The Dreaded Act of Suitcase Packing

I am oudda here again. This time it’s a trip south to speak at the PA School LIbrarian’s Association conference. My homies.

Not sure when/if I’ll have Internet from now until Sunday. Think of me fondly while I’m offline and read a couple pages in a book. For fun.

As a matter of fact, let’s make that the question you can answer for me: what are you reading now? Is it any good? Why/why not?

A rant-free post

No, really. I promise. Because I am in a good mood. A great mood. Georgetown won yesterday and SUNY Albany almost beat UConn. I love UConn, but come on – how can you not root for Albany in that situation? I love March.

Another reason for feeling so great today? The farmers down the road from us have started boiling their maple sap. It doesn’t matter how much it snows this week, Spring has arrived.

This means it’s time for me to hit the road again. Tomorrow I catch a plane to San Diego. (Tough, I know. Just pray that the Stinky Guy doesn’t sit next to me again.) I’ll be speaking in LaJolla on Monday, at the Chadwick School in Palos Verdes on Tuesday and Wednesday, and I’ll be giving a public presentation at the Cerritos Library on Friday evening. I come home a week from today.

One of yesterday’s highlights was a trip to the library that resulted in an armful of books for the trip. A lot of them are fantasies – it’s about time I read more of those. So I have the perfect Saturday lined up: writing, reading, basketball, and packing. OK, so it would be really perfect if I didn’t have to pack. But nobody gets a perfect life, so I can deal with it. I’ll get BH to build a fire in the fireplace tonight. That will balance out the sadness of packing my suitcase again.

What are the ingredients of your perfect Saturday in March?

Category 4 books

(See yesterday’s post if you have no idea what a Category 4 book is.)

I’m sure I’ll think of others, but these leap to mind:

Holes Louis Sachar
The Dark is Rising Susan Cooper
Dubliners, Ulysses James Joyce
1st Harry Potter J.K. Rowling
The Time Travelers Wife Audrey Niffenegger
American Gods Neil Gaiman (all his stuff, really)
all of Elizabeth George’s mysteries
most of P.D. James’ mysteries

What are your Category 4s?

(BTW, Dad’s poetry reading was wonderful!)

I want a month of muse

The only problem with the weekend was that it was only a weekend. I read Good Faith by Jane Smiley and Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. I liked both but didn’t love either, which got me thinking about the way in which I classify books.

This is how books break down in my head:

Category 1 – yuck. I couldn’t get past Chapter 3. I always give a book three chapters or thirty pages. If the author doesn’t hook me by then, the book goes back to the library.

Category 2 – meh. There was something in the book that kept me reading – a character or plot twist, f. ex. – but the whole story didn’t hang together for me. This is a very useful category because books like this help me understand where my own weaknesses as a writer are.

Category 3 – good enough. About 85% of what I read falls in this category. I kept reading because I was engaged in the characters and the story, I closed the book with a feeling of satisfaction. The author did her/his job and I will look for more that s/he has written. Usually there was one quality of the book that stood out for me. In Good Faith, it was the evocation of the early 1980’s, in Gilead, it was the language and voice that was so perfect for the story itself. But the book was not good enough to break into ….

… Category 4 – amazing. These are the books I rave about and buy multiple copies of for friends. These are the books that make me laugh out loud or weep. These are the books that take me away from this world and transport me into the world of the story – so much so that I lose track of time and get in trouble for it. Only a couple of books a year fall into this category. (Sometimes a year will go by without me reading a book that I feel is good enough for Category 4. That is depressing.)

In addition to reading, I worked on a couple picture book manuscripts and wrote in my journal (the old-fashioned one) for the first time in years. BH and I took a long walk up at Fort Ontario when the sun was shining. There is a small graveyard there where Revolutionary War soldiers are interred, and the body of a baby born while her father was posted to the fort. There was mist on the horizon. The line where the lake met the sky was blurred and lavender. Hunks of ice bumped against the shore. BH made the best batch of chili ever last night and we ate it while watching the March Madness selection show. Eight Big East teams!

If you live in the area and are looking for something to do tonight, my dad, Frank Halse, is giving a poetry reading at the Mexico Public Library at 6:30pm. He turns 79 in a couple weeks and he is still writing new poetry and giving public readings. I think that’s cool.