Tuesday, November 29, 2011

F. Scott Fitzgerald Interview

I saw this on Twitter a while back, shared by The Guardian. It's a transcript of an interview that appeared in the New York Post in 1936. In it F. Scott Fitzgerald describes his childhood, family history and his writing. It's an interesting read.

Monday, November 28, 2011

New Orleans Reading

I've been on a New Orleans reading streak. It began with Robert Hicks' A Separate Country, then moved to Zeitoun by Dave Eggers, and finished with Dan Baum's Nine Lives: Mystery, Magic, Death, and Life in New Orleans.

Earlier this year I talked about Hicks' first book, The Widow of the South, and his second novel, A Separate Country, is a nice follow up to his first, and like his first, it is historical fiction based on truth. In it, a soldier named Eli Griffin who appeared in Widow returns as a trusted friend to Confederate General John Bell Hood. Both men are living in New Orleans. Hood settled there after the war, met and married his wife, and raised 11 children with her. Hood and his wife, Anna Marie, have both contracted the same disease and are near death when Hood sends for Eli. Hood instructs him to find a man named Sebastian Lemerle and to publish his memoirs which he has handwritten. Eli agrees and returns to the house after he hears of Hood's passing a few days later. At the house he finds another memoir of sorts written by Anna Marie for Lydia, the couple's oldest daughter. Eli narrates us through his reading of both of these works and we realize the complications of the Hoods' marriage. In the book, readers meet colorful characters and learn a little about honor from several of the characters including Eli, who is determined to carry out Hood's last wishes.

New Orleans is a wonderful, intriguing, mysterious place unlike any other. It is that today as it was while the Hoods were living there. In her journal in A Separate Country, Anna Marie writes to Lydia, "I hope that you never leave this city. I hope you will love it as I have, imperfectly, inconstantly, but passionately....There has been little for me but this city. I wonder if I could breathe the air outside New Orleans, whether I would drown....I am glad of this place only because I could not survive anywhere else."

Zeitoun is a much more modern book written about the days before, after and during Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005. Abdulrahman Zeitoun is the central character. He, too, struggles with his adopted city and country during the days after Hurricane Katrina's devastation along the Gulf Coast. As a business owner, he is hesitant to evacuate and leave his property for the storm. His wife and four children leave without him first for Baton Rouge and then for Arizona.

Zeitoun's need to remain with New Orleans, though, is rooted more deeply than just out of concern for his business. On his first day paddling around his neighborhood in his canoe, he begins rescuing people who are trapped in their homes and dropping them on higher ground where they can get help. At the end of that first day Zeitoun knows "...there would be more to do tomorrow. How would he explain to Kathy, to his brother Ahmad, that he was so thankful he had stayed in the city? He was certain he had been called to stay, that God knew he would be of service if he remained. His choice to stay in the city had been God's will."

A few months ago when I blogged about my disappointment that Julia Reed's The House on First Street: My New Orleans Story wasn't the post-Katrina/resilience/rebuilding story I'd hoped for. While I realize that for an area to bounce back after a natural disaster, all sorts of things come into play, and that New Orleans is a city focused heavily on the tourism industry and a partying atmosphere, I really wanted to read about the "regular" people who faced adversity in getting back on their feet after the storm, whether the end result was 100% triumphant or not. Luckily, a reader suggested Zeitoun as a read more like what I was looking for. It was. Though I wasn't bowled over by fantastic writing, it was a compelling story, especially after some of the background information on Zeitoun and his family were out of the way and the storm hit.

Just as I remember watching CNN in August and September of 2005 in disappointment that such chaos and disorder was even possible in the United States, I read this book with disappointment that even though we live in a great nation, we still don't live in a place where people who are perceived by some as being "different" can be left to live their lives in peace. It was an eye-opening story that needed to be written. I'm glad Eggers brought attention to this family's story.

Just as Zeitoun was an eye-opening book, so was Baum's Nine Lives: Mystery, Magic, Death, and Life in New Orleans. The author recreates the lives of nine New Orleans residents from Hurricane Betsy in 1965 through Katrina in 2005. It covered the ins and outs of Mardi Gras for the different neighborhoods in the city and showed the variety of life experiences had by these residents of varied genders, races, cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds. Parts of this book, like Zeitoun, were particularly heartbreaking. I remember hearing in the media during Katrina's aftermath that corpses could not be collected promptly, and police officers reached the breaking point, and in some cases simply walked away from their jobs. All the things I was horrified to hear about in 2005 were spelled out in this book by characters who experienced them first hand.

From this New Orleans reading trifecta, I'm still convinced that New Orleans is one of the weirdest and most wonderful places on earth. Reading about it helps me understand better how so many things went wrong after Katrina and why New Orleanians are so resilient. I highly recommend Zeitoun and Nine Lives: Mystery, Magic, Death, and Life in New Orleans for Katrina stories, and if you're into history, you'll probably like A Separate Country. Three fantastic reads.  

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Books All Georgians Should Read

Besides their list of 25 Books All Young Georgians Should Read, the Georgia Center for the Book also has Books All Georgians Should Read, a list published in 2010. How many have you read?

Snakeskin Road by James Braziel
A Cry of Angels by Jeff Fields
The Confederate General Rides North: A Novel by Amanda Gable
Bombingham by Anthony Grooms
Luminous Mysteries: A Novel by John Holman
How Far She Went (Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction) by Mary Hood
The Girl Who Stopped Swimming by Joshilyn Jackson
Hue and Cry: Stories by James Alan McPherson
When the Finch Rises by Jack Riggs
Nothing with Strings: NPR's Beloved Holiday Stories by Bailey White
The Heart of a Distant Forest by Philip Lee Williams
Winter Sky: New and Selected Poems, 1968-2008 by Coleman Barks
New and Selected Poems of Thomas Lux: 1975-1995 by Thomas Lux
The Watchers by Memye Curtis Tucker
Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II by Douglas A. Blackmon
Long Time Leaving: Dispatches from Up South by Roy Blount, Jr.
At Canaan's Edge: America in the King Years, 1965-68 by Taylor Branch
Heart of a Patriot: How I Found the Courage to Survive Vietnam, Walter Reed and Karl Rove by Max Cleland
Invisible Sisters by Jessica Handler
The Cracker Queen: A Memoir of a Jagged, Joyful Life by Lauretta Hannon
Lovesick Blues: The Life of Hank Williams by Paul Hemphill
Under the Tuscan Sun: At Home in Italy by Frances Mayes
The Ballad of Blind Tom, Slave Pianist by Deirdre O'Connell
Altar in the World, An: A Geography of Faith by Barbara Brown Taylor
Bon Appetit, Y'all: Recipes and Stories from Three Generations of Southern Cooking by Virginia Willis

Monday, November 21, 2011

Free Books!

I could never afford to read all that I do without borrowing books from friends and public libraries, and other good resources that are out there. One of my favorite ways to get a free audiobook is through LibriVox. I've listened to countless classic novels (many of which I'm revisiting for the first time since high school) on my iPod while exercising or cleaning the house. I've particularly enjoyed blogger Annie Coleman's versions of Pride and Prejudice and Anne of Green Gables, two of my favorite novels. LibriVox seeks volunteers to read and record stories like these.

Project Gutenberg is also a volunteer organization that provides free ebooks for download to computer, Kindle or Android phone. I don't often read books on my computer (preferring the handheld, old fashioned method or reading, or listening to a book best), but if I wanted to, this is where I'd go.

Free books! It just doesn't get any better.

What will you be reading over Thanksgiving break this week?

Friday, November 18, 2011

New Independent Bookstore

I love independent bookstores, and I was so happy to read that there will be a new one in Nashville, Tennessee, soon called Parnassus Books. Author Ann Patchett (I just recently read her wonderful novel, Bel Canto, and I can't wait to read more of her work) is behind it and has the support of Nashville's readers. Next time I'm in Nashville visiting family I'll be checking out.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Book Review: One Writer's Garden: Eudora Welty's Home Place by Susan Haltom and Jane Roy Brown

One Writer's Garden: Eudora Welty's Home Place by Susan Haltom and Jane Roy Brown
Published by: University of Mississippi Press
Published on: September 1, 2011
Page Count: 304
Genre: Biography
My Reading Format: PDF downloaded from NetGalley
Available Formats: Hardcover

My Review:

In the preface, authors Susan Haltom and Jane Roy Brown mention that Henry Mitchell at the Washington Post called Welty a "rose gardener, realist, storyteller of the South." I'm familiar with many of Welty's stories, and since my visit earlier this year to her home in Jackson, Mississippi, I've seen the garden in person, and it's beautiful. I come from a family of folks with green thumbs and nice yards, and I hope that I'll have a yard myself one day. So far I've only managed to live in neighborhoods where the homeowners' association maintains everything, and right now that is fine with me. However, I have an appreciation for pretty yards that can be admired from porches and enjoyed all year long. Haltom and Brown maintain that as Welty worked she was inspired by what she was seeing outside her windows.

Haltom and Brown spend some of the book talking about places in Welty's work where she writes about landscapes and gardens, and if what she was writing about was taken specifically from what she was seeing in her own yard as she wrote that particular story. I found this particularly interesting. The book also focused on Welty's biographical information, some of which was new to me (particularly her romantic relationships). And, this book would be a great read for the gardener who wants to incorporate plants from the first half of the 20th century into their yard or know more about the history of garden clubs in the United States. The authors included detailed information about what Welty and her mother planted and when, which could be extremely helpful to some readers. 

My recommendation is to read this book if you're interested in any of the areas I've listed above. The book covers a lot of ground and does it well. The beautiful photographs included are expected for a garden book, but they are still wonderful.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I Love to Write Day

Here's what I wrote or will write today on I Love to Write Day:

eight emails
two text messages
one blog post (this one)
one blog post (added to a draft I'm saving for later)
tomorrow's to do list
part of an email campaign for a client
my signature on the back of a birthday check
two tweets

What have you written today?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Tips for Freelancers on Showcasing Their Work

Last month I attended Atlanta's Freelance Forum's annual Portfolio Show. There I was able to see how freelancing friends and colleagues showcase their work. Here's an article from Underworld Magazines with hints on what to include and what to leave out.

Taking Control of Office Clutter

When my husband and I bought our house a few years ago we had no idea I'd later be freelancing out of the house. If we had, we might have thought about our space needs a little differently. My office now works but ONLY IF I keep it meticulously organized. It's a small space and for it to be functional, things need to be filed, delegated, shredded almost immediately to keep the paper volume manageable. When things get busy the state of my office can get out of hand quickly.

I've just found a good way to combat the mountains of paper and create an organizational system for the space I have to work with. I've just read Organize Your Office In No Time by Monica Ricci, a professional organizer in the Atlanta area. I've heard her speak before, so I know how great she is, but this book is what I needed. The tips make sense and are easy to follow. If I ever get off track all I'll have to do is refer back to the book.

Ideas from the book that I'm planning to incorporate include establishing filing categories that work for me and
for my business, building time into my schedule to keep on top of the organization, filing only what I'm sure I
need to keep instead of what I THINK I might need later, labeling my files more effectively and keeping an "In Progress" file current.

Whether you work at home or in an office building, how do you combat clutter? I'm still open to new ideas!