Friday, April 28, 2017

Dewey's 24-Hour Readathon!


It's time for the spring 2017 edition of Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-thon! You know by now how much I love the idea of this bi-annual readathon. You're probably also aware by now of how badly  I generally do at it when I think I'm going to do the full 24 hours. This time I'm being more realistic.

The Big Guy's been out of town for several days and will arrive home about 4 p.m. tomorrow. That means I have about ten good hours to read. After that, let the talking begin. Because, guys, BG loves, and I mean LOVES, to talk. After all of these years, I still don't have him properly trained to be quiet when I have a book in my hands. Also, we have a dinner party to go to tomorrow night which means I'll be gone for those few hours plus I have to get a dessert ready to take. It also means wine. Which means I'll fall asleep shortly after I arrive home.

So, ten hours it is. And I'll be happy with that. Of course, I'll still have a snack/food pile that looks like it could last at least 24 hours. And, maybe, once I get back home tomorrow night I'll still be awake long enough to check in with everyone and maybe do a mini-challenge or two. Who knows?

What I hope to read:
  • Concepcion and The Baby Brokers by Deborah Clearman - I'll finish this one for an upcoming TLC Book Tours review
  • Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell - this one's been on my nightstand forever and I want to get it finished
  • Miss Burma by Charmaine Craig
  • The H Spot by Jill Filipovic
And you joining us? What are you planning on reading?

PAGES READ:
HOURS READ:
MINI-CHALLENGES:

OPENING SURVEY:

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?
Omaha, Nebraska, US

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?
The H Spot

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?
G H Cretor's Chicago Mix Popcorn

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!
I'm a wild party girl trapped in the body of a terribly responsible, terribly rules-oriented woman

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?

Every readathon I wish I had spent more time interacting with the community instead of burying my nose in a book the whole time. I know, I know it's a readathon but the thing that makes it great is the community. So today, even though my time is limited, I'm going to spend a lot of it on the internet talking to other readers.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Lit: Uniquely Portable Magic

Will you look at that? Four posts in one week! I don't know that I'll be able to keep it up in the next couple of months with so much to do before the wedding but at least I'm finally interested in reading and blogging again. I've even been visiting blogs again. I've missed my blogging friends!

Can't already remember how I came across it, but I'm getting emails from Literary Hub. Perhaps you've already known about it? It gives me a lot of links to interesting articles about reading and writing. I don't have time to check them all out but it's nice to have things gathered together from a lot of other sources I definitely don't have time to check out.

Some other bookish things I've been finding around:



Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Homer and Langley by E. L. Doctorow

Homer and Langley by E. L. Doctorow
Read by Arthur Morey*
Published September 2009 by Random House Publishing
Source: my audiobook copy purchased at my library book sale

Publisher's Summary:
Homer and Langley Collyer are brothers–the one blind and deeply intuitive, the other damaged into madness, or perhaps greatness, by mustard gas in the Great War. They live as recluses in their once grand Fifth Avenue mansion, scavenging the city streets for things they think they can use, hoarding the daily newspapers as research for Langley’s proposed dateless newspaper whose reportage will be as prophecy. Yet the epic events of the century play out in the lives of the two brothers–wars, political movements, technological advances–and even though they want nothing more than to shut out the world, history seems to pass through...


My Thoughts:
I don't recall if I first heard of the Collyer brothers when this book came out or if I knew about them first which made this book appeal. Well, that and the fact that the book is written by Doctorow, the man who wrote one of my all-time favorite books, Ragtime. Doctorow is known for dropping his fictional characters into historical events among historical figures. Here he's turned the tables a bit. In Homer and Langley, Homer and Langley Collyer are the historical figures.

Langley Collyer, top center. 
Homer and Langley Collyer were born into wealth and both had college degrees and successful careers. But when Homer went blind, Langley quit his job to care for his older brother. When their divorced parents both died, the brothers combined the two households into one brownstone. Curiosity, paranoia, a changing Harlem neighborhood, and Langley's collecting of newspapers for the eventuality of the return of Homer's sight all snowballed into a home that was crammed so full the when police tried to enter the home in 1947, they were forced to empty the house as they went.

In Doctorow's hands, the brothers Collyer are given a full life before their reclusive years and another 30 years of life, allowing the events of the world to come to their door. Doctorow has the brothers befriend a band of hippies and allow them to stay in the house for weeks; he gives them an early interaction with a mobster who later becomes head of one of the five families and uses their home as a refuge after an attempt has been made on his life; and Doctorow has Homer befriend in a park a journalist to whom he will later write the story of his and Langley's lives.

The Collyer brothers became, even in their lifetimes, objects of ridicule, not just for the way they lived but also for the way they died. Doctorow makes them human. These men did not just one day decide that they wanted to live the way they ended up living. It's not that they couldn't have afforded to live well; they had plenty of money. But life was, for Homer and Langley, as it is for all of us, an accumulation of experiences. Langley,  as Doctorow sees him, was a genius who was fiercely protective of his brother; Homer a man who didn't always understand or agree with his brother's thinking but who always defended it.

As I've been journeying through the 40 Bags In 40 Days, it's become easier and easier for me to understand how someone might end up living as the Collyer brothers did. You begin keeping things just in case you find a use for them, you keep things to use read later, you just don't get around to putting things right. Before long, it becomes so overwhelming it becomes impossible to tackle. Add on to that, the mental illness that so many, like Langley Collyer, suffer and it becomes a recipe for the kind of disaster that happened to the Collyer brothers.

E. L. Doctorow
The New York Times reviewer, in 2009, raved about Homer and Langley. While I appreciate the way Doctorow humanized the brothers and was fascinated with his take on how someone might become what today we call a hoarder, I didn't love the book. I think I would have enjoyed the story more had it hewed to the actual facts of the brothers lives rather than tweaking them to work as a way to look at world events. But perhaps keeping that wider window open throughout the book helped readers to really feel the brothers lives growing smaller and smaller as they near the end of their lives. By the last of the book, the feeling is absolutely claustrophobic.

*Imagine my surprise to pop the first disc of this book in and discover that it was also being read by Arthur Morey, who also read the last book I had listened to. I believe I enjoyed his reading even more in this book.



Monday, April 24, 2017

That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo

That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo
Published August 2009 by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Read by Arthur Morey
Source: my audiobook copy purchased at my library book sale

Publisher's Summary:
For Griffin, all paths, all memories, converge at Cape Cod. The Cape is where he took his childhood summer vacations, where he and his wife, Joy, honeymooned, where they decided he’d leave his LA screenwriting job to become a college professor, and where they celebrated the marriage of their daughter Laura’s best friend. But when their beloved Laura’s wedding takes place a year later, Griffin is caught between chauffeuring his mother’s and father’s ashes in two urns and contending with Joy and her large, unruly family. Both he and she have also brought dates along. How in the world could this have happened?


My Thoughts:
Two summers, two weddings, one marriage falling apart in the way that most marriages that fall apart do, not the spectacular way that is so often portrayed in movies and books, but in a slow, quiet decline.

When we marry we all bring with us the models we have for marriage and our families. No matter how lucky we get in what our mate has brought with him or her in this way, it's still a dance. Whose family will you spend Christmas with this year? Why is her brother such a blowhard?  Why does his mother look down on me?

Jack Griffin's parents were really quite unpleasant people, not very good parents, and terrible at being married to each other. Every summer though, they traveled to Cape Cod where they called a truce and actually became affectionate. When Jack marries Joy, he's determined to spend as little time as possible with his parents. But keeping them physically out of his life doesn't mean that they aren't casting a giant shadow over it and over Jack's and Joy's marriage and they still have to deal with Joy's family, a family Jack is ill-equipped to deal with.

Told largely through flashbacks, Russo explores how the baggage we bring with us affects the lives we are working to create for ourselves and how we can never entirely leave our history behind us. Even, as it turns out, when our history is not exactly the way we remember it.

I really enjoyed Arthur Morey as a reader; he did an excellent job of channeling Jack's voice. Russo's no slack at writing either and there was a lot I enjoyed about That Old Cape Magic. But, in the end, I found that I was so annoyed with Jack's character that it was hard of me to care about him or cheer for the survival of his marriage. It's a good book. It's just not a great book.





Sunday, April 23, 2017

Life: It Goes On - April 23

Greetings from pollen-laden Omaha. My allergies got so bad that I had to skip the March for Science here. Seriously unhappy about that. Were any of you able to join a march where you're at? Just like the women's march in January, I got a kick seeing all of the creative signs people were carrying around the world.

Thursday I did get out and get some good exercise in doing yard work. It felt so good to out in the sun, using the muscles you only seem to use when you're wielding a rake or a shovel. I finally got around to tearing out our compost pit. The plans I've had for a couple of years for a new compost pit will get put into motion in the next couple of weeks. I'm ridiculously excited by the prospect of at last being able to dispose of food waste in a way I don't feel guilty about again.

This Week I'm:

Listening To: I started Nell Freudenberger's The Newlyweds after finishing Homer and Langley. I've listened to a couple of discs now but I'm still not sure it's the right book for me right now. Still, it's got some things that interest me and I'm hoping it's going to suck me in so I'm not giving up on it yet.

Watching: I'm down to one more episode left of The Crown for season one. Then I'll have to wait six or so months for the next season, darn it. Trying to figure out what I want to watch next. Maybe Grace and Frankie. Or I may got back and rewatch The Gilmore Girl or Luther. Or go watch upstairs where we have Amazon and check out some interesting looks shows on that. There's really no reason to watch t.v. mindlessly any more, is there?

Reading: Elizabeth Strout's Anything Is Possible. It took me by surprise to find Lucy Barton (title character of her last book) appear in this book. In fact, the book is a collection of short stories about the people in the town Lucy grew up in. I'm enjoying Strout's writing, as usual; she's become one of my go-to authors. I would love to know if she had intended this collection as a follow up to Lucy Barton all along or if, in writing that one, discovered that Lucy's hometown had a whole lot of stories to tell as well.

Making: Nothing creative this week in the kitchen for me but we were able to bust on some pasta on the patio for the first time this year.

Planning: It's all about the wedding for the next 69 days here. 69 days! I can't believe we're only a little over two months from the big day.

Thinking About: Gardening. We'd like to get a jump on things so they look good by the end of June so we'll be starting to buy plants starting next week.

The Princess
Enjoying: This face! Any time I get a new picture of The Princess, it makes my day.

Feeling: Lighter, both emotionally and mentally. Yesterday I dropped of three boxes of material to be shredded at a free community shred event and will make another drop off at the Goodwill today. I'm officially at 51 "bags" at this point and am ready to start getting rid of some furniture. I can't wait!

Cheryl Strayed
Looking forward to: Going to see Cheryl Strayed, who is coming to Omaha as part of a Writer's Lecture series, Thursday with friends.

Question of the week: If you going to make one quick change to your home for the spring, what would it be?