Saturday, December 13, 2008

 

The Bad Bad Blogger

Once upon a time, there was a little blogger, who wrote about the books she was reading. Then she started to put off the writing in favour of more reading. The longer she put off blogging what she had read, the more onerous the task of catching up became—especially since it was buried underneath some freelance work that she was also behind on. Until finally a tiny cry went up from her readers and she thought, “Well, maybe today, blogging would be less onerous than the editing I have to do.” So she logged in to her blog and discovered—oh my!—that is was two whole months since she had written, and here it was, nearly Christmas, when her readers might be looking for something to while away the holiday hours. So she set to work. As she began, a sense of weird otherness came over her. Surely she had written about Kristin Lavransdatter already? She went back to her blog, and searched, and discovered, by means of technical divination, that it had not been two months since last she blogged, but only one—but the November blog had languished, unposted, in the draft pile. She tried to clean it up, but, foiled by the blog site’s inscrutable magic, she was forced, in the end to post the entry with all its errors and hope for the best.

Sorry for that; blogspot didn't like something in the draft and I couldn't find or get it out—hopeless. On to the next lot of reads.

Just finished: Singing Songs by Meg Tilly (Syren, 1994): Yes, that Meg Tilly. Arresting and sad autobiographical fiction (she thought she was writing fiction but it turned out to be her memories, unpacking themselves). I found it on the new books shelf in the kids' section, and it definitely doesn't belong there. Teens, at the youngest, for though the stories are told in a clear, convincing child's voice, what she relates is devastating. How very interesting to compare to this to Haven Kimmel's autobiographical stories, which also emerge from a grubby and inadequately supported, though much less abusive, childhood. I am now keen to read her fiction, and see if she keeps that unadorned voice and clear vision.

Spilled Water by Sally Grindley (Bloomsbury, 2004): maybe someday, we'll read a work by the Chinese female peasant/domestic slave/factory worker herself. In the meantime, such a story is enough to make you think twice about how "cheap" goods made in China are.

I would not recommend What Makes Women Happy (Fourth Estate/HarperCollins, 2006) to first-time readers of Fay Weldon, but you fans out there should enjoy it tremendously. It is her wise-woman's compendium. The short answer is "nothing, not for more than ten minutes" and I find that to be absolutely true. And in the lovely way of synchronicity, let me direct you to the little video a co-worker sent me before I had ever heard of Fourth Estate:
http://vimeo.com/2295261

I've been reading tons of historical fiction for work, good, bad and indifferent: I don't have all the info by me and won't go into these in detail except to recommend them: When My Name Was Keoko by Linda Sue Park and Stones in Water by Donna Jo Napoli. I also recommend What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell (Scholastic Inc, 2008): how excellently evocative of a certain time and circumstance without being exactly about them. A coming-of-age story set in postwar USA, in which a girl very simply makes a hugely complicated moral decision.

The Other Side of the Island by Allegra Goodman (Razorbill/Penguin, 2008) describes another sort of coming-of-age, in a future world where the environment is scary and threatening and safety is to be found in the town of the Mother and the Corporation—or so they say. The story is told from the perspective of the deeply loved but unaware and conforming daughter of rebels. Couldn't put it down!

Another great title by Caroline B. Cooney: The Ransom of Mercy Carter (Dell/Random House, 2001). It addresses an historical question: why did so many kidnapped settlers refuse to rejoin their families when ransom was offered, in early 18th century America? I'd add this title to a booklist illustrating "the resilience of children" for sure—and it might give readers pause, looked at that way.

Ah, Susan Juby—a national treasure! Getting the Girl (HarperTrophy, 2008) does not disappoint. I was curious, though, if the male voice worked for males, so I pressed Son for his opinion.
Me: What did you think of Getting the Girl?
Him: It was okay—not that great.
Me: What didn't you like about it?
Him: I can't really say.
I'll spare you the agony (he is 13, and not universally eloquent) and sum up: he thought the book would appeal more to girls than boys, due to some aspects of the story and the characters that weren't "realistic." Disclaimer: this was my word, which he allowed for.

I don't know how my work searches led to this title, but it did, and I read it: The Boy From the Basement by Susan Shaw (Speak/Penguin, 2004). Sad and touching, a well-written novel of the sort I ate up when I was 13 and 14, about abused children getting away and finding the love and help they deserve.

Well, that's all! I have a few things from the library and on my shelves to choose from tomorrow. I will need them because the house was not cleaned today, or even tidied up, and a face shield will be necessary if there is to be any relaxing!




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