Saturday, March 29, 2008

I know; not really the point.

Not Quite What I was Planning; Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure

Steve bought this book and proceeded to compose 103.

Me, I'm not so creative or original.

But, as I was reading others' memoirs, I kept finding ones which could have been mine.

So, here they are. My six word memoirs, in others' words:

Mistakes were made, but smarter now - Christine Triano, p. 18

Now I blog and drink wine - Peter Bartlett, p. 19

I recognize red flags faster, now - Barbara Burri, p. 28

I lost god. I found myself - Joe Kimmel, p. 54

Time to start over again, again - Dan Petronelli, p. 56

You are all in my imagination - Becky Weinberg, p. 64

Smart, tall, independent woman. Men scarce - Annie Schmidt, p. 67

I'm ten, and have an attitude - Tillie Seger, p. 83

Carbohydrates call my name every day - Mary Petersdorf, p. 84

The weather is better up here - Brad Wieners, p. 92

Quietly cultivating my inner Linda Carter - Joanna Sheehan, p. 105

Really, doing fine, thanks for asking - Fuzzy Gerdes, p. 119

Revenge is living well, without you - Joyce Carol Oates, p. 128

Outcast. Picked Last. Surprised them all - Rachel Pine, p. 129

Thought long and hard. Got migraine - Lisa Levy, p. 199

and one that's mine (not including the title of this post):

Donated my stuff, moved to paradise.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Bless Me, Utlima by Rudolfo Anaya

A quick read.

Not really my cup of tea.

Not to say I disliked it. Just that I find the sort of superstition indulged in by many in this book frustrating.

But even so, the book had many redeeming qualities. For those particularly drawn to literature about the American Southwest, this is a gem.

Google Books says,

Antonio Marez is six years old when Ultima comes to stay with his family in New Mexico. She is a curandera, one who cures with herbs and magic. Under her guidance, Tony will test the bonds that tie him to his culture, and he will find himself in the secrets of the past. A masterpiece of Chicano literature, this is the emotional, coming-of-age story of a boy facing the conflicts in his life among his Mexican and American heritage, his Catholic religion, and his identity.

I was particularly fascinated by one of Antonio's friends, Florencio and his disaffection with God and religion but felt that there were shades of the tragic mulatto in the fate assigned to Florencio by the author.

I was excited by what I saw as the author's boldness in voicing Florencio and then disappointed by what I saw as the author's cop-out.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Charlie Wilson's War by George Crile

Unbelievable but not.

Crile presents an insider's view of the behind the scenes machinations and maneuvers which allow our government to operate.

Obviously well-researched, Charlie Wilson's War is a fascinating tale of what's possible when rules are ignored and no isn't an option.

Charlie Wilson was a playboy Congressman who was rarely taken seriously. A Democrat from Texas who was also fervently anti-Communist, Wilson made it his life's work to drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan and in the course of doing so, set the stage for the collapse of the Soviet Union.

While the book deals with events which took place 25 or so years ago, there's an awful lot of it which echoes today. I had an eerie familiarity with many of the names and locations such as Abdul Haq, Bagram and Jalalabad.

Wilson and his cohorts were trying to make Afghanistan the Soviets' Vietnam but as I read, I just kept seeing disconcerting parallels between the Soviet experience in Afghanistan and our present day experiences in Iraq.

I had an a-ha moment when Crile states that "Israel's most dangerous enemy was Saddam Hussein's Iraq."

Crile's non-fiction book reads like a spy novel and provides an effortless education into an area of the world which continues to have a global impact.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Mansfield Park

I just finished Mansfield Park the one Jane Austen novel I hadn't read. I knew that when she set out to write this she wanted to do something darker than Pride and Prejudice. She did succeed, but while this is a book with characters who are serious, I wouldn't call it dark. Just darker than P&P.

It's the story of Fanny Price, who as a girl is sent to live with her aunt and uncle, since her family has limited resources. There she lives on the margins, but as time goes by becomes more part of the family. Of course there's romance. Her two cousins' marriage prospects are quite important, while Fanny remains somewhat of a serious Cinderella figure. The social observations are keen and there is some wit directed at some of the more frugal or obnoxious characters. If you like Austen, do read this.

I got the Norton Classics edition which includes some interesting extras like the play the characters attempt to put on, essays on deportment and morals of the day, which Austen probably had read or heard of, and some scholarly, yet not too pendantic essays.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Big Read

The Aspen Writers Foundation is participating in the NEA's The Big Read.

The chosen book is Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya which according to LibraryThing, I just happen to have on my shelf.

Yes, I had to search my own LibraryThing catalog to see if we own the book. (I've had to do that with music, too. I came home from a movie thinking that I wanted to buy a song I had heard only to discover that I already owned it.)

Since I'm such a joiner, I'll be reading as soon as I finish Charlie Wilson's War.

If I can find it on my shelf.

With 1,220 books in the house, that can be a challenge.

Such a challenge, that, at times, I'm tempted to give up and just buy another copy.

For example, I've been looking for Angela's Ashes for over a year . . .

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Richard Russo

A little bit lost in the shuffle of our busy week last week was the fact that, last Thursday, Steve and I went to see Richard Russo do a reading from his latest novel as part of the Aspen Writer's Foundation Winter Words Series.

Steve is a big Richard Russo fan and has read all of his books. Russo connects with him due to their shared backgrounds of having grown up in economically depressed Western New York.

I haven't read any Richard Russo and am really only aware of him because of Steve's affinity for him.

My lack of exposure to anything Russo made for an eye opening evening. I was struck by the amount of humor in the passages Russo chose to read from The Bridge of Sighs. In addition, being married to the "guy who left," I also noted that in The Bridge of Sighs, the guy who stayed seems to be more contented with his life than the guy who left.

Steve, who hasn't quite finished The Bridge of Sighs but who has read the passages which comprised Russo's reading, noted that the parts which made us laugh out loud Thursday evening didn't have quite the same punch when he had read them earlier.

I guess it's all in the delivery.

In addition, the disparity between Steve's positive experience as the guy who left and Russo's portrayal of Lucy's positive experience as the guy who stayed hadn't even registered with Steve. Probably due to Steve's fundamental knowledge that, for him, leaving was essential.

Although we had to dash out of the Russo event in order to make it to opening curtain at Guys and Dolls and thus could not dally to actually meet the author, seeing Russo and hearing his reading had the intended effect of introducing me to yet another writer I will likely enjoy.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Gypsy Scholars, Migrant Teachers and the Global Academic Proletariat: Adjunct Labour in Higher Education

This is the first time I'm posting on a book I haven't read. It's edited by my friend Steffen. It costs $64. Otherwise I would buy it and review it. The topic is germane to those in higher education.
Once adjunct teaching was considered a temporary solution to faculty shortages in institutions of higher education. Now it is a permanent and indispensable feature of such institutions, not just in the U.S. but worldwide. This book takes stock of this new development, concentrating primarily on the situation in the humanities. It looks at its impact on the lives of the highly-educated scholars and teachers from many parts of the world; scholars waking up to the sobering fact that higher education presents them with a two-tiered labor market in which they themselves are permanently barred from moving up to the higher tier. To them, being an adjunct teacher means experiencing frustration and humiliation. All essays in this book offer personal accounts of adjuncts' experiences together with critical reflections on institutional conditions and suggestions for their improvement. In turn defiant, poignant, analytical, exasperated, and sardonic, these essays are always incisive and revealing. Their inside view-a view from below-shows higher education as a world different from how it appears to tenured professors and university administrators, different from that presented in most college brochures. For all those who care about the current state and the future of higher education-no matter if they are teachers, scholars, students, parents, or administrators-this book will offer valuable insights into the working world of academic teaching.
I will get it, used or when the price comes down.

I do think there are other ways to bring down the cost of education. High schools can pay most teachers more, so it seems that they can find a way to do so in college.