Category Archives: fun

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To know them is to love them

As a middle schooler and beyond, I had some very serious crushes on fictional characters. Considering that I spent the majority of my free time wrapped up in a fictional world, this probably comes as no surprise. In college (and to this day, to be quite honest), Jamie Fraser from Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander was my huge fictional crush. (The Starz series with Sam Heughan starring as Jamie only made it worse.)  I also had a big thing for Numair from Tamara Pierce’s The Immortals series and pretty much all of Jane Austen’s male characters. The thing that made me love all of these characters was their soft spots. They might be brusque on the outside, with some very major flaws, but at the end of the day, they were deeply caring and perfect gentlemen.
In the spirit of some lighthearted Friday fun, I decided to poll the DGLM office and find out who were the fictional characters they were most attracted to. Results below!

  • ​Michael: Mr. Rochester from Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, for his unattainable nature.
  • Lauren: Laurie from Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, for his impetuous and willful spirit.
  • Mike: Louisa from Jojo Moyes’s Me Before You for her sweet, tough, and caring character.
  • Sharon: Gilbert Blythe from L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, for being in love with Anne for her personality and ideas, not just her looks—and the fact that his feelings for her didn’t get in the way of being a good friend.
  • Kemi: George Knightley from Jane Austen’s Emma, for his compassionate character and his long friendship with her, despite his romantic feelings.
And lastly, one of our interns, Chrissy chose Jay Gatsby, from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby for his wealth, his passionate love for Daisy, and his attraction to Nick (and also, because Leonardo DiCaprio).
Who’s the most attractive fictional character in your opinion? What do you think makes a fictional character attractive? What specific traits make our hearts melt every time we read about them?
9

Finish what you start (or not)

For most of my life as a reader, I read every book I started to the end.  Not finishing a book was sacrilege.  No matter how tedious the narrative (I’m looking at you, James Fenimore Cooper), how irritating the storytelling (Hi, Dan Brown), or how purple the writing (Ugh, take a bow, Robert James Waller), I would slog through the whole thing figuring that even if I hated the book I would have learned a valuable lesson about bad choices and the authors who make them.

Then, I became a grown-up.  With a job that requires a lot of homework, a husband I like to talk to, a kid with more activities on his calendar than Babe Paley in her heyday, and friends I’d ideally like to see in person rather than just on Facebook, reading for pleasure has become a, well, guilty pleasure.  My once holier-than-thou attitude about finishing what you start has now morphed into if I’m not intrigued by the second page and in love by the fiftieth, the book is going back on the shelf to collect dust and await discovery by a more committed reader or eventual relocation—so I don’t feel guilty every time I look at it.

There are exceptions, of course.  You all know I read every last annoying word of The Goldfinch even though I disagreed with all those who thought it was brilliant.  Occasionally, I do force myself to keep reading, because there are glimmers in those first 50 pages that the story will unfold to reveal something exceptional.  Mostly, though, my pleasure reading follows the pattern of my work reading.  If you can’t capture my attention very early on, the crush of other manuscripts waiting in the wings will make the decision for me.

A propos of all of this, today, on Galleycat, I saw a piece about how women are more apt to stay with a book they don’t like than men.   And, from my experience, I find that to be true.  The women in my book club, for instance, will routinely report that they have read an entire book they felt lukewarm about at best or hated outright at worst.  My husband and other male friends, on the other hand, will leave a trail of half-read volumes in their wake with not even a discernible glimmer of guilt or regret.

What does that say about women and men as readers?  And does it mean that my reading process has become more, er, masculine as I’ve gotten older?  Do you guys finish everything you start?  And, if not, at what point do you throw your hands up, toss the book aside, and go in search of the remote?

1

Form & function

Yeats full

Mr. Yeats attended two universities with me and lives his life with paper clips marking the poems I’ve studied and annotated.

H&M

Heaney and Muldoon live on my shelf in many forms, but NORTH and QUOOF actually live at my office. Six months before I began working at DGLM, I turned in my master’s thesis on these two collections. And something about identity and politics. I’m not sure I ever knew what I was trying to say about them. But now they live in my office reminding me of what words can do and why I broker them for a living.

Last week, Sharon and I were discussing a book she wants to read that I own a copy of, and we agreed on the one major failing of borrowing a book:  you don’t get to keep it.  I’m a hard copy person (a trade paperback person, if we’re getting specific), and I not only want to own physical copies of the books I’ve read and loved, I want to own the exact copy I read and loved.  I’ll borrow a galley if I want to read the book before I can buy it and don’t have a copy of my own, but if the book is available for purchase, I’d rather go buy it just in case I love it enough to give it a permanent home on my shelves. 

I mean, sure, I could borrow the book and go out and buy my own if it turns out to be worthy, but then I wouldn’t have an emotional attachment to the book as an object as well as to the book’s contents, and it’s just not the same.  I’ve always wanted to be a library person, since it’s obviously more fiscally sensible, but ultimately I’d rather forego new clothes and expensive dinners and fancy technology and living in a trendy neighborhood so I can curate my own personal library. One day I’m going to be a rich person with a dedicated library and rolling ladder, and I want the books that I fly past Beauty in the Beast-style to tell the story of my reading history.

McCann

To the left, my reading-worn original. To the right, my pristine copy signed by the master himself.

This is such a strong issue, that it turns out both Sharon and I have some books that we own in two copies: the one we read, and the one we got signed at an event.  I’m not really that big on signed books, but obviously, you can’t get rid of a signed copy, especially if it was personalized. But how am I supposed to part with the object I was holding in my hands as I experienced a book that means something to me?  That would just be insane.  So I’ll just persist with multiple copies of Let the Great World Spin on my shelves forever.  

Emma Donoghue signed this, my most coveted BEA galley of all time, after it had been read by me and several friends of mine.

Emma Donoghue signed this, my most prized BEA galley of all time, after it had been read by me and several friends of mine.

Many of the books I own have lived on two continents, in two countries, in three towns/cities, in two boroughs of NYC, and in around ten apartments.  I paid about $100 extra just to get all my books on the plane when I moved home after grad school in Ireland.  And when I’m old and grey, they’ll still be there, physical reminders of the worlds I’ve had the good fortune to temporarily inhabit.

These are some of Sharon's special totems (though she also has the same double McCann "problem" that I do). I'm most envious of her signed copy of Roxane Gay's AN UNTAMED STATE, with that incredible inscription. Though Matt Weiland is no slouch at book signing himself.

These are some of Sharon’s special totems (plus she also has the same double McCann “problem” that I do). I’m most envious of her signed copy of Roxane Gay’s AN UNTAMED STATE, with that incredible inscription. Though Matt Weiland is no slouch at book signing himself.

3

Smells like a bestseller!

Like many in publishing, I was an English major…by default more than practicality, because I was pretty good at reading and writing, knew I wanted to spend my life obsessing over commas, and ran screaming from the room the first time a science teacher broached the possibility of dissecting a sheep’s eyeball (still one of the worst experiences of my life). To this day I don’t really understand the principle of gravity and find it highly suspicious.

My science aversion has not kept me from accumulating quite a few science-loving friends, though; in fact, my college roommate double-majored in chemistry and physics and is now a science professor in upstate New York. She’s always trying to trick me into sciencey things, like a poetry reading based on the periodic table of the elements, which actually turned out to be pretty fun. (Plus there was wine there – fermentation is one scientific process I am not averse to.)

So I was not surprised to find this post from her on my Facebook wall today: a scientific breakdown of the smell of books. You know what I’m talking about –  that big whiff of delicious mold when you step through the door of a used bookstore; the fresh perfume released when you crack the spine of a brand new hardcover. Old or new, the smell of books has been a favorite topic of nostalgians and those resistant to the lure of digital reading. But did you ever stop to wonder just what produces those beloved aromas?

This chemistry website did, and their in-depth report will no doubt enthrall those of you with room in your brains for science and literature.

Do you prefer the aroma of old books or new books? What burning literary question do you think science should turn to next?

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#snackbooks

From an early age, my father started training me in the art of noticing terrible, terrible puns. Like, truly awful. My mom was very good at tuning them out (and remains so) with a good roll of the eyes or shake of the head. I, on the other hand, started noticing them. And making them myself. So when I stumbled upon Tim Federle’s TEQUILA MOCKINGBIRD in McNally Jackson last summer, I laughed myself sick.

Luckily, I am not alone in my sick sense of humor. Yesterday, Barnes & Noble started a game on Twitter called #snackbooks, combining food and books (two of my favorite things!). They contributed “Wafflehouse-Five” and “A Guac to Remember.” They got a significant number of responses. Some of my favorites included:

Life of Pie

Munch Ado About Nothing

War and Peas

The Lion, the Witch, and the Warheads

As I Lay Frying

….there are also countless others, but go check out their Twitter page here to see some of the other contributions. (Some enthusiasts even designed covers!)

My personal contributions are:

The Sound and the Fry
Alice in Waffleland
Anne of Green Gobbles
Feast of Eden

What would some of your #snackbooks titles be? 

1

Happy birthday, Byron!

graffiti2

Lord Byron’s graffiti on the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion, near Athens, Greece

 

Ah, Lord Byron.  You were only 36 when you died, but you still managed: to write one of the best Romantic poems, become a hero in Greece for fighting in their revolutionary war, father Ava Lovelace (who was a computer programming badass in the 1840s, and no that isn’t a typo), have a lifetime’s worth of scandalous affairs, and literally leave your mark on some of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been.  That is a lot of life for only 36 years. Happy birthday, you mad, bad, dangerous bastard!

 

 

2

Clubbing for change

 

As longtime readers of our blog know, we have an office book club that meets once every couple of months.  I’ve also mentioned a time or twenty that I’m a member of a neighborhood book club in my town.  Clearly, I’m a fan of book clubs—and not just because of the wonderful marriage they broker between literature and wine.  I find that I learn a great deal from the opinions of other readers.  Even when I am convinced that they are tragically wrong in those opinions (Sharon Pelletier and Michael Bourret’s wrongheadedness about The Goldfinch comes to mind), the points of view expressed generally reveal something new and different (about the work, about the person championing it) to me.   Books are the most efficient and effective repositories of ideas mankind has ever come up with, in my opinion, and only good things can come from people discussing those ideas in a respectful* and thoughtful way.

Which is why I’m so excited about Emma Watson’s feminist book club, Our Shared Shelf.  In an era when there seems to be a great deal of ambivalence, at best, and disdain, at worst, for feminism, I think Ms. Watson’s mission is excellent.  For all the important gains the founding mothers of the feminist movement achieved (our own Phyllis Chesler among them), we still have a long way to go in attaining equality and, in many cultures, basic human rights for women.

How cool is it that Hermione Granger’s alter ego is spearheading this movement?  I’m totally fangurling!

Hermione reading

 

*Not always the case at DGLM gatherings, I confess.

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Happy holidays, book lovers!

I’ve been sitting here all day thinking about what I could offer as a holiday gift to readers. Some insight into the publication process? Helpful writing tips for the winter break? What I’m looking for in 2016? Well, more on that last one in January, but right now, as I’m scrambling to wrap things up before taking off for Maine with the in-laws, my brain is pretty much fried to a crisp. And I’m sure tonight’s DGLM holiday party won’t help…

So, thank goodness for Buzzfeed! Yes, even though we’ve all seen and heard things like this a zillion times, there’s nothing like a good assortment of gifs to fill a reader with good cheer. And when I saw what Mr. Bean was reading in #6, I just had to share. Happy holidays, y’all, and have fun making a dent in your reading pile over the break—I know I will!

4

Career moves

Despite the fact that we publishing people love nothing more than to whine about how miserable our jobs are (the endless reading, the rants from angry authors who, after seeing your edits, just know you don’t get their particular brand of genius, the bureaucratic Everest climb that negotiating a contract and then prying the advance money from a publisher entails, the Miranda Priestly type bosses who make Steve Jobs seem like a soft touch, etc.), relatively speaking we do pretty interesting, engaged and engaging work.  In fact, the reason I’ve stuck with my first job out of grad school for a couple of decades now is because it’s always interesting, always challenging, (almost) always satisfying, and never, say what you will, boring.

And yet, who hasn’t fantasized about a whole other career?  Given my fascination with disease and gross bodily functions (ask any of my colleagues about my detailed descriptions of snot when I have a cold), I probably would’ve been a doctor if my math grades had been better (I suspect that getting the right dosage of medicine in a patient is key in effective treatment).  And being the kind of reader who immerses herself in engrossing narratives, I’ve had many opportunities over the years to fantasize about other, more exciting professions.  After reading Andy Weir’s The Martian recently, I wondered if NASA has any plans to send a literary agent into space and, if so, where would I sign up for training.

Given the foregoing, this infographic from Adzuna.co.uk which was picked up by GalleyCat delighted me to no end.  So many career options, so little time!

Fictional-Jobs

What’s your most coveted fictional job—wizard, international man/woman of mystery, treasure hunter, Jedi knight?

0

Happy Thanksgiving Everybody!

Now that the holidays are upon us, not only am I excited to mingle with family and eat an unnatural amount of food, but also start on the imposing tower of “books to read” I’ve had building up for months.

So, in the spirit of giving thanks, I figured it would be appropriate to share a few things that I am thankful for as a book lover:

  • I’m thankful for family and friends that love and support me in everything I do.
  • I am thankful for the cool and grey days that make me want to curl up in my blanket with a nice cup of hot cocoa and my favorite book.
  • I’m thankful for libraries in general, but most especially thankful for this wonderful library in Dryden that has challenged kids to read up to 1,000 books before kindergarten. 1,000! I find it very encouraging, and I’m so proud of all the little ones taking on the challenge. Like the good doctor said, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”—Dr. Seuss
  • The Hunger Games: MockingJay, part 2. I have purposely waited to see the final installment of the movies based on Suzanne Collins’ books this Thanksgiving weekend, mainly to keep up with the tradition of watching the movies with my sister, who introduced me to the series in the first place. Yes, Tolu, thank you for literally shoving the book in my face.
  • Ali Benjamin. I read her debut The Thing about Jellyfish for book club, fell in love, and now I eagerly await her next work.
  • Every Friends Thanksgiving episode.
  • giphy
  • Starbucks’s Caramel Brulee Frappuccino. I don’t even like coffee, but this is stuff is pretty good (It’s the sugar!!). Pair it with a witty YA romance and your afternoon is completely made.
  • Etsy.com for making my Christmas shopping easy. With its cool and unique merchandise, you are sure to find just the right gift for your book loving/creative friends this holiday season.

And finally, I am thankful for DGLM and all you wonderful readers. Please share what you are thankful for, and I hope everyone has a fun, safe and relaxing Thanksgiving weekend!!