Yesterday morning I just happened to see on Facebook that the public library was sponsoring An Evening with A.S. King that same night! And at Taborspace, a really nice comfy space attached to a church, in my part of town. Eeeeeee! Her breakout book was Please Ignore Vera Dietz, which hit my Lifetime Best list as soon as I read it a few years ago. I don’t love all her books equally, but each one is different from the others and I admire that. And her kind of weird often does it for me. So. I caught the late bus home from work by the skin of my teeth, had a few minutes to dine on crackers and chocolate milk, and drove over there.
There were May baskets hung on all the doors, and still plenty of seating. In fact, when someone who wasn’t there for the reading cleared out, I slid into a comfy armchair about ten feet from the lectern! Sara Ryan, the YA author who also runs YA for the library, did introductions. Laini Taylor was there too. And a mix of teenagers– mostly girls but some boys too– and gray-haired ladies with glasses like me.
A.S. King goes by Amy in person– she published under A.S. King from the start because there was already at least one Amy King publishing, and she chose that form because it spells Asking. In her opening patter she said she likes Portland because everything is made of wood. “I mean, of course other places have lots of wooden things too. But in Portland the signs are wooden, the steps are wooden!”
It turns out the first draft of Please Ignore Vera Dietz was written in 36 days. She is a total pantser, and is a little worried right now because her current novel is over 400 pages and not resolved. Someone asked how many drafts she goes through in revision, and she estimated a hundred to a hundred and fifty. She compared it to combing long hair–there’s no way you can yank through it all at once. You have to start at the bottom and work your way up little by little.
She reminded me a little of Lynda Barry. Maybe a little more extroverted– it felt like she could sit and shoot the breeze for hours (and I would be totally up for it). And she read a bunch from Still Life wIth Tornado, which is on my TBR stack and I’m pretty excited now to read it. So glad I made it to this event!
Just finished: Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future, by A.S. King. I liked it more than any of hers since Please Ignore Vera Dietz. Yes, the future that Glory sees is implausible in its facts, and yes, I do think the book partakes in the character’s slut-shaming, or at least doesn’t counter-write it. But the questions about friendship and how to cope when your vision of the world isn’t shared by anyone else redeem it for me.
Just started: Stuff Matters: Exploring the Marvelous Materials That Shape Our Man-Made World, by Mark Miodownik. Going to get educated on some materials science at $0.25 a day until I can turn this overdue book back in! Started with a great origin story of being stabbed on the subway as an adolescent and becoming obsessed with steel as he examined the weapon at the police station.
Bedside book: Howl’s Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne Jones. …Again. I finished it and turned right to the beginning again. At least in ten-minute installments, it never seems to get stale.
Bathroom book: Syllabus, by Lynda Barry. Induced me to seek out Staedtler non-photo blue pencils, and I have never bothered to pencil before inking drawings or comics before.
I just found my bookmark for making wordcount progress bars, so here’s Biosquid‘s current stats:
Last weekend I took Friday and Monday off work, and Sang and I drove out to Stub Stewart State Park to stay in a one-room cabin, sans internet. The plan was for Sang to study for her comps and me to do my thing of reading, writing, and looking out the window. There were enough trails around that we could also get out for walks as the weather allowed– for example, the bike path where we walked our marathon last month!
We turned on the heat and lights when we arrived at our cozy little cabin. The heater got right to work raising the temperature from 40 degrees to 70, but man, the lights. The lights worked, but they consisted of one small overhead fixture, probably with compact fluorescents inside, and it was DEPRESSING AS HELL.
Sang could see my mental health unraveling as we sat there. At her urging we got back in the car and drove toward Forest Grove, looking for a big-box store that might sell us a couple of lamps for cheap. We walked into the Walmart in Cornelius and Sang started laughing. We were turning to soul-sucking Walmart to stabilize my mood?
So now we are the proud owners of a five-dollar desk lamp and a plastic screw-together floor lamp, and with their help the cabin was cheery and snug for the rest of the weekend! We drank many hot beverages and Sang studied stats like a champ. I read four books:
- To Tell Your Love, by Mary Stolz. Her first YA novel, published in 1950. I’m going to read them all; there’s something I love about her style. I do notice lots of Madeleine-L’Engle-style quoting of literature by the characters to endear them to us bookish artsy types. The book’s prescription: go to college instead of marrying right out of high school. But if you’re pushing 27 or 28, grab your man and no matter if you met him four days ago!
- Charlotte Sometimes, by Penelope Farmer, a 1969 children’s novel of boarding school and time travel. I guess it’s a classic, as everyone I mentioned it to said they’d read it. I liked the spooky identity questions about how to stay yourself and whether anyone but your sister will even notice if you become another person.
- The Residue Years, by Mitchell S. Jackson. Portland setting by an African-American writer from Portland who got his MFA at PSU (but now lives in Brooklyn), a novel about a mother and son fighting poverty and addiction. It had a tragic quality to it that made me think it could be transposed to opera.
- Ask the Passengers, by A.S. King. I had very high expectations for this YA novel, and they were disappointed a little. The characters’ changes did not seem to be believably driven by the events in the story, for me; they seemed to be driven by it being that time in the page-count of the book for them to change. Then again, school bullying and gay-bashing are on my Not Favorite list of topics, and King seems to write about bullying a lot.
And on Monday I started my reread of The Subtle Knife. Boy, he doesn’t worry about explicating via discussion and conversation, does he? And I didn’t remember Will being such a little hardass at the beginning in Cittagazze. There is something about this series that makes me miss my bus stop while reading it, even when I hadn’t thought I was all that absorbed.
Oh, and when we got home I opened the crisper drawer in the fridge and the Cider Fairy had visited and stuffed it full of bottles of delicious Spire Mountain cider! It’s not every day that happens.