Archive for the 'reading' Category

Profiled: Journalism’s only working nonagenarian

January 23, 2008

Check out the Sacramento Bee’s recent piece on Daniel Schorr from NPR. At 91, the man’s still working, suspicious of blogs (and respectful of the copy desk), and a pretty interesting guy.

It looks like the Bee has a registration wall that activates after you view two pages; luckily, this piece is exactly two pages long.


The Nanowrimo Approacheth (“Water for Elephants” reviewed)

November 1, 2007

I just finished Water for Elephants last week. This is the New York Times bestseller, the one that looks like it should have an “Oprah’s Book Club” ribbon printed on the front. In short, the kind of book I try to stay away from. (So I’m a book snob. Sue me.) Yet on a whim I snagged it off and on a recommendation from Vox I moved it to the top of my “to-read” list. Glad I did.

Sara Gruen did not get her start as a Nanowrimo author, as far as I can tell, nor was Water for Elephants composed in a month. But her previous book, Flying Changes, is said to have gotten its start as part of the frenetic novel-writing marathon (which, of course, begins today). But enough of that.

The book is set on a circus train in the Depression, in backlots of Midwestern cities that all look the same. Our hero is a young orphaned veterinarian from Cornell. There is a love interest, a five-hundred-pound (or so) woman, a schizophrenic, a dwarf named Kinko, and (as you may expect) an elephant.

Through it all there are occasional references to the present day, where Jacob Jankowski at ninety-three lives out the end of his days in a nursing home. The story is beautifully told, funny at the right parts and horrifying where it needs to be. Jacob’s an immensely likeable narrator at either age, and the ending, though cheesy, is incredibly satisfying.

The very picky reader will notice that Sara Gruen repeats a few well-worn phrases to the point of obnoxiousness, but I would tell the very picky reader to lighten up and enjoy the ride. This is a wonderful story that anyone and everyone can enjoy–even if you’ve never entertained the notion of running away to join the circus.

Always carry a pencil

October 17, 2007

Via Kahunna, an essay called Always Carry A Pencil:

An adept reader “phrases” a book as Ella Fitzgerald “phrases” Cole Porter, here leaning into the words and holding them back, there partnering them as Kafka partnered Goethe in February 1912: “I read sentences of Goethe’s as though my whole body were running down the stresses.”

I could never sell my textbooks back to the campus bookstore because I’d “defiled” them with pen and pencil marks. (And my handwriting is nothing to be proud of.) I love getting a used book in the mail and finding somebody’s already written their comments in the margin, even if–and this is often the case–they’re just parroting their teacher’s words during a lecture. Note-taking in the margin is this wonderful thing far different from taking notes on a piece of paper. Papers get lost or separated from their context. Marginalia is always there. I’ll always remember what I was thinking or the connections I made when rereading old favorites, because the notes are right there in front of me. By writing what I think–by interacting with the text–the book becomes mine.

Also from Always Carry A Pencil, an excerpt from Billy Collins’ Marginalia:

Sometimes the notes are ferocious,
skirmishes against the author
raging along the borders of every page
in tiny black script.
If I could just get my hands on you,
Kierkegaard, or Conor Cruise O’Brien,
they seem to say,
I would bolt the door and beat some logic into your head.

Other comments are more offhand, dismissive –
“Nonsense.” “Please!” “HA!!” –
that kind of thing.
I remember once looking up from my reading,
my thumb as a bookmark,
trying to imagine what the person must look like
who wrote “Don’t be a ninny”
alongside a paragraph in The Life of Emily Dickinson.