Tag Archives: pulitzer

Hipsters & Literature (In Other Words, The Way I’m Going to Come Off as an Asshole).

Hipster Suitcase

I think it’s safe to say when you knot weeds together on the playground while all of the other children are playing cops and robbers, or even better, the princess and the evil troll under the bridge, you’re a hipster.  Therefore, I have known this fact my entire life, before I even had a title.

Fishnets and bow pumps on the first day of school. Painted converses with inspiring French words (J’espere, which means hope, expect or trust, see Dad, I did learn something after all of those years of French), a girl who looks better even in black rimmed glasses that she bought on ebay, this is a hipster. It’s true definition. I still get called a hipster by the English faculty that I work with, but only in recent years did this truly odd and eccentric kid have a title.  In high school, I was just that weird girl with swim hair, but no one ever picked on me because I grew up with those people.  One of those boys, Mr. West, happened to be the prince running with sword atop the castle bridge.

Hipster Tumblr Land.

If I’m being honest, I’m a little bit peeved at what the ficksters are doing (you know, those fake hipsters that weren’t born for this) and how tumblr has created this fictional universe of hipsters with beanies and typography skills by second grade, but the true downfall of hipster culture so far, is the literature.  If you don’t have a strong fastening to Hamlet’s Ophelia, then you can’t be a true hipster.  If you don’t like Salinger, if you haven’t ever had bangs, if you weren’t jealous of kids with braces or had braces yourself, if you never cut your own holes into pants or didn’t at one time want to own a fish eye camera, you’re not a hipster.  HOWEVER, you’re really not a hipster if you haven’t read beaucoups of literature from the American Northwest.

These authors include, but are not limited to: Ursula K. LeGuin, Chuck Palahniuk, Beverly Cleary, Donald Miller, Dorianne Laux (in her old school), Joseph Millar, anyone that aspires to be in Tin House, Colin Meloy and his wife, Sherman Alexie, Alexis M. Smith, and Theodore Roethke.  (Please believe this was as many as I could think of at this moment, definitely add anymore awesome American Northwestern authors in the comments).  If you haven’t met Prue from Wildwood, by Colin Meloy and his wife as illustrator, then you haven’t really dived into the idea of hipster literature.  Prue definitely doesn’t bother me, however, the newest hipster literature is starting to make me nervous.

Adawise @ Tumblr (Looking so hipster in those almost Tribal leggings)

The book that I’m most nervous about is Where’d You Go, Bernadette? I didn’t just not like this book, I’m seriously worried about the future of fiction due to the popularity of this book.  It’s a post Goon Squad hodgepodge of letters, emails, receipts, text messages, conversations, bills, TED talks, and tickets.  Basically any sort of scrap of paper that added a minute of story, the author added.  This wasn’t the true problem I had with the book, although it was just as annoying as forty pages of powerpoint in Goon Squad.  I’m pretty sure that Little Brown had Goon Squad in mind when they were like, “Yes, let’s go ahead and publish all the things that this writer could find in her purse and put in a book.  It’ll be just like Goon Squad, and hey, that won a Pulitzer.”  They weren’t thinking of that girl in small-town America that was p-i-s-s-e-d about that Pulitzer win.  I’m still a little angry and that was two years ago.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette is Goon Squad set in a reality that isn’t actually real.  There’s no way that this book would ever happen.  There’s no woman whiny enough, or hidden enough to win a huge architectural award and then go into hiding, only to ship herself to Antarctica.  What children even have dreams of going to Antarctica, in fact, what students in 8th grade are writing so many essays that they have multiple topics on Antarctica.  I could go on, I could really unveil the lack of magic in this one, but so many people loved it that I’m  having trouble putting my words together.  THIS BOOK COULD NEVER HAPPEN.  Not in the way that it’s fantasy and I know going in that it’s going to place me completely into some sort of magical realm and the characters will be the Jackie Chan of magical realms being that they can fight off three hundred dark forces with their good friends and a small forehead scar, but in the way that it’s masked as realistic fiction and yet, it’s completely unreal.

Bernadette….loathing.

I wish I could have a fight with a neighbor big enough to park a billboard in my backyard, but that’s 1. against most American city codes, and 2. what person who refuses to leave her house is still passive aggressive enough to yell her feelings in a large metal sign.  Not only were the characters completely annoying, even Bee who is this model American child set against the “druggie” neighbor kid, but Bernadette is half crazy, and half silent and Elgin with his barefooted TED talk is the model for geek hipsters everywhere, only he isn’t quite the father everyone hoped him to be.  Even Bernadette’s secret shopper, Manjula, doesn’t fit expectations.   I don’t even like these people.  I don’t want to know them in real life.  I will never trust robotics coming out of Microsoft (not that I would anyway).  The only nonrealistic aspect of this book that I actually liked was the description of the Hollywood home that Bernadette built out of welded retired spectacles and dust.

Maybe I just have the wrong type of humor.  Maybe this is a book where those of us in the sarcasm vein sit in helpless annoyance at the fact that everyone is obsessed with this book in a sort of “Let me instagram my coffee, and put this book in it so I look smart and like I know popular literature” sort of way.  Wait until I write a good review to unfollow, kindly.

Yep @ Tumblr

But it gets better, then there’s the plot which all ends in a trick of the author’s hand that the reader can see coming from four paragraphs in.  DUH, Maria Semple, DUH.  What the hell was that.  Bee has a mysterious envelope and then we find out that the whole story was written by an 8th grader.  Screw you, it felt like an 8th grader wrote this with its lack of expected twists and turns, and it’s unrealistic ideas about life.  I’m not even sure I can appreciate the theme of this story which is inevitably hope and rebirth because it’s bogged down with bullshit.  I don’t feel sympathy for Bernadette, she wasn’t someone who I rooted for throughout the novel which really limited my reading of the book, but I also didn’t like anyone.  Literally.  I want to know none of these people and I never want to join a PTA.

I will scoff at those lists that ask me to bring chips to my child’s second grade party.

I will also run over someone’s foot if they approach my car in the car pool line.  Perhaps, with readers like me, this is the most realistic part.

My Thoughts Exactly.

If I read one more review where someone calls this “clever,” I will start turning over the cover on bookstore shelves so that people scan right over it, a la my tactic with every Jodi Picoult book, ever.  And for all you people who said this was “Chick Lit,” what would “Dick Lit” look like if this is chick lit.  I agree that chick lit exists, as disappointed as that makes me, but I definitely don’t think this can be put into that category.  Is it because there’s a whiny stay at home mom as the main character, or the reader has to struggle through what some people like to call “women’s issues” because that makes the feminist in me want to rip your throat out.  I would probably never stick up for this book, but I will stick up for the fact that it’s not “Chick Lit” just because it deals mostly in the head of a woman that is slowly unveiling her long lasting personal problems.

If this is where valued literature is going then I’m going to have to start shopping the flea market and building a fall out shelter for the apocalitpse (other possible names for this could be: reapocalypse, wordcalypse, and I got nothin’).  Seriously.  Let me collect the literary, poetic literature of Philip Roth and build a dew-less shelter underneath the house with glass air conditioned book shelves to keep them vibrant for years.  It will be the Alexander the Great library of the South.  No more poor hipster literature, or books that people just carry to look like they’re aware of popular culture, but more books that are literary driven with themes that actually change the way people view the world.  Her book may stay on the “Best Seller” shelf for a while, but this will not be a book that people remember in five years.

*Footnote: I love Arrested Development.  Semple’s book writing abilities have nothing on the quirk and perfect casting  of that show.  I refuse to believe that I should like this book, just because Arrested Development is one of the best television shows that has happened sense Seinfeld.


“In the Skin of a Lion” You Are a Red-Lipped Hound

The first sentence of every novel should be: “Trust me, this will take time but there is order here, very faint, very human.”

Screen shot 2013-05-10 at 9.59.06 PMYou know it’s bad when you’re sticky-noting the white brim of library book pages.  The book in its plastic trench and my pink hang-nails hanging out.

With Michael Ondaatje, I would say most readers have a love/hate relationship.  His books are always at the pace of which you would suck and teethe a wheat pick.  By the end you feel thankful that you made it through the heap and somehow it was worth it.  There’s a twinge of you in every book he writes.  Somehow he knows just what to write to make each reader feel like they’ve been touched in the shadows.  I started with Ondaatje for The English Patient which is a hell of a book.  There are no other words for it.  It was dark, but beautiful and chaotic, but quiet, and sensitive, but brutish.  It was just this book of binaries that makes the reader feel like they’ve just been strangled.

In the Skin of a Lion – Michael Ondaatje

I’m not sure why I thought, “Yes, let’s do Ondaatje again” when I was in the library.  The English Patient was a very difficult read.  I didn’t particularly like the time I spent with it, but afterwords I felt like I needed it.  I went originally to get a volunteer application for this summer and happened to walk through…oops, every isle of the fiction section and pull out numerous books, placing them back almost-correctly.  If I don’t leave blank space when I pull it down to read a page, there’s no hope for my broken dewey decimal heart to put the book in the right place.

It must have been the cover.  It has two nude people in a bed, but there’s cooled coffee on the table behind them, each cup holding a spoon.  It’s as if the passion was too much, but it’s not erotica.  The people are entwined in the position of dreaming sleep.

I don’t regret it.  I sat here all night listening to Hoarders in the background, finishing off this book about the heat of thievery and matters of the heart.  Michael Ondaatje seems to weave the  mundane and the delicious so well in his stories.

A heron stretching his head further underwater, the eyes open within the cold flow, open for the fish that could be then raised into the air and dropped moving in the tunnel of the heron’s blue throat.

While herons are an easy bird to find majestic because as they grow older, they grow beards, it’s just one of the most beautiful eating images that I’ve ever read.  He makes me want to plunge my head into creek water.  The novel is all about fishing and water as well.  The reader must take the oars and paddle out to the center of the lake leaving the hook in the poetic glory of the words and wait for sudden feeling.  As a reader you want to keep swimming, but not because the pace is quick or it’s an easy-read but because there’s mystery within the story without it being a detective novel.

Strachan Avenue storm sewer, 1913 @ City of Toronto Archives

At the heart of the novel is one man’s path at finding himself.  It begins and ends with Patrick in the car with his daughter.  They have awoken in the middle of the night to drive cross-country and are telling stories.  Like any good road trip, the stories are fantastic, but believable.  They feel like memories that are passed down by generations.  Stories you’ve heard so much from your mother, from her mother’s mother, that you start to believe them as your own.  Of course it’s true that your grandfather fought a gang of Italians in WWII and because of that came back to the Ford Plant and Friday night’s cashed checks at the bar.

These are the stories that people carry.  They aren’t legends, but they’re the climbing branches of the family tree.  How will we know what we are without these memories?  I’ve asked this before.  They may be painted with the names of different countries, or surrounded by water, but they are our own memories and we raise them as our own.

When I read Philip Roth, I was mesmerized by the glove terminology of the factory.  When I read Ondaatje, I was mesmerized by the way things were built and created in the early 20th century.  Into the start of the novel, men carry steamed breath in the winter and ax’s to load timber.  They don’t know where they are, but it is winter and they are cutting lumber for the owners.  A father and son watch them walk from their bunkhouses to the steep woods of pine trees and in the end the father goes to work for the company.  He begins by building explosives to get trunks from piling up in the river and creating a dam.  The way this technology is told; how the father builds the explosives, the way the trunk’s swing into the air and scar the banks of the river.  I never thought I would be interested in that.

Construction Workers, Bloor Street Viaduct @ City of Toronto Archives

He describes building a bridge and the way the men ride ropes down to their terminal to cement or harness.  How a water viaduct is built by the hands of displaced men and history gives its ownership to the bulbous rich who name it and put up the money.  There’s the feldspar mines, and the idea that thieves are made for love.  I didn’t even know what feldspar was before reading this book and yet it sits in the soft white of my mother’s china cabinet.

Kate’s Literary Tour of Canada. Bloor Street Viaduct

Part of the tension in this novel is the pounding uprising of the working-class immigrants of Toronto, Canada.  This is going to make me seem really dumb, but I always assumed Canada was a country of freedom from the beginning.  History is told in the eyes of the winner and I never thought that the immigrant experience in Canada could be so unfair.  The rich owner, Harris has been using Macedonian’s from all over the city to fix the darkest corners of his dream architecture.  He doesn’t lift a finger from his fat office, but watches men dipped under ground into the caves of feldspar.  Men are expected to live with the duty of near-death.  Some work at the tannery factory and dip themselves in dye, so fully, just for a dollar-a-day.  They don’t last more than six months ever says the author.  Of course, dyed to their necks, becoming wholly new everyday.  Going from a father or an important family gentlemen to a man dipped in color for the pocket watch of a businessman.  It’s strange the way the world divides people, but it must in the way it runs.  This novel had me from the moment a blurred nun is saved by a viaduct worker after slipping off the edge of the bridge.  His arm out of socket, his harness tight-roped at the lip of the bridge, cradling the woman in the brown habit from certain death.

Slant of Moon on a Lake

There’s a way that authors can write about things that we just would never think about.  Ondaatje must sit in the cubicle of a library and wind his way through history books in order to write the intricacies of architecture.  Somehow, mines of feldspar and the lowering of donkeys into the darkness by harness and whines becomes a metaphor for strength.  I just love the way that everything small connects to the bigger picture until again we are riding in a car through the night with a father and daughter who are telling each other the only stories a father and daughter can share, those of memory.  Whether that memory is true, or half-true, or not true at all, it’s a memory that our brains have guarded.  A memory like the slant of moon on a lake, the only pore for a late-night writer’s hand.


Newsday Tuesday

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Favorite Tweets:

Screen shot 2013-04-16 at 7.47.15 PM Screen shot 2013-04-16 at 7.47.29 PM Screen shot 2013-04-16 at 7.47.56 PM Screen shot 2013-04-16 at 7.54.42 PM Screen shot 2013-04-16 at 7.55.37 PM Screen shot 2013-04-16 at 7.56.50 PM Screen shot 2013-04-16 at 7.57.10 PM

Favorite Search Terms:

  • when women were birds negative review: This does not exist.  Stop looking.
  • is it insane to post a 3 paragraph response on facebook: Yes, yes it is.  If you have friends that you have to write a 3-paragraph post to, then you should delete that person.  I don’t have a facebook, but once I had a friend who decided she was going to post a science video (that wasn’t actually science) saying that women on birth control are more promiscuous AND choose the wrong guys.  I then progressed to delete her with a very hard click, a pounding click if you will, and went about my normal day. 

Book News:


Newsday Tuesday

Favorite Tweets:

Favorite Search Terms:

  • Cassie sparkles Michigan: I’m not sure if you’re trying to find your long lost love via google, or just letting me know that Michigan will crown me and let me wave from a pageant float covered in sparkles and frankincense.  Either way, I’m for this search – I back your stalker ways, and your fourth grade crush on Cassie Sparkle.  I can only imagine what her yearbook picture looks like
  • toddler lawn furniture: This gives me THE BEST mental image, but what am I…Target?
  • free southern belle coloring pages: Ya’ll, send those right over, please and thank you.  (This is me curtsying.  I also own a bonnet).
  • Grammar humor: what is my mind doing today.  All of a sudden two men with pocket watches in the slit of their vests, with spectacles resting at the hook of their nose are drinking tea and har-har-ing. (Har-har, dear, har-har: when used in a sentence).

Book News:


Newsday Tuesday

Favorite Tweets:

I just love this question because it’s a good one.  We all keep books on our nightstand (or in my case the poor-girls book basket by the bed) or on our bookshelves in our rooms, but where else?  Do you like to read meta-fiction by the toilet, or magical realism in the kitchen?

(I’m just really hoping Miss Bolden ended on “bud.”)

Favorite Search Terms:

  • mona lisa with cat: I just love that you came to my blog with this.  It seems I am discussing the right things.
  • books that have food contests: You’re looking for the State Fair.  Look for the red and white checked picnic table cloth.
  • the cat lady book by roald dahl: How is it that I had never heard of this before this search term came up?  Disappointed in myself.
  • how to decorate a love poem: You do this with gushy sentimentalities.
  • what is a catchy title for a science fair project about recycling paper?: I got nothin’.  Anyone have anything?
  • ninja takes out the trash: is he wearing all black? did he have to judu-chop the lid?

Book News:


Newsday Tuesday

UPDATE:

TODAY ONLY ON AMAZON the author of TOUCHBACK (now a major motion picture) is having a FREE DAY for the book he wrote based on the movie.  BUY IT HERE.  If anyone is interested.  Let me know that you’re reading this book and after I finish it I will email everyone questions about if they liked it, what they liked, what they didn’t like and we can have everyone’s answers up on my blog along with my review so people get more than one opinion and we see how diverse we are as bloggers and readers.

Favorite Tweets:

Favorite Search Terms:

  • Snow White and Sherlock, Thanks http://curiousatekka.wordpress.com for sharing. These images were created by Colombian advertising agency, Lowe/SSP3.

    bookish wedding ideas: How cute are you?  Get on pinterest, ideas will abound.

  • is it rude for females to talk about bowel movements: No. We’ve entered the age when women leave their house, untie the apron strings and discuss poop at the dining room table.  Even your use of “bowel movements” is polite so I assume you’ll need a manual.  I’ll have to do a blog of recommendations for manner manuals.
  • does the book heat have literary merit:  I wonder if you’re searching for a book titled heat, or whether or not the temperature of the book is hot, literally or metaphorically.  I can tell you that metaphorically Nora Roberts and Erica Jong write “steamy” books.  However, the heat of a book when you hold it depends on how it makes you feel inside that soft spot above your ribs.
  • at the age of six, cassie announced that the idea that a man lived in the sky: I wonder if my mother googled this, or someone is growing up to be a writer.  It’s these search terms that I love.
  • ted hughes bra poems: Everyone comes to my blog in search of Ted Hughes.  This is a SYLVIA PLATH sided blog.

Book News:


“…No More a Boy than a Fish with Wings.” – Kate Walbert

The Gardens of Kyoto - Kate Walbert

Swoon.  Sigh.  Let me dust my cheek with my handkerchief and lean my palm against my chin.  My elbow against this balcony.  My eyes against the green stems of the Gardens of Kyoto.  If you can picture this, my bottom lip is out, plush, my hair huffed up with each breath.  This story was a doozy, it makes me want to be a romantic in a dainty cloth dress.  The Gardens of Kyoto spans years of wars, men going insane, or sad.  It spans gardens, Philadelphia, dark slave rooms filled with walls of scratched numbers, mansions, and sisters.  How can you span sisters without spanning generations, without explaining they’re like their mother or their father.  You read Gardens of Kyoto and you see sisters, their span of lives, their similarities and differences.  I love the confusion of sisters, the “why does she do it this way when it’s so clear our duty is this.”

This is a sad book.  Nobody is happy in the end, well Daphne, but Daphne is such a flower name that you can’t make her outcomes ugly.  (NOBODY WON THE PULITZER IN FICTION).

The Pulitzer

*EXCUSE ME WHILE I RANT AND THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE DISAGREE WITH MY OPINION:  The reason no one won the Pulitzer this year, in my humble blogging opinion, is that the art of fiction in America needs to do better.  We are in an age where people are selling e-books and e-stories for pennies and people are self-publishing due to various reasons (some that they can’t find a publisher who will take their story).  Let’s not forget Harry Potter was discarded by numerous publisher’s before a humble small publishing house finally accepted it for publication.  We need to remember it isn’t always in the name.  All of the people up for Pulitzer’s this year had made a name in contemporary fiction.  Does a name mean that the book you published, the trees you killed for that paper, were worth it?  We just need to ask ourselves this before we publish our books.  If I’m going to buy a hardcover, I expect that the book is as good as its binding.

I’m not saying any of the books up for this years Pulitzer Prize were bad (I haven’t read them), I’m just saying that maybe it’s a sign for American fiction.  We need to stay true to our spirit.  Just because a book is outlandish, does not mean it’s wonderful.  Just because your last name is Wallace, does not mean everything you write will turn to gold.  I do love some Denis Johnson though, he gets me every time.  I will read this new novella even though it was not awarded.

I hope the publishing world starts looking for writers in the humblest of places.  We all have a story, but we don’t all want to write it down.  Do you trust publishing houses to tell you what’s wonderful in fiction?  Or do you ever wonder if something great is out there that you’ll never read because it’s been turned down too many times, and the writer is now stuffing it into a drawer, folding a twine string around the parchment, or leaving it to collect dust, for their children to find after their death.  I wonder…I often wonder.

Thank you, Pulitzer committee for making us scared again.  What is writing if not fear?  Fear that we won’t have time to tell our stories.  Fear that these characters will die and disappear.  Fear that the people won’t love you, that the words won’t be beautifully strung together like a back home Christmas wreath on your dying mother’s door.  Fear is what writing is.  Be memorable.

*END RANT.

Gardens of Kyoto is a lovely book if you don’t mind being unhappy for a few days.  The words are beautiful, Kate Walbert has a way of saying something with a choir of bodies that makes you want to scream, bury your face in a pillow and shove the book into the sleeve of the pillow case to dream about later.  I’m especially bias about this book because I have this sick fantasy about being a girl someone writes letters home too.  I think I was meant to be born in the thirty’s, when my father was born.  I was meant to feel a sliver of the depression and then send someone off into the clutches of battlefields, dead trees, winter.

Maybe that’s why I especially love books written from the narration of war widows, or war girlfriends, girls who’ve been pinned and are always waiting.  I have this ideal of running down the dust road to the mail box, missing the pot holes slick with mud from yesterday’s rain.  And while Ellen doesn’t ever get to do this, she does have men who belong to her, but belong more to the war.  Men who gave her a small piece of themselves, but took the rest to be closed and trampled.

I think that’s the thing I loved most of the book, the small pieces of human.  Every character gave Ellen a small bit of themselves.  Her child, who she writes too, gave her the smell of fresh skin, of babies, a murmur.  Her cousin Randall, gave her a goodbye – his hands pressed to the round parts of her face.  Her mother gave her nothing but quiet, to mourn.  Sterling gave her a view of history.  Everyone gave her something of themselves, something of history.  Isn’t that the way though, we will never truly know someone because we won’t know their thoughts.

Southern Belle

In my head, I talk in a southern accent.  I have to be careful it doesn’t come out in my real life but I like to decorate the words, round them, drawl out my conversations with myself.  It’s strange the way we have these small secrets with ourselves.  It must be the reason our imagination is at its best in the night, just before sleep, when we are the most ourself – the most alone with these bodies.

Clearly, mine is a body lying in the sweat of the South.  And yours…


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