Barking Kitten

Fiction, musings on literature, food writing, and the occasional Friday cat blog. For lovers of serious literature, cooking, and eating.


Close to forty. Not cool. Politically left. Atheist. Happily married. No kids.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

The reading pile

Having expected to be occupied by Smiley's nearly 500 page tome, I'd allowed the reading pile to diminish. This, atop a difficult work week (day jobs ... sigh) meant some retail therapy was in order.

I went to Oakland's Spectator Books. Spectator sells some new stuff, but the bulk of their inventory is used. Their stock is variable; shopping there is like going to Ross Dress for Less: some days you really score. Other days all you can find is trash.

The Spectator experience is also heavily influenced by whoever is behind the counter. The gentlemen are friendly, helpful bibliophiles. But some of the ladies, alas, are downright rude.

Happily, yesterday was a doubly good day: one of the nice men, who ordered me Daniel Mendelsohn's The Lost, and some great finds:

(listed in order of the pile on my table)

1. Mary Oliver: New and Selected Poems

I read a little poetry and am no expert. But Oliver's work, focusing mostly on nature, is accessible even to the most boneheaded amongst us. And she's incredible. Her lines are just gorgeous. Here, at random, a line from "Little Owl Who Lives in the Orchard"

"Never mind that he is only a memo
from the offices of fear--" (85)

Somebody sold this book. What was this person thinking?

2.Tamasin Day-Lewis Tarts with their Tops On

Did I need another cookbook? Hell, no! But this lovely little volume was only $7.98, and I feel it is high time I overcome a longstanding fear of piecrusts. The book is largely devoted to classic English pies--steak and kidney, shepherd, a variety of chicken pies, cottage, etc, etc. An entire chapter is devoted to American pies, respectfully describing pecan, peach, and Jefferson Davis. How could I resist?

3. Annie Dillard: For the Time Being

A collection of essays, written in her inimitable style:

"Are we ready to think of all humanity as a living tree, carrying on splendidly without us?" (119)

Annie, it's Sunday morning. Let me have another cup of coffee first.

4. Stephen Elliott: My Girlfriend comes to the City and Beats Me Up.

I bought this new. Evidently Elliott is the new darling of people who like Bukowski. This book was blurbed by Audrey Niffenegger and Curtis Sittenfeld. There's a combination. The cover, meanwhile, depicts a redhead in bondage gear. And she's clearly the Top. This book will either be great or terrible.

5. Robert Shapard and James Thomas, Editors: New Sudden Fiction: Short-Short Stories from America and Beyond.

Sudden fiction became popular in the late nineties, the new new thing after the Gordon Lish/Morgan Entrekin crowd winnowed short fiction down to the bones. I just read the acknowledgements page ... oh, dear. [Edited to remove the inaccurate mention of Nate Sobel in connection with a certain "contest." Nate Sobel has nothing to do with it. D'oh! We here at BK regret the error.] Carol Houck Smith of Norton, the only editor to write me (via the vanished agent) the one truly nasty rejection letter I received back in my circulating the manuscript days. Tom Jenks and Carol Edgarian, who run writing workshops here in the Bay Area. I get flyers from them every six months or so, exhorting me to hand over several hundred dollars for the benefit of their expertise.

Well, the contributors are promising: Tobias Wolff, Lan Samantha Chang, Aimee Bender. Joyce Carol Oates ... no self-respecting anthology would publish without her, eh?


Anonymous Will Entrekin said...

Just want to note, I'm reasonably certain I've read a marked effort to separate Nate Sobel from the Sobol literary award, neither of which had anything to do with the other. The similar (not identical) spellings were nothing more than an unfortunate coincidence.

~Will Entrekin

March 04, 2007 10:55 PM  
Blogger Barking Kitten said...


Thank you much--I will post a correction.


March 05, 2007 8:18 PM  

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