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As usual, I’m so grateful to TLC Book Tours for giving me reason to update my blog! And this time, it’s to take a look at ONE BIRD’S CHOICE, a memoir from “an overeducated, underemployed twenty-something, living in the big city in a bug-filled basement apartment and struggling to make ends meet” who ends up moving home to live with his parents – a topic to which so many of us can relate in this economy.
Even though I’m not typically a memoir reader, I was excited to read Iain’s story because it very easily could have been my own. A couple years ago, I was happily residing in Chicago with my two best friends from college, living in an amazing apartment, enjoying wonderful people and a great city and toiling away at an advertising agency. Did I love my job? No. Was it terrible? Absolutely not. It was all I knew a couple years out of college. When the economy tanked, many advertising dollars (and accounts) were pulled – thus leaving me (and many wonderful co-workers) laid off in the new year (hello, 2009). So…. I job hunted. And I free lanced. And I volunteered at literary organizations. And I tried a couple trial gym memberships. My days were so busy I had trouble understanding how I ever worked those long 50+ hour weeks.
So could I sympathize with Iain’s predicament? Definitely. Was I baffled by his actions (or lack there of)? Definitely.
Iain and I had similarities: My parents also lived in a small town and are very supportive. My siblings were also off successfully living their lives. But Iain seemed content to essentially take a year off from life. He enjoyed lots of sleep, ate wonderful meals cooked by his parents, drank beer alone, and helped out with the animals; I’m thinking there was personal growth in there or a lesson in humility, but that didn’t come through for me.
The one story that really resounded was when his Dad coerced him to hit the gym one day, and he was in shock at the elderly men standing around nude in the locker room. Well, those free gym trials I mentioned I enjoyed during my unemployment were often used during the day and my favorite (aka only) class was “low impact jazzercise” so you can imagine who I was hanging out with in the locker room.
If you’re a reader of memoirs and a lover of animals (and Canada – some of the scenery descriptions are beautiful) then pick up ONE BIRD’S CHOICE. It’s an enjoyable read, just try not to over analyze the characters (I admit this is a fault of mine). In the meantime, I suggest you meet the fabulous animals in the ONE BIRD’S CHOICE book trailer:
Also, check out the entire tour available on the TLC website here.
Wiki says: A southern belle (derived from the French word belle, ‘beautiful’) is an archetype for a young woman of the AmericanOld South’s upper class.
Well maybe the definition of a Southern Belle is a little archaic and superficial, but I plan to become more intimately acquainted with those states who once made up a Confederacy.
For better or worse, Michigan has always been my home. Although I often detested and felt limited by the small town I was raised in, heading back to MI from college, Chicago, and then NYC was always a trip that I looked forward to. There’s a feeling of calm when you’re heading back to a world so recognizable – knowing every street, where the creaky floor board is, how to sneakily turn up the heat on the pool just enough that your dad won’t notice, and being able to walk to the bathroom in the dark without tripping and no fumbling for lightswitches, since hell, you’ve been in the same house you entire life (well, except for the first eight months but who’s counting).
Well as of last week, the life I knew has changed by… 692.77 miles and an 11 hour drive (Mapquest).
That’s right, folks, my parents, Northerner’s born and bred, have relocated to Tunica, Mississippi! You may be familiar with the city (no judgments here) because it is the third most popular gambling destination in the United States, behind Vegas and Atlantic City! My Dad is not a professional poker player and I doubt my mom will ever wear the costume of a cocktail waitress, but they will live a mere ten minutes from the lights of the casinos.
My mom and I road-tripped down to Tunica last week for the final move – the two of us, Skippy the dog, and a load of my mom’s favorite plants (the “greenhouse” had much more room than poor Skippy and I who had to share the front seat!). Tunica is a very cute little town overflowing with nice, friendly southerners. I got my hair done (note to self: always get hair done in South; much better pricing than NYC extravagance!) and in that two hours, was given a brief lesson in Southern etiquette and history.
But I need to know more. The South truly is a different world. Not only do people have accents (which is #1 on my Southern Belle list – I hope to pick mine up over the Christmas holidays) but a different history than what I grew up with. So while I’m searching for all the light switches in our new house next time I visit (when I left after my stay, there were outdoor lights on that we had no idea how they came on, or how to turn off!), I plan to be educating myself on the life from my perch in NYC.
My Southern Book List:
- THE HELP by Kathryn Stockett (obviously I’ve already read this – who hasn’t – but it’s imperative I reread, which will be better understood in my review)
- CROOKED LETTER, CROOKED LETTER by Tom Franklin
- LOOKING FOR SALVATION AT THE DAIRY QUEEN by Susan Gregg Gilmore
- HUNK CITY and MODERN BAPTISTS by James Wilcox
- GONE WITH THE WIND by Margaret Mitchell (my FAVORITE book – and I’ve been needing a reason to reread this classic tome! I did just purchase as an ereader, because my collector’s leather bound edition (Thanks OAD & OUB!) is both heavy and delicate
- INCIDENTS IN THE LIFE OF A SLAVE GIRL by Harriet Jacobs
- SAVING CEECEE HONEYCUTT by Beth Hoffman (I’ve already read, enjoyed and reviewed this recently released debut novel, but feel it’s very relevant to this list as CeeCee made her way South from Ohio)
- REASONS FOR AND ADVANTAGES OF BREATHING by Lydia Peelle (thanks to Beth Fish Reads for her review of this Southern-based collection of short stories)
- PLANTING DANDELIONS: Field Notes from a Semi-Domesticated Life by Kyran Pittman (This upcoming Summer 2011 release from Riverhead Books promises to be funny and insightful from a Canadian perspective in Arkansas – I suggest following @KyranPittman on Twitter!)
I wouldn’t even know where to begin to make this a Southern Belle Challenge, but I would love to hear if anyone wanted to dive in to the deep south with me! Also, I’m sure I’m missing valuable southern literature so please y’all, feel free to make suggestions.
It appears I need to change my gmail signature from “Visit my digital book nook, obsessed over & updated regularly: http://www.novelwhore.wordpress.com” to read more along the lines of:
“Visit my digital book nook, obsessed over regularly, but rarely updated, though every time I write I really enjoy it, so keep on visiting until it gets more exciting.”
And, like the headline suggests, I am going to re-post my article from http://www.beneaththecover.com right now, since not only does it take minimal effort since it’s already written, but I’m able to justify to myself that my blog is now updated! So, for all you readers that I really do appreciate, here’s my latest column:
What are books, exactly—treasured artifacts to be displayed behind glass, or objects to be enjoyed and devoured, like a good meal?
I know that no book I actually enjoy leaves the experience unscathed. For the lucky few that I enjoy, I’ll refer back to the content often, dog-eared pages in my wake. While stories offer escape within the language, for the books I reread I get taken back to where I was the first time, whether it be via the stains of soy sauce from unsuccessfully trying to read while enjoying sushi, or the sand that spills out as remnants of a long-forgotten vacation.
Obviously, with that description in mind, you can see that the books on my shelf may never make it into a museum exhibition of classics preserved in immaculate conditions. But what are books for if not to be loved, smelled, handled, and passed around? To me, the print medium is so important—though after lugging home a complete manuscript to read this evening (even with double-sided printing, 204 sheets is heavy!), my shoulder disagrees and would prefer a Kindle copy.
I admit that so much of my fervor for print comes from its history. I didn’t stay up past my bedtime with a computer screen under my bedspread, but a flashlight, as I stealthily flipped pages. I get a special thrill from going back to my parents’ house and seeing the children’s books I wrote my name in, using my “best hand writing” in 4th grade. While it took me a while to get to this rather obvious realization, it came with the help of journalist and author Allison Hoover Bartlett.
Her upcoming book (available from Riverhead Books next month, September 2009), The Man Who Loved Books Too Much, tracks an unrepentant book thief and the “bibliodick” determined to take him down. It’s a story of passion and addiction, and has made me compulsively check all the books sold out of boxes on the streets of NYC for rare 1st editions awaiting discovery.
In this true tale about catching a wily 1st edition book thief, books are believed to be treasures, investments, or a drug, pacifying a need. While I admit it would be nice to have that 1st edition of Gone with the Wind standing proudly on my shelf (actually, it would be behind glass, it’s so rare!), I don’t need an intact dust jacket to accompany it that’s worth far beyond the cover price. The content and history between the pages is enough for me.
And the stuff within the pages may be enough for you, too. On the publishing blog GalleyCat.com, Ron Hogan thoughtfully deciphered a recent survey from the Pepsi Optimism Project citing the “optimism booster” cited by more respondents than any other—88 percent—was “books.”
As Bartlett notes towards the end of her book, “[Books] root us in something larger than ourselves, something real. For this reason, I am sure that hardbound books will survive, even long after e-books have become popular . . . I can’t help think that our connection to books is still, after all these centuries, as important as it is intangible.
So while I may want that Kindle for the sake of my poor shoulders, I don’t think I’ll give up my search for the elusive and meaningful hardcover finds, including a Margaret Mitchell 1st edition.
My booklist has taken an R-rated twist
I consume books regularly and try to be open to all genres (except Twilight and Harry Potter; I refuse based on principle), but tend to stick with titles that offer some literary content or even just a thrill. Lately, my titles have been more suspect and less something I would proudly read while riding on public transportation (yet another reason I need an EReader!). Strippers and womanizers have dominated a few of my recent literary ingestions.
Drunkenness & Debauchery with Tucker Max: To some, Tucker Max is a hero: One to emulate, live vicariously through and high-five. To me, he is a cringe-worthy example of all that’s wrong in society today – a mediocre looking man who somehow has managed to find innumerable women who willingly exploit themselves and become a topic of Max’s only talent – writing. I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell is written as a memoir, filled with vignettes of stories, aka one-night stands.
For Max, sex is an activity akin to my shopping habit. He just walks out on the street, sees something he likes and takes it home – nothing personal or even especially friendly. I don’t even care enough to go on a tirade about this, because the strongly offensive nature is exactly why this exaggerated content is so popular. If everyone just ignored it, Max would hopefully disappear, and suffer from some STD, alone.
- Novelwhore’s Grade: C (Mediocre, like the author)
- Title: I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell
- Author: Tucker Max
- Publisher: Citadel Press (Kensington)
On-Stage with Juno’s Screenwriter, Naked: The blockbuster success of the Summer Movie of 2007, “Juno”, about the pregnant high-school giving her baby up for adoption, resulted in an umbrella effect of PR for the author, Diablo Cody. Not the typical glitzy Hollywood Screenwriter, Cody had already been around the block before achieving fame and there is no doubt many people who became fans experienced her naked at multiple strip clubs in Minnesota.
Yes, Minnesota. The cold state in which the taking off of clothes makes me shiver was the setting of Cody’s memoir Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper. College-educated with a normal childhood (if there is such a thing), she had a job in an advertising agency before wandering into an Amateur Stripping contest and becoming rather addicted to the thrill. This memoir reminds me of Chelsea Handler’s Confessions of My Horizontal Life, as both women managed to maintain a conversational, self-deprecating voice while describing intimate things. Entertaining throughout, this memoir offers a subversive thrill to a taboo subject and ends before getting overly disgusted from the vivid descriptions of what is done for cash.
- Novelwhore’s Grade: B+
- Title: Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper
- Author: Diablo Cody
- Publisher: Gotham (Penguin)
Expected Stripper-Tale, with Political Twists: From my experience, Carl Hiaasen takes a normal murder/suspense/power plot and adds tidbits of sex and humor to keep the reader engaged. Striptease (an old title, found at library sale for $1) stays to this obviously successful formula and follows a young mother, driven to strip by the piling up of legal bills as she fights her ex-husband for custody of their young daughter (typical stripper sob-story, right?).
Seedy tale with the emotional mother-daughter pull, Hiaasen weaves his web of politics, blackmail and murder through the sleazy Governor of Florida, who’s in love with the stripper (like that Akon song!) and in bed with $millions$ behind the illegal farming of sugar cane. The stripper is realistic and smart, the bouncer muscular and clever, the Congressman aging and not aware of all that’s happening for his behalf, this book is another look at the different cogs in society and what happens when they interact. Definitely entertaining, but without the introspective angle of Candy Girl or the disgust-worth content of I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell.
- Novelwhore’s Grade: B-
- Title: Striptease
- Author: Carl Hiaasen
- Publisher: Vision
“I am not a Media Person” -Chris Anderson
After hearing Chris Anderson speak this morning, I have to heartily disagree with his own statement, above. Before becoming entrenched in the media world, Anderson was an active physicist (not sure exactly what this is, but know smart and scientific) when he was approached by Conde Nast. Hard to believe he had never heard of this huge media conglomerate, but knowing my own Robotics/Aerospace/Mechanical “enginerding” family I’m not totally shocked. Through his rise to the best-sellers list and award-winning EIC of Wired magazine, Anderson has maintained his scientific background through his robotics company, GeekDad.com and the technology apparent in his magazine.
In his hour and a half speech, I had to scribble to try to write down even half the things I wanted to remember. Including, but not limited to, these enticing little tidbits:
- We live in a messy world, and it’s only getting messier.
- Atoms increase in worth; bits decrease (digital moving to free)
- We need to make the most of the Old World while exploring the New World.
- No business in their right mind would go to a 100% paid online model.
- You can only make money off scarcity. Time, experience, food, land is scarce; digital content is not.
Anderson was generous enough to give us a copy of his book that’s not released until July 7 (quite a thrill in holding a book not available in public!), which is titled Free: The Future of a Radical Price. Radically, the digital version and full length audio book are free, though the premium content of abridged audio and hardcover title come with a price tag.
Though Anderson came to speak about his magazine work, I was enthralled by his book publishing knowledge. He shared interesting insights, from not wanting to receive royalty checks (since that means the advance wasn’t high enough), to making money from speaking as opposed to the selling of his books, to how once the coherency was decided for his book he can’t even remember the actual words pouring forth.
Another note-worthy comment made by Anderson is his openness to a digital Wired. In fact, he made the bold statement of “If the Kindle is [made in magazine form] I will stop killing trees immediately.” I asked about the digital magazines available today, through Zinio and the like, and Anderson explained he doesn’t think people want to read a magazine on a computer or need the physical pages, but need it to be mobile. So my next question is: Who will be first with the mobile mag reader? There have been rumors about Conde Nast, or will Amazon lead the pack yet again?
Anderson is highly optimistic in his views. Believing in the monetization emotionally – writing etc. for fulfilling reasons vs. financial, as well as future brand extensions, he in no way sees the death of publishing (an obvious sigh of relief).
The other night a group of 11 of us girls got together for a 25th birthday dinner for a friend. Quartino’s, the fun Gold Coast spot we chose for shared small-plates and affordable wine was smart enough to seat our loud-chattering and wine-induced crowd into our own private, window enclosed room. In which we could look through the glass at the other diners if we so chose, or had the option of pulling the shades, making out own secret room. Romantic? Maybe with a different crowd. Prestigious? Potentially, if we weren’t buying the cheapest liters of house wine from the menu. Secretive? Definitely. My mind immediately went to the “Mob-like” activities that could have, and most likely did, occur in similar rooms throughout Chicago in the 1990s.
“Most cities have one overriding claim to fame. Say Los Angeles and you think about the movies; say Paris, you think art; Detroit, cars. But when people the world over, say Chicago, they think of something less marketable: Organized Crime.” -Robert Cooley
Since I’ve been unemployed, I’ve had time to wander the city (please note my updated To Do: Chicago list) and really have begun to appreciate the history that’s apparent on every street. To delve into the past, I’ve decided to embark on a trip down the darker side of Chicago, that of the Mob, and Robert Cooley, cited above, is the rabble-rousing teenager -> policeman -> lawyer -> crooked lawyer -> government informant who is the source to take us behind the scenes of the once all-powerful Chicago Outfit.
Certain aspects of mob life are rather appealing… The glitz and glamour, bottles of champagne (as opposed to the house wine!) at all the hottest bars and clubs, the notoriety and special attention, almost like a modern day celebrity with an underlying aspect of danger (Chris Brown, anyone?!)… But of course, that’s ignoring the drugs, violence, total un-loyalty and the all too common occurrence of being unaware you’re being treated to your last supper before being violently disposed of in a very inhumane way, most likely by a trusted confidant.
This is a memoir/autobiography told from one immersed in the mob, and not always on the right side of the law – When Corruption Was King: How I Helped the Mob Rule Chicago, Then Brought the Outfit Down.
Robert Cooley was the “Mechanic” for the Chicago Mafia – nothing to do with cars, he was the lawyer responsible for buying judges and guaranteeing a “Not Guilty” verdict for hitmen and gamblers alike. In return for his services, Cooley enjoyed protected as well as a steady influx of cash to feed any vice in which he chose to indulge, and there were many.
I tend to be naive, but I believe that even for those jaded, cynical people, the depth of corruption was shocking – from the police force to government officials, the Mob had ties, and typically high-ranking officials, in every office.
In an inexplicable attack of conscience, Cooley strolled into the office of the FBI’s Organized Crime Strike Force and turned the tables on the mob, wearing a wire from 1986-1989, eventually becoming responsible for more than 30 convictions.
An intense book about a piece of Chicago’s history many would rather was forgotten, this is a nail-biting tale that manages to drag the reader in even though Cooley isn’t always likable. I guess to put your life in danger with a notoriously violence group who will put a $1MM reward on your head takes a cocky man, and Cooley definitely fits the bill.
Read this if: You’re into gangster lore, crime stories, Chicago’s history, or are still upset The Sopranos went off-air.
Avoid this if: You believe justice is always served fair and equal, and want to remain believe so.
- NovelWhore’s Grade: B+
- Title: When Corruption Was King: How I Helped the Mob Rule Chicago, Then Brought the Outfit Down
- Author: Robert Cooley with Hillel Levin
- Publisher: Carroll & Graf Publishers, an imprint of Avalon
NovelWhore rambling: Much of this book takes place in my Gold Coast neighborhood, and I have to admit my over-active imagination has been taking me places with every well-dressed man I see walking down the street, especially those with an entourage and a bulge (imagined? possibly…) beneath a suit jacket that could very likely be a gun… Could a group so in-charge and infamous as recent as the 1990s be really be made obsolete? I can’t help wondering what lucrative business deals the mob has a hold on now, though I like to believe they have refocused their sites on the less-popular prostitution and gambling rings and the courts are now clean… Thoughts?!
A half-century length career in book publishing is my dream, and Jason Epstein is the icon and achiever of this goal.
Epstein is kind enough to expel his knowledge and experience of the publishing industry in his professional memoir, Book Business: Publishing Past, Present and Future. While catered toward the niche group of people interested in book publishing, this is also a wonderful tale of history and the way relationships with books have evolved throughout the 1900s.
This iconic career began when Epstein stumbled across an editorial position
with Doubleday in his early 20s (and I do mean stumbled, he claims to have known nothing about publishing at the time when the opportunity was offered him), during which he repeatedly said he was ready to pick up and leave at a moment’s notice, though he ended up staying there a decade. Within that decade he was the man responsible for the invention of Anchor Books – the imprint responsible for the “quality paperback” book, which made literature more affordable for the masses as opposed to the superior quality, expensive hard cover novels.
After that success, Epstein moved over to Random House, now the world’s largest trade publisher. When Epstein first made the career transition Random House was a family-style business located within the wing of one New York mansion, in which he tells tales of famous authors delivering manuscripts in slippers and spending the night on couches (and not always alone!).
Epstein is a big-picture businessman. Able to look at book publishing from the editorial and quality of literature angle, as well as the ability to envision new venues for sales and marketing, he is a man I would trust to carry a book from conception to success.
Responsible for numerous advances in the publishing industry throughout his career, Epstein was among the first to embrace the online retail giant in its struggling years, Amazon (ironically he found fault with Amazon’s business model, which has boomed since the publication of this memoir in 2001). This enlightening book, surprisingly small in statue considering the wealth of information contained within, cites book publishing to be on the edge of a vast transformation, in which I see future opportunities without bounds.
Since this publication, Epstein has capitalized on some of his own visions mentioned.
In 2004, he launched “OnDemandBooks.” With yet another invention on his repertoire, the “Espresso Book Machine” is available at locations throughout the United States, Canada and England for on-demand, affordable printing of books
Read this if: You’re interested in hearing a behind the scenes tale from a publishing great, and how the industry has changed in a mere 50 years and the how the transformation may continue.
Avoid this if: You’re looking for a raucous tale filled with gossip and dirt on some of the most respected authors. This is not a tell-all, but a memoir of an accomplished career.
- Title: Book Business: Publishing Past, Present and Future
- Author: Jason Epstein
- Publisher: W.W. Norton & Company
- NovelWhore’s Grade: A-