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Friday, August 14, 2009

Friday Blog Roundup

So interesting how few of you want to have dinner with eighteen-year-old boys, even those who can suck out all your blood OR make your front teeth grow really long with a spell. What? These are not endearing traits?

The Weekly What If: What if you were going to be stuck on a remote island for a year and you could bring 5 books and 5 books only (these are the only books you'd have for the year). Would you choose 5 that you've read before and know you love or would you take your chances and bring 5 books that you've only heard good things about and may or may not want to reread dozens of times during the year (I mean, after collecting palm fronds to make your shelter, what else are you going to do on the island beyond read and try to construct an iPhone out of tree bark and coconut milk?). And if you are taking with you 5 books you've already read, what would they be?

My Reader is still squeaky clean and orderly. My email inbox is a wreck (apologies to everyone waiting for a note from me), but my Reader is neat. Returning from holiday, it was one or the other and while email generally wins out, this time I felt very quiet and reflective and the fastest way I know to plug back into community is to read its thoughts. And by "its thoughts" I mean your thoughts. Thank you for giving me so much to read.

Just so you don't have to ask, this is how I tackle my Reader after I've been gone for two weeks (and this is a modified version of what I do on a daily basis). I start with the letter A blogs. I start reading the first three lines and if it grabs me by the balls, demanding a comment or a very close read, I skip it. If it's simply a "I just went to the farm and picked berries and made these pastry" type post (er...), I read it and move on--sometimes with comment but usually without if I'm tackling 600 unread posts.

Then, after I've gotten the list down to all-posts-that-need-my-absolute-attention, I start tackling them, commenting, reading in full. I start with the ones that feel like they'll slide down the fastest. Then I go for the ones that are going to make me think. Then I go for the ones that are going to make me cry.

Which is to say that if you write something and I can tell that it will be incredibly moving, it may take me a few days to read it hence why comments sometimes pop up on days-old posts.

I worked at a literary magazine for three years and we got several hundred submissions a week. We published under 20 stories a year. This is how the process worked. All stories were logged in on ledgers. Each staff member would grab about 30 at a time. You would read the first paragraph. If it grabbed you by the balls, you set it aside to read later. If it didn't grab you one paragraph in, we had to set it aside because we knew that there were going to be close to 100 great stories that we'd have to whittle down to 20 stories by the end of the year.

If it was rejected, you entered that in the logbook and sent back the reject note immediately. Anything that was in your hold pile got a longer look. Sometimes the story in the hold pile was simply a good read and then you wrote the author a note about it. Sometimes, it was fantastic and you knew that you wanted everyone in the world to read the story too so you nominated it for consideration.

Consideration was a special file box that held the stories that a staff member believed was a good fit for the magazine. Before the weekly staff meeting, everyone was expected to have read the stories in that box and taken notes. When the meeting began, the person who had nominated it for consideration explained to the staff why they wanted everyone to read the story. You were essentially pleading for everyone else to agree with your assessment that it was worth reading. And then people would discuss it and pick it apart and compare it to other stories and try to consider how others will read the story especially in light of the other things already set for the magazine.

And sometimes everyone agreed and it was accepted for publication. And sometimes people rejected it and the nominator wrote the author a nice note about their story. And sometimes we spent several weeks arguing about the same story.

I didn't notice it until I started writing the Roundup, but obviously old habits die hard.

Now read these nice posts that I'm offering up for consideration.

And now, the blogs...

Still Life with Circles has a post about a section of the Grand Canyon that is a free speech zone and how it relates to her blog and life without her daughter, Lucy. She writes: "I now realize that the greater part of our story is not how she died, but how we lived." You should read it (see, getting into magazine staff mode) because you will be blown away by how important it is to speak your mind, say your words, and take them off your heart. It's simply a gorgeous post.

Wishing4One has a post about her visit with her friend's wife. The woman is aware of Wishing's infertility--it is a topic that comes up during the conversation--yet she spends the visit complaining about her children. It is difficult to know if she thought this was helpful ("eh, kids, they're not really that great") or if it was simply a woman venting about the difficulties of raising two under two. Was it a "you had your turn to complain about your uterus and now I'm going to use my venting time to complain about my children"? Regardless, I love hearing about Egypt and it is an interesting look at how those complaints are processed.

Our Family Beginnings has a post about reading what you love. It is a post not forgiving (which connotes a wrong-doing), but understanding the desire to not read something that your heart isn't committed to reading. And understanding that just because something is written and you are reading it, doesn't mean that it is written for you. "Put the book back on the shelf, because that book wasn’t written for you, and that’s okay." And at the same time, it is a rallying cry to being true to your own story. I smiled reading this post.

This post from Our Own Creation because it needed to be said. It needed to be screamed. And if words could be thrown against walls and shattered, it needed to be thrown too.

Lastly, Unwellness has a great post summing up what she learned at BlogHer and so much of it applies to not only blogging, but living. I laughed at this line: "I suffer from this paralyzing binary brain that simultaneously thinks I am brilliant enough to blog but also thinks that nothing I have to say in response to people's posts or comments is all that important" and then realized that it wasn't funny at all, but instead, enormously true for so many of us. I just love the ending of the post and I imagine her calling out the word "write" over her shoulder as she settles down to work on her manuscript.

The roundup to the Roundup: Those booooooooooooys. Answer the Weekly What If. How I cleaned up my Google Reader while neglecting my inbox. And, of course, great posts for your consideration.


Carrie said...

I think I'd do a combo: Bring a couple of books I've never read but have heard great things about and bring a few of my all-time faves. I'd have to think about two of them, but would definitely bring "Ahab's Wife." Love that one.

Jendeis said...

My family loves debating this Weekly What-If question. The most recent debate was whether or not one can count an anthology as only 1 book. The current solution is to say that if the anthology or collected works is currently sold in a bookstore/online, then you can count it as one book.

I don't think I could gamble that much on a book that I haven't read.

Here's where I wind up:
1. The Torah (w/ haftorah, commentaries, psalms, etc. attached) (some I've read, some I haven't)
2. The Collected Works of Shakespeare (some I've read, some I haven't)
3. The Collected Works of Jane Austen (some I've read, some I haven't)
4. Drums of Autumn (from the Outlander series) by Diana Gabaldon (wish they made the whole series an anthology, but each book weighs 10 pounds so they'd have to sell it with a shopping cart)
5. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

Lollipop Goldstein said...

I'm really not a fan of surprises so I thought I'd go with 5 books I know I love. I'm packing The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, the 7th Harry Potter (I figure it brings up enough of the stuff that came before and is probably the longest one?), a collection of Raymond Carver short stories, and Goodnight Nobody by Jennifer Weiner. All for different moods and enjoyable. Since, you know, I'll need something enjoyable for when I'm done crying because I'm stuck alone on an island.

Anonymous said...

I would definitely take 5 books I've read before - I love to reread my favorites every couple of years! Narrowing down to 5 though, is incredibly difficult.
I would bring:
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
The Jeeves Omnibus by P.G. Wodehouse
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein
Dune by Frank Herbert
and a childhood favorite
The Melendy Family by Elizabeth Enright

Okay, it's a weird mix of British lit. and Sci-Fi, but I think I could re-read those books over and over! Of course, ask me again tomorrow and I might pick different ones altogether (except P&P, that's a staple).

(Maybe I should have chosen some sort of survival guide?)

Jill said...

I'm not a big re-reader, but there are a few that I could read over and over again that I would bring:

Little Women by Lousia May Alcott
A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks
The Notebook By Nicholas Sparks.

not sure of the other two. Definitely something new and THICK

Jen said...

I would take four books that I love to read. Then, since I am practical like that, my last book would be something like "How to Survive on a Deserted Island." Or is that cheating?

areyoukiddingme said...

I'm with Carrie - some I've read, some new. And, thanks Jendeis for a brilliant idea - collections! So, for me, it would be the Complete works of Shakespeare, the Collected Works of Jane Austen, To Kill A Mockingbird, and a couple trashy novels (Julia Quinn or Amanda Quick) for those days when I need something light.

tbonegrl said...

I think I would do a little of both. There are a few I could not live without, but also a few new ones I think I would need to try.

Collected Works of Jane Austen
Possibly something by Ayn Rand
The bible
a few new ones.

Kate said...

I'd bring five books I love because you can't risk crappy books on a trip. Three of my five would be 1)The Shadow of the Wind 2) Pride and Prejudice 3) Harry Potter book

thanks for the insight into how publications were chosen. I'm fiddling with my fiction manuscript and I'm so scared to send it out, its interesting to hear the inside story.

So Mel, is it safe to say that if we ever pop up on your friday blog round up that we're on your reader?

niobe said...

Could I take five blank books? Cause I think I'd rather write than read.

Cassandra said...

Niobe's answer kicks ass.

I'd bring:
(1) Desert island book. I've read Swiss Family Robinson but not Robinson Crusoe, so we'll go with the latter.
(2) Long-ass book I've read and loved. Middlemarch.
(3) Long-ass book I haven't read. Something Russian perhaps, Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky.
(4) Big book of logic puzzles. (I get a pencil, right?)
(5) 7th Harry Potter in another language that I speak. That will kill some time, is fun and breezy, yet will keep my mind active, but it won't be as impossible as, say, reading Gabriel Garcia Marquez in the original without a Spanish-English dictionary (which I'm not wasting one of my five slots to bring). My friend who is perfectly bilingual says that non-native speakers should always read Marquez in translation, always. A desert island is not the time to prove her wrong.

Also considered Ulysses. I've read Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (and loved it) but never had time for Ulysses. Should have plenty of time on the island, but I suspect that a book so challenging is a bad idea. There might be a lot of hurling the book into the ocean then wading to retrieve it and lovingly drying out the pages in the sun to try again.

Mrs. Gamgee said...

I think I would bring 5 that I've already read. But only to choose five for a whole year? Okay... "Ride the Wind" by Lucia St. Clair Robson, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix", "London" by Edward Rutherford, my complete Lord of the Rings trilogy in one volume, and the "Joy of Cooking" because I hate coconut and would need some recipes to distract me from the taste of it.

Kristin said...

Only 5 books?!?!?!? I think I would have to go with ones I love. And, as long as it wouldn't be considered cheating, I would pick omnibus versions that have 2 or 3 novels bound as one. I'd bring the omnibus of Anne McCaffrey's Dragonrider series, the 7th Harry Potter book, The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein, one of Christine Feehan's Dark series (don't know which one), and the Bible.

battynurse said...

I think on the five books I'd have to go with known books too. And other than knowing I would bring The Stand by Stephen King and I'm not sure of the others. But wow. 5 books for one year? That would be a long ass year.

Jess said...

Your blog-reading-style is ironically close to how it was during the adoption matching process. If you got a look and they didn't want you, you usually hear right away. Then if you got a look and they were considering you, it was a little more time. Sometimes then an interview and more waiting.

It's always harder to decide on good things!

JuliaS said...

I'd stick with the tried and true - I would be so disappointed if a book didn't deliver and I had limited options.

1. Gone With the Wind
2. Whistling in the Dark (reminds me of To Kill a Mockingbird)
3. The Hunt for Red October
4. The Stand
5. Bridge of San Luis Rey

Just the right blend of classic, contemporary lit,Techno thriller, historical romance and cheesy horror.

I would be very tempted to squeeze in an Agatha Christie too though - just a little one! And Sonnets From the Portuguese isn't that big - it's TINY! Barrett and Browning could keep me going almost indefinitely **sigh**

ACK - now you got me rethinking my list . . .could I live without my friends Poe and Checkov and Dickinson and and and . . aw, fudge! (Which brings up another good question - am I limited to how much chocolate/treats I can bring along too? If so, I'm not going!!)

AArggghhh! Only 5??!! :0)

Briar said...

Thanks for putting me in the roundup! I am touched.
Mine would also be things I have read before.
A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving (it is my favorite but I love all of his books so tough to pick)
A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth (because it is so long. And so good.)
Cat's Eye - Margaret Atwood (though Handmaid would also be a contender)
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay - Michael Chabon
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius - Dave Eggers

But it is gut wrenching for me to leave out Jeannette Winterson's The Passion. And I think trilogies should count as one and so His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman should be fine. And also series should count as one. So ALL of Harry Potter. And the Ender's Game series.

This is not a good question for a librarian who is up too late with her iPhone.

nycphoenix said...

I would bring:

Alcoholics Anonymous
Memoirs of the Geisha
And one of the two books I use for um uh getting sleepy at night