Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

This year I'm dressed as someone pretending she has her shit together when really she's fairly disheveled due to a recent apartment move. It's a subtle costume, but I got the details just right.

In all seriousness, the move went very smoothly, in no small part thanks to my awesome mom. I treated her to an approximately 18 hour day of first standing around while movers moved my shit, laughing (perhaps to hide the horror) at the soccer ball-sized dust bunnies that had accumulated under every piece of furniture I own, and then more unpacking than anyone really wants to do in a day. All in all, though, we got a remarkable amount done. There was an hour or two where we'd spread out all the boxes to try to find the ones we wanted to unpack, which resulted in quite an obstacle course just to walk from one side of the room to the other. I started feeling overwhelmed at that point, but after a little bit of shifting and stacking, things started looking a bit better. There's plenty more to do before the place is really put together, but it's not bad for the first 24 hours. I'll post pictures once it's a little more organized.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Movin' On Up

Tomorrow is my long awaited and much obsessed about move. I haven't brought the laptop over to the new place yet, so I'm still unsure about how my wireless connection will be at first. I might be MIA for the next few days, but I'll be back in action by Thursday for NaBloPoMo!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Feed the Hungry! Post a post!

Today's blog post is really a comment on various friends' blogs. Anne has introduced me to a site that she rightly calls amazingly addictive while tapping into all our inner geeky, competitive, do-gooder ways (sorry for the plagiarism, Anne!). Check out to test your vocab and feed the hungry all at the same time.

Laura today reminds us all to participate in NaBloPoMo, which I have every intention of doing. I have something of a burden and gift in terms of the NaBloPoMo timing intersecting with my move. On the one hand, I can (try to) rivet you all with amazing stories of turning my new apartment into a home and discovering the hidden treasures of my new neighborhood. On the other hand, who knows if I'll be able to borrow my new neighbors' wireless connection. Since I haven't signed up for internet service yet myself, there may be some trips to Starbucks for weekend posting.

And, finally, a gentle nudge to my blogging friends who seem to have fallen off the wagon lately. I need workday entertainment, gentlemen! You know who you are (Nate and Josh).

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Bleak Presidential Options

I realize that most of my political post are bitch sessions about how idiotic republicans are. And I stand by that; they are idiots. But just to mix things up a little, I thought I'd bitch about Barack Obama a bit, too.

I was extraordinarily excited about him when I first heard of him in Chicago. And his keynote address at the Democratic National Committee was phenomenal and appropriately catapulted him onto the national stage. But since then he's made a series of uninformed comments and annoyed me with his constant request for money. Yes, all the candidates need to fund raise. But I'd like a little inspiration before they pick my pocket at least. Obama's most recent disappointing turn, though, is appearing on stage with hate monger Donnie McClurkin. McClurkin is an evangelical minister who was "cured" of his sinful gay ways by the church. He states that he is in a war against homosexuality, and regardless of Obama's rhetoric about tolerance and inclusiveness, his choice to appear side by side with this bigot speaks volumes.

I'm extremely disappointed by how few of the democratic candidates actually advocate for acceptance. All the front runners, including not only Obama, but Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, too, have a separate but equal platform going. I know it's not going to happen, but I truly do wish that Dennis Kucinich could get some traction. He's really the only one who makes any sense half the time.

Now, I wouldn't want to totally break my anti-republican streak here, so let's end with a juicy little tidbit about Rudy Guliani. He recently treated a group of Iowans to insight on his views of torture. According to Guliani, waterboarding (immobilizing an individual and pouring water over his or her face to simulate drowning) isn't necessarily torture. He says: "It depends on the circumstances. It depends on who does it."

Ok. Sure. Simulating drowning COULD be torture, but if it's done by someone's sweet old grandma while she tickles your feet, well, that's a different story. Throw a cute puppy in there and it's practically Christmas.

A Children's Lit character Grows Up

The Times today interviews Judith Viorst, author of the iconic children's book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. The title character is Viorst's real life son Alexander, and when he and his brood (including three children of his own) moved back into his mother's house during their home renovation, Viorst took the opportunity to write another book. No children's book this time, Alexander and the Wonderful, Marvelous, Excellent, Terrific Ninety Days sounds more like a cross between a memoir and an advice guide. I haven't read the book, but I do think it's interesting to imagine how that boy with gum in his hair is actually a real person who grew up. I tend to think of Alexander and Max (of Where the Wild Things Are fame) each as a children's lit Every Man: timeless and existing within each of us.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Mitt Romney is a fucking idiot

As reported in today's New York Times Romney is mixing up Barack Obama's and Osama Bin Laden's names. Now, it's not like he was about to get my vote anyway, but does ANYONE want for president someone so stupid that he can't remember which is the name of an esteemed public servant and countryman and which is the name of Public Enemy Number One?

Tender at the Bone

Last night I finished up Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table, the first of three Ruth Reichl books Laura lent me last month. A more sweeping and traditional memoir than Julie and Julia, my other recent food read, Tender at the Bone introduces Reichl at a young age and follows her through her transformative years and into early adulthood. For Reichl, food is a constant source of comfort, excitement, knowledge, and personal growth. Peppered with recipes (which I, of course, didn’t try), the book is literally a menu of Reichl’s experiences.

To carry the food theme a little further: The beginning had an episodic feel—life as tapas, perhaps. The reader gets merely a glimpse of Reichl’s brother, for instance, and even recurring characters are introduced through stand alone anecdotes. Once these introductions are made, though, Reichl hits her stride and writes about her family, friends, and food with aplomb. Her experiences at boarding school, her transformation from student to hippie, and her use of food as a means of personal connection all resonate as well as entertain. It’s her relationship with her parents, though, that lends the book emotional heft. Reichl deftly introduces her mother’s idiosyncrasies early in the book and lets the reader’s understanding of her mother’s mental state develop slowly, much as hers likely did growing up. Meanwhile, she paints a portrait of her father as a loving if unintentionally distant man. Her relationship with her mother and father, and their relationship with each other, is, as the title promises, quite tender.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Ann Coulter can suck it

Ann Coulter, reigning queen of idiocy, strikes again. Her latest doozy: a personal dream about repealing women's suffrage.

If we took away women's right to vote, we'd never have to worry about another Democrat president. It's kind of a pipe dream, it's a personal fantasy of mine, but I don't think it's going to happen. And it is a good way of making the point that women are voting so stupidly, at least single women.

It also makes the point, it is kind of embarrassing, the Democratic Party ought to be hanging its head in shame, that it has so much difficulty getting men to vote for it. I mean, you do see it’s the party of women and 'We’ll pay for health care and tuition and day care -- and here, what else can we give you, soccer moms?'

I wish this were a joke.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Act V

I can't highly enough recommend that everyone take a listen to this recent podcast of This American Life. It focuses on an amazing story of one production of Hamlet. Totally worth an hour of your day.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Lamb is Christopher Moore’s Fluke

The first book I read by Christopher Moore (whose name, I confess, makes me think of the dreaded two-headed beast Listopher Bennemoore) was Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal. I loved it. I loved how smart and irreverent it was. I thought I loved Christopher Moore. As it turns out, I really only loved that one book. I’ve now read three additional Moore books, the latest being Fluke: Or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings. As with so many of my recent reads, this was from the Laura and Nate Olsen Mountaintop Lending Library, but unlike Julie and Julia, I can’t give this one an unequivocal thumbs-up. Fluke, focused on the underwater adventures of a couple of whale researchers, complete with an Atlantis-like society, mysterious creatures from the sea, and jokes about whale sphincters, was a fast read requiring little intellectual involvement. This is a good thing for people who can’t focus because, say, they’re obsessed with an impending move (or something). In that sense, it was the perfect book for me right now. But like Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story and The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror, Moore steers Fluke straight into the land of the absurd, and it all gets a little too silly for my very literal brain. Moore is a serviceable writer and seems to more than satisfactorily serve the niche who is looking for the over the top. For me, though—I like my whale butt jokes with a pinch of realism.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Congratulations, Josh and Todd!

It was a wedding weekend! On Friday, Josh and Todd tied the knot in front of a small group of family and friends near their home in New Jersey. I felt so lucky to be there with them as they made their commitment official after seven and a half years together. I've never been to a wedding so small, and while I can understand how and why many weddings grow, there was something incredibly special about having an intimate group present for the exchange of vows.

Saturday we gathered again for a larger celebration at the Red Cat. I've heard Josh and Todd talk about this restaurant many times but had never been there myself. After Saturday's feast, though, I can definitely see why they return time and again. Everything was delicious, from the salmon tartar appetizer to the amazing spinach and egg risotto that came with my entree to the blackout cake. More special, though, were the toasts friends and family gave to honor the grooms. Josh's childhood friend Holly made me cry! Both days were wonderful, and it is always inspiring to see two people who are so right for each other. Congratulations, Josh and Todd!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Mastering the Art of Reading About French Cooking

So as I mentioned in yesterday’s project ponderment post, I’ve been reading Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously by Julie Powell. Laura was kind enough to lend it to me while I was at her house last month, and all told, it’s a very good read. Adapted from Powell’s blog, the book, as expected, has a very conversational tone. Self deprecating and funny, Powell pulls the reader into her very relatable world from the first page. Her horror at realizing she’s pushing thirty and works an extraordinarily unsatisfying job, her concerns over starting a family, her misery over uncomfortable shoes and long subway rides—they all felt familiar. What’s more, she makes her wholly individual response to all these universal fears and frustrations also feel universal. I will never ever, even if I live to be a thousand years old, cook my way through Mastering The Art of French Cooking. It’s not who I am, and it’s not going to happen. But Powell’s skills as a writer allowed me to see this as a reasonable step in jumpstarting your life. By the end of Julie and Julia, I was right there with Powell, believing that future happiness really DID hinge on completing The Project. In all fairness, I knew that she did finish and that there was a happy ending right around the corner. I was holding the proof in my hands, for Pete’s sake. But that knowledge didn’t detract from the emotional heft the story carried.

The only misstep was Powell’s inclusion of imagined scenes from Julia and Paul Child’s life together. It felt like something her editor made her do, and though each scene is very short, I hurried through each, eager to get back to Powell’s outer borough kitchen, her manic swings from jubilation to meltdown, her fights with and love for her husband, and her musings on just how sucky an office job can be and how cooking changed her life. Her experiences and heart are the real story here, and well worth reading all on their own.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Self Improvement Project Needed

Friday night I went out with a co-worker I’ve recently become friends with. She told me in confidence about a new business venture she and a couple of friends are trying to get off the ground. It marries her writing and journalism ambitions with an idealism she holds while still filling an important market niche not currently being served. It sounded like a plan with every possible ingredient for both success and personal satisfaction, and I was happy for her. She came in my office yesterday and said that in her excitement on Friday night, she now realized, she didn’t ask me about my “pipe dreams.” I tried to look thoughtful as I wracked my brain for a good answer, and the sad fact was that I didn’t have one. I have no big pipe dreams, no goal that I working toward or even just talking about.

So now I feel like I need some kind of goal: something to give me a purpose beyond just cranking out marketing materials for Columbia and reading contemporary fiction. The timing of this mini existential crisis is particularly interesting, because I’m almost finished reading Julie and Julia (a real review to follow). I think Julie Powell’s dramatic belief that if she didn’t finish her self-assigned project she’d have a totally empty life has gotten under my skin more than I realized. There is something curiously powerful about the belief that just living day to day isn’t enough. I have (for once) a job that I’m pretty happy with. I am excited about my new apartment. My friends and family are happy and healthy. My social life is a success. And yet, I’m plagued by the idea that I need to be doing something more.

The challenge is that I have no idea what to do. I claim to want to take classes, but as each new semester starts, the idea of spending three nights a week in class is never as enticing as it is after it’s too late to sign up, at which point I wistfully remember what it’s like to learn and be part of challenging discussions and thought-provoking debates. We all know that I’m not going to sauté and broil my way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking. So what should I do? I’m taking suggestions and open to all ideas. Should I learn to cake decorate? Should I start doing yoga every week? Bring on the ideas, people.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Who's Your Homeless Friend?

Not me! I signed a lease on a new apartment this morning. It's a "duplex studio" which is real estate speak for a loft studio. Luckily, this one comes equipped with very high ceilings. Whereas most loft studios have a little crawl space that anyone with even minor claustrophobia could use for nothing but storage, this one has an actual almost upstairs room. There will surely be much bumping of heads at first, but the upstairs is fairly roomy and will give me a great chance to separate my living and sleeping space like a real grown up.

I move in on October 30th, and there is a lot of packing to do before then. I'm starting to collect boxes from work today and hope to give lots of clothes and shoes to Good Will as I go through the back of my closet.

An apartment-warming event will have to follow once I get myself slightly settled in the new digs.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Celebrity Sightings Galore

This weekend proved both very busy and very fun--and the celebs were out in full force. Saturday I spotted Miranda July in the gallery section of Chelsea. She was standing outside the silliest and most expensive clothing store I've ever been inside of, and I'm choosing to believe that she was in the neighborhood to take in some art and not to spend $1495 on what can only be described as a fucking ugly shirt at Jeffrey.

As much as I love a literary star sighting, my evening's second elbow-rubbing with fame was even better. I've told most of you the story of bumping into my favorite Daily Show correspondent, John Oliver, on 8th Avenue while on the phone with Jen several months ago. I acted like a fool, saying hello to him as if we were buds while recounting to Jen every thing that happened:

"Jen! I just saw Daily Show correspondent John Oliver!"
Waving frantically.
"Hi, John!"

Not my coolest moment.

Well! Apparently my antics made an impression. I was winding up my Saturday night by people watching and eating a much needed alcohol-absorbing slice of pizza. Who should walk by but John Oliver. We made eye contact, and he waved to me. I'm telling you, HE waved to ME. He clearly was charmed by my earlier display of excitement over seeing him and now wants to be my best friend. I played it cool and just waved back before calling Jen to recount the whole thing to her voice mail.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Into the Wild

Last night I saw Into the Wild, Sean Penn’s movie adaptation of Jon Krakauer’s book of the same title. Both tell the true story of Christopher McCandless—or Alexander Supertramp, as he called himself. McCandless (played by Emile Hirsch) led a financially privileged life until his college graduation when he donated his life savings (in the neighborhood of $25,000) to charity and walked away from his life. He wanted to be free of material possessions and became obsessed with the idea of living off nature in the Alaskan wilderness. In the spring of 1992 he completed his hitchhiker’s journey and began to do just that.

Penn’s film jumps around chronologically, wisely intermixing McCandless’s solo experiences in Alaska with the more populated adventures he had as he traveled the country in preparation for his great adventure. By all accounts, in both the book and the film, McCandless was extraordinarily charismatic, meeting and bonding with both locals and other tramps. He seemed to inspire love and affection in people with not only no effort but a bit of disdain for the importance other people place on personal relationships. Unfortunately, Penn takes his idolization of McCandless a bit too far, with two memorable crucifixion poses struck by Hirsch: standing atop a mountain, arms outstretched as he takes in the view and floating down a river, arms outstretched soaking in the sun. Penn even goes so far as to have one of the other tramps ask McCandless, “you’re not Jesus are you?” This deification, along with Penn’s penchant for over dramatization (such as a wilderness shower scene where McCandless’s hair washing is detailed in slow motion, as if in a Pantene commercial) are the few missteps in this slow but absorbing movie.

Emile Hirsch, who I’ve previously seen only in such sub par movies as Alpha Dog, truly owns this film. His portrayal of a man whose actions are so difficult to understand was subtle, honest, and powerful. And the movie, though slow in the beginning, is utterly captivating by the time we reach the tragic finale. This one’s worth a trip to the theatre.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Banned, shmanned. Bring on the books.

So this week, September 29th to October 6th, is Banned Book Week (mini shout out to Veronica for pointing it out). I'm an avid reader, and the idea of banning any books is utterly depressing, especially at a time when it seems that people need a great deal of encouragement to crack a book. Sadly, most affected, certainly, are children. Adults can order whatever they want from Amazon. It's the kids who rely on their school or local libraries for books who are being denied.

I remember being a kid and sharing my room with Veronica. Our parents made sure we each had those mini reading lights that clipped on to the back of our books, and each night before going to sleep we'd read. My family's love of reading instilled the same love in me, and I'm so grateful for it. There were no banned books at our house.

I also think it's sad to see how many of the banned books are about sex: straight sex, gay sex, sex with a fried worm...I worry that the same families who are banning Annie On My Mind would allow their kids to play Grand Theft Auto. I have absolutely no evidence to back that up, but there does seem to be a greater tolerance for violence than sexuality in our culture, and I find it mysterious. It just makes no sense to me.

Below is a list of the 100 most frequently challenged books from 1990 - 2000. I've read about a third and bolded them so anyone who is interested can see my deviant reading behavior for themselves.

1. Scary Stories (Series) by Alvin Schwartz
2. Daddy's Roommate by Michael Willhoite
3. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
4. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
6. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
7. Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling
8. Forever by Judy Blume
9. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

10. Alice (Series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
11. Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman
12. My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
13. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
14. The Giver by Lois Lowry
15. It's Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris
16. Goosebumps (Series) by R.L. Stine
17. A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck
18. The Color Purple by Alice Walker

19. Sex by Madonna
20. Earth's Children (Series) by Jean M. Auel
21. The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
22. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
23. Go Ask Alice by Anonymous

24. Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
25. In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
26. The Stupids (Series) by Harry Allard
27. The Witches by Roald Dahl
28. The New Joy of Gay Sex by Charles Silverstein
29. Anastasia Krupnik (Series) by Lois Lowry
30. The Goats by Brock Cole
31. Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane
32. Blubber by Judy Blume
33. Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan
34. Halloween ABC by Eve Merriam
35. We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier
36. Final Exit by Derek Humphry
37. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
38. Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George

39. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
40. What's Happening to my Body? Book for Girls: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Daughters by Lynda Madaras
41. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
42. Beloved by Toni Morrison
43. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

44. The Pigman by Paul Zindel
45. Bumps in the Night by Harry Allard
46. Deenie by Judy Blume
47. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
48. Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden

49. The Boy Who Lost His Face by Louis Sachar
50. Cross Your Fingers, Spit in Your Hat by Alvin Schwartz
51. A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
52. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

53. Sleeping Beauty Trilogy by A.N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice)
54. Asking About Sex and Growing Up by Joanna Cole
55. Cujo by Stephen King
56. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl

57. The Anarchist Cookbook by William Powell
58. Boys and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
59. Ordinary People by Judith Guest
60. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
61. What's Happening to my Body? Book for Boys: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Sons by Lynda Madaras
62. Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
63. Crazy Lady by Jane Conly
64. Athletic Shorts by Chris Crutcher
65. Fade by Robert Cormier
66. Guess What? by Mem Fox
67. The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
68. The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline Cooney
69. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
70. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
71. Native Son by Richard Wright
72. Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women's Fantasies by Nancy Friday
73. Curses, Hexes and Spells by Daniel Cohen
74. Jack by A.M. Homes
75. Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo A. Anaya
76. Where Did I Come From? by Peter Mayle
77. Carrie by Stephen King
78. Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume

79. On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
80. Arizona Kid by Ron Koertge
81. Family Secrets by Norma Klein
82. Mommy Laid An Egg by Babette Cole
83. The Dead Zone by Stephen King
84. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
85. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

86. Always Running by Luis Rodriguez
87. Private Parts by Howard Stern
88. Where's Waldo? by Martin Hanford
89. Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene
90. Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman
91. Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
92. Running Loose by Chris Crutcher
93. Sex Education by Jenny Davis
94. The Drowning of Stephen Jones by Bette Greene
95. Girls and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
96. How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell
97. View from the Cherry Tree by Willo Davis Roberts
98. The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
99. The Terrorist by Caroline Cooney
100. Jump Ship to Freedom by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier

Monday, October 1, 2007

Until I Find You: The story of one boy's penis

I find John Irving to be a wholly inconsistent writer. His early works are hit or miss for me: I HATED The Water Method Man but enjoyed The World According to Garp. Most of books written in the center of his career, like The Cider House Rules, A Prayer for Owen Meany, and The Hotel New Hampshire, are great. His more recent novels (The Fourth Hand, A Widow For One Year) are at best only ok. I'm currently reading his latest, Until I Find You, which I received as a birthday present.

One of the traits I admire about Irving as a writer is his willingness to tackle controversial subjects. In Cider House Rules he took on abortion, and in Hotel New Hampshire he deftly introduced an incestuous but sympathetic brother and sister. In Until I Find You child molestation is the subject. No novel that I've read has so many references to a child's sexual organs, nor does any other book I'm familiar with have so many women grabbing a little boy's crotch. Jack Burns is the boy in question and the reader is treated to the story of his life, complete with descriptions of every woman who has ever touched, held, fondled, sucked, etc., his penis. I'm only mildly exaggerating when I say that the word "the" appears only slightly more frequently than the word "penis" in this book.

In between anecdotes about Jack's weenie, Irving introduces some of his favorite themes. As with so many of his previous novels, a missing parent is a driving force in Until I Find You. Another favorite theme, gender bending, is not only present but overpowering. Given the many, many references to how feminine Jack is and how his penis is really rather small, it's as though Irving is trying to make him as much like a female as possible while still having his character remain male. From a plot perspective, Jack's gender bending is first introduced through his acting career. Against all logic, Jack is cast in the lead female role in almost all the school plays (this, despite going to a mostly girl's school where actresses abound and actors to fill the male roles are scarce). This casting trend continues even to Hollywood as Jack becomes a professional actor.

I can make my peace with whimsy and a lack of logic if they are in the service of a great plot or otherwise moving story. Unfortunately, in this case, the story is not so much moving as it is maddening. Irving suggests throughout that Jack is somehow asking for this attention. His eyelashes--which are particularly seductive--and any knowledge of his father's ladies' man status seem to be all the justification the women in Irving's book need to molest the child. The connection Irving makes between Jack's clearly feminine stature and appearance and the way so many women can't keep their hands off him also raises several dubious and ridiculous ideas. Does Irving want to believe that all women are lesbians (two of the three main female characters are; the other suffers from a physical ailment making her incapable of sleeping with men)? Does he believe that Jack's femininity is what's attractive to women, even while they go for "the little guy" in his pants? Or, more troubling, is Irving trying to make some connection to his protagonist being something of a girl and thus deserving the abuse he receives?

Irving misses several opportunities in this book. First, we're never given a real emotional connection to Jack's abuse. Irving presents it all as offensively matter of fact. He writes about the awful contradictory feelings Jack has (affection for his abuser while wanting it to end, etc.) without us feeling any of the fear, anger, comfort, love, etc., that Jack is supposed to be feeling himself. Irving also misses the chance to make the reader feel a bit of discomfort. Just where should adults draw the line with children--is climbing in bed with a child to comfort him after a nightmare appropriate? How much hugging and holding should be done? Irving could have explored gray areas about just what is and isn't appropriate in a physical relationship and when consent can truly begin but instead makes every woman a tiny-penis loving cartoon.

When not talking about Jack's peepee, Irving actually has a somewhat interesting story going on. Jack has never known his father and comes to question everything his mother said about him. Irving raises questions about the reliability of memories, the unscrupulous ways love can motivate a person, and how parents mold their children. Without hundreds of pages of crotch grabbing, this could have been a good read.

Admittedly, I'm only about 550 pages into this 800+ page book. Though I doubt it, perhaps something in the final third will win me over. Without some amazing redemption, though, this book is a bust.

My sister, the home owner

I had a nice short work week last week because I took Friday off to drive up to Taunton, MA with my mom to see my sister and brother-in-law's new home. They bought their first house a few months ago and threw a little family-only housewarming party over this past weekend. Shannon and her boyfriend came, Mike's mom and nan came, and after oohing and aahing over their new house we all stuffed ourselves full of tacos and peanut butter pie (yum).

Really, their house is beautiful. It's about a hundred years old and comes with the beautiful and unique details and idiosyncrasies that newer houses just don't have. If I'm ever in a position to buy a house, I'd like to get something with nooks and crannies like Veronica and Mike found. Perhaps my favorite room was what they're using as their library. It's a small room on the second floor with an exposed brick chimney coming through it as well as sloped ceilings. I liked the idea of curling up with a book in one of the corners.