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Let the Right One In---(or not)

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Monday, 03 November 2008
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I was in New York for three days last week, for several meetings: one with an editor, one with an agent, one as part of a board meeting. So I was busy while I was there.  But I also had a few hours free between meetings one afternoon, and I was not far from an art film house that I love (the Angelika on Houston and Mercer Streets); so I went there in hopes of seeing "I've Loved You So Long" with Kristin Scott Thomas.  But I arrived twenty minutes after that film had begun, so I looked through the listings to find out what was showing at a time that worked for me.


Aha!  A Swedish film.  This is good. About a 12-year-old. This is very good. No, wait: it is abut TWO twelve-year-olds. Very very good indeed.  And so I found myself buying a ticket to a movie called "Let the Right One In."

I knew nothing about this film except that it was Swedish and indeed when the little boy, Oskar, who is the protaganist, showed up on the screen, I settled down in my seat with a happy sigh. Oskar looked just liked the little Swedish girl whom I had photographed for the jacket of Number the Stars....well, like her male counterpart. Blond and angelic.

Then Oskar meets Eli, a 12-year-old girl, a hauntingly wide-eyed, pale child with dark hair. Oskar is a shy misfit, often bullied, and this mysterious girl befriends him. It bodes well.  I relaxed for a lovely afternoon at a Scandinavian buddy movie.

THEN IT BECOMES CLEAR THAT ELI IS PALE BECAUSE SHE IS A VAMPIRE AND SHE NEEDS TO FIND SOME HUMAN BLOOD QUICK!

Oh, god. How do I get myself into these things?

I know vampires are in at the moment, but they are not in with me, and never have been, especially not when I have to watch two hours of hemoglobin drainage, plus a female adult spontaneously combusting after she has been clawed by an army of cats, and in addition a male adult whose face is destroyed by acid, though who cares about that after he flings himself from a high hospital window and splats in the snow below.

If I had seen the attached photo and noticed the dark liquid sliding from Eli's lips to her chin, I might have avoided the film....which incidentally (I checked later) has gotten some good reviews.

Do not take your children.

MV5BMjE1OTY2MTM5MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzQ5Mjc5MQ@@._V1._SX94_SY140_



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Blurble blurble blurble

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Tuesday, 21 October 2008
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I have, on my desk, two requests to read books in galleys and write blurbs. They both seem worthy books but I am having to say no.  There was a time when I wrote occasional blurbs...one for "The Golden Compass" which certainly needed no help from me!...one for Alice Hoffman's "Incantation"...Alice is a friend of mine and I truly thought the book was terrific; it went on to win awards...and occasional others.   But it turned into an overwhelming onslaught of manuscripts and galleys; clearly I couldn't read and comment on them all, and which, then to choose?  I decided simply to say no to every one.  Having made that decision, I then had some difficult moments---when, for example, I had to say no to a friend, not long ago.  But I'm glad I made the decision I did.  It had become something of a burden, the choosing, the reading, the weighing; and I don't, actually, think the blurbs make a difference.  I kind of chuckle at them, myself, on adult books, picturing two writers having coffee together and saying to each other:  "I'll do yours if you do mine."

***

A comment following my previous post makes clear that the blogger remarks I alluded to were not, actually, waspish but quite benign.  I'm almost sorry because not only did it give me the opportunity to use "waspishly" as an adverb, but also it provided a segué into the Garrison Keillor piece where he uses "weaselish, piggish, and buzzardly," a wonderful triumvirate of descriptors.
Here's the view from my son's law office window in Portland, Maine. If you have to be in a law office, weeping over a divorce or seething about an injustice,  (or groaning about an injured back, in this case, since Lowry Legal Services specializes in disabilities) there is certainly something to be said for a great view.

My view of Casco Bay 002
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Farewell, SOX

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Monday, 20 October 2008
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Back late last night from Portland, Oregon. The pilot of the plane from Chicago-Boston kept updating us on the status of the final playoff game, and it was a sad night for Red Sox fans.  But so exiting for Tampa Bay! And their first time.

 In Portland I saw two performances of "Gossamer"...really interesting, how different it was from Milwaukee. Same script; same words. Different sets, different costumes, different actors.Marquee Portland

The theater director, Stan Foote, had specified 10 and up as the appropriate age for the show. Nonetheless a few people brought much younger children and even though the theater staff talked to them before they entered,  trying to dissuade them...it didn't work; and one complained afterward about the inappropriate content.  But that was an unfortunate exception, and it seemed to me that the audience appreciated and enjoyed the play very much.  Waiting to read a review!

Someone has alerted to me to that fact that in a blog somewhere, someone (too many "someones" in this sentence!) commented waspishly that he? she? had heard me say that I don't read children's books, that I am an adult and read adult books. Quoted like that, it sounds priggish and holier-than-thou in some odd way.  So I'll just try to re-state what I had said, and have said whenever I'm asked the question.

It is generally true that I don't read children's books. Not for lack of interest or appreciation.  But I find - when choosing a book to read - that I gravitate toward those about people of my generation, by and large.  Kids do the same thing, of course. I think we all like to identify with a main character who grapples with the same kinds of problems we do.  For me, that usually means an adult novel. (or non-fiction; I actually read a lot of biography and memoir)  Flying home from Oregon, I read "An American Wife" by Curtis Sittenfeld (and was startled to see a reference to one of my own books in it!) and "My Invented Country" by Isabel Allende.

(Yes, I read fast)

And it is certainly not that I disdain books for a young audience. It's what I choose to write, after all. I read reviews and sometimes a description will send me to a children's book...I read the current Newbery ("Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!") BEFORE it was the Newbery (and commented about it here) because I am particularly interested in the Medieval period.  I read "Hugo Cabret"---and mentioned it appreciatively on this blog.

And "A Visitor for Bear"---my favorite picture book last year (of those that I saw: not too many since my youngest grandchild is almost 8)

But time is a factor in my reading. I read when I can, most often when I'm traveling, and as it happens what I chose to read are usually adult books.  So many books; so little time!

And---speaking of writing---here is an excerpt from an essay by Garrison Keillor. I thought of it when I wrote the word "waspishly" in an earlier paragraph, because I love GK's use of "Weaselish, piggish and buzzardly":

The American people are poised to do something that could not be imagined 10
years ago, or even five, which is to vote for the best man regardless of his
skin color and elect him president. The campaign against him is not one that
anybody will point to with pride in years to come. It is a long trail of
honking and flapping and traces of green slime, as if a flock of geese had
taken up residence in the front yard. But Barack's cool poise in the face of
blather is some sort of testament to American heart and humor. The man has
walked tall and his wife has turned out to be the brightest figure in the
whole political parade, an ebullient woman of quick wit and beautiful
spirit. Bravo, Michelle.


Onward, America. We've all seen plenty of the worst -- the sly cruelty, the
arrogant ignorance, the fascination with trivia, the cheats, the weaselish
and piggish and the buzzardly -- but we can rise above it if we will only
recognize a leader when one comes along and have the sense to let him lead.

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"Entirely happy"

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Monday, 13 October 2008
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I have just returned from Nebraska, and Nebraska always makes me think of Willa Cather. For many years I have saved...in a way that I see it each day...a quote of hers from "My Antonia": 


I was entirely happy. Perhaps we feel like that when we die and become a part of something entire, whether it is sun or air, or goodness and knowledge. At any rate, that is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great. When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep.

and there I was, on the drive from Lincoln to Seward, looking out at her landscape, so different from New England's which is also beautiful, but more compressed and uneven.

I was there for the annual Plum Creek Literary Festival, for which 4000 Nebraska schoolchildren are bussed in to meet and hear authors. It is an amazing feat of organization and coordination on the part of the sponsors, faculty members at Concordia University in Seward.

Here is a very spooky photo (you have to hum "Twilight Zone" music while looking at it) of the passageway between two terminals at the Detroit Airport.  This is in blue light but the lights shift and change, so it would have been green shortly thereafter, then yellow, then......whatever:

Detroit aitport



One of the best parts of such events, for me, is being with other authors, meeting some new ones, seeing some I see rarely.  This time it was Mo Willems, Hans Wilhelm, Cynthia DeFelice, Joan Bauer, and Gale Gibbons.  Here I am (below) with Hans (he just emailed me this photo)...


But this trip, a real highlight was the final dinner, where I was the speaker..(but no, that speech was hardly the highlight)...it was meeting poet Ted Kooser---whom I had just mentioned in a recent post--- who was there at the dinner. I have been such a fan of his for many years but had forgotten that he lived in Nebraska and certainly didn't know he would be at this dinner!

And here is a poem by Ted Kooser, which is related, I think, in complex ways, to the quotation from Willa Cather:

 
After Years
 
 Today, from a distance, I saw you
walking away, and without a sound
the glittering face of a glacier
slid into the sea. An ancient oak
fell in the Cumberlands, holding only
a handful of leaves, and an old woman
scattering corn to her chickens looked up
for an instant. At the other side
of the galaxy, a star thirty-five times
the size of our own sun exploded
and vanished, leaving a small green spot
on the astronomer's retina
as he stood on the great open dome
of my heart with no one to tell. 

Ted Kooser
 


Lois Lowry H…Festival 08
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Remembering

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Wednesday, 08 October 2008
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Watching the stock market collapse, seeing my retirement savings disappear, I find myself thinking back to my parents' era and the stories they told of the times before I was born.


My father was the son of Norwegian immigrants in Wisconsin, where his father worked on the railroad. But my grandfather died when Dad was a teenager, leaving his mother a widow with a  small pension.  (A few years ago, when I was speaking in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, a woman in the audience went to the town records and looked up the address of my father's boyhood home. "It's not a very nice neighborhood," she told me apologetically)

Dad went to college and dental school on scholarships,  working in a canning factory throughout his years of school.  Like most children of immigrant families, he became better educated than his parents. Trouble was: he graduated from dental school in 1929.  No one had jobs, no one had savings, no one had money, no one went to the dentist.  With a mother and teenage sister dependent on him, he couldn't make a living.

The US Army had one opening for a dentist, and they administered a national test for applicants.  My father got the place, and with it a job, an income, benefits, and a future.

He was sent to the War College in Carlisle,Pennsylvania, for officer's training, and it was there that he met my mother.

My mother was the daughter of a bank president in that small college town that had just two banks. She had just finished college and was living at home, teaching nursery school.

My grandfather—oh, I wish he were alive and  I could ask him the details of this!—felt the run on the banks coming. His bank was insured. He called Washington and had cash sent by train to cover his deposits. My mother remembered Grandpa going to the little train station with a police escort in the middle of the night, to receive the cash. When the crash came, he had the money there in his bank and so none of his depositers lost anything. His bank went on to flourish in the years to come and I believe it still exists today.

The other bank did not have the deposits covered. The other bank president, a close friend of my grandparents, lived just down the street. One of his children had a birthday party that day.  After the party, he went up to the attic and shot himself in the head.

Next month I am actually going back to that small town to speak at the Historical Society and I'm hoping I'll have time to see some of the records and newspapers surrounding those events...my description comes only from my mother's memories; luckily she was a story-teller. Dad was not. Things emerged from Dad in bits and pieces triggered by some odd detail. He would pick up a can of peas, examine it, and say "Number Two Sweets"---and we knew he was, in his mind, sorting cans at the canning factory where he worked as a student.

(He did, once, tell a sweet story...something he always felt embarrassed about in retrospect.  He lived in a kind of boarding house when he was in dental school, and to pay his rent he worked as a waiter, serving the meals there. The woman who ran the place always wrote out the menu for the guests, and one time Dad went to her, he said, and told her she had misspelled something.  She had written "Cole Slaw"  ---  it was something he had never heard of. He pointed out that it should have said "Cold Slaw."  He was still cringing when he was 90 years old, remembering how patiently she had explained to him what cole slaw was).

Anyway: I am wondering today how they would feel in these times.  Although they (we) lived a relatively affluent life, my parents never had a credit card and never bought a car or a house except for cash.  They desperately feared debt.  I think they were like many of their generation.

History is made up of personal stories.

This weekend I will be speaking in Lincoln, Nebraska, about NUMBER THE STARS, following a personal reminiscence by a Holocaust survivor.

Telling our stories to one another is what makes us human and what helps us to understand history.


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Dreams, etc.

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Tuesday, 07 October 2008
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41MvrxZDUYL._SL160_PIsitb-dp-arrow,TopRight,21,-23_SH30_OU01_AA115_Recently I received a copy in the mail of "The New Writer's Handbook"-Volume 2 (which has a wonderful opening essay, incidentally, by Ted Kooser, former US POet Laureate and one of my favorite contemporary poets). It was sent to me because it contains a couple of essays..actually, blog posts from way back...by me, one of them titled "The Neglected Horse and the Undiscovered Room" which talks about a couple of recurrent dreams of mine.


Just by chance I began reading, last night, a book called "Drinking the Rain" by Alix Kates Shulman...and there it is!  My "undiscovered room" dream. Or perhaps I can't call it "my"...because she has it, too.

In my re-printed essay, I also referred to a passage from my book "Autumn Street"...a book published back in 1980 which remains one of my own favorites. The book is fictionalized autobiography and the passage is the little girl (me, actually) speaking about her older sister sleeping in the bed next to hers: "I realized that her dreams would always be different from mine."

But of course there are those of us who, as adults, have the same recurrent dreams.

(And I'm not even talking about the omigod-the-final-exam-is-tomorrow-and-I never-read the-book-and-never -went-to-class dream).


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Phillipe Petit

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Sunday, 05 October 2008
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All is well. I got the book for my grandsons. And Amazon has corrected their mis-information.

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Thanks, all of you

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on Saturday, 04 October 2008
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I've had a number of comments (which I have approved for posting) about my political remarks. I guess it all boils down to the fact that we are very fortunate to live in a country where ordinary citizens are allowed to state their political beliefs publicly....and others are permitted, even encouraged, to disagree publicly...and as long as we don't get into fistfights or even name-calling....well, it is all to the good.


I went yesterday to see "Man on Wire," an astounding documentary about Phillipe Petit and his incredible wire-walking between the twin towers in 1974.  Even though of course we know the outcome...still, it is a hair-raising film ... and for someone like me who has a bit of acrophobia, really heart-in-mouth throughout.

But here is the REALLY astounding thing: I just went to Amazon.com to buy the Mordecai Gerstein book about Petit ("The Man Who Walked Between the Towers") ...which won the Caldecott Medal in 2004....for my grandsons.  And it is NOT AVAILABLE!  The text says they don't know when it will be back in print.  

Of course I will find it someplace else, some wonderful independent bookstore like Porter Square Books here in Cambridge. If it weren't 8:42 PM I would do that right now.

14269551
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Speaking out, speaking up

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Saturday, 04 October 2008
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Because one person sent in a comment suggesting I should keep my political views to myself...I have been thinking about that...and have decided that the issues are too vital, too important, to stay silent.  I'm not the only children's author who feels that way. Check out Judy Blume's blog, for example, at http://judyblumeblog.blogspot.com/


or the list of over 1000 authors for children supporting Obama
 at http://www.aiforc.org/obama/thelist.html   I was going to copy the entire list here but it is simply too long.  

It consists of people who care deeply about children and what the future of this country holds for them. Many of them are names you know well.








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See How They Run

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Friday, 03 October 2008
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This afternoon I'm going to see the movie "Man on Wire" with my friend writer Susan Goodman...whose book "See How They Run" is soon to be featured in People Magazine, obviously because of its timeliness (plus the fact that it's an excellent book) since it is about the American electoral process.  


That process was certainly on display last night during the VP debate, which I watched with Martin and two friends...all four of us a little aghast, I think, at the possibility of Sarah Palin potentially moving into a position of world power.  Okay, okay, Massachusetts is a very BLUE state; and Cambridge in particular has been derisively called the "Kremlin on the Charles."  But surely I must reflect the feeling of most people everywhere in this country that no, we DON'T want "someone like us" in the oval office.  We want someone BETTER than us: someone with superior intelligence and eloquence, someone statesmanlike and honorable, experienced and competent.

Because I have family in Europe, and visit there often, I am often privy to glimpses of how the USA is viewed abroad, and has been for several years now. How I yearn for our stature in the world to be reclaimed.  How certain I feel that Obama and Biden are the only ones who hold out the possibility of that happening.

Busy weekend this weekend, with an event to attend tonight, theater tickets tomorrow, concert tickets Sunday.  Cambridge life resumed.  Next weekend my son and a friend will spend the weekend at the Maine farm and he will put up the storm windows for me...I was there overnight this past week, in order to meet the electrician who needed to do some work...but I can't manage those heavy end-of-season tasks.  Thank goodness for strapping sons.




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Chicago + Boston

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on Sunday, 28 September 2008
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I've been traveling around much too much, and when I was in O"Hare yesterday waiting for a plane, I saw a small child having a tantrum and screaming, and thought: I want to do that.


But there has been the fun of seeing old friends: Phyllis Reynolds Naylor and I watched the debate together Friday night, in her hotel room, and if anyone had seen the two of us side by side on her king-size bed, watching...they could have taken a photo and started a rumor.  On Saturday I spent the morning with old friend Joanna Maclay, actress I met years ago in Kansas when we stayed in the same hotel....she was there doing a one-woman show of Ann Sexton, I remember...and we hit it off and have remained friends for years.

Judy Blume was also in Chicago, for the Banned Books event...good to see her.... plus several authors I had not met before (and whose names I can't remember now, alas)..

Then I scooted home, to Boston, and today spoke at the Boston Public Library's Literary Lights Event...another chance to see people I like a lot: Gregory Maguire, Christopher Paul Curtis (photo attached), Chris Van Allsburg, Susan Cooper, and Laura Amy Schlitz, whom I had not met before but whose work I greatly admire.

LL and CPC

Tomorrow I have to drive up to Maine because the electrician is coming Tuesday to repair my Viking range.  But on the whole my travel commitments are at an end for a little while, at least, (Nebraska October 10th) and I can catch my breath and file all the stuff on my desk that has become mountainous.  And maybe start getting some work done.

Oh! Almost forgot!  When I was speaking in Orlando, I quoted a letter I had sent once to a parent who had objected to the use of the word "damn" in NUMBER THE STARS.  Someone in the audience asked if I would put that letter on my website, and I said I would include it in my blog. So here it is now (and I cannot for the life of me figure out why it is underlined, or how to make the underlining go away):
...
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Orlando

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Thursday, 25 September 2008
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Another review from the Milwaukee production of GOSSAMER:


A Gentle Touch

Theater Review

By Aisha Motlani

   First Stage's adaptation of Lois Lowry's Gossamer begins with a waif-like girl engaged in a battle of wills with her unyielding mentor, her unquenchable curiosity gently butting against her elder's limited reserve of patience. It's an appropriate beginning for a play that is essentially all about the battle of wills between the spirited ingeniousness of youth and the wisdom of old age, the forces of light and darkness, and between a young boy's suppressed feelings of shame and his burgeoning sense of self-worth.

...
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Milwaukee

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Tuesday, 23 September 2008
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Actors present pain of abused child captivatingly in “Gossamer”

By ELAINE SCHMIDT
Special to the Journal Sentinel
Posted: Sept. 22, 2008

Dreams, not all of them sweet, are at center stage in the First Stage Children’s Theater production of “Gossamer,” which opened this weekend.