Category Archives: books

Books II – KonMari

As you can see, I have a lot of books. Like a lot. They were taking up three bookshelves and 4 shelves of my built-in cabinets.

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Books I – KonMari

Marie Kondo and I part company when it comes to books. Okay, not totally, but you can tell she’s not a true reader (30 total  volumes in her collection? HA!). Either that or I’m just abnormal, which to be fair, is probably true.

See about 90% of the books I own are books I reread.

I’m a librarian with access to a pretty robust interlibrary loan system. We now live in an age where it’s pretty damned easy to find obscure stuff for comparatively little money. So if I just want to read something, it’s not that hard for me to get my hands on it.

If it’s going to go on my shelves, it has to be something I’ve read before and turn to again and again.

That said, I was game to try the KonMari method with my books. She’s certainly right about moving stuff into one place and about holding each item. And there’s a thing called weeding that we do in librarianship. Book lovers have a tough time with this concept, but basically it means you cull through your collection and you pull items that are no longer relevant to you, that are damaged, that maybe you don’t really love so much anymore. (Essentially the KonMari method).

But I have a lot of books.

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Grayson Hall bio

It’s so seldom I get to say this (in fact, to be honest, this is the first time I have)–a friend of mine has just published a book: R.J. Jamison’s Grayson Hall: A Hard Act to Follow.

Grayson Hall
was probably best known for her work on Dark Shadows and her role in John Huston’s Night of the Iguana, but she was also a noted theatre actress who appeared on and off Broadway. She’s enjoyed quite the cult following for a number of decades. She also had a rather interesting life. The book is well-researched and highly readable–and I’m not just saying that because I know the author.

Also read Geraldine BrooksMarch. She took Mr. March from Little Women and created a story around him. This book focuses on his travels in the ante-bellum South and then his adventures with the army during the Civil War. As well-written as it is, I really didn’t care for the book.
What Brooks came up for March as far as backstory seems quite plausible, but really…

I thought Mr. March was an annoying prig when I read Little Women and by the end of Brooks’ novel, I thought he was a really annoying prig.

Sopranos, Big Love, and more

Finished Belle Ruin. I loved Hotel Paradise which was the first Emma Graham novel in this series. It had an otherworldly quality to it. It was hard to pinpoint the time period. The descriptions of the small, faded town were so well written I could picture the place. Really, it was a lovely, haunting little book. The sequel left me cold. This is the third, and it’s an improvement. Still…it’s not a particularly good mystery. I’m all for atmosphere, but not at the expense of a strong structure.

I was bored the other night and ended up watching Pretty in Pink. I’m not sure how I missed seeing this in 1986, but I did. Too bad because I think I might have enjoyed it more. As it was, I kept going, “Oh, my god, That hair! Those clothes! Is that James Spader? It is! Ye gods. Ohhh, Harry Dean Stanton!” But other than that, the movie wasn’t exactly memorable. It’s hard to get into teenage angst when you’re on the wrong side of thirty and bitter.

Speaking of Harry Dean Stanton, I’ve been enjoying the new HBO series, Big Love. The cast is great: Bill Paxton, Chloë Sevigny, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Grace Zabriskie, the aforementioned Harry Dean Stanton, Bruce Dern, Mary Kay Place, and Amanda Seyfried (who I first saw on All My Children. The subject matter is tricky though. There’s a big ol’ ick factor that will be hard to overcome. Still I’m hooked.

The Sopranos meanwhile, is everything I could have hoped it would be and more. It’s been very metaphysical. I mean the season started off with William S. Burroughs’ Seven Souls. You gotta love that. Edie Falco has been rocking the past couple of episodes. She’s not afraid to take risks in her acting and I’m not talking about going without makeup.

Up late with Robert Montgomery

Insomnia struck again. So there I was, wide awake at 2AM, too late to take any kind of over-the-counter sleep aid, too early to call it a jump on the morning. Every channel in my extensive cable line up for which I pay a fortune was either showing infomercials or really bad sitcom reruns. All except for TCM which was in the middle of their last day of the Robert Montgomery showcase. Now I like Robert Montgomery; he’s a fine actor. One of my favorite films is Night Must Fall, where he plays against type with Rosalind Russell at her best. But the man could make mediocre films with the best of them. Of course, it being me and my insomnia, the movie in question was Live, Love and Learn. This is one of those films where although I’ve seen the middle and the end too many times to count, I’ve never seen the beginning. Not that I think it would make much of a difference.

Rosalind Russell is a bored debutante who takes up with starving artist Robert Montgomery. They are supposedly penniless but very happy. All is well except for the poverty thing until he becomes a sensation in the art world. Along comes nasty Helen Vinson who takes him up and trouble ensues.

It sounds better than it is. MGM was never a studio that wanted to embrace realism so its ideas of poverty and the romance of poverty are cringeworthy. Very uneven movie and so not what I needed last night.

Also seen: Only Yesterday, last in the Miyazaki festival on TCM. I loved this film, which was produced rather than directed by him. Beautifully animated, light touch all around, and poignant. It’s not on DVD either which is a terrible shame.

Also read: Jane Austen Bookclub which was readable, somewhat interesting, but ultimately harmless.

Keeping up with the resolutions

My bookclub picked My Antonia for its next read. I first read this back in college when it was one of the books we tackled for a 19th Century American Novels class. I’d forgotten just how much I love Willa Cather’s writing. It’s funny but after months of standing firm against books involving young people growing up in America’s heartland, I find myself falling in love with just such a story. That said, there’s a lyricism in Cather’s writing that not one of the other choices in this genre have had. She’s not in love with depression and darkness either in the same way that several other authors have seemed to be. It’s not that bad things don’t happen to the characters of My Antonia, but they’re part of the canvas just as the good things are without being overly dominant or Oprahesque.

Movie-wise, I’ve seen a couple of things. Saved! was funny and touching. The story seemed to get a bit confused at the end–the writer/director and producer’s remarks on the commentary seem to suggest that it was a tough film to get made and that there was a lot of anticipated fallout from the fundamentalist community–so I have to wonder if they compromised too much.

Continuing on my Hayao Miyazaki kick, I also have seen Castle in the Sky and My Neighbor Totoro. I love this man’s movies. The former is an adventure story and does indeed have–as the commentator on TCM noted–a really terrific opening sequence. I realize that Mark Hamill never exactly set the world on fire, but he does first class voice work. Beautiful visuals and great atmosphere.

My Neighbor Totoro is a much simpler story. Two young girls and their father move to a house in rural Japan. The mother is in the hospital with some undisclosed illness. The younger child (3 1/2) encounters a forest spirit named Totoro and adventures ensue. I was worried that the children would be too unrealistic and too cutesy, but they weren’t. They seemed quite natural actually. Charming in a completely different way from the other Miyazaki movie.


One of my ten New Year’s Resolutions (yes, ten, it’s sort of a tradition) was to record all of the books and movies I saw in the New Year. On the movie front, I wish I could say I saw something very highbrow, but my first film of 2006 was a made-for-TV thing called The Glow. What is The Glow you ask? Well, it’s about married couple Portia de Rossi and Dean Cain who somehow get hooked up with a surprisingly spry group of senior citizens. They’re a healthy group, these geriatrics–Dina Merrill, Hal Linden, Joseph Campanella, Grace Zabriskie, and others–and they just happen to have an amazing apartment available dirt cheap in the building they own. In move Portia and Dean. The latter gets sucked into their fitness regimen, while Portia is quickly weirded out by their freaking out at her using butter, Dina Merrill’s skintight leather outfits (although I have to say the lady still has the figure for them), and a general creepiness they all exude. Let’s just say that these are not AARP’s finest. Not a particularly good film, but I had a lot of fun watching it.

First book of the year was at least not trash and not Sudoku puzzles. My best friend got me Julie & Julia for Christmas. Julie Powell created a blog called the Julie/Julia Project way back in 2002. She took Julia Child’s classic Mastering the Art of French Cooking and proceeded to cook her way through the whole darn thing. Not a great book (although a heck of a lot higher on the culture scale than The Glow), but extremely readable.

Unsung authors

Awhile back, I wrote a review for Postscript to Poison by Dorothy Bowers, an author of whom I had never heard. She was one of those writers who wrote several critically acclaimed, popular mysteries back in the Golden Age of Detective Fiction who then slipped into obscurity. I’m never clear on why that happens. I suppose it’s because mysteries fall into an ephemeral genre. Even comparatively recent authors, for example, Emma Lathen, seem to totally forgotten today.

Anyhow, I just obtained another of Dorothy Bowers’ books. Shadows Before was as good as the first. They’re not overly long, but she makes every character very vivid and the premise is solid. I like the attention to detail. Moreover, I like how well written they are. If only some of today’s authors could produce books like these.

Why I’m leery of the Cozy

Warning signs you have a badly written cozy in front of you:

  1. There are recipes
  2. It’s written in the first person
  3. It’s a series novel and you’re still lost by the first ten pages
  4. Pets play an all-too prominent role in the story
  5. There’s so much going on with the cover art, you feel claustrophobic just looking at it
  6. The person’s reaction on finding the dead body is so casual that it might be the same as discovering they’ve misplaced a pen
  7. The author clearly thinks the book is funny when it’s not
  8. There’s less originality in the formula than in a Harlequin romance
  9. The title is overly cutesy
  10. The author breaks most of the 10 Commandments of Detective Fiction

Fun with Punctuation!

My recollections of being taught how to properly punctuate are so dim that I’m beginning to wonder if anybody ever bothered to cover the subject. I do own a copy of The Elements of Style, but I think that’s because a college professor suggested that we all get a copy. I’ve read it and I like to think I’ve learned from it. At the very least, I’ve learned that I have several deplorable tendencies:

1. I don’t use commas properly.
2. I’m over fond of the dash.
3. I like overly long and complicated sentences.

All that said, it’s not easy to learn how to correct those faults. Then I got a copy of Eats, Shoots & Leaves.

If anyone had told me a year ago that I’d be howling with laughter at the Laundromat over a book about punctuating, I’d would have thought they were crazy.

Let’s see if I can take what I’ve learned and make use of it.