Month: January 2012

The Secret of the Old Clock By Carolyn Keene

Let’s not discuss why I was reading a Nancy Drew book–a series written for elementary school children–and instead, talk about how totally rad Nancy is!

The first book was published in 1930. Of course, reading this book as an adult, I could easily point to the silliness and absurdity of the plot but that doesn’t stop me from waxing fondly about my favorite childhood heroine. I used to live across the street from a children’s bookstore and they would proudly line their sidewalk display with the yellow covers of the Nancy Drew series.

I’m definitely not in the know when it comes to what the youth are reading these days except for books that involve vampires and love triangles, but I do hope that they are gobbling up the pages of Carolyn Keene’s series.

Nancy is resilient and quick thinking. She does right by the underdog and always gets her man. In The Secret of the Old Clock, Nancy helps her fellow neighbors in times of need, fixes a flat tire, attempts to pick a lock after being shut in a closet by a criminal, and doesn’t get intimidated by anyone.

Of course, the narrative is written simply but it has some great “plotty” stuff that kids should appreciate. In The Secret of the Old Clock, Nancy is in search of a possible second will of the late Josiah Crowley. If only Nancy could find this missing document to help the poor friends of Mr. Crowley who were left out of the first will! It was a real pleasure revisiting Nancy and I hope I get a chance to do it again.

“In a flash Nancy’s detective instincts were aroused and her heart pounded excitedly. ‘It must be Josiah Crowley’s will they’re talking about,’ she reasoned.” –Nancy Drew

Behind the Longreads

Last night at Housing Works Bookstore, a dear dear dear writerly friend¹ and I went to the New York magazine Behind the Longreads panel. I usually turn into a pesky toddler squirming in their seat waiting for the moment of the final applause. However, this panel was fantastic.

The moderator was NYmag’s editor-in-chief and the panel consisted of 3 writers who published articles in the magazine in the past year. Because I had already read the articles, I found it particularly interesting to hear from the writers themselves about how much work and time goes into researching and writing the pieces. One of the writers said that his original draft was 50, 000 words! But it had to be trimmed to 10, 000 for the magazine.

Below are the writers and the articles they discussed:

 

¹FRIEND PLUG ALERT! My dear dear dear writerly friend is amazing. Her works has appeared in various publications including The Believer, Symphony, Forward. All of her articles for the New Yorker’s Book Bench are available in their archives.

Literary Festivals

Everyone likes a good literary festival, right? Well, sometimes I’m not sure. In NYC, I always get the impression that they are filled with academics and literati (this might be totally a syndrome of the 5 boroughs and not the rest of the country). Why doesn’t a more diverse audience attend events like these in the city? The only one that I know of that attracts a mixed crowd is the Brooklyn Book Festival. It’s sprawling with tables and panels both inside and outside.

I’ve been thinking about literary festivals recently because I will be participating in at least two in the next few months (hence, the reason for my inconsistent and lighter blog posts recently).  I am 103% sure that the first one will be swarming with academics which can be a letdown but I hope a good crowd attends the panels and soirees.

A great thing about literary festivals is you don’t have to even be familiar with any of the participants. They are a great way to learn about new writers, trends, genres, publishing houses, etc. and if there is an author you like, it’s also a great way to hobnob.

And let’s not forget about the free wine!

post script, if you have a favorite book festival(s), please leave the info in the comments section; I’m collecting a list so everyone can have these resources. 

The Literary Mustachioed

Flavorwire posted slides of their top 15 best author mustaches. It seems that a former trend for the writerly type was a huge or unique display of facial hair. Will this make a comeback or are we stuck with throwback spectacles and trite sweater vests?

Literary Nerd Jeopardy

The Literary Man and I braved the chill last night to attend FSG’s Work in Progress presents Nerd Jeopardy. Unfortunately, we weren’t chosen to compete but after a few glasses of red wine, I was confidently and inappropriately saying answers aloud.

The fine folks at Work in Progress compile a huge amount of literary answers/questions in the style of Jeopardy! Heckling is encouraged and according to the event website,

There are assorted prizes…You will leave the event vindicated for majoring in 19th-Century Russian Poetry. And because of the free drinks, you will also leave the event slightly tipsy.

A good time and highly recommended, but get there early because seats are limited and it’s in the basement of McNally Jackson.

52 Prince St | New York, New York | 10012

Distractions : Harry Potter on SNL

My brain felt fried last night and my eyes were droopy. My weakened body could barely lift my arm to pour myself a glass of red wine and break off a chunk of Hershey bar. When my head is too overloaded, I’m also a fan of going down the tube that leads to silly online videos. Albeit, not the greatest of all time but the part with Snape was giggle-worthy.

**unfortunately, I don’t think this video is available outside of the US.

Arizona Must be Bizarro World, Right?

I don’t even understand this AT ALL! What’s going on in Arizona?!? Can anyone make sense of this?!?!? I don’t have enough question mark/exclamation point combinations for this one:

As part of the state-mandated termination of its ethnic studies program, the Tucson Unified School District released an initial list of books to be banned from its schools today. According to district spokeperson Cara Rene, the books “will be cleared from all classrooms, boxed up and sent to the Textbook Depository for storage.”

[...]

Another notable text removed from Tucson’s classrooms is Shakespeare’s play “The Tempest.” In a meeting this week, administrators informed Mexican-American studies teachers to stay away from any units where “race, ethnicity and oppression are central themes,” including the teaching of Shakespeare’s classic in Mexican-American literature courses.

I remember in public high school, there were classes offered like AP European History and a Women’s Studies class. I’m sure no one has thought of removing these offerings.

According to the Huffington Post:

Less than two months away from the 140th anniversary of the opening of the first public school in Tucson, founded by Mexican immigrant and legendary Tucson mayor Estevan Ochoa in 1872, the nationally celebrated Mexican American Studies teachers and their college-bound students will be removed from Mexican American history and literature courses and placed into unofficially approved “American” literature and history courses, including European History.

Okay. Let’s take breather and watch a clip from Seinfeld to cool our jets.

Kreativ Blogger Award

Thank you so much to Kris Merino and her fantastic blog, Intelligent Life. She was kind enough to honor me with this second award. Everyone should read her posts; they’re always insightful and she’s on a Universe trend lately which I LOVE! (read: beautiful photos of space, brainy words from physicists). The two rules of receiving this award are 1) name 6 blogs to pass this on to and 2) 10 facts you don’t know about me. There are so many great blogs that I read. I wish I could bequeath this to all of them!

In no particular order…

  1. Literalab
  2. Schietree
  3. Subtlekate
  4. Multo (Ghost)
  5. Books Without Any Pictures
  6. I Hate My Brain

10 facts…that’s a lot!

  1. Because I blog anonymously at Acid Free Pulp, some people assume that I’m a man but I’m not! Definitely a woman last time I checked.
  2. I’m double-jointed in my right arm and can turn it all the way around.
  3. I can never just read one book at a time. (I have a problem)
  4. I once saw a woman dressed as a pack of birth control dancing in the park Bollywood-style.
  5. My favorite pancake is the luxurious banana pancake.
  6. I don’t like monkeys…for real, get that chimpanzee away from me.
  7. I’ve been working on the first 50 pages of my novel for the past two years.
  8. I own multiple copies of Gravity’s Rainbow but have never read it.
  9. I see Wallace Shawn EVERYWHERE in NYC! It’s like he’s stalking me or something.
  10. I have to interview an author in February as part of a literary festival and am incredibly nervous because I’ve never done anything like this before.

Books + Fast Food

I read an article today that stated,

McDonald’s UK is to hand out around nine million popular children’s books with its Happy Meals, as part of a new partnership with publishing house HarperCollins. The promotion aims to get books into the hands of families and support mums and dads in reading with their children… Each book comes with a finger puppet to help parents bring the stories to life for their children, and to encourage children of all reading abilities to use their imagination and create their own tales.

For about a month, McDonald’s UK will nix the toys that normally come with these meals and instead, hand out books by British writer, Michael Morpurgo (he penned War Horse).

I don’t eat McDonald’s but I would like to ignore the argument about childhood obesity for the moment and just focus on the books (note: I do, however, think that way too many adults and children are unhealthy and obese). According to the National Literacy Trust, four million/1-in-3 children in Britain do not own a book.

I come down on the side that this is a good idea. Not to be too pessimistic, but my opinion is: the children will be eating this food anyway so to provide them with a book instead of a crummy plastic toy seems like a much better idea. I mean, they come with finger puppets!

The Parenticide Club by Ambrose Bierce

Someone should really slap me across the face for taking such a long hiatus from Ambrose Bierce. His writing always proves entertaining. I first came across him in college when we were assigned to read a handful of his short stories for a literature class on the Civil War. Of course, An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge was included (perhaps, his most famous story; don’t read the Wikipedia page if you don’t want spoilers).  I branched out and read The Devil’s Dictionary and Fantastic Fables, the former, being re-published with illustrations by Ralph Steadman.

The Parenticide Club is a short work that is composed of four stories, each with a narrator that kills at least one parent. The book grips you right from the beginning,

Having murdered my mother under circumstances of singular atrocity, I was arrested and put upon my trial, which lasted seven years. In charging the jury, the judge of the Court of Acquittal remarked that it was one of the most ghastly crimes that he had ever been called upon to explain away.

Bierce is always a great study when you want to see how a master has crafted plot and suspense. Much of his work, including The Parenticide Club, is bizarre and haunting. This short collection is a fascinating example for a writer who is interested in writing a first person narrator who is far from being a saint. These stories are not gory but can be labelled disturbing in the psychological sense.

I always find Bierce to be an interesting character. Besides being a top notch writer/journalist and wit, his life was supremely intriguing: he was a Union soldier during the Civil War (much of his more famous writings take place during the war period) and when he was in old age, he went down to Mexico to hang out with Pancho Villa  during the Revolution. No one heard from him again.

In 1962, a short film from France was adapted from the story, An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge. It was then shown on the Twilight Zone. Below is the Twilight Zone episode with accompanying Spanish subtitles for your convenience.