New Kings of Nonfiction. Ira Glass, Ed.

A fabulous collection of nonfiction writers. It turns out I’m a somewhat “king reader of nonfiction” as I have read three of the pieces in the book in various sources. (Dan Savage’s Republican Journey, Michael Pollan’s Power Steer and James McManus’ World Series of Poker.) Ira Glass, my radio boyfriend, says in the introduction:

“As far as I’m concerned, we’re living in an age of great nonfication wiritng, in the same way that the 1920s and 30s were a golden age for American Popular Song. Giants walk among us. Cole Porters and George Gershwins and Duke Ellington’s of nonfiction storytelling. They’re trying new things and doing pirouettes with the form. But nobody talks about it that way.”

I loved almost all of the pieces in this collection and reading it, I lamented that I don’t have time in my life right now for a subscription to Harpers and Atlantic Monthly where I used to read great nonfiction like this all the time. I can still remember reading the World Series of Poker article. I was completely absorbed and not only do I not play poker, I don’t really understand the rules of the game. The way the article was written, however, pulled me in. How far would James McManus make it in the World Series? From that point on, any reference to poker in my life was immediately linked to that article.

In this book, I particularly enjoyed Malcolm Gladwell’s titled “Six Degrees of Lois Weisberg.” Do you know Lois? I wouldn’t be surpised. I also liked “Losing the War” by Lee Sandlin. In 50 pages Lee Sandlin gave an overview of World War II and challenged me to think differently about the D-Day invasion. I’m ashamed to say that “Host” was only the second or third piece I’ve read by David Foster Wallace though I have read a lot about him. I love his footnotes (see rant in the review of “The Year of Living Biblically”) and his footnotes within footnotes were particularly delightful. I think his writing style most emulates how people read things on the internet.

Great short nonfiction informs people without the time or inclination to immerse themselves in a subject, for it provides enough information to get them asking questions. When done right, it successfully transports the reader to another world.

Recycled Fashion.

Today was a teacher planning day so there was no school. On these days, Art4Life, the before and after school care program at our school has “all days.” They usually do something fun, like today when they made clothing out of recycled materials:

B’s stunning hat:
I’s sassy shirt:
M’s spotted skirt and hat ensemble.
B’s fabulous purse. That would be a four-square ball she has repurposed.
P’s lovely headband/hat.
M had a fabulous dress made for her. The front:
The excellent sleeves in the back.

My So-Called Life.

I got the complete series from the library and I love it. I missed it the first time around because I was in college and had no time for tv, but it’s almost better that I’m seeing it now. The pilot was filmed during my senior year in high school and it’s like a free pass back to adolescence for me. I also have the added bonus of now being halfway in age between Angela and her parents and I can see both perspectives.

The writing is smart and funny and perfectly captures the dramatic, self-centered, grandiose thoughts that are so cringe-worthy when rereading your own journals, but so delightful when someone else is thinking them. A perfect example from “Why Jordan Can’t Read”:

“Love is when you look into some one’s eyes, and suddenly, you go all the way inside, to their soul… and you both know, instantly. I always imagined I would fall in love, nursing a blind soldier. Who was wounded in battle. Or maybe while rescuing someone in the middle of a blizzard, seconds before the avalanche hits. I thought, at least, by the age of fifteen, I would have a love life. But, I don’t even have a “like” life.”

The only thing better than the writing is Claire Danes’ delivery.

The characters are also incredibly realistic for a television series. The main character is confused about who she wants to be, the “bad girl” isn’t one dimensional and the “maybe bi” character doesn’t collapse under gay stereotypes. The parents don’t just flit in to deliver the moral message once per episode, they have their own struggles and bad judgments during the crucial split-seconds of parenting.

And the clothes! My god, the clothes! There was a whole ugly floral thing going on in the 90’s I had completely blocked out of my brain. It’s wonderful to see what was actually being worn. And the flannel! And the baby doll dresses with the little clip in the back! And the flannel baby doll dresses! In episode two Rayanne is wearing a flowery long skirt and black Converse high tops, a look I wore at least once a week through high school and during college.

I’m excited to see what happens as the series develops. And I rejoice that complete series are released on DVD.

The Letter Exchange Arrived Today!

I’m so excited! It’s a little magazine, with articles about writing and letters but I’m most excited about the listings. I won’t run out of correspondents for many weeks, and maybe even some will write me back. I wrote my first letter tonight to someone who wrote:

Do you blog? Where? What about?

Others that sound interesting to me:

  • Charm bracelets. Tell me the story behind your favorite charm. If you don’t have one pretend you do and tell me the fictional version of your favorite charm.
  • Define the good life.
  • How does understanding your family history contribute to your sense of self?

I can’t wait for the summer issue to come out to see if anyone writes to my listings.

The only time I like flowering plum trees…

…is right now in the spring when they are blooming. The rest of the time I find them to be an “eh” tree. Sadly, there is one right in front of the house. I think it clashes with the paint job and dream of it taking sick and having to be removed. I could then replace it with a more color appropriate choice. I’m so superficial.

Lois Lowry

Lois Lowry spoke tonight at the First Congregational Church. The lecture was sponsored by the library. I was excited to go, as I loved a lot of Lois Lowry books growing up, especially A Summer to Die and the Anastasia series.

I did not properly realize that a lecture by a children’s book author would be attended by so many children, but of course they were there in droves. I arrived later than I planned, because I was trying to load a spreadsheet into Google Docs for the other blog, so when I got there, the only seat I could find was waaaaaay in the very back of the balcony. Here was my sitting down view.

And here is my standing up view. There is Lois, down there on stage. And doesn’t she look great? I know, I couldn’t see her very well either. I hoped that she wasn’t going to make a lot of use of that screen, as I had to sit straight up and lean to the left too get a view of it.
But she did. And I was glad she did as she gave a nice lecture about how she gets ideas for her books. She used photos from her life to illustrate the lecture and it was delightful. Those of you who don’t have access to a Lois Lowry lecture can get the book Looking Back: A Book of Memories, as it covers a good amount of what she said.

I was very interested to lean that she based A Summer to Die partially on her sister’s death. Also, that she had four children before she was 26. She also told a delightful story of the strange meeting between her and author Allen Say.

I also had no idea that Lowry is a photographer and her images appear on some of her books. We got to see the picture that is on the cover of Number the Stars. Lowry used to do portrait photography especially of children, and when she contacted the parents of one of her subjects to see if she could use the image on the cover of the the book, the parents told her that she would have to ask the child, who was all grown up by that time. We also got to see the picture she wished she could have used for the cover of The Giver (there was a band aid problem) and the pictures she took for the covers of Gathering Blue and Messenger.

When she got to the question and answer part, I learned the reason why the same edition of a book will be released with more than one cover, thanks to an observant child in the audience. It turns out that the publisher will put different covers on if it is going to put the book in two categories, say adult fiction and young adult fiction. Fascinating.

Give me a “S”! Give me an “O”!

Give me a “R”! Give me an “E”!

What’s that spell? Sore!

Yep, that’s what I am. Really, really sore. But it’s an interesting sore, and not like any I’ve had before. Generally, when I start some new venture, I end up sore, but the soreness in very localized. Last fall, for instance, I ill-advisedly did 30 lunges when I had been doing none and I ended up unable to sit or stand without grunting. My hamstrings and quads hurt for more than a week. I was, however, able to easily grab a can off the the upper reaches of the cupboards without any trouble. Or usually when I start a weight training program my arms end up hurting while I can walk around with no problem at all.

Sunday I woke up and before I even moved I knew I was sore. Getting out of bed, I felt the whole extent of it. I am sore from my neck to my feet. I feel like cartoon characters must feel when the steamroller rolls over them and they get pumped back up with air. Everything hurts. And everything hurts about equally. Reaching up to get something? Ouch! Sitting down? Ooof. Turning my torso to the right or left? Eeek.

I practiced my rolling tonight in the backyard and there seemed to be much more grunting than there was on Saturday. This might be because there was no music playing to cover up the grunting, but I have a feeling it is because the whole act of squatting, curling and rolling causes wincing.

Resolution 2008 Update. Letters written March 1-10

The handy thing for me about this resolution is that I often have the thought, “I should get (or make) [insert name here] a card.” They should get a card because something is sad or happy or interesting in their life and I bet they would like a card. Then I never get around to getting/making the card and the moment passes. With my handy resolution, the cards get gotten. Or made. They are mostly made.

I have a card making box with blank cards, (I just use the Avery kind you can print on your computer printer–though I never print them on my printer), crayons, markers, glue, construction paper, pastels and scissors. I actually enjoy making the cards, though the results are sometimes a bit uneven. That happened with Allegra’s card. I wanted to make a sun on the front of the card and so I cut out a big round orange circle. I then cut out many tiny orange sun rays and carefully arranged them and then glued them onto the card. I glued the orange circle on top, admired my work, went to write something on the inside and discovered I had glued everything to the envelope.

  • March 1. Amanda. Card.
  • March 2. Hafidha. Card.
  • March 3. Deborah. Card.
  • Email back! Teresa.
  • March 4. Teresa. Letter
  • Letter back! Leath.
  • Letter back! Nicole.
  • March 5. Allegra. Card.
  • March 6. I think I wrote someone this day, but I didn’t make a note of who. I’m nothing without my notes.
  • March 7. Forgot.
  • March 8. Leath.
  • Letter back! Sara.
  • March 9. BroMAunts. Easter inquiry.
  • March 10. Dana. Letter.
  • Letter back! Sara.

Also, due to this resolution I’ve found an effective means of communication with my brother, mother, and aunts (BroMAunts). If I want to ask a question to all of them it takes four phone calls, minimum and usually more if I need to relay information back. I don’t like to talk on the phone anyway, much less making four phone calls. If I write the question–say “What are we doing for Easter? And does anyone want my extra Asparagus crowns?”–four times on postcard and send it off they talk amongst themselves and get back to me. It is much easier.

The other happy thing about these 10 days is that I got some good letters back. Honestly, there is nothing nicer than finding a letter in my mailbox. It’s better than chocolate.