Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Coffee & a Confab with These Authors? Why, Yes! Yes, Indeed!

Joining in on the fun over at The Broke and the Bookish for 
their Top Ten Tuesday.  
Today’s list is:

Coffee & a Confab with These Authors?  Why, Yes!  Yes, Indeed!
(or Top Ten Authors I'd DIE to Meet )

Well, let me start by saying I'm not dying to meet anyone - never have had a desire to meet anyone that was so strong I'd do just about anything for it.  However, there are a number of authors with whom I could have quite the memorable chat, and would not hesitate to do so if given the opportunity.  
I am glad to be able to share them.

Mark Twain
Really, who would not want to meet this man?  He was ridiculously smart, sarcastic, witty, hilariously funny, sharp, and had a good distrust of the government.  What's not to love?
Pat Conroy
As a southerner myself, and I can really relate to a lot of what he writes.  Further, his grasp of the English language is second to none, his writing is brilliant, he has a self-deprecating wit, and he tells the brutal truth.  Most humbling to me, however, is his incredible breadth of reading and his ease in talking off the top of his head about a stunning number of books and authors.
Flannery O'Connor 
Her ability to skewer the social constructs of her generation was astounding, and she seemed to do it without effort.  She was incredibly observant, strongly convicted in her beliefs, and unafraid to write about what she believed in.  If it ruffled feathers, she was not bothered.  Certainly one of the greatest short story writers who has ever been, she wrote thought-provoking and disturbing stories that were meant to cause the reader discomfort and introspection.
Louisa May Alcott
If only to satisfy my suspicion that Jo March was Louisa May Alcott in disguise.  I suspect that I would find her interesting and perhaps a little out of step with her generation - perhaps a little ahead of her time.  It would be a cool thing to hear her perspective.
Kathryn Stockett 
I was so absolutely mesmerized by The Help, and it has stayed in my mind for the months since I read it.  I would thoroughly enjoy listening to her talk about her background, and how she came to write this lovely (and controversial) book.
Christos Tsiolkas 
He's Greek & Australian, and he has written a book (The Slap) that starkly exposes the prejudices and biases that pervade Australian life.  Interestingly to me, they are nearly a mirror of those that we contend with in the US, and though the clashing cultures have different backgrounds, the difficulties that arise when they interact are so similar to what happens here make it highly relatable.  I'd love to listen to him discuss how this book came into being.

Judy Blume 
I confess, I stole her name from another Top Ten, but I would love to meet her nonetheless.  She was a staple of my tween and teen years, and an author who can make the kind of connection she did with that angst-filled stage in a girl's life is an author worth chatting up.
Harper Lee 
She wrote such a heart-rending, thought-provoking book, and I would love to pick her brain about why she never published again.
Elie Wiesel 
Obviously, to hear his first hand, personal account of survival during the Holocaust.
Stephen & Tabitha King 
I've read many of Stephen's books and several of Tabitha's.  It would be really cool to listen to them talk not only of their own literary endeavors, but how the fact that they are both published (and famous) authors works for (and perhaps against) their personal relationship.  How do they interact as authors?  Do they work together?  Do they critique each other?  Do they like each others' writing?

C. S. Lewis 
Not only for The Chronicles of Narnia, but for his vast body of spiritual writing.  To listen to him speak of his personal relationship with God would be both humbling and inspiring.  In particular, I would love to hear him expound on his understanding of forgiveness, mercy and grace.
Caroline Leavitt 
I've been connected to her through Facebook, and she seems a kind of flighty, excitable type that stresses easily.  HOWEVER, I have loved every book she has written (I've read all but the newest), and I would really enjoy hearing her talk about her own life experiences, and how they factor into her book ideas.
James Lee Burke
The man who created Dave Robicheaux is a man I want to meet.  I love the series and the setting, and I would dig listening to an old cowboy talk about his writing.
Joe Coomer 
Because his books are so different...and a little weird.  Because they're about odd people doing odd things.  Because he writes about Appalachia.  Because he's not very well known, but he's written something like 8-10 books, and they're good.

Jonathan Latimer 
His book The Lady in the Morgue turned me on to hard-boiled detective fiction, and it beautifully epitomizes the genre.  He was a contemporary (and friend) of Ernest Hemingway - even spent some time in Key West during the time Hemingway was there.  I think it would be great fun to talk to him, not only about his own writing (and his penchant for odd titles), but about his friendship with Hemingway.

And last but not least...

J. K. Rowling 
Duh!  If you're a Harry Potter fan, how can you not want to meet the woman who came up with him and touched off one of the most incredible book franchises in history?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A-Z Author Challenge

I did this challenge in 2008, and haven't attempted it since (I don't think I completed it then, actually). This is not a challenge I've been actively working on, but I can't resist giving it a try - even half way through the year. I am clearly needing to fill quite a few alphabet spaces, so any author / book suggestions for the (as yet) unrepresented letters would be welcome.

Here's what I've read so far.  
               * Authors / titles in blue are still-to-be-read books from an overlapping challenge.
               * Authors / titles in red are much appreciated recommendations.
               * Authors / titles in green are what I'm reading currently.

* Chbosky, Stephen - The Perks of Being a Wallflower
* Chevalier, Tracy - Remarkable Creatures
* Clayton, Meg Waite - The Wednesday Sisters
* Conroy, Pat - My Reading Life
* Delano, Marfe Ferguson - Helen's Eyes: A Photobiography of Annie Sullivan, Helen Keller's Teacher
* Dobie, Kathy - The Only Girl in the Car

* Dickens, Charles - Great Expectations

* Doctorow, E. L. - Homer & Langley
* Dostoevsky, Feodor - The Gambler
* Erdrich, Louise - The Plague of Doves
* Fitzgerald, F. Scott - This Side of Paradise
* Frank, Anne - The Diary of a Young Girl
* Freed, Lynn - The Servants' Quarters
* Golden, Arthur - Memoirs of a Geisha

* Grisham, John - The Summons
* Haddon, Mark - The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

* Harrison, Jim - The English Major
* Hemingway, Ernest - For Whom the Bell Tolls
* Hoffman, Alice - Blue Diary
* Hoffman, Beth - Saving CeeCee Honeycutt
* Hornby, Nick - Juliet, Naked
* Hosseini, Khaled - A Thousand Splendid Suns

* Irving, John - A Prayer for Owen Meany

* Jackson, Joshilyn - Backseat Saints
* Johnson, Sterling - English as a Second F*cking Language
* Johnson, Sterling - Watch Your F*cking Language
* Kaywell, Joan - Dear Author: Letters of Hope
* King, Cassandra - Making Waves
* King, Stephen - The Gunslinger
* Landvik, Lorna - The Tall Pine Polka

* Larsson, Stieg - The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
* Maurier, Daphne du - Rebecca
* Melville, Herman - Moby Dick
* Montgomery, L. M. - Anne of Green Gables
* Morrison, Toni - The Bluest Eye
* Myers, Bill - My Life as a Belching Baboon with Bad Breath


* Nesbo, Jo - The Redbreast
* O'Connor, Flannery - The Complete Stories
* O'Connor, Martha - The Bitch Posse

* Ozeki, Ruth - My Year of Meats 
* Parkhurst, Carolyn - The Nobodies Album
* Quindlen, Anna - 

* Radish, Kris - Hearts on a String
* Rennison, Louise - Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging
* Ringwald, Molly - Getting the Pretty Back: Friendship, Family, and Finding the Perfect Lipstick
* Robinson, Marilynne - Gilead
* Sebold, Alice - The Lovely Bones
* Sebold, Alice - Lucky
* Shapiro, Dani - Family History
* Shapiro, Karen Jo - Because I Could Not Stop My Bike and Other Poems
* Stockett, Kathryn - The Help
* Strauss, Alix - Based Upon Availability
* Strout, Elizabeth - Amy and Isabelle
* Thayer, Ernest L. - Casey at the Bat
* Townsend, Sue - The Complete Adrian Mole Diaries 

* Truss, Lynne - Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation
* Tsiolkas, Christos - The Slap
* Twain, Mark - The War Prayer
* Twain, Mark - The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson
* Umrigar, Thrity - If Today Be Sweet

* Verghese, Abraham - Cutting for Stone


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

I love Literary Rebels

Joining in on the fun over at The Broke and the Bookish for 
their Top Ten Tuesday.  
Today’s list is:

Top Ten Rebels in Literature
 1.  Skeeter Phelan from The Help by Kathryn Stockett.  She is perhaps my favorite these days, because she saw something terribly wrong in her society and set about to bring attention it and (hopefully) change it.  She would not be dissuaded, even if it meant losing friends.  I loved (still love) her for her courage!

2.  Mikael Blomkvist from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson.  He was willing to go to prison for libel even though he was innocent, because there was something to the story, and he was not willing to compromise his ability to get to the truth.  He also did not whitewash anything - he told the truth, bluntly at times, and I respected him for that.

3. Jacob Jankowski from Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.  I loved him for standing up to August repeatedly regarding his treatment of the animals.  I loved him for protecting Camel for as long as he could. and for cultivating a strong friendship with Kinko, even though it was blurring the "class" lines in the circus hierarchy.  I loved him for loving the animals and treating them kindly.  Finally, I loved him most for not killing August when he had the opportunity, because it would have made him just like August, and he couldn't stomach that.

4. Frederick Douglass.  Author of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Douglass defied convention (and the law) by learning to read and write, and then by escaping slavery.  Not only was he a vocal abolitionist, but he supported women's suffrage, and believed in equal rights for all (black, white, male, female, etc.) in a time when such a belief was considered radical and controversial.  He believed in doing the right thing regardless of the consequences, and for this he has earned my greatest respect.

5. Jo March from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.  I have always wondered if Jo March was a fashioned a bit after Louisa May Alcott herself.  She was strong-willed, opinionated, passionate, tomboyish, and fiercely loyal.  She thought deeply and wrote prodigiously.  She fits in virtually no where, but she hardly ever kowtows to societal conventions because she is compelled to pursue her ambitions as a writer.  I love her because she stays true to herself despite pressures to the contrary.  I also love that her mother sees her for who she is and encourages her to follow her heart.

Believe it or not, those are the only ones that leaped into my mind today.  All exceptional, so maybe I don't need more. :-)

Friday, July 1, 2011

The English Major by Jim Harrison

Audio CD, 6 disks (7 hours)
Published October 1st 2008 by Blackstone Audiobooks, Inc. (first published December 31st 2007)
ISBN: 1433246643 (ISBN13: 9781433246647)
primary language: English
original title: The English Major
4 stars overall / 5 stars audio narration

Goodreads Synopsis:
"It used to be Cliff and Vivian and now it isn't." With these words, Jim Harrison begins a riotous, moving novel that sends a sixty-something man, divorced and robbed of his farm by a late-blooming real estate shark of an ex-wife, on a road trip across America, armed with a childhood puzzle of the United States and a mission to rename all the states and state birds to overcome the banal names men have given them. Cliff's adventures take him through a whirlwind affair with a former student from his high school-teacher days twenty-some years before; to a "snake farm" in Arizona owned by an old classmate; and to the high-octane existence of his son, a big-time movie producer who has just bought an apartment over the Presidio in San Francisco." The English Major is the map of a man's journey into - and out of - himself, and it is vintage Harrison: reflective, big-picture American, and replete with wicked wit.

My Thoughts:
Starting out, I wasn't completely sure I would like this book, but honestly, it really grew on me. Jim Harrison has a amazing command of the English language, and given the subject matter of the book (a newly divorced, 60-year-old retired farmer who's somewhat on the horny side goes on a cross country trek to see the United States), I wasn't expecting to enjoy the writing like I did. Perhaps making his protagonist a former English teacher helped, but I think what really made this book was the brilliant narrator. He so perfectly captured Cliff's voice, his personality, and his view of the world that at times it was the deadpan delivery of some of Cliff's more hilarious hijinks that made me laugh out loud. I am not typically one who chooses books that are marked as "funny," but this couples what the back-of-the-book blurb calls "wicked wit" with an interesting story and truly good writing, and that makes it a winner.

It also got me thinking that, contrary to my studious avoidance of reading anything that even slightly smelled of the Beat Movement, I might ought to reconsider reading On the Road by Jack Kerouac. Perhaps I've erroneously shunned it as being too artsy-fartsy for me. Judging from my positive reaction to this cross-country mission to rename the states and birds, I'm beginning to wonder if I'd like Kerouac after all.

Because I Could Not Sop My Bike and Other Poems by Karen Shapiro

Hardcover, 32 pages
Published May 28th 2003 by Whispering Coyote (first published 2003)
ISBN: 1580890350 (ISBN13: 9781580890359)
original title: Because I Could Not Stop My Bike and Other Poems 
5 stars
Goodreads Synopsis:
A collection of light-hearted parodies written in the style of such well-known poets as Emily Dickinson, Robert Burns, Christina Rosetti, Joyce Kilmer, and William Shakespeare.

My Thoughts:
Oh my, how I love parody poetry! This is chock full of fun poems modeled after all manner of classic poets. I love that the poems are about silly subjects, and while staying within the parameters of the poems they model, they are written in a way that is utterly appealing to kids (or the childish part of adults). The artwork is beautiful as well. All in all, this is a must have book of poetry for me to share with my kiddo.