Author Archives: Cassie

All The Reasons That Harry Potter Should Have Died

There have been plenty of characters in my reading life that I would have been happy to see go, not because they’re abusive, violent, or just downright sucky, but because life isn’t fair. I think it’s been long enough past the last book in the Harry Potter series for me to post this, for everyone who’s still waiting to read that one – you’re painfully slow, and for everyone who isn’t over what happened – what was there to get over, every single main character (pretty much) lived.

Beatrix LeStrange

Why didn’t Voldemort kill off Harry Potter?  While I’m a little bias, because I’ve been Team Voldemort since book 4, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and I quit reading Harry Potter around Book 4 originally because he stopped growing with me, I still think in a world of fairness and compromise, Harry and Voldemort should have both died.  What was that two page afterword where Harry Potter is a middle aged man with 2.5 kids, a yard rounded with white picket fence posts and the lingering redness of a lightening scar a little closer to the left side of his head than the right.  I’m also quite partial to Beatrix LeStrange since one of my favorite actresses plays her in the movie, my mother is the kinder and more beautiful of the Bea’s and thus her alter ego, Beatrice, and she’s just plain awesome.

Voldy and Harry @ Link Random

Let me cover the growing with me part first.  I was the same age as Harry when this book series came out.  We were moving along quite nicely, him and I, he with his lost parents and mine blazing in full glory with their tonsils rattling up the stairs when I wouldn’t clean my room, or I blasted my music too loud, or that year I spent trying to sleep on a back-breaking futon because I thought having a couch was “cooler” than having an actual bed.  This was around the time electric yellow was my main color pallet, a true child of the 80s.  He was being sorted, I was being kicked out of the middle school lunch table.  He had public enemy number one, Draco Malfoy, I had an evil cat that liked no one.  Things were comparable between the two of us.  All of a sudden, Goblet of Fire, and BAM, Harry stays the same age.  I know he’s magical and all, and somehow his rock hard head protected him from untimely death, but there was nothing strange about aging in Harry Potter.

Reason # 2.  Unlike a five paragraph essay, I will be outlining more than three reasons and I will choose the comments section as a form of rebuttal.  Afterwards are stupid.  In general, if I wanted to read an afterward, I would expect you to publish another book.  Do not give me four pages on how the characters lived happily ever after.  Very rare is the afterward section horrifying.  They usually glorify some theme of the book after the reader has already reached some plausible ending for themselves, which deems them overall pointless.   A synonym for “afterword” is epilogue.  In similar fashion, both of these are never long enough to be a story on their own, thus, they are a form of writing that hasn’t yet been discovered and should stay buried deep in their time capsule for another generation of anxious youth to dig up.

Dobby

Reason # 3. Dobby had to die, why didn’t Harry.  I think most of us can agree that Dobby is one of the best characters in the Harry Potter series.  Regardless if my best friend named her dog Dobby, I would still love Dobby with more passion than any other character other than Luna (or Moaning Myrtle).  Someone has to stick up for the ghost that is stuck in the toilets.  If you are going to come at me and say your favorite character is Hermoine than you need to reevaluate your own depths).  However, Dobby, the house elf form of Harry.  Dobby is a Malfoy elf who was treated cruelly because that family practiced dark magic and box-dyed hair.  He also unfortunately abuses himself by ironing his hands and ramming his head into a lamp.  Like Harry, he had a rough upbringing and relatively no shame.  While all the other house elves are buried in grief due to their lack of work, Dobby is just a happy go lucky elf.  If he sold cookies, I would most definitely be buying them.  If this character that was mostly good, outspoken (and quiet), sneaky, and the closest character to Harry if it weren’t for Ron, has to die after all of his turmoil, why does Harry get to live.  OFF WITH HIS HEAD.

Okay, okay, that was a little harsh.

Image @ Miss Walker Talks

Reason # 4.  If JK Rowling can’t write a truly, and openly homosexual headmaster into Dumbledore, why does she get to write a boy who can beat all odds. The most pointless thing this woman ever said in an interview, and believe me, I think she’s more than awesome, was that Dumbledore is gay.  If you have to explain what you’re doing in a children’s book, then you’re not actually doing it.  (See Reason #2. – Afterwards as long explanations of what you just did in a book with an already solid ending).

After Potter: Minerva McGonagall became headmistress of Hogwarts @ vizen.deviantart.com

Reason # 5. Harry had this ridiculous notion of justice.  Everything was just, everything must be nice, people must act politely to one another, and sneaking around is not a form of lying, but a form of truth-seeking.  He wasn’t even smart, he was lucky and had a girl friend (who we now find out he should have ended up with – if this woman changes anymore plot details, we’re all going to take her to the gallows).  If this justice was an actual justice than the two of them, Voldemort and Harry Potter would have died together.  You can’t take the truly evil villain out of the world without knocking out the truly good character too and making the world fight out what it’s going to be.  If you want to have a balance for six books, you have to continue that balance through book seven.  And let’s be really honest here, wizarding school didn’t really teach them anything other than the things they were learning by discovering the secret twists of Hogwarts.  How many of these people actually listened in class other than Hermoine.  Even then, she was that hated student who reminded the teacher that they have homework to turn in.

Image @ We Know Memes

Reason # 6. The “children’s book” argument.  How many children actually read this book. Hands? At what age did you pick up the Harry Potter book?  Other than the deeply and fanatical religious that didn’t allow their children to even touch that dreadful witchcraft, how many people read these as children.  And even if they did, by the end of the series, were they still children? Doubtful.  Kill him off.

Reason # 7. Emotional Quality.  On a scale of 1 to 10, this book would have been 17 times more emotional if Harry had died.  Fans everywhere would have a good cry in their beds, write angry fan mail to JK Rowling and wait in their invisibility cloaks and non-matching scarves for the movie to come out.  We all still would have gone to the theme park.  All of those people on tumblr would have written their own, MUCH BETTER, fake epilogues and Ron and Hermoine would have become the new Potter power couple.  Undoubtedly, they would go on to remember Harry and name their first born child HP Jr.

Reason # 8.  This reason I’m not quite sure I believe in, but…. Neville could have risen beyond his hopelessness and killed Voldemort at the end.  He and Harry did have some strange connections throughout the series.

Buzz Feed has other ideas of what happened after the end of Harry Potter as well, if anyone, you know, wants a look see.

Catster_LetsTalk1_28

Do you agree that Harry Potter should have died?  Which other changes would you make to the book?  Feel free to make as many as you want because JK Rowling just keeps saying things in interviews that totally throw every fan out there off their handle.  You can have opinions too, even if everyone hates you for them.

If I haven’t convinced you enough, Lord Voldemort can on Twitter:

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Linger: The Story of a Noun.

Image @ Tumblr (Victor Hugo, I believe)

There are very few men that deserve to have poems written about them.  This is just a fact.  Swooning love songs, yes. Movies of the romantic comedy variety, yes.  Romance novels, yes.  Autobiographies on love affairs like that of Ella Fitz and F. Scott, yes.  Poems, very rare.  Looking at a man under that fine tuned microscope, the small specks of dandruff on the shoulders of their suit coat, the way their voice cuts off with hesitation at the most important moment because they filter their arguments, the voice of October for me forever being the slip of a sliding glass door and that hard push at the last few inches.   Now, women though, those beauts can be written about all day.

I won’t get into the logistics of this.

Tumblr Image

I’ve only written poems to two men and one is almost a mystical creature so he doesn’t count: God and let’s call him, scar tissue.  I have heard my words on the lips of neither of these men.  The physical man was written about in college and I think I was so determined to figure him out as a victim or a survivor that I couldn’t fathom his abilities to be neither, just pity.

Sometimes, I’m an embarrassment.  Like that time in English 101 when I made faces at a boy across the room because, let’s be honest, hot boys rule over the technicalities of research papers.  He walked me home in the rain and progressed to not call, the way boys play the game from the start.  When he did, I was holding heels in my hand running across the street with a girlfriend in heavy winds at 1 am.  He and a friend picked us up.  The friend had a collection of thongs hanging from the rear mirror.  This should have been when I said, “No, darling, don’t write poems about boys like this.  Their words are left in the strings of bikinis, if they even have words small enough to tie together.” But, there I was.  I didn’t do anything that night, this isn’t a story of lust gone haywire.  We talked, I walked home before it was morning enough to be called shameful.

Zooey Deschanel @ Tumblr

Two years later, he was stabbed and died twice on the table, woken, a new man, but not a fresh one.  He was damaged in more ways that human connection can fix.  I hope he doesn’t google me and read this.  I still wrote him poems because he lingered, and some men are just good at that.  In advanced poetry, he lingered.  At the teen center poetry class, he mulled.  Teaching students creative writing, I remembered chopping up and dicing through a terrible poem he wrote when he thought he could be a poet and I made it “sexy.”  My words exactly.

My point is, I’m telling this story, because few men are capable of this.

A woman looked at me at work today and told me that if her husband packed his bags and walked out the door tomorrow she would say, “thank you.”  That was the end of the conversation.  Thank you, period, silence.  He wouldn’t endure.  And I wonder if this is how other women look at the spectrum of men in their life.  (Let’s talk about it). 

The Beauty of The Husband by Anne Carson

Then, there’s Anne Carson.  I feel like I’m getting drowned in memories at the same time that I’m getting a literary education when I read her books.  Keats, that distant lover of mine, molded together in a fictional unloved story between women and husband.  I say woman because she never really had him anyway.

This woman, this Hilary Clinton, sticks by her man until there is no man to stick with.  She is mesmerized by his beauty.  Completely unfurled with his crumbs of love.  She is the Anti-Beyonce.  Living Pre-90s Girl Power.  Not an angel of Charlie.  There are so many ways to put this.  This woman who has not the strength to even throw away his letters that just keep coming even after he’s married to someone else, and what is this skill that he has to keep her locked up in this cool, whispered place, linger.  Linger as a noun.  That white space where memory curls like smoke.

He has made himself impossible.  He has proven that love can move, can finish, can spread through different fields, but stay buried in the first.  It’s the compartmentalization of a man’s brain and the lack of understanding in this woman.  Only Anne Carson can show you the despicable behaviors of both husband and wife, granted, I don’t know what it means to be husband and wife and the power that that sort of certificate and oneness has over people, but I can’t imagine staying with a man who takes me to Athens and calls the mistress from the bar phone when he goes to get me a drink.  I’m just not sure that that would fly with me.

Then, there’s Anne Carson’s language.  OHMYGOD, this woman.  Can I request to be her in a next life, or be friends with whatever she comes back as.  Lyrical genius.  I was almost more on the side of the husband than I was on the side of the wife because of his words, their lack of words, the brilliance in their one word arguments. This book is written in 29 Tangos.  It says on the back cover, “A tango (like marriage) is something you have to dance to the end.”  I’m not even sure the end of this tango was the divorce, in fact, I’m more than sure it wasn’t.  It’s that damn linger.

Writing porn.

Using a mix of Keat’s lines, her own background in classic literature, and her wired notebooks full of words she’s put together to create a hypnotic rhythm, she creates a marriage that has fallen apart, but never really moved from where the pieces have landed.  Each tango has a title that is even more beautiful sometimes than the tango itself.  Each tango has at least one full line of beautifully, poetic literature.  Each tango has lines that aren’t at all poetic, but make you immediately angry with this woman who takes this kind of shit from a man.  At the end though, you almost forgive her.  I wanted to forgive women everywhere actually.  This is a no judgment zone.  I couldn’t stay with someone who cheated, but maybe some women could and I would like to know their answers to that.  How they solved that issue within themselves, not between them and the husband, but in their own gut.  I want to know the equation for that.

Notes @ Tumblr

My diary description of this book, “high school <3 story turned poetic intellectual instead of slimy.”  <——-I have a way with words too it seems. Just read these quotes:

“We have this deep sadness between us and its spells so habitual I can’t tell it from love” (20).

“His letters, we agree, were highly poetic.  They fell into my life/like pollen and stained it.  I hid them from my mother/ yet she always knew” (37).

My mother and this fictional mother must be friends.  My mother used to say in high school, “it’s like you wanted me to find out,” because I would leave notes stained with the inside of my jean pockets flopped around on my dresser, hidden in my underwear drawer where my mom’s hands would stuff my folded laundry, notes left washed out in the dryer.  She could read everything.  I never hid it.  I once tried to hide something in my pillow case and I knew by the frozen form of her face when I came home that she’d seen it.  The rites of passage in my life were immediately known to my mother, she felt the cells of my body change.  Mother’s intuition is worth writing poems about.

“He can hear her choosing another arrow flow from the little quiver/ and anger goes straight up like trees in her voice holding his heart tall” (61).

“XVIII. Do you see it as a room or a sponge or a careless sleeve wiping out half the blackboard by mistake or a burgundy mark stamped on the bottles of our minds what is the nature of the dance called memory” (79).

“He still got his clothes at your house? / Some / Throw them out. / Can’t / You know what the rules are for this? / No / That’s because there are no rules for this.  A ship passes, there’s a bit of wake and some spray then it disappears” (111).

Still Victor Hugo, I believe @ Tumblr

I’m just not sure, Anne, that it ever disappears.  I might have ability to leave a man that’s done an absolute wrong to me.  I might have the strength to grab my 27 pairs of shoes, a clean toothbrush, and one bowl and one spoon and walk out the door (because my mother did and I have to live up to at least the totem of what I believe she is), but I’m not sure I’d be able to erase the linger.  I might let it eat at me.  I could so desperately want that man back that I wallow under a couch blanket for weeks.  Where’s the strength in that, I’m not sure, but a little linger, might be better than a lot of stay.

Read this book, learn yourself.


I Could Fall In Love With The Soft Whispers Of A Man In A Murky Club

What a great book for a book club to read.

I’m not in a book club, but I’d like to be.  I can be kind of pushy though so I think I would need to be in a book club with a lot of old women.  They may dip their Lamingtons daintily into their tea, but they are fierce with the language.  I imagine joining “The Golden Girls” of book clubs.  Maybe in that case, we’d be drinking beer with orange slices.

I wasn’t actually expecting this book to be that good.  I was drawn to the cover of the woman cheeked to the shoulder of a man.  They’re holding each other in a midlife version of your seventh grade dance, except her face has such a look of contentment.  It’s the look of contentment that drew me to this in the endless NetGally catalog.

Wake by Anna Hope

Wake is a story of a five day experience in the lives of three women.  The reader is aware that at the end of the book, the women will be witness to the burying of an Unknown Soldier on Armistice Day that was shipped from France and the WWI dirt mound burials, to the decadence of London in Westminster Abbey.  The reader is packed full of information within these five days of how these women are connected through their losses of war and trauma, but also how these women are coping.

The first is a mother, Ada, who has forgotten to live her own life due to the absence of her son.  She has no clear death explanation and is finding his face in crowds, in the street, while standing in line at the butchers, and most importantly in the round mouths of shell shocked soldiers.  Hettie is a dancer-for-hire at the local dance hall and like most women at one point or another, falls in love with a soft whisper of a man in a murky club.  Evelyn cannot leave her bed in the morning without seeing the lack of creases in the side next to hers where her boyfriend, Frasier, should be.  Her story is less about Frasier and more about her relationship with her brother, Ed, who was a Captain in the military during WWI, but she also works at an office where discharged and battle-worn, battle-tired, battle-misshapen soldiers are sent to ask for money while they peddle household goods on the street.

A girl play with her doll near the equipment left by some soldiers during World War I. @ Tumblr (wish I could really cite this one).

One of my favorite daydreams is about a Civil War woman leaning on her balcony with a letter clutched to her chest and the wind sifting her dried hair which is in a bun and disheveled.  She is waiting for something, but I always wake up from the reverie before that something arrives.  Sometimes she starts to sweat.  Sometimes she spends five minutes overworking her sleeves because they aren’t falling right on her shoulders and chest.  Occasionally, her eyes are closed and her face is fish eyed by the purr of sunset glaze.  I think one of the most interesting aspects of my family background is that one of my Great Great’s died from being shot in the arm during the Civil War.  I can’t help but wonder, more often that not, when I’m tired and my eyes are pearling over into dreaminess, what the Great Great woman left at home did when the letter arrived telling her of her husband’s departure.  With today’s modern medicine, an arm injury could easily be healed over and the soldier sent back to the field, or back to the kitchen of his home where he will eat dinner with his family and heal the many horrors of war.  But, during the Civil War and wars before this, any injury could be life-threatening.

The Dance Hall in the novel is China themed so here is a 1920s Dance Hall, China image.

The short aspects of WWI that are illuminated within this story were brilliantly written.  I had a moment last night where I almost thought I would cry, but the tears just couldn’t be crushed out.  Somewhere inside, I knew that soldiers had to make questionable decisions everyday and last night talking to my boyfriend about this book I was trying to hash out an understanding of what these soldiers did to one another.  My boyfriend, clear as ever, told me, “You can’t judge someone for what they do during a war because it’s not as if they would do those things in their normal life.”  A man who sets up a firing squad for a soldier in his unit going AWOL because he is wrapped in a shake that cannot be calmed, might not shoot at someone in the street of his village.  War is something that is in its own context and this was one of those war stories that not only showed what it would be like to be the widow, or the one waiting by the mail, by the train, by the open hinges of their heart, but also the man who becomes a man he doesn’t understand in battle.

I know it’s the wrong source, but it’s so pretty @ tumblr

I was completly invested in these people, even disappointed with their behavior at times.  The story is written during the 1920s so it has that glimmer of the fine life that I imagine the 20s to be with bottles of champagne, flapper dresses, underbelly alley clubs with secret African American jazz performers, and bob haircuts.  However, it also has that good balance of misery and bitterness from those bottles and that excess.  The characters are living in a world of fancy, but are unable to interact with that world because they are so caught up in the bubble of their own life.  It reminds me of that John Watson quote (at least I believe it’s John Watson thanks to this blog), “Be kind; for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”  The women in this book never meet each other, but are all connected by the men they wear on their sleeves.

Don’t fall for the slick, dandified cake eater—the unpolished gold of a real man is worth more than the gloss of a lounge lizard. I found this hilarious and if you click the picture, it links to the tumblr blog.

I’m not going to say that this was the best literary book out there and it should win awards for its originality, or poignancy, or beautiful writing, but it was a solid read.  I already recommended it to the students in my creative writing club, because it’s one of those fun beach reads.  That’s what I recommend it for, the beach, or a soft vacation where you just want to be.  This is one of those books you can sit with and drink tea because we all know London has scheduled times for that.  Live like the Londoners do, and dip some crumpets, open the pages, and sift away.

Catster_LetsTalk1_28

Have you read any good love and loss stories lately, or World War stories? I’m always looking for WWII stories.  What do you think about this Anti-Flirt Club?


“What We Have In Common Are The Words At Our Backs”

My Great Grandparents

My Great Grandparents

I wonder how my grandmothers took their tea.

I wonder what women influenced them to have strength.  I actually wondered this one today when I put a temporary tattoo on my mother’s wrist.  It was a blue bird with a banner that said “strength” in bold black letters.  There was a station at my nephew’s birthday party.

I wonder if my great-grandmothers had cold feet and an affinity for tall, or bulldog-like men.

My Aunt June

My Aunt June

I wonder what my great, great, great, great grandmother did with the house and the eight out illiterate members of this house when my grandfather was shot in the arm and died during the Civil War.  I have great ideas that she didn’t just shrivel up and set all her worries into a far off gaze while resting her chin in her palm and her elbow on some window mount.  My great, great, great, great grandmother may have worn aprons, but a later census shows she kept the house running, possibly with or without a wealthy gentlemen heir.  I can’t know because these stories have been lost in the clouds of perfume and cigarette smoke that my grandmother’s wafted out.

All I have for those later women in my family tree are census records and collected data of years of birth, years of death and household numbers.  I do have a lot of heirlooms from my grandmothers, but beyond that it’s black and white photos and the last whispers of “talk-story” that my Aunt June still has left.

The Woman Warrior | Memoirs Of A Girlhood Among Ghosts @ Book Critics

This gets me to the pinnacle of my jealousy over Maxine Hong Kingston’s memoir The Woman Warrior | Memoirs Of A Girlhood Among Ghosts.  I don’t know if it’s the Chinese culture, or just this woman, but her writing was insane, literally and her cultural stories and history were both whimsical and brilliant.  I feel like I would know her sitting at a dinner table after reading this collection of narratives about what it means to be a woman, what it means to be Asian-American and what it means to know your own voice based on the voices that you’ve come from.

Fa Mu Lan Woman Warrior @ Chinese Swords (.net)

I’m a bigot in the sense that I don’t believe we’re ever just who we make ourselves, and I will NEVER believe that.  There will be no change of opinion.  We’re an odd conglomeration of the histories kneaded into our hometowns, the deep-seeded truths of how our parents or guardians were raised, even if we go against those truths, our family trees, and the people we encounter in this lifetime (if not other lifetimes that we may have lived).

Off topic branch:  I believe in old souls, not necessarily reincarnation, but I meet people sometimes and they’re my people.  I’ve known them before.  Grey’s Anatomy said it best, “You’re my person.”  One of my closest friends at school is a 60+ year old woman who owns a horse farm and hunted foxes when she was younger.  We should be the least likely people to form close bonds (I’m deathly afraid of horses and I can shoot a gun, but definitely not hunt anything) and yet I love her and I’ve known her forever.  The same goes with my best friend, Seth, who couldn’t break up with me if he tried, and my boyfriend right now who has the thigh muscles of a Greek champion so we must have been sea-faring lovers.  There are ancient traditions of my history with these people, but I can’t tell you what they are because I have very little knowledge of my own family history in order to puzzle these things together. It’s not a miracle of science, just a miracle of miracles and being the Catholic (with a few twists) girl that I am, I have to believe that God purposely put each of these people in my life because they make me comfortable and they’re my partners through the journey.

Orchid for “Brave Orchid” @ Envy GFX

I bet Marie Hong Kinsgston would know all the answers to my questions about this because she has the rich stories of her kin to explain life’s trials, life’s expectations and life’s roads.  I could read four more books on her history without batting an eye, that’s how inspiring this work of literature was.   She has the major story of three women that determine what she believes it is to be a woman with an Asian-American background.  There’s the story of a woman fighter (who I think is the inspiration behind Mulan) and Kingston takes the soul of this fighter on within herself.  Then there’s the history of her Aunt and Mother who in my eyes belong to one single history of womanhood.  Her mother is a doctor in Asia only to “escape” to America and run a laundry mat. Her Aunt is not brought to America until late in her own life because her husband never sent for her, and she is over saturated.

Maxine Hong Kingston @ UCLA International

Then, there’s the history of Kingston which I believe is a weaving of the last three histories and the idea of “talk-story” which is this idea that women in the family pass on … well everything.  Any knowledge of her mother’s past, of Asia, of heroic tales from Asia, comes from the elder women in Kingston’s life and whatever they determine the girl’s should know, they know.  It’s an odd coming of age because when this memoir was written (and probably still although publicly dormant), it wasn’t bountiful to have a girl and girls were assumed to be mostly worthless as far as aging parents were concerned.  At one point, Kingston’s Mother, Brave Orchid, talks about cutting her daughter’s talk so that she can “talk story” which is probably my favorite part of this story because she literally raised a daughter who “talked-story” enough to write an award winning and eye opening memoir.  I really liked Brave Orchid because I think she knew how to live the dichotomy without being found out, she managed to make a living as a medical doctor but still follow the deeply embedded codes restricted to women within in Asia.  I think, even though she comes off abrasive in the book, she influenced her daughters to do the same in their own ways and through their own narratives.  I definitely can appreciate a strong women who must live inside boundaries, but has discovered ways to approach and climb the fence.

“Perhaps women were once so dangerous that they had to have their feet bound” (23). 

Bound Feet @ Danwei.org

Last thing, my favorite story in Sandra Cisneros’s Woman Hollering At The Creek is “Salvador, Late Or Early.”  I always start my students off with this reading at the beginning of the semester and then I have them do a fill in the blank to learn how much they know about figurative language and to see what they reveal about themselves based on what they say in the blanks.  Some students take this very seriously, some students joke about it, and some students just plain hurt me with their raw descriptions of themselves and who cares about them most (or least, unfortunately). In this story, Salvador’s brother drops his cigar box of crayons and I always told my students that that was because he was so poor that he had to hold his crayons in a cigar box.  However, I was reading Woman Warrior and found this quote, “After American school we picked up our cigar boxes, in which we had arranged books, brushes, and an inkbox neatly, and when to Chinese school from 5:00 to 7:30″ (194).   I love when cultural things blow my mind a little.  I originally thought that this was a hispanic way of carrying school supplies, but obviously I was wrong.  This is just a little bit of proof that we’re constantly being educated by literature.  It doesn’t matter what country, what language, or what source, books can teach about our world in big or small ways, we just have to want to read between the lines.


Newsday Tuesday

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Favorite Search Terms:

  • slashtopher coleman: I’m kind of excited that people search Slash this way.  Play coming out soon?
  • “i’m in my zen mode” “sherman alexie: Sherman has a “zen mode?” Does it involve scraping tiny rakes across sand planes under bonsai trees.  From now on, I will always capitalize author’s names when I google them.
  • buttcrack mechanic: I’m just….just why?

Book News:

Catster_LetsTalk1_28

Comments on recent book news? The cat wants to know.  Thus…the speech bubble.  I really liked the adaptation of The Raven by Lou Reed, the article on Why that guy hates Dead Poet’s Society (valid points), and A Brief History of the To Do List because I, due to my Mother, am a list-maker.


Read This Blog About How I Hate Award Winning Books Awarded For Experimentation And Not Actual Merit. Longest Title Ever.

Once again, I’m the rare species that didn’t like a book.

The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan

This story, The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan,  is about the economic downfall of Ireland after the “Celtic Tiger” model.  I had to look up what that was as well and luckily other scholars were there to explain at Huffington Post.  The story is set in small town Ireland (I’m not really sure of the geography of Ireland, but aren’t most towns known as small towns in Ireland, much like North Carolina or Kansas).  A group of men in the town work(ed) for a “sketchy” guy named Pokey.  Who would trust a man named Pokey, I’m not quite sure (unless it was Hokey Pokey), but they do and they rely on his booming business to make ends meat.  Pokey has other plans and runs off without leaving any of the men a dime to their name and the story progresses from there.

It’s “contemporary literary fiction” as it’s written from the point of view of every single character associated with the story within this small town.  Each “chapter” is in a different voice brought on from one of the townspeople that was mentioned in chapters before or will become important in the latter of the novel.  I wasn’t particularly interested in any of these voices, other than Bobby Mahon.  He and his wife are only really given two “chapters” to speak.  I think the narration was interesting and I knew as soon as I discovered it was told this way that this one would be a hit because for some reason people just latch onto things like that.  I normally do love it when an author gives different voices their own chapters, but not this way. (See: Feast of Love by Charles Baxter)

Abbeyleix | Irish Heritage Towns

You have to have a character poster board set up on an easel next to you in order to read this one.  I’m sorry that I don’t remember minor characters mentioned in the second vignette or “chapter” that come up in the nineteenth.  It was hard for me to remember who was who and at one point I thought two of the characters were living in the same schizophrenic body because it sounded to me like they were, turns out I was wrong…I think.  I’m still not really sure about that one.

This book is the literary equivalent of getting on a ferris wheel and hearing the same story about how riding the ferris wheel was from every family in each of the round bobbing ships.  There was no need for the author to really go deeper into the story because he was so reliant on the characters different cues to tell the true effects of how it all unfolds.  From reviews, I was ready to pick up a deeply sad, character-driven book, but this was not it.  I had no emotions while reading and even stopped ever so often to play a quick round of Candy Crush so that I could take a break from the monotony.

Irish Flocks

I further have a problem with everyone speaking about the “quality of writing.”  This book does not have beautiful, literary writing.  At most, I highlighted two phrases and not because of their writing quality, but because of their idea quality.  This didn’t make me want to call the mayor about hanging wreaths of these words around town.  It was a story, driven by character voices, who I would not want to have lunch with.  That’s not just because they live in sad times when they’re all a bit lost, but because the majority of them weren’t likable and I wasn’t truly able to get to know them.  I call books like this “ducks” because the author  hasn’t developed the actual characters enough to give them more stock on the page.  Not sure where “ducks” comes from, but that’s just my nickname for them.

Image @ I Heart This

I don’t believe that my dislike comes from my need for “linear storytelling.”  I believe that this was just poor storytelling that someone could have planned out in a short story and had a greater impact on the reader because that kind of story would have given rise to feelings. OR as my darling students call it, “make you feel some type of way.”  This book didn’t make me feel anything but the need to play more Candy Crush and get over the level slump that I am currently in.  I didn’t feel like I got to know the troubles of Ireland any better, I didn’t feel connected to most of the characters unless something in me matched or found itself in something in them (like that poor wanton woman, or Dylan’s mother who was preoccupied with herself).

Lastly, I find it unnerving that people say “love the language” because this man is writing in the slang and grit of his own language.  This is the language he hears everyday.  I could write a novel in the voices of my students and it would sometimes be decipherable and most of the time the reader would have to look up the words on Urban Dictionary, but I know that language because I’m immersed it in everyday.  Yes, in an American head, this language seems foreign and beautiful, but it is the language of the writer and for that, is no extraordinary feat other than him deciding when to add more slang and with whom, because slang in language can sometimes go too far.  I can’t think of an example, but a lot of Southern novels overuse the Southern dialect so that the reader begins to feel trapped within the language.

Corny Titles.

I would much prefer if this book would be performed for me rather than having to read it for myself.  Maybe then, with blocking, characterization, and the mooning looks on actors faces, I would be able to get into this “some type of way feeling” other reviewers claim to have.

If the ominous “they” are going to continue to give awards for books of experimentation and not actual literary merit then I’m going to have to stop reading award winning books and just read books that I can hang trophies from.  I love experimenting.  I hate when books are given awards for that experimentation that doesn’t always work.  For example, this book, and Goon Squad with the forty pages of powerpoint slides.  THAT IS NOT A BOOK. THAT IS A PRESENTATION.  I DIDN’T ASK TO BE PRESENTED TO.

And while I’m at it, what a corny title.

And fivehundrethly, read a few of the reviews from Goodreads.  Most of them give generic reasons for liking the book rather than actual cold hard evidence of why the book was so good to them.  I find that oddly unsettling.

Catster_LetsTalk1_28

Is there any experimentation that you just can’t handle?  What have you thought of recent award winning books? Did you read this one and have a totally different opinion because sometimes…I suck, too.


Exactly What Is The Allure of The Used Bookstore?

Before I start this, I want you to know that I’m eating alone in the biggest Panera that I’ve ever seen.  To alleviate any of my feelings of weird awkwardness, I chose a seat right next to the “Employees Only” door and behind a barrier wall that blocks off the annoying couple talking about baby monitors and running shoes, and my macaroni and cheese.  There is, however, a large man in a ball cap and Bill Cosby sweater eating with his wife that makes eye contact with me approximately every three minutes.  OH NO, a couple in yoga pants (yes, both people in yoga pants even the male) just came to sit directly opposite me.  If this isn’t the pure euphoria my anxiety needed then I don’t know what else I can do to heighten it.  I am writing in the midst of a bear attack.  The man has a very high voice, as if he’s talking a lot of Maroon 5 songs.

I could spend this whole blog talking about the people surrounding me on all sides.

It’s a war.

But I won’t, I will keep on subject.  This was just your warning.

Venn Diagram Example

Every time I’m home in “the big city,” I hit up at least one of my three favorite used bookstores: Edward McKay Used Books & More, Reader’s Corner and The Village Library.  They each definitely have their own appeal, but there’s something innate at the core of all three because all used bookstores have the same nature, they are after all a categorized new species.  I think it’s partly the smell, a taste of odd ownership, postcards and pre-hipster-era sepia photos, business calling cards, stained carpeting, and the stackage of bookage.  That’s the closest I can get to the “similar” part of the venn diagram.

Reader’s Corner Free Shelves

The Reader’s Corner is my favorite just because the inside feels like a wool sweater and they give books away for FREE, but you have to usually stand in the rain in order to find a good one.  It’s just a superstition I have.  Their FREE books are left under an awning on the whole front wall of the bookstore, on rickety wooden shelves.  They also have a collection of “Reading Is Sexy” bumper stickers next to the cash register, one of which my car, Prince Frederick III, dawns proudly.  These bumper stickers would be even more hilarious if you knew the goons who owned this bookstore.  I think that a clutch of old men operate and own the bookstore.  I’ve only ever seen the same old man behind the register, who embodies what I imagine the guys behind “Car Talk” on NPR must look like.  His face matches their voices, even though he doesn’t sound like them. He also has old cronies around the register with their spectacles hanging down their bulbous noses chatting away with him about the weather, the latest Lady Gaga outfit change, or the newspaper headlines.

You know that commercial where all the old men hang out at McDonalds and check out the old ladies?  That’s Reader’s Corner, except they’re not at all interested in the ladies hanging around the joint.

Bookshelves @ Reader’s Corner

They also know a hellofalot about books.  I can ask them about any book, even the most rare, or the ugliest and largest of textbooks and they will know within three minutes if they have that book available.  And the key to this is that there’s no organization in that place.  They just haphazard the books around, a brain hurricane, books laying in the rubble, or personal space of other books.   The books are categorized by genre, but other than that, you just have to search and find.  It’s basically a Black Ops mission every time you go because you have to pull books from the shelves to see the price or read the blurbs, or just find what might be peeking behind them because all the gems are hidden, obviously.

My favorite poster at Reader's Corner

My favorite poster at Reader’s Corner

This takes me to Edward McCay Used Books & More which is…a chain.  You can sigh now. However, it’s the BEST.CHAIN.EVER. The books are stacked in old milk crates, the handled cardboard trays that your bananas come in off the truck, and somehow, I get a faint whiff of potatoes from the bottom shelves so I have to infer that potato sacks sat in the toughest crates at the bottom of the book pyramid.  That might just be a strange “off the farm” used book smell though.  This is my favorite place to actually find the books I want.  Their authors are by last name and the shelves are all labeled extensively down to “Mystery Thriller” V. “Mystery Fantasy” V. “Mystery Mystery.”

My feet at Ed McKay's

My feet at Ed McKay’s (See what I mean about the carpeting?)

Ed McKay’s is basically a huge warehouse of crates filled with books.  It smells like someone’s attic, and the carpet stains could live in a horror movie.  I love it so much because each section smells different.  The “Dramas” that haven’t been touched in decades (only by college students who don’t want to pay the astronomical price of books from the campus bookstores) smell of dust and washed and dried crumpled paper.  Leave something in your pocket through the wash/dry cycle and smell it afterwards and you will know exactly what the “Drama” and “Poetry” sections smell like.  The “Young Adult” section smells like need and slick plastic.  The “Contemporary Fiction” section smells like cat dander and expensive coffee.  The “Romance” section smells like sweaty lipstick and my most favorite smell of the sections, “Biography” which smells of inspiration, longing and fresh out of the package pantyhose.

Book Bargain

Book Bargain

I don’t make these things up.  BUT, Mental Floss studies them.

Book Nerves

Book Nerves

The spirit of Ed McKay’s is also why I like it there.  They let you sell your books in for trade money so I’m constantly doing that with my non-keepers.  The staff there are tattooed, dyed, pierced, and all dropped into a dryer bin of flannels.  They wear large rings that cover most of their middle knuckle, which throws the customer off from their delicate yet brilliant nail color of the neon or just plain black fashion.  Sometimes they look and sound like they’re going to a funeral and other times they’re wearing comic book tights and whistling.  I’ve smelled them too, but I won’t go into that.  I just have a strong nose.  They have hair colors that I would love to try, but would probably be fired, and they must have a stock pile of beanies in a back closet somewhere that occasionally infects the entire staff with lice.  This isn’t to say that I don’t like them, they’re always friendly, always really welcoming, and I wouldn’t want to buy books from anyone else than the “others.”  Because I’m an “other” and I prefer to talk books with “others.” You know, people that society has deemed “too much” or “too delicate” or “too fine” for most of its activities.  There’s a “muchness” about “otherness” that I like.  I used to think I was just a closet nerd and preferred to be alone, but then I started calling myself “mysterious” like a want advertisement and then I finally just admitted, I’m an “other.”

image

Ed McKay Shelving

We’re our own species too, which is why we hang out in scarves and toting messenger bags in used bookstores.

My last favorite should be everyone’s favorite.  If you read this blog, you better be regularly hitting up your local library.  The Village isn’t the closest library to me, but it’s the biggest, so I go there.  It has its own elevator and its own coffee shop.  RIDICULOUS. Plus, they carry every Mary Roach book that exists and they let me hide all of Ted Hughes’ poetry collections because I’m still angry with him about Plath.  There’s a cozy seating area, the children’s giant room always has paintings and a large, tissue paper version of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.”  To this day, I plan on asking for that hungry caterpillar for my child’s room when I become a woman who actually believes she has those instincts and owns one of those countdown clocks.  For now, I’ll just continue to be selfish.

Village Drop Off

Village Drop Off

The best part about The Village is that its on the ritzy part of town so wearing sweatpants into the library is a thrill.  It’s like going to church in ripped jeans.  The bobbed hair cuts and gold button suits stare you up and down.  How dare you step into their marble book room.  MWAHA. It’s always worth it to aggravate the authorities.

What are some of your favorite used bookstores and more importantly, what do they smell like?  I want to know what I’m missing here in other states so when I retire, at 297, I can take a used bookstore road trip and write a book. I’m probably using you at this moment, but no really, I want to know what you think.


Newsday Tuesday

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Favorite Tweets:

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Favorite Search Terms:

  • i’ve always imagined heaven to be a kind of library: You and me both, googler.
  • burying book in the wall ai weiwei: This is a history lesson I must google to get…now.
  • johnny depp high school girlfriend: Yep, you got my blog.  OW OW! It’s filled with useless facts like this.

Book News:


Chrome Dome

Doris Day as Calamity Jane

There’s an old man who starts at the tip of my childhood neighborhood and makes his way somewhere downtown by the time I would make it to work at the literary magazine.  The poets would have the back window corked open, those old windows that open like you imagine Doris Day would open her windows and start singing, like doors, but smaller and clear.  I’ve tried to write poems about him.  He can ride one-handed with a full jug of 2% milk in the other hand.  I know it’s 2% because of the color of the cap, that’s how close I look to his wheel spokes serving the sidewalk.  He wears a silver helmet.  I would imagine him shining it with the smooth rag the Eye Care Center gives you, but I’ve never seen him do anything but pump his legs on that bike.  He rides over four bridges if he takes the same way I used to, but I’m in a car and in Raleigh it doesn’t usually rain, but sometimes it would and his helmet would swoosh by while the cigarette smoke seeped out the open country windows of the apartment.

The apartment we worked in was vintage.  All wood floors, some man who could have been a lawyer or psychiatrist lived across the hall.  He came out to check his mail.  To get to the apartment was straight stairs, awkward height so that you had to remember to step less than the normal size.  The lights flickered.  That’s okay though because there was so much natural light it was sickening.  The poets who worked there had to secretly smoke because the owner was always stopping in at the town pharmacy.  This was her fourth rental space.  She owned my favorite dessert place too, “the purple house,” where they sold baklava the size of a pizza slice for only $4 dollars.  I think it shut down because no one knew it existed.

This story is becoming too long and too not about the topic.

This Is Not An Accident by April Wilder

This man on the bike has always fascinated me.  I google him sometimes thinking that a “Yahoo Answer” will come up about him.  Other people must see him in his metallic helmet riding along the 540 bypass and wonder at which gas station he chose to buy milk.  Does he come from the church on the corner, the woods, the softball fields behind the new developments.  I’ve never seen him start or end.   At times, I’m not sure he does.

This is the same story, better words, and a more interesting main character than myself, in April Wilder’s novella “You’re that Guy” within her short story collection This Is Not An Accident.  I’m not sure how to review this collection because one of these stories is a dead ringer for my Aunt Janice’s life and Wilder’s bohemian look and baby momma inheritance leaves me wondering how she could know me so well in just 207 pages.  This book just came out four days ago, but the people who got a pre-review on Goodreads claim that they couldn’t even finish the first story because of so much “dark humor.”  And like people would do, they repeated themselves, playing that same record of not loving this book because of this so-called “dark humor.”  I have a feeling these people don’t live in reality and are instead just surfacing at pretend in their lives.

Untitled by Kimmika on Tumblr

The problem with these reviews is that this isn’t dark humor.  These are people living in a reality.  They could be your neighbors.  In the opening story, “This Is Not An Accident,” a woman drives back and forth through different states because a man has stood her up at a bar after she’s driven three hours to see him.  She swears she may have hit someone along the way after hearing so much drama out of the driving school she’s attending because she can’t stop driving back and forth and thus getting too many speeding tickets.  That may seem strange to some people, but I think I know two or three people that would do that, without having a midlife crisis in the middle of it.  Maybe I just associate myself with the strangest of people, who wouldn’t actually do something shocking, but they will do something odd.

I’m pretty sure in high school I wrote this word and definition down somewhere…because I was that girl.

In “It’s a Long Dang Life,” a grandmother has found her lost love.  At some close-to-teenage point in her life, her mother told her that her boyfriend had died at war from a land mine.  She marries a man who beats her and then sees the former flame in a bar just after the adolescence of her marriage.  She doesn’t do anything risky.  She just waits.  Her high school love, Odd (fancy meeting him here), calls seventeen years after the bar incident and they progress to continue their relationship even though he’s a slumped alcoholic.  If you’ve never known a grandfather to marry some young woman after a few months of loneliness then you might think this is “dark humor,” but to me this is just what people do in order to survive.  They make lives that are comic book not fairytale.  They accept things because they’re tired of not accepting things and finding it no better. I’m not saying run out and get yourself a high school sweetheart with alcoholic tendencies, but I’m saying this isn’t a far cry from what I think normal people do with their spare bedroom, and broken hearts.

I think my favorite story in the collection is “Me Me Me” about a woman who’s messy sister is adopting an even messier child from foster care.  The sister’s name is Fawn if that’s any indication of her personality.  The non-baby-deer sister has to decide whether to give her sister a recommendation for the adoption or to keep both the sister and child from being hurt by their mix of behaviors.  To be honest, the whole time, I thought Goldie Hawn played the sister because the description was a dead ringer and the name rhymed.  My brain works in mysterious ways.  I’ll let you just find out what the non-freckled-deer sister decides in the end, but it’s a twisted tale of what families will do for one another.  I think all of these stories are a bit like that.  They might leave a bad taste in your mouth, but who doesn’t have some sort of “Odd” in their family.

Yes, This Gif.

Don’t we use our families sometimes to explain why we’re neurotic, or in some ways unhealthy, or too clean, or obsessively organized, or why we leave cereal boxes and Reynolds Wrap on top of the fridge and not hidden from house party guests.  This is how we use our families, as small tokens of the kindnesses life has brought us (yes, hopefully), but also as the reason we’re messed up, or wired funny, or we just chose to take French in high school instead of Spanish because our father was pushing so hard for Spanish and this was the one way we could show him that he won’t always be the boss.  Yea, that’s what I did.  I can read the back of a shampoo bottle, BAM.

I use my family to explain why I’m kind (my mother) or I’m driven (my father), but I also use my family to explain why I’m bossy (my father) or I have a slight obsession with my grandmothers (my mother).

The best part of this story collection is that in “This Is Not An Accident” Wilder describes the feeling of an accident perfectly.  I knew as soon as I read it that I always wanted to describe it, but didn’t know how and that this is how you do it.  She also has some brilliant quotes:

“She smiled at the old-timey word, figure, and tried to determine whether he meant her figure needed flattering, or deserved it” (109).

Falco the Chrome Dome @ News & Observer

“Maybe Bob was the last man I believed, and the sooner that man comes along in life, the sooner you can relax and quit worrying whether you’re okay” (44).

“He said he didn’t see why there had to be a story. He said, ‘No one seems to want to believe there’s just a guy who’s so lonely he carries a doll around — apparently everyone feels better thinking this shitty thing happened that explains it.’  He rolled his head back. ‘The fire, the shrink, the baby — it’s a Ron Howard film.  One thing people don’t seem to be able to take is public loneliness.  Anything but that” (190).

Maybe that’s my problem with the shining helmet, out in the sun whether it’s winter and his coat is both zipped and buttoned or it’s summer and he wears the same coat sans tight fastenings.  Maybe I’m just the one who’s usually too scared to eat alone in public and he can just ride 60 miles back and forth everyday, letting the trees reflect in the gleam.

Update: There’s a Facebook page dedicated to the Got Milk Biker.

Chrome Dome on Facebook.

Someone give this man a job running tours around Raleigh, please. He’s like a city monument to the people of Raleigh.


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