Winning the clutter war

If any of you know me or have been to my house, you know that I have deep fear of becoming a hoarder.  This is not because I find those people strange or disgusting, but rather because I feel I could easily slip into that space.  As part of that internal battle, I pick up any organizational or housekeeping self-help book I see at the library. Winning the Clutter War is my newest read in that genre.

Although the author was writing to the person in much more dire messiness than me, many of her tips would be helpful to a broad variety of people lacking organizational skills.  I found several tips that I could use in the book, for example, the 30 second rule, ie if you can complete a job in 30 seconds just do it already.  However, I read a lot of book to dig out those gems. She offers a support group style of clean up as well, with a considerable amount of the book focused on why she feels people are messy and the types of messy. This was not particularly insightful to me or interesting.

Winning the clutter war, Sarah Felton, 2010

La Seduction

I am fascinated by the French.  Because I have a deep love of language and quick understanding of the meta-message, I am intrigued by a culture that uses language as identity. La Seduction: How the French Play the Game of Life is a book that describes a way of life so infused with pleasure and seduction: from how the manner of seduction is played out in a social setting such as a dinner party i.e. the rules of the game, to the smallest gesture of kissing a woman’s hand, to how politicians seduce the population. This is a litany on the intricacies of seductions. On the other hand, she also talks about a culture clogged with cultural hindrances to advancement and change.

It is easy to see the book is written by a journalist.  Although she shares personal experiences of living in France for decades and interacting with french people of many classes, the book is throughly researched and organized.

La Seduction: How the French Play the Game of Life, Elaine Sciolino, 2011, Times Books

The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow

If you have read either of my blogs for a period of time you probably know that I am a huge fan of Cory Doctorow.  He is one of the most interesting authors of our time, dealing mainly in the near future science fiction aka “the almost now”.  Unfortunately, The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow (Outspoken Authors) is not one of his book that is set in the immediate future, but rather a future that is a little more distant, where ecoterrorists have tried to wipe out the physical traces of mankind from the distance of the singularity.  When he deals with the near future, there is a cutting edge reality that is really interesting.  That feeling was missing from this book.  However, it was interesting in and of itself, but not my favorite.

The book also includes one of his treatises about copyright.  If you haven’t read about his ideas about copyright they are radical and exciting. I read most of these ideas in another of his books, I believe Context, but in a slightly different form. The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow also included an speech he gave a while back. I saw a very similar interview on the internet but the written version was easier to absorb.

If you are new to Cory Doctorow, I would recommend Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom as a better entry point.  But if you are already a fan, The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow will give you a nice afternoon of reading.

The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow (Outspoken Artist) by Cory Doctorow, 2011

I dream of Jeannie


Jeannie Out of the Bottle is exactly what you would expect from Barbara Eden with one exception. Using a device from the book: more about that later.  She tells the story of her life in a semi chronological order, jumping forward and backward once in while but in a logical way.  The book is read by her and is infused with her gentle, genuine, cheerful character.  She does mention some tragedies such as her divorce, her miscarriage and her second divorce.  There is a great deal of name dropping.  She tells about her interactions with nearly every big name in Hollywood.

The most shocking thing about this book is the last chapter.  She discusses her son’s drug addiction and his death from overdose. It is a heartbreaking and touching story. She is deeply saddened and is actually weeping on the book.  However, as a listener, I was completely blindsided.  I been in this cheerful gossipy book, and suddenly I was thrust into a harrowing almost afterthought.  I know this was a horrible experience and one that deeply affected her, but it was not part of the same book that she had just read.  Maybe this story was its own book, because it sounds like enough happened to fill a book and she just skimmed the surface.
Jeannie Out of the Bottle by Barbara Eden, audiobook, 2011

The Neighbors are Watching


The Neighbors Are Watching: A Novel is story about how one event or one person can bring everything to a crisis.  It is about a group of neighbors and how they react to one person’s pregnant daughter coming to live with him suddenly.  We only briefly see things from her perspective even though she is the ignition for all of the changes that happen.  It is from the perspective of the comfortable middle-aged people, we mostly see events unfold.  Before this, they live next to each other with little interaction.  They have a live, let live attitude, but we find out each person, each family has deep flaws.

I enjoyed the book.  It reminded my of Anne Lamott’s novels, all about eternal processes and very little action. It has a breezy California feeling where bad things happen, but they sort of work out.  There is a certain amount of flippancy to way the author deals with the characters emotions while not realistic, works in this case.

The Neighbors Are Watching, Debra Ginsberg, 2011

Air : (or, Have not have) / Geoff Ryman.

Air: Or, Have Not Have starts out with an interesting concept.  What if the internet became truly universal, if it became part of the air?  How would isolated people cope with suddenly being a part of the world in a way that they had never experienced before?

And the first half or so of the book follows that path in an interesting way, following a woman in a small village in China as she discovers the internet first instantly with the whole world and when that avenue disappears through a computer.  It is interesting to see how different members of the community react.  Then there is a break.  It comes in a chapter all writen in email.  I generally don’t like books that use email as a narrative device but in short amounts it can be okay.  However, a whole chapter of email is very disruptive.  The other problem I had with the book was a woman conceiving in her stomach through oral sex.  I understand that the book was supposed to have a touch of the mythic and the baby was a metaphor, but that just went too far. Sometimes I can ignore these little disruptions, but this time because the book was lagging a little for me, I found it too much.  The book should have ended more quickly for me, and left out the baby, and it would have been more successful.