Category Archives: books

Speak to Me

i have discovered another new pleasure. i’m probably one of the last people to have actually begun listening regularly to audio books, but i find that i have quickly become addicted. our daughter, e, has been listening to audio books for quite some time – she is a person who has spent a lot of time touring on busses while performing in drum corps or more recently, driving to and from her job so audio books are a godsend. she actually bought the subscription service because it is immensely more cost effective than paying for individual books. i’m not quite there yet, and i have to admit that there is a part of me that still feels obliged to make sure authors are compensated.

i started listening to audio books by accident when i was downloading the brief and wonderous life of oscar wao by junot diaz and i clicked on the option for the ebook and audio book combination instead of just the ebook. i could have cancelled the transaction, but i thought i would read some of the book and then listen to some of the book just to see if i like it. well, i was so enraptured with the audio version of the book that i never went back to reading the text of the book.

i’m glad this was the first novel i listened to because diaz’s writing is so lyrical and story so startling that it transports you sometimes to a place you want to go and sometimes to a place from which you want to quickly escape. on more than one day i had to take a pause and clear the story out of my head before i got out of the car.

sadly, i finished the book and went on an all-out search for another. it was hard to imagine how some of the bestsellers would sound compared to diaz’s writing so i decided to search for another literary book. i’m not a really fast reader of literary books since i tend to mull over words and sentence construction and ponder a bit. i looked at a lot of classics and as tempting as they were, the reviews of the narration were often bad. there’s some kind of crime in hiring an unskilled actor read extraordinary writing.

i finally decided to download wise blood by flannery o’conner. i always loved flannery o’conner’s writing but hearing it read is equally as satisfying, maybe even moreso because this narrator is very good.

to spend my drive time being submerged in the story and the language and vivid description contained in these kinds of books is extraordinary. i find myself repeating some of the most exquisite lines out loud. by the time i get to work or home from work, i feel as though i’m in an entirely new world, on in which the ordinariness of just another day has been transformed.

i also find myself positively influenced in other ways like using a broader vocabulary, an enhanced descriptive ability and suddenly being able to notice more interesting characters around me than just mundane stereotypes.

trust me, i’m still reading books – often two at a time – but listening to a book, especially and wonderfully written book, has been a transformative experience for me.

it’s commonly said that “you are what you eat”, and i believe the same is true for what we listen to and watch. well, I still watch some junk tv but the balance has been tipped.

fyi, the app i’m using is audible
but i know that books are also available on itunes.


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here a kindle, there a kindle, everywhere a kindle

you’ve got bugs.  lots of bugs.  on your person, on your clothes and in your house.  and if you’ve got a lot of books (like we used to have), you’ve got silverfish, beetles and maybe even roaches, not to mention their, eeeooowwww, feces.  (clarification:  we do not have roaches!  silverfish are another story). such are the perils of being a book lover.  sigh.

thinking more seriously about one of those e-readers now?

i got my first kindle, the kindle dx, four years ago, which has the largest display (and is now a dinosaur).  i wasn’t entirely convinced that i would go paperless with books and the daunting price tag that would buy a whole lot of books by the way, but C showed up with one and how could i possibly say no?  it was love at first read.

the first time we took L to md anderson for a consult, i was standing in line for coffee holding my kindle and two guys behind me actually asked if they could touch it.  i think they might have even drooled over it.  you’d hardly get a second glance these days.

now i have a travel kindle and my dx bedside kindle and i’m considering the new fire.  i’ve got the kindle app on my computer at work, the one at home and my iphone.  hey, sometimes you just have to find out what’s going to happen in chapter 6!

before you bemoan the fact of e-readers or rail about the dumbing of americans, etc. etc.  i will tell you that although my books have long been redistributed to second hand stores or recycle bins, i’m reading three to four times as many books as i used to bookstores and libraries were among my favorite places on earth and we all know what happened to most bookstores (and even libraries for that matter).  many rooms of the house had bookshelves overflowing with books.  then i got sick of dusting books and managing space for books and memories associated with certain books on the shelves.

it’s not unusual for me to be reading 3 or 4 different books at the same time, depending upon my mood, so obviously carrying around a kindle makes that a lot easier.  but now i’m thinking it might be nice to have a color display for magazines too.  i already read the digital paper except sundays and holidays when the day isn’t really complete without a newspaper.

and now, (excitement of all excitement) amazon has a lending library for kindle owners.  cheer!  and most library systems have a lending system for e-books.  big cheer! and there’s the gutenberg project , which digitized classic books from which you can borrow books. bigger cheer! (although most classics are free on kindle)

and biggest cheer of all, i will soon have a novel available for kindle!  (stay tuned for more details on that)

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book, movie, both or none?

i admit it, i didn’t read any of the Harry Potter books.  i did read a section of the first Twilight book on-line and couldn’t believe the damn thing got published. (but then, when you rip off the Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire Mysteries and morph them into the young adult market i guess you’ll find yourself published even if you have no writing talent. oof.)

i was tempted to read Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games but it was not quite the right time. (we were in tx in the middle of L’s recovery and a book portraying a post-apocalypse sport where poor children fight to the death for food and to entertain the wealthy, privileged of the nation didn’t seem like soothing fare at the time)

i did see the first harry potter movie and enjoyed it.  mostly.  (i’m not much for action scenes that seem to go on forever)  the kids liked the first movie, but spend the car ride home filling in parts that the movie left out.  i tried to watch the rest of the harry potter movies (and maybe one rainy day i’ll sit down and watch the lot… or maybe i’ll just wait until i have grandchildren and am forced to do that with them)

i couldn’t even stomach the idea of going to see the twilight movies.  wouldn’t even watch them on free cable.  (i am, however, a fan of True Blood and I’m never going to a small town in Louisiana).

i was very interested in seeing the hunger games movie.  the premise is extraordinarily good (although c pointed out this recurring theme in many a movie over the years).  okay, so the premise might not be so original, but i liked the idea of a strong, heroic girl lead. and i thought the social commentary was interesting (and debatably accurate and timely).  it’s not very often that girls and women get to see self-sufficient, smart women in lead roles and if we do see them, they’re mostly half naked and being ‘tamed’ by men.


so here goes my review of The Hunger Games movie:

too much action and not enough story.  (and OMG, too much blurry subjective camera!) movie directors today are so involved with painting pictures on the screen that they lose the story and are unable to mine the depths of the emotional and thematic depths of the story.  i got the broad brush of the story of the hunger games, but there were a lot of unexplained, lost and just plain contradictory details.  it was almost as though the director was afraid to actually point to the social commentary upon which the entire story hinged or was not skilled enough to determine when exposition type dialogue (or even narration) was necessary to build the story and the characters.  (the written word is not prized in hollywierd, so it probably takes a skilled screenwriter to fight against the grain and actually “tell” a story). amazingly, the actors were able to use their skills to show a lot of the story in spite of the lack of dialogue (or explanation), but it was a stretch for some of them.  clearly, a movie is not a book and vice versa.  each one should stand on its own merits even if it’s the same story.  but in the age of talkies, a movie needs more than just visual effects or big chunks of the story are lost and movies end up mediocre at best.

conclusion:  go see Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone.  it could almost be the backstory of katniss everdeen in district 12 and it’s quite a provocative and well done movie.

and read the hunger games book.

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