Saturday, September 13, 2008

ok, i know i've been gone

I know I haven't added to my blog in a long time, but school is getting me. I'm teaching 5 classes, costuming Hedda Gabler, and planning CATS. By the time I get home I'm exhausted. Too exhausted to pick up my laptop. But that doesn't mean I haven't been reading.

Maggie led me to THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY. (an unfortunate title. It makes you think it is going to be one of those little frou-frou, Jimmy Chou, just lost my boyfriend, chick book-club books. But it is not.)

I think I need to go to Guernsey now, but I bet I'm not the only one. There will probably be hordes of people who want to see the place where Amelia, Kit, Eben, Dawsey, and Elizabeth lived.

If you have not read this book, you must. I will have it back to the library this week.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Am I My Brother's Editor?

I should be working on my brother's book, but I haven't blogged in so long I was afraid people would give up on me. Many things have happened since my last post. Here is a list.

1. We started school. That's like getting on a runaway train that doesn't stop until the middle of May.

2. I stopped reading a book that I didn't like. I've forgotten the name of it and I don't want to get up to look. It was all about alternative medicine.

3. I started another book, "Free Food for Millionaires." It's a goodie soap opera epic. And I'm learning a lot about Korean Americans in New York. Fun read.

4. My brother, Tim, called. He has re-written the novel that he wrote last year and didn't get many nudges about. He wants me to read the new version and edit. Easier said than done. You have to read hard. And I've read this book 3 times. It was funny the first time. So that is what I am supposed to work on instead of this post. We really want to get this book published.

5. I fell in class Friday. Tripped over a student's backpack and messed up my knee, my nose, my forehead, and my right hand. Everything is feeling better now, but I spent the weekend covered in ice packs. I've still got bruises and carpet burns, but I can walk a lot better.

6. The Olympics have been on for two weeks and required my full attention. If I hadn't watched, the USA wouldn't have won so many gold medals.

Those are all the excuses I can think of right now. So I guess I better get back to Tim's book, but the Democratic National Convention is on! Didn't Michelle do a beautiful job last night? Tonight we see Hillary. I'm still disapointed that we didn't have the chance to nominate her for president. I've had the bumper sticker on my car for almost a year and it didn't work.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Greg Iles' kind of woman, (girl)

I just read Turning Angel. And I have figured something out. You know how some male authors seem to get stuck on one look for a woman and you can tell--this is wishful thinking, baby. Like Ken Follett. All his heroines are short, muscular and have hourglass-shaped figures with dark red hair. He always makes a point to say that they do not have thin, model-like, fashionable figures.

Well, Greg Iles likes them young, honey. Really young. Compare the women in this book. The women under 18 are yummy. They are tan, muscular, "ghetto-booties," gorgeous, long-hair, and so intellectual that they are reading Paul Bowles and Anais Nin while waiting for cheerleader practice. There are some differences, some have long blond hair, some have long red hair, some have long luxurious brunette hair, but they all love the same kind of men--old-- and the same kind of sex--lots of it, in all directions, with all kinds of people, in all combinations.

Now lets look at the female characters between the ages of 18 and 60. There is always something wrong. The most common problem with these women is that they don't want enough sex. But the other problems are--they want sex with the wrong people, they have artificial boob jobs, facelifts, sun-damaged skin, droopy body parts, they spend too much money and they don't drop their entire lives to defer to their man's choice of lifestyle.

The women over 60 are ok because they are grandmothers and can babysit.

If I were Greg Ile's wife, I would be checking to see who is on his facebook page.

I think this is my last Greg Iles.
I have been told to get off my booty and update my blog. Which, if you think about it, would be very hard to do at the same time. So I am sitting down and updating my blog.

Since I have talked to you, I have taken a little week in the Ozarks, but it was so hot, we didn't do much except sit in the air conditioning. The most interesting thing that happened was a visit with Luis Rojaz, a Cuban concert pianist. He lives in a beautifully decorated home on top of a mountain that looks down on Table Rock Lake.

My friend, Camille, who also lives on top of a mountain took us to see him and I don't think we really understood what a treat this would be until we got there. Luis is 72 now and has advanced arthritis, so he has retired from teaching at the College of the Ozarks, but still has a couple of very special private students. He still has his Cuban accent even though he hasn't lived in Cuba since he was 18. He came to the States to attend Julliard and got his degrees there. He has played solo recitals at Carnegie Hall and played with symphonies everywhere. One of his best friends is Alicia de Larrocha (sp?) and that impressed me. And he was impressed that I knew who she was.

Luis has 2 Steinway grands in his dining room that are magnificent, so I told him about my new Kawai, but it does not really compare. He played a Chopin waltz for us and we toodled around on the piano together, a little Mozart, a couple of old hymns. He plays for the Christian Scientists on Wed. nights and used to play the preshows for the Lawrence Welk theatre until his arthritis got him. Luis' favorite cussword is "summamabeech" As in "he's a summamabeech."

When we come back he has promised to cook arroz con pollo and black beans for us. I can't wait for the return trip. I'm going to bring him some gospel music.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Who's read Greg Ile's? I just finished True Evil. I have lost some sleep over this one--both because I had to see what was going to happen next and because I had to think about it.

It's another one that made me say "Where does he get this stuff?" I certainly hope that what he is writing about is not anywhere on the radar because if it is, then there are some totally immoral people in the world. I guess that sounds very naive.

One thing that bothers me about Iles is his tendency to do these long narrations by the evil characters to show how they think. It's like he wants to show that he can think like a terrorist, or a serial killer, or whoever it happens to be. It tends to get long and showy.

Also--and this is a big thing with me--he never tells us what people are wearing! I need to imagine what people look like and it's hard to do when all we get is "She put the gun in her pocket." What pocket? The pocket of a Michael Kors linen jacket? or the back pocket of her jeans? or the pocket of her Macintosh? I'll stop there, you get the point. (I bought a Michael Kors linen jacket at Macy's yesterday. on sale, but still.)

I'm leaving on another vacation Thursday morning. I have to be careful what book to choose next because it will go with me. This is not a beach vacation, but a mountain vacation. Makes a difference, but not a lot. You still have to choose something that you can concentrate on when all about you are things to distract you. When I go on vacation I have to read the local papers, and the travel brochures and anything local I can find. It helps me feel a part of things.

We are going to spend a couple of days with my brother and his family so I have gathered up books to return to them. We have a little library going back and forth from Bentonville, AR to Senatobia, MS.

Friday, July 25, 2008

It's Been a Long Time

Sorry I have been so long. But I have been reading up a storm (cliche).

Since I finished my last Southern b ook, I have been reading different kinds of things. I told everyone about the Dorothy Sayers book, then I read 2 Martha
Grimes thrillers. Then another Southern book--A Dangerous Age by Ellen Gilchrist who lives in Fayetteville, AR, but was born and raised in MS.

The Gilchrist book was interesting because of its timeliness. It is the story of the women of an extended family who are very affected by both 9/ll and the Iraq war. It is one of the most evenly told stories I have read about this. You get both sides of the story and I'm not sure which side
Gilchrist would fall on.

After this was a week on the beach--Orange Beach, AL-- to be exact. The rest of the family had real beach reads--James Patterson, Nora Roberts--I had Louise Eldrich, one of my favorites. I read her latest The Plague of Doves, but I have to tell you this was not her best. She is certainly not a beach read, you have to concentrate and maybe some of this was my fault, but I was having a hard time remembering who was who and following the story. It was more a combination of short stories. If you have not read her before, I would recommend Love Medicine, The Beet Queen, and The Master Butchers Singing Club.

After I got home, I read My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picault. I warn you. Do not read this book unless you can afford to lose a night's sleep, because you will not be able to put it down. I was fascinated by this story of a family torn by the critical illness of a daughter. It will make you even more curious about stem cell research, and other important issues of the day. What is legal, what is moral, what is ethical? I can't wait for someone else to read this so I have someone to talk to.

Another book by Jodi Picault that kept me up a couple of nights was Nineteen Minutes. If I tell you what it's about you probably won't want to read it. Just try it.

What to read next???

Saturday, July 5, 2008

I just realized I didn't say a word about what I was reading. I told you about the two Martha Grimes books. they almost made me give up bacon. But not quite.

I just finished a Dorothy Sayers book yesterday. If you have not read Sayers, I envy you. You can start at the very beginning--"Gaudy Night," I think. They are all mysteries, but they are so finely written they should not even be in that category.

Sayers studied at Oxford and sometimes taught there, she was incredibly intelligent and well-educated. Sometimes I have to get out the dictionary to read her. The work of her life was a translation of Dante's "Divine Comedy," which is still the definitive translation among scholars.

Her detective is Lord Peter Wimsey, a very well-dressed, well-read, and not well-understood, second son of the Duke of Denver. Of course, murders happen around him all the time. His anamorato is Harriet Vane, who he meets when she is accused of murdering his lover. She is one of the great female characters in literature.

I think I may have talked myself into going back and reading all of these books again. It's been so long I think I would enjoy them again.

The one I just read, "Thrones, Dominations," is one that Miss Sayers abandoned sometime between '36 and '38 to work on a stage production of "Busman's Honeymoon." It was completed in the late '90's, by Jill Paton Walsh. I really can't tell where one stops and the other starts. It is typical for Sayers, less about the murder than the lives of the characters.

The BBC did a televised Peter Wimsey series quite a while ago that was shown on PBS. Dorothy Sayers died in 1957.

If you have not read Dorothy Sayers you are in for a fabulous treat. Eat up!


...and I ain't got nobody. I got some money cause I just got paid."

I feel safe in admitting that I am home alone except for the 2 cats, because I don't think there is anyone left of the RangerReaders except Susie and Crystal and me. I need some comments. I feel like I'm talking to myself.

I cooked some rattlesnake beans (a kind of green bean) that I got at the farmer's market with some new potatoes, bacon and onion. I had this and a beefsteak tomato for supper. I think this was a better meal than anything I've had in a long time. Daddy used to grow this kind of green beans, and Mom would can them and we would have them all year. Best things in the world.

I've been eating out of the farmer's market for the past few weeks. Especially tomatoes. A good tomato sandwich will beat anything in the world--just Hellman's mayo and bread. I used to use Duke's mayo but I can't find it anymore.

Sometimes I vary my tomato sandwich. I add an onion or bacon or both. But most of the time it's just tomato. I make the slice of tomato as thick as the bread and I only use one piece of bread. I don't want anything to overwhelm the tomato.

I like the acidy tomatoes like Better Boys and Beefsteaks, not the sweet ones. I used to plant my own, but I had to quit when I messed up my back.

I'm watching TCM as usual. "3:10 to Yuma" is on, which I have seen many times, but there is always something new to notice. Van Heflin's hair look's funny. I think they have it all curled up to hide his receding hairline. I haven't seen Glenn Ford's hair, yet. He has had on a hat every minute of this movie. I didn't realize they got this story from an Elmore Leonard book. It looks like a John Ford movie, but much more dialogue than Ford.

I like dialogue in my movies. and acid in my tomatoes. Two things that I know on this Saturday night.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Filet Mignon and Premarin

Since I read my first 4 southern books, I have read 2 books that are definitely not Southern. The author of both is Martha Grimes who is normally a mystery writer, but these two are more thrillers. The first is Biting the Moon and the second is Dakota.

Grimes is better than the average mystery writer. Her mysteries were also above average. I used to read mysteries all the time, but I have sworn off. The only thrillers that i usually read are Ken Follett and of course, John Grisham, since we went to school together.

If you can't take cruelty to animals, do not read these books. A lot of it was very hard for me to read. Of course, it is all to teach us about what is happening to animals in the world and to raise our conciousness about it, but it is very hard to know about. Especially when you are at Madidi's eating an 8 oz filet. Apparently, I eat all the wrong things. There is no such thing as too much bacon. I also take premarin. You don't even want to hear about that.
I just read the article on the inside cover of Southern Living, which I always enjoy. I have always looked at the author's name at the about, namely to see where they are from, but i've always thought someday I will know the author. Well, it finally happened. Kara Givens, who i've known since she was a wee thing, was the author. Congratulations to all those Givens' out there. I wish I had known this before I went to church this morning.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

My first four Books

All the King's Men
From the Mississippi Delta

Those are my first four books. I don't think I could have picked four more different books. But I loved all four. The only thing they have in common is the south.

Two are set in Mississippi.
Two are about politics.
One is comedy
One is the author's memoirs.

My first four Books



I had to finish my book, From the Mississippi Delta, by Endesha Ida Mae Holland. So I left my spaghetti sauce on the stove to simmer, turned it down low and sat down in the breakfast room so I could keep an eye on it. You can probably finish this story.

I just threw away 1 lb. of ground chuck, 2 cans of tomatoes, 1 can of canellini beans, onions, peppers, and celery, spices, pesto. All burned. I had a tuna fish sandwich for supper.

Anais Nin and Speech Class

Two more weeks and I'm out of summer school. I have really liked my students this semester, with one exception. I even have some who read. I think my favorite moment so far is when Marlena Jarjoura used a quotation from Anais Nin in her self-intro speech. At first, I thought oh she has just found that in Creative or something, but, no, she says she has actually read Anais Nin's diaries! The first student I have ever had who has even heard of Anais.

I, of course, am on a first-name basis with Anais because I wrote a play about her in graduate school. "Anais and Cocteau", about her relationship with Jean Cocteau. There were only two characters in the play. We performed it during a night of one-acts at Circuit Playhouse. Of course that was a long time ago. But Marlena reminded me of college. Discovering new writers and books and ideas. Sitting in bars discussing George Sand and Albert Camus. We really thought we were the intelligentsia of Memphis State.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


I feel like we have all been "Mudbound" the past couple of months. What a lot of rain. I will probably regret saying that in July.

I finished Mudbound in one weekend. I felt like I flew through it. But I couldn't wait to see what the next person would say. I know several people are reading this book. I would like to know what other people think of the husband. Do women today put up with men like this? Who make all the decisions without even asking the wife? I think if my husband had come home and said, "Honey, I've bought a farm, we're moving," I would have told him he could move by himself.

I think I especially feel strong about it because I grew up on a farm and one thing I knew from the time I found out how to read, was that I wanted out. I hated the farm, (sorry, Daddy) and I knew I wanted to live in a small town like the people I read about in books. I wanted neighbors--some nice, some eccentric, some crazy. I wanted to walk to school. I wanted a drugstore with a soda fountain down the street. I knew my life would be perfect if I just lived in a small town. I never wanted to live in the city. Maybe because we knew Memphis. It was a little scary for me.

I would like to ask the author, why Mississippi? Is there something specific that wouldn't fit anywhere else?

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Name for my house

While we were on our road trip, Terry and I tried to come up with a name for my house. While visiting Monteagle, we looked at the names of all the summer houses at the Methodist camp. One of them was "Thistle Dew." I really wanted to steal it, but I think it's called plagiarism.

I think the most important part of my house is the front porch that wraps around the side of the house, too. The house is 100 years old this year, and I think people have been sitting on the porch for that long. I have rockers, a swing, tables, a butcher block, a settee, footstools, and I just added a church pew. Lots of places to sit and read. Miss Mamie Thomas who lived here before me used to sit on the side porch and work the crossword puzzle every afternoon. She lived here until she was 99-years-old, so there must be some magic to the porch.

So I have chosen to name my house, "Rock-n-Read".

Saturday, May 17, 2008

3 shows in ONE DAY

Terry and I are in Crossville, TN, the home of Cumberland Co. Playhouse, an excellent rep company. We saw "First Baptists of Ivy Gap" at 11:00, "Flight of the Lawnchair Man" (my favorite) at 2:30, and "Smoke on the Mountain Homecoming" at 7:30.

We also ate fantastic food at the Stonehaus Winery, and bought some wine. When we walked into the restaurant between shows Terry saw the television in the bar was on and she ran in. She has been worried about missing the Preakness, but it was just about to come on!! We sat at the bar and watched Big Brown turn on the afterburners. He passed the other horses like they were out for a Sunday stroll.

Meantime I am reading All the King's Men I have already finished Mudbound and really loved it. I will write about it later when I am not so tired out from sitting in a theatre all day. But I guess I should be used to that.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Blogger: jo ellen's stage - Create Post

Blogger: jo ellen's stage - Create Post: "Run"

Judging a Book by its Cover

I've been thinking about how books look. looks are important to me. They tell me a lot about what kind of book I am reading. Last week I read Run by Ann Patchett. It has a beautiful cover, a very abstract snowstorm on top of winter branches and it gives you the feel of the setting of the book. Cold, winter in Boston. The cold and the snow are very important characters in the book. The cover is also a foil, embossed paper-- very professional looking and expensive looking. The pages inside are very good paper and the print is large enough to be very easily read. It just looks classy. I know this book is not Southern, but it was the one I was already reading when we started. (If you haven't read Bel Canto, you have to read it.) I'm just using it as a comparison to two others.

Last weekend I read Mudbound that was recommended by Maggie. When i first took a good look at it I thought it was at least a 20-year-old book. The cover is a very simple graphic of cotton bolls and a cabin with-- almost --stickfigures standing in front of the cabin. The colors are very faded red and gray and the whole thing looks like some high school design competition. The pages inside look cheap and yellowed. I had to get past all of that to read the book, which is very good, by the way.

Now I am reading All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren, a book I have never read but I've seen the movie dozens of times. I picked it up at the library and there were several versions. I picked up the best-looking one I could find. But that's not saying much. This is one of those "Modern Library" versions. It is the size of an old paperback, meaning small and the print is the size of a flea. Maybe I am going to have to start getting large=print versions, but this is very hard to read. Not only is the print miniscule, but it is printed so far into the middle that you have to pull the book open to see the words and even then sometimes you have to just guess. Maybe I need a magnifying glass. The paper looks about 50 years old, which is about the age of the book. The cover is just dark green fake leather. YUk.

I know all of this probably makes me sound like a very shallow reader, so what. I think if you have a great book, it should look great. There are an awful lot of readers who do judge a book by it's cover. I think that's one reason that I have a hard time thinking about internet books. What is around the words means a lot to me. I want a heavy book that tells you its weight is worth gold. I want a beautiful, colorful book that says someone very artistic and talented spent a lot of time planning it. I want rich paper and print that is easy to read, and belies its intelligence. When I walk through a bookstore or a library, it's the covers that catch my eye. I can tell what kind of book I am picking up. This doesn't mean I wouldn't pick a very old book. Some old books look treasured and well-designed.

If I had just seen Mudbound and All the King's Men without knowing anything about them, I probably would not have picked them up. That is a good reason to read book reviews and listen to recommendations.
Mudbound is a really good story that deserves a better wrapping. All the King's Men won a Pulitzer Prize. It deserves better. R

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

this is my first blog. Since it is about reading I should have a lot to say, except I have to quit reading long enough to work on my blog. This is hard to do. I'm reading Run right now by Ann Pattchet.

jo ellen's stage

this is an experiment to see if I am doing this right.