Book book boooook!
No, seriously, a long, long time ago Carrie tagged me with a book meme. And I didn't do it. And didn't do it. And, well, here I am, trying to catch up on things. And I've been reading a lot this summer--books! Finally! Apparently my Internet addiction has now reached a level where it must be physically impossible for me to access blogs or email--i.e. in a camper van in the middle of nowhere in British Columbia--before I can successfully focus on actual books with pages that turn.
So, herewith the book meme. But I'm going to interpret it liberally and answer whatever I want. Because Carrie is in Madison and can't come get me! Hah!
Total Number of Books I Own
Okay, so there's my Fiction bookcase and my Children's Literature bookcase, each 4 or 5 shelves high (depending on whether you count the old Cricket magazines on the top shelf). Then there's the little bookcase full of trade paperbacks: mysteries, SF/Fantasy, Marge Piercy novels, an old copy of On the Road I bought at a used bookstore a long time ago--that kind of thing. Some of those are double-shelved. Then next to it there's the Jewish/Poetry/Memoir/Miscellaneous bookcase, and then the Anthology/Writing/Lit Mag/Library Literature bookcase. Which is only half-full of books because the rest is my old notes from library school, which why did I not throw out already? No idea. Some vague idea that I might need to look through them if I'm ever interviewing for another job?
Also, a couple of shelves and about half the floor full of old New Yorkers. Somewhere in there is the original Genie article that riveted me, and a few Adam Gopnik pieces that I loved, from way back when he was writing from Paris. So of course I have to keep all 300 or so issues.
Sorry...what was the question?
The Last Book I Bought
Oooh, I bought a whole bunch at Vancouver KidsBooks a few weeks ago, then RW went back that very night and bought the Canadian edition of the New Harry Potter at midnight.
I love Canadian bookstores, because not only can you buy the real British un-bowdlerized editions of British books (that's "trainers," not "sneakers," and "prat," not "jerk"--and of course "Philosopher's Stone," not "Sorcerer's Stone," thankyouverymuch), but there are books--especially kids' books--that never ever make it just the extra hundred miles or so over the border. And not just British and Canadian books, but books from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa...it's a paradise for kids' book lovers and Anglophiles, of which I am both. And even when you can get the books here, it's such a treat to have the original editions with the original artwork. They just feel different. Rare and exciting and crackly.
Anyway, one of the books I bought on our last big binge in Vancouver was Permanent Rose, by Hilary McKay. It's the third in a series about this crazy family of artists in England, the mom hides out in the shed where she has her studio and the dad is barely there because he's busy being cool and famous in London and all the kids are named after colors on the color chart (or rather, the colour chart) and there are various Issues which would all be made into their own problem novels in lesser hands (adoption, divorce, disability, bullying) but which here hardly register as Issues because they're just things that happen to the kids in the book, when they're not being funny and cutting and kind to each other and trying to figure out what to have for dinner because Mum's busy painting again.
Permanent Rose isn't out yet in the States I don't think. I love this series so much that I bought it in hardcover and then bought the first two--Saffy's Angel and Indigo's Star--even though I have them at work, because they had the British editions and I love them so.
The Last Book I Read
Well. I gobbled down Permanent Rose, then I read Gregor the Overlander, which is this terrific fantasy about a kid who falls down a grate in the laundry room and gets mixed up with a bunch of giant bugs and bats and also people who live way underground, and along with his two-year-old sister (who turns out to be a surprisingly effective weapon, especially when she's having a tantrum) saves things. Then I read this great huge doorstop of a fantasy called East which everyone's been raving about and it turns out they were pretty much right. It's based on East of the Sun, West of the Moon, a fairy tale I've never read, but I had no trouble following it anyway. A young girl goes on a journey to the end of the earth to repair the wrong she's done to a white bear who was under an enchantment from the Troll Queen! 500 pages, but it's in short chapters and zips right along.
Now I'm in the middle of the new Harry Potter. So far, it's better than the last one, about which I remember almost nothing except a great deal of almost incomprehensible excitement and yelling and things blowing up in the last 50 pages or so.
Five Books That Mean A Lot To Me
I think I waxed very wordy about Girls Visions and Everything and A Little Princess last time I did this meme. Fortunately, there are lots of others:
The Work of a Common Woman, by Judy Grahn. All I can think of to say about this is that it's "powerful lesbian feminist poetry," which is so inadequate. It's just..it's poetry like a knife or something, or like, oh, shit, I'm not a poet so I can't explain but it's SO GOOD. So good. I don't always like her later poems so much but this one, this one I love.
A Room Made of Windows, by Eleanor Cameron. Kids/Young Adult novel about a young girl who wants to be a writer. I know, blah blah blah, but this book is just so honest and true and specific and funny. Her dad is dead, and her mom is starting to date again, and she's really conflicted about it. She's also wrestling with her memories of her dad, who was a writer and also a very difficult person. It takes place in I think the 20's in the Bay Area but it feels like it could be happening now, there's very little that dates it or feels old-timey.
Daughters and Rebels, by Jessica Mitford. Jessica Mitford was the second-youngest child in a big, eccentric upper-class family in England. (Her older sister, Nancy, wrote novels of manners and was pals with Evlyn Waugh.) She was a Communist from an early age and ran away at 18 to elope with her second cousin and join the volunteers in the Spanish Civil War. Then they left England and sloped around America for a while before he went off to fight fascism in WWII. She was also HYSTERICALLY funny and addicted to pulling over-the-top pranks. Who knew making revolution could be such a hoot?
*Little-known fact: Jessica Mitford is one of J.K. Rowling's heroes; she even named her daughter Jessica after her. I think Mitford's influence comes through the Harry Potter books in many ways, especially Fred and George's pranks.
Disturbances in the Field, by Lynne Sharon Schwartz. This is a fabulous book. I've read it three or four times, but I can't read it again until MG is grown up because--not to spoil it too much for you, but the central event is a Very Very Bad Thing that happens, and its aftermath for the heroine and her family. In spite of that, it is not a depressing book, and there's lots of other wonderful stuff in it, particularly about the power of friendship and the paths people's lives can take, and there's also lots about Greek philosophy and music (the heroine is a pianist) and the Upper West Side and it's just this great big lovely contemporary realist novel which you should run right out and read if you are not superstitious like me. As soon as MG turns eighteen I'm going to read it again. Maybe even on her eighteenth birthday, come to think of it.
Isn't that five books yet? It's almost 10:30 and I still have over 150 pages of Harry to read.
Oh, fine. Okay.
A long, long time ago, I found a book called The Child Stealer. I think it was by John Updike? Or maybe John Cheever? It was on a high shelf in my always-deserted junior high school library. I might be the only person who ever picked it off that shelf. It was about, I think, a man who went around (surprise!) stealing children for his own nefarious purposes. My memory is that it was only very intelligent children he stole. At the end this one kid, a brilliant boy who's also fat and a misfit and miserable, goes with him willingly, even though he knows he's going to be put in a little box in the dark, because the child stealer is the only person who understands the value of his brilliance. It was really good, and really creepy, and I've never seen it or heard of it since, but I've never forgotten it.
Now I should tag someone else, but I'm such a bad memer myself that I just can't bring myself to. So instead I will ask you: what is the weird obscure book you read once and have never heard of otherwise but never forgotten?