Monday, August 25, 2008

It is already 1:30 and I just finished getting through my email inbox for the last few days. I spent most of the weekend working on an article about the cell phone novel phenomena in Japan. Can you imagine writing a novel via a cell phone keypad, 140 characters at a time? One of the authors said her thumbs were bleeding from how much writing she was doing. I am considering trying it myself but I'd have to get a new phone for sure! On the other hand I don't get to blog as often as I'd like, adding one more venue of writing would probably do me in right now.

I had a wonderful time in Greenville as always. It is going to be a really good Fall semester. I hit the road again for meetings the second week in September so I'll get a lot of "reading" done on the road. Have to see what I have in my bag of audio "goodies" I pick up at Half Price Books and stash in my car.

This past trip, I finished listening to Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. The use of two male narrators made for very enjoyable listening. The chapters alternate between Jacob as a young man and as an elderly resident anxious to attend the circus that is set up down the street from the nursing home. The elderly Jacob is feisty, ornery and concerned he is losing his mental acuity as he spends more time in his past than the present. Who can blame him when considering his present situation vs. the wild times he had while working as a circus veterinarian for the Benzini Brothers' Most Spectacular Show on Earth, a traveling circus during the Depression. The chapters told from Jacob's first hand point of view, as a young man in his early 20s, after his parents are killed in a car accident his last semester of college, are touching in their sincerity and innocence. Jacob loses his innocence due to the harshness of life in a circus and his virginity to the show's stripper. His heart, he loses to Marlena, the equestrian rider and the wife of the brutal animal trainer, whose vicious temper is often directed toward Rosie, the recently purchased elephant that doesn't do much besides eat. Rosie is thought of as useless until Jacob discovers she will only respond to commands in Polish. She also has a taste for lemonade and gin. At times quite humorous, this is as much a love story as it is a circus tale, drawing the reader into the big top and into the lives of Jacob and Marlena as they try to hide their love. Most certainly a novel written for the adult readership, but older teens will relish this coming of age story in a time when a man's virginity isn't lost in his teens. The Depression Era starkly comes to life as do the violent and harsh conditions both men and women endure to eat regularly, even if their salary is held back by the unscrupulous Uncle Al, who own the show. Thoroughly enjoyed this book. Gruen's knowledge of horses is very evident and I was not surprised to see on B&N that she had previously written two books specifically about horses, the first, Riding Lessons, about a woman who had been an equestrian and an Olympic contender until an accident ended her riding career. Fast forward and she is now returning home to the family horse farm with her troubled teenage daughter. This is also a love story with a veterinarian. :-) The sequel Flying Chances has her daughter in the same spot she was at eighteen, an equestrian contender for the Olympics. I haven't read/listened to them yet, but I think these would appeal to the teenage girls. I'll let y'all know.

My children's book for the day is a September 2008 Abrams title that has a political slant to it - Ballots for Belva: The True Story of a Woman's Race for the Presidency by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen and beautifully illustrated by Courtney A. Martin. A very appropriate book to dovetail current events with historical ones. The time line in the back of the book is a quick synopsis of the women's suffrage movement in the U.S. We have come a long way, baby! Many folks had high hopes of a female president in the current election. It isn't going to happen this time, but I am sure we will see more women running in the future. Females running for president is not a new - in 1884, fifty-four year old Belva Lockwood became the first woman to officially run for president. Even though women could not vote at this point in time, there were no laws restricting them from running for office. Some men were not very happy with her and held "Belva Lockwood Parades" where they dressed up as women and pretended to be her. We all know she didn't win the election, Grover Cleveland did, but she won 4,711 popular votes. No one knows how many other votes for Belva were not counted, as many were thrown out as no one could believe anyone would actually vote for a woman. Sounds a bit like the Florida fiasco. Although a picture book, Ballots for Belva is one I'd offer to the high school U.S. History teacher. Picture books are a wonderful way to open up a classroom discussion. The illustrations add depth to the era, including what the tricycle Belva rode around Washington D.C. looked like. Belva was one feisty woman! Superb book for any school or public library.

That's it for today. Time to find the top of my desk again. My goal is to do that every other day - we shall see how well that works!