Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Nonfiction=vegetables, fiction=dessert?

The August 25-31 issue of the New Scientist has a special section on science in fiction (not science fiction), including reviews of new books by Richard Powers, Alan Lightman, and Andrea Barrett, three writers I admire greatly. There is also an essay written by Rebecca Goldstein, a philosopher of science. Her novels include The Mind-Body Problem, Strange Attractors, and Properties of Light, none of which I've read but sound interesting.

She writes,
While I always loved fiction, as a child I thought of it as frivolous, pure make-believe. When I was given my first library card at the age of 6, I even made a rule to try to keep the seductive things from enchanting me too thoroughly and making me go soft-brained.

Every time I visited the library I allowed myself to take out one work of fiction. To balance it, I had to take out a book that was good for me, something I could learn from. I forbade myself from reading the storybook before completing the good-for-me book.
Obviously, as one who writes about science for kids, this disturbs me. Aside from the fact that the writer imposed this rule on herself at the age of six (six!), I'm dismayed by just how early we absorb the lesson that nonfiction is good for you, like brussels sprouts, and fiction is just candy. Where do we get these ideas? Is it because kids' science books aren't as well written as fiction? Is it because learning about the natural world seems too much like school?

Fortunately, Goldstein goes on to write that she's come to view fiction and non-fiction a little differently:
I have come to believe, over the years, that literary fiction is remarkably suited to grappling--as philosophy and science grapple--with the difficulties of reconciling objective truth with inner points of view.
What do you think? Is nonfiction your vegetable (not to diss vegetables, you know I love 'em!) or your dessert?

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Big Tuna

A couple of posts ago I wrote about the poor half marathon and how it gets no respect, even though it's a 13.1 mile race, for god's sake. And of course it all stems from the name. Half marathon=1/2race. So I mentioned this to my husband just home from Geneva, jet-lagged but still on his game, who said, "Why not call it a 'Thon'? Which means 'tuna' in French, and so you could call it the 'Big Tuna.'"

I like the sound of it, don't you?

So, as far as I'm concerned, I'm running a Big Tuna in Indianapolis in October.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Writing and yoga

Another Lesley MFA soon-to-be alum, Celia Jeffries, will be co-leading a "Writing and Yoga Retreat in Guatemala for Women" February 9-16, 2008. I would really really really love to go.

Consider this description:

Join us for a week of writing, gentle nourishing yoga and a special art workshop. Each day begins with yoga, followed by a gourmet, vegetarian breakfast as we overlook the blue waters of Lake Atitlan. We will write most mornings and evenings, visit local pueblos for a deeper connection with the Mayan culture, and find time to nap in hand woven hammocks.
I think it might be time for another yoga for writers workshop here on the prairie. What do you think, 'ara?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Website updated!

So I just got the latest version of iLife, and some much-needed new features in iWeb (the software I used to create my previous web pages) prompted me to update the whole thing: Let me know what you think--I think it's a lot more fun! Most of the content is the same, although I've updated the stuff about living in Geneva. Are there any glaring errors or links that don't work? The photos page is obviously under construction (there's nothing there yet).

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Half marathon = Whole race

I just listened to a great feature on Bill Littlefield's radio show "Only a Game." The reporter, Karen Given, says that the half marathon is the ideal race distance, and I heartily agree. It's long enough that you have to train for it with a certain level of commitment, but unlike the marathon, it doesn't totally beat you up. People cheer for you, whether you're running 13 miles or 26, and you usually get a medal. And you can walk like a normal person afterwards.
It's apparently the fastest-growing race distance, and but it doesn't get the respect it deserves.

Starting with the name. It's not a full race, it's a half marathon. It's what you do if you can't run the full marathon, right? Clearly, we need another name for the 13.1 mile distance. And no, I don't buy the Indianapolis approach: Mini-marathon. A little condescending for a 13 mile race, I think.

I've run five marathons now, and I don't think I'll run another one, even though I sometimes talk about it. I trained for two marathons since those five, and I was sidelined by injuries each time. I ended up not running at all for weeks or even months at a time. But I've run several half-marathons, most recently the Geneva 1/2 marathon in May, and I've never gotten injured training for one.

So now I'm training for the Indianapolis (ahem) 1/2 marathon, October 20. Let's hear it for the 21K!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Braided hair

Two posts on a Friday night, and that tells you something about my social life. But I did make it out this evening to hear a great alternative bluegrass group called The Greencards, part of Krannert's OUTSIDE at the Research Park Concert series, which is, as noted previously, an oddly wonderful venue for such music.

But, as with the previous post, I digress. I really want to share this video, "Braided Hair," by One Giant Leap:

I "discovered" this song (much in the same way that Columbus discovered North America, right?) when I was in Geneva and took advantage of the free download of the Independent Spirit Music Award winners from eMusic. And although I'm not usually a fan of hip-hop, I liked this song a lot. I hadn't realized it was part of a larger project, worth looking into, I think.

Thanks to Endicott Studio for the Mythic Arts for the link.

The Road

I finished the latest Harry Potter book at Lake Tahoe (I'm with the epilogue haters, but was pretty happy with it otherwise) as well as the other book I was reading: Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Murder, and Civil Rights in the Jazz Age--an excellent account of racism and murder in Detroit, 1925. The book really clarifies the way in which racist fears developed in the industrial North after WW1; Clarence Darrow took on the case shortly after the Scopes Monkey trial and won. Even though I've done tons of research for my YA novel in progress, about a white boy who witnesses a lynching in Indiana, 1925, I find it continually rewarding to read nonfiction about race relations in the early 20th century. It's easy to forget just how socially acceptable overt racism was at that time, not just in the South but in the North as well. And I guess reading these accounts keeps reminding me that my story is worth sticking with, after all these years.

Alert readers will note that the title of this post was "The Road," that being the title of Cormac McCarthy's latest novel. I got sidetracked because I was telling you that I had finished both of my books on the Lake Tahoe trip, and I needed a new book to read. I had initially resisted reading The Road, despite glowing, even gushing reviews. I had tried to read the first book of McCarthy's Border trilogy--The Crossing, I think, and found it slow-going and terribly pretentious, and never finished it. I have known several cowboys, and NONE of them talked the way McCarthy's cowboys talked. But I was at a bookstore in the Las Vegas airport, where the slot machines are plentiful and excellent, if you like that sort of thing, but the bookstores are perfunctory. So I bought The Road, and I'm telling you, it's the bleakest book I have ever whipped my way through. In case you hadn't read about it, it's about a father and son making their way across a post-Apocolyptic America, in which they scavenge food and defend themselves against the other few survivors in search of a good source of protein.

But it's also about a father's deep love for his son, and hope that flies in the face of all logic and evidence, and that's what kept me reading. Now I understand all the hype about the book--and I guess I'm glad that the Las Vegas airport bookstore had little else to offer. Because I hit the jackpot with this one.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

A fine romance

Caitlin and I just returned from a wedding at South Lake Tahoe. The night before the wedding, I took a bunch of pictures of the sunset over the lake, and I think they turned out pretty well.

The bride is the daughter of one of my very best friends, and the tale of how she and her husband met and their subsequent courtship is the stuff romantic movies are made of. They were both at Lake Tahoe to do a Century (that's 100 miles) bike ride for Team in Training, which raises money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Both of their lives had been touched by leukemia or lymphoma, and Tyson (the groom) gave the "you can do it!" inspirational speech. There was instant chemistry, and by the time they left Tahoe, they had exchanged phone numbers. Many, many long phone conversations later, and only a few visits, they moved in together, and eventually tied the knot.

Abbey's step-father Chris, a lay Presbyterian minister, married them. It was a small-ish and very personal affair, held in a grassy area overlooking Lake Tahoe.

Congratulations, Abbey and Tyson!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

The ideal reader

Stella Brite, bless her heart, has introduced me to some terrific and interesting people. Take Danielle, a 15 year-old girl who, along with her dad, was looking for a book about dark matter. Turns out that Danielle, an "alethiometrist/pirate/idealist" is a huge fan of Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials books. So not only did she inspire a woman to make an alethiometer pocket watch, but she recently scored an interview with Laurie Frost, the author of The Elements of His Dark Materials: A Guide to Phillip Pullman's Trilogy. She asks some terrific questions, including,
It's late 2003 or so and you are pretty involved with your project. You find yourself falling asleep one night at your desk. When you wake up the next morning you look up to find Mary Malone's Cave in place of your PC and Lyra's alethiometer sitting inches away. Which one will you communicate with first? What will you ask? Why?
You don't know how much I love this level of involvement in a novel! Some of you may remember that The Golden Compass was #1 on our family's top 100 (92) books.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Brian's novel

I sure am glad there isn't a Stewie in my family:

"Everybody learns the Hero's Journey isn't always a happy one?" cracks me up.