Saturday, October 20, 2007

This Is My Brain On Books

This is where I will blog about anything Read-a-Thon connected for the duration. With my most recent updates, musings, etc. added to the top below this intro, it is a bit like a blog within a blog. The pic at top is linked to sponsor Dewey's blog where you can find more participants.

6:00 AM--So I guess this is the wrap-up. I made 66 pages into The Nature of Jade. The descriptions of panic attacks are almost too good. I began to feel on the edge of one and had to remind myself I was just reading about one and that I haven't had a full-blown one for years.

Out of the last 24 hours I've read 20. I subtracted one hour each for:
-reading nest building and rearranging
-visiting readers and checking out mini-challenges
--writing updates

I was afraid I might be too jazzed to sleep. But I that's not going to be the problem. It's Merlin who is jazzed up now. Here's hoping that once I shut the laptop lid and turn off my reading lamp and snuggle down with my cuddle blanket he loves to knead, that he'll figure out that it is now a normal morning--we're going sleepy-bye as the birds start to sing.

3:30 AM--L-squared is reading Dracula.~~Alison seems to be jaunting about with cheer shaker this half hour as well.

OK for the duration I'm going to pick up a YA loaned to me by my niece. The Nature of Jade by Deb Caletti. She has been very anxious for me to read this. After reading the inside cover I can see why:

I am not my illness. "Girl with Anxiety," "Trauma of the Week"--no. I hate stuff like that. Everyone, everyone has their issue. But the one thing my illness did make me realize is how necessary it is to ignore the dangers of living in order to live. And how much trouble you can get into if you can't.

My niece and I both have issues with anxiety that interferes with our daily living. She will be pleased to learn I've set aside The Historian in order to read this.

3:00 AM
--I'm off to pass around some cheer to the remaining readers for the next half hour or so.

2:30 AM
--See Don Quixote/Swing his sword/ Bravo! Don Bravo!

That was my contribution to this (21st) hours mini-challenge to write a haiku or limerick about a character we read about today.

Does that tell you which Spanish novel I spent the last hour with? I should have known better than to go looking for a modern best selling author to find a free on-line text. At least it didn't take more than five minutes on the search page to figure it out. I soon found this.

I 'read' to the end of chapter four. By 'read' I mean that I not only passed my eyes over the words, I sounded them out in my head as close as possible to the cadence of the Mexican-American speech I hear frequently here in Southern Oregon. I did not read for meaning but when meaning caught me by surprise I was quite pleased. I recognized with confidence about one in ten words and could guess at about that many again. 20% of the words are not quite enough to make out the story. Though my imagination was eager to play with the words: road, mule, dame, sad, house, sword, valor, brave, (bravado?) mercy, mayor, reason, imagination, magnificence, miracle, water. I could easily make my own story out of those words but since I'm somewhat familiar with Cervantes' story, I could also guess at some of what was going on here.

The most important thing I learned from this exercise is that Cervantes had an ear for his language. I felt the whole time like I was reading poetry. The lines were rife with alliteration. I could almost hear them being sung. It sounded like opera.

For awhile I completely forgot to hear Ed's snores.

And Merlin must have said "Forget it." after his several attempts to supplant the laptop were rebuffed. He seems to have found his spot down by Ed's feet. What is it with cats and dirty socks?

1:30 AM
--OK I think I may be getting that second wind which comes so often right about this hour. Sometimes the wee morning hours are my most creative and especially when I've been awake for more than twenty hours. I think I am going to try something off the wall. I'm going to go find a novel in Spanish and spend an hour 'reading' it for the mini-challenge put up by Sarah. I'm thinking this playful, dreamy mood would actually be more helpful than a more rational 'solve the puzzle' state of mind.

So here goes. I'm going to take my 30 year old high-school Spanish and my talent for pattern recognition and my sleep-deprived, story-stuffed brain over to Google Books and look for a Gabriele Garcia Marquez or an Isabelle Allende or Umberto Eco (wait, did he write in Spanish or Italian? I guess I'll find out.)

Meanwhile, Ed is snoring (there's more sharing for you) and Merlin is talking in his sleep.

11:30 PM
--I started reading Women Who Run With the Wolves over my coffee two hours ago and forgot to stop back by to note that choice. Ah, well. I'm forgetting more and more intentions as the hours wear on. I'm starting to feel as though I've got one foot treading a dreamscape. And I don't mean that to sound like a complaint. In fact, I often cultivate this state intentionally when I'm after a high-octane creative state. This is a good place from which to write poems. Not so good for reading anything that needs focus, concentration, memory. But it is a good place in which to create a compost of words, images, symbols, names taken from thither and yon and jammed in odd juxtaposition, cheek by jowl, in a jumble that can stew in the juices of memory and dream until that moment when something new tumbles out struts its jaunty stuff into a poem or story or a new numinous dream.

Ed dropped out at 10:30 and that entailed a third reconfiguring of my reading nest in the bed. This caused me to ruminate on how sharing is one of the ingredients of an enduring marriage and of all the things we shared to make this event work for both of us: we shared the light to read by, we shared the space on a standard size mattress, we shared the air we breathed, we shared ideas, we shared the laptop to make updates and read our reader's comments, we shared giggles and we shared a spoon.

All of this reminded me of the mini-challenge posted in hour 1: to post something about Joshua Henken's novel, Matrimony and then drop him a line to be in line for a chance to win a signed copy!. Based on Dewey's review, I feel pretty sure the couple in this novel do a whole lot of sharing, including pain and hardship, disappointments and tears, but also of dreams and desire and hope and joy. It is a character-driven story that muses about character-driven stories. Sounds like my kind of story.

oooops! speaking of forgetting. i forgot to click publish when i finished this update. or did i forget to finish it? i don't know. i don't remember.

i forgot to put fresh water down for Merlin too. But he is good at reminding. A claw tap on the wrist while lifting a water bottle is a better reminder than a string tied around it.

and as u can see i'm 'forgetting' many keystrokes. my hands are as weary as my eyes but just as jazzed on coffee as my brain. a lot of sizzle but little control, like a downed electrical wire in a storm.

8:30 PM
--I was determined to reach a total of 100 pages for the day in The Historian before I took another break. I just reached page 350 for a total of 104. It took me much longer than I expected. I may have slid to 10 pph in that last hour! It is only partly the small print. It is at least as much due to the delectable sentences Kostova composes. They have the staid cadences of an academic treatise while being jam-packed with those all-important nouns and verbs that move a story's plot forward.

Oh, but she dishes that plot out in eye-dropper size doses while stirring in exquisite details of local culture and landscape and history. The various narrators are all historians by training and passion and their diction reflects that in its precision and attention to detail. And yet, the story of these historians turned vampire hunters is as bone-chilling as any Stephen King has concocted.

I desperately want to continue. But I know that if I do, I will never make it til dawn. Besides, how can I do such a fine story justice if I'm starting to see the word 'napkin' as 'napalm'? I caught myself on that one. What have I not caught?

So I think I will be moving on to other things for the duration. I may return to Joseph Campbell's Mask of God series. I may pick up Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes for a chapter or two because the featuring of Hungarian culture and history in The Historian reminded me that Pinkola Estes had drawn from that well with her re-tellings of stories of the wild woman archetype.

I also have the thought of looking for a free e-book of Bram Stoker's Count Dracula. I've never read it and it is almost a breathing presence in Kostova's story.

And at some point before I quit, I want to make an attempt at the mini-challenge sponsored by Sarah at There's Something About Translation to spend an hour trying to read a story in a language other than my mother tongue.

I will let you know what I've decided to do next after I've taken a short break to get something to eat and make a cup of coffee.

Merlin waits patiently for me to decide too. He wants this spot between my knees where the laptop is now perched on a box. He would probably vote for another Read-a-Thon real soon if he knew he had it to thank for his hours of usurping the laptop's place today.

4:30 PM
--I was forced to take a break from The Historian by the arrival home from work of my husband Ed, of Ed's Thread, bearing bags of finger foods and energy drinks for feasting as we read. He's going to join in now for as long as he is able. But seeing as he just completed a sixth full work day in a row, we'll forgive him if he can't hang in til dawn.

While Ed was getting his Read-a-Thon post up, I demolished the nest I'd created on the bed for myself right after he crawled out this morning. I put back on there shelves the couple dozen books and reordered blankets and pillows to accommodate two. (But what about me? cries Merlin.) OK three. Happy Mr. Wizard?

I'm going to return to The Historian for awhile. At least long enough to find a better stopping place than the middle of a conversation in a Budapest restaurant. After that I will see. As much as I am loving this story--one of the best I've ever read--the small print is hard on my eyes. As the night wears on, I may switch to a YA out of the selection of fifteen or so my niece has loaned me.

2:00 PM
--OK I spent longer over at Dewey's and checking out the mini-challenges and visiting etc than I intended. It is kind of addictive. I going to return to The Historian for awhile. What better novel could I have chosen for today than one featuring libraries and ancient manuscript collections all across Europe and America? It is a story inside a story inside a story wrapped in a weave of history and legend and myth.

As for Merlin? He's more impressed with the bookmark. His favorite game is to steal it out of the book while I'm not looking. Which is quite easy to do what with my RP aka tunnel vision.

12 Noon
--As I munch on salt and vinegar potato chips and drink a Sobe's energy drink, I'm going to take a break from reading for awhile to go check in on doings at Dewey's and then drop by a few readers to pass along some of the cheer left here for me.

"Merlin! Get outta the chip bag!"

9:00 AM
--I've reached page 280 of The Historian after two and a half hours. Not even the average of 25 pages per hour I was managing earlier this week. I probably should have started off the morning with something in a larger print. But I wanted to read fiction and I don't like to have multiple novels going at once. (Though I have on occasion. When a library book due date loomed say. And I set The Historian aside for three days last weekend in order to read again The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton during my nieces visit so we could discuss it.)

About 8:30 I set aside The Historian and began browsing in Joseph Campbell's The Masks of God, a set of four books published between 1959 and 1968 tracing the roots of myths from prehistoric to modern culture. From the cover blurbs:

Vol. I Primitive Mythology: The primitive roots of the mythology of the world are examined in the light of the most recent discoveries in archaeology, anthropology, and psychology.

Vol. II Oriental Mythology: An exploration of Eastern mythology as it developed into the distinctive religions of Egypt, India, China, and Japan.

Vol. III Occidental Mythology: A systematic and fascinating comparison of the themes that underlie the are, worship, and literature of the Western world.

Vol. IV Creative Mythology: The whole inner story of modern culture, spanning our entire philosophical, spiritual, and artistic history since the Dark Ages, and treating modern man's unique position as the creator of his own mythology.

I was introduced to Campbell's works in the early nineties as I began my quest to find my place in the larger world outside the fundamentalist sect I was raised in. I cannot now imagine that journey without Campbell's aid. I've since come to hold in awe and reverence all the sacred stories of all the traditions for the evidence they hold of how deep and strong the roots of story grow as people struggle to explain their world and themselves to themselves. I've come to see human being's need for story as equal in power and necessity to that of hunger and thirst.

I'm going to continue browsing Campbell for at least another hour. It took me an hour to type this update because I couldn't stop browsing.

I'm not going to keep track of pages for this. With my vision constraints I'm not in the running for prizes for most pages read anyway. For me, today is all about guilt-free reading.

I was going to make a trek to the kitchen for a snack and another cup of coffee but Merlin has made his own nest in a blanket next to my right hip and is happily snoring. I think I will let him be for now.

6:30 AM
--I begin on page 246 of The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, which, if it fulfills all the expectations laid down in the first third, is one of the best novels I've encountered in years.

That is, I will begin if Merlin will settle down and stop turning off the light!! He's chasing wrinkles on the bed and jumping up to grab the light fixture chain. That's the thanks I get for bringing him a cup of milk when I went after my coffee. I guess I got him all riled while building my little nest on the bed with a couple dozen books within reach among the infinitely mutable mountain of blankets and pillows.

OK. Here's my book, where's that coffee? Merlin, no....

36 tell me a story:

Eva 10/20/2007 7:31 AM  

I'm impressed-I don't think I could handle The Historian first thing in the morning. I picked a YA book w/ big type. :)

Becky 10/20/2007 7:42 AM  

Good luck on the challenge! I read the Historian not too long ago for the R.I.P Challenge. Hope you enjoy!

Chris 10/20/2007 8:28 AM  

The Historian is a great read. Good luck!

Cheerleader Chris

BookGal 10/20/2007 8:31 AM  

Someone else is also reading The Historian. Have a great time reading.

SFP 10/20/2007 10:40 AM  

I love Joseph Campbell. My own personal favorite is Myths to Live By.

And I really enjoyed The Historian, too. :)

Literary Feline 10/20/2007 10:47 AM  

The Historian is such a good book, but I like you are finding, it is slow going. I am glad you are enjoying it so far. And I don't blame you for taking a break from it to try something else.

Happy reading and good luck with the read-a-thon!

Eva 10/20/2007 10:51 AM  

I loooooove Joseph Campbell. In fact, I have his The Power of Myth on my shelf; I might have to break that out later now. :)

Dewey 10/20/2007 11:20 AM  

I'm pretty sure there's someone else reading The Historian today, too, and she also had to switch books for a while.

Don't forget to stop by and check out the mini-challenges!

Anonymous,  10/20/2007 11:31 AM  

Let's here it for an excuse for guilt free reading! :D

Chris 10/20/2007 11:47 AM  

Doing great! keep it up

Cheerleader Chris

BookGal 10/20/2007 12:11 PM  

Keep up the reading. Have a great time!

Sarah Dillon 10/20/2007 12:26 PM  

hi there, just dropped by to see how you were doing with the read-a-thon. I love your posting and was really interested to read back through your blog too - I'm enjoying "visiting" other people's blogs so much that I can't tear myself away to get stuck into a book! thanks for sharing. S.

Eva 10/20/2007 12:33 PM  

Salt and vinegar chips! The best kind ever. :D

Kristin 10/20/2007 12:50 PM  

Thanks for your comments and for joining my challenge. You made me want to check and see if my library system has any Joseph Campbell titles! Also, thanks for your comments about the Southern Oregon libraries. I have a good friend from grad school who lost his job in those closings so the topic is close to my heart too.

alisonwonderland 10/20/2007 1:20 PM  

i started this morning with The Historian too! i read from page 19 to page 120 before i had to go with something lighter and easier. it's a great book - at least so far - but i'm not presently up to that much thinking. i'm working on Pretties right now.

Nyssaneala 10/20/2007 2:04 PM  

Wow, you had an early start today? It sounds like you're on the West coast? Keep up the great work!

I have a special treat on my blog for read-a-thon readers, come on by!

Cheerleader Alisia

Anonymous,  10/20/2007 2:58 PM  

You're the second person I've come across who is reading THE HISTORIAN. Hope you're enjoying it.

Your reading rate is about the same as mine.

Hope Merlin is behaving himself - great name for a cat BTW.

1morechapter 10/20/2007 3:58 PM  

Hope you're enjoying your reading day. I am!

Chris 10/20/2007 4:16 PM  

How are you liking The Historian? Keep it up!

Cheerleader Chris

Bonnie Jacobs 10/20/2007 4:38 PM  

Hellooooo, Joy! I'm your cheerleader, here to cheer for you as you read, all snuggled in your nest. Joseph Campbell has been part of my journey, too. Have you read Honest to God by J.A.T. Robinson? It's hard to find now, maybe in a second-hand bookstore, but it was a good book. More recently I've found Marcus Borg, whose The Heart of Christianity helps me explain to people the difference in where I am today (which he calls an emerging paradigm) and where fundamentalists are (which Borg calls the earlier paradigm). Guess what my email is? emerging dot paradigm at yahoo dot com. I'd love to continue this conversation, if you are interested. I have a list of good books I'd be willing to share, if you want book ideas. In the meantime, I'll be cheering you all the way today! You go, girl!

My book blog:

Eva 10/20/2007 5:21 PM  

I have a nest in my bed too! Have fun tandem reading, hehe.

Bybee 10/20/2007 5:21 PM  

I'm really impressed that you decided to read The Historian during the Readathon. Salt and Vinegar chips...yummy...

Chris 10/20/2007 5:33 PM  

Sounds comfy. I have some encouragement for you both on my blog.

Cheerleader Chris

Dewey 10/20/2007 5:53 PM  

My version of Merlin has just climbed up onto my lap and is purring and kneading and just in general settling in for the night. Glad you're enjoying The Historian!

Anonymous,  10/20/2007 7:29 PM  

I've been trying to read The Historian for RIP but I have yet to start it. I'm glad to hear you like it, keep reading.

Ann 10/20/2007 8:09 PM  

Good luck with the Read-a-thon, and let me know what you think of the Historian. It's on my to read list, I'll probably check it out at work. Great picture of Merlin, very cute kitty. :)

Booklogged 10/20/2007 8:43 PM  

Love your blog. I'm glad for the chance to be a cheerleader and visit all the readers' blogs. Finding new ones like yours that I will want to check out again.

I absolutely love The Historian. Sounds like you are, too, judging by the speed you are going.

Stop by my blog and enter my mini-challenge at A Reader's Journal. It goes for a few more hours.

BookGal 10/20/2007 10:19 PM  

Congrats on keeping this going as long as you have.

Dewey 10/21/2007 2:30 AM  

Wow, your second wind is hardcore if it's going to let you read in Spanish!

Kathleen 10/21/2007 3:18 AM  

Uh oh did I do my haiku wrong? I thought it was 7/5/7 not 5/3/5???

alisonwonderland 10/21/2007 3:18 AM  

it sounds like you're doing well ... we're almost done! (and we'll both get back to The Historian when we're less tired!)

Chrisbookarama 10/21/2007 6:24 AM  

Congrats on your first Read-a-thon!

Ann 10/21/2007 8:03 AM  

Congrats on finishing! :)

Dewey 10/21/2007 5:00 PM  

So if you read 20 hours, the longest-read prize might be between you and L-Squared.

Eva 10/21/2007 8:10 PM  

Congrats on partipating in the read-a-thon! This was so much fun. :)

Jamie 10/22/2007 5:41 PM  

Finally, I can put a face to Merlin the magician and lover of roses. LOL

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