Tag Archives: John Cheever

sunday salon: my week of bookish events

The Sunday Salon.com

October in the ‘Burgh seems to bring a burst of literary events to our town. I think that is because of the growing visibility, strength and supportive nature of Pittsburgh’s literary community which is fueled by the various writing programs at our local universities and the creative mojo that powers this region.

I’ve written previously  about how Pittsburgh’s vibrant literary scene has been one of my surprises about living here. I don’t think many cities have what we have. It’s very special.

On Thursday evening, Rainbow Rowell appeared at the library for a talk and book signing.  I haven’t read any of her books yet, but The Girl is a big fan.  When she heard that Ms. Rowell was going to be in town, she pleaded with me for several weeks to get tickets. Despite this being a school night, I acquiesced. Seeing her unrestrained excitement made me glad I did.

Yesterday, the great folks from Barrelhouse brought their fantastic Conversations and Connections writing conference back to Chatham University. This was my second year attending and once again, this conference was outstanding. It lives up to its name: you get the chance to have wonderful conversations with authors and make connections with small press publishers and editors of journals. As a writer, it gives you validation with a kick in the ass.

I’m planning separate posts recapping each of these happenings, but today I’m flat-out exhausted. I slept for 12 hours last night and needed every minute. Managing life on the homefront is taking a tremendous amount of mental energy lately and by the end of the week, I am depleted. (This week, I felt like I’d reached that point by lunchtime on Monday.)

The John Cheever Audio CollectionOn the reading front, not too much to report. I finally finished listening to The John Cheever Audio Collection. I’ll likely read more of his short stories at some point, but this collection served my purpose of getting acquainted with his work. Among these 12 stories, my favorites were “The Enormous Radio,” “The Five Forty-Eight,” “Christmas is a Sad Season for the Poor,” and “The Brigadier and the Golf Widow.”  There are a few others that I listened to while somewhat distracted (always a good state of mind for driving)  and that I need to revisit in print.

Big MagicMy current read is Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert. I’m not necessarily an Elizabeth Gilbert fan — I have no inclination to read Eat Pray Love and The Signature of All Things was a DNF for me — but I am liking this book a lot. Most creativity books I’ve read tend to give overused and simplistic suggestions for discovering your creativity and making time to pursue your passion. That’s all fine and well and good. For me, Big Magic is a little different: it’s about addressing the fear that holds us back, the spirituality that’s such a big part of the ideas we have, and the work of capturing them and nurturing them into life.

Hope you are having a great weekend!

What is the Sunday Salon? Imagine some university library’s vast reading room. It’s filled with people–students and faculty and strangers who’ve wandered in. They’re seated at great oaken desks, books piled all around them, and they’re all feverishly reading and jotting notes in their leather-bound journals as they go. Later they’ll mill around the open dictionaries and compare their thoughts on the afternoon’s literary intake….

That’s what happens at the Sunday Salon, except it’s all virtual. Every Sunday the bloggers participating in that week’s Salon get together–at their separate desks, in their own particular time zones–and read. And blog about their reading. And comment on one another’s blogs. Think of it as an informal, weekly, mini read-a-thon, an excuse to put aside one’s earthly responsibilities and fall into a good book.



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sunday salon: october


“…and who, after all these centuries, can describe the fineness of an autumn day? One might pretend never to have seen one before, or, to more purpose, that there would never be another like it. The clear and searching sweep of sun on the lawns was like a climax of the year’s lights.”

~ “The Brigadier and the Golf Widow” by John Cheever

October — now, already. With the turn of the calendar page, we’ve been thrown a bit too quickly into fall, it seems. I broke out the turtlenecks this week and on Friday, a coat was definitely needed in the morning as I set out for work. Yet, yesterday’s rains (remnants of Joaquin, maybe) have yielded to a crisp day that hints at the slightly warmer temperatures to come this week.

California Dreamin’ 
I was resenting last week’s seasonal change a bit more than usual because three months ago, we had booked a trip to San Diego — just me and The Husband. We had talked about the possibility of this trip for awhile. Had this actually occurred, we would have been in California last week – missing the dreary rain and autumn chill that besot Pittsburgh. All the reminders of that trip over the last few days shouldn’t have bummed me out as much as it did — not to mention, made me as cranky — but, dammit, I really wanted to be there and we should have been there. Yeah, yeah, yeah, everything happens for a reason and all that bullshit, I know, and as these things go, such a trip would have been difficult (if not impossible) with all that’s happening on the homefront … but that doesn’t make me any less disappointed.

There are several fun things to look forward to during this month, however, so I’m trying to concentrate on those instead of wallowing in my woulda-coulda-shoulda pity party.  On Thursday evening, Rainbow Rowell will be at the library for a kids and teens event and my girl is beyond excited about this (she loves Rainbow Rowell). I actually haven’t read any of her books, but I know a lot of bloggers rave about her novels.

Then, on October 21, guess who’s coming to the library? Margaret Atwood! I cannot wait for this. Tickets sold out in less than seven hours. I only wish I could find my copy of The Handmaid’s Tale (which I think is one of the best books in the history of the written word). I might have to buy another one for Margaret Atwood to sign. We’re limited to two books per person for the book signing portion, which I understand, but still.  I think we get a signed copy of The Heart Goes Last with our ticket price.

The MiniaturistYesterday I finished The Miniaturist, which I think has one of the most gorgeous covers I’ve ever seen.  This debut novel by Jessie Burton is set in Amsterdam, in 1686. Petronella (who goes by Nella) is 18 when she marries a wealthy merchant named Johannes Brandt. After moving into his mansion, Nella quickly learns that this is a household full of secrets. Even more puzzling are the miniatures that are sent to Nella to furnish a dollhouse — an exact replica of their home — that Johannes has given her as a wedding gift. The items are very specific and tend to be messages about future events.

I read this as a selection for R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril X (RIP X).  I’ll have more to say on this one in a future post, but suffice it to say that I really liked it. There have been comparisons to Sarah Waters, and I can definitely see that.

Tonight I’m hoping to start Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff. I am a huge fan of hers; I’ve read all of her books and love every single one of them — which is not something I can say about many writers (usually there’s a dud or two in the mix). It’s #7 or something on the New York Times bestseller list and my copy is due back to the library on Wednesday with no renews, so I need to read this fast (won’t be a problem, methinks).

Because I’m listening to more podcasts these days, my audiobook consumption has kind of suffered. My solution? Listening to short story collections. That way, if there are several podcasts that have caught my interest and I go a day between listening to a book, I’m not hopelessly lost.

The John Cheever Audio CollectionI spotted The John Cheever Audio Collection at the library and decided to try his stories.  This is where I confess that I’ve never read any John Cheever, which is something I think I should have done by now. Someone who loves short stories as much as I do really should have some familiarity with Cheever.

The narration is key to this collection of 12 stories. Meryl Streep is brilliant on “The Enormous Radio” (how could she not be?) but that doesn’t take away from this being one of the best stories in the bunch. “The Five Thirty Eight” is another great offering. These stories evoke another time — a simpler world — which is why I’m enjoying them. I’ll probably wind up reading some others in print — although I’m not sure if Cheever will wind up on my favorite authors list.  I’m only halfway through this audiobook, so we shall see.

Hope all is well in your world (reading and otherwise) as we begin this new month.

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