Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Nerd's Delight

I need to say, right off, that Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl is a literature-lover's book.

The first thing I noticed was that Pessl titled each chapter with a work of literature, and that each chapter has subtle references/resemblances to that work. She is a young (twenty-something when she wrote this) writer who, evidently, likes to show off her literary knowledge. This may put off many from reading this book, and I can't really recommend it to anyone who might shrink from this sort of thing. But to those of us who thrill to seeing so many literary references (often a bit too much - I think Pessl is showing off much of the time), this book is one to put on the list.

A short synopsis of the book: Blue Van Meer is a 16-year-old who arrives in a small North Carolina town and attends an exclusive prep school. She has spent her childhood traveling the country with her father (a charming college professor), going from school to school. Most of the book follows her through her senior year at St. Gallways and her unusual acceptance into an exclusive group who call themselves the Bluebloods. The story follows Blue's relationships with the Bluebloods and with Hannah Schneider, the film teacher (film teacher??) who is the leader and nexus of the group. The story takes a really odd turn when Blue finds Hannah dead - strung up in a tree with electrical extension cord. (This is not a spoiler, as it is mentioned in the introduction of the book.)

Let me just say that the rest of the book winds dizzyingly into a mystery that is never really "solved" or explained. The final chapter of the book is titled "Final Exam" and literally asks more questions than it answers. I warn you that this can be a frustrating book for anyone who likes their novels to have some finality. All I can say is that I loved this book.

And be sure to check out the extremely clever little website set up for this book.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Still backstage...

I know I've been away a long time. Apologies. Time to make this blog a habit again.

I have been involved in stage managing yet another production at Brüka Theatre. It's been a lot of work and very time-consuming, but a lot of fun.

The show is titled "Beckett Undressed" and it is a compilation of three of Samuel Beckett's shorter works including Imagination Dead Imagine, Krapp's Last Tape, and Come and Go. There is also an original piece by our director, Stacey Spain, called No News, that she created specifically for this production at Brüka, and is heavily influenced by Beckett's work.

Stay tuned to this space for lots of commentary on the books I've been reading and perhaps a story or two about theatrical goings-on.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Where I've been lurking...

So where have I been for the last couple of months? I've been dipping my toes into new waters. I decided to delve further into the world of theatre and stepped into the role of stage manager for a local theatre company.

The play's director, Jim Martin, was kind enough to train me (read: be at his beck and call) as stage manager for his production of The Golden Screw. It's an eclectic play billed as "A Witty Musical Regarding Rebellion & the Soul of an Artist" that defies categorization.

The Golden Screw is a small, rather obscure play by Tom Sankey that alternates original songs with short vignettes and loosely tells the story of a folk singer in the 60's and his rise to fame and then walking away from it all. The vignettes were performed by three very talented actors with a minimum of props and costumes.

The star of the production was the amazing James Cavanaugh, singer and musician extraordinaire, who did Sankey's songs a lot of justice.

It was a privilege to work with such a great cast and crew. And what a lot of fun!

(For those who live in the Reno area, stay tuned. We may have a "touring" production at the Great Basin Brewing Co. in Sparks.)

Monday, April 23, 2007

Happy 543rd Birthday

Shakespeare turns 543 today and I celebrated with a reading of Hamlet and took the day off from work.

(Actually, I took the day off because I competed in a karate tournament in San Francisco yesterday and I am exhausted.)

So I plan to read a few articles, anticipate Bill Bryson's biography of the bard, and not get too hung up on what he might have looked like.

I hope you'll celebrate in your usual ways...

Friday, April 06, 2007

Yet another quiz

A bit of fun for National Poetry Month.

What Poetry Form Am I?

Hmmm... apparently I'm terza rima:

I'm terza rima, and I talk and smile.
Where others lock their rhymes and thoughts away
I let mine out, and chatter all the while.

I'm rarely on my own - a wasted day
Is any day that's spent without a friend,
With nothing much to do or hear or say.

I like to be with people, and depend
On company for being entertained;
Which seems a good solution, in the end.
A weird quiz with doggerel at the end.

Or maybe I'll find out Which Poem Are You?

Which poem are you?

The Mad Girl's Love Song by Sylvia Plath

To you, love is desperate and hateful. You're wildly passionate and wildly inventive. You're also likely to start stalking people.

Personality Test Results

Click Here to Take This Quiz
Brought to you by YouThink.com quizzes and personality tests.

Hmmm... the quiz itself is more fun than the results. Someone was having too much fun.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

National Poetry Month

A reminder that April is National Poetry Month.

Read poetry!

Write poetry!

More reading!

I don't know why I often avoid certain authors because they get so much buzz. I suppose I am distrustful of some authors who are popular for little reason I can ascertain (like John Grisham or Dan Brown).

I guess it was for this reason I took so long to discover Jonathan Lethem. At first, I avoided his popular books (Motherless Brooklyn was popular when I first decided to try reading his stuff), and picked up a copy of As She Cimbed Across the Table. I loved it.

So Gun, With Occasional Music was my second Lethem book, and I can tell you I'll be reading a lot more.

This book was a wonderful combination of hard-boiled detective fiction (think: Raymond Chandler) and twisted science fiction, set in a bizarre (yet somehow plausible) future where animals have been artificially evolved and your karma levels are kept on a card. The superb writing and the wonderfully crafted plot are almost bonuses.

I won a copy of Eliza Minot's The Brambles from our local paper's book blog a couple months ago. I put off reading it because, frankly, I hadn't heard anything about the book or the author.

I have mixed feelings about the book. The writing is superbly crafted and she really knows how to get inside the moment and the character. In fact, Minot gets a little too much inside. THe details are so combed over that I almost forgot there was a plot in there somewhere. The story is simple: the Bramble family is coming to terms with the death of the mother and a father who is terminally ill. The aging father is brought to the eldest daughter's house to finish out his days and the other two siblings visit.

Minot delves with excruciating detail into the day-to-day lives of the three siblings before finishing up with an odd twist that abruptly ends the book. I won't give away the twist, but I found myself wondering why the book was suddenly done, when there seemed to be so much more to be wrapped up, somehow.

I recommend this book for the lovely character studies and the lovingly painted details, but certainly not for the story that meanders about before stopping suddenly and tipping over.

Finally, I got to spend time with one of my favorite authors in his newest book, Freddy and Fredericka.

Mark Helprin's newest book was a delight to read. I don't quite know where to begin to talk about this book, as I had so many mixed feelings about it, and the book is so varied in plot and direction.

The story concerns the Prince of Wales, Freddy, and his vacuous wife Fredericka. To prove they are worthy of wearing the crown, they are sent on a mission (in the form of a bizarre Merlin-type character) to conquer a barbarian land (read: USA).

After reading Refiner's Fire, I sensed Helprin's love of the American countryside, and this book confirms this. The descriptions of America's land, waterways and characters helped me to fall in love with the country along with Freddy and Fredericka. The story was a bit odd, but the characters were so real and so endearing that I lost myself in the book several times.

This isn't Helprin's finest work (in my opinion, Winter's Tale takes that prize), but it is fun and, at times, laugh-out-loud funny. Definitely a good read.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Is it an addiction yet?

I have been wandering through YouTube now that I realize there is loveliness hidden there. Take these gems from Billy Collins:

Some Sweet Talk

And this cool animation:

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Fun with silly quizzes

It's odd what these quizzes can measure. Here are three tests to determine which novel/poem/work of literature I (evidently) am:

First, Which Literature Classic Are You?

Umberto Eco: The Name of the Rose. You are a mystery novel dealing with theology, especially with catholic vs liberal issues. You search wisdom and knowledge endlessly, feeling that learning is essential in life.
Take this quiz!

And now Which Book Are You?

A Clockwork Orange
You are 59% Great Book

A Clockwork Orange is perhaps one of the most bold works of literature ever penned. It charts a lengthy although ultimately circular change of character, concerned with a protagonist who is truly 'fucked up'. Despite the best attempts at the outside world to change him, he remains as he is. Chaotic, passionate, vivid and robust - you are the proud and destructive Clockwork Orange. You are a wild person, often driven by impulse and prone to ignore rationality over raw passion. You are intelligent, and well aware of the weaknesses of your personality, but you are also aware of the strengths. Where others are prone to indecision and a lack of originality, you are bold, imposing and often artistic. You can be violent, not neccessary physically, but certainly emotionally - imposing your will on others through aggressive dominance. Clockwork and Orange are not words which traditionally go together. Clockwork is a mechanical method of creating artificial movement, where an Organe is an organic creation. Trying to force one to work with the other will always be foolish. Alex, the main character, is something of an Orange. He is an organic person, growing and changing - even evolving - but ultimately sticking to his nature as an orange. The clockwork seems to represent the word around him, trying to change him and force him into a certain way of life - perhaps for his own good - but ultimately doomed to fail. The freedom of individuals to make choices becomes problematic when those choices undermine the safety and stability of society, and in A Clockwork Orange, the state is willing to protect society by taking away freedom of choice and replacing it with prescribed good behavior. In Alex’s world, both the unfettered power of the individual and the unfettered power of the state prove dangerous. Alex steals, rapes, and murders merely because it feels good, but when his violent impulses are taken away, the result is equally as dangerous, simply because freedom of choice, a fundamental element of humanity, has been taken away.

And, finally, The Book Quiz.

You're Mrs. Dalloway!

by Virginia Woolf

Your life seems utterly bland and normal to the casual observer, but
inside you are churning with a million tensions and worries. The company you surround
yourself with may be shallow, but their effects upon your reality are tremendously deep.
To stay above water, you must try to act like nothing's wrong, but you know that the
truth is catching up with you. You're not crazy, you're just a little unwell. But no
doctor can help you now.

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

So... The Name of the Rose, A Clockwork Orange, and Mrs. Dalloway. I wonder what this really says about me?

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Introducing the book

I don't usually do much browsing at YouTube, but I really laughed at this one...

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


I am not sure how some of these literary bloggers read as much as they do and how they can afford to get books when they come out in hardback, but I do envy their apparently copious amounts of time to read. I read quickly, but I have to steal time by reading in line at the bank or waiting for kids while they're in some activity. It cuts into my social life, but I try to read every chance I get.

I just finished a couple books and will get back to you with some thoughts on them this weekend. I am still unpacking books to put in my new "library" and I'm amazed at what a bibliophile I am. It looks like a used book store.

I can't wait to be surrounded by my books and my music.

In the meantime, I have vowed to get through a good portion of my "to be read" stack of books before I buy any more. I just need several days of uninterrupted time...

Saturday, February 03, 2007

What Kind of Reader Are You?

I don't do many of those web quizzes unless they have a literary bent. I admit I loved finding out What Kind of Reader I was.

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm

You're probably in the final stages of a Ph.D. or otherwise finding a way to make your living out of reading. You are one of the literati. Other people's grammatical mistakes make you insane.

Dedicated Reader
Book Snob
Literate Good Citizen
Fad Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


Have you ever read a book that you just don't want to end? Or one that you know that, halfway through, you'll start again as soon as you finish? I'm halfway through one like that right now.

I am currently reading Adverbs: A Novel by Daniel Handler. I balked, at first, when I saw the recommendation on the back of the book from Dave Eggers. But I'm really glad I picked this up.

Daniel Handler's writing is amazing. He writes with such freshness (what does that mean?) and a poetic touch, that I find myself re-reading passages again and again. I will give more notes when I finish it (the second time?).

In the meantime, I am in the middle of moving to another house, so I have been fairly scarce. I am currently in bed with a rather nasty cold virus, so packing, work and everything taking me from my blog is relegated to a later time. For now, I can lounge in bed and read and blog.