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seattle journal #16 - Seattle - Nov. 2 to Nov. 21, 2012

We had headed north to work with a relative and experience a climate change of our own. And then, after some chaos, computer dementia, and constant rain (according to weather nerds, the last half of November is the wettest time of the entire year), we headed back to California.   

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crowingbook to crow about   not the best or the worst   special type of book special creative design/execution   p no enjoyment, but no warts



mr penumbra's 24-hour bookstore












Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan (F/288p) 11.16.12

This is a most curious book about one of my very favorite topics, bookstores. Mr. Penumbra's bookstore is used as the starting place from which a page-turning story unfolds about a mysterious and world-wide society. Countless computers and the use of Google (from the inside) play an upfront role in trying to solve some of the book's mysteries, thus there's obligatory nerd language and techie-adoration involved. I have never been a lover of mysteries, and while I truly admired the writing of several parts of the book, I was disappointed by how far afield this "bookstore" novel traveled from the shelves. I guess I'm just in a book nerd state of mind.


     A few lines that caught my mind's eye.


I force myself to take shallow breaths; I ask my hamster-heart to please, please slow down.


When you read a book, the story definitely happens inside your head. When you listen, it seems to happen in a little cloud all around it, like a fuzzy knit cap pulled down over your eyes.


"Google," he breaths. There's a long pause. "How curious." He straightens. He has the strangest expression on his face — the emotive equivalent of 404 PAGE NOT FOUND.


The tops of the shelves loom high above, and it's dark up there—the books are packed in close, and they don't let any light through. The air might be thinner, too. I think I see a bat.



we othersloss libraryanotherelsewhereend












We Others: New & Selected Stories by Steven Millhauser (F/387p) 11.14.12
Millhauser always delivers. His short stories aren't loud and flashy, they are simply written superbly and seem so human to me. He reveals startling shifts in plotlines and wild flights of fancy, but they're cleverly understated and seem honest. Some of the stories were familiar, being that this is a collection of new and "selected stories", but who doesn't want to read an excellent short story again? The new selections contain several that are really staying with me in my mind as I move through each day: The Slap, The White Glove, The Invasion from Outer Space, The Next Thing, and We Others.


     Memorable lines.


He's nine going on ten, skinny-tall, shoulder blades pushing out like things inside a paper bag....


I went too bed with a feeling of uneasiness and a heaviness on my chest. I immediately took out my stethoscope and listened to my heart and lungs. As I did so I recalled my father pressing the cold circle against my chest and saying: "That is the sound of your life."


For three days I remained in that attic, as if I'd been flung into prison. At some point during the second day I burst into another laugh: the short laugh of one who knows. Otherwise I was silent as a fog.




The Loss Library and Other Unfinished Stories by Ivan Vladislavic (NF/114p) 11.9.12
What if going through daily life yielded brilliant ideas for your writing, BUT you lost them? The Loss Library presents this calamity, as well as others, in a fine collection of writings. 


special type of book Simply stunning. The jacket is fine collection great paper and illustration. The entire book exudes quality materials.The attached illustrations for each piece are all different in their own charming way, but also retain a writing theme with scattered letters throughout each one. It's a book that feels good to read.



Another Way the River Has by Robin Cody (NF/189p) 11.8.12
A dear friend gave me this collection of essays and writings on the waterways near Portland.


Elsewhere by Richard Russo (NF/243p) 11.4.12
Russo writes about the overwhelming presence of his mother in his life. She had some problems (OCD and the like) and Russo didn't realize for many years that he was playing the role of her enabler in her sickness — to the hilt. Concerns and responsibilities involving his mother were a constant in his early and adult life. This is a very moving portrait of these lives linked so closely together. The conclusions that Russo comes to in the book's last pages are very powerful and moving.


     A few telling lines.


One of her most cherished (and to my mind absurd) convictions had always been that she and I were essentially the same.


But then my mother was forever misjudging—not just distance and direction but the sturdiness of the barriers erected between her and what she so desperately desired. I should know. I was one of them.


The End of Illness by David B. Angus (NF/318p) 11.2.12
Here I was reading a book on the practice and malpractice of medicine, which is not a place my reading eyes travel often. I learned a great deal about medicine and the studies and results that are constantly coming out, and contradicting each other. After a while, I found myself wondering how anyone could know much of anything ... for sure. There are some very thought-provoking theories coming in from all sides, and in the end I came away from the book with some basics that while not new, they were put together well in his summary. 


crowing May We Be Forgiven by A.M. Homes (F/480p) 11.1.12
At first I resisted buying another hardcover piece of fiction, but when I finally did, it was a brilliant move into a extremely hilariously funny, inventive and twisted book. Homes can pack so much into a few pages that when she's on, SHE'S ON. Her character's dialogue goes on some very clever routes, that get you to wondering, and then really deliver. This was the best bit of writing I've read in some time.




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