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Category: Books

2010 Christmas Books

by Scott Smith

For the last several years, we get the kids books for Christmas. Robinson suggested we track the kids’ book gifts, so here is the list:

  • Darkly Dreaming Dexter
  • Our Man in Havana
  • Lacuna
  • Native Son
  • Tree Grows in Brooklyn
  • Poisonwood Bible
  • Bluest Eye

We also grabbed John Stewart’s Earth book for all of us. Madel and Robinson have been reading it together for the last hour.

Russo Talk in Dowagiac

by Scott Smith

On Wednesday, Richard Russo gave a talk at The Dogwood Festival in Dowagiac, Michigan. Never heard of Dowagiac? Go ahead, google the city. Yeah, it’s in the middle of nowhere. The town looks like it is on life support since FDR, but check out their middle school’s (yes, middle school) Performing Arts Center:

Stage view

Russo’s talk was on humor. I would give a summation, but apparently Darlene Jackson has transcribed a significant portion of his talk. Enjoy.

Writer Jon Hassler Died

by Scott Smith

When I was an undergrad, abusing my writing teacher (Richard Russo) with a depressing 28pg short story with verb tense shifts that made him weep, he said I needed to warm up. Go read some Hassler.

I did.

I suggest Staggerford or Grand Opening. I enjoyed his My Staggerford Journal as well.

Here’s an excerpt from an excellent article on Hassler.

Critics sometimes compared Hassler to John Cheever and Evelyn Waugh.
Novelist Richard Russo, in writing about Hassler’s “North of Hope”
(1996), said Hassler’s “brilliance has always been his ability to
achieve the depth of real literature through such sure-handed,
no-gimmicks honest language that the results appear effortless.”

Munching on Media

by Scott Smith

I finished reading Amy Knox Brown’s Three Versions of the Truth. One of my favorite short story collections. Amy’s collection gave me compelling perspectives of characters I loved and cared about. She also delivered on place in a big way. I’ve been to Lincoln, Nebraska but now I feel I’ve been to Lincoln. Another plus was her use of short-short stories. I’ve never been a fan of the genre. Amy has made me one — or at least a fan of her short-shorts. She just nails these stories and works with in its constraints. Go get her book and enjoy.

Robinson and I watched Blood Diamond. Yeah, that was bad. A mess. Avoid. Go rent/buy Helvetica as soon as possible. Do you think a movie about a font is compelling? No… Well, it is.

I listened to Steve Martin’s autobiography. After you read Amy’s book and watch Helvetica, download this book from iTunes. Steve Martin is smart and funny, and his life is worthy of a book. Sure, you could buy the hardcover only I think having Steve Martin read his book adds to the experience.

Today, after Madel’s band dork competition, we headed to B&N for books. New Russell Banks is out, The Reserve, and I finally own Presentation Zen. Zen is gorgeous. Garr Reynolds, its author, has got a lot of love for its publication and I can see why.

Btw, I kid Madel and Coleman for being band dorks. After today’s competition, Madel is heading to state. The judge of Madel’s solo heaped praise upon her. If she does well at state, I will raise her to geek status.

New Yorker Cartoon Editor

by Scott Smith

I watch a lot of Google sponsored events. I’m shocked by how bad these smart presenters present information. It’s almost like none of them have watched Larry Lessig or have paid attention to Seth Godin.

Google: For the love of all that’s right and holy in world, ship a copy of Garr Reynold’s Presentation Zen to the presenter about a month before they give their presentation.

Enough with the complaining about the bad. Let’s watch some good.

Bob Mankoff of The New Yorker:

Russo on Rose

by Scott Smith

Richard Russo appeared on Charlie Rose last week. Damn. That’s pretty good for a literary author. While Charlie Rose isn’t Letterman (I keep hoping McNally will make it on), it is a big deal for a novelist.

Russo is like a ghost from my past. He reminds me of those times when fiction mattered most. Also, it was a time I made my most lasting friendships, outside Tim and Greg.

This interview captures Rick’s mind and wit and the laugh. Man, that laugh.

Madel’s Book Club

by Scott Smith

Madeleine Rae decided to peruse the library stacks for something good to read (she isn’t too pleased with her English class). She brings home Cormac McCarthy’s The Crossing. Talk about dialing up your language arts skillz.

She loves The Crossing so far. She loves the long sentences. Apparently, her teachers pound into their heads to use short sentences.

The Crossing book cover

This evening, after some SysAdmin training, I walked into the family room and heard Madel reading one of McCarthy’s long sentences out loud. I am proud and frightened. What if she decides to become an English major–eek!