Thursday, March 30, 2006

A New Kind of Focus Group

I'm impressed with Harper Collins' new program where average citizens can have access to "ARE's," or advance reading editions, of their offerings. All you have to do is agree to read the free books and review them on their website. I suppose this means one should only put in for books one is inclined to finish. But some of them look pretty good. Especially the ones by Catherine Hanrahan and Shelley Jackson.

I hope I don't spoil my chances of winning a book by sharing this here, but I couldn't resist.

I Can't Wait to Read Randa Jarrar's Book

I just caught up on my blog-reading, and discovered that Randa Jarrar's novel has found a home. Hooray! If you haven't read her yet, sample here, her story-and-novel-excerpt, You Are a 14-Year-Old Arab Chick Who Just Moved to Texas. Or another story I loved, Lost in Freakin' Yonkers.

Spring Forward

Here's someone who isn't going to let the loss of an hour of sleep this weekend get him down. He always smiles, but seems especially stoked that the daffodils came out today. I'll try to think of same as I set the clock ahead.

What To Do With Twinkies When You Aren't Eating Them

I have a million notes to self in my email inbox, all titled "blog this!" or "Stuff!"

So I'm catching up.

Here are two incredibly cute young men performing science projects. You see? Science can be fun.

I miss my husband, who is at school performing science projects. But I get to hear the stories later, about the mouse who OD'd on ketamine, and how weird it was to perform gavage (sticking tube down esophagus) on same mouse before she went over the rainbow bridge. I gather calculating dosage for small creatures like mice is hard. Makes me very glad I don't own the three inch cat.

Meanwhile, the neighborhood mice have been leaving buildings to go hang in the sunshine, and meeting their ends at the hands of our feral cat crew. We have quite a collection of bodies outside.

So much death! I think I'll post some flower pics next.

Do You Buy Books Based on Who Published Them?

The quasi-anonymous blogger Sepulculture, who works for a major publishing house, has been pondering the question. And more specifically, is it possible to forge a "brand" identity for an imprint at a large conglomerate house, or is that kind of thing reserved for the little guys? Richard Nash, of the well-branded Soft Skull, responded. And Sepulculture took up the dialogue.

Have you ever bought a book on the basis of its publisher that wasn't a small press book? And which is preferable, the group identity of a small press, or the individual identity of a blockbuster author at any sized press? From a numbers standpoint, the latter seems to be the answer. But from a cultural standpoint? Where would the world be without City Lights, Akashic, Grove (in the old days), Hanging Loose, Manic D, Lo-Fi, Other Press, Kaya, Last Gasp, 2.13.61, etc.? I must admit I am drawn to a handful of logos. These publishers are like rock stars to me. (And I guess some of them actually are rock stars, which helps forge a press identity too.)

In a perfect world, it would be possible for a small press to exist with big corporate muscle behind it. But does that happen in this world? Any thoughts on MTV Books, for example? Or is that just for kids? Anybody else own several vintage titles from Vintage Paperbacks, circa 1980-something, with that trademark design and meaty interior? I used to be drawn to those. Am I now?

Some kind of blog post, all questions, no answers.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

What Are You Doing Up at 4AM?

Girija Tropp's beautiful blog, Straight On Juice, has an interesting post this week, a group discussion of writing in the early mornings. Enjoy.

Now I have to get back to the real reason I'm up now. Unplugging the net...

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Can You Find the Plastic Bunny?

Last year hubby and I were in a garden store and looked at each other saying, simultaneously, "Can we get the bunny?" So we don't have garden trolls or saint statuary in our front yard, but we do have the bunny. Our feral friends knock him over on occasion, but he doesn't seem to mind the snow. And he looks darn cute hiding among the stuff poking up now. Crocus are in full force, and daffodils appear on deck. Tulip leaves are showing too. Yay!

Reasons, other than flowers, to be happy:

1. Got my tax crap done. All that's left is to see the accountant man.

2. Hubby is loving school and has a new spring in his step. He is learning to restrain mice and charm cats.

3. I love my novel (this week). I'm getting to know its anorexic character Hannah all over again. I realize how subtly condescending my narration has been, and that I really wasn't on her side until now. For once I am SURE the changes I'm making are improvements.

4. Wilbur and I went to Manhattan together and didn't wreck the car. He is seeing a specialist for his skin problems (she's GREAT) and is getting over his fear of the veterinarian. He enjoyed his big-city adventure, we got to walk through Madison Square (not the stadium, but the park), see dogwalkers with big packs, dogs wearing shoes (what up with these Manhattan dogs anyway?), a police horse (damn, that dog is BIG, I think I'll bark at it), and a whole lotta big buildings. Wilbur walked around the vet's 'hood with his nose in the air, city dog to the core. And in the car, he sat beside me in the rush hour traffic, a good little copilot. No freakouts, no panic attacks, no crawling in my lap in the driver's seat. Hooray!

5. Trader Joe's has arrived in NYC, finally, with a big store in the old Palladium. Now this ex-Californian won't have to go to Long Island for a fix. I went on opening day, last Friday, took one look at the line, and realized I'm not the only ex-Californian in this town. But I'll be back.

6. All six feral cats made it through the winter and are hanging out on sunny afternoons in our back yard.

7. Vince is cute as hell. See below. He's working us, and we're susceptible. If he moves inside, he'll get fat for sure.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Proud as Hell

I met Janice Erlbaum during the early 90's spoken word explosion, when we were part of a gang of five, the infamous Pussy Poets. She inspired me then, and she inspires me now.

Read her new book, GIRLBOMB, A HALFWAY HOMELESS MEMOIR. It's her story of running away from home as a teenager and into a Catholic shelter, then a group home, then back with difficult Mom, then...well, I won't tell you how it ends, only that it packs a punch and made me cry on the 5 train. The book's a meditation on what "home" is, and the psychological state of "homelessness," this hunger to belong in a place, to feel safe, to feel like you have some control over what happens there. These are deeply important needs that Erlbaum does not take for granted. It's poetic, full of beautiful urban patois, and brings the 80's back into full color, for those of us sober enough to remember. Fast paced, pick it up tonight and you'll finish it this weekend.

For those of you in the Boston area, she'll be reading in Cambridge March 15. If you can make it, she's hilarious in person.