Monday Morning Coffee Talk, July 9th
Chibi: A True Story from Japan

What I'm Reading, July 9th

Since summer began, I've been reading more books and staying up late. Junior is showing some night-owl propensities as well. He's been listening to music and reading to his new goldfish, Spot and Golden Shark, until way past his old bedtime. 'Tis the season.

Right now I'm into a collection of short stories by Katherine Mansfield. I was inspired to pick it up by Francine Prose's Reading Like a Writer. Prose's book previously led me to Turgenev's First Love, about a teenage boy's infatuation with the older (but still young) woman next door. She holds court with five or so suitors at a time, reminding me of a couple of friends from college. I devoured that one and have now moved on to Mansfield. I did not know she was funny. Dry funny, and with details so precise they're almost painful. [Update, 7/8: at least a few are quite chilling, too.] I probably read a Mansfield story or two in high school, but I doubt it would heave meant much to me back then. I just didn't have the context. But, boy, do I dislike the Vintage Classics introduction in which Jeffrey Meyers correlates each story to events in Mansfield's life. Francine Prose would not approve. I feel sure. The text is it, man. So, I'm linking to a different edition than the one I found at the library.

Another recent book was Stefan Fatsis's Word Freak, about the world of competitive Scrabble. It's a fine piece of reporting. The author himself gets caught up in Scrabble tournaments, trying to better his rankings. Inspired by the book, I keep playing NT, my husband, but can't beat him. I know what it's going to take, though: memorizing all those weird two and three letter words and such. But, in truth, NT's math sense is so much better than mine that my quest may be, well, moot. Stay tuned.

Somewhere I heard of the guide The Best Old Movies for Families, by Ty Burr, a film critic at the Boston Globe, and bought it last week. Very entertaining reading. As Farm School's Becky said of another author, he writes in a "breezy, almost blowzy" style. Armed with Burr's recommendations, I went to the library, and many of the titles I wanted were checked out. What! I'm not the only one who wants "Duck Soup," "Some Like It Hot," and "Bringing Up Baby"? Dang. I settled for "The Nutty Professor" (Jerry Lewis version) and "Gold Rush" (with Charlie Chaplin), but so far Junior won't pause long enough during  the Popular Mechanics for Kids "Super Sea Creatures" DVD for me to slip in the "new" selections.

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Word Freak sounds so freakin' good (pun intended).

Sounds like a wonderfully diverse stack of books and a fabulous way to enjoy summer. I actually have more reading time in the winter.

Did you know that it is possible to train goldfish to swim through hoops? We have trained, more or less, Black Spot to do this, and it was rather a soothing occupation--the child holds a small hoop in the water until the fish swims through it, and then gives a food reward. My boy (same age as yours) stood peacefully just holding the hoop for minutes at a time...

I love the Scrabble movies, too -- Word Wars and Scrabylon.

I'm going to get The Best Old Movies for Families for the library's parents' collection. Thanks for drawing my attention to it!

Jules, I liked Word Freak a lot, though occasionally I did skim over some of the tile computation part.

Wisteria, when the farm is in big-time blossom, I imagine that your time is devoted to that.

hey, Charlotte. No, I didn't know that. Wait til I tell Junior. He'll be thrilled.

Oh, man, I haven't seen either one of those, Adrienne. Thanks. Have you seen the crossword puzzle movie, Wordplay? That's another good one. I did a crossword contest earlier this year, and made it two rounds, then tanked.

Yes, I have seen Wordplay. I loved it so much that I even watched all the special features. I loved learning more about how crossword puzzles are made. I enjoy most word-related things, but I'm more of a crossword puzzle girl (the NYT puzzle in particular, although I'm also devoted to Games magazine).

One of my friends is a competitive Scrabble player, incidentally, and she's amazing, knows all the playable 2 and 3 letter words and is now busily at work memorizing bingo stems. We play sometimes and she always creams me, but it's fun even so. :)

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