Sunday, September 14, 2014

Reading Classics: Can You See Them With Fresh Eyes?

As noted previously in this blog, my friend Carole and I have decided to read Weighty Books. After eight months of such reading, I have to wonder if I can read them with as fresh an eye as I would have in my undergraduate days.

I ask this question after finishing Tobacco Road, a relentless story of loss and more loss. Jeeter is beaten down by life and The Man. The last time he tried to farm his land, the rich folk of Augusta stole from him more than his entire profit: it took his desire for success. He would never win, no matter how hard he worked, so it made entire sense that he did not get up off the porch for much.

However, the characters of Tobacco Road were relentless sinners. Holy cow, by God and by Jesus, they were a wicked lot. I don't use those words lightly, but they fit. Even those who were supposed to be the most spiritually uplifted were fantastically immoral, even by Tobacco Road standards. The ending was as relentless and beaten-down as the rest of the story, and I felt dejected and depressed myself.

However, the more I read, the more it seemed I had read that story before. I had: in many other stories since. However, Tobacco Road was archetypal.

One of the decisions Carole and I made was to read related stories during the six months we focused on a book. For six months we read The Decameron, American Decameron and as much of The Heptameron as we could. (I took a break from the "-Ron Books" and will go back to The Heptameron soon enough.) I am glad, but I also may have to back off on that decision a little: I don't want to lose the magic of the seminal work because it's been hammered to death by other related books.

Along with Tobacco Road, Carole and I will read How Green is Our Valley and The Grapes of Wrath. Will stories be revealed with interesting perspective by three different authors, or will "The Man Gets You Down" theme be driven home with a level of relentlessness only Jeeter could appreciate? I'll keep you apprised.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Summer Reading: How's it Going?

How's your summer reading going?

Now, although some people have a very limited idea of what constitutes "summer reading," we here at Hedgehog Lover are very inclusive. When it comes to reading, our ideas of "summer" allow for such reading to continue until the autumnal equinox, or the closest weekend to the equinox.

Therefore, reading for this summer reading club continues through Sunday, September 28.

What is the Summer Reading Club? It's an excuse to read and share with your community. Those who join the club just have to send me their reading list — then, by the end of September, send me a list of books they actually read.

The winner is the one who read the most books — and that reader wins a book from Hedgehog Lover.

Now, this Hedgehog Lover goes a step further: I donate three books to my local library and contribute money per book to a local non-profit organization, Main Street Child Development Center. Please note: these types of contributions are not mandatory for membership.

So, what are you waiting for? Join the club!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Gone Reading — See You Soon!

If you'll excust me, I'm going to go bury my nose in a book.

Summer reading is all-consuming — especially if I want to be prepared for the Fall for the Book Festival September 11-18.

For the record, it's not too late to join the Summer Reading Club...

See you in the autumn!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Book Signings and My Bookish Heart (Or, I Have to Buy What?)

I enjoy reading, buying books and meeting authors. You would think these activities are compatible with the mission of bookstores. However, in recent times, I've found the act of buying a book has cost me author opportunities.

In January, Ransom Riggs released the second Miss Peregrine book, which I consumed promptly. The author was coming to a Barnes & Noble bookstore near me soon after the book was released, so I finished the book early (to avoid Spoilers some people just can't resist). I brought my stack of Riggs books with me in case he was signing.

When I arrived, a B&N employee informed me that only books purchased that day at B&N would be signed. No exceptions. He was  polite, but firm. After I finished listening to Riggs speak, I left the bookstore with a heavy heart. I didn't want to be duplicitous and buy a book I would later return (which someone suggested). I had read my copy, purchased from a different bookseller, and I was being punished.

Booksellers see customer activity differently than the customer does, and I understand the different perspective: why host (and possibly fund) an event when customers do not need to invest in their company to participate? 

Here is why: veni, vidi, emi. 

If I am in your store, I will buy from you, especially if you're supporting authors I read and enjoy. If I don't buy today, I will be back tomorrow, or the next day I am buying a book (which really is tomorrow, for me).
Yes, the siren song of cheap online books is tempting, and I have more than once dashed myself on those rocks. However, I value the services of bookstores and booksellers. If I support the stores that feature materials I like, they will continue to do so — as will I.
I invest in you, Bookseller, so you will do the same for me.

Only that no longer seems to be the case. The "Great Recession" has changed many merchant practices to stock very little and staff lightly. I have begun confirming stock and reserving books before I enter some bookstores. I mean, why bother putting on pants and leaving the house if I will leave a bookstore empty handed?

So, in a world where books aren't stocked unless there is a Good Reason (movie tie-in or author appearance, for example), readers are stuck between a book and a hard place: buy the book now and lose signing opportunities, or buy the book at an author appearance and lose the opportunity to discuss that book with that author.


I now read a store's fine print regarding author appearances. Where once there were no Rules, now there are many.

I will continue to buy my books when and how I please. I will continue to support local, independent and chain bookstores. I will continue to support authors. If, however, a bookstore looks to separate this reader from an author, this reader will reconsider her relationship with said bookstore.

Bookseller, relax: I will give you money. Just don't command me to do so. Trust my bookish wallet, as well as my bookish heart.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Independence Day and Morgan Freeman

Have you really ever pondered the words of the Declaration of Independence? What do they really mean?

Let Morgan Freeman and some of Hollywood's finest take you on a tour of that risky, volatile document that changed not just our country, but the world.


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Poetry Wednesday: Famous Blue Raincoat




Famous Blue Raincoat

It's four in the morning, the end of December
I'm writing you now just to see if you're better
New York is cold, but I like where I'm living
There's music on Clinton Street all through the evening.
I hear that you're building your little house deep in the desert
You're living for nothing now, I hope you're keeping some kind of record. 

Yes, and Jane came by with a lock of your hair
She said that you gave it to her
That night that you planned to go clear
Did you ever go clear?

Ah, the last time we saw you you looked so much older
Your famous blue raincoat was torn at the shoulder
You'd been to the station to meet every train
And you came home without Lili Marlene

And you treated my woman to a flake of your life
And when she came back she was nobody's wife.

Well I see you there with the rose in your teeth
One more thin gypsy thief
Well I see Jane's awake --

She sends her regards.

And what can I tell you my brother, my killer
What can I possibly say?
I guess that I miss you, I guess I forgive you
I'm glad you stood in my way.

If you ever come by here, for Jane or for me
Your enemy is sleeping, and his woman is free.

Yes, and thanks, for the trouble you took from her eyes
I thought it was there for good so I never tried.

And Jane came by with a lock of your hair
She said that you gave it to her
That night that you planned to go clear --