Monthly Archives: October 2010

200 Word Review: Andrea Barrett’s Ship Fever

Ship Fever

How good was Ship Fever?

You guys, it is about scientists. I have always wanted to be a scientist*.

If someone had told me that she was intending to write a series of short stories about the “mysterious allure of science” (as Kakutani would have it), I would have been all “what does that even mean, are you smoking crack again?” I’d never noticed how the desire to collect and to understand—to truly, intimately know—some particular thing is so much like an enchantment. Barrett is like an alchemist: she takes these people—discoverers, explorers, scientists—and under the heat of their fallibility, their imperfect loves, and their consuming ambitions, the cold substance of scientific discovery blossoms into magic. At other times, she seems to work her spell in reverse, and science is (always imperfectly) applied to understanding the nature of human relationships. In Barrett’s world, science seems less like a field of study and more like a particular turn of mind. Something to call people who can’t stop seeking, even when they can barely understand the impulse. Even when it can only lead to ruin. I think I read somewhere that Ship Fever is about the love of science, and the science of love, and honestly, now that I’ve read the book, I can’t think of a better way of putting it.


*Statement may not be factual, true, or accurate. 



My MFA reading list for Winter Residency 2011

James Salter's A Sport and A Pastime.

Mary Gordon's Spending

Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita

JG Ballard's Crash

Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer

Scott Spencer's Endless Love

Erica Jong's Fear of Flying.

The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Short Stories, Edited by Tobias Wolff

Andrea Barrett's Ship Fever

Beebe Moore-Campbell's Your Blues Ain't Like Mine

Jeannette Winterson's The Passion

Michael Ondaatje's Coming Through Slaughter

Twentieth Century American Poetry by Gioia, Mason, Schoerke et al

Richard Hugo's The Triggering Town

The Fourth Genre: Contemporary Writers of/on Creative Nonfiction

The Best American Essays

Ursula K. Le Guin's Steering the Craft: Exercises and Discussions on Story Writing for the Lone Navigator or the Mutinous Crew

Write Screenplays That Sell…The Ackerman Way



Molly Recommends


Happy almost-Halloween from Molly, you guys.

We weren’t going to do anything dressing-up-wise for Halloween, but then Molly was staring at herself in the mirror and realized that she kind of looks like a bear.

  Grizzly-bear (1)


So that wraps up the costuming portion of this post! It’s the thought that counts. We Googled bear-ears, came across a website we won’t link to, and stopped. Some fetishes seem a lot like inside jokes. Suffice it to say that we were never sexually traumatized while holding a teddy bear, and we’re thankful for that on the regular.

Anyway, Halloween is always a stressful night for Molly, because every time a child steps on our planet property, Molly feels it necessary to let said child know that he or she is not welcome by barking until he or she drops dead from old age. I wish there was a way to let her know how ineffectual her barking is, like maybe have an intervention where a series of strangers just drop a cold beverage on her head whenever she barks.


Oh, is the idea of doggie-abuse making you sad? Just picture her as a person who I’ve locked in my house who yells “SCREW YOU” 46 times every time a person walks by the window she is so generously allowed to spend her day in front of. Did you picture it? RIGHT? I am Norman Bates and Molly is Mother.

Molly isn’t a huge fan of creepy books, so she really had to rack her little brain to think up some Halloween-themed recommendations beyond Poe, Lovecraft, Stephen King, or anything written by a Scandinavian (Let the Right One In is actually a children’s movie in Norway). She decided to go with a recent bestseller, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, as well as Johannes Cabal the Necromancer, and The Walking Dead comic books, ahead of their being turned into a hopefully-awesome zombie series on AMC.

Molly would like to leave you all with this: zombie squirrels. Would anyone notice?

200 Word Review: Andrea Camilleri’s The Terracotta Dog (audiobook)


I listened to this on my way down to Florida, the sunshine-induced-headache state. Chandler thought it was just ok, but that’s because he reads mysteries for the suspense and surprise, while I read them for food and place descriptions. I mean, I love a puzzle and some DANGER, but the ambiance is what really makes it or breaks it. The setting was $money$, even if you could see the ending coming from, basically, page 3. I’ve been to Sicily, where I stepped in dog poop 134,986 times, and I kind of disliked it, but this book makes me want to give it a second shot. Right in the head!

Sorry, the book was full of that kind of humor. Something happened when I heard this book read out loud: the dialogue became super-embarrassing. I don’t know why it didn’t bother me in print; it’s all either corny or melodramatic. After a little while you get used to it, though, like living with someone who farts in public. It’s kind of catching, actually. I mean the language, not the farting. I think at one point I was like “We’re low on gas. What has become of us? We’re the empty shells of the people who left Charlotte. GET IT? IT IS A PUN. I AM PULLING INTO A SHELL STATION.”


5 Children’s Books That Ruined My Life

As a counterpart to my post about good books for children, here are five books that should never be given to anyone.

Juventud en Extasis

As part of our sex-ed in like 6th grade, in order to counteract the effects of “information”, we had to read this hideous book that American children will never be subjected to, and may they thank an appropriate deity for that every day. It’s a book about how if you have sex before marriage, you get syphilis and die. From an Amazon review: “This is a perfect book for who ever thinks that sex and making love is just for having fun.” Those things are not for fun, ok? They are for marriage and sadness.

Even at 13, without actually having thought that much about sex yet, I was like “this is some exquisite bullshit”. I think the main character loses his virginity to a woman with no condom, but I’m not sure. Oh, maybe that’s why he caught syphilis?

No! Syphilis isn’t a disease! It’s a punishment. FOR THE SLUTS. One thing that is definitely true is that married people are safe from venereal disease forever.

Oh, apparently, there's also a really graphic abortion. I don't remember this at all. Because I suppressed it. 

Watching Roses

I mean, I guess I should’ve known that this wasn’t going to end well for me when I saw a girl in a white dress running from some angry-looking man cloaked in shadow. Like me, you may be thinking: “but that could be anything! Maybe she stole his wallet?”

No! She’s actually on her way to get raped. It’s not that I have a problem with rape being dramatized, but it makes no sense in this story, and once it happens the whole story basically goes into shock along with the main character. Sdbfdksjfklsdfnk I can’t even talk about this anymore. I have the grossest memory of that rape scene. I think this was the first time I encountered a full-on description of a rape, and I was unprepared.

I’m squeamish about all rape scenes. I think I had to leave the room during American History X. I blame this book.

Little House in the Big Woods

I wanted to stab everyone in this book. Not out of hatred. Out of boredom. Oh my god, Laura, tell me more about your stupid house that you made out of sticks and mud. I hope you drown in a puddle. I guess I should say that as a child I would have rather put sand in my eye than spend time outside. Maybe it was just a bad fit?

No! It was a terrible book. Look at this dumb beard:


That’s what this whole book is like. It took me an entire decade to learn to like the woods.

Just a Dream

The message of this book is that we’re all doomed if we keep acting like capitalist jerkwads. But isn’t that a good thing, you might wonder.

No! Imagine how much happier I’d be if I was cool with living in a smoggy dump where all the trees have been cut down for toothpicks. He even maligns robots. COME ON. People make fun of me because I won’t even throw a banana peel out the window, and it upsets me. When the end-times draw nigh, you’ll all see I was right. The only person I’m letting on my raft when the ice caps melt is Chris Van Allsburg, and only so I can torment him by crying all the time. The rest of you deserve what you get.

This book made me bitter.

The Silmarillion

I can’t. 


PS: This is depressing.