Tag Archive | books

I Can’t Get To The End of A Book

Of all the things I miss because of my all-consuming blogging hobby (having a clean house, spending time with my husband, etc.), it’s books I miss the most (sorry, Jeff).  Specifically, the endings of books, because I haven’t reached an ending in months.  Not since I finished Sara Connell’s Bringing in Finn, have I found those two sweet words on a page: The End.

Last year, with a newborn, I finished 30 books.  This year, I will be lucky to finish 15.  And with some of them, I am so close.  Here’s my current in-progress reading list:

My Un-read books

My Un-read books

I am only 50 pages away from finishing The Finkler Question, which I really love, but you know what slowed me down? Goodreads. I curse Goodreads for ruining this book when I was on pace to finish it before Obama gets re-elected.  But, I perused the reviews on Goodreads last week, and there were so many negative critiques of the book: “too ponderous,” “I just didn’t know enough about Judaism to ‘get’ it,” etc.  Ever since, I experience less pleasure when reading it, which confirms how sensitive I am to negative criticism.

The Pale King? I adore it and recognize it’s no small feat to work my way through David Foster Wallace’s prose and footnotes.  But, I can’t seem to push.  I don’t spend my late night glued to a book these days; I spend them writing or eating pudding (or both).

But, when I scour writing advice, it always says that good writers are voracious readers.  Does blog reading count?  I read at least a dozen blog posts per day, and many of them are better written than the books on my shelves.  (Am I talking about you? Yes, YOU, I am talking about your great writing.)  I read the newsletter from Sadie’s preschool, and I read my students’ papers, which have sparks of inspiration.  That’s writing, right?

I hadn’t thought deeply about my inability to finish a book until I read this post on The Variegated Life that looked a little more critically at this.  (Here’s another post that questions what we read, why, and how it changes over time, just like our writing.)   I don’t mean “critically” in the sense that I suck because I can’t finish Name All The Animals, but I like asking the question Why? or What does it mean?  Now, I even assume it might mean something wonderful is emerging from me, like my own writing.

Speaking of, let’s bring my novel-in-progress out of the closet.  I have about 34,008 words written.  It’s a glorious, chaotic mess that I am totally in love with.  I haven’t let a single person read a word, though I have discussed the “big picture” with my husband and some friends.  I haven’t done much re-reading of what I have written so far, because I am afraid it will scare me off.  “There will be plenty of time to edit later on,” is what I say when I want to peek over at Chapter 4.

Just yesterday, I started a chapter from the point of view of a character that I wasn’t planning to give that space to.  It was a thrill to imagine what he was thinking after meeting the protagonist.  I even thought about what was in his pocket (lint, because I write realism, people).

So the other books will have to wait, because my characters need space.  I need space.

There will be plenty of time for the endings.



Book Me A Trip: The Strand in NYC

I have nothing against Amazon dot com. I swear. It’s actually the only reason anyone in my extended family has gotten a present in the last three years. We get our diapers there, so it is also the reason there is no fecal matter strewn around our house. I buy about 30 books there every year It’s a great company and I wish I had invented it.


There’s something about a brick and mortar bookstore that makes my insides all a flutter. My heart races and my pulse quickens as I scan the books displayed on a table.

Yesterday, while having a leisurely stroll through NYC, we turned a corner and came face to face with the Taj Mahal of bookstores: The Strand. Lined out in front of the Strand were rows and rows of shelves displaying delicious used books. The outdoor shelves stood like sentinels guarding the palace jewels within.

It took about 45 to make my way inside after being perusing and caressing the outdoor selection. Once inside, I almost swooned. The books. The displays. The aisles jammed with book lovers. I wanted to check out of my hotel and bunk at the Strand in the art book section. I think I learned more flipping through esoteric books yesterday than I did my whole third year of law school. (Case in point: the only thing I remember about Cyberlaw is that…. Wait. I don’t remember any of it.)

So, you can have the Eiffel Tower, that great French metal Christmas tree. You can also have the Venetian canals with the drunk gondoliers who will cop a feel when you exit the boat in your finest Old Navy traveling skirt. I will take a bookstore any day– the creaky wood floors, the intimidating hipster staff, and the faint whiffs of book mold that make me want to release my bowels.

So here are my favorite bookstores for you list lovers:

1. Myopic Books: Chicago
2. Women and Children First: Chicago
3. Seminary Co-op: Chicago
4. Kramerbooks & Afterwards: DC
5. Square Books: Oxford, Mississippi
6. Books, Inc.: San Francisco
7. Book People: Austin

Where’s your favorite? I am sure I will get to vacation again sometime in the next, say, ten years. What’s a must- visit bookstore?

Preorder Your Copy of Outlaw Mama’s Book(s) HERE!

There’s no sense in being humble– not when you have GREAT. BIG. IDEAS. Having been encouraged to start writing a book, I did it. I started it.  Actually, I started four, so I have been busy.  I wanted to share the initial vision with you, because you have all stuck by me for so long. You can pre-order these books on Amazon.com as soon as they are written. I’ll keep you posted on that. Let’s not get hung up on details, ok?

Without further ado, here are my four “babies”:

Hunger Shames by Outlaw Mama

Hunger Shames by Outlaw Mama

My first, and greatest love, is my idea for Hunger Shames.  It’s about a future world where the most shameful desire a person can express is hunger.  The penalty for having this desire? Every other year the 11 people who show the most signs of hunger (and are between the ages of 11 and 18), they are sent away to a mythical place called “The Buffet,” where they are pitted against one another to see who has the most willpower in the face of a gigantic buffet from a rotating roster of fast food chains:  On the first night of Hunger Shames, all 11 contestants attend their first Buffet where they must see who is the first to succumb to the glistening, authentic platters of food from Panda Express.  The first one to cave and eat so much as a cashew or a broccoli floret is doused in fake butter and cheese and sent out into the woods where her entire village will laugh at her over a loud speaker and christen her with a new name like “Stupid Cellulite Bitch,” which will remain with her for the rest of her life.








Not The Book Thief by Outlaw Mama

Not The Book Thief by Outlaw Mama






My most tender and beautifully rendered book will be called Not The Book Thief.  It’s not about a little girl who found moments of grace and vitality during the Nazi regime.  It’s not about books. It’s not about a thief.  Everyone doesn’t die at the end.  There are no bombs.  It’s uplifting; more character sketch than plot.  Guaranteed to make you sob and sob some more.







A slightly racier book I am going to write is called Fiddlesex.  It’s a sweeping story that spans three generations and three continents (not sure which three yet).  The gist of the story sounds implausible, but in my deft hands, it will be a timeless treasure of American literature.  The hero-protagonist is a young man who discovers in early childhood that his penis is actually a violin bow.  Understandably, he is quite upset and doesn’t know what this will mean for his future as a sexual partner or a father or an orchestra member (no pun intended).  My tale will chronicle his heartbreaking struggle to come to terms with his talents and to embrace a lifestyle in the Deep South, where he explores American folk music in gritty honky tonks, ultimately embracing his penis, not as a violin bow, but as a fiddle bow.  You heard it here first: Bestseller.

Fiddlesex by Outlaw Mama

Fiddlesex by Outlaw Mama












I am almost equally proud of my idea for a biography of a little known man named Steve Lobs.  Have you ever heard of him? No? Good. Then you will need this book.  Steve Lobs is a humble man who grew up nowhere near the Silicon Valley.  In fact, he’s from Mississippi, and grew up down the dirt road from one Oprah Winfrey (of Harpo Studios fame).  Anyway, Steve Lobs invented the practice of throwing red juicy tomatoes during offensive or just plain bad live stage performances.  Of course, Lobs is not his real name.  He changed that when he began to win acclaim for his work on behalf of frustrated audience members world wide.  When he introduced tomato “lobbing” to Germany, there was a riot in Berlin because a ballerina slipped and broke her clavicle on an overripe heirloom.  His work deserves to be honored.  I am the writer to do it

Steve Lobs by Outlaw Mama

Steve Lobs by Outlaw Mama

Outlaw Mama: Putting the “End” in Trend– My Thoughts on The Hunger Games

Outlaw Mama's Hunger games

Where I keep my copy of The Hunger Games

As I carried around a copy of The Hunger Games last week, no less than 15 people stopped me to say something along the lines of “Don’t you love it? Cancel your day because you are going to HAVE to finish it and order the other 2 by nightfall.”  People at the gym, people on the train, neighbors, strangers, and even an oddly erudite homeless man engaged me about the book.  People who can’t even spell their names read this book in 24 hours.  I took a staggering 8 days to read it; George W. Bush read this faster than I did.  What is wrong with me?

With all due respect to Ms. Collins who does not (and should not) give an Avox’s ass what I think about her book, I just hated it.  And I really wanted to love it.  Having missed the whole vampire craze and the entire series Lost and currently poised to miss the Twitter boat any day now, I wanted to join the Katniss fever and adore this book.  I wanted to be that person who wore a costume when I went to see the movie– after standing in line all night long to get a front-row seat. Believe me when I say I was willing to be in love with or at the very least thoroughly enjoy this story.

As I read, my neck hurt, and I had a funny taste in my mouth– metallic and citrus mixed in an unsavory combination. I don’t like being that tense and that upset.  The worst combination for me is kids + violence, which is why I don’t know if I will be cut out for cafeteria duty when the time comes.  I thought I was prepared for the violence and suspense, but like childbirth or a visit to Etsy.com, you just don’t know how you will handle it until you get there yourself.

I almost called it quits when Rue expired, but I have a book quota for the year and I was losing time on this one (and THIS book was supposed to be a quickie!).  I kept going.  I just wanted it to end.  My distaste doesn’t make sense:  I like to escape; I like dark stories (see Swamplandia or Glass Castle); I like stories with strong female leads.  I should have loved this book.  I feel so robbed.

And lonely.  Billions of people love this book.  People I respect on every level (political, literary, intellectual, moral) enjoyed this book and took it for what it is– a compelling story with an original, dystopian storyline.  I am a little despondent that just like those yellow Livestrong rubber bracelets (benefiting Lance Armstrong’s foundation) I never got around to buying, I have missed a trend.  Maybe I am too old, too soft or too neurotic for science fiction, which I can begrudgingly accept.

My only question is: Am I alone here?