the current lineup

currently on my night stand:

the element of lavishness by sylvia townsend warner & william maxell. this has been on my ist for years. i'm not sure why i decided now was the time but i'm so glad i did! it is a delightul book! its the personal correspondance of syvia townsend warner, a novelist, and william maxwell, her onetime editor at the new yorker and longtime friend. these are two people i'm loving spending time with.

1 dead in attic by chris rose. this has also been on my list for years. chris rose is a new orleans write whose post katrina columns had me weeping on the regular back in 2005-6. so, this has been on my list because honestly, i didn't know if i was ready. what with the cheerful title 1 dead in attic and all. i'm reading a bit from this in between sylvia & williams letters. its working quite nicely. i am glad to finally be reading it though.

above us only sky by marion winik. i'm not sure how i missed this one. i love her and thought i had read all her books. this was a happy surprise. 

chasing the rising sun by ted anthony. i heard the author interviewed when the book came out and was completely fascinated but it was during a period when i was doing little to no reading so it just went on the list.  the book is about the author's search for the origins of the song the house of the riising sun. 

romeo spikes by joanne reay. so, i'm not sure about this one. i often take pictures of the covers of books when i'm browsing powell's if i think it looks interesting enough to read but not to buy, or if i really want a book but i've already reach my books per visit limit (2). so, this was in my pictures on my phone and the cover caught my eye. i reall don't know much about it. wish me luck.

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noun. refers to either; long-winded dialogue full of rhetoric or a line of conversation that one participant no longer wishes to follow; slang for bullshit, nonsense.

i'm not sure why but i can't get jibber jabber out of my head. i've now written it down and pinned it to my bulletin board. JIBBER-JABBER. its fun to say. its also fun to imagine it in mr. t's voice. 

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last night shawn & i went to back fence pdx. before the show, shawn was in the beer line and our friend molly came to say hi. she was encouraging me to enter my name for the audience lightning round. i nervously laughed and said, "yes, i should..." more nervous laughter. what happens is that they pick five names out of the pitcher and each person tells a story on the night's theme in one minute or less. last night's theme was "hashtag nerd." so, here's the thing: i REALLY want to do it. god knows i've got nerdy stories. here's the other thing: i hate speaking in front of people. it actually terrifies me. nervous laughter.

when shawn came back with beer and we took our seats, i told him molly wanted me to put my name in the pitcher. he laughed. he knows i want to do it but that i'm chicken shit. the show begins. right before the intermission, b. frayn masters reminded everyone to put their name in the pitcher and grab a cupcake. shawn looked at me and said he was going to grab a cupcake and put my name in.

"no you're not."

"totally. i am. you should do it. you know you want to. what would you talk about?"

"probably buffy as a security blanket." 

"see, you know what you'd talk about. i'm going to go put your name in." 

"no. no you're not."

"fine. i'll put both our names in. what could i talk about even though you're the bigger nerd?"

"quitting the sax because you didn't want to be in high school marching band with the nerds."

"oh right. ok. i'm going to go do that."


he came back, ate his cupcake and the intermission was over. i really wasn't sure whether or not he put our names in. b. frayn masters was on stage with the pitcher and had a volunteer ready to pull the names. she told everyone who wrote their name down to take a deep, cleansing yoga breath and unclench their sphincter. she explained what was going to happen next and was joking with the announcer. she took her time and my mind was racing. 

molly once told me the key to it was to have your topic, a few sentences and punchline. right. so. breathe. buffy. oh my god. shawn's freaking out. he really put our names in. shit shit shit shit shit. deep breath. buffy. i can do this.

b. frayn masters has the first name. "SH..." OH MY GOD. "Seamus." 

at this point, shawn says, "hold me" and the woman sitting next to him almost falls out of her seat laughing at us.

i should also mention that while she's reading names, i know i should be figuring out what the hell i'm going to say if she calls my name but i can't. i just can't.

if she'd called my name my story probably would've went something like this: 

"i was going to tell a story about how i use buffy the vampire slayer like a wooby sometimes. i watch episode after episode when things are rough because no matter how shitty things seem, i don't have to slay vampires. but i'm afraid to speak in front of people. my husband actually put my name in. yeah. i'm stressing out because here i am speaking in front of people and i'm wearing this silk chiffon dress without a slip which is totally giving my mother chest pains right now. in chicago. in normal lights you can't tell that i'm wearing underwear with big cartoony owls on them. i know because i checked before i left the house. but on this stage, under these bright lights, i'm afraid you can. can you see the owls? you can totally see the owls can't you? crap. well, at least i don't have to slay vampires."

nervous laughter.

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*this actually happened

we've established i'll read anything you put in front of me. Sometimes that works out, other times not so much. I'd read something about the sixes in maybe marie claire or elle a few months ago while at the hair salon. the cover stuck with me and i remember something vague about it - was it about witches maybe? so, when i saw it on the new shelf at the library, I couldn't resist. sometimes i should resist. it was a solid story wrapped in meh. totally predictable. more than once i said "are you kidding me?" out loud. I finished it because a) I find it hard to just stop reading anything with a good story at its core and b) I am defenseless against secret society stories. true story.

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girl can't help it

day 55 via 365 lucky days

if you put a book in my hands, i will read it. if you passionately recommend a book to me, i will read it. if there is a book about golf in the house and i've read all the other books, i'll read it - even though i have no interest in golf whatsoever. if i read a review of a book at the salon but don't really retain any information about it and then see it at the library and remember something vague about it*, i'll read it.  i can't help it. i've almost always been this way.

when i was younger, i carried a book wherever i went and read any chance i got. i would finish my weekly pile of library books and then move onto my mom's pile - which often included horror and true crime. i remember reading the biography of nancy spungeon written by her mother, and i don't want to live this life, before i really knew who the sex pistols were. let's just say  my eight year old brain was blown. i read stephen king's thinner when i was 10 and couldn't sleep for what seemed like months.  my mom laughs about this now when i question her about why she let me read EVERYTHING. my grandpa seriously montiored and censored what she read. it was incredibly frustrating for her so she just never checked out what i was checking out. she only cared that i was reading.

i continued reading ALL THE THINGS until some time in college when i became pretentious and snobby and only read serious literature. this period is also know as the borders years.  i shunned mysteries, turned my back on horror. sci fi? pffffffft. oh good gravy, even thinking about it causes me to cringe painfully. 

something happened almost immediately after i quit borders. i stopped caring. i just wanted to read. i asked my mom what good mysteries she'd read lately and i went to the evanston library and left with armfuls of books. that harry potter book that the kids seemed so crazy about that i wrote off as crap? i went and bought myself a copy. i was working at an office for the first time in my life and my boss didn't mind if i read during downtime. also, my schedule was odd and totally opposite shawn's which meant large chunks of time to read. the biggest bonus? my office was walking distance to borders, barnes and noble, the library and bookman's alley - one of my favorite bookstores in the universe. oh yes, it was awesome.

the years at the synagogue are a bit of a blur. i probably averaged a book a month. i just didn't make time for reading or maybe i couldn't make room in my brain. bottom line? i didn't read as much as i would've liked but when i did read, i read whatever the hell i felt like. i also decided that if a book wasn't cutting it, i could put it down. <GASP> life was too short to read books that weren't doing it for me.

here we are, two years after i left the synagogue. i think i've drained all that extra information from my brain about temple members and how to, you know, do my nearly impossible job. i think there's room for book after book again. now, i just need to retrain myself to put a book down when i'm not 100% into it.

*this actually happened

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wednesday words

i read four books on my trip to chicago. four. i don't remember the last time i read four books in a week. no, no. that's not true. i do. it was fall, 2003 - on our trip to italy. that was the last time i let myself relax enough to read four books in one week. this is the clip i read at through high school and college and occasionally when i've allowed myself the indulgence as a grown up. 

the cover of this book cracked me up. also, i'm cynical skeptic who has to stop herself from rolling her eyes at yoga talk from my yoga loving husband or you know, in YOGA CLASS (because even i understand the health benefits of yoga.) so, i found the whole thing appealing.

i started reading this before i left for chicago but it became clear quickly that this would probably be most fun if i read parts out loud to kateri. i did and it was. it also prompted some hilarious conversations between shawn and i. 

three words: urine therapy. ew.

this was a beautifully told story about love and loss, betrayal, mistakes, more mistakes, wilderness, friendship and forgiveness and a hiking boot. i'd be lying if i said i didn't cry the last 50 or so pages. 

i also read vincent price: a daughter's biography by victoria price. i've always loved vincent price, since my horror movie education started early. in my mind though, he was sort of cheesy. awesomely so but still. i recently watched theater of blood and realized that cleary i did not have the full story on vincent price. so, i asked my mom1 about the movie and him and she said enough2 that i knew i wanted to read more. i'm so glad i did. it was all really interesting and i have a new respect for the man.

i only brought three books so when syndy told me to check out uncharted books in logan square, i did not argue. its a nice shop in a sweet location with a great shop dog named ramona. anyway, i bought this:


i loved it. its like defending your life with laurie notaro and my grandma. not everyone would understand why that would be awesome but trust me and read the book. you'll laugh out loud and where's the bad in that?

1 my mom isn't like the other moms.

2 she saw it at the drive thru with my father, before i was born. he apparently puked out the car window. 

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wednesday words

my mom says her proudest moment when i was young was also mine. it was when i got my adult library card. i had to write a letter to the library director asking special permission because i was nine and had read all the books in the children's department and i was DYING to check out books from upstairs but you needed to be 12. so, permission was granted and on that day i showed my shiny new library card to everyone i saw. strangers heard about how i had to ask permission but now i could check out whatever books i wanted.

and i did. my mom never really monitored my reading, probably because my grandfather monitored hers so closely. so, when eleven year old shana wanted to read every book ever written about rasputin, she just shrugged. she was just happy i loved to read so much. 

i tell you this so you understand i am biased when i say i LOVED the borrowers by rebecca makkai. anyone who grew up in libraries or with their nose in a book would. lucy, the book's narrator, works in the childrens' department of the library in hannibal, missouri. she loves books and she clearly loves kids who love books. her favorite kid is ian, who she ends up accidentally kidnapping. there is a lot more to the story and so many lovely bits of writing. the book felt a bit like a love letter to libraries. there was a paragraph about old school borrower cards that almost made me weep. seriously, i loved this book.

toward the end of the book, lucy said "i do still believe that books can save you." me too.

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wednesday words

"excuse me while i kiss the sky."

- jimi hendrix

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friday five

on my summer reading list:

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wednesday words

Summer Solstice

I wanted to see where beauty comes from
without you in the world, hauling my heart
across sixty acres of northeast meadow,
my pockets filling with flowers.
Then I remembered,
it’s you I miss in the brightness
and body of every living name:
rattlebox, yarrow, wild vetch.
You are the green wonder of June,
root and quasar, the thirst for salt.
When I finally understand that people fail
at love, what is left but cinquefoil, thistle,
the paper wings of the dragonfly
aeroplaning the soul with a sudden blue hilarity?
If I get the story right, desire is continuous,
equatorial. There is still so much
I want to know: what you believe
can never be removed from us,
what you dreamed on Walnut Street
in the unanswerable dark of your childhood,
learning pleasure on your own.
Tell me our story: are we impetuous,
are we kind to each other, do we surrender
to what the mind cannot think past?
Where is the evidence I will learn
to be good at loving?
The black dog orbits the horseshoe pond
for treefrogs in their plangent emergencies.
There are violet hills,
there is the covenant of duskbirds.
The moon comes over the mountain
like a big peach, and I want to tell you
what I couldn’t say the night we rushed
North, how I love the seriousness of your fingers
and the way you go into yourself,
calling my half-name like a secret.
I stand between taproot and treespire.
Here is the compass rose
to help me live through this.
Here are twelve ways of knowing
what blooms even in the blindness
of such longing. Yellow oxeye,
viper’s bugloss with its set of pink arms
pleading do not forget me.
We hunger for eloquence.
We measure the isopleths.
I am visiting my life with reckless plenitude.
The air is fragrant with tiny strawberries.
Fireflies turn on their electric wills:
an effulgence. Let me come back
whole, let me remember how to touch you
before it is too late.

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