Colm Toibin is at 192 Books tonight at 7 PM; Mary Gaitskill is there same time next Thursday. Now, how to get another get out of jail card; it might not be possible after last night's girls' night out.
Tom Robbins has apparently written a children's book called B Is for Beer. Hilarious, right? I have not read the book, so my immediate reaction is based solely on what I have read about it. The main character is a kindergartner, who actually drinks a beer in the story. And that reaction is, this is pure insanity. As the child of an alcoholic, the title B Is for Beer does not make me laugh or smile. My associations are of the more stomach-churning variety. Having read and loved Tom Robbins in my time (it would be interesting to go back and read him now, 20-odd years down the road), I am sad that he would come up with such an ill-conceived, such an ill concept. I know I might be coming off like a shrill temperance freak, but this is not an area where I can pretend to be cool. Now if it had been W Is for Wine, my reaction would not be as visceral, but I would still wonder--why? Why did this have to be a children's book? I don't think I'll be recommending it for my kids' school book fair.
rating: 5 of 5 stars I'd give it more than five stars if I could. I love Roth, and this book is a distillation of all his classic themes. God, I love Roth. Nathan Zuckerman at 71, returning to New York City after self-exile of 11 years, trying to seduce a 20-something woman, while vowing to do evertyhing in his power to prevent E.I. Lonoff's biography from being written, while meeting with Lonoff's erstwhile young mistress now an old woman close to death, at the time of the Kerry/Bush election. It just has it all. I can't do it justice, and I can't really review it; it seems so beside the point. I can only recommend it very highly.
rating: 5 of 5 stars It took me a ridiculously long time to finish this book, for reasons into which I shall not go, but that is no reflection on the book itself. It is about the decimation of our libraries by fiendish proponents of microfilm. Untold treasures of periodicals and books have been lost due to the persuasion of librarians by "preservationists" that the paper would soon crumble into dust. One test that would be done to prove the incipient crumbliness of a page was called the "Double Fold" test. Nicholson Baker has a field day with this one, as the root meaning of "duplicity" is "double fold." The test involves folding down a corner of a page, and then folding it all the way back, and repeating until the corner falls off. Not surprisingly, it doesn't take that many folds; that's why your mother/teacher/librarian always told you not to dogear your books. Baker makes up his own test, which is basically turning the pages of a book exactly as you would do if you were reading. Again not surprisingly, all the books tested in this way hold up strikingly well, even very old ones. So how can it be that so many librarians allowed bound periodicals and books to be "disbounded" in order to be photographed for microfilm, and then thrown in the trash? Especially when the microfilm was very often of very poor quality? The answer is not clear, but through no fault of Baker's. It's just one of those stupid outcomes of bureaucracy and false economy. Having actually done research on microfilm, I know from experience that it is a heinous technology, and a major cause of headaches among students. Luckily, digital technology has made it largely obsolete; however, that does nothing to bring back all the pages that have been lost. At the end of his book, Baker describes heroically trying to save many volumes of old, bound newspapers by buying them from the British Library; if only more people had cared before him about the preserving the actual objects than just the content of written works.
Overeducated mom, addled by constant interruptions due to demands of family and dog, trying to read books and write coherent sentences about them.
Luckily, yoga keeps me centered. Sharing my love of yoga through teaching helps make sense of it all. I have a yoga blog at susiemarplesyoga.com.
Since 2015, it has been my pleasure to serve as a reader for Epiphany, a literary journal publishing fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and art; on Twitter as @epiphanymag.