Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Poetry Wednesday Meeting and Passing

National Poetry Month is right around the corner. Do you have a poem you can't wait to read? Share it with me — you could win a book of poetry for your efforts...

Meeting and Passing

As I went down the hill along the wall
There was a gate I had leaned at for the view
And had just turned from when I first saw you
As you came up the hill. We met. But all
We did that day was mingle great and small
Footprints in summer dust as if we drew
The figure of our being less than two
But more than one as yet. Your parasol

Pointed the decimal off with one deep thrust.
And all the time we talked you seemed to see
Something down there to smile at in the dust.
(Oh, it was without prejudice to me!)
Afterward I went past what you had passed
Before we met and you what I had passed.

by Robert Frost

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Poetry Wednesday: Fiction


Going south, we watched spring
unroll like a proper novel:
forsythia, dogwood, rose;
bare trees, green lace, full shade.
By the time we arrived in Georgia
the complications were deep.

When we drove back, we read
from back to front. Maroon went wild,
went scarlet, burned once more
and then withdrew into pink,
tentative, still in bud.
I thought if only we could go on
and meet again, shy as strangers. 

by Lisel Mueller
from Alive Together. © Louisiana State University Press, 1996. 
Courtesy The Writer's Almanac

Happy Spring! Celebrate by sharing a poem with me in honor of National Poetry Month, which is right around the corner. You could earn yourself a free book of poetry!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

E-Readers: An Imbalance of Power

I love having a Kindle e-reader because I'm never without a book. I can pull into any sandwich shop or doctor's office and have something to read in an instant — something good, something I enjoy.

However, I understand the imbalance of power: I don't own the material on it. This is a small but very important point with me: I am "borrowing" the material for a price, and the very convenience of the current setup could be its greatest undoing.

I don't own the book. Or music. Or magazine. Even if I paid the agreed-upon price and downloaded it to my device, the distributor can remove it as easily as it was WhisperSync'ed on it. As a result, I often purchase books I already own in print: free classics in the public domain, cheap copies of my favorites on the shelf. I also plan to purchase the books I want to keep in perpetuity.

There are other drawbacks, too. Not all publishers have all books available in Kindle format. True, newer books are being published electronically these days, but not always immediately.

Also, I am beholden to the manufacturer of my device: may Amazon continue to thrive so my e-library can do the same. In all likelihood, someone would snatch up what I hope would be a valuable asset, should an unfortunate turn of events fell the giant Amazon's book-selling services.
However, in the wake of new ownership, there could be new rights and privileges for Kindle owners that don't equal their current ones. In other words, I could lose the very books I purchased. Remember Borders' free membership? Barnes and Noble, which purchased that service from the defunct bookseller, extended me a whopping three-month free membership; after that, I join the rank and file of its members. The "new" Amazon wouldn't have to keep its format, and we could have to re-purchase the books in a new format at the price we're given.

Plus, there's no guarantee that my Kindle will allow me to keep up with the electronic Joneses: technology advances at an alarming rate, and my young Kindle will someday be obsolete — heck, within months of my purchase, Amazon was selling a new, sexier version. Companies stop supporting hardware and software every day.

In the end, as much as I love having the convenience of the Kindle reader, I also understand its limitations. I've made e-book investments greater than I should, I am sure, and I'll live with those consequences. I'll also continue to value the printed page and its tactile ownership. I'm curious as to where we will travel with this technology, and I hope my greatest concerns are just that, and never realized. I suppose we'll just have to see.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Notorious Success is Followed by — What?

You know when you must read a particular type of book and you grab one like it, but it's not right? I went through that this week. It took a few books, but I persevered.

I wanted Fluff 'n Trash™— but a certain kind. I wanted Notorious Nineteen by Janet Evanovich. I wanted it bad. Alas, I didn't have it.

After stopping reading nearly everything on my nightstand, I took action: I went for Plum. I looked in two libraries and three thrift shops. I even went to Barnes and Noble. No Nineteen to be found. I was Stephanie Plum-less. I have two other Evanoviches of the Wicked kind, but I didn't want those. I wanted Stephanie.

I put my name on the "hold" list at the library for both the printed and e-versions of the book. I was somewhere around number 521 on the list of one or either. Seems this is a popular book. Who knew?

I could have ordered it on the Web, had it delivered to me. And yet... I didn't want to keep it. I have one copy of her books, a signed hardback of Smokin' Seventeen, that is in someone's hands  — I loaned it out, but can't remember to whom, if it's you, be kind and careful! — but, for the most part, I don't want to keep them. I don't want to own them. I want to read them and pass them on. They're my Library Book Book. Had the library not owned a copy, I'd have purchased one for the system. But they did. Multiple copies. Just none of them for me.

I had a while to wait, so I tried everything on my nightstand. Nothing stuck. (I mean, Wolf Hall? Definitely not the same thing, although Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter would have done the trick had I been in that mood. Same with Map of the Sky.)

I took to reading children's books, tasty little nuggets, as appetizers. (Neil Gaiman writes lovely children's books, did  you know? Delicious morsels, never treakly. Try The Dangerous Alphabet. Or Blueberry Girl — okay, that one is a little sentimental and sweet, but still good. Lesson learned: look to Neil Gaiman — always.) Then there was Penny Vincenzi's An Outrageous Affair, but it didn't stick. When has Penny Vincenzi not fulfilled that need? This was serious!

Then I stopped by the library to drop off a document for work (sometimes my job rocks!) and passed the "Hot Books" shelves. I thought to myself, "Self, what are the chances it's there?" My eyes skimmed the shelves until I saw the Evanovich Neon Orange. It was mine.

I devoured it in a couple of days. It's going back to the library today so the next reader can find it at the right moment.

Now we can return to the regularly programmed schedule of My Nightstand Collection. Take a look at my list at the left: which should I start next? I'm leaning toward Map of the Sky, but I may be able to be persuaded otherwise.) Give me your suggestions!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Hey, Poetry Lover: Share!
from Poetry in Motion (PIM)
Hey, Poetry Lover!

Yes, I mean you. 

Just the other day, you came across that poem that surprised you, touched you, made you think. You might not have even meant to read poetry, but there it was, and there you were — moved.

You wanted to remember it, share it, make sure others could feel that same way. 
Maybe you clipped it out to stick in your wallet, used it as a bookmark, stuck it on the fridge, pinned it to Pinterest.

Maybe it was a song lyric, and you've bookmarked that video so you can watch it over and over.

Now do one more thing with that wonderful poem: share it with me.

I am always looking for great poems to share (and not just for National Poetry Month in April!). Yours could be the one that changes a life, changes a mind, changes an attitude — like it did with you.

I don't have to tell people the poem came from you, especially if you have a rep you want to uphold. (We all do.) 

Plus, you never know if your poem donation will come with a reward. I've been known to share poetry books, from time to time, with other poetry lovers. 

So, send me those poems that got under your skin. You and I both will be glad you did.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Poetry Wednesday: Barter

Life has loveliness to sell,
All beautiful and splendid things,
Blue waves whitened on a cliff,
Soaring fire that sways and sings,
And children's faces looking up,
Holding wonder like a cup.
Life has loveliness to sell,
Music like a curve of gold,
Scent of pine trees in the rain,
Eyes that love you, arms that hold,
And for your spirit's still delight,
Holy thoughts that star the night.
Spend all you have for loveliness,
Buy it and never count the cost;
For one white singing hour of peace
Count many a year of strife well lost,
And for a breath of ecstasy,
Give all you have been, or could be.

by Sara Teasdale

Thanks to Karen for sharing!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Library Loot: Oprah, Washington, Tiny Things — all E!

Lately my e-book borrowing has exploded. I blame it on Cracked.

Remember when Oprah Winfrey gave away cars on her TV show? So do and , who wrote the article "5 Depressing Realities Behind Reality Shows." They link to the page in Kitty Kelley's biography Oprah in which Oprah is quoted.

That got me thinking: when was the last time I read unadulterated junk food? Kitty Kelley counted. So I borrowed.

I managed to read about 20 percent of the book before I had to stop. I didn't think it was very good; I've read better Kitty Kelley. Also, a little Oprah goes a long way.

I also found the most recent edition of one of my favorite tourism books: Washington on Foot. I love walking, and walking tours are fun and leisurely.

Kitty didn't quell my Fluff 'n Trash™ craving. I still was cruising libraries and used book stores for Notorious Nineteen. I missed it at the nearby regional library yet again before I realized I could see if I could get in line electronically. I can, and I did.

However, while I wait, I am reading one of the most exquisite books: Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar. I discovered it thanks to Brain Pickings (which you simply must subscribe to — and consider supporting). I have to limit the amount of time I spend reading at night or I won't sleep. Ever. Author Cheryl Strayed is a compassionate person and a generous writer. I'll tell you more about it after I've finished it. In the meantime, I'm grateful my library had it for me to download.

Another great thing about Brain Pickings? Every book available from the public library includes the parenthetical description "(public library)." Sweet.

I have requested a few other books, print and e-, from my library. I'll keep you abreast as they come in and I consume them.

What have you borrowed from your library lately? I'm curious!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Failing 'A Month of Letters'

I have come to terms with my failure.

Which is a lie — because if I was okay with it, I wouldn't mention it. Still whistling past the graveyard on this one.

Look, I knew A Month of Letters was going to be a challenge. I knew at least a week of my time was going to be spoken for. However, I though, "Self, how hard is it to dash off an extra note or two every couple of days?"

Well, that would have been great if work hadn't exploded.

Okay, that was in part my own doing. A couple of weeks off work backs up the system. In this world, we seem to have no redundancy: if I don't [fill in the blank], then it doesn't get done. I can live with that at home; I have enough socks and underwear for a coon's age for that very reason. (The "dregs" may be dicey, but I always drive more carefully when I don those.) (Kudos if you got that reference.) But work? At work, I have only the socks and underwear I have on me. I know, everyone is in the same sad boat, blah blah blah. But it is relevant.

Then projects piled up. An extra three hours at work most days of the week will take a toll on one's letter-writing time. (I'm just sayin' is all.)

So: extra time at work means something has to give. In February, it was letter-writing. (And vacuuming.)

I didn't totally fail: 14 letters and packages were written and readied. One package still is in my car, but — see "blah blah blah" above. Hopefully that will be remedied today, Post Office willing.

However, I know at least one friend was faithful to A Month of Letters: my proof is tied up with a ribbon. It was lovely seeing a pastel pink, green or blue envelope from Karen sitting in the mailbox nearly every day.  On days there were no filled envelopes waiting for me, I have to admit I was a little sad. Some days the letters came two or three at a time. Other times I had a single card, like a single rosebud in a dainty vase, waiting for me.

I want to bring that delight to others.

I have the notecards, paper/envelopes and postage waiting for me, so I'll continue as best I can. I'll make this a More than A Month of Letters.

How about you? How did your letter-writing go? Let's share!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Review: A Visit From the Goon Squad

I have a poster about writing that reads: Make Me Care. And that was the thing missing in A Visit From the Goon Squad: for all of the story, the intricate plots, the interweaving of characters and storylines, I simply didn't care. (I also needed a cheat sheet, there were so many changing characters, especially Bennie's wives.) 
Jennifer Egan's book was similar to another Pulitzer Prize-winner, Olive Kitteridge: a series of interconnected short stories — but I did not find it as enjoyable.

Egan gave us some interesting, even endearing, characters. And yet: I didn't care. Rob floated into the East River and I wasn't anxious about him. Dolly and Lulu wound up in the home of a crazy dictator and I didn't worry about them. Jules — what exactly was up with that dude? Benny, the Olive of this collection, was a mixed bag: likeable at times, but a weak intersection in this Venn diagram.

The story timeline begins, as best as I can tell, starting in the late 1970s, early 1980s, during the rise of punk music in Los Angeles. This group of angry youth are tangled together — and Egan keeps them connected, sometimes in tenuous ways. 

The stories were not in chronological order, which didn't help me. I like a challenge, but I don't like confusion. I also found myself having to flip back to assorted stories to figure out who I was supposed to be reading about, and what their context was.

I also didn't like the leading portions of the stories that hearkened to what would happen in the future. So we knew that someone would live on in a different way — great, but so what? The time that was spent there was alien and forced: we lost resources, or someone changed them for technology, I couldn't tell. There was something about Manhattan's landscape I couldn't follow, and referring to devices that were akin to iPhones, but not.

Once the background for the title was introduced, I felt a little cheated: I had never heard of that before, and it was the cornerstone of the book.
I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone (nor the sequel tweeted last summer). A friend with excellent book recall who read it last summer couldn't remember anything about it now. That speaks volumes.

I'm curious — if you liked it, tell me: what did I miss?