An unlikely chat with Judy Blume

July 31, 2015 § Leave a comment

BlumeEventMost of us know Judy Blume as the woman who wrote those books we devoured as we grew up — novels that shaped our development, perhaps more than we even realized. We may have started with Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and the rest of the Fudge series, then moved on to books like Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself. Blubber, Are You There God? It’s Me, MargaretDeenie and Then Again, Maybe I Won’t and eventually graduated to that dog-eared copy of Forever we giggled over with our friends and hid from our parents.

We’ve passed these much-loved paperbacks along to our children. Perhaps some of us have remained Blume readers even in adulthood — digging into her books for grown-ups, like WifeySmart Women and the 1998 bestseller Summer Sisters. When Blume wrote the latter, she said it would be her last book for an adult audience, and she remained true to her word for years. But then, in 2009, the idea for her new book, In the Unlikely Event, hit her — like “a ton of bricks,” she says — and she knew she had to write it …

Judy Blume: Flight Paths and Trigger Warnings (Barnes & Noble Review)

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Omar Sharif: Pure charm

July 10, 2015 § Leave a comment

the_rakes_progressTo meet Omar Sharif was to fall instantly under his spell. At least that’s what happened to me when I interviewed him for Salon in 2003.

Sharif was promoting his role in François Dupeyron’s cinematic confection “Monsieur Ibrahim and the Flowers of the Koran,” in which he played an old Muslim shopkeeper in 1960s Paris who dispenses sweet nuggets of wisdom to a young Jewish boy slightly lonelier and much, much sadder than he.

“Smiling is what makes you happy,” Sharif’s M. Ibrahim tells young Momo, tenderly played by Pierre Boulanger, who drinks in his advice like nectar. “Try it, you’ll see.”

Sharif himself took a similar don’t-worry-be-happy view of life. He told me that he had much in common with M. Ibrahim. “We ended up being exactly the same,” he said, which makes it especially poignant, perhaps, to recall his description of the character’s death.

“It is the last lesson that I’m giving to the boy: How to die, that dying is not something terrible. ‘I am not dying,’ he says to Momo, because Momo is crying,” Sharif said. “‘I’m just going to the immensity.’ It’s something to smile about, not to be sad.”

The rake’s progress (Salon)

The best biographies for kids embrace nuance

January 10, 2014 § Leave a comment

Not Just For Kids: Biographies aimed at children include Abraham Lincoln, Malcolm X, Josephine Baker and Thomas JeffersonAs school book fairs and children’s library browsers can attest, there is no shortage of biographies aiming to educate young readers about the lives of historical figures, from George Washington to Jackie Robinson, Annie Oakley to Anne Frank, Helen Keller to Harry Houdini, Eleanor Roosevelt to Elvis Presley.

This month, several new picture books about famous thinkers and doers — bold breakers of boundaries and blazers of trails — will further crowd the shelves. The best of these deal forthrightly with their subjects’ complexities and contradictions, acknowledging that even heroes make mistakes and suffer setbacks and that one can be inspired by someone’s successes while acknowledging their failings …

Biographies of historical figures for children, flaws and all (Los Angeles Times)

Making peace with marriage

January 4, 2010 § Leave a comment

Anyone who has read Elizabeth Gilbert’s 2006 memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, probably feels they know the author pretty well by now. In that book, Gilbert swept the reader into her world, her travels, her very thoughts as she launched herself out of a miserable marriage and brutal love affair and onto a redemptive quest to find pleasure, God and, ultimately, a sense of balance. Like happy travel companions, Gilbert’s readers tagged along as she devoured the sensuous dishes, sights, and cadences of Rome; experienced a spiritual awakening at an ashram in India; and at last found contentment in Bali, in the gauzily mosquito-netted bed of her kind, handsome, older Brazilian lover, “Felipe.” Through it all, Gilbert entertained us with her keen humor and keener self-awareness, turning what could have been a maddening ego trip into a pleasurable journey. Having been so open with her confidences, Gilbert now seems, to many readers, like a dear friend. When you’ve written a book like that — a book embraced by Oprah and squajillions of adoring women, a book that sat atop the New York Times paperback nonfiction bestseller list for 57 weeks, has been translated into 30 languages, and is currently being made into a movie starring Julia Roberts — what do you do for an encore? …

Review: “Committed” by Elizabeth Gilbert (The Barnes & Noble Review)

Why did Elizabeth Edwards stay with John?

June 2, 2009 § Leave a comment

“If you have picked up this book in hopes that in it there will be details of a scandal,” writes Elizabeth Edwards in her avidly discussed “Resilience: Reflections on the Burdens and Gifts of Facing Life’s Adversities,” “you should now put the book down.”

Now she tells us …

Review: “Resilience” by Elizabeth Edwards (The Barnes & Noble Review)

Finding hope at the 99-cent store

April 27, 2009 § Leave a comment

The other night, despite recent household budget cutbacks, my husband, kids and I threw a spontaneous (modest) dinner party, inviting two families we’ve recently become friendly with. Upon arrival, one of the men, who’d come straight from his Wall Street office, presented the five assembled children with small gifts: Sour Flush candies, packaged in little plastic toilets with lollipop “plungers.” As the small people gleefully jumped up and down, spreading the sugary contents of their wee loos every which way, the rest of the parents looked quizzically at the bestower of the peculiar presents. “I haggled,” he explained, with a shrug. “I wanted to see how low the guy would go.” …

How I learned to haggle (Salon.com)

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