Saturday, September 27, 2008

A Little Peace and Love, Singleton Hippie Art

A Little Peace and Love(c) Singleton 2008I found some dusty oldsidewalk chalkin a zip lock bag,buried under photos,and yellowedpages ofpoetrywritten from the rooftopof another life...and there was magic in that bag....Technicolor remembrancesofwhen we believed....Pastel memories...And soI tell the story different colors...but the ending isalways the same..."Peace~love"Funky little

Book Reviews and Blogs

As time goes by and the newspaper business continues to suffer, we see the shrinking and (in some cases) the elimination of book review sections.

In their place, you find a proliferation of blogs. Some of the papers are starting these blogs; many of the bloggers are independent readers or librarians.

This trend was discussed recently on the blog, Poe's Deadly Daughters. Blogging is increasingly becoming a way to send information out to people--whether we're talking about news, book reviews or individuals and businesses marketing their goods or services. But does it serve as an adequate substitute for the book reviewers? Certainly, it creates more content on the subject--but is more better?

As one who blogs about books and reviews them, I'm the last person to say it's the wrong thing to do. But I will pose some questions--how well are bloggers covering the book beat compared with newspaper staff reviewers? Do bloggers provide the same quality writing and depth of insight into books as staff reviewers? Are they better or worse? What's good (or bad) about seeing bloggers take over the role that professional book reviewers have traditionally filled?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Find your Peace, Singleton Hippie Art

Find Your Peace(c) Singleton 2008It's there,in the shards ofyesterday,tomorrow,now...the little broken piecesof what was onceFiesta Ware....The colors of peace,fleeting fragments...Find 'em....Grab 'em....Glue them back together...String 'em from the sky...Chaos is the canvas...Color it with peace...Watercolors, marker, ink, peace and love (c) Singleton 2008

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Flippant Comments and Spying on your Kids are No-No's in 'Hold Tight'

Review of HOLD TIGHT (audiobook 2008) by guest blogger Star Lawrence
Author, Harlan Coben; read by Scott Brick

Do you like those thrillers that plunge you into ghoulish cruelty and completely gross you out, but your main thought is, "Huh? Who is this character? Do I know who this is?"

Not that there is anything wrong with that. Context--who needs it?

Thriller master Harlan Coben perfects this weavy-type plotting in HOLD TIGHT. Characters are introduced by the dozen, lovingly fleshed out, described, and croaked, and so on, and you have no idea how they fit into the story. You just bought the ticket and got on the ride.

The setup is two rich parents in the Sopranos-rich New Jersey 'burbs, Mike and Tia Baye--he a transplant surgeon, she a lawyer--who decide to put spy software on their teenage son's computer. Oh, they agonize over invading his privacy, but in short order, done deal.

Naturally they don't like what they find, such as cryptic IMs alluding to "staying safe." In the meantime, though, and seemingly unrelated, a man and woman are snatching middle-aged women and killing them. Coben describes this in loving detail.

A friend of the Baye's 11-year-old is also having a meltdown over being insulted by a teacher who made a crack about the little mustache on her upper lip, leading sadistic teens to call her "XY."

But, about those murdered women again. Does anyone know what's going on?

Scott Brick reads for us. He is one of my favorites and his sort of nasal, long-suffering, sing-song cadences suit the work well.

As for resolution, it is nearly gift-wrapped by the end. Maybe a little too neatly. As the reader, or in my case, listener, all you can do is say, "Aha. I get it now."

Star Lawrence is owner of the health humor site, Health'Sass.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Name's le Carre . . . John le Carre

Wow! Talk about taking your research for a book a bit too seriously. Who knew John le Carre, well-known spy novel author, had considered defecting to the Soviet Union?

Le Carre said he didn't particularly like communism, but while he worked for the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), he became increasingly curious about what life was like on the "other side."

"When you spy intensively and you get closer and closer to the border... it seems such a small step to jump... and, you know, find out the rest," he said.

I'd say that's one small step for man, one giant leap for a member of MI6 to take.

(Via The Reader's Advisor Online)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Sad News, Odd News and Funny Bits

Recently, we've gotten quite a bit of sad news about good authors. David Foster Wallace checks out. Fletch author Gregory McDonald is gone. And the retrospectives continue for James Crumley, not only from the Washington Post, but from the Associated Press, the LA Times and a blog called "Chewing the Fat."

As for the odd news, how odd is it for another author to add a sixth book to the late Douglas Adams' five-book Hitchhiker's Guide "trilogy"?

And the funny bits? Well, I thought both this and this were pretty funny, actually.

Peace Garden, Singleton Outsider Hippie Art

Peace Garden(c) Singleton 2008SOLDTeeny Tiny seeds,trinkets ofyesterday...mood rings andbroken chains,pennies painted red,ticket stubs fromnights well spent...Broken thoughts andstories,lyrics to unfinished love songs,Beginnings with blurrymake~believe endings....Memories....Feel the love....let 'em grow....Peace Garden and other beer enhanced Hippie Art from Singleton available at Just Give Me

Thursday, September 18, 2008

How to Choose and Why

In a world in which there are so many books and there's so little time, how does one choose which books to read?

Think about it--hundreds (maybe thousands?) of good books are published every year. So what makes one book stand out among the others? In the competition for your attention, how do you choose a good book to read?

In my case, a lot of it depends on genre. I write mysteries, so I often read them and other types of crime fiction. But I don't want to limit myself to them. So I often turn to mainstream fiction for alternatives.

Science fiction was once a passion for me, but I've been reading it less lately. Not because it isn't good, mind you. Some of my favorite authors (Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Ursula K. LeGuin, Kurt Vonnegut, Spider Robinson and Douglas Adams come to mind) write (or wrote) sci fi. And I watch sci fi on television. But there are so many books to choose from--and there's so little time.

Sometimes I get interested in books based on reviews, but I suspect I'm in the minority. Ironically, I don't think I've ever picked up a book based on its cover (though authors tend to think a good cover makes all the difference where sales and promotion are concerned).

I'll note other people's book recommendations, keeping the source (and his or her proclivities and interests) in mind. But so many people recommend so many different books--and what they like doesn't always square with my preferences.

I have certain favorite authors whose work I read every time a new book comes out. Other authors I read sporadically--usually, because they have such huge bodies of work, I'd have to devote my life to catching up with everything on their backlists.

There are several classic books I've yet to read. I went through a period where I read loads of them--The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, Slaughterhouse-Five, Sister Carrie, An American Tragedy (yeah, I was in a Dreiser phase), The Great Gatsby (for the second or third time), The Catcher in the Rye (for the third or fourth), Moby Dick (okay, I skipped over the part about dolphin and whale anatomy--but the rest, I read) and even War and Peace (it took me two and a half months, but it was worth it). But there are many others that are supposed to be great. And I still haven't read them.

I've dabbled in the satirical (Catch-22, Then We Came to the End), memoirs (The Glass Castle, A Girl Named Zippy), the off-beat (P.S. Your Cat is Dead, Cloud Atlas and On the Road--which is both off-beat and Beat), but I've never read James Joyce or William S. Burroughs. I've read John Steinbeck's East of Eden, but not The Grapes of Wrath.

And I haven't even touched on the childrens'/young adult books that are supposed to be so good. Among my favorites: The Phantom Tollbooth, A Wrinkle in Time and most of the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis. I keep meaning to pick up Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events books, but (being perverse) am determined to maintain a Harry Potter-free existence (book-wise and movie-wise).

Then, of course, there's biography (I've read a few about Marilyn Monroe and one about Montgomery Clift) and loads of worthy non-fiction (I keep meaning to get to The Devil in the White City) to read on top of that.

As a result, I've ended up with a long list of books I'd like to read--and any day now, I will.

So, I'll put it to you, readers. How do you choose what you're going to read?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

RIP David Foster Wallace

It seems like the eulogies will never end for David Foster Wallace, who was found dead on Friday, Sept. 12, after hanging himself.

I first learned the news on Work-in-Progress, which in turn referred me to this AOL article. The NY Times and Washington Post both ran appreciations of his work. And a brief blurb (with links to still more appreciations and an online memorial) appeared on Galleycat.

I've never read Wallace's work, but many years ago, I'd read that INFINITE JEST was an unusual and brilliant book. Given what I'd heard about it (and sight unseen), I ordered it from a local bookstore, thinking it would make a great gift for a relative's birthday. When I went to the store to pick it up and saw how BIG it was, I decided against gifting it (didn't seem like gift book material, somehow) and bought my relative a copy of CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES. (There's a certain irony in the choice that seems a bit tasteless to explore at the moment . . . so I won't.)

I still have INFINITE JEST on my shelf, patiently waiting to be read. After seeing all these accolades for Wallace, I'm wondering if it's time I got 'round to picking it up.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Office Tells the Story in 'Then We Came to the End'

Review of THEN WE CAME TO THE END (Back Bay Books 2008)
Author, Joshua Ferris

One of the first things I noticed about THEN WE CAME TO THE END, a darkly-funny story (it's been called "the CATCH-22 of the business world" and "The Office meets Kafka") about a Chicago advertising agency going through tough times after the dot-com bubble burst, is how starting it was not unlike starting a new job. The characters, at first, are just a whole lot of names thrown at you. A bit confusing to keep straight, but after a while, traits emerge and you come to know them. Some are nice, some are pathetic, some unforgettable and others you'd just as soon forget. The kind of people you might, say, work with in an office.

The other thing I noticed was that reading the story was like revisiting the times when I'd worked in offices. As a freelance writer, I enjoy certain perks--the short commute (seconds rather than hours), flexible scheduling, etc. On the other hand, reading this book took me back to a time and situation that had its drawbacks, but also its joys. Reexperiencing the collegiality of office life, along with its frustrations, office politics, gossip--even the shared misery--was kind of an interesting blast from the past.

The major theme in the story is job security (or lack thereof) and many related issues--getting a bit too secure in one's job, not preparing for change or thinking such change is possible, feeling a trifle too fat, dumb and happy for one's own good. The specter of layoffs haunts the characters throughout the book. At the same time, the story has numerous subplots: the office romance gone wrong; the office eccentric who gets canned and who may (or may not) return to the scene with a semi-automatic weapon and a bad attitude; the office clown, who harbors a secret unrequited love; the office whipping boy, who's the last one to hear anything; the chilly middle-manager; the distant (and intimidating, but respected) boss with no personal life (at least, not one that's immediately obvious to the staff). And, of course (especially since some of whom we are talking about are ad copywriters), the office's would-be screenwriter and "failed" novelist.

The most interesting thing, though, is that the book is written in first person plural. The book opens with the lines, "We were fractious and overpaid. Our mornings lacked promise. At least those of us who smoked had something to look forward to at ten-fifteen. Most of us liked most everyone, a few of us hated specific individuals, one or two people loved everyone and everything. Those who loved everyone were unanimously reviled."

It continues that way, talking about what "we" did and how "we" felt--with the exception of a brief interlude mid-way through, in which the book switches to third person singular. It took a chapter or two for me to realize the individual telling the story hadn't been identified and to ask, "Just who's telling this story, anyway?"

It struck me, then, that "we" could be the collective consciousness of the office. As if the staff as a whole was telling the story. (Joshua Ferris gives a different explanation for using "we" in an interview printed at the end of the book. I like mine better, but he's the author. I suppose that counts for something.)

It is an omniscient "we," as well, for you get to hear some conversations the staff never would have. This "we" manages to be all over the place, witnessing simultaneous events at times. The narrative occasionally shifts from one person's point of view to another with a fluidity I like (but my writing group would tear to shreds).

THEN WE CAME TO THE END not only explores the peculiar dynamic of the office workplace in a clever and funny way, but shows the eroding effect on morale as that office is slowly, but surely, dismantled. So when you come to the end of this book, the "we" seems to have become diffused, broken into bits that are cobbled together for one last collective event. And how natural that, when the event is over and everyone goes home, the storyteller should conclude this tale with--for the one and only time--the word "me."

Peace and Dragonflies, Singleton Hippie Art

Peace and Dragonflies(c) Singleton 2008Wings fluttering,dancing,parading through the skyintranslucent petticoats,a chorus ofmake-believe blues,swirling,twirling,scooching intomake the circle...and thencurtsy tothe wind...Peaceanddragonflies....Ballet for the sky....Available here!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Mercantile Center Announces 'First Novel' Award Nominees

Earlier this month, the Mercantile Library Center for Fiction announced the shortlist for its 2008 John Sargent Sr. First Novel Prize. The winner gets $10,000.

"As the new Center for Fiction, we intend to do everything we can to support and promote emerging writers," said director Noreen Tomassi. Ten grand is, indeed, quite a bit of support.

This list of nominees caught my eye, because I noticed ATMOSPHERIC DISTURBANCES by Rivka Galchen was on it. I've heard so many good things about the book, it's on my impossibly long list of books I'd like to read eventually. I'll be interested to see who wins.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

An Award for the Odd Title

The Bookseller recently did an online poll to determine the oddest book title of the last 30 years. Now, as odd book titles go, you'd think it would be hard to beat People Who Don't Know They're Dead, but another one did--Greek Rural Postmen and Their Cancellation Numbers. (Damn! I was going to use that one for my next book.) How to Avoid Huge Ships came in third. (And would you believe there's actually another book with that title?)

Saturday, September 6, 2008

News and More News

All sorts of cool book-related things to report. I wish I could say I dug these up all by myself, but I found them on The Readers' Advisor Online Blog, which is always packed with interesting tidbits.

For instance, Dutton has inked a deal on what's being called a "digi-novel," to be published in Fall 2009. According to this Publishers Weekly article, Dutton "paid millions for a multimedia three-book series from Anthony Zuiker that, at its centerpiece, features a mystery novel which will send readers to a Web site with companion footage relating to the plot." We're seeing this kind of crossover between print and Web publishing more and more.

PW also reports that Amazon has bought, a Seattle-based social network site for readers. So what isn't Amazon buying these days?

And Anne Trubeck suggests that Catcher in the Rye might need to be replaced on high school syllabi with contemporary literature that speaks more to current teens. I know there are more current coming-of-age stories out there, but isn't Catcher what is commonly known as a classic? Has it really lost all its relevance? I pick it up about every 10 years or so (and you don't need to know exactly how many times that's been ;)) and found something to like about it each time.

Maybe I'm just old school, but I can't picture Catcher being replaced by the complete scripts for Freaks and Geeks.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

How to Hire a Readers' Advisory Librarian

Readers' advisor--now, that's a job many people would consider a dream position. Imagine getting paid to read books and recommend them to people. Sign me up now!

Thing is, there's more to it than that. Of course, you can't just read what you like--you have to read what other people might be looking for (and you might hate). Plus you have to advise people, thus the advisory part of the position. Which means working with them, not dictating to them or dumping all over their choices. ("Science fiction? What are you some kind of geek? And thrillers? Totally unbelievable and formulaic junk. Now, how about a little Proust . . .")

So, here are one woman's thoughts on how to hire a good readers' advisory librarian. It's not necessarily a job for anyone who enjoys reading.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Peace, Love, The Dream...Singleton 2008 Hippie Art

Peace, Love, The Dream (c) Singleton 2008 SOLD.Tangled in Sunday sheets,I stretched,tossed,let the Sun sprinkle pixie dust in my eyesand woome back to sleep.....Cold, summer sleep...And we we're dancing...heads thrown back in laughter,everyone else wrapped around their partners,swooning,but we were laughing....And it was the Peace, tattered little sticks and strings,woven,matted,braided

The New Curtis Sittenfeld Book

The Reader's Advisor Online notes that the new Curtis Sittenfeld book, AMERICAN WIFE, will be among the new fall releases coming to stores this week (or tomorrow, to be exact).

I happened to notice this review of the book in the NY Times, which caught my eye not only because I read Sittenfeld's last book, PREP, and enjoyed it, but because it included so much discussion of PREP. And I was terribly happy to see that someone other than myself (Joyce Carol Oates, no less) had noticed that Lee Fiora, the protagonist in PREP (contrary to what some of the book's blurbs would have you believe), was not a female version of JD Salinger's Holden Caulfield in any way, shape or form--hell, she was Holden's complete opposite, if she was anything. Holden was an outsider who rejected the prep school "in crowd"--Lee wanted to belong to the "in crowd" so badly, she treated her down-to-earth, Midwestern family like shit when they visited her at one point.

I'm just so glad someone else noticed--and used the opportunity of reviewing the author's next book to point this out.

Pageviews Last 30 Days