Friday, June 30, 2006

My Friend's Time Share (or at least half of it)

This was the timeshare where I stayed for my birthday week party two years ago (Jan. 2005). The place where the wreaking equipment is parked is approximately where our room was. This was destroyed because of fire damage after the hurricane.

Librarians in New Orleans

At the daquiri bar. The shots were free and you can't pass up free stuff. (right?)

Librarians Rule!

And the librarians shall lead them
I don’t think I’m quite ready to climb to the top of the Superdome and scream, “We’re BACK, baby!” But as harbingers of recovery go, the American Library Association convention this weekend was a serious step in the right direction....
New Orleans Times-Picayune, June 27

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

New Orleans trip

I thought I would share a little about my trip to New Orleans with everyone. If you didn't read it in the news, the American Library Association hosted the first large conference to be held since the hurricane hit. Approximately 18,000 librarians, publishers and authors attended and New Orleans did a wonderful job of pulling the conference off. Shuttle buses to and from the airport were a problem (but they always are) and many flights were delayed but once we made it to our hotel everything seemed to go very smoothly, at least for my group.

I went in early for a preconference "The Boomers are coming: Is your library ready." This was interesting but wore me out a bit. I did work on a proposal that one of my committee members will be presenting to the Senate about changes in the Older Americans Act currently moving through as a bill. If you are concerned about this issue please go to:

For more information on the Act:
To locate contact information for your representatives:
To contact the committee:

Friday night I had a dinner hosted by one of the publishers and got to meet the author of one of my favorite books so far this year. Tim Flannery was delightful, possibly because of the Australian accent. Dinner was wonderful and made me long for the pre-house owner days when I could indulge in elegant evenings out. Afterwards, my friend Jackie and I headed out for my nightly daquiri (a tradition from my birthday trip last year).

Saturday was the day to talk about books. So far no one had a absolute favorite book that got dumped off the final list but I am anticipating one of mine being a hard sell next winter. We even got out a little early. Later on that night I attended the ALA Scholarship bash (concert). When my friend Tricia found out that I was not a huge fan of Mary Chapin Carpenter I got a stern lecture on why her songwriting features the best storytelling of this or any other time and she is the best ever.... I have to admit that she was extremely engaging onstage and her music was pretty good, far better than I remember it being. When it was over, several of us headed over to the Daquiri bar for our nightcaps.

Sunday I had to get up for the 7 am Notable Books author breakfast and three of last years notable book authors spoke. I enjoyed the authors but am not sure who came up with the breakfast concept, especially after a Saturday night in New Orleans. After that I went to a couple of workshops and checked out the exhibits but took it a little easier on myself. In the evening I went to dinner with a bunch of book people so we again stopped so for a daquiri and then went to dinner and talked about books and traveling all evening.

Monday I flew home to be greeted by a kitten that seems to have doubled in size in a week and another cat who is still grumpy about the new addition.

Since it was a work trip there were no wild party nights for me. As a result I didn't get very many pictures. I will try to put up a couple in a day or two but in the meantime if you link to the Flickr site I have some of the pics from my birthday trip to New Orleans a year and a half ago.

Monday, June 26, 2006

The Map Of Glass

The Map Of Glass by Jane Urquhart is a novel about two different time periods, present day and 19th century rural Ontario. This is a book that a committee member is quite taken with and I am not sure what I think yet. For some reason I didn't engage with the novel and am wondering if it is because I was not in the right mood for it or if the book has some weaknesses that I need to explore. I am going to set this aside and in a few months go back and re-read at least part of it to see if my reaction is different later on.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Notable Books Council Meeting

I am here in New Orleans and today was the first time I met my committee members and we spent the whole day talking about books and defending our book choices. It was an interesting process. We went through the entire list of suggestions and nominations, defended our favorites and then voted on which ones to keep and which ones to let go of. We also had a substantial list of books that we had been unable to read yet. I have included the updated list and since I am in New Orleans I also will be posting some pics on Flickr.

The latest suggestion list

Abel, Jessica - La Perdida
Anaya, Rudolfo - The Man Who Could Fly and Other Stories
Angell, Roger - Let Me Finish
Arana, Marie - Cellophane
Armstrong, Karen - Great Transformation
Atwood, Margaret - Moral Disorder & Other Stories
Bahr, Howard - Judas Field
Barich, Bill - A Fine Place to Daydream
Beaujon, Andrew - Body Piercing Saved My Life: Inside the Phenomenon of Christian Rock
Bechdel, Alison - Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic
Ben Jelloun, Tahar - The Last Friend
Berkowitz, Edward - Something Happened
Bolano, Robert - Last Evenings on Earth
Bonner, Jeffrey P - Sailing with Noah
Boyle, T. Coraghessan - Talk Talk
Branch, Taylor - At Canaan's Edge: America in the King Years 1965-68
Broad, William - The Oracle: The Lost Secrets And Hidden Messages Of Ancient Delphi
Brookhieser, Richard - The Divided Ground: Indians, Settlers, and the Northern Borderland of the American Revolution
Brown, Frederick - Flaubert: A Biography
Bruinius, Harry - Better for All the World: The Secret History of Forced Sterilization and America's Quest for Racial Purity
Burt, Stephen - Parallel Play
Caldwell, Gail - A Strong West Wind
Carey, Peter - Theft: A Love Story
Carr, Cynthia - Our Town
Cartwright, Justin - The Promise of Happiness
Cheney, Annie - Body Brokers: Inside America's Underground Trade in Human Remains
Child, Julia and Alex Prud'Homme - My Life In France
Cuoto, Mia - A Sleepwalking Land
D'Ambrosio, Charles - Dead Fish Museum: Stories
Desai, Kiran - Inheritance of Loss
Donoghue, Emma - Touchy Subjects: Stories
Donohue, Keith - The Stolen Child
Dornstein, Ken - The Boy Who Fell Out Of the Sky
D'Orso, Michael - Eagle Blue
D'Souza, Tony - Whiteman
Finkel, Caroline - Osman's Dream
Fuentes, Carlos - The Eagle's Throne
Gaddis, John Lewis - The Cold War: A New History
Gardam, Jane - Old Filth
Ghosh, Amitav - Incendiary Circumstances: A Chronicle of the Turmoil of Our Time
Gibbons, Ann - The First Human
Gifford, Barry - The Stars Above Verazcruz
Glass, Julia - The Whole World Over
Gluck, Louise - Averno: Poems
Goleman, Daniel - Social Intelligence
Gordimer, Nadine - Get a Life
Gorenberg, Gershom - Accidental Empire, The: Israel and the Birth of the Settlements, 1967-1977
Grenville, Kate - Secret River
Gruen, Sara - Water For Elephants
Grunwald, Michael - The Swamp: The Everglades, Florida and the Politics of Paradise
Handler, Daniel - Adverbs
Hayes, Terrance - Wind in a Box
Hellenga, Robert - Philosophy Made Simple
Hempel, Amy - The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel
Henderson, William Haywood - Augusta Locke
Henriquez, Cristina - Come Together, Fall Apart
Hirshfield, Jane - After
Hogan, Lawrence D. - Shades of Glory
Holleran, Andrew - Grief
Homes, A. M. - This Book Will Save Your Life
Jackson, Major - Hoops
Jenson, Liz - My Dirty Little Book of Stolen Time
Jentz, Terri - Strange Piece of Paradise
Junger, Sebastian - A Death in Belmont
Kanipe, Jeff - Chasing Hubble's Shadows
Karr, Mary - Sinners Welcome
Kelby, N.M. - Whale Season
Kelly, Stuart - Book of Lost Books: An Incomplete History of All the Great Books You'll Never Read
Keret, Edgar - The Nimrod Flipout
Khadra, Yasmina - The Attack
Khoury, Elias - Gate Of The Sun
Kinzer, Stephen - Overthrow:America's Century of Regime Change
Knighton, Ryan - Cockeyed: A Memoir of Blindness
Koumantareas, Menes - Koula
Kurlansky, Mark - The Big Oyster
Leavitt, David - The Man Who Knew Too Much
Lindquist, Ulla-Carin - Rowing Without Oars
Lloyd, Seth - Programming the Universe
Maheu, Layne - Song Of The Crow
Mankell, Henning - Chronicler of the Winds
Martin, Valerie - The Unfinished Novel and Other Stories
Masters, Alexander - Stuart: A Life Backwards
McMahon, Darrin - Happiness: A History
McPhee, John - Uncommon Carriers
Morgan, Ted - My Battle Against Algiers
Morrow, James - The Last Witch Finder
Mosley, Walter - Fortunate Son
Mullane, Mike - Riding Rockets
Nazario, Sonia - Enrique's Journey
Nielsen, John - Condor
Norton, Trevor - Underwater to Get Out of the Rain
Nunez, Sigrid - The Last of Her Kind
Ours, Dorothy - Man O'War
Parks, Tim - Rapids
Pearce, Fred - When the Rivers Run Dry: Water the Defining Crisis of the 21st Century
Phan Nhien Hao - Night, Fish and Charlie Parker
Philbrick, Nathaniel - Mayflower
Pierre, D.B.C. - Ludmila's Broken English
Quammen, David - Reluctant Mr. Darwin
Robbins, James - Last in their Class
Roth, Philip - Everyman
Rozier, Gilles - The Mercy Room
Rust, Elissa Minor - The Prisoner Pear: Stories
Safina, Carl - The Voyage of the Turtle
Sancton, Tom - Song for my Fathers: A New Orleans Story in Black and White
Saramago, Jose - Seeing
Satterlee, Thom - Burning Wyclif
Saunders, George - In Persuasion Nation
Savage, Sam - Firmin
Schama,Simon - Rough Crossings: Britain the Slaves, and the American Revolution
Seife, Charles - Decoding the Universe: How the New Science of Information is Explaining Everything in the Cosmos, from our Brains to Black Holes
Shteyngart, Gary - Absurdistan
Slavitt, David - William Henry Harrison and Other Poems
Smith, Janna Malamud - My Father is a Book
Smith, Scott - The Ruins
Snyder, Scott -Voodoo Heart
Soyinka, Wole -You Must Set Forth at Dawn: A Memoir
Stargardt, Nicholas -Witnesses Of War: Children's Lives Under The Nazis
Stern, Jan & Michael - Two For The Road: Our Love Affair with American Food
Tabucchi, Antonio - It's Getting Later all the Time
Tallis, Frank - A Death in Vienna
Tiffany, Carrie - Everyman's Rules for Scientific Living
Tolan, Sandy - Lemon Tree, The: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East
Troost, J. Maarten - Getting Stoned With Savages: Tripping Through the Islands of Fiji and Vanuatu
Trussoni, Danielle - Falling Through The Earth
Tussing, Justin - The Best People in the World
Tyler, Anne - Digging to America
Umrigar, Thirty - The Space Between Us
Updike, John - Terrorist
Vallgren, Carl Johan - Horrific Sufferings of the Mind-Reading Monster Hercules Barefoot, The: His Wonderful Love and His Terrible Hatred
Waters, Sarah - Night Watch
White, Richard D. - Kingfish: The Reign of Huey P. Long
Winter, Michael - The Big Why
Wolitzer, Hilma - The Doctor's Daughter
Y amanaka, Lois-Ann- Behold The Many
Zoellner, Tom -The Heartless Stone
Greenaway, Alice - White Ghost Girls
Dean, Debra - Madonnas of Leningrad
Doig, Ivan - The Whistling Season
Egan, Timothy - The Worst Hard Time
Flannery, Tim - The Weather Makers: The History and Future Impact of Climate Change
Fugard, Lisa - Skinners Drift
Goodman, Allegra - Intuition
Hessler, Peter - Oracle Bones: A Journey Between China's Past And Present
Hyland, M. J. - Carry Me Down
King, Ross - The Judgment of Paris
Lansens, Lori - Girls
Meek, James - People's Act of Love
Migol, Agl - Look There: Selected Poems
Mitchell, David - Black Swan Green
Nemirovsky, Irene -Suite Francaise
Urquhart, Jane - Map of Glass

Never Drank The Kool-Aid

As I read the book, Never Drank The Kool-Aid by Toure I thought about how much my ex boyfriend would have liked this book. To my surprise since this isn't my type of music I really enjoyed it. This is (in general) essays and interviews by Toure that explore the Hip-hop generation. Two that were particularly good were I'm Scared To Death But I Gotta Live about the life of Biggie Smalls and an essay The Five Mic Personality, or Why I Hate Mary J. Blige.

I read this on the plane on the way to New Orleans for the ALA conference and would have loved to read this at home where I could have played the music being talked about. The author has a genuine interest in and affection for the hip-hop artist but never completely buys into the hype. There are a few essays that don't fit in with the rest and this weakens the collection but it was a highly enjoyable read.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Whale Caller

The Whale Caller by Zakes Mda is the story of a love triangle between the Whale Caller, the whale Sharisha and the alcoholic Saluni. While the story is compelling, the reader will have to dig through layer of symbolism. At times I found it fascinating at times but at other times just wearying. This is one of those books that must be read more than once to fully grasp the hidden texture and meaning. I have read better examples of this type of magical realism but for someone who loves that type of literature this may be worthwhile to read.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Suite Francaise

Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky is the description of daily life during World War II. The author was shipped to Auschwitz shortly after this work was composed. She had originally intended to have three more sections and the notes outlining her intentions are found at the end of the novel. This is one of the books that is being seriously considered for the nominee list and is a compelling look at ordinary French citizens as they cope with the war. You get a taste of their petty concerns and their extraordinary spirits, sometimes even in the same person. In spite of the fact that this is an unfinished work it feels very complete.

Look There: New And Selected Poems

Poetry is not my strong suit to review or assess but this was a wonderfully accessible collection of poetry from Israeli poet Agi Mishol. Having access to the Internet helped me to find some of the meaning behind different reference in the poetry because I could search for references to Home Depot in Israel and find a statement from Mr. Abbas about the Home Depot which in his words is one link to "home-building ..the brutal weapon of Jewish extremism". Something I knew nothing about. Symbolism is so much easier to understand when you know that is being referenced.

She writes about everything from Israeli/Palestine issues, the death of her parents and the agony of reading her first poem aloud. Below is a portion of one of her poems trying to see into the mind of Andaleeb Takatkah, a suicide bomber.

Woman Martyr - exerpt

You are only twenty
and your first pregnancy is an exploding bomb.
Under your broad skirt you are pregnant
with dynamite
and metal shavings. This is how you walk in
the market,
ticking among the people, you, Andaleeb

Monday, June 19, 2006

The Madonnas of Lennigrad and Queen Of The Underworld

Just thought I would share my latest reading distraction. His name is Spike and he's a wild one. My eight year old cat is not happy at the moment.

Anyway, The Madonnas of Lennigrad by Debra Dean was a lovely story about a woman at the end of her life, suffering from Alzheimers, who re-lived the early days of her life the surreal world of war and hunger.

The Queen Of The Underworld by Gail Godwin (one of our most accomplished and celebrated contemporary novelists is the story of a young woman embarking on her first job in Miami during the early days of Castro's rise to power. While the main character is not completely likeable or sympathetic I was drawn in to the day to day drama of a new journalist trying to make a name for herself in world of Cuban refugee's and fierce competition.

Sunday, June 18, 2006


L'America by Martha McPhee has been the most profoundly moving book I have read so far this year. The story of an American woman and an Italian man who fall in love and never can be together, not because of some evil plot or debt of honor but because they both have dreams that cannot blend together, expectations from their families and cultures that hold them tight. The story starts with the man getting a letter from his ex-lover's husband letting him know that she has died. He remembers the beginning of their relationship from the giddy first days to the sad and bitter ending. As the book progresses the reader becomes more and more aware that this will never work. That they are doomed, not only to fail in this love but to also never be able to fully leave it behind. This was a story that hurts to read but is beautiful in the telling. Technically it is not the best book I have read this year and so it probably won't go on my list but I am glad for the journey.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Whistling Season

The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig is a lovely straightforward coming of age story. Doig is known for his stories with Western landscapes and this story, set in Montana in the early 1900's, is no exception. When Paul's father sends for a mail-order housekeeper Paul's world changes forever. Rose, and her brother Morris, arrive and soon Morris is installed as a teacher in the local one room schoolhouse.

Sometimes when a story so effortless it is easy to overlook the technical mastery of the author. Doig's prose flows so effortlessly that you might want to race through the book but stop and savor the elegant prose and lovely descriptions.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Accidental by Ali Smith

When the Smart's mistakenly invites Amber, who has appeared on their doorstep, into their home as a guest the whole fabric of this rather fragile family starts to fray. By the time Eve, the mother, finally throws Amber out of the house the family relationships are changed in profound ways.

This one is heading right to the top of my favorites list. Days after reading this I am still thinking about the inventiveness of the voices and unusual ways that the author plays with words. The first few pages are a bit baffling but stick with it and you will be rewarded by the way the author ties everything together by the end of the novel.

Added 6/24/2006 - Well pooh! My committee members didn't like this nearly as much as I did....

Saturday, June 10, 2006

The Judgment of Paris: The Revolutionary Decade That Gave The World Impressionism by Ross King

The Judgment of Paris is a masterful look at Impressionist movement in France. The lives of Jean-Louis-Ernest Meissonier and Edouard Manet are profiled in dramatic counterpoint and the broader movement is explored in detail.

While Meissonier, a realist, was a beloved and successful artist, Manet, the impressionist, was reviled by the critics (although he did have some loyal admirers). Today the opposite is true and Meissonier has fallen from favor and is rarely even profiled in art history encyclopedias. This is a very readable history.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Intuition and Love Burns...

After all of the nice weather I had to take a little break to do some gardening. Unfortunately I am getting behind on my reading so last weekend I sat down and read two in a row. The first, Intuition by Allegra Goodman, is a lovely novel set in the world of scientific research. In this world a scientific breakthrough can produce years of funding for entire labs. When postdoc Cliff starts to record promising results for a new cancer virus, the entire lab is impacted. As one lab director rushes to publicized the results, others council caution. When another researcher starts to question the results the lab "family" begins to disintegrate.

Love Burns by Edna Mazya is a first novel by this award winning Israeli playwrite and was a compelling look at what happens when an obsessive love leads to murder. I found the Israeli setting particularly interesting. This was an enjoyable read.