Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Home Alone

Last week was Spring Break for my two daughters. This year my husband, Geoff, took Katie and Madeleine to AZ for a visit. (We used to live there, Geoff still has business there and my in-laws winter there). And me? I stayed home. Alone! That's right. I had the entire house to myself for a week. Eight days and 7 nights of peace and quiet and no distractions. Can you say heaven?

I had a wonderful week full of a good balance of activities and quiet time. I attended two shows (one in NYC), a movie, a museum exhibit, a literary performance, a garden show, got a pedicure, got together with two HS friends I hadn't seen in 28 years and had dinner out with a friend and another dinner with family. All that in addition to enjoying quiet mornings and evenings., having complete control of the remote control and the sofa and I didn't have to share the bathroom with two teenage girls. What more can a girl ask for?

There is something very rejuvenating about having your house to yourself for an extended period of time with few or no obligations. As wives and moms, we are constantly being pulled in a million different directions. We are always "on" - dealing with the distractions of our own lives and the needs and obligations of the others in our families. And as wonderful as vacations and girls weekends are, somehow having the solitude and serenity that comes with being alone in your own home is actually more relaxing and renewing than time away from home and family.

For all you harried and overworked wives and moms out there, I highly encourage you to try to arrange your own Home Alone Vacation. Even if only for a night or a weekend. Don't feel guilty about it. It's OK, healthy even, to take this time to be alone. To get in touch with your own needs and to quiet your mind. Everyone deserves a little R & R. Even wives and moms.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Book Review: The Postmistress by Sarah Blake

The Postmistress
by Sarah Blake takes place during WWII and tells the story of three different women and how their lives interconnect due to their personal experiences of the war. Two of these women live at the very tip of Cape Cod. Iris is the middle aged postmistress of tiny Franklin, MA and she takes her job as postmistress very seriously. She believes in the importance of her job - especially during war time. Sweet, fragile, Emma is a new bride and new to Franklin. She has recently arrived in Franklin as the wife of Will, the town's young doctor. The third woman is Frankie Bard, a young American woman living in London and working as a radio broadcaster bringing the war home to Americans. Like Iris, Frankie believes strongly in the importance of her job. She is determined to transmit the real face of war home to America, where she feels everyone is very insulated from the truth.

The Postmistress is a good, if not great, book. I enjoyed the characters and the story. Frankie's story was especially compelling as she is concerned about the fact that Americans living stateside do not truly understand the effects of the war on the ordinary citizens of London and the rest of Europe. And it is true, that most of the residents of Franklin are not at all concerned about the war reaching America's shores or effecting them in any personal way. Frankie must censor what she says in her broadcasts due to regulations and she finds herself frustrated by this. She decides to travel to France in an attempt to gather more data on the lives of civilians. This aspect of the story is especially relevant now with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As much as I enjoyed The Postmistress the absolute best part of the story was the author's essay, "The Story Behind the Story", at the end of the book. In this essay Blake explains how she came to write The Postmistress and how the characters came into being. And further how she connected them into a story. Many books have author's notes that talk about their research and what inspired them to write that particular story. But Blake's essay is more than that. I can't really explain how, but she goes beyond merely stating the genesis of her ideas and her essay provides a clear and precise insight into the creation of this story and these characters. If you are a writer of fiction or a bibliophile, I think you will find this 4 page essay illuminating. Whether you read the book or not.

I would give The Postmistress 3 STARS - I liked it.
I would give "The Story Behind the Story" 5 STARS - I loved it.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Ad Free Blogging

Today I was checking out a blog that is new to me (On The Refrigerator Door) and I saw this ad-Free BLOG button on the sidebar. Well, of course it caught my attention. You all know how I feel about ads, giveaways, product reviews and follow me and I'll follow you, etc. So I clicked through and this is what I found:

By using this icon on my website I am stating...

1. That I am opposed to the use of corporate advertising on blogs.
2. That I feel the use of corporate advertising on blogs devalues the medium.
3. That I do not accept money in return for advertising space on my blog.

Amen! There is even more information in a Frequently Asked Questions link in which the founder of this movement explains his/her philosophy about advertising pervading life in general. It's very interesting, but what speaks to me the most is those three points listed above. Especially #2, which states my feelings very succinctly and very well. Advertising devalues blogging, in my opinion. The fact that I feel this way probably means I'll never have thousands of followers or hundreds of page views a day. And as much as I'd love to have loads of comments and visitors every day, I'm not willing to sell my soul compromise my integrity to accomplish that.

I realize that I may offend some you by stating this. Please know that that is not my intention. I am a firm believer in "to each his own". I read and enjoy bloggers who do use advertising, giveaways and product reviews on their blogs. The reason I am sharing this is not to bash anyone, but because I know that many of you feel the same way and I wanted to share this "movement" with you. Just like when I went Award Free and joined the Blog Guilt Free Revolution all those months ago, I don't expect everyone to agree with me. And I may lose followers over this, but it's something I feel strongly about for my blog and I wanted to share it with like minded bloggers.

So how about you? What are your feelings about advertising on blogs? Do you use ads? Why or why not?

As always, all opinions and views are welcome here on Pam's Perspective. I just ask that all comments being respectful and kind. No nasty or inflammatory remarks will be tolerated. As I've said before, I have a delete button and I'm not afraid to use it. ;)

Friday, April 16, 2010

Pulitzer Redux

Thanks to Kristen of Scrappin' My Bliss, I read a fascinating article in yesterday's Boston Globe about the the 2010 Pulitzer Prize winning book Tinkers. Now I'm even more excited to read this book.

Not only is Tinkers Paul Harding's first novel (!) it was published, not by a giant in the publishing world, but by a small publishing house. - Bellevue Literary Press. And its initial run was a paltry 3,500 copies. And Harding's advance? A meager $1,000 (apparently a tiny fraction of the typical advance). So how did this novel, which was originally rejected and then sat in a drawer for three years, not only get published, but win the Pulitzer? Word of mouth! I kid you not. It was a real grassroots effort sparked by "personal interactions between publishers, booksellers, and reviewers that launched the book the old-fashioned way." Wow! I love this!

And what's even more unbelievable is that no one called Harding to tell him he had won. He, of course, didn't even dream that he would be the winner and he found out when he checked online to see who had won! OMG! If this isn't a quintessential American success story, I don't know what is. Congratulations to Paul Harding. What a way to make your debut in the publishing world.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

2010 Pulitzer Prize Winner

On April 12, the 2010 Pulitzer Prizes were announced. The prize for fiction was awarded to Tinkers by Paul Harding. I was so surprised when I read this because just the day before I received an email from Amazon with a list of recommended books. None of which I had heard about, by the way. (That always makes me nervous. But, I digress). One of the books listed was Tinkers! So when I read the Pulitzer announcement I felt vindicated that not only had I heard of Tinkers, I had even added it to my "to be read" list. Only problem is, now it's going to take a long time before I can get my hands on a copy. Oh well. Something to look forward to. Here's hoping I enjoy it as much as I did last year's winner - Olive Kitteridge.

Click here to see the complete list of Pulitzer Prize winners.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Writers and Photographers Wanted

Are you a creative writer looking for more readers? Or maybe you really love to take photos and would like a place to showcase them. Well, have I got news for you.

Words of Wisdom (WOW), the new blog that Sandy and I started three weeks ago to highlight bloggers whose main focus is great content, have added two new features to WOW's menu. We will still be featuring Bloggers of Note (BON) Monday, Wednesday and Friday, but now we will also be hosting Photo Gallery and Writer's Forum on Sundays. So if you have some great photos, short stories, essays or poetry to share, please come on by and add your link. Both the Photo Gallery and Writer's Forum are available now. Head on over to add your work and to check out the great photos and writings of other WOW members (WOWers?, WOWzers?, WOWies?).

Wondering what the heck I'm talking about? Haven't heard of WOW? Learn more at What is WOW.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Book Review: A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore

A Gate at the Stairs
by Lorrie Moore is one of those books I kept hearing about. I think I first saw a book review in print somewhere or other. From the summary of the plot, it didn't sound all that appealing, so I didn't add it to my tbr list. Then I read a review on someone's blog. Ah, that book again. The review was good, but I still wasn't interested. But then I started to see it reviewed over and over again and all the reviews were glowing. I figured I should check it out.

A Gate at the Stairs tells the story of Tassie Keltjin, a college student in the Midwest. Tassie takes a job as a nanny for a white couple who are adopting a biracial little girl - three year old Emmie. In addition, Tassie is experiencing her first serious romance with a fellow college student and also dealing with the reality of her growing independence from her family.

At first, the story really did grab me. But then I began to notice something about the writing. I couldn't really put my finger on it. The writing was good, very good - but not in a way I could describe. It wasn't poetic or clever or beautiful. And then I figured it out - it was intelligent.

And that's why it lost me. I think this book is what you would call a "literary novel". And I usually don't like novels that are too "literary". Somehow I always feel that the story takes a back seat to the writing. And I'm just not intellectual enough to appreciate that kind of book. I appreciate good writing and I consider myself to be a discerning reader, but I read for the story first and the writing second. Unfortunately, the story in A Gate at the Stairs was sacrificed for amazing writing, in my opinion.

The other problem I had with Moore's "intelligent" writing is that she spent pages and pages and pages describing the thought process of Tassie, the main character. At first I enjoyed reading Moore's deft description of the inner workings of Tassie's mind, but after a while I just wanted to get back to the story.

Ah, the story. What exactly was the story in A Gate at the Stairs? From my perspective, there were three very serious and important story lines in this book. And Moore didn't do any of them justice. She started and stopped each one without ever really fully telling any. I really wanted to know more about the main storyline. Why did she need to add two more unfinished plots to this book. It felt very disjointed to me.

Maybe that's the point. Maybe A Gate at the Stairs is supposed to be a reader's view into Tassie's mind - hence all the pages and pages of her thoughts. And these three plot lines were all different things Tassie was dealing with in her life. And of course, in real life nothing gets resolved in 321 pages (or one semester of college). But for me, that adds up to a very unsatisfactory read. Even if it is intelligent and literary.

Have any of you read A Gate at the Stairs? What did you think? I'd love to hear from you. Especially if you loved it. What was it about that book that you loved?

Iwould give A Gate at the Stairs 2 STARS - It was OK.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Weekly Geeks - The Birth of a Reader

Weekly Geeks is a weekly book meme in which a question is posed to get bibliophiles blogging about a specific book related topic. I don't always remember to check Weekly Geeks and I'm not always inspired to answer the questions, but this week's question brought to mind a life changing moment in my life.

For this week's Weekly Geek installment, we're asked "to think back to the moment when you realized "I am a reader!"

I can remember this moment vividly. I was 10 years old and in the fifth grade. I had made a new friend, Kim, who always seemed to have an interesting book in her desk. I asked her about the source of these books and she replied that she got them at the public library. What? The public library? I knew about the school library - we had weekly library time- but I didn't know anything about the public library. (Not exactly sure why my parents never introduced this free public institution to my brother and me. It may have had something to do with being young and unsophisticated and simply being focused on making ends meet. Truthfully, I don't think it ever occurred to them). Anyway, I asked my mom if she would take me to the library. Next thing I knew I was standing in the children's room of my town library and the kind librarian was showing me around. I was awestruck. I couldn't believe that such a heavenly place existed. And I could take out as many books as I wanted. The choices were limitless. I can picture this moment so clearly. The sun coming in the window above the low bookcase against the wall. I can see my ten year old self choosing a Katie John book (does anyone remember this series by Mary Calhoun) and taking it to the desk and checking it out with my brand new library card. I had always enjoyed reading and as cash strapped as my parents were, I was always allowed to purchase books from the monthly Scholastic book order. But it was this moment, this defining moment, when the world of books and reading was revealed to me. My options were limitless. The world was my oyster. I was a Reader, with a capital R.


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