Thursday, August 14, 2014

the man booker prize is taking over the world.

Maybe you've heard, but the Man Booker Prize is now open to Americans. Those priggy, unposh English-speakers over here in Amurrrica.

Previously, the prize had been reserved for novels whose author's hail from Britain, Ireland, and the British Commonwealth. That there even still is a Commonwealth at all seems so very vintage to me. Older than vintage. Antique. It harkens to days of imperial rule and bossy monarchs. Well, it is the most prestigious literary prize under the Union Jack.

But, we aren't here to discuss Britain's secret (and maybe not so secret) desire to get back to its old prime. We are here to talk about this year's long-listed novels for the Man Booker Prize. There's been some controversy over whether it should have been open at all. Here, the UK Independent expresses "shock, as Man Booker prize plans to consider Americans." Shock! Shock, they say. . . rather, they exclaim, over pints at a pub and tight accents.

But, I get it. The Man Booker was distinctive as to who could play. Now it's open to nearly any English speaking novel writer. Before I knew I'd get a taste of colonial India, or upper crust London, or snappy New Zealand. Areas of which I have no life experience. There was a vibe, a setting, a feeling along with the Man Booker nominees. For me, they were going to be (often, though not always) different from what I regularly read. They were definitely going to have a setting I was not accustomed to. Now, it's open-game. I don't entirely disagree with Jim Crace's statement that the prize would lose focus, lose its "sense of the Commonwealth" or Melvin Bragg's notion that it would lose its "distinctiveness." But, did many of the Canadian novels in the past really feel all that different form an American novel? Some will staunchly argue that Canadians and Americans aren't the same. Sure, they aren't, but if you've ever been to both countries and met people of both nationalities, they're pretty darn similar and you would be hard pressed to tell the difference. When I got to Canada, which is often, I don't feel like I should be drinking tea, playing rounders, and watching the Manchester United.

That said, I don't have a lot in the ring. I am happy to read any good book, no matter where it hails from. I'll be interested to read the Americans that have been long-listed this year. I want to see if and how they feel different. And after this, will the Man Booker prize nominees be distinctive from other books or will it just be a good-book-prize?

Here's the long-list of this year's contenders. Like last year, I'll be blogging over at BookerMarks as I and other book geeks bloggers share our reviews, feelings, and coverage of this year's prize.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

one more thing: stories and other stories.

I used to have a massive lit crush on Jonathan Safran Foer. Well. . . move over, there's a new Jewish-geeky-lit sheriff in town!

I was a fan of The Office. I have since become a fan of the hilarious Mindy Kaling. We'd be friends. Also, I now know I'd be friends with B.J. Novak too. He was the intern in The Office. He occasionally shows up on Mindy's show. (See that, I said "Mindy." Or I could just say "Min," since we're pals and all.) Novak is also a writer. Not some half-ass actor-writer like James Franco. A good writer. His work has been in literary journals, or "lit mags," as we wannabe writers call them.

His book of short stories, One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories is absolutely hysterical. I knew from the get-go that it would be. The opening story is a telling of what happened after the tortoise beat the hare in that race. The rematch. Uh yeah. Those kinds of stories. What happens when an artificial intelligence robot falls in love? Defect! Returned to manufacturer!

Some of the stories are nearly one-liners. Funny little anecdotes or jokes he probably came up with on the fly. Every once in a while I wasn't terribly impressed. But that was rare. When Elvis staged his own death to become an Elvis impersonator to become more centered and connected with his own Elvis-ness, I knew I'd like to be friends with Novak.

You too can harbor fantasies of funny and intelligent writer friends. Read this book. Then we can stalk him creepily together. Hi, Beej, ya listening? Call me.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

why hello there.

It's been quite a while since I've blogged. Partially it is because I'm a new mom and therefore exhausted and overwrought. But it is really in large part due to the fact that I've barely been reading. Somehow, when the baby goes to sleep, I find the need to clean or sleep. Or sleep and clean. Or stare at my husband with a "what did we get ourselves into?" look. Mostly the latter. There's very little TV being watched. There's very little getting done 'round these parts lately. Everything is very baby-centric. BUT. But, I'm coming back out of postpartum retirement with a new verve for writing, reading, and blogging.

My biggest news is that I've left my job to stay home with my daughter. I got paid too little to do too much and childcare is just too expensive. I was only back at work for about two months after my return to the office after maternity leave. I didn't get a cent for maternity leave, so it's not like I got paid for months of not working and then just left.

So here I am. A stay-at-home mom. It's not what I had planned. But I'm kind of excited. Also kind of scared. But, I know I won't regret staying home with my daughter. Oh sure, there will be days. WEEKS, that I wish I could leave her with a nanny or some wolves and go into an office to stimulate my brain. But overall, I'm feeling good about it. I am also into the fact that I'm not just staying at home with the baby. I am embarking on a freelance career! I am hoping to parlay writing and design into work. Real pay-me for my talents work. At my previous job I created all our newsletters, flyers, mailings, advertisements, brochures, etc. I've made some invitations and been consulted to help design rooms in peoples' houses occasionally. I am writing up essays on motherhood, about religion, and about Seattle (where I live.) I am re-focusing on my fiction short stories too.

So . . . I return to the Well Read Fish with a quill in my hand, a pencil behind my ear, and my fingers flying across the keyboard. I hope you haven't forgotten about me and I hope you'll join me as I take a new turn in my life and share it with you here.

Friday, June 20, 2014

#watchyourchildren

There's been much in the media lately about putting down technology for the sake of your children. I heartily agree and, like many, I heartily struggle with it.

A few months ago, I came to the conclusion that I didn't want my baby to see me on my phone all the time. This was quite a challenge, given how frequent a baby needs nursing and how desperate a new mom seeks outlets and news from the "outside." I read via an e-book app. I checked social media. I bought things. I pinned. I blogged. I texted. And when baby was playing and smiling, I snapped photos and videos. I checked the time.

Since then, if she is nursing and awake, I try to be technology-free. I talk to her, rub her head or her back, kiss her hands, cut her nails. It gets boring. I twitch for lack of hashtags or buzz lists. I've become a junkie. I hate that. But, I'm trying to relish this short lived time that my daughter and I have together and have been keeping the phone out of arms reach while nursing.

This still leaves many hours when I want to check my phone. And I still do it. But I've been working on leaving it behind. And I have gotten better at not checking my email, Facebook, and texting all the time. But then I realized I still frequently logged screen time just by checking the hour on my phone. (How long until the sweet relief of my husband's return from work? When was the last time she napped? Has the mail come yet?)

So what to do? Time is a metric that moms need - for a busy schedule, for tracking their new baby's naps and feeds. The thing that seems obvious, but took a while to figure out, is to go old school. A watch. A clock you wear. On your arm. With which to check the time.

Having none of these nearly obsolete items anymore, I purchased one in minutes (via a phone app: palm/head/smack.) But now I feel a little more elegant (somehow a watch, like a piece of jewelry, elevates the ubiquitous mom uniform of yoga pants and nursing tanks (only slightly.) More importantly, it allows me to be able to leave the darn phone behind so I can be part of my daughter's life, not just document it.

I want to watch my child as she rolls over. I want to watch her walk. Her soccer games. Her dance. In fact, I may want to dance with her. I want to watch her as she smiles. At me. I want to be present in her life. I don't want her to think that a phone or tablet or screen is in any way more valuable than her sweet little life.

So join me! Do what I did and put on a watch and #watchyourchildren!
(Why yes, I just hastagged that directive. I'm not eschewing the modern age altogether!)

Friday, June 13, 2014

fun finds friday.

via Crave Studio
Moonrise Kingdom print via Lauren Gregg


bank via mmim
via adatine

sweet baby headband from five gates boutique

Thursday, June 12, 2014

breaking news: google acquires uganda.



On Google’s homepage yesterday small cartoon doe-eyed Africans peeked out from within the “o”s and leaned up against the green “l” sipping coffee. As with Earth Day and Albert Einstein’s birthday-this new logo was also in celebration; Google has acquired Uganda. In constant internal tumult, Uganda seems an unnatural purchase for Google, who has recently bought out many other countries. Vernon Howell, spokesperson for Google International Acquisitions (GIA) says that the purchase of Uganda serves as a platform as it expands into Africa. “It is a mutual transaction, with both parties benefiting,” he insists.

Google will benefit from the Ugandan coffee trade and local labor and they are strongly considering moving their headquarters from Mountain View, California to the hills outside of the Ugandan capital, Kampala. What the Ugandan people are to gain is up for debate. Secret business plans about this deal were leaked to Reuters and the Associated Press.  These plans show that Google intends to supply their “employees” (whom they will call “missionaries”) with a bevy of Google-inflected bonuses: flat-screen televisions, internet stations, and encouraging email-only communication. In doing so, they hope to encourage the missionaries to see the benefit of Google as a lifestyle: Human as an IP address. Once the initial orientation is through, Google will supply the missionaries with pamphlets and flyers to hand out in their villages. With the literacy rate of Uganda at 69.9%, the pamphlets will use pictograms: basic figures rejoicing in a primary color God. The purpose is to rid the natives of their customs and encourage Google as religion, says one GIA employee who wishes to remain anonymous. Thereby, Google will become a de facto God.

Patriarchal, possibly. Imperial, perhaps. Cult-like, certainly.  However, already, like other Google ventures, Ugandan stock has risen to unprecedented levels, increasing 40% since the acquisition. The Eastern European countries like Latvia and Azerbaijan that Google acquired last year have been cultivating the relationship and are “enjoying a Google lifestyle,” says Howell. The difference with Uganda is that this country may become the Google home base. The militant factions, and the AIDS crisis that have plagued Uganda will certainly have to be addressed if Google wishes to make this takeover a success; and success is what Google does best. But, the question remains: whose definition of success are they going by?


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

other chapters and other verses.

Just got this book. Ah-mah-zing. The Art of Neil Gaiman.
How would you like to eat here?
On things that are deathtraps, by the lovely Leslie at B+Boston.
I quite enjoyed this piece in Time magazine about paid paternity leave. I didn't get any paid maternity leave and it still rankles.

I'm really a sucker for animals. I can spend hours on Cute Overload. I cry about the kangaroos in Canberra. I can no longer blame this on the pregnancy hormones. This video had me sobbing, naturally. Sometimes someone just needs a hug.