Archive for July, 2009
Reading Shelf Discovery feels like attending a high school reunion and reminiscing about the best of your teenage escapades with a particulary entertaining friend.
Some new lovely reviews: This one in Salon (with commenters noting both that Wrinkle in Time is not for teens and boys should read these books, go forth and live in a world of your making), this one in EW, and this great Q&A from Flavorpill (and kudos to the reporters who have to cut down my chatty meandering–which meets and exceeds that of print–into discrete sentences).
I draw your attention to this one paragraph, which yielded a sigh of relief from a Facebook friend who thought I might be an enormous ignoramus:
FP: Are there any books you purposely didn’t touch? Are there any you read for the first time for Shelf Discovery/Fine Lines?
LS: I’ve stayed away, I’ve noticed now from M. E. Kerr, just because I’ve decided I think probably I like her too much. I was worried I would destroy it if I wrote about it. She wrote this book called Me Me Me Me Me, it’s this fantastic book. I was like, “No way! Can’t touch it!” Or The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More I was just not going near, it’s my favorite book.
Yes. I am not a senseless clod. I am with Kerr and Dahl in mind and heart. I am just not yet ready.
…and one is ALMOST potty-trained. Will try to refrain from making audience clap.
I’m a the Barnes & Noble in Tribeca tonight at 7!
Tuesday, July 28, 7:00 PM
Barnes & Noble – Tribeca
97 Warren St., NY, NY 10007
I never actually read “Flowers in the Attic” — just the “dirty pages” clearly marked in the well-thumbed copy passed to every single girl at summer camp — but Lizzie Skurnick did. In fact, she reread it, along with more than 60 other books she had devoured in her youth for a Jezebel column called Fine Lines, collected into this enjoyable book.
Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading brings together her columns from Jezebel in a book that’s as much memoir of a seventies childhood as it is a reader’s guide to teen lit…Not merely a re-telling of the stories of classic young adult fare, Shelf Discovery repaints the stories of our childhood much they way our English teachers did their versions of the classics….Skurnick treats the dime store paperbacks with reverence, and in her re-readings, we find messages of feminism, empowerment and sometimes just a simple story to grow older with.
Babble wrote a very nice post, “Lizzie Skurnick And Our Obsession With Teen Books . . . In Book Form” on Strollerderby. Point taken on brief essays, which a few other reviews have noted, although sadly you’re going to be hard-pressed to make any book reviewer stop doing anything that makes people want MORE.
I’ve just realized Double X posted this last week: Would a man read teen novels like Lizzie Skurnick does?. There are some interesting comments, but more important, what is WRONG with me that I care so little about what men think or do, and especially how they read, ESPECIALLY where this book is concerned? (Is it because this book tour has revealed indubitably that many, many others are going ahead and caring my share for me? Probably.) Anyway, the headline does keep prompting me to want to make a lot of dirty jokes/Mae West asides, like, “Only if he…” dot dot dot. Of course I’m not good at either so all I can do is remind you that “Double X” always sounds very naughty to me also.
Marie Howe has an essay in the latest O magazine, Reading Little House on the Prairie With My Daughter, in which she turns, as the wise do again and again, to Ma, Pa, Laura, Mary (AND JACK THE BRINDLE BULLDOG) for how to make do when you’ve lost what you do.
It was a cold winter in New York, bitter cold, stinging cold. The economic downturn had become a recession. Every week brought more news of layoffs and cutbacks. Day after day that February we pulled on layers to go to school and work, then scarves and hats and mittens, and we bent into the wind as we walked toward the river. The Ingallses by that time were living in a shack—blizzards blew across the prairie so hard and thick they couldn’t see out their small windows for days. The girls woke up to their quilts coated with ice. They were starving and weak and broke. Pa checked and fed the animals, Ma made dinner, be it only potatoes, and the girls cleaned up, tended the baby. My own salary was frozen and threatened. I lay awake at night, a single mother, wondering what I would do if…, tossing and waking with worry.
(I have babbled along these lines several times: see my essay “Cold Comfort: In Which I Don’t Even Try to Fight the Metaphor” on The Long Winter in Jezebel; “Buck Up: Life Lessons From Young Heroines” on All Things Considered; and a [popup] clip from a recent Los Angeles Times Book Festival panel in which I talk about how the Little House books were heartwarming, not so much.)
There’s a lot of invisible writing that happens in the world — a fact I know not least because it used to be my primary task, as a lower-echelon publican in the publishing community, to do so much of it. (In fact, it was only after the last of about 9 firings that ended apologetically with, “But we really love your [flap copy/headlines/short reviews/proposals/cover letters/captions/book reports/email subject lines]” that it finally dawned on me that I should perhaps give this WRITING thing a try.)
In any case, I wanted to give credit to two really lovely essays on the book that were written by producers on radio shows on which I have recently appeared. (And let me assure you, my praise here is not at all driven by the fact that I am about to be one’s bridesmaid and the other apparently has a great deck. Well, maybe a little on the deck.) It is famously hard to write your own copy, and I wish I had had them around when I was chewing a pen over my proposal and all other publicity materials, not because they write such great copy but because this copy is so great. PEOPLE: this is how it is done.
The first was written by my friend and bride-to-be Barrie Hardymon of Talk of the Nation:
They are books that girls stuffed in the bottom of their bookbags, the well-handled, much beloved books that chronicled the moral certitude of childhood all the way to the desperate longings and stifled angst of adolescence. [Click for rest]
The second by deck-possessor Cristy Meiner of The Bob Edwards Show:
We re-readers are an often mocked group; I can’t even recall how many times my Mom has said to me, “WHY do you re-read books when there are so many books out there you haven’t read?!” I understand the question, I really do, and trust me, I’m doing my best to get through the hundred million or so that I haven’t read yet. But re-reading a favorite book from my youth is the book equivalent to settling down in a hot bubble bath: I relax and my tired brain sighs happily as I step back into a story I know and love. [Click for rest]
My crowning moment, by the way, was the headline for a piece on Viagra and thinning hair: “Just Say Grow.”