Books Read on Spring Break

This break, I read God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian by Kurt Vonnegut and Defining Dulcie by Paul Acampora. I also began reading Pure and Reading the OED.

The Vonnegut book was a gift, and I was a big fan. How could I not enjoy a book with passages like this? “Freud said he didn’t know what women wanted. I know what women want. They want a whole lot of people to talk to. What do they want to talk about? They want to talk about everything. What do men want? They want a lot of pals, and they wish people wouldn’t get so mad at them.”

I loved Defining Dulcie. (Like Keena, Dulcie is published by Dial, and the editor for the book, Nancy Mercado, was Keena’s first editor.) In the acknowledgements, Paul Acampora credits Kate DiCamillo as an influence, and I felt like his book has the same indefinable (sorry) sneak-up-on-you quality that Because of Winn-Dixie does, even though they’re written for different audiences. I guess I would say that the source of enjoyment in each book was the same for me; I wasn’t so much reading to see how the central conflict was resolved, it was more that I really liked the characters and Acampora’s writing style. Also, like DiCamillo, Acampora writes about small-town America (both Dulcie’s hometown and the places she visits across the country) in a way that feels authentic and natural. This is something I tend to be exceptionally picky about*, and I felt like Acampora got it just right.

I am in the H chapter of Reading the OED by Ammon Shea. This book is everything I hoped it would be and more. It is word nerd heaven, and it‘s “Oops, now everyone in the subway car is looking at me” laugh-out-loud funny. There’s a chapter for each letter of the alphabet. Shea begins the chapter by describing his journey through the volumes of the OED, share some interesting (really!) facts about dictionaries and English, and ends the chapter with a few of his favorite words from that letter. For example, here’s a useful word for teachers: Advocitate (v)- To call upon frequently. Shea says, “The secret and inescapable fear of unstudied schoolchildren the world over- that they will be advocitated.”

I also read the free Kindle excerpt of the new YA book Pure by Terra Elan McVoy in preparation for the reading/discussion I attended last night at WORD in Brooklyn. Terra made many thoughtful comments about her book, writing, and teenagers. She talked about how it was important to her to not fall into the adult trap of condescending to her YA readers and to be respectful of the values, priorities, and experiences of her teenage characters. I think I nodded my head pretty forcefully when she said this, because that’s something I picked up on just in the few pages of her book that I read. Like with Paul Acampora and small towns, I thought, “This is someone who ‘gets’ teenagers.” Terra also talked about the huge percentage (like 60+ per cent? I can’t remember) of American teenagers who are involved in their churches. I may be wrong, but I imagine that percentage to be even higher in the South and the Midwest (Pure is set in Atlanta). Many of my friends were involved in church youth groups when I was growing up, though we/they weren’t as involved as the girls in Pure.  I haven’t read enough YA to speak with any authority on this, but I don’t think I’ve seen religious/spiritual extracurricular activity as a major theme in what I have read or read about, not including books that are classified as religious fiction. So anyway, I look forward to reading the rest of Pure once I finish Reading the OED.

Events Yet to Come (for Spring Break)

Time is running out for my dear Spring Break. But I’m still hoping to make it to the Guggenheim and the MOMA. I’m also doing the least Spring Breaky thing you can do and making a brief stop at school this afternoon.

*At some point I will probably feel compelled to write more on my sensitivity to ham-handed, or what I like to call ham-biscuit-handed, descriptions of small-town settings, especially southern ones. (Ham-biscuit-handed: If a narrator describes a ham biscuit as though s/he is a cultural anthropologist, I don’t buy that s/he is from the South. If s/he describes the ham biscuit as though s/he is hungry, we’re probably okay.)

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