Tag Archives: books

2011 Goals – An Update

Picture I made for my goals article

Image via Wikipedia

Oy.

That’s the update.

Half the year done, and I haven’t done JACK.

Let’s go over the list, shall we?

Work on being a better photographer.  I’ve barely taken any pictures, those I have taken have been on my cell phone, and I haven’t charged my digital camera in months.

Strive to write every day.  I wasn’t doing well with this one previously, but in the last three or four weeks I’ve been doing better.  I have been writing every day.  And I feel much better.

Delightfully Happy blog – now defunct.  I really wanted to succeed with this one, but I just couldn’t keep it up.  Not because I couldn’t find something to be happy about every day, but because I had so much going on I didn’t have time to post.  I kept a list in MS Word for a while, hoping to post as I had time, but I got so far behind I finally gave up.

Do not keep Netflix movies longer than 2 weeks.  Miserable fail.  I’ve had one for at least two months, I swear.  But now, with Netflix’s new pricing, I soon won’t have any DVDs from Netflix to keep, so…Win?

Use new veggies.  Um, yeah.  I did Baby Eggplant.  And I think I did another veggie.  But yet another massive fail.

Watch more hockey.  Fail.

Visit 5 places in the 1000 Places to See Before You Die list.  Nada.  Yet.  I plan on going to Charleston in a couple of months.  I looked into the Spoleto Festival, and it wasn’t quite what I expected (or was interested in, to be honest).

Watch movies from the AFI list.  Count:  0

Read 12 books from the BBC 100 List.  Now, I did try, I swear.  I read Wuthering Heights, and hated every second of it.  Then I tried reading Love in the time of Cholera, and I wanted to dig my eyeballs out so I couldn’t read it anymore.  I didn’t finish.  And that’s when I gave up.  (Although, I have started reading Pride and Prejudice, and am so far enjoying it.)

Overall, as you can tell, massive fail.  But I did so well last year – do I get credit for that?

How are you doing on your 2001 resolutions and goals?

Plenty Enough Suck to Go Around

Plenty Enough Suck to Go Around: A Memoir of Floods, Fires, Parades, and Plywood, by Cheryl Wagner

I was at the library one day, picking up some research material for the book I’m working on, and this book caught my eye. There I am, walking down the aisle, and this book was at the end of one row, facing out, and I stopped, backed up, and looked at it. (Score one for the importance of cover art.)

The title intrigued me – there’s certainly enough suck in this world. I flipped it over and read the back, and discovered it was about post-Katrina New Orleans. I shrugged – why not, it’s the library, it’s free.

I got 9 pages in while my car was being inspected. There’s a dog named Aunt Clotilde Robichaux. Author Cheryl Wagner and her boyfriend Jake would occasionally talk with their neighbor across a fence “a ‘crazy white family’ had erected in the sixties.” The author’s mother’s official name is Lizzie, not Elizabeth, possibly due to a case of “classic New Orleans ineptitude.” She talks about her widowed mom moving in with her aunt: “I like to think of these two in the late seventies and early eighties dancing down their front steps for the Krewe of Shut-Ins parade with us kids cheering them on. Old woman in a worn housecoat shaking her rump, showing the young mother how you wriggle free of life’s palls.”

After my car was inspected, I met a friend for a movie. I showed the book to her, read a couple of bits, and told her she would probably like it…especially since she knows New Orleans far better than I do. She was going to download a sample on her kindle.

I kept reading, through their evacuation, through a chapter of email exchanges that had me in tears, from the hope that maybe their Mid-City neighborhood was fine, to the anger and rage over the reports of the evacuation and response, to the disappointment of finding out their neighborhood was very much under water, to the worry of wondering how long the wiring can be submerged before it goes bad.

“The next ten days hurt. All the LSU hurricane doomsday guy’s dire prognostications were coming true. Fire, floods, floods on fire. The giant ball of floating ants arrived. Our governor and mayor were on the television with eyes red from crying.” They started getting reports from friends, of people stuck on balconies or roofs or dangling from trees, people laying dead on the sidewalk. “No one had ever called me to say things like that, much less so many people.” And there they were, stuck in Florida, unable to help, not knowing what was left of their house or their belongings or their neighborhood. Wagner started doing what she could, trying to get people rescued from wherever they were stuck by reposting posts from message boards onto the Coast Guard Rescue website. “It seemed inconceivable that this could help, yet also inconceivable that people were posting desperate SOSs on the Web that trapped relatives had phoned to them in the first place.” After one more piece of bad news, this time from her mom, Wagner seems to lose it. “What the fuck. If anybody was doing his damn job, this wouldn’t be going on so long. People’s minds are breaking.”

Finally, Wagner and her boyfriend Jake couldn’t take it anymore. They were determined to get back into the city, to check on their house, to start the cleanup, to keep the thieves away, and to HELP. Since New Orleans was under Martial Law, they were afraid they would have to sneak in, hiking along River Road or impersonating medical personnel. Wagner was able to get press passes, they got Hep and Tetanus shots, and finally got back into the city. It looked like the set of a zombie movie – there was no one there. They dumped some dog food when they saw stray dogs, dropped some water off with stray people. When they finally got to their house, they found plants turned to goo, a swollen front door, a soup-filled van, swollen moldy furniture, and mud everywhere. They had rented a too-small storage unit, the only one available, and had planned to take anything they could salvage there. When they saw the house, they realized the unit would be too big.

The chapter the book was named after, “Plenty Enough Suck to Go Around,” really got me. Wagner talks about how the unflooded people started coming back, now that there was electricity and hot water. “Jake and I would overhear them at the drugstore bitterly complaining. They hated the curfew. They were upset about their manicurist being displaced, their favorite restaurant not reopening, and all the stores still being closed.”

“There was a trite mantra I found myself having to say out loud to myself – everyone’s loss is big to them – to keep from hating people…

“The weird thing was that this little bon mot of trite was actually true. People had lost their faith. Our city was in ruin….I was not interested in sifting and weighing suck on a bunch of tiny scales. Suck was too hard to quantify. There was plenty enough suck to go around. Sitting around measuring it wasn’t going to fix anything.

“Flooded people started to grumble that unflooded people were SPOILED. And some days I was one of them. But in my unbitter, unflooded heart I didn’t believe people should be happy they had just lost their jobs or all their life plans. If unflooded people were spoiled for being rattled that their city and security had been shredded around them, then I should be thrilled that ‘at least I had an upstairs.’ And I really was. But I also wasn’t.”

I had made it 100 pages in, and I was hooked. I laughed out loud more times than I know, cried quite a bit, and nodded my head at the inalienable truths. Most importantly, I was reminded of something I already knew: everyone has their own version of loss, their own version of suck. Everyone is dealing with something.

Photo by geauxgirl

Photo by geauxgirl

 

 

Well, I finally read Wuthering Heights…

One of my goals for 2011 is to read some of the “best books” I’ve never read.  I started with Wuthering Heights.

It took me nearly a full month to get through.  I really struggled through the first half of the book, but I picked up some speed in the second half.  I don’t know if it was because it became easier to read (I could understand the language and narration better), if it was because I could see the end in sight, or if it was because Catherine died.  I kind of think it was the end of her that made it better.

Not that it was better.

I’ve gotta say, I don’t get the fascination with the book, Heathcliff, or the doomed love story at the center of the novel.  I found the book painful to read, especially Joseph’s speech (in fact, I skipped over most of his parts).  I found Heathcliff to be a dick.  I found almost every other character to be weak, most of them sickly.  I did not like Catherine, although Cathy was somewhat tolerable…when compared to everyone else.

Let me back up just a little bit and take a slight tangent.  I have this weird ability to appreciate things I don’t like.  A particular dish in a restaurant that sounds wonderful, although I don’t like half the things in it and would never order it.  A movie, such as The Green Mile, that I can appreciate for it’s story and acting and directing – yes, it was an amazing movie – and yet hate every moment of it and vow to never watch it again.

Wuthering Heights was wonderfully written, and you have to give Brontë credit for creating flawed (and therefor “real”) characters.  Her descriptions of the houses and moors were wonderfully done.  But even flawed characters have to have one redeeming quality, and these characters had none.  None.

How is this a great love story?  It was abusive, and violent, and obsessive.  The characters were vengeful, and spiteful, and immature.

What is it with books about unhealthy relationships and people in love who make it a point to make the other person miserable and hurt them as much as they can?  Did I miss the lesson in school where this is the ideal? Oh, poor Catherine, poor Heathcliff, their love is doomed.

Poor me, for reading this.

Although, I do have to say, I laughed every single time someone “ejaculated.”  Certainly not the same meaning we use today…

Reading group update

Okay all you (the both of you) people, get me updates!  I just updated mine, and I am happy to report I have already far surpassed my goal, and I am determined to hit the 3000 page mark by the end date!

1 month to go!!

(View the page here.)

C’mon, you’re reading anyway!

There’s still time to join the summer reading group!  At the rate we’re going, EVERYONE will receive a prize of some sort, 50 pages or 5000 pages!

jenfromtheblock gave me her update today, and it looks like she’ll be blowing us all out of the water!  And I thought I was doing so well…

“Rules” and information are located on the Summer Reading Group Page.

Just let me know if you want to join in the fun!

Summer Reading Group starts today!

So far I only have 2 people signed up, but there’s still time!  Come on, you’re going to be reading, anyway, why not win prizes for it? 

Here are the rules:

  • Reading time is May 29 (Memorial Day Weekend) through September 6th (Labor Day Weekend).
  • Log the book and the number of pages read by emailing me. (This way, War & Peace and Goodnight Moon cannot be weighted equally as “books read.”)
  • I will choose a multitude of winners, and you will get a prize – TBD at this point. Prizes will likely consist of more books, food (cookies, or a casserole, maybe, for locals), or perhaps a gift card or two.
  • As a bonus, you can project the number of pages you think you will read – the one who gets the closest to it will win an extra prize. Projections need to be emailed to me by June 10th, and must be at least 500 pages. 
  • Sign up by June 30th.
  • To sign up, please email me at allthingsdelightful at hotmail. Supply me with a “username” to use, or I’ll use your blog, if you have one. ALL information will be kept top secret – it’s just me, I’m not trying to sell anything, I’m not going to sell your info, etc.  If you win, I’ll request your address so I can send you your prize.
  • I’ve set up a page to keep track of rankings:  https://delightfuleccentric.wordpress.com/summer-reading-group/
  • Be honest!  Keep this fun.  You’re on your honor.
  • You must be at least 18 years old.
  • Spread the word. If you know someone who would be interested in this, let them know about it! Publicize it on your blog! Let’s have some fun with this!

My first book up is The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood.  Of course, I’m also mid-way through a couple of other books, so I’ll start counting pages from where I am now.

Click here to see how this started!

What are you reading this summer?

I saw an article in the paper today about the library’s summer reading program, and it got me to thinking.

I’ve always been a big reader, from the time I was a little kid. I can remember being 8, 9, 10 years old, sitting in the corner of the sofa with a book in my hand. I think my bookworminess is in my genes. My grandmother always had a stack of books, romance novels, and she would sit down around 9pm, watch some TV with the rest of us with a book in hand, and read into the wee (wee) hours of the morning, long after the rest of us went to bed. My mom, too, was a reader, and she also had a stack of romance novels when I was growing up, although she didn’t read as often or stay up as late reading as my grandmother did.

My parents never had a problem getting me to read. I was not one of those kids that didn’t like to read, like my sister was. Every summer, I would join the Summer Reading Club at the local library, and every year I’d be near the top of the list as far as number of books read. But there was always one or two kids that far surpassed me, and I always wondered how they managed to read so much more than me. Of course, I was honest in my accounting, and perhaps they weren’t. I considered lying and saying I read more, but even then I wasn’t comfortable with out-and-out lies.

Do you remember the Scholastic Book Fairs? I loved it when the school would have a Book Fair – I would get the little 8 page flyer and go through and circle the books that I wanted, and there was never fewer than 20 books circled. I can still do that, with the Barnes & Noble or Borders magazines. It’s like Scholastic for adults.  🙂

I read the Sweet Valley High books, and Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume, but I was into “adult” romance novels at an early age – Lavyrle Spencer and Judith McNaught and any Harlequin book I could find. Again, I think it’s in my genes – that’s what I grew up with. My reading choices have certainly widened since then. Currently, I’m working on two non-fiction books (The Guinea Pig Diaries, Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven), a fiction book (I Did, But I Wouldn’t Now), and two romance books (Inferno, Dakota Home). I go through phases with romance novels – I’m currently in the “read half a book a night” phase.

I’m a member of an “online bookclub,” which sends daily emails, with the first 20 or so pages of a book. A lot of my book choices lately have come from that, including three of the books I mentioned above. There are a bunch of different genres you can sign up for – non-fiction, fiction, business, mystery, the list goes on. It makes a nice break from my work day – when I need to stop and regroup, I’ll just go into my inbox and find the latest book offering sent to me.  www.dearreader.com – sign up through your local library.

I’m also a member of a “real” book club, although we’re certainly not as “real” as we should be. Almost from the start, we talked more about our lives than the book pick for the month. In fact, some months we didn’t discuss the book at all, which worked out well for those of us (usually about half of us) that didn’t bother to read the book. There were a couple of months where we didn’t even bother picking a book. We’re trying to get back on track, though, and pick a book, and I’m making a concentrated effort to actually read the book, if I’m interested. As one of the women says, “We all read books, we just don’t normally read the one chosen.”

Sometimes I’ll go a full month without picking up a book, and then some months, like this month, I go through three, four, five books. I take after my grandmother, in that I could easily stay up until 2 or 3 am reading, especially romance novels. It’s one of my forms of escapism, I’ve known that for years, and often my excuse for not liking or wanting to read a particular book is that, “I don’t want to escape to that place.” I mean, who wants to escape to war-torn Africa, or China during the era of foot-binding? Not that I can’t appreciate the story, but I just don’t want to be those people.

I’m amazed at how many men on match.com, under “Last Read,” will put, simply, “I don’t read.” Many will put a magazine (GQ, Men’s Monthly) or the newspaper, but very few actually have a book listed in that field. And saying “I don’t read” is a huge turn off for me. You don’t read? At all? Are you uneducated? I can understand being busy, and it maybe taking you a year to get through Davinci Code, but at least that’s something. I had a date recently with a man who said he hadn’t read a book since high school. I just don’t get that.

You know, all this has gotten me thinking…

I’m going to start my very own Summer Reading Group! Are you interested in being a part of it? Here are the rules:

  • Reading time is May 29 (Memorial Day Weekend) through September 6th (Labor Day Weekend).
  • Log the book and the number of pages read (This way, War & Peace and Goodnight Moon cannot be weighted equally as “books read”).
  • I will choose a multitude of winners, and you will get a prize – TBD at this point. Prizes will likely consist of more books, food (cookies, or a casserole, maybe, for locals), or perhaps a gift card or two.
  • As a bonus, you can project the number of pages you think you will read – the one who gets the closest to it will win an extra prize. Projections need to be posted by June 10th, and must be at least 500 pages. 
  • Sign up by June 30th.
  • To sign up, please email me at allthingsdelightful at hotmail. Supply me with a “username” to use. I’ll set up a page on this blog with the latest rankings.  ALL information will be kept top secret – it’s just me, I’m not trying to sell anything, I’m not going to sell your info, etc.
  • Be honest!  Keep this fun.  You’re on your honor.
  • You must be at least 18 years old.
  • Spread the word. If you know someone who would be interested in this, let them know about it! Publicize it on your blog! Let’s have some fun with this!

Really? That was the best option?

“After days of public outcry,” Mecklenburg has revisited the decision to close half of the library locations.  Seems that was only one of three options originally presented when looking to cut the budget.  The other options included cutting library hours and cutting pay, each option with a different rate and number of layoffs. 

So, the board thought it would be better to close 12 locations and layoff 140+ employees, rather than cut hours and pay and layoff roughly 80 employees.

How was THAT the better option??

Wouldn’t it be better, in this economy, to keep people employed, and ensure access to a public resource?

It really makes me wonder if they did it specifically to get people riled up. 

Personally, I think the best option would be a combination of ideas.  I think that some locations can be closed without much of an uproar.  So, close some branches, cut some hours, cut some pay, and, if needed, lay a couple of people off.  It sucks, but shouldn’t the idea be to lessen the impact on everyone involved?

I love the idea of politics, or maybe I should say the ideal.  I hate the current practice.  Common sense is sorely missing in the public arena.  Kind of makes me want to (cannotbelieveI’mabouttosaythis) get into local politics.

Charlotte Mecklenburg closing 12 branch locations

On Wednesday, they announced that they would be closing 12 of the county libraries.  I was somewhat shocked – 12 seemed like an awful lot.  In fact, it’s a full half of the local libraries. 

I thought about the ones near me.  I have four locations within about 5 miles of me, so I figured three of those might close, and the biggest one, the Regional one, would remain open.

On Thursday, they announced which library locations would be closing.

All 4 of the locations near me are closing. 

From charlotteobserver.com

Here’s a map of the closings.

I live near 14, the Morrison Regional Branch that I thought they would keep open.  You’ll see that there is now a HUGE hole in the South Charlotte and East Charlotte areas.  They recently remodeled the Myers Park location (16), and it’s closing.  And the Hickory Branch location (8) is a new $5 million building that opened 6 weeks ago.  What a waste.

Meanwhile, they are keeping 7 (Freedom Regional) & 24 (West Blvd) open (see how close together they are?), as well as 11 (Downtown) and 18 (Plaza-Midwood), also close together.  (ImaginOn, 9, doesn’t really count, as it’s specifically a children’s library.)

And they’re closing 5 (Cornelius), but leaving 6 (Davidson) & 17 (North Co Regional)?  Why not close Davidson & North Co Regional and leave Cornelius open, since it’s in the  middle of the two?  (Granted, I think it’s a smaller branch, but you see my point.)

The board says they looked at “overall cost of library operations, usage levels, proximity to other branches and library size.”  I don’t think they took the proximity issue into account, based on the huge holes on the map.

Future budget cuts may reduce the library system even further, to just the downtown branch, or maybe the downtown, a North Regional, and a South Regional. 

I was absolutely sick about this when I read about it on Thursday.  And based on the comments on all the news articles online, so is everyone else.  There’s a grassroots effort to raise the $2 million needed to keep these branches open, but the deadline is Wednesday.  So far, $35,000 has been raised.  You can donate here.  The problem with this, of course, is that it only saves them this year.  More budget cuts in future years will only put them back on the chopping block.

This isn’t simply about losing libraries.  148 employees are being laid off.  People who depend on the branches for internet access, meeting locations, children’s story time, and any of the other programs the library runs, will need to find an alternative.  It’s exacerbating a problem – the unemployed who can’t afford a computer or internet access go to the library to search for jobs, but now they won’t be able to do that, or will have to drive further (or find another bus route).  Kids who can’t afford books will now have a harder time checking them out of the library, possible leading to a decline in education and/or reading levels.

Why not cut hours, or days, like the postal service?  Sure, close a few locations.  There are other ways, I think, that this could have been handled.  Charge a nominal fee for internet usage ($1/half hour?), or charge higher fines for past due books.  There will still be operating costs on the closed locations – leases that need to be fulfilled, security and maintenance for the now empty buildings. 

I’ve always joked that the way I support the local library is by paying overdue fines, because I’m almost always late with books.  Now I’m looking for another way to support the library.  Where’s a damn petition I can sign??

Page 69

Recently, in doing some online research on a book I was reading, I discovered a phenomenon called “the page 69 test.”

You know how you walk into a bookstore or a library, and you look at these shelves upon shelves of books you’ve never read, books you’ve never even heard of, and you wonder how you will choose a good book?  You pick up one with an interesting cover, read the back or the inside cover, maybe flip to the first page, or (gasp!) the last page, to see if you’ll like it. 

Well, according to Marshall McLuhan, as noted by John Sutherland in How to Read a Novel:  a User’s Guide, you should flip to page 69 and read it.  I’m not sure why that page, specifically, but evidently there’s a bunch of people who do this. 

You can see the test series here, or try it yourself.  I looked at page 69 of some of my favorite books, and I have to say, they didn’t really jump out at me.  But the next time I’m confronted with shelves and shelves of unknown books, I will definitely try this.