I’m Giving Away Small Mercies

SmallMerciesCoverI went out of town for a weekend, and when I got home my stack of mail included several books for review. Inexplicably, I had received two hardback copies of the novel Small Mercies by Eddie Joyce. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to learn how to do something new on the blog, so I’m giving away one copy.  Continue reading


Can You Handel Seattle Opera’s Semele?

Brenda Rae (Semele) and the Seattle Opera Chorus in Handel's masterpiece Semele. © Avi Loud

Brenda Rae (Semele) and the Seattle Opera Chorus in Handel’s masterpiece Semele.
© Avi Loud

Typical. I studied hard for the accessible Tosca. But I walked into Seattle Opera’s production of Semele cold. And I really could have used a little preparation; a Twitter hashtage for the production was #CanYouHandelIt. Here are five things that would have helped me Handel it better. Continue reading

Finding Colin Firth

colinfirthcover29268-mediumAt my daughter’s school, students are encouraged to find connections between their own life and the stories in the books they read. If I was in the fifth grade, I would get an A for my book report on Finding Colin Firth. Actually, I would get an F for failing to turn it in – I read the book when it came out over a year ago. But never mind that. Let’s talk about the book. Continue reading

The Dadaists and Big Hero 6

LipstickTracesSo I’m reading Lipstick Traces and it’s slow going because these beautiful sentences go on and on until your realize that they might not mean anything at all and you have to go back and read it all again very very carefully to see if there is anything there. And I’m reading about dada and I’m not sure why, but the picture of Alben Barkley (it’s disturbing, and I’ve included it below the fold) at the concentration camp makes me think about Big Hero 6. Continue reading

A Five Star Dilemma

I love the speech at the end of the movie Ratatouille that talks about critics. It starts with the statement,

Negative criticism is fun to write and even more fun to read.

[Proof that it is true.] But even a negative review can turn a reader on to something they love. A critic may write, “The food was a confused mishmash,” or “The band was obscene,” but the reader may love fusion food and punk music. I had a friend in college whose movie reviews I trusted completely; the more enthusiastically he spoke of a movie, the more certain I was that I would hate it. Reviews are valuable; but a five star rating tells me nothing. Three stars tells me even less. Continue reading

Ride the Lightning Thief

Percy-Jackson-The-Lightning-Thief-Original-CoverMy daughter discovered Percy Jackson in the third grade and hasn’t read much else since. I have defended this choice, because like Neil Gaiman and education specialists everywhere (stay tuned for my article on the subject in the March issue of ParentMap), I believe that any reading is good reading. My own experience supports this. I too read high fantasy obsessively and exclusively for several years at about the same age, and I have grown to be an adult who reads primarily nonfiction and medieval literature.

Meanwhile, Rick Riordan has become something of a whipping boy for the literary establishment, trotted out as an example of what’s wrong with children’s literature today at every opportunity. It seemed strange to me. Riordan writes long narrative novels that incorporate classical mythology – doesn’t that sound like exactly what literary types would want their kids to be reading? Was it just a case of literary hipsterism that declared something so popular couldn’t possibly be cool? Continue reading