Posts Tagged ‘alphabetizing’

The Letter U (A-to-Z Challenge)

April 26, 2015

U stands for Undecided

Throughout this challenge books have been practically flinging themselves out of the bookcase shouting, “Pick me! Pick me!” and more than once I have read through two or three candidates for a particular letter before coming to a decision and then re shelving the runners up, telling them that while I loved them and thought they were special and all that they weren’t quite what was wanted at this particular time.

Then along came letter U, not that unusual of a letter, more common than, say, X or Z* or even Q, which I had no trouble at all with.  Part of the Great Book Purge of this past winter included sorting the surviving books into bookcases by genre and then alphabetizing them by author.  So I went into the library (location of fiction and selected science fiction) and squatted down by the third shelf from the bottom on the far right toward the end of the T’s, to see what I could find.

There was one single book.  Brazil, by John Updike.  Sorry, but I don’t love John Updike.

I scanned the shelves for authors’ first names.

Umberto Eco.  I have three of his books, but I’m afraid they barely escaped the Great Book Purge because I just find them to be so much work.  I finally fought my way through The Name of the Rose a few years ago but The Island of the Day Before totally baffled me and I haven’t found the energy to tackle Baudolino.  I’m not sure why I even have Baudolino.  I must be subconsciously trying to pretend that I’m more literate than I really am.

To titles, then.

Under the Tuscan Sun.  Enjoyed it, but not really that much there to talk about.

So I started thinking about characters. Umberto suggested Humbert Humbert…Lolita? No.

I went around to the other rooms.  Between the children’s bookcases I discovered no fewer than three copies of Ursula K. Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea.  Unfortunately, none of us liked Earthsea at all.  The only reason we have three copies is because it was on three kids’ reading lists at different times and we could never find any of the copies we already owned so we thought we’d better grab another one just to be on the safe side.

There was only one thing for it.  I took a trip to the Goodwill.

Bent over sideways and leaning in closely to peer at the books I sidled along the shelves.  First I checked for authors. No one I didn’t already have, and here I’d just like to mention that there were no fewer than eight Umberto Eco books in pristine condition (ha! it’s not just me!) and at least a dozen Earthseas of the edition sold by purveyors of required summer reading, so apparently we aren’t the only ones who don’t feel the need to keep those around the house either.

Then I crept around again, this time checking the titles.

When I spied not one but TWO graceful capital letter U’s in metallic gold script on the well-broken spine of a fat pink paperback I thought I had hit the jackpot for sure. I leaned closer and squinted. The cursive font was so fancy as to be practically unreadable but I believe the title was Ursula’s Undoing.  I took a look at the cover and sneaked a peek inside but I’m sorry to report that the enormity of the bosoms and the luridity of the cover art were NOT entirely justified artistically,** at least not sufficiently for this challenge.

Remembering how I had been able to justify to myself talking about The Three Musketeers for the Letter S, I expanded my search parameters to include any title or author in which the letter U was involved in any capacity.

Dune caught my eye, and with fully one quarter of the letters in its title being the letter U it more than qualified under the new rules but I somehow wasn’t feeling science fiction-y today.

Cider House Rules was there (two internally placed U’s) and this gave me pause but only because I didn’t remember seeing it at home and I know I have it.

Of course there were shelves’ and shelves’ worth of the ubiquitous Jude Deveraux.  I’ve never looked inside a Jude Deveraux book and today was no exception.

Then I saw Snobs by Julian Fellowes.  I really liked another book of his I bought a few weeks ago that I can’t remember the title of just now. I bought Snobs, but to read later.

Then I gave up on Letter U and just started grabbing things for fun.

A biography of Louisa May Alcott.

Joys and Sorrows by Pablo Casals which I thought Yale Man might like.

State of the Union by Douglas Kennedy which I’d never heard of but it had an interesting picture on the cover. It looked like it could easily go either way*** but as the books at Goodwill are just a dollar each there’s not much harm done if something you buy turns out to be a stinker.  And, a bonus, it could qualify for Letter U if nothing else turned up.

An Irish Country Doctor by Patrick Taylor which I also might own already but I think not so I put it in the cart.

Jodi Picoult’s Sing You Home because sometimes I want to not-quite-mindlessly kill two hours but I’m not really in the mood to watch a movie.

The Jewish Book of Why, because I hadn’t seen it before and it looked interesting.

The Headmaster’s Wife  by Thomas Christopher Greene  because I’m a sucker for any book cover featuring brick buildings, fall foliage and a distant, solitary figure half hidden in the mist.

Then I saw it.  Down on the bottom shelf where they put the tall, heavy textbooks.  Convin & Peltason’s Understanding the Constitution.


This is a book that will be good for me.  It will be character building and ego-bolstering and educational. Unfortunately, there is no way I’m going to be able read it by this evening so, for today anyway, here endeth the Letter U.

One of these days I’ll let you know what I have learned about the Constitution.

See you Monday for Letter V,


*Although I’m kicking myself around the block for not saving Gatsby for letter Z, as it is dedicated “To Zelda.” That would have been astute and clever and entirely acceptable.

**Here, as most of you will have noticed, I modify a line delivered by one of Mr. Blackadder’s aging actors. I’m not sure I’m actually required to mention that, but one time I made the mistake of reading the comments on a news article in which one commentator used an iconic movie quote and another commentator immediately pounced on him, saying that he shouldn’t pretend he made it up when he was actually stealing it from a movie.  The first guy said he wasn’t pretending since it was obvious that everyone would recognize it.  The second guy said he was going to report him for plagiarism.  This, of course, is why no one should ever get involved in comment sections.  Anyway, now I’m nervous that if I don’t attribute the Blackadder spoof someone will report me.  Or worse, they’ll think I think I made it up.  When I was five years old I thought I had made up a nice little song on the piano, and it turned out to be a Minuet by J.S. Bach.  I’m still embarrassed by that one.

***It is bound in textured craft paper, which I find is often a bad sign.


A to Z Challenge: Books I Like and Why You Should Like Them Too

March 31, 2015

You will have already noticed that I am a technopeasant.*

It is obvious from the facts that I’ve chosen the most basic blog format-thingy available, just plain blue and white, and I haven’t even filled out my ‘About’ page or added a picture and I’m not even sure that when I share the good news that I’ve posted again I do so by using the correct link. I am also unable to tell people – even people who ask! – how to ‘like’ or ‘follow’ my blog.  When I set the thing up initially I bumbled around making mistakes which eventually landed me with an address I didn’t want and a username that I think is stupid and I have no idea whatsoever how to fix this, but none of this has been a real problem because all I really want to do is to write a couple thousand words two or three times a month and put it out there for interested parties to read.

This bumbling did get me into a kind of irritating situation, though.

One of the first things I did was to (sort of accidentally) both ‘like’ and ‘follow’ the very first person who ‘liked’ my debut post.  I ‘liked’ him because it seemed rude not to respond in kind when he had ‘liked’ me, and I ‘followed’ him because he invited me to do so and I assumed that this also was going to be reciprocal.  Over time it has became obvious that this invitation was only a follower-gathering ploy on his part, possibly an automatically generated one that he pays a fee for, but because my technopeasantry skills do not extend to ‘unliking’ someone, I’m stuck with him.**  [Update: I finally managed to jettison him – by clicking ‘following’ which ought to have been obvious – and replace him with someone much more interesting who also happens to review science fiction.  The two should not be confused.]

However.  There are people who say that everything happens for a reason.  I’m not sure about this, but I do know that every road you go down – accidentally or on purpose – takes you past interesting things you would probably not have seen otherwise.  So even though I’m not at all interested in the daily postings of details of this person’s life, not interested in the self-published sci-fi ebooks he reviews, not happy with the fact that every single time he so much as turns on his laptop I’m electronically alerted in five different ways, I am happy to say that one interesting and valuable item did drop unexpectedly into my lap because of this otherwise irritating experience.***

That valuable item is the A-to-Z Challenge.

The A-to-Z Challenge is an invitation (well, an opportunity to sign up) to air my knowledge and opinions on any topic I choose for twenty-six straight days.   The daily post subjects have to follow the alphabet but that’s not really all that restrictive for a nimble rationalizer like myself.  They are also supposed to be short, which might actually become a problem.  I’m also supposed to somehow ‘tag’ the A-to-Z Challenge personnel and post some links or…something…which obviously is going to be a problem, but I know I signed up properly (except for posting my blog address in a way that brings you to the page that shows my one follow-ee, rather than my own posts, and I can’t seem to fix this, and I keep sending emails inquiring as to how to fix this and no one answers me) and so hopefully one of the Challenge hosts will actually show up and read my stuff.

And if they don’t, that doesn’t really matter to me.  Twenty-six straight days!  A reason to talk about things I love and to pretend to be smarter than I actually am for twenty-six straight days.  I’ll take it; I’m all dressed up and ready to go and I don’t care if I’m not actually at the official party as long as I get to dance.

I choose to write about “Books I Like and Why You Should Like Them Too.”

I reserve the right to bend, twist and otherwise manipulate the official rules of alphabetization.****

I reserve the right to have unsupportable opinions.

I reserve the right to go off on tangents.

And as always, I reserve the right to be pompous.

You’ve been warned.

A-to-Z Challenge posts begin on April 1.

See you then!


*This is a statement of fact and not a coy invitation for you to think that I’m helpless and adorable.  I don’t do that sort of thing. On good days I fear –  and on bad days I know – that the most cursory soul-search would reveal that I only pretend to be above this sort of thing because I can’t pull it off, in the same way that I pretend to hate pretty pastel dresses because I know very well that when I wear pastel I look like a moth dressed in a butterfly suit.  You know what I mean.  Watch the next time you go hiking with a group of young people.  There are girls who can feign helplessness and immediately get picked up and fussed over and carried shrieking and giggling over a stream, and then there are girls who can stand there all day imitating those helpless shrieks and giggles and all they’ll get is an impatient over-the-shoulder shout of “Oh come on, we don’t have all day. Just cross it already!”  I don’t have to tell you which one I was.

**I was able to ‘like’ and ‘follow’ because I was presented with a little message that said “Click HERE to like and follow!” My skills do run that far. Oddly, though, I’m not receiving messages telling me to click HERE to unfollow.


***No, I’m not at all afraid he’ll read this and have his feelings hurt.  He doesn’t read my blog.

****Let us take for example the book A Separate Peace by John Knowles.  I might put that under A, S, J or K depending on what letter happens to be free.  In an extreme case I might even put it under letter P.   Of course I know it belongs under either S for Separate or K for Knowles, but what if both letters S and K are already assigned and I don’t want to sacrifice either of those books?