Tag Archives: books

Goodreads? So Far, Meh.

I signed up for goodreads.com tonight because of a tweet from UChicagoMag alerting me to a giveaway of my former Hyde Park neighbor Sara Paretsky‘s new V.I. Warshawski novel (I love V.I., and not just because of my not-so-secret crush on Kathleen Turner). Registration went all right, but I keep getting error screens when I try to add a book or look something up. Too bad, because it looks like an interesting site.

Also, I’m trying to break myself of the habit of double-spacing after a period. I learned to type on a manual typewriter back in the stone age, and that was the convention then, but I’ve been hearing rumors that the kids today only use one space. Although I was skeptical, and have held fast to my antediluvian ways, Grammar Girl recently set me straight, and now I have no excuse. So if you see me double-spacing here, please feel free to slap me in the comments.


Fall Sunday Stats #1: How To Get Run Over By a Car and Walk Away.

Yes, I was run over by a car this week, but it was the good kind of getting run over by a car.  Yes, I walked away.  I still don’t recommend it.

It’s autumn in Chicago, and we’re going apple-picking today if the weather holds.  We usually go in October, but as we looked at the calendar we realized that our weekends are pretty well booked until November; we’ll probably end up with a different variety of apples, which will be a nice change.  We’ll try to keep the haul down to about 50 pounds of apples this year.

Miles run today:  None.  Because, you know, I got run over by a car.  Here’s the story:  on Thursday, I was in California for a hearing, and the Senior Partner, our clients, the husband of one client, and I went out to lunch before the afternoon court appearance.  After lunch, the client’s husband (a very nice guy) pulled their car around to drive most of us to court (a couple of members of the group got into another client’s car).  The curb was too high to allow the passenger-side doors to open, so the client’s husband was asked to pull up a little, to where the curb was lower.  Unfortunately, at just that moment, I was on the driver’s side, with the back door open; my right foot was in the car and my left foot was on the street.  As he pulled up, the tire started riding up my heel and the back of my leg.  I let out a yell, he stopped the car, and after a moment’s confusion, backed it up and I hopped onto the sidewalk.

If he had gone another couple of inches, my achilles tendon probably would have snapped.  As it is, my ankle and heel hurt a LOT, but after a few minutes of icing the foot and a handful of Advil, I was queasy and shaken, but decided I would live and off we went to court.  When the hearing started, I was nauseated and light-headed, and I think I was in a little bit of shock, but by the end of it (three hours later), I was mostly back to normal, except that my foot hurt.  A lot.  The poor guy who had been driving the car felt so bad about it that he was in worse shape than I was.

Back in Chicago on Friday, I did see a doctor.  I don’t have the results of the x-rays yet, but based on how I’m feeling, I think it’s just bruised.  So no run today, but maybe as soon as Wednesday.

So, to sum up how to get run over and walk away:  as the car starts to roll over you, scream like Agnes Moorehead.  The person driving will probably stop.  Hope that helps.

Weather:  cool and overcast.  It’s supposed to be a sunny day, but it doesn’t look good.  We’ll have to give it a little more time before we decide whether to go to the orchard.

Words of Meet the Larssons written this week:  1,633, to a total of 97,727.  A definite decline in productivity, generally because of the travel.  I was gone from Tuesday to late Thursday night, the only time I wasn’t actively working was the flight home, and my foot hurt enough that I didn’t really feel as though I could concentrate.  No travel this week and no overwhelming deadlines, so I hope to get more done.  Instead, on the plane back to Chicago I read Tim Ferriss’s The Four-Hour Work Week, which has gotten a lot of press, good and bad.  Much of it is completely useless to me (as long as I’m working as a lawyer, I essentially get paid by the hour; a four-hour work week doesn’t really cut it), but I thought he had an interesting perspective.  The book made me think about some of the ways in which I do spend my time that is neither productive nor interesting, and reminded me that one of the benefits of my job is that the office schedule is somewhat flexible; I should take more advantage of that.  I blew off the chapters on internet-based reselling as creating an effortless income stream; what I did read of that section had the faint odor of the “easy money from real estate” books that were so popular not very long ago.  Maybe that works for some people, and don’t let me discourage you from giving it a try if you’re so inclined — the up front investment is certainly less than for buying homes out of foreclosure and rehabbing them; it’s just not for me.

Speaking of unproductive uses of my time, and of feeling queasy and light-headed, I made the mistake of checking the balance of my retirement account yesterday.  Good God.  It looks like Congress is going to work out the bailout, which I suppose is necessary.  Peter Bernstein has a good piece in today’s Times about the moral hazard inherent in any broad bailout scheme; rescuing an entire industry from its bad decisions about risk doesn’t exactly discourage people from taking similar risks in the future.  I’m afraid It’s going to take more than a little Advil and ice to recover from the truck that’s hit us this past year.

Rapture Ready.

An old friend of mine from high school, Daniel Radosh, has a new book out. Rapture Ready is described (on the website for the book) as:

Written with the perfect blend of amusement and respect, Rapture Ready! is an insightful, entertaining, and deeply weird journey through the often hidden world of Christian pop culture. This vast and influential subculture — a $7 billion industry and growing — can no longer be ignored by anyone who wants to understand the social, spiritual and political aspirations of evangelical Christians.

One section of the book appears to be based on an article in The New Yorker that Daniel wrote, profiling Tammy Bakker’s son, who is now a minister himself, albeit with a style that’s very different from what you’ll remember about his parents. It was a nicely balanced piece, not a hatchet job by a long shot, but Daniel didn’t suck up to his subject, either.

I haven’t read the book yet, but I’m about to order it on Amazon, and you can, too. I’m looking forward to reading it.

Thanks to Squidocto at Muss My Hair for cluing me in.

The View From the Other Side of the Slush Pile

Many years ago, when I was a college student searching for summer employment, I realized that I had essentially no marketable skills. I spent the summer working through a temporary agency, and I was almost always assigned out as a receptionist.

My final placement that summer was with a small, middle/highbrow publishing house, focused mostly on literary fiction. I spent a week and a half filling in for the receptionist, but when she came back early, they didn’t end the assignment, probably because they had committed to use me for two full weeks. My supervisor, whomever she or he was, gave me an empty office (unassigned, really; it was extremely cluttered) to work in, and showed me the slush pile. It really was a pile of manuscripts; several piles, , actually, some of them in the process of collapsing into each other. For the next two or three days, my job would be to get through as much of it as I could.

There I was, 19 or 20 years old, never having taken a college-level literature class, with no more than five minutes of training, reading the manuscripts hopeful authors had poured their souls into. My instructions were simple: If I thought a manuscript was worth an editor’s time, I had to read the entire thing, fill out a one-page form, and prepare a synopsis. If I decided at any point while reading a submission that it should be rejected, I could stop immediately, fill out the form, and send it back to the author (if a self-addressed, stamped envelope had been enclosed), without writing the synopsis. My incentives were clear: The path of least effort for me would be to make decisions quickly, and reject almost everything.

In other words,


(LOLcat built from original photo by sutefani in orlando, under a Creative Commons-Attribution license by way of Flickr.)

Although I reviewed a number of manuscripts, I remember only two: one I rejected, and one I flagged for review by somebody competent. The one I rejected was some kind of thriller, and I read about half of it before I finally gave up, turned off by what seemed like an interminable technical discussion about the architecture of nuclear power plants.

The novel I sent up the ladder was a drama about high school students, set in the contemporary rural South. I hated it. I didn’t like the style, I couldn’t identify with the characters, and it was sexually graphic without being the least bit titillating. It was, however, very well written, and I found myself unable to put it down — like watching a slow-motion train wreck, I wanted to see what (horrible) thing happened to these (idiotic) characters next. When I was done, I decided that I had no idea whether this was the kind of thing my employer would want to publish, but I thought somebody probably would. I filled out the form, wrote the synopsis, and left it for the professionals to deal with. I have no idea whether they, or anyone, ever published the book. I was also too stupid to try to maintain the contacts at the publishing house, which might have been useful to an aspiring writer.

As a wannabe novelist, I should have been horrified that someone like me was making decisions about the slush pile, but at 20, I was sufficiently vapid or arrogant not to be bothered by it. I’m horrified now, of course, but now it’s too late. The guy who wrote the nuclear plant thriller probably would have been the next Tom Clancy if a competent editor had looked at his novel and thought, “It gets a little wordy, but if he’d be willing to cut four pages from Chapter 14, we could have a blockbuster on our hands!” Maybe another publisher did. But I have this uncomfortable feeling that when the time comes to send out Meet the Larssons, my karmic debt is going to have to be repaid.

In other news, I’ve been too busy at work this week to post until now, so I haven’t been able to comment on the death of Gary Gygax, one of the creators of Dungeons & Dragons. I started playing D&D regularly when I was about 11, and played consistently until I was around 16, and then intermittently until college. Many thanks, GG. Here’s a link to Uncle Monsterface’s tribute song (thanks to GeekDad for pointing me to it), which captures the sentiment exactly.

To see the previous posts in my rejection slips series, click here, here, here, and here.