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Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013
After I read Stephen King’s glowing review of the hotly anticipated new book, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, I was dying to get my hands on the thing. I bought it when it came out yesterday.
But then I read this ridiculously pompous story about book and author in the New York Times. Let me quote a few lines:
1. “Donna Tartt is the kind of writer who makes other writers, in the words of her fellow Southerner Scarlett O’Hara, pea green with envy.”
2. “She is so thoroughly well read that she is known to quote entire poems and passages from French novels at length in her slight Mississippi twang. In photos, she projects a ghostly mystery, her porcelain skin and black bob suggesting a cross between Anna Wintour and Oscar Wilde. ”
Pretentious literary articles like this make me barf in my mouth, crawl into the crate with my dog and not want to touch the book in the center of the hype. I don’t want that kind of arrogance to rub off on me. What I took from this piece is that Donna Tartt is better than the rest of us, and I doubt that’s the image she wishes to project. The writer is tooting her own ‘look-at-me-I’m-writing-for-the-New-York-Times” horn by writing ridiculous sentences that are completely unrelatable and totally unlikeable. The reporter must look in the mirror and believe the literati is staring back at her.
Maybe The Goldfinch really is that good. But right now, I’m turned off. I’ve tried to figure out what it’s about from various sources, but it sounds like Little Orphan Annie with some death and thrills. Here is the description of The Goldfinch from Amazon:
“It begins with a boy. Theo Decker, a thirteen-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don’t know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his unbearable longing for his mother, he clings to one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art. ”
Effusive, overindulgent writing about writing just gets to me. But don’t get me wrong. Of course, I downloaded this book on Audible. (Audible rocks for busy moms.) When I write about the novel soon, I promise not to mention anything about lengthy French novels or Anna Wintour.
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Friday, October 18th, 2013
New York Times bestselling author of the young adult Merlin series, T.A. Barron, loves the earth–and often writes about it. His new book, Atlantis Rising is the story of the magical island of Atlantis–not its destruction this time, but instead, its creation. This is the first of a trilogy.
As a writer who cares deeply about the environment, Barron wrote the following essay about how to get our kids to care, too.
“We all know the bad news: The planet is seriously suffering from all sorts of environmental abuses. Some people remain stuck in denial. And kids, our last best hope for the future, are being hammered by depressing news and the overwhelming scale of environmental problems – even as they are spending less time out in nature.
In the face of all this, can parents, teachers and others who care about our children do anything? Are there any ways to enlighten as well as empower young people to help protect the air, land, water, and creatures of the Earth?
The answer is Yes.
As a dad, I’ve learned a lot from my kids – starting with how little I really know. But one of the most important things they’ve taught me is that raising environmentally aware young people doesn’t start with learning. No … it starts with loving. Before kids can be expected to understand the facts about our planet, they need to feel an enduring bond with the marvelous places and trees and birds and animals who share that planet with us. We are emotional beings – so we can’t ask kids to protect and steward something they don’t truly love.
That love comes, first, through a child’s experiences in nature. No matter whether that happens in a patch of grass at a city park or somewhere in deeper wilderness – it’s a time of magic.
All kids need is a chance to play in soil or sand or a pile of leaves. To explore a quiet glade (with no electronics to intrude). To discover a mossy stream or a pair of baby raccoons or a piece of petrified wood that’s a million times older than the child herself. My family, for more than 20 years, has watched butterflies emerge from their cocoons each summer – a thrilling experience for everyone.
All these are teachable moments, offering opportunities to learn more about connectedness, natural patterns, transformation, evolution, water sources, or geologic time. But most of all … they are opportunities to wonder, discover, and love.
When that emotional bond is secure, then it’s time to explain the serious environmental challenges we face – with honesty but also a light touch. The goal is to impart understanding, not despair. So talk about the links between the purity of water, the health of frogs, and the survival of humankind. Discuss the essential wisdom of not fouling our nest, preserving the complex web of natural systems that support us all. Finally, look at some photos of the Earth from space – and then consider how unique and precious our lonely planet really is. Add all that together, along with nature’s unending ability to delight and surprise … and you’ll have kids who are truly motivated to help save the Earth.
Now comes the hardest part – maintaining hope. In our troubled times, this is difficult for any caring adult. But it’s even more difficult for young people, who haven’t seen as many winters followed by springtime. The best way to keep kids’ hope alive, I believe, is to convey the idea that every person matters. That every human being – even a child – has the power to make choices that can cumulatively make a difference.
How to do that? Certainly not through lectures or sermons! Instead, just share stories. Whether true tales of remarkable people or fictional tales of unlikely heroes – such stories are lifelines that keep us afloat. They connect us to people who have faced enormous challenges and found the courage to persevere – and sometimes, to triumph.
Hope often eludes us, especially in a world that is sometimes darkened by the clouds of despair. But hope is resilient, like a wildflower in the harshest mountain storm. It can survive, and maybe even flower beautifully.
And if hope survives … so will we.”
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Atlas Rising, environmentalist, kids and environment, Merlin, save the earth, T.A. Barron | Categories:
Best Sellers, Children's Books, Fiction, Guest Blogs, Mom Must Read, Parenting Advice, Popular Books
Thursday, October 17th, 2013
I love the National Book Awards. They always give me great ideas for what to read next. I’m just bummed that two of my favorite young adult books on the longlist (that was new this year) didn’t make the shortlist! You simply must read Flora and Ulysses to your kids and Two Boys Kissing for you!
In the meantime, check out the NBA picks and stay tuned for the winners which will be announced Nov. 20.
Rachel Kushner, The Flamethrowers (Scribner/Simon & Schuster)
Jhumpa Lahiri, The Lowland (Alfred A. Knopf/Random House)
James McBride, The Good Lord Bird (Riverhead Books/Penguin Group USA)
Thomas Pynchon, Bleeding Edge (The Penguin Press/Penguin Group USA)
George Saunders, Tenth of December (Random House)
- Tom Drury, Pacific (Grove Press)
- Elizabeth Graver, The End of the Point (Harper/HarperCollinsPublishers)
- Anthony Marra, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena (Hogarth/Random House)
- Alice McDermott, Someone (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
- Joan Silber, Fools (W.W. Norton & Company)
Kathi Appelt, The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp
(Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster)
Cynthia Kadohata, The Thing About Luck (Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster)
Tom McNeal, Far Far Away (Alfred A. Knopf/Random House)
Meg Rosoff, Picture Me Gone (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, a division of Penguin Group USA)
Gene Luen Yang, Boxers & Saints (First Second/Macmillan)
- Kate DiCamillo, Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures (Candlewick Press)
- Lisa Graff, A Tangle of Knots (Philomel, A division of Penguin Group USA)
- Alaya Dawn Johnson, The Summer Prince (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic)
- David Levithan, Two Boys Kissing (Knopf Books for Young Readers/Random House)
- Anne Ursu, The Real Boy (Walden Pond Press/an Imprint HarperCollinsPublishers)
Jill Lepore, Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin (Alfred A. Knopf/Random House)
Wendy Lower, Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
George Packer, The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Alan Taylor, The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832 (W.W. Norton & Company)
Lawrence Wright, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, & the Prison of Belief (Alfred A. Knopf/Random House)
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- T.D. Allman, Finding Florida: The True Story of the Sunshine State (Atlantic Monthly Press)
- Gretel Ehrlich, Facing the Wave: A Journey in the Wake of the Tsunami (Pantheon Book/Random House)
- Scott C. Johnson, The Wolf and the Watchman: A Father, a Son, and the CIA (W.W. Norton & Company)
- James Oakes, Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States, 1861-1865
(W.W. Norton & Company)
- Terry Teachout, Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington (Gotham Books)
Flora and Ulysses, National Book Awards, The Flamethrowers, The Good Lord Bird, The Lowland, Two Boys Kissing | Categories:
Best Of Lists, Best Sellers, Children's Books, Fiction, Mom Must Read, Must Read, Popular Books
Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013
American Horror Story: Asylum scared me so badly last season that I couldn’t even go into my dark basement (still can’t). And forget walking the dogs at night–they had to fend for themselves because I was afraid Bloody Face was outside plotting to murder me.
No matter how chicken I am, I can’t wait to watch the new season one week from today. It’s mostly because I will follow Jessica Lange anywhere–from her role in King Kong to her new foray into children’s book publishing. In AHS: Coven, she’ll play the glamorous witch Fiona Goode. But I have a feeling Fiona might be really, really bad.
Beautiful Jessica Lange, of course, is best known for her award-winning acting. But she’s also an avid photographer who loves the technique of old-fashioned hand tinting. Add her hand-tinted photos to a partly-true story, and she has produced a uniquely satisfying children’s book called It’s About a Little Bird. This book sat in my pile to review, and I loved it even before I noticed the byline that reads, “Story and pictures by Jessica Lange.” The artwork and story are bright, fresh and different. And all of them are handmade by Jessica–nothing is digital! Even my 7-year-old twins fell hard for this book–the girls, the grandma, the farm and the bird. They ask for it every night.
I love to read It’s About a Little Bird and introduce them to Jessica Lange. I tell them how I got to interview her on the phone recently. Jessica Lange talked to me about her sweet (and not scary) new book. See what she had to say about it–and AHS–below.
KK: How did this book come about?
JL: ”I’ve done photography for quite a while. Really it was just for myself, but it became more than that. From that, I became very interested in the old colored postcards, the hand-tinted photographs. I started hand tinting my black and white photographs and created a story around some of these images. It was meant as just a little family thing. But it spiraled out of control, and now it’s a book. This is a story I made up for my granddaughters.”
KK: In the story, two little sisters, Adah and Ilse, stay at their grandmother Mem’s farm. Of course, they explore everything and then ask Mem to tell them about a birdcage they found. It turns out that Mem once lived in Rome and had a special canary named Uccellino. This bird went with her everywhere and sang gorgeous songs. One day, when Mem had to return to the U.S., she couldn’t bear to go without her bird. So she snuck Uccellino onto the plane in her pocket. The two landed safely and lived happily ever after. I hear some of this is true!
JL: “There is an element of make believe, but a lot of it is true. The whole thing with the little bird happened. It’s true where I got the bird, how I got it back and about the birdcage… Putting together a book is brand new territory for me. I don’t know how it’s going to be perceived. It’s good to do things that mix it up a little bit.”
KK: Yes! You definitely mix it up each season on American Horror Story. Can you give us any hints on what will happen next?
JL: “It takes place in New Orleans which has a very rich element to add to the story. It deals with witchcraft and broader themes, too. I think he’s (Ryan Murphy) thinking in terms of using witches as metaphors for any minority that is persecuted. There are things that go back to the Salem witch trials. This season, sometimes I’m wondering, ‘What the hell are we all doing?’ I think it should be interesting. And it will be scary. It’s always scary.”
So get your fill of Jessica Lange this week–check out her enchanting and emotional new book and then watch her scene-stealing acting on FX next Wednesday, October 9, at 10 p.m. EST.
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AHS, American Horror Story, American Horror Story: Asylum, American Horror Story: Coven, hand-tinting, It's About a Little Bird, Jessica Lange, photographs, Uccellino | Categories:
Best Sellers, Celebrity Books, Children's Books, Fiction, Mom Must Read, Must Read, Picture Books, Popular Books, Q&A With Authors
Friday, September 27th, 2013
My friend’s kid is trying to kill me! Basically, every time one certain dear pal comes over with her offspring, her Tasmanian Devil destroys my house. Like I have to call the fire department and then the handyman. Somehow, she doesn’t notice this. I really love my friend, but, man, what do I do about her kid? I immediately thought of asking expert Julie Klam, author of Friendkeeping, for advice. Julie knows all. In real life and in her book, she tells it like it is with wisdom and wit.
KK: What do I do when I do not like a friend’s kid(s)? I have a situation where I love my friend, but she lets her kids act evil. It’s difficult when they play because my kids aren’t allowed to act like hers act. I am dying to tell her how to parent, but I realize that’s a sure way to destroy our friendship (even if it does save my dog’s eyes and my couch).
JK: I sometimes think of this situation in the way I see my friendship with a conservative republican. How can two people be friends when they see things in such a different way? You love this person, but this is tough because you strongly disagree with a large aspect of his/her personality: how s/he parents. When my daughter was a baby, we joined a playgroup. All the babies pretty much sat there like lumps, occasionally sitting up or falling over. I didn’t really have any disagreements with anyone on how they parented. Someone did a family bed, or believed in letting a baby cry it out, and I just felt like it was all so difficult that any way a person found to get peace was cool with me. As they got older, things changed. Suddenly, the pudgy little smiley baby became a mass hitter and his mom turned into a ‘use your words’ type, and I really liked her. What can you do? Let your little angel be whomped? Obviously not.
And there are as many parenting styles that don’t mesh as there are talking Elmo toys, and it isn’t necessarily a bad kid or a bad parent (though it can be and then it’s a nice opportunity to feel smug. Just kidding!) So what do you do? Up until about age 10, there is so much to disagree with – too permissive with junk food, too much TV, making a really big deal about my kid watching too much TV, which she might have, you realize that if a person is somewhat likeminded, it’s still possible for them to be annoying with their kids. I really don’t think it’s something you can discuss. There is no way friends who parent “differently” can do so without one of you feeling judged.
The best solution is to meet without the kids, it’s healthy for you too. That way whatever wacky stuff they do won’t affect you you or kid, and you can smile and pretend you think it’s fine for a two-year-old to build a birdhouse with a real hammer and nails.
For more great insight, check out Julie Klam’s book, Friendkeeping!
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