books


Image: OldPixels.com via flickr

Image: OldPixels.com via flickr

A friend sent me this article in today’s New York Times*:

Recession Fuels Readers’ Escapist Urges

Essentially, Motoko Rich’s article focuses on the success of the romance genre in the bookworld in the midst of the current economic realities. While other genres have seen stagnation or a decrease in the numbers of books being moved, romance has seen bigger numbers. The conclusion is that readers, amidst all the doom & gloom, want their books to have a happy ending. Apparently, the sci-fi and fantasy genres are also experiencing an upsurge. People want to escape. (more…)

avlxyz via flickr

Image: avlxyz via flickr

I’ll gloss over the fact that today is Valentine’s Day. I don’t buy into it. Ok, I’m currently single which could be coloring my view of the whole thing, but I digress.

21 Saturdays now. Not any easier. I made an effort today to try & do something I would normally have done on a Saturday afternoon. More often than not the last 21 Saturdays I’ve found myself at home around the time that I found her. My writing group ends at noon, & I’m usually home by 1 to check on the dogs, & then I just tend to get stuck at home. I don’t have the motivation to do much on Saturday afternoons–especially right around that time. If someone invites me out for that time period, I’m fine. But if left to my own devices, I seem to find myself here. Sometimes I’ll read, sometimes TV, sometimes just sitting outside, sometimes on the laptop; but here. So, today, I made an effort. I went & wandered around a bookstore for the afternoon; something, I oddly don’t think I’ve done in months. I know I have been in bookstores in the last 21 weeks. I have the books & magazines to prove it. But I don’t think I’ve just wandered as I would have any other Saturday afternoon before. So, today I did. I found a couple books to add to my to read list: (more…)

Dey via flickr

Image: Dey via flickr

Got back into my routine today. With my brother & his girlfriend here for the holidays & my injury, I haven’t been able to do my usual Saturday thing. So, this morning I went to my writing group. No writing today. When we finally did stop talking, I couldn’t get anything out. I went back & reread what I had (big mistake). Thought it was crap & didn’t know where to restart. I’d planned to stay a couple hours after we usually end. I’d fed the dogs early, before I left, & let them spend some quality time outside; so, I would have been safe til about 2. But promptly at noon, I gave up & packed it in.

On the way home I stopped off & got some flowers–yellow gerbera daisies. I’d missed not buying flowers on Saturdays the last couple of weeks. But it wasn’t something I could really pass on to someone else to pick up for me. It’s something I have to do.

Came home, put them in a vase & then opened up the windows & front door & hung out outside with the dogs. It was about 80 today. Absolutely beautiful. I love 80 degrees in winter, even if it is wrong on so many levels! Then, I put the stereo on, hooked up the iPod, and played The National & read. As I was sitting there struggling to write this morning, it dawned on me that one of the reasons I’ve been struggling with writing lately is that I haven’t been reading. I’ve been reading non-fiction, but I haven’t been reading fiction. I realized, I need to be constantly reminded how other writers do it. I need to be reminded that 1st person POV works. I need to be reminded that a reader can care about a fictional character’s life. I’ve read that some writers can’t read fiction while they’re writing; too worried that they’ll be influenced by it. But, I think I’m the opposite. I need to read fiction. I need to get lost in made-up stories, so I can get lost in my own. So, I sat down in the big leather chair, propped the bad leg up on the ottoman, & sat down to finish reading The End of the Story by Lydia Davis. I started this book before my mother died, & hadn’t picked it up since then. For the past 16 weeks I’ve had trouble sitting down & reading fiction. Maybe a fear of letting my mind wander; even if my mind was supposed to be wandering in the author’s world, I was too afraid it would wander somewhere else. I also haven’t been such a big fan of the quiet that I usually require to read. But today, it felt alright. I don’t know why or what was different today. But I could sit down & read & I wasn’t afraid of my thoughts drifting off, & they didn’t.

So, we’ll see if reading gets me back on track with writing. (more…)

In lieu of New Year’s resolutions, I’ve decided to instead focus on 4 words that I want to be able to use to define my life at the end of 2009. The idea comes from Carrie McCarty & Danielle LaPorte  who wrote this great book, Style Statement: Live by Your Own Design. I picked it up at the end of the summer as a part of my quest to do some self-reflection & just some basic figuring out. Anyways, life got in the way & I really wasn’t in the mood to be too self-reflective, until last week when I picked the book back up & started going through it.

The book walks you through a personal inventory to create a style statement which is kind of like personal branding, I guess. Essentially you come up with 2 words that help define who you are. It’s not meant to restrict or limit you, but rather to get you to look at what you truly value & who you really are. At this point, I’m only about half-way through the exercises, so I don’t know what my style statement is yet. But, I’ve been checking out their website & they have a daily Q&A, and today’s question was “What word describes your desire for 2009?” I did some thinking & was only able to narrow it down to 4; but those 4 actually really define what I want to do this year. (more…)

The day just got away from me. Haven’t done any writing yet and it’s past 10 PM. It’s not a bad day, but I definitely feel very flighty, floaty, disconnected. I blame the weather. Beautiful but cold. I need sun & heat and more hours of daylight.

I’ve picked up a book on creative visualization of my mother’s bookshelf. I realize I need to get back to figuring out and laying out my goals and dreams. Even now, with everything, a little self-analysis and re-evaluation wouldn’t hurt. I realize I need to get back to that idea of living deliberately, because this flighty, floaty, disconnected feeling isn’t working for me.

Image: Pensiero via flickr

Had to hold & look at my mother’s death certificate again today. It’s been a couple of weeks. I’ve hidden it in an envelope, at the bottom of a drawer that I don’t need to open for any other reason. I don’t like stumbling upon it. I needed it to close some accounts. Couldn’t put it off any longer. Had to pull it out again.

I hate how a piece of paper with a bunch of words causes me to hyperventilate & cry.

I really don’t understand how a piece of paper telling me she’s officially dead can affect me while at the same time the reality of her death doesn’t feel real. I don’t fucking get it. It’s totally ridiculous. I know I’m scattered & disconnected. I know I’m floating around all this. But I don’t get how in the midst of such a feeling that a piece of paper can depress me.

It doesn’t help that the weather is blah today. Overcast & gray. I know I complain that LA lacks seasons; but today, clear skies & sunshine would be much appreciated. This gloom is not helping my mood.

As far as NaNoWriMo goes…it’s not. I haven’t done anything since Saturday morning. Officially behind. I am going to do the 50K this month, but I guess the last couple of days haven’t been good & I just can’t get my head into it. Excuses, excuses. I should just write. I know that. I also know that I’m avoiding. I’m at the beginning of Chapter 1–the hard part. Getting started is always the worst; at least getting started when you know where you need to end up. It’s easier to get started when you have no plan. Although figuring out where to go in the middle & in the end can be just as difficult. I guess either way it’s hard. Excuses, excuses. I need to stop & just write.

On a positive front (because this post could use a little positive right about now), when I was driving home last night I had an idea for how to proceed with draft #2. It would be incredibly untraditional–very dialogue heavy. I guess the best model would be Someone I Loved by Anna Gavalda. I’m not entirely sure how it would work quite yet, but something about it rings true & goes back to what I know I do well, as well as to the simplicity I was looking for. I’ll play. Playing is good. Anything to get me going at this point.

Image: TrevorLowe via flickr

Another day.

Basically sucked. And that’s an understatement. I’m at a loss for words that properly describe what I’m feeling & how bad my day was.

I keep wanting to turn around and tell her about something someone said or did. There’s so much to talk about. But she’s not here.

Last night after I posted I did some internet research on grief, bereavement, & losing your mother. Essentially I learned that you never really get over it & it takes a long time to feel even somewhat normal. I learned that there’s a term for what I am now: a “motherless daughter.” And there’s a book. I don’t know that I’m ready to read it anytime soon. I hate that there is a term. I hate that it’s my reality. I learned that there are a lack of resources focused on adult children who lose parents who aren’t elderly. I learned that most grief & bereavement stuff out there is focused on the loss of parents who were suffering from a prolonged illness. I learned that there is a difference in grief between losing someone suddenly vs. losing someone to a prolonged illness.

I had to look at my mother’s death certificate again today. It was the second time I’ve held it in my hands now. The first was last Friday when we picked up her ashes from the mortuary. I took it out of the envelope they handed me to check to see that it was correct. I lost it. Under race, they listed her as “Mexican American.” I was pissed & yelled at the poor staff. While my mother’s family was part Mexican, they were Native American,  & that was how my mother identified herself. She would have been furious that they had put down she was “Mexican American.” I was furious on her behalf. No one ever asked me her race. They just assumed her race because of her last name. The staff apologized. They said the best they could do was get an amendment to the death certificate, a 2nd page; but they can’t change it. I’m still pissed, for her.

I had to look at it again today. I had to hold it in my hands again today. There is a reality to seeing the date of my mother’s death in black & white. That’s probably why I still haven’t read her obituary. The same feeling kept coming over me last week as I looked at the memorial card some family friend’s made up for Saturday’s get-together. On the cover is one of my favorite pictures of my mother. It’s her with the ocean behind her. I took it 7 years ago at the wedding of my best friend. On the inside was the prayer/poem I posted here a couple days ago on one side, & her name & birth & death date on the other. Seeing that end date was surreal. It still is surreal. To think that there is one day when it all just ended. I can’t wrap my head around it, because I still can’t wrap my head around the reality that she is gone & that was it.

I cried today. A lot. I know I’m not going to stop anytime soon.

Right now my brother & his girlfriend are staying with me in this house. I wouldn’t be breathing if they weren’t here. But the reality is they need to go back to their lives & the East Coast where they are now living. My mother would want that. They’ll probably be here a few more weeks. Thank God. But now, the reality is looming there that eventually they will have to go back & I will be here in this house alone again. You might think that I’d have a problem being in this house given that my mother died in it, but I don’t. That’s not what I’m dreading. It’s the being alone without the distraction. Try as they may, the dogs are only so good at that.

I’ve decided I’m just going to be honest here. Sitting here, typing this, is the best I’ve felt all day. Writing is cathartic.

I’m going to use this blog to keep track of where I am & where I’ve been. A record of the bad days & the good ones to come. I want to be able to tell when the good out number the bad again.

Image: iessi via flickr

Mood: Frustrated with my procrastination

Currently listing to: Wisconsin by Bon Iver

I’m expecting a book order from Amazon today. Just 3 books this time around, as I’ve realized I have quite a book backlog on my nightstand.

  • The Bell by Iris Murdoch (one on my summer reading list)
  • Best Friends by Martha Moody (a gift from a friend)
  • Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos (I keep starting this book, but can’t get past chapter 2. I should just give up, but I hate to leave books I buy unread.)
  • The Flanders Panel by Arturo Perez-Reverte (another one that I keep starting & can’t get through. It must have been a bad book buying day when I bought this, because I bought Love Walked In the same day.)
  • Archetypes for Writers by Jennifer Van Bergen (one of those craft books. Looks interesting. Just haven’t been in the headspace to read it.)
  • The Master Bedroom by Tessa Hadley (just bought last week. Will get to it.)
  • The Complete Shorter Fiction of Virginia Woolf (this is one that I just open up & read a story here and there when I have time.)

…and soon to arrive:

  • Straight Up & Dirty: A Memoir by Stephanie Klein (read about this book here & it sounded like a fun read. Also, I like Klein’s blog & keep meaning to read one of her books.)
  • The Art of Mending by Elizabeth Berg (I read her book Open House a while ago & liked it. I’ve been meaning to read something else from her. Noticed this is written in 1st person, so that made it appealing given my current needs–read below.)
  • Style Statement: Live by Your Own Design by Danielle La Porte & Carrie McCarthy (this book is part of my quest to figure myself out. Never hurts to be more self-aware.)

…and currently reading:

  • The End of the Story by Lydia Davis (half-way through & really liking this. It’s exactly what I’ve been looking to read.)

I’ve just been a slower reader than usual the last couple of months; but a apparently a very prolific book buyer. I don’t know what’s going on. Probably just a phase. Will say I’m really liking the book I’m currently reading. I think part of my reading funk has been because I can’t seem to find exactly what I want. Because my plan is to work on draft #2 in 1st person, I really want to immerse myself in 1st person. But I’m having the hardest time finding books that I want to read. Yes, there are plenty of good books out there written in 1st, but I guess I’m just looking for a certain voice. I keep walking into every bookstore I come across, pulling books off the shelves, & reading the first page. More often than not, it’s not what I’m looking for. But I guess I’m realizing that what I’m looking for is what I’m trying to write. My head wants to hear a certain voice that letting in any others, any that aren’t quite right, is just difficult.

I know what this all means. I need to write my own book.

On that front, the reading of draft #1 is taking longer than I expected. Not because I hate it or anything, I just keep saying I’ll get to it, & I don’t. This is starting to frustrate me. Yes, my procrastination & I might soon come to blows. I want to get started on draft #2, sooner rather than later. So, to get that going, I need to finish reading this & figuring out what I can take from it & what I need to do to make it better the next time around.

So, instead of saying “I plan to…”, I’m going to say: I AM WILL FINISH READING DRAFT #1 BY THE END OF THIS WEEK.

And: I AM WILL WORK ON AN ARTICLE IDEA THAT’S BEEN FLOATING AROUND IN MY HEAD THE LAST COUPLE DAYS.

I love books. (I’d be amazed to find a writer who doesn’t.) And I especially love the books I own. I know in today’s recycling crazy world, selling your used books is the thing to do. I appreciate the idea of sharing the story. But, I hold on to mine. I keep all my books. Since college I’ve held on to every single one. Admittedly a few have disappeared after being borrowed into friends’ hands & homes causing me to consider some kind of library overdue book policy for the more blatant offenders. I remember the title of each missing book. I know, I should learn to let go. But I can’t. My books are part of who I am. Looking at them, I can recall where I was when I read them & what was going on in my life at the time. The fact that I picked up each one in a bookstore, choosing that one out of thousands, bought it, brought it home, & read it, says something about what was going on in my head at that moment. When it came time to pack up and move from DC back to LA, the movers were nice enough to tell me that I could cut my moving fee in half if I’d just give up the books. But I couldn’t. I paid the $1000+ and they came along with me on this next chapter in my life.

Today, they reside in my living room. They & I have made do with white Ikea bookshelves until such a time when we can find a home with built-ins. Space considerations require that each shelf is filled left to right, top to bottom. But we’re together and that’s all that matters.

With that in mind, I was a little disturbed by this article in today’s Wall Street Journal. In her article, “Why Libraries Are Back in Style,” June Fletcher writes that there is a rising trend in personal libraries, or “memory rooms,” in people’s homes. I love that home libraries are back in style, but I’m horrified by the reason why.

This trend in libraries is not about the books Fletcher writes, “…their appeal is often about creating a certain ambiance.”

She adds:

What can make libraries more soothing than other formal rooms isn’t so much books but the framed family photographs, awards and mementos that share the shelves and define a family’s interests and identity, says McLean, Va., architect Chris Lessard. “They’re memory rooms,” he says. Because libraries are public rooms, oftentimes the books are purely decorative and don’t say as much about the family who lives there. The books that people really read, like paperback novels and how-to guides, often are kept out of sight elsewhere in the home.

….

Tucson, Ariz., interior designer Terri Taylor says she spends a lot of time scouring flea markets and bookstores for books with fancy bindings for her clients’ bookshelves. She selects books to match color schemes rather than for their content.

Yes, my “library” is a memory room, but it’s the books themselves, all read by me, that provide the memories. I have never looked at them as decorative items used to accent the knick-knacks I’ve picked up on my travels or the photos of family & friends that I’ve placed on the edges. There’s no color scheme. Although, I have tried to institute a category system. Basically, fiction with fiction & non-fiction with non-fiction. Simple but it works. It’s all there. I never hide my books & the record of what I’ve read. Hardcover and paperback peacefully coexist. The great literature, the chick lit, the history tomes, the career advice guides sit side by side. I’ve always believed that if someone really wants to know me, they should spend some time looking at my bookshelves. It’s the one place where I seem to have no problem admitting to all my odd and passing interests, & sometimes questionable taste.

I was relieved at the very end of Fletcher’s article to know that there are still people like me who appreciate books & libraries for what they are:

Similarly, author Jay McInerney and his wife, Anne Hearst, happily mix dog-eared paperbacks with first editions of Fitzgerald and Joyce in the overstuffed bookcases of both their Manhattan apartment and their Hamptons house. Mr. McInerney thinks the visual jumble of thousands of mismatched books is appealing. “If you’re not reading what’s on your bookshelves, you should find something else to decorate with,” he says.

Proof that there are still sane people in the world!!

Image: erik via flickr

Mood: Craving…a nap

Currently listening to: The evening news

This afternoon I had some time to kill so I wandered into Borders bookstore. I was browsing the fiction shelves. I don’t know about you, but I prefer to go about it alphabetically. Even if I’m looking for a specific book, if I have the time, I still start at “A” and make my way through to “Z.” You never know what you might find.

So, today I found myself stopping to see where a book written by me would be shelved. I have to say, I like the company such a book would be keeping. To my left, Eudora Welty and to my right, Edith Wharton. Not bad. All the more motivation to write something good.

Still reading draft #1. Slow going. Not necessarily because it sucks, but because this has been a long week. Still hoping to get through it by the end of the weekend. Reading it is definitely motivating me to want to start on draft #2. I want to try again. I want to start over & see if I can address some of the ticks I’m noticing in my writing. We’ll see.

Image: gadl via flickr

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