Writing

Book Reviews~

I’ve been writing book reviews as of late. Well, one book review, and the only book review I’ve ever written. I’m happy to say that my review of Mark Doty’s book, Heaven’s Coast, currently appears on the Internet Book Review’s (IRB) Web site in their November issue under their “Second Glance” section.

Writing a review is an interesting proposition. It not only requires a deconstruction of the book but it also requires a sharing of the reviewer’s self in reaction to the book. I have been reading a fair number of them and find I am partial to the ones that share the reviewer’s personality and perspective more than a straight description of the book itself.

It was tough going, writing this review, as IRB wanted something personal and intimate that drew me to the book. It was a good exercise for me, and the editors Carter Jefferson and Ruth Douillette were very patient, insisting that it was there and needed to come out. I learned a lot about the process, as well as a bit more about myself and some boundaries I thought were firm but, in fact, are more malleable than I expected.

Please use the link above or the one in the sidebar to the right and read all the reviews for this November. And please read mine as well.

Blog Fatigue~

     I’ve been feeling a bit “bloggy” as of late. There are quite a few reasons for this:
     A) I signed up for a MediaBistro personal essay class– a mistake, but who would have known (except Gary Presley who said, more or less, I told you so). So I’m still busy subbing and critting stuff over there, but I’m losing enthusiasm rapidly.

     For the money, I really thought I’d get more than a “yeah, this is pretty good,” or a “nope, this isn’t working.” I get more, and better, feedback from my friends at IWW (just as Gary said).

     One of my classmates is pretty disgruntled too. But, she says, it’s not the worst class she’s ever taken. Once, as an assignment, she did a review of her class and was asked to leave. She wants to try to finish this one without burning a bridge. I’m not sure I care.

     B) I’ve been kept busy by the lawsuit recently and have been blogging over there about various and sundry happenings in that corner of my life (Noticias de Punta Uva). It looks, for the moment, as though we are on the “right side,” if you translate that as getting the hell out of dodge.

     C) I’m trying to continue to sub chapters of memoir to IWW. I had a major meltdown over that recently, as several people who I have poured my guts out to will recall. I thought I’d stop writing it, as I couldn’t seem to figure out where I was going with it. Many people at IWW have been kind enough to write back with encouraging words.
     
     One person assured me that nobody really knows where a memoir will take you when you are writing it. It is the journey inwards that provides the meat for the eventual insights required to make a good one. If there is no angst, she said, it probably means the memoir is fluff.

     I know that none of these things should keep me from writing, and I HAVE been writing. It’s just that when I look at my blog (right now) it seems to represent an assignment or something and I can’t figure out what to write about. So I thought I’d write about this.

     That’s the problem isn’t it? Fitting life and writing into a manageable schedule.

     And I’m retired for Christ’s sake.

LBJ’s


This picture was taken on August 18th. Three weeks later the nest is empty, the chicks gone. We first noticed the nest because the bush is right off our front porch, at the bottom of the stairs leading out into the yard. Alan saw a small seedeater fly into the bush and went to investigate.

Seedeaters are what Kenn Kaufman in his wonderful book, Kingbird Highway*, refers to as LBJ’s, or Little Black Jobs. Non-descript small black birds with a white tip on their wings, they spend a good amount of time in front of our house foraging for, yes, seeds.

The nest was hunkered down about thigh high in an ornamental shrub well camouflaged in the branches. We made daily visits to the bush waiting expectantly for the eggs to hatch. Finally, about two weeks ago, one of the chicks appeared. It was so young it looked like someone had peeled the shell off an embryo. It lay on the floor of the nest without moving; I thought it was dead. All the blood vessels were visible through its translucent skin. It appeared so fragile I couldn’t imagine it surviving. The other egg remained intact, but a day later we had two. They were both totally inanimate for a few days afterward.

As they grew, doubling in size every day it seemed, the two LBJ’s began to look like someone had chewed up some fruit leather and spat a wad in the bottom of the nest.

Then entered the eating stage. Mom and dad flew back and forth hauling untold amounts of seeds for these insatiable babes. If we approached the bush and barely touched the branches two enormous mouths flew open as though hardwired to the movement of the shrub. We couldn’t tell where they were anymore because they were black at the bottom of a very dark nest, but their beaks were bright yellow, providing a target for mom and dad.

We journeyed to the capital last week to send Alan north to visit family, and when I returned home the nest was empty. There are lots of seedeaters out and about this morning, but I can’t tell if any of them are new to the group.

* Kingbird Highway is one of my all time favorite books. At 16, Kenn Kaufmann dropped out of high school and went on a yearlong birding adventure hitch hiking across America from Alaska to Maine and back again.

Reading this book I learned a good deal about birders, who are very different from bird watchers, and loved his lyrical writing about nature and his adventures. It is a great book.

Kenn kaufmann has also written several other books for birders but this one is memoir about freedom, coming of age (in a most unconventional way), and a passion in life. He must have had extraordinary parents. Check it out twice, as Joe Bob used to say.