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Abbagirl and The Books

What Abbagirl Reads

I have always been a voracious reader, I can’t live without reading material…My favorite novels might be a toss-up between The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle, The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, Even Cowgirls Get The Blues by Tom Robbins (who autographed my copy at a reading!), and The Neverending Story by German writer Michael Ende. I also like Michael Crichton’s work, Mary Higgins Clark mysteries, and my favorite Stephen King book would be Carrie. I read all kinds of stuff, although my favorites sections of the bookstore would be women’s studies, gay/lesbian, music/movies/TV, fiction, computers, theatre, and sometimes poetry, sexuality and humor. ๐Ÿ™‚

Over the past few years I’ve become obsessed with Anne Rice – so far I’ve read Interview With the Vampire, Cry to Heaven, The Witching Hour, Lasher, Taltos, Belinda, Exit To Eden, The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty, The Roquelaure Reader, (a companion to her ‘Beauty’ series under the pen name of A.N. Roquelaure, by Katherine Ramsland, PH.D) and also Prism of the Night, her biography (also by Ramsland), The Unofficial Anne Rice Companion by George Beahm, and The Anne Rice Reader, by Ramsland as well. I’m currently reading Beauty’s Punishment, and also have Beauty’s Release and Violin waiting for me.

By the way, another cool thing about Anne is that you can call her on the phone! Yes, she has a number with an answering machine, and updates the message about every week. You can hear her talk about what’s going on in her life, her thoughts on current events, films, novels, etc. etc., and leave a message for her as well. The number is: (504) 522-8634. Or, you can write her at this address: Anne Rice, 1239 First Street, New Orleans, LA 70130.

I also highly recommend the works of the hip and zany Pagan Kennedy, ex-zine writer (Pagan’s Head) and author of the fab books ‘Zine, Stripping and Other Stories (a short-story collection), Pagan’s Living: A Handbook For Maturing Hipsters, and the insightful Platforms: A Microwaved Cultural Chronicle of the 70’s, full of her dead-on humorous analysis of 70’s pop culture. (Like me, Pagan has a certain fondness for “The Partridge Family”…) Pagan’s latest book is The Exes, which I pre-ordered online – it’s fantastic! One of her best yet! Four excellent characters (how can you not love Shaz, the bisexual Pakistani bassist?) and an intriguing premise; I didn’t want it to end. (And, I’ve even talked to Pagan myself; that is, I’ve emailed her a few times and gotten responses. Woo! She also checked out my site the first time and commented that I seemed very “on the scene” for a 17-year old, the age I was then.)

Yet another author I adore is Susie Bright, “America’s favorite X-rated intellectual” (as described on the cover of one of her books, heh). Susie even came to Michigan on her recent book tour, but I missed it because it was at Wayne State, which isn’t exactly near me, and also on a night I had plans, argh! Anyway, Susie the writer and bisexual “sexpert” is witty, intelligent, political, uninhibited, fun-loving, uh, I could go on here…I’ve read almost all of her books so far – Sexual Reality: A Virtual World Sex Reader, Sexwise, Lesbian Sex World (now in its 2nd edition!), and The Sexual State of the Union. Her latest is called Full Exposure: Opening Up To Sexual Creativity and Erotic Expression, it’s excellent as well. She’s also edited several popular series of erotica and photography, and has columns in various websites (like Libida, and formerly Salon and Playboy) and magazines (like BUST!). Plus, she was the official lesbian sex consultant for one of my fave movies, “Bound” (and has a cameo in it)! You can also see her giving commentary in the excellent documentary on the history of homosexuality in film, “The Celluloid Closet”. What can I say? Susie rocks my world! ๐Ÿ™‚

(Speaking of intelligent sexperts who write books, go familiarize yourselves with the works of people like Tristan Taormino, Carol Queen, Betty Dodson, Annie Sprinkle, and Pat Califia! )

Random books I love: about all of Shakespeare’s plays (patricularly Hamlet), anything by Erica Jong (especially What Do Women Want?), Prozac Nation and Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women by Elizabeth Wurtzel , Where The Girls Are: Growing Up Female With The Mass Media by Susan J. Douglas (a fabulous chronicle of women in pop culture over the decades; I could reread this one a zillion times!), Succulent Wild Woman by SARK, Annie On My Mind by Nancy Garden, anything by Judy Blume, The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets by Barbara G. Walker (a must-have!), The Witch In Every Woman by Laurie Cabot, The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler, The Wild Girls Club by Anka Radakovich (who used to write for ‘Details’ magazine), and Faeries, a book of art and faerie lore by Brian Froud and Alan Lee.

I do all my online book shopping at Amazon, the best source anywhere for hard-to-find titles. (And in real life, Borders is my bookstore of choice, although I also like an independent feminist/queer bookstore here called Common Language, and an esoteric place called Crazy Wisdom that also has a tea room! By the way, Borders actually originated here in Michigan!)

If you’re interested in creating webpages of your own, the classic HTML book to get would be Teach Yourself Web Publishing With HTML In A Week by Laura Lemay, now in its fourth edition! It’s an excellent and easy introduction to HTML for beginners and also has some cool stuff for more advanced web-weavers (Lemay also has Teach Yourself More Web Publishing…); I’d recommend it to anyone working on their pages or even just thinking about it. Laura Lemay also has her own nifty homepage!

And of course, I couldn’t forget a link to the terrific Jane Austen Info Page!

Authors I’ve met:

Roald Dahl – Yes, the British writer behind such childrens’ classics as Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, Matilda, and The Witches; he came to speak to the girls’ school I attended when I lived in England (4th grade or so). I don’t remember much except that he was already fairly old and in a wheelchair, and talked a lot about chocolate. ๐Ÿ™‚

Esther Hautzig – In my 6th grade class in Hong Kong, we read her book The Endless Steppe, a true memoir of life in Siberia. Anyway, a bunch of us got to write her letters, and she replied to mine, which thrilled me; I still have her reply. We talked about sunflower seeds, among other things.

Tom Robbins – He did a reading/signing at the Borders here in Ann Arbor whilst promoting Half Asleep In Frog Pajamas, and I had him sign my copy of Even Cowgirls Get The Blues!

Gloria Steinem – This amazing, warm & witty woman came to speak at the Michigan Theatre to a huge crowd. My mom, sister and I all went, and were very impressed with her, myself especially. After a long speech and Q&A; and various presentations, Ms. Steinem autographed books for the masses, and I got her signature on my copy of Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions, one of her essay collections.

Margaret Atwood – The celebrated Canadian writer behind such classics as The Handmaid’s Tale gave a speech as a part of the writers’ series at the Stratford Festival in Stratford, Canada, to a sold-out house at the Avon Theatre. Her talk was on the portrayal of “madwomen” in literature through the ages, starting with Shakespeare’s Ophelia and Lady Macbeth, as well as discussion of her latest novel, Alias Grace (which I’m now reading, it’s quite good! Plus, I’ve heard that Jodie Foster has bought the rights to the story to make a film version…). She was incredibly funny and eloquent and insightful, making me want to go out and get some more of her novels.

Ethan Hawke – One of my favorite actors, Ethan has written his brilliant first novel, The Hottest State, and came to the Ann Arbor Borders for a reading and signing to promote it. I was pretty much the only person there with a hardcover copy, having already bought it in June ’97 (it came out in ’96, I believe), which made me feel cool. Ethan gave a great reading and answered questions from the audience on his career and inspirations, and then after standing in a line/clump for hours, we finally got to get our books signed! (The store policy said he would only sign copies of his novel; I’d brought my “Before Sunrise” screenplay anyway in case.)

He signed my copy “To Sarah, thanks for the letter. Ethan Hawke. P.S. God bless Scorpios.” (I’d mentioned that I was a fellow Scorp, and had given him a 2-page letter I’d written in advance, telling him how much I respected him as an actor and such. He seemed surprised when I offered it to him, and pocketed it inside his jacket to read later; I left elated knowing that Ethan Hawke had a letter of mine, and would probably read it later that night…*sigh* I was glad that I had thought to do something like that, as with 5 seconds I had little time to talk to Ethan.) By the way, he is fairly tall in person, although not majorly taller than myself, and has quite beautiful, friendly blue eyes. Borders was mobbed; the entire 2nd floor was packed with fans, predominantly women.

Suzanne Vega – Okay, so, like Ethan, Suzanne isn’t known as a writer. But, she has a book out now, The Passionate Eye, and it’s quite excellent; a collection of poetry, song lyrics, and Vega’s own quirkily witty stories and anecdotes. She stopped by our local Borders to promote the book with a reading, and I was there in the (massive) audience to enjoy it. She read a tale from the book, “My Friend Millie”, and answered questions; she also whipped out an acoustic guitar and sang about 3 or 4 songs, including “Caramel” and “Tom’s Diner”, whee. I was quite impressed by her writing as well as of course her voice and performing and reading style. I got her autograph on my ‘Nine Objects of Desire’ CD cover.

Leslea Newman – Leslea Newman is the famous and award-winning author of tons of novels, poetry and non-fiction, primarily about lesbians, including The Femme Mystique and the children’s book Heather Has Two Mommies (which has been banned in some places, grr!). She came to Ann Arbor to do several readings; the only one I was able to attend was actually more of an interactive workshop session, about “butch/femme” and what it means…it was really fun and a learning experience, I’m so glad I went. There was a small group of us (mostly students, but some older women as well, and a couple guys) sitting in a circle, and Leslea divided us into groups and had us do some exercises (no, not physical exercises, lol), and then we had time to write about it, stream-of-consciousness. Then we had to share what we’d written with a partner and vice versa, which led to more discussion. The whole group brainstormed on what we think of when we think of “butch” and “femme”, and then in small groups tried to come up with actual definitions, which proved to be just about impossible. The whole seminar was very thought-provoking and Leslea was incredibly friendly and insightful. I only had one of her books, a poetry collection she’d edited actually (My Lover Is A Woman), but now I wanna go out and peruse her whole collection. Do check out her website, it has a lot of info.!

Christopher Rice – Christopher is, of course, the son of Anne (one of my top favorite authors, as previously mentioned) and Stan (an accomplished poet in his own right) Rice. And, he’s now written his first novel, A Density of Souls, set in New Orleans unsurprisingly (it’s the Rices’ hometown and setting of many of Anne’s books as well), about high schoolers. He came to the Ann Arbor Borders on his book tour, where he did a reading, a very brief Q&A; (only about 3 people had questions!), and then a signing…By the way, Chris is the same age as me! I’ve been sort of following his life over the years through my Anne fandom, and I always thought he seemed very cool (not to mention a hottie!)…in person he was indeed tall, blonde, and absolutely beautiful! (I loved his lavender shirt…) Of course, he’s also gay (yay), which kinda makes sense since his mom is the queen of homoerotic fiction and all. ๐Ÿ™‚ He was even on the cover of ‘The Advocate’ recently.

He came off as very casual and down-to-earth, not at all celebrity-ish, and almost shy. When he signed my book (“To Sarah, Best, Christopher Rice”) he was very sweet and conversational; I of course was all giddy and tongue-tied in his presence and could only babble a few comments. I mentioned I was his age, and the fact that he already has a book is kinda inspiring in that sense. (Although it could also make me feel rather inadequate, I suppose!) I don’t even know what he said to that, I was so nervous. ๐Ÿ™‚ I also urged him to tell his mom to come to Michigan, since I don’t think she’s been anywhere here (on book tours or anything) for years, not since I’ve lived around here certainly…he was surprised and mentioned she would be doing another new book tour very soon. So, while I still haven’t been able to meet one of my literary idols, I did get to meet her wonderful son, who definitely has a lot of talent himself and will surely be going places. (He’s already working on his 2nd book, by the way.)

Candace Bushnell – Candace has written for dozens of newspapers and magazines, and her novel Sex and the City (which was culled from material in her ‘New York Observer’ column) was of course the basis for the hit HBO series that I am addicted to! She came to the Ann Arbor Borders to do a reading from her new novel 4 Blondes, which I actually haven’t read or bought yet (it’s gotten so-so reviews, I’m not so jazzed about it) and also a signing. I showed up with my S&TC; paperback in tow. She was pretty funny and lively in person, and answered a lot of questions, mostly about the series and her opinions on and involvement with it. Her outfit was quite striking – a black dress with a plunging V neckline a la Jennifer Lopez, and tall, black heeled boots! I told her how much I loved the boots, which were Dolce & Gabbana and like $300-something, she said. Yikes. Anyway, she’s a bit too much of a Cosmo girl for me, but she does have a sharp wit and is clearly intelligent, and an excellent writer. She certainly reeks of Manhattan hipness and class (and cynicism), the way I wish I could. On to the Movies page!