The theme this cycle is NanoWrimo, in which one tries to write a full novel in a month. For those who know me (I call myself the founding member of the Slow Writing Movement) this notion is somewhat hilarious. I tend to lose myself in procrastination, as well as a fair amount of dithering, to say nothing of being the red-headed stepchild of the cybersphere. This last trait has resulted in today's post: a micro version of NanoWrimo. Normally I'd fret for at least a day or two over my blog post. But because of my own inability to access the new platform for scheduling, I discovered (surprise!) that my post was supposed to be up and running as of 7 pm. last night.
So instead of writing something lovely and meaningful, I'm going to be cheap, cheerful, crass and commercial. Starting with 7 pm last night, I was watching The Fitzgerald Family Christmas which I loved. It's Ed Burns' story of a large Irish Catholic family, and it's lovely. You can get it On Demand on Comcast (which, when I last looked, had taken over the universe. I presume you will find it wherever you are). After that, I read Barbara Kingsolver's Flight Behavior, which I'm halfway through. It's fascinating and beautiful, and takes us into the life of a woman transformed by something she encounters on her way to an extra-marital assignation.
On Saturday I went to a book signing by Janis Owens, who I considered one of America's best kept secrets. Her new book, American Ghost is based on a montage of several of Florida's small town's best kept secrets, these kind being the ones that fester. As she talked about the "hanging" she'd heard of all her life, imagining it was a Western style cattle rustler getting strung up for theft, and discovering through a series of coincidental meetings that it was a lynching, I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I haven't read it yet, but I will say that MY BROTHER MICHAEL is one of the best books I've ever read that no one has heard of. Put out by a small southern press, this book has blurbs on the back from Harry Crews, James Dickey and Connie May Fowler. It's not out in digital form (though that's coming in a month or so) but if there's anyone on your Christmas list who loves Pat Conroy (who says American Ghost is a masterpiece) or Joshilyn Jackson or Flannery O' Connor or Kaye Gibbons, you can't go wrong buying this for them.
This month I also read Swamplandia. It took me forever to get into. I think I set it aside more than once. Then I made an amazing discovery. There are some books that go better with Coke. Or Coffee. As a working mom, reading, long my favorite form of entertainment, got shoved into later and later time slots. It's usually what I do right before I fall asleep. Swamplandia is brilliant and gorgeous but I wouldn't have found that out if I'd not gone away with my husband for a beach weekend and sat on the porch looking at the ocean with Voltaire's favorite beverage (he was reputed to drink 72 cups a day) and re-opened the novel. So now I realize my ability to enjoy so-called "literature" hasn't faded. It's just that there are books you need to do first thing in the morning with as much of a stimulant as you can. On the Voltaire Index (tm) Karen Russell's high, but she's freaking brilliant.
And speaking of brilliant, my dear friend Julianna Baggott's PURE (which I INHALED) made the New York Times list of 100 top books written in 2012. I suspect it was written for young adults but like HARRY POTTER and Phillip Pullman books, it's appropriate for adults. The people who made the TWILIGHT movies are making this one into a movie and the next in the trilogy, FUSE, comes out February 19th.
Last but not least, I greatly enjoyed Will Schwalbe's End of Your Life Bookclub, about a club of two, the author and his mother, as she was waiting for chemotherapy at Memorial Sloan Kettering. Even the closest of families, (and this one seems exceptionally functional) have trouble sometimes when it comes to sitting down and talking about certain things. Death, sex, betrayal, etc. Books, which the mother and son both adore, provide a perfect jumping off point for intimacy, and humor, and just plain companionship. They begin with one of my favorite books EVER, and that's Wallace Stegner's Crossing to Safety.
Any and all of the above books would make a great Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzai or Druid Fancier present.
Diana Lively is Falling Down is available only as a digital book, unless you contact the the author who'd be happy to sell you a paperback copy. Her second novel Everyone She Loved is available in digital or hard copy. You can view a trailer about the book (and the author's television-watching-dog) if you'd like to know more. Merry Christmas all!