Friday, April 22, 2011

A Review of Tina Fey's Bossypants

I finished reading Bossypants by Tina Fey in a little over a week. For a lot of readers out there, that's not really that impressive considering the book is only 275 pages and is set in a slightly bigger font, but for those of you who know my terrible reading habits this is pretty amazing. (No, seriously, I honestly can't remember the last time I finished an entire book without jumping to a new one half way through the one I was currently reading. I call this phenomenon "Reader's ADD".)

In Bossypants, Tina Fey, vaguely, reveals where the scar on her chin came from, she tells us about her time touring with the infamous Second City with Amy Poehler, when she was interviewed for a writing job on Saturday Night Live by Lorne Michaels, the time she had to tell Sylvester Stallone to enunciate during her first week at SNL, and her time on the show on camera. Fey also writes about her multiple Emmy Award winning show, 30 Rock, dealing with things celebrities have to do, like photo shoots, trying to be a champion of brown hair to her daughter, the double standard about women in comedy, and, of course, her stint as Sarah Palin on SNL after she was no longer a cast member.

Fey writes in a personal, friendly way—making you feel as though she was just telling you a story over lunch (the lunch part might just be my imagination as she is my pretend best friend). It is engaging, honest, and very funny. Needless to say, I absolutely loved it and I was sad when it ended because I wanted more.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Call to Action! Senate Will Vote on Reader Privacy Protections

It didn’t make the network news, but a recent vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee was an important step forward in the 10-year battle that booksellers and librarians have been waging to restore the safeguards for reader privacy that were eliminated by the USA Patriot Act.

Under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, the FBI can search any bookstore or library records that it considers “relevant” to a terrorist investigation, including the records of people who are not suspected of criminal conduct, much less terrorism.We believe that the right to read what we choose without the fear of the government looking over our shoulders is an essential freedom.So we were encouraged when the Judiciary Committee approved S. 193, a bill that limits Patriot Act searches to the records of people who are suspected of terrorism.

This is an important reform that does not threaten national security. It has the support of both Attorney General Eric Holder and Senator Dianne Feinstein, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Utah’s own Mike Lee voted in favor of the legislation when it was before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

But the vote in the Judiciary is only the first step. Now the full Senate and the House must also act. It is crucial that supporters of reader privacy contact their Congressional representatives now. Please join us in urging Senators Lee and Hatch to vote for S. 193. A vote could occur in the next few weeks.

For more information, visit the Campaign for Reader Privacy, and stay tuned! We will be reporting on the progress of this battle.

Catherine and Tony Weller

Monday, April 18, 2011

Picking Poetry

Today I find myself in the unusual position of having to pick a favorite poem and feeling utterly lost. At the beginning of the month Tony and I were invited to read at Salt Lake City's National Poetry Month celebration. It's scheduled for Weds. April 27, 7:00 p.m. at the Salt Lake City Public Library. Today's to-do list indicates it's time to pick a poem and begin reading it out loud.

For some reason I can't do it. My go-to poems are Ginsberg's Kaddish and cummings' pity this busy monster, manunkind, not. Kaddish is too long. And today I am dissatisfied with cummings' sassy ending. It reminds me of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. I've turned to my old loves: to Brodsky, to Akhmatova, and Yevtushenko. Perhaps it's the flat gray day, but nothing I read created a spark, not even when I sang a couple of Dickinson poems to the tune of Yellow Rose of Texas. Or perhaps it's the fire raging deep within that's sucking the air out of anything I read right now. Maybe I need some new, young loves. Whatever it is, I am poemless.

Got a recommendation for me?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Catherine Recommends

Learning to Die in Miami: Confessions of a Refugee Boy

by Carlos Eire
Free Press

I loved Waiting for Snow in Havana so I was excited to find Learning to Die.... Eire's memoir of his life as an American doesn't disappoint. It is both heartwarming and heartbreaking. From his time as an 11 year old airlifted from Cuba to shocking foster homes in Miami, to his trip as an adult to countries of the former Eastern Bloc, Eire plumbs the refugee experience with grace.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Dangit! I forgot to queue up a book cover of the week! Here's a picture of Neil Gaiman's awesome library instead.

(Even he has piles of books on a chair, it's not just me... !)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Books — Bringing People Together Since 1450

We people — we social animals — love stories. We're fascinated by the experiences of others; we enjoy sharing our own. Be it around a campfire, in a bar, or (since approximately 1450) in books folks have a lot to share with one another.

The book has added a dimension to the sharing process that literary geeks thrive on: the connection made by a cover, a name, a place, an image, an idea contained by the physical object. We connect with people we never thought we'd know, places we never thought we'd see, experiences we never thought we'd have. Worlds not even of our making can bring us together in strange ways.

I was traveling the week after the sixth Harry Potter book was released. It was everywhere during my travels. Fellow airplane passengers nodded to each other, smiled in recognition of another member of the tribe of Potter, and compared notes careful avoid spoilers. When I found myself weeping at the death of Dumbledore, I paused my reading for a moment to surreptitiously glance around, embarrassed to be crying in public once again. But then I heard tell-tale sniffling coming from the seats behind me and knew I was not alone. Another anecdote: on our first date, my now husband Tony decided I really was a person to get to know when he looked at the books on the shelves in my apartment. Thomas Pynchon may have something to do with our marriage.

So imagine yourself at a dinner, seated at a table with an author and other booksellers. Everyone is telling stories because that's what we humans do. All of a sudden you can bear keeping your secret no longer, so you turn to the author sitting next to you and blurt out, "My Grandfather built your fire tower." The author's mouth drops open. Conversation at the table stops. You explain slowly at first, then the words rush out. And the stories — the connections — begin again. You're trading tales about the cemetery in a little town no one's heard of, an inn keeper's turkey, your grand dad and his time in the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps). Suddenly you've not only discovered a great new author, you've rediscovered a part of your world long buried and learned more about it from a new friend.

That happened to me last September at a dinner in Denver. I met an author whose isolated job and workplace connects with my family in so many ways it's quite remarkable and very nearly creepy. I began his book thinking I'd read a nice piece of nature writing about a part of the country with which I'm intimate. Instead, I discovered a great book by a wonderful writer who admires many of the authors I do. I reconnected with my past.

The book is Fire Season: Field Notes from a Wilderness Lookout by Philip Connors. Your life may have no connection with his work in a New Mexico fire tower. But I bet you'll find a connection with an extraordinary book about a life of solitude in the West. You can meet him here on Saturday, April 9th at 6 p.m.

Click here for the Salt Lake Tribune's interview with Philip.
Click here for the Deseret News article about Fire Season.

Book Cover of the Week

Hearts Are Trumps
By Alexander Otis
The John McBride Co., 1909
Our price used: $15