Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Little Suggested Reading for the Occasion

Here is a little suggested reading in recognition of the momentous occasion this week:

The Great American Handbook: What You Can Do for Your Country--Today and Every Day by Cheri Sicard

Here's just one suggestion from the book: Use the Library of Congress.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Georgia Book Awards & The 100th Day of School

Last week, my daughter brought home from her elementary school library a copy of Georgia author Betteye Stroud’s 2005 The Patchwork Path-A Quilt Map to Freedom (illustrated by Erin Susanne Bennett). My daughter informed me that the book has been nominated for a 2009 Georgia Book Award. She also informed me that she is reading books to earn points for a free ticket to Six Flags Over Georgia. So we began reading Patchwork right away to add to the points she had already earned.

Last night, before going to bed, my daughter told me to make certain that she was up early this morning so that she could finish the story that she was writing and illustrating entitled, The 100th Day of School. The story recognizes her class’ 100th day of kindergarten. She got herself up this morning just after 6 a.m. and was at her desk working before I even knew that she was awake.

I understand that this all simply sounds like the musings of a doting father with regards to his above average child. I do dote and she is above average. But that isn’t the point.

I just find it interesting—her making decisions and choices on her own, then acting on those decisions and choices, particularly when they are of a literary bent. Are there any developmental psychologists out there who can tell me what I am talking about? It’s just so cool!

My daughter was surprised to learn that she is the owner of an autographed copy of Ms. Stroud’s book. The author inscribed her copy to her when my daughter was just three years old—the year her baby brother was born. More information about Bettye Stroud and her works can be viewed at her website which can be linked to from of this blog.

Good luck and congratulations Bettye, on this year’s nomination.

And reading to earn a Six Flags ticket? My folks took me to the park the year it opened. I think it was 1967. Do I want to let my child on a roller coaster that is as old as me?


Friday, January 16, 2009


A nasty cold sent me home from work early one day this week. While not in a cold-medicine-induced stupor, I was able to spend some quality time with Isabella.

And Cullen.

Back over the holidays, my ninth-grade niece and I came to an agreement. If I would read Twilight, the first in the Stephenie Meyer Twilight Saga, she--my niece--would read Brom Stoker’s classic, Dracula. That was the deal.

Until recently, I was only aware of Ms. Meyer’s series as a result of them being the top-selling titles for the book industry in 2008. I work in books, and the Twilight series is, beyond doubt, a phenomenon approaching Potteresque proportions. So, my agreeing to read the first in the series was as much about my own professional interests as much as anything.

I confess that I had some pretty serious preconceptions about the Twilight books based upon the hype. That said, however, the truth about hype is that it seldom really tells you much about what is being, well, hyped.

My biggest preconceptions about the books, though, were based primarily upon the enormous appeal the series obviously has to adolescent girls and young women. Plus, the snippets that I’d caught from aficionados discussing the books made me think that they were nothing more than High School melodrama with a supernatural twist.

My niece, among many others whom I have witnessed, need only mention the name “Cullen” to send herself off into a state of blissful sighing and far away looks. When I was her age, Farrah Fawcett did the same thing to me.

Too, some of my reasons for perhaps thinking badly of the Twilight books before having even read one (something I harshly criticize others doing) might have had something to do with vampires lately being all the rage in the purely adult Romance genre.

I do not consider myself a critic, and I am certainly no spoiler (who rate with telemarketers and morons who talk during movies). That said, I do not think that I am giving anything away by revealing to the dozen or so people left on Earth who have not yet read the Meyer’s saga, that the hero in Twilight is a vampire named Edward Cullen. Though he presents himself as a seventeen-year-old youth, he is, like most vampires, much, much older. So, he is an old man in the eternally buff and strikingly handsome body of a seventeen year-old who is irresistible to females? This sounds more like a middle-aged man’s fantasy more than that of a young woman, but that’s just me thinking out loud.

Finally, I must confess some prejudice toward Twilight as a began to read it due to my tendency to view the book through the eyes of someone who will one day be the father of a seventeen year-old daughter himself. I expect that the day will come when I view all teenage males as dangerous supernatural beings that I must ward off by any means possible.

I’m not saying that I actually “got into” Twilight. I do confess that there were one or two times when I did catch myself thinking calmly to myself, “NO, BELLA! Nooooooooo!”

And that Lauren! What is her problem?

I’m open to just about anything that gets people excited about books and reading. And if Twilight did turn out to be silly stuff, who am I to begrudge anyone for reading just for pleasure? After all, I certainly have my own favorites for simple pleasure reading. I am particularly fond of the late (though still producing) Robert Ludlum’s Bourne series of international espionage novels.

I think that the primary difference between what I choose to read for fun, and what my young niece—a bright kid, I might add—chooses for light reading, is simply a matter of personal taste based upon what is most relevant and familiar to us, respectively.

It is perfectly natural that young readers would be drawn to a world of romance, adventure, fantasy, (and did I say, romance?). I think that this is especially so for young and impressionable women. Still, it is, after all, just make-believe. And that is the big difference, I think, in what I choose to read for fun and what my niece and her peers choose.

Fun reading about teenage vampires is all just fine. Certainly there are some elements about life as a teenager and life in high school with which many readers of the Twilight series may identify. It’s still just pure fantasy.

Unlike my own more grown-up fun reading, in which the attraction—to me—is based more upon reality. I don’t identify with Ludlum’s Jason Bourne character because he is a supernatural, indestructible gentlemanly hunk. That’s just fairy tale stuff. No. I identify with the fictional Bourne because, much like me, he has a dark past, is surrounded by an air of mystery and danger, and is a master in the martial arts. Plus stuff that I can’t go into.

It’s a small distinction, I know. I chalk it up to age and experience.

I can’t wait to hear my niece’s take on Dracula, the original vampire love story.

I’m off to the barbershop tomorrow. And I know just what the nice Vietnamese lady who cuts my hair is going to ask.

“Hey! Where you been so long? What look you want this time? James Bond or Jason Bon?”

Can you give me an Edward Cullen?

Kudos to Ms. Meyer for making her heroine a book lover.


Dracula by Brom Stoker

Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice

The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice


Monday, January 12, 2009

A Few January Author Events

Here are a few readings, signings and discussions taking place in Georgia between now and the end of the month. By no means is the list complete.

Rudolph P. Byrd, The Essential Writings of James Weldon Johnson. Tonight, Monday, January 12 at 7:15 at the Georgia Center for the Book in Decatur. Free.

Tuesday, January 13
Bernie Schein, If Holden Caulfield were in my Classroom: Inspiring Love, Creativity and Intelligence in Middle School Kids.
Margaret Mitchell House in Atlanta. Reception at 6 pm. Program begins at 7 pm. $5 for members and $10 for non-members.

Thursday, January 15
Jack Riggs, The Fireman's Wife.
Georgia Center for the Book (with A Cappella Books) in Decatur.
7:15 pm. Free.

Monday, January 19
Nami Mun, Miles From Nowhere.
A Cappella Books (and the Opal Gallery) in Little Five Points in Atlanta.
7 pm. Free.

Tuesday, January 20
Carolyn Jessop, Escape.
Georgia Center for the Book in Decatur.
7:15 pm. Free.

Wednesday, January 21
Penelope Leach, Child Care Today: Getting It Right for Everyone.
Georgia Center for the Book in Decatur.
7:15 pm. Free.

Thursday, January 22
Bob Zellner and Constance Curry, The Wrong Side of Murder Creek: A White Southerner in the Freedom Movement.
Margaret Mitchell House in Atlanta.
6 pm reception. Program begins at 7 pm. $5 for members and $10 for non-members.

Friday, January 23
Sheryl Kayne, Immersion Travel USA: The Best and Most Meaningful Volunteering, Living and Learning Excursions.
A Cappella Books and the Opal Gallery in Atlanta.
7 pm. Free.

Monday, January 26
Robert J. Norrell, Up from History.
Georgia Center for the Book in Decatur.
7:15 pm. Free.

Tuesday, January 27
Georgia State University Professor Pearl McHaney will give a presentation entitled, "Eudora Welty's Cosmos: One Writer's Beginnings and Photographs".
The Georgia Center for the Book in Decatur.
7:15 pm. Free.

Wednesday, January 28
Stephen J. Cannell, On the Grind.
Margaret Mitchell House in Atlanta.
Reception at 6 pm. Program begins at 7 pm. $5 for members and $10 for non-members.

Thursday, January 29
E. Lynn Harris, Basketball Jones.
Georgia Center for the Book in Decatur.
7:15 pm. Free.

To confirm events, and to get additional information pertaining to the above events, visit the linked websites on this blog.

Suggested reading: see above.


Thursday, January 8, 2009

Predictability--There Doesn't Seem to Be Any

To know, positively, before leaving one's office, countinghouse, or workshop for a day's outing, that it is the day of all others of the season, and that the phase of the moon, the condition of the sky and atmosphere, the direction and force of the wind, and the temperature and condition of the water are just right to insure success, and to know just what bait or fly to use, and in what portion of the stream to fish, under these conditions, implies a state of knowledge that can never be attained by ordinary mortals; and though we are created, "little lower than the angels," it involves a pursuit of knowledge under such extreme difficulties, that even prescience and omniscience are but ciphers in the total sum, for it leaves out the most important factor in the calculation--the fish itself.

--Dr. J. A. Henshall, Book of the Black Bass, 1881

Recommended: At the Grave of the Unknown Fisherman by John Gierach

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

New Year's Resolution

My one New Year's Resolution, posted seven days into the New Year--Better Time Management.

My apologies to Phil Williams. In my last post, I referred to his upcoming book by the title, Ode to Water. The actual title is Elegies for the Water.

If I have one more New Year's Resolution, it would be this (these): read more and fish more in 2009, especially with my kids.

Recommended: Any title, really. Just make certain that it is a book that will encourage you to start your New Year out making regular time-quiet and still-for yourself. It sounds like we'll all be needing some of that in the coming year.