This new book from Jonathan Tropper, One Last Thing Before I Go,  is one of the funniest books I have read in a long time. Actually the last Tropper book I read – This is Where I Leave You – was also a laugh out loud joy to read. His nebbish main character is amazingly sympathetic, despite his terribleness, and while there are a few moments in this book that made me nervous, most of the book works beautifully. I don’t think anyone else has nailed the sad world of divorced suburban men seeking redemption and grace better than Tropper has done.  Buy it!

“Tropper’s characters are likably zany and fallible, and perhaps more important, funny. One Last Thing Before I Go is a poignant story about facing death and celebrating life, even when things seem well beyond repair.” The Daily Beast

I found a few optimistic bookish goodies to share with you at the dawn of Springtime…

…An eternal poem etched on the roads of a town, a novelist who took a 1,100-mile solo hike along the Pacific Crest Trail and lived to tell the tale, an NPR word nerdy piece that references my favorite book as a child (Laura Ingalls Wilder’s classic children’s novel Little House in the Big Woods), and a podcast about the project that is attempting to preserve the world’s languages in a series of magical little glass balls that will be spread around the globe to be found, like Easter eggs, by our ancestors 10,000 years from now and beyond…Enjoy.


1. From the Blog of the Long Now: The Letters of Utrecht -

If you spelled out a poem in stone, at the rate of one letter – and one tile – a week, how many miles would your verse stretch across the earth in 12,012?

The Letters of Utrecht project hopes that in 10,000 years, someone will be able to answer that question.

Inspired by the Long Now Foundation and other organizations dedicated to long-term projects, The Letters of Utrecht is a very long-term poem, to be gradually written in stone in the streets of Utrecht, the Netherlands. The idea was developed by the Million Generations Foundation, a Dutch think tank devoted to developing knowledge for the good of the future, in collaboration with a local poet’s guild. The project evolved out of initial plans to build a stone clock and intends to be a kind of calendar, written in verse…

Click here for the complete post.


2. The Days of Yore interviews artists before they had money or fame. Cheryl Strayed is a novelist, memoirist, and essayist who ignited a huge fan base (and a line of merchandise) when she told a reader to “write like a motherfucker” in her beloved, anonymous advice column, “Dear Sugar” on The Rumpus. Here is her story. (It’s a good one!)


3. What’s In A Word? A ‘Dictionary’ Of Americanisms


Dictionary of American Regional English

One of the joys of reading books set in another time or another place is the foreignness of the language, even if that language is English. Locutions unknown in your backyard wing through the pages like unfamiliar birds. If they look different than the words you know, it’s because they’ve evolved to fit another linguistic ecosystem: that’s how people there talk, with the words necessary to describe their lives.

Take Laura Ingalls Wilder’s classic children’s novel Little House in the Big Woods…

For the complete article click here to go to NPR Books. For more on the Dictionary of American Regional EnglishNPR reviews, interviews and more.


4. Last, these are the magic 8 Balls of human language, from THE ROSETTA PROJECT -

“The vast majority of the world’s human languages are slated for extinction within a century. But the Long Now Foundation has devised a key for people living ten millennia in the future to rediscover them.” Listen to the podcast from Lingua Franca here.

Move over lawn gnomes. According to this article it’s now the season of the miniature lawn library.


Little Free Libraries are taking root on lawns

By Ben Jones, USA TODAY

Jenna Hansen with her birdhouse library in her front yard in Madison, Wis.
Photo by Andy Manis, for USA TODAY - Jenna Hansen with her birdhouse library in her front yard in Madison, Wis.


MADISON, Wis. – Todd Bol wanted to honor his mother, a former teacher and book lover who died a decade ago. So two years ago, Bol built a miniature model of a library, filled it with books for anyone to take, and placed it outside his home in Hudson, Wis.

He says people loved it. “People just kept coming up to it, looking at it, patting it, saying ‘oh, it’s cute,’ ” Bol recalls.

From that idea, hundreds of similar Little Free Libraries are popping up on lawns across the country. They’re tiny — no bigger than a dollhouse. Some look like miniature homes or barns. Others just look like a box on a post.

But they all hold books…


For the complete article click here.

For PHOTOS: Little Libraries around Wisconsin

The Ladies.

March 21, 2012 | Leave a Comment

Women’s history month is interesting this year with all the intense controversy regarding women’s reproductive rights. It’s clear, even in these modern times, that our rights are seriously in question.

Thankfully, in the land of literature, women are considered equals and this is simply just a fact now.

Here are a few prime examples from our friends over at LiveWriters:


Book Title: Straight
Author: Hanne Blank

Held on March 8, 2010 at UMBC, The Women’s History Month Lecture by Hanne Blank, writer on”Virgin Territory: On Writing a History of Virginity”. Followed by a Conversation with Emek Ergun, PhD Candidate, Language Literacy and Culture Program, UMBC on translating Blank’s work Sponsors: Gender and Women’s Studies Program with support from the Dresher Center for the Humanities and the Department of History


Book Title: I Am an Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls Around
Author: Eve Ensler

Eve Ensler in conversation with Isabel Allende presented by Dominican University of California’s Institute for Leadership Studies and Book Passage; February 24, 2012


Book Title: The Wolf Gift
Author: Anne Rice

Anne Rice is the high mistress of contemporary gothic fiction, best known for her Vampire Chronicles series and its unforgettable anti-hero, the vampire Lestat. Here she joins Authors@Google and Google Play in a Q&A about her latest novel, “The Wolf Gift,” in which she reinvents the werewolf myth and imagines a man turned beast who’s both enthralled and terrified by his transformation.

If you know me, you know I love George Orwell. I even named my cat Orwell. So, I am biased, however, I think you may agree that this is one of the most brilliant “documentaries” on an author (or anyone at all for that matter). Treat yourself to it now:


For 95 Minutes,

the BBC Brings George Orwell to Life

(From Open Culture)

George Orwell occupies a funny place in the modern literary consciousness. The last few generations came to know him, in English class, as the author of the novels Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four. My own peers may remember their teachers’ awkward inversion of the earlier book, forced as they were to clarify Orwell’s already direct Russian Revolution allegory by explaining that, a long time ago, there lived a man named Trotsky who was a lot like Snowball the pig, and so on. The later book, many readers’ first glimpse at a realistic dystopia, tends to hit us harder. All those tinny, piped-in patriotic anthems; the varicose veins; the sawdusty cigarettes; the defeated cups of watery tea — why on Earth, we asked ourselves, did Orwell so confidently foresee a shambolic world of such simultaneous chintziness and brutality?”…

For the site where I found this film, Open Culture, click here. To watch the documentary click here for a link to the continuous playlist for the entire piece, George Orwell: A Life In Pictures (from the BBC).


I’ve saved up so many links this week to share with you – I am not sure where to start. How about another list-y style post?


Two Bookish Videos:

1. Come on All You Ghosts
Matthew Zapruder reads poetry selections at LitQuake in San Francisco.

2. The identity of The Rumpus’ own Sugar of “Dear Sugar” fame has been revealed. She has a book out. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail - Cheryl Strayed, author of WILD, talks about her hike on the Pacific Crest Trail.


Two bits of Publishing Talk:

1. Digital-only book imprints are actually working. (See: Fiction Studio Books.) This could be very good news for emerging authors.

2. HAVE YOU HEARD OF WORLD BOOK NIGHT???? If not, now you have: See this.





Book Art:

When I pinned this to Pinterest (an image sharing network you either love or hate) it went viral in my network. That hardly ever happens to me – but clearly this stuff is magic…

See a lot more of it here.


What is a blog tour anyway?:

One of my favorite authors, M.J. Rose, is on a blog tour for her new book THE BOOK OF LOST FRAGRANCES (a blog tour is something I find interesting as a thing authors must do these days). She’s guest posting about lost perfumes. Here’s one that I wish I could smell…they say it has the desolate scent of tombs…and is “presented in a flacon resembling a golden sarcophagus…” More here.


Happy March readers! I’ve been doing some manuscript review work for author clients lately and this article by Anne Lamott always comes to mind when I am reading first drafts – mainly because it does take some bravery to place your work in someone’s hands, and it also takes bravery to offer advice to folks who have trusted you to do so. If I keep in mind that shitty first drafts are fine, in fact normal and important, the act of presenting useful advice and opinion becomes a positive thing…

Shitty First Drafts
Anne Lamott (1995)

Now, practically even better news than that of short assign­ments is the idea of shitty first drafts. All good writers write them. This is how they end up with good second drafts and terrific third drafts. People tend to look at successful writers, writers who are getting their books published and maybe even doing well financially, and think that they sit down at their desks every morning feeling like a million dollars, feeling great about who they are and how much talent they have and what a great story they have to tell; that they take in a few deep breaths, push back their sleeves, roll their necks a few times to get all the cricks out, and dive in, typing fully formed passages as fast as a court reporter. But this is just the fantasy of the uninitiated. I know some very great writers, writers you love who write beautifully and have made a great deal of money, and not one of them sits down routinely feeling wildly enthusiastic and confident. Not one of them writes elegant first drafts. All right, one of them does, but we do not like her very much. We do not think that she has a rich inner life or that God likes her or can even stand her. (Although when I mentioned this to my priest friend Tom, he said you can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.)

Very few writers really know what they are doing until they’ve done it. Nor do they go about their business feeling dewy and thrilled. They do not type a few stiff warm-up sentences and then find themselves bounding along like huskies across the snow. One writer I know tells me that he sits down every morning and says to himself nicely, “It’s not like you don’t have a choice, because you do–you can either type or kill yourself.” We all often feel like we are pulling teeth, even those writers whose prose ends up being the most natural and fluid. The right words and sentences just do not come pouring out like ticker tape most of the time. Now, Muriel Spark is said to have felt that she was taking dictation from God every morning–sitting there, one supposes, plugged into a Dictaphone, typing away, humming. But this is a very hostile and aggressive position. One might hope for bad things to rain down on a person like this…

For the complete piece click here.


In other news, there is such a thing as a fabulous and intelligent blog about literary shopping. Beware this delicious pairing – for you too may find that combining literature and fashion is completely logical. Click here for Sheepishfashionista’s Blog: Adventures in Literary Shopping.

In the 80′s, when I was little, I devoured the Choose Your Own Adventure books - “If you decide to approach the manor, turn to page 3. If you decide to go back, turn to page 2″…

I would have been delighted to know that by the time I had my own child, almost everything would be interactive and instant (not to mention we’d finally have functional video phones: FaceTime. Skype, iChat…). One needn’t wonder why our kids are drawn to objects like the iPhone and the iPad – these are lighted windows into an infinite world of quick loading manipulatable magic. It’s C.Y.O.A. on mega-steroids.

Of course you remember those days as a youngster huddling around D&D notebooks with dogeared pages, but kids these days, they have W.O.W. and  Netflix streaming. Instant high octane entertainment at your fingertips (no need to rewind those tapes first!). As awesome as they were at the time, can you imagine going from our high-tech wonderworld of infinite information and choices, back to the world of the cozy, all too slim old C.Y.O.A. novels? Or, for that matter, going back in time from our day of infinite iPad books downloaded in your den while you make your morning coffee, to creating leaflets on a letterpress (sayonara Twitter?) or hitching up a horse to get to the library down yonder in the neighboring township (while you’re there trade some sugar for some milk at the dairy)?

With inventions like the ebook becoming old hat already, as well as the development of items on the horizon such as the 3D printer, will our children’s children assume that all objects should be acquired instantly?

(Read an amazing short story from The New Yorker called The Dungeon Masterhere.)


Now, here is a piece from the Booktrix blog on how Amazon’s instant gratification factor has made it the biggest enemy of the independent bookstore…

Booksellers and Co-opetition

Co-opetition: Cooperative competition. Practice where competitors work with each other on project-to-project, joint venture, or co-marketing basis.

Historically, most independent bookstores have viewed Amazon and Barnes & Noble not only as direct competitors, but as enemies.  Which is certainly understandable.

Barnes & Noble has long been a dominant force in retail bookselling.  B & N gets better business terms than small stores, is able to publish its own books, and now, of course, like Amazon, has major advantages over independent stores in selling ebooks and print books online.

And for so many bookstores, Amazon appears to be its most dangerous and predatory competitor -

Click here for the rest.



…well, you know, besides reading them.

1. Make a bathtub out of them. Here.

2. Write another one and hope it too will earn you a Pulitzer. Here.

3. Print it on a shower curtain, like Dave Eggers has done for his utterly un-digital project The Thing Quarterly.

4. Make an iPhone charger out of one.

5. Make a lamp, a nightstand, or a clock from books (or at least from replicas of books). Here.

6. Build a really cool D.I.Y. book strap side table.

7. Publish a Kindle version of your book: ”Before the deal is even completed, Dylan senses that something isn’t quite right” – Terminal Value by Thomas Waite. Here.

8. Create, out of books, some floating wall shelves for books. (I am doing this in my daughters room asap.)

9. Get really obsessive and then arrange all your books by color – here. (The effect is actually quite pretty – in fact everything on the blog “Bookshelf Porn” is pretty if you dig books: look.)

10. …and my favorite, which we can all manage to create at home, is the candy box made from a book. See it and do it. Think about this, you could really put just about anything in the candy box book – I was thinking it would make a great place to stash earrings…



…and because I really love both of these guys, here’s a recent video you may enjoy from Livewriters -


Stephen Colbert Interviews Neil deGrasse Tyson


Props to Brit for the inspiration for this post.


We like to watch for memes. Here’s a recent one (and a funny one!)…



Also, a thoughtful piece on the term “e-book” (is it the “horseless carriage” of our times?)…


Technology Time Lines

by David Wilk of Booktrix


E-books are to books what horseless carriages are to horse-drawn carriages.  In other words, we are only a short distance down the path to the development of digital writing, publishing and reading.

Would it be possible to say that the term e-book should be discarded as Horseless Carriage was supplanted by Automobile or eventually the “car”?

I wonder…


(Read the complete post here.)


Also, something we like: books as activism -

An author video from Livewires with Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Eating Animals -

Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Everything Is Illuminated and Eating Animals looks at our dining habits, insatiable appetites and the cultural meaning of food. He explores the ethical, environmental and health risks behind commercial fishing and factory farming and discusses his journey from carnivore to vegetarian. Hear from the man that actress Natalie Portman claims changed her from a “20-year vegetarian to a vegan activist.”

Watch the video below.


More videos:

Author Ben Marcus talks about his novel, The Flame Alphabet

Writer Gary Shteyngart discusses his book “Super Sad True Love Story”

Susan Cain on “Quiet”