Sunday, December 30, 2012

More than one kind of ghost

Yesterday I woke in the morning to find the power had gone out and the trees were all frosted with heavy white snow.



We spent the morning by candlelight in front of the fire. D & O even hauled out the Harley Davidson Monopoly game. Then after getting the kids new snow boots (needed but procrastinated about at home in the unseasonably warm autumn), we went out to my sister's boyfriend's family compound - 200+ acres of woods and ponds and rolling hills near Albany - for snowball fights and meeting horses and a hayride and a bonfire and cocoa by the wood stove. Adrienne and I made a snowman too, but didn't get around to giving him a face.

Needless to say, it wasn't much of a writing day, but I did read quite a bit.

Reading:
The goodreads page is here.
Finally, I finished the Lurie book of short stories. I liked many of these stories, and I found them technically interesting (which was a big part of why I wanted to read this book -- to examine how she introduces ghosts into her essentially realistic literary fiction), but my overall impression is of a lot of female characters whom I don't particularly like as people. Not that a fictional character must be likable, right? And their shallowness I think is part of what she is writing about, but still, cumulatively it was a bit hard to take.

And so, what next to read? I have no "reading plan," although I do keep constantly shifting mental lists (and incomplete handwritten and digital ones too). I read different things for different reasons, and never as much as I would like. Certainly not as much as some other people in my life -- my mom, my aunt, my friend Jane, my writer friend Charlie O. All of them tear through books and are much more up on contemporary fiction than I. Sad, but true.

The goodreads page is here.
I carried a small library with me for this week in Athens, including a stack of novels I was considering to read next. Tonight, I subjected David to the epigraph/first line test of the 4 that are most promising. He thought I should read Memoirs of an Ex-Prom Queen (about which I could right a whole blog entry, and I haven't even read the book yet), but it didn't seem like the right one, so we compromised and I am reading Madeleine's Ghost by Robert Girardi.

This book came out in 1995. The copy I have is a reader's advance I got at the time. It has been sitting on my book shelf and survived several purges since that time, waiting for the day to come when I would finally read it. That day has come. Again, I am drawn to the technical issues -- writing a ghost story that does not rely on suspense, that is not about spookiness. But beginning the book, I am most struck by its depiction of New York City, and also the vividness of scene.

I think this book was well received, but I don't really know anything about Girardi. Curious, I googled him, and found this fascinating and cautionary tale. Iowa MFA, years of menial jobs waiting for a break, big first book (the one I'm reading), strong follow-ups, and then a complete screw over by the self-cannabalizing consolidation of publishing conglomerates, and attendant personal meltdown. The article portrays him as weathering this with some strength of spirit and a kind heart. I hope that is true, and that in the nearly 3 years since good things have happened for him. I hope too that he is still writing.


Writing:
A tiny bit.

Dinner:
Larry's Dawg House take out at the Smiling Skull. I remember when I used to cook things ... I did get an immersion blender for Christmas, so I see pureed soup in my near future.

Soundtrack:
My sister listens to the greatest 50s XM station.

Random thing: 
My mom's old dog, Betty, overexerted herself in the snow. I had to help her stand up and get up and down from the couch because her hips were hurting her so much at the end of the day. In gratitude she scooted up next to me and lay her head in my lap while I read by the fire. We've known each other for 9 years, but this is the first time we've really been friends.

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