Thursday, September 27, 2007

Red Legg'd Scissorman

Don't you love odd coincidences? This character, the Red Legg'd Scissorman, one I've never heard of, is in the last two books I've picked up - The Fourth Bear and The Adventures of Inspector Lestrade. Isn't that odd?

For background, this character is threatened by parents to come and cut off kids' thumbs if they suck their thumb. Lovely. As both these books are written by Brits, I figured this was some British folk tale thing. A little research reveals that no, it's really German. It's from the Struwwelpeter stories by Heinrich Hoffman written in 1845. Creepy little teach-your-children-a-lesson stories. And stories I researched when I worked at a Victorian house museum - they are very Victorian.

Now, I find it even more odd that this character is in both these books....

p.s. check out the cover of The Fourth Bear on the link above - I want that U.K. hardcover version!!!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Author's Lists

Since we've been doing this little blog and keeping our virtual lists on, I found it interesting to look through an author's book list!

While researching discussion questions for tomorrow's work book club meeting on The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, (which I read 4 months ago and will have a very hard time remembering the fabulous details that make this book sing...yikes) I ran across Ayelet Waldman's website. She has a very interesting list of books she's reading. In case I ever run out of ideas, huh???

I do frequent Laurie R. King's blog, but that's about it for author sites. Anyone have any favorite author sites?

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Meg Murray, Will Stanton, & Mr. Rochester

Last week, I was sad to read in the NYTimes online that Madeline L'Engle died. I've been thinking a lot about her and A Wrinkle in Time ever since because AWIT was one of those stories that strongly imprinted my childhood imagination. I received the book from my grandmother on my 10th birthday. Here's what the inscription on the inside of cover of my slightly yellow-paged hardcover says:

To Jennifer. A very special book* for a very special young lady on her tenth birthday. Love Grammy. 11/13/75

* I attended the Newberry-Caldecott dinner at which M. L'Engle received the Newberry and spoke. I've saved this book purchased at that time for you--altho in 1963 you weren't around. Keats won the Cadecott for The Snowy Day, which was your first book.

My copy is not a first edition. It's a fouth printing from 1963, complete with the gold Newberry award seal on its plastic-coated cover (very library circa the 60's and 70's). Yet . . . do I even need to say that it is priceless?

I love the idea that in 1963, my grandmother is picking out books for the granddaughter (granddaughters) she didn't even know she would have. It would be another year and half before my parents would meet in a crowded bar in Grinnell, Iowa (or so the story I've been told goes). I was less than a glimmer, less than a possibility, yet my reading life was already being created. How could I not have become a book addict?

Another memory springs to mind. It's 1976 and Kris Z. and I are playing Barbies with a doll house that my mom helped me make out of an old white bookshelf--each cubby in the shelf is a separate room. Only Kris and I don't have Barbie dolls. I have a Sunshine Family doll--the mother with blonde, shiny hair--and we have tons of animal figurines, including a light brown Great Dane, made out of this "pleather" like material. We're not playing a typical Barbie scenario. We're playing Dr. Who. The blonde doll is Josephine Grant, the Doctor's assistant. We don't have a doll that can adequately represent The Doctor so we pretend that a freak lab accident has rendered him invisible. And the Great Dane . . . we call him Mr. Rochester (from a book we read that I have now forgotten but should try to google). Looking back, I love that we are cutting and pasting from books and TV to create a world that is all our own. Embarrassingly geeky but . . . ours. No picking out the perfect outfit or worrying about whether Ken will call. We're fighting the ultimate evil . . .of course.

What's the connection between this memory and A Wrinkle in Time? Looking back, I realize that books by Madeline L'Engle, Susan Cooper, and even C.S. Lewis pulled me into their worlds and made me want to be a superhero, to have magic adventures, to save the world, etc. And if I'm honest with myself, that 10 year-old-self has never completely gone away.

So, until the magic adventure strikes, I'll tune into the next season of Heroes, watch old Buffy DVDS, and sneak young adult fiction out of the public library.

Thank you Madeline and viva la imaginacion!

(Post-Google Info: Mr. Rochester is the name of the Great Dane in L'Engle's book, Meet the Austins. If you're wondering, Fortinbras is the name of the dog in A Wrinkle in Time.)

Friday, September 21, 2007

Harry Potter - First Media Appearance!

According to Jason Kottke , one of those made famous by blogs, this is the first mention of our dear friend Harry in the New York Times on Dec. 17, 1998:
The other books on the fiction best-seller list are ''The Night Before Christmas'' (Putnam) by Clement C. Moore and ''Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone'' (Scholastic) by J. K. Rowling, certainly closer to belles lettres than Ms. Curtis's work.

Certainly not the last!!

Also intriguing is Kottke's blog that the NYT has made 150 years of its articles available for free. A researchers paradise!

(Tip courtesy the Hobbled Runner.)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Wild Quinine

Sounds pretty wild, huh? Just got a new plant from a neighbor who is digging out (!) her garden! Egad!! The owner before her was a huge gardener and planted a variety of interesting things. It was very fun to watch through the summer. The new owner wasn't interested, so offered the plants to her gardener neighbors. We happily saved almost everything!

There was one plant I didn't recognize, so ignored at first. However, it kept drawing me back. On the last possible day, I dug it up, thinking I'd get someone to identify it or look online. Fortunately, the original gardener had planted the id tag with the plant!

It's wild quinine, or American feverfew. Turns out it's a native plant, good for my native plant raingarden. Perfect!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Disappointed and moving on

I finally finished, well sort of, the latest Maisie Dobbs installment, Messenger of Truth. I really, really wanted to like it. But, it didn't live up to my expectations. I actually skimmed the last 50+ pages to get to the end. Oddly, there were many subplots in the story that ended up leading no where, the romance fizzled quite unremarkably and unbelievably, and an intentional tear jerker child death really detracted from the point of the book. Oh well, I'll move on and hope the next book in the series is better!

Now I'm on to a choice. Two of my book clubs meet the last week of September. In one, I'm leading the discussion of Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon. I read this last spring. It was amazing. Truly amazing. One of the only books recently that I've found with that true "I can't put it down!" spirit. It's a long book, so I wanted to read fast. But you can't. It's dense, tiny type (what - 8 point???) but you want to, have to, read every single word. So, do I have to reread it to lead the discussion?

My other bookclub is reading Atonement by Ian McEwan. I've just started, but it, too, seems dense and not a quick read. Why are all my book clubs picking books I have to think about? Give me Lorna Landvick! or the Mermaid's Chair or something I can read fast when I'm nearly asleep. (OK - this is how out of it I am .... I see that Atonement has just been released as a movie. Maybe that's why it was picked....)

Opinions, please? Which to read first?