Ann’s Blog

Notes from Ann: Nickels

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I’m writing a novel. It’s going okay. I wrote a chunk of it over the summer, then had to leave it because I was traveling around giving talks. When I came back to the book after Christmas, and then again after the flu, I no longer liked what I’d written. Last summer I thought I had things figured out, but I was wrong. A couple of weeks ago I threw it all away and started again. This is the kind of thing that felt like the end of the world when I was 26, but at 54 feels like, Oh, now I’m at that part where I realize all the previously completed work is trash and must be thrown away. Okay. I remember when I realized the first 30 pages of Bel Canto were unsalvageable dreck. I sat at the kitchen table and wept. Those pages had taken eight months to write (because true dreck is composed very slowly). Someone walking into the kitchen at that moment might have thought something very bad had happened to me, and I would have had to explain that I was learning a lesson and it was hard, that’s all. Read the rest of this entry »

Notes from Ann: Start Barking

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January is a month for diet books, exercise manuals and a host of self-improvement programs. The holiday cookies have been eaten, the Champagne bottles drained, and here we are, lumpy and disappointed in ourselves, filled with the desire to do better in the coming year. But what if we upped our game, worried less about our bodies and more about our souls? Given the season, not to mention the current political climate, I thought this would be a good moment to recommend some books that could help quiet the mind, address priorities, and lead us to be better, kinder, more helpful people. Read the rest of this entry »

Notes from Ann: The First Editions Club, Where We Just Keep on Winning

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Like the rest of you, I’m sorting through an onslaught of holiday catalogs these days, and what seems especially popular now is any gift that can keep on giving. Sure, you can order up 12 months of boxed fruit, but you can also get the pastry of the month, or pajamas of the month, or licorice, or floral arrangements. Pretty much anything you wanted to give to someone once you can now give to that person 12 times. Read the rest of this entry »

Notes from Ann: Salinger

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Have I mentioned my friend Jim Fox lately? Surely I have. Jim Fox is, among many other things, my reading soul-mate. If Jim likes a book, I like it. If Jim doesn’t like a book, I don’t like it. I’m not sure he loves everything I love but I know I love everything he loves. So when Jim told me that his most profound reading experience of 2016 had been rereading Franny and Zooey (first published in 1961), I was on it. Read the rest of this entry »

Notes from Ann: Blast It Like Radio

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When I read Mary Laura Philpott’s piece in Publisher’s Weekly today — “Think Before You Link,” about the way we use links when we talk about books on the internet — I started singing an old Donna Summer tune to myself: “Someone found a letter you wrote me / on the radio / and they told the world just how you felt…” It’s the song I always sing when I read something that perfectly expresses my feelings (plus it’s just a great song, and any day you sing a little Donna Summer is going to be a better day). “I was so surprised and shocked / and I wondered, too / If by chance you heard it for yourself…” Read the rest of this entry »

Notes from Ann (and Geraldine): History Lesson

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(photo: Vineyard Gazette)

Not too long ago I was out walking Sparky when one of my neighbors stopped me on the street and asked me what she should read on vacation. I’m good at this game. I asked her what she liked. Read the rest of this entry »

Notes from Ann: Context

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There are a lot of different ways to read Jesmyn Ward’s new novel Sing, Unburied, Sing, and one of them is as a stand-alone achievement: a beautifully written story of a family’s struggle through poverty, prison, and drugs, bound together by the tremendous protection of the love they feel for one another. If you read the book this way you’ll probably have a great experience with it. Read the rest of this entry »