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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving Reads...sort of

I was getting ready for our latest LoLS (League of Literary Snobbery: Storytime for Grownups at Ravenna) and I wanted to make it Thanksgiving themed. I figured it's November, maybe people want to hear about Thanksgiving. But it proved pretty near impossible to come up with something appropriate. Thanksgiving must be the quintessential back-drop for family angst. Worries about success, trouble with relatives, introducing new significant others to parents and children. How has this holiday not been mined for all its literary worth?

I asked Ami for help, and she found me a great short story by Lorrie Moore...which turned out to be about Christmas. We made this mistake more than once. Another co-worker suggested, "Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man." And I said, "Isn't he Irish?" And then she said, "Oh yeah, they were just eating a turkey." And everything I could come up with turned out to be from a movie. So, this must be why The Everyman Pocket Classics series has collected stories about EVERYTHING, except Thanksgiving.

But we were undaunted, here's a little taste of what we eventually came up with:

Sadly, this one is not easy to get your hands on. Which really bums me out because I love Lousia May (obviously, we are on a fist name basis):

An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving by Louisa May Alcott

A heartwarming story set in rural New Hampshire in the 1800s. As the Thanksgiving Day festivities are beginning, the Bassetts must leave on an emergency. The two eldest children are in charge of the household--they prepare a holiday meal like they've never had before!

And here are a couple of SUPER angsty, family-ish novels that take place over the Thanksgiving weekend:

Ice Storm by Rick Moody The year is 1973.

As a freak winter storm bears down on an exclusive, affluent suburb in Connecticut, during Thanksgiving 1973, cars skid out of control, men and women swap partners, and their children experiment with sex, drugs, and even suicide. Here two families, the Hoods and the Williamses, come face-to-face with the seething emotions behind the well-clipped lawns of their lives-in a novel widely hailed as a funny, acerbic, and moving hymn to a dazed and confused era of American life.

Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon

A modern classic, now in a welcome new edition, Wonder Boys firmly established Michael Chabon as a force to be reckoned with in American fiction. At once a deft parody of the American fame factory and a piercing portrait of young and old desire, this novel introduces two unforgettable characters: Grady Tripp, a former publishing prodigy now lost in a fog of pot and passion and stalled in the midst of his endless second book, and Grady’s student, James Leer, a budding writer obsessed with Hollywood self-destruction and struggling with his own searching heart.

And more recently, this hilarious and heartbreaking novel:

Billy Lynn's Long Half-Time Walk by Ben Fountain

This is what Robert had to say:
Ben Fountain has created a sort of inverted "Odyssey" here where our here, Billy Lynn, comes home from the Iraq War to find yet a whole new catalog of trials and challenges awaiting him and the rest of Bravo Company before they are shipped back to the Gulf. It is a novel that gives us a fresh take on how we view capitalism, materialism, our country, and our military while providing a wonderfully empathetic tragic hero in Billy Lynn, at once a brave , fearless fighting machine while still a very innocent young man.
These next two have very short Thanksgiving scenes, but they are so phenomenal I had to include them. Here, the repercussions from one disastrous Thanksgiving night set this dark, and funny novel on its path towards redemption and hard-won happiness:

May We Be Forgiven  by A.M. Homes

Harold Silver has spent a lifetime watching his younger brother, George, a taller, smarter, and more successful high-flying TV executive, acquire a covetable wife, two kids, and a beautiful home in the suburbs of New York City. But Harry, a historian and Nixon scholar, also knows George has a murderous temper, and when George loses control the result is an act of violence so shocking that both brothers are hurled into entirely new lives in which they both must seek absolution.

Harry finds himself suddenly playing parent to his brother’s two adolescent children, tumbling down the rabbit hole of Internet sex, dealing with aging parents who move through time like travelers on a fantastic voyage. As Harry builds a twenty-first-century family created by choice rather than biology, we become all the more aware of the ways in which our history, both personal and political, can become our destiny and either compel us to repeat our errors or be the catalyst for change.

And last but not least, my very favorite Thanksgiving scene of all the Thanksgiving scenes. It's a flawless mix of humor and melancholy, and it perfectly captures that horrifying feeling of a long put-off visit to a family that lives light years away from one's "real" life:

Dancer from the Dance by Andrew Holleran

One of the most important works of gay literature, this haunting, brilliant novel is a seriocomic remembrance of things past -- and still poignantly present. It depicts the adventures of Malone, a beautiful young man searching for love amid New York's emerging gay scene.

From Manhattan's Everard Baths and after-hours discos to Fire Island's deserted parks and lavish orgies, Malone looks high and low for meaningful companionship. The person he finds is Sutherland, a campy quintessential queen -- and one of the most memorable literary creations of contemporary fiction. Hilarious, witty, and ultimately heartbreaking, Dancer from the Dance is truthful, provocative, outrageous fiction told in a voice as close to laughter as to tears.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Read This Book

This book has been all over the place lately. NPR, the morning talk shows, magazines. Little did I know that this has already been a bestselling juggernaut all over the world, and we are just now catching on.

Ami was the first person on staff to point this book out. She had read an advance copy and could not stop talking about it. Knowing Ami, I was a little surprised that she would be so interested in this kind of thing. Not that Ami is particularly untidy, it just doesn't seem to be something she would be interested in reading about. But she did. And she passed it on. And pretty soon we were all getting excited about it. And trying to determine whether something actually "sparks joy" or not.

The other day I was reading aloud to my co-workers excerpts from the portion of the book that discusses how to handle your book collection. Her first advice: remove every single book you own, from its shelf, the nightstand, your desk...wherever, and stack them all up in big piles on your floor.

Seriously, it's fascinating.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo

This best-selling guide to decluttering your home from Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes readers step-by-step through her revolutionary KonMari Method for simplifying, organizing, and storing.

Despite constant efforts to declutter your home, do papers still accumulate like snowdrifts and clothes pile up like a tangled mess of noodles?

Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes tidying to a whole new level, promising that if you properly simplify and organize your home once, you’ll never have to do it again. Most methods advocate a room-by-room or little-by-little approach, which doom you to pick away at your piles of stuff forever. The KonMari Method, with its revolutionary category-by-category system, leads to lasting results. In fact, none of Kondo’s clients have lapsed (and she still has a three-month waiting list).

With detailed guidance for determining which items in your house “spark joy” (and which don’t), this international bestseller featuring Tokyo’s newest lifestyle phenomenon will help you clear your clutter and enjoy the unique magic of a tidy home—and the calm, motivated mindset it can inspire.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Your NaNoWriMo Time is Almost Up!

Are you a NaNoWriMo-er? Or are you just wondering what that stands for, and why all your facebook friends are posting word count updates? Well, it means National Novel Writing Month, and it's almost over! If you're among the uninitiated, click here for more details on this month-long, writing celebration. It's probably too late for this year, but you can start outlining and picking out character names for next year.

But if you are a NaNoWriMo-er, and you're feeling the pressure; or you're just watching the days slip away, we're here to help.

Need some advice? Try this perfect little volume:

The Writer's Portable Mentor: A Guide to Art, Craft, and the Writing Life by Priscilla Long

A well-organized and immensely helpful guide for writers at all levels to jump-start their creativity, refine their work, and approach the realm of virtuosos." -- Shelf Awareness

Priscilla Long distills twenty years of teaching and creative thought into these pages. The Writer's Portable Mentor should be in every writer’s backpack to read, underline, and share with delight." --Laura Kalpakian

Or this excellent read by the master of horror, this one is particularly aimed at all those genre writers out there. Solidarity, genre writers!

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported, near-fatal accident in 1999—and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it—fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.

Or, maybe you've already finished your novel. How about a novel about writing a novel?

Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon

Grady Tripp, is a former publishing prodigy and lost in a fog of pot and passion; stalled in the midst of his endless second book Wonder Boys. Along with his student James Leer a budding writer obsessed with Hollywood self-destruction and struggling with his own searching heart; Grady's bizarre editor Terry Crabtree; and another student, Hannah Green, Grady searches for an ending to his book and a purpose to his life. Wonder Boys is a wildly comic, moving, and finally profound modern masterpiece. A must read.


You should also check out this cool list of the 10 greatest writers in novels from The Guardian.

And if you just have a few more words to hammer out before you finish your masterpiece, join us at Lake Forest Park for our final NaNoWriMo Write-in of the month, this Monday, November 24th, from 12PM to 2 PM. Good luck!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Horses, Horses, Horses!

Molly Gloss has a new book out, and Third Place is pretty excited about it. Michael at Ravenna finished it the other day, and he just loved it. We actually have a few resident, Molly Gloss, super fans. Annie at Lake Forest Park just can't wait to dig in to the new book:
I'm generally excited about anything having to do with horses and ponies. One of my first words was "horse," although I'm sure it sounded much more like "hose" coming out of my toddler mouth. I've been horse crazy my entire life, and I've been a serious horse rider for 17 years. So when my father-in-law gave me The Hearts of Horses, I devoured it instantly. When an advanced copy of Falling from Horses came into the store, I snatched it up immediately. Both Ursula K. LeGuin and Karen Joy Fowler loved it, and I can't wait to start it.
Gloss has written three other novels. She's a fourth generation Oregonian and taught writing and literature of the American West at Portland State University. Her love of the American West most certainly shines through in "The Hearts of Horses." Interestingly, another of her novels, Dazzle of the Day, is straight science fiction, my other love in reading and life.
Falling From Horses  by Molly Gloss
In 1938, nineteen-year-old ranch hand Bud Frazer sets out for Hollywood. His little sister has been gone a couple of years now, his parents are finding ranch work and comfort for their loss where they can, but for Bud, Echol Creek, where he grew up and first learned to ride, is a place he can no longer call home. So he sets his sights on becoming a stunt rider in the movies -- and rubbing shoulders with the great screen cowboys of his youth.

On the long bus ride south, Bud meets a young woman who also harbors dreams of making it in the movies, though not as a starlet but as a writer, a "real" writer. Lily Shaw is bold and outspoken, confident in ways out of proportion with her small frame and bookish looks. But the two strike up an unlikely kinship that will carry them through their tumultuous days in Hollywood -- and, as it happens, for the rest of their lives.

Need more horses? Here are some of Annie's sugestions:

The Hearts of Horses by Molly Gloss
I love this book so much. What horse crazed person wouldn't love reading about a 19-year-old horse breaker looking for work in 1917 rural Oregon? Especially if that horse breaker is a woman. Martha Lessen finds work on a ranch breaking and gentling wild horses, and her adventures on the farm are definitely worth the read! Molly Gloss's writing is eloquent and beautiful, flawlessly telling Martha's story. -Annie

Spirit Horses by Tony Stromberg
This beautiful book should be in every horse lover's library. The photos, by renowned equine photographer Tony Stromberg, perfectly illustrate the beauty, power, grace, and serenity that every horse possesses. Mixed with snippets from writers and teachers about horses, this is a gorgeous addition is perfect for any and every horse-inclined person! -Annie

Believe: A Horseman's Journey by Buck Brannaman
Buck Brannaman is one of my favorite people in the horse world. Acknowledged as the inspiration for The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans and a consultant for the movie based on Evans' novel, Brannaman has touched many people through his equine clinics and rehabilitation of horses. Believe follows 13 different people who have encountered Brannaman and his amazing work. Read it and then watch the documentary, Buck, to truly understand Brannaman's gift! -Annie