Booking Through Thursday: Make ‘Em Laugh

Here’s this week’s Booking Through Thursday:

What’s the funniest book you’ve read recently?

I’m currently reading Jim Harrison’s The English Major, and though it doesn’t have me doubled over with laughter, it is representative in part of Harrison’s quirky humor. I particularly like the disdain the narrator Cliff has for cell phones, referring to them fairly often as dog turds. It’s such a perfect description isn’t it? 

Now, if you want a real guffaw, read Ian Frazier’s essay “Coyote V. Acme” in his nonfiction collection of the same name. It’s a legal brief of Wile E. Coyote’s lawsuit against Acme Co.


The Sunday Salon: Recognizing The Good Stuff

Richard Gilbert at his blog Narrative has an insightful post on structuring writing. He notes how difficult it is to weed out the good stuff in our writing.

Weeding out the good stuff is often a matter of structure, and Gilbert examines a Writer’s Digest article on braiding, the idea of structuring a piece by weaving multiple story lines together.

The article addresses a problem we all have of trying to figure out how to braid in backstory and how much backstory goes into the narrative.

I know it’s a problem I’m having as I’m revising my own novel. How to Get On With It  and yet develop my characters and plot fully.  How much backstory, if any, goes into the story without bogging the story down, or confusing the reader?

I’m learning a lot about that from David Michael Kaplan’s Revision, a nice handbook on, well, revision. 

His chief mantra is Get On With It and he offers a process by which a writer can do just that while re-seeing his fiction, or even creative nonfiction.

100 Novels: Walking Into Murder: Elizabeth George’s Careless in Red

Careless in Red
By Elizabeth George
(Harper, 2008)

Thomas Lynley is a man trying to walk away from death — the tragic death of his wife Helen, shot down in cold blood. Lynley is also, incidentally, trying to walk away from his career as a Scotland Yard detective. But, Lynley can neither step away from his loss, nor his career, when, on the forty-third day of his hike along the coast of Cornwall, he discovers the body of cliff climber Santo Kerne, who has apparently fallen to an accidental death.

When local investigators discover Kerne’s climbing kit was tampered with, the accidental death inquiry turns into a murder investigation. That investigation delivers the bulk of the plot of Elizabeth George’s hefty (640 pages) novel Careless in Red. Though the book’s bulk may be intimidating, George deftly and convincingly wrangles out a suspenseful crime novel that weaves a murder investigation into the lives of a small town on the UK coast. (Only one subplot, the relationship between Tammy Penrule, a teenager aspiring to be a nun, and her “grandie” Selevan Penrule, seems tangential. They are minor characters who offer detectives only a tidbit of information about the crime, although their story itself might make a good novel.) 

George also has clearly done her research into crime scene investigation — the investigation itself is detailed and well thought out— and its limitations: there are no science-fiction-y crime-solving supercomputers as in TV crime dramas such as CSI New York to aid the detectives. Those limitations lead the investigation, and team of detectives (I won’t spoil it), to a satisfying and fairly realistic conclusion, a resolution very much unlike most crime fiction, especially the neat resolutions of TV shows.

Booking Through Thursday: If I Had My Druthers

Here is this week’s Booking Through Thursday:
Which do you prefer? (Quick answers–we’ll do more detail at some later date)

Reading something frivolous? Or something serious?

Paperbacks? Or hardcovers?
Paperbacks for convenience and relative inexpensiveness

Fiction? Or Nonfiction?
Fiction mostly, but a great piece of nonfiction is a great read.

Poetry? Or Prose?

Biographies? Or Autobiographies?
A difficult choice. Each really depends on the subject.

History? Or Historical Fiction?
History. I can think of maybe one piece of historical fiction that I’ve liked and that’s Stephen Harrigan’s The Gates of the Alamo.

Series? Or Stand-alones?

Classics? Or best-sellers?

Lurid, fruity prose? Or straight-forward, basic prose?
Straight forward. 

Plots? Or Stream-of-Consciousness?
Plots, but I’m not afraid of Virginia Woolf

Long books? Or Short?
Beyond 400 pages really has to be a page-turner or written in the 19th century to hold my attention. So, Infinite Jest is not on my list. But that’s because I really don’t care for the late Mr. Wallace’s fiction.

Illustrated? Or Non-illustrated?
It doesn’t matter. I have some old editions of books that are illustrated and  the illustrations are nice pieces on their own.

Borrowed? Or Owned?
Prefer to own, but love the library, too.

New? Or Used?
Actually used, because I’m a cheapo.Also because I tend to look for books that may or may not be on the new shelves any longer But, I love new books, especially when they are gifts.

More Shameless Self Promotion

OK, another moment of Shameless Self Promotion:

This site received a footnote on Wikipedia, a reference to my interview with Audrey Niffenegger about The Time Traveler’s Wife (it’s note number 6). And while Wikipedia isn’t always an accurate source, it’s still kind of cool. 

The novel itself is one of my favorites, and just a few days ago I saw a trailer for the film. I only hope the film will turn out well.

Booking Through Thursday: The Unread Books Dilemma, Part 2

Here’s is this week’s Booking Through Thursday: 

Do you keep all your unread books together, like books in a waiting room? Or are they scattered throughout your shelves, mingling like party-goers waiting for the host to come along?

My unread books are all scattered about. There are a few mingling with the read books on the bookshelves, pretending to be read and confusing me. There are a few in a wardrobe in the bedroom, hiding under gift wrap and a shoebox of old photos. There are a few on my night table, lurking underneath library books that I’ve recently checked out (which may explain how the books I own remain unread; I promise this is all with good purpose, one of the library books I’m reading is Elizabeth George’s mystery novel Careless in Red (Inspector Lynley), which I’m reading as part of my 100-novels reading project.)

Booking Through Thursday: Unread Books

Here is this week’s Booking Through Thursday:

So here today I present to you an Unread Books Challenge. Give me the list or take a picture of all the books you have stacked on your bedside table, hidden under the bed or standing in your shelf – the books you have not read, but keep meaning to.The books that begin to weigh on your mind. The books that make you cover your ears in conversation and say, ‘No! Don’t give me another book to read! I can’t finish the ones I have!’ 

OK here’s the list, as complete as I can make it:

  1. The Situation and the Story: The Art of Personal Narrative by Vivian Gornick
  2. The Yakota Officer’s Club by Sarah Bird
  3. The Thanatos Syndrome by Walker Percy
  4. Amsterdam by Ian McEwan
  5. Libra by Don DeLillo
  6. Father and Son by Edmund Gosse
  7. Get a Freelance Life:’s Insider Guide to Freelance Writing by Margit Feury Rgland and Laurel Touby

These are the ones in my bedroom that need reading. I have several on my shelf I haven’t read, but they are hiding among the books I have read. I’m sure they’ll stand out at some other time.

And of course, I will read them, really I will. Oh, and disregard that last statement in the question — please please please please give me books!