Dear Reader

Random musings on reading and books from a librarian in training.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

I was feeling a little stir crazy facing another grey/ rainy weekend, so my folks and I went to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. The Gardner museum was thrust in a limelight in the early 1990s when thieves made off with several pieces of priceless artwork.

To this date the theft remains unsolved and the art work which included paintings by Rembrandt, Manet and Degas have still not been uncovered. According to Gardner’s will, the museum could not be altered. For this reason, empty frames hang where the stolen art work is. It’s a very strange feeling seeing an empty frame.

Fellow Mass residents who have never been I would recommend going to the Gardner. The highlight for me is the courtyard, which is just amazing. In addition to the mosaic center piece, there are dozens of plants and flowers, including gorgeous hydrangeas. Every room is like a treasure hunt, the wallpaper, the tops of the wall and even the ceilings have artwork.

There’s a documentary about the thefts (it’s on Netflix) called Stolen.

My father also recommended Mrs. Jack: A Biography of Isabella Stewart Gardner by Louise Hall Tharp.

Further reading: The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum: A Companion Guide and History by Hilliard T. Goldfarb.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Film Club - David Gilmour

When I first heard about Film Club on NPR I was intrigued. When David Gilmour’s son, Jesse, begins to have trouble with school, David swaps houses with his ex to live with Jesse. It soon becomes apparent that Jesse is miserable in school and Gilmour fears he may lose his son.

“I also knew in that instant – knew it in my blood – that I was going to lose him over this stuff, that one of these days he was going to stand up across the table and say, “Where are my notes? I’ll tell you where my notes are. I shoved the up my a#@. And if you don’t lay the f*@k off them, I’m going to shove them up yours.” And then he’d be gone, slam, and that’d be that.”

Gilmour takes the unusual step of telling his son that he can drop out of school. In return, his son has to promise not to do drugs and to watch three movies a week with his father.

So, begins three years of movie watching. While his father grapples with ups and downs in his career, Jesse suffers several misadventures in love. They watch a wide and eclectic mix of movies from Annie Hall to the Exorcist to Show Girls.

This is a sweet and tender story about a father and son. It’s also has several interesting insights in to movies. Among the things I found interesting, Stephen King did not like the Shining (movie version).

“King went to an early screening of The Shining and came away disgusted; he said the movie was like a Cadillac without an engine. “You get, you can smell the leather, but you can’t drive it anywhere.” In fact, he went on to say he thought Kubrick made movies to “hurt people.”

I got a kick out of the fact that after they watched The Exorcist, Jesse slept on the couch that night, with a light on. I remember seeing that movie in college. My roommate was gone for the weekend. I was so freaked out I slept on the floor of my friend’s dorm room.

Gilmour’s love and deep knowledge of films and the love he has for his son comes through on every page.

His son ends up going back to school. Although it may sound strange that he let him drop out, it’s clear that Gilmour was conflicted about his decision but did it because he thought it was the best thing for Jesse.

Here’s one passage I liked about picking movies (I can relate to this. I also feel it can apply to books. “Sooo this was one of your favorite books. Hmmm. Interesting.”


“Picking movies for people is a risky business. In a way it’s as revealing as writing someone a letter. It shows how you think, it shows what moves you, sometimes it can even show how you think the world sees you. So when you breathlessly recommend a film to a friend, when you say, “Oh, this is a scream – you’re going to really love it,” it’s a nauseating experience when the friend sees you the following day and says with a wrinkled brow, “You thought that was funny?”

Father-Son 'Film Club' Keeps Teen on Track,

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Betsy gets an unnecessary makeover

Another vampire series that I enjoy reading is Mary Janice’s Queen Betsy series. It started off with Undead and Unwed and is now up to number seven with Undead and Unworthy. I don’t enjoy these books as much as Sookie Stackhouse – I don’t feel they’re as rich and complex. They are, however, are fun, light reads. Perfect summer reading and although I hate to use the term very chick lit.

When I received the latest book in the series, I did a double take. Past covers featured whimsical illustrations. I don’t even know how to describe the new cover – it almost felt YAish. I don’t know what prompted this change, but not a big fan. I thought the illustrated covers really matched the writing style.


Jezebel had a great post today on cheesy 1980s romance novels that might have had more than a hint of misogyny.

From Jezebel:

In what I can only assume was a backlash against the feminist movement and increasingly independent portrayals of women, these romances contained an appallingly misogynistic bent made even more disturbing when you think that they were written both for and by women. The plots feature doormat heroines and sadistic, domineering males who see through their feeble protests and know that 'no' means 'yes.'

Just so we're clear though, the works of Betty Neels - - remains beyond reproach. Why do I mention Betty Neels? Um, no reason in particular…

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


USA Today’s "Authors fixate on their extreme passions" takes a look at authors who are willing to test their limits for their craft.

For instance, Reading the OED: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages chronicles Ammon Shea’s year long read of the massive, exhaustive, ENORMOUS OED. (Have I mentioned lately that word lovers should really check out The Professor and the Madman? If you’re interested in the OED, it’s a must read).

One author who is a mainstay in this genre if you will is A.J. Jacobs. He wrote Know It All about his quest to read the encyclopedia and The Year of Living Biblically.

Fine Lines finds a publisher

One of my favorite haunts online is Jezebel. I think it’s quirky, cutting, insightful, and interesting. Sure it’s also sometimes befuddling and infuriating, but definitely worth checking out.

One regular feature is Fine Lines, which Jezebel describes as “a sentimental, sometimes critical, far more wrinkled look at the children’s and YA books we loved in our youth.”

Lizzie Skurnick's take on The Secret Garden: But The Secret Garden, more than anything, is about those who are locked up, and those who grow — both literally and emotionally

Jezebel posted this week that Harper Collins will be publishing a book featuring previously published Fine Lines and new material.

I wonder why some of the fondest memories we have of books are the ones we read in our childhood. For instance, some of my favorites are Anne of Green Gables, The Secret Garden, Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain series. Is it because we start learning the true magic of reading when we’re young. That when have less pressures and worries it's easier to find time to read? I still remember being teary eyed at the end of Charlotte’s Web (and so a lifetime of crying while reading sad stories began).

Other childhood favorites: For some reason The Donkey Prince was a favorite. A prince is under a curse where he’ll remain a donkey until he finds true love. The Little House – LOVE IT. New favorite would Hug, which I usually always include as part of baby gifts.

I would love to see a Fine Lines on that often overlooked girl detective – Trixie Belden. Move over Nancy Drew! Unfortunately, the series was out of print for a number of years. While Random House has reissued the first five, the series had many, many more books – 39 to be exact.

Speaking of Nancy Drew: Nancy Drew: Curious, Independent and Usually Right -

To All Our Fans, With Love, From Lizzie,

Fine Lines

The Chocolate War: Life’s Tough Kid,

A Wrinkle in Time: Quit Tesseracting Up,

The Secret Garden: Still No Idea What A Missel Thrush Is,

Update: Amazon weighs in too.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Future reading: Bruce Campbell

While I eagerly await the new season of Burn Notice, I got an email the other day that brightened my day. I had put If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor by Bruce Campbell on my paperbackswap wish list. It was available and is one its way to my house!

You might remember Campbell from Evil Dead, Xena or Hercules. He was also in the Majestic, a gem of a movie starring Jim Carrey.

I think Campbell is hilarious and so great on Burn Notice. Campbell describes Burn Notice as "Highway to Heaven with carnage and mayhem." Brilliant.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Patti Lupone's memoirs

The fabulous Patti LuPone is penning her autobiography. I love musicals. I think fabulous musicals like Singing in The Rain or Gigi are so much fun. There’s maybe romance, maybe danger or thrills, dancing and singing. Does it get much better?

Patti was also in Life Goes On. Where is the rest of that cast these days?;_ylt=AsKmBDgvLue.co3PpifcZBpREhkF

Write 2.0?

Author Kit Reed weighs in on the world of Web 2.0 – Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, blogs, etc. While I do follow several reading blogs I haven’t found that many by authors that I slavishly follow.

Reed writes science fiction, fantasy and horror.

There’s some interesting food for thought here. What impact is the Internet having not just on reading and writing? Is it possible to be too connected/ plugged in and can that divert from the creative process.

It can be found at:

Sunday, June 22, 2008

I'm not into this movie

When I went to the movies this weekend, I saw a truly horrific trailer. The cast looked okay. Well, Bradley Cooper formerly of Alias and some big names like Ben Affleck, Drew Barrymore, her squeeze Justin Long ("I'm a Mac") and Scarlett Johansson are in it. It was ::shudder:: He's Just Not That Into You, based on the self-help book that apparently aims to tell women if men are sending mixed signals, maybe it's a sign he's not that into you and you should move on.

I won't bash the book because I've never read it, but in general I'm not a fan of taking something like a self-help book and turning it into a movie. Is there really enough gist for a movie here? And, ugh, do I really want to watch another movie/tv show/ etc. where intelligent successful women pine after emotionally unavailable man-children? Let me guess... women are needy, men are commitment phobes without the guts to tell women they aren't interested. Fascinating.

The clips below. Judge for yourself. I'll be watching the next Batmen movie or Hellboy 2 (the trailers for both were awesome!). HELLBOY!!!!!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

100 years of Anne

I’ve posted of my love for Anne of Green Gables before so I won’t bore you. Well, Anne turns 100 this year so to speak.

Novel Journey weighs in:

Here’s the link to my rant on the Anne of Green Gables prequel (ugh, I’m still shuddering).

Junot Diaz on Colbert Report

Junot Diaz was on Stephen Colbert last week. I didn't know that the Pulitzer was like a Peabody... interesting :-p

The Highest Tide by Jim Lynch

Sometimes it doesn’t hurt to judge a book by its cover. I stumbled across The Highest Tide: A Novel by Jim Lynch, when poking around the Concord Bookstop. For some reason, it drew me in.

The Highest Tide centers on Miles O’Malley, whose home nestles along the Puget Sound. Miles – A 13-year-old insomniac, who’s small for his age – is obsessed with the ocean and Rachel Carson. During one summer he comes across a number of unusual finds. It begins with a giant squid. Soon Miles is the center attention from scientists, the media and even a cult.

I found the characters more compelling than the overall plot. To me, it seemed more like a character study with the ocean being one of them. I found the passages about the water and the things Miles finds such as sea slugs, skate egg pouches and sea stars very interesting.

There’s also Miles cohort – air guitar playing Phelps, the elderly neighbor who has visions of the future and the troubled girl next door that Miles has a crush on.

Overall, I thought it was a sweet, engaging story.


“Those shells, as unique and timeless as bones, helped me realize that we all die young, that in the life of the earth, we are houseflies, here for one flash of light.”

“I eased toward the door to check on Florence and to step into a night where beauty loitered and the sun took its time setting, as if it, too, didn’t want to miss anything.”

Summer reading

We’re not done yet!

The Boston Globe weighs in with recommendations. Their list aims to be “quirky.” Their criteria were that the books had to be short – 250 words or less, overlooked and while not traditional beach fare were picked because “while none is a "beach read," all are more for pleasure than improvement.”

Saturday, June 14, 2008

My summer reading list

As promised, here's my summer reading list. I've included some books that I've wanted to read for years and two books for the Orbis Terrarium Challenge, which I'm a little behind on. I tried to limit it to 15 books so there's room for random surprises or the occassional reading slump. There's a mixture of fiction and non-fiction.

Drum roll please....

1. 100 Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
2. Deafening - Francis Itani
3. The Wind Up Bird Chronicles - Haruki Murakami
4. The Fortress of Solitude - Jonathan Lethem
5. You Don't Love Me Yet - Jonathan Lethem
(I really enjoyed Motherless Brooklyn and have been putting off reading The Fortress of Solitude for years. I decided to move it up the list)
6. The Yiddish Policeman's Union - Michael Chabon
7. The Book Thief - Markus Zusak
8. One Good Turn - Kate Atkinson (Sequel to Case Histories)
9. Harbor - Lorraine Adams
10. The Prosecutors - Gar Delsohn
(In addition to my love of Law and Order, I'm addicted to shows like Cold Case or Forensics Files. The writer spent a year in the Sacramento DA's office.)
11. The Corner - David Simon and Edward Burns
(Another year in the life of. This time, it's a neighborhood in Baltimore struggling with crime and drugs.)
12. The Ten Cent Plague - David Hajdu
13. The Big Box Swindle - Stacy Mitchell
(A meaty look at the high cost of low-price, big box stores.)
14. Amusing Ourselves to Death - Neil Postman
(An old book, but still relevant with the increasing glut of information and media sources.)
15. Tulia - Nate Blakeslee
(This is another paperbackswap gem. I had my eye on this for years and put it on my wish list. Victory! The book examines the arrest of 47 people in a Texas town. All were charged and convicted for dealing cocaine despite the lack of any real evidence.)

What's on your summer reading list?

Friday, June 13, 2008

Can't get enough summer reading!

I liked the opening of Short Stack's “Five Books That Have Summer Written All Over Them.” Summer’s a mixed bag – the days are longer, there’s fresh vegetables and fruit, the beach. There’s also the heat, bug bites and sunburns.

But don’t forget there’s also summer reading!

To continue the summer reading suggestions, Short Stack has books with a summer feel including Ray Brabury’s Dandelion Wine.

Life Sucks

I wish I could say that I’ve plowed through a bunch of books on my vacation. I did learn that you can get chemically induced leukemia after years of selenium poisoning. (Thanks Lifetime Movie Network! Keeping women afraid of marriage/ poisoning/ stalking/ murder for years!)

I did finish Life Sucks, a compact graphic novel that was Clerks meets Angel. Dave is a vampire stuck in a dead-end job working for his master at a 24-hour convenience store. He and obnoxious, rich surfer dude fall for the same goth chick, Rosa.

I thought it was entertaining. It’s a quick, light read. Vampire slackers.

Dave refuses to drink blood from humans relying on bottled blood or expired blood bank blood. As a result his vampire powers are weakened. The way he explains the vampire life to Rosa makes it out to be one of mundane tasks, working a dead-end job at the mercy of your master.

The ending really cried out for a sequel. I want to know what will happen with Rosa and Dave. Will true love save the day?

First Second blog:

Thursday, June 12, 2008

DeCordova Visit

I've been lax about posting lately. I'm on a "staycation" but have been kind of lame. Give me snow, rain or very cold weather, I'm fine. Give me really hot and humid weather and I'm a puddle. The heat finally broke (at least outside, it's still an oven in my apartment). I decided to head somewhere I've never been before - the DeCordova Sculpture Park in Lincoln, Mass.

The park is about 35 acres and has a wide variety of sculptures. According to the Web site, the park is the only large ongoing exhibition of
contemporary outdoor sculpture in New England.

I think my favorite sculpture was Cones. It was placed in a clearing in a patch of woods and featured an gathering a cone people in a circle filled with cones. The sculpture is made of steel and pine cones (I don't think my picture fully captures how cool it was.) The above pictures also include hearing trumpet, which captured my fancy, Reflex and Listening Stone.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Even more summer reading

We're still keeping an eye out for those summer reading lists. (It's like Christmas in July, er, June!)

NPR’s book critic Alan Cheuse weighs in with his recommendations for summer reading.

Jennifer Haigh @ the Waltham Public Library

I had the pleasure of hearing Jennifer Haigh speak on Tuesday night. Haigh, a Mass resident, wrote Baker Towers and Mrs. Kimble. She was joined by Jon Papernick.

If you haven’t read Jennifer Haigh, run, I say run to the library/bookstore, etc. Baker Towers is told from the perspective of different members of the Novak family, who live in a coal town. In Mrs. Kimble, we see the fall out from Ken Kimble, who seems to blithely lie to and discard his wives.

Haigh has a new book coming out. The Condition revolves around a family whose daughter has Turner syndrome.

Some interesting factoids: Haigh writes her novels at her kitchen table using white legal pads. She said she felt that her writing was more thoughtful and the process more deliberate when she writes longhand versus typing it.

I hadn’t heard of Jon Papernick, who’s a fellow Waltham resident. He read from his new book Who By Fire, Who By Blood. In Who By Fire, Who By Blood, a son sifts through his father’s books and discovers various passages underlined. He becomes drawn into a possible terrorist plot. Papernick’s book is only available on Amazon Canada and through his Web site.

All in all an enjoyable evening and it was completely free!

Jennifer Haigh:

Jon Papernick,

Haigh’s books:

Jon Papernick’s book:

Monday, June 2, 2008

The sentence for Frost vandals? His poetry.

File this under: More news that makes you want to rip your hair out.

Apparently, days after Christmas a former Middlebury College employee decided to hold a party at Robert Frost’s summer home – the Homer Noble Farm, which is also a historic landmark.

The party thrower was 17 and like many teen parties this one soon grew out of control.

According to the Associated Press:
“When it was over, windows, antique furniture and china had been broken, fire extinguishers discharged, and carpeting soiled with vomit and urine. Empty beer cans and drug paraphernalia were left behind. The damage was put at $10,600.”

In a unusual twist, the teenagers busted – more than two dozen – have been ordered to partake in classes on Frost as part of their punishment.

AP: "I guess I was thinking that if these teens had a better understanding of who Robert Frost was and his contribution to our society, that they would be more respectful of other people's property in the future and would also learn something from the experience," said prosecutor John Quinn.

I think we can all agree that teenagers occasionally exercise poor judgement or don’t clearly think through the consequences of their actions, but this is truly deplorable. One would hope that they would at least respect a landmark like this. I grew up in the North Shore in Mass and I cannot imagine any of my classmates ever suggesting throwing a party at the House of Seven Gables.

I wonder if as well meaning as this punishment is, if the youthful offenders will really learn something.

From the New York Times:
“Finally, through the state police barracks, where Sergeant Hodsden had more than two dozen young people photographed, fingerprinted and cited for unlawful trespass, with a few also cited for unlawful mischief. He cannot shake the indifference of one youth in particular, who asked whether he could use his mug shot on his Facebook page.
In conveying his disgust over this communal breach, the police sergeant employed the Frostian technique of repetition.
“They should have known,” he said. “They should have known." "

Perhaps good fences do indeed make good neighbors.

A Violation of Both the Law and the Spirit

From bad to verse: Vandals get classroom penance

Utah Phillips, 1935-2008

I was lucky enough to see Utah Phillips at the Boston Folk Festival one year. An amazing storyteller, Phillips was also a staunch pacifist and fervent unionist.

The folksinger recently died. He was 73.

From the Washington Post:

Mr. Phillips, over four decades on the road, combined storytelling with song, describing the plight of the working class, the power of labor unions and the necessity of direct action. He dubbed himself the "Golden Voice of the Great Southwest," but, like Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, his words, more than his baritone voice, carried authority. He had been a soldier, a railroader, a state archivist, a union organizer, founder of a homeless shelter and homeless himself.

After serving in the Korean War, Philips rode the rails. He was a member of the Industrial Workers of the World, known as the wobblies.

Utah Phillips was introduced to whole new generation of listeners when he teamed up with Ani DiFranco.

Utah Phillips: A 'Golden' Voice for Labor

Utah Phillips - singer, songwriter, activist, raconteur and unionist

U. Utah Phillips, 73; Folk Singer Championed the Working Class

A big voice stilled: Remembering Utah Phillips

'Utah' Phillips: The music lives on

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