how to be

Jul. 1st, 2018 10:15 pm
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Tawanda book group didn't meet last month, so Martha suggested last Sunday that we just get together, whoever was free. We couldn't agree on a movie but Sarah was doing Geeks Who Drink trivia with her friends and invited us along. Our team was Sarah, Martha, me, and Sarah's two friends, who turned out to be two guys she knows from the Sierra Club who play pub trivia a lot. Like, three times a week.

It was fun, so we went back this week, and Martha brought her husband. Martha and Rob are both really nice. Genuinely nice; that is who they are. I am nice at book group because that is what works at book group. I am gentle and diffident; I speak in support of others' points; I do not talk over people; I do not insist that I am right.

Sarah's friends are engineer-types. Guys I could have gone to school with. They know in their heads that even a soft-voiced woman may know things, but they don't really know it in their guts. I had to swing my weight around to get heard. "Rapunzel. Yes, the herb is called rapunzel. Yes, I'm sure. Do you have another idea? Then write it down. Solomon Islands. Dorothy Parker. Train in Vain. Yes I'm sure."

I'm not sure I like being like that in front of Martha and Rob though.
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I just got a library hold pick up notice for The Memory of Water. I've been waiting on it for quite a while; this is the book for SF book group, which meets tomorrow. I was thinking I'd skip the meeting and send my votes for next year's book list in email. But then I wouldn't get to participate in the discussion of the choices.

But I went to the library this morning! And the librarian was shelving holds while I was there, so I checked for my books on her cart too! And Aiko doesn't want another walk. His arthritis was bothering him on the way home. And I have too much to do anyway. Wiscon prep and taxes, most urgently.
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It's time for my SF book group to pick books again. Our fearless leader has chosen:

The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin,
The Power by Naomi Alderman,
An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon,
Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse,
The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline, and
Mapping the Interior by Stephen Graham Jones.

She sorts her other picks into categories, and we get to vote for one from each category.

1. All of these books imagine an alteration in how our world works and people working within or without to change the system.

Walkaway by Cory Doctorow,
An Excess Male by Maggie Shen King,
Autonomous by Annalee Newitz,
Infomocracy by Malka Ann Older

I liked Walkaway, but more for the ideas than the story. I want to read Autonomous and Infomocracy. I think An Excess Male is on the Tiptree honors list.

2. These books take place on alien worlds that work very differently than ours does.

Sea of Rust by C. Robert Cargill,
Amatka by Karin Tidbeck,
Hunger Makes the Wolf by Alex Wells

Am leaning towards Hunger Makes the Wolf.

3. YA Asian American or Pacific Islander authors

The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig,
The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf by Ambelin Kwaymullina,
Warcross by Marie Lu,
The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee

I don't think Australians are Pacific Islanders.

4. Urban Fairy Tales

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert,
The Cruel Prince by Holly Black,
Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeannette Ng,
Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

The Hazel Wood is really good. Strange the Dreamer is still on my to-read list.

5. The New Penny Dreadfuls

The Diabolical Miss Hyde by Viola Carr,
The Dark Days Club by Allison Goodman,
The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss,
Strange Practice by Vivian Shaw

Want to read all of these.

6. Here are some of our group’s favorite reads from last year.

Bird Box by Josh Malerman,
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller,
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders,
We Are Legion by Dennis E. Taylor

I don't want to read Lincoln in the Bardo. I have the impression that it is the kind of literary fiction that uses SF as a metaphor.

I love my SF book group! Have you read any of these? Thumbs up or down?

La Niña

Feb. 19th, 2018 05:47 pm
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Yesterday I had to take my coat off while I was walking to dinner, it was so warm. The temperature had started dropping when we came out of the restaurant. Now it's 10 degrees Fahrenheit. I am disappointed not to go to library book group to discuss Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, but I am not going.
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Tawanda book group has been going for 25 years. We don't actually discuss the book as much as we used to, but we have a book almost every month, and we get together to eat and talk. The host each month picks the book.

I feel like this book group doesn't really like my choices, but it also could be that I always want to discuss the book more than anyone else does. I try to pick short interesting books; I never pick SF any more; I do look at various "book group pick" lists. When I ask the other members to help me choose, they say, "You get to pick whatever you want! You are in control!"

I've got two ideas for my turn this year. I'd definitely pick The Mother Of All Questions except that I chose Solnit's Hope in the Dark last year. We do like talking about politics. We sometimes like to talk about death and grieving. One of our members just lost both her mother and her brother to the flu.

Poll #19520 April book group choice
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 7

What book should I choose for my book group?

View Answers

H is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald
5 (71.4%)

The Mother of All Questions, by Rebecca Solnit
1 (14.3%)

Something else which I will describe in a comment
1 (14.3%)

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I went to Graphic Novel book group once before, to discuss Bitch Planet, when the group leader, Cameron, happened not to be there. He was there today. I don't think I'll be going back.

Maybe he would be diluted in a larger group? There were only four of us. And neither I nor the other two guys, whom I know from SF book group, are very good at grabbing the talking stick. Still Cameron seemed weirdly controlling. I think more than half the time was just Cameron talking, and he didn't leave spaces where other people could start talking if they wanted to; he'd call on us, like, "What did you think of it? Was there anything else that you liked?" And whenever anyone spoke up without being called on he'd say something like, "Yes, go ahead." He'd actually interrupt a person who was speaking in order to give them permission to speak. When he said he was a history teacher I thought, that explains it.


Aug. 29th, 2017 04:28 pm
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Library book group chose books last night. This group reads six books over nine months, and chooses books by voting. I persuaded the group to choose Kindred, by Octavia Butler. The other five books we chose are:

The Sparrow - Mary Doria Russell
A Gentleman in Moscow - Amor Towles
Crossing to Safety - Wallace Stegner
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close - Jonathan Safran Foer
The Good Earth - Pearl Buck

A wide variety!

Classics book group meets every month during the school year. Each CSU grad student or instructor who volunteers to lead a discussion gets to choose the book. The first four books for that group are:

Beloved - Toni Morrison
The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories - H.P. Lovecraft
The Woman Warrior - Maxine Hong Kingston
The Sun Also Rises - Ernest Hemingway

Tawanda book group is the one that has been meeting for 26 years and doesn't really discuss books much any more. Terri hosted this month and asked us each to bring a poem to read. Amy recovered twelve of her steers since last month, but eleven are still lost in the forest so she couldn't afford to take a night off the search. Terri read "Your children are not your children," by Khalil Gibran. I read "Wild Geese". Jo read "Going to Walden," also by Mary Oliver. Kathleen brought something by Wendell Berry, but I don't remember what, because she asked me to read it, and apparently I do not have enough brain to speak in public and put things into longterm memory at the same time. Cate read "It's Time Somebody Told Me," which her mother had cut out from the newspaper, laminated, and carried around in her wallet until she died.
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I'm hosting it at Jo's house, so I have to make food that is transportable. Jo would not mind if I spent the whole day in her kitchen, but I am enough of an introvert that if I spent the whole day with Jo, I would not be able to hold up my corner in the book group discussion, even though I like Jo a lot.

I'm expecting 6-9 people. Jo can't eat gluten. I'm vegetarian. Two of the maybes are Jo's daughter and her partner; I don't know whether they have dietary restrictions.

For pre-meal snacking I have cheese, crackers (gluten and gluten-free), olives, almonds, hummus, peanut dip, broccoli, carrots, celery, romaine leaves, and corn chips. Neal came over for dinner last night and prepared all the vegetables for me!

Dinner is crustless mini spinach quiches (gluten-free) and a vegan but high-protein salad: mixed greens, chickpeas, tomatoes, olives, pickled artichoke hearts, sunflower seeds. I could put some pumpkin seeds on too.

Dessert is blueberry crisp, made with gluten-free flour, and vanilla ice cream. I'll bake the crisp at Jo's while we're eating.

I have three bottles of wine and a gallon of lemonade.

I'm thinking of running to the store for green beans for dipping, more salad dressings, and a loaf of bread. Just in case.

ETA Oh, and the book! It's Rebecca Solnit's Hope in the Dark.
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• What are you reading?

Arabella of Mars, by David Levine. It has a very old-fashioned feel. A sort of Golden Age of Science Fiction or Rudyard Kipling adventure. The setting is Age of Sail in spaaaace, because there is breathable atmosphere out past Mars, navigable by ships with balloons, sails, and oars.

Also a permaculture book.

• What did you recently finish reading?

Penric's Demon, by Lois McMaster Bujold. I liked it! I read the Five Gods novels when they came out; as I remember it, the first was good, the second was better, the third was kind of a mess. This novella is a good small story and satisfying look into what it is like to come into possession of one of the Bastard's demons. (Mostly satisfying; I really wanted to know how Penric is going to cope with his shyness and Desdemona's curiosity on sexual subjects, but all Bujold tells us is that it's awkward.)

• What do you think you’ll read next?

I belong to four book groups. In a perfect world, that would mean one meeting every week. In reality, two of them are slightly erratic and one meets only six times a year, so this month I have five book group meetings from 4-10 to 4-18, one of which I am hosting at someone else's house. (The fifth meeting is because someone in my SF book group is also in a graphic novel book group, which is reading Bitch Planet this month, so I'm going to visit.) The books are

A spool of blue thread, by Anne Tyler
Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert
The Traitor Baru Cormorant, by Seth Dickinson
Hope in the Dark, by Rebecca Solnit (I'm hosting this one)
Bitch Planet, by Kelly Sue DeConnick

Also I have to do our tax return somewhere in there.


Mar. 12th, 2016 12:47 am
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I walked fast to get to SF book group, because I thought I would be late. I got there early and a little out of breath. James asked if I was rushing to set the book on fire. "No," I said. "Why? No!" We read The Stars My Destination this month. Yes, I can see all the sexism I didn't notice as a teenager, but I still like it.

Then we went upstairs to where we talk. First we go around the room and say what else we've been reading, and whether we recommend it. I said I had nothing worth mentioning. Jacqie asked if there was anything I particularly hated, I said yes but it wasn't SF. She said she'd enjoy hearing what I thought of it anyway, so I talked about The Whip, by Karen Kondazian, and then asked, "Do you think of me as someone who is mean about books?"

Jacqie said no, she thought I was always interesting about books, but I think "Do you think I'm mean?" is a question you would not answer yes even in part unless you were really good friends and had had a chance to think it over.

I don't mean to be mean, but I do want to be funny, and if I have to choose between "not mean" and "funny", I will often choose funny.

If I've been mean to you, though, I didn't mean to, and I will appreciate it if you tell me and give me the chance to apologize.
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So the book group that is hosted by the library meets in August to choose books for the year. Everyone who attends that meeting gets to propose a book; then everyone writes down their top six choices, and we read the ones that get the most votes. I did not attend last August, so I didn't witness the selection, but we are going to read a book that was written by a member of the book club. He is also going to facilitate the discussion, since it is the custom for the person who proposes the book to be the facilitator, although one can ask the librarian who runs the book group to facilitate in one's stead.

I think this is a terrible idea.

Also I have no idea how to talk about a book in front of its author, even if I don't care about the author, which is not the case here, even if I like the book, which hmmm. I have developed a little skill at beta-reading, but that is different: there, you are criticizing only what the author wants criticized, in order to improve the work before she publishes it. Here, I don't know what he wants from the discussion but I don't think he's going to get it.
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I'm going to California tomorrow to visit the friend who moved away, with three other members of our mutual book group. I have been fretting anxiously all day that
1. I will not wake up in time
2. I will forget my CPAP, the CPAP's power cord, my phone, the phone's power cord, or my bite guard
(prescriptions and wallet are already packed, whatever else I'm forgetting is replaceable)
3. I will be miserable because of allergic reaction to cats, or because I can't sleep, or just because I can't stand being with five other people for four days straight
4. I will spoil everyone else's fun by being miserable or sick or too slow and achy, or by saying something stupid.

There is nothing more I can do about any of these worries, so I have been cleaning things. The little dog is all fluffy, except for the long hairs around his mouth, which look a bit like this dragon:

The combination of rawhide bone and dog saliva makes a powerful hair glue.
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This year, my SF book group's fearless leader has chosen the theme of diversity. Jacqie picks six, and lets us vote on the other six. Here's her list:

1. Sorcerer to the Crown, by Zen Cho
2. Ninefox Gambit, by Yoon Ha Lee
3. The Traitor Baru Cormorant, by Seth Dickinson
4. Signal to Noise, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
5. Shadowshaper, by Daniel José Older
6. The Library at Mount Char, by Scott Hawkins

and the groups we get to choose from:

7. The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, by Becky Chambers
Dark Orbit, by Carolyn Ives Gilman
Planetfall, by Emma Newman, or
Archangel, by Marguerite Reed

8. Wake of Vultures, by Lila Bowen
Vermilion, by Molly Tanzer, or
Orlando, by Virginia Woolf

9. Gene Mapper, by Taiyo Fujii, or
The Three-Body Problem, by Cixin Liu

10. The Buried Giant, by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Grace of Kings, by Ken Liu, or
The People in the Trees, by Hanya Yanagihara

11. Illuminae, by Amie Kaufman
Uprooted, by Naomi Novik, or
An Ember in the Ashes, by Sabaa Tahir

12. All the Birds in the Sky, by Charlie Jane Anders
Slade House, by David Mitchell
The Cloud Roads, by Martha Wells, or
The Affinites, by Robert Charles Wilson

Isn't that a good list? What would you choose? I'm going to be conflicted between All the Birds in the Sky, which I very much want to read, and The Cloud Roads, which I always want to make more people read.
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I am very glad I went to book group today, even though I did not finish or like the book, because I got to tell everyone that we don't need to choose a substitute for The Cloud Roads, because it is being reprinted -- and maybe it was our bookstore's query as to why their order hadn't been filled that tipped the publisher over to reprint! -- and also because one of the other book group members told the story of how her brain fused and poured out of her mouth this morning, when she interrupted trying to finish the book for book group to call the book store where we meet to ask about bringing books in to sell, and someone who sounds exactly like me answered the phone at the same time that she (the person telling this story) got email from her least favorite client, so suddenly she was expressing how much she loves me to the person who answered the phone-- except-- the person who answered the phone wasn't me. Because I don't actually work at the book store.

I know she likes me -- it's implicit in the way we laugh at each other's jokes and support each other's points -- but I doubt I would ever have heard her say it if I hadn't gone to book group tonight. And that is really nice to hear! So if you like someone, tell them!


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