image pilfered from bookmarksmagazine.com
I recently discovered a magazine called Bookmarks while browsing at Barnes & Noble. They present a compilation of book reviews from papers like The New York Times and the Boston Globe, giving you a quick snapshot of what reviewers thought of it, whether they came to a consensus or their evaluations were split. After reading the January/February issue, I added six new books to my reading list. I recommend it.
the view from my bedroom window
I spent this snowy afternoon lost in “The United States of Tara”, via streaming Netflix. If you haven’t seen it, it’s about a woman (played by Toni Collette, one of my favorite actresses; if you haven’t seen “Japanese Story” you need to) who has multiple personality disorder. At first I felt a bit guilty having wasted four hours watching back-to-back episodes, but the story was so good… suspenseful, engaging, the characters real and flawed. And then I started thinking about story, how getting lost in a good movie or television series is sometimes necessary to give one’s own brain a break, a rest, a time out. Getting lost in my own stories has been a challenge lately. Life is infringing, with too many gaps between productive writing sessions. I keep losing the threads of my novel; it feels like starting from scratch every time I sit down to write. I want the luxury of more time than I know what to do with.
This is pretty similar to what’s been going on around my house these days.
Love this one, too. Definitely a familiar scene.
Freedom is the most useful writing tool I’ve come across. It blocks internet access for the length of time that the user chooses, and one can only get around it by restarting the computer. Being particularly prone to distraction, I utilize it whenever I write. I got 7 pages done this morning because of it. The first 10 uses are free, then it costs $10 to purchase an activation code. Absolutely worth it.
I did a bit of research online, and found a few old postcards of the Cochato Club, the place where my Iris painting was exhibited in 1931. The club was named after a river.
It was located on Elm Street in Braintree, Massachusetts.
The building is now an Elks Lodge. Their site claims the “foundation is dated 1789,but [the] building was rebuilt in the 1860’s after a fire, [and the] bowling lanes in [the] basement were used as early as 1905.” It’s interesting to think that my ancestors were members there, and that the building still stands. My painting hung there between April 11th and 18th, 1931, before my maternal grandmother, the relative I inherited this painting from, was even born. Wild.
The initials of the painter are “M.C.L”, and it’s dated 1910. I still don’t know who painted it, but I’m working on it. My great-grandmother’s maiden name was Catherine Leonard, so I imagine the painter is from her branch of the family. What the “M” stands for, I don’t yet know.
When e-readers first came out, I was a skeptic. I love the feeling of an actual book, turning the pages, arranging the colorful spines on my bookshelves. But living in an 850 square foot house has its downsides, and shelf space is one of them. For years I had milk crates full of books in my basement, the pages becoming mustier by the day. I invested in shelves on which to stack these crates and a dehumidifier to protect the paper. To slow the tide of accumulating books and to save money, I began using the library more frequently and kept a reading journal with a few comments about each book I read so that I could still feel like I owned them somehow.
When I got a Kindle for my birthday in summer 2010, I was excited about the space-saving potential. After downloading dozens of free public domain titles I was able to clear my bookshelves of everything that is available for free on Kindle. I rarely buy paper books anymore unless it is something the author will sign for me. I have pared down my collection so that all of my books now fit on a 6-shelf Ikea Billy bookcase and a cabinet in my kitchen (for cookbooks). I admit the books are piled two-deep on most shelves, but my collection now fits the space I have available, and there aren’t any more crates in my basement. A bit more culling will happen over time, but I’m happy with the size of my library now. It’s manageable.
The reading experience is quite good, too. I like to read lying in bed or on the couch with one arm curled under my head. I can turn pages with a click instead of having to shift to a position in which both arms are free. I can read a Kindle book while blow-drying my hair or while eating without having to stop what I’m doing to turn a page and rearrange the book in my hand. At the gym, I can increase the size of the text so I can continue to read while on the elliptical machine. I rarely have to charge it, as long as I keep the wireless off.
There are a few annoyances. Sometimes the paperback is actually less expensive than the digital copy. I worry about what will happen to my books if Amazon goes out of business someday. I can’t lend a book to a friend unless they also have a Kindle, and the publisher of that particular title has consented to a one-time two-week loan. But overall, I love it. If you haven’t tried it yet, you should.
What of the implications for the future of publishing? I don’t think there’s anything we can do about that. It happened to the music industry ten years ago with the heyday of Napster and other music sharing sites. The way music is distributed has been irrevocably changed, and the same process is occurring for movies and now books. I think authors actually have great potential to make more money with e-books. There are no distribution or manufacturing costs, so I imagine the profit margin is larger on an e-book. In some respects I am a skeptic in regards to technology, particularly when it comes to social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, neither of which I have an account with. But I do love my Kindle.
Living in a small town means that the power goes out frequently in inclement weather and that the larger surrounding towns are a higher priority when it comes to repairs. When Irene hit, we were without power for 3 days. Our 10-year-old refrigerator died and we had to toss most of our food. $850 later we have a new fridge, but now we haven’t had power since early Sunday morning because of this freak October snowstorm. I’ve been shuttling back and forth to my in-laws to shower and access the internet, and just put all of the food from our freezer into their basement deep freeze. Some of the power restoration times I found online stretch to Thursday.
I got my diploma from BU in the mail a few weeks ago, and picked it up yesterday from the frame store. To save some money I chose a ready-made frame but had the mat custom cut.
I also brought an old watercolor painting with me. I inherited it from my grandmother several years ago and supposedly it was painted by a relative, though I’ll need to do some research to figure out who. It’s dated 1910. The paper backing was disintegrating, so the frame guy replaced it and attached a wire for hanging. As soon as I can pick up a hook with an anchor at Lowes it will finally be on one of my living room walls instead of hibernating in a closet. There was an interesting entry sticker on the back from an art show in 1931:
I haven’t had a lot of time to write lately because of work obligations and my preoccupation with the great purge of 2011. (I’ve been spending many of my nights and weekends culling my possessions; it’s amazing the amount of memorabilia and junk one person can accumulate in thirty years.) I am running a NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) program with my students, and think I’ll participate this year. It will be good motivation to finish banging out a first draft of my novel. 50,000 words in a month is the goal. If nothing else, it will force me to prioritize writing time.
Update: I found out a couple of weeks ago that my story “The Last Con” will be in the Spring Issue of The Gettysburg Review. (I was told it was accepted in July, but they weren’t sure when it would come out.)