Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added) is the best-kept secret among contemporary American writers.--John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Post-party cravings

Post-parties

After various bouts of company and three birthday celebrations for N, I am depleted and hollow, my ears ringing like a pair of abandoned shells. (Meanwhile, N is insatiable. Not satisfied with a picnic and vigorous games to polish off the weekend, he wondered if somebody couldn't come over to play late last night. Oh, to have the fount of energy that is 10!) Nothing but play and pre-play drudgery has been accomplished around here, and it's time to get back to some serious dreaming.

Caught in a downpour yesterday, I scurried home and then curled up in a blanket to read a manuscript and commit a blurb, something I haven't agreed to do in quite a while. More about that book, Auralia's Colors, anon.

Today I'll whisk my house in order and start reading the manuscript I wrote at Yaddo. Nothing like a little time to give some fresh seeing.

Cravings for a book

I'm having a great desire to read or reread something funny, a desire that comes to me now and then and must be satisfied. If you have a passion for a certain funny book, send it my way. Some of my favorite funnies and funny writers are: Henry Fielding, Tom Jones; Terry Pratchett (I really love his children's books, and I really should read Going Postal); Chaucer, of course; Robertson Davies; A Confederacy of Dunces (strike that--I don't know if it's a favorite because I haven't reread it: the great test); Kingsley Amis, Lucky Jim (so wonderfully, marvelously indebted to P. G. Wodehouse for the Drunk Lecture scene) ; most anything by the immortal Plum Wodehouse; heaps and heaps of Twain (and, as always, living in Cooperstown and having read a good bit of Cooper, "The Literary Offenses of Fenimore Cooper"); lots by Evelyn Waugh, Burgess, Dickens, etc. I've laughed over Daniel Pinkwater, reading him to children. Ditto Sachar and Holes.

What to read or reread? Maybe Amis junior. Maybe Amis senior. Maybe Vonnegut? I have a neighbor across the park who adores George MacDonald Fraser. I've read Steel Bonnets, his wonderful nonfiction account of the border reivers, but never anything else. Stephen Fry? I've never read him, though I like his turns on the Wodehouse stage. He must have soaked up a good deal of Wodehouse along the way.

Maybe Dodie Smith? I was thinking of getting I Capture the Castle for my daughter, but maybe I need to read it myself. What are the funny novels by women? Jane Austen is funny, in her two-inch-of-ivory manner. Who else? I haven't read Smiley's Moo... I've read the creepy Shirley Jackson but not the funny one. Interesting that she could be both, isn't it? I wonder what that says about humor, and how close it is to the awful. I definitely want to read Bad Manners by Maggie Paley, who was at Yaddo last month (seems moons ago!) That's a funny book...
*
Wild bittersweet
*
jarvenpa has been reprinting her poems at www.jarvenpa.blogspot.com/.
*
I have been thinking, brother, of the white peonies
that bloomed that spring our mother died
a ragged splendor along the boundary line
having survived so many hard winters

& being green fires, green bonfires at midsummer
despite the North Dakota storms, holding their own
electricity & stubbornness. Not, you understand
that they are symbolic, or anything more
*
And you get the rest of that poem, "Waiting for Spring in the Continued World," and more if you go see!
*
Print thresholds

This is just for people who like to keep up with my shenanigans. First, stories: “Power and Magic” forthcoming in the Firebird/Penguin anthology, Firebirds Soaring, 2008; “Prolegomenon to The Adventures of Childe Phoenix,” in the current issue of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet; “Drunk Bay” is slated for issue 13 (Winter 2007) of Postscripts (U.K.); I’m unsure about a date for “Rain Flower Pebbles,” as I thought that was issue 11 of Postscripts but didn’t see it on the list; The Chinese Room,” We Think, Therefore We Are ed. Pete Crowther (DAW Books, forthcoming); “The Comb,” Fantasy Magazine; “The Seven Mirrors” forthcoming in anthology of novellas from Prime; “The Four Directions,” forthcoming in an anthology tba, “The Gate House,” forthcoming in Argosy; “The Salamander Bride,” forthcoming in “The Beastly Bride” (Viking, 2009). “The Smaragdine Knot” is out, timed to match up with the Scripps spelling bee. Logorrhea: Good Words Make Good Stories, ed. John Klima, (Bantam Books, 2007.) My novella, Val / Orson is slated for late 2008 at P. S. Publishing (U. K.)

I’m a little fuzzy on poetry publications, as my notebook has as many legs as a spirobolid millipede (homage to Dave Bonta) and is always wandering into crannies, but "Self-Portrait as Dryad, No. 4," "Here We Go Round," and "Self-Portrait as Dryad, No. 2" are to appear in the June issue at Mezzo Cammin—“an online journal of formalist poetry by women—and “The Sea of Traherne” appeared in the April issue of Books & Culture. Oh, and "Botticelli" at qarrtsiluni and "A Fire in Ice" (a riposte to the Billy Collins poem, "Taking off Emily Dickinson's Clothes") in an issue of The Raintown Review guest-edited by Joseph Salemi. Hmm. Can’t forget Klima’s Electric Velocipede, scheduled for fall: “When Demons Ruled,” and “Why the People Disliked Art, Circa 2005.” An old poem, “Children of Paradise,” is being reprinted in the 35th anniversary edition of Cold Mountain Review. There are a few more that I can’t remember… But then there's so much in life I can't remember!

Credit: The half-headed mannequin is courtesy of the photographer, Georgios M. W. of Denmark, and www.sxc.hu/.

27 comments:

  1. I read Patchwork Planet by Anne Tyler recently and found myself laughing out loud when reading parts of that...also incredibly sad too though.

    That picture is wonderful - goes with your words about ears so very well.

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  2. OK...so you may not have the physical energy of 10 year old N, but i sit here in awe of your mental capacities following all that B-Day/Family visiting marathon! My brain would be totally fried.

    And...recognizing that i am no literary maven in any sense of the word, i offer up the following, low-brow recommendations from the Librarian's Delinquent Daughter:

    If you enjoy food writing, i roar and chortle over almost everything written by Calvin Trillin (The Tummy Trilogy puts three of his small foodie books in one handy volume).

    i want to read more of Bailey White because i enjoyed Quite a Year for Plums so much.

    And while her other books are too self-indulgent for my taste, i found Elizabeth vonArnim's The Enchanted April a total, delightful chuckle fest of a gentle feminist's near fairy tale of female-male conciliation (in a garden, of course).

    and yes to Anne Tyler, too.

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  3. One of my friends swears that the Agusten Burrows books are the funniest things she has read in a long time.

    Me and my girl friends all really enjoyed the Charlene Harris Books Dead Until Dark. THey are super frivolous and not challenging, but we had the best time reading them. I believe the first 2 were the best

    The main character is fabulous. Her name is Sookie Stackhouse and she is a cocktail waitress who can read minds and her boyfriend is a vampire. It sounds hokey, but she goes on all these adventures and everybody wants a piece of her. Its just fun.

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  4. Clare,

    I have an unread copy of Patchwork Planet. Somewhere...

    Yes, that Danish Modern head seemed just right!

    zephyr,

    Very kind of you to give a vote of confidence there, because my brain is, indeed, fried.

    Hey, I'm a librarian's delinquent (maybe not in exactly the same way) daughter, too!

    I do like food writing and garden writing. Of course I've "heard" Bailey White on the radio--and once on a trip on tape. Somebody else told me to read The Enchanted April. Haven't read her...

    Susanna,

    Burroughs. Yes, he's very popular, isn't he? Because he's funny, I hope!

    You know, I just realized that a Southern books editor (who shall go nameless) recommended those books to me. At least I think so. Aren't those Southern vampires?

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  5. yes, I meant to say that Sookie is southern. She lives in a remote farm house and has to drive her trashy car into the middle of nowhere to get home.

    It is so fantastic. I reread them every summer.

    Thanks for your sweet words. I am glad that I never took neither he or my mother for granted. Nobody could ever say that I was not a good and devoted daughter. I think that is one of my biggest triumps for the first half of my life.

    I have noticed my friends talking and asking about how they will cope if something ever happens to one of thier parents and I cant stress to them enough to say what you feel now. I never missed a chance to make over him and told him how special he was. It is a comfort to me that last fathers day my card was accompnied by a note of apprciation telling him that he had always been perfect. I couldnt have hand picked one for myself that would have been better. He really liked that. Thank God I took the time to cry with him and tell him all that then. I never saw any of this coming.

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  6. Hello, Susanna--

    I always think that a good many people must wish that they had the same kind of crystal-clear, heartfelt links to a father that you had. Nobody who lives to be old gets to keep a father or mother. But some people get to keep the memory of unsullied relationships with both, and you seem to be one of those. And that is something sweet and something to be thankful for, isn't it?

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  7. I recently read Terry McMillian's "The Interuption of Everything." It was one of those quick reads when I was sick with the flu bug and couldn't do much else. Not a real "thinking book" but a fun quick thing.

    By the way, I looked for Ron Rash's books in Borders the other day, (I know, I know a dreaded big chain), and found he has published another set of short stories this year. You and he are really prolific writers. I am impressed.

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  8. As Zephyr says, I'm beginning to see where N.'s over-abundant energy comes from.

    I haven't read most of the funny authors you list, but I did read Moo and liked it a lot. Thta's maybe in part because of a nearly life-long association with a major land-grant university, though. Spot-on parody.

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  9. blog queen,

    It is lovely to be praised for running one's mouth! I'm sure Ron would feel likewise...

    dave,

    There is a great chasm between having lots of energy and being merely obsessive. I can only stand on the other side and wave to N., alas.

    Long ago I read a good number of "college novels," and I should have read it then--if only it had been written! But perhaps I could still add a few more.

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  10. p. s.

    Aw, Donna the b.q.!

    Being the recipient of the first ever Flying Pig Award makes my heart positively palpitate.

    Note to self: go on diet.

    http://donnasart.typepad.com/flying_pig_productions/2007/06/portia_the_flyi.html#comment-71819302

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  11. How about Alexander McCall Smith's 44 Scotland Street series? Set in Scotland(!) and like Dickens, he originally wrote the books in daily serial form for a newspaper (The Scotsman. I think). He has created a wonderful set of local characters and always make me laugh.

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  12. Oh, I completely forgot about him. That's another I've heard on tape on trips because he's doable for a family of many ages.

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  13. "I capture a castle" is a good story. Have you read the James Herriot books, very very funny.

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  14. Good thought in the wake of the flying pig award: If anyone wants to give me a flying gazelle award, I'm here and waiting!

    Robert,

    I did see some of the shows, in my Pre-No-Television life, but that's all. I've been off t.v. for 15 years, I just realized. For the four years prior to that, I only had PBS, so I wasn't watching much then, either. Amazing.

    Maybe that's why I appear energetic to zephyr and Dave. More time!

    Of course, from my stance, my pace seems a bit snail-like.

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  15. James Herriot is funny I think, much more so than the TV version.
    I like Nancy Mitford, the snobbery ought to be a turn-off but it isn't, Love in a Cold Climate and the Pursuit of Love, and Jessica's account of the real-life, Hons and Rebels is pretty good too.
    Everyone tells me 'Diplomatic Baggage' by Brigid Keenan is hilarious, but I haven't got around to reading it yet!

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  16. I found Mr. Fortune's Maggot by Sylvia Townsend Warner pretty funny -- it has an ironic, ridiculous kind of humour that's pretty quirky.

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  17. lucy--

    Lots of women I left out--haven't read the Mitfords except for The American Way of Death. And I don't know one whit about Keenan; I'll look her up.

    imani--

    What, still no hat? Nice to see your face again! And that's a good suggestion.

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  18. Oh and I forgot, Gerald Durrell, the three Corfu ones about his childhood - My family and other Animals, Birds Beasts and Relatives and The Garden of the Gods, all wonderfully funny and sun-drenched and full of observation, envy-inspiring too for such a marvellous childhood. Not least funny because of how Laurence Durrell, who seemed to take himself terribly seriously in his own writings, is such a figure of human-sized fun.

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  19. The books are much better and I agree about the Gerald Durrell books, they are just wonderful, your daughter would love them too, very funny.

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  20. Lucy & Robert,

    What a good thought! I do have a couple of picture books from Gerald Durrell--I think they must've been pillaged from the "Animals" book. My youngest is animal crazy (we have too many both of the stuffed kind and the mess-making kind) and would probably like Durrell and Herriot.

    I had a passion for Laurence Durrell's books in my early twenties. And no doubt had the seriousness to match him!

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  21. I think my reading list has quadrupled. And thanks for all the links.

    That head and title are marvelous together!

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  22. Some names new to me here so thankyou Marly.
    My appetite is whetted to read NEW...
    P Planet IS superb but then A Tyler is a wonderful writer.
    Have you read " Digging to America"??...it's worth giving up a w/end for!

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  23. Jan,

    No, I haven't. I'll stick that in my Library of Unread and Perhaps-to-be-Read Books. We have some Tyler fans, I see.

    My computer is telling me to go run Windows Memory Diagnostic Tool... Do I have to? I just did disk clean up and defrag instead, in hopes that would make it happy.

    Fooh!

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  24. Am with MB -- my must-read list has now grown (and I groan!)

    :-)

    When I'm depleted and need funny, I dig into Carl Hiassen. I've embarrassed myself on airplanes and in restaurants by bursting into guffaws while reading some of his character descriptions -- almost as many embarrassing guffaws as I get from Terry Pratchett.

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  25. And I've never read him at all, though I've read Pratchett...

    Got some other suggestions on MySpace: Jerome K. Jerome, "Three Men in a Boat"; Goldman's "Princess Bride."

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  26. I missed this post somehow, Marly. How did I manage that?
    I wish I could think of a funny book for you. I loved I Capture the Castle, though I don't really think of it as funny per se. You will like it a lot too. Have you seen the film?
    Grace Paley is wonderful, and funny too. And her fiction voice sounds just like her real one. What a delight she was!
    But funny... no, I tend to read uber-heavy stuff. Don't know why. Terminally morbid I guess.

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  27. Robinka,

    Thanks for popping back in time...

    The fact is that dour work outnumbers light and joyful work by far. For all kinds of interesting reasons no doubt. But now and then I feel a deep desire for a well-shaped fountain of frivolity!

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Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.