Friday, October 30, 2009

A Measure of Truth About Liar

How exciting to have Justine Larbalestier round off her Liar tour with a visit to Philadelphia!

Justine admired the Big Blue Marble (in fact, her publicist declared intention to take up lodging on a comfy chair and not go back to New York), tried kiwi berries for the first time, and talked with us about the writing of her newest book, which was composed in small scenes and then shuffled around and retrofitted. She described the process as akin to working with a jigsaw puzzle -- if what one did when moving a jigsaw puzzle piece was to violently lop off the sticky-out bits and "grow new wings" to make it fit in the new place.

Throughout its writing, Liar grew in ways Justine hadn't foreseen. It turns out that her earliest ideas for the book involved its being a lighthearted comedy (which, to be fair, did make us laugh). She spoke about how hard she worked to make different interpretations equally probable, and she told us about being surprised by readers' interpretations that hadn't occurred to her at all. She spoke about race and gender issues, and she described her careful work to make sure her teen-aged New Yorker narrator didn't sound Australian -- and her chagrin that no one had noticed. (Which speaks to how well she succeeded, of course.)

There were a lot of interesting and insightful questions, and, curiously, no discussions of Justine's boots, just her books. Also, she writes on her blog of her Scott Westerfeld impressions, and they really are impressive: the one she did last night made it seem as though he was really there! Oh, wait -- he was really there.

I was particularly impressed with her answer to a question of Maleka's about writing characters who have significantly different backgrounds from the author. She said, as she has elsewhere, that you can't be afraid of people getting mad at you for misrepresentation, because anyone whose writing gets published will find readers getting mad at them for something. But she made it clear that she doesn't mean one should ignore the critics; she means that one should expect the critics, and then listen to the criticism and learn from it.

Justine Larbalestier blogs at
Here is her website's Liar page.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Lise Funderburg Visits!

What a wonderful and warm visit by our neighbor and author of the memoir Pig Candy which was the Women of the World book club's selection of the month. We had a great discussion of the book with people asking Lise about her father's behaviors, journalism, whether they still had the farm and the fish pond, why she didn't put the death scene at the end of the book, and more. Lise mentioned thinking about doing a personal writing workshop in the Mt. Airy area, so be on the look out for more information. And if you haven't yet read this social history/memoir, get up on it. It's more than just succulent pig meat.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Your Children Are The Gurus.

This past Sunday morning we had the honor of hosting Lama Willa Miller, ordained in Tibetan Buddhism. She led a short meditation practice from her new book, Everyday Dharma: Seven Weeks To Finding the Buddha in You, read an allegory about looking within yourself, and led a discussion about staying in the present moment, the differences between Tibetan Buddhism and other Buddhist practices, and more. It was a wonderful presentation filled with knowledge that folks could really use every day.

I asked her about meditating within the context of living with three young children under the age of four. Where is the peace within the storm of preschool tantrums? Her response? Look to your children as gurus. They are the perfect teachers of patience, having an open heart, and just being in the present moment. She's so right. It just took that reminder to really have it sink in. And when you're not learning from them? Take a few minutes to steal away and create your own meditation. She says even two minutes will allow you to reboot yourself.

Friday, October 23, 2009

A Taste of Poetry Aloud and Alive

Missed Poetry Aloud and Alive tonight? (It's every fourth Friday of the month at 7:15pm.) Here's a taste of what went down by excellent local poet Steve Burke:

Doubting Thomas On The Bus

Cake-walking down the sidewalk, a zaftig young woman witnessing to whatever lyric is surging through her headphones,
carrying her away down Broad Street, where traffic thickly flows.
Music is a manifestation of something that can be believed in.
Revelation is something that's hard to keep to yourself. She is filled.
Maybe she is singing also, but for now I am deafened by glass
and she blinded by ecstasy-her left hand raised and pulled back,
raised again, the fingers of that hand opening then closing
as if breathing, or as if stretched up to a closet shelf, grasping for
something unseen, something lost, something that belongs to her.

-Steve Burke

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Staff Book Review: Invisible Cities

Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino

Invisible Cities is basically a series of prose poems, each describing a different city. There are only two characters in the book; the explorer Marco Polo who collects stories about cities and the emperor Kublai Kahn demands to hear about the cities contained in his falling empire. Perhaps the best synopsis of the book is the statement offered by Marco Polo that “an invisible landscape conditions the visible one.” As a surrealist, I found the book especially captivating because on one level it deals in the fantastical—cities which seem to exist in other dimensions, gargoyles which come to life, and cities that sprawl so rapidly that you cannot escape them. On another level Calvino touches on profound truths about geography and imperialism as well as the social, political and environmental forces that shape cities. I found this book to be tremendously fun, my roommates will attest that it caused me to jump up and down with excitement more than once. At 165 pages it is a quick read but it also challenged me look closer at the world around me. I’ve always imagined myself as an urban explorer but I found myself looking up and down and imagining the routes of storm sewers and buried streams with a new sense of urgency.

- reviewed by Mo Speller

Monday, October 19, 2009

Big Blue Marble Bookstore is called a jewel!

Wow! It's nice to find unexpected little descriptions about us in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Check out this event listing.

Next step In her three-decade career, author Liz Rosenberg has found success as a poet (the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize for The Fire Music) and a children's book writer (the Children's Choice Award-winning Monster Mama). Her first novel, Home Repair, is a finely crafted tale of loss and resilience, following a middle-aged mother as she deals with memories of one husband killed in an accident and another who just walked out. Rosenberg reads from her work at a Mount Airy jewel, the Big Blue Marble Bookstore, 551 Carpenter Lane, at 3 p.m. Saturday. Admission is free. Call 215-844-1870.