Friday, February 03, 2012

Friday Forays in Fiction: Let Me Tell You a Story

And So It Goes
by Charles 
Let me tell you a story about a storyteller and a story about a storyteller.  No, I did not say that twice by accident.  I am to tell the story about my encounter with the review copy of a biography about a writer of stories.

Still confused?

Me too.

So it begins in November when I (the storyteller) get an email from a web publicist offering me a review copy of And So It Goes by Charles Shields, (the story) the biography of Kurt Vonnegut Jr. (the storyteller) I was excited by this as I am a Vonnegut fan.

Now I had just recently downloaded a Kindle for PC ap and started reading ebooks on my netbook, rediscovering the joys of reading stories long enough to get immersed in them and loose track of time.  Because of my visual impairment normal books with normal sized print cause eyestrain after less than thirty minutes and during those minutes I am constantly adjusting the position of the book, the magnifying glass or the 3X reading glasses I wear over my prescription glasses, and my limbs, shoulders, head and seat.  Quite frustrating and the result has been my gravitating more and more to reading online which tended to be blogs and news rather than novels even though I had many online public domain books bookmarked and had dozens of txt or pdf books on my netbook.

I had downloaded the Kindle for PC in early November after being invited into the Premier Virtual Author Blog Tour for December and needed it to open the books.  Once I had it and experienced reading in it that first evening I was hooked and began downloading free Kindle editions as fast as I could find them, starting with classics.  I started with Jane Austen to be precise, downloading every one of her novels.  In just a few days I had over a hundred.  I now have over five-hundred and the balance has shifted to Indie authors.  Shortly after this I downloaded Calibre so I could start collecting public domain epub from sites like Project Gutenberg.  I now have over 2000 ebooks in my Calibre library.  Yeah I do tend to go to extremes.  And I digress.

With my enthusiasm for ebooks burning hot I decided to ask if I might have an ebook copy of And So It Goes and was sent to Net Galley to get it.  There I had to sign up first and in the process got excited about finding a site where I could ask for review copies and not wait to be offered.  But my enthusiasm for Net Galley has cooled after what happened since.

I couldn't figure out how to get the Kindle version so had to accept a version to be read on Adobe Digital Reader which I first had to download and install.  And once I downloaded And So It Goes and got it opened I discovered it was a pdf and thus would not word wrap which means that when I enlarge the font to my comfort level the lines are so long I often have to scroll sideways and even when I don't my eye (only my right eye can still read) gets lost on the way to the beginning of the next line.

That happens as well with tree books and is one of the factors preventing immersion into the story and is why I so much like being able to control the length of the line as well as the size of the font.  So of course I was disappointed but I was determined to read it anyway.  I kept it opened on my desktop and dipped into it when I had spare minutes such as waiting on downloads or my sister's reply during our chats.  But I had to give priority to the three blog tour books for which my post dates had been set for the second week of December.  And of course NaNo took precedence over even those until November 30.

And then the first week of December I got the flu.

With all of that converging on me in early December (and let's not forget the Xmas gifts I was crocheting) I did not make much progress in the Vonnegut bio before mid December but then it went to the top of reading priority.  Meanwhile I had been dipping into a few of his novels and other writings to refresh my sense of him as a writer and storyteller and of the human being that reveals.  I still set more store in that sense I get of the person behind the words than I do in biographies or even autobiographies.  One is information the other is soul.  Do I need to say which is which?

Between December 14 and December 24 the bulk of my reading time was devoted to Vonnegut.  You could almost say I was immersed.  Then on December 23 Ed presented me with the key to our own trailer house two doors down from his parents where we had lived since 2001.  The 24h and 25th were devoted to family holiday functions.  And on the 26th we began moving our stuff.  Since we were doing that on foot with the help of a dolly that took most of the next ten days.  And before I'd even finished emptying the room we had lived in for ten years let alone finished unpacking in the new place I had to start packing for my trip out of town.

It was my mom's 80th birthday on January 3rd and a big family bash was planned and I'd promised to be there.  I had planned for it to be a relatively short visit this time though.  My stays at Mom's since her broken hip and stroke in 2008 have tended to be over a month and except for the first one in which I stayed almost 6 months to help my sister during Mom's initial recovery the visits have averaged about six weeks.  I wanted this one to be under three as I was understandably anxious to return to my new home and enjoy all the benefits of a home of my own for the first time in over ten years.

But when my sister called to make the arrangements for coming to pick me up I realized she was having a particularly hard time and I offered to stay longer.  She asked for a month.  She picked me up on January 6th (because of illness in the family Mom's bday bash had been postponed) so I expected to come home the second week of February but since then my stay has been extended again as the weekend of the 18th my sister has a 3 day engagement with an organization she's involved with that works with troubled kids for whom she occasionally provides respite care   So now the plan is to take me home the following weekend.  The 25th.

Meanwhile a few days before my sister picked me up in Phoenix I had finally had a moment to relax and thought to open the Vonnegut bio only to discover it was locked against me with a notice that my 55 days had expired.  I must have missed the fine print somewhere as I don't remember being aware of that deadline. Add the fact that Net Galley provides only pdf to the fact that there is apparently a kill switch on the books and my enthusiasm for them has cooled considerably.  Part of the fun of reviewing books, and not a small part, is getting to keep the books!

I immediately got on the library catalog and got in queue for it but deactivating my hold and setting it to reactivate in late January.  Then a week or so after I arrived at Mom's I emailed the publicist to explain what had happened and apologize and promised to have my review up in late February, assuming I got my turn with the library copy by early February.

I never heard back from her so I thought 'There goes that professional relationship'

Then last weekend I was on my library account online and discovered both the Vonnegut book and the new Stephen King book which I'd also been in queue for were waiting for me at the Phoenix branch.  Arrrgh!  I had forgotten to reset the hold activation and it had kicked on January 24th.  Back to the end of the line I would go!  Was I going to have to buy a copy so I could fulfill my obligation.

Then Tuesday morning an email from my husband informed me that the Vonnegut book had arrived the day before.  The publicist had gone ahead and had one shipped to me.  But there is over 500 miles between us now so how was I going to read a 500+ page book and write a review between the night of February 25th and the last day of February.  3 days?  Not going to happen.  The thought of emailing another excuse to the publicist made me cringe.

So I got on the Longview library catalog to see if their copy was available for my sister to check out only to find they don't even have one.  Can you see my jaw fall?  Then I tried the Vancouver WA library system for which my sister also has a card and found one.  Now, when my sister orders a book through the Vancouver library they are sent to the closest branch for her to pick up and that is Woodland 20 miles south.  She usually has occasion to travel to either Vancouver or Portland at least once a week but she said that she had no current plans to go that way again before the 18th except for her orthodontist appointment the very next day which did not allow time to have the book sent to Woodland if she ordered it that night.  She offered to pick it up at the branch it was at since that branch would not be too far out of her way.

So Wednesday night she brought it home with her.

Holding it in my hands I am daunted by its size and the smallness of the font.  It is hard to feel that way about big books while remembering how it felt in the days when seeing me lugging around big fat books or hunched over one reading was more than normal.  It was iconic.

I have had to start it over for although I am remembering the material as I re-read it I can't remember much of it before I pass my eyes over it again.  I guess, between the flu, Xmas, the move, the time spent at Mom's and the three books I read for the blog tours since the last paragraph I read in And So It Goes has crowded it out.

I am all set to get back into it though.  I even dressed up one of my crocheted bookmarks with a long folded over ribbon special for it.  That way I can put the crocheted section at the place where the main text ends and the Notes begin so I can easily find the Notes when referenced in the text.  Then one ribbon will mark my place while the other marks the daily goal.  I haven't set that goal yet but I imagine it needs to average more than thirty pages per day.

And so it goes.

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