At the Sun-Gazette, staff members tend to read. A lot. So we thought we would share what we're reading and let you know how they fare.
Submissions from the community also are encouraged and may be mailed to the Lifestyle Department, 252 W. Fourth St., Williamsport, PA 17701 or e-mailed to email@example.com.
We also are interested in what you want us to read and review; just send us an e-mail or give us a call at 326-1551, ext. 3108.
Staffer: Amanda Alexander.
What I read: "The Portable Dorothy Parker."
Synopsis: A collection of poems, essays, short stories, and reviews of plays and books by an author known for her "quotable" wisecracks.
Stats: Penguin, 1976; 640 pages.
What I thought: I found this entire collection completely engrossing. I couldn't put it down.
I always knew Parker for her witticisms, but the depth and subtlety of her short stories blew me away.
In fact, while I often forget short stories after I've read them, I was haunted by several of her tales long after I finished the book.
Her social critiques still ring true today. Her poetry is straightforward and easy to understand, and often funny.
Even her reviews of books and plays, many of which I had never heard, were a joy to read because she injects so much personality into them.
She was truly a unique and gifted writer, and I don't think the literary community gives her the respect and appreciation she deserves.
What I'm reading next: "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay" by Michael Chabon.
Staffer: Dana Borick, lifestyle and education editor.
What I read: "The Winter of Our Disconnect: How Three Totally Wired Teenagers (and a Mother Who Slept with Her iPhone) Pulled the Plug on Their Technology and Lived to Tell the Tale" by Susan Maushart.
Synopsis: Maushart, an American journalist who lived in Western Australia, decided that she and her three teenagers had enough of their digital lifestyles and disconnected them - with some exceptions - for a few months to see how they would adjust.
Stats: Paperback, published by Jeremy P. Tarcher-Penguin, 2010, $16.95.
What I thought: Who hasn't wondered if life wouldn't be simpler without all of our electronic gadgets that promise to make life easier?
Maushart started her experiment in extreme disconnect, actually taking away electricity from her family for a two-week span during the summer months.
Once her kids got used to taking cold showers, eating food out of a cooler and, gasp, using sunlight and flashlights as their only form of illumination, the family got down to the basics and began bonding again.
And the teens were surprised that once their friends got over the initial shock, they actually thought it was a cool experiment and began hanging out at the house.
After the two weeks were up, Maushart took the televisions out of the home, installed a landline telephone and disconnected all the cell phones in the house.
She took away the laptops and desktop computers, and told her children if they needed the Internet for homework, they would have to go the library or a friend's house. All gaming devices were put away and the board games were dusted off.
Surprisingly - or maybe not for some who remember a time before electronics ruled the world - her son replaced his online video game playing with saxophone playing. And he enjoyed it! The oldest daughter took up cooking. And she enjoyed it!
The youngest teen, however, had the hardest time adjusting, going so far as to buy a pay-as-you-go cell phone and purchasing minutes with her allowance.
Less than 24 hours later, she was out of minutes, and had to resort to the landline to communicate with friends. She eventually went to stay with her father (Maushart is divorced) for a few weeks, but when she came back, her grades significantly improved and teachers began to make positive comments about her behavior to Maushart.
The oldest daughter and son began reading books more, and Maushart even bought the complete works of her son's favorite author for his 16th birthday - and he was thrilled. She said before the experiment, he would have never been excited to receive books as a present.
What's surprising is how Maushart herself had to adjust, writing her columns and articles in long hand and using the car radio to stay informed via NPR.
She used Thoreau's "Walden" as a guide and found that 24 years after moving to Australia, she need to "come home" to America.
At the end of the "experiment," she created 11 Commandments of Screen Hygiene that any family can - and should - adopt:
Thou shalt not fear boredom.
Thou shalt not "multitask" (not until thy kingdom come, thy homework be done).
Thou shalt not WILF. (WILF-ing refers to the habit of online free association that starts out with a specific purpose and ends up hours later - elsewhere - as in "What Was I Looking For?").
Thou shalt not text and drive (or talk, or sleep).
Thou shalt keep the Sabbath a screen-free day.
Thou shalt keep thy bedroom a media-free zone.
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's upgrade.
Thou shalt set thy accounts to "Private."
Thou shalt bring no media to thy dinner.
Thou shalt bring no dinner to thy media.
Thou shalt love RL, with all thy heart and all thy soul. (RL = Real Life).
What I'm reading next: "The Gift of Success and Happiness: Transforming Your Life Through Business Processing Principles" by Chip Sawicki with Vernon Roberts.
Reader: Dan Mason of Williamsport.
Author review: F. Paul Wilson.
F. Paul Wilson writes horror-science fiction-adventure novels. He created the character of Repairman Jack, a sort of urban vigilante.
Jack handles problems for people who have nowhere else to turn. Unfortunately, the problems are never as simple as they should be.
Jack usually has little trouble tackling the initial dilemma, but something always intercedes and Jack has to solve a second or third problem before the first problem is finally put to rest.
I have read the first 10 Repairman Jack books. They were all worth reading.
The books combine the best of "men's adventure" stories with some crime fighting and science fiction-horror.
I didn't find anything "horror" about them, but the fantasy-SciFi aspects are what Jack struggles against.
For instance, in "The Tomb," the first Repairman Jack novel, Jack has to struggle against some Indian (from India) non-human creatures called Rakoshi. These are an invention of the author.
They are not part of historical Indian lore. They are big and powerful, ugly and smelly, and dangerous. They did not instill horror in me.
These books are fun. The writing is good. The stories are good. The characters are a little flat, but the good writing and stories make them worth reading.
On the other hand, I have tried to read Wilson's first book: "The Keep." It's not a Repairman Jack book, but the evil unleashed in "The Keep" seems to be the evil Jack struggles against.
When I say I tried to read "The Keep," I mean I tried. I started the book. I couldn't read it.
I read a couple more Repairman Jack books and tried "The Keep" again. Still couldn't read it.
I bought the audio book so I could listen to it. I couldn't.
I bought the movie. I couldn't watch it.
I have not tried any of the later books in the Adversary Cycle. If I ever read "The Keep," I will try some of the others.
Part of my problem with "The Keep" may be that I can't work up any sympathy for the Nazi soldiers who are being killed because they despoiled the keep in which the Ancient Evil has been entombed.
The one problem I have with the Repairman Jack series is the same as I have with all detective series: too much family-personal involvement. Wilson explains that away nicely by making Jack a reluctant combatant in a cosmic conflict. That makes his problems not personal but part of an ongoing war.
Despite my problems with "The Keep," I recommend the Repairman Jack books to anyone who likes good, virtuous adventure.
The Repairman Jack books remind me some of Clive Cussler's "Dirk Pitt" books: men's adventures with a touch of the supernatural.