Category Archives: reading

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?

I don’t post much anymore and this post is long and it’s not funny but I really hope you will read it. I ask you to read it. And share it because it matters not just in Portland, not just in Oregon but throughout the U.S.

My mother was a teacher before I was born. She began her career in upstate New York and then moved to Portland, Oregon. In Portland she taught at Boise (pronounced Boyce) Elementary in North Portland which in 1963-64 was a very nasty neighborhood. Race relations in the U.S. were not good at that time (not that much has changed) and the Albina neighborhood where Boise is located, was a violent, rough place.

Police-in-Albina

Albina 1969

Joan, my mom, was 100 lbs of Irish power (her maiden name was Powers). She was a tough little customer and had tons of colorful stories from her time teaching at Boise. Joan taught a little girl named Maria Pia Gompetro (sp?). Maria was a spitfire and when parent-teacher conference time came, Maria had to sit in and translate for her mother, who was from Italy. My mom would say, “Maria needs to settle down and pay attention in class.” Maria would translate and her mother would nod and smile. “Maria, I don’t think you’re telling your mother what I just said.”

She had an African-American boy in one of her classes who she walked by one day and placed her hand on his back to look at his work and he winced. She took him out of the class and looked at his back. In her exact words, his back looked like “hamburger”. She called his mother to come in and his mother said, “Don’t you worry Miss Powers, I’m making sure so and so does his work.” Her method of making sure the little guy did his work was whipping his back with a wire coat hanger. My mother told her if she touched him again, she would have her arrested.

My mother had a theory, had a goal of identifying children who were smart and had the drive to do better and getting them the education that would get them out of the ghetto they lived in. She went to Boise school officials and Portland Public School officials and begged them. “I can tell you who these kids are, get them out of here and give them a chance.” Nope. No can do, that’s not fair.”

Floyd. I can’t remember Floyd’s last name. Floyd was far too old to be in the 4th grade at Boise. He was smart and funny and his home life was a violent hell hole. Floyd loved my mother and was very protective of her. He would walk up and sit on the corner of her desk when the class was acting up and lecture them all to shut up and listen to Miz Powers. He was NOT happy when he met my dad, Joan’s fiance at the time, when my Dad came to the classroom. But he skeptically gave his approval of the marriage. A couple of years later, my mom saw Floyd on the local news. He was arrested for armed robbery.

Fast forward to 2016. I am tutoring reading at the Portland Public School for homeless children, the Community Transitional School. I tutor two kids for 30 minutes each. Homer is in kindergarten and Maria is in 1st grade. I am sorry to say that Homer is a lost cause. He is a tiny, darling African American little boy who has no attention span, can sort of kind of read a few words. One of my kids couldn’t read in kindergarten but she also had a stable, engaged family and a safe, comfortable life. Homer doesn’t have that and I think society’s ills will win with Homer.

How do you solve a problem like Maria?

Oh my dear little Maria. Maria and I are pals. M is for Maria and for Maggie. I told Maria that my middle name is Mary, “Maria is Spanish for Mary.” Maria told me, “No, Mary is English for Maria.” This little girl is a live wire and she is smart. A couple of days ago, during our 30 minute time together, Maria said, “that word can’t be ‘babies’, baby has a Y in it.” Hurrah Maria! We spent the rest of our time thinking of nouns that end in Y but their plural is ‘ies’. Maria picked up on that, I didn’t point it out to her.

This kid has it goin’ on. She doesn’t want to be too obvious with her smarts but she brings it when it matters. She is the daughter of Mexican immigrants. She is smart. I want to help her progress. A few weeks ago I spoke to the reading program coordinator asking how can I spend more time with Maria? And the coordinator thought that Big Brother/Big Sister would be a good idea. Nope. The school doesn’t have a connection with them. Okay, what about Trillium Family Services? A local Portland non-profit that does amazing work with children and families. Nope.

Unfortunately, CTS, as a school, does not match students with mentors through any programs. There are a number reasons for this. One is that we are not able to extend the same services to each child. It is a matter of equity. We want our families to feel we are providing a service of teaching and helping every child.

 

Are you shitting me?! What if mentoring at CTS caught on?! What if we, the privileged of this country no matter what color, what if we go out and try to save one starfish at a time? What if it’s not fair? There is still good to be done, children to be helped and nurtured, it’s not always fair but it can work.

Must Maria, who is only 7, be lost to the lowest common denominator simply because if she gets extra help, it’s not “fair”?

I was raised by Joan Powers O’Connor and my siblings will remember one of Mom’s favorite lines, “life isn’t fair.”

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I Kept My 2014 Revolution and Here is the Documentation.

I resolved last year to keep track of all the books I read in 2014 and I did it. I didn’t write many reviews  but I have created a ratings system to help you figure out if a book is one you might want to read. And you don’t have to read the list today, but if you ever need some ideas for reading material, it is here for you. Because I give like that.

But I didn't so I had to read other people's books.

But I didn’t so I had to read other people’s books.

The Books I read in 2014:

1. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.  Rating: All stars out of infinity. Award: None of the big ones but did get “Publisher’s Weekly Best Children’s Book of the Year – 2006.

This is one of the best books I have ever read and I cannot CAN. NOT. recommend it highly enough.

2. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. Rating: 4 out of 5 stars. Award: None but Tim Burton is making it into a movie, which makes sense.

This is a fantastical book. The photographs are haunting. The story is original and charming and exciting. It’s a book for young adults but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I finished it on Jan. 14 and that is the day the sequel came out! So that is sort of coincidental. Good read.

3. White Oleander by Janet Fitch. Rating: 3ish out of 5 stars. Award: None but Oprah loved it.

I know I’m late to the game here since this was published the year Brigid was born (1999) and has already come and gone as a movie with all blond actresses in it. If someone gives you this book because they don’t want it anymore, go ahead and read it. It’s engrossing. I think I was so disgusted with the mother that my fury clouded some of my judgement. It’s a story of a young girl who goes through several foster homes in LA when her mother is convicted of murdering her boyfriend. In my opinion, that’s not a good mother.

4. March by Geraldine Brooks. Rating: 4 out of 5 annoyings. Award: Nope.

I’m going to write a blog post on this one but in brief: this is a very well-written, well-imagined book whose protagonist I found utterly unsympathetic. I haven’t read Little Women in decades and it may have helped a bit to review it before reading this novel which tells the story of Mr. March’s adventures during the Civil War. I found Mr. March to be a boor surrounded by far more noble characters. Trivia: at the close of the book I discovered that its author is married to Tony Horwitz, the author of the book I’m now reading Midnight Rising, about John Brown’s raid at Harper’s Ferry.

Update: I never wrote a blog post about this book.

5. Wiseguy by Nicholas Pileggi. Rating 4 out of 4 easy stars. Award: Fuhgeddaboudit.

This book is a breezy and fun read if you are a fan of the movie “Goodfellas” which I definitely am. This is the book that inspired the movie and the movie got it spot on. I could hear Ray Liotta’s voice as I was reading the interviews with Henry Hill.  It’s a quick read. It is interesting that after seeing the movie, now reading the book….several old wiseguys were arrested in January 2014 for the Lufthansa heist. Also the author was married to the late Nora Ephron so he must be fantastic. It’s a good beach read.

6. Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid that Sparked the Civil War by Tony Horwitz.  Rating: 3 out of 4 History Units. Award: NY Times Notable Book 2011, which is better than a stick in the eye.

Highly recommend for students of the Civil War. I have read a bunch of books about the Civil War but this one captures the emotions North and South in the years leading up to the war.

7. Wicked by Gregory Maguire. Rating: 5 out of 5 green stars. Awards: No

At first I thought I wouldn’t like this book because it seemed to be one of those fantasy books with made up worlds and words. As it turns out, it is exactly that and it is so good. It really is a treatise on evil beautifully woven into a Wizard of Oz back story. I’m not a big fan of the movie but now I want to watch it to see how it changes with this book’s perspective. If you haven’t already, read it! I am hoping to see the musical when the girls and I are in NYC this summer. Update: did see the musical and it is fabulous!

8. The Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime That Scandalized a City and Sparked the Tabloid Wars by Paul Collins. Rating: Half of whatever rating system you want to use. Award: There ain’t no award fer stoopid.

As you may guess from the title, this is two stories in one book. One being a murder mystery that lets us know where Breaking Bad got the bathtub idea. The other being the outbreak of tabloid wars between the NYC newspapers and their owners (Hearst, Pulitzer and the like). One story captures the reader’s attention (murder), the other doesn’t (tabloids). It feels like the author was looking for a thesis subject that no one else had thought of. This could be two books. I wouldn’t bother if I were you.

what-the-fuck-am-i-reading

9. The Chelsea Girl Murders by Sparkle Hayter. Rating: 100% James Patterson badness. Award: Yeah, right.

I hate to get personal but I’m going to…is Sparkle Hayter, the author’s real name? That’s something. This book is overflowing with pop culture references, overly coy, cloying, and self-consciously aware of its own cuteness. It angers me that books (and it’s one of a series) have been published and I know so many fine writers who haven’t.  Do. Not. Read.

10. The Little Friend by Donna Tartt. Rating: Two thumbs up, five stars, 100% good read. Award: She had already won a Pulitzer so what the hell does she need with another award.

This is a big book, 550 pages or so but well worth the time. I liken it to a To Kill a Mockingbird, The Help, The Secret Life of Bees. The story is set in the deep south of the 1970s and is narrated by an 11-year-old girl named Harriet. Her brother was murdered when she was just a baby and the book tells of how that event shaped her life and that of her sister and her whole family. Beautifully written. I’m sorry I waited so long to read it.

11. Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward. Rating: Read it and read my blog post about it here. Award: 2011 National Book Award for Fiction, 2012 Alex Award from the American Library Association

The Trial of Elizabeth Cree by Roger Ackroyd. Rating: What? Award: Noawardforyou!

Years and years ago, my father told me that if I wasn’t enjoying a book, I should just put it down. There is no law saying anyone has to finish a book they don’t like. Even in college, I took a test on Moby Dick and The Sound and the Fury. Did I read them? No, but I could still take a test and get an A in the class because the professor was visiting from Cornell and didn’t really care what we wrote in our blue books.  Anyway, I was staying with this Elizabeth Cree book because I am tracking my books but finally I couldn’t do it any longer. I didn’t give two shits about any of the characters, couldn’t follow the story line and had no idea why Karl Marx was in it. I am not giving this book a green light.

I would have preferred Groucho

I would have preferred Groucho, which tells you how awful the book is.

12. The Truth About the Henry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker. Rating: 10 summer reading points out of 10. Award: No ‘merican awards but plenty of French ones.

This is a big book but it reads so quick. The characters are engaging. The plot/mystery flows and keeps the reader’s attention. Fabulous book right to the last drop. My only issue with it was the author (and it is translated from French but still) used the 2008 US presidential elections as a plot tool to convey urgency. It didn’t tie in with the story and seemed a small distraction. And he clearly had a French man boner for Obama, which I most definitely can not relate to. C’est un livre magnifique!

13. The Vanishing of Katherina Linden by Helen Grant Rating: Top Notch Mystery! Award: 2011 Alex Award from the American Library Association

I have waited too long to update this list so I can’t remember details on this book. I know I really enjoyed it and liked the surprise ending. Could be a YA novel, I’m not sure. Set in Germany with an adolescent girl narrator.  I say, read it.

14. Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt Rating: 10 out of 10 Touching Beautiful Must Read Stars Award: 2013 Alex Award from the American Library Association and half a dozen mentions as one of the best books of 2013.

I bought this in an airport when visiting my pal Judy a couple of weeks ago (July 2014). Again, a teenage girl narrator who has lost someone she loved. Book is set in 1987 and delves into the newly-arrived AIDS crisis. This book is laugh out loud funny and heartbreaking at the same time. I have teenage daughters and June is depicted accurately and lovingly as a smart, sad, funny exasperating girl. This is a very fine book and I highly HIGHLY recommend it.

Before You Sleep by Linn Ullman Rating: 5 Nejs

This book is by Linn Ullman daughter of Liv Ullman and Ingmar Bergman so she has that goin’ for her, which is nice. She has been lauded in the NY Times Book Review so I got one of her books. I tried, I really did but Nej, not gonna do it. If Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and this book are any indication….Sweden is one bleak place full of beautiful people. Left it in NYC.

15. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Rating: 15 out of 10 incredible mystery stars. Award: None

One of the best books I’ve ever read. Go get it right now and read it. What? I said now, shoo go get it! Read it before the movie comes out!

Clearly, I'm a moron.

Clearly, I’m a moron.

16. The Lost Continent by Bill Bryson Rating: 4 out of 5 Bryson stars Award: None

If you love Bill Bryson, you will love this book. I really enjoyed it and did some laughing out loud on the plane back from NY. For those not familiar with his writing, Bryson writes books about traveling the world or the country. He’s an observer and he’s funny. He can sometimes be a bit caustic and his anti-Reagan snipes got to me a bit but this is still a fun book. Since it was published in 1989 and I think he did the traveling in 1987, it’s also a reminder of travel before there were IPhones and GPS.

I read it in one day on an airplane, it’s that kind of book.

17. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides Rating: 3 out of 5 Pulitzer book rating increments Award: 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, Oprah liked it and some other awards.

I liked this book. Eugenides’ storytelling is creative, his writing is beautiful. I recognize those elements. I also know it won the Pulitzer for fiction. It took me a month to read. It is a good book but it just didn’t grab me by my eyeballs and insist that I read it. I know people who love it and again, it won the Pulitzer which is waaaayyyy better than a National Book Award.

18. Mr. White’s Confession by Robert Clark Rating: 3 out of 5 mystery points Award: 1999 Edgar Award

I don’t know what the hell it is with award-winning books but they just don’t always hit on all cylinders. This is an Edgar Award winner published in 1999. I thought the story was strong, characters interesting. He rambled on a bit in a couple of places and I skimmed that. Very noir mystery set in St. Paul, MN during the winter of 1939. Engrossing story. I had some issues with one of the detective’s relationship with a 16-year-old girl (I have daughters that age). I get that it was a philosophical book as well as a mystery but the problem is, just like The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, great book and you get to the very end and think, “What?” I think I know whodunit but I have no idea why.  Good book but unsatisfying ending. If someone gives it to you or you find it in a rental property, go ahead and read it.

19. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon Rating: A- Award: 2004 Alex Award

This is such a good and endearing book especially if you know any kids on the Autism spectrum. Haddon captures the Asperger’s child so well. The author’s writing and plotting is very unique and grabs the attention of the reader quickly. I read this in two sittings. It opens soon on Broadway. Recommend.

20. A Small Death in Lisbon by Robert Wilson Rating: Average Award Winning Mystery Score Award: a couple in Europe

This is a mystery in Portugal where the book starts at two ends and they meet in the middle. One story takes place during WWII and the second in the 1990’s and it all ties together. It’s fine.

21. The Chatham School Affair by Thomas H. Cook Rating: B+/A- Award: 1997 Edgar Award for Best Novel

Good mystery nice twist at the end without being ridiculous. Solid vacation read.

22. Random Family by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc Rating: A+++ Award: No big ones but 2003 NY Times 10 Best Books of the Year.

This is a superb book and I’m going to blog about it….eventually.

23. The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith Rating: Definite read. Award: No big ones but a 2013 LA Times Book Prize for Mystery/Thriller

I don’t really get why JK Rowling has a fake man’s name that she uses to write mystery books when everyone knows it’s her but whatever. She is a fantastic story teller for those of you who haven’t heard of the Harry Potter series. She did pretty well with those and has now written two in this series of detective novels.

24. The Bottoms by Joe Lonsdale Rating: Love it, get it. Award: 2000 Edgar Award for Best Novel and others

I’m happy that I’m winding up the year with books I really enjoyed and would recommend. This is an Edgar Award winning book reminiscent of To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s beautifully written and a great whodunit crime story.

25. Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline Rating: 4.5 stars Award: None which would be surprising if the teenager part of the story were not so self-conscious.

This a good book to end the year on. I really liked this book despite some uneven writing. It is two stories and oddly enough her writing in the contemporary sections is not as good. Prior to reading this book, I had never heard of the orphan trains of the late 18th and early 20th centuries from NYC to the midwest. Kline is a strong storyteller and has inspired me to learn more about the orphan trains and immigrant life in turn of the century New York.

And there you have it! This was really just for me because I love books and I love lists. This post was essentially for me or blogsturbation.

x-all-the-things-meme-generator-read-all-the-things-409e90

This year I resolve to pay off my credit debt which is substantial. I’m also going to track my books which you will find here.

See you tomorrow!

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You Need to Read This to Read Tomorrow’s Post, Well You Don’t Need to, You Can, It Could Prove Helpful but It’s Ultimately Up to You and Your Blog Reading Habits

I’ve decided to return to Misc. Maggie. I miss you guys. And I really sucked at the Dear Judy blog. In preparation for my first post, I’m providing you with some background information that may prove vital to enjoying aforementioned first post. It could also be completely boring and of no interest to anyone but I have now slyly let you know of my upcoming return to the site that has made me famous in my own mind.

The Edgar Awards

Each spring, Mystery Writers of America present the Edgar® Awards, widely acknowledged to be the most prestigious awards in the genre (I take it they mean the mystery genre). The Award is named for Edgar Allen Poe, who wrote scary things like “The Telltale Heart”, which was actually more gross than scary. There don’t seem to be many rules for the Edgar awards other than publishers submitting works but be on the approved publisher’s list or qualify to be added to the list. Books must be submitted during the month of publication.  So the submitter doesn’t even know if it’s a hit before submitting it, unless it becomes a best seller super quick.

Nominations are usually announced in the middle of January (on or near Edgar Allan Poe’s birthday) of the following year and the winners are announced at the annual Edgar® Awards Banquet. The winner of the Best Novel wins the “Edgar” but they give out other awards, too.

There are a variety of Edgar awards for fiction, non-fiction and some special awards like:

  • Mary Higgins Clark Award (since 2001) – this must be the award for books that end each chapter with something like “and then a hand reached out of the darkness!” or “she thought she was safe but saw the headlights behind her!”

The National Book Award

Since 1996, independent panels of five writers have chosen the National Book Award Winners in four categories: Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Young People’s Literature.

Now, over a half-century since its inception, the National Book Awards continues to recognize the best of American literature, raising the cultural appreciation of great writing in the country while advancing the careers of both established and emerging writers like Richard Powers, Jonathan Franzen, and Lily Tuck. I think I’ve read a book of Richard Powers’, no idea who Lily Tuck is and Jonathan Franzen was awarded the “Dave Eggers Award for Longest Book that Evolves into a Self-Indulgent Mess of Fabulous Vocabulary”.

Pulitzer Prize in Letters

Every year Columbia University awards the Pulitzer Prize in Letters of $10,000. “Books first published in the United States during 2014. All entries must be made available for purchase by the general public in either hardcover or bound paperback book form. (Just pushing ‘Publish’ doesn’t mean it’s a book).

The Pulitzer Board is made up of a lot of people, some I have heard of , some I haven’t. Go look for yourself.

YALSA’s Alex Award (Young Adult Library Services Organization)

The Alex Awards are given to ten books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18. The winning titles are selected from the previous year’s publishing. The Alex Awards were first given annually beginning in 1998 and became an official ALA award in 2002. I like Alex Award books which says something about me but I’m not sure what. Also, the Chair and Admin of the Alex Award committee are in Portland. Just sayin.

How I spent my holidays other than writing this blog post.

How I spent my holidays other than writing this blog post.

Experiencing “Salvage the Bones” by Jesmyn Ward

I finished Salvage the Bones this morning because I couldn’t stay up for the last 60 pages last night. I am keeping a list of every book I read in 2014 and this is #11. I seldom read out of my comfort zone and this book is most definitely NOT in my typical reading wheelhouse. It’s also the 2011 National Book Award Winner and I tend to not care for National Book Award Winners. However, Salvage the Bones showed up on enough “you really should read this” lists that I gave in and read it.

Quick synopsis:

The narrator, Esch, is a 15-year-old girl whose mother died in childbirth when Esch was 8. She has two older brothers: one who has a fighting pit bull and the other hoping to make a name for himself in basketball. The youngest brother is only 7 and has some developmental disabilities. Their father, who clearly loved their mother very much, has checked into a bottle since she died. The Batiste kids are  pretty much on their own at the Pit, which is what they call their homestead in the fictional Gulf Coast town of Bois Sauvage, Mississippi. The book covers 12 days in their lives in 2005. Esch realizes she is pregnant. The fighting pit bull has had a litter. Basketball scouts are coming. Their Daddy is worried about a hurricane out in the Gulf. The hurricane is named Katrina.

One doesn’t read this book as much as feel it. This book’s sense of foreboding is heart racing. The stricken reader knows what’s coming and knows it’s not good. Surprisingly, Salvage isn’t depressing. It is full to the point that it seems robust and stuffed like a pillow. The story is swollen so that the characters become pieces of each other, of the land and of the past. Salvage the Bones is crowded with fear, love, violence, poverty, profound sadness, and excitement.

I recommend it highly.

All that being said, I am also ashamed of myself.

This is what I imagined the Batiste family's house looked like.

This is what I imagined the Batiste family’s house looked like.

I remember Katrina. Of course I do, it will only be nine years this summer. I remember watching the news in disbelief, thinking “I’m never going to see what New Orleans was really like”. I donated money to the Red Cross and the Humane Society. I was annoyed with those foolish people who didn’t evacuate. Duh, get the hell out of there!

Why didn't the just leave?

Why didn’t they just leave?

And there is my shame. I have never been to the deep south. I don’t know what the communities are like there…rich or poor. Mostly though, I have no experience with extreme poverty. Why didn’t they just leave? Why were they so stupidly stubborn? It is my shame to realize they had no where to go. They had no food, no gas, no cable, no 24-hour news telling them what to do, no luggage — they had nothing to start with and less than that when the storm ended. How ignorant of me.

katrina2

This book taught me about hurricanes: what the sky looks like and the heaviness of the air, the suffocating heat, and the terrifying water. It taught me about a population segment of the U.S. that I don’t see because I don’t have to. And now this book has me thinking some very uncomfortable thoughts about myself and the socioeconomic structure of this country. I’m not going to write a political post here and if people want to discuss the politics of then and now, I can; but that is not what I’m thinking about right now.

I am 49 years old. I read a short book (just 258 pages) and I have  been deeply moved and educated. I can keep on reading. Therein lies  the magic of books. Anything a reader wants can be found.

Katrina.French cooking.Space travel.Aliens.Dragons.Libraries.Murders.Jewel heists.Fantasy.Reality.Humor.Memoirs.Fairy tales.The Revolutionary War (U.S., French, Spanish, you choose).The presidency (of 4th grade, Russia, some imaginary university, you choose)

Read! Learn! Even if I think I won’t like a book or that a topic might upset me, I will keep reading just to see. And the book is always better than the movie; except for The Bridges of Madison County….the movie was way better.

 

 

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The 2014 Reading List Page and James Patterson Badness

As a 2014 new year’s revolution, I have a page listing every book I read this year.

I don’t know if many of you have checked out THE LIST. It includes the book’s title and author and a rating with a bit of detail but no big book review. I make up the rating scales according to the book. There is a scale reserved for really bad books and that is the “James Patterson Badness” scale.

reading

Many years ago, I was in a book club. Every month one club member selected the book for the group to read. There were many rules to the selection: had to be a paperback, had to be a novel, couldn’t have been read by other members already or if they had read it and didn’t mind reading it again that was okay but not if they didn’t like it. We read a couple of good books. My first book that the group read was, Clear Springs: A Memoir (link is to the New York Times review) by Bobbie Ann Mason. I liked that book but was chided for selecting a memoir instead of a novel.

The next time it was my turn to pick the book, I picked The Lovely Bones but it wasn’t in paperback yet. So, no.  Then I picked An Obvious Enchantment by Tucker Malarkey, a woman I had met through a mutual friend. Nope, someone had read it and thought it was boring.  On and on this goes and I have got to pick a book. I send out an email to my college pals for book recommendations and Kitty comes up with Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas by James Patterson. That’s gets clearance Clarence and we all read it.

Oh.

Mah.

Gaw.

Within a couple of pages, I realize that the book is one of the worst collections of words ever published. The physical stereotypes of the characters are ridiculous. They are jaw-droppingly beautiful and Mensa-brained. I believe the young lovers meet at John Kennedy Jr. and Carolyn Bessette’s wedding. A wedding attended by probably 40 people on Cumberland Island, Georgia. Really?! No they did not, Mr. Patterson. That’s just stoopid. The pop culture references are nauseating. And quite frankly some of the intimate details that Suzanne writes in the diary to her son, are really inappropriate. Children don’t want to read about their parents’ sex life.

The group met that month at the Rock Bottom Brewery downtown. We squeezed into a booth and they erupted in laughter at me. Jill, who I had known since junior high, opened the meeting between giggles with, “WHY would you choose this book?” And it went downhill from there. Dumb ol’ book club with all the dumb rules.

Here is a passage that clearly moved many readers because it is an image on Pinterest. Thank you Mr. Patterson, your insight has touched my soul. Trees are asking for their oxygen back because you are not putting it to good use.

patterson quote

I have never forgiven James Patterson and that is why the truly stoopid books I read will receive the James Patterson Badness rating.

Happy Reading unless you are reading Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas. If you are, go set it on fire.

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Sometimes All it Takes is One Good Autocorrect

Shit the duck up.

My sister wasn’t telling me to “shit the duck up” but those are the words that came through in the email and made me laugh and I wanted to share them. She also used the phrase “hold good toilet”. As I told her, all toilets should be hold good toilets. Apparently she meant “childhood toilet” still waiting for the story on that one.

I have a ton of misc. to share but nothing to make a good solid blog so I was just going to shit the duck up but now I’ve decided to write.

Yesterday Mitch, my ex-husband, and I signed the papers purchasing my childhood home (where he currently resides with the girls) from my mother’s estate, read: my siblings. They wanted out. I want to wait and see if the housing market continues to improve et voila! Now Mitch and I own both our houses. It’s a new take on divorce. I’m really excited for Mitch. Since he stopped drinking, he has so many new interests. He’s planning for work on the house. He took surfing lessons last weekend. I hope he starts cooking again, he did that really well even when he was drinking. So that’s good misc.

When I clicked on my name on WordPress this morning, the drop down menu showed me that I have two blogs. Two (2) count ’em! I have Misc. Maggie for what she’s worth and now I have Tipsy Lit! Tipsy Lit is the brain child of Ericka Clay at Creative Liar, writer and cat glitterer extraordinaire. I joined the Tipsy Lit book club on Goodreads and now I’m an author on another blog. Bam! Just like that. I’m not a real writer like the other women on Tipsy Lit but I am able to write. I think I’m the oldest member of the crew so I can hold their hair if they throw up.

The new blog’s first post will be out on August 1. So go follow us and see our displays of intellectual prowess and how we can read, drink and walk a fine line all at the same time. Tipsy Lit is also on Facebook and Pinterest, so Face and Pin us.

I will be a submissions editor for essays and short fiction on the sight, as well as writing about reading and drinking. Which are both things I do quite well.

The Tipsy Lit announcement leads me to another announcement:

I’m getting a Twitter. I never ever thought I would type those words. I never thought it would happen to me but I’m getting a Twitter. Can I get a Twitter if I don’t have a smart phone? I should look into that. I need the Twitter because Tipsy Lit book club meetings are held on Twitter so I can Twit.

And here are some Misc. Pictures from this summer:

tomatotart

Last weekend I made this tomato torte, crust and all, with tomatoes and basil from our garden. It’s a first for me.

Bouquet for the 4th from my very own dahlias and that red flower that I can remember the name of.

Bouquet for the 4th from my very own dahlias and that red flower that I can’t remember the name of.

The back of my house at night. Isn't it pretty?

The back of my house at night. Isn’t it pretty?

Lula is a big cat now and the only one we have left because Sugar disappeared over 4th of July.

Lula is a big cat now and the only one we have left because Sugar disappeared over 4th of July.

That’s all I got.

Derwood and I are going camping this weekend. I haven’t been camping since August, 1977 (36 years). The day I returned from that camping trip Elvis had died. All pop culture icons need to be careful this weekend, I don’t want anyone to get hurt just because I’m camping.

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She’s Baaaack!

I’m sane again today or saner than yesterday. I took to my bed, curled up in a ball and slept for a couple of hours. Then Derwood came home bringing me two kinds of chicken soup because he’s just caring like that. And then we played “Whose Line Is It Anyway” and I would tell him situations and he would do them and make me laugh. “Be driving when the car in front of you stops short” and then he acts it out and says funny things and I laugh and feel better.

Don, I’m sorry I called you stoopid. You’re a total hot stud of funny blogging and not stoopid at all.

crazywoman

I started reading “A Gate at the Stairs” by Lorrie Moore. It is an engaging read but bits about it niggle at me. That’s right, niggle. The first thing I noticed is that this is one of those books by somebody who has really studied writing. It is rife with similes and metaphors, the moon “crackles” and a something is positioned at an angle like a “geometry problem”.  It is studiously literary. Does that make sense? Her writing is almost self-consciously aware of her writing.

badmet1

I’m plowing right through it so it’s an engaging book but the excessive creative writing I find a bit distracting. It is also noticeable that the author is shading the book with a bit of a political agenda. I don’t see how it ties into the plot, at least not yet, it’s just a bit odd.

Before that I read “The Gardner Heist” by Ulrich Boser.  The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston was robbed March of 1990. I visited it right before the heist — I love the word “heist”.  Paintings by Vermeer, Rembrandt, Degas and Manet were among the artworks stolen. It’s been 23 years and the frames that housed the stolen paintings still hang empty in the museum. A couple of months ago the FBI announced that they know who did it but need to find them.

Courtesy elementsofstyleblog.com

Gardner Museum Post Heist.
Courtesy elementsofstyleblog.com

This is  a real mystery and Ulrich’s research and investigation is extensive and the writing is smooth. He transitions very well between cities and informants and years. I highly recommend it. I find art theft so interesting. Does anyone know of books that follow a painting being stolen and where it goes into the underworld? That’s what they call it “the art underworld”.

And before that I read “In the Garden of Beasts” by Erik Larson who wrote “The Devil in the White City.” This is the story of American Ambassador William Dodd who takes his family with him to his post in Berlin in the 30s during Hitler’s rise. The story is chilling, all the missed opportunities to stop Hitler before he took over the Sudetenland and Poland, etc.  The undercurrent of American antisemitism is also covered.

REALLY?!

My goddam doctor’s office just called and I have to go in and I still haven’t lost any weight. Shit. And I can’t stand Hector my doctor’s “assistant” because you can’t say “nurse” anymore apparently. What the hell is wrong with “nurse”? Hector has the bed side manner of a brick. And he’s kind of judgy and has no sense of humor. He just called to tell me I need to come in if I want my Prozac renewed, which I do. I said okay and he told me to call back and schedule an appointment. I asked if he could just transfer me to the reception desk. “Ohhh, noooooooo….they’re at lunch but they’ll be back in like 5 minutes.”

Ohhhhh, thaaaaaankkkkkssss Hector, you have been no help at all, as always.

Bugger.

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National Book Award Books Double As Sominex

Sure I’m in the midst of planning a wedding (going to get Derwood a ring and a suit tonight), church up the street says we can use their parking lot, booked algae wrap for morning of wedding (that is to wrap me in algae not to wrap up my algae).

Yes, I just finished working on a huge event for Dress for Success and it was a great success (I think about a $300k night) and I am most definitely a Greater Giving software EXPERT now. Yeah, expert… I said it.

Indeed I do have more duties at my job and I do those diligently, pretty much.

All of that is true but it doesn’t mean that I’m no longer a great intellect.

I still am.

I read.

I can read.

I’m just having trouble getting into a book right now.

I don’t know what my problem is.  I read Cold Sassy Tree and that was a fine book, good story, entertaining. I then started reading All the Kings Men and fumbled and stopped. I couldn’t get into The Art of Fielding or Mink River. I tried reading a book about the Mitford sisters but again, it just didn’t take off for me.

A few days ago I picked up Three Junes by Julia Glass. It won the National Book Award, you have to figure it’s gotta be good. And it’s fine. Last night I was reading it, doing that thing where you flip through the pages to see how soon the chapter ends so you can turn the light out, and Derwood is next to me chuckling through Bill Bryson’s  A Walk in the Woods. I’ve only read Bryson’s Neither Here, Nor There but I loved it! Why did I give that book to Derwood? I should have kept it for me and then I would be cheerily plowing through a book instead of trying to figure out how soon I can stop reading.

It hit me last night, “Wait a minute! This is a National Book Award Winner! I hate National Book Award Books!” Gah! I forgot!

This morning I Googled the list of National Book Award Winners and realized I have read winners Cold Mountain (this is prescribed when Ambien or a sledgehammer to the back of the head doesn’t work for insomnia), The Shipping News (SERIOUSLY, what the hell was the big deal about this book???), Charming Billy (how is it possible for a book about an Irish drunk to be this boring?). I couldn’t read more than two pages of All the Pretty Horses (I think that’s how it goes with Cormac McCarthy, you either love him or bend forks into your eyes like on the cover of that Scorpions album that I owned on cassette but had to turn the cover inside out because it scared me.) Dale Loves Sophie to Death, good enough, I remember not detesting this book.

You know who has won two National Book Awards? William Faulkner! Holy hell balls there’s the problem, if Faulkner can win two of these damn things I must hate National Book Award Books.

Who is selecting these books?

Ohhhh, you’re on the jury?

Now you hate me and my blog? I’ll never work in this bidness again?

GOOD! It’s worth it to not have to read another National Book Award Book EVER again!

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These Books Have Been Banned. Really?

Yesterday, I read an article on the Christian Science Monitor website, it’s a list of 20 (Surprisingly) Banned Books. The CSM has a really terrific book section. I highly recommend it, I get a lot of reading ideas there.

The books referenced aren’t universally banned but have been banned in certain states at one time or another. Banning any book is abominable. For the record, I don’t consider librarian discretion to be the same as banning books. There are books that simply don’t belong in an elementary school library or the children’s section of a library. The books listed in the CSM article were banned from reading in schools for what are, to me, ridiculous reasons.

“Book banning” removes the reader’s right to read, think, discriminate, reason over language, politics, social mores, etc. I have always been irked by people’s upset over the vernacular used in one of my all time favoritest books, Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”  I’m sure most of you know that the word “nigger” is used throughout the book. People don’t like the “N” word. I don’t use it. I don’t like the sound of it but I understand that at the time “Huckleberry Finn” was written and the setting of the story requires the use of that word, which was commonplace in Southern states at the time. “Huckleberry Finn” is a masterwork because of how the dialogue is written. Twain wrote true to the time and place. While times and language have changed and society doesn’t approve of such language anymore; that does not mean the book isn’t worth reading. The book is an anti-slavery treatise but if the reader gets hung up on a word, the overarching theme of the novel is lost. If you don’t like it, don’t read it. But don’t ban it and deprive students of an American literary treasure.

My mom’s college copy of Huck Finn

Here are some of the books listed on CSM.

Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh — One of my most beloved books from childhood, I made a journal and spied just like Harriet. I was jealous that she lived in NYC where spying was way better than Lake Oswego. I have read “Harriet” a couple of times as an adult and it is still wonderful. This book was banned for setting a bad example for children teaching them to spy, lie, and swear. I should be banned as a parent, except for the lying part.

Brigid’s copy of Harriet. I don’t know where mine is.

The Dictionary – Has been banned from libraries in California because it includes sexual definitions. That’s so wrong. What third grader hasn’t gotten their jollies looking up the words: penis, vagina and masturbate? Sheesh.

Dictionaries are made of paper, not .coms

Nobody ever bans the Thesaurus and they are rife with penis words!

Grimm’s Fairy Tales by the Brothers Grimm — These have been banned because the original fairy tales weren’t all Disneyfied and the ugly step sisters cut off their toes to fit in the glass slipper. The wolf ate people. Nasty things happened and the tales teach readers lessons about greed and vanity and trust. I read the Brother’s Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen when I was a kid and I’m fine.

A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein — When I was in the 6th grade and we had to memorize poems and recite them in front of the class, almost everyone chose poems from Silverstein’s “Where the Sidewalk Ends.” The man was a genius and his books continue to lure young readers into the joys of poetry.  “It was banned in Florida because in the eyes of other readers it promotes violence and disrespect.” You know what? Florida should be banned because it promotes violence and disrespect.

One of Brigid’s four Shel Silverstein books

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder — This was banned in South Dakota for language that offended Native Americans, I’m assuming the word “injun” comes into play. I loved this series both as a kid and as a parent reading it to my children. It’s a true story about pioneers set during the 1850s, get over it. I was struck when reading it to my girls how self-sufficient pioneer children were. Can you imagine leaving an 8-year-old in charge of the house in a blizzard and letting them light a fire and take care of the baby? I can barely do that.

Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. — “The classic children’s book was banned by the State Board of Education in Texas in 2010 due to a simple mistake. A board member mixed up Martin with another author named Bill Martin who had written a book for adults titled “Ethical Marxism: The Categorical Imperative of Liberation.” There ain’t no cure fer stoopid.

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck — I’m not surprised this book has been banned at times for “indecent content” and apparently by Kern County, California because some local politician didn’t care for the depiction of fictional residents of the county. Potential legitimate reason for banning it: it is unceasingly depressing and the final scene with the breast feeding freaked me out when I first read the book in high school.

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl — Schools prefer the edited version which removed some sexual content which is an insult to everything her diary stands for. This could be my favorite reason that any book, especially this one, was challenged by an Alabama school board in the ’80s, “according to the board’s records, it was “a real downer.” Totally. The Holocaust and the millions of people hiding and being captured and tortured and murdered, total buzzkill dude.

Read this book! But keep in mind, it is a “downer”. Anne would hate to hear that, this is a book of life and living.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl — At some point this book was in a “locked reference collection” in a Colorado library because a librarian thought it embraced a “poor philosophy of life.” Yeah Charlie ya loser, life isn’t all golden tickets buddy.

Where’s Waldo by Martin Hanford — Apparently one of the drawings had a topless cartoon woman on the beach. If you find that, you’re looking too hard and should develop other interests. Potential legitimate reason for banning: Waldo looks annoying.

Little Red Riding Hood by Charles Perrault — Some California schools banned this book because wine was in Red’s basket for her grandmother. Hmmm, ironic.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee — I refuse to discuss this. I am distressed that I can’t find my copy of TKAM. Brigid read it last, perhaps she knows. I have looked in Annie’s room because it is her favorite book but it’s not there, either. Ladies??

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell — I think we all know the problems here and how ridiculous they are for yet another great American novel.

1024 pages of amazing. Read it, it’s even better than the movie and that’s a REALLY good movie. Rhett Butler is a hottie.

The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer — This book has been banned over the years for sexual content. Here’s a quote and you’ll understand why, “Thi clerk was cleped hende Ncholas. Of derne love he coude and of solas.” Leaving this book in a school library would be exactly the same as letting them have “50 Shades of Gray”.
Thoughts?

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