Newsday Tuesday

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  • what to write in valentine’s card when dealing with infidelity: SHIT JUST GOT REAL. (And I almost want to write a whole blog on this, if you would like to see that, write it in the comments).
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  • butt:crak:books: Just not sure about this one. It’s almost like a dirty library’s calling card.
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  • a paragraph about a crazy girl: Basically every paragraph in this whole blog.

Book News:


The Strange Eccentrics of Kelly Link’s New Novel | A List

Get in Trouble by Kelly Link

1. So, I always wondered why they never created a “Life Size Ken” when they made “Life Size Barbie” a thing, and Kelly Link has answered that question.

2. When you get a divorce, it’s best not to feed the iguanas.

3. “Summer People” make intricate do-it-yourself gifts, but they can’t be trusted with moonshine.

4. If a “Summer Person” gives you a handkerchief, assume that when you open it, it will be a flap tent full of delicate figurines.

5. Don’t meet men in online fantasy games.

6. Don’t meet what you think is a grown women in online fantasy games that could just be posing. AKA catfish.

Kelly Link, Author of Get in Trouble

7. Try not to schedule a dental convention and a superhero convention in the same hotel at the same time.

8. Butter makes a great sculptural tool.

9. You’ll never get over your ex-boyfriend if he’s a demon.

10. It’s best not to funk with ghosts. Especially when they take over inanimate objects. Particularly dolls.

11. Don’t take “Rich Girl” by Hall & Oates literally and ask your daddy to build you a full-functioning pyramid in case this life isn’t as good as the afterlife.

12. If your brother slept with your husband, he’ll probably sleep with the guy who tries to commit suicide in your tub.

13. Kelly Link makes less sense than Neil Gaiman, but her worlds would probably produce better novels if she pushed them that far.

14. Battery-operated boyfriends are boring.

15. Don’t get on any spaceship where a robot controls the scenery around you.

16. Don’t tell ghost stories on said spaceship.

17. You shouldn’t trust banjos on the river, or whittlers on the porch. It’s just, a fact of life.

18. In a Hurricane, you can either bury yourself under a mattress in the tub, or walk outside and find a new pocket world with sunflowers, and shine.

Fabrege Egg, Imgkid.com

If you still don’t want to read this book, then you should feel very ashamed at this moment.  In fact, so ashamed, that your palms are clammy, your lip is twitching, and you want to look anywhere, but at this screen.

19. Kelly Link proves in Get in Trouble that fantasy doesn’t have to be full of green science fiction globules and alien heads, and technological wizardry.  Instead, it can be a simple unknowing, a slight twist on the real to become something fantastic, a Faberge egg that moves when touched by the right hands.


You’re my boo (radley): Thoughts on Go Set a Watchman.

Mayella Ewell from Salon Magazine (2012)

Based on initial excitement levels, I was off the richter scale.  I got an all caps text from my best friend aying, “HARPER LEE IS GOING ROUND TWO” and I ran to the other classrooms in order to tell everyone that Scout would be grown soon and we should have a teacher book club.  Forget about what Mayella might be like as an adult.  I always imagine her adulthood in one of two ways, she’s a white trash Sula character that is both mysterious and sultry, but hog tied to her hometown (a la Toni Morrison), or she’s the opposite of her Daddy, she seeks to reconcile her wrongs rather than seek revenge for them. The question is: will she be a flower or a weed?

Image @ Pinterest

I really would like to go with flower as Mayella grew those beautiful red geraniums which remind me so much of the story  “Marigolds.”

“Against the fence, in a line, were six chipped-enamel slop jars holding brilliant red geraniums, cared for as tenderly as if they belonged to Miss Maudie Atkinson, had Miss Maudie deigned to permit a geranium on her premises. People said they were Mayella Ewell’s.” (17.64)

Mayella could be one of two characters in the story “Marigolds.” She could be Miss Lottie who grows beautiful marigolds in a poverty neighborhood, or she can be Lizbeth, who in a fit of teen angst rips up the marigolds for herself.

1. Will Mayella be a flower or a weed?

Law and Order SVU

This if my first question because it’s the one that most bothers me.  Here we have Atticus Finch, this supreme man in literature, who could father all my babies if he wanted to, but his moral high ground doesn’t really extend beyond Tom Robinson, his family, and the old women who live down the street.  He fights for Tom in an argument against a girl that has been raped and abused by her father for her entire life.  If Mayella were a Law and Order episode, she would have countless visits with Dr. Wong, an empathetic shoulder in Benson, and her father would certainly get the shakedown from Elliot.  Mayella would be a sympathetic aggravator because she’s a product of her environment, a child of trash who was shunned by her town and left.

Atticus fights as Tom’s lawyer and says things like, “Before I can live with other folks, I’ve got to live with myself” to his daughter, but this isn’t a novel that fights for women.  He’s a great father, but the women in the neighborhood are either, old, dead, or liars.

Atticus Meme on Tumblr

Mayella could take this one of two ways.  She could do the opposite of her father and seek to reconcile his wrongs instead of avenge him, or she could become something else entirely.  A fighter, or a whiner.  A flower or a weed. I’m hoping that with her father dead she found some kind of peace in those red geraniums and bloomed into a new women, but that would be like living in a world where Harry Potter doesn’t die (oh wait, that happened).  I’m interested to see how she does in a real world, if she escapes, or if she tells them to tighten the rope.

Sarah Churchwell says it better than me in her article “Why To Kill a Mockingbird is overrated.”

2. How will Scout be a feminist in a new world?

Scout’s ham costume in the movie of To Kill a Mockingbird

Since Go Set a Watchman is based on Scout as a grown woman, I’m trying to wrap my mind around how this is going to work.  In 1930s TKAM, Scout is a bit of a mini-feminist, a child who can break up a tunnel of men holding weapons outside of a jail. There isn’t a word for what she is, but instead of putting on dresses, she puts on ham costumes and suspenders, and there’s nothing more manly than bacon, am I right?  However, if she’s a middle aged woman in this new book, I’m assuming it’s set around the 1960s/70s.

Martin Luther King Jr. with daughter Yolanda

Will Lee allude to the anti-violence campaigns of King, the fists of Malcolm X, the propaganda of Hitler? Scout will have lived through WWI, WWII and be going into Vietnam.  Is Scout a woman who protests parades for drafted soldiers, or is she the woman that kisses her soldier slowly under dimmed kitchen lights? Is there even a soldier at all, because if you’re raised by a man like Atticus, who else can compete.  Scout will have experienced hatred across a full globe; blacks who are told to act less than in America, European people who are told what is human and what is animal, and for Vietnam she will have to decide whether she believes in the men, or the fight.

1950s vacuum advertisement

This is a world of the 1950s where vacuum advertisements have women wearing aprons and sparkling white teeth.  How will Scout be able to maintain her values in a world where the word feminist hasn’t even really been tapped yet.  Today, girls believe being a feminist means having an alarm set at 8:30am everyday that says, “Be a bad bitch,” and climbing over their male counterparts in heels to get to the next higher paying job – glass slipper, more like glass ceiling – but in a world where everything is strained and chaotic, what will Scout’s voice be? Will she just follow the voice of Atticus and try still to treat everyone equally or is the world truly more complicated than that.

How will her ideals and values stand up to such world hate and how will Lee justify her behaviors in a world that held women down? In childhood Scout, we can justify it by childhood whimsy, grown women don’t get the same niceties.

These are things I need answered in this book.

3. How the hell is the narrative voice going to work?

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

TKAM stars an elderly woman who is looking back on her childhood and retelling the tale.  Some of my students love the book, and others think it’s just another grandmother telling about “the struggle.”  And I’m confused about how this is all going to work because if it’s old Scout telling her childhood story in TKAM, how is this going to work for Go Set a Watchman?

In this book, will it be a first person narrative voice in the same time of the telling, but then won’t that be confusing for readers of TKAM or are we just going to ignore this small detail and keep on reading? Because if it’s the same old Scout telling a new story, will it really be as meaningful the second time around when she’s no longer wistful on childhood fancy, but instead wistful on middle aged womanhood in a time when your only option was femininity.

I’m struggling with this juxtaposition even more because sources have claimed that this book was written before To Kill a Mockingbird and therefore the voice could either be the same or completely different, but it will still be wholly amateur.  Lee was a complete amateur when TKAM and while she claims writing was a struggle, I’m not sure it had a very heavy editing hand.

4. Didn’t we think this manuscript was destroyed in a house fire?

Harper Lee’s Sister, Alice, Practicing Law @ Daily Mail

Or it was flung out a window on a cold winter’s night? This is the question with all the conspiracy theories.  I grew up thinking that Harper Lee was such a badass because through all the pressure and the requests, she stayed in her hobbit hole small town and refused to write anything else.  I never thought I would see the day where she published something, especially because her sister Alice claimed that there was nothing else, the manuscript had been destroyed.

That’s why I find it really strange that all of a sudden Alice has passed away and Lee’s lawyer has found this manuscript (was it buried under hoarding tendencies, or placed in an unnamed folder, or locked in a safe this whole time, the one remaining thing that they can claim from a house fire). Just exactly, how did this come about.  Some sources claim that Lee is so old that she would sign rights to anything at this point, the woman is 88 so we have to give her a break. Other sources claim that she’s “happier than hell” that the novel is finally getting published.

Nelle Harper Lee @ Wikipedia, looking like a straight boxing b in this photo.

Nelle Harper Lee @ Wikipedia, looking like a straight boxing b in this photo.

My concern is the general well-being of an author that has ALWAYS refused to sell the text, and the fact that she wrote this before TKAM (1960s) and in today’s editing world, the publisher might take some liberties.  Now, you all know that I love Harper Collins (they’re my favorite publisher), but I also have a strong belief that writing is based on revision.  In fact, writing is revision (I say this standing on my soap box).  It’s one thing to be able to write some magnificent plot on a page, but it’s a whole other donkey to be able to take it apart, piecemeal it back together, cut and paste, organize, and create a story. Plot v. story. I’m worried that Harper Lee will have very little stake in this process and it will be in someone else’s hands in the revision.

If it is revised, edited, changed by the editors or the inner circle of Lee, how will the reader’s react, or find her within? And for Lee is this the copout that she’s looking for – if it sucks, she can claim they changed it – if it’s wonderful, then it’s hers and hers alone. I’m sure an 88 year old isn’t looking for a copout, but you get what I’m saying.

Paste Magazine wrote my favorite article on this topic.

5. What ever happens to Boo Radley?

Boo Radley Meme – SO MANY QUESTIONS

I know for a fact that we call our significant other’s “boo” because of Boo Radley.  There is no other possible explanation for this.  Boo was a shut-in with allegations of knife-weilding against him, and I think we’re all pretty sure that he murdered Bob Ewell after stalking (yes, in a sweet way with gum, pennies, and wax figurines) those children for most of a year.  He’s a side character, but in my eyes, he is the book.

Without Boo Radley, there wouldn’t be the same suspense, we wouldn’t be comforted with his presence when Scout sneaks out, or she and Jem are traveling unaccompanied through dark woods.  I wonder how Harper Lee is going to include him in this novel. Could he fall madly in love with Scout and we have this strange fan fiction moment where everyone’s dreams come true (I guess she would have to love him too then).  Or will he still be a shut-in in a town that doesn’t understand him.  Sources claim this book is a moment when Scout returns to her hometown (Macon) to visit her aging father.  If Boo still lives next door, will she see him too or will Lee just gloss over his move to somewhere else and we never get Boo back.  We never really got the after-effect of that death on his hands in TKAM. Scout, childish, grabs his hand and walks him home and that’s it. Well, what happened?  Go Set a Watchman better figure this out.

6. I worry about the impact on future readers. 

I know we won’t go out and order a class set for every school in America because it sounds like this isn’t going to be another coming-of-age story, the woman is already of-age (we read a lot of this stereotype…er…genre in high school literature), but I wonder how this will impact future readers.  Will they feel compelled to push through Go Set a Watchman or even read it before the emotional impact that is To Kill a Mockingbird.  Will this be like that time that JK Rowling tried to publish something else and no one liked it.  I’m worried that this second book could ruin the ideal of To Kill a Mockingbird.  Although it has problems, it is the pedestal of Great American Novel.  Like Harry Potter is the middle grades fantasy equivalent to a greek god.

Harper Lee, 88. Lovely. @ Huffington Post

Harper Lee was going out on a legacy that is still founded today – we still teach TKAM to 9th graders – but with this new book, I worry about the possibility that that legacy could be tainted.  I probably shouldn’t worry though, because she’s not worried with her adorably huge smile.

I can’t say for sure how I feel about this book until I’ve turned over the front cover and begun.  I must remain gracious with my expectations, but they are numbered and many.  I know Harper Lee is a bad mamba-jamba so I will live in hopes that she wouldn’t produce two million copies of something that she didn’t completely believe in.


YOLO: “You Oughta Look Out”

“…the idea of dragging souls across the landscape like cans of string” (309).

Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel

When my newspaper students set out to choose the top news stories of 2014 this week (as an assignment on newsworthiness and the eight factors involved) most every single pair chose the “Ebola Outbreak” as a top news story.  Without sounding painfully unsentimental, ebola has killed 4,887 approximately, and four million civilian casualties happened in the Vietnam War.  It’s all how you look at numbers, and I’m not saying that those lives didn’t matter (Ebola lives), but I am saying that it’s a wonder to me sometimes how America does math.

Part of the conversation that I believe in having is one about poverty, and the major differences and obstacles between first world countries and third world countries.  As an American teacher, I can’t really speak of the experience in the third world, but as an American teacher teaching in the highest poverty county in North Carolina, I can speak to the conditions of life for people who get very few glances of empathy and instead are pushed down by excuses.

I was thinking about these ideas (epidemics, poverty, childhood) while reading Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, the National Book Award winning story of a post-apocalyptic world where a variation of the swine flu kills 99% of the population and leaves a band of hopeful Shakespearian symphony members, an old man in an airport running a Museum of Civilization, a young boy from Jerusalem who becomes a prophet following the light he read about as a child in a comic book, and the wifely remnants of a dead actor, hoping for some sort of epiphany that will break back a world that only returns in glimpses.

Ebola, the shoe string of death @ CDC.Gov

Nathan Burton’s design for the Dr. Eleven comic in Station Eleven is part of the Picador marketing program. @ Thought Catalog

Each main character of the story holds on to artifacts left in their hands from a life before where running water was a given not an opportunity, or finding books of poetry would send someone on a search through a used bookstore shelf rather than shuffling behind someone’s locked and empty shell of a home.  In the story, the founder of The Museum of Civilization displays things as simple as credit cards, iPhones, and passport photos – things that in the first world, we take for granted.  He puts his wishes on the idea that a man can just leave his credit card near a register if the world just happens to start up again. Kristen, who is a member of the traveling symphony, performs as Titania to relive a few moments of fallen snow on a stage in her childhood.  The only real difference now is her obsession with a dead actor and the two knives permanently drawn into her wrist.

Side note:  how perfect is Emily St. John Mandel’s name as the author of this book.  It’s almost soul-clenchingly creepy with the “Saint John” part of her name in full force between two seemingly usual names – Emily and Mandel.  I just found that a strange coincidence.

Station Eleven is brilliantly written and I’m sure no one would disagree with me, but I did have to plough through it and convince myself to pick it up again.  I do believe that it burns the stick at both ends.  This book is hoping to achieve a life-after-earth-as-we-know-it quality which can be steeped in coincidences that leave the reader feeling squeamish about how easy the stone age might be, but it also relies on the story of one man who connects four very different people at different parts of their lives.

YOLO @ brighterlife.com.pg (Creative Commons)

The book opens with this man who is playing King Lear in the stage play of Shakespeare.  I think Mandel’s use of Shakespeare is beautiful, but boarders on obsession.  Must Shakespeare be the King of Pop in literature, still? I know, I know, he created a whole language that we still use today, but I am just SO OVER that man’s wit.  I do understand the need to hold on to the old world, and what’s more old than Shakespearian ideals. Am I right? (I think Chaucer or the author of Beowulf would have some problems with this blog post. I would pay to see them battle it out).

Each character in the novel; old wives, airport survivors, Kristen, and a son, all represent this living flame in Arthur Leander.  Using Arthur, the novel is willing to do so many things to almost poke fun at our current American attitudes.  Arthur’s wives must escape paparazzi, one even that claims to have a soul for most of the story.  Authur’s friends must deal with his considerable drop in empathy once he “makes it big” as a stage actor.  And his death … all the cliches that can come from “dying too soon,” and “YOLO” come into play when the actor that everyone else on the apocalypse map stems from, dies suddenly before the flu even hits on a stage of plastic snow, under the cupped hands of the lonely.

Shakespeare @ Creative Commons Wiki

I think this is a story that won’t grow old for a really long time.  It has definite staying power with its use of famous ideals of literature, and this idea that is as old as time that the earth will one day end (or at the very least the sun will dry up – probably not the correct scientific theory language) and we will all be forced to rethink our entire use of civilization.

Jeevan is the most endearing character for this aspect of the novel.  He is the almost-savior of Arthur Leander, pumping his chapped winter hands against the famous man’s chest in an effort to find breath.  It is through this initial death that violence whispers down the novel. And Jeevan is the first: the first to push seven grocery carts through the snow to his brother’s apartment, the first to call his girlfriend to warn her, and the first (for the reader) to know how important a life in someone’s ribs stays, he is my first character of this book.  The one I most long to tell the rest of the story.  He gets misplaced in the middle, but I would like to see what he makes of the flicker of light at the end.  What regrets does that soul sing?

Station Eleven Image @ Liz & Gianna’s Blog

Finally, this book commanders the idea that people aren’t infinite, and even though my students yelled, “EBOLLAAAAAA” like they were singing about a cough drop most days last semester, it still begs the question, what really are we laughing at? Because I tell you, Flu’s are nothing to f*** with.

PS.  I thought this book was “just okay,” because as a ginger, I have no soul.


White Space Needed

As a general rule on this blog, I don’t really review self-help books, recipe collections, and now I will no longer review Do-It-Yourself books.  (I will, however, continue to follow excellent Do-It-Yourself blogs).  What this book should really be called is Zines for Dummies, (but only if you want to zine mostly like the author of the book).   It’s called Stolen Sharpie Revolution and this might not be a fair review because I’ve never before reviewed an instruction manual, but because I have an obligation to keep my word, I’m going to do my best here.

Stolen Sharpie Revolution by Alex Wrekk

Stolen Sharpie Revolution is “A DIY resource for zines and zine culture,” and I think that short summary on the front gives the reader the exact truth of what’s in the book.  Stolen Sharpie Revolution is a factual based “zine-like” do it yourself manual on how to build a zine, where to find a zine (distros), binding ideas, the zine community, how to manage the USPS, zines and incarceration, zine events, and templates.   With all this information, this book would be a great resource for someone who wanted immediate involvement in zine culture or just wanted a wiki-page of stratagem to create zines or find them if interested.

Juniper Girls Zine @ Etsy (from AnkeWeckmann). Click the photo for details.

I really enjoyed Alex Wrekk’s take on why she began creating zines and what their function is in society.  I don’t know much about the creation of zines, and I think a lot of people believe zines died when the blogging world came along, but I think zines are the perfect private space between blogging, and art journaling.  Except, Wrekk brought to my attention that zines are not just private things, they are made within a community of people that are cutting and pasting, creating, innovating, and using resources and recyclables to tell others their thoughts and beliefs.  I love the cut and paste aspect of zine culture, the tangible way someone can tell their feelings through artistic means even if they aren’t a superb painter, or a poetic writer, or a person who can draw more than a stick figure.  It’s a form of expression, a form of resistance, and a form of rebellion. My favorite line, “It is about taking control back from the corporate consumer influences, telling your own story, and creating things on your own terms.”

Recycled Air Zine on Etsy @ Lucky Scissors (Click picture for link).

In this way, I would love to see people use this book as the beginning to some free expression that they can’t spray paint into a tunnel, write into a private journal, or just a trickle of something they want to convey in a community of people.  The problems I had with this book go beyond the influences it has, but instead deals with the things it could have done (or my expectations for what it could have been).

This book was remarkably wordy for a DIY book, and with very few example pages of actual zines.  Instead, the writer stuck to stark black and white, copy and paste, zine design.  I realize that zines are not a lucrative project and that this may be the case with the creation of this book, but in an undertaking of writing about zine culture, one way to get people interested (in more than just blogging) might be to include zine pages that are particularly moving or inventive, and show evidence of more zines, and zine creators.  It might be nice to show more voices from the community or get other perspectives.  This book is past its fourth edition (which is the last I could see on Goodreads) and if this is the case, why does it not have the perspectives and pages of other zine authors who want to share their art in a book that actually reaches out to potential future zine creators? I’m not sure.

Obsessed with this zine “The Elder” by Esther McManus. This is more the zine that I would want to buy because it’s just freaking beautiful. On sale, if you click the photo.

I think this book is perfect for a teenager who needs an outlet and that’s the reason that I will put it in my classroom for my students to use in imagining their next creative pursuit that doesn’t need to necessarily have a technological spin, they can use good ol’ glue and scissors to create magic.  I was a little surprised at how copy machine heavy this book is (Wrekk seems to rely on the copy machine for a lot of her zine creation) because copy machines are curmudgeons, they only sometimes work, they have to be constantly unjammed, and they have all these secret compartments that cannot be discovered unless you’ve worked in a public school for 47 years and it’s time for you to retire, but no young teachers will let you because you know all the nooks and crannies of a copy machine.  Having to rely on a copy machine is not something I want to experience.  Pages 31 to 42 in the book are dedicated to solely the use of a copy machine and the next chapter after that, how to afford one.  I hated both of these chapters. I think my loathing of the copy machine is a little bit impartial in this review.

Mini Zine on Etsy @ Thimblewinder. Click the picture for details.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I didn’t necessarily love this book.  I thought it was good for the goal (of creating zines in the same stream of Wrekk’s zines — which from Goodreads reviews are zines that started becoming popular in the late 1990s), but I think it lacks a lot of other perspectives, and just general aspects of other styles in zine culture.  Wrekk is very bias towards her own style and that kind of turned me off from her perspective because I wanted more than a literal how-to (down to how to mail and produce zines) and more of an inspiration booklet that made me want to join in on zine culture.

This book doesn’t do much inspiring, it imagines that the reader is already leaning towards zine culture, rather than beginning in the culture without any real idea of what a zine looks like (like me).  I was also displeased aesthetically because the book is all black and white, way too many small words on a small page (on most pages) and the patterns on the back of the pages can sometimes seem overwhelming.  I once had a Barnes and Noble employee tell me the best sellers are the books with a lot of white space, I believe Wrekk could take a hint from this customer service representative.

Plant Feelings Zine @ Etsy by Sarah Mcneil. Click Picture for details.

All in all, it wasn’t that I hated this book, or really loved this book, it’s just that I don’t think it did justice to its mighty goal – to get other people to join the zine community.  I read instruction manuals if I want to know how to put together my television, not to get inspiration on how to build one.


Girlhood is a glass vase.

Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham

It’s probably sad how attached I am to this book.  I wanted to simultaneously fall down a rabbit hole and climb into a dark hole while reading it.  Lena Dunham in Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells What She’s “Learned” is so spot on with her pseudo-memoir that I was practically highlighting the entire book.  I thought that she found the voice between psycho-tire-stabber and romantically-involved-with-herself girlhood.  I used to think Taylor Swift was my ultimate girl crush, but Lena Dunham has now taken the number one spot.  If I could have a moment with Dunham like she had with Nellie sans-vomit, I would drink the red wine, and curl up on a vintage french rug and tell her all my secrets with our bodies, knees together, and spines curved, into a heart shape (totally platonic).

Joana Avillez’ Art for Lena Dunham’s book @ SVA.Edu

At some point during my reading, I started coloring all the tiny pictures.  I think this was in an effort for the book not to end, but that makes me even more of a guppy so pretend I didn’t admit this.   Like Dunham’s memoir, it’s clear that I can’t go linear through it. I will do my best though.

Dunham starts with relationships.  I needed to read this so I could not choose the devil on my shoulder that said I could just artificially inseminate myself at 37 and choose the man on paper who would father that child.  (It’s still a serious thought though.  I talk about it over Mexican food to my best friends).  I’ve never written “Amen” in the sidelines of a book, but in this relationships section, I did too many times.  My personal favorite “Here’s who it’s not okay to share a bed with: Anyone who makes you feel like you’re invading their space.  Anyone who tells you that they ‘just can’t be alone right now.’ Anyone who doesn’t make you feel like sharing a bed is the coziest and most sensual activity they could possibly be undertaking (unless of course, it is one of the aforementioned relatives; in that case, they should act lovingly but also reserved/slightly annoyed) Now, look over at the person beside you. Do they meet these criteria? If not, remove them or remove yourself. You’re better off alone.”

Still of Lena Dunham’s Vimeo Video with illustrations by Joana Avillez

Art by Joana Avillez for Lena Dunham’s book.

I think that quote highlights the very essence of this book.  Everything she was saying I had either experienced, or knew was inherently bad/good for me, but sometimes, I need to be told literally in print to stop dating jerks because “When someone shows you how little you mean to them, and you keep coming back for more, before you know it you start to mean less to yourself.”

This rang so true for my high school first boyfriend (who was a total douchebag who I thought was so hot because he would start fights with boys that just looked at me over their shoulder) and rang true for a few boyfriends after that who treated me like I was good enough as their back-up dancer.  In this relationship section, I learned how okay I really am.  I highlighted many parts on self-respect, and continuing on your personal journey regardless of the man who either thinks he is on rungs higher than you, or doesn’t appreciate your oddness.

The amazing inside of Lena Dunham’s book by Joana Avillez.

The body section was a little weird, but still important to the general idea of being a woman and being told you’re not good enough in any shape unless you’re a Victoria Secret model (and even they’re told they’re too skinny).  We apply creams, sprays, dyes, lenses, glosses, surgeries to ourselves to look like someone we don’t even know, or someone’s ideal that we haven’t even really thought out for its purpose (Hello, obese women were the most popular in England for hundred of years before any Barbie ever came out — not that I recommend obesity for it’s general health problems, but still, the point).  This is the section people really have problems with on Goodreads. One girl actually counted the calories Dunham put for each item to find the errors.  I wasn’t looking for problems with Dunham while I was reading, I was just enjoying the kindred spirit affect of this book.

Maybe this makes me narcissistic.

Selfies-Fo-Days

Selfies-Fo-Days

I am, probably.  I enjoy a selfie-a-day.  I pout my lips in the mirror after I pop my lips together just following glossing them.  My Mom told me I was pretty (probably more than the average girl, but I wouldn’t know if this is true or not) and honestly, I believe it. And I think that’s important.  I feel pretty and I feel happy and I wear purple lipstick when I want and I still think I’m chic. So, BAM.

This was the other negative about Dunham’s book.  People thought like Joan Didion (pressing her riches into her memoir), Dunham is only famous due to her acclaimed parents and her “rich-girl” upbringing.  I beg to differ.  The girl who wrote this book is sensual, worldly, expecting, honest, experienced, and still learning.  I don’t care what the “haters” say at this point, this is someone’s life and it’s a story that’s worth telling like every life story is worth telling.  She even outlines her troubles in the industry and how she was treated not as a threat to her male counterparts, but as a sponge for ideas to steal.  She went to college and earned a degree in creative writing (even if she was the girl that everyone hates in workshop who tears their pieces apart and then has no merit in their own writing).  Girl got goods, she’s doing big things and I think at some point people need to learn to not be jealous of the way someone got to their light, but that they got there and they’re spreading it.

Image @ Blissfullvida@wordpress.com

Let the girl shine.

Dunham even writes about this jealousy, “And I decided then that I will never be jealous.  I will never be vengeful.  I won’t be threatened by the old, or by the new.  I’ll open wide like a daisy every morning.  I will make my work.”  If nothing else, this is advice to live by.  If everyone just tried to “do them” and better themselves and encourage others to continue to raise the tide, we would all be creating waves together.

Lena Dunham at the Globes 2010 (I think).

I think the biggest problem I have with people who hate this book is that they obviously were oblivious to the feelings of those around them in childhood and college.  Dunham opens doors to our most secret selves that we hide behind masked personalities.  She talks about her college sexual encounters and drug use (that ring true for so many college woman), and discusses her constant need for a therapist due to her anxiety about life’s bigger problems.  So many of the truly wonderful women, one of my very best friends especially, have trouble with anxiety and paranoia.  This is a true account of a society that either shuts its doors to people like this or just chooses not to recognize their struggle.  Regardless of how much money your parents make, your inner self can still struggle with so many things that are beyond financial.

Overall, this book gave me so many feelings.  I dried out a pen underlining and I couldn’t stop reading.  I wanted to keep knowing Dunham.  She had something to teach me even when she sounded just like me, because sometimes you need to hold up a mirror to yourself in order to understand.  Don’t believe the haters.  I know the girl can’t pick a Globes dress … ever, but she can write a damn memoir, and every girl should read it.

*I’ve never watched Girls so this review is totally based on Dunham’s memoir and short interviews at award’s shows (and the fact she’s best friends with Taylor Swift).


A book to turn on your weird feels.

SomeEcards are not so funny, but so true.

I, too, believe the theory that all people are ruined by their first love, even if they do end up marrying and toting the title of “high school sweetheart” or “kissed on the playground at six.”  While I watched, Cody from Sister Wives talk to his daughter about how kissing leads to attachments that should be kept separate for a future husband, I was scoffing, no less. And then I thought about it and kissing is terrible for the human psyche, at least if you’re playing those “adult” games.

I used to be really good at these when I was young and wild.  I think it came from being a good liar as a child, I could work a chess board of dating emotions with the best of them.  I was a black widow of dating, per Iggy.  It could also be the obscene amount of Brandy and Monica I listened to, but really, we can’t blame them, they were playing a game of their own.

SomeEcards are always SO on point.

I try not to play those games anymore because I got burned from my own sick game which taught me a valuable lesson about honesty.  And now, I’m probably too honest, to the point of the negative connotation of it, “blunt.”

It’s these games that cause us, as American dating millennials, so much trouble.  We picture our future marriages to a guy who just smiled at us, we window shop in online dating and swipe left every time he has an out of place freckle, and we madly text almost-love messages and then get bored four weeks later.  It’s actually a disgusting way to date, I like to call it the “date and discard.”  I find this is the case with a lot of my single friends (now that I’m in that category and I’m restudying my kind).  One of my best friends would rather call the dating scene for late twenties-early thirties, “dick pic and discard.”  (Thanks, Tinder).

Thanks, Tinder. You do so much for the community.

And if we get an emotional response (wait, we still have those nerves) we quickly find a reason to self-sabotage and chalk the whole thing up to another Taylor Swift downfall.  Heaven forbid, we set ourselves up for that “marriage” thing that all our other friends who are no longer cool on a Saturday night have.  Every single girl knows, she jumps up and down at the engagement of a friend and then goes home to paint her nails alone and thinks “man down.”

Another Bad Man by Miranda July

This isn’t the Sex & the City.  We’ve cloned thousands of Samantha’s and their walking around attached to cell phones and pretending to read books and all dressing like their from Portland.  This is actually a long way to set-up the review for Another Bad Man by Miranda July out from Scribner on January 13th.  A fitting date for this strange pursuit at a novel.

I should preface this with, I’m obsessed with Miranda July.  She’s like the coolest version of Zoey Deschanel, except she’s actually artsy, and she pulls off an Annie wig hairstyle, and she has the eyes of an anime character.  She’s got that “dark and mysterious” thing going on that my cousin claims is the only thing a girl needs to hook him.  (Another disgusting thing about millennials is that we don’t actually want to know each other, we just want our significant other to look good on paper…and on the face).  Jamie Veron had all this right in his article for Thought Catalog.

I say all this, longwindedly, to say that I think this idea of adult dating as sick game play is at the heart of Miranda July’s newest novel.    A forty year old woman is searching for her own life through ideas she believes from her past lives.  For example, she must date Philip because they were a cave family together, and she looks in the faces of babies to see if they are really her soul-children.  I know this all sounds strange right now, but it all ended up being for good by the end.  I’ll admit, a little bit into it, when she started going to the therapist for this imaginary globus stuck in her neck, I was a little worried that July was way off base.

Miranda July // Creative Commons

A quick summary: Cheryl (the forty year old) takes on a fresh-out-of-teenagehood house guest and they begin an adult game of their own which alters Cheryl’s life forever, and quakes the lives around her own (though she did have few friends).

It’s really a story of love and strength at any age, but it has some strange romances, or blips of romance because that’s the only way us millennials can date.  I think Cheryl is a woman stuck in between this idea of a lifetime marriage, and a blip of dating/cougarhood.  And it takes the entirety of the novel for her to figure out where her soul fits in this mess called life.

“None of them had been pursued.  I had not flown to Japan by myself to see what it was like there.  I had not gone to nightclubs and said Tell me everything about yourself to strangers.  I had not even gone to the movies by myself.  I had been quiet when there was no reason to be quiet and consistent when consistency didn’t matter.  For the last twenty years I had lived as if I was taking care of a newborn baby” – Cheryl in The First Bad Man by Miranda July.

A Miranda July Art Project from a few years ago.

I think the quote above establishes my favorite part of this novel because it sets everything that we believe on ice and forces us to realize that life is going to happen, whether we join in, whether we’re playing some game, or whether we actually win.  Dating will happen, or it won’t. Saturday nights alone will happen, or they won’t.  Therapists will give good advice and then immediately follow it with terrible advice that we always follow, friends do this too.  I once told my best friend to stand outside of a grocery store in her pajamas to beg for a boy to talk to her.  Not sure what dating cycle I was in at that point in my life, but it obviously was not a good one.

The characters in the novel all work at a self-defense agency making videos that women can use to get exercise, but also use as tools to fight off attackers.  They come together when Phil (one of the board members) presents a secret to Cheryl and Cheryl takes on her not-so-teenage houseguest, Clee.  Clee causes Cheryl to unwind and live a life that isn’t so plain jane, but she also rocks her world with unanswerable questions and even more unanswerable life situations.  These are the three main characters, I would argue, but others pop in with advice, rich characterization, and just overall weirdness.  I’m still a little unsure about the weirdness in this novel.  It took about halfway for me to invest enough in it to ignore all that.

Miranda July family videos // Creative Commons

This is why I’m going to not recommend this to the masses.  I think it’s more for a pocket of people that will understand that we all make really strange decisions, (and sometimes those are closet sexual decisions) in order to just get by.  If you can’t face that main Google fact, then I’m not sure this is really a book you should pick up.  It’s like watching really bad dancing (like doing the 1990s worm with a stomach bulge), and hoping it will get better, but then it doesn’t get better in the way that you think it will, instead it gets better in this odd new way.

I feel like I’m not making sense.  This is a really hard book to review in any sort of adequate way because it’s so….its own. It’s original and quirky and a little brilliant.  Just don’t blame me, if you feel weird while reading during parts of it.  I guess this is basically a dare. I dare you to read this one and try not to be completely weirded out. Let’s get strange!

 


Newsday Tuesday

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Favorite Search Terms:

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  • short 24 line rhyming poem: I wonder how many there are.
  • emily croy barker book 2: HOLLA! I’ve been waiting too.

Book News:


These are our stories written down.

Picture of a swamp area near my parent's house - taken by me.

Picture of a swamp area near my parent’s house – taken by me.

Listening to Megan Mayhew Bergman read from this story collection at North Carolina State prompted me to call my parents crying and tell them I’m going to write a novel.  At that point in my writing life, I was manically writing in my journal (a la Sylvia), but I was in no shape to write a novel.   Two sisters have been floating around my head from a swamp area in North Carolina where they have to wear rain slickers and don’t often comb their hair.  A lot of baby powder dusts the floor just below their vanity.  They have yet to become a novel, or a short story, but they’re there constantly.

Poet, Ruth Stone @ Wikipedia Commons

My poetry professor in college loved the poet, Ruth Stone.  They were friends outside of academia and she told us the story once of how Ruth Stone, as a young girl, in what I imagine is a cotton shift dress, paisley, would hear poems like tornados.  She would be peeling the green ear of a corn, or popping grapes into her mouth, the blue drain of them coating her bare feet, and she would hear it, off in the distance like a swift train.  From the field, she would have to run into the house, across floor boards, upstairs, to a page of white paper to get the poem before the storm ceased.  If she was too late, the poem rested somewhere out of reach.  Too early, and the poem jumbled.  She had to find the perfect quotient of time in order to get the poem on paper.

Like relationships, I think writing has a timing.  Sometimes when people ask me why I haven’t written a book, I answer that I have been unable to read the amount of stories I must have in my metaphorical library to put on paper what I need to say.  There is a story in me, it’s just not ready to be shaken out.

This is probably just fear.

Megan Mayhew Bergman, Published at Ploughshares in a column titled “Writers and Their Pets”

With writers like Megan Mayhew Bergman, who is from a relatively small town in my home state of North Carolina, I look to her for inspiration. I sit with my journal open as I read her story collections and write down all the quotes that either shift my soul to a new position, or make me want to write down an image, a smell, a moment on the page.  I have highlighted and written in her books, analyzed how she works sentences, when she believes the image is pushed far enough, how she makes the small moments seem like hours, or ones life in a time capsule.  Bergman is brilliant, and every time I read her stories, I’m inspired to finally write something down.  I don’t know if it’s that I want to be her when I grow up (even though I’m pretty much here and grown) of if it’s that she’s been able to do something with a life that is so similar to mine (other than the adorable husband, and toddlers).

Almost Famous Women, Megan Mayhew Bergman (Available Jan 5, 2014 from Scribner).

Her newest collection, Almost Famous Women, was the perfect book to study first in 2015.  I feel that not reading this story collection would have neglected something from my life.  Each woman has her own strength, even if it’s built through various wounds, drugs, historical racism, shell-shock, or grandeur.   I began reading this book eating alone in a Bob Evans.  I ordered big because that’s all one can do in a breakfast place. I instagrammed the moment (because I too can be a useless millennial at times) and talked about the power I feel sometimes from eating alone in a restaurant.  This same power comes to me from reading a collection of stories about women who were on the cusp of greatness and maybe didn’t reach it, but through books, letters and passed down myth have now reached new heights in Bergman’s stories.

Edna St. Vincent Millay Published by The American Reader in 07/2013.

This is the kind of book that leads to research.  It’s filled with small details that prompt the google machine start up.  The power of this story collection is in those details. The fact that Edna St. Vincent Millay is called Vincent in the story, and for a few pages, the reader assumes, because she’s the only one who gets letters from publishers in her family, that she is the male heir.  It’s a great twist to the reader’s psyche, even though the true heroine to that story is her sister Norma, who is my second favorite woman brought up and put out wet in this collection.  My generation thinks of Millay as this feminist heroine who could give strength to flower petals, but it is her sister that stars in this story:

 “Norma knows when they wake up they’ll be alone in the dim kitchen, smearing day-old bread with measured dollops of blueberry jam, warmed on the stove. They’ll do the washing until their fingers are numb with cold, sing songs their mother taught them, tell stories in bed about imaginary lovers–what does a lover do as much as kiss?–while the modest fire becomes nothing but smoldering coals.   They’re a houseful of skinny girls, dirt-poor ingenues singing arias from a cabin in the swampy part of town near the mill, a place the shipbuilders have fled.  The young forest is beginning to grow again, but lately it’s bare enough to see the lean deer moving through” (Norma Millay’s Film Noir Period, Act 1, Bergman).

The Queen of Whale Cay by Kate Summerscale

Most of the stories in this collection made tiny dents in my ideas about womanhood, femininity and the ideals that are both given to us, and we set upon ourselves.  How do the women of war face post traumatic stress disorder in a time when not even men were allowed to feel that quake. In “The Siege at Whale Cay” M.B. “Joe” Carstairs rocks and sobs in the closed rectangle of a closet when she remembers her war experiences.  In “Romaine Remains” a famous artist is used and discarded by her own unthinkable past.  These women are shipwrecks, but still beautiful in the way that they were on the tip of having it all and either the world was too much, too swollen, or they made a choice to remain just girls in the throw of it.

Lucia Joyce, Creative Commons @ Wikipedia (also the photo printed into Bergman’s book)

My favorite story in the collection is “Expression Theory” about Lucia Joyce a dancer in Paris.  She was a bit mad, but she was mad in the way that I believe all creative people must be.  She was working over her craft, too busy for the normalcies of a world that just didn’t get her and the writing in this story just particularly took hold of me.  Possibly my favorite description in the collection is as follows:

“They give nighttime shows, the flicker of oil lamps on their damp skin.  Her muscles were firmer then. She spoke three languages.  She was on the verge of something.  Her thoughts were the color of moss and her head was teeming with them.  The ideas were crawling all over her body like the fat worms she used to feed the rouser after a rain, the lonely one who crowed in the city streets at dawn, the one who sought shelter behind a fetid wastebin” (Expression Theory, Bergman).

I think the most powerful, and the most hard to craft aspect of Bergman’s writing is her small details.  Reading her work, I know she’s smart because her word choice is so perfect, and so delicate, it causes a reader to want to start at A and read the dictionary, learning the sounds of words as much as their meanings.  Her details, her senses, her moments of just beautiful writing made me want to take up a flag to these stories.

Lipstick @ creative commons

I will always be a fan of Bergman and read anything that she feels comfortable paperbacking for the world, however, this story collection should be read by and for women everywhere.  These are the things in which we live, these are the ways that we carry ourselves without ever recognizing the bundles on our backs.  I carry a picnic knapsack of sadness on a burned stick that I can’t let go of, and someone carries their father’s old socks, and another girl must only carry the lipstick she stole from her mother’s purse at age eleven just before she slipped into the night.  These are our stories written down.


All The Books I Never Finished,

And never regretted it.

Let’s start at the beginning. God did it apparently, so it’s good enough for us.

  • I’ve been reading Swamplandia for approximately two years and seventy-three days.  I borrowed it from my cousin’s girlfriend who is just as much of a book nerd as me, so I feel kind of bad that I’m that person who doesn’t return books.

Hi, I’m Cassie and I don’t always return borrowed books.

I also have two of the three Colleen Hoover books in a series (Slammed and Point of Retreat) on my shelf from her that I have yet to read. I really should have gotten her a “Return to” label for her personal library books.

Quick flashback: This poor girl, Rachel Dennis, who must have gotten married because I can find her nowhere on social media, gave me the book The Princess Bride.  She even came to my house, before having a driver’s license, to try to get that book back.  To this day (I read it this year), it’s in my personal library with her name scrolled in high school bubble handwriting.  I feel less bad today because the book comes with its own small history, but still.

Hi, I’m Cassie and I have a long history of not returning borrowed books unless their from the library and people are going to charge me a fine.

Back to Swamplandia. How did anyone finish this book?  It was slow, and completely, unrealistically weird.  A brother who works at a hell theme park. A sister who wants to wrestle albino alligators like her mother in a bay watch suit.   A sister who believes she’s dating a dead boy who’s stuck on a tug boat.  I got through the first round of hell and doom, but as soon as the narrator met the bird man and went after her sister who could have just watched Ghost to live vicariously through, I couldn’t.  I keep the bookmark in it just in case I can finish those last hundred pages, I’m not one to give up. But…it’s been a few years.  Maybe 2015 is the year of Swamplandia.

Recommendation: Read Lauren Groff’s story “At the Round Earth’s Imagined Corners” to get your fix of Everglade reptiles and sadness without all the kitschy things that make a book seem “unique” and “original” even though it’s just a mass production of a weird best-seller.  Groff’s story is one of the only magnificent stories in the Best American Series 2014.

  • We, The Drowned – Carsten Jensen

    I will finish We, the Drowned. It’s just massive.  It’s a steel block of book, but it will get done. I always remember the plot when I come back to it, even after months, which is a true sign of a good story.  Plus, the cover’s too beautiful not to know it when someone comes into my library and spots it and asks.  It has a 4.18 score on Goodreads which might be because so few people have actually finished it and they all loved it, or it’s just a stellar book. One won’t know until 2015.

  • Tiger Lily ruined Alias Hook for me.  If Peter Pan wasn’t such a young adult chauvinist pig in Tiger Lily and Tiger Lily wasn’t such a desperate teen heart then maybe I could have read another Peter Pan remake in the same year. However, Tiger Lily was so terrible – the best part was the dedication: For the girls with messy hair and thirsty hearts. 
  • All The Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doeer

    At this point I’m the only person that didn’t like and didn’t finish All The Light We Cannot See. It was on the bestseller list in our newspaper this morning even.  I just couldn’t finish it. After all the WWII books, to be infinite, authors have to write something that breaks the heart open.  This just didn’t.  I only read until the boy was at the training camp for a few months and his weak friend was bullied (and I think died).  I was really interested in the blind girl’s story and the architecture her father built into her veins as a home, but the author stayed so long on the boy and sister that I gave up.  Anyone have any reasons to push through on this one?

  • There’s no reason I shouldn’t have finished A Tale for the Time Being.  It was bad timing. I might start over.  Especially because Alena told me how much she loved it, and she’s one of my most precious recommenders.  Half the feelings we have towards books (and boys – significant others) is timing, I think.
  • Diego Draws @ Tumblr (A Rose for Emily)

    Other than Faulkner’s Emily, Miss Havisham may be my favorite character in literary history. Unfortunately, she was dragged through the ash of the Industrial Age by Ronald Frame.  I couldn’t even do it.

Why do white girls go to the bathroom in groups of odd numbers? We just can’t even.

I just can’t even.

  • I work with a literature prude.  He teaches British Lit which is perfect for him. He might be the most well-read person that I know, actually. I always return his books partly because I live in fear of his reaction if I don’t.  Plus, we have this long standing feud over who is the better Fitzgerald, Zelda or F. Scott. (It’s Zelda). He recommended Special Topics in Calamity Physics which is a book that just makes me feel like an idiot and I’m not even sure if the author researched her own research.  People on Goodreads claim it has “literary allusions” but they must be philosophical geniuses because this book is too hoity-toity for the average American girl who reads.
  • I’m a girl who loves a girl named Francine. (It’s like Madeline, I can just imagine the perfect etiquette and the way she dabs her lips gently with a cloth embroidered napkin). And her last name is Prose, which if you’re going to be a writer, your last name cannot get any more perfect than Prose. However, the remake of Bigfoot Dreams. WHY. I wouldn’t let anyone reprint a book that was terrible in the first place.  You want to reprint my book, choose one that’s good.  How about Blue Angel or Golden Grove, but Big Foot Dreams.  Open Road Integrated Media, I deplore you.  Remake books that matter, not books that are fillers for authors to keep their publishing contract with the big names. (This is also a publishing world problem).

Cormac McCarthy

I think every year readers have books that they just can’t finish.  This year was especially bad for me.  Most years, I push through the bad and just finish as many as I can, but this year I made a resolution to refuse to read bad books.  So this year, I would read a few pages and then put the book down forever.  Even Cormac McCarthy had to suffer through this with two of his books on this list.  I started a lot of books.  I probably read more pages of starters than I did finishers.  I’m not sure if this was just me being stressed with teaching and less time to really hook my claws into “good” books, or if this is a publishing epidemic.  Are they (American publishing houses) publishing less NEED and more WANT? I can’t answer that question without an insider view really, but lately I’ve felt that no books have moved me so far as to write a brilliant review since probably, The Tiger’s Wife. I want a book I can faint inside.  Did you read any books like that this year? RECOMMEND please.  I might even start one of those cute little TBR mason jars.


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