Thursday, January 13, 2011

Four things to do with books besides reading them

Richard Baker paints books

Brian Dettmer alters them

Jannis Kounellis barricades himself with them

The Gleeson Library at USF makes a tree of them

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Why I Read by Jennifer Traig

An occasional feature in our email newsletter is the "Why I Read" column. We've collected some wonderful short essays on the topic from fine writers over the years. Here's what author Jennifer Traig (Devil in the Details, Well Enough Alone, etc.) had to say when we asked her:

I read because there are places I can’t bring my TV and if I’m not stimulated every second of the day my teeth ache with boredom. I read while I walk, while I knit, while I bathe, while I eat. Especially while I eat. My books are, essentially, two-hundred page placemats, stained beyond all recognition with greasy fingerprints and spilled spaghetti sauce.

I read because I can’t stand not to. I get panicky when I don’t have reading material, scanning my surroundings for any words I can find. I have memorized the Muni Night Owl schedule. I know exactly what to do in an emergency on BART. A short list of things I have read when nothing else was available:

· My parents’ Maxima owners’ manual

· AARP magazine

· “Iron: Are You Getting Enough?”

· “Some Facts on Herpes”

· LOTTOPeople Magazine

· Burpee seed catalog

· Map of Los Angeles

· The back of a Safeway receipt

· BEEF (America’s #1 cattle magazine)

· My Kaiser member handbook

· LL Cool J’s autobiography, I Make My Own Rules

I’m sort of lying about that last one. I had other things to read. But it’s true: Ladies Love Cool James, and the book has its moments.

PS. Other installments of the series await you by Beth Lisick, Susan Choi, Peter Rock, Dave Eggers, Daniel Handler, TC Boyle, Joyce Maynard, Peter Carlson, and Peter Coyote.

Dream Interpretation Throughout the Ages

I don't really get with the whole new years resolution thing. I mean, I do, but I usually drop it in a week or two. Where is my resolve? I don't know. I think I use it all playing rent, diligently, and shopping for groceries, diligently. Only once did I come close to sticking by my guns and holding down a resolution, but I just recently blew it. Here goes: At the beginning of the year 2000 I swore I would never pay for a haircut again, but toward the end of 2010 I just HAD to start trying to look like Corey Feldman in Stand By Me. The character he plays in that film shares a common bond with me, a mangled ear, and the haircut itself is so practical and makes so much sense I could not resist the temptation to follow suit. On this whim I entered a stylist's shop. I showed the lady a picture of Corey, got my mane trimmed, and broke the one promise that I had ever kept to myself for more than ten years and I'm not even sure if it was worth it because my hair just grew back anyway! 'This is why I came up with the whole idea of not paying for a haircut in the first place!' I remember thinking. Although the trim did look nice at first.

So now I aim low if I even aim at all. I mean, if I can't manage to not throw my money away on something I can do perfectly well myself, how can I ever hope to hit one of those lofty New Years goals like quitting smoking or whatever? This year I've made a commitment to read Suetonius' The Twelve Caesars. Sounds easy! I mean, that's only one Caesar a month and a whole year worth of Caesar gossip to bore my friends with. Furthermore at least once a month I think I'll pull out a striking excerpt from the life of each and put it on the blog here. Perhaps you'd like to join me? I've already recruited a couple of others who thought it was a good plan. Currently I'm somewhere in the middle of the exciting life of Julius, and I can tell you already that times sure have changed. For example:

"At Gades he saw a statue of Alexander the Great in the Temple of Hercules, and was overheard to sigh impatiently: vexed, it seems, that at an age when Alexander had already conquered the whole world, he himself had done nothing in the least epoch-making. Moreover, when on the following night, much to his dismay, he had a dream of raping his own mother, the soothsayers greatly encouraged him by their interpretation of it: namely, that he was destined to conquer the earth, our Universal Mother."

WOAH!! I dunno' Jules, I'd have kept that one to myself...

Wish me luck, I might just lose it.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Facebook this, Wikileaks that...

...but here's a new one that you may not have heard of: Figment, a social networking site for young adult writers! And I don't just mean it's for writers of young adult novels (although there is a strong forum for discusson there), but rather it's a site for writers who are young adults!

Figment was co-founded by Dana Goodyear, a staff writer at The New Yorker, and Jacob Lewis, the former Managing Editor at The New Yorker and Condé Nast Portfolio, so you know it's got good folks behind it.

So, hey kids - have your voice heard. . .er, I mean, have your voice read; join Figment and write on!