Monday, June 30, 2008

The holiday curse strikes again

I had a near-death experience a week ago.

After church on Father’s Day Sunday, I slipped in the bathroom and smashed right through the plantation shutters – with my head. I kind of just lay there for a few minutes, I think, because I might have blacked out.

Okay, I have gotten ahead of myself. Let me start from the beginning.

That weekend, I visited my family in Southaven to celebrate with Daddy. His birthday fell on Father’s Day this year, so we had double the reason for a get-together. My family celebrates EVERY holiday – Halloween, Labor Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day. We just need a reason no matter how insignificant.

Daddy’s birthday: very significant.

The problem is there is always some sort of holiday mishap. Case in point: My sister’s Thanksgiving night dog mauling. We ended up spending the entire evening at the emergency room – a private emergency room for “special” families (in other words, unruly-no-one-wants-to-deal-with-families.)

This Father’s Day, the curse struck again.

Now, my weekend was going really well up until I defied death. After getting a manicure and pedicure on Saturday morning, I met my sister, Deana, for a marathon shopping trip that took us from one side of Memphis to the other. I got back to Momma and Daddy’s with just enough time to get changed and drive back to Memphis for dinner with friends.

Dinner was wonderful as was the company, but I must say the success of the evening can be conjured in just two words – pecan tort. I made my first trip to the Cheese Cake Corner in the South Main district in downtown Memphis. It has been featured in Southern Living many times, and may I say, totally worth the trip!

Sunday morning began normally – Momma and me drinking coffee in the kitchen, Daddy wandering in with bed hair and complaining about being old. He proceeded to eat leftover pecan tort (too much for one or even two!), complained about eating the tort, and then rushed upstairs and got ready for church.

Deana and I met Momma and Daddy there, and I made a point to announce to everyone in the congregation that Daddy was celebrating his 29th birthday. For some reason over the years, I have outgrown him by four years. (Kind of hinky, but I never was any good at math.)

With a fantastic lunch to prepare, we headed back to Southaven. I dropped Deana at her house to change and drove back to Momma’s to do the same. Then I walked into the bathroom. Unaware of water on the marble, I slipped, flew into the air, and crashed.

My head broke my fall. My head and the wooden plantation shutters. Maybe the window.
The next thing I remember is hearing Momma and Daddy coming in the front door. They found me sprawled out on the floor.

A throbbing, grapefruit-sized knot rose at the nape of my neck. I thought I had died, and I almost had. A few more inches and I would have crashed through a triple-pane window.

My imagination ran away with me at that point, and I had a full-fledged panic attack. I could have died, and my parents would have found me. Daddy’s birthday would be ruined forever.
Then I started thinking about how I destroyed the plantation shutters. I figured Daddy would be furious. But no. I think Momma and Daddy were as freaked out as I was (Sextons have a way of overreacting).

Your mind does strange things when something traumatic happens. My first thought was to get back to Winona as quickly as possible just in case Daddy insisted I go to the emergency room (I know they still remember us!). Then I dwelled on ruining the party. I finally fixated on the fact that I would probably die a couple days later like that character I saw on CSI.

I managed to pull it together, eat lunch, and convince my parents to allow me to drive home.
Now that I know I don’t have a slow bleed on the brain, I realized something. As much as I make fun of my family members for their freakishly bad luck, I am now a character in one of my own stories. And I confess, it isn’t any fun being on the other side.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

100 New Classics

Several other bloggers listed the EW's 100 New Classics list and made a note of which books they have read, want to read, and don't have any intention of reading. I wanted to do the same -- mainly because it surprises me that some of these books made it on the list. I also noticed that I have read other books by the same author.

Bold -- those I have read
Italics -- those that are on my reading list

1. The Road , Cormac McCarthy (2006)
2. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling (2000)
3. Beloved, Toni Morrison (1987)
4. The Liars’ Club, Mary Karr (1995)
5. American Pastoral, Philip Roth (1997)
6. Mystic River, Dennis Lehane (2001)
7. Maus, Art Spiegelman (1986/1991)
8. Selected Stories, Alice Munro (1996)
9. Cold Mountain, Charles Frazier (1997)
10. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami (1997)
11. Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer (1997)
12. Blindness, José Saramago (199
13. Watchmen, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (1986-87)
14. Black Water, Joyce Carol Oates (1992)
15. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Dave Eggers (2000)
16. The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood (1986)
17. Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez (198
18. Rabbit at Rest, John Updike (1990)
19. On Beauty, Zadie Smith (2005)
20. Bridget Jones’s Diary, Helen Fielding (199
21. On Writing, Stephen King (2000)
22. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Díaz (2007)
23. The Ghost Road, Pat Barker (1996)
24. Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry (1985)
25. The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan (1989)
26. Neuromancer, William Gibson (1984)
27. Possession, A.S. Byatt (1990)
28. Naked, David Sedaris (1997)
29. Bel Canto, Anne Patchett (2001)
30. Case Histories, Kate Atkinson (2004)
31. The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien (1990)
32. Parting the Waters, Taylor Branch (198
33. The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion (2005)
34. The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold (2002)
35. The Line of Beauty, Alan Hollinghurst (2004)
36. Angela’s Ashes, Frank McCourt (1996)
37. Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi (2003)
38. Birds of America, Lorrie Moore (199
39. Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri (2000)
40. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman (1995-2000)
41. The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros (1984)
42. LaBrava, Elmore Leonard (1983)
43. Borrowed Time, Paul Monette (198
44. Praying for Sheetrock, Melissa Fay Greene (1991)
45. Eva Luna, Isabel Allende (198
46. Sandman, Neil Gaiman (1988-1996)
47. World’s Fair, E.L. Doctorow (1985)
48. The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver (199
49. Clockers, Richard Price (1992)
50. The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen (2001)
51. The Journalist and the Murderer, Janet Malcom (1990)
52. Waiting to Exhale, Terry McMillan (1992)
53. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Michael Chabon (2000)
54. Jimmy Corrigan, Chris Ware (2000)
55. The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls (2006)
56. The Night Manager, John le Carré (1993)
57. The Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe (1987)
58. Drop City, TC Boyle (2003)
59. Krik? Krak! Edwidge Danticat (1995)
60. Nickel & Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich (2001)
61. Money, Martin Amis (1985)
62. Last Train To Memphis, Peter Guralnick (1994)
63. Pastoralia, George Saunders (2000)
64. Underworld, Don DeLillo (1997)
65. The Giver, Lois Lowry (1993)
66. A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, David Foster Wallace (1997)
67. The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini (2003)
68. Fun Home, Alison Bechdel (2006)
69. Secret History, Donna Tartt (1992)
70. Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell (2004)
71. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, Ann Fadiman (1997)
72. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon (2003)
73. A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving (1989)
74. Friday Night Lights, H.G. Bissinger (1990)
75. Cathedral, Raymond Carver (1983)
76. A Sight for Sore Eyes, Ruth Rendell (199
77. The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro (1989)
78. Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert (2006)
79. The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell (2000)
80. Bright Lights, Big City, Jay McInerney (1984)
81. Backlash, Susan Faludi (1991)
82. Atonement, Ian McEwan (2002)
83. The Stone Diaries, Carol Shields (1994)
84. Holes, Louis Sachar (199
85. Gilead, Marilynne Robinson (2004)
86. And the Band Played On, Randy Shilts (1987)
87. The Ruins, Scott Smith (2006)
88. High Fidelity, Nick Hornby (1995)
89. Close Range, Annie Proulx (1999)
90. Comfort Me With Apples, Ruth Reichl (2001)
91. Random Family, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc (2003)
92. Presumed Innocent, Scott Turow (1987)
93. A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley (1991)
94. Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser (2001)
95. Kaaterskill Falls, Allegra Goodman (199
96. The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown (2003)
97. Jesus’ Son, Denis Johnson (1992)
98. The Predators’ Ball, Connie Bruck (198
99. Practical Magic, Alice Hoffman (1995)
100. America (the Book), Jon Stewart/Daily Show (2004)

Ok, obviously, I am not reading "quality books" according to this list. Maybe if the list included more SOUTHERN writers....

I do, however, have questions. How in the hell did Jon Stewart end up on this list. Was the author of the list gargling with bong water?

Anyway, other "what were they thinking" books are: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (there are seven of these books -- what is so special about this one?), Bridget Jones' Diary and Waiting to Exhail (both chick lit), Fast Food Nation (why?).

Well, I'm not the expert. Maybe these books do deserve to be on the list. I guess I will have to read them to figure that out.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Another Reading Challenge

Okay, since there is nothing on television this summer, I have been occupying my time by reading two to three books a week. With this in mind, I have joined another reading challenge -- the 1% Challenge.

I was asked to select 10 books from the 1001 Must Read Books Before You Die list, and I have 10 months to complete the books.

The list was daunting, but I managed to select 10 books from several centuries. Please forgive my eccentric tastes. Nothing really fits with me. The books I chose are simply ones I have been meaning to read for years now.

The books I have selected are below:

Life of Pi

The Reader

Like Water for Chocolate

Love in the Time of Cholera

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

The Count of Monte-Cristo




Check in periodically for reviews on the books.

Happy Reading!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Update: I won the 'Sense of Place' contest!

I entered the Sense of Place contest at Maggie Reads. And guess what? I won!

The winning entry:

"Of course, Southerners tend to think that pretty much everything is an act of God. It's easier than trying to figure out why we lost the war, why we remain generally impoverished and infested with mosquitoes and snakes and flying termites, why there is in fact "brokenness" in our world as well as plenty of tornadoes and floods and hurricanes and ice storms and hundred-percent humidity levels. Hell, it's easier than trying to figure out what made the battery go dead or who locked the keys in the car."

Julia Reed
Queen of the Turtle Derby

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Southern Reading Challenge

Stumbled onto a fantastic blog today -- Maggie Reads. Maggie is from Como -- not far from my native DeSoto County.

I have signed on to participate in the Southern Reading Challenge which shouldn't be too hard since I adore Southern authors of any kind. The challenge calls for participants to read three books.

My three are:

Between, Georgia by Joshilyn Jackson

One Mississippi by Mark Childress

Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier

I will review each one as I finish.

Happy reading!

Mississippi: So much to be proud of

Last week, my book club met for our monthly get together. Over the very Southern dish of shrimp and grits and chocolate fudge cake, we visited for hours about books, life, children, family, and of course, elaborate tall tales.

For years, book club has been my therapy, stress reducer, and comfort. When I moved to Winona last summer, I just knew I must find a new club, or I would not and could not be truly content. Now, with a wonderful group of fellow book-lovers, I once again find comfort with my book club.

The ladies in my group are quite diverse. There is one homemaker, an English teacher, two in the medical profession, and a fellow writer. We all bring our different viewpoints and life experiences to the table with the same goal in mind – to lose ourselves in some intelligent (sometimes) conversation that runs a gambit of subjects.

This month, the book we were discussing was a memoire of a New Yorker’s relocation to the Mississippi coast. Finally, a book – not written by a native Mississippian -- that actually celebrates Mississippi, its people, and culture!

The author had survived Hurricane Katrina, but her home and her belongings did not. In her experience, the most amazing aspect of disaster was the perseverance, good will, and philanthropy of Mississippi’s people.

One book clubber (the English teacher) said it infuriates her that Mississippi is always described as last – last in education, last in per capita income, last in graduation rates. She said everyone needs to know that Mississippi is first in something – giving.

For the past several years, although Mississippi is last in per capita income, we are the most charitable state in the nation. Of course, this wasn’t news to me; I have always known Mississippi was the kindest and friendliest state in the nation – and I didn’t need statistics to prove it. Mississippians prove it to me every day.

So in keeping with my book clubber’s wishes, instead of focusing on the lasts, let’s spotlight some of the firsts.

· In 1963, the University of Mississippi Medical Center accomplished the world's first human lung transplant.

· In 1964, Dr. James D. Hardy performed the world's first heart transplant surgery.

· Mississippi College was the first co-educational college in the nation to grant degrees to women.

· Mississippi was the first state in the nation to have a planned system of junior colleges, and just look how successful they are.

· The 4-H Club, first known as the "Corn Club," started in Holmes County in 1907.

· Shoes were first sold in boxes in pairs (right foot and left foot) in Vicksburg, at Phil Gilbert's Shoe Parlor on Washington Street in 1884. (In my mind this is like the invention of the wheel! Tell me if you aren’t impressed by this.)

· Dr. Emmette F. Izard, of Hazelhurst, developed the first fibers of rayon, the first real synthetic.

· All Space Shuttle engines are tested at John Stennis Center in Hancock County. Talk about shooting for the moon!

· Alcorn State University is the nation's oldest historically black land-grant college.

· Mississippi has more churches per capita than any other state.

· Mississippians invented Pine Sol (oh, yes, we also like things to smell good), root beer, the helicopter (well, developed it anyway), Stetson hats, stick ball, condensed milk and the dollar sign.

· We also “birthed” some other cultural phenomenon: blues music, four Miss Americas, and Elvis.

· Mississippi lost more soldiers of any Confederate State in the Civil War. Seventy-eight thousand Mississippians entered the Confederate military. By the end of the war, 59,000 of the 78,000 were either dead or wounded.

· On April 25, 1866, a group of ladies from Columbus decorated both Confederate and Union soldiers’ graves with flowers and garlands. This gesture eventually became Memorial Day every year.

You see, Mississippians have so many accomplishments to be proud. Of course, let’s work to improve our weaknesses, but don’t dwell on the negative. We have too much to brag about!

Monday, June 02, 2008

The Weekend of Amanda

Last weekend, I did nothing. Absolutely nothing.

I slept about 24 hours, and watched tons of television. I ate fast food, and left the wrappers on the coffee table until Sunday night. I drank an entire case of Diet Cokes (yes, I am addicted.)

For the past seven weeks, I have had something to do every weekend -- had to do mostly, not wanted to do. For the first time in I can't remember, the weekend was all about me and what I wanted to do at the time.

I started off at the movie store where I picked up six movies. I thought I could watch two Friday night, two Saturday, and two on Sunday. It would be a nice addition to my weekend. Of course, I finished all six by Saturday night.

I started with National Treasure 2. Good movie. Not as good as the first one (I liked the subject matter of the first one better), but I could definitely watch it again.

Then it was Elizabeth: The Golden Age. Two words: Clive Owen. That is the main reason to watch this film. He is hot. It is better than the first Elizabeth, but I will attribute a lot of that to Clive Owen.

Charlie Wilson's War was next, and I loved it. It is written by Aaron Sorkin who wrote the West Wing and Studio 60 and Sports Night. It is smart and funny, and it is a must see for any fan of politics.

More than two hours of my life were wasted as I watched The Golden Compass, a ridiculous movie about animal souls, talking bears, and an ending that just stopped. It was definitely hoping for sequel, but this one sucked so bad, I am sure that isn't going to happen.

The chick flick 27 Dresses turned out to be quite charming. It won't win and Oscar, but it was a nice breakfast companion for Saturday morning.

I finished off my movie marathon with Atonement. Heavy and a bit of a downer, but well worth the watch. I doubt I will watch it repeatedly like Steel Magnolias or Color Purple and memorize all the lines, but I highly recommend it.

Best movie of the weekend: Elizabeth: The Golden Age. Thank you, Clive Owen.