Friday, August 27, 2010

Friday Favorites: Zine Scene – by Louise Tripp

It's been a zine-ful week, hasn't it? Wednesday I posted about my zine collection and my obsession with all things xeroxed-and-stapled. For this week's Friday Favorites, I thought I'd continue in that vein and tell you about a teeny little D.I.Y guide to making zines that I happen to love. It's Stolen Sharpie Revolution (#2, because it's in its second edition) by long-time zinester Alex Wrekk.

If you've ever wondered the best way to write, print, promote and distribute your zine, this book is full of the kind of information you will find invaluable. The author begins by offering suggestions on how to start planning your zine (for instance, she lists the materials you may need and discusses the importance of thinking about your audience), then offers up the skinny on everything from the most efficient and least expensive way to make tons of copies to how and where you can sell your masterpiece of zine-dom. She also includes listings of outside resources: distros (short for distribution sources), zine libraries and stores, online zine resources, places to read zine reviews and more.
a look inside Stolen Sharpie Revolution

As much as I love blogging, I know that the production of zines has decreased due to this faster and yeah, cheaper, method of getting your voice out to an audience. That makes me sad. But zines aren't dead (!) and reading Stolen Sharpie Revolution reminds me of this. It makes me want to throw caution to the wind in order to create something more tangible. You can get your own copy of Alex Wrekk's little red zine guide (as well as other merchandise of her creation: zines, buttons, etc.) at:

Louise Tripp grew up in North Carolina. She currently lives in Chicago, where she is revising her first YA novel and working in a public library. You can read her regular blog at:

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Book Cover of the Week - by Louise Tripp

The cover this week is not from a book exactly. It's not even one cover. It's a series of covers from a collection I've been periodically adding to since the early '90's. These are my zine covers. 

*only a small portion of my actual zine collection

The Zine World website defines zines as "a self-published, small circulation, non-commercial booklet or magazine, usually produced by one person or a few individuals" and goes on to say that "zines are publications done for the love of doing them, not to make a profit or a living." I couldn't have said it better myself. Zines can basically be about anything. They can be a collection of stories about your life or fiction stories. They can be about anything you're obsessed with: celebrities, books, music, knitting, poetry, taxidermy. Zines are sometimes cheaply made and filled with poor-quality writing, it's true. But more often, zines are true literary gems, the ultimate small press offering.

So where do you find zines? There are a ton of places online and off to find them; many big cities have zine libraries or bookstores that sell zines. Chicago, for instance, has Quimby's; you can use Google to find such stores, etc. in your area.

Online there are many sites where zine writers post to advertise and try to sell or trade/give away their zines. Here are just a few:
Zine Scene - Livejournal Community
We Make Zines - Social Network for Zinesters

Louise Tripp grew up in North Carolina. She currently lives in Chicago, where she is revising her first YA novel and working in a public library. You can read her regular blog at

Lit Links: Giveaways

Just a couple of giveaways to alert you about:

Want a free copy of the new Nancy Werlin (Impossible) book, Extraordinary? You can enter to win it here.

You can also enter for a chance to win The Hunger Games prizes - such as T-Shirts and pendants - by going to The Nerd's Wife (you'll increase your chances by adding the blog to your Twitter and Facebook, too).

More to come!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Friday Favorites: New Love - by Louise Tripp

Everyone has heard of “love at first sight.” But what about “love at first read?” My pick for Friday Favorites this week is a book that's still new to me. It's the book I am currently in the middle of: Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go. Not having completed the book, it's hard to tell where I will end up in terms of my feelings for the book; but at this moment, it is fast becoming a favorite.

Initially my decision to read it was because the movie based on it is coming out this fall (see trailer below) and I have a slight crush on one of its stars, so I knew I would probably be seeing it. I like to read books before I see their film adaptations. At first, the narrator, Kathy, is incredibly clinical when she speaks of the strange boarding school, Hailsham, where she grew up: its emphasis on creativity, the mysterious “training” to become “carers” and “donors,” but never quite explaining in detail what this means. The assumption is that the reader knows; she keeps saying things like, “I don't know if it was the same in your school.” But as the story unfolds we learn of her bond with other students: most importantly, a boy named Tommy, at first ridiculed by his peers, and Ruth, Kathy's dearest friend.

Ruth is imaginative (when she and Kathy first begin playing together as children, it is Ruth that makes up games about invisible horses and secret guards and later, she seems to enjoy fibbing) but also a short fuse – when Kathy and Tommy try to comfort her at one point, she takes their remarks as insulting and explodes, sharing with them a bit of hurtful truth. Reading it, I get this feeling that what people like about Ruth is the moments where she is intimately inclusive: Kathy tells of nights where they sit up late, drinking tea and confiding their news of the day.

Tommy is Ruth's boyfriend, but it's clear by the way Kathy talks that she's had a crush on him herself. His attention to her shows that the feeling may be mutual.

At Hailsham, the students are supposed to create things – all sort of artwork, from sculptures to sketches to poems – and participate in “Exchanges,” where they exchange the things they have created for tokens that then buy them other students' work. An outsider, simply referred to as Madame, comes to the exchanges and selects especially nice work for something called The Gallery. No one ever sees this gallery, though. In the beginning, Tommy's problem is that he is not creative – or at least, not yet – and this leads to him being made fun of.

The book seems to be taking a turn towards tragedy – some foreboding scenes indicate this: Miss Lucy, one of their "guardians" or instuctors, gets upset about Hailsham and what it's not teaching its students and Madame cries when she witnesses Kathy slow-dancing to her favorite cassette, pressing an invisible body (Madame presumes a child or lover) to her chest. It's all very strange so far, but I love the almost sci-fi mystery of it. I also love how the three friends communicate and empathize with each other; their unspoken understandings are lovely, even if they do border on “love means never having to say you're sorry” territory. Kathy understands, without Ruth ever saying so, that Ruth is apologizing for a blow-up by the way Ruth treats Kathy with extreme kindness (she goes out of her way to explain the jokes she and her other friends are laughing over, etc.)

Louise Tripp grew up in North Carolina. She currently lives in Chicago, where she is revising her first YA novel and working in a public library. You can read her regular blog at

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Book review: The Appeal, by John Grisham - by Inverarity

It’s been a long time since I read a John Grisham novel. I used to be quite fond of his legal thrillers, even though they consist of lots of exposition and flat characters. In all of his novels, Grisham writes with a sense of righteous fury at injustice, and sympathy for the little people who are so easily ground beneath the wheels of the system. Unfortunately, as he became the sort of author whose books are routinely made into Hollywood movies, the scope of his plots became larger but the stories somehow became smaller. For me, his first novel, A Time to Kill, a courtroom drama set in a small Southern town in which a lawyer defends a black man who killed the white men who raped his daughter, is still probably his best. (In his author’s notes, Grisham writes about how he himself, as a practicing lawyer, has thrown up in the courthouse men’s room, just as the defense attorney in A Time to Kill does, and that tension was very evident in that book.)

Later he moved on to big criminal/industrial conspiracies, and while those make for good Tom Cruise vehicles, even the most sympathetic characters are overshadowed by the massive forces Grisham is trying to expose in his books.

Thus, I found the The Appeal to be a lackluster potboiler of a novel in which quite honestly, Grisham seems to be phoning it in. Especially since it’s basically a toned-down version of The Pelican Brief. Both books are about a wealthy industrialist who tries to stack the court with judges favorable to his interests in anticipation of a huge lawsuit that’s coming their way. In The Pelican Brief, it’s the U.S. Supreme Court, and the villains have two Supreme Court justices murdered; in The Appeal, it’s the Mississippi Supreme Court, and rather than assassinating the obstreperous judge, the villains remove her by mounting a massively-funded smear campaign, putting their chosen candidate in her place.

(For those not familiar with U.S. judicial politics: while federal Supreme Court justices are lifetime political appointments, some states require state supreme court justices to be elected, or periodically reelected even if appointed by the governor.)

The first part of the The Appeal gives us the background on the suit against Krane Chemical, which has been dumping carcinogenic chemicals in a small Mississippi town, resulting in skyrocketing cancer rates. The victims are represented by a plucky husband-and-wife law firm that’s teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, and there’s no room for ambiguity in the reader’s mind as to whether or not Krane Chemical is guilty. But as if a chemical company poisoning a small town wasn’t black and white enough, Grisham gives us Carl Trudeau, the billionaire CEO of Krane Chemical, who all but twirls his mustache and throws puppies off the balcony of his New York penthouse balcony as he sneers his way through the book vowing that not one dime of compensation will ever be paid to “those ignorant rednecks." We get irrelevant glimpses of his family life (vapid, anorexic trophy wife, neglected lifestyle-accessory daughter), and then we move to Mississippi, where Trudeau hires a very special private firm to handpick someone to put on the Mississippi Supreme Court just in time for his corporation’s appeal to be heard there.

The next part of the book is about the election. Judge Sheila McCarthy, a moderate who’s made no waves but has a tendency to rule in favor of the underdog, is painted as a liberal judge who will destroy your family, take away your guns, and legalize gay marriage. (The private firm actually hires a gay couple from Chicago to move to Mississippi, establish legal residency, and apply for a marriage license, which of course is promptly rejected, leading to a lawsuit for the sole purpose of putting gay marriage on the radar during the election.) So the airwaves are full of guns, gays, abortion, and pornography, even though the chances of the state supreme court changing the status quo on any of those issues is zero. It’s all quite over-the-top, and yet frighteningly familiar.

While the book’s Wikipedia page points out the similarity of the plot to a real-life case in West Virginia, the attack on the unsuspecting Sheila McCarthy is in some ways reminiscent of the unseating of California Chief Justice Rose Bird in the 1980s. Rose Bird was the first California Supreme Court Justice to lose her seat in an election; while the campaign mounted against her was ostensibly because of her reluctance to enforce the death penalty, the money that went into defeating her came mostly from big businesses who found her rulings unfavorable to their interests. The fictional campaign against the fictional Sheila McCarthy, however, is a much more one-dimensional narrative.

Meanwhile, just in case you forgot what a villain Trudeau is, when he’s not engineering the bankruptcy of the plaintiff’s attorneys, he’s pushing his own company’s stock price downward with rumors of bankruptcy so he can buy it up at a discount, in anticipation of a dramatic leap in value when the lawsuit gets dismissed by the state supreme court. At one point, he literally cackles and rubs his hands together in glee after another successful round of villainous shenanigans.

After the election, Ron Fisk, the chump selected to be Krane’s boy on the bench, promptly rules against an elderly victim of nursing home abuse, just so the reader is clear on who the bad guys are, again. Several more cases of this nature are described: maimed children, medical malpractice, etc., all of them egregiously black and white, and all smacked down by the new court, with Fisk tipping the balance towards the dark side.

Justice Fisk is not actually a bad person, and is completely unaware of the fact that he’s been bought and paid for by a New York industrialist. He’s just a useful idiot who believed the mysterious backers who told him they wanted him on the bench because he’s such a good, conservative Christian. He’s shocked -- shocked! -- at the attack ads his people run against McCarthy, and the revelation of all the out-of-state money funding his campaign. Not shocked enough to really start asking hard questions, though.

We then see Fisk experience a crisis of conscience, brought about by the sort of bitter irony that only a heavy-handed author could inflict, and the conclusion of the book rests on whether or not Fisk will “see the light." And after all that buildup leading to this dramatic moment...


Fisk waffles, then rules against the plaintiffs exactly as he was expected to do. The judgment is overturned, the victims go uncompensated, their lawyers go broke and lose everything, the bad guys win a crushing victory, and Trudeau sails off into the sunset on his mega-yacht.

Grisham is making a point, here. In fact, the entire book is driven by his agenda: a call against the dangers of judicial elections, corporate influence, and tort reform. As is usually the case with polemical novels, I found that it suffered despite the fact that I pretty much agreed with all of Grisham’s points. All the justices who vote against plaintiffs suing doctors and corporations are heartless ideologues, as made clear by narrative editorializing: “ if he were capable of sympathy." Krane Chemicals is the sort of company you’re just certain would cheerfully sell nerve gas to Saddam Hussein, and Carl Trudeau is pure greed and ego.

Paraphrasing Tom Clancy’s not-very-original observation: the difference between fiction and reality is that fiction has to be believable. I totally believe that corporations and people sometimes are that evil, but when I read about such cliched stereotypes in a novel, I cannot help but feel the author is being lazy.

Verdict: The Appeal is about as exciting as a state supreme court hearing on a class action lawsuit against a chemical company. Oh wait... Yeah, this book might make you pay a little more attention to the next judicial election, if that’s the sort of thing that gets your fires of righteous indignation burning, but this is not the sort of tense legal thriller that Grisham wrote earlier in his career, and all the characters are just names attached to designated roles.

This review was originally posted here.You can read more of Inverarity's reviews, etc. at

*-highlight to read

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Book Cover of the Week: Hiding The Hideous - by Louise Tripp

This week's book cover, that for the book Brief Interviews With Hideous Men by David Foster Wallace, was submitted by Alexandra and features a man with a paperbag on his head, which reminded me of the cover of Augusten Burroughs' Running With Scissors (see right). It's not a bad idea for an image, I think, to hide something when you are trying to attract the interest of a reader. I know I find myself drawn to books with veiled faces or cropped bodies on the covers and I have to wonder: Is it because it's interesting thinking that there is a secret to be found within the covers? That the author (or more likely, the book designer) is alluding to something hidden? I know that I am never thinking this consciously, but on some level, that must be part of it: Intrigue. Fascinating thought. 

Challenge: Recreate this cover in photographs and I'll post it here next week.

Got an idea for a Book Cover of the Week? Email:

Louise Tripp grew up in North Carolina. She currently lives in Chicago, where she is revising her first YA novel and working in a public library. You can read her regular blog at

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday Favorites: Writers in the Movies – by Louise Tripp

The only thing I love as much as I love books is movies. I wish I had nothing but time to fit more of each into my crazy schedule. When considering what I might write about for this edition of Friday Favorites, I found myself stubbornly unable to get my mind off the movies. I thought: Why not post about movies centering around writers? The following list is my (much-boiled-down) offering of five wonderful movies that prove the pen is mightier than the sword.

  1. Wonder Boys – My favorite of the five, Wonder Boys is based on the Michael Chabon novel of the same name and takes place during an annual literary convention at a cushy university. The story centers around Professor Grady Tripp, a creative writing teacher and one-time lauded author who is experiencing the opposite of writer's block: he can't seem to finish his novel because he can't stop writing. That's the least of his problems, of course: his wife just left him, his boss's wife is pregnant with his child, one of his students keeps throwing herself at him and another of his students may or may not be suicidal. There are so many brilliant moments in this movie, I want to live inside of it.

  2. The Squid & The Whale – The Squid & The Whale is about the collapse of a marriage and its affect on the children. Joan takes up with a tennis instructor and her husband, Bernard begins a flirtation with one of his students (Anna Paquin). Both parents happen to be writers and oddly, the children, Walt and Frank, act out in ways involving literature and books. Walt, a sexually-frustrated teenager, writes psuedo-intellectual reports about books he's never read and gets caught plagiarizing a song by Pink Floyd. Frank, their younger child, jerks off in the library and smears his ejaculation on the books. It's all pretty disturbing, but the performances are inspired and the film does a great job of portraying the literary family (Bernard's snobbery, scoffing at “philistines” rang especially true). And its demise.
  1. Deconstructing Harry - In this Woody Allen directed dark comedy, Allen himself plays the role of Harry, a novelist about to be honored for literary achievement while his personal life turns to chaos. He has a hardcore case of writer's block. Half the people he knows are angry at him for ways he portrayed them in his novels (one of his ex-lovers, played by Judy Davis, even threatens to kill him and fires shots to show she's not kidding). His latest young girlfriend has run off with his best friend, planning nuptials. And in order for his son to attend the ceremony where Harry is to be honored, he will have to kidnap the boy. The film uses Harry's stories, one of a journey into hell and another about a man whose life is so out-of-focus that he becomes a blur, literally, to give a peak into the psyche of a struggling writer.

  2. Quills – Even today, it's hard to imagine a writer more...shall we say, naughty, than Marquis de Sade. This movie, a fictionalized account of his last years incarcerated in an asylum, shows us the importance of an independent press: de Sade's erotic novels are being sold with the help of an asylum laundress, who smuggled his manuscripts out and into the hands of a publisher. While probably not the most truthful look at the notoriously sadistic scribe, Quills is nonetheless an achievement for its look at the banning of books and for outstanding performances by Geoffrey Rush (as Marquis de Sade) and Kate Winslet (as the laundress, Madeline).
  1. Henry Fool – A garbage man named Simon Grim, apparently the target of neighborhood hoodlums and bullies, lives aimlessly with his pill-popping mother and whiny, chain-smoking sister. He meets a drifter named Henry Fool, who gives him a black-and-white-covered composition book and tells him “if you ever feel like you have something to say and you can't get it out, stop and write it down.” What Simon ends up writing is a poem; it's even in effortless iambic pentameter. Meanwhile, Henry's roguish wit is found to be a facade covering up a lack of talent and a load of lies: he's not “in” with a publisher, as he has said, and he is actually a convicted sex offender. While that's a sour look at heroes, what makes the movie wise is that Simon Grim becomes world-renowned as a poet anyway – despite the person inspiring him to do so being a dishonest character.

    Louise Tripp grew up in North Carolina. She currently lives in Chicago, where she is revising her first YA novel and working in a public library. You can read her regular blog at

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Lit Links - compiled by Louise Tripp

  • On NPR's Books page, Nancy Pearl offers a list of lesser-known summer reads, because summer's not over yet.
  • Elaine Koster, the publisher and literary agent who gave Stephen King his big break, has died. Read more here.
  • Speaking of King, the author/director/you-name-it will be guest-starring on Sons of Anarchy when it returns for its third season in September.
  • Elle Magazine's site features a list of August book releases readers may find handy; also has a list of new and upcoming releases here.

Book Trailers

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls by Steve Hockensmith (Fiction)

If I Stay by Gayle Forman (YA fiction)

Tweak by Nic Sheff (Memoir)

Skinned by Robin Wasserman (YA fiction)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Book Cover of the Week - by Louise Tripp

I don't read romance novels. At least, not the kind that you find in the romance section of your usual library or bookstore. I don't look down on those who do – it's a perfectly valid genre and I think plenty of very intelligent men and women read from it – but it's just not my thing. As I've admitted before, I sometimes judge books by their covers – and bodice-ripper covers rarely intrigue me.

picture by Bill Ohms
Nevertheless, as a tribute to romance fans, I chose this week's book cover from the section that usually holds books by Danielle Steel, Jude Devereaux and Debbie Macomber. Only, this book (by a lesser-known author than any of the above titans of the genre) looks less like the usual fare and might just as well fall under the newish label of “chick lit.” I noticed it while shelving one night awhile ago and coming across it still makes me chuckle. What library-lovin' lady (or man) couldn't find humor in the title The Dewey Decimal System of Love?

Challenge: Recreate this cover in photographs and I'll post it here next week.

Louise Tripp grew up in North Carolina. She currently lives in Chicago, where she is revising her first YA novel and working in a public library. You can read her regular blog at

Friday, August 6, 2010

Review: Gail Caldwell's Let's Take The Long Way Home - by Louise Tripp

Gail Caldwell's latest book, Let's Take The Long Way Home comes out next Tuesday (August 10th). Here is my review:

I am just going to write this as candidly as possible, just as Caldwell wrote her novel: this book touched my heart in a way so profound that I am fumbling over how to even begin to talk about it. Saying that life is so fragile, as is love and friendship and allowing yourself to open up and know someone and be known, almost feels too cliche to speak the words. I cannot possibly tell you about this book РI am not the writer that Gail Caldwell is. But Let's Take The Long Way Home took my breath away Рanother clich̩, but it's true. It's full of so much profundity, so many analogies and metaphors and stories that it's amazing that such a small book could hold it all. It's about death Рthe death of the author's best friend and fellow writer, Caroline Knapp. It's about their friendship. It's about Caldwell's life, her struggle with alcoholism. It's about beloved dogs and the way it feels to love a place, to love a river and the woods around it. Mostly, it's just about hope. I stayed up until 1:00am finishing it one night and sobbed, but just felt so overwhelmed with gratitude for having read it.

It made me miss people. It made me miss the friendships that used to be so deep and now have come and gone. It made me ache with longing for that feeling of belonging when you are with people who “get it.”

I cannot recommend it enough.

Some quotes from Let's Take The Long Way Home:

I would be the sensitive heroine, or doomed romantic, or radical bohemian – I was Hamlet, Icarus, Edith Wharton's Lily Bart. God forbid that I simply face who I was, which was somebody drunk and scared and on my way to being no one at all.” idea of a productive day, as both a child and an adult, was reading for hours and staring out the window.”

To people who have spent their lives thick with the bounty of other people, attachment itself is complex but assumed. For the introvert, it is a more nebulous territory.”

We lived here for each other, and for everyone else we loved within twenty miles, and for all the good reasons people live where they live. They need the view of a wheat field or an ocean; they need the smell of a thunderstorm or the sound of a city. Or they need to leave, so that they can invent what they need someplace else.”

Accepting a death sentence is like falling down a flight of stairs in slow motion. You take it in one bruise at a time – a blow, a landing, another short descent.”

Death is a divorce nobody asked for; to live through it is to find a way to disengage from what you thought you couldn't stand to lose.”

Hope in the beginning feels like such a violation of the loss, and yet without it we couldn't survive.”

The real trick is to let life, with all its ordinary missteps and regrets, be consistently more mysterious and alluring that its end.”

Friday Favorites: Drama Queen - by Louise Tripp

I admit it. I don't get to the theater nearly enough. When I was on the college newspaper, I'd get free passes but without that luxury – well, excuses, excuses. It's true: though I have lived in Chicago for, off and on, about seven years, I still haven't managed to sample most of the (many) theaters. Nevertheless, I really do love plays. I swear. My younger sibling and I, as kids, used to play “drama class” and enacted parts of Macbeth and Our Town. Which is why those two plays top my list of favorites.

  1. Our Town by Thornton Wilder -The reknowned play set in the small town of Grover's Corners follows ordinary people through their lives, through hope, love and finally, death. It is told, in part, by the Stage Manager. The central focus of the story is a couple, George and Emily, and their lifelong love born of childhood affections, as well as their apprehension toward marriage and adulthood. When Emily dies in childbirth at the end, she walks as a spirit and with the help of the Stage Manager, revisits her 12th birthday – there, she sees all that she missed in the little moments. Finding it unbearable to watch, she begs to be taken back up the hill to her grave – but first, she delivers one of the loveliest speeches ever written about life and its brevity: “Goodbye, Goodbye world. Goodbye Grover's Corners...Mama and Papa. Goodbye to clocks ticking and Mama's sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new ironed dresses and hot baths. And sleeping and waking up. Oh're too wonderful for anyone to realize you.”

  2. Macbeth by William Shakespeare – “By the pricking of my thumbs/Something wicked this way comes.” Ah, Macbeth. A tragedy of jealousy and greed, but also a moral tale of conscience and karma. Three witches utter these lines I've quoted here and also predict to Macbeth that he will become a noblemen and eventually, king. When he shares their prediction with his wife, she takes the reigns and decides: why wait? If Macbeth murders the king and blames it on the guards, why, he can become king right away! Time's a'wastin'! But murder proves tricky: one killing leads to more and that leads to surviving loved ones seeking revenge on Macbeth. Meanwhile, Lady Macbeth is driven to madness and suicide. Yes, it's not a cheery story. But it's, in my humble opinion, one of Shakespeare's bests.

  3. Angels In America by Tony Kushner – Let me start by saying that everyone in “Angels In America” is fucked up – just a little bit, at least. There's Louis, who walks out on his AIDS-infected boyfriend; there's Joe,  a closeted gay Republican who is stepping out on his agoraphobic wife, Harper with Louis; and there's Joe's boss, the heartless snake, Roy – who is also (very) closeted, also recently diagnosed with AIDS. “Angels” has some of the most witty, delectable dialogue I've seen and I think what makes it a masterpiece is that there are so many things touched upon here – politics, sex, compassion, redemption – and yet, it's all woven together so beautifully.

  4. 'Night, Mother by Marsha Norman – Why, yes, I am sometimes quite morose. And something so full of dark realism as Norman's 1983 drama “'Night Mother” is pretty much right up my alley. Because I can find beauty in anguish, and this play is one of the most anguishing stories I've ever read. It takes place in one night in the home of a woman named Thelma, between her and her grown daughter, Jessie. Jessie informs her mother, in the most matter-of-fact way, that she intends to kill herself that night. What follows is their painful exchange, with Thelma fluctuating between trying to convince her daughter not to end her life with calm logic and with tearful begging. But Jessie has it all planned out – she's put her affairs in better order than most elderly and terminally ill people – and she won't be swayed. As she explains her reasons, they come out crisp and sound – and the play's resolution is a shock to the heart.

  5. Play It Again, Sam: A Romantic Comedy In Three Acts by Woody Allen – Although I am the morose sort, that doesn't mean I don't have a lighter side. My favorite director and comedian is also a playwright, and this is him at his whimsical best (the movie of the same name is based on it, of course). Here, the ghost of Humphrey Bogart visits a down-and-out divorcee named Allan Felix who is attempting to “get back out there” and meet women again. The ghost tries to help him be more suave around the ladies, but he's an awkward mess. When Allan finds himself falling for his friend's wife, he has to face that their relationship isn't meant to be – and, much like Bogart's Casablanca character, he must let her go. Which, of course, sounds like a downer – but Allen weaves in his usual self-effacing humor and surrealist moments into the story, crossing that fine line between comedy and drama.

Plays do something that books don't – something very hard: they rely on the dialogue more than the set-up. If you are simply reading a play instead of seeing it performed, you don't get the actor's interpretations – and so the dialogue must speak for itself. I don't know how playwrights do it so well, but I feel like my own work could gain a lot from my finding out. And that, my friends, is why I enjoy reading plays. 

Louise Tripp grew up in North Carolina. She currently lives in Chicago, where she is revising her first YA novel and working in a public library. You can read her regular blog at

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Is this real…or is it fantasy? – by Lindsay Moore

I’ve never claimed to be a fan of fantasy literature. For some reason, I have always associated the fantasy genre with science-fiction or those novels with the really glossy covers and the silver lettering. I know you know what I’m talking about. But thinking about it lately, it truly is difficult to pinpoint what exactly constitutes fantasy literature. Twilight could definitely be considered fantasy seeing as how it deals with several factors of the supernatural, along with a fantastical romance. And I won’t deny that I’m a fan of that. Alice in Wonderland could also be classified as fantasy. Where in the real world does a hookah smoking caterpillar or a mad hatter who has had too much tea, exist? Wonderland is a fantasy world that can only be found in a dream, which is really what a fantasy is. But how far are we taking these so-called fantasies and how far would we go to make them a reality? Are we delving so far into a fantasy world that we are beginning to lose sight of what’s right in front of us?
Let’s just take the Twilight series for example, since it is a prime one. With the introduction of Edward Cullen into the literary world, the male race no longer stands a chance. I cannot tell you the number of girls I have run into who say they wish their boyfriend was more like Edward. A fictional character has every teenage girl in today’s society completely snowed. What happened to wanting a man to be more like Mr. Darcy? At least that’s a little more reasonable. And I almost fainted when I saw a news story the other day talking about the new way kids these days are choosing to show affection. Kids are BITING each other on the neck and on the arms, just like vampires. What is this world coming to? I’m a huge fan of Stephanie Meyer’s work, but this has gone far enough. I have always believed that reading a book is like taking a journey and becoming one with that book. But when you finish the last page and put the book back on the shelf, that particular journey is over and you move on to another one. Don’t dwell on the past.
I just recently finished reading The Neverending Story by Michael Ende, which is probably one of the most fantastical books I have ever read, aside from journeying through Carroll’s world. This story is the ultimate journey. Not only does the main character delve into a fantasy world within the plot, but the reader rides along with him on Falkor, the luckdragon, through the world of Fantasia. Even though he is hiding in his school’s attic reading, Bastian becomes an integral part of the fight to save Fantasia from being destroyed by the Nothing. The Nothing represents people’s lack of imagination in the real world and seeks to tear apart any idea of fantasy. A friend of mine who also just read the book explained it to me in a way that I had never pictured before. He said that the book goes so much deeper into the imagination than the movie does and relies on the value of hidden dreams in order to bring out someone’s true character. But just like Bastian, our society today, predominantly the younger generation, have ceased to accept the line between fantasy and reality, which gives their relationship with books a whole new meaning. People now rely on books like this to completely take them away from their real world woes. And while that is what a book is meant to do, society has taken too much of a reliance on fantasy and expects their lives to read just like a story. And as much as I wish Bella Swan’s story was my own, I know it’s just not meant to be.

Lindsay Moore is a junior communications major from South Carolina with a passion for reading and writing. She hopes to one day work for a magazine in Charleston and open her own bookstore.

Book Cover of the Week: Hands On - by Louise Tripp

The book cover of the week this week is more of a trend in book covers that I happen to like. Yes, I admit it – I judge books by their covers. The prettier a cover, the more likely I am to pick the book up and see what it's about, read a few sentences or paragraphs, buy it or check it out of the library. The trend I am liking right now is: HANDS. Romances with a glossy picture of two hands intertwined, misty pictures of an adult hand grasping the hand of an unsteady child – I think this is pretty. But admittedly, I don't read much romance. Unless, of course, it's a gay or lesbian romance – then I just might be hooked by a cover displaying lovers touching hands. Case in point: Emma Donoghue's Landing (pretty much my favorite lesbian romance of the last five years).

And let us not forget YA fiction, my other weakness. Sara Ryan's The Empress of the World has a gorgeous picture of golden sunlight shining like a halo over the clasped hands of a teenage lesbian couple. It makes me happy just looking at it.

Challenge: Recreate either cover in photographs and I'll post it here next week.

Louise Tripp grew up in North Carolina. She currently lives in Chicago, where she is revising her first YA novel and working in a public library. You can read her regular blog at

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Vlogging About Books

One of the rules of the O.M.B award was for the recipient blog to choose from one of five options; I chose to make a video blog (or "vlog") and post it. So without further ado, here it is:

Monday, August 2, 2010

The O.M.B award!

I am finally getting around to posting this, but To Grow On received this award from Julie at j-flamingo reflections and 5-squared, two really wonderful book blogs (check them out!). 

Now, as recipient of this award I must (and if you receive this award, you must!):

1. Get really excited that you got the coolest award ever!

TGO: Yaaaayyy! A blog award! Let's dance, let's shout! Woohoo! 

2. Choose one of the following options of accepting the Oh My Blog! award:

(a) Get really drunk and blog for 15 minutes straight, or for as long as you can focus.

(b) Write about your most embarrassing moment.

(c) Write a “soundtrack of your childhood” post.

(d) Make your next blog a ‘vlog’/video blog where you’re basically talking to the camera about whatever.

(e) Take a picture of yourself first thing in the morning, before you do anything else (hair, make up, etc) and post it.

TGO: Tune in tomorrow for my first video blog (vlog) ever! You can witness more of my excitement over winning this award! :)

3. Pass the award onto at least three, but preferably more, awesome bloggers and let them know.

TGO: That's easy. Three wonderful blogs you should already be checking out:

  • Gerrity's Oven - new cooking blog with lots of yummy recipes by our writer, Alex and her hubby!
  • still life - musings on life and culture by the author of our recent Dorothy Allison piece, Ammie
  • That Girl Charity - book reviews (of course), rants and raves by a crafty girl in North Carolina.
Congrats to all winners and thank you again this award! 

(Blog Writer/Editor)