First lines

March 31, 2008

Do you know one of the things I like about the Bible? I like how certain beautiful phrases come up over and over again in church and in our our cultural vocabulary. As a Congregationalist/UCC-er, I’m not hung up on whether or not this kind of appreciation cheapens the spirituality of the text–we are pretty clear on the fact that God didn’t write it, human beings did, and so we believe it draws its power from being the collected wisdom of human life pressed into literary form. They are beautiful and meaningful because they are human, not despite.

That was kind of a roundabout way of introducing how I felt when I ran across this list of 100 best first lines of novels this morning, here in text form and here in graphic form (provided by one of my favorite librarian bloggers). We all know that 100 best lists are always arbitrary and stupid, but I still think this a good collection of reasons why I am a writer and a student of literature. I love the ring and permanence of these sentences, and I love remembering the world they invited me into. I like saying them under my breath as I sometimes say snippets of biblical verse. They are a little like prayers.

So how lovely that the scripture lesson begins with a reading from the book of Melville:

1) Call me Ishmael.

And continues.

The future of libraries

January 24, 2008

According to the Onion: “Area Eccentric Reads Entire Book

Good Things: 2007 edition

December 19, 2007

All it took was a Moonshine Martini post to get me in the mood to list. It’s that time of year when everybody’s putting in their two cents about what was most world-rocking in Aught Seven, so I’m going to give it a whirl. This is actually more for myself than anything else, because yesterday as I was trying to come up with answers to Reading for Writers query about the best books I had read this year, I realized 1) I don’t keep enough records of what I’ve actually done and 2) that most of the lists I could come up with were actually lists of the best books I had started but never finished. (And the other night, when D got me sucked into a half-hour infomercial for Firebrand.com, a web channel where you can watch all the world’s “best” commercials, I think I figured out why.) It’s true–I started a lot more than I finished this year, which is an issue I hope to deal with in in the coming year, but it’s too late now, so for the time being, I’m just going with it. Because you know what they say about good things: they come in threes. Also, things on this list aren’t necessarily new, but they were new to me.

Top 3 Novels I Finished This Year

  1. Tripmaster Monkey (Maxine Hong Kingston)
  2. Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card, not like a literary masterpiece or anything, but I read it at the same time I started reading Jane McGonigal’s disseration on ubiquitous gaming and it hit a nerve)
  3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (You know I’d be lying if it wasn’t on this list)

Top 3 Memoirs/ Creative Nonfiction

  1. Another Bullshit Night in Suck City (Nick Flynn)
  2. A Good War is Hard to Find (David Griffiths)
  3. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down (Anne Fadiman)

Close call: Eat Pray Love (Elizabeth Gilbert–I feel that this book is more than a little annoying due to the sell-out factor plus the spoiled rotten factor, but I laughed my ass off right at a time when I really needed to because of this book)

Top 3 Movies I Watched All the Way Through This Year

  1. After the Wedding
  2. Black Christmas
  3. Deja Vu (this made the list b/c of the strength of its surprise factor–I feel that it was much better than any trailer let on and I won’t say anything more than that for fear of giving something away, plus it got bonus points for being set in New Orleans (American city of the decade), and having a version of my top joke of the year (more cowbell!)).

Close calls: Stranger Than Fiction, HP5, 28 Days Later, The Lives of Others, Tony Takitani

Top 3 Documentaries (I watched so many, they deserve a category)

  1. The Heart of the Game
  2. Blue Planet
  3. Jonestown

Top 3 Television Shows

  1. Friday Night Lights
  2. The Wire
  3. Lost

Close calls: The Countdown, Weeds, Veronica Mars, Freaks and Geeks, the Nova documentary on training for the Boston Marathon

Top 3 Books of Poetry

  1. Curves to the Apple (Rosmarie Waldrop)
  2. case sensitive (Kate Greenstreet)
  3. Leaves of Grass, 1855 Edition (Walter Whitman, via the Whitman Archive, like wow)

Close calls: almost every other book of poetry I’ve read this year and one that I plan to: The Middle Room (Jennifer Moxley)

Top 3 Biggest Wastes of Space on my Netflix Queue

  1. Flightplan
  2. Rumor Has It
  3. The Break-Up

I swear I have nothing against Jennifer Aniston.

Top 3 Movies I Am Shocked I Haven’t Seen Yet

  1. The Bourne Ultimatum
  2. No Country for Old Men
  3. Away From Her

Top 3 Songs I Never Tuned Away From While Driving (ie, Top 40 songs)

  1. What I’ve Done (Linkin Park)
  2. Shut Up and Drive (Rihanna, b/c Umbrella is just too predictable)
  3. Apologize (One Republic feat. Timbaland, okay fine, I’m predictable)

Top 3 Songs It is Somewhat More Respectable to Admit to Liking (By Women)

  1.  Fidelity (Regina Spektor, I know, I’m behind)
  2. Mushaboom (Feist)
  3. Central Reservation (Beth Orton, it took me forever to figure out the name of this song)

Top 3 Songs It is Somewhat More Respectable to Admit to Liking (By Men)

  1.  Black Cab (Jens Lekman)
  2. That Was the Worst Christmas Ever (Sufjan Stevens)
  3. Oh What a World (Rufus Wainwright)

Top 3 Beers (keep in mind, I like wimpy beer)

  1. Lamar Street Pale Ale (I think this has a lot of B Vitamins in it, I always feel stronger after I drink it)
  2. Sam Adams (never had a taste for it before I made some good Boston memories to associate with it)
  3. Stella & Guinness going halfsies

Top 3 Wines (you can tell I’m a slacker b/c I didn’t keep track of the vintage, just the name on the pretty label)

  1. Cono Sur 20 Barrel Pinot Noir (limited availability, alas)
  2. Vieille Ferme Red (can’t beat the price or the drinkability, my credit card bill won’t lie–we’ve bought more of this than anything else this year)
  3. Conclass Verdejo (most likely to be gifted by us this year)

Close calls: Anything Portuguese, Bitch (not just a pretty name!), cabernet sauvignon in general

Top 3 30 Minute Meals

  1. Good Fennels Pasta
  2. Creamy Artichoke Saffron Pasta
  3. Roasted Portabella Mushroom Burgers with Red Peppers

Top 3 Ways to Get My Nerd On

  1. A Poetics of Women’s Autobiography (Sidonie Smith)
  2.  Ties that bind : the story of an Afro-Cherokee family in slavery and freedom (Tiya Miles)
  3. PMLA Genre Issue

Top 3 Lessons Learned

  1. Never give your prospective landlord cash before you see a lease AND a roof w/o holes in it (this lesson learned vicariously, courtesy of my sister and her beau and their move to Miami)
  2. Tequila shots: no. (this lesson not learned vicariously)
  3. Don’t give up on your faith, fool, love comes to those who believe it. Keep everlastingly at it and don’t let yourself off the hook with a cheap out, please the in-law’s, I need to settle down and have kids excuse. Try before you decide you’ve failed.

Close call: Don’t waste summer reading time on summer books. I think I went seriously astray there, spending weeks reading fluff like The Ruins when I could have been reading Faulkner.

Top 3 Punctuation Marks

  1. colon
  2. comma
  3. dash

Top 3 Cities I Fantasized About Moving To

  1. Washington, DC
  2. New York, NY
  3. Columbus, OH

Top 3 Things Totally Worth the Extra Money

  1. DVR
  2. a night in a bed & breakfast instead of a motel
  3. new running shoes

Top 3 Publix Premium Ice Cream Flavors

  1. Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
  2. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
  3. Buckeye

Top 3 Babies (in alphabetical order, you know I can’t rank babies)

  • Charlotte
  • Luc-Luis
  • Nathaniel

Okay, that’s as silly as I can get right now, and if I think of any more between now and December 31st, I’ll post.

So, for those of you who’ve seen me in the last couple of days, you know I’m going to try to make a concerted effort to relax over the next couple of weeks. I’m realizing that this, however, is easier said than done when those couple of weeks are supposed to include shopping, gift wrapping, gift giving, card sending, baking, partying, arranging for cat sitting, and oh, writing, submitting, reading, and generally realizing that I’ve got some work to do to get my life headed in the direction that I want it to. Clearly, not all of these things are going to happen in the next 22 days. So, which ones need to go, or which ones can I get done without causing any unnecessary panic attacks?

That is going to be the question of the weekend, and here’s the thing: I’m realizing that I actually probably can get close to all of it done, but I really don’t need to stress out to do it.  It’s not doing these things that stresses me out–it’s thinking about doing them! So that’s the plan. No thinking, just doing. I’ll just do it. I’ll do a little yoga and clear my mind and then, all good.

So, in that spirit, what I’ve been doing this morning is making sure that I have a nice hit of total mindlessness before I start doing things. Namely, I’m allowing D to show me all of his favorite South Park clips on YouTube. I’m one of those people who has actually never watched an entire episode of South Park, so it’s all new to me.

And oh, it’s definitely New Year’s cards this year. Executive decision.

w00t, I guess

December 12, 2007

It’s word of the year time, and the word is w00t. Those aren’t “ohs” they’re zeroes. And that is the word of the year according to Merriam Webster’s poll. Here, let Farhad Manjoo explain.

I know this now, because I am back on the Internets now that I have turned in all the final paper-type stuff that was requested of me this semester.

I would say that I am going to miss those papers, but I’ve had a bit of a breakthrough this past week. I can write final papers all the time! I just have to call them “my work” instead. It’s not my fantasy life, my hobby, or my unfortunate lack of ability to consider careers that would make me more money, it’s my work. I’ll get the hang of this keeping my in-law’s off my back thing sooner or later.

What I really miss right now is my couch. We are effectively down a couch right now b/c our cats have peed on it so many times that the cushion covers wore out from all the washing and re-cramming the cushion material back. So, we are not going to recover the cushions until we’ve gotten them patched. Which I hope there is still a store out there that wants to make money doing. D claims that luggage repair stores will do it. I say, luggage repair stores? Then I remember that he grew up in Brazil where people fix everything. There’s a whole sub-market of stores called consertorios, that sell everything under the sun that’s been fixed up. I hope we can find something along those lines here.

For now, it’s the floor. But you know what makes sitting on the floor all better? Work!… uh, no, wrong answer SJ. I mean, red wine!

That’s the ticket.

1 LIS paper closer

November 27, 2007

…to being a librarian, which as ever I am unsure if I actually want to be, but I feel no ambivalence at all when I say, I’m glad that mofo’ is DONE.

It was a nice holiday weekend, but rather gloomy in my self-imposed exile from the blogosphere until my health sciences librarianship paper was done. I’m so unproductive when I’m mono-tasking like that. All I accomplished this weekend was paper stuff, and it didn’t even get fully acccomplished until tonight.  Oy vey.

Anyway, I hope to catch up on all my ubercool friends’ blogs, do a little belated Turkey Day blogging (hint: it didn’t involve Turkey) and perhaps a little barely coherent, overly emotional ramblings, but we’ll see. Right now, after 11 hours today alone spent in front of a computer, I’m pretty sure I should be stepping slowly away from the keyboard.

Onwards to southern lit and creative portfolios, which are going to feel a lot less like work.

Now it’s time for underrated:

1) Who would you say is an underrated actor?

Does everybody here already know that Sarah Polley grew up and became a great actor and now director? Ramona Quimby was just the beginning.

Also, whatever Greg Kinnear and Matt Damon do, they make it look easy. That is an underrated quality in an actor even if they aren’t underrated in general.

2) What would you say is an underrated movie?

Jesus of Montreal–sounds corny, looks corny when you read the synopsis, totally not corny when you watch it.

An early Sandra Oh movie called Double Happiness–has some really funny stuff. Sandra Oh, like Newsies, used to be underrated, but I think having a Grey’s Anatomy gig now disqualifies her.

A couple of foreign ones that if people know them, know they are good, but aren’t really mainstream: Nobody Knows and After the Wedding. Both of them are deeply moving without hitting you over the head.

3) Who would you say is an underrated author?

I am so lucky that Rosmarie Waldrop was our visiting writer last semester–she’s incredible, and I literally had never heard of her before. V. underrated by non-avant poets.

There’s also a Florida poet named Steve Kronen who spent 13 years writing an amazingly accomplished second book of poetry, and he is a very gracious person and a librarian as well.

Also, there is the a laundry list of all the teachers I’ve had over the years who I’ve also read–Jack Driscoll, Nick Bozanic, Jennifer Clarvoe, at least one of the authors of this blog (haven’t read the other three–yet!). I also have a lot friends from high school and college plugging away, and some of them are so talented it would make you cry. Well, it makes me cry on a regular basis anyway.

4) What would you say is an underrated book?

Housekeeping might be slightly underrated, because I think it’s actually in contention for the best book ever–but it isn’t by any means a secret.

Tripmaster Monkey, but Maxine Hong Kingston–incredibly, intensely well-written, just as interesting as her nonfiction but a whole lot more demanding on the reader.

5) Who or what else needs to be given more respect and accolades?

The US national soccer teams, both of them. The men have quietly improved and do much better in international competition than they used to, and they are starting to get a reputation as a team to be nervous about playing in early rounds of the World Cup. But the really obnoxious thing is that the women pretty much are the best in the world, and they’ve overcome a lot of economic barriers to do it. They should be national heroes.

Claire Danes’s hair in The Family Stone. That is some awesome hair.