Sunday Salon – July 27, 2008

July 27, 2008

Good morning! Last week I did not post a Salon entry because I was out of town doing something quite bookish. Over the last year, I have met several women on Library Thing who I have grown to respect and adore. We decided to meet in person at the amazing Sylvia Beach Hotel in Newport, Oregon. The hotel was originally built in 1912 and has been renovated beautifully. Each room is themed after an author. There are books everywhere and a fabulous library which looks out on the ocean. I will definitely be going back there someday!

After weeks of smoke, heat and general anxiety…I was looking forward to getting to the coast. The meet-up was a resounding success! We talked and talked, laughed a lot, shared meals and visited tons of bookstores (yes, I bought a lot of books, too!). On Sunday, we checked out of the hotel and drove to Portland where we got completely lost and overwhelmed in the book stacks of Powells Bookstore. Below are some of my favorite photos from the weekend:

**Click on thumbnails to view the entire photo in a larger size

  • Photo #1: The view from our room.
  • Photo #2: The Sylvia Beach Hotel.
  • Photo#3: The “gang” who met up at the hotel.
  • Photo#4: My LT friends and me at Powell’s Bookstore.

To read more about our fabulous and bookish weekend, visit Terri’s post!

So, you are probably wondering what I bought, aren’t you? My new acquisitions are:

  1. Walking in Circles Before Lying Down, by Merrill Markoe
  2. The Courage Consort, by Michael Faber
  3. The White Earth, by Andrew McGahan
  4. Writing With Intent, by Margaret Atwood
  5. The Post-Birthday World, by Lionel Shriver
  6. The Passion of Artemisia, by Susan Vreeland
  7. Close Range, by Annie Proulx
  8. The Optimist’s Daughter, by Eudora Welty
  9. Crossing the River, by Caryl Phillips
  10. Where or When, by Anita Shreve
  11. Hardcover edition of one of my favorite John Irving books: Hotel New Hampshire

I also acquired two more books due to the kindness and generosity of my book friends (thank you Terri and Paola!):

  1. Music and Silence, by Rose Tremain
  2. Ishmael, by Daniel Quinn

And lastly, I made my first Bookcrossing “catch” when I found The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Diaz in the Sylvia Beach library. This one has been getting mixed reviews, and some of my trusted lit-bloggers have not liked it…but, it won the Pulitzer so I am going to at least try it.

Whew! Lots of books, great prices…and the joy of sharing book-buying with good friends. Who could ask for a better weekend?

I’ve read a few books since the last time I joined you. I finished The White Mary (read my review) which was graphic, but fairly well written. It made me want to read Kira Salak’s non fiction one of these days. Then I tried reading an Advance Reader’s Edition of The Island of Eternal Love, by Daina Chaviano (read my thoughts). Oh, how I wanted to like this book – but it was not to be. The translation was horrible – stilted and distant. I gave up on the book at page 110 (much longer than I usually read a book I’m not enjoying).

My next read was fabulous. Hotel Du Lac, by Anita Brookner (read my review) won the Booker Prize in 1984 and in my opinion was well-deserving of that award. This was my first Brookner novel, but won’t be my last. I love her “voice” and style – rather old-fashioned and eloquent.

I’ve now immersed myself in The 19th Wife, by David Ebershoff which is due to be released in August. This is a book I got through the Library Thing’s Early Reviewer Program. It’s taken me a while to start the book (it is nearly 600 pages), but I am flying through it. So far I’m finding it to be a well-written historical fiction about pologamy, a murder, and the Latter Day Saints (the “Firsts”). Stay tuned for a review of this book in a few days.

My final thoughts today have to do with a very interesting article which appeared in The Guardian this week pertaining to Reader’s Block. According to Stuart Jefferies, the idea of reader’s block is less about being truly ‘blocked’ and more about ‘the great is-ought dilemma. You know you should, but you probably won’t.‘ Stuart notes that despite the rise in expenditure on books, the number of hours spent reading books is declining. He adds:

According to Teletext’s 2007 study of 4,000 Britons’ reading habits, the top reasons for not reading are: too tired (48%); watch TV instead (46%); play computer games (26%); work late (21%). A lot of respondents say that they do not have time to read books except when they go on holiday and then, because they are so unfamiliar with the literary world, many of them find it not just difficult to know what to read but (there is no nice way to say this) also how to turn the pages.


According to the Office for National Statistics, a third of Britons read “challenging literature” in order to seem well-read even though they could not follow what the book was about.

The article goes on to give pointers as to how to avoid reader’s block.

I buy a ton of books and have a towering TBR mountain in my bedroom; but I also read between 90 and 100 books a year (which I believe is far above the national average). I have yet to really experience a reader’s block of any sort. And yes, I read challenging literature…sometimes because I think I should…but I usually finish the books and am glad I read them.

So, do you experience reader’s block? Do you spend more time buying books than actually reading them? Do you attempt “challenging literature” because you want to seem well-read, not because the book really interests you? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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    • Jill on July 27, 2008 at 04:24

    I love the Red Room picture! I bet that gang thought it was a great pic too!

    • Lexi on July 27, 2008 at 06:18

    Sigh. Powell’s. I spent the summer in Portland a few years ago, and Powell’s was definitely the highlight of the entire summer. I miss that place! Now I live in south Florida and the idea of an independent bookstore has apparently never crossed anyone’s mind down here.

    What a wonderful trip you must have had!

    • John on July 27, 2008 at 08:21

    So, do you experience reader’s block?

    I have done in the past, for about 10 years I barely read, And the reason was teaching workload. The solutions was getting out of teaching!

    Do you spend more time buying books than actually reading them?

    No.I have diffrent temptations, that of swapping, cataloguing and blogging about books. I have slowed the swapping down to a trickle which solves the cataloguing distraction. I have also cut the meme blogs to around one a week. It was not just the writing but I also visit all the blogs in that meme to read and leave comments.

    Do you attempt “challenging literature” because you want to seem well-read, not because the book really interests you?

    Couldn’t imagine a bigger waste of time. The book as its set up chapters to grab me or its out of the window. In saying this I don’t mind that some books do require a girding of the intellectual loins and you need to set the time aside for this. I have a summer set aside to tackle Infinite Jest by Wallace and a book of the same size by Greg Carlisle that guides me through the first. But then my tastes may well run to someone else’s challenging literature as I find a lot of mainstream books a bit thin to my taste.

    • Nicola on July 27, 2008 at 08:42

    So, do you experience reader’s block? Do you spend more time buying books than actually reading them? Do you attempt “challenging literature” because you want to seem well-read, not because the book really interests you?

    No, I don’t get reader’s block but I have gone through periods in my life because I find a hobby that I immerse myself in and do that instead of reading. (such as knitting)

    I don’t spend more time buying books than I spend time reading but I definitely buy more books than I’ll ever possibly be able to read.

    “Challenging literature”, what exactly is that? I read classics and books classified as literature but I don’t read anything that I don’t enjoy reading. Sometimes I will stick with a book I’m finding a bit challenging to read because I feel I’ll be rewarded in the end.

  1. That weekend sounds like it was great fun – and such a great book haul!

    I do sometimes look at my shelves and wonder if I’ll ever have time to read them all – but I never stop reading, so I don’t think I have reader’s block.

    I loved Hotel du Lac as well – and got into a phase of reading a lot of Brookner’s work. She’s a good writer.

    • Lisa on July 27, 2008 at 09:05

    What a beautiful hotel! And a fabulous idea for a trip! I, too have met some wondeful people on LT (one even passes thru my town once a year). It sounds as if you had a wonderful time! And the books! You are going to be so busy! I don’t spend so much time buying books as I do reading about them online. That’s how my wish list gets so big! I would probably get more reading done if I stayed away from the computer. Enjoy all your new finds!

    • Dawn on July 27, 2008 at 09:26

    How fun! It sounds like a great field trip, meeting up with friends and looking for books together. What a great list you added to your bookshelf!

    • Wendy on July 27, 2008 at 11:11

    Jill: That was one of my favorite shots of the weekend – we all look so happy (and we were!)

    Lexi: Powells is fabulous…I wish I’d had more time to spend there (maybe next time!). Sorry to hear you are lacking good independent bookstores in Florida. My area (Redding, California) also is quite limited…but whenever I get up to Mount Shasta or to the Bay Area, I always make time to visit the independent book stores which I love!

    John: I can see how being a teacher could curtail one’s reading! I fall prey to the book blogging and cataloging obsession as well 🙂 I agree that reading books just to say you did is a huge waste of time. Although I will admit that once in a while I’ve picked up a book because it is a classic which I think I SHOULD read, and been pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it (challenge or not!).

    Nicola: I buy way more books than I can read in a year…but right now my stack is about 3 years worth of reading, so I don’t feel completely over my head! I think the author of the article categorized “challenging literature” as those classics which are on many reading lists, but rather dull. Or at least that’s how *I* read it!

    Clare: Which Brookner would you recommend I read next?

    Lisa: I would definitely read more if it weren’t for the books groups and blogs! But, I love them, so that is not likely to change any time soon. We *did* have a wonderful time…

    Dawn: I’m excited about the books I bought! And it was the perfect vacation – friends and books, how could we go wrong?!?!

    • Lisamm on July 27, 2008 at 14:07

    I am so jealous! The Sylvia Beach Hotel sounds like a fabulous, unique place.

  2. Hi Wendy! I’m also part of Becky’s online book club. I look forward to hearing more from you and the rest of the group!
    Bobbi’s Book Nook

    • Teddy on July 27, 2008 at 16:16

    Wow, sounds and looks like you had a wonderful time! When ever I go to Portland, I always have to go to Powells books!

  3. I love Powell’s – definitely one of the benefits of living here in Portland. Coincidentally, we’re headed to Yachats (south of Newport) tomorrow for the week and will be stopping at Nye Beach near the Sylvia hotel for lunch at the Chowder Bowl.

  4. Your weekend sounded like a book lover’s dream–meeting up with fellow book lovers at a bookish themed hotel . . . Somehow I missed that you were one of the LTer’s going. I’m so glad that you were able to!

    I was sorry to read that The Island of Eternal Love was a difficult read because of the translation. I have that sitting on my shelf to read. I’ll give it a go and see what I think, but your impressions make me more reluctant to pick it up.

    I can’t really say I try reading challenging literature because I “should”. I gave that up when I graduated from college. I do sometimes tackle a challenging book because I truly am interested in reading it. Sometimes if I think it will be challenging, I might delay starting it. I do collect books faster than I can read them, but I think, too, that I read more than the average person out there, which I think says something as well.

    As for having reader’s block . . . I do go through short phases where I find myself preferring to do something else other than read, but that isn’t quite the same thing. Watching movies, blogging, groups, work, playing with the animals–all of that cuts into my reading time, but I don’t think I would be happy if all I did was read all the time. 🙂

    • Wendy on July 27, 2008 at 19:45

    Lisamm: I highly recommend you take a vacation there!

    Bobbi: Thanks! I am excited to have joined Becky’s group. It looks like it will be fun.

    Teddy: Powells is so much fun, isn’t it??

    Suzi: I forgot you lived in Portland! I wish I’d remembered so we could have maybe met up at Powells! I promise not to forget next time when I’m up that way. Hope you have a great time on Nye Beach!

    WendyCat: You would have loved that trip 😉 Sorry about the lousy semi-review on Island of Eternal Love…but, you never know – you might enjoy it. I agree that doing all those other things in your life are important and make life interesting!

    • Miriam on July 27, 2008 at 21:10

    Regarding “The Island of Eternal Love”, sometimes there is a huge difference between advance copies and the final, especially with translated books. That’s why I never read them. I hate those advance copies. I bought the novel from Amazon (a great price, by the way) and I did enjoy it. The story is not linear. It’s developed in two parallel plots that eventually meet at the end, but I did not find it difficult to follow both, even though one of those plots begins as three different stories. The comments in the Amazon page do justice to the novel. I am sorry you could not enjoy it.

  5. What a great post. I read because I like the books I read and if I don’t like it I leave it. I don’t think one reads because one ‘should’, I cannot imagine you’d ever get a book finished!
    Readers block? Mmmm, no not really although there are times when I am just overpowered by work and exhaustian so that I don’t manage more than a couple of pages before falling asleep… (as happened last week) but then I pick up the book again over a weekend or more appropriate time and cannot stop! And yes, the blogging and writing do of course cut into reading time, but the two feed on each other, don’t they?

    • Wendy on July 28, 2008 at 06:36

    Miriam: I’ve actually had great luck with ARCs, although most of them have not been translations. And I have often enjoyed non-linear novels…this one just didn’t resonate with me. I’m sorry I didn’t enjoy it either.

    Seachanges: I agree, the two *do* feed on each other. I love finishing a book and then posting a review to my blog; and likewise, I’m totally addicted to reading other people’s thoughts on books (which typically adds to my enormous TBR pile!)

  6. Definitely let me know next time you’re in Portland – I’ll meet you at Powell’s any day 🙂

  7. Your vacation sounded fun. I would love to go to Powell’s one day.

    I read the same article in The Guardian this weekend. I get reader’s block at least once a year. The longest it has ever lasted was about six months. But my trick is the same one in the article; to start with picture books and work my way up.

    I read “challenging literature” because I think I should. Besides I’m an English major so sooner or later I would have to read “those” books anyway.I have to honestly say that I spend more time reading book reviews, buying books, and giving them away than I do reading them. I usually read at least 100 books every year, so I don’t worry.

  8. What a fun get-away! I’ve been to that same location, although I haven’t stayed in the hotel. See if you recognize the view from the pics in this blog entry:

    • Wendy on July 29, 2008 at 10:05

    Suzi: You got it!

    Vasilly: I think a lot of teachers and English majors force themselves to read those books 🙂 I know what you mean about reading books reviews, buying books, etc…but if you are reading 100 books a year, you are spending a ton of time reading…so no guilt feelings there!

    Les: Thanks for those photos! AWESOME 🙂

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