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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

World Book Night II

Dears, I HATE to miss it, but I'm outta town this year during WBN. So, am posting a rerun of last years WBN blog in case you're interested.
Lots of Love, Amy

Here's all I knew about World Book Night, when I applied on-line to be a book giver --  I'd be volunteering to hand out 20 copies of one of 30 titles especially printed for this event, authors foregoing royalty, publishers foregoing profits, everyone just spreading a love of reading to people who don’t normally have easy access to books. The idea was to hand out a half a million free books, in 6,000 towns and cities across the country, all on the same day.

On the application I said I’d leave the books on park benches and bus stops & I chose to pick my books up from Vroman’s, an independent book store where I teach. Picking the book was a little harder, it was a great list.  

I decided not to do a teen book, because that was too close to my real life. So I chose Tim O’Brian’s brilliant Vietnam novel The Things They Carried, because I could remember exactly where I was when I’d read and loved it many years ago, and for a compulsive reader like myself, that’s saying something.

I’d asked a few friends if they wanted to give away books with me. Many said they’d love to, but it ultimately whittled down to one pal saying she'd try to join me for an hour or so in the late afternoon, and my husband agreeing to go with me at night.

I pictured one of us driving the get-away car, trolling the streets, slowing by a park bench and idling while the other one pops out, places the book at a tempting angle, and we zoom away.

That brings us to World Book night - day.  It was rainy as I drove to Pasadena to pick up my box of books. I figured I’d stop on the way back and get plastic bags to wrap each book in.  In my minds eye, however, they looked a whole lot less tempting in bags on soggy benches.   

At Vroman’s will call, I was given a small black pin with white letters that said, World Book Night, Book Giver, April 23, a xeroxed thanks and congratulations, a sheet of hints and reminders of no significance, and, ta-da! My box of books!

I tore it open the second I got back to the car. Then pulled out of the parking lot, suddenly so giddy, that I rolled down the window and offered a book to the first person I saw. 

“Want a free book?” I called out through the drizzle to a guy waiting at the light. His eyes darted for a second, but then he shrugged, “Sure,” and stepped closer to take the copy I was waggling out the window. 

“It’s World Book Night!” I shrieked in explanation.

I pulled away, thrilled with my first triumph, until I realized he'd been wearing a snazzy bright green jogging kind of thing and was probably a rich Cal Tech student with more books in his library than I had in mine. 

I had to be more selective. But really, my adrenalin was pumping and I suddenly knew how Santa must feel with his big bag of presents. 

So, too excited to wait, never mind my plans to take people with me later, I immediately got on the freeway and headed straight for Skid Row. 

As I drove, ok, sped, I decided two things. 1.) I would pace myself and only give out 10 of my remaining 19 books down town, saving eight for my originally planned park benches and bus stops.  And 2.) There’d be no more impulsive giving to people who might possibly be rich.

But as I got off the freeway at Hill I had to stop myself from rolling down the window at every light and hysterically hurling books at whoever passed by. I did let myself give one out at a light in China Town, but then I took myself firmly in hand and sternly reminded myself to face the grim reality of already being down two books. 

I found a parking meter a block and a half before the mission on 6th. I only had enough change for 15 minutes, so I hastily stuffed eight books in my purse and two under my arm, and hit the street. 

A few dampish folk, sitting beside their blue-tarp tents said, “no thanks,” or “I’ll get it next time,” but others accepted my books with pleasure. Some looked a teeny bit suspicious, one asked if the book was of a “biblical nature.” But in no time my ten books were gone.  I hadn’t even made it all the way to the mission, where a crowd of rain-soaked people were waiting outside. 

I  returned to my car and dealt a few more books out to people passing by. One woman pulled the book she was reading out of her cart to show me that she was almost done with it. Another told me he didn’t want a Vietnam story, “Vietnam was boring.”

Good! I thought. I'm giving way too many out down here anyway. But trying not to give any more away, was like trying to save the last few cookies for later. Ha! The next guy who passed wanted one.  And then, there were only two left.

I’d wondered earlier if it would be considered stealing for me to keep one commemorative copy, since this was a special one time printing, and the first World Book Night in the States, and all... But fate answered for me, as the last book left my hand. 

My parking meter hadn’t even run out, and all I had left was my Book Giver pin, which I hadn’t even put on yet, and an empty cardboard box that I’d bequeath to my Guinea pig as a new hidey-hole when I got home. My World Book Night -- over by noon!

P.S The WBN facebook page is full of great stories.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Garden War!

I woke with a constellation of scabby, pustules oozing across my face.  A ghastly scroll through google image showed that rashes exist on a continuum, from a scattered few bumps to a full body take-over of icky raw hideousness. 

Am I using a new soap? No.
Shampoo? Laundry detergent? Lotion? No. No. No.
Did I eat something weird? No. 
Not that I can remember what I ate or where I went yesterday... 

Oh wait. Yesterday I worked in 
(cue ominous music)


Was there some misunderstanding?

Did my plants read my puttering ministrations as a slashing sap-bath of horror? 

Could they, in their photosynthesizing-paranoia, interpret my weeding and re-potting as going hostile with the trowel? 

Is this out-break on my face their REVENGE seeping pure hatred from my stinging pores! 

If so --- Hear this, you spiny spiteful cacti & flesh-eating succulents: 
While you plot my itchy demise and plan for the glorious composting of my flesh, know that even poisoned and disfigured 
this is a desert and I control the HOSE!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Bad End

I seem to have a blog-rant against books with lousy endings on a five month cycle. I guess that's how long it takes for my reading toxins to build to rupture, as a reader, as a writer and as a writing teacher. 

So many books begin with great premise, interesting characters, compelling situations... But no matter how much fun we have splashing around in dialog and plot twists, eventually we’ve all got to put our pants back on and get out of there. 

Why is it so hard to do so with grace?

When a real-life relationship ends, the other manifestations of life go on. Even broken-hearted, we continue our involvement with breathing, with the production of mucus, with blood circulation. These activities may be affected by the ending of the relationship; We can’t eat -- or can’t stop eating. We can’t sleep -- or can’t stop sleeping, but still, we continue to pee. 

When a reader's relationship with a book ends, however, everything must cease. Even the indulgence of an epilogue must eventually stop peeing. 

But how?

We can’t just stop writing, and pretend the dog ate the last few pages. 

The main character’s suicide or murder isn’t the universally appropriate conclusion. Nor can we always end things with a tsunami, apocalypse, or catastrophic coronary event even if foreshadowed by the character’s poor diet and slovenly life style...

Many otherwise competent writers opt for selecting one of the Ever-Populars from the Auto-Ending list:  It was all a dream, or the ugly duckling / swan thing, or a revealing death bed confession of all missing facts, the radical personality transformation from good to evil... Or, a hail of bullets / backing out with guns blazing to ride into sunset, or, the tried-and-true cliff hanger.

BUT to quote myself from my November 7, 2012 blog rant:

A gift from Sally!
And I agree with myself to this day;  Shitty endings unravel all the charming character construction, clever world-building, and compelling insights, and leave the reader PISSED OFF. Resentful of any emotional involvement with the characters, regretting the time invested reading to the end, wishing revenge on the author who cheated us out of a clean, believable honest end.

A good book DESERVES / CRIES OUT FOR / DEMANDS -- a good ending. Not a punchline, but the inevitable ending that the author had been building toward, steadily and invisibly from the novel’s first breath. 

Is that too much to ask? To read such an ending? To write one?

And yes, ending a blog with a sigh is crap, too.