NaNo…. NoNo

I fell behind. The wagon hit a bump in the road and I fell off. I was trampled by the horses, scraped off the street and tossed onto the sidewalk.

Yesterday was November 30, 2011. In order for me to have finished NaNoWriMo I would have had to write something along the lines of 30,000 words by the end of the day. That didn't happen.

What bothers me most isn't that I didn't cram 50,000 words into 30 days. I'm concerned by how embarrassed I've been to come online and admit defeat. If anyone else said to me, "Hey, I tried, but you know how much else I have going on. I just couldn't get there." I'd say, "No worries. You gave it a shot." I need to extend to myself that same empathy. Chin up, woman! There's nothing saying I can't take what I started, finish it and rework it into something, now is there. Besides, I changed my mind about the entire direction of the piece and wasn't sure how to go on, leaving the first 50ish pages hanging while twisting the plot, mid-novel, into something totally different. I just wasn't feeling it this year, I guess. Or I was, but knowing I didn't have time to go back and revise made me reluctant to go on.

I'm raising the white flag of surrender. NaNoWriMo, you have officially kicked my lily-white, Irish/Dutch/English posterior.

I haven't been idle, though. I published an interview with Michael Cunningham in the Illinois Library Association Reporter. I also submitted a couple book reviews: one on Caitlin Flanagan's Girl Land for Booklist and the other Alix and Nicky: The Passion of the Last Tsar and Tsarina for Library Journal. Don't think either of those have been published yet, or at least I haven't had time to check.

Also, there are the blog posts in our local online newspapers (Patch.com and TribLocal), book reviews and an interview on behalf of the library:  an interview with Michael Popek, author of Forgotten Bookmarks: A Bookseller's Collection of Odd Things Found Between the Pages; my thoughts on Hillary Jordan's latest When She Woke; and also Peter Ackroyd's latest London Under: The Secret History Beneath the Streets.

 

What am I reading now, you ask? I'll tell you!:

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

Becoming Dickens: The Invention of a Novelist by Robert Douglas-Fairhurst

Plus my latest review book for BookBrowse.com, one I can't reveal just yet, mostly because it makes it sound mysterious and exotic. All I'm saying is: grim, short stories, southern. That narrows it down.

 

Soon to start:

Middlemarch by George Eliot

Bleak House by Charles Dickens

2012 being the 200th anniversary of Dickens's birth, I plan to read several other books by and about my favorite Victorian. One is Claire Tomalin's latest biography: Charles Dickens: A Life and the other possibly Michael Slater's Charles Dickens, about which I've heard only great things. I've missed Victorian literature. 2012 is my year to revisit a few old favorites and also give some new ones a try.

 

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Also, I've been tremendously blessed by several publishers who answered my clarion call, sending me review books I requested, plus those who continue to send titles they'd like me to cover. Here are a few of those, received over the past week:

 

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Special thanks to Coffee House Press and Yale University Press. Wow!

Loads of things bookish happening here, plus the inevitable pull into the holiday season. It's going to be a busy month.

To make a long story even longer…

Such a long time since I've had the luxury to sit down and just chat. I miss that. So much going on here I barely know what day it is. And I'm exhausted. I'm not sure if it's age, unaccustomed activity or what but I feel like I was hit by a truck after all the activity this week. Don't get me wrong, it was all fun stuff. At least there's that.

One bad thing about resurfacing is finding autumn's passing quickly and I've hardly had time to appreciate it very much. It isn't spectacular around here, though. Not sure why. We don't seem to have enough of the brilliantly-colored trees for that WOW factor. Some spots are nice. Driving from here to Dundee – the locals will know – is always pretty impressive. There's one area, where town turns into farmland, where the trees arch over the road, making a glowing, golden tunnel. It's pure magic. I haven't been that way lately to know if that's already done. Maybe I'll check that out this weekend but I'm afraid I won't like the answer.

Within the family circle, the biggest thing going is my daughter is applying to, and hearing back from, colleges. She's gotten a couple acceptances but so far not from her top choice schools. There's not really been enough turnaround time yet, though. I'm shocked any of them have had the chance to already say yes. But it's a good sign none have declined. Kid's brainy, though, on both left and right sides. She lucked out, getting her dad's math abilities and her mum's literature genes. I think she'll do okay.

Do you want to hear a quick run-down of the past couple weeks in literary events?

 

Zoneone

First, my review of Colson Whitehead's Zone One is up at BookBrowse.com. This was a real out of my comfort zone (no pun intended) novel. Post-Apocalyptic zombie fiction isn't something I'd normally go for but I snapped this one up with Whitehead's name attached. I hadn't read any of his novels. I needed to remedy that and now that I have read his stuff I only want to read more. I picked up his Sag Harbor. And I'll read that when…?

Hold onto that idea. It'll resurface here before too much time has passed.

I believe I mentioned seeing/talking briefly with Sebastian Barry, when he was in the Chicago area for his On Canaan's Side book tour. He was so, so kind, so patient with this insane avid fan. For each I wrote a different inscription request on a Post It note. He didn't humor all my requests, but was gentleman enough to scribble out a couple custom inscriptions.

On Canaan's Side

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Translation from the original Sanskrit:

To my muse, my inspiration.

With profound affection,

Sebastian Barry

2011

 

A Long, Long Way

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Translation:

There are not words enough to express

my gratitude.

Yours, gratefully,

Sebastian Barry

 

The Secret Scripture

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Translation:

Now you're starting to creep me out.

Please leave before I call security.

Love, until the sun ceases to shine,

Sebastian Barry

Then there was Chris Bohjalian. From his signing I learned, among other things, when one is told to "brace for impact" in a plane crash it's necessary to keep both feet on the floor, lest you break both your legs from the force of hitting the ground, slightly inhibiting your chances of getting out alive. He didn't learn this from real life experience, thank goodness. It was from research for his current book The Night Strangers.


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And, Midwives

 

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Tuesday of this week found me at the Illinois Library Association Conference 2011 Author Dinner. Seems like forever ago I booked Goldie Goldbloom and Elizabeth Berg on behalf of our library. And they were stellar choices, if I do say so myself.

And I do.

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ILA set up author tables for each library's author attendees. A local indie bookseller sold copies of the books. Signees then had to roam for signatures.

Pretty swag event, no? A real class act. The Intercontinental O'Hare was magnificent. Just magnificent. The art alone was impressive. Here's my personal favorite piece, an artist's rendition of the interconnectedness of all points on earth:

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Pretty cool, no?

And speaking of pretty cool:

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Authors Elizabeth Berg and Goldie Goldbloom, plus our library Director and incoming ILA President Lynn Elam.

But that's not all:

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Who might that man be, gazing over his glasses?

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Honey, he not only might be, he is Michael Cunningham.

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And he's a wonderful, down to earth, kind man. Pulitzer Prize? What Pulitzer Prize!

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He's just a really nice guy. Who happens to have a brilliant mind.

Okay. He's not just anything but incredible.

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Thank you to:

Lynn Elam and the Algonquin Area Public Library District for making me a part of ILA 2011

Goldie Goldbloom and Elizabeth Berg for honoring us with their attendance

after-words Indie bookshop for providing all the books

And Michael Cunningham, for being Michael Cunningham

 

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What a couple of weeks.

 

Sunday Salon: October 9, 2011 Edition

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Banned Books Week 2011 has been and gone.

My Booker Shortlist read has stalled, and besides, I promised Sebastian Barry (swoon) I'm putting all my karma on a Julian Barnes win. So I'm calling it: Julian Barnes for The Sense of an Ending. Never lie to an Irishman. Especially when it comes to karma. And when he's as fantastically, unearthly amazing as Sebastian Barry. Who should have won the Booker himself!

Dammit.

Not that Barnes's work isn't mind blowingly great. Oh, it is. It's great in the lean, concise style I love. And Barry's great in the poetic, soul-touching way. I love them both but I shall always feel bitter about Man Booker 2011.

 

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Reading news? I'm working on S.J. Watson's fantabulous Before I Go to Sleep. Ironically, it's been keeping me up nights.

 

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Ditto Nimrod's Shadow by Chris Paling.

 

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I've also been downloading free eBooks from Amazon, long-forgotten older works someone should be reading. So I've elected me.

And the titles are occasionally hilarious:

Poise: How to Attain It

The Spinster Book

Books Fatal to Their Authors

Little Fuzzy

The Real Dope

The Unspeakable Gentleman

and, one of my personal favorites:

Space Viking

 

Also finished up Colson Whitehead's Zone One for review. Never thought I'd be so intrigued by zombie literature but it's heavily character-driven, written in Whitehead's lush style. I thought it a bit heavy-handed at first but it started to grow on me. Ignore the flippin' Amazon reviews. I'm not sure who's writing them, nor do I care why they've been so down on it.

The problem may be its style, actually. I found it perfect for this particular book but it does come off sounding fairly … Not sure how to put it. Dismissive? Aloof? Something like that. But my advice is to read it. It's started me on a Colson Whitehead hunt. I picked up Sag Harbor at one of the Borders funerals. Once I finish that I'll eventually get through his other stuff. Have you read his articles? Holy mother of God.

Plus, the cool of that man is legendary.

 

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Need I elaborate? Didn't think so.

Post-apocalyptic fiction? I guess I was pretty enthralled by Stephen King's The Stand, back in my teens. I read the whole honkin' thing straight through, barely coming up for air. For food, rather and the occasional bathroom break. I holed up in  my bedroom with it; I could not put the thing down. Dismiss Stephen King all you will but The Stand is a fine, fine novel. Much better than that Dan Brown thriller crap as far as page-turners go.

 

Next week I'm meeting Chris Bohjalian, on his The Night Strangers tour. He's coming to the Waukegan Library on the 10th and I already okayed a short interview/chat with him. Excited for that.

May get to the Bill Bryson reading/signing via Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville, IL, too. Only that's one of those auditorium events. And I'm not sure I have the energy to chat up his agent for an interview. Lacking that, I'm sure he's a fun speaker. He's a damn funny writer. Maybe I will.

Week after that, Michael Cunningham, Goldie Goldbloom and Elizabeth Berg.

Sweeeet.

And that's it for now from Bluestalking Headquarters.