned rancid. Pocker tells story after story of how he finds ways to get stores and manufacturers to "pay" him for using or, as the opening story shows, throwing away their products.

There are some interesting stories about couponing on steroids in this book. Two-thirds through the book, I lost interest. Pocker announces in the intro that the book has no plot. It doesn't. And it doesn't seem to have much purpose either.

So, I picked up my latest acquisition, When Skateboards Will Be Free : a memoir of a political life by Said Sayrafiezadeh, (Random House, due out March 24, 2009). Sayrafiezadeh's parents were loyal members of the Socialist Party. His father relished the thought of the violent overthrow of capitalism. His mother sacrificed everything, her career, her talent, even her needs for material things to work for the party. Said was their youngest child and spent most of his childhood with a "single" mother. Still married to her absent Iranian-born immigrant husband, his mother lived a lonely and destitute life with Said.

The book is written in shades of gray. There are some happy times in Said's childhood but he glosses over them. Happy stories are all alike but miserable tales are each miserable in their own peculiar ways - to paraphrase a classic quote. Growing up as a "young revolutionary" doesn't sound like a picnic. Said's story about going for months without grapes during the grape boycott made me wince. I didn't buy many grapes back then, either. I didn't allow my son to steal grapes as Said's mother did. Said justified these thefts as blows against capitalism while still in elementary school.

I am halfway through When Skateboards Will Be Free. I might put it down and read beach novels for a few days before I continue.

I hope Said ends up happy but his childhood experiences are keeping me awake.

Good night. Or good morning.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

I am wearing my lucky Irish socks today - made in China - but I feel hugely unlucky. I have learned the hard way of the dangers of email. Some conversations should never be entrusted to cyberspace because once "sent" clicks, that message is out there for all to see.

So, Karen will use the phone or insist on face to face meetings in the future.

Never put anything in writing - typing - or texting that can't be seen by EVERYONE.

That's my advice for the day.

Oh, and journals should be burnt after a year just in case someone "accidentally" picks one up. Journaling is great for the journalist's mental health but dangerous for relationships.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Just how many dysfunctional families have you read about? The Guardian, London's answer to the NYT, posted this literary quiz recently. I got about half the answers, so I guess my reading tends toward the light and happy, rather than the glum and quirky. You might like to take the quiz, just for fun.

I just finished Going Postal by Terry Pratchett. His stuff is great on so many levels. There is the tongue-in-cheek social commentary. Then there is his clever dialogue and quirky use of words. He creates twisted plots. His characters range from complex to amusing caricatures. Alas, there were no Wee Free Men is this book, but Pratchett compensated with a scattering of werewolves, Igors, golems and and even a banshee, to say nothing of wizards, henchmen and assassins. Pratchett's stuff can't be called easy reads but his books are definitely romps.