Thursday, September 25, 2008


A few minutes ago, I took delivery of a box of books, now stacked neatly beside my computer. Read Dewey's Box o’ books winners! post to see how I happened to win nine books from Hatchette.

On first opening the box, I looked for the book entitled Dewey (imagine that, Dewey giving away Dewey). This book is why I commented on Dewey's site to begin with, which means I won because I wrote about Dewey on Dewey's blog. The only way you'll be able to make sense of this paragraph is to notice I italicize book titles. Dewey the book is about "The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World." Dewey the person is about friendships and book blogging and stuff like that. Anyway, I would have been happy if I'd won nothing more than Vicki Myron's Dewey, which was published yesterday. I didn't remember a single other title from the list of books I won, but..........

As I looked through the pile of books, another one caught my attention: A Whack on the Side of the Head: How You Can Be More Creative by Roger von Oech. It's the 25th anniversary edition, revised and updated. Interesting that I don't remember running across this book before, since I taught continuing education classes on creativity back in the 1980s. So even before cracking open Dewey, which I put on the top of the pile, I opened A Whack on the Side of the Head and immediately found something I want to share with you about creativity (p. 111):

This "play with it!" attitude is reflected in one of my favorite print ads, which was created in the 1960s by Charles Piccirillo to promote National Library Week. The headline consisted of the alphabet in lower case letters like so:
It was followed by this copy:
At your local library they have these arranged in ways that can make you cry, giggle, love, hate, wonder, ponder, and understand. It's astonishing to see what these twenty-six little marks can do. In Shakespeare's hands they became Hamlet. Mark Twain wound them into Huckleberry Finn. James Joyce twisted them into Ulysses. Gibbon pounded them into The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. John Milton shaped them into Paradise Lost.
The ad went on to extol the virtues of reading and mention that good books are available at your library.
Creative, huh?

How would you rate this book?
Not only could I not put it down, I'm still reading it (on Sunday the 28th) and haven't opened a single one of the other books from the box.
Rated: 10/10, couldn't put it down

Synchronicity: The book arrived at 1:11 pm today, and I'm quoting page 111. Is this important? Nah, but I noticed it and smiled.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Banned Books Week ~ September 27 through October 4

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

During the Great Depression, George Milton and Lennie Small arrive at a ranch near Soledad southeast of Salinas, California. George is an intelligent and cynical man, and Lennie is a large man with limited mental abilities. They are migrant field workers who want to "work up a stake" in order to settle down on their own piece of land. Lennie's part of the dream, which he never tires of hearing George describe, is merely to tend to (and touch) soft rabbits on the farm. In the beginning George protects Lennie by telling him that if he (Lennie) gets in trouble George won't let him "tend them rabbits." They have fled a previous job in Weed where they were run out of town after Lennie's love of stroking soft things resulted in an accusation of attempted rape when he touched a young woman's dress. In a textbook example of foreshadowing, Lennie kills his pet mouse and a puppy by stroking them too roughly.

I chose to tell you about this book because I learned the other day that it was challenged in my town while I lived here. The ALA lists it as one of the most challenged books of the twentieth century:
Challenged as a summer youth program reading assignment in Chattanooga, Tennessee (1989) because "Steinbeck is known to have had an anti business attitude." In addition, "he was very questionable as to his patriotism."

My first reaction was that, instead of banning the book, those folks should have wanted to ban John Steinbeck from Chattanooga. Their reasoning was ridiculous. But my town was neither the first nor the last to ban or challenge Of Mice and Men. It was banned in Ireland (1953) and challenged in the Normal, Illinois Community High Schools (2003). To see the 50-year-long list of places that opposed Of Mice and Men between 1953 to 2003, read the ALA list.

I suggest you get a copy of this 107-page novella and read it next week during Banned Books Week (September 27 through October 4). If this book doesn't pique your interest, there's a long list on that ALA page.:

The Great Gatsby ~ by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Catcher in the Rye ~ by J. D. Salinger
The Grapes of Wrath ~ by John Steinbeck
To Kill a Mockingbird ~ by Harper Lee
The Color Purple ~ by Alice Walker
Ulysses ~ by James Joyce
Beloved ~ by Toni Morrison
The Lord of the Flies ~ by William Golding
1984 ~ by George Orwell
Lolita ~ by Vladmir Nabokov
Of Mice and Men ~ by John Steinbeck
Catch-22 ~ by Joseph Heller
Brave New World ~ by Aldous Huxley
The Sun Also Rises ~ by Ernest Hemingway
As I Lay Dying ~ by William Faulkner
A Farewell to Arms ~ by Ernest Hemingway
Heart of Darkness ~ by Joseph Conrad
Their Eyes were Watching God ~ by Zora Neale Hurston
Invisible Man ~ by Ralph Ellison
Song of Solomon ~ by Toni Morrison
Gone with the Wind ~ by Margaret Mitchell
Native Son ~ by Richard Wright
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest ~ by Ken Kesey
Slaughterhouse Five ~ by Kurt Vonnegut
For Whom the Bell Tolls ~ by Ernest Hemingway
The Call of the Wild ~ by Jack London
Go Tell It on the Mountain ~ by James Baldwin
All the King's Men ~ by Robert Penn Warren
The Lord of the Rings ~ by J. R. R. Tolkien
The Jungle ~ by Upton Sinclair
Lady Chatterley's Lover ~ by D. H. Lawrence
A Clockwork Orange ~ by Anthony Burgess
In Cold Blood ~ by Truman Capote
Satanic Verses ~ by Salman Rushdie
Sons and Lovers ~ by D. H. Lawrence
Cat's Cradle ~ by Kurt Vonnegut
A Separate Peace ~ by John Knowles
Naked Lunch ~ by William S. Burroughs
Women in Love ~ by D. H. Lawrence
The Naked and the Dead ~ by Norman Mailer
Tropic of Cancer ~ by Henry Miller
An American Tragedy ~ by Theodore Dreiser
Rabbit, Run ~ by John Updike
If you want another list of books to consider, take a look at those in my recent post about Banned Books Week.

How many on this list of 43 have you read? I've read about half of the books on this list, 22 to be exact.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Anonymous has a few good ones, like this

"A Freudian slip is when you say one thing and mean your mother."

Monday, September 8, 2008

My favorite humor writer

My favorite humor writer, Madelein Begun Kane (a "recovering lawyer"), has won the 2008 Robert Benchley Society Award For Humor. Her prize-winning column, Guide for the Opera Impaired, includes this bit about what should comprise an opera:

"The Uniform Opera Plot Act" a/k/a "Leave No Opera Hater Behind," which I've reproduced here for your convenience:

Whereas, Opera is an elitist art which shouldn't be funded by the NEA; and
Whereas, Nobody understands it.
Now, therefore, all opera plots shall be as follows:
ACT ONE: Man and woman meet and fall in love, and everything is hunky-dory.
ACT TWO: An obstacle to man and woman's happiness rears its ugly head. It may be another man, another woman, one or more parents, a terrible misunderstanding, a war, or a dread disease. This obstacle shall make both of them (and the audience) miserable for an interminable period of time.
ACT THREE: The suffering man and woman bemoan their tragic circumstances at the top of their lungs for at least one hour. Right before the final curtain, the soprano (ie., the very large woman who's given you a terrible headache) dies. The entire audience cheers, and she takes many bows, mistakenly thinking the cheers are for her singing ... and not her death.
Now run straight over to Mad Kane's blog and read the whole prize-winning column: Guide for the Opera Impaired. It's a scream. Read more about her in an article about the humor award, which also has a video of her reading one of her humor columns.