Friday, May 15, 2009

I'm Buddy Rich when I fly off the handle

Me by Sam, originally uploaded by your neighborhood librarian.

Among the shit I ain't had time for lately (i.e. and to wit: blogging, grammar)... reading.

You should see the books stacked up on my read / review shelf. Now that I have one. Which - oh my god - so great! (Wow, I was just my friend Jaime there for a second. Hi James! See you in two weeks!) But setting up the office was not time doing work that might be done in the office. Also, planning the music for today's Circus Arts Club performance at school was not time doing work that might be done in the office. Although, I did do that in the office, because I did it in iTunes, and you know what? You'd think that after having listened to the Beastie Boys since like 1987, which is pretty much the year Adam Horowitz was BORN, I'd have a copy of "Sabotage" in my iTunes. But not.

Or, in fact, you'd think that I could walk my flat ass up the street and borrow it from a neighbor: I may not be absolutely sure that I have a neighbor who has a working hand mixer that I can borrow, but I AM absolutely sure that the combined music collection of Kyle and Gretchen, Matt and Chelsea, Stacy and Lui, Peter and Chris, and David and Chuck contains at least one copy of Ill Communication. (I LOVE MY STREET.) But I plunked down my $1.29 and now I have an iTunes copy of "Sabotage". I'll get the rest of the CD from Kyle.

But right, I am scraping ten minutes here between ordering bus tickets to NYC for Book Expo (HELLOOO, KidLit Drink Night!) and getting ready for this performance this afternoon, and I was going to talk about books.

Here's a book that showed up just yesterday:

Edible Schoolyard: A Universal Idea by Alice Waters

If you were a world-famous restauranteur and intiator of a food revolution, and wanted to take a middle school in hand, what could you do? Where would you start? Alice Waters convinced a MS principal to let her start a garden on school property, and several years later, the food garden was incorporated into the science, math, and even English curricula. You should see some of the stuff the kids wrote in their journals while sitting under the arbors in their school garden in Berkeley, CA.

GOD I would love to see this happen in Baltimore. I've been watching the Edible Schoolyard idea for 10 years - the Berkeley model has been repeated at a school in New Orleans - and it seems to me it addresses about a million ills. Innovative curriculum that thinks on its feet and adjusts to match the materials available; lessons about nutrition; better science instruction; getting kids outdoors; getting kids into a kitchen.

I didn't manage to do more than skim the book and look at the gorgeous photos (Prince Charles visited, not that he's gorgeous, but you know, when the Prince comes, so does a really good photographer). I did see enough to know: this is one orgasm of an education book. Would make a great end of year gift for the educator in your life. Just be sure when you give it, you specify that you're not saying, "HEY dammit - do this!" Not everybody has the resources of Alice Waters.

Let Me Eat Cake: a celebration of flour, sugar, butter, eggs, baking powder, and a pinch of salt by Leslie Miller

Ok now THIS one I am seriously a delinquent for not reading. Leslie lives right around the corner, and got me an advance copy for FREE, and what did I do? I read the part she said she was worried about, and then I put it on the shelf and unpacked another dozen boxes of filthy OLD books.

But in the bits I read (I also read the last chapter, and the first part), I found that I thought I knew Leslie, because Leslie has a blog, and is my friend on Facebook, and posts her beautiful photos to Flickr, not to mention I see her at parties and shit, but I did not quite know how good Leslie writes. Leslie writes GOOD.

That alone should convince you to pick up Let Me Eat Cake, but I will also say that Leslie is FUNNY. Funny + Good = Read it. Not that anyone needs me to tell them, apparently: the 19 copies in my library system have been more or less entirely checked out ever since their arrival.

And look at that pretty cake on the cover - MMM!

I was sent this Huffington Post article on the Love as the Practice of Freedom conference at Princeton by my old friend (library cataloger supreme and romance novelist) Ann Herendeen. Ann self-published her first book, Phyllida and the Brotherhood of Philander, a gay Regency romance novel (yeah I told her I was never gonna read it, I barely read adult fiction as it is, and romance? and Regency? although gay? interesting!) and it was so popular that Harper picked it up. Harper! Nice!

The article is the most thought-provoking thing I've read in a while. It presents romance as a "fundamentally progressive activity", breaking down boundaries, transgressing mores, challenging the status quo. And I buy that. What is more, the romance novel is "an important transmitter of values," says the article's author, Hillary Rettig. I like thinking of that: the ladies who read romance novels are - I don't want to generalize here - in some cases not young, not NPR listeners, not people who live and think on the edge. Other romance novel readers ARE. (Ok, Left Brainiac the Baking Librarian, I know I'm a snob (and you know I'm a snob), and I'm trying to get over it!) I love the idea of these nice romance-reading ladies maybe rooting for a protagonist (and a protagonista) who are non-white, or not completely heterosexual, or whatever.

To that end, I thought I'd give romance one more try. Left Brainiac recommended Jayne Castle (one of Jayne Krentz's brands), who writes strong women and strong men in a sci-fi setting. I checked out Ghost Hunter, and I read the first chapter in the parking lot waiting to pick up the kids. Hm. Awfully heavy on dialogue. Long scenes. Lots of simmering. Not for me. I may try Ann's book after all.

Then there are the impulse books I've been snatching up while shelving new books at the library. Jedediah Berry's The Manual of Detection attracted me first with its steampunky green and gold and black cover, then with the inside cover blurb which made it sound meta without being tedious, like Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age: Or, a Young Lady's Illustrated Primer. I may have to force my friend Melissa to read this book and tell me about it.

I also grabbed up The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet because of its cover: an engraving of a bird skeleton nestled in a flat box with a pair of dividers and an old-style museum specimen label. Boy am I a sucker for that style. But leafing through: neato! Tricks and illustrations and marginalia - I love that stuff in kids' books, and it's about time somebody (other than Mark Z. Danielewski, man I can't handle those books) served some of that fun up for grownups. Plus, blurbs by Gary Shteyngart and Stephen King, kind of an interesting combo).

I also picked up Black Dogs: The Possibly True Story of Classic Rock's Greatest Robbery by Jason Buhrmester, because a) it looked funny b) it looked cool and c) it was about crime. Also, the word "Baltimore" appears in the back-cover summary.

Bruce Sterling has a new book which I am sure to like. When I can read it.

And the latest YA book that everyone seems to be recommending for adults too is The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan. There are zombies. I want to read this book. I may have to just rely on Eerily Similar Paula's assessment - she was probably the one who recommended it in the first place.

All this is not to mention the VERY nice books the journal I review for has been sending me lately - thanks for easing up on the nonfiction about China! sorry all my reviews have been late this entire calendar year! Does "sheepish" come across on the Internet? I am sheepish.

AND not to mention the stacks and stacks of picture books that I have actually READ in the past few months, and just not been able to review. Orangutan Tongs: Poems to Tangle Your Tongue? YES! When the Moon Forgot? A little weird, but extremely lovely. Down, Down, Down: A Journey to the Bottom of the Sea? You don't need ME to tell you anything Steve Jenkins is involved with is awesome.

THERE. It's FRIDAY. I spent some time doing something that was not work, not school, and not house (although I have killed several ants while working here at the kitchen counter, so I guess that counts as a little house stuff. There goes another one - SMISH, you little sugar-addicted motherfucker!). You know what? I should just break out the leftover rum-soaked pineapple and give up on the day! Wouldn't that fucking rock? It's ten a.m. Who's with me?