Saturday, November 08, 2014

TORCH by Cheryl Strayed

Without their mother...they were not a family anymore, but siblings--a leaner, sparcer thing. ...two people wandering in the wilderness, each of them holding one end of a string.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Thursday, October 23, 2014


Stories are propaganda, virii that slide past your critical immune system and insert themselves directly into your emotions.

Was delighted to find this book long after I thought I had read it, but hadn't. Still one of my favorite contemporary novels, Doctorow writes stories to address society's wrongs in a way that is at once entertaining and educational. I learn something every time I read him and can't put the book down until the story is lodged in my heart.

Monday, October 20, 2014


"A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us." ~Franz Kafka -

Friday, October 17, 2014

Amy Tan's The Valley of Amazement

When we're in love, as if by magic, our different hearts come together perfectly toward the same desire. Eventually, the differences return, and then comes heartache and mending, and, in between, much loneliness and fear. If love remains despite the pain of those differences, it must be guarded as rare.

Dear Thea

I like Thea Brooke's approach to bibliotherapy. In a Dear Abby style blog, she recommends titles to address life passages and transitional challenges posed by write-in querents. Well chosen titles and well done, Thea.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Feminist Classic

Written in 1969, THE QUEEN IS IN THE GARBAGE is a reminder of how far we have come as well as how far we yet have to go as women in what remains a man's world in 2014.

A stream of consciousness story of a woman's experience giving birth, LILA KARP broke new ground with her honesty and her self-awareness of the ambiguity surrounding bringing a life into the world alone and the fear of becoming not just 'a mother' but 'her mother.'

Vivian Gornick's Afterword quote:
The shock in all of these writings comes from the open declaration of that feeling of erotic murderousness for the one from whom separation seems impossible. We accept rage and ruthlessness as a matter of course in sexual attachment; but when the intimacy is with a parent--especially with a parent of the same sex--the force that these emotions engender seems world-shaking. Yet, no sooner is the insight articulated than the reader calmly thinks, of course, how could it be otherwise? This, after all, is the intimacy that will bind us all our lives, holding us forever in its thrall, shadowing every other relationship, and determining for a good part, if not all, of our years, our ability to perform the task implicit in all human relations: how to connect yet not merge, how to respond yet not be absorbed, how to detach but not withdraw.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Right/Left Brain Exercises from Nick Bantock

Right/Left Brain Exercises from Nick Bantock from the Trickster's Hat

2 paragraphs from 2 different sources
Underline nouns
Join the 2
Edit to fit
But don't change the order

2" X 24" paper
20 Small images
20 words
Both cut out of mag or news
Intersperse in a line
Try to read the message

List 7 favorite songs
Imagine 7 questions you would ask an Oracle
The words in the songs answer your questions
Pick the one with the best fit and write about it

Dream analysis
Imagine yourself looking thru the eyes of all dream characters or creatures, from many different dream element perspectives
 (Barry Stevens of Don't Push the River might say wearing your "perspectacles.")

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Reading List

50 Great Books You'll Never Read in School -

Tuesday, August 05, 2014


By one of my favorite authors, Richard Powers.
The job of taste was to thin the insane torrent of human creativity down to manageable levels. But the job of appetite was never to be happy with taste.

We're either hungry or dead.

Life is nothing but mutual infection. And every infecting message changes the message it infects.

Life is an escaped experiment, say the artists, and the only real safety is death.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Can someone recommend a book in a way that will reliably produce a therapeutic result? So much of the positive effect of reading is dependent on the right book at the right time.

The book you read is not necessarily the same book I read. I.e., what works for me may not do the same for you. Which is one of the mysteries of the reading process, within the realm of mystical consciousness more than practical application.

Reading becomes background noise for a walk through our memories. We are semiconscious of both and responsive to the amalgamation. Do we cry for the tragedy of the book's characters? No, it is our own tragedy that overwhelms us.

And yet, it is the artistic representation that is often able to speak to and call forth the emotion in a manner of which we are incapable left to our own devices. However, from the evocation we might find a way to utilize our own experience in a way that is also creative, culminating in a domino effect aka inspiration.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Simple literary timeline

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

Perhaps the most notable fact about this novel is that the author is 23 and says its the first of a 7 book series. Though not quite Harry Potter, the protagonist has a readable story.
I especially like the list at the front of the book that lists the varieties of occult/mystical mastery. Including:
     Aka Seers
          Aka cottabomancer/cryomancer/catoptromancer/axinomancer/bibliomancer/macharomancer/hydromancer/crystalist/cartomancer/cyathomancer/cleromancer/cleidomancer/astragalomancer/aichmomancer/acultomancer
     Aka automatiste/psychograpaher
     Aka gustant/sniffer/polyglot/whisperer
     Aka osteomancer/haematomancer/drymimancer/chiromancer/oculomancer/andropomancer/extispicist/rhabdomancer/pyromancer/halomancer/tasseographer/botamancer/theriomancer/spodomancer/capnomancer/libanomancer/anthomancer/sycomancer/dendromancer/daphnomancer
     Aka binder/summoner/necromancer/exorcist
     Aka sibyl/unreadable/beserker
     Aka dreamwalker/oracle

Categories that would certainly rival True Blood for coopting the occult should HBO decide to run another series in the same vein (pun intended.)

If this is indeed the first of 7, characters will likely flesh out nicely and readers will have a chance to evolve along with our heroine as she saves the world from narrow minds.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Marge Piercy's Dance the Eagle to Sleep

There are no people so primitive or poor they did not practice arts: except a thoroughly exploited, colonialized, proletarianized people--thoroughly robbed.

I saw that to survive we had to stop wanting their things and only want what we could give each other.

Power implied subject and object. They needed some way to recognize (for everyone to recognize) that everybody was a subject.

...violence was the pornography of their culture.

Jonathan Lethem's Dissident Gardens

The difficulty in beholding another person was how you stood in your own way.

I'm trying never to live dishonestly and with regrets. Please don't write to me again.

Aphanisis: the dissolving subject's failure to identify, in the face of the world's depredations, with the contours of her own desire.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

UK Bibliotherapy for problem solving and self-management

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Sample Bibliotherapy Session

Excerpted and edited from
How Literature Saved My Psyche: Attending a Book-Themed Therapy Session at the Center for Fiction
By M. H. Miller |

Just what the doctor ordered!

The Center for Fiction—a nonprofit that holds readings and events, gives writers office space and promotes the general celebration of literature—called A Novel Approach, in which writers and editors involved with the center (“bibliotherapists”) will give you a 45-minute consultation dealing with the life crisis of your choice and prescribe a year’s worth of reading to help you get through it.

Center’s offices in the old Mercantile Library on East 47th Street, Noreen Tomassi, director since 2004.

“WHY DO YOU WANT to come and explore whatever you need to explore in your life through books?”

“Is there a particular issue that you’d like to address in your reading that we prescribe for you?”

“Is there a book that has really made a huge difference in your life?”

“Are there writers right now that you  just absolutely hate or feel like they’re overrated?”

Where are the gaps in your reading in your opinion? (Need more of?)

“A couple either/or questions,” “Answer these off the top of your head: Tolstoy or Dostoevsky?”

“Brontës: Emily or Charlotte?”

“Do you have a story that you think is the perfect short story?"

“You have a few writers over for dinner. Who’s there, living or dead? Pick six, including you.”

gaps in your reading,
problem you want to address,
your history as a reader,
what you’re attracted to in writing.

Therapist taks about a week to two weeks, and does a list, consulting with a group of people who are connected to the program--writers, editors--then makes a prescription.

My (journalist's) prescription: “Five classics, one big unwieldy post-modernist, one book about love, money and friendship, two non-fiction selections, two contemporary novels, and a dash of genre fiction. No more than one per month, client to be shaken and stirred.”

NYC Center for Fiction marketing bibliotherapy

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Cats and their Writers

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Audrey Niffenegger's THE NIGHT BOOKMOBILE

Thank you for noticing, Audrey.
Readers everywhere embrace your inner child and get ready for a children's book format graphic novel written for adults.
Love it.
And, BTW, learn how making your own zines leads to graphic novels and comics at IPRC (Independent Publishing Resource Center) located in Portland Oregon but now with an online certificate program.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Dave Eggers' THE CIRCLE

A near-future cautionary tale...
Does a "matrix of preferences" represent you?
How has social networking come to define you?
Extrapolation of everything you've ever entered into a computer (or been entered about you) becoming meta-data shared indescriminately with everyone...
Not sharing, or attempts at privacy, as anti-social behaviour...

Eggers explores extremes while encouraging us to consider outcomes of current trends when utopian intentions become co-opted by bottom line bottom feeders.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Angela Carter quote

Reading a book is like re-writing it for yourself. You bring to a novel, anything you read, all your experience of the world. You bring your history and you read it in your own terms • Angela Carter

Friday, April 04, 2014

Some of

The 50 Best Southern Novels Ever Written -

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Reading In Nihilo

"If art is made ex nihilo—out of nothing—then reading is done in nihilo, or into nothing. Fiction unfolds through your imagination in interconnected layers of meaning that lift the heavy weight of unyielding facts from your shoulders. It speaks its own private language of endless nuance and inflection. A tale is a reassuringly mortalized, if you will, piece of the oceanic infinity out of which we came, and back into which we will go."

UK Book Group Mood Boosting Books

Monday, March 24, 2014

Lewis Shiner

Our physical beings are only the shadows of our emotion.
Quote from DARK TANGO

Musical analogy to reading

Reading music is much like reading books. When the reader knows how to read the "notes" and is an experiened "player" the nuances of interpretation of the notes can greatly affect the sound and  meaning of a piece. Singers call this phrasing.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


Just finished Margaret Atwood's most recent and last novel in the trilogy that began with the Year of the Flood and was followed by Oryx and Crake.

In retrospect I strongly believe that the trilogy would have benefitted from a different ordering. The first two novels were almost unreadable due to the gaps in the story. After reading MaddAddam I feel like I have to go back and re-read the others to make sense of the whole. Not the way I prefer to ingest my fiction.

Atwood is one of my favorite authors and I'm not sure of the rationale behind her choice of reversing the chronology. It almost seems like a plot device created because the story couldn't stand on its own.

Perhaps this quote provides an answer:
"There's the story, then there's the real story, then there's the story of how the story came to be told. Then there's what you leave out of the story. Which is part of the story too." (p56)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

Fowler's latest is a study in the rights of man, with man being stretched to include all living beings. The story of a girl raised with a chimp by psychologist parents narrates her experiential awareness of the emotional sensitivity that speaks so eloquently from behind the eyes of the animals we love.

Fowler has done her research and the novel is scattered with references to actual studies conducted similar to the one our narrarator grew up with. Animal rights advocacy is threaded throughout the story personified by her older brother who is on the lam from the FBI.

KJF also wrote Sarah Canary, which I enjoyed a few years ago as a light read. In SC, KJF again addresses issues of inequality, this time for women and Chinese in the Washington territories of the 1870's.

Fowler seems to be a writer who can tell a good story but also has something important to share with her readers: her ability to question the status quo and consider "the man behind the curtain."

Friday, January 03, 2014

WILD by Cheryl Strayed


"Alone had always felt like an actual place to me, as if it weren't a state of being, but rather a room where I could retreat to be who I really was."

"The good things aren't a movie. There isn't enough to make a reel. The good things are a poem, barely longer than a haiku."

What a journey...alone on the Pacific Coast Trail...
What insane test one's limits and live to tell about it...
I look forward to the inevitable book to movie so that even non-readers can share in CS's life affirming experience.