Tuesday, May 27, 2008

That Slippery Green Slope...

I'm blogging over at A Good Blog is Hard to Find today. Come on over.

Several years ago, I started faithfully participating in my city's curbside recycling program. To my surprise that small step led to other earth-friendly choices, and now, although I don't own a Prius (yet), let's just say I haven't been this green since I tossed my cookies on a deep-sea fishing trip as a kid.

* I tore up my lawn.
* I grow vegetables in my front yard.
* I have a bat house in the back.
* The bumper sticker on my car says, "Compost Happens."
* I don't eat anything (much) with a face.
* I take my own reusable grocery bags to the store (plastic bags...never again!)

You, too, can be green, kids. Maybe even "person of interest" green. Here are four easy steps...
Read the full blog.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Nail Biter

At first I rejoiced! Ragged, chipped nails are IN!
(Mine are usually bitten, sporting tell-tale rinds of garden soil.)

From today's NY Times Style section:
Now there is another stylistic tic that would have been unthinkable on a proper lady in your Aunt Beatrice’s day. Over the last few years — since the era of the skull print scarf, let’s say, or the (metaphorical) rise of the Olsen twins — having streaked, chipped or just plain grotty nail polish no longer suggests drug addiction, manual labor or pure laziness. Like untied high-tops, thread-worn jeans and bedhead, it’s now part of a deliberate look.

But then I read further--it takes a lot of work to get the right "I'm so busy and important I don't have time to dart out to the mani for a touch-up today." AND-- you have to have that $5k handbag.

Oh well.
Green Nails

Saturday, May 17, 2008

So Brave, Young, and Handsome

From the Charlotte Observer, my review of Leif Enger's novel:

A vigorous way to break writer's block

In ‘So Brave,' a forlorn writer finds adventure and inspiration out West

By Mindy Friddle

Special to the Observer

Robin Enger photo

Leif Enger, author of "So Brave, Young, and Handsome."


By Leif Enger. Atlantic Monthly Press. 272 pages. $24.

“Authorship is not a trade,” Mark Twain once wrote. “It is an inspiration; its habitation is all out under the sky, and everywhere the winds are blowing and the sun is shining and the creatures of God are free.”

The American satirist might well have been describing the dilemma faced by Monte Becket, the narrator and failed writer in “So Brave, Young, and Handsome,” the second novel by Leif Enger. Becket is desperately casting about for an adventure to write about, and it isn't long until he finds one. Like his 2001 debut novel, “Peace Like a River,” Enger's follow-up begins in a small town in Minnesota before his characters soon hit the road.

When we first encounter Becket in 1915, he is determined to make a living pounding out tales of adventure. Alas, he tells us, his daily word count is anemic. (“Jack London sets down a thousand a day before breakfast,” he says, “How hard can it be?”)

By the time we meet him in “flat old Minnesota,” Becket is blocked and bereft, “sitting on the porch of my comfortable farmhouse, composing the flaccid middle of my seventh novel in five years.” Unfinished novels, that is.

Enter Glendon Hale, a mysterious boat maker in the twilight of his years, who lives down the river from Becket. Hale befriends Becket's son, charms his wife and persuades Becket to accompany him down Mexico way to find the wife Hale abandoned 20 years previously. The two men set off, but the sojourn turns rocky when Hale's train-robbing past comes to light, and he and Becket find themselves pursued by Charles Siringo, an odious bounty hunter whose eerie talent for finding fugitives is matched only by Hale's uncanny ability to slip through the fingers of the law.

Becket's languid days of porch-writing may be behind him; fortunately for us, he proves to be an appealing narrator in this picaresque tale of the American West.

Still, there's nothing like a villain to quicken a reader's pulse, and it is Siringo, his face “pale as smoke,” who breathes life into the pages of this story like a rattled-breath Darth Vader cowboy.

“I did glimpse the dark creature squatting behind the flatness of his eyes,” Becket says, while finding himself held captive by the ancient lawman who, upon awakening, “spat the wicked day to life.” Over a campfire, Siringo, a memoirist of some note, impresses Becket by effortlessly reciting the first chapter of his traumatic life story, advising Becket that in adventure writing, it is best to “just lay down events without floral arrangement.”

In the end, Becket will have his own harrowing experiences to mine, but thankfully, won't leave off his tender “floral arrangements” in the telling. And while there are dark events in this novel – broken necks, murdered trackers, flood and fire – the comic moments are never far behind.

“So Brave, Young, and Handsome” is an enthralling romp, appealing to fans of “Peace Like a River” – to anyone, that is, who loves a good story.

Mindy Friddle is author of the novels “The Garden Angel” (St. Martin's Press/Picador) and “Secret Keepers,” forthcoming from St. Martin's Press.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Is it writer's block or procrastination?

An article on Slate teases out the difference, touching on the no-show follow-ups of Ralph Ellison and Truman Capote:

Of course, given that procrastination carries the stigma of sloth and disorganization, it may seem uncharitable to ascribe the dithering disease to the blocked but feverishly ambitious writer—surely, if he weren't truly stuck, he wouldn't be finding new Facebook groups to join instead of composing his chef-d'oeuvre? On the other hand, creative-writing instructors often start class with a five-minute automatic-writing exercise for a good reason: There is always something to be written.

As I've mentioned before, I love what Richard Bausch once said in an interview about being blocked: "Lower your standards and keep on going."

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Starting Out in the Evening

I read the novel, Starting Out in the Evening (by Brian Morton) last week, and saw the movie--on DVD-- the other night. I liked both, but, as happens when one sees the movie after reading the book, I was struck by just how different a screenplay is from a novel. Characterization runs deeply, quickly, in this novel, and of course the film has to convey all those nuanced details--flashback, intricate relationships--through the visual, and in dialogue, without a narrator, or access to the characters' inner thoughts. But I digress. Read it, see it. Here's an excerpt. Here's a clip from the movie.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

I'm Batty

I guess my love for the only flying mammal started by reading Stellaluna by Janell Cannon to my daughter years ago. We even had the little stuffed animal Stellaluna that you could velcro around the bedpost. It's hard not to love this critter:

Lately, bats are having a hard time...they are endangered, and, according to this NY Times article, perishing from a mysterious cause biologists haven't identified. (You know, like the honey bees.)

Bat houses help. I put mine up a couple of months ago, and I'm waiting for the migrating bats to move in.

The National Organization for Bat Conservation has lots of info...like, did you know a bat house is either a "nursery" with females and young, or a "bachelor" house with males ( that would be a frat bat house?)

Also, according to the site:
"Bats are not blind, and are very clean animals. They do not get caught in peoples’ hair or chew through the attic of your house. Bats will not interfere with feeding backyard birds, and they will not be disrupted by pets or children."

What Bats will do is pollinate (they are night pollinator
s) and eat a S*!@ load of mosquitoes. After all, bats are the primary predators of night-flying insects.

Okay, so I'll get off my bat box in a minutue, but first, even if you don't find these much maligned critters particulary appealing, know that bats play a vital role in maintaining the balance of nature:

"As consumers of vast numbers of pests, they rank among humanity’s most valuable allies. A single little brown bat can catch hundreds of mosquito-sized insects an hour, and a typical colony of big brown bats can protect local farmers from the costly attacks of 18 million root-worms each summer." So maybe my backyard neighbors are freaked out, but my bathouse is mounted on a 16-foot pole...here...away from trees (Bats don't like the houses on trees) and is facing southeast to take advantage of the morning sun.

I'm hoping I'll look up one day and see them snug like this:

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