Monday, March 30, 2015

It's Monday... I'm reading....

It’s Monday.
I’m listening to: The Girl on the Train. Finished Anansi Boys last night.
Still listening to, may always be listening to, joint project with hubby – Rebel Call. I think we need to schedule listen-together-dates or something. This isn’t working so well.

I’m rereading: Cloud Atlas for the CloudAtlasAlong.  Note to others: the first section was definitely my least favorite, but essential for setting up the rest of the book – which gets truly amazing the deeper you get.
Ordered book for book club: Under the Wide and Starry Sky

Sunday, March 29, 2015

High -- and young -- on a Gaiman binge

        This is why I blog. (Or one of the reasons)
         I had never heard of Neil Gaiman until a few years ago when I read about him in your blogs. It must have been about the time that The Ocean at the End of the Road came out that I read reviews those reviews that enthusiastically embraced him. Then I participated in a nearby city book club meet-up and they (mostly young working people) were discussing American Gods. I was entranced but also a little estranged. I felt —serious reader that I often am (crime novels aside) dated. I thought of Gaiman as someone I would have fallen for as a younger reader—in my 20s or 30s.  Someone I could I could still get away with in my 40s, but was beginning to feel distanced from in my 50s.
          I tried him on the way I might try fake nose piercings, tattoos, mini-skirts and halter tops. Cute, but not for me – anymore.  Like too vibrant accessories, the stories clashed with my silver gray hair, my demure mature present presence. I was charmed by the playfulness and the fantasy in the way I was once taken by quirkiness of Kurt Vonnegut.
        He wrote, I thought, to a younger me.
       Ageism (self-imposed and otherwise) be damned. 
        I love this stuff. 
         I keep coming back for more. 
       Since American Gods, I have made my way through The Ocean at the End of the Road (a different kind of novel – using fantasy to create something more mainstream), Good Omens, (with the recently deceased Terry Pratchett), Neverwhere (a wonderful audiobook—full cast), The Graveyard Book (just last week) and now The Anansi Boys (one hour plus to go on audiobook and I can’t wait to finish this blog entry so I can get back to listening.)
         I have listened to more of these than I have read, using my Audible subscription, on audiobooks. Because Gaiman is first an extraordinary storyteller (and then a very good writer), listening to his works is a good choice for me. In addition I listened to Neverwhere and The Graveyard Book in full-cast productions, a treat I recommend.
          I think I am most enchanted by The Graveyard Book, though I am not quite sure why, maybe only because, fickle me,  it's the most recent one I've completed.) It’s such a classic coming-of-age story, complete with stock challenges— saying one’s true name, battling the demon and discovering the treasure—all helped out by the dead and the near-dead in a graveyard.  Brilliant. Endearing. Enchanting.
         I’m feeling like a kid again.
         No time to waste. I have reading to do. Back to the romantic comedy (all this substituting of one sibling for another reminds me of Shakespeare’s comedy tricks) The Anansi Boys.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Maine: The author and the governor

Maine friends have posted recent news stories on Facebook about a tiff between Maine Gov. Paul LePage and Maine author Stephen King.
In a rant against Maine’s income taxes, it seems the Governor implied the author (and other rich Mainers) moved to Florida to avoid them.
King’s reply: “Governor LePage is full of the stuff that makes the grass grow green.”
Further King wants LePage to “man-up and apologize.”
As a book type, I’m taking King’s side.
Lepage’s claim is not true, said King. Not only does he proudly call Maine home and pay taxes for that call, but he’s glad to pay them.
He told a Maine paper:
"We feel, as Governor LePage apparently does not, that much is owed from those to whom much has been given. We see our taxes as a way of paying back the state that has given us so much. State taxes pay for state services. There's just no way around it."
King does own a home in Florida, but only visits.  In 2013 he paid 1.4 million in Maine state taxes.  
I have a poor mind for politics and economics, but a decent one for stories.
I like stories.
 My reactions are only to perceived personae, not to personal acquaintances.   We are more than the stories we and others tell about us, but  those are narratives I'm interested in.
So here are mine about these two – with information taken from such mythmaking sources as Wikipedia, a few newspaper articles and impressions garnered from following the careers of both Maine residents. I haven’t read King in many years, but plan to return as a result of thinking about these disparate characters.
King, 67, and LePage, 66, spent formative years in broken, sometimes poor families, less than 25 miles apart. LePage was a scrappy city kid (inasmuch as Maine can be said to have cities); King a small-town country boy. 
At age 11, LePage ran away from home in the  French-speaking “Little Canada” section of Lewiston, after his abusive, alcoholic, father slapped him around so much he broke his nose and jaw.
When King was 2, his father walked out of the family home. For some time Stephen, his mother and brother lived in  other states.    At 11, Stephen King returned to his home state settling in Durham, where his mother became the caregiver for her aging parents, and later worked at a facility for the mentally challenged.
LePage, it seems, had it worse than King – a childhood out of a Dickens’ novel, one so horrible that he claims life didn’t begin for him until he started college. He clawed his way up; hard work and the kindness of strangers helped him along. He rolled up his sleeves, got to work, earned his way, climbing to the pinnacle (ironically) as general manager of Marden’s Surplus and Salvage, a chain of stores that sells surplus and lightly damaged goods.
            Not so determined, several of his 17 siblings became criminals – and leeches. The most financially successful, Paul LePage often fielded money requests from family.  He was generous sometimes – but learned others take advantage of generosity. Now, he doesn’t get along with many of them. What he learned from them, he applies to others.  He loudly attacks programs for the poor and the disabled – and has the premiere public position to do so.
King along with his wife Tabitha quietly gives away money to benefit Maine people – and has been privately doing so for years. His wealth seems almost accidental, a byproduct of extraordinary talent, imaginative flight  and an obsessive  personal need to write that couldn’t be stopped if even he tried. (He has. He “retired” following his well-publicized accident, but couldn’t stay retired.) He has written through addiction, recovery, pain and healing.
No one can say Stephen King isn’t productive; one of or even perhaps the most prolific writer(s) of his time, King has earned every cent – and likely could have earned more. But why would he want to?
He’d just have to figure out have to be more generous than he already is.
His character, marked by generosity of spirit, was likely  formed in that rural childhood.  Even his reply to LePage employs an understated country put down.
LePage, known for his brash, foul-mouthed, full-bellied swagger seems the grown-up bully, still honing resentments others might long ago have let go.  He’s not apologizing. That’s not his style.
King’s the better man in my book.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Back with a fast post: catching up

Quit:  Daily posting
Reason: Completely underestimated the change and challenge of going back to work – and taking a long weekend to New York City.
It wasn’t so much that I had less time – though I did and do, it was the anxiety the change in routine produced.
 are getting harder.
Going from couch with laptop and daily exercise routines to an intermittent 9-5 schedule caused near panic and scattered my thinking.
            The -- oh I have so many things to do, and so little time to think, let’s just make lists mode  -- took over. In fact the things I have to do are minimal compared to what I once did: children, manage, budget, school, evening meetings.  The job I go to to is part-time, pleasant, carries minimal responsibility and has no take-home work or worries. 
 scatterbrain is quite silly.

Read: Finished Sarah Waters The Paying Guests a week ago. Overall impression was that it was both gripping and too long.  Too long in two ways: one effective, the other not so. 
A lesbian love affair set just after World War I, the story provides intrigue, sexual tension, murder, cover-up and trial.
            Through the mid section in which so much of the disturbing events happen the drawn out writing was  (almost) effective.  Gripped by actions that can’t be undone, I couldn’t wait for these to be over – feeling just as, I assume, the characters felt. I wanted to leave the room, crawl out of my skin – but I also wanted to get out of the book, close the cover.  One of Barbara’s rules of reading is when I become too aware of the author or the writing, I lose the intensity and interest in the action. (More on this  another time.)
The rest of the book involving a trial --was just too long. The same tedious twists of guilt and perhaps revelation repeated many times. I realize this is Waters’ style, reminiscent of a time when readers had more patience – and usually I do. But didn’t.

Read for book group: Orange is the New Black.
Ultimately not a memorable book compared to Just Mercy, the previous month’s group pick.  Some similar themes and take-aways from both books: Our prison system is large and ineffective; it’s broken. Many are incarcerated for long periods for non-violent crimes. Some had only peripheral involvement in those crimes.

Most interesting for me was not the time but the crime. Twenty-four year old Smith graduate Piper Kerman gets involved with an older woman who’s part of an international drug ring.  She’s pretty much the lesbian equivalent of a boytoy to Nora. Kerman’s blissfully ignorant of most of the drug trade going on around her. She does fleetingly help out and  then leaves Nora and  her headstrong, reckless youth behind.
Or thinks she does. It comes back to bite her.
Nearly 10 years later she pays for that recklessness by serving a year in the minimum security part of Danbury State Prison for women in Connecticut.  Her stay seems pretty mild compared to what I imagined goes on in prison (and apparently was spiced up for the television drama which I have not seen).
By the time she serves her time, she has a significant work resume behind her, a long-term relationship with Larry who supports her throughout her stay and a strong circle of friends and family who visit, send books and even maintain a website on her behalf.  She has a future to walk into when she leaves priuson.
  Kerman’s chief challenge as a writer becomes riding the fine line between knowing she is different from many of the other inmates, given that education and support and being one of them.   She pretty much succeeds though perhaps at the expense of telling a good – and more detailed story. Other inmates are marginally memorable. One wonders what Kerman chose to omit. She also succeeds (for me) in presenting herself as sufficiently penitent for reckless youthful decisions.
 The book may serve as a kind of guide to navigating the challenges of passing time at of minimum detention facility with routine – running, yoga, and work in electricity and construction and rituals:  welcoming, holidays, cooking, working, saying goodbye.

Currently listening to: Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

It's Tuesday. I'm watching TV

Ebenezer Page may have distrusted newfangled television in his time. People stopped talking to each other and paying attention to actors instead. He valued conversation and story telling, listening and getting his "spoke in." When television was on, others seemed to forget he was even there.  I still have a similar reaction to strangers on their cellphones in my presence talking so loudly that their private conversations are public.  Not to mention that I'm usually trying to read while their conversation in blasting into my ear.
So I have some old fashioned ideas just as Ebenezer did. I, however, am growing fonder and fonder of television as I age. Tonight's NCIS, followed by NCIS New Orleans and my favorite -- Justified.

Monday, March 9, 2015

3.9.15 It’s Monday What are You Reading

 Thanks to the flashreadathon I am more than half way through The Paying Guests. I read a lot of it on Friday evening and Saturday. I worked Sunday so I didn’t have huge chunks of time. I find the book very unsettling, particularly the events of the middle section.  What I’m most impressed about is how the characters’ subtle intentions grow into powerful relationships.  An evening of drunkenness and one of medical crisis are so powerfully written, I wanted to turn away and not watch like a bystander at a traffic accident.  Sex scenes are also passionately written.

I am beginning Orange is the New Black, a book I would likely not be reading except that it is a book club pick.  Should be an interesting follow-up to the non-fiction Just Mercy as book group  compares  prison conditions – both fictional  and non. Have not watched the television show. New to me. Guess I’ll find out.

And still working on Rebel Yell and The Body Keeps the Score.