Welcome to the Tea Interviews.
I've seldom met an artist, particularly a writer, who didn't tend to gab or spill opinions or offer musings on his/her own work and worldview. Therefore I'm tapping into this common tendency.
(Most of the questions are tailored toward the featured interviewee.)
Tea Interview with BookBitch
Stacy (BookBitch), I'm sure you're often asked "Why the name BookBitch?"
until you can yawn and vomit at the same time. For strangers' sakes,
please give us the scoop.
Actually, I'm not asked as frequently as you might assume -- perhaps the name
scares people off from asking? And
I'm not talented enough to yawn and vomit at the same time anyway.
But the answer, I'm afraid, is rather boring.
was a bookseller at Borders for several years and was thinking about doing a
website as a way to keep track of the books I had read and the books I wanted to
read. It was purely selfish, you
see. I worked the closing shift
every Friday and Saturday night and on one particularly hellish night, the name
just popped into my head. When I
got home from work in the wee hours of the night I signed up for the email
address with Yahoo and at the time, they were providing free web space through
Geocities. I had already put
together a website for the store -- a completely unofficial, non-company
approved site just for the great people I worked with.
I abandoned the site years ago, but it is still floating around in
cyberspace if you'd like to check it out, but it's mostly just pictures of
the staff - http://www.geocities.com/borders13/
I started the [current] BookBitch site
with Geocities and then my husband surprised me a few months later and purchased
the domain name for me as a gift. I
found a web host, migrated the site, and it just sort of snowballed from a
personal site to something much more far reaching.
So sayeth the BookBitch: "I am the eternal optimist; my
glass is always half full, my clouds all have silver linings and when life gives
me lemons, I make kick ass lemonade!" But she admits: "I
am sorry to say I can also be impatient, opinionated, stubborn and generally too
blunt for my own good."
you be "sorry to say" that you're opinionated? Strong opinions
are commonly discouraged by negative connotation (and tend to be harshly
judged by Politically Correct Neo-Puritan standards). I respect
responsible opinions and consider them signs of strong thought rather
than social sins. (There can be/are silly or horrible opinions, of
on my take on "opinionation"? Please elaborate on your self-description.
In my own defense I should add here that my mother -- who hates the BookBitch
moniker -- called me when she read that description and said it was right on.
In fact she was surprised that I put it all out there like that.
I don't mind expressing my opinion, but sometimes I wish I was a bit more
subtle. I've stuck my foot in my
mouth more times than I care to think about.
Recent example: I work for the public library and was at the check out
desk one quiet afternoon. I was
reading an advance reading copy of some book, I don't remember which, when a
couple approached me to check out some books.
The woman glanced at the book I had set aside and said, "Oh, do you
often read galleys?" I told her that I do, explaining that I write reviews for
Library Journal and my website. Then
she glanced at her husband and said, "Are you planning on reading Lauren
Weisberger's new book? The
galleys just came out." Without
thinking about it for a second, I said "I hope not."
I continued explaining that I had reviewed The
Devil Wears Prada for Library Journal and while it was interesting, I
didn't think Weisberger was much of a writer.
The man sort of scowled but the woman said "I guess you didn't notice
our name when you were checking out our books.
We're her parents."
yes, I am occasionally sorry that I'm so opinionated. I should add that Mrs. Weisberger was actually very gracious
about it, saying that she understands that not everyone likes that type of book
(poorly written? Oh, chick-lit!).
I started to say that I do like chick lit, but realized that I would just
be digging myself in deeper so I quickly shut my mouth and hoped they hadn't
read/remembered my review, which started with this: "This chic read is sure to
take the fashion world by storm, although the literary world may find it
lacking," and ended with this recommendation: "Despite the pedestrian
writing, the prepublication buzz on this novel is big, so buy for demand."
Turns out I was right, the book made a bloody fortune and Weisberger got
a million dollar advance for her next book (which I did not have to review and
was universally panned). I'm sure
she's crying all the way to the bank.
been my experience that people say that want to hear honest opinions, that they
want honesty, but the truth is most people would rather hear a little white lie
or even a whopper than face some truth that they'd rather avoid.
Being blunt has its price, but on the plus side the people who know me do
value my opinion because they know they'll get the truth from me. I try and be as kind as I know how to be, but I'm not
always as successful at kindness as I'd like.
I'm still working on the patience thing, and making a tiny bit of
progress I think. I hope. As for
the rest of my description, the only change is that I've given up on lemonade
and learned to make limoncello, a delightful Italian liqueur.
Mother Jones (whose speeches were worthy despite some fundamental
disagreements I have with her) said in 1915: "No nation can ever grow
greater than its women...It is the women who decide the fate of a nation, and
that has always been, as history proves."
reminds me of what Pearl Buck wrote: "The basic discovery about any
people is the discovery of the relationship between its men and its women."
thoughts on these statements?
I can't say that I necessarily agree
with Mother Jones. I don't
believe in sexism, in either direction. My
version of that quote would be "No nation can ever grow greater than its
You say you prefer fiction books by new authors. My reading
preference for fiction ranges between about 1850 to about 1980 (though some
books fall before or after that scale). My philosophy, essays, and history interests
are more broad era-wise.
do your other reading interests fall on or off my scale - and what
"classic" or older authors (Conrad, Faulkner, etc.) do you like?
Are there standard elements that endear you to particular books? Feel
free to mention your favorite books. Also, tell us about the "tons
of erotica" you read. (Lascivious minds want to know.)
I'm a college student majoring in
English so I do a good bit of reading in other centuries.
I adore Shakespeare, of course, for he is the foundation of all modern
literature and had quite a way with words.
My favorite comedies: A Midsummer Night's Dream, Measure for
Measure. Tragedies: Othello,
Hamlet. And I treasure the
Sonnets. Other favorite Brits of
previous centuries include Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens.
More recently yet certainly within your pre-1980 requirements -- Nora
Zeale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching
God is an amazing book. John Cheever. I love his story "The Swimmer".
F. Scott Fitzgerald. Most of
Hemingway. Carson McCullers. Harper
Lee. Henry Miller.
the other hand, I am not a fan of Faulkner.
Hate Pynchon and Stein. Love
the Beat poets: Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg, and my favorite, Charles
Bukowski. Actually I am a complete sucker for poetry.
My favorite contemporary poets are Sharon Olds, who writes my life, and
Billy Collins, who makes me laugh.
elements. Good question. I would
say good writing, good use of punctuation (I'm sorry, I don't care what
anyone says but a sentence that is an entire page long [Faulkner] is a run-on)
and a good mix of description and dialogue -- too much of one or the other
usually starts to annoy me.
well turned phrase can take my breath away.
favorite books, the ones I have read more than once, and some of them many
times, the ones that I give as gifts, the ones that I constantly recommend -- Last
Days of Summer by Steve Kluger, Beginner's
Luck by Laura Pedersen, A Prayer for
Owen Meany by John Irving, Empire
Falls by Richard Russo, Marjorie
Morningstar by Herman Wouk, My Name is
Asher Lev by Chaim Potok, Gone With the
Wind by Margaret Mitchell, Atonement
by Ian McEwan, A Walk in the Woods by
Bill Bryson, Memoirs of a Geisha by
Arthur Golden, Outlander by Diana
Gabaldon, Fifty Acres and a Poodle by
Jeanne Marie Laskus, Angle of Repose by
Wallace Stegner, Plainsong by Kent
Haruf, Peace Like a River by Leif
Enger. I'll stop here although
the list is considerably longer. I
haven't even touched my favorite genre, crime fiction, so I'll just mention
some of my favorite authors: Lee Child, Michael Connelly, David Ellis, Joseph
Finder, Richard North Patterson. Throw in some humor and the list grows even
longer: Janet Evanovich, Carl Hiaasen, David Rosenfelt, maybe a few new guys,
Bob Morris, Chris Grabenstein and Randall Hicks.
Let me tend to all those lascivious minds!
I read everything as long as it's graphic and not "soft-porn" or
"women's erotica" (whatever that means). I adore the A. N. Roquelaure/Anne
Rice Sleeping Beauty Trilogy and a couple of classics, The Story of O and
Candy. Anais Nin writes
pretty erotica. I love Victorian
erotica. The Black Lace series is
terrific, I read tons of those -- they have Victorian and contemporary and
everything in between. Susie Bright
does some good collections with her Best American Erotica annual anthologies.
I have a couple of books that are collections of stories but were printed
on special paper that is waterproof (for bath time reading) which is very nice, Aqua
Erotica & More Aqua Erotica.
I also read a lot online, my favorite site is www.literotica.com.
Below are three important statements. Please share your reactions to them.
D.E. Harding: "How this universe can be so steeped in intention, yet
remain merely accidental, we do not explain."
Graham Greene: "To admit that there are no finalities is to put the
spirit out of business; to say that finalities are a matter of personal
assertion is to make the spirit's business insignificant."
This is starting to feel like school.
Not sure what spirit he is referring to here, but mine is completely
stifled by finality. I live,
therefore, I hope. I live, and not
Dr. Francis Schaeffer: "...we should note this curious mark of our own
age: the only absolute allowed is the absolute insistence that there is no
Ah, sounds like Republican right wing
Christian doublespeak. No offense
I didn't much care for your quotes, so I will gift you with quotes I find interesting and meaningful, in hopes that will suffice:
need not worry so much about what man descends from; it's what he descends to
that shames the human race." -
small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world.
Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."
- Margaret Mead
I go I am asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that
they don't stifle enough of them. There's many a best seller that could have
been prevented by a good teacher." - Flannery O'Conner
the comfort - the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person - having
neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out,
just as they are, chaff and grain together; certain that a faithful hand will
take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of
kindness blow the rest away." -
Dinah Maria Mulock Craik
"The curve is more powerful than the sword." - Mae West
If you could have one superhero power, what would it be?
Now this is a question I can have some fun with! Perhaps flying, I tend to get airsick (and seasick) so maybe if I could fly that wouldn't be a problem for me. But then again, maybe I'd be flying around and turning green while doing it and that wouldn't be any fun. Being bulletproof seems like a bit of a waste for me, I'm 47 and no one has ever taken a shot at me (thank goodness!). Don't like the spider web thing, that's yucky, and [I] never really cared about shooting flames or stretching like a rubber-band. I think I'll pick super vision. I've recently started wearing glasses for reading which really sucks and I wouldn't mind being able to read without them again.
usually one long-winded, grand slam "question" (really a verbose
provocation) in each of my interviews. So here goes...
hear folks worrying about this violent, foolish world and wishing for a hero,
someone (usually a leader) who will fix problems, usher in peace, reduce fear
and bring prosperity. Guess what? I don't WANT a hero! I don't
wish for a human savior/leader to soothe our anxiety and award us with comfort
and treats! The prospect makes my skin crawl. Minced poison is
hardly better than obvious putrescence. Human heroism is incidental,
trustworthy on a small scale. Utopianism raises my eyebrow, makes me wary,
suggests a grinning Big Bad Wolf.
and over, in different ways, Dostoyevsky stressed that rabbit stew can't be made
without a rabbit. In other words, world fraternity cannot be genuinely
achieved by politics or systems alone. The heart is the key, the
element that needs redemption before true brother- and sisterhood can happen.
This tied in with Dostoyevsky's distrust of socialism - which inadvertently
foretold the barbarous Bolshevik Revolution in his own land 36 years after
in Crime and Punishment said: "Everything with them [socialists]
is 'the influence of the environment'...if society is normally organized, all
crime wil cease at once...and all men will become righteous in one instant.
Human nature is not taken into account, it is excluded, it's not supposed to
exist!" He goes on to say, "The living soul demands life,
the soul won't obey the rules of mechanics...you can't skip over nature by
becomes the primary goal of mass-men - at the expense of true liberty and
humanness. In The Brothers Karamazov, The Grand Inquisitor explains
the fallen Church's global Statism to a captive Jesus, referring to Jesus'
refusal of Satan's temptation to turn stones into bread: "Thou didst
reply that man lives not by bread alone...In the end they [humanity] will lay
their freedom at our feet, and say to us, 'Make us your slaves, but feed
lowly doctrine of strict materialism becomes the dogma of the replacement
religion. And as Stepan Trofimovich cries in Devils (echoing
Dostoyevsky's own conviction that disbelief in higher purpose meant the death of
the soul and ultimate despair, namely nihilism): "The infinite and the
eternal are as essential to man as this small planet where we live...long live
the Great Idea!"
against evil is not the same as the choice against evil, and is hence not
moral. So apparent, primarily coerced cooperation and good behavior
misses the point, doesn't take the soul - the rabbit for the stew - into
account. In Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange, Alex is put
through a new technique to "cure" criminals. The prison
chaplain criticizes the technique: "What does God want? Does God want goodness or the choice of goodness?"
A doctor later rebuts, "We are
not concerned with motive, with the higher ethics.
We are concerned only with cutting down crime."
grand designs for mass cooperation, "equality," and State providence
becomes an insistence on control and the abuse or negation of individuality.
The French Revolution is a prime example of a foolish rush to uproot
almost everything considered superfluous or contrary to a fanatical worship of
so-called "Reason" (to the point of praising Reason as a Goddess in
the streets). Trying to force "fraternity" and
"equality," the misguided masses (stoked by wayward intellectuals)
actually produced an entirely other reality: the loss of liberty and the Reign
of Terror followed by a dictatorship. The Bolshevik Rev followed in a
quite similar way. (They both differed greatly from the unique American
thoughts on my spiel? What are your views on possible or impossible world
concord? Does Dostoyevsky have a decent point or is he off base?
Please let your answer go wherever it tugs.
As long as there is man there will be war.
I'm not dissing the male species because I think women can be just as
warmongering as men -- by man, I mean mankind.
World peace is boring and carries no reward. Inconceivable, actually.
There is money to be made in war, and it is money that rules the world.
Not religion. Not democracy
or the lack thereof. It is a cliché
that more wars have been fought in the name of religion and it is thought that
clichés become such because they are true.
But not always. Sometimes
the propaganda machine spews forth and clichés are born.
In fact I think that probably happens more often than not.
read a lot. And a lot of what I
read is historical in nature, be it nonfiction like David McCullough's works
or extremely well researched and documented history interwoven into fiction à
la Diana Gabaldon or David Liss. I've
taken several history classes and done quite a big of reading in that regard as
well. It is my conclusion that war
-- all wars -- have been fought over money.
The Reformation? The Thirty
Years War? The war that divided
Ireland? It's all bullshit.
It's all about the money. M-O-N-E-Y.
Money can mean land, by the way. Or
diamonds. Or oil.
don't like what is happening in the world.
I really don't like what is happening in my country.
I think our leaders are thugs at best and all these indictments are just
the tip of the iceberg. I wish the
American people -- the majority, the ones who voted to hang themselves in the
name of God, would wake up and smarten up.
I'd like to remind people of the words of one of our founding fathers
-- who must be spinning in his grave at how our beloved constitution has been
trampled on; no worse yet, spat on. I'm
talking about Benjamin Franklin, as well as all his brethren, not that they were
perfect either but in the end they did right by this country.
Franklin said: "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a
little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
I'd like that incorporated into every history lesson of every child in
America. And their parents.
am not looking for a savior. I am
not looking for a leader to lead us to world concordance. I'd be happy with a leader who had a modicum of integrity,
a smidgen of compassion, and most important of all, the willingness to take
responsibility for his or her own actions.
To stop shifting blame. To
turn off the spin machine. To look
me and all American citizens, hell, all world citizens, in the eye and speak the
truth. To put the good of the
country, of the planet, ahead of loyalty to the friends that helped him or her
get where they are and to stop lining their pockets at the expense of the people
who voted them in.
Lennon said it better than I ever could: "You
may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one.
I hope someday you'll join us, and the world will live as one."
Share your favorite music/musicians/albums.
My music tastes are as eclectic as my reading tastes. I listen mostly to classic rock, I am a product of my
childhood and upbringing. I listen
to Vivaldi when studying, or occasionally Beethoven or Aaron Copeland.
My mood dictates my music choices.
Joel. Rolling Stones. Louis Prima.
Grateful Dead. Frank Sinatra. Moody
Blues. Aretha Franklin.
Luciano Pavarotti. Allman
Brothers. Jethro Tull. Muddy Waters. Heart.
Susan Tedeschi. Janis Joplin. Crosby,
Still, Nash & Young. Stevie
Wonder. George Thorogood.
Nat King Cole. Barry Manilow. Simon
& Garfunkel. James Taylor.
Carly Simon. Bette Midler. Tony
Bennett. John Lee Hooker.
Alicia Keyes. Santana.
Brooks' "Bitch": my theme song.
Not sure if you can print the lyrics -- but it is all over the web so if
you feel comfortable doing so, here you go:
a little bit of everything
Would you ever consider doing a BookBitch Magazine if given the
Depends what you are providing as "means".
I do not have enough hours in the day to do what I do now and can't
imagine doing any more. And
frankly, I think magazines are passé. If
I was going to expand, media-wise, I'd probably start podcasting.
You aspire "to be the Grandma Moses of writers."
You are referring to my dream of writing a novel someday. I don't know that I ever will, really. I consider myself more of a reader than a writer, but I do
have a story to tell and maybe someday I will tell it. As I pointed out prior to the Grandma Moses statement, I am
lacking what I call the three "D's": drive, determination and discipline,
without which one simply cannot write.
had an interesting conversation once with David Morrell.
Morrell is best known as being the creator of Rambo, but he's a
prolific writer and former professor at the University of Iowa and is one of the
most interesting and brilliant men I've ever met.
What I learned from him is that to be a writer means you have to be
obsessed with writing. There are no days off. There
are no excuses. You are a writer
because you write. You have to.
Like you have to breathe or eat or fuck. (My words, not his.)
I think to myself, is this writing?
I write reviews. I write
letters. I write papers for school.
But I'm not really sure any of
the back of my mind I think that someday I will retire.
Maybe. I'm really not good
at the sitting around and doing nothing thing.
I work full time at the library. I
read and write reviews. I maintain
my website. I go to school. I have a family, children, and parents to take care of, I'm
a full fledged member of the sandwich generation. But nonetheless, maybe someday I won't be working full
time. And maybe then I'll put all
my photographs into albums, organize and alphabetize the thousands of books that
cram every inch of space in my home, and sit down and write the great American
novel. Or a lousy one. To put together more than a few pages of prose is daunting
right now. I've started and
stopped a few times but never seem to get anywhere with it.
Maybe I'm afraid. I
don't like the thought of sending my words out into space, to strangers.
To have them judge me like I judge others.
That is some scary shit. But
maybe someday I'll be brave enough to do it.
Moses didn't start painting until her arthritis made it too painful for her to
do her embroidery. She was in her
70s. That gives me quite a few
years still before I have to worry about it.
Stacy (BookBitch), I appreciate your clever persona, your humor, and your review
work. I hope your Grandma Moses of books wish comes true. And I wish
you blessings on your path.
closing comments for readers/fans?
My "persona" is me. I am
exactly what you see, or, rather, what you read.
In person I have this face that cannot hide anything and is extremely
expressive. It often gets me into
started my site for me, for purely selfish reasons, but it has grown much larger
than I am, which is saying quite a bit! I
love being able to provide free books to readers of my site.
I love sharing my opinions on books with readers.
And I love when they share theirs with me.
I admit to being slightly obsessed with books, but I figure there are
worse obsessions than reading.
David, thank you for giving me this opportunity and this lovely soap box to stand on. I hope I met your expectations.
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