Thursday, October 18, 2012

In Which I Go On Ad Nauseam About Books. And Life.

I should've updated weeks ago, after posting the picture of that luscious apple from our tree. That was one of three juicy multicolored globes we were able to salvage. (And with its leaf? So pretty!) The rest were ravaged by crows and worms and bugs. YES, I raked up the dead ones so you don't have to call the bylaw officer and send him to my house because there are no dead apples to attract bears. SHEESH. Relax.

Hmmm ... what's happened in the interim?

  • We went for 2.5 months with 8 mm of rain (0.31 inches, Yankees). A RECORD for this area. It was lovely.
  • Soccer season has started. Not for me. I'm just the chauffeur. Four days a week of sweat and smelly. But Bend-It-Like-Brennan is a killer player, and I loves him because he is squishy and he's not embarrassed to give his mom a smooch in public, even though he's almost 11. OMIGOD I LOVE THAT KID. You should see the note he wrote me the other night when I was having a Temporary Loss of Confidence and Will. (They handed me an Oreo and stepped away quietly. All was set right with the world.)
  • Canadian Thanksgiving has passed. It was delicious, thanks.
  • I finally succumbed and put on the yoga pants I bought in March (yoga pants are a big deal in this part of the world -- which is why Vancouver was voted Worst Dressed City in North America). MOST COMFORTABLE PANTS EVER. I wore them NOT to do yoga (HA! Me? Exercise? Are you feverish?) for 12 minutes and managed to get a dollop of mayonnaise on the knee whilst cleaning the fridge. I am now back to wearing jeans.
  • I wrote a whole bunch of words I cannot wait to share with you.
  • I had a birthday. Yay. I'm a year older. *sigh* Oh, wait -- YAY! I'm a year older! Which means I'm not dead yet. This is good. AND I got kisses from these handsome blokes:
  • We started watching Game of Thrones. Why did I wait so long? Joffrey is SUCH an insufferable prick! And omigod, Sean Bean ... why, Eddard Stark, whyyyyyy?
  • And ... I went to the bookstore. Several times. See below.

I buy books like some people buy shoes. Or jewelry. Or Star Wars figures for their personal collections that family members rib them about. I allow myself the luxury of buying real, live books (despite the fact that I also own e-readers that simply collect dust and run out of battery power on the forgotten corners of my desk) like some women go to the nail salon or get their hair done. To permit this expense, I trim my own nails, ignore the overgrown cuticles (until they ache and turn into hangnails). I find nail polish uncomfortable, as if my fingers cannot breathe or are somehow heavier. And I let the shelves at Walmart, the ones that hold L'Oreal in every shade and hue, color my grays every eight weeks or so. I sacrifice new pants, instead wearing one of the same five pairs of well-worn Old Navy men's jeans, topped with one of the ten new long-sleeved T-shirts I buy myself every year on my birthday (again, Old Navy, with some occasional H&M splurges thrown in for good measure). A scarf, heavy sweater, and fake Uggs from Costco finish this imperfect look. But it's enough that I can leave the house clean and not get arrested for going out of doors nekked.

Books are important to me. But do you have any idea how hard it is to find decent bookshelves? The fourteen already in the house are bursting to capacity. The boys need new shelves -- their tastes are changing, and it is reflected in their book collections. My desk has taken on the feeling that it is an oasis amongst the stacks, like my own dry patch of paved, uneven sidewalk among high-rises constructed from books, precariously stacked atop one another. Don't sneeze or move too quickly; the buildings will fall. If we have an earthquake, be sure to look under the books for my crumpled form. It is my hope that their bindings and thick insides will cushion the fall of the ceiling onto my beleaguered head.

This high-rise is tilted. It sort of spilled. OH, and there isn't really a
child being held hostage behind the stack. I promise. Peekaboo! I see you!
Oh, and I drank that wine. It was delicious.
A friend recently commented that she doesn't have means to buy books new (which is an untruth), so she waits until she finds a decent used bookstore. Those, however, are far and few between these days. I posit that everyone has money to buy books -- it means no extended trips out of the state or country, no dinners out, no trips to the spa for pampering and primping. My children ask for many things -- Legos that will only come apart and get lost under my feet (owie), new video games that they will master in six-point-five hours, magic kits to which they will lose the wands and rubber balls and trick cards within days -- and often I say, "No, you don't need another one." But the second they ask for a new book, it's a race to get my shoes on and find the keys in the chaos of the aforementioned literary jungle. Even in a blizzard, I can find my way to the bookstore. 

Someone else once said to me that if I bought fewer books, I'd be able to buy a house instead. In this neighborhood? Are you insane? Even if I returned every book I've ever purchased in the whole of my life, I wouldn't have nearly enough pennies for the 20 percent down payment on the bargain-basement $600,000, 40-year-old pieces-o-shit in these suburbs of Vancouver. Have you checked lately? Most expensive housing market in Canada. Right here, folks. Right friggin' here. So that argument, I smile, laugh, and then smile again. Tell me that story again while we sip coffee and peruse the stacks.

And, no, I cannot go to the library. It's not a cost-effective method for me to get books. I end up owing more in late fines than the book is worth. THAT, and the fact that dozens of people have TOUCHED the books before me. Curled up with them in their beds. Picked at scabs on their faces or chewed on their nails or sneezed on the pages or or or ... If you could wring out a book's pages -- or worse, send it for forensic analysis -- I shudder at what they would find lurking on those oft-turned pages. *shudder*

But my books pay for themselves. I read them, I become a better writer, ergo I write better books. (See how that works?) If you're a writer, and you don't read, lean forward whilst I slip this Cone of Shame around your neck. (It's itchy.) If you're a writer who doesn't read, we THE READERS can tell. Worse, if you're a writer who lies about reading just so you can look cool at conferences and in your writers' group (reading the summaries and reviews of popular books on Goodreads does not mean you've read the damn book) -- once again, we can tell. If your writing sucks, you probably haven't read enough books. Or, if your writing sucks, maybe it's because you were meant to be an opera singer or an embalmer. Maybe you're in the wrong line of work. But what do I know ... the writing ranks these days are stuffed full of people with less skill than a blind, three-legged gopher on leftover prescription meds spilled from a neighborhood garbage bin, and those folks are making SERIOUS bank. Jealous much, Jenn? (Think how my therapist feels having to listen to me wax on about this. Every. Other. Week.)

But this is not a prescriptive blog. I'm not going to tell you how to improve your writing skills. There are plenty of folks far more qualified than I to do that. Some of them even have blind, three-legged gophers as pets.

Nah, instead, I will share with you the reading lists I'm working on, and maybe, just maybe, one of you will tell me what YOU are reading too. I am always looking for an excuse to go to the bookstore.

AND: for the BEST BOOK BLOG EVER, where she actually READS and REVIEWS the books (instead of where I just make long lists and pet the shiny covers), go see Raych at BOOKS I DONE READ. She's my idol.

Recent acquisitions -- and NO, I didn't buy all of these, for those of you concerned about my addictive personality and fiscal health. Some were given to me as gifts, others loaned by clean-handed friends, a few purchased. (If you follow me on Facebook under the Jennifer Sommersby page, you will have seen a semblance of this list before. Not everyone loves FB, though, so we should share accordingly.)

Every Day -- David Levithan
This Dark Endeavour (yes, Canadian spelling) -- Kenneth Oppel (LOVING IT. ALMOST DONE!)
Will Grayson Will Grayson -- David Levithan and John Green
Ape House -- Sara Gruen
Power of the Dog -- Don Winslow
The Winter of Frankie Machine -- Don Winslow
Girl with the Dragon Tattoo -- Stieg Larsson
City of Bones -- Cassandra Clare
City of Ashes -- Cassandra Clare
A Casual Vacancy -- JK Rowling
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making -- Catherynne M. Valente
Son -- Lois Lowry (just ordered this one for my lads)
The Twelve -- Justin Cronin (!!!!)
Rage Within -- Jeyn Roberts (even got a signed copy to match the signed copy of its predecessor, Dark Inside)
Keeper of the Lost Cities -- Shannon Messenger (great middle grade title!)

Creepy. AND set in Vancouver! Sweet!
Books on the WANT List:

Gone Girl  -- Gillian Flynn
Insatiable -- Meg Cabot
11-22-63 -- Stephen King
The Diviners  -- Libba Bray
Bright's Light -- Susan Juby
The Weird Sisters -- Eleanor Brown
The Edge of Nowhere  -- Elizabeth George
Shadow and Bone  -- Leigh Bardugo (I keep hearing amazing things about this one ...)
Code Name Verity -- Elizabeth Wein (another I'm hearing rave reviews about)
Everything by Kristin Cashore (Graceling, Fire, and Bitterblue)

Now that fall has finally settled upon the Great Western North (we don't get a lot of white so I'm officially renaming our geographic locale), I'm looking forward to hunkering down and locking myself in the house while the rain does its best to destroy what remains of the roof's shingles. Ba ha ha ha ... who am I kidding ... I never leave the house, anyway. OH, except to go to the ... well, you know.

I wish my Old Navy men's jeans weren't so tight. I need donuts.

Oh, and here's a cat. Eskimo, the world's laziest writer's assistant. Yeah, he was supposed to be reading my latest pages. He instead chewed the edges. WAIT -- maybe he didn't like it. Maybe the tension was off or the character's motivations were muddled. Omigod, I didn't even think about that. He was trying to tell me by hiding the pages and ingesting the paper. Shit. 

Xs and Os, lovelies ...