Month: August 2014

Upstairs/Downstairs

No, I don’t mean the television show. Which I’ve never watched, by the way, even though I’ve been told that I would like it. But I always just like reading better than television, you know? So why choose more TV?

I mean that right now I’ve started a new reading pattern. I have one book that I’m reading when I’m upstairs and one book that I’m reading when I’m downstairs.

I started this in the hope that I will spend much less time wandering around the house trying to remember where I put my book down. It seems to be working fairly well in that way. I know my upstairs book has to be somewhere upstairs and my downstairs book has to be somewhere downstairs. I seem to have cut down on my “wandering around feeling lost without my book time,” which is definitely good.

Now that I’m thinking about it, though, this division seems to indicate that I’m feeling a lack of passion about either of these two books. I’m not experiencing that total immersion in either one. I’m not simply dying to get home from work and read one or the other. Of course, it is the first week of the school year for my kids and transition times always make me feel tired and hollow inside while I try to cope with the anxiety that transition times inevitably bring. Still, the passion seems to be missing.

Also, both of my books have long lists of characters and a lot of complicated shifts in time, place, and voice, and I’m starting to get confused.

You know, now that I’m writing and thinking about this, I don’t think I like this upstairs/downstairs idea very much. What’s the point of reading if the passion isn’t there?

I should finish one book, then finish the other, and then go back to wandering around again.

Which book should I finish first? Oh, dear. I know if I put one down I’ll forget who is married to who and who is in what city for what reason in the other book.

You know what? I don’t care. I’m picking the one set in Italy. There.

Back to wandering.

Love you & leave you,

Hobbie DeHoy

Current Fiction

How many books in a brain?

That is, how many books have you read? How many books have you read that you remember well? Do you know a lot about books and authors you haven’t read?

I’ve been plunging into the topic of readers’ advisory in public libraries, in the hope of someday having a better library job than I have now. And let me tell you, this is a moment in which I am glad that this blog is pseudonymous (and if that isn’t a word, it should be. Oh, good. Merriam-Webster online says it is. Digression over.).

Because sometimes I’m not sure what I think about readers’ advisory practices in libraries. There is this emphasis on keeping current, on genre fiction, and most difficult of all, a dismissive attitude toward knowing about more classic works of literature.

I, for one, would hate to sit there at a reference desk, in a library chock full of books, and admit that I don’t know who wrote Middlemarch. Or that I don’t know which Dickens novel has Philip Pirrip as the protagonist. Or that I don’t know who is the author of the Hercule Poirot mystery stories. There’s a basic level of cultural literacy in the world of books, and knowing something about the classics seems to me to be a basic necessity for achieving that level.

To my mind, classic books have become classics because they have remained popular (okay, popular enough) for decades and centuries. So this designation of “popular fiction” really irritates me. It seems that a lot of public libraries emphasize current popular fiction, sadly at the expense of classic popular fiction. If you’ll allow me the term “classic popular fiction.” And you will, because this is my blog.

Why is thisCan one human brain have a competent knowledge of English literature AND memorize the names and genres of a whole bunch of New York Times bestsellers? How much about books do you really have to know? Do you have to know about books you hate? Well, yes, I suppose you do. But how much can a human brain hold?

Furthermore, lists of bestsellers change all the time. But it will always be true that Agatha Christie wrote Murder on the Orient Express and that Sherlock Holmes meets John Watson for the first time in Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet.

The idea that providing readers’ advisory services means a constant process of learning and forgetting what’s popular during any given week sounds really exhausting to me.

Maybe I’m being an overachiever and taking all this way too seriously. I do have a tendency to do that.

What do you think? Should “classic popular fiction” be a thing?

Love you & leave you,

Hobbie DeHoy

Clean Sweep

Well, I did it. I just “unfollowed” a whole bunch of people on That Certain Social Media Site. Yesterday, for some reason (could it be the weather?), seemed to be a day for a couple of people to become conspicuously unpleasant on that site.

For example, one person announced that she was going to rant. She made it clear from the beginning, in case any of us had any doubt, that she was going to offend people and she didn’t care.

Well, my goodness. Why didn’t she  just update her status in all-caps and declare “I DON’T CARE ABOUT YOUR FEELINGS! I ONLY CARE ABOUT MINE!” Because that’s pretty much the subtext when you decide you’re going to rant on social media.

The subject of her rant? Parents in our community who have the effrontery to apply to send their children to our district’s most desirable elementary school. How terrible of people to take advantage of the school district’s interenrollment policy. Without even giving their home school a try!

Joy. It’s back to school time, and time for parents to get all judgy on other parents about what decisions they make about where to send their kids to school.

Guys: It is fully none of your business. You have no freaking idea what motivates people to make the decisions they make about where they send their kids to school. You are being arrogant when you judge other people, and assume that you know why they’re doing what they’re doing. You don’t.

I probably don’t need to clarify that I didn’t actually say any of this on That Certain Social Media Site. People can post whatever nonsense they wish there, and that’s fine. I’m not into starting flame wars.

That’s what this blog is for. My sarcastic alter ego gets her voice, right here on this precious little blog of mine.

I just “unfollowed” her. People have every right to say whatever they want on social media.

Just don’t expect me to listen.

Love you & leave you,

Hobbie DeHoy

Narcissus

Please, everyone. Stop with the selfies. You don’t look that much different than you did last week.

Maybe I’m just bitter because I don’t have a sleek, cool smartPhone with which to snap infinite selfies. I’d like to think that isn’t it. I guess we’ll find out when I give up my clunky LG3 for something newer.

But am I honestly the only person who finds it annoying when my newsfeed on That Certain Social Media Site is one long track of selfies? I’m in my early forties, and to me, a selfie is the online equivalent of shouting, “Look at me!” Shouting “Look at me!” stops being cute somewhere about the middle of elementary school, in my opinion. What’s with all the grinning adults panting for our attention? Seriously, settle down. You all remind me of overenthusiastic Golden Retrievers. And I don’t mean that as a compliment.

Then there are the permutations of selfies. For example, Madonna and Child. This can be charming if it isn’t done too often, and if the child isn’t sick, and it’s not accompanied by some cloyingly adorable caption. Sad how many of these don’t manage any of that. If I were the Queen of Social Media, Madonna and Child selfies would be strictly limited to the child’s birthday. Please note that this is an event that only occurs once a year.

And then there are the vacation selfies, with the photographer artistically posed against a really beautiful background. Oh, my. Aren’t you lucky! Aren’t we lucky,too…. we really felt the need for proof positive that you truly were on the beach all that time. And now, look! You’ve provided us with proof! And it’s just so artistic!

The worst offenders are, of course, the double couple selfies. Really! Nobody wants to see you looking that happy together! If you’re really that rapturous in person, well, all right then, that’s the way you feel and I suppose you can’t help it. But glowing rapture, two faces to a frame, on purpose to show the world just what a joyous couple you are? No. Just no. And the ones that are posed with one lover giving her honey a smooch? Ugh. It’s called privacy. Give it a try!

There are a lot of social media behaviors I can’t imagine ever doing myself. For example, I can’t imagine ever taking a picture of something that I cooked. Unless it was my kids posing with my Easter bunny cake or something. And my kids are too old for that now. Would it surprise you to hear that I can’t ever imagine myself posting a random selfie for no good reason? It’s embarrassing enough when I change my outdated profile picture and everybody notices. But going out of my way to get people’s reactions on purpose? No freaking way.

Simply too precious for words, all of this.

It’s possible, of course, that writing a blog is narcissistic as well. Still, part of the reason I’m doing it is so I can become a better writer. I doubt all those other people have a burning ambition to become better selfie photographers.

If so, they’ve got a long way to go.

Love you & leave you,

Hobbie DeHoy

The True Queen

I was the very first person to get our public library’s brand new copy of The Queen of the Tearling, by Erika Johansen. This is because, even though I usually listen to our local fine arts radio station, one day on the drive to my son’s soccer camp, I tuned in to public radio and hit the last half of a book discussion panel. I requested three books from the library as a result of my small foray into public radio, and I’ve only read one of them. I will probably tune in to public radio again when I’ve finished all three books.

On to The Queen of the Tearling. I admit that a fantasy novel with a strong female protagonist is an easy sell for me. When I think of all those decades and decades of manly, manly fantasy novels, the female protagonist in this genre still feels like a departure from the norm, you know? It was easy for me to remember the title when I heard it, and I was very excited to get it from the library.

The Queen of the Tearling falls neatly into the category of the coming-of-age novel, as well. The leaving behind of the setting of one’s childhood,  the self-doubt, and the self-discovery: they are all there. We know from the beginning that Kelsea, the protagonist and the Queen, has a journey to make and a destiny to fulfill. The details of the characters and the setting of the world through which Kelsea travels are what makes Kelsea’s journey and destiny of particular interest to the reader.

In fact, I would say that the setting, the world Johansen creates for her characters to move through, is what really makes this novel for me. Do you ever wonder what would happen if all of our technology just vanished and we all had to start over, re-learning survival and subsistence skills that had been mastered by previous generations and forgotten by ours? I do sometimes wonder about this, and the setting of this novel shows that Johansen has thought about this too.

Kelsea, brought up in isolation on a farm, has an outsider’s view of this world. She gradually learns about it, but of course it doesn’t end there. Kelsea is the Queen, some say the True Queen, and she not only has to discover the world around her but make decisions about it as well. Far-reaching decisions, the kind that will affect the whole nation of the Tearling.

I think that this is why the fantasy genre has such appeal. The decisions made in a fantasy setting are all just so momentous. Here in twenty-first century America, we are dragging through our existence, coping with petty annoyances and small decisions that don’t feel like they have a very far reach beyond our little lives. Kelsea, on the other hand, has the fate of her nation at the tip of her sword.

I don’t know that I really want my decisions to be all that big and all-encompassing. But it’s nice to escape into a world where you can follow a woman whose decisions move the course of nations.

Thank you, Ms. Johansen, for letting me escape. Can’t wait for the next two books in the trilogy.

Love you & leave you,

Hobbie deHoy