Monday, April 28, 2014

Something Wicked This Way Comes

As a kid I read Something Wicked This Way Comes because it was scary.  A creepy carnival.  Mr. Dark, the Illustrated Man.  The Dust Witch - blind with eyes "sewn shut with laced black-widow web."  Back then I skimmed through descriptions and the story of Will's father who wants to recapture his youth - blah blah, who cares?  I only wanted the creepy bits.  And if you haven't read the book, no more spoilers.  But trust me.  There are plenty of creepy bits.  Not something to read right before bedtime.

Reading Something Wicked This Way Comes when I was young, the poetry of Ray Bradbury's writing sailed over my head.  This time around I'm savoring every sentence.  How he describes the town, the carnival.  The friendship between the two boys.  And Will's father, the story I thought was boring.  When I read the book the first time, I was Jim or Will, a kid who likes to sneak out at night, impatient to grow up.  Now I'm middle-aged.  So I realize - I'm not Will.  I'm his father.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Kindle or not

Is there such a thing as having too many books?  Every now and then I try a book purge or play that game - for each book I buy, one has to go away.

These good intentions usually last about a week.

But with an eReader - think of the shelf space I could save.  When my husband gave me a Kindle, at first it was like the best new toy you get for Christmas - I browsed the web, checked Facebook and emails.  Oh, and started to load books.  Lots of mysteries - Ruth Rendell and Jo Nesbø and Stephen King - where was my Kindle when I read the Game of Thrones series?  Those take up major league shelf space.

Read a book review in the New York Times and you've got to have that book immediately?  Go to Amazon and "Buy now with 1-Click®."  What could be easier? And some books are free - go figure, it's like a library.  But one that fits in your purse.

Except.  My version is hard to read in the sun so instead of words, you see a reflection of yourself.  Squinting, trying to maneuver the Kindle at the right angle for maximum reading effectiveness.  And many non-fiction books, like ones with maps and photos, aren't especially easy to navigate.

And why are some books so expensive?  Don't get me wrong - my novel is coming out in the summer and it's fantastic it will be available for eReaders, but I don't quite understand the pricing policy.

So for now, I'll live in both worlds.  I'm currently re-reading The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins (free on Kindle) and after that, who knows?  But I have a sinking feeling I'll be able to fill up the Kindle just as quickly as I fill up my bookshelves.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Short Stories - You have died of dysentery

Okay, I know I'm not the only person out there who has a big stack of New Yorker magazines at least six months old and yeah, I tell myself, tonight's the night I'll really dig into the pile.  I'll just glance through a couple, check out the cartoons, see if there's anything by David Sedaris, maybe the articles will be about Fashion Week or something similar I don't care about.  And then I realize I'm holding a fiction issue. You can't exactly whip through that, can you?

I like short fiction.  I like the idea of telling a story economically.  Raymond Carver - I mean, really, what can you say?  Adam Haslett's collection, You Are Not a Stranger Here is so good I haven't read the last story because then I'll be done and I don't want to be.  Etgar Keret - awesome.  Check out "Fatso."  Jhumpa Lahiri's Interpreter of Maladies, equally awesome.

"On the Oregon Trail" by Caitlin Horrocks is a wonderful story.  It helps if you're familiar with the old computer game The Oregon Trail.  If not, check it out.  It still exists.  The story relates to the game - it's funny, but also wise and not what you're expecting.

I'm halfway through her first collection of short stories, This is Not Your City, and it may turn out like You Are Not a Stranger Here - I'll have to stop because I won't want the book to end.

It's the weekend.  Read a short story.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Who has time to read?

At the moment I'm halfway through the Jim Henson biography by Brian Ray Jones.  I like it very much, although it's a big fat book (608 pages) and barely fits in the tray on my treadmill.  One of the things about working at home as a writer is everyone assumes you're able to do whatever you want, whenever you want.  For example - hey, I feel like reading more of the Jim Henson biography.  So I'll just go outside on the patio, sit down and slam through a chapter or two.  After I dash out for a quick mani/pedi.

Alas.  No one said being self motivated is easy.  Years ago a writer friend said to me, "Even if you work at home, you have to have a schedule.  If it's nine to five, or nine at night till six in the morning, that's what you do.  Make it your writing time.  Five days a week, weekends off.  Because writing is a job."

Of course he was right.  During the day I try to keep to a schedule.  (Games of hearts and spider solitaire don't count.)  And it's not as if when the weekend rolls around I'm suddenly looking at hours and hours of free time.  There are children to schlep, groceries to purchase, laundry, thousands of little errands that make you crazy, like buying lightbulbs and printer ink and the dog's special food that can only be purchased at the vet - and wait, didn't I just go to Costco?

So for now my reading time is spent on the treadmill.  Forty-five minutes at a fast walk (because I couldn't read if I were running, duh).  At this rate, Jim Henson: the Biography will take me from Los Angeles to Disneyland.  

Spoiler alert:  Bert and Ernie were not named for the cab driver and the policeman in It's a Wonderful Life.