Category Archives: reading

Writing Under the Influence

I’ve blogged about Jane before, and I’m doing it again. Jane Eyre, that is.  I’ve been thinking about her because I’ve just finished The Flight of Gemma Hardy, Margot Livesey’s take on  Charlotte Brontë’s classic novel.  (Livesey herself calls it a “continued conversation.”) Beginning with the first sentence, Livesey sprinkles similarities to the original throughout her novel, weaving in her own autobiographical details.  In both, we have an orphaned girl, a cruel aunt, a book on birds, a mysterious landowner, a sickly boarding school friend who dies in Jane’s/Gemma’s arms, etc.  In Brontë, of course, what comes between Jane & … Continue reading

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Cleansing the Palate

Last night, at a reading in Sausalito at the wonderful Why There Are Words series curated by Peg Alford Pursell, I ran into a former student.  We chatted during the break, and she told me that since taking my class, she’d applied for and been accepted to three MFA programs in creative writing.  This made me happy.  I asked what she was working on, and she mentioned writing flash fiction. Flash fiction has always made me nervous.  Not because I don’t like it, but because it intimidates me.  Maybe it’s the word “flash,” which makes me think of Flash Gordon, … Continue reading

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Vacation Reading, Part 2

Six months ago, I posted about vacation and what books to bring along.  Since then, we’ve chosen a destination and leave in three days.  I’ve been stacking up books for weeks.  A few are the ones I thought of back in March, when we were debating Wyoming over Carmel (we decided on neither).  A couple weeks ago, at a local bookstore—Alexander Book Company, one of the few, treasured indie bookstores still in S.F.—I found Diane Keaton’s memoir in paperback.  Perfect!  Sometime over the summer, I picked up my husband’s bedside reading and found myself immersed in details of the French … Continue reading

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Rediscovering Rilke

this post is a slightly edited version of a post that appeared on August 20, 2012, on the Good Letters blog In college, I took a yearlong class on Western Civilization.  Certain images stand out: reading Oedipus Rex on the lawn outside the Life Sciences building and overhearing a student pronounce “Khomeini” with the same initial sound as “challah”—this would have been a month or so before the taking of American hostages; getting an A+ (my only in college) on a paper applying Civilization and Its Discontents to D. H. Lawrence’s story “The Prussian Officer”; hearing a T.A. refer to … Continue reading

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In Another Life

My next post will appear Friday, September 7.  If you’re in the neighborhood, mark your calendar for Sept. 13, 7 p.m.:  Why There Are Words, 333 Caledonia, Sausalito.  I’d love to see some of you there! A few months ago, I stumbled upon Penelope Lively’s novel The Photograph.  I loved its sharp psychological portraits, its elegant and economic sentences, its going on for pages and pages in the minds of its characters (something I’m always trying to do without making my readers scream, “Action, please!”). When I returned to the library to pick up another Lively novel, I chose—from the … Continue reading

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