Kobo eReader

Image by ndh via Flickr

I have an eReader now, a gift from Edie and Mick.  It tells me it can store a thousand books all by itself. Should I care to purchase it a Micro SD card, it will happily store 30,000 tomes.  So much for my room lined floor-to-ceiling with books I’d need a wheeled ladder to peruse.

When I was first teaching reading in the middle school, it was vogue to use incentives to prod the children to “free” read.  Free reading was whatever books the children read outside of class or during the silent reading periods during home room.  The lures mainly centered on candy, but we gave them pencils, junk toys of a Happy Meal nature and even tempted them to read as a collective and then rewarded entire classes with pizza parties.  Incentives, or bribery as it is more commonly known in parenting terminology, had limited life spans.  Children quickly tire of toiling for trinkets. Even the most eager student eventually reaches saturation.

But imagine my amusement when I discovered that eReaders offer incentives to adults to read more.

At the bottom of the reader’s screen, a note periodically pops up informing me I have an award I can claim and post to FaceBook. Normally, I tap a finger, which makes it disappear and I continue reading, but last night, I decided to investigate what constitutes an award by Kobo eReader standards.

The award has popped up before and is called The PrimeTime Award. When I opened it, I found this message:

Your television must be lonely because this is the fifth time you’ve read during primetime!

I didn’t know whether to laugh or fear for humanity.

For the record, once again, we don’t have cable, satellite or … until Edie gave her father a six month subscription as a Christmas gift … Netflix. We are strictly a dvd family, and even then, Rob and I return more unwatched movies to the bookmobile than not.

The once and never again reading teacher in me finds turnabout hilarious, but the literate adult sighs.  Knowing full well, as I do, that most people would rather do anything else but read, I can’t claim surprise that even eReaders must prod and cajole.  It’s hardly a sign of the coming apocalypse.  Not like Rick Santorum surging in the Iowa Caucuses is a harbinger of evil.  It’s a smaller and more subtle sign of civilization’s continuing quest against complete idiocracy.  But heavy sigh.  Just heavy sigh.

Today’s meme was stolen* from Bookends, LLC, an agents blog I follow. Bookends, in turn, lifted it from their client Jennifer Stanley and her Cozy Chicks blog.

The objective is filling four spots at a dinner party with authors with whom you would very much enjoy spending time eating and conversing. Said writers can be dead or alive.

They recommend choosing your authors before reading the picks of others because knowing who someone else chose will only increase the likelihood of second guessing and dinner guest envy.

I can only state my preferences of the moment. Who I’d like to spend an evening with discussing their work and the world in general fluctuates with my reading habits and genre interests.

But, here goes:

Stephen King, I adore his novellas and short stories more than his longer works – especially of late. I really think his better long work came early in his career. It would be neat to talk about The Stand though and how he would tackle it if he were writing it for today’s world.

Hilary Mantel, I can’t wait for the sequel to Wolf Hall. I ran across an interview where she reads a scene about Anne Boleyn and Cromwell. She is filling him in on the latest gossip concerning Jane Seymour’s father. Seymour would be Henry’s next wife. It’s wonderful and she read it like a kindergarten teacher to her rapt class sitting on the carpet at her feet. Nothing but expression and pure delight. And, she’s English. I could listen to them talk all day.

I would choose David Eddings and Anne McCaffery as well. The are fantasy writers and I love a good fantasy series. The skill it takes to create and maintain a reality is no little thing.

Helen Humphreys. She writes these amazing short novels. 200 pages more or less. That are poetic, compelling and make you wish they were longer even though you know that length would spoil them.

No pressure to meme this on your home base, but yes pressure to leaving a comment with at least one author with whom you’d love to sup.

*Memes were meant to be set free. Kinda like YouTube vids.

Wolf Hall was, maybe still is, the ancestral estate of the Seymours. Jane was Henry VIII’s third wife and the mother of Edward VI. She came in between the headless wives and contrary to popular myth, Henry did not routinely murder his wives. His first and third wives died of age and childbirth respectively. He’d divorced number one because he became convinced he’d sinned in marrying his brother’s widow, as she was, and that this was the cause of his son-less state. A hugely big deal in the Middle Ages. Well, let’s be real, being without sons is still considered tragic to lesser or greater degrees depending on where in the world you stand. He annulled his fourth marriage on grounds of ugliness and bad breath, and wife six survived him but only just. Wives two, five and six were adulterers to varying degrees with two and four losing their heads over it and six barely managing to outlive him before being arrested for treason herself. Wife two’s guilt isn’t proven but five and six were definitely involved with other men which given Henry’s reputation was just plain stupid.

Wolf Hall is mentioned infrequently in the novel of the same name by Hilary Mantel. In fact the Seymours only appear when the author wants to foreshadow or make a specific point about creeping evil. Jane Seymour’s father was a lecher who carried on with his daughter-in-law at one point and may have even fathered his own “grandchildren” on her. Jane herself is a quiet voice of practicality who is continually affirming Cromwell’s (the main character’s) information about the debauchery that goes on in her childhood home.

Wolf Hall represents the slip on the slope and it’s not until the end of the novel, after Thomas More’s head is piked on London Bridge that Cromwell heads off on his first visit to the Seymour’s. But an astounding amount of teetering on the top of the slope has taken place by this point and even if I didn’t know that Thomas Cromwell will lose his own head at a not to distant point in the future, I’d be able to guess it.

I love Tudor England. Sometimes I wonder if my affinity suggests that I lived a life or two there. There are only a few other time periods I am drawn to so perhaps.

It was not a simple or simple-minded time. Henry is neither monster nor misunderstood. Thomas More is no saint and Cromwell not as soulless as the history books would like us to believe.

History is suspect. It’s written by the winners and the vanquished never get to tell their side of the tale. Tales, being multi-sided like houses and books, should represent, don’t you agree?

Wolf Hall is a sumptuous read. It’s so hard to find decent fiction anymore that I am a bit sad when I finish. Thick text though so be aware that an audio version might be better. I found a delightful discussion about it at The Slate and will leave you with a pulp version of Tom and Henry.

Don’t take too long to think about it. Fifteen books you’ve read that will always stick with you. First fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes. Tag 15 friends,or not because I am all about free will, but link back to me (unless you list them in the comments) because I’m interested in seeing what books you choose.

1.) The World According to Garp by John Irving

2.) Gone with The Wind by Margaret Mitchell

3.) The Car by Gary Paulson

4.) The Stand by Stephen King

5.) Captains and Kings by Taylor Caldwell

5.) I’ll Take Manhatten by Judith Krantz

6.) Then Again, Maybe I Won’t by Judy Blume

7.) Night Shift by Stephen King (short story collection)

8.) The Alchemist by Paul Coehelo

9.) Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

10.) The Belegariad (five book series) by David Eddings

11.) The Dragon Riders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey

12.) Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

13.) The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough

14.) Firestarter by Stephen King

15.) The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein

Interesting point of fact, except for The Alchemist and The Car, I read all the others by the time I was twenty-five, and I have read all of them except The Alchemist more than once.

zig-zagCartoonist Tom Wilson is the current animator of the Ziggy character originally penned by his father, Tom Wilson, Sr. His inspirational memoir  Zig-Zagging is about his journey as an artist and person and how the death of his young wife followed by his father’s chronic illness helped shape both.

In his book he attempts to tell the reader through inspirational musings and the sharing of his personal trials and dark times that the detours in life are the real teachers of life and the builders of character.

I would have enjoyed – if that’s okay to say about a book that centers on loss – it more without the inspirational message. I have never cared much for other people telling me what I should learn from my own tragedy. However, that said, I think Wilson is spot on with many of his conclusions.

The book works best when Wilson is willing to write about the adversity he’s faced. When he describes the struggles dealing with years of his wife’s cancer, her death and its impact on him and their children, the writing is at its best.

Unfortunately, he doesn’t stay  there, but I understand why. It’s hard to offer up the most painful experiences of your life and hope that those reading understand how those events shaped you or led you to the actions that brought you to where you are. Wilson wanders away when he gets too close into greeting card sound bites that pile up like clichéd cord wood which is too bad because his story didn’t need the shiny gloss coat to still make his point that we learn the most from the unexpected and the roads we’d never have taken if the universe gave us a choice in the matter. How we weather loss and struggle, and navigate the dark, is the true test of who we are.

I think people who love Ziggy, inspirational memoirs and/or are struggling with adversity will find this book most helpful and even comforting.

I read “widow” books anymore to discover how people have rebuilt their lives. What motivated them to get back up and try again? That’s what I want to know because there is no real formula or “how to” guide for a person whose spouse has died young. Wilson’s journey, the steps and mis-steps, was interesting to me because I could identify with some of it and it was in these parts of the book that the writing rings most true.

It could have been a more honest book, in my opinion. I am not really sure where the tendency to find deep meaning or pretty up rough patches with platitudes comes from, but there is more here than I care for. Perhaps though because I am looking for the real deal in terms of enlightenment where it comes to loss and coping and moving on.

It’s a good book. I am just not its target audience. 

Wilson is a good writer. He is a devout man. He makes a good case for bothering to learn from things you would prefer not to experience at all.

zigg-book-contestClick here for details.

Read more about Zig-Zagging:

Wednesday, March 4th: Traveling Through Time and Space

Thursday, March 5th: Anniegirl1138

Monday, March 9th: Bookfoolery and Babble

Tuesday, March 10th: Widows Quest

Wednesday, March 11th: Not Quite What I Had Planned

Thursday, March 12th: Reading, Writing, and Retirement

Monday, March 16th: Learning to Live

Tuesday, March 17th: Book Addiction

Wednesday, March 18th: Confessions of a Book-a-Holic

Thursday, March 19th: Peeking Between the Pages

Friday, March 20th: Beth Fish Reads

Monday, March 23rd: Literary Menagerie

Tuesday, March 24th:  Joyfully Retired

Wednesday, March 25th: Madeleine’s Book Blog

Thursday, March 26th: Texas Red Books

Friday, March 27th: Bermuda Onion

Monday, March 30th:  Should Be Reading

A short story rejection I got once informed me that while the characters were engaging and the writing good, the story simply lacked tension. In other words, nothing happened aside from two people meeting, liking what they saw and falling in love. That, I was told, is not enough to compel a reader to read.

I could make the same argument about Matrimony. Nothing really happens aside from life. Boy meets girl in college. They fall in love and live the insular life of all college students until they are ejected into the truly adult world which sweeps them along, allowing them as much control as they are willing to accept and as is often the case, they are dragged through their own inertia by the twists and turns more than they grab hold and move themselves.

Still despite the lack of drama – which is a relative thing by the way – the story captures, which is almost always the case when an author has a gift for creating life from words. The people are real, The places are familiar. The life events are ours, after a fashion. Love. Friendship. Ambitions. Endurance. Birth. Death. Fears. And the Scarlett O’Hara assumption that tomorrow really is another day.

Julian is a writer. Mia is his wife. We follow them from their first week together as college freshmen, who are so captivated by each other they spend that week nearly always awake, in each other’s company and mostly naked, through  the ups and downs of fifteen years of marriage.

I liked it though I thought it started slow, and there are sticking points where the author spends too much time painting the scenery. Aside from these points, and they are minor ones because Henkin is that good a writer, the story feels like a peek inside a life that could be anyone’s. We all feel and experience as Julian and Mia do at some point or another. Their experiences are universal.

The writing is quiet but filling. If you haven’t read this yet, you should consider doing so.