Sunday, February 26, 2012

Goodreads the First

Hi, everyone. I was on the book-reading social network site Goodreads yesterday writing a review of Andrew Davidson's debut novel The Gargoyle and I thought, "I should share my Goodreads reviews on the Blue Guitar blog." So voilá, here we go!

I'm fairly new to Goodreads so I don't have many books or reviews there yet. Though I do have an author's page there. And I've got a Goodreads blog on that page too, with just a handful of posts. I hope you'll check my Goodreads author page and blog, both.

Okay, friends, here are a few book reviews, straight off my Goodreads. Enjoy!

The GargoyleThe Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A truly excellent book. In The Gargoyle, Andrew Davidson's style is continually surprising (in a good way) and distinctive. For example, the cynical narrator who has been severely burned in a strange car accident describes how in his treatment his body was wrapped with skin from cadavers: "My body was cleaned constantly but I rejected these sheets of necro-flesh anyway; I've never played well with others. . . . There I lay, wearing dead people as armor against death." As you may know if you read my non-Goodreads blog, I have a particular fascination with Dante's Inferno (click on "dante" in my blog at; well, Davidson uses Dante satisfyingly and marvelously, along with other ecclesiastic, legendary (e.g., Scheherazade), and pop culture references, not to mention national and ethnic cultures: Icelandic (Viking), Japanese, Italian. The Gargoyle's main characters — the unnamed burn victim and the enigmatic Marianne Engel (who claims to be a nun who loved him in the middle ages) — are fascinating and memorable. More than fascinating. Read this book . . . I recommend it.

NeverwhereNeverwhere by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A wonderful novel. I was continually surprised and then surprised even more as events and people unfolded. Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere is a page-turner, no question. I couldn't stop reading it, but I found myself from time to time pausing, closing my eyes. Because it's so intense I needed just to rest and also because I wanted to savor the experience, to forestall the ending that I knew was coming closer and closer. My highest recommendation. And this from a guy who reads for a living.

Science Friction: Where the Known Meets the UnknownScience Friction: Where the Known Meets the Unknown by Michael Shermer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A collection of entertaining and thought-provoking essays, Michael Shermer in Science Friction turns a skeptical eye towards all sorts of science-related topics, including the so-called "anthropology wars"; Gene Roddenberry and Harlan Ellison's Star Trek tiff; the vicissitudes of evolution in contemporary life; the scholarly reputation of Stephen Jay Gould; and the current skeptic movement, among many fascinating subjects. A great read . . . check it out.

On my blog, I recently wrote a post about the phrase science friction . . . check that out too.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Harry Potter, #3)Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My fave among the Harry Potter books. It's J. K. Rowling after she'd gotten pretty good at the craft but before she started fattening up the books — in numbers of pages, I mean. Loved the hippogriff, Hermione's time-turner gizmo, the marauder's map, Lupin as professor and werewolf) . . . even the Dementors who can put such a chill in the air and up your spine. Fun book.

Déjà Dead (Temperance Brennan, #1)Déjà Dead by Kathy Reichs

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked up Déjà Dead because (1) I'm in a hold line at the library for Patricia Cornwell's newest, (2) I'm waiting for James W. Hall's next, and (3) I like the TV show "Bones" that's based on the hero of this novel, Temperance Brennan. Well, I wasn't disappointed. I liked this novel quite a lot . . . it's a page-turner. In fact, I devoured the last 70 pages with a booklight next to my sleeping wife at 3:00 a.m. Couldn't stop reading. Kathy Reichs's descriptions are rich and striking . . . they really embed you in the often fierce action. Her metaphors are witty and entertaining also — for example, she describes a corpse in the woods this way: "Flies buzzed and circled around it, like academics at a free buffet." Touché. Check this book out.

Pattern Recognition (Bigend Trilogy, #1)Pattern Recognition by William Gibson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I think I expected William Gibson's Pattern Recognition to be as good as Neuromancer, but that's a mighty hard act to follow. This one was fine . . . I liked it. Interesting that the protagonists' names are homophones: "Case" in Neuromancer and "Cayce" in Pattern Recognition. Probably some Freudian something-or-other that someone else can sort out. Anyone . . . ?

View all my Goodreads reviews

Okay, that's all for now. I'll save some other Goodreads reviews for later. If you're on Goodreads too, friend me there!

And please leave me comments below. I'd love to hear what you think about these books, if you've read them. Take care, everyone. Ingat.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Oops! Where Is the Dog? ... An Interview with Leslie A. Kebschull

Last month, I interviewed Annie E. Existence, a Louisiana artist. This month, I'd like to introduce you to a local artist: Leslie A. Kebschull. (By "local" I mean Cedar Falls, Iowa.) Leslie has a painting show at the downtown Cup of Joe coffeehouse through February 19, next Sunday.

I know Leslie through church. I play bass in the praise band at St. John Lutheran here in town and she is married to the pastor, Dave Kebschull. Leslie has received awards for her art, for example, first and second prize as an amateur in the Denver, Iowa, art show; this past year, at that same art show she won third prize in the professional category for a painting titled "Victory"— that painting is in the show at the Cup, the last of the images below. Besides creating beautiful paintings, Leslie is also a dedicated haiku poet, a fine singer, and a wonderful photographer. About this she said, "I do enjoy photography also, but am just a "point and shoot" kind of gal. I don't have a lot of formal training, just a decent eye." I think Leslie's got one heck of a photographer's eye; check out her work at the online JPG photography magazine.
Leslie at the Cup of Joe
art show. Her paintings
are on the wall at left.

Remember, click on any of the images to see a larger, more detailed version. Now to the interview . . .

Vince Could you share some personal background? Where you were born and raised, that kind of thing?

Leslie I grew up in Iowa: born in Charles City and raised in Cedar Rapids. My husband Dave and I have three daughters: Lauren, Whittney, and Micah. We've lived in Missouri, West Virginia, several towns in Wisconsin, and Green Valley, Arizona. In Iowa, we've lived in Tama/Toledo, Dubuque, and now Cedar Falls.

Because of all those moves I have worked in a variety of jobs, from cake decorator, to making fine, quality glasses in about an hour as a lab tech at LensCrafters, to managing memberships at a YMCA.

Vince What are some of your earliest memories about art? Do you remember starting to make art?

Leslie My earliest memories are pretty sketchy. I remember my mom painting scenery or still life and I would use her paints. I drew a lot, mostly women, and my paintings, as a kid, were more realistic. I had never really seen abstract art while I was growing up.

My brother and I also had this drawing game we would play where one of us would just do a scribble and then the other would try to draw something from the scribble, which made us really have to use our imaginations.
blue plus blue plus blue
 equals a glorious day
         sky mathematics

Vince Do you have any formal training in art? Is your work always abstract, like the paintings in this show?

Leslie I went back to school in 2006 to get a degree in Art Therapy and after almost 20 years of not creating any art I just didn’t think I could draw to save my life, but I found out I could. What inspired me to try painting abstract was a young man, named Adam, whose easel was near mine. I loved his work and so I decide to try my hand at it. As a teen I had always done more realistic pieces, so this was very new to me, and I loved it. Then Art History classes exposed me to other artists, such as: Robert Rauschenberg, Theodoros Stamos, Helen Frankenthaler, Hans Hoffmann, Franz Marc, and many others.

Vince Are those artists your influences in painting?

Leslie Most of the paintings in the show were inspired by Frankenthaler’s style, but at the same time, totally me. That is the one thing I have discovered with Abstract Art, it truly comes from the artist. Just like I would have loved to do the type of work Adam was creating next to me in school, I couldn’t, because it was his own spirit and experience coming through in his work. I find the inspiration from others, but my work is a reflection of me. I would not say it’s my emotions coming out so much as my inner spirit being revealed in my paintings. It is also fun to hear how others react to the paintings, what they see, feel, etc.
   smell the flowers
aromatic sensation
     a heavenly scent

Vince In this exhibit, instead of giving each painting a title, you’ve given haiku. Tell us about that.

Leslie I decided to use haikus rather than titles for my pieces, because they are also an expression of me. In the last two years I wrote a haiku almost daily. Usually I was observing something around me, such as a coffee house songstress, or the chimes blowing in the wind, or a spiritual revelation, or just a thought, and I wanted to share them with people. I have so many haikus and no one really sees them except the occasional Facebook reader. Also using haikus instead of titles gets the observer a little closer to the painting to really take it in. All the haikus posted under the paintings were written before I created the paintings. I just tried to find a haiku that would somehow fit the painting.

Vince In the book that accompanies the exhibit, you say that yes, you do think in haiku. Which of the haiku you've listed there do you like best?

Leslie Here are a couple of my favorites because they are two of the funnier ones.
piles of laundry grow
and clutters accumulate
oops! where is the dog?

cognitive comma,
senior moment, brain blockage
simply put: brain fart
Vince Both of those are hilarious! I like how they're about everyday life.

Leslie I love playing with words and think haikus are a fun way to express myself. I think my favorite haikus are the ones that express that playfulness. For a while there was an online group I was in where I had created a thread called “Haiku” and we would all respond to each other in that form. It was a fun way to communicate to each other.
                  the gray misty year
is a faded photograph
                          of lost memories

Vince How did you choose the paintings that are included in this show? Is there a story connected with this exhibit?

Leslie About three weeks before this show at I really did not have a body of work that went together and I was beginning to think I would have to use paintings that didn’t really show a body of work and had no congruity to it. Then something happened: one of my inspirations, Helen Frankenthaler, passed away and I began to look at her work again. On the day she passed away I painted four paintings and four more the day after she passed. In those two days I had ideas, colors, and composition coming at me and I couldn’t stop painting. It was only when I ran out of canvas and decided I had plenty of paintings for the show that I stopped. Besides I only have so much room in my basement to store all these paintings.

Vince It's wonderful when that kind of creativity happens to us, isn't it? Okay, how about a final word?

Leslie All in all I just love to create whether through words or paint. It's an extra perk if someone else enjoys my work, but ultimately I just like having fun being creative. ;-)
                I see around me
god in the oddest places
                                            unexpected joy


Everyone, please leave a comment below . . . I would love to hear what you think and so would Leslie. She'll be checking for comments here and also responding.

If you came to this blog post because you saw an announcement of it on facebook, would you please leave a comment here instead of in facebook? Or maybe in both places if you'd like, but certainly here, please.

If you live near Cedar Falls, go see Leslie's show — up through Sunday, February 19. The paintings are marvelous to see "live." And they're for sale, so if you like something a bunch, Leslie would love for you to own it and give it a nice home. Her own home is already where they live, but she'd like them to travel and see the world! Also, if you happen to see Leslie hanging around her paintings at the Cup, say hello . . . I'm sure she would love to talk about them with you.

I hope you enjoyed the interview. Take care, friends. Ingat.

Added later on 9 Feb 2012: I've made a change in the painting images. Changed the last one, I should say. These images of the paintings are from Leslie's facebook art portfolio. The bottom image above, when you see it in person, is very different from the facebook image. The painting on the wall appears more yellow while the computer photo is more like peach or salmon. So I tweaked it more toward lemon in Photoshop and then asked Leslie what she thought. She prefers the original photo because in the photoshopped version, while its color might be more true, "the brush strokes are no longer there and the picture looks more graphic rather than hand-painted," as Leslie wrote to me. So I've changed it back to the image from Leslie's facebook. Truth be told, I liked that image better than the photoshopped one, anyway.

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