Tag Archives: quotes

Story Anthologies That Don’t Suck | O. Henry Prize Stories 2014

I have to confess that I don’t subscribe to any literary magazines.

I’m a hypocritical book mongrel.

I rally for the short story form, even flash fiction if it’s done right, but then I don’t actually support the magazines that provide and establish authors that try to keep that form alive.  My only way of giving back is to read as many anthologies as I possibly can, particularly contemporary fiction anthologies.  I also try not to stick to the ones that Barnes and Noble carries because they never actually choose any weird ones.

Usually, when you read an anthology it’s because you either A. like the genre, B. you are starting your own small marathon of writing flash fiction to the early morning, or C. you want to know what the “best of” contains for that particular year, or in this case, century.  (Yes, be alarmed, someone actually believed they could put together a fair and righteous anthology of fiction for the CENTURY).  I would turn that book over in bookstores, hoping no one would buy it.

The O. Henry Prize Stories 2014

Anyway, also per usual when reading an anthology, not all of the stories are good.  There are few that really spark and then only because one particular line changed how you viewed the world.  Then you read everything by that author hoping to get that sick feeling again (like a woman in a bad relationship) and it’s all for naught. Those feelings come quickly, and spaz out before we can even realize what’s happened.

Westinghouse Time Capsule @ Wikipedia Commons

This is NOT the case for The O’Henry Prize Stories of 2014.  There were only two stories that I didn’t feel were up to par and the rest were brilliant.  I found myself unable to physically write down (due to hand cramping) all of the quotes that I highlighted.  And the stories are new and fresh.  They don’t center around one genre, or one betrayal from the world. They are like a little capsule that we can fling into space and hope that some extraterrestrial with a sense of compassion finds to explain this world of love gusts and expectations that don’t meet fantasies.

Or we can bury it, for the future. I’d be willing for this book to be my message to the next world along with a long composition of why they should try to recreate the dinosaur, read Emily Dickinson, and take up Twitter.

  • The collection begins with mounting tension when two boys play with a gun.  One without a mother, and one who holds secrets tighter than he can hold a fist.  I’m not sure now which is which because they both blend together as children, and only when they become adults do they realize their differences (as most of us do with our childhood friends).  My favorite thing about it is that it repeats itself multiple times, through multiple ages of childhood and adulthood.  There is a “cathedral of silence” during every year of this man-boy’s life.  He faces this silence like an open wound and it leaves him questioning who he was, and who he is now.

“Later when he tells the story to people they won’t understand.  Why didn’t he run away? His friend had  a loaded gun.  He will be repeatedly amazed at how poorly everyone remembers their childhoods, how they project their adult selves back into those bleached-out photographs, those sandals, those tiny chairs.  As if choosing, as if deciding, as if saying no were skills like tying your shoelaces or riding a bike.  Things happen to you.  If you were lucky, you got an education and weren’t abused by the man who ran the fife-a-side.  If you were very lucky you finally ended up in a place where you could say, I’m going to study accountancy … I’d like to live in a countryside … I want o spend the rest of my life with you” (“The Gun,” Mark Haddon, Granta)

  • The next story, “Talk” by Stephon Dixon (The American Reader) plays with the idea of point-of-view in a story, the inner voice that we all communicate with after we stop trying to talk to our cats for most of a lonely day. It also plays with growing old when that inner voice might be the only person that we talk to in a day’s time.  Even when you think of talking to someone, that inner voice can hold you back, be it the voice a friend or a foe.
  • Art by Sejnow @ Deviant Art (Creative Commons)

    “Valentine” by Tessa Hadley (The New Yorker) just made me never want to have a daughter.  I’m not too far away to remember what I put up with from boys in high school, but I am too far away to meet that girl and shake hands like an acquaintance.  The girl in this story doesn’t “do bad all by herself,” but “does bad” for the boy with all the wrong angles.  He’s a writer, but he’s a wanderer.  He’s a bit grunge, but he’s haughty in philosophy.  It really just tells the story of the girl before the boy, during the boy, and then plays with the idea that you can go back to the girl who was the “before” version of yourself. (Hint: You can’t).

“There was a rare blend in him of earnestness and recklessness.  And he seemed to know instinctively what to read, where to go, what music to listen to.  He was easily bored, and indifferent to anything he didn’t like” (Tessa Hadley).

  • “Petur” by Olivia Clare (Ecotone) broke my heart more than a little.  It’s a mother and son story, the son is an adult on a vacation with his mother when a volcano goes off in Poland and they are forced to live in ash.  The ash becomes symbolic for their relationship and his mother’s scattered mind as she walks through the (not wreckage) but fall, and he watches her own odd unfurling.

Sparks Royalty Free Sparks Images (Creative Commons)

“Nights after her afternoon walks, she’d sit with a field guide.  I have a bird heart, she’d say, your mother, the bird.  Precise knowledge of a fjall’s origins, or of the call each bird made, was the closest she felt she had, she said, to wisdom, because lang, because details, were important.  They were solid and finite and felt infinite” (Olivia Clare).

  • Abuse. Roadtrips. Racism. Lingering unresolved, but unpracticed feelings. Old towns. Father’s who still protected their daughters from men who drank too much and leaned too crooked over stoves thinking. Trees with names. Tradition.

“You remember your mother saying you had to learn to use the Lexicon because words were both tools and weapons and the difference between the right one and the almost-right one was like lightning and a lightning bug, and when you said the lectern was higher than you could reach she showed you the step stool hidden underneath” (“You Remember the Pin Mill,” David Bradley, Narrative).

  • “Nemecia” by Kirsten Valdez Quade will stay with me the same way the movie, “Black Swan” stays with me.  They both have similar disturbing skin scenes.  Nemecia is an almost older sister to Maria, but in the end, they become neither sister nor friend.  It’s really the story of how grief creates competition in us.

Black Swan by It’s Too Dark @ Deviant Art (Creative Commons)

“Nemecia had an air of tragedy about her, which she cultivated. She blackened her eyes with a kohl pencil” (Narrative).

  • Most disturbing story in the collection is easily “Trust” by Dylan Landis (Tin House).  I was so uncomfortable with this story.  It felt a little bit like someone giving you a creative writing prompt like “If your house burned down, what would you take.” And immediately you start to live through your house burning down, and how the flames flicker, but they don’t flicker and you realize you’ve never experienced a fire and they probably gust like a parachute.  It’s just like that except it’s a teenage robbery and I just wanted it to end (in a good way…in a good writing way).  It’s also like every Law & Order episode that you live in fear of, except this is MID-DAY and you start to realize that this could happen at anytime of day, not just when you’re sleeping (which is terrifying).
  • “Old Houses” by Allison Alsup (New Orleans Review) tells the old neighborhood folktale from the perspective of a barbecue.  It’s just creepy enough to not really affect you personally, but add an edge to your day that wasn’t there before.  It wasn’t as strong as the others in the collection, but it did stand tall.
  • My favorite story in the entire collection is “Fatherland” by Halina Duraj (Harvard Review). I think that’s because I thought it was just going to be another World War II story, but it was beyond me giving you any account of why it’s so good.

“I tried to stop my father’s words at my ears but they would not stick.  I knew they weren’t meant for me, but I was half my mother, my father had said so himself.  Like any good soldier, my father shot bullets through the air toward a target, but did not understand collateral damage” (Halina Duraj).

  • Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show @ Wikipedia Commons

    “West of the Known” by Chanelle Benz (The American Reader) was the story that has stuck with me beyond reading the last story in this collection days ago.  I’m not sure why.  Maybe it’s the quick moves between innocence and horror.  It’s (strangely) a Wild West story, but it doesn’t have any of that gun-slinging bullshit.  Well, it does, but it’s believable.  It ain’t no John Wayne rodeo if you know what I’m sayin’. At the end of the story, something bloody terrible happens and it’s truly believable.  I can feel the rope burns still.

“For in the high violence of joy, is there not often a desire to swear devotion? But what then? When is it ever brung off to the letter? When they come for our blood, we will not end, but ton on in an unworldly fever” (Chanelle Benz).

On second thought, maybe I like this story so much because it uses the word “brung” which I obsessively, and unconsciously used for the majority of seventh grade, while my father corrected me every single time.

  • Finding who you are in the grace of picked flowers, that’s “The Women” by William Trevow (The New Yorker).
  • Snake Handling @ Wikipedia Commons

    “Good Faith” is about snake handlers during a revival and how sometimes one person can’t change the ideals instilled in us since birth.  It’s a fantastic story, truly.  It might be one of my favorites from the collection because the ending is beyond powerful.  It’s the longest story in the collection and I wouldn’t mind if it was transformed into a novel. I would read these characters again and again.

  • Guy dates Asian girl.  They disembody one another. Life goes on.  A short summary of “The Right Imaginary Person” by Robert Anthony Siegal (Tin House).

“Parents and teachers agree to forget that children are in fact lunatics, and that what we call growing up is just learning to hide it better so nobody will lock us away” (Robert Anthony Siegal).

  • “Nero” by Louise Erdrich (The New Yorker) was just depressing.  I didn’t really fall for this story, but the dog got to me.
  • Golden Light @ Pixa Bay – Free Illustration (Creative Commons)

    The way light is fractured through a window is retold in the story “A Golden Light” by Rebecca Hirsch Garcia (The Threepenny Review).  It’s one of the rarely hopeful, but then hope-squashed stories in the collection.

  • “Fairness” by Chinelo Okparanta is a disturbing story that immediately made me worry about my students and the “salt and ice challenge.”  It should be read after reading a “Cosmopolitan” magazine or obsessing over people you don’t know on social media.  Or, just listen to some Beyonce and then read this story.  A girl is obsessed with lightening her skin based on the standards set by overseas societies. BLEH.
  • I hated “The Inheritors” by Kristen Iskandrian (Tin House).  I’d almost even skip it if reading this book again.

“I like being sad, which mystified her; I like it until I reach the nadir where sadness changes, as if chemically, to repulsion and self-loathing, making me wish that I was “capable” of “handling” things instead of turning away from them in disgust until my disgust disgusts me, and my anger at my inadequacy as a human being angers me, and all of that pure, easy, delectable sorrow gets squandered” (Kristen Iskandrian).

  • “Deep Eddy” by Michael Parker (Southwest Review) is the only flash piece in the collection.  It’s about virginity and dating and how both of these things make us question everything.

“She’d lost her flower with the first of a string of boys and she liked me only in the way girls like those boys who make them forget, temporarily, some pain I hoped was only temporary” (Michael Parker).

  • The next story was kind of sad because the girl character was the worst version of myself. It’s set in Venice (I think, but I’m questioning myself now), called  “Oh, Shenandoah” by Maura Stanton (New England Review). I often say to my boyfriend, “I just want to hug you so hard it hurts” when he does something incredibly annoying.  This chick is like me in that situation, but to the extreme. And the boy, just daydreamy and unable to understand any of her cues.
  • “Opa-locka” by Laura van den Berg (The Southern Review) is about a team of sisters who fulfill their childhood hopes by becoming personal investigators. At the time, they don’t understand their need for this odd job, eating gas station snack foods on roofs in a stake-out, but as the story progresses, the reader is clued into their past and why they might need these rooftop rendezvous, for each other and just for themselves.

This O.Henry Prize Collection is one of the best I’ve read in a long time.  Not only were most of the short stories meaningful and worth the read, but I can mostly remember each one even though I read some of them as long as a month ago.  This is a collection of stories that linger and each story gets redefined as you think of it again.  I HIGHLY recommend this book. HIGHLY, HIGHLY, HIGHLY, Mountaintop.

 

 

 


Back To School // Make You Drool

I’ve done a lot of Bookish Gift Guides over the years, but I’m going to mix it up today.  I keep getting a million Labor Day sale emails.  I can’t resist when they ask for your email for coupons, even though a few days ago I went through and unsubscribed from everything that never gets opened.  I decided that a lot of my students were graduating and learning how to function in a cubicle/closet of a dorm.  Plus, isn’t it just fun to buy school supplies? Or home office supples? Or just organization cubbies because they usually have all kinds of funky patterns and matchy-matchy themes?

So, here it is: THE BACK TO SCHOOL // MAKE YOU DROOL Gift Guide

  • SIGNAGE

Dorm rooms, home offices, and students should be surrounded by inspiration.  Inspiration these days comes from quotes, and signs on Pinterest, Etsy, and Tumblr.  When I was in high school, I printed Tumblr quotes and taped them to my mirror so I could be surrounded by goodness (or what I thought were deep quotes about people not understanding who I am). Now, scotch tape isn’t needed, nails and hammers are.

Signage from Etsy

Signage from Etsy

My favorite use of signage is this photo from Birch & Bird Vintage Home Interiors.  It’s bright and a tad Southern with the monogram M flower wheel.  And it includes my next must have – Inspiration Boards.

Birch & Bird Home Interiors

  • INSPIRATION BOARDS: 

Inspiration boards are like tangible versions of Pinterest.  Anything you find that inspires you in a magazine, a book (I’ve been known to rip pages, I know, I’m awful), postcards, receipts from movies or dinner where deep conversations were had, or just trinkets.  My inspiration board in my childhood bedroom used to have a Nazar (to ward off evil) just because I thought it was a good totem.  It can truly be anything that breathes inspiration into you.

Some of these inspiration board options are pretty expensive.  My advice is to find a flea market, a shop of stalls filled with wood pieces, a store of vintage finds, a Habitat for Humanity Resource Center, and just find something to DIY.

Inspiration Boards on Etsy

Inspiration Boards on Etsy

I have a few favorite offices with inspiration boards.  The first is from Tumblr (La-Belle-Vie).  I wish I could give credit to the actual person who owns this quaint office space, but here’s the beautiful image. This office is ALL about the inspiration board.  It makes the room, and shows that inspiration boards done right, don’t need to have expensive, luxury furniture.

Tumblr Image @ La-Belle-Vie

The next one is all about color.  It actually looks like a kitchen to me. Maybe it was a kitchen, or those spices just have something going on.  I have a shed in my backyard that I inherited from the last owner.  I would LOVE to make it into a home office, but my fear of snakes and my disgust at scratching mosquito bites until they bleed keeps me out of there.  A girl can dream though.   I think this one is all about organization and paint.

Decobiz Inspiration Office

Then, there’s “decorative clutter” on Pinterest. Wish I knew who had that adorable bench, but again, Pinterest doesn’t really cater to copyright.

“Decorative Clutter” (If this is your image, email me)

I mean, come on, guys, there’s a J.Crew bag up there. Inspiration can come from anything, anywhere, anytime.

  • DESK ORGANIZATION:

I believe desks are where writers, readers, and business professionals can really be themselves.  My creative writing teacher in high school had a taxidermy crocodile head on his desk and we never got the story behind it, but I remember that head being a reason why I really liked him as a teacher.  My dad has clay-wrinkled sculptures that I made in elementary school art and expensive pen holders from his time in management.  My desk at school has two plants: Laverne (philodendron) and Shirley (cactus wearing red flower bow).  It also has a draw-it-yourself frame so my students can let of steam by drawing when they need to.  Desks are for momentos, trinkets, and thingamabobs (thanks, Little Mermaid). If you need a little inspiration, here’s some fun.

Desk Accessories

Desk Accessories

My favorites around the internet are as follows:

This is from OCM BLOG

I just really like the hour glass (PINK HOUR GLASS YES) and the mason jar of paperclips, and the adorable white frames.  It’s just an eclectic mix of colors and pictures.

This is from DIY Enthusiasts

A lamp goes a LONG way and so do fresh flowers.  Who needs a significant other to buy them flowers, Walmart has a bin right by the door – GET YOU SOME, GIRL.

This is from Lovable Lockets

Sometimes the best place to be “girly” isn’t your closet, it’s your desk.  I love this desk design from Lovable Lockets.  It makes me feel feminine, fresh, and modern.

Now I have to go off and stare at my “study” and try to figure out how I can new & improve it into an eclectic, whimsy, genius center.  I’ll take pictures and share when I think I’ve got it where I want it.


“DO WHAT SCARES YOU. BRING A SCARF.”

Before I say anything, I want you to know that I loved Marie Helene-Bertino’s short story collection, Safe as Houses.  Evidence here. 

2 A. M. at The Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helen Bertino

Some authors should stick to short stories.  I can’t say yet that this is the case with Helene-Bertino because she’s only now written one novel.  However, it really was a novel of a bunch of stories titled 2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas.  This novel is about lost and lonely people in Philadelphia.  It’s specifically about three characters; Madeline, Sarina, and Lorca.  Madeleine is a young elementary school girl who’s mother has passed and father is a bodily ghost that spends everyone else’s waking hours in his bed next to his record player and open bottle.  Sarina is Madeleine’s teacher who is divorced and not really looking for much, but an end of evening ice cream and a little compassion.  Lorca owns the legendary “Cat’s Pajamas” jazz club where he and a posse live until a new cop takes over their street and issues a citation that could put them out of business.  Although the main plot points are about these three characters, there are full “chapters” dedicated to the thoughts of people who bump them on the street, see them in a coffee shop, or have memories deeply embedded with these characters.

“Gathers him in his name – Jack Francis Lorca. We carry our ancestors in our names and sometimes we carry our ancestors through the sliding doors of emergency rooms and either way they are heavy, man, either way we can’t escape.”

Caramel Apple for Madeline @ Joy (Creative Commons)

It’s both uplifting and upsetting.  The minor character chapters seek to show that these three main characters shouldn’t be so lonely, just drifting. They have people that care, or have cared for a very long time. These characters are all exhausted, and people in their lives are dropping, not quite like flies, more like pins, silently and with too much meaning.   The “chapters” were also interesting because they went by time.  I was expecting it to end at 2 A.M., it didn’t, but it was nice to go through one full day with these characters, watching them move, almost literally, through time.

“BUT THEN, her class will be making caramel apples. Madeleine has never had a caramel apple and she wants to taste one more than she wants God’s love.”

Electric Guitar @ Wikipedia Commons

I was really interested in Madeleine’s story because she was the youngest bitter book character that I’ve ever read.  She had no friends, girls were scared of her baditude, and all she wanted to do was sing a solo in the church service.  The reader gets the full brunt of a woman’s death through this small girl.  It’s actually quite a feat because I felt like her grief was real grief.  She was angry, had obsessions, and only wanted few sweet things, but was never given them without a battle.  Her principle has no empathy and her teacher worries without speaking.

“Madeleine has no friends: Not because she contains a tender grace that fifth graders detect and loathe.  Not because she has a natural ability that points her star ward, though she does.  Madeleine has no friends because she is a jerk.”

Sarina, her teacher, is just a simple woman who has returned home after the death of her mother.  The reader finds out the story of her missing father later in the book, and a poor prom experience.  This really is most of her story until a man enters the novel.  Lorca owns the jazz club and takes care of the men within the main band of the club, the Cubanistas.  His girlfriend is practically done with him, and his son is sullen, wild, but a gifted guitar player.

“They are sixteen and skinny.  Their collarbones vault in upsetting directions.”

John Coltrane @ Jason Hickey cdcovers/john coltrane/crescent.jpg (Creative Commons)

This is it, really.  The book had Helene-Bertino’s signature language.  Funky and beautiful, like a good John Coltrane song.  If you read for inventive and lovely language, then read everything she’s written.  As far as a story goes, this whole thing just saddened me.  I finished left with the question, “So what?”  I wasn’t concerned that the people were out of hope, I was just more concerned at the reason that I read the book.  I know these people in my everyday life.  They may not be from Philadelphia, but they are finding themselves, living through it, silent when the world needs them to talk, and open when the world asks them to be closed.  If this story was meant to introduce me to grief, or introduce me to sadness, or acknowledge that everyone is fighting a hard battle, then it did its job, but I’m not sure that was enough.  The big finale, was just odd, honestly.  When I got to the end, I knew the big finish was coming, but it was some weird want-to-be magical realism.  People almost became who they always wanted to be, or what they hated inside themselves came out.  It was all really strange.  It might be worth the read just for that clutter.

“Who cares which way is faster? You can’t say you know a city unless you know three ways to everywhere.  Madeleine swings her legs over the edge of the roof.  I sang on a stage.  She is close enough to high-five Saint Anthony but doesn’t because no matter what kind of thrilling night you’ve had, you do not bother saints this way.”

For a reader who waited for her next book, I was disappointed.  I’m not saying this is a bad book, but it didn’t have the closure I needed and it didn’t say anything new.  Like another reader on Goodreads, I think this novel could get a cult-following. I don’t think it’s introducing a new style to literature, or that it’s fresh or modern, but it’s a catchy song, and it’s beauty in the sadness.   I think a good multi-character book makes you want to read each character, not look towards a mouthy girl who walks a dog, eats breakfast at the local cafe, and tries not to take on second mothers in all the outstretched hands.

“Pedro is an open-air pooch, not prone to evenings at home.  His joints are nimble and his snout superb. He spent the previous night following the scent of a bitch, pink notes and hydrangea and dung.”


Project 365 | Week 46 & 47

Day 335 | Peter Pan

All Teeth

A Miniature Peter Pan.  Never wants to grow up, just jump on the bed.

Day 336 | Split Ends

Jas is really bad at the hair stylish, so we haven’t brought him.

Tail in the face, tail in the face.  Sounds like a Ren & Stimpy song.

Day 337 | It’s Risen! 

Bread

Bread that got left at my house when it was supposed to go to the Thanksgiving Table.  When making it again, it sunk.

Day 338 | Let Down Your Glory, Glory! 

Sunset

Everyone needs a good sunset picture.

Day 339 | Nose Knows

The Night Creature

Day 340 | The Making

Mixing and Baking

The little bits of Thanksgiving. (Behind the scenes).

Day 341 | Quote of the Day

Thursday.

I thought my student’s quote and my quote went along together swimmingly. Shout out Lil’ Wayne for making that happen.

Day 342 | Double Mint Gum

Dolly

Over Thanksgiving, we cloned my boyfriend.

Day 343 | Bump in the Road

If you’ve ever wondered how spoiled my cats are.

They not only model, they sleep like an old married couple.

Day 344 | Storytime

Bedtime Stories

Mau reading the menace bedtime stories.  I was kicked out of my position as almost-favorite and in stepped the boyfriend.

Day 346 | Happy Days

Christmas Card Photo

I won’t really put this in my Christmas card, but I will blast it out all over the blogosphere.  If you want a Christmas card, just email! : ) It’ll be like A Month of Letters all over again.

PS. COMING SOON: BOOKISH PRESENTS FOR CHRISTMAS!


Project 365 | Week 42

Day 297:

Like Mother like Daughter

On my parents recent trip to Florida, my mom looked through my Uncle’s suitcase full of pictures.  My mom is always saying that I look like my father’s side, but I think this proves otherwise.  My mother is beautiful and that top is so in right now. : )  She’s 29 in this picture and I’m 24 currently.

Day 298:

Quote of the Day

Everyday on my board, I put a “quote of the day.”  Friday it was Dumbledore and tomorrow it will be Anne Frank.  My students sometimes like to choose the quotes so I know at the very least, they’re reading the board.  My students are turning the 98% of them that is water into 98% that is words.

Day 299:

Four words: Fried Girl Scout Cookies

Every year another fried food is added to the list of fried foods sold at the NC State Fair.  Last year, it was essential that I had fried mac&cheese which tasted like spiced cheesy rubber.  This year it was fried Samoas.  I refuse to call them “Caramel Delights.”  Again, I wasn’t satisfied.  There’s nothing better still, than a fried oreo.

Day 300:

Grandma

I couldn’t resist hanging this on the fridge when it came in one of my mother’s letters.  My grandmother in rollers and short shorts holding a string of fish.  If that doesn’t yell, STRONG WOMAN, I don’t know what does.

Day 301:

This is why snail mail will never die.

Z and I are single-handedly keeping the post office alive.

Day 302:

Fajina

I instagrammed my father.  He just learned how to google.

Day 303:

Prometheus (Ridley Scott Picture Credit)

Oh, you know, just spent two hours of my day after watching this movie, discussing with my boyfriend whether aliens existed and evolution was real and the major questions of the universe.


Newsday Tuesday

I’m exhausted today, please excuse spelling errors.

Favorite Tweets:

Favorite Search Terms:

  • we cannot prevent the birds of sorrow from flying over our heads but we can refuse…to let them build nests…in our hair: This search term actually made me google this exact thing and the image to your right is what I found. AWESOME.
  • books that goes with metaphors: I would hope all books go with metaphors, but unfortunately that’s just not the case.
  • cassie’s bridal shower gift bingo cards: I would be the chick who played bingo at her bridal shower, and I’d invite all the oldies to come too.  Not only bingo, but bunko, penuckle, the list goes on…
  • captain planet pumping iron: He sure does have some big muscles (I wrote knuckles here originally…I’m so tired.  Men do have hairy knuckles though) but I think Pop-eye could take him after a serious can of spinach.

Books News:

Natasha Tretheway Reading, “Beyond Katrina”


Project 365 | Week 19

Another week, another wash load of photos:

Day 126: A Sunday

Day 126 | I’m becoming my Mother

I found this magnet, and I quite enjoyed it, and then I decided I could make it myself, and I haven’t.  (Series-of-unfortunate-commas, oh man).  I totally regret not buying it on the spot for my new fridge.  (I got a big girl job).  I keep telling my friends not to be jealous of my big girl job because my mom keeps shouting, “Put on your big girl panties” throughout our house.    Plus, she has more fridge magnets than the big fridge in the sky.  I’m becoming my mother.

Day 127:  A Monday

Day 127 | Out of the Club Stripping.

I decided it would be really cool if I stripped my bed, not for washing, but for staining.  When I was a junior in college I  painted a giant white tree on the head board.  I was (am) really into nature and all that, being barefoot – you know.  I didn’t realize stripping your bed is a whole ordeal.  However, I did discover that at the bare wood, someone painted a lovely little bouquet.  I think my mom haggled our neighbors down to $15 on this vintage find when we got it.

Day 128: A Tuesday

Day 128 | I’m in the 39%

Like President Obama, I’m for marriage equality.  A lot of people think that this Amendment 1 was to ban the unions between LGBTQ community members, but all it did was prolong the inevitable.  Like Obama has said in the past, we are a nation that is evolving.  Here’s how I look at it: you don’t have to vote for Gay Marriage, you have to vote for equality.   This Amendment wasn’t asking for the holy rollers to let the LGBTQ community get married in the sanctity of their church, but under the government.  This is why we have separation of church and state, people.

Here’s a story:

Yesterday, I stopped at Food Lion on my way home to get Broccoli.  One of my teens who I hadn’t seen in a while was the cashier in my line.  Of course, I asked him where he’d been.

He said, “I have no reason to come up there anymore.”

“Why?”

“We got a computer at home and everything.”

Now, I’ve had a computer my entire life.  I never wanted for technology, or anything really, in my household.  I always had easy access to Microsoft Word to type my papers, and google search was available for all the examples I used in those papers.  However, to my teen at Food Lion having a computer at home was a remarkable thing.   Think about this story next time you imagine everyone as equal.  Ask yourself then how you can make this life more equal, more free for others.

Day 129: A Wednesday

Day 129 | “Tonight we Dine in Hell”

This is Jasper on the kitchen island.  THIS is Jasper the dictator.

Day 130: A Thursday

Day 130 | Spring, darling

“With freedom, books, flowers, and the moon, who could not be happy?” — Oscar Wilde

Day 131: A Friday

Day 131 | WantonCreation makes me wonder if bowling shoes are the same in every country.

I want to know where you can buy bowling shoes.  They looked cute with my summer dress.

Day 131 | Winning

I know that score says I’m not winning, but I just got a strike! (Strikes! are in need of exclamation points).

Day 132 : A Saturday

Day 132 | Daily Toes Cleaning

Sometimes, he’s cute, only sometimes though.  This blog is a Holy Comma Disaster.

Day 133: A Sunday

Day 133 | Happy Mother’s Day

On the side of the road a little goose family was munching on the propellers of dandelions.  Weird thing is, my mother loves Geese.  She giggles over gaggles (had to get it in there).  In honor of my mother, and all wonderful mothers like her, Happy Mother’s Day.


Newsday Tuesday

This month I will be featuring a lot more poetry news since it’s National Poetry Month.

Favorite Tweets:

Favorite Search Terms:

  • sylvia plath – spinster:  She never made it to spinsterhood.  Unfortunately she used the oven as a cubby hole and had children.
  • roald dahl font: He has his own font?  I’m totally intrigued.
  • blue poetry: Is this poetry of sorrow, or poetry of sky?
  • bowel movement in a bookstore: No wonder you got my blog.

Book News:


“You get a little moody sometimes but I think that’s because you like to read. People that like to read are always a little fucked up.” — Pat Conroy

I know that I’m officially a slacker for not getting through the entire twenty reviews of the last twenty books, but like a long road-trip, sometimes you must stop in the middle and enjoy the people who are loitering at the gas station/rest stop where you are pumping regular.  So, here I am in the middle, unable to decide which half of the books was better than the last.  I can say, in the last half of April and this beginning section of May was when I read all of these last ten books.  I’m actually still reading the last one right now and hoping to get through it in time to write the little blurb on it.  I will, don’t worry.  I read when I sit on the toilet, and at stop lights if I need to get through a book (yes, I’m frequently honked at.  I’m probably the person who gets flicked the bird most often on North Carolina suburban roads as well.  These are the prices you pay for a good book though).

So, without further adeiu, I present to you the next ten books:

11. Everything is Illuminated – Jonathan Safron Foer 

I am a Foer minion, so it’s unfair of me to even continue putting him on the list.  You know my review is going to be stellar (although this did become a movie and I’m just not sure how the HELL they would ever make a movie out of this peculiar tale, especially one starring Elijah Wood.  He was a hobbit for God’s sakes).

This book, is epically confusing and epically gratifying at the same time.  It’s a fragmented story told in two different times between two, well more than two, many generations.  It’s small village, meets young American and young, spleened tour guide and his grandfather and dog, the bitch, who embark on a journey to discover their missing ancestry.  It’s freakin’ hilarious, upsetting, tearful.  And then the word choice, it’s like eating a dessert made of everything good in the world and completely not tested on animals and not fed hormones and dipped in a hard layer of chocolate (of if you’re allergic whatever it is you love) and being able to eat it one bite at a time for three or four days, however much you want.  Okay, I know, I know, worst metaphor ever.  Let me just say, I don’t think I have a notebook big enough to fit the amount of quotes I highlighted throughout this novel.  It’s like twisted fairytale meets post-World War II kid trying to find his ancestors who happen to be in this wicked and foreboding Grimm Fairytale.  I’m starting to not make sense…and neither will you after reading this book.  Foer is a gift from the universe into the tiny hands of each and every person.

Quotes:

  • “Do you think I’m wonderful? she asked him one day as they leaned against the trunk of a petrified maple. No, he said. Why? Because so many girls are wonderful. I imagine hundreds of men have called their loves wonderful today, and it’s only noon. You couldn’t be something that hundreds of others are.”
  • “She was a genius of sadness, immersing herself in it, separating its numerous strands, appreciating its subtle nuances. She was a prism through which sadness could be divided into its infinite spectrum.”
  • “Everything is the way it is because everything was the way it was. Sometimes I feel ensnared in this, as if no matter what I do, what will come has already been fixed.”
And most of those aren’t even the best, they’re just the more condensible   quotes.  Bah, you won’t regret reading this.  And it is one of those books that will completely change your world.
————————————————————————————
12. Looking for Alaska – John Green 
*
And the most frustrating book of this selection goes to John Green.  I tend, in the library, to gravitate towards young adult novels.  However, in large bookstores, I gravitate toward book covers in the adult section.  John Green came into my fat-knuckle-cracked hands because I saw a quote on the internet (tumblr) that was from this book and I thought, “wow, I’ve been seeing that quote a lot, I should probably read that book.”  And so I waited patiently in my position of seventh on the requests list at the library and got to work on the novel the day it was ready to be picked up.  The title is a complete lie, there is never any looking for the State of Alaska or the girl who happens to be named Alaska.  And the whole entire time I’m just waiting for this great love story of our time, like Romeo and Juliet or something, to unfold under my bed sheets and make me go to bed and dream about rose petals and swan couples shaping their necks together to make a heart, but instead Green crushed my heart and soul.
*
I can’t even spoil it for you.  You just have to read this book to witness the heartbreak.
*
And my question is, why is it that Young Adult novels always pack these heavy-metal-biker-dude punches?  I mean did all the authors get together and say, we’re going to ruin their lives, and make them throw kitchen ware at their loved ones today with the endings of our books?  It’s like they heaved a collective sigh, got dressed in their Bitter Buffalo suits, and went into their Grumpy Gill bubbles and came out with a novel that is …semi-good writing, but kills every inkling of hope in the reader.
*
This book ruined me for at least three days.  And yet, here I am recommending it to you good folks at home.
*
*EDIT* In a comment on this blog, about this book, by a nice, fellow Plinky writer, I was told I missed the point of this book because it’s not supposed to be just a “romance” novel.  If I gave you that impression, I didn’t too.  When I say this book packs a punch, it’s not only because of the heartbreak of a romantic relationship, but the heartbreak in discovering how big life is and how complicated it is, how frustrating.  I think a lot of coming-of-age (how many times can I type that in this one blog) stories really like to reflect on the moments when a person becomes an adult.  I think the main character in Looking for Alaska, becomes an adult by dissecting a loved ones death with his group of friends.  I think that is the heart of the novel.  So, where Jessica so poignantly said, “it’s about self-reflection,” yes that is true.  It is also about that one moment where you go from child, to adult.  It happens in some of us in an instant and in others, a lifetime.
***
13. The Adults – Alison Espach 
*
Every season (I think) B&N puts out a Discover New Writers list and I usually try and read most, if not all of the books on the list because I have never been let down by a book on the list (except maybe The Help which I just couldn’t get into.  Everyone else could, I’m just one of those special readers that isn’t interested in THE BEST SELLERS).  Alison Espach’s book The Adults was not an exception.   This book was thrilling from cover to cover and not only was it a … quietly violent coming-of-age tale, but I think it gave a true account of life in today’s teenage girl.  I mean, maybe not every teenage girl is seduced by someone older, and more powerful than herself, but it definitely got the emotions and the desperate effect of being a teenage girl in America.  I’ve been reading countless coming-of-age tales recently, maybe it’s because my conscious has decided that this is what I will write for my first Young Adult novel, or for some other peculiar reason, but this novel by Espach will always stand out to me.  It took me a long time to get off the waiting list at the library for it, and it was worth every second of reading something not-so-good to get my hands on this little jewel.
*
I think what I like best about this novel is that moments of destruction can become moments of beauty and hope as they unfold for the reader.  Vidol (Emily, the main character) grows, of course, as she discovers life’s hardships; adultery, suicide, bullying, divorce and anything else that makes children become adults.  And yet, even when she becomes adult, she still can’t quite make sense of the adults that were so important in her childhood and I think that’s a lesson we all learn eventually.
*
Quotes:
  • “And then once in the music storage room. It was cold. The room was small with thin gray carpet and I cried after in my bed thinking of how sad the violins looked alone in the corner. It was embarrassing to have sex in front of the wrong things, especially a violin, which was so dignified at every angle”
***
14. Red House – Sarah Messer 
*
I read this book for all the wrong reasons (maybe the right reasons, really, but for me, all the wrong ones).  I’m hoping to apply for graduate school for the fall of 2012, I’m still not really sure yet and so I went on this library bananza where I listed every book by every professor at every program I may be interested in and started digging in so that I could see if I would want to write with and for these people.  Sarah Messer just happened to be the first writer/professor that I picked up because Wilmington is quite high on my list.  I really like Messer’s poetry, let me begin there.
*
But this book, was boring.  And I’m a picky reader so maybe it’s just me, but she didn’t give me any juicy details about the house.  If you think they’re are ghosts in your house (the longest continuously lived in house in New England) then I want to hear some damn good ghost encounters or stories.  If you have the history of the people who lived there before you, I want you to try and give me detailed accounts on their personalities and their character.
*
I won’t say this book dragged on because it wasn’t too hard of a read and I could get through it if I just focused, but there were full chapters on house restoration, probably as many chapters on that, as about the people who had continuously inhabited the house.  What I wanted out of this book was the people’s lives that were there.  Who were they?  Why did they keep this house in the family so long?  What did they struggle with daily, pray for?  Who did they argue with and what about?  What did they love and who?  I just don’t feel like Messer ever went deeper than the surface in this book and no reader wants a three-hundred page book that only scratches the surface of feelings.
*
Like I said, I love Messer’s poetry and I would really love to study under her, both non-fiction and poetry, but this book just didn’t do it for me.
***
15. Something Borrowed – Emily Giffin
***
This is chick-lit at its’ finest and juiciest all the way down to the ending.  I saw the preview for this movie and knew that I had to read the book before I went to the theaters and ruined the book by seeing the movie.  I love some Kate Hudson so it was a must-see for me and a must-borrow from my cousin’s girlfriend.
*
Of course, Kate Hudson plays Darcy who I absolutely loathe throughout the entire book and by the end I’m ready to let her drop off the face of the earth (just like Rachel).  Kate Hudson will be good at the best friend you’ve always secretly hated.  That must be why they invented the word frenemie in recent times.  It’s pretty much the story of good girl vs. bad girl, except good girl finally gets her good girl revenge by letting a teaspoon of bad girl out of her system.  I mean Rachel definitely isn’t ready to join the club, and go on the Oxygen show, but she does do some naughty little deeds in this book that you wouldn’t expect from her loyal personality.
*
Always read the book before you see the movie (except in the case of Atonement where you can have no contact with either and be perfectly content).  I liked this book because it wasn’t an educational reading, it was just there and I could swallow it whole and come out of it feeling happy, just like after watching a good chick-flick (unless you’re a girl who has a shitty boyfriend and then chick-flicks just make you feel like a drowning mermaid).
*
Quotes:
  • “Songs and smells will bring you back to a moment in time more than anything else. It’s amazing how much can be conjured with a few notes of a song or a solitary whiff of a room. A song you didn’t even pay attention to at the time, a place that you didn’t even know had a particular smell. I wonder what will someday bring back Dex and our few months together. Maybe the sound of Dido’s voice. Maybe the scent of the Aveda shampoo I’ve been using all summer.”
  • “It’s like when someone dies, the initial stages of grief seem to be the worst. But in some ways, it’s sadder as time goes by and you consider how much they’ve missed in your life. In the world.”
***
16.  Durable Goods – Elizabeth Berg 
*
I didn’t realize while reading this book that it has two other books that follow it kind of like a trilogy of coming-of-age.  We learned the word for it in British Lit, Bildungsroman, but that word makes me think of sophisticated poop so I tend to not use it.  Anywho, this story is enough I guess.  That’s the only way I can talk about it.  It’s got a main character who’s father is abusive and her mother is dead, and yet the character still loves her father and she loves her neighborhood (army base) and she looks up to her older-in-age-not-in-nature friend.  It has all the typical coming-of-age tale nonsense like the first kiss in spin the bottle, and learning about sex and sneaking out from an older sister.  The end breaks your heart and repairs it in just about a chapter so I think it ends well for the story.
*
I’m totally losing my train of thought after having a complete cuddle & rub session with my brother’s huge German Shepherd.  She’s the sweetest, most terrifying looking dog with her big head and aggressive bark.  The mailman won’t come on the porch to deliver their mail sometimes, but little does he know that she just wants to lick his big chompers.
*
I’m going to read the next book in Berg’s character trilogy because I like Katie and somehow I like the abusive father.  I feel like a horrible person, but sometimes the villain is also the victim.
***
17. Telephone Ringing in the Labyrinth – Adrienne Rich 1/2
*
To be fair, this is the first book of poetry I’ve read by Adrienne Rich and so my opinion definitely doesn’t cover her (I’m sure) wide and wonderful range of talents.  This book probably isn’t her best work so I’m not going to go on the record saying the woman can’t write poetry because ever so often a line of glory peeked at me from under a pile of words.  Plus, her poetry is in the local library and the local libraries carry hardly any poetry so that’s saying something.  She’s definitely loved.
*
 I can’t say also that I didn’t learn anything from Rich’s spacing and how she lined a poem.  I really struggle with stanzas and where a line becomes a next stanza or where a line even ends and Rich is like a powerful devil at this kind of thing so in that sense this book really helped my writing.  I love it when you read a book and you learn something about yourself while learning something about the author, and then you somehow have this common ground and you can have secret conversations over the candlelight of your brain nerves.  BAH!
*
I think the quotes will do her justice in this section and you’ll really feel the power of a few of her lines even without the full poems.
*
Quotes:
  • “secret codes of skin and hair/go dim/left from the light too long”
  • “This is the room/where truth scrubs around the pedastal of the toilet/flings her rag into the bucket/straightens up pits in the mirror”  – This is Not the Room
  • “Been wanting to get out/see the sights/but the exits are slick with people going somewhere fast/every one/with a shared past and a mot juste/And me so out of step with my late-night staircase inspiration/my Utopian slant.” – Archaic
  • “the body is light when/taken for what it is./Formed of walls and/windows./Ready to burn/with little flags/fluttering in the center.” (2004)
***
18. Girl with the Pearl Earring – Tracy Chevelier 
*
I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  My mom brought it home for me and I was like “Oh God, it’s set in another time which means the language is going to be archaic (the reason I really can’t stand Pride and Prejudice) and the sexual tension is going to amount to nothing (the other reason I really can’t stand Pride and Prejudice) and all the women are going to constantly be talking about marriage rights, and money, and other things that they have to do in corners and not around the men who are so much better at everything than them (sarcasm).”
*
I know a lot of you have stopped reading this because P&P is a classic and you’re horrified that someone could just despise the book.  Keep in mind, I’ve never tried to read this book outside of a classroom and that could also lead to my personal loathing.  But, that all being said, Girl with the Pearl Earring is immaculate.  Yes, it is set back in the day where you bought all your meats at butcher markets, and there were factories for tiles and artists were paid handsome sums be men with feathers coming out of their hats.  BUT, the language was of today. And that made all the difference.  I loved the main character, Griet, who not only has an awesome name, but is also cunning without being overpowering, and for the most part in control of herself (except when around her master when she only gains control by the end…sort of.  It’s a complicated process).
*
Quotes:
  • “He saw things in a way that others did not, so that a city I had lived in all my life seemed a different place, so that a woman became beautiful with the light on her face.”
***
19. Goldengrove- Francine Prose 
*
I read this book because 1. It was a Harper Collins book and they’re my favorite publisher, I’ve never read a bad book from Harper Collins.  And 2. Because Francine Prose wrote a book called, How to Read like a Writer, and I wanted to read that.  In order to read that I needed to actually know if her writing was good so that I could know if her advice on writing is adequate.  Well, she didn’t let me down.  In fact, my twenty-first book is also by her and it is sitting in my car waiting for me to go grab it after this post.  YAY! Prose’s book is quite complicated.
*
There ARE pieces missing, like we never actually meet her mom’s best friend who is a fellow, pill-popper and she’s quite a big part of the mom’s storyline, and the dad has no balls  in talking the mother out of her habit, he just dives into writing his book all day, everyday.  And you know what… maybe that’s what grief does to people, it makes you put horse blinders on and do task management and stop worrying about the affect of grief on other’s around you.
*
Maybe Prose is onto something.  Actually, she probably definitely meant to do that because the parents completely lose watch over their second daughter who spins (not wildly out of control) but is misguided and lonely.  I’m not going to lie, I quite hated her character and loved the character of the dead sister.  Even after she’s dead, she keeps radiating through the story somehow, it’s really stunning.
*
Plus, I love books that begin based on a poem the author read.  One day, in my humble little writing shack, I will use this same idea for a novel.
*
Quotes:
  • “People see everything through the lens of their obsessions.”
***
20. Who Will Run Frog Hospital? – Lorrie Moore 
*
I love Lorrie Moore.  I’m reading A Gate at the Stairs really slowly right now because it’s packed full of ridiculous word choice, and I can’t stop thinking about it when I don’t read it for a few days.  But, Who will Run Frog Hospital is not A Gate at the Stairs.  I think Lorrie Moore, while creating this stunning language and these metaphors that come out from another universe through ray-guns that no one has even invented yet, has completely and utterly lost control of any plot.  The story is two stories really; the woman who desperately needs a divorce, but refuses to leave and the young girl who treats her best friend like a lover (both the same person, just grown). Neither of these women, I don’t think, have found themselves, or discovered any piece of themselves that isn’t in the person they are obsessed with.
*
I give up plot for language, ALL THE TIME, so not having a plot in this book didn’t really bother me all that much, but it took me a while longer to finish than expected.  Plot is what keeps a story moving, while language is what keeps it a piece of art.  I think Lorrie Moore has far surpassed this book in every thing else she’s written (especially short stories, so this book doesn’t reflect on her plot-skills at all, but it does show you what a beautiful masterpiece she can create with words).
*
I mean seriously, she probably got a perfect score on the verbal part of her GRE, and knows the entire dictionary.  I want to award her with Queen of Vocabulary.
*
*EDIT*: Okay, here’s where I admit I kind of suck and that I wrote this review 20 pages before finishing this book.  The end of this book, with the baptism and church camp and the revisiting of childhood friends through a high school reunion – makes it come full circle.  It still doesn’t have much a plot, and it never after page ninetyish really revisits the current life that the main character is in (kind of in the last two pages), it has a remarkable ending.  I think I almost recommend this book just for the ending.  This baptism that goes wrong because of her childhood ideas that she should back dive, rather than fall back and she (well maybe just the reader) sees this as her ultimate doom.  I mean, here is a character that can’t even get her baptism right.  I just, feel like I needed to see this so everyone got the real deal review.  
***
Quotes:
  • “I looked in vain for LaRoue, my cruelty toward her now in me like a splinter, where it would sit for years in my helpless memory, the skin growing around; what else can memory do? It can do nothing; It pretends to eat the shrapnel of your acts, yet it cannot swallow or chew.”
And that’s it folks, time to walk the dog!

“We read to know that we are not alone.” — C.S. Lewis

It’s that faithful time again.  I’ve finally completed the next twenty books of two-thousand-and-eleven and I’ve capsized the boat of my bookshelf and emptied them onto my floor to take a stronger look and give you the most intimate details of my relationship with that book.  It’s been a long time comin'; between family gatherings, holidays with food that makes you sleepy (most vegetables make me dreamy, so in essence I want to sleep, or just lay there with my eyes open, staring at the clouds and guessing at their shapes.  Mostly I just see Abraham Lincoln).

So, as always, I’ve torn apart, stared into the heart of, and developed crushes on about one-hundred book characters in the last two months and I want to share with you my not-so-scientific findings of what my heart and brain both agree to read.

1.  Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – Jonathan Safran Foer

Jonathan’s name is too long for me to fit all five stars and because the fifth one goes to the next line, I’m just going to be completely and utterly OCD and leave it simply at four (even though he deserves five).  His books will appear two more times in this list (including the book that made me turn to Vegetarianism) and I am pretty much obsessed with him.  If he wasn’t married to Nicole (who writes drawn out novels that don’t make connections between plot lines until the bitter end), I might have tried to scoop him up.  Completely ignoring the fact that he’s Jewish and I’m Catholic and that he possibly has a facial mole (which for some reason I can’t get over….I’m not molist or anything, I just would need time with the thing).

Anyhow, this book is everything magical about September 11th.  I know that it’s a devastating day in US History and will probably be discussed in eighth grade textbooks for the next millennium, but this book makes it so different from a day filled with smoke, and humans, like you and me, flinging themselves out of seventy story windows to die from pavement rather than fire.

This book is told in the perspective of a young boy, Oskar, who has lost his dad in the September 11th attacks.   Oskar finds a key in a vase, and goes on a secret mission to find everyone with the last name of Black in NY which is the name on the envelope where he found the key.  He’s quirky, inspiring, innocent, and thoughtful.  He’s like the nerd you always wanted to be friends with in elementary school, who had that awesome My Little Pony lunch-box, only you finally got that seat at the cool table and it was too early in your life to realize it’s cooler to be uncool, and to just be smokin’ hot.

I may or may not have cried till there was snot creeping at the corner of my mouth, and then laughed until I spit all over my cat.  This book will run you the whole emotional gambit and it will be worth every cent, or gas for the trip to the library that you have.  My favorite way that I’ve seen this book described is “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is Jonathan Safran Foer’s love letter to New York City,” and I could not agree more.  (Plus, no one calls him “Foer” in reviews because they’re not sure if they should put
“Safran” as well, so they just put the entire, fill-up-all-the-scantron-bubbles name).

Quotes:

  • “Sometimes I can hear my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I’m not living”
  • “I like to see people reunited, I like to see people run to each other, I like the kissing and the crying, I like the impatience, the stories that the mouth can’t tell fast enough, the ears that aren’t big enough, the eyes that can’t take in all of the change, I like the hugging, the bringing together, the end of missing someone.”
  • “Humans are the only animal that blushes, laughs, has religion, wages war, and kisses with lips. So in a way, the more you kiss with lips, the more human you are. And the more you wage war.”
  • “We need enormous pockets, pockets big enough for our families and our friends, and even the people who aren’t on our lists, people we’ve never met but still want to protect. We need pockets for boroughs and for cities, a pocket that could hold the universe.”

2. The Penelopiad – Margaret Atwood  

This is a retelling, sort of, of The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus.  It’s in a collection of books where modern authors take myths and turn them into modern novellas.  I really like Margaret Atwood, the cover popped out at me at the library, and I decided why not, you’re a pocket-sized novel I could take a bite out of for an evening.  And, I did just that.

Now, I’m kind of a freak when it comes to Greek Mythology, like I’m obsessive.  I really think I was Cassandra in another life (thus the name now) and that my name can tell you a lot about me by just googling.  It’s like people who are obsessed with horoscopes except a sort of reincarnation, with less rope sandals and just as much maiden-esque hair.  So, that said, I’m a bit bias.  Atwood did this novella so well, she even had the Greek Chorus (which were the thirteen maidens who ended up dying because of their supposed gossip over Odysseus’ grand adventures) and Penelope comes off as such a strong and cunning individual rather than the way she is portrayed in history as the faithful, and do-whatever-my-husband-asks, doting wife.

Atwood is a known feminist (as am I) and I think she did Penelope a favor, and I choose to believe Atwood’s bra-burning version of the tale rather than the all-men chorus of Greek Writer’s who alluded to Penelope or wrote about her.  It is time a woman author, and a woman character had a voice equivalent to their powers and Atwood does just that.  This book can be read in two hours, literally.  So, pull out your dusty rocking chair, covered in pollen from the last few weeks, and put on some bug spray and dive into an evening of Greek myth and romance where the female winds up on her white steed and controls her house, and her many suitors.

Quotes:

  • “Who is to say that prayers have any effect? On the other hand, who is to say they don’t? I picture the gods, diddling around on Olympus, wallowing in the nectar and ambrosia and the aroma of burning bones and fat, mischievous as a pack of ten-year-olds with a sick cat to play with and a lot of time on their hands. ‘Which prayer shall we answer today?’ they ask one another. ‘Let’s cast the dice! Hope for this one, despair for that one, and while we’re at it, let’s destroy the life of that woman over there by having sex with her in the form of a crayfish!’ I think they pull a lot of their pranks because they’re bored.”
  • “Then sail, my fine lady, on the billowing wave -
    The water below is as dark as the grave,
    And maybe you’ll sink in your little blue boat -
    It’s hope, and hope only, that keeps us afloat”
3. Nineteen Minutes – Jodi Picoult 
If you read my blog regularly, you already know my feelings on the menace that is Picoult.  I have not and will not (most likely unless I’m in an airport lurch or something) pick up another book by Jodi Picoult.  This book is about a school shooting and after you’ve read David Cullens’ Columbine (which I highly recommend) this book looks like a drab, and stolen version.
Jodi Picoult repeats herself too much (for a book that is over three-hundred pages…) and probably needs a new editor.  Also, her characters have very little depth (my opinion based on this book).  There are two things I will give her credit for; the book was an easy, fast-paced read and she has amazing curly hair that is very much like mine.  Otherwise, I will continue to turn her books over when I see them in Barnes and Noble and other bookstores.  In all fairness, here are some quotes…
 
Quotes:
  • “You don’t need water to feel like you’re drowning, do you?”
  • “So much of the language of love was like that: you devoured someone with your eyes, you drank in the sight of him, you swallowed him whole. Love was substance, broken down and beating through your bloodstream.” 
4. The Dive from Clausen’s Pier – Ann Packer 
We’ll….if I didn’t have some chick-lit on my list, what kind of list would it be, eh?  I was pretty heavily medicated on this book when I started reading it.  It was quick and easy, and the story made me have feelings that I don’t usually have.  I’m emotionless – can you tell by my earlier blog posts?
No, but really *SPOILER* I hate the guy she dates in the middle of this book with his pool-playing, leather-jacket-wearing, smug little ego.  The back cover already tells you that her fiancée jumps off a pier and becomes paralyzed, what they don’t tell you is she is about to embark on a journey, leaving him behind and her past-self-in-a-small-town and indulge in all things unlike her, or things that she once wished she could be in Small Town America.
 Obviously, you feel pity for the handicapped fiancée and you loathe the middle section, but by the end it’s okay.  I think the book DOES end wrong, but I didn’t write it and maybe Packer was right in her concept of the end, but then again, every girl wants a happily ever after, correct?  This book was like a telephone call between two people who haven’t spoken in years and let the silence fill in the obvious space between them.
I do not have quotes for this book, nor did it have any post-it stickies running through it.
 
5. Truth and Beauty – Ann Patchett 
 
I’ve tried my darndest to read Bel Canto, but I just couldn’t get into the commotion of the opening scenes and the first few characters were not relatable for me.  However, Patchett’s non-fiction in this book about her college best friend who eventually passed away is pretty good, at least that was what I thought when I read through it.  
 
Now, I’m a little pissed at Patchett because of how Lucy Grealy’s family really didn’t appreciate Patchett’s portrayl of their sister.  And to be honest, if someone made my sister look needy, melodramatic, selfish and constantly in debt, I’d be pissed too.  Lucy Grealy wrote the book, Autobiography of a Face, which I unfortunately haven’t read and so I can’t comment on, but it was a best seller, so that says something I guess.  I think rather than reading Patchett’s book you can just watch the following youtubbe videos to get to know Grealy, then read the book, and then read the letter about the book from Grealy’s sister.  I will post two of those here:
 
 
And the letter from Grealy’s sister can be found here
 

Quotes:

  • “Writing is a job, a talent, but it’s also the place to go in your head. It is the imaginary friend you drink your tea with in the afternoon.”
  • “Shame should be reserved for the things we choose to do, not the circumstances that life puts on us.”
6. Eating Animals – Jonathan Safran Foer 
I did an entire blog post on this book, which can be found here.
 
7. Hector and the Search for Happiness – Francois Lelord 
I thought this book was chotsky (which is coming up as a spelling error, and I once found the correct spelling, but still managed to spell it wrong in a story I sent to graduate schools, oops).   It just didn’t hit me any which way.  I read it in a day.  And it was very…listastic.  It was like a long list and not a book of all the places Hector goes to find happiness and his own list of what happiness means (which turns out to be very corny, quite literal, and nothing we haven’t already learned through living each day of our own lives).
This all may be due to the translation of it from French to English and if so, I’d really love to learn French just to re-read this book.  It’s a Worldwide best seller and Lelord has written a few more Hector books along the way so it’s worth something.  If nothing else, it’s a quick-sitting-read for a train ride into work if you’re one of those lucky, dark, sophisticated people who live on the outskirts of New York City or D.C.
 
Quotes:
  • “They were both going to the big country where there were more psychiatrists than anywhere else in the world. We could just as well say more swimming pools, more Nobel prizewinners, more strategic bombers, more apple pies, more computers, more natural parks, more libraries, more cheerleaders, more serial killers, more newspapers, more raccoons, many of many more things, because it was the country of More. No doubt because the people who lived there had left their own countries precisely because they wanted more, especially more freedom.”
8. I am an Emotional Creature – Eve Ensler 
I am one of the only women on earth that hasn’t read Vagina Monologues, I’m sure.  However, I did read this Ensler book and half-enjoyed it, half thought it was too … trite?  Maybe that’s the word.  I enjoyed the poems in the book, I think Ensler captured the quintessential voice of the teenage female well, but when she did get into the hard stuff (child sex slaves, abuse, etc), she didn’t really capture the violence, and aggression the way I would need to see in order to get a feeling from the stories.  Obviously, I was sad for the “character,” but the writing just wasn’t there and neither was the content.
When I picked up this book, I was told it was a must-read for the teenage females and their struggle against and with the world, however, I don’t think it hits the note that it needs to in order to be that book.  (Don’t worry, I plan to write that book so one day there will be a book that hits that note.  YAY, Young Adult novels)!  
A teenage female is so much more than just words about her short skirt and her prowess, and I don’t think Ensler has met her mark with this book.  
 
Quotes: 
  • “I am here.  I am hot./My short skirt is a liberation/ flag in the woman’s army./ I declare these streets, any street,/my vagina’s country.”
9. An Object of Beauty – Steve Martin   
 
Oh, Steve Martin.  Ever since Shopgirl, and the banjo, and the movie where you had twelve children, I’ve been secretly in love with your Cerano De Bergerac nose and your combed-over white hair.
I think that Steve Martin is one of the most underrated talents of this decade.  I’m not sure I can say that enough.  Now, this novel wasn’t outstanding and it didn’t really change or re-shape my life after I finished it, but it stands out in this collection of twenty for its’ knowledge of the arts and art world, and how much it taught me about certain paintings that were featured in the novel.  Although it was a work of fiction, it still had information you would have otherwise not known about the New York art world.  I didn’t necessarily like the character that actually told the story, I think his part was quite unbelievable because most of his stories were told to him from another person and then he was writing them down and so, by the end, I felt like I was part-lied to.  I hated and loved the main female character that the story centered around.  *SPOILER* I do wish she would have stayed with richie-rich, pad-in-France, but you can’t control your characters anymore than you can control your own destiny. 
 
Quotes:
  •  “The emotions of men, however, were of a different order. They were pesky annoyances, small dust devils at her feet. Her knack for causing heartbreak was innate, but her vitality often made people forgive her romantic misdeeds.” 
  • “If you occasionally wonder how I know about some of the events I describe in this book, I don’t. I have found that–just as in real life–imagination sometimes has to stand in for experience.”
10. The Lover’s Dictionary – David Levithan 
All I need to say about this book is that immediately after finishing the book, I e-mailed all of my girl-reader-friends, much like a circle of evil villains with big hair, and tight, leather outfits and told them they need to go to the library and pick it up.  Especially my friends who are in love (I believe that I used physical force on my friend Nat so that she would borrow it from the Carrboro library).
This book is like no other book I’ve read before.  It took me less than two hours to finish.  And in that two hours I experienced the entirety of a relationship written in the form of a dictionary.  It reminded me of DeBartolo when she encompasses an entire relationship in God Shaped Hole and if I compare you with her, in any way, it’s a compliment.  The quotes will speak for this book, since I filled an entire journal page with them.
Quotes:
  • “nonsequiter, n. – This is what it sounds like when doves cry.”
  • “corrode, v. – I spend all this time building a relationship.  Then one night I left the window open, and it started to rust.”
  • “Ubiquitous, adj. – When it’s going well, the fact of it is everywhere. It’s there in the song that shuffles into your ears. It’s there in the book you’re reading. It’s there on the shelves of the store as you reach for a towel and forget about the towel. It’s there as you open the door. As you stare off into the subway, it’s what you’re looking at. You wear it on the inside of your hat. It lines your pockets. It’s the temperature.
    The hitch, of course, it that when it’s going badly, it’s in all the same places.”
This book also has a twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/loversdiction
So, with that all being said…I’ve decided to do ten today, and ten tomorrow, or the next day so that no one gets overwhelmed with which books to choose.  Now go to the local library and get your self a book, sisters and brothers (that sounds totally like a preacher and I definitely just freaked myself out a little). Weird. Also, I’m sorry that the font changes color so much, and there are indentions and then none and then some more.  Wordpress just hates me sometimes and then other times I’m purely computer illiterate.
Happy Reading! 

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