Monday, October 20, 2003

A Disasterous Day

This has been a disasterous day in terms of wasted hours. I was going to rant about it, but I distinctly recall (though I recall very little of anything at all) when I started this blog I promised not to rant. So I am just posting this so I will have made headway on my weekly goal of doing 2 to 3 posts a week.

And now, I must go practice my presentation, An Alien Experience, because I will be giving it three times at a school in Massachusetts the day after tomorrow. Just to get some professional content in here.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Something Positive--If I Could Only Remember It

My son loves used books and used bookstores. Though I'm a sucker for buying used books off the cart by the door of our local library, as a general rule I find used bookstores cluttered and dusty. All I can think of is how much I don't want this stuff in my house.

However, this past weekend we were in Ithaca, New York (which, I've read on-line, is supposed to have the highest number of bookstores per capita in the country). The young 'un was with us so, of course, when we came upon a used bookstore we had to go in.

It was a beautiful place, clean, and nicely laid out. There was a children's section, carefully marked out and welcoming. I so wish I could remember the name of the place!! It was on The Commons. I know it wasn't the used bookstore that specializes in antiquarian books, it was the used bookstore right next to that one.

Imagine a community so interested in books that it can support two used bookstores right next to each other. And there was what I believe was a new bookstore around the corner. And less then three miles away we saw a Borders.

Ithaca must be where good readers go when they die.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Hate To Be Negative But...

I've decided to stop reading Planet Janet by Dyan Sheldon because it seems to be a complete copy of Angus, Thongs, and Full-frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison--right down to the glossary of English terms at the end of the book. I have already gone on record as adoring Louise Rennison's books (May 20th and 23rd posts), which I mention because I know it sometimes appears that I like absolutely nothing. That is not the case.

I know the British are into copying one another (see March 7th post), but this seems really blatant to me. I've read nearly half the book, and it's really dragging because even though it's witty and clever, sure, I've read it before. And the Fabby Georgia Nicolson just has a manic quality about her that Janet can't quite attain.

So I'm saving myself some time and going on to something else.

Interesting point: while doing an Internet search for Planet Janet I found it mentioned in three on-line diaries or blogs. Two I couldn't look at because I had to be a member of the site that provides the diary service (I know I don't have that right, but I do understand the concept) and the third one just stated that the blogger had bought the book at Barnes & Noble while shopping with his/her parents.

Faithful readers are aware that I wrote about on-line journals this fall.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Not Wild About Harry

I just finished reading the most recent Harry Potter book. I so want to be part of the Harry Potter excitment and love these books, but I've found the best of them just okay and this one...sigh. It dragged so, hundreds of pages of the same repetitious stuff in the middle. (To paraphrase Buffy, "We get it. She's evil.") A teacher was physically abusing Harry, which neither he nor any of his friends reported. I found that disturbing on a number of levels, and while it's good for a reader to be disturbed I don't know that the author ever really got, herself, that it was disturbing. I don't know if she meant it to be as disturbing as it was.

And that stuff that came out in the press before the book was published about a character being killed? Over and over again characters are nearly killed off in this book so the reader is going "Is this the one? Is this the one?" Towards the end the possible bodies are literally just piling right up. Is this one dead? Is this one dead? It really seemed like a cheap trick. Though the character who finally got it was one of my favorites, I no longer cared by the time the deed was finally done. I'd been toyed with too often.

In the last chapter there were very basic editing errors, too. The whole book needed a really tough editor.

Harry is a very problematic character, which is fine, but I don't think the writing over the course of the series has been sophisticated enough to handle him.

On the other hand, I still think the Harry phenomena has been great for children's publishing.

Now I have to return the book to a woman whose whole family loved it.

Friday, October 03, 2003

A New Author for Me

I recently finished (as in just this morning) Heads or Tails, Stories From the Sixth Grade by Jack Gantos. Gantos is a well-known author whose books I've heard about (Rotten Ralph, Joey Pigza) but never read simply because I just can't get to everything. (Right now I can't get to everything because I'm reading the latest Harry Potter, which I'm afraid is going to take the rest of my life.)

Heads or Tails is a book of short stories that sound very autobiographical, and from what I've read about him he is into that sort of thing. I read a lot of humor, a lot of oddball stuff, I was always getting distracted while I was reading Heads or Tails, and it took me a while to get into what I was reading.

Here is the thing about this book--these are good short stories. Complete, with good characterizations, and often with a specific point. I often read short stories in literary journals and go, "What?" Not so with these. I particularly liked the airplane story, the story about the alligator eating the dog, and the last story. And the metaphor at the end of that story? Wow.

I think kids should be reading more short stories, anyway. This book should be assigned reading!!! And then the kids can try writing autobiographical stories of their own!!!

I'm going to read more by and about this guy. I'm particularly interested in trying his memoir, Hole in My Life.