Friday, October 31, 2008
Thursday, October 30, 2008
I commented that, Invisible Cities is my favorite Calvino book (I think because I am an architect). Outwardly, Invisible Cities is the story of Marco Polo telling Kublai Khan about all the cities he’s visited. Of course, what’s its really about is the nature of cities and imagination and human nature. It is beautiful.
I also commented that I enjoyed Marcovaldo: Seasons in the City, which is a short story collection. Normally, I don’t love short stories, but maybe because I think even Calvino’s novels are fairly episodic, he just does them so well. From this book, my favorite story is “Moon and GNAC”, which I think is a perfect gem of a story.
Its Vampire Day at My Friend Amy's! I'm a huge Buffy fan and am watching True Blood, so I thought I'd play along. Unfortunately, other than Buffy graphic novels (okay, comic books), I don't read many vampire books. I've successfully avoided the Twilight books and haven't read any of Charlaine Harris's books (which True Blood are based on), so the last vampire novel I read was probably Bram Stoker's Dracula back in high school.
Elena Michaels is the world's only female werewolf. And she's tired of it. Tired of a life spent hiding and protecting, a life where her most important job is hunting down rogue werewolves. Tired of a world that not only accepts the worst in her— her temper, her violence—but requires it. Worst of all, she realizes she's growing content with that life, with being that person.There is a lot of sex and violence in Bitten, which would usually turn me off, but this book had me glued to its pages. The plot was fun and the characters were interesting to get to know. Bitten was the first in the Women of the Otherworld series, and though I haven't read any of the others yet, I plan to soon.
So she left the Pack and returned to Toronto where she's trying to live as a human. When the Pack leader calls asking for her help fighting a sudden uprising, she only agrees because she owes him. Once this is over, she'll be squared with the Pack and free to live life as a human. Which is what she wants. Really.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Thanks for the link, bookshelves of doom.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Monday, October 27, 2008
Sunday, October 26, 2008
The Publisher's description on Amazon:
From deprivation in the wilderness to the lavish courts of European nobility, this poignant historical novel explores the life and quest of Jean-Baptiste Charbonneau, the son of Sacagawea. After the famed Lewis and Clark expedition and the death of his mother, Jean-Baptiste was brought up as Clark's foster son. He was eventually paraded throughout Europe as a curiosity from the wilds of America, labeled as a half gentleman and half animal, entertaining nobility as a concert pianist. Jean-Baptiste returns to North America with a burning desire to create his own place in the New World. In doing so he returns to the heart of the American wilderness on an epic quest for ultimate identity that brings sacrifice, loss, and the distant promise of redemption.
While it won't be out until November, you can pre-order Museum of Human Beings at Amazon now.
Friday, October 24, 2008
I am absorbed with work, being distracted by the shiny, just generally being a nuisance to my employer, my day is long and tiring from the light through yonder window breaks to whenever. I am putting money aside so I can run away. I need a nap.
I totally promise I will write something that makes sense soon. Truly! This is for my ever faithful, devoted public.
Thanks to the Lazy Bloggers Post Generator.
In all seriousness, I am supposed to be studying for my tenth and final licensing exam*, as I am scheduled to take it in three weeks, and my husband, mother and employer will all be very annoyed if I do not pass it. So I will probably be posting lightly until then, and most of my posts will probably be of the "check this cool thing out" variety, rather than long and thoughtful. But please don't abandon me! I do so enjoy having readers.
*Do not let me go off on how much I hate the state of California for putting me through this. I would have been a registered architect in every other state in the US a year ago, as that was when I finished the first 9 exams. But, no, California is special, and is making me jump through this last hoop before I can get my license.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Thanks to Life Without Buildings, for the heads up on The International, a new movie which apparently features a little gunfire in the Guggenheim. (The NY Guggenheim, by Frank Lloyd Wright, that is.) Cool. Follow this link for images and a peak at the movie trailer.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Monday, October 20, 2008
Here is a view of the Sanctuary building from the entry. The plaza is actually the roof of a building that houses offices and a convention center. (There is also an office building on the opposite side of the plaza.) I think the plaza will be a lot better once all the plantings have had a chance to grow in, especially the ficus planted along the walls.
The baptistry at the entry.
This is the interior of the Cathedral. It was really amazing. The plan of the building is in the shape of an icthys, aka a "Jesus fish." Even more than that, the building was really evocative of a boat for me. The exterior glass wall was, I thought, almost sail-like, and the wood on the interior very much made me think of a boat wooden hull.
The image of Christ over the altar is really interesting, too. It looks like its printed, but its actually perforated metal. I'm undecided if I like it, but its an arresting site.
Here is one of the side aisles next to the altar. I thought the woodwork was very impressive.
The Cathedral was designed by Craig W. Hartman of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, aka SOM. SOM is one of the largest architecture firms in the world, with offices pretty much everywhere (including SF, NYC, London, Hong Kong, etc). So, of course, when you design that much, not all of it is going to be perfect. But unlike a lot of corporate architecture firms, SOM also does some fantastic projects. Some famous buildings they have done over the years include Chicago's Sears Tower, the Air Force Academy chapel in Colorado Springs and, one of my favorites, the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale. (Photo below from Wikipedia) The exterior of the library is made out of a translucent marble, which glows with a warm, subtle light. Its an amazing place.
For the mausoleum at the Oakland Cathedral, which is directly below the sanctuary, SOM borrowed this idea for the glowing marble from the Beinecke. This a view from the entry to the musoleum area and one of the cross at the back wall. Its much cooler in person.
While there were some misses (the parish hall for example), generally it was a great church. The sanctuary was warm and inviting, as well as being visually stunning. I hope to go back soon for a service.
Find more photos, plus plans, on SOM's website here.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
From my point of view as a book reviewer, I have not done this so far, but I can understand hating a book so much that you just can't bear to go on. For example, I remember reading Devourer of Book's review for a book so bad she had to give up. But she admits this in the very first line of her review. Regarding Ebert's movie review, on his blog, Ebert writes that his own editor told him "Your original review is clever and well-written but I think morally dishonest because you conceal your MO until the very end." Ebert's response is that the logical flow of the review didn't require him to admit that he hadn't seen the movie until the end.
I'm interested in your take on this. As a reviewer (of books or movies), are we obligated to finish the whole thing? If not, is it valid to write a review of something we haven't finished?
In even my negative reviews, I try to give some sense of why you might want to see a film even if I didn't admire it.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
The original Neutra building, flanked by the Cathedral and the Meier building.
Entrance to the cafe inside the Meier. Its so... Meier-y. (Edited to add: this is not a bad thing. Meier is a great architect and its a very dynamic space.) The stairs here, by the way, were at about 6 and 14, and were very uncomfortable to walk down.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
WebUrbanist has a great story today about secret rooms and passages. Some of them are well-known, and most are kind of gory (like the secret murder room constructed by H. H. Holmes, which you can read all about in The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson). The coolest one, I think, is the secret bookcase door at the Mont Sainte-Odile convent library (see photo above). I definitely need one of these for my dream library!
Monday, October 13, 2008
Today on NPR, Terry Gross of Fresh Air interviewed Curtis Sittenfeld (photo above from The Observer), author of American Wife. Earlier in the broadcast, they had an interview with Josh Brolin, who is starring in the new Oliver Stone movie, W.
Plainsong, by Kent Haruf
The Dharma Bums, by Jack Kerouac
Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
They are all, I would say, excellent books and I'd recommend them to anyone. Does this mean I need to read the other 71 books on Esquire's list?
The Lottery (and Other Stories), Shirley Jackson
To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf
The House of Mirth, Edith Wharton
White Teeth, Zadie Smith
The House of the Spirits, Isabel Allende
Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Joan Didion
Excellent Women, Barbara Pym
The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath
Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys
The Namesake, Jhumpa Lahiri
Beloved, Toni Morrison
Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert
Like Life, Lorrie Moore
Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
The Delta of Venus, Anais Nin
A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley
A Good Man Is Hard To Find (and Other Stories), Flannery O'Connor
The Shipping News, E. Annie Proulx
You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down, Alice Walker
Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston
To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
Fear of Flying, Erica Jong
Earthly Paradise, Colette
Angela's Ashes, Frank McCourt
Property, Valerie Martin
Middlemarch, George Eliot
Annie John, Jamaica Kincaid
The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir
Runaway, Alice Munro
The Heart is A Lonely Hunter, Carson McCullers
The Woman Warrior, Maxine Hong Kingston
Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
You Must Remember This, Joyce Carol Oates
Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
Bad Behavior, Mary Gaitskill
The Liars' Club, Mary Karr
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou
A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, Betty Smith
And Then There Were None, Agatha Christie
Bastard out of Carolina, Dorothy Allison
The Secret History, Donna Tartt
The Little Disturbances of Man, Grace Paley
The Portable Dorothy Parker, Dorothy Parker
The Group, Mary McCarthy
Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi
The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing
The Diary of Anne Frank, Anne Frank
Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
Against Interpretation, Susan Sontag
In the Time of the Butterflies, Julia Alvarez
The Good Earth, Pearl S. Buck
Fun Home, Alison Bechdel
Three Junes, Julia Glass
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Mary Wollstonecraft
Sophie's Choice, William Styron
Valley of the Dolls, Jacqueline Susann
Love in a Cold Climate, Nancy Mitford
Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. LeGuin
The Red Tent, Anita Diamant
The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera
The Face of War, Martha Gellhorn
My Antonia, Willa Cather
Love In The Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The Harsh Voice, Rebecca West
Spending, Mary Gordon
The Lover, Marguerite Duras
The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
Tell Me a Riddle, Tillie Olsen
Nightwood, Djuna Barnes
Three Lives, Gertrude Stein
Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith
Possession, A.S. Byatt
So I've read about a third of them. How is it that I've read Fear of Flying but not To Kill a Mockingbird? And my dirty secret: I've never read anything by Jane Austin!
How about you? How many of these books have you read?
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Here's my interpretation, as an oil painting instead of a pastel drawing.
Now, of course, I'll have to read Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper by Harriet Scott Chessman. I've heard such great things about it. Here's a review from fellow blogger Bermudaonion. And here is the description from Publishers Weekly via Amazon:
Elegantly conceived and tenderly written, this cameo of a novel ushers readers into a small, warmly lit corner of art history. Inspired by five Mary Cassatt paintings of Cassatt's older sister, Lydia, Chessman paints her own intimate portrait of the admirable Lydia, chronicling Lydia's thoughts and feelings as she models for Mary in Paris in the late 1870s and early 1880s. All the while, Lydia is conscious that she is dying of Bright's disease, and her thoughtful contemplation of her life and dashed hopes give shape to the tale.
Doesn't that sound good?
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
I was very excited to read this month’s selection for my local Book Club, My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D. The author, a thirty-seven-year-old Harvard-trained neuroanatomist, had a stroke when a blood vessel in the left side of her brain exploded. My Stroke of Insight is Taylor’s story of what happened the day of her stroke, her subsequent recovery and the lessons about herself learned from this experience.
In the end, though, I was really disappointed by the book. This was a very quick read for me (the hardcover clocks in at 184 pages including the appendices) and it shows. Taylor, I felt, only lightly skimmed over most topics. For example, while Taylor has two brief chapters describing the science of the brain, it is done in the simplest way possible, perhaps even to the point of having dumbed the science down. Once the scientific explanation was out of the way, I felt like Taylor ignored further opportunities in the course of telling her story to return to the science and explain how the anatomy covered earlier tied into the events happening. I am all for making the science understandable to the lay-person but not at the expense, I thought, of fuller explanations.
As a point of full disclosure, and because I understand that I may be somewhat unusual in wanting more science, I should say that my husband is a professor of anatomy and frequently lectures on neuroanatomy. I, however, am most definitely not a scientist and not an anatomy expert myself.
The latter portion of the book is devoted to the insights Taylor had about herself and her brain from having a stroke. In a nutshell, the big insight is this: inner peace is available to anyone because it’s already in your brain and if you would just get out of your own way by meditating, you would be happier. While this is a lovely insight, I was really annoyed by the amount of time Taylor spent on this topic, considering the libraries devoted this subject, when in the end, I don’t really think she added anything new to the discussion. Once again, I feel like she just glossed over how to, as she calls it, step to the right of our left brains. The pages devoted to how to meditate are, in my opinion, perfunctory and yet also a waste of space when there are so many other resources out there about meditation (including other books; an Amazon search for "how to meditate" pops up 4,356 books).
I think that as a scientist, Taylor had an opportunity to create something really special. I had eagerly hoped for something along the lines of A Leg to Stand On by the great Oliver Sacks and in the chapters about the day of her stroke, Taylor comes close. Otherwise, I think there was too much focus on new age glossiness and not enough on substance.
Disappointment aside, I do think there is one group of people for whom this book will be very helpful: family and friends of stroke victims who have lost the ability to speak for themselves. While Taylor makes it clear that every stroke is different, I think this book could be very helpful for anyone who is at loss of how to interact with a person in recovery from a stroke.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
For his illustrations, Abelardo Morell had the brilliant idea of making the book itself a character in the story. His photographs, at once eerie and full of wit, are beautifully realized.
Monday, October 6, 2008
When beautiful young widow, Paige Sorensen, is accused by her stepchildren of forging their father's will and handwriting expert Claudia Rose is retained to defend her, Claudia has no idea that she will soon become embroiled in a violent family battle. As she grows to know Paige better, she also develops a mentoring relationship with a troubled young student at the Sorensen Academy, helping her with graphotherapy. A shocking disappearance puts the spotlight on the student, and Claudia is forced to use every scrap of her wits and her courage to discover what happened and whether her young friend is really a brutal criminal.I thought that Written in Blood was really well-paced, with a great cast of characters. The writing is very to the point, maybe even a little basic, but it’s the plot that carries here. It was fun, too, to learn more about hand-writing analysis and graphology.
There were a few plot twists that had me rolling my eyes a bit. Without giving too much away, I found the revelation about the bad guy’s other criminal exploits to be unbelievable.
Fortunately, this was a small blip in what was otherwise a good book.
This is, of course, because I love reading mystery series. To me, they are the take-out food of the book world. There are lots of them around, some not so great, but if you find a place (or, um, an author) that knows what they are doing, it’s so satisfying, you’ve just got to keep going back. Just think of what you get in each book: juicy stories, with interesting new characters in each book, but also the comfort of the regular sleuths and the satisfaction of learning a little more about these favorites in every book. Of course mystery series are popular. (I think the same thing must apply in the TV world, which must explain the near-world-domination of Law & Order and the CSI franchise.)
From reading Written in Blood, Sheila Lowe’s second installment of her new Forensic Handwriting mystery series, I’d say she has done quite well in tapping into this gotta-know-more formula. I definitely want to read the first book, Poison Pen, also starring handwriting expert Claudia Rose, and look forward to more from Lowe in this series.
Sunday, October 5, 2008
I love art about books!
Friday, October 3, 2008
(Yes, that's a replica of a human skull. No, we're not weirdos; my husband is an anatomy professor.)(Okay, we're a little weird, but not because of that.)
Our house is tiny, only 800 sq ft, so we go vertical as much as possible to fit all our books in. Someday I'll have a real library!
Thursday, October 2, 2008
I just finished Independence Day by Richard Ford, which was phenomenal, and am now reading Lolita, but I feel like I'm in an author rut. Would love to hear if you have any suggestions...