A snuggle between the covers

On weekends I like to do things a little differently. Enjoy!

Today I thought I’d share some of what I’ve been reading in the last week or so, with very brief comments. Something may spark your interest. I know I’m always looking for good things to read, and a lot of these I picked up on displays at the library.

We Are All Fine Here by Mary Guterson, 2005. This was a fun little mid-life crisis novel. I really enjoyed the writing style, and I’d love to have coffee with the author sometime. The book was a scream.

there’s a (slight) chance I might be going to hell: a novel of sewer pipes, pageant queens, and big trouble by Laurie Notaro, 2007. Nothing is capitalized in the title, so I kept that convention here. This book was so much fun that I’ve put myself on the waiting list for all of her other work. It’s got a quirky bizarreness that reminds me a little bit of a Scooby-Doo episode (without the annoying voices). Loved it.

Chicken Feed by Alma Fridley, 1998. Fun British mystery with a lesbian theme. Enjoyable fluff.

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, aged 13 ¾ by Sue Townsend, 1982. I read this when it first came out, and I’ve read every sequel. I was very excited to see it again in the library, and loved it just as much the second time around. It’s poignant and funny as all hell. Absolute joy for anyone teenage years and up.

Queer Street (2004) and Sayonoraville (2003) by Curt Colbert. Loved these novels, which are old-fashioned style private-eye novels set in 1940s Seattle. They are just the kind of thing that I love to read, and would love to write. They reminded me a lot of the old Dell map back paperback novels. I can’t wait to read other works of his.

See you tomorrow!

She has a point

On weekends I like to mix up the format a bit. Enjoy!

Today I bring you a quote from the most recent novel by Rebecca Wells, which is titled Ya-Yas in Bloom. I am finding this book just as charming as the others. I love her writing style, and I feel cheered by her work, even though she deals with tough subjects like racism and child abuse.

I loved this quote, and the idea behind it: “Normally, Eddie and Washington didn’t like to be seen out looking like this. They liked to look sharp. And their Aunt Willetta always fussed at them about this: ‘Don’t you be going out looking nasty! Won’t no girl ever kiss on you, if you all sweaty and smelly. Don’t you be acting like a ten-cent self. You good handsome men. Act like it.’ ”

See you tomorrow!

Long live gender tourism!

I love to read men’s magazines. Just as country music details an experience I’ve never had, so does Esquire. I’ve never been male, I’ll never be male, and all the time I spend around male friends will not give me the true insider experience. Neither will Esquire, but it provides a glimpse into the obsessions of its readers.

I’ve learned a lot from reading Esquire, Details, GQ and the like. There are so many advertisements for fancy watches that I felt almost inadequate without one. How must men feel, if they read these all the time? I started checking out men’s wrists after I noticed this, and lots of men do indeed wear lovely watches.

One memorable article discussed proper behavior in case of a bar fight. The article alerted men about proper thumb placement so that they would not break fingers if they slugged someone. It also suggested that you should pretend to try to halt the fight while you were hitting people so that you could limit your liability. The general tone of the piece indicated that a bar fight might be a pleasant diversion. I’ve never even seen a bar fight, and I’d run in the other direction if one started. This is definitely a different perspective.

Another piece told about bathroom etiquette for males at work. Apparently men should never use a restroom on their own floor, because things could get tricky if you met your boss at the urinal. Who knew? When I mentioned this to a male friend, he said he has a personal rule about this: “Use the stall, avoid all.” My only bathroom rule is to take any chance to use a ladies room when traveling because you never know when you’ll have the next opportunity. Ah, how we differ!

I’m sure my male friends might also be interested to study some female publications. Why are we women so interested in self-improvement? What man would spend all his time organizing, crafting ornate curtains or making a decadent fudge cake while also obsessing over his weight? Why do some women do these things? Darned if I know, but it raises some interesting questions. The magazines prompt me to think about these things and to discuss them with others. I learn a lot in this type of dialogue with the printed word. The dialogue continues into my friendships and my writing. Long may it continue!

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

148. Look at some magazines written for the opposite gender, and think about the magazines written for your own gender. Do you think your magazines accurately reflect your own interests? What questions do the opposite-gender publications raise? Raise the discussion with some friends.

And hallelujah!

On weekends I like to mix up the format a bit. Enjoy!

Today I bring you a quote from one of my favorite writers, Isaac Asimov, from his book Asimov on Science Fiction.

Asimov was a very sensible sort of person, and a very sensible sort of writer, too. He felt, as I do, that writers must pay attention to learning proper grammar and spelling. He says it well here: “if your spelling and grammar are rotten, you won’t be writing a great and gorgeous story. Someone who can’t use a saw and hammer doesn’t turn out stately furniture.”

Amen.

See you tomorrow!

Submerged in semantics

Welcome to installment number 118 of the blog, in which we discover that our heroine is an incurable word geek.

It’s true. I am obsessed with words, with grammar, with the byzantine glories of this language that we share. Today’s gushing homage to vocabulary was inspired by Colin Dexter. If you saw yesterday’s column you’ll know that I’m really enjoying his work.

I love these novels because they challenge me. Not only does the author provide the mystery puzzle for the reader’s solving pleasure, but he gives poetry quotations and shares clues from the cryptic crosswords in the British press. He also uses a lot of words that I have to look up. I find it a joy to learn new words, so I do not take this as a negative, as some readers might.

Yesterday I learned the word tmesis. The American Heritage Dictionary defines tmesis as the “separation of the parts of a compound word by one or more intervening words; for example, where I go ever instead of wherever I go.” This word also describes the interpolation of profanities (or other words) into the middle of words. Next time you hear someone say ABSO-FUCKING-LUTELY, you have listened to an example of tmesis.

I am fascinated by the words we use to describe and catalogue our language, and this example particularly delights me. I am tickled by the fact that you can use such a pedantic word to describe such a coarse practice. It is this contrast of the bitter and the sweet that makes this particular definition so marvelous.

While reading the same novel I was also spurred to look up the expression beyond the pale. I knew what it meant, or thought I did, but I suddenly wondered about its origin. My online research revealed that pale is an archaic noun meaning “a stake or pointed piece of wood.” There is a remnant of this usage in the related word impale, which means to “pierce with a sharpened stake.” It doesn’t come up very often, unless you are trying to kill vampires. Pales were sometimes used as fence stakes, and so the word came to mean fences as a whole, and later fenced areas where certain groups were required to stay by law. To be beyond the pale meant to be outside the fence. This is why the term now means away from home and safety, and can also mean outside the law or unacceptable.

These are only two of the things I looked up in that novel. I’m having so much fun reading Colin Dexter’s books!

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

118. Next time you read something, pay attention to the words and phrases within. Does something spark your interest for further research? Have at it! (Hmmm, I wonder where that phrase comes from. . . .)

Links, should you desire them:

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/tmesis

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pale

http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/64100.html

Acronyms against clutter

I learn so much when I read, and right now I’m reading mystery novels by British author Colin Dexter. I’ve learned how medical examiners determine the time of death—something I’m hoping never to use. I’ve learned about the school examinations at Oxford, and most recently I learned a phrase I just love. The abbreviation for it is O.B.E. This abbreviation also stands for a British honor, namely the Order of the British Empire, but this is not the O.B.E. of which I speak.

I want to tell you about O.B.E., meaning OVERTAKEN BY EVENTS.  The phrase comes up in these detective novels to qualify records and things that are so old that there is no need to go through them. I love this concept, and I’ve found it helpful in my own life. A lot of what I am sorting through as I pack can be classified as O.B.E.

Since I am working towards becoming more organized but am not yet there, I seemed to have saved a number of old pieces of mail. I have fliers for concerts that have long since passed and bills that I’ve already paid. I usually call my payments in to the phone company, so I don’t need the actual statements in front of me to satisfy my obligations. I love finding these sorts of things as I sort my possessions for the move—anything O.B.E can be tossed into the garbage without a laborious tug of war in my psyche about whether I need to retain it.

I also no longer need supplies for hobbies I don’t actively pursue or phone numbers for college acquaintances who were merely that. People can be O.B.E., too. There are only so many connections I can actively maintain. I carefully choose the friendships I want to nurture. Sometimes people fulfill a role in your life that is time-specific. When my best friend was a young mother with twin babies she was very active in a group for parents of twins. Now that her children have turned into adults, she only keeps in touch with a few of them with whom she has a special connection.

I’m enjoying my book immensely, but soon it will itself be O.B.E.  Once I’ve read it I’ll pass it along to a friend. I hope she finds as many fun tidbits as I have within its covers.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

117. Are there people or items in your life that are O.B.E.? Clear the clutter! It’s helpful to ask yourself if you are keeping an item (or a person) in your life just because it happens to be there already. How does it feel to streamline?

Can’t read just one

Amid the hectic atmosphere of my workplace, I look forward to lunch, a mini-vacation right in the middle of the day. Sometimes I call friends. Sometimes I eat in silence. Other times I relax on foreign adventures. I keep a small transporter with me wherever I travel. My common model is approximately three inches by five inches, and an inch thick. It’s generally about two-hundred and fifty pages.

I’m speaking of books, of course. I love them; I worship them; I devour them. I’ve been addicted to the written word ever since I sounded out Dr. Seuss. I was one of those girls who would hide under her blanket with a flashlight so she could read late into the night and sometimes I’d even hide in the closet to get away from the hubbub of my three brothers and sisters.

I also love the tactile aspects of books—the feel of the paper; the smell of the ink; the different textures of the covers. I’ve learned to bind simple volumes myself, and can make the paper, too. I’ve even set type. I read plenty of articles on a computer screen these days, but given the choice I’d always rather have something portable. The new electronic books don’t measure up for me, either. I worked for a while on the Amazon Kindle project. It’s a new electronic book reader. While I can certainly understand the appeal of carrying thirty books in a device weighing less than a pound, I miss turning the pages. Books are about so much more than their content.

I love the content, too. I love the sounds of the words in my head as they cascade down the page. I adore mysteries, but I read all sorts of things—poetry, biography, history. I read anything that sparks my interest, and I read constantly. It’s a good thing books don’t contain calories or I might turn into the world’s fattest woman.

I can’t wait until lunch. Last time I peeked inside the covers of my current novel, there was a man with a gun at the door. I don’t think he’s there to sell bibles!

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

98. Have you read anything good lately? Carry a book with you so that you have time to sneak in some fun during the middle of your day.