Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Bee in My Bonnet

Day 204, and today several people came into the bookstore looking for very specific things, for a reason:

1) another woman found Graham Greene's The Quiet American for a local book group, an excellent new paperback edition, the sort I covet, for the light but sturdy feel and lovely graphic.   Happy to covet my neighbor's book, and let her have it.

2) a fellow had read the 
Chicago Tribune article on 5 great Midwestern novels and came in looking for them, along with anything by Jonathan Franzen.  I found a couple editions ofWinesburg, Ohio for him right away, after thinking I might not because my friend Kim had just found a $1 copy on the half-price cart.  He chose the attractive Modern Library hardback, small, but with the heft of true literature.  He found another book, too, but I can't remember what, so it was probably one of the ones with Sinclair in it, which puts up a mental block that then sets me off on that memory of always getting Main Street and The Jungleconfused because their authors are Sinclair Lewis and Upton Sinclair, complicated by the fact that I am old enough to remember Sinclair gas stations and the big green dinosaur on trips to Ohio to see the grandparents, and once you get lost in dinosaur land, the Midwest is gone forever.

He did not find Franzen's 
Freedom, announced in the feature article to which the 5 midwesterns was attached, because it is brand new, as of today, nor The Corrections, which we have had several copies of in the past.  (But after he left, I found the sudden arrival of a Franzen hardback on a little pile on the floor.  It wasThe Discomfort Zone, a memoir, and I've put it on the new arrivals shelf by the door for when this fellow comes back.  On his bicycle.  With his helmet.)

And a family came in to cool off before the official start of the hot and humid farmers' market, Tuesdays on the street in front of the store, and walked out with

1) Barbara Kingsolver, both 
The Poisonwood Bible and The Prodigal Summer, and

2) our fabulous first edition, first printing of 
Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, by David Foster Wallace, and so were treated to the story about Babbitt's Books being Wallace's favorite bookstore.

And tonight, I cannot get the spacing to work right on this post....a bit of a bee in my bonnet.

And that's my own morning glory with a bee down its throat in a photo taken by my son before he went back to college again.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Post-Retirement...Mistress...er, hmm, what I meant was...

Day 203 of the "What are you reading, and why?" project, and I got to chat tonight with Sue, a retired teacher, which, right there, is the answer to the "Why?" question.  She's been reading a lot ever since she retired, because she can!  Because she has time!  Because she's retired!

Right now she's on the third book of the Stieg Larsson series.  OK, this doesn't count (only for my purposes) because she's reading it on Kindle.  She had a cross country trip to Seattle and thought she'd try out the Kindle her kids gave her for Christmas back when she
wasn't retired, and didn't have time 1) to figure out how to use it and 2) to read.

She's read 4 of the Harry Potter books, because she never read them before, when she was relentlessly preparing classes, grading papers, and supervising the school newspaper.

She's read
The Postmistress, a World War II novel by Sarah Blake, about, well, yes, a postmistress, but also two other women, and she's read The Help, by Kathryn Stockett, which she liked a lot, even more than The Postmistress, about which she sounded sort of lukewarm.  But Kathryn Stockett liked The Postmistress, I see, in an interview with Blake posted at Amazon.com.

And in between reading these books, she picks up David Sedaris.  She and her husband read him constantly, cracking each other up with snippets they read aloud.

So, yes, she'd happily married, and not anybody's mistress.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sweet Corn, Sweet Blues

Day 202 of the "What are you reading, and why?" project, and today I encountered people in search of, and finding, Illinois history and military history books at Babbitt's.  And much, much more, including $1 pulp fiction in a bin out front.

It was a very busy weekend in Normal, Illinois, home of the Sweet Corn, Sweet Blues festival, sponsored by
WGLT, which also sponsors Poetry Radio!

On the first day, my son and I biked into town and partook in the
Good To Go program of free valet bicycle parking.  We both signed up for the Trek 7100 bicycle raffle (pictured at the Good to Go link.)  We did not actually eat any of the marvelous steamed sweet corn, but we smelled it.  It and the kettle corn popcorn.  Mmmmm.

On the second day, I went back to the sidewalk sale at Garlic Press, a fabulous kitchen store, and got the little red star ceramic candy or appetizer plates of my heart's desire, bargaining them down to 50 cents a piece.  Like a flea market!  Or medieval town fair!

I also encountered, in a poem brought to my poetry workshop in the rare book room, a book, a particular book,
Saving Jesus from the Church, by Robin Meyers, mentioned (and pictured) earlier in this blog, where Jesus is seen with the usual crown of thorns and an unusual gag of duct tape.  Poor him. What lovely irony to encounter those words on a Sunday, in a poem.

As it happens, the author is coming to uppity town Normal October 29-30 to give a free lecture, "Jesus: Galilean Sage or Supernatural Warrior," at 7 p.m., on Friday night, and to conduct a workshop, 8:30 a.m. to noon on Saturday, "The Underground Church: Raising the Body by Corrupting the Empire," both events taking place at Heartland Community College.  You can learn more, or sign up for the workshop, at the hosting church,
New Covenant Community.  Click on the rolling announcement.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Textbook, Anyone?

Day 201 of the "What are you reading, and why?" project, and college students all over the place are cracking open their textbooks and reading the first assignment in their basic texts in anthropology, art history, etc., etc.

Or still obtaining their texts, used or new. Or otherwise handling the textbook racket.

If you are a college student or have one as a kid, you know it's a racket. If you write, edit, or publish textbooks, or if your ex-husband does, you know it's a racket. Likewise, if you run a college bookstore. I won't go on.

Or I will only go on briefly, to mention the poetry racket. I forgot to say, back when I was reading The Cookbook Collector, by Allegra Goodman, how I loved the character of the old poet--his annoying ego, his marvelous rebellion, and his declaration about cutthroat rivalry in that world.

And a little further to say it may be so cutthroat because it's so hard to make a living if you write poetry. You might have to give it up for a long time and do something else--sell insurance, manage a corporation, deliver babies, teach, or...stay a writer, but write children's books, which I think is what happened with Gary Soto, who wrote Junior College, a book of poems I found on a remainder table for $1. Sigh.

He has written numerous other books for children and adults, but shifted toward young adult literature from poetry, I heard, in order to make a living. I admire his dedication to reading and writing. And I admire his poems! I love the deep hole he digs, sweating, in "Peach Pit," and how, eventually, it gets at poets' insecurities:

My mother-in-law padded out in furry slippers
And remarked, "It's not deep enough,"
A line I have lived with
Since I first sharpened a #2 pencil.

And I love "Rivers Inside the Blue Lines of Binder Paper," which begins:

The English prof told us to draw our ideas
And left the classroom feeling for the bottle
Of peach brandy inside his coat.

I love the coincidence of peach.

Best wishes as you crack open textbooks and as you start back to school, teaching or learning. Best wishes at the beginning of the semester, as you try to find an affordable textbook, and at the end, as you try to sell it back. I'm so glad students have found ways to sell and obtain used textbooks, sidestepping the racket. Be careful out there.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Stairway

Day 200 of the "What are you reading, and why?" project! (165 to go.) So far it's going well. I love learning what people are reading, sharing little snippets of conversation with those of you reading this blog, and reading your comments.

(I would like a few more comments, just to know you are there, but I sense you are there, anyhoo, just like the people who appreciate the silver stairway in Stephen Dunn's poem, "The Stairway," from The Insistence of Beauty. So thank you.)

Today will be a hodgepodge, and perhaps an odd one (because I am a bit of an odd one!)

We have to read things at the right time, I think, and I am reading What Goes On, by Stephen Dunn, at the right time. It's the right time for me because it is time to "get serious," a little dream voice keeps telling me, which is something that can happen side by side with whimsy, thank goodness. At some wrong moment in the past, I might have read Dunn's poems in which great writers exist in local habitations as a bit clever or glib, but I don't use those words to judge or dismiss anyone anymore, because they hurt when they were used that way on me.

Now I read these poems as quiet and deep, "serious" with a whimsical sheen. Now I read them shortly after having read Dreamers of the Day, by Mary Doria Russell, that last chapter that returns us to the Nile, to some in-between state. I read them after listening over and over to Patty Griffin singing "Living with Ghosts."

So now when I read poems titled "Chekhov in Port Republic," "Poe in Margate," "Henry James in Cape May," "Mary Shelley in Brigantine," and "Melville at Barnegat Light," I go and live there, not just with the famous dead authors, but also with Stephen Dunn, who, like the alienated dead ones remembered and thus still alive, must also feel alone and apart in the world, by virtue of being a poet in it. To quote Dunn:

"There goes Melville," the townspeople would say, proud
that a man whose books had been made into movies
walked among them.

And I remember Scott Turow reading to a large crowd at the Newberry Library a lovely, literary, humane short story, and then giving the audience the opportunity to ask questions, and all the questions were about who would play the main characters in the movie of Presumed Innocent, and how do you get an agent? What could he do but become a commodity?

I remember Jean Baudrillard speaking to students at the Art Institute in Chicago. "Stop saying you are making art," he insisted. "You are making commodities." They seemed, in their persistent theory-based and gallery-world questions not to get it. Finally, he told them how to make art. "Go down to the river with a loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and somebody." He meant, live. Live first. Love. Get serious.

So I know what Stephen Dunn is/was reading, to grow deep and whimsical: Chekhov, Poe, James, Shelley, and Melville. I know what he was reading in an interview in 2000--that short story collection Women in Their Beds, by Gina Berriault. I know that he doesn't remember what he was reading in this interview, at How a Poem Happens, about his poem "And So," in the year he won his Pulitzer Prize.

I know my mother and I both read the poem "The Routine Things Around the House" in an anthology, and said, "Wow. " And wow again. So I'm glad he got to win a Pulitzer. It's nice when wise, whimsical people do.

But he's over 60. And I'm over 50. So if you are not yet over 30, it might not be the right time for you to read What Goes On. You might have other things going on.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Monkey Business

Day 199 of the "What are you reading, and why?" project, and Jan has just finished reading The Gorilla Experiment, by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons, because her son knows one of the authors. She was fascinated, and didn't want to tell me too much about the gorilla aspect, so I would enjoy it when I got there, so I won't tell you too much, either. But I will send you to the website, entirely copyrighted, so I won't even show you the gorilla reading a newspaper as an image here, and you can do the gorilla experiment on your own. Best to click the video without reading the caption.

There is even a sequel!

Jan also finished Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett, recently, while on a trip. There's a "sequel" to that, too, World Without End, which Jan mailed to herself because it was too heavy to carry home, at 1024 pages.

She is a little annoyed with herself. "I went all the way to New York by train, and all the way to Maine by car, with my grandchildren, and all I can talk about is the two books I finished."

She is also reading more W. H. Auden than she ever did before, because of many references to Auden in books by Alexander McCall Smith. (I notice we got a couple Ladies No. 1 Detective Agency books in at Babbitt's this week.) Jan doesn't much like Auden, or not as much as Smith does, anyway, but she does like "Lullaby," the poem that begins, "Lay your sleeping head, my love, / Human on my faithless arm," which kind of gets right at the human faithlessness at the heart of it all, as in many a poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay. Or Dorothy Parker.

And the human love.

And my niece walked into Babbitt's and found a copy of The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, which she will need for one of her first courses in graduate school in Boston, and which she left at home, which she could have gotten here, online, I suppose, and/or printed out, but she's like me and prefers books! I was so glad we had it, as someone had just been in looking for it, and we were out, and it was even a slim paperback of just that story! Often it is inside something else.

Just like a gorilla.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Redwing Blackbird, Click & Clack

Day 198 of the "What are you reading, and why?" project, and I was reading outside today, because it was such a gorgeous day, and fall is coming, followed by winter, and I am getting in all the outside time I can! And a busy time is coming, too, so I was finishing up various books:

I finished In the Next Galaxy, by Ruth Stone, which I have also written about here. Poetry by a wise old woman. Title sounds kind of scifi, but it isn't really, though alien things happen.

Even this title is a sort of poem: "The Electric Fan and the Dead Man (or the widow as a useful object toward the end of the century)." And has alienation in it. Plus this:

What is imperative is the Off switch:
which he, at one point some time ago,
opted for himself.
Tied a silk cord around his meat neck
and hung his meat body, loved though it was,
in order to insure absolute quiet,
on the back of a rented door in Soho.

But I also read much of A Civic Pageant, by Frank Montesonti, available at Black Lawrence Press, which made me laugh out loud in various kinds of delight. "Piranha" is a good one to read before you start teaching your Creative Writing class this fall:

Frank, do all our poems have to be about piranhas?
a student asks--the piranha.
No, no, not if you don't want them to be about piranhas,
I tell her, of course
I really don't see the point
of not writing about piranhas......

And then the poem has a fabulous climax, but you'll have to read the book to find it out! I have to set it aside for a while, or all my new poems will be film voiceovers or somebody else's dreams, that is, Frank's. And I need to go back and read or re-read the long poems, but I was thrilled that "Film Noir" appeared first in Poems & Plays, where I have also appeared.

I laughed out loud at the epigraph to the poem "John & Mary" by Stephen Dunn, from What Goes On (New and Selected Poems 1995-2009):

John & Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who also had never met.
--from a freshman's short story

Likewise, on Creative Writing class.

The other day Click & Clack, the brothers on Car Talk, were reading aloud that short story based on an in-class writing assignment to write a short story in tandem--you know the one, supposedly a real story, but probably made up, where a woman keeps trying to write a romance and a man keeps writing a scifi adventure, and pretty much they kill each other. The Car Talk guys were discovering it and laughing in disbelief, and I almost wanted to call and say, "You know, it's a fun assignment, that can produce some really creative stories that actually work, like the time you advised the guy to, sure, go ahead and use oatmeal to fix his radiator leak." Which is a traditional fix, it turns out.

Ah, Click & Clack. Which brings me back to Ruth Stone, her "Mantra":

When I am sad
I sing, remembering
the redwing blackbird's clack.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Shooting the Mistletoe

Day 197 of the "What are you reading, and why?" project, and Jim says he's reading the Tess Gerritsen Jane Rizzoli forensic crime series, "and before that I was reading James Patterson. Because I don't like to think much when I read.'' Where have I heard that before?

Oh, here.

Jim also told me about harvesting mistletoe. We were discussing kudzu* at the time. "Mistletoe grows in big balls in the trees," said Jim. "They have to shoot it down." According to National Geographic, this is quite true.

*Kudzu is considered an invasive pesky plant by many. But I remembered reading somewhere about the beneficial uses of kudzu. There is actually a documentary on kudzu! Unfortunately, now it might be contributing to ozone pollution. But if we could turn it into ethanol, we could have green gas! Or it can treat cocaine addiction and alcoholism. But at first the conversation was about kudzu technology, kudzu business ratings, etc., etc. You see how this could just go on and on, like kudzu.

I lived in Florida in childhood, so I did see it cover everything. And I loved the Spanish moss, hanging from the trees. That nobody shot down.

Meanwhile, a local book group is reading The Quiet American, by Graham Greene.


After catching up on my email, I have this to share: the new poem at Linebreak...is "Mistletoe."

I freak myself out.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Baraboo is a Circus Town

Day 196 of of the "What are you reading, and why?" project and today, in the Land of Coincidii that is my life in books, one man would be reading The Politics of Jesus, by Obery M. Hendricks, and another man would be reading The Trial, by Franz Kafka, if we had had them, but we didn't. Not having The Trial surprised us, and the boss will be checking the basement for duplicate copies, and bring them up tomorrow. If I remind him. (Google Alert might remind him, too, if I mention Babbitt's!)

OK, but, here's the freaky coincidence. BOTH of these men, who came into the store at different times, and who are not related to each other*, mentioned Baraboo, Wisconsin and a lovely used bookstore there, The Village Booksmith, run by Annie.

*I asked, as returning college students and their parents have been walking around town this past weekend.

My book life has also taught me that Baraboo is a circus town.

In the afternoon, a completely different man, looking for Nancy Drew, mentioned that he is a little scared of people obsessed with the circus...
And, to somehow complete some circle somewhere, I finished The Cookbook Collector, by Allegra Goodman, in which a rare bookstore features prominently, just in time to return Kim's copy of The Used World, by Haven Kimmel, about a used stuff shop, to the library and check it back out to myself. Because she, too, came into the store today, but not at the same time as either Bariboo man, or the scared-of-the-circus man.
I will pause to note another wee coincidence. There is a lovely strand of mystic Judaism in The Cookbook Collector, giving the book a subtle spiritual undertone, which reminds me of one of Mary Oliver's "rules" for herself each time she writes a poem, to let it have "a spiritual purpose," something I re-encountered assigning her poem "The Swan" and a little essay about its origins (in Poetry East) to my rare-book-room poetry workshop this weekend.
I admire the joy at the heart of Hasidic Judaism. I loved this book. And I admire poets who know their purposes so well. The Used World will be darker, but I will be able to handle that.
AND somebody bought Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen on Sunday.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Hats, Grapes, Wine

Day 195 of the "What are you reading, and why?" project, and today a woman found both Erma Bombeck and Alice Munro on the half-price cart. I cannot find the lovely floral edition of the Munro selected stories to show you, so it seems to be something early in her career but mass produced enough not to be rare, or it wouldn't have been on the half-price cart.

Meanwhile, a friend recently sent me a "purple hat" email, a list of things Bombeck would have done if she'd known she was going to die early from cancer. And this made me think of the Red Hat Society, and fun things women do when they get to the stage of wearing red hats.

And tonight, for their 57th wedding anniversary, I took my parents to see Mid-August Lunch, a sweet Italian film about a man, his 93-year-old mother, and some other sweet old ladies who come his way. Here is a New York Times review that offers you a color still and a clip.

Mid-August Lunch, or Ferragosto, is a harvest holiday on August 15. It used to last a month, and it apparently combines the harvest celebration and a celebration of Diana, the hunt, the moon, etc., leaning toward the Roman myth and agriculture, and the Feast of the Assumption, the later Christian celebration.

This harvest holiday reminded me of "Grape Harvest," by Colette, in The Garden of Reading, edited by Michelle Slung. Which reminds me of purple grapes and red wine. In the movie, also known as Pranzo di Ferragosto, there's actually a lot of white wine.

Which makes me sleepy. Good night!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Extra, Extra + Glory, Glory

More of Lorel's morning glories, plus more particular beauty, sadness, sweetness, edge, and punch in the literary line.

The new issue of Blood Lotus is up online. Clickable here in this post or on the web log at the right. What a beautiful site it is, with all issues available, in page turning mode. OK, it's not a book, but it's like a book. And it lists books by its contributors on the right.

And my Diane Lockward poem-of-the-day broke my heart and ended the first section of What Feeds Us. "A Change in the Air."

There was a change in the air around here, thanks to a rainstorm last night. The balsam out front that had flattened itself on the ground in protest of the heat is standing up straight again. The back yard balsam is in better soil, and holds water better, too, so it was still standing, but is happier now. The impatiens is restored in patience. The sweet autumn clematis spreads its anise scent despite the tiny yellow bugs clustered all along the vines. I'm saving seed heads of the black-eyed Susans for Kim, and the coneflower is coning. All my pastel daisies are opening, taking over the bed given to perennial wildflowers.

And my son, who goes back to college tomorrow, let me stand and hug him in his bedroom as he packed. Hug him for a long time. An unmeasurable moment.

The True Life Novel + Cosmos Glory

Day 194 of the "What are you reading, and why?" project, and way back at the beginning of the year a couple I know was reading Half Broke Horses, by Jeanette Walls. It was for some reason on my mind yesterday, when I wrote about particular sadnesses instead, and this morning, when I stopped by Goodreads, there it was, in an ad by Target, like a little omen/reminder, so here it is now.

I'm interested in its subtitle identification as "a true life novel."

Walls's first book was a memoir, The Glass Castle, about her own upbringing, that was a "common book" at some colleges, including my son's, so it is in our house, he has read it, and I plan to read it someday. I do like memoirs and need to read Zippy, by Haven Kimmel, mentioned a couple days ago. Maybe I did read it. Maybe that's a problem with memoirs....or my squished brain cells. Hmm, if I am going to write my own memoirs, 1) I better do it fast, before any more brain cells get squished and 2) I better get vaguely famous fast, so anyone might be interested. Oh, wait. The Glass Castle is what made Walls famous! One more squish.

Anyhoo, in Half Broke Horses, she becomes her grandmother, to narrate that memoir, but thus, since she's not her, it's a novel. Or it's fiction, anyway. The Washington Post review (posted at Amazon) compares it to Charles Dickens in its sprawl of incident but also points out the limitations of true life as novel structure; it can't go where it needs to go if it didn't go there in true life.

This comes back to one of my gentle peeves, the autobiographical novel, the one that some say everyone writes. Some write one great one--To Kill a Mockingbird--in a lifetime. Some put that first autobiographical novel in a drawer and move on to true fiction, that might, of course, be based on witnessed/experienced/rearranged true life. Some do research, combine it with acute observation and wild imagination, and come up with true fiction. Some do a conscious blend, at some point, as in Alice Munro stories, and The View from Castle Rock, in her historical particular. And some do a con job, presenting fiction as memoir, to make it sell. With variations, blends, and blurrings in between.

And so I am back to the fantabulous flowers in Lorel's garden as my image for today. In my own true life back yard, the blue morning glories I planted from seed are finally blooming. In Lorel's back yard, well, what you see is what you see.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Particular Sadness of Literary Magazines

Day 193 of the "What are you reading, and why?" project, and someone is reading The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, by Aimee Bender, but who? Did I just delete the answer to this from my email? Was it at another blog? Did I hear something about it on NPR? It's just one of those days, of loose ends, heavy humid air particles, sparse rain, squished brain cells.

Anyway, a lot of people are reading it, as it's on a number of bestseller lists, so I needn't worry about the why, even if I've temporarily lost the particular who.

Meanwhile, there is trouble, and particular sadness, at the Virginia Quarterly Review, where a managing editor committed suicide and his boss is accused of being a bully. What a sad thing. I wonder if this will end up in a future "literary feuds" book, or if the grief and anger in this situation will flare up, then turn to ash. I feel sorry for everyone involved.

Literaries in the mail this week include The Comstock Review and The Sow's Ear Review, both nice magazines with a wonderful variety of fine poems by new and established poets. I am particularly taken with a center art section in Sow's Ear, Book Sculptures by Samantha Y. Huange, which you can see here at her page at Art Review or at flickr. It's really gorgeous, in black at white in Sow's Ear, in color at these websites, and there's a particular sadness, perhaps, in the beauty that comes from the artful "destruction" of these old books. But, of course, they have here a new life.

Artists and interior decorators come to Babbitt's now and then, wanting old books to use as art, to cut up for collages, or to cut out the centers of to hide things in, or to place on shelves, in cabinets, on little end tables as decoration. I went to a funeral home recently that used old books as decoration on shelves of its large coat closets and in glass knick-knack cases along with the dishes and figurines. Even I have been known to cut up books--that were already falling apart--to make collages (or to recycle appropriately by removing the covers) or to stack books in a somewhat sculptural way....

Even the indulgence of two poems from What Feeds Us has left a lemony sweet taste of sadness. "Heart on the Unemployment Line," by Diane Lockward, ends "Even in grief, it keeps beating." And "Wren House" ends, "We had waited like this once before, / wanting some soft creature to fly in." And so the sadness continues.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Wonderful Book

Day 192 of the "What are you reading, and why?" project and my friend Kim is reading The Used World, by Haven Kimmel, I think because she has liked Kimmel before--The Solace of Leaving Early, a novel, and A Girl Named Zippy, a memoir. Everything is set in small-town Indiana.

Kim says it is a wonderful book. That was the actual subject line of her email. A wonderful book.

She is reading it at the beach, or was when she sent the email, from her handy laptop: "I'm reading The Used World by Haven Kimmel this vacation. It's great. The story involves 3 women who work together at a used furniture place. The story takes place in Jordan, Indiana, and Amos Townsend, the minister from The Solace of Leaving Early, is a minor (so far) character in the book, so some little bit of overlap with that book. I'm about halfway through. You would definitely dig this book, too. If you're looking for something to read. Or blog about. I got it from the library so you could check it out after I'm done (soon) if you don't have a copy at Babbitt's for cheap."

We don't have a copy cheap, alas, at Babbitt's--I looked--and no doubt Kim only read the library copy in the motel room, not actually at the beach, with sand and sunscreen, and red-flagged or yellow-flagged huge dangerous or semi-dangerous waves and small children to run after and save. With a handy laptop.

Used furniture! Meanwhile, I am reading our next book group book, The Cookbook Collector, by Allegra Goodman, and we are back to the used and rare cookbooks! And what's got to be a dark turn in the plot. And some twists in the love stories...

Speaking of love, the Lockward chocolate of the day, from What Feeds Us, is witty, clever, fun--and a ghazal--"Love Test: A Ghazal." The ghazal is a Persian poetic form with a repeating rhyme on the second line of every two-line stanza (or couplet)--a sort of perfect form for its original theme and the meaning of the word ghazal: "the talk of boys and girls." Ghazals were about flirtation, love, and drinking!

I have heard two main pronunciations of ghazal--gah ZAHL and GUZ zle. The first is more graceful; the second, more drunken!

Hafiz and Rumi were famous for their ghazals, and Diane Lockward has a lot of fun with hers! One fun aspect of the ghazal is that the poet incorporates his/her own name in the last line. Yep, she does it!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Hump of the Week

Day 191...and my mom is immersed in the newest issue of Glimmer Train (all stories, all the time) and various issues of the Christian Science Monitor, because she is actually paying for a year's subscription after being hooked by a 6-month "come on."

"We're reading things here we don't read anywhere else," she says, an excellent point. She means, in print periodicals, acknowledging that this information may be quite accessible on the web, but she's not looking for it there.

I finished Dreamers of the Day, by Mary Doria Russell, and liked it just fine, though wasn't as wowed as I was by The Sparrow, where the cultural anthropology and the departure into the fantastic were perfectly entwined and justified by the science fiction aspect. I don't mind anyone's genre twisting, but I am pulled more by realistic fiction, which engages me in the same complexities and conflicts I see in my own life. Amazingly, this happened in The Sparrow, too, though it was mostly set on another planet, entirely imagined. Thread of Grace had its realistic World War II context, and I was happy to re-learn that history that particular way. Dreamers of the Day was delightful...enlightening...and is done. With me admiring the delivery system more than the place I was delivered to.

Meanwhile, I am immersed in The Cookbook Collector, by Allegra Goodman, and we are deep into computer technology, and IPOs, and rather far from the cookbook collector at the moment, on p. 161. I can say that I really, really liked her book Intuition, and its close look at contemporary science and how it's done, specifically the male/female dilemmas still inherent in it, and that I really, really appreciate this book's elegance as it reveals the technology issues. This is in high contrast to the Stieg Larsson books, which I liked for different reasons, and the way he brandished brand names and made the technology "insider" knowledge separate from me. Goodman makes it intimate instead. More to come on this.

Today's Diane Lockward "chocolate" (poem of the day from What Feeds Us) is a tomato. No, a peach. No a tomato. It's the poem "The Tomato Envies the Peach," and they are both luscious, as, surely, is she.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Hocus Pocus & the Lockward Chocolate

Day 190...and two random strangers are reading Hocus Pocus by Kurt Vonnegut, because

1) her sister loved Cat's Cradle
2) he loved Slaughterhouse 5

Another random stranger is reading Slaughterhouse 5, because, amazingly, we had a copy at Babbitt's. The sister who loved Cat's Cradle still needs a copy of that because she loaned it to someone and never got it back. Which seems to happen often with Vonnegut.

Now you see it, now you don't!

I was fascinated, in my mini-pseudo-research on this topic (Wikipedia, Amazon.com) to learn that "hocus pocus" may derive from the ritual and Latin of the Eucharist, a sort of hoc est corpus corruption, or from a Norse sorcerer, Ochus Bochus (sounds good to me), or from the Welsh for "hoax," which is Hovea Pwca, the second part pronounced Pooka, from which we also get Shakespeare's Puck (a personal favorite), or, perhaps some combination of all these into random coincidii form!!! I love words, and word origins, even if they are far-fetched.

I know a bank where the wild thyme blows....

Vonnegut's Hocus Pocus is structurally interesting, being a nonlinear collage of fragments by main character Eugene Debs Hartke (college professor/prison inmate) "assembled" by Vonnegut into this piecemeal satire.

I love Vonnegut. I remember reading the short story collection titled God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater as a mere teen, beside my hometown pool. OK, I was weird. But surely other teens I knew loved Vonnegut, too!

My Diane Lockward "chocolate" for the day, from What Feeds Us, actually has a chocolate in it, with a date inside instead of a cherry or apricot. (Hocus pocus, an unanticipated fruit! But I'm so weird, I love dates!) Anyway, it is a lovely and funny prose poem about...ah! dating!...that contains the phrase "Yesterday a letter appeared in my mailbox..." which sort of freaks me out, as I am just now proofreading a prose poem that takes place in the foyer and involves a letter in my mailbox!

On the other hand, it is always nice to find a kindred spirit.

And, to further the random coincidii, a fellow came in the store today who is someone I hope someday to set up with my accidentally celibate friend...who shall remain nameless.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Sexy Book of Sexy Sex

Day 189 of the "What are you reading, and why?" project, and now, surely, a bunch of people must be reading The Sexy Book of Sexy Sex, by Kristen Schaal and Rich Blomquist, because, like me, they heard her on "Wait, Wait, Don't tell Me" on NPR this weekend.

This seems like the perfect book to give my husband when he turns 60 (I don't know why) or for Kim to give her children when they ask about the facts of life (because I think I see an alligator in the background).

Oh, I do know why. My husband loves The Daily Show, and Kristen Schaal is sometimes on it. Plus, white socks with red stripes are definitely a turn on around our house. As are red high tops.

In the Unitarian Church yesterday, I actually read my poem "Fishnets for Jesus" and got some laughs. It was part of my "perverse interlude in which I read 2 poems that mention Jesus." One was about Caravaggio's painting The Rest on the Flight into Egypt, and one was this, which is also posted on Facebook:

Fishnets for Jesus

My Jesus-loving friend on Facebook
reminds me just to pray harder
when I’m feeling bad or sad,
not to turn away from everyone & everything

and that’s when I pray for thigh-high
fishnets, and remember I have some—
I bought them for Alex, to wear
to the New Year’s Eve party & then
forgot to pack them
till the following year, when
discreetly I lifted my black skirt
just thigh high—

and I go upstairs and baptize myself
again in the shower,
step out, dry myself off, jot down
a quick to-do & grocery list
to let myself fully evaporate,
and then ease them gently up
each thigh, breathing easily,
the way we do when we pray for nothing.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

5 Little Houseguests and What They Read

Day 188...and Gaye, Conor, Mikayla, and Aidan* like to read books in series! They were great fans of Harry Potter, Inkheart, and the Pendragon books, and now they are reading Percy Jackson and The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan and the rest of those books, and the Geronimo Stilton series.

*Jordan, the 5th little houseguest, had to stay home and work her summer job in an ice cream parlor. We missed her.

Not currently engaged in a series, however, Conor is reading The Jester.

"Who is that by?" I asked.

"James Patterson," said Conor. But I see by checking Amazon that a co-author is listed, Andrew Grossman, and that there is some quibble about who is the main author. At any rate, it's historical fiction, medieval history at that, and if a teenage boy likes it, it must be a good read.

As Gaye and I discussed The Road, by Cormac McCarthy, which we had borrowed from her family, Conor also volunteered this: "I don't like books that make me think."

"Oh, well what kind of books do you like?" I asked.

"Tom Clancy."

I had to admit I'd never read a Tom Clancy novel, but I think I have seen some movies based on them. Yes, I have.

After a fond, end-of-summer, sweet goodbye, we watched them head down the road. Then I headed back out to the picnic table to enjoy the cool evening breeze, the never-say-cicadas, and two "chocolates" by Diane Lockward's What Feeds Us--"Gender Issue" about a man and his doll, and "The Shampoo Artist: A Really Dramatic Monologue." Oh, she would have been great in our recent Glitterary Reading at Glitterati Hair Salon!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Solace of Coincidii

Day 187 of the "What are you reading, and why?" project and Cynthia is reading Nickle and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, by Barbara Ehrenreich, for her book group. In fact, she is generously gathering used/affordable/recycled copies of the books at Babbitt's, where we can put them on the Local Hold shelf for her temporarily!

Before my time, Brian Simpson, the owner of Babbitt's, featured in yesterday's blog and in the Illinois State Alumni Magazine, used to offer a "wishlist" at Babbitt's, but it got too unwieldy. Who knows, though? If we can add t-shirts and tote bags, maybe we can also revive the wishlist someday!

I read excerpts from Nickle and Dimed when they were published in Harper's and other periodicals, and it was good to know the nitty gritty about how hard it is to survive in the United States on limited income. (Which I have also known firsthand, at various stages of my life!) Some of the details reminded me of a film called Ruby in Paradise, about a young woman trying to get a good job in Florida--a coming of age story, not social criticism or economic critique, but definitely about personal insight and responsibility. Googling Ruby for you, I realize it stars Ashley Judd, early in her acting career. No wonder I loved it!

Meanwhile, I read on in In the Next Galaxy, by Ruth Stone, and a poem a day, my chocolate indulgence, in What Feeds Us, by Diane Lockward.

Diane's poem is "The Summer He Left" in which yellow takes over the world, turning to gold. It begins, "The lawn filled with dandelions," which the speaker finds beautiful, coinciding with my love of the modest, nutritious "weed," poet Martha Silano's respect for edible weeds, and my neighbor Karen's love of the beauty of dandelions in blossom and in wish mode.

Yellow is everywhere, in weed and flower and beyond, and this poem made me turn back to Ruth Stone's poem "White on White," in which white flowers are present alongside other white things--Chablis, "old woman's piss," "white pear bottoms," and"[w]hite mucus from healthy vaginas." Stone's poem evokes, but is of course strikingly different from, Robert Frost's sonnet, "Design," about a white spider on a white heal-all.

But, for me, the other freaky coincidence with stumbling upon "White on White" this summer was that I'd just drafted a sort of list poem about all the white flowers I'd accidentally arranged (not by design) in my own back yard this summer. When I get back to it, it will be deepened by awareness of the other poems, but must be its own "new" thing.

And now, solace. This morning in my inbox, I found the proofs and contract for works submitted to an anthology on solace that Ellen Beals began shaping in response to 9/11. It will finally be published now, in ebook and POD formats, and I'll tell you more about that later; there will be a blog, etc. The solace is of various sorts. We have lived through, mourned, and considered the events of 9/11, as a country and as a world, and we seek solace for all kinds of things all the time, and Ellen's book is a repository of solace.

My essay on what I was reading for solace at the time mentions Mary Ber, editor of Moon Journal Press, from whom, coincidentally, I received an email yesterday morning, as, recovered from cataract surgery, she'd had a chance to read my chapbook, Living on the Earth. The book somehow comforted her in her recovery, and coincided with her recent experiences on earth in the second half of her life. I feel honored.

Friday, August 13, 2010

It's Phun to be a Philistine

Day 186 of the "What are you reading, any why?" project and Lorel is reading Babbitt, by Sinclair Lewis, and loving it. Because it is way more fun than Olive Kitteridge.

Here are some of the random coincidii related to Babbitt.

Babbitt was, for a time, the favorite book of the owner of Babbitt's Books, who is not named Babbitt, no matter how many people call him that. You can read all about Brian Simpson and the renovation of Uptown Normal* in this really nice article in the Illinois State Alumni Magazine.

Said owner has one of those library posters of himself in the window of Babbitt's Books, holding up the book Babbitt, by Sinclair Lewis! This one, a little mass market paperback.

Babbitt's Books just celebrated its 25th year in existence this July, although I still might not have the story straight. Books were a sideline at first in a vintage clothing store, but now it's all books, all the time.

Unless we add some of those cool book cover t-shirts! Or tote bags! (It's phun to be a philistine.)

Lorel just celebrated a birthday on August 9. I won't say which one because:

1) I am a lady
2) she is a lady
3) I don't know
4) I should know, but my brain now resembles steamed cauliflower, and I lost track

I am going to a 50th birthday party tonight! I won't say whose. But not Lorel's. And not mine.

I just read about Sinclair Lewis and Theodore Dreiser's feud, over the Nobel Prize, sort of--they both wanted it, of course, but there were other things going on:

1) Lewis had an alcohol problem
2) Dreiser had flirted with Lewis's wife-to-be, Dorothy Thompson
3) Lewis had failed to provide a publisher blurb for Dreiser's book, An American Tragedy
4) Dreiser had plagiarized or "lifted" passages from a book about Russia by Thompson for his own book about Russia

Sigh. You can read about all this and more in Literary Feuds by Anthony Arthur, which also explains, summarizing Swedish scholar Rolf Lunden, why an American finally got the the Nobel Prize, and why Lewis and Dreiser were the top runners. "Both writers were valued because they portrayed the United States as a nest of grasping, materialistic, bourgeois philistines and hypocrites, at best shallow and silly, at worst brutal and stupid."

No wonder Lorel is enjoying the book so much.

Arthur says, "The Nobel Prize was given to Lewis, in a word, because he insulted his country more entertainingly than Dreiser did...."

And then the two men insulted each other. And nearly had a fistfight at a writers' dinner.

*AKA "Uppity Town Normal" by Kim, who is addicted to hummus.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


Day 185...and a random young man walking by is now reading The Satanic Verses, by Salman Rushdie, to see whether there is really something in it that provoked the death threats. I told him about when my niece was photographed with Rushdie, when he visited her college. The photo gave him red eyes, so he did look remarkably satanic.

And I am allowing myself one poem a day from What Feeds Us, by Diane Lockward, an indulgence like a fine chocolate. The first was the title poem, "What Feeds Us," and I can already tell the book will break my heart and make me smile; also, that I've found a kindred spirit, as I, too, have written a poem ending with a woman knowing she needs to eat.

Likewise, with "The First Artichoke," the second poem in Lockward's book. I remember my first artichoke, eaten as a kind of research, as well as a pleasure, with my friend and fellow actress, Lorel Janiszewski. I was directing her, I think in the Organic Theatre, in a one-woman play she had written called Art-I-Choke. She is brilliant, so it was funny and pithy and poignant somehow all at once. And surely she prepared the artichoke we ate in her kitchen.

A stage manager would have prepared the artichoke she ate onstage. Right, Lorel? Nobody would have trusted me with that....

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Strange Beckoning

Day 184 of the "What are you reading, and why?" project, and Steve is reading Hearts in Atlantis, a set of linked stories by Stephen King, because he needed something to read on the train. I had to admit to Steve that I had not read any Stephen King except On Writing, and he said he had just ordered it. Didn't have the heart to tell him we usually have a couple copies of that at Babbitt's, hardback and paperback.

On second thought, he might have ordered a first edition from somewhere, as I think this Hearts in Atlantis was a first edition. Plus, I realize I have seen the movie, with Anthony Hopkins.

It's been one of those days of multiple, frequently interrupted tasks. Lately I walk into rooms and forget what I've come in for, reminding me of the sleep-deprived days when my babies were...babies. One is about to go back to high school, the other, to college. Driving back from high school registration on a newly repaved road--that is, floating along on a fine black macadam--I forgot to turn left onto the street I needed to be on, had to curve and cross the tracks, turn left at a busier street, and there was a fire truck, parked but flashing, an ambulance in the park parking lot near the pool, a police car. One wonders, one worries.

The radio had just told me about yesterday's derailment of a freight train, no one hurt, but it does delay the passenger trains. One hopes they have books to read.

And a fellow who regularly brings books to Babbitt's gave me Strange Beckoning, poems by Helen Carson Janssen, 1951, signed and inscribed, with a card inside about her book signing at Coe's Book Store on October 15, "the day set aside by Governor Adlai Stevenson as Illinois Poetry Day."

This year, in the annual cemetery walk in our town, I am to play Helen Davis Stevenson, Adlai's mother. They are both buried here.

"It's a vanity press," said the boss, not buying it, and clearly hurting the man's feelings.

"You can call it vanity, but she was a fine woman and a good poet," he said.

And I can't see much difference between Helen Carson Janssen having her book published by Exposition Press of New York and Walt Whitman having his Leaves of Grass published, again and again, revisions of it, by a local printer, and at first at his own expense. Nor much difference between that and a number of small publishers of poetry these days, who leave most of the editing, promotion, and distribution to the poets themselves.

Helen Carson Janssen was born in Upper Sandusky, Ohio, famous now in popular culture for the Leather Goddesses of Phobos, a computer game, and before that because Doris Day's character in That Touch of Mink came from there, and, to bring us back to Stephen King, some scenes from The Shawshank Redemption were filmed there.

But I want to turn to page 24 of Strange Beckoning, to the poem "Old Mr. Kirk," a man thought "queer" by the farmers but loved by the kids because he gave them peppermints. My great grandfather, of Akron, Ohio, sucked peppermints and shared them with us kids.

I don't know what to make of it all.

Have a heart. Especially this one, by Robert Fornal. Or a fine Italian alabaster paperweight, from Barnes & Noble.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Iron Men

Day (of coincidii) 183 of the "What are you reading, and why?" project, and David is reading Iron Council, by China Mieville, because:

1) his brother recommended it on a cross-country road trip,
2) I found it for him, slightly out of alphabetical order at Babbitt's, and
3) he likes cool, dystopian stuff.

David is one of the SOBs, a men's book group, currently reading The Help, by Kathryn Stockett, though now I have recommended to them The Wishbones, by Tom Perrotta. The non-SOBs (not our real name, as we don't have one), a women's book group, has already read both.

Today I handled Iron Joe Bob, by Joe Bob Briggs, a pseudonym, a book dedicated to Bobby Bly, a comic answer to the poet Robert Bly's Iron Man movement. Many years ago, visiting Seattle, I purchased Iron John, by Robert Bly, at the Elliott Bay bookstore, for a fellow who was showing me around the city when I was there to look at the papers of the poet Michele Murray, who died young of breast cancer. He was a troubled man, the brother of a close friend, and I was glad to know what to give him, when he expressed intense interest in the book.

Yesterday, watching Shutter Island with my daughter so she wouldn't get too scared, I saw a preview for Iron Man II. And that's all the manly coincidii I can stand in one day.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Never Say Cicada

Day 182 of the "What are you reading, and why?" project, and Patrick is going to be reading a lot of books, because he wanted to use his credit card and he'd come in for Walden ($3) and Daniel Quinn (which we didn't have), and we only take credit cards for $5 and up (because of the annoying charges) so I said, "Have you looked on the Select New Arrivals shelf?"

He found great stuff. Because he had wanted Quinn, I pointed out Life of Pi, by Yann Martel, for its amazing blend of philosophy and circumstances, as reported to me by Gary, Tony, and other happy readers. It is in a yet-to-read stack here in my house.

I asked if he'd read Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury, because there it was, a classic we have trouble hanging onto, and, sure enough, he hadn't. He had read two Vonnegut books he liked a lot--Slaughterhouse Five and Cat's Cradle--so when he saw Jailbirds and Breakfast of Champions, he snapped those up, too!

When I asked why he wanted to read Thoreau's Walden, he said he'd seen the film Into the Wild, and wanted to see why someone would want to go into the wild. In the book by Jon Krakauer about Chris McCandless, we learn that Chris was reading Thoreau before he went on his own discovery of wilderness and self.

Odd, how a little technology hassle should lead to an armful of books. Don't worry, no one forced him. He chose them all himself and had time to change his mind. Boss was on the phone, so I couldn't use the credit card machine till he got off. (Hmm, unfortunate phrasing, perhaps.) Anyhoo, that technology glitch gave Patrick time to think it over, and he wanted the whole stack.

And now for the cicada. Billy Collins famously announced in his introduction to The Best American Poetry 2006 that he couldn't make it past the word "cicada" in a poem, even though his poem "The Student" in The Trouble with Poetry (Random House, 2005) of course has the word "cicada" in it. I always see the fondness, subtlety, and depth in Collins, as well as the humor, and actually enjoyed his snippiness in Ballistics. He has a right to be snippy; people are always sniping at him. But, as I am writing prose at the moment, I have no fear of cicadas, alive, in language, or as empty shells.

Last night, just before we surrendered to air conditioning, I was enjoying the bit of breeze coming in my window from an area with an evergreen bush and a flower bed that provide a little privacy screen in my cool, sunken office space. Suddenly something crashed against the glass window above the screen. A bat? A transformer moth? A persistent possum? No, of course it was a cicada! A Dog Day Cicada, here in the dog days of August.

Extra, Extra

More about what people are reading to come, but I have a poem up at Leveler this week, if you'd like to read it and comment. (Some people took this little car ride with me recently at a reading.)

I love Leveler for its wonderful brief essay--click the box to the right when you get there--on how the poem works. Then you can click Level With Us to submit a comment of your own on the poem and/or essay.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

He Will, He Will Rock You

Day 181...and a bunch of people are or want to be reading Bang! The Complete History of the Universe, co-authored by Brian May, of the rock band Queen, and/or A Village Lost and Found, May's latest book, about early 3D photography. Among those people are Chris and Kim, who heard a recent NPR story about May, and Bob, who posted a link on Facebook. Ah, how I love NPR, Wikipedia, and Facebook. Ah, how I love people who tell me about cool stuff to read.

A Village Lost and Found, co-authored with Elena Vidal, is subtitled An Annotated Tour of the 1850s series of stereo photographs "Scenes in Our Village" by T. R. Williams. It reproduces some wonderful photography and explains stereoscopy, a method of side-by-side viewing that produces 3D effects. It is similar to the stereopticon that delighted Emily Dickinson, and showed her places she'd never been! The book comes with a contemporary viewing device.

The earlier book, Bang!, co-authored with Patrick Moore and Chris Lintott, came out in 2006, and is indeed about the Big Bang theory of the universe. May studied astrophysics, and the NPR story explains how the "stomp stomp clap" effect in the recording of "We Will Rock You" was due to May's knowledge of sound waves. It got into the song at first by way of calculation, of a different sort, and inspiration at live performances, and then had to be recreated for the recording. (Read or listen to the NPR stories, linked above, to find out more! Or here.)

Now go stand outside under the starry night. It will rock you.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Not Expecting an Answer

Day 180, and I am reading Dreamers of the Day, by Mary Doria Russell, a book that is pulling me in with its story and history. It starts in the same territory I left with Houdini Pie, by Paul Michel, as there are bootleggers and trouble with war and influenza, but now we have gone to Egypt with Lawrence of Arabia!

Agnes, the narrator, tells us we don't realize the terrible effects of the flu, and how soldiers spread it on the trains, and how more people died of the flu than in battle in World War I. That is indeed sobering. But I got the devastation from William Maxwell's work before this, in They Came Like Swallows. That was sad and poignant all the way through. Dreamers is lively and fun and, as with Russell's other novels, I am learning so much about the people, the cultural and political conflicts of the time, and the inner life.

I am also still reading In the Next Galaxy, by Ruth Stone, poems. They are marvelous, simple, and rich. I can turn anywhere in the book and find something odd and wonderful, edgy or disturbing: "Corn is universal, / so like a Roman senator." Or: "The play yard with its automobile tire / hanging from the one tree, like a lynching."

Or, from the poem titled "Not Expecting an Answer":

This tedious letter to you...
what is one life to another?
We walk around inside our bags,
sucking it in, spewing it out.

My sister, who had a lovely time in Michigan at the shore and here with family, has to go home to troubles in her house. She can sigh at the above, and I can sigh for her. I am not expecting an answer.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Cutting for Stone

Day 179...and Laura is reading Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese, and "loving the writing style--very in-depth but not overwhelming...long, but I've been curious from page 1 to find out what he has to say."

In general, it sounds like readers can't put it down! John Irving praises the book at Amazon.com, so probably everyone who loves Irving will love this one. Reader reviews give away some main facts--twins, mother dies in childbirth--so these must not be spoilers, and the mix of uplift, humor, and tragedy does sound like something Irving would write, and therefore like!

I am reminded of The Stone Diaries, by Carol Shields, because that's the way my brain works. And "The Stone Boy," a story by Gina Berriault, that I finally got hold of in a collection titled Women in Their Beds.

That's enough mind twirling from me. I am off to glitter at A Glitterary Reading! (I am glittering with rhinestones and sequins. I forgot to put on the glittery nail polish....!)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Take Your Niece to Work Day

Day 178 of the "what are you reading, and why?" project, and my niece Maggie has plenty of books to read through the end of the summer and on into the school year. It was Take Your Niece to Work Day at Babbitt's, an impromptu holiday, as Maggie wanted to shadow me, her goofy-writer-aunt-who-works-in-a-bookshop, and also look for books about Iranian women's experience.

"This is Sarah," I told Maggie. "She just graduated from college and is living her dream of working in a bookstore!" This is also Maggie's dream, so it was a wonderful day. Sarah also immediately directed Maggie to the Women's Studies section, where she found:


On her own, browsing, she found:

Florida by Christine Schutt, a novel, and Noise in the Trees: Poems & A Memoir, by William Heyen.

The day before, she'd found Villette, by Charlotte Bronte, at About Books, the used bookstore in a neighboring town. And waiting at home is Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books, by Azar Nafisi, which really is about women's experience in Iran.

So now Maggie has plenty of women's and men's experiences at hand in memoir, fiction, and poetry, and also knows how to describe a used book and how things are organized (or not) in a used bookstore. Plus, we had butterscotch cookies with white chocolate chunks! A good day all around.