Friday, January 27, 2012

Where the wild things are on tv

In case you missed it, Maurice Sendak did a hilarious, curmudgeonly interview with Stephen Colbert this week. I'll embed it here because I think he made some valid points about children's books and the book industry.

Part 1

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Grim Colberty Tales with Maurice Sendak Pt. 1
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogVideo Archive

Here's Part 2

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Grim Colberty Tales with Maurice Sendak Pt. 2
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogVideo Archive

Thursday, January 19, 2012

In which I suddenly express a small amount of desire for an e-reader

I admit that I've been pretty disdainful of eBooks in most past posts on this blog. But last weekend, I felt a glimmer of desire for one of the dang things.

I was trying to squeeze all the new books that E-girl received for Christmas and her birthday into already packed shelves. They...wouldn'

She is very sentimental. Suggestions that we give away some of the books she doesn't read anymore have been met with tears. She won't get rid of even the books that don't deserve a second reading like those from the Dear Dumb Diary series. Being surrounded by books is a comfort to her, even the stack of Dr. Suesses on the top shelf that she hasn't read in seven years.

"What if," a little voice in my head whispered, "all those throw-away tween novels had been on an e-reader? She could still have access to them, but they wouldn't be crowding all these shelves."

(In the past, we could get such books from the library. But our public library is struggling and its book budget has been slashed. If they buy new books at all it's sometimes one copy for 19+ branches. When we went to look for books on planning children's parties last week, we found the same books that were there 10 years ago. So if we want something new, we now have to buy it ourselves. Or, possibly, wait a long time in an online queue.)

And when she struggles to put on her backpack in the morning, filled with books, I sometimes wish I could load up textbooks and novels on a small e-Reader for her.

Of course, there's still the problem of misplacing or losing such an expensive tool. If not lost out of a backpack, I imagine it could be easily buried under a pile of books in her room.

So I won't be ordering a Kindle anytime soon. But it's starting to appear, sometimes, on a Wish List in my mind.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Spa party (or, Martha Stewart for a week)

Most of my time and intention last week went into organizing a spa party for E-girl. Like a production assistant, I went around to various stores and web sites looking for just the right props/tools/party favors: small spray bottles, candies, tiny nail polishes, bath sponges, emery boards, a red heart tray... etc.

I am not a Martha Stewart-type—and I normally loathe shopping—so this was not done without some inner struggle on my part. But it was her fervent birthday wish and I tried to do a good job of it. (I suppose some of that intention came from guilt, to make up for any past, pitiful party favor bags I'd filled with Dollar Store items such as non-bouncy balls, flimsy hair barrettes, and soon-headless dolls.)

As I continued on with it, I became more intent on doing it as perfectly as possible, even if all that planning and acquiring and cleaning kept me from writing. Sure I could think while driving from one store to the other, but those thoughts were unrecorded, unexplored. Much of it felt like lost time, though ultimately for a good cause.

I realize that some people would have found the whole event a creative outlet—acquiring, decorating, planning, as art forms in themselves. My Aunt Sadie was one of those people. She used to throw parties for my brother and me that involved the entire neighborhood. In one, the local doctor, bandana across his face, held up the station wagon/stage coach, while kids defended it with toy guns. The sets she made for those parties lingered in my grandmother's attic after she married at middle age and left for England.

The spa party was on a much smaller scale. I hired a local teenager to give foot massages. We set up foot spas in the kitchen and a card table topped with make-your-own foot soaks, sugar scrubs and scented water. I polished toenails, sprayed faces with rosewater and put sliced cucumbers on eyelids. Four hours later, it was over, all that work transformed into happiness.

Though not my usual format, it was a successful bit of performance art.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Try doing this with an e-book

Fun, whimsical video of what goes on in a bookstore in the after-hours.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Flaubert option

I am in the midst of my third bad cold/respiratory virus in less than 12 months. Is it karma? (I bragged "I never get colds anymore!" a year ago). Whatever the cause, this is my particular immune weakness right now and no matter how many vegetables I eat or how much zinc, vitamin C, or Chinese herbs I take, the colds stick around for several days. And make me tired—after I typed this first paragraph, I wanted to lie down again.

There are only two good things about being sick: it increases empathy for the sick, and offers time to daydream. Of course I can daydream in good health, but not without some degree of guilt. Trapped in bed, the mind can wander.

I thought of Gustave Flaubert this morning when I went back to bed after breakfast. Flaubert's family wanted him to be a lawyer but he wanted to write. After what was described as a bout of nervous fits (perhaps undiagnosed epilepsy?) he declared he was too ill for the law. And he wrote. Of course, this is an oversimplification of his life—he traveled, had liaisons with prostitutes and engaged in love affairs in places beyond his own bedroom. But I have this image of him retreating from the world and giving himself completely to words.

Last night, I went to bed early and, cozy under blankets, read 50 pages of The Night Circus, which I received for Christmas. I did not think about dirty floors, laundry or dishes—I didn't have the energy to do anything else.  The only other time these days that I can "read" books so guiltlessly is when I am driving in the car, listening to books on tape. I always have to be doing something, going somewhere.

In my regular, healthier life, the reading of a book is no longer a goal or worthy activity in and of itself. How have I gotten so far away from one of the things that is most important to me?