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The Sunday Salon: field trip edition

I’m writing and scheduling this post on Friday night as I prepare for a Girls’ Weekend Away (which is an extended Girls’ Night Out involving good friends, good food, good wine, antiquing, exploring, and chatting).

Where am I on this Sunday?  I’m in Sharon Springs, New York.

Why?  Inspired by Josh Kilmer-Purcell’s The Bucolic Plague (my review), I recommended the memoir to my “old” book group in Connecticut (not “old” as in “decrepit,” but “old” as in “former.”  A great group of women with whom I talked books – and other things – before moving to Massachusetts four years ago).  These women also were taken by the memoir and the story it told of “How Two Manhattanites Became Gentlemen Farmers.” They decided to make a pilgrimage to the setting of the book, staying at the American Hotel that Kilmer-Purcell writes of, and visiting the area attractions, and, of course, picking up some goat’s milk soap (and other must-haves) at the Beeekman 1802 Mercantile.

Look for a full report of our adventure and escapades in a future post!

In case you missed any blog action this week, my reviews were:

And shared sneak peeks of:

Don’t forget the on-going giveaways:

Have a super Sunday, everyone!  See you next week with “The Sunday Salon – I survived Girls’ Weekend Away edition”

Weekend Cooking: *Friendship Bread* by Darien Gee

Here’s a little Weekend Cooking teaser from novelist Darien Gee and Friendship Bread.  The publisher’s synopsis:

One afternoon, Julia Evarts and her five-year-old daughter, Gracie, arrive home to find an unexpected gift on the front porch: a homemade loaf of Amish Friendship Bread and a simple note: I hope you enjoy it. Also included are a bag of starter, instructions on how to make the bread herself, and a request to share it with others.

Still reeling from a personal tragedy that left her estranged from the sister who was once her best friend, Julia remains at a loss as to how to move on with her life. She’d just as soon toss the anonymous gift, but to make Gracie happy, she agrees to bake the bread.

When Julia meets two newcomers to the small town of Avalon, Illinois, she sparks a connection by offering them her extra bread starter. Widow Madeline Davis is laboring to keep her tea salon afloat while Hannah Wang de Brisay, a famed concert cellist, is at a crossroads, her career and marriage having come to an abrupt end. In the warm kitchen of Madeline’s tea salon, the three women forge a friendship that will change their lives forever.

In no time, everyone in Avalon is baking Amish Friendship Bread. But even as the town unites for a benevolent cause and Julia becomes ever closer to her new friends, she realizes the profound necessity of confronting the painful past she shares with her sister.

About life and loss, friendship and community, food and family, Friendship Bread tells the uplifting story of what endures when even the unthinkable happens.

I’ve only just started the novel, and have met Julia and Mark Evarts, along with their daughter Gracie.  Their son, Josh, has been introduced in memory and in longing.  I can’t imagine the pain of losing a child and trying to find the “new normal” way of life.  I’m going to need some tissues before I finish this book, that’s for sure!

In the appendix, Gee shares information about two outreach organizations: The Compassionate Friends offers support to those who have lost a child; Open to Hope Foundation is an online resource for those who have experienced a loss.

There’s also a lighter appendix of “Amish Friendship Bread Recipes and Tips” with a recipe for basic starter and bread, flavors (yum! Pistachio cherry, Lemon Poppy-Seed, Double Chocolate!), as well as variations such as pancakes, biscuits, and brownies.  The book’s website (aka Friendship Bread Kitchen) has over free 100 Friendship Bread recipes … and a form to share one of your own.

Author Darien Gee lives with her husband and three children, splitting their time between the Hawaiian Islands and the West Coast.  She has published three previous novels under the name Mia King – Good Things, Sweet Life, and Table Manners. Great news for those who can’t get enough of Ms. Gee’s writing – a second novel – also set in the fictitious rivertown of Avalon, Illinois – is coming in 2012.

For more food-related posts, head over to Beth Fish Reads’ round-up of cooking-related posts at Weekend Cooking. You may find a cookbook review, recipe, kitchen tip, or baking adventure over there.  As she says, “if your post is vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend.”

Brief Book Review: *A Cold-Blooded Business* by Marek Fuchs

  • A Cold-Blooded Business: Adultery, Murder, and a Killer’s Path from the Bible Belt to the Boardroom by Marek Fuchs
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing (March 10, 2009)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1602392540

Back-of-the-book blurb: In 1959, Olathe, Kansas was made famous by the murder of the Clutter family and Truman Capote’s ground-breaking book on the crime, In Cold Blood. But fewer know that Olathe achieved notoriety again in 1982, when a member of Olathe’s growing Evangelical Christian population, a gentle man named David Harmon, was bludgeoned to death while sleeping—the force of the blows crushing his face beyond recognition.

Suspicion quickly fell on David’s wife, Melinda, and his best friend, Mark, student body president of the local bible college. However, the long arms of the church defended the two and no charges were pressed. The case was declared as dead as David Harmon.

Two decades later, two Olathe police officers revived the cold case making startling revelations that reopened old wounds and chasms within the Olathe community—revelations that rocked not only Olathe, but also the two well-healed towns in which Melinda and Mark resided. David’s former wife and friend were now living separate, successful, law-abiding lives. Melinda lived in suburban Ohio, a devoted wife and mother of two. Mark had become a Harvard MBA, a high-paid corporate mover, a family man, and a respected community member in a wealthy suburb of New York City. Some twenty years after the brutal murder, each received the dreaded knock of justice at the door.

She Is Too Fond of Books’ review: Note:  This is one of a number of “Brief” reviews I’ll be posting in the next few weeks.  I have a stack of about 15 books that I’ve read, but not yet shared my thoughts on.  I plan to use the general format of my reviews (publisher information – including synopsis, cover picture, etc.), but will include “Brief” in the post title as a disclaimer that these are quick and dirty – what I might tell a friend if I ran into her at the grocery store and she asked “What are you reading these days?”

Well, friend … I recently read Marek Fuchs A Cold-Blooded Business, a true crime thriller about murders that took place in 1982, in Olathe, Kansas.  Although much evidence pointed to David Harmon’s wife – Melinda – and a friend, the killer(s) weren’t found, and the case went cold … for two decades.

I was drawn to the book for two reasons.  First was the clever title, which bring to mind Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, also about murder in Olathe.

Second, the author seemed to have a hot line to information – he covered the case for three years in the New York Times.  Mark Mangelsdorf – the friend of the family who was earlier suspected, exonerated, then finally convicted about ten years ago – lived in Westchester County, New York, the same county as the author, who contributed to the Westchester, Metro, and National sections of the paper.  I really expected Fuchs to have his finger on the pulse of the story.

What I found instead struck me as a re-telling of newspaper accounts – a lot of facts in the narrative, but little analysis.  Fuchs’ comments border on sarcasm at times, as in this section toward the beginning of the book, where he looked at the initial questioning of Melinda Harmon and Mark Mangelsdorf by Joseph Pruett:

During their initial questioning, Mark and Melinda both told Pruett that while they were alone in the Harmon house, while David was off playing floor hockey with the Jakabosky brothers, they had taken separate naps.

Separate naps?

An attractive young man, the runaway hit of his college campus, and an equally attractive young woman, alone, while her chubby husband was off playing a boy’s game.  Pruett wasn’t born yesterday.

In the end (and I did read to the end!), I’m not sure of Fuchs motives for writing.  Did he want to package his research from work on those Times articles as start-to-finish crime story?  Was he trying to expose holes in the original investigation?  Was the agenda to reflect on the “growing Evangelical Christian population,” of which the three main players were a part, and their willingness to pin the crime on three mysterious (and nonexistent) black assailants?  I’m not sure.

Chaos! Confusion! Entropy! *Miss Entropia and the Adam Bomb* in a bookstore near you ...

George Rabasa’s Miss Entropia and the Adam Bomb hits shelves today!  This novel grew out of Rabasa’s short story called “Feast,” which was published in Glendale College’s Eclipse literary journal.   Rabasa says that, rather than being satisfied with being in a piece of published short fiction, “the characters continued to grow in [his] imagination, and one action led to another.”

When you meet these characters, Adam Webb and Francine Haggard (who insists on answering only to “Miss Entropia” or “Pia”), you’ll understand why Rabasa couldn’t let them rest until their full story was told (or, was it that Adam and Pia wouldn’t let him get any rest until their story was told?!).

What is their story?  Adam and Pia are teen clients (not “patients”) of the Institute Loiseaux, a residence for troubled and privileged youth.  Theirs is a twisted love story with a twist.

I’ve read only the first few chapters, but am already caught up in their story; here’s a little teaser, from when Adam and Pia first meet.  He’s in “the ‘Tute’s” van, heading back to the institution after a two-month leave at home.  On the way, Happy Harley (the driver/guard), stops to pick up another incoming resident, none other than Miss Entropia:

The girl, I was glad to see, was putting up some resistance.  She almost wriggled out of Happy’s embrace, and even as he used both arms to hold her, her feet inside their sharp-toed boots were kicking a quick beat on his shins.  From inside the blanket I could make out a muffled stream of colorful complaining.  He strapped her in with a yank on the seatbelt and slid the van door shut.

In a moment of inspiration, one of those impulses that rise like jewels from the brain’s primal core, I clicked shut all the door locks as Hansen was going around the van to the driver’s side.  It was the loudest click I had ever made. … He tested the handle on the door, patted his pockets, then found himself peering in dismay at the keys dangling from the ignition slot.  He met my eyes through the windshield with a cold stare.

The locking of the doors had impressed Miss Entropia, who had shaken off the blanket to reveal a pale face crowned by a mop of black hair.  She stared at me curiously out of her raccoon eyes.  Our first meeting, and already there was a surge of energy between us.  In an instant the three of us, Happy, Miss Entropia and I, understood that the power balance among us had shifted with a single click.

“You are crazy,” she said, more in wonder than in praise.

“You were expecting someone normal?”

A copy of Miss Entropia is going in the next book of goodies I send to a certain sister of mine – she’ll love the quirky characters, the offbeat situation, and the dialogue that rings true.  And, I’ll get more bang for my buck, because this is a “trade paperback original” – not that she’s not worth the price of a hardcover!

Since I haven’t yet finished the novel, this is only a teaser, not a full review.  Here’s what some other readers have to say:

“Rabasa … maintains a playful cleverness throughout, fueled by piquant dialogue and sharply etched characters …. Well-played, keenly felt.”  — Publishers Weekly

Rebecca, of The Book Lady’s Blog calls it: “a rollicking adventure that is laugh-out-loud funny and often unexpectedly poignant.  Miss Entropia and the Adam Bomb is a terrific read for adults who haven’t forgotten what it’s like to be a teenager—sane or not—and it oozes crossover appeal for teens and young adult readers.”

George Rabasa is the author of two previous novels, The Wonder Singer (published by Unbridled Books, as is Miss Entropia and the Adam Bomb), and  Floating Kingdom (winner of the Minnesota Book Award for Fiction).  His short fiction collection - Glass Houses – is also an award-winner.

What are you reading this week?  Care to share a few teaser sentences?

Book Review: *The Poets Laureate Anthology* edited by Elizabeth Hun Schmidt

  • The Poets Laureate Anthology edited by Elizabeth Hun Schmidt
  • Hardcover: 762 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (October 4, 2010)
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393061819

Back-of-the-book blurb: This is the first anthology to gather poems by the forty-three poets laureate of the United States. As a record of poetry, The Poets Laureate Anthology is groundbreaking, charting the course of American poetry over the last seventy-five years, while being, at the same time, a pleasure to read, full of some of the world’s best-known poems and many new surprises. Elizabeth Hun Schmidt has gathered and introduced poems by each of the forty-three poets who have been named our nation’s poets laureate since the post (originally called Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress) was established in 1937.  Schmidt’s spirited introductions place the poets and their poems in historical and literary context and shine light on the interesting and often uneasy relationship between politics and art.

She Is Too Fond of Books’ review: I’ve had an uneasy relationship with poetry.  I was comfortable with poetry in my children’s books – big fans of Shel Silverstein, pretty much any picture book told in rhyme, and a few teen/tween poetry anthologies we’ve enjoyed and reviewed here.

I thought maybe one day I’d take a continuing ed class about poetry – you know, learn what it’s all about, decipher what various poets were really saying in their iconic poems, and “get” the true message.  I realize now that I was over-thinking it.

Yes, there’s a lot that can be learned by studying poets and poetry, by taking in the political climate in which they wrote, and by comparing a poets of one era with another from the same time, or by contrasting him with one from a different situation.  This is true of any author for whom we wish to have a deeper understanding of his work, and his motivation (and motive) for writing.

Here’s what I’ve learned — sometimes a cigar is just a cigar — enjoy it!

Rather than shy away from poetry because I don’t “get” it, I’ve been embracing my inner performer and reading poetry aloud.  Yes, in the privacy of my own home, and generally when no one else is around.  It helps me to hear the rhythms, the sounds, any repetition or pattern or emphasis, to play with the words and hear the difference if a one-syllable word is held for two beats or longer.

It’s quite freeing, and I recommend it for anyone who wants to read poetry, but, like me, might be caught up in not knowing how to read poetry.  Just do it.

One volume I’ve been experimenting with is this lovely book from The Library of Congress, The Poets Laureate Anthology.  The collection, edited by Elizabeth Hun Schmidt, contains biographical information and a sampling of the work of each of the 43 men and women who have held the position of Poet Laureate of the United States.  A black-and-white photo, annotated statement from the poet himself, introduction by Elizabeth Hun Schmidt, and a key “signature” poem for each poet begin each of the sections, which are presented in reverse chronological order.

Here’s where I admit that – prior to reading Schmidt’s introduction and the Foreword by Billy Collins (who held the position for two terms, 2001-2003) – I didn’t know exactly what the Poet Laureate did after he was assigned the position by the President.  Well, it turns out I was more in the dark than I realized! The position of Poet Laureate (called Consultant in Poetry from its inception in 1937 until it was renamed in 1958) is appointed not by the President, but by the Librarian of Congress.  As to what the Poet Laureate does during his one-year term … his only obligation is to read at the start and finish of the Library of Congress’s annual reading series.  Other than that, each poet can define an agenda around his schedule, and what he might see as a need or mission; it’s truly a personal endeavor, with potential far-reaching effect.

Elizabeth Hun Schmidt has included not only the signature piece and other well-known verse of each Laureate, but also lesser-known poems which allow the reader to experience the scope of each poet’s work.  Her introductions to each section include biographical material as well as sharing what the poet accomplished while in office and what was happening in the country (in the world) at that time.  I approached the book by reading (aloud) the key poem and one or two others, then referring back to the introduction to put the work in context.

Like all the Norton anthologies on my shelves, The Poets Laureate Anthology has given me hours of reading pleasure, and will prove itself invaluable as a reference for me and my family.  Our 15-year-old just completed a project on Billy Collins for her Honors English class; she saw his name on the cover of this book, grabbed it from the table, and sat down to read his section of the book, taking in the poems she hadn’t yet studied.  She laughed when she read his “Introduction to Poetry”, recognizing the frustration I had earlier expressed.  I invite you to read “Introduction to Poetry” at this Library of Congress site. Whether or not you find yourself “beating [poetry] with a hose to find out what it really means,” you’ll benefit from this wonderful collection and the edifying framework within which it is presented.

The Sunday Salon: My bullet-pointed week

Sunday-to-Sunday round up:

  • To kick off National Poetry Month, we had an Open Mic Poetry Circle at the bookshop last Sunday.  Yes, we were a few days early (it not yet being March), but, I was a bit unorthodox in other ways – we had no mic, and the chairs were arranged in rows, not a circle.  Despite these misnomers, the event was a lot of fun, and considered a success by all the seated audience, those who read poems (or shared original compositions), and people who wandered into the bookstore and enjoyed the surprise of hearing poetry read aloud.
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  • Inspired by my 15-year-old’s recent project on Billy Collins’ “On Turning 10,” I read aloud Collins’ poem “Some Day” from Essential Pleasures – this is a beautiful volume edited by Robert Pinsky; he selected the poems in this Norton anthology as being especially conducive to being read aloud.  The book, in fact, comes with a CD of spoken poems.
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  • On Monday night I went to a “Mindfulness Workshop” taught by a local consultant.  It was really neat to learn about “being present and fully aware” (no, that phrase might not need to be in quotes, but it was the focus of the evening, so I want to emphasize it).  In a life full of multi-taking, short attention span, and ease of distraction, I picked one small thing to commit to being fully present for – that first sip of coffee each morning.  Instead of drinking as I walk to the table, as I read the paper, or am otherwise “not there,” I said I’d give 30 seconds each morning to be completely with that cup of coffee – the smell of the brew, the heft of the cup in my hands, the heat of the coffee in my mouth and throat, and the taste my morning pick-me-up.  Guess what?  It’s not as easy as it sounds.  But, I get to try again each morning!
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  • Breathe.  That was another big component of the Monday evening workshop.  A smart and much-needed reminder.  I’m not ready to embrace a HUGE mindfulness practice, but small changes can be big.  I’m a researcher, a compiler of data, and an analyzer of alternate viewpoints — if you can recommend a book about mindfulness (or a layperson’s guide to Zen or Buddhism), drop me a note!
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  • Have you seen the new BlogHer Book Club?  The first book reviewed is Geraldine Brooks’ Caleb’s Crossing, historical fiction inspired by the first Native American to graduate Harvard College (in the late 1600s!).  My review isn’t posted yet (I’ll let you know when it is!), but you can click on over and read other opinions. As always, the diversity of reviews gives a nice overview.
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  • On Thursday night, the bookshop book group discussed Masha Hamilton’s 31 Hours; it was hard to end the conversation – so much to talk about in this novel!  I have the advantage of choosing the discussable books that are both a good fit for our customers and books I want to read/discuss.  We’ve had a good mix since we began the group in January  - Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, and 31 Hours.  April will be the first non-fiction pick (The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks), followed by a short fiction collection (The New Yorker’s 20 under 40).
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  • My online book group is discussing N. K. Jesmin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms tomorrow.  I have a previous commitment and won’t be able to attend, so I haven’t picked up the book.  I’d like to read it at some point, though; even though I don’t read a lot of science fiction (OK, I read very little science fiction!), I know it’s good to stretch beyond my usual comfort zone.
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  • I have a giveaway going on – You can read my silly/funny/true story of stockpiling orange clothing and accessories, and enter to win a $100 Slim-Fast gift pack … here’s the link.
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  • What are you reading this weekend?  I’ve got an ARC of Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus on one side of my table, and The Bird Sisters on the other.  Life is – indeed – good!

More kitchen science (kind of)

I’m stretching this one, because LM6 has asked for equal time to show off his Science Fair project. On with the show:

Separating Mixtures

“My sister did this experiment last year when she was in Eighth Grade.  So, it’s a big kid science project, and we just changed it a little bit so I could do it in Kindergarten for the Science Fair. I’m going to separate a mixture of four solids.”

"We bought some Wooly Willies from the Five and Dime."

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"We had some Styrofoam bowls that I used in the project."

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Note from Dawn:  Before anyone questions our environmental friendliness, let me explain that we don’t generally have Styrofoam bowls in the house.  I bought them for LW8′s science project, so that she could put her vegetable dye in them, without risk of staining our “real” dishes.

"We had gravel in the bowl from when my sister's fish died."


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Note from Dawn:  This was a betta fish that was given as a birthday party favor – bad idea, people!  These little ornamental bowls are too small for a fish to live in … leading to dead fish … leading to tears!  As to why we still had the bowl and gravel two years later, I can’t answer!

"And salt. I needed salt for my experiment."

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"I cut up the bowls into little pieces. It was A LOT of work!"

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"Look at it all in the bottom of the bowl."

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"I added some gravel to the big bowl."

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"Next, some salt ..."

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Note from Dawn:  J and I are such big fans of It’s a Wonderful Life that we usually follow any mention of salt with the line spoken by Mary Bailey, “that life may always have flavor.”  The kids have started to do it, too, which elicits odd looks from people, but it’s just one of our little SITFOB quirks!

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"Mom cut open the Wooly Willies and I poured in the hairy stuff. That's iron filings, and they're magnetic."

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"This is my mixture! Four solids - Styrofoam, gravel, salt, iron filings."

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"The first thing I separated was the iron filings. It didn't look like there were many in the bowl because they were so small. I swirled the magnet around and around and got a whole bunch of them. I pinched them off with my fingers, and some of them stuck on the magnet."

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"I kept swirling the magnet around and around until I couldn't find any more. Look how many I got!"

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"I added water to the rest of the mixture in the bowl."

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"And look what happened. The Styrofoam floated to the top!"

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"I scooped it out with a slotted spoon. I didn't know what that was called before, it's a very useful tool."

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"There's all the Syrofoam! Mom said I could try to put it back together like a puzzle, but I didn't really have to do that!"

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"I used the slotted spoon again to scoop out the gravel."

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"It was easy to scoop out the gravel because I could see it all and it didn't float off the spoon."

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"We poured the water onto a cookie sheet."

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"And Mom put it in the oven. It didn't take long for the water to evaporate and leave the salt behind."

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"When it cooled off, I scraped the salt from the pan."

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"It didn't look like the salt I poured from the container, but it WAS salt!"

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"I did it! I separated a mixture of four solids!"

Are you heading to BookExpo America or Book Blogger Con?

First, if you’re not a blogger, or not attending BEA or BBC, please be patient … “regular programming” will resume tomorrow!

If you’ll be in NYC for Book Expo America or Book Blogger Con at the end of May, chances are you’ll be meeting up with many of the people you know from the book blogosphere.

For the past two years, I’ve collected contact data from those who want to share it.  This let’s us easily meet on the show floor, connect for snacks/drinks, or just to say “I’m heading to the panel in Room E104, who’s joining me?”

I’ll collect information on this form until the end of the day Friday, May 13.  At that point I’ll email the completed spreadsheet to everyone on the list.  Then you can sort it, edit however you see fit, or enter the info into your phone contact program.

Please submit only the info you’re willing to share openly; it won’t appear on this website, but it will be shared with everyone who completes the survey (if I see any errant spammers, I’ll delete them from the mailing list!).

If you want to be known only by your first name, enter only your first name.  If you prefer not to share your cell phone number, no problem (don’t enter it).

Thanks!  – See you in May!

Thoughts on *Private Life* by Jane Smiley (audiobook)

  • Private Life: A Novel written by Jane Smiley; read by Kate Reading
  • Audio CD unabridged, 13.5 hours on 11 CDs
  • Publisher: Random House Audio; Unabridged edition (May 4, 2010)
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307715319

Back-of-the-box blurb: In the 1880s, Margaret Mayfield is nearly an old maid at twenty-seven in post–Civil War Missouri when she marries Captain Andrew Jackson Jefferson Early. He’s the most famous man their small town has ever produced: a naval officer and a brilliant astronomer—a genius who, according to the local paper, has changed the universe. Margaret’s mother calls the match “a piece of luck.”

Margaret is a good girl who has been raised to marry, yet Andrew confounds her expectations from the moment their train leaves for his naval base in faraway California. Soon she comes to understand that his devotion to science leaves precious little room for anything, or anyone, else. When personal tragedies strike and when national crises envelop the country, Margaret stands by her husband. But as World War II approaches, Andrew’s obsessions take a different, darker turn, and Margaret is forced to reconsider the life she has so carefully constructed.

This novel is an evocation of a woman’s inner world: of the little girl within the hopeful bride, of the young woman filled with yearning, and of the faithful wife who comes to harbor a dangerous secret. But it is also a heartbreaking portrait of marriage and the mysteries that endure even in lives lived side by side; a wondrously evocative historical panorama.

She Is Too Fond of Books‘ thoughts: The story of Andrew and Margaret Early holds few great surprises for the reader/listener.  A foreword starts us in 1942, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and with the round-up of Japanese in and around San Francisco.  From there we move back to the late 1880s, when Margaret and Andrew first encounter each other.  But, we are already full with the knowledge of where Andrew’s obsessions and paranoia will lead. As such, it is the story of how they got to where they were in 1942; there was no suspense about what would become of the Earlys.

Private Life is a reminder of just how fragile a public façade can be; we are led to wonder not only about Andrew and Margaret Early, but about her cousin Dora (a very independent and intelligent woman who makes her way as a newspaper reporter), her friend Pete (who may not be who claims to be), and the Kimura family.  That façade is especially tricky when he who erects it (Captain Early), is the only one who believes in its strength, all others resigned to the truth, as in the fable of The Emperor’s New Clothes.  His delusions about his own academic theories, and his suspicions about others was the most interesting storyline; I suspect the focus was intended to be on Margaret Early, who showed strength at times, but was mostly distant to me.

The plot didn’t so much unfold as it plodded along; it wasn’t unpleasant to listen to on audiobook (Kate Reading is a steady narrator, whose inflection and accent easily distinguish each character), it simply wasn’t a book that urged me to keep at it (remember, I use audiobooks as an incentive to get myself on the treadmill).  I wonder if I’d have found it more gripping in a print edition.

I’ve read Jane Smiley’s Moo and her Pulitzer Prize-winning A Thousand Acres. I remember a similar heavy feeling and thoughts of “well, that’s that!” when I finished A Thousand Acres (yes, I’m saying I wasn’t overwhelmed with this Pulitzer Prize winner).  Moo has stuck with me more, with the subtle dry wit of Smiley’s plot and characters.  In all, I’m glad I listened to the audiobook; I’ve learned more about the writing of Jane Smiley, and about myself as a reader/listener.

Have you read or listened to Private Life?  What is your opinion – and should I revisit this in print one day?

Potentially embarrassing photo and a Slim-Fast giveaway

I’ve mentioned on this blog that at the end of May I’ll be going to New York for BookExpo America.  Yay, I can’t wait for this annual event – “hot titles, cool authors, new connections, old friends …” and … getting lost in Central Park … let’s hear it for tradition!

I’ll wear “business casual” clothes for those three days in New York, then will switch suitcases for an entirely different wardrobe and an entirely different event.

Find out why I’ll be missing Book Blogger Con (I’ll be there in spirit!), consider the possibility of an extreme wardrobe malfunction if I mix up my suitcases, and enter to win a Slim-Fast gift pack worth $100 over at this post on my Giveaways page. You’ve got to be curious!