Tragic Sandwich

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Archive for the category “Books and Reading”

My First Books

Come on. You know you want to. Everybody’s doing it.

I’d say “enough with the bandwagon propaganda,” (Check that out–I remember something from eighth-grade English! But I don’t remember that teacher’s name, even though I always thought she was one of my best English teachers. Also, my favorite propaganda category title remains “glittering generalities.” But I digress.) except that you know you want to talk about books, too.

Bookshelf porn

So, with no further ado (adieu? adew? Punny options abound), here are my answers:

First Book I Loved
My mother would say that it was Mimi, the Merry-Go-Round Cat, because I had her read it to me so many times that she could still recite it when I was in my 30s. I’m going to go with The Secret of the Old Clock, because as a redhead I loved Nancy Drew (don’t tell me she started out as a blonde–that girl was a redhead), and because the most valuable shopping lesson I learned as a child was that when you go to Toys R Us, you will not get all the toys you want, but you will definitely be able to persuade your mother to buy you more books.

Wait. I take that back. My fourth-grade teacher read A Christmas Carol to us, and I was so taken by it that I went home and told the story to my brother. From memory. Faulty memory. And had the poor judgement to record it on our then state-of-the-art toy piece of technology, the tape deck, so that my version could be replayed for years. But given that it made such a strong impression on me that I had to share it, maybe I should count this one.

First Book I Hated

I haven’t hated a lot of books. I mean, I outgrew Barbara Cartland’s formulaic (and tiny!) novels very quickly, and I did not enjoy Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire the way the friend who lent it to me hoped I would. So the book that comes to mind is one I read just a couple of years ago: Wicked. It’s very different from the musical (which I had seen and loved), but that’s not the problem. The problem is [WARNING: SPOILERS!] the pointless violence, the bestiality, and the lazy writing. The first two mean that I’m sorry I have this book in my brain, and the third means it was also a waste of my time.

First Series I Read

I’m going to have to go back to Nancy Drew here, except that it’s a series that never really ends. So I guess I’ll have to go with Susan Cooper’s “The Dark is Rising” series. I read them again recently, and remain impressed with them. Not everything holds up, but enough does.

First Fantasy/Sci-Fi Book I Read
It must have been The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, because I remember that my grandparents’ municipal library had sequels from that series that our library did not. Oh, wait, maybe this was my first series. Although I don’t think I read all of the Oz books–probably not even all of the Baum books.

First Book That Made Me Cry From Laughing
I think I’m going to have to go with Ginger on this one, although I think the first Bombeck I read was The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank. I read my mom’s copy when I was about nine, and although I didn’t get all of it, I knew it was damn funny.

First YA Book I Read and Loved
YA is a genre that confuses me. Is it for tweens and teens? About them? If it’s well-written, I don’t much care. So, um, Island of the Blue Dolphins, I guess? Or maybe The Witch of Blackbird Pond? I’m sorry. I’ve been reading for a long time now. I can’t remember all the details, particularly when it comes to sequence.

First Horror Book I Read
I remember a series of kids’ horror books that featured plots that focused on demons emerging from amulets or ouija boards or things like that, but I don’t remember the titles (they would precede R.L. Stine’s many “Goosebumps” books; yes, I am that old). Or maybe it was one of Lois Duncan’s many books? The first adult horror I read was Stephen King’s Night Shift, and “The Lawnmower Man” alone completely put me off the genre.

First Book I Was Completely Obsessed With

This is a tough one. But I’m going to go with The Black Stallion–which, now that I think about it, would also be a contender for First Series. When that movie came out, I could tell you every single plot point that differed from the book–to the point that my father said, “If all you’re going to do is complain about how it’s going to be different, I’m not going to take you to see it.” But we did, and I loved the movie on its own terms. And one of the perks of moving to San Antonio when I was 13 was that Cass Ole, the horse that played The Black, lived there, too. Although based on the story I told above, we may be looking at A Christmas Carol for this one, too.

Wow. I’m long-winded, aren’t I? Now, what about your firsts?

Photo by Queenie & the Dew, via Flickr.


Here Be Spoilers

That’s it. That’s your warning. If you read beyond this (which I’m adding for those of you who get previews in your RSS readers), then consider yourself to have made an informed choice. You’re about to read plot and character details from a book that I’m reading and loathing. Ready? Here we go:

So I’m reading Secret Lives by Diane Chamberlain (not to be confused with The Secret Life of Ceecee Wilkes, by the same author). It’s my first book by Chamberlain, and it’s likely to be my last.

The basic story is this: Eden, an actress and divorced mother, goes back to her hometown to write a screenplay about her late mother. In the process, she discovers long-hidden family secrets which serve largely as counterpoint to her own dilemmas.

One of those dilemmas–and this is where the book completely loses me–is whether she should have a relationship with a convicted child molester.

He’s innocent, of course. The book makes this clear, and Eden believes in his innocence almost immediately. But here’s the thing:

The love interest, Ben, has been convicted of molesting his own daughter. Eden has no qualms–literally none, about leaving her own young daughter alone in his care. She refuses to spend even a moment thinking about how this would affect:

  • Her career as the star of children’s movies
  • Her work as spokesperson for a children’s charity
  • Her access to her own daughter

Seriously, when her agent points out that Eden’s ex-husband may go to court to change their custody agreement to keep her away from the convicted child molester, Eden’s response is, “I have an excellent lawyer.”

Then, when the totally predictable public reaction occurs, Eden is shocked and devastated. Because she had no idea it could happen. Because she is a complete moron.

Eden is able to identify the real molester after he touches her own daughter inappropriately. But she’s not angry, really, because “I’m sure he thought that was the only way he could get me to figure out what was going on without actually telling me.”


Look, I get it. Women do this. They trust their children with people they shouldn’t–and the reason they shouldn’t is that those people aren’t innocent. I know this happens in the real world. And the fact that it does is horrible.

But this is a novel, and I’m clearly supposed to relate to Eden, and find her decisions to be reasonable. And they aren’t. I can understand that she believes in Ben’s innocence. I cannot believe that she doesn’t think about how others will perceive the situation. I cannot believe that she thinks her ex-husband is small-minded when he objects to his 4-year-old spending time with a convicted sex offender.

I cannot relate to this woman. I don’t like her. I think she’s self-centered and oblivious to a degree that is potentially damaging to the most defenseless people around her.

And beyond that, I’m really bothered that the real problem is how inconvenient this problem is for Eden, because she reallyreally loves Ben. The close second is how horrible it’s been for Ben to be living with this false accusation and conviction. But isn’t the real horror what happened to his daughter? Maybe not, because Chamberlain doesn’t seem to want to spend much time on her.

So why am I finishing this book? I guess because I want to see how it ends, and because it’s like that accident on the side of the road that everyone slows down to look at.

I’m not reading, I’m rubbernecking.

The Lowe Down: One More Celebrity Memoir

So I’ve finished Rob Lowe’s Stories I Only Tell My Friends, and for the most part I liked it.

I’ve never been a huge Rob Lowe fan–I’ve liked his more recent work on The West Wing and Parks & Recreation, but one of the things that struck me as I read this book was how many movies he’s made–and how few of them I’ve seen.

Lowe has some funny celebrity stories (is there such a thing as a bad Christoper Walken story?), and his encounter with John Belushi, while brief, seems incredibly sad. The real strength of the book, as far as I was concerned, was two-fold. First, his years growing up in Malibu seem to have given him incredible insight into how privilege and a lack of consequences can lead to truly disastrous outcomes for teens. Second, he really conveyed his lifelong drive to act.

Toward the end, though, the book lost power. I think he knew that there were two things he had to deal with: the sex scandal, and his decision to leave The West Wing. But it really felt like he was reluctant to really open up about either. I didn’t have the sense that he was trying to put himself in an unrealistically good light–more that these are things that are still painful to him. And I can get that, but it’s kind of the point of writing a memoir.

Since I read this on the heels of Melissa Gilbert’s Prairie Tale, it was also interesting to contrast how the two of them talked about their relationship. For Melissa Gilbert, it was clearly one of the defining romances of her life. For Rob Lowe? He barely mentions her name. I get the sense that his approach to talking about his personal life–which is actually quite gentlemanly–is driven by his respect for his wife. But I did kind of feel bad for Melissa Gilbert when I read Lowe’s book.

But it was definitely worth a read. Lowe’s journey to sobriety seems to have led to self-awareness that is less self-absorbed than I had expected. I don’t think you can be Rob Lowe and truly be humble and self-effacing, but he’s clearly aware that there is a real world, and that there are real problems.

And it was a whole lot better than Melissa Anderson‘s book.

5 Things I Found While I Was Looking Around

5 Cinco Five Fem Vijf Viis Viisi Cinq Fünf Öt Fimm Lima Cinque Pieci Penki Piatka Cinci Pet Beç

A Very Model Halloween on YouTube

It’s never too early to start coming up with costume ideas.

25 Handy Words That Simply Don’t Exist in English
on So Bad So Good

I think #23 is my favorite.

Seasonal Ingredient Map from Epicurious

I really need to buy some plums.

What Should I Read Next?

For those of you who miss the “If You Liked [title]” shelf at the video rental place.

Funny Underwater Dogs
on Flashsolver

Dog. Ball. Pool. Camera. Go!

Photo by losmininos, via Flickr.

Little Luxuries


The feel of a clean, dry bathmat beneath my feet.

The time to read an entire magazine, uninterrupted.

Macadamia nuts.

A leisurely bike ride on a cool, sunny day.

A box of sea-salt chocolate caramels that no one else knows about.

Not setting the alarm.

Photo by chrischapman, via Flickr.

On Reading


I’ve always loved to read. I started reading on my own at age four and just kept going. I almost always have a book with me (particularly now that I have an iPod Touch with the Kindle app), and I often have multiple books going at once. I hope that Baguette will love to read–and she certainly seems to be enjoying it at the moment.

My approach with her is to let her enjoy the book in whatever way she wants to at the moment. We started by reading to her, particularly as part of a nighttime routine (oh, hey, I guess we did have one of those once). Then, she decided that we were not allowed to read to her. She would grab the book out of my or Mr. Sandwich’s hands and move away from us so that she could flip the pages on her own, narrating what she saw on the pages.

Then she started letting us read again–but now she’s open to more approaches. Sometimes we’ll read it carefully page by page. Sometimes we’ll read whatever page she wants to turn to, regardless of order. Sometimes I’ll ignore the text and ask her what she sees on the page. Since we usually read books more than once in a row, we often wind up doing all three in any reading session.

The other night I was in the kitchen, and she was in the living room. I peeked around the corner, and there she was, sitting in the middle of the rug while she flipped through Elmo’s Valentine.

I don’t care whether she reads books in print, or on a tablet, or off the inside of her eyelids if that’s the technology that is in use when she’s older. But I do hope that she always loves to read.

Photo by Mathom, via Flickr.

Read Any Good Books Lately?

It’s been a while for me–well, not that I haven’t been reading, but I haven’t been reading books about parents and/or families, or related issues. Meanwhile, Baguette has been exhibiting an interest in Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5. I hope she’s not reading ahead to see how she’s expected to behave at age two. But I really wish she’d read up on sleep.

How about you? What would you recommend?’s Top 100 Mom Bloggers

I’m sure I’m #101! Right? Right? Because I’ve been doing this for five whole months now, so surely I’m qualified. Overqualified, at that.

Seriously, while most of these are unfamiliar to me (I read a lot, but not 100-mom-blogs worth), I do follow quite a few of these–and they are excellent. This list looks like it provides something for everyone. Which ones would you particularly recommend? Here are the ones I like (so far):

The Bloggess
The Happiest Mom
Free-Range Kids
Scary Mommy

Clearly I need to read more. A lot more. Curse you, lack of hours in the day! (Raises fist and shakes it at clock.)

And if you want to nominate a blog for 2012, here’s the form.

Is It Just Me? Or Is This Ludicrous?

I think there might be a whole blog just in mocking the New York Times column “What I Wore.” While I fully recognize that years of subscribing to In Style made me think that ridiculously expensive candles were not unreasonable, to a degree that took years to wear off, I can’t read this column and feel anything but slightly aghast. It’s not even aspirational. Multiple Birkins? Who lives like this?

Babies and Tech

I’m sure that by now you’ve seen the video of the baby who concludes that a magazine is nothing but a broken iPad:

So you’ll understand why I was reminded of it yesterday when Baguette found a couple of loose TV cables and tried to plug them into her Elmo book.

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