Thursday, August 25, 2005

10:55 am
I’m blogging from the Starbucks at the corner of Berkeley and Boylston St. in Boston’s Back Bay. It’s a gorgeous day—clear blue sky, low humidity, coolish. Where’s my camera? The ride in took an hour instead of the usual 15-20 minutes. “Switching problems,” we were told. We were stuck in the midst of a beautiful freshwater marsh, surrounded by cattails, for about twenty minutes.

This Starbucks has an outdoor café; I’m not sitting in it because the wind would wreak havoc with the papers I’m supposed to be studying, but I love looking out on all the people relaxing there, the Bassett Hound who looks like he’s going to fall over from boredom, guys on bicycles swooping in and out of traffic.

My original purpose today was to go to the Boston Public Library, the oldest public library in the country, to search through the U.S. Patent Office indexes for the patents of women’s inventions from the 19th and 20th centuries for a project I’ve been hired to do. But, because of the train delay, there is no point in digging in over there, because by the time I get into the swing of using the data, I’d just have to leave to meet Barbara. She moved to the South End this summer, and her new home is so beautiful—bigger than a townhouse, four floors of lovely, big rooms. Sensational views of the park—lots of trees. I’m so envious.

I often have my most profound thoughts while writing in a city Starbucks, no matter which city I’m in. That’s not happening today, but I am filled with a feeling of contentment and, well, joy. I’ve been so happy this month, which is definitely due to the fact that I’ve taken lots of time to enjoy creative activities—cooking and experimental escapades in the kitchen, fun outdoor food gathering (visiting local farms and berry picking all over), doing some art—pastels, developing a new blog (La Cuisine Massachusetts), walking, seeing friends, discovering and learning all about wine. Everyone tells me I need the break, but the problem is I don’t want it to end! I do hope that by the time we return from vacation, I’ll be ready to hone in on all my work projects.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

I'm already starting to stage a plan for gathering some terrific audiobooks for our vacation. Once again, we're returning to Minerva Lake in the Adirondacks for two weeks in September. There we'll retire to our chalet nestled high above the lake. The audiobooks are for the long evenings by the fire (it can be downright chilly there by September). Audiobooks I'm attempting to get from local libraries: The Kite Runner, Saturday by Ian McEwan, Entombed (Ken loves thrillers) by Linda Fairstein, and Lost in the Forest by Sue Miller. We need a couple more, so I'm still working on the list. During the day, in between paddling, eating, writing, and excursions, I'm hoping to read A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby, The Practice of Deceit by Elizabeth Benedict, and I'd love a cooking memoir, if I can manage to find such a thing. Know any good ones?

Monday, August 22, 2005

Roland Merullo appears at a Brookline Booksmith event tomorrow evening.

To continue the thread of new hardcover novels that I'm dying to read, I thumbed through A Little Love Story by Roland Merullo, author of the acclaimed Revere Beach Boulevard on my last visit to Borders. His latest has received outstanding reviews, including one from the Washington Post. (Although a link won't get you there, google the title and Washington Post.) The plot: Jake, a carpenter in his thirties, lost his girlfriend in the September 11 disaster. After a year of aimlessness, he meets a woman who happens to be in the final stages of cystic fibrosis and who is determined to grasp a chance at love before it's no longer possible.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Last week I dropped into Borders Bookstore while I was waiting for Sophie to be finished having "the works" at the doggie beauty palace. (Not my favorite bookstore, but it was across the street.) I scoured my way through the new hardcover fiction and found a few that made me itch to read them.

First off, New York novelist Cheryl Mendelson's second work of fiction is out. Love, Work, Children, like her first novel Morningside Heights (check out my post of January 7, 2004, in the Archives for more info on this title), is set in that distinctive, yet little known Upper West Side neighborhood. She focuses this time on characters who were minor players in Morningside Heights, in particular Peter Frankl, who at midlife, discovers that his relationship with his wife, his work, and his entire family life are not bringing him any joy or meaning.

I would very much like to continue this post, but my laptop Slimbrowser is giving me fits.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Last night I started reading User ID by Jenefer Shute, author of Life-Size and the bestselling Sex Crimes. I could not stop reading this utterly believable tale of the theft of one woman's identity. Shute tells the story by writing alternate chapters about the victim and the thief (also a woman). The details of how the theft is accomplished scared me to death and compelled me to read more. Incredibly well done. All I could think when I put down the book to go to sleep (yeah, right!) was why isn't everyone's identity being robbed? It's not difficult to do.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The Quills Award nominees have finally been announced. The fiction finalists include A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby, Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, The Plot against America by Philip Roth, The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kid, and Zorro by Isabel Allende. As I'm sure you know, the public votes for their choice online and in Borders bookstores.

When the idea for the Quills Awards was first announced, I was disappointed to learn that readers would not be selecting the nominees. Oh, no, librarians and booksellers would do that. But they were not permitted to choose just any title they wanted; their selections had to meet certain bestseller criteria, based on nationwide bestseller lists.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Nancy Pearl, author of Book Lust and, more recently, More Book Lust, recently admitted in a Christian Science Monitor interview that she finishes only about one book of every five she starts. She's a strict believer in the 50-page rule, noting that life is too short to spend time reading books one doesn't enjoy.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Work is going by fits and starts, or should I say fits and stops? I'm finding it incredibly hard to be motivated this summer. Last summer I kept my nose to the computer screen all summer without a break, and due to Bookbuilders (the company I was freelancing for at the time) going bust this spring, I was paid only $100 of the $1,245 owed me for that summer slavery. I have tried and tried to collect, but the company is gone now. Thanks, Lauren Fedorko, wherever you are, and good luck on all your future exploitations. Writers beware!

And to all of you writers out there: How do you keep yourself glued to your writing chair in the summer? Any and all tips will be much appreciated!

Thursday, August 11, 2005

By three o'clock, the heat and humidity are more than I can bear. My brain refuses to think clear thoughts and all I want to do is find a comfy locale and put my feet up. Now that I have a laptop, I can find these things easily, but I also suffer from a late afternoon desire to be lazy. Take today, for example. I've had a strong cup of tea, but all I want to do is nod off.

So, I have a book in hand. When I read a review of First Love by Adrienne Sharp a few months ago, I immediately put it on my list of books to read. Sharp spent her teen years in the corps of the New York City Ballet, and, although she did not continue as an adult, she has written a novel about two young ballet artists, incorporating her intimate knowledge of the ballet world. As she explained in a Publisher's Weekly interview, she discovered before sitting down to write the book that there have been no recent novels that have tackled the competitive, insular culture of American ballet.

Sharp uses an omniscient viewpoint that objectifies Adam and Sandra, the two focus characters, a treatment that comes off as if she is studying them with twelve-foot long tweezers. Her prose is fluid, but her characters don't seem alive. Still, her observations about Balanchine, though the qualities she chooses have been written about so much that they're almost cliche, are interesting, especially when seen through the eyes of a very young ballerina.

But with that said, I am enjoying it, especially all the New York descriptions and ballet talk. A voyeur's view...

Monday, August 08, 2005

A Sunday Morning Respite in Tom and Lek's Garden

Although I've been distracted by adventures of the palate, I'm momentarily inspired to post an entry about Nick Hornby. I missed him when he was in Boston promoting A Long Way Down, his most recent novel, about four people, each intent on their mission to jump off a building on New Year's Eve. The story of how they emerge from their isolation and together form a no-suicide pact is both riveting and very funny, though some critics have declared this novel is Hornby's darkest yet.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

I'm sorry there's no book news today, but if you're at all curious about my recent culinary adventure, visit La Cuisine Massachusetts.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

I'm doing really well after the minor surgery I had Monday. I'm walking Sophie, working at my desk, back to the routine with the exception of an afternoon nap that I can't seem to live without.

Oddly enough, the past week or more has seen me in a reading slump. I can't explain it, I don't know why, but I just haven't felt like reading fiction. Nothing entices me. I've been watching television in the evenings and have been studying a few cookbooks, but that's it. I'm completely baffled.

It's been eons, but I think that I've been in this state before. As I recall, I've picked up a thriller or a mystery to break the impasse. I ordered Oblivion by Peter Abrahams from the library, and I've just got to get myself there to pick it up. Abrahams is in the Boston area at the moment, promoting the first book in his new YA mystery series Down the Rabbit Hole. Even though he's an admirer of Stephen King (whose writing I can't stomach), I've been reeled in by critics who claim Abrahams writes beautifully.