Saturday, September 30, 2006


Originally uploaded by wordnerdy.
Look! I made challah!

It's for the break-fast I'm going to on Monday night. Normally I wouldn't make it so far in advance, but I figured fasting is hard enough without having a house that smells like freshly baked bread.

I mean, I'm having a hard enough time not tearing into one of these right now!

attention chabon fans!

I just got the latest issue of Virginia Quarterly Review, and there's an except of his upcoming novel!!!

There's also the usual assortment of high-quality essays, fiction, and so on--including the latest installment of Art Spiegelman's "Portrait of the Artist as a Young @%$%".

(Plus subscribers got a special bonus booklet of short stories, but I haven't delved into that yet.)

2006 book 111

Scarlett Thomas' The End of Mr. Y
I'm a bit too into this book to write much about it, aside from saying that it's another strong contender for the best-of-the-year list; like all of Thomas' novels, it's clever and intellectual and thought-provoking and literary and very moving. This story centers on Ariel, a grad student working on thought experiments. She comes across a copy of a book by an author she's studying, only this book is very rare and apparently cursed--anyone who's ever read it has died or disappeared. This isn't a horror story, though, in the least. I'ts more of a novel meditating on the nature of thought and language . . . which I know makes it sound boring, but believe me, it really isn't. Like I said, it's a strong contender for the best-of-the-year list. I'm sorry I'm describing it badly but I don't want to give anything away, because following the narrator as she discovers just where this book can lead is pretty amazing.

pop culture advice needed

When I moved to Florida, I decided I'd splurge and get HBO (primarily so I could watch Big Love, which was on its 4th or 5th episode at the time). For a while I was pretty happy with it--they played some shows I wanted to watch, and maybe a third of the movies were ones I liked. But lately HBO sucks! All the movies they're premiering are real stinkers (the ones I've seen were really stupid, and the ones I haven't were ones I really didn't want to see) and they're not even running any good shows at the moment. Plus they keep airing sports documentaries, making me think that Comcast took my HBO away and added an 8th sports channel or something. (I really do have that many sports channels.)

So I've been thinking I should cancel HBO, unless you all know if they're going to get good again any time soon? Should I try Showtime for a while? I did really like the first season of Weeds. Do any of you have it? Do you like it? Should I just keep HBO around till it hopefully gets good again?

Thursday, September 28, 2006

2006 book 110

Jennifer Gilmore's Golden Country
This was a pretty good book about two Jewish families in the 1920s-50s whose lives keep intersecting (which becomes official when two members of the youngest generation get married). It's a great look at life in Brooklyn at the time, the immigrant experience, etc. Plus there are Jewish mobsters and the dude who invented tv (I'm not curious enough to investigate any veracity in this novel). Mostly I liked this, though it was a bit sloppy at times--what was with the non-existent siblings/children who barely merited any mentions? There was an appreciated and funny reveal at the end, at least.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

2006 book 109

Marisha Pessl's Special Topics in Calamity Physics
I thought I would hate this book--the few reviews I read kept comparing it to Jonathan Safran Foer, and talked about how it was organized like a lit class syllabus, and they all made it sound so pretentious and annoying. Guess what! It's not like that at all. It's just a novel and all the chapter titles are titles of great books (and the chapters sort of tie in with the books thematically, but really the story flows and you can read it and enjoy it without even noticing the chapter titles). In case you can't tell, I really liked this book. It's narrated by Blue, the daughter of a professor who's moved her from place to place over the years since the death of her mother. For her senior year of high school, she ends up in Western NC (Pessl lives in Asheville) and falls in with the school's film teacher and her chosen favorite students. Honestly, I don't get why this novel is compared to Foer's work; the first half of it is way more reminiscent of Donna Tartt or Daniel Handler (the whole group of kids with slightly sinister undertones thing). Sure, Blue is precocious, but she's been raised by an academic who is set on sending her to Harvard, so I found her quoting of texts entirely believable and within character.

Anyway! A death occurs and the last part of the book is taken up with Blue trying to unravel some mysteries. Things twist and turn all over the place and it's pretty frigging awesome. This is definitely a contender for my top books of the year list. I might even have to buy it!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

nc, 2006 books 107 and 108

Amazing weekend in NC seeing some of my bestest friends, seeing rock shows, playing pool and shuffleboard and weird trivia games, eating at lots of yummy restaurants, doing the Rosh Hashanah thing, and generally having a great time. I read two books on my short airplane trips:

Lore Segal's Other People's Houses
Segal's memoir about her experiences as part of a children's transport from Belgium to Englans in 1938 cast her in a very unlikable role. It's weird that she paints herself as such a cruel person--was it for dramatic effect, or was she being deeply honest, or what? It's not a particularly harrowing story (her immediate family all makes it out of the country) and sometimes it's very hard to sympathize with Segal. Her mother, however, trying to hold the family together throughout some really rough times, comes off much better.

James Lasdun's Seven Lies
Why did I put this on hold at the library? Did I read a positive remark about it somewhere? Because it was pretty boring for a 200-page book. It's about a guy recounting how he and his wife got out of East Germany in the 80s, and it's described as "part political thriller, part [blah blah something about a portrait of desire]" but it wasn't either of those things, it was about a wishy-washy faker of a guy and he wasn't even interesting.

Gotta run, kitten needs attention!!

Thursday, September 21, 2006


Between seeing this awesome new toy and getting a Vosges (OH MY GOD DROOL!) catalog in the mail yesterday, I've had candy on the brain. I wish I had a spare five hundred bucks for Vosges' candy of the month club (it has a fancier name than that, of course), but I like having a place to sleep and a full fridge (full of food, I mean, not kittens).

But mmmmmm . . . candy.

Speaking of food: the history of the matzah ball! Be sure to read Joan Nathan's Q&A as well (scroll down--it's on the left) for more Rosh Hashanah tips. If I ever start baking again, I'm definitely trying her challah recipe. Mmmm. Freshly baked challah.

And speaking of Rosh Hashanah: I'll be in NC tomorrow!!!!!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

2006 book 106

Nell Freudenberger's The Dissident
Really quick comments, b/c ANTM is about to start! When Freudenberger's Lucky Girls came out, I remember a lot of articles about how she was all young and pretty. I think from now on, the articles will be about her writing--b/c this book was DANG GOOD. It's about a Chinese revolutionary artists type who comes to LA on a fellowship to teach at a girls' school and do some art shows. This novel interweaves his story with that of the family hosting him, and all the characters are just really well drawn. So to speak. OK, tv time!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


Originally uploaded by wordnerdy.
In lieu of actual content, here is a gratuitous kitten photo! Lately Mr. Bond has taken to leaping inside the fridge whenever I open it, and immediately dashing to the back where I can't quite reach him and settling himself in. Maybe I need to turn up the a/c?

In other news, today I was told I was too young and cool-looking to be a librarian (hee!), and now I'm having one of those moments where I cannot find the one thing I'm looking for and have spent over an hour going through boxes (time that could have been spent reading my current read, which I'm quite enjoying). Dontcha hate that? In the midst of all that, I couldn't find the scissors I was using (yes, many of my boxes were still taped up--I don't have anywhere to put my comics, still) and was running around like a proverbial beheaded chicken--only to discover I'd actually put the scissors away. I still don't remember doing that, and really, it's very unlike me to put the scissors away. Which reminds me I should go put them away again.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

fall tv

Hooray--three of my shows start this week! I can't believe it's fall tv time already. I'm all set though, having rewatched all the episodes of Grey's that I hadn't seen recently. I think that's the premiere I'm most psyched for, though of course ANTM and Studio 60 should also provide an hour of entertainment each.

I'm sure you all know this already, but starting at 5 pm the WB is playing the pilots of some of its flagship shows to mark their last night on the air. Here's the perfect chance to get intrigued by tv shows you can then netflix!

In actual book news, the final Lemony Snicket book comes out on October 13th. The soundtrack by the Gothic Archies (a Stephin Merritt side project) will be released on October 9th. Spooky fun!

Friday, September 15, 2006

2006 book 105

Peter Carey's Theft: A Love Story
Finally, I finished reading this over my lunch break today. I guess there's been a lot of hubbub that Carey, who's twice won the Booker, didn't make this year's shortlist. But I can tell you why right now: it wasn't a very good book. Its main character is a has-been Australian painter who falls in love with the wife of the son of a famous dead artist who's working some angle or another. The novel is narrated in turns by the painter and his brother, who has a very Lennie-from-Of-Mice-and-men feel, and who occasionally narrates phrases in all-caps for no discernable reason. Sigh. I hate when writers use some weird technique to try and make their narrative voice more interesting or whatever (I am thinking here of Ali Smith's latest, which I really hated, but which the folks over at Bookslut can't get enough of--so maybe some readers were into this little conceit of Carey's. Who knows). Plus there was a lot of that artist-behind-the-scenes/mentality-of-the-creation-process crap--I guess writers like to write what they know, but it's not too interesting for the non-artistic types. Anyway, lame book. The plot was really not that compelling either. Props for the cover art, though.

*insert crying here*

Stephen Colbert is coming here in November!

Only, it's the weekend I'm in DC for a conference.


No truthiness for me.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

booker shortlist

Well dang, the book I'm currently reading didn't make it onto the Booker shortlist. I'm on the waitlist for the Waters novel, but the library doesn't have the others, so I guess I have to give up on the whole reading-the-Booker-noms thing for the time being. I need a sponsor to buy all those books for me and then I could have really plowed through 'em!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

mysteries of pittsburgh

Here is a really illuminating entry on the Mysteries of Pittsburgh movie from someone who was an extra in the punk scene. After reading that, I'm actually glad I wasn't in Pittsburgh. Poor book getting all screwed up by a crappy movie! [It's not my favorite Chabon book--it's very first-novel-y--but still a good story and doesn't deserve to be screwed up by movie people trying to make a buck.]

If they fuck with Kavalier and Clay like that, I'll really be pissed.

On the plus side, the new Chabon book is finally coming out in May!

Monday, September 11, 2006

mystery fruit revealed!

Originally uploaded by wordnerdy.
It's grapefruit?!

I still have no idea where they're coming from, but at least my research has a direction now.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

mystery fruit

Originally uploaded by wordnerdy.
And now we shall commence with the story of the mystery fruit.

Around the time my parents were visiting me last month, I'd seen two random fruits in my front yard. Since my house is on a corner by a stop sign, I somehow thought that the two small, lime-looking items had been tossed there by an idiotic neighbor.

However! This morning I noticed three more of the things in the middle of my yard. They're all sort of near each other, making it easy to infer that they fell from the same tree or bush. But there are no fruit-bearing trees or bushes in my yard from what I can tell.

Can anyone identify this fruit so I can further my investigations? They're larger and rounder than limes and all of them are yellow and green (but not all of them look like this--one is green on one side and yellow on the other). I don't want to touch them b/c there are lots of bugs around, so can't comment on how heavy they are or what the outside feels like.

Maybe some animal dragged them into my yard (I did see paw prints on the outside of my rear window when I was backing out of the driveway yesterday), but they don't look like anything's been at them.

Any thoughts?

thank you!!!

Originally uploaded by wordnerdy.
Erin sent me an awesome package, which included several Florida-themed items, including these bad boys. They seem to be enjoying my backyard!

Friday, September 08, 2006

2006 book 104

Haruki Murakami's Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman
Of course I had to break my usual no-short-stories rule for the latest Murakami collection--even though I'd already read about half of these in The New Yorker over the past couple of years (for a while there, new Murakami stories were my main incentive for subscribing, but I didn't renew it last summer and actually don't miss it much). There are plenty that follow the usual surreal/bizarre/intriguing Murakami formula, and a few that are sort of just sweet. My favorite was the one about kangaroos! I'm not sure I've ever seen Murakami do straight-up cute before.

In unrelated news, I call shenanigans on Nickelodeon. They're showing Ferris Bueller's Day Off and totally went overboard with the edits. I'm not talking about editing for content, but what I imagine was an edit for time--they removed the scene with Cameron communing with the Seurat painting, which I strongly believe is the emotional centerpoint of the film (with the swelling music and all). Lame! Shenanigans!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

2006 book 103

Dara Horn's In the Image
I know, I know, this really seems like one of those books I should have read before this point in my life, but somehow the description just didn't seem that interesting. It's hard to explain why the stories of an elderly man who attempts to befriend his deceased granddaughter's best friend, and how their lives intersect, are so engaging, but as each character's story unfolded I got more and more involved in the story. The only false note is a story-related retelling of the book of Job, which breaks up the narrative and makes the novel lose some momentum. Still, it was one of those books I read all in one sitting, so it definitely had plenty of redeeming qualities. My favorite character was the Spinoza scholar, but I think I'm predisposed to like those sorts of characters. :)

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

mail call!

Originally uploaded by wordnerdy.
Today was, like, the best mail day ever. First I got a package from my parents with all sorts of amazing cameras and accompanying doodads (and some cat toys for Mr. Bond, who currently is enamored of a fuzzy blue mouse). But I also had four of the Re-ment sets I've been obsessing over! This one is entitled "A day at the fair"; I also got "S'mores", "Morning Grab n' Go", and "Spaghetti and Meatballs" (which comes with the most amazing miniature cheese grater). I have not yet figured out how (or where) to best display these, but I am entirely enchanted with the level of detail on these tiny plastic foodstuffs.

In Pittsburgh news, I was thrilled to realize that one of the samples I've been hearing on the latest Girl Talk album was from Pittsburgh rock god Donnie Iris' "Ah! Leah!" (Wikipedia confirms this.) No one ever knows who Donnie Iris is and that song rocks. FINALLY I was vindicated! Of course, Girl Talk is from Pittsburgh so that might not actually count. Still, who knew Donnie Iris would sample so well under Fatman Scoop and the Waitresses? It really adds a nice touch.

I also got some stuff from my retirement fund and the latest issue of the Penn State alumni magazine. Good times.

Monday, September 04, 2006

2006 book 102

Steve Almond and Julianna Baggott's Which Brings me to You
I'd been putting off reading this one, because although I'm a fan of Baggott, I'm generally not a fan of Almond (though his advice column at Nextbook does have its moments). Anyway, this is an epistolary novel, letters back and forth between a couple who almost got it on at a wedding, but didn't, and now they're writing out their past romantic and life histories to each other. And I just could not suspend my disbelief at all. Seriously, even if the characters do turn out to be a professor and a photographer/artsy type, I just don't believe real people who aren't novelists would write letters like these, with such pretty and moving language and whatnot. And all the letters are LONG! Aside from middle schoolers, who writes such long notes in real life? Whatever, I mean, it was entertaining and well-written, I guess, but the premise (and the end) didn't really work for me.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

2006 book 101

Louise Welsh's The Bullet Trick
I think this book is an excellent example of an author doing a good job of maintaining a story's tension. The novel centers on a Scottish magician; it flits back and forth over a year where he gets involved in all sorts of drama and something goes terribly wrong. I was on proverbial pins and needles waiting to see what it was (though it's not too hard to figure out, it's still an exciting read). I am pretty sure I liked the ending too, which wraps up neatly but not in a bad way.

Saturday, September 02, 2006


Originally uploaded by wordnerdy.
Got the sad news this morning . . . Bobby O' Connor died last night. This article is not great (in their hurry to get it out, they obviously didn't do a good job fact-checking; Bobby's sister-in-law's last name is wrong) but I guess it's hard to write about something so sad. I'm glad not to be in Pittsburgh; apparently the television media is being pretty annoying about the whole thing.

Anyway, very sad news, and my thoughts are with O'Connor's family.

As an aside: the new mayor of Pittsburgh is younger than I am. That doesn't seem right, not least of all because Bobby didn't even get to be mayor for an entire year. He should have had more time.

Friday, September 01, 2006

2006 book 100

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
I wanted the momentous book 100 to be a book I loved, so I couldn't take any chances on something new! I've had Harry Potter on the brain--book 7 might come out this summer and you know me and Christina will be waiting at midnight!--and this seemed like a good choice. I think it's the 4th time I've read it and I'm still just as eager to know what happens next!


Can someone explain to me why everyone loves Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close? (I pretty much hated it--my hatred of it actually grew after I wrote those comments.) Lately I keep seeing people recommending it all over the place, and I really have trouble remembering anything redeeming in it. Did you like it? Can you tell me why???? When I think about that book, I want to throw it at a wall! Multiple times!