Monday, June 19, 2006

Randominotes & Reading Lists

  • Two pieces on editing: An essay from Ursula K. LeGuin's editor Michael Kandel, and an interview with Michael Ondaatje's editor Ellen Seligman
  • Thinking about these articles, I Googled the phrase "The Art of Editing," and I discovered a book by that title has been written by Jack Z. Sissors! Best editor name ever.
  • And the Band Name of the Day: I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness
  • A classic from the Onion: National Funk Congress Deadlocked on Get Up/Get Down Issue. "The bitter get up/get down battle, which has polarized the nation's funk community, is part of a long-running battle between the two factions, rooted in more than 35 years of battle over the direction in which the American people should shake it."
  • I bought two songs off iTunes this weekend: "Right Back Where We Started From" by Maxine Nightingale, and "Under Pressure" by David Bowie & Queen.
  • Speaking of songs with great hooks that are then stolen by vastly inferior artists, I learned the hook from Madonna's hit "Hung Up" was taken from the ABBA song "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)." Though ABBA and Madonna . . . I don't know, that might be a tossup.
  • I have made my fabulous pancakes twice in the last week, and tonight I fixed Blue Cheese Spaghettini.
  • Writing Note of the Day: It is generally not a good idea to begin your novel in the middle of a highly stressful situation -- a battle, a tidal wave, a fight (physical or verbal), etc. -- as we readers do not know the characters enough to care about the mortal or emotional danger they're in, and as we're occupied with figuring out the action, it's difficult to get to know them well enough that we start to care.
  • Like all rules for writing, now that I have laid this down, someone will prove me wrong, and I will be perfectly happy about it.
  • Now reading: Fat Kid Rules the World by K. L. Going, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C. S. Lewis, The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett (bought at the 7th Ave. street fair yesterday off R. J. Anderson's recommendation, and already proving dangerously addictive), The Odyssey by Homer, translated by Robert Fagles, Spook by Mary Roach
  • Recently finished: Saint Iggy by K. L. Going, Prince Caspian by C. S. Lewis (ehh), Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers (a millionth-time reread)
  • Looking forward to: Voices by Ursula K. Le Guin, Making It Up by Penelope Lively, Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson, A Presumption of Death by Jill Paton Walsh and Dorothy L. Sayers
  • And listening to: Lyle Lovett, the Dixie Chicks, Ella Fitzgerald, and various Stephen Sondheim musicals (surprisingly good for running, since they're so intellectually engaging they distract from the boring activity)

Lastly, I was having coffee with a friend a week or so ago and he asked me to recommend a book for a long plane flight. My mind of course immediately went blank, so I decided to compile a list of relatively contemporary adult literary fiction I adore in case of any future emergencies. To quote a blurb for, I think, The Jane Austen Book Club: If I could eat these books, I would.

  • On Beauty by Zadie Smith
  • Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke -- a slow beginning, but after that brilliant and funny and character-driven and well-plotted and magical in every sense of the word
  • Set This House in Order by Matt Ruff -- an amazing novel about a man with multiple personalities, who each take turn narrating the book
  • Regeneration by Pat Barker -- Devastating British war novel #1
  • Atonement by Ian McEwan -- Devastating British war novel #2
  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
  • Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon
  • The Time-Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
  • Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
  • Jim the Boy by Tony Earley -- strongly reminiscent of E. B. White; wonderful wonderful, o most wonderful wonderful
  • Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
  • The Hours by Michael Cunningham
  • Possession by A. S. Byatt -- my favorite grown-up book, after selected works of Jane Austen
  • the Aubrey-Maturin series by Patrick O'Brian, beginning with Master and Commander -- I count reading all twenty of these in the course of 2002 as the most marvelous long-term reading experience of my life. Harry Potter is the only thing that comes close.
  • If on a winter's night a traveler by Italo Calvino -- a lovely book about the pleasures of reading
  • Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez



  1. Thanks for the "Writing Note of the Day"!



  2. I think you *are* taking over our authorial minds, because I just had the wierdest dream that I was talking to your mom (who was a very, very nice lady) about her having written/published a memoir. And now I've overslept and am late for work. Hmpf.

  3. My personal favorite funk article from the Onion: Clinton Threatens to Drop Da Bomb on Iraq.

  4. All hail the Odyssey! And Ms. LeGuin. Definitely checking out that link.

    I've made a list of cool band names, such as Johnny Eye and the Receders, Four Fried Chickens and a Coke, Bear and the Essentials, Matt the Electrician. You can also make up your own, like Vandals Sacking Rome, or Killer Snails.

    That Maxine Nightengale song sets a good pace for a brisk walk. But if you want really brisk, try Synchonicity II by the Police.

    One of my daughter's balloons just exploded in here, sending me into a tizzy. It's time to wrap this up anyway.

  5. there's nothing funnier than the image of Vanilla Ice trying to explain the "difference" between "duh duh duh duh-duh-duh duh" ("Under Pressure") and "duh duh duh duh-duh-duh duh...duh" ("Ice Ice Baby")

    (okay, the fact that Vanilla Ice's real name is Rob Van Winkle is arguably at least as funny)

    >sigh< there are times when I *almost* miss the world of music publishing...but just bring up the maddening, @*(#^&! issues involving sampling & who of the 10 writers owns 14.285% of a song as opposed to the guy who owns 3.57%, and I'm pretty glad I grew up & became a librarian.

  6. I am about 50 pages shy of finishing Voices by Ursula K. Le Guin and I just don't want to! It just not holding me in the way her other books have/do. I am very disappointed by this book :(.

    But I do love Jim the Boy. Lovely, wonderful book.


  7. Sharing today's sad news from a Canadian paper.

    Alice Munro is giving up writing.


  8. Hi, Cheryl--

    If you don't come away loving HOUSEKEEPING by Marilynne Robinson, I'd sure like to hear the reasons why. Beautiful novel!


  9. What's up with Alice Munro this time?

  10. Thanks for the booklist. Possession and Jim the Boy are among my favorite books of all time, so I trust I'll enjoy the others not yet read.

    Wondering if you have any recommendations for great lit crit of books for young readers -- in addition to the LeGuin that you mention on your website.


  11. "Gaudy Night" is probably my most reread book. I first read it during a bout with mono in college and it saved me from brain rot. Have you read Sayer’s essay, “Are Women Human”? Here verdict was, “No, humans have the right to wear pants in cold weather.”

    Would you expound on your review of Caspian… (ehh)?

    I must have clever friends because I recognize most of the titles on your recommendation list. (Note to self, read more. I’ll keep you posted on my efforts.)

    I can, however, recommend the Blue Cheese Spaghettini.

    Read on,


    We don't need lists of rights and wrongs,
    tables of do's and don'ts:
    we need books, time, and silence.
    Thou shalt not is soon forgotten,
    but Once upon a time lasts forever.

    Philip Pullman