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this and that

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Wednesday, May 31, 2006
I am so behind in writing up what I've been reading, it's not even funny. I may just have to do a list and be happy with it. Maybe a list and my own special punctuation ratings system:

!!! -- LOVE
!! -- pretty good
! -- enh, but I finished it.
... why, god, why?

Actually, it will probably be easier to just write the damn things than to try to develop a coherent and consistent punctuated ratings system. (overcomplicate? me?? NEVER!!)

I am actively looking for a new blog template. My wants are few, but I can't freaking find one that satisfies them all. I have seen that this template (which I like) craps out on Internet Explorer, which is what most of the known universe uses. bah. I just want something mostly white, wide enough for big pictures, with one sidebar that I can customize. Oh, and it also has to have a big enough space for my whole little "law of sympathy" description. Is that too much to ask? Apparently so. I hope this doesn't end the way it did last time (I tried to frankenstein one together from a bunch of parts, nearly ruined my eyesight, then gave up and kept the current one until the next bout of mania, which seems to be now).

movies recently seen:

X-Men 3. I liked it, but did not think it was as good as the first two. I mean, there were PROBLEMS (not least of which was that there was a scene at the end with Wolverine where all I could think of was Hugh Jackman in Van Helsing with his amusing werewolf modesty shorts), but overall my gladness to get out of the house and watch mutants outweighed the problems. If I were really conversant with the comics I might have wished I'd stayed home, but who knows? If I had, I would have missed Ian McKellan who is so wonderful as Magneto, the villain you love to love. I mean love to hate (but you only hate him because he's so eeevil, otherwise LOVE). Complex villains are So Much Better than just paper cut-out black hats. Anyway, the wonder of Magneto will silence me on a few REALLY cheesy happenings that actually had me wondering if it was some kind of joke. (alas, no)

The Family Stone (DVD) -- LUKE WILSON! He always makes me laugh, and I'm not sure why. I thought this was enjoyable, but not transcendently wonderful or anything. Besides Luke Wilson, I probably liked Diane Keaton and Rachel McAdams the best.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (DVD) -- This was pretty good! I remembered when I was slogging through the book it seemed interminable. It was all Harry being a whiny shithead 14 year-old and a bunch of Ministry of Magic politics with the big tournament a sort of afterthought. The movie wisely dropped everything but the tournament, and I was able to enjoy it. Hurrah!

The Venetian's Wife

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Wednesday, May 31, 2006
by Nick Bantock #14
This was the first book Bantock wrote after his very successful Griffin & Sabine trilogy in the early 90's. I enjoyed those books at the time -- I liked the combination of the artwork, the epistolary style, and especially getting to open up envelopes.

Of all of Bantock's stories (that I've read -- I'll admit I never read beyond the first three in the G&S trilogy, and I believe there are 9 of them now) I like the story of the Venetian's Wife the best. I hadn't read it in a number of years and was looking for something light and fast, so I pulled it off the shelf. Rather than the cryptic letters and postcards of the Griffin and Sabine saga, this story is told mainly in emails and computer journal entries between Sara (our heroine) and Mr. Conti (the Venetian) who turns out to be not quite who he seems. Imagine. Anyway, this book has some great India-inspired illustration, a treasure-hunt angle (Sara must reunite Mr. Conti's collection of Indian statues), a love story (Sara and her museum co-worker Marco, Mr. Conti and his dead wife -- it's not as weird as it sounds. Okay, it's weirder than it sounds, but in ways that are not too disturbing). Some of it feels really DATED, as anything having to do with computers and more than a couple of years will feel, and Bantock is not the most thrilling prose stylist to stalk the earth. However, even though I was reading it through a "why did I ever like this so much" prism, I found myself liking it again by the end. (I don't think I'm giving too much away to say that it ends well for all concerned.)

true confessions of miscellaneous j. random

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Saturday, May 27, 2006
I have been in a confessional mood lately -- this is not a normal or native state for me. I generally keep to myself (in an inoffensive easy to ignore way, not in a living in a shack with no power unibomber way), but lately I've been feeling blurty. This causes me no small amount of alarm, but I've decided that if I continually avoid everything that alarms me, I will probably END UP in a shack with no power. With that in mind -- welcome to my random list. I apologize in advance. (confession #1 -- I LOVE LISTS)

Currently Listening to, right this second: Blondie's Greatest Hits (One Way Or Another, Dreamin') it's so good, you should listen to it Right Now!

Currently Reading: Chronicles vol. 1: Bob Dylan (I am freaking out how good this is and how it is not at all what I expected)
Of Love and other Demons: Gabriel Garcia Marquez (this is taking me longer, but I think it's just a matter of me not giving it enough contiguous time)
up next: either the Best American Non-Required Reading anthology OR
one of the two books I got at Powells yesterday OR something else that catches my eye between now and then.

some blog posts that called out to me recently:

Erin at Dressaday talking about dressing for joy (and joyful pursuits in general)plaid = joy

Meg Cabot talking about how you get good at what you love (practice!) in an entry titled Quitters Do Win

Will Shetterly at it's all one thing discussing one of my favorite subjects, happiness. (he also has some great posts about the class divide in this country, which is a subject I'd like to return to later)

which brings me to...

I'm thinking of going back to school. I've probably mentioned that before. It's so cliche -- mid-30's slacker seeks PURPOSE. Bah! But you know what? I can't not do it just because I think it's a cliche -- that's even MORE lame. Time does not move backwards, so if I dither about it another five years it just puts me five more years in the hole. What sort of degree? MLIS -- library school. There are a lot of reasons why I think this is a good move for me. One, it's movement (I've become so STUCK). There are no schools that offer this degree in Oregon, so I would be forced to literally move, at least for the length of the degree program. Two, I love the library as a patron (obviously) and believe that it plays a crucial but undervalued role in society. I also like to be, as glamourous as it sounds, Helpful and Useful. Helping people get information seems like a very Useful thing indeed, particularly in the times we live in. I have many qualms, but I think they are mostly panic related and can be defeated if I am systematic about it. (I'll never get in! I'll never pass the algebra section of the GRE! I will be eaten by alligators! etc. etc.)

As my good friend Linda pointed out, what do I have to lose? I'm not married, I don't have kids, I don't have a mortgage or a career -- what's the harm in trying? Linda was also the one who pointed out to me that my near constant feelings of agitation and disquiet lately are probably due to me finally being AWARE that I am not happy with the status quo, and that they will not go away until I commit to doing something about it. Sigh. I alternately get all wound up or exhausted just thinking about it, but I suspect that's normal.

and now for more randomosity!

hot pink toes: the color I am wearing right now is called SHOCKING! (I like to think it is a tribute to Elsa Schiaparelli, but it is probably just called that because it is very bright)

walking: I may be addicted. A poor choice in socks gave me a HIDEOUS blister that kept me from walking for about 3 days. I realized then how much I enjoy and look forward to it, whether it's raining or not. I take my ipod and the time and the miles just fly by.

I watched Funny Face last night. Audrey Hepburn is so lovely, but I still wanted to clothesline Fred Astaire. But LESS than before. I think that it may just be residual Silk Stockings effect. (side note: I have been getting many hits from people googling "stockings." I can't help but think me talking about Fred Astaire as Alpha Asshole (Tapdancing Division) isn't really what they're looking for... ) On the other hand, I recently watched The Awful Truth and it was SO FUN! Look at this picture -- don't you want to know what's going on there? (hint: These two characters are in the process of getting a divorce, Ralph Bellamy is just out of the frame of this picture looking his moony Ralph Bellamy way at Irene Dunne, while Cary Grant's date is doing some bubble and fan dance on the stage. SO FUNNY!!)

looking up

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Saturday, May 27, 2006
welcome to gleneden beach

The whirlwind trip to the beach DID work! Things look less insane and impossible than they did before. hooray! I fully recommend driving in the country DURING THE WEEK <-- (that part is important) to counter any number of brain-eating maladies. It is so worth the tank of gas! ( I feel compelled to note that the trip only took one tank of gas, despite the fact that we drove up to Astoria, then down the coast to Lincoln City, all around god's green earth and then HOME.)

This picture is from a park at Gleneden Beach -- I'd been to GB before, but never this particular spot. So beautiful! Something about the tide, time of day, and particular make up of the shore caused big loud waves, which were really quite lovely.

In other news, I have decided that Barnes & Noble is off my list. I never find what I want there, everything irritates me (except for possibly their selection of music magazines, but I am always having to shove in front of some brain trust reading Maxim or whatever to even GET to them.) Powell's is it for me now. Bec and I went late this afternoon just to have a look around. It's been FOREVER since I'd been there -- I used to go all the time when I worked downtown. It just made sense. Well, it STILL makes sense. I mean, Amazon totally does too because they have good deals and it's convenient. But Powell's -- there's nothing quite like walking into the main store downtown and just KNOWING that you are in a giant building FULL of books (new and used living happily together on the same shelf). Anyway, it cheers a person, it really does. It smells right, it feels right, and dammit, it just IS RIGHT. We only did part of the gold room, and part of the blue and green rooms, but it was delightful. It was okay that we just did part, because now we know we must go back at some near future date.

at the beach

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Wednesday, May 24, 2006
at the beach

going to beat the holiday weekend rush and spend the rest of today and tomorrow in Lincoln City! My camera batteries are charged and I have a rain coat AND sunscreen, so I think I'm ready.

waterfalls and bargains

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Sunday, May 21, 2006
horsetail falls
I thought for sure I had posted something else since wednesday, but I guess not. Here are the highlights since then:

+ Livewire on Thursday! this was a very good show, and I plan to have a link-filled and gloating post about it soon.

+ Friday. Friday was rough. I went partially crazy, then got better by turning off the computer and reading a book. What a notion!

+ Saturday -- fantastic! Started by going to the Title Wave bookstore with my sister. I found Ella Fitzgerald: the Early years with Chick Webb and his orchestra vol. 1 for .75 cents. (and it goes with vol. 2 that I found there last year! 4 discs in almost mint condition for 1.50!!), also found a Tom Tom Club CD with one of the best summer songs of all time, Genius of Love -- I have been meaning to buy that song from itunes but keep forgetting, so for .75 I got that song, plus 11 others!! Also found two GRE prep books from last year for 1.00 each. Take that, Algebra! You may confound me, but you will not impoverish me.

After the title wave, Bec and I decided to drive up the gorge and see some waterfalls, which so far in my experience has never been a bad decision.

into the woods

Got home with just enough time to get changed and get to Martina's triumphal return to show business in her fancy Missa Luba choir thing. It was a benefit for continued Hurricane relief to the gulf coast, and they sounded great and raised a lot of cash, so hooray!

+Sunday -- my sister and I began the massive fabric purge. Never have the words "what was I thinking" been uttered so many times in such a short period.

I know, I know

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Wednesday, May 17, 2006
like a painting

I just posted a poppy picture not that long ago, but this one is so pretty....

which one would you pick?

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Wednesday, May 17, 2006
These signs are from the iris garden I went to with my mom and sister on mother's day. there was no "serene enchantment" or "delirious daydream of happiness" (at least that I saw), which leads me to believe that commercial iris gardening is more stressful than one would think.

it'll cost you

if only

Beware bargains


lip service

Fiery Temper $17.50

out of control

short story day

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Monday, May 15, 2006
Sunday was short story day. Okay, it was also mother's day and I had a lovely one with my mother and sister, but before the drive to the country and the stroll around the iris gardens, I was mainlining short stories. The sun woke me up EARLY (really early for a sunday), and I read Steve Almond's The Evil B.B. Chow from start to finish without ever getting out of bed. (it was EARLY, I swear.) I got up, did some other stuff, and then picked up Elizabeth Crane's When the Messenger is Hot. I read the first story when I was recuperating last week and had put it down, probably to take a nap, and didn't pick it up again until yesterday. I was reading along and enjoying the sunny day/ good book combo (is there a better combination? I guess rainy day/good book is also pretty spectacular) until I came to a story where I had one of those lightning bolt moments of recognition... not just in an "oh, yeah. I've been there," chuckle ha ha way, but in an "oh my god, is THAT what I've been doing??" fog lifting moment of clarity way. I had to put it down and go do something else because I could not get it out of my head. It was disconcerting to read, but at the same time comforting. This is what I love about stories/books/movies/songs! They are like little wisps of spider silk that simultaneously transport to new horizons and connect back to the rest of humanity. Who knows how many other people felt the same jolt? I'm sure it wasn't just me.

orange orange orange

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Sunday, May 14, 2006

Ex and the Single Girl

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Friday, May 12, 2006
by Lani Diane Rich #13

Last year I read Lani Diane Rich's first novel,Time Off For Good Behavior. It wasn't my favorite, but I wanted to give her another shot because I felt like it wasn't so much her I wasn't digging, but the main character Wanda. So when I heard she had a new book out (I somehow missed her second novel, Maybe Baby), I hied myself over to the library's website and put Ex and the Single Girl on hold. Short review: I liked it better than her first book, but, it still didn't quite get there for me. I found the main character more likable, the plot more cohesive and thought that the secondary characters seemed a lot more naturally occurring, but there was no ZING. Zing, for me (I imagine it is different for everyone), is a little spark or scrap of something that surprises me and makes me glad I bothered to get beyond the aggressively chick lit cover and into the pages inside. Jennifer Crusie novels generally have zing (although I stopped about 20 pages in on her latest collaboration. Maybe this just isn't my time to be reading romances.)

The bulk of this book is set in a small southern town, but it starts out in upstate New York. Portia's no-good novelist boyfriend dumps her and leaves her with only televised Mr. Darcy to comfort her (just once I think it would be really, I don't know, fresh if one of these heroines had a Batman fixation or something. Mr. Darcy is easy! Batman is effed up!) But as I was saying, she's stuck in upstate New York with TV Mr. Darcy, she can't find her remote control, hasn't combed her hair in a month, and is at risk of some sort of cheese doodle overdose. You get the picture I'm sure, since this is all genre shorthand for "in need of romantic intervention." It's the romance version of Chekhov's gun -- if there is a cheese doodle in the first chapter, the heroine will have had a makeover by the last.

Her eccentric southern family call her home for the family cure: "A Flyer" which a one night fling with a stranger. (see.. they're ECCENTRIC. That's why it's not totally skeevy that her grandmother is fixing up her childhood bedroom for a one night stand with a pre-selected stranger.) The way the dynamic is set up with Portia's mom Mags, her aunt Vera, and grandmother Bev (who are collectively known as the Miz Fallons) reminds me some of the Ya Ya Sisterhood, except they were actually nuts in that book and not just slightly dotty. (this is one of the areas that disappointed me -- it seemed like there was a lot of potential with this family dynamic that never got exploited. Maybe if the book had been longer there would have been room to develop it.) Of course, the pre-selected stranger they picked out turns out to be Mr. Super Awesome, although we never get to know him very well as he and Portia spend relatively little time together.

There were things I liked about this book, but it just sort of missed for me. Like I said above, I may just not be in a romance novel mood these days. But I will read her next novel! I did enjoy this one a lot more than the first, so it seems likely (or at least possible) that I'll like the next one even more. I think she could do a lot with a slightly longer format.

saltines and ginger ale post

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Tuesday, May 09, 2006
As it turns out, my super bad mood on Sunday may have been an entity all its own, or it may have been the precursor to the EPV (Evil Puking Virus) I am currently recovering from. It is beyond tedious, but hopefully contained within One Night Of EVIL and a day of recovery.

ANYWAY, here are some links that caught my eye between naps today.

Dress A Day makes a great argument for the agency of Doris Day. (I watched/slept through Pillow Talk earlier today. What she does to Brad Allen's apartment reminds me so much of House on the Rock -- it cracks me up every time!) Anyway, the Doris Day discussion all ties in to a larger discussion of clothes in film over on the clothesaholic blog. (I am sure I've mentioned that one of my favorite books to lug out of the library when I was a kid was __ Years of Hollywood Fashions. I can't remember how many years it was, but I can tell you it had a gold slipcover and weighed at least 10 lbs.)

Powell's Blog has a link to a comic book based on a Murakami short story called On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning that looks like it will definitely be something to check out!

oops. time's up -- season finale of gilmore girls and veronica mars starting now.

p.s. and here's one more: Said the Gramophone pointed out this great post on Marathonpacks. He picks out some of his favorite small moments in Beatles songs, and the comments are full of more! I enjoyed reading it tremendously.

black cloud

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Sunday, May 07, 2006
I am in a rotten mood. It is that evil combination of restless, agitated, and absent of any idea for a solution. Also, I think I had too many nachos at lunch so I feel GROSS on top of the rotten, restless, agitated, and NO IDEAS. I almost never say this, but I HOPE IT IS PMS. I'm sure that it is no coincidence that I'm in the middle of a massive purge of STUFF, (getting rid of stuff: the dark side) so any kind of serenity in my surroundings is absent until I get it finished. In addition: every CD is the wrong one to listen to, I have a massive blister on my right heel, and the cats are bugging me (but honestly, at this point, what's not?). MONDAY -- you are on NOTICE. You don't have to be very good at all to top what Sunday has handed out.


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Friday, May 05, 2006

To celebrate the date, here is a FIVE from the side of some building in Eureka, California

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

And here is one of those things that delights me because it is so... specific. (to give you a hint, the flickr user's name is "Favorite 5's Found on Flickr"

goodbye junk I don't need (pt. 75)

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Wednesday, May 03, 2006
...another installment in the ongoing saga of 'let's throw it out'...

I have to say, I was initially distressed to read Garrison Keillor talking about "the pleasure of discarding stuff" as being a TYPICAL reaction to being a Certain Age in Salon today. I guess it makes sense, because one needs X number of years of heedless accumulation in order to feel the need to divest. Anyway, he's right. With every bag of junk I get rid of, I feel better. If that makes me some hopeless cliche, so be it.

some items found and disposed of today (nothing as good as a bridesmaid's dress, though):

*receipt from the gift store at Mt. Rushmore (I bought postcards. This was at least 5 years ago.)
* approximately 30 gel pens that no longer work. (gel pens, poor bunnies, really don't have a very long shelf life)

the Cool Thing I Forgot I Had award for Wednesday goes to...

INVISIBLE INK (for a glass or fountain pen). You have to heat it up in order to read it, and once it cools off, it is invisible again. I don't know why this pleases me so much, but it does.

When I went to check on the Keillor piece (to make sure I hadn't imagined it), I saw that Salon has at least two new pieces on the aftermath of the Colbert speech. (short story: everyone in washington is pretending that it just "wasn't funny," and that's why they're not talking about it.)

Dot in the Universe

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Wednesday, May 03, 2006
by Lucy Ellmann #12
Oh, Dot. I think Dot in the Universe is one of those love it or hate it novels. I loved it, but I can easily see why it might not be someone's cup of tea. It is fleshy, earthy, shocking, funny, shocking (yes, really -- shocking again), and honest*. Things that might alarm: random CAPITALS (warning: this is VERY ADDICTIVE, and if you read this book you will find yourself DOING IT all the time), descriptive of many bodily functions (very), and the unvarnished, occasionally DARK and WRONG thoughts of the heroine (I find this to be a plus, myself), and SO ON.

Here's a little quote to give some idea of the FLAVOR of the novel:
There are LOOKS exchanged in the street, looks between strangers. Sometimes a BABY looks me right in the eye! And I wonder if any of these people could stomach what I really AM. Terrible, to grow and walk and talk and eat and sleep and shit and fuck and give birth and DIE only to be a shame and disappointment to all who know me. PERVERSE of me to hang on for dear life!

This book reminds me, in length and in its slightly unhinged but sympathetic narrator, of Meredith Brosnan's Mr. Dynamite. (I wrote about it last year here.) They have a similar jazzy stream-of-consciousness something beautiful right up against something horrible oh my god they really said THAT style. But it's also REALLY FUNNY!

As Dot's story progresses, we go from a shabby seaside town in England to the underworld (probably my favorite section) to the American midwest. A lot of things happen along the way, but it really is no good to try to say what they are. There are possums. I can say that much. Possums and porn stars. Possums, porn stars, and tea cozies (although I don't think they ever all occupy the same scene. Maybe I'm wrong though, it's been a little while since I finished it.)

* honest -- I realize I have been going on and on lately about things being "honest" which sounds really lame and like some bullshit hippie-therapy-speak when I separate it out , but I think it is just a CRAVING I have right now since our entire government and society are all just one big fat lie after another. It is nice to read what someone (even a fictional someone) REALLY THINKS, even if it is sort of awful, you know? If I learned one thing from Deadwood, it is that we all have dark thoughts from time to time. I like seeing that acknowledged (as it is in this novel), instead of the insistence that everything is happy fun time 24/7.

the truthiness is, I love stephen colbert

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Monday, May 01, 2006
If you don't already love him, the White House Correspondent's Association Dinner speech should convert you. It was brilliant and BALLSY. My god! Bush was sitting 5 feet away! And now that I've seen the video, I have even more respect for what he did -- they were hating him in there, but he just kept hammering away.
Here are some links (look at them in any order you like -- it's all good stuff) to catch up if you missed out:

The transcript.
The Thank You Page (with link to video)
Salon's cover story today: The Truthiness Hurts.

wordstock, pt.3

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Monday, May 01, 2006

wordstock pt. 1
wordstock pt. 2


I met BB down at the Convention Center (once again by the Korean heart-attack bell) at 10:30. We went inside and it was DEAD. There were no people anywhere, which made it difficult to sidle up to various wordstock tables and take the swag that was sitting there (it's not that they wouldn't just let us have it, but I didn't want to talk to anyone about it. I just wanted to take my bookmarks and go, you know?). It definitely filled up by the end of the day, but it was a little empty there at the beginning.

I didn't realize it until the day was over, but the Sunday readings I attended slotted very neatly into the categories of sex, death, or Gore Vidal.

11AM Maria Dahvana Headley: This is the woman who wrote The Year of Yes, about her year of going out with anyone (mostly) who asked her. (follow that second link for sure, because she blogs about wordstock!) I wasn't sure what to expect, but she was delightful and charming, and according to someone I overheard, "totally adorable." The first I knew of her book (I live in a cave, okay?) was around the new year when I blogged my resolutions, one of which was to overcome my inner nay-sayer (she is so annoying), and Say Yes more often. Someone asked if I meant like the Year of Yes woman, and I was all "whaaat? and then "god no!" when I realized what that entailed. In my case it was meant as more of a general purposes affirmation, but I like the specificity of MDH's version. She went on more than 150 dates during her Year of Yes -- this notion is so foreign to my temperament and experience that, to me, it is akin to saying "I'm going for a walk on the rings of Jupiter ." I had to hear her read! As she was talking to the audience before she started reading, she asked if people would rather hear a dirty story, or a story about mime. Trick question! Guess what people chose? (I think she links to a written version of the story at that second link. It's not really that dirty.) Anwyay, she was a very engaging reader and seemed to be having a good time. I spotted her several times at subsequent readings, which always makes me happy. I don't know why -- it is no surprise that writers are readers and therefore fans of other writers.

Noon Steve Almond: I haven't read any of his stuff, but BB was intrigued by the Candyfreak phenomenon (being a bit of a candyfreak himself). Almond's most recent book is an epistolary novel with fellow author Julianna Baggott, and I thought that sounded interesting as I've been seeing more books lately with this sort of "I write half you write half" thing going on. Of course, he didn't read from Candyfreak (he mentioned that it's sort of weird to be primarily known as a non-fiction author when fiction is his main deal), he didn't read from the new book, but he did start off by saying that the piece he was going to read was kind of raunchy and he swears a lot, so maybe any kids in the audience might want to not be there since he was the "proverbial bad man." (one woman and kid sitting in the front row left)

He read two pieces -- one was about how writers are ugly, sad, lonely, and pathetic people, and the other was about how his brilliant idea to have his girlfriend wax his chest ended in blood, tears, and disappointment. The phrase "lush chestal thicket" came up, and my notes (which are mostly useless but do have some lovely spiral doodling) say "lava = strangely funny." The pieces he read were funny and bracing, but he won me over when he was just talking. Unlike some readings where it is either automatic patter or just painfully awkward, Almond seemed to be talking to the people who were there. As people who have already read his books no doubt already know (I should be among their number some time this week), he seems to have the ability and willingness to be forthright about just about anything. Maybe I'm oblivious, but that kind of candor seems in short supply these days. Nobody says anything, let alone what is actually on their mind. So, not only was he pretty candid about his dashed expectations regarding the chest waxing experiment (how did that EVER seem like a good idea?), but he also called out our current "Era of Cleverness." Clever isn't enough, he said, and people need to take some moral responsibility. During the Q & A (he gave out candy to the first person to ask a question!), he said if you really like something (a book, music, art, whatever) you should spread the word because too many good things are experienced by too few people. He also said that a question writers should ask themselves is 'how emotionally dangerous will you get with your characters?", which as questions go, is a really good one. Anyway, his was one of the best readings I attended.

1PM BB and I went out for lunch and discussed the probability of a giant Sanrio store in NYC (conclusion: highly probable), and then my sister joined us for the rest of the afternoon.

2PM Christopher Moore: Christopher Moore had to know that by wearing that loud hawaiian shirt he would be called the Jimmy Buffett of Wordstock. I think it is even fair to say that there were a number of Christopher Moore brand parrot heads on hand. This reading was not as full as Dave Eggers, but more full than any others we attended up to this point. Christopher Moore is funny -- I've seen him read at Powell's before, and usually he just stands up front and talks about what he did to research his latest book and is generally charming as he bullshits with the crowd. But this time (since he had just been in town a month or so ago) he read some piece about how he doesn't "read," and it was amusing (less so as it went on and on and on), but you'd think his were the most hilarious utterances in the history of comedy if you went by the crowd. They laughed at everything (with scary regularity -- it was like a sitcom laugh track), which made me find it less and less funny. When that piece was finally over, things got more interesting as he started talking about his new book, which is about Death and the poor schlub who gets the job. He also talked movingly (and funnily -- go figure) about terminal cancer. Best insight into his writerly process was when he said that the answer to any question that starts "why did he...." is "because I thought it would be funny." I can't argue with that kind of reasoning, even if I don't always agree.

3PM Marilyn Johnson: Marilyn Johnson was great! She seemed so glad to be at wordstock and was so full of enthusiasm -- not only for her book The Dead Beat: Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs, and the Perverse Pleasures of Obituaries -- but also for the whole obituary culture (those who write them, collect them, inspire them, and so on). Johnson said her book couldn't have been written in any other time because most of the major newspapers have now gone online (which includes the obit. page, of course). I think it would be difficult not to like her. What I liked best was that she was chatty and joyful about a subject that many people find grim -- but let's face it, it's the one subject we all come up against sooner or later. Why not face it with a little levity? The Q & A session was really good with fellow obituary hounds and obituary writers making up the bulk of people stepping up to the microphone. Johnson said the art of a good obituary is to find the spark of what made that particular person unique -- to mark what will be missing from the world now that they're dead. About half way through her allotted time, the chairs were all full (aprox 500). She was very cheerful and graceful about it, even though most of them were there for Gore Vidal who was speaking next on the same stage. I am looking forward to reading her book very much.

4PM Gore Vidal: Before Gore Vidal came to the stage, the Borders Stage Minder came on and gave instructions about no flash photography and keeping the fire-lanes clear. Not only was every seat taken, but there were people at least 5 deep all along the edges and who knows how far back behind the rows of chairs. This was the most attended reading that I went to, and I think it might have been the most attended reading at the whole book fair. Once that business was taken care of, Gore Vidal was announced and made his way to the stage with the assistance of two young men. The set up for this event was different than any of the others -- there were two soft-looking chairs up on the stage with microphones situated in front. A man sitting next to Vidal introduced himself as Matthew Stadler and said that since Mr. Vidal wasn't going to be reading, he (Stadler) was there to get things going by asking some questions, and then questions would be open to the audience. This was SO SMART! They got to set the tone for what sort of questions should be asked which I'm sure helped cut down on the crackpot factor (which was present, but less than I anticipated). Vidal ranged all over US history (George Washington's pissy letters to his mother, Huey Long, etc.) but talked a great deal about the Culture of Empire and how we have lost the republic. By his estimation it will take three or four generations to "undo what has been done in the last twelve years." He also made special note of William Appleman Williams (he taught history at Oregon State) whom he called "the century's greatest historian." I really admire the way that Vidal is able to be so cranky (he is magnificently cranky), but still whip smart and focused like a laser on the topic at hand. No matter how far afield it seemed like he was going, he'd always bring it back around. Political discussion has become so heated and about nothing (I blame cable news), it was refreshing to hear someone who could not only articulate, but had a firm idea of what it was he was articulating.

So (finally) endeth Wordstock 2! I can't wait to see what they come up with for next year.