January 12th, 2009

Finally, some GOOD news about reading

Literary reading rates among adults has finally ticked up, after years of decline, according to a new survey released by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Part of the increase was attributed to :"community-based programs like the “Big Read,” Oprah Winfrey’s book club, the huge popularity of book series like “Harry Potter” and Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight,” as well as the individual efforts of teachers, librarians, parents and civic leaders to create “a buzz around literature that’s getting people to read more in whatever medium."

Click here to read more.

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A book artist preserves memories for women with Alzheimers

You simply have to click through to this story to read it, because the photos are so beautiful. [Full disclosure: I've added one here, although I probably shouldn't have.] A Portland artist, Shu-Ju Wang, has worked with women to create unique books that capture the memories of women with Alzheimers. “A few years ago, Wang's "American mom," as Wang calls her, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's and began a quick decline. And so Wang, a painter, printmaker and book artist, found herself thinking deeply about the nature of memory.

“In 2007, she first addressed the topic through a series of "pillow books." Using Print Gocco, a tabletop printing system, Wang printed images on tulle and then attached them to pillow shapes, evoking the "connection between sleep and the formation of memories." The tulle images were nearly impossible to see by themselves, but the more layers you added, the more certain they became. Images appeared, and just as easily disappeared.”

My dad, Hank Henry, died from Alzheimers five years ago. Sometimes I fear that the same fate lies in store for me. He was always a big reader. Toward the end he would sit with a magazine on his lap and turn the pages, but he seemed to be just going through the motions, not really reading. He forgot what book I was working on, but for a long time he knew he was safe to ask about “the book.” Not long before he died, he didn’t even know my name. I remember his look of embarrassment when the nurse asked him who I was.

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In need of a distraction? Then pick up The Intruders

Yesterday, I did something I only do once a year or so - I spent hours reading! The book was Michael Marshall's The Intruders.

As a reviewer, I always wonder why publishers bother to send me boxes of paperbacks. I'm not going to review a book that came out in hardcover two years ago. I can sort of see the sense of sending me the previous book if its a series, although that assumes I have the time and energy to read two (or more) books to produce one review.

But The Intruders caught my eye. And I'm so glad I read it. It's mystery with a sci-fi or horror aspect, kind of Stephen King-like. So you can read the book as a reader and enjoy the page-turning plot.

But you can also read it as a writer. It's a mix of third person and first person, which worked well, and you don't see done that often. It allows us to feel the immediacy of someone's wife going missing, as well as jumping from character to character, place to place, as all these various clues gather up.

And another way you can read it as a writer is that this book is all about the voice. Marshall has a distinctive style that is just plain fun to read. Here are three examples:

"He was comfortably overweight, with soft-looking skin and pale wispy hair that looked as if it was rapidly deserting his head to leave him looking to leave him looking even more like a large, confident baby." [Full disclosure: okay, too many uses of the word "look," but I love "comfortably overweight," and "large, confident baby."]

"Finally, she went to ask the neighbors if they had noticed a little girl. On one side was an ancient couple who had been there since the Jurassic period, but whom the O'Donnells barely knew. Neither looked as if they be guaranteed to notice a tactical missile strike on their house."

And how about this as the perfect, understated, and infinitely more creepy way to handle violence:
"Five miles up the road, he opened the window and threw out the first of Karen Reid's teeth."

All I can say is, I hope William Morrow send me an ARC for his new book, Bad Things.

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