Newsday Tuesday

I need to start by tooting my own horn.  I’m doing the project Month of Letters for the month of March and I still have spaces on my dance card as SiftingTheGrain (T) so eloquently said.  If you would like to participate and receive a handmade letter, send me your address via email at: clmannesATgmailDOTcom.  To find out more click this link.

Favorite Tweets of the Week:

Search Terms of the Week:

  • Decorations Tim Burton Mystic:  I think we would get along.  We should go for tea, light some incense and discuss the constellations like the Big Dipper and Cassiopeia.
  • Sad Friendship Break-up Tips: Watch Now and Then because every girl needs to learn how to make pudding boobs before the age of fourteen, and it’s a good friendship movie.
  • Bowel Movements Diagram: I hope that you’re a medical student.
  • am I weird? cozy thoughts help me have a bowel movement: This is why people shouldn’t diagnose illnesses online.
  • is sunny but the air is full of bullshit: I couldn’t agree more.

Otherwise here is the news:

Have a good Tuesday!

PS. Better World Books is having a 20% sale (which means Bargain Bin too) for Leap Day. Use this code:

ONEGIANTLEAP

A Month of Letters: March

Letter Writer's Alliance Photo

I’ve always been better at keeping up with people through words.  Real words, not e-mails, or texts, but words scribbled in my personal handwriting, the font of my body.  My closest friends can vouch for me on this that I’m never one to call.  When something dramatic happens, I send a one line note explaining it factually, rather than with emotion.  I like to think I’m a reasonable person, but after you see me gorge on chocolate and potato chips, you realize I’m slowly losing my mind.  It’s the reasonableness of everything, the rational that makes people crazy.  Later when I’ve over-analyzed and lost sleep, I’ll send the five page note paper with margins and white space filled.   My best friend Sars, in New Zealand receives cards for every occasion, even the Emily Dickinson quotable card when she feels like a housewife.  It says, hey, you could be a spinster – it could be different.  However, last month I was busy with Valentine’s and traveling, and I wasn’t able to be a part of the Letter Writing Challenge and so I’m going to participate in March – the month of Spring, and awakenings, and lots of flower gametes floating into pollination.  It’ll be the perfect month for letters everyday.

Why letters?  Why not email or a funny text message?  Well for the second one, there are joke apps for that.  For the first one, how impersonal.  I send e-mails when I’m working, when my friends need to see the newest  LOL CAT image.   I send cards when I feel like decorating, or embellishing, or hoping someone will tack it to their real cork board (and their pinterest one).  Sometimes, when I’m online, I can get sucked into my own head, or the world of google where everything is at my fingertips.   In February of last year, I quit facebook because I found that I wasn’t communicating with my friends.  I already knew their lives  from facebook pictures, and status updates, why would I need to call?  It was an excuse to let people bite the dust.  Well, not anymore.

Yes, this means I don’t have nearly enough to do and now I’ll need to add in: creating telegrams, letters, notes, post cards, happy grams, cards, messages, parcels, envelopes and, words and pictures in each mailed package.  Maybe I’m crazy, maybe I just love getting mail; opening that bread loaf black box and seeing something other than a credit card advertisement.

Examples of homemade cards by me.

To do this, I was hoping to have people to write too.  I’d like to spend 31 days writing to people who are new to me.  Or people, who I haven’t known my whole life, or lived in the bed next to for a summer, or spent my spring evenings with.  So, I’m opening this up to all of you.  I think in order to do this, you will have to believe that I am not a serial killer, and will not take your addresses and spam you with vacation packages, or car insurance quotes.  In order to prove this, I’ve decided to hand-make all of my own cards.  This means, you may think a first grade relative sent you something, but really it’s me, Southern girl from Books & Bowel Movements.  To the left are examples of my sweet water color skills for homemade cards.  I made these in teen center art class.

It would be best if throughout March, or before it starts, anyone who would like a card filled with poetry quotes, bad handwriting, and sketched hearts, please email me your address.  I’m looking so forward to this challenge and so forward to having a reason to create odd art on the carpeting of my bedroom floor that I really hope a few of you participate with me.

If you feel like you don’t want to send your address – feel free to do the challenge with me.  Spend a few moments of everyday with the blue boxes of the American postal system, or with the lady behind the counter who weighs your package against the metal scale.  Spend a few days standing in line staring at the PO Boxes, watching people with their gold keys unlock the holes filled with advertisements, and newspapers.  Spend a few days with a pen, and not a keyboard.

Cool Badge

If nothing else, award yourself with this cool badge to your right.  I know that’s always something that makes me want to do a challenge – placing a participation badge on my blog.  I’m such a loser.  Clearly, I’m that kid in third grade who only reads because I get more gold stars, or who cleans the blackboard so I can get extra credit.  I should really just hope for a pat on the back.  What is that about?  Maybe I need a psychiatrist to really delve into that.  Maybe someone who wants to participate and receive one of my letters will get something about the over-analyzation of my life.  I’m going to try to make every letter different and cater to something about the person I’m writing too.  I may have to read a few blogs, or use my psychic abilities to find out something wonderful for each of you, but I’ll work hard, I promise.

My email: clmannesATgmailDOTcom

My goal: mail 31 letters (I will mail two on Monday’s so that I can even do Sunday’s, which totally deals in my over-achieving nature).

Join me on the journey of letters.

There are a ton of blogs that did this for February.  I believe the starting blog was LetterMo.  In my search around the interwebs, I found the Letter Writers Alliance which just made me happy with all their stationary.

Project 365 | Week 8

This week has been hectic, and filled with lots of firsts.  I’ve given up something I seriously crave for Lent (eating out, in all it’s forms even for the one dollar McDonald’s coffee).  I’ve ridden the top deck of a double decker bus.  I also took photos of my cat in the bathtub because he felt like modeling and I felt like fake peeing.  Week 8:

Day 49 | Jasper Dean

This is my cat in all his handsome glory, and all his ridiculous personality.  What else is new.  Project 365 = cat lady.

Day 50 | Flame

This is a house very close to the teen center that had a horrible fire.  I took it while driving so it’s a bit blurry, but it reminded me to really be thankful and appreciative.  And isn’t that what Lent is all about anyway?

Day 51 | Skyping the Best Friend

My best friend moved to NZ last year and so the way that we talk about having babies, naming babies, and our lady mechanics is via the lovely tool of skype.  I miss her.  She, Sars, does an amazing 365 blog here.

Day 52 | Lent

I only occasionally discuss my spiritual journey here.

“Lent is not the time to talk to God, it’s the time to create space where God can talk to you.” – Father Bill

Day 53 | Teen Center Cooking Class

These are just a few of my teens making personal cookies.  I love how all of their personalities shine through in this photo.

Day 54 | Amelie French Bakery in Charlotte

Holly introduced me to this lovely French Bakery for my first encounter with the Charlotte art scene.  If I was a food critic, I’d be salivating over these pictures.  If you live around the Charlotte area check out North Davidson and this cozy patisserie.  Visit Amelie’s site here.

Day 55 | Fern Trail Hike, Crowder's Mountain

Abs, Devin and I spent the day hiking at Crowder’s Mountain near Charlotte.  This was by the lake filled with fingerlings.

Day 55.5 | Love Birds

And that’s my happy weekend.  I’ll blog about some books and things tomorrow on the bus ride, or at the beginning of the week.

Participating Blogroll:

Project 365 | Week 8

This week has been hectic, and filled with lots of firsts.  I’ve given up something I seriously crave for Lent (eating out, in all it’s forms even for the one dollar McDonald’s coffee).  I’ve ridden the top deck of a double decker bus.  I also took photos of my cat in the bathtub because he felt like modeling and I felt like fake peeing.  Week 8:

Day 49 | Jasper Dean

This is my cat in all his handsome glory, and all his ridiculous personality.  What else is new.  Project 365 = cat lady.

Day 50 | Flame

This is a house very close to the teen center that had a horrible fire.  I took it while driving so it’s a bit blurry, but it reminded me to really be thankful and appreciative.  And isn’t that what Lent is all about anyway?

Day 51 | Skyping the Best Friend

My best friend moved to NZ last year and so the way that we talk about having babies, naming babies, and our lady mechanics is via the lovely tool of skype.  I miss her.  She, Sars, does an amazing 365 blog here.

Day 52 | Lent

I only occasionally discuss my spiritual journey here.

“Lent is not the time to talk to God, it’s the time to create space where God can talk to you.” – Father Bill

Day 53 | Teen Center Cooking Class

These are just a few of my teens making personal cookies.  I love how all of their personalities shine through in this photo.

Day 54 | Amelie French Bakery in Charlotte

Holly introduced me to this lovely French Bakery for my first encounter with the Charlotte art scene.  If I was a food critic, I’d be salivating over these pictures.  If you live around the Charlotte area check out North Davidson and this cozy patisserie.  Visit Amelie’s site here.

Day 55 | Fern Trail Hike, Crowder's Mountain

Abs, Devin and I spent the day hiking at Crowder’s Mountain near Charlotte.  This was by the lake filled with fingerlings.

Day 55.5 | Love Birds

And that’s my happy weekend.  I’ll blog about some books and things tomorrow on the bus ride, or at the beginning of the week.

Participating Blogroll:

Newsday Tuesday

I’m exhausted.  I have to run (literally) up to the Church tomorrow morning at 630 am in order to squeeze in Ash Wednesday mass so this may be a short one.

  • 100 Story House for Bookish Brooklyn

    Everyone’s been all over this on the blogosphere.  It’s the 100 Story House shaped like a Brooklyn Brownstone for Brooklyn.  I’m not  quite sure what we would shape our Story Shelves like here in North Carolina, probably a John Deere green machine.  However, this is a lovely concept and it’s rain proof (imagine that).  You can donate to the public art project here on Kickstarter.   I think Kickstarter really explains all the important information on this project like where the books will come from.  DONATE.

  • Over the weekend I found this amazing website, floating around google.  It’s called “Letters to Note” and it’s a blog of letters, telegrams, postcards, tidy notes, to and from famous writers.  It’s really exciting to just read through and see what people you admire were thinking, or see how they described love.  I feel like every writer is out there to get at the word love, or find the feeling, or just explain.  How do you even explain first love?  Maybe you’ll find your voice in these letters.

Tweet of the Week:

Tweet of the Week

  • Faulkner and Hemingway to be discussed at Library of Congress for anyone living in the DC area or anyone who knows how to get on a bus.
  • More Hemingway news: inscribed book sells for 68,000.  It’s his first book Three Stories and Ten Poems which had a print-run of only 300.  How insane.  Look how far we’ve come, literary snobs.
  • Acclaimed poet and writer Mary Oliver is sick and two of her lovely friends have started a literary blog for everyone to support her full recovery.  The blog is beautiful and while there, anyone can write “how they were influenced or changed by her work.”   Here is a poem by Oliver titled, “At Black River” if you are unfamiliar with her work but would like to be changed or influenced.
  • My favorite artist has unveiled photos of her many sketchbooks.  If you’re like me, then you’re obsessed with other writer’s journals, or tools.  I remember spending forty-five minutes watching Nikki Finney interviews to figure out what sort of pencil she used when she wrote poems.  Maybe the led is the muse.  I’m the same with notebooks.  So far, I’ve found Target’s Greenroom line to be my favorite because it’s made from recycled material but the ruled lines are very faint.  I’m also a fan of leather journals that are blank.  It’s really personal preference but if you’re a writer, you have to gush over other people’s private diaries and notebooks.  So, swoon away.

Artist Geninne. Click the picture to visit her blog.

German Sci-fi covers thanks to Monster Brains

I want to be in my bed. Goodnight.

Project 365 | Week 7

And we’re back.  I was too busy slurping a cookout milkshake and watching Breaking Dawn Part 1 with Christine and her dog, Dobby (Yes, Harry Potter) to post my photos.  Also, it snowed yesterday and I spent the evening fantasizing about the wing spans of snow angels.

Here are the photos:

Day 43 | A Very Lego Birthday

My mom needs her own cake show on TLC.  It could be called Bea-Dazzled, or Honey Bea’s, or See Bea Bake.  I could do this all day. The picture above is my nephew’s fourth birthday cake bea-dazzled in homemade white chocolate lego men, my mother’s fancy icing script, and lego candies.

Day 44 | Phase 10

This is my “everything, everywhere” notebook.  It’s called: The “Miss Blue, Pleated Skirt” Notebook.  Why…I’m not sure, I didn’t write my reasoning down. I named it several months ago on the day I finished my last notebook.  It was started on October 20th at the teen center (says the inside cover).  On day 44, I spent three hours playing Phase 10.  Jaquan beat me by ten points, by the end we all felt like we had just fought a hefty battle across roaring seas.

Day 45 | Two Big Ego's

My cat has a favorite chair.  It seems in the last week my father has a favorite chair.  Jasper is not good at sharing.  They’re a cuddling twosome instead, even though my cat is the farthest thing from cuddly.  He’s like an Animal Planet special on wild beasts.

Valentines

I just wanted to post this one as an extra.  I made my teens all a special pixie stick valentine and this is end pile.  So much sugar, so little time.

Day 46 | Rose Garden

Darling took me to the rose garden.  It’s not growing any beauties at the moment, but it looks like something the Prince would kill for Sleeping Beauty.  I can just imagine his platinum sword flying through the brambles.

Day 47 | Man Down

My nephew needs to learn the Barney clean-up song, but until then, here is the death of a criminal after trying to rob the bank.  Next to him is the valentine and birthday lego’s that we’ve been racking up.  This was shot between playing power rangers throughout the house and playground.  Of course, I was the nine tongue villain that chased all the small boys through slides and around swings.

Day 47.5 | Valentines for Pre-school

My brother and sister-in-law hung my nephews creations at pre-school this week from the fire place.  Not only do I believe he’ll be the next Picasso, but look at that heart, finger-painted like a small massacre.

Day 48 | Hand Model

This is my cat.  If you haven’t figured out he thinks that he’s Gaston from Beauty & the Beast.  Check out that smize face, Tyra would be proud.  Obviously, he’s America’s Next Model.

Day 48 | Christian Science Reading Room

Don’t they have these rooms in every city?  Last night during Raleigh’s first snow of the year, I came across these homemade snowflakes and the quote taped to the glass of the Christian Science Reading Room.  I love the blue glow of the dark.

Participating Blogroll (almost forgot this):

Project 365 | Week 7

And we’re back.  I was too busy slurping a cookout milkshake and watching Breaking Dawn Part 1 with Christine and her dog, Dobby (Yes, Harry Potter) to post my photos.  Also, it snowed yesterday and I spent the evening fantasizing about the wing spans of snow angels.

Here are the photos:

Day 43 | A Very Lego Birthday

My mom needs her own cake show on TLC.  It could be called Bea-Dazzled, or Honey Bea’s, or See Bea Bake.  I could do this all day. The picture above is my nephew’s fourth birthday cake bea-dazzled in homemade white chocolate lego men, my mother’s fancy icing script, and lego candies.

Day 44 | Phase 10

This is my “everything, everywhere” notebook.  It’s called: The “Miss Blue, Pleated Skirt” Notebook.  Why…I’m not sure, I didn’t write my reasoning down. I named it several months ago on the day I finished my last notebook.  It was started on October 20th at the teen center (says the inside cover).  On day 44, I spent three hours playing Phase 10.  Jaquan beat me by ten points, by the end we all felt like we had just fought a hefty battle across roaring seas.

Day 45 | Two Big Ego's

My cat has a favorite chair.  It seems in the last week my father has a favorite chair.  Jasper is not good at sharing.  They’re a cuddling twosome instead, even though my cat is the farthest thing from cuddly.  He’s like an Animal Planet special on wild beasts.

Valentines

I just wanted to post this one as an extra.  I made my teens all a special pixie stick valentine and this is end pile.  So much sugar, so little time.

Day 46 | Rose Garden

Darling took me to the rose garden.  It’s not growing any beauties at the moment, but it looks like something the Prince would kill for Sleeping Beauty.  I can just imagine his platinum sword flying through the brambles.

Day 47 | Man Down

My nephew needs to learn the Barney clean-up song, but until then, here is the death of a criminal after trying to rob the bank.  Next to him is the valentine and birthday lego’s that we’ve been racking up.  This was shot between playing power rangers throughout the house and playground.  Of course, I was the nine tongue villain that chased all the small boys through slides and around swings.

Day 47.5 | Valentines for Pre-school

My brother and sister-in-law hung my nephews creations at pre-school this week from the fire place.  Not only do I believe he’ll be the next Picasso, but look at that heart, finger-painted like a small massacre.

Day 48 | Hand Model

This is my cat.  If you haven’t figured out he thinks that he’s Gaston from Beauty & the Beast.  Check out that smize face, Tyra would be proud.  Obviously, he’s America’s Next Model.

Day 48 | Christian Science Reading Room

Don’t they have these rooms in every city?  Last night during Raleigh’s first snow of the year, I came across these homemade snowflakes and the quote taped to the glass of the Christian Science Reading Room.  I love the blue glow of the dark.

Participating Blogroll (almost forgot this):

Smudges | Housekeeping

My copy (and someone else's dear copy), Housekeeping

Odd back stain.

I’m that girl scribbling in the margin of your Pulitzer winning poetry book.  Bubble-lettering “ME!” in the top left corner of page three.  Cracking the spine.  Nuzzling the cover.  Taking picture of my eyes and half my nose peeking over that accordion of top pages that you get when you open a book right down the middle.  I look through the books in the local used bookstore for ones that someone else has loved like I will.  Where are the coffee stains?  Where are the fingerprint maps on the edge where you held the page just after baking?  I want that book with the oil smudge of a Southern farmer after a long day, the faded yellow of the back cover from the sun on a porch, and someone else’s name inside, in cursive, which was lost after second grade for me.

So now that you know all of that, I can explain this blog.  Last week I went to my second favorite used bookstore (the biggest one in my area) and picked up four books I had been recommended.  Edward McKay uses milk crates as shelves and I had to dig to the back row of books (behind other books) to find one copy of Housekeeping (supposedly the best women’s fiction of the 20th century even though I don’t believe fiction has a “gender genre.”)  I picked it up without flipping through like I normally would because it was the only copy and recommend to me by a professor.  (If you’re working on setting and beautiful language in description in your own writing, read this book).

While the book is really character, description driven and not very much plot at all, in fact I think it gets a plot on page 170ish (out of 219), I think it was beautifully written and I’ll share some quotes at the bottom.  However, this blog isn’t really about the book, but what I found hidden inside the folds of its pages.

I looked through as I started to read, first searching for the triangle bent pages that show where someone stopped, bookmarked, or just wanted to remember a quote to write down later (that’s me).  But I found other exciting things.  The first wonderful thing about this book is the stain on the back cover.  Unlike some people who would automatically think someone dropped this book in a pile of poop, I thought something different.  I’m always drinking coffee in spill-able mugs while I drive.  The coffee often drips over the edge when it’s stuck in the awkward cup-holder and forced in tilted because of its handle.  I’m too cheap to buy one of those eco-safe ones from Target for 20 bucks.  All this is just to say that it leaves a sticky mark in the cup-holder or underneath the e-break where I sometimes place them.  My dad does the same thing with Pepsi so it must run in the family.  I’m sure at some point I could spill coffee on my seat, as I often do on the cute shirt I’m wearing to work. (These are all signs of addiction).  And like all other book lovers I keep piles of books in my car (literally it’s a small library, you should see people’s faces when they step in the car) which may or may not get spilled on or placed in a coffee puddle.  So, the stain on the back – most likely from a coffee/book lover like myself who sips and drives.  (It’s probably time for an intervention).

My favorite thing about the book is that Claire signed the inside cover as if to say, “this will memorialize me.  This is mine.”  I can’t believe being the book hoarder that I am that I haven’t gone through with an ink pen to every inside cover of every book that I own.  Part of me wants to say that the cover is sacred and unless it’s a book from fifth grade (The BFG) I probably won’t be writing in the cover.  The BFG is special because it has a whole garden crayon drawn in the inside cover.  I was a reading artist it seems.

If anyone can figure out that last name I would love to facebook stalk her and maybe tell her about my find and do a blog solely on the reason why she gave up this book that she so clearly loved.

Quailridge receipt.

It didn’t end there though.  In my area, we have an amazing independent bookstore called Quailridge Books and it seems in 2005,  Claire bought the book there.

I can just imagine Claire swinging the glass door open, hearing the chime of her own entrance, her coat billowing behind her in the winter wind (she’d be the kind of girl to leave it unbuttoned).  The receipt says February 12th which is my nephews birthday (another odd coincidence that I will say was lined up by the stars).

Maybe she was in a hurry and it was on the recommended by staff rack that spins so you can see all the books in one sweep.  Maybe Robinson was going to read at some point in the coming months and so they had placed it on the first shelf as you walk in.  Robinson isn’t local.  Or maybe, she wasn’t in a hurry, and she was recommended this book by a professor and so she went straight to the R’s, reading just before Richard Russo and just after Tom Robbins.  There the white spine, with bold, all capital red lettering read “Housekeeping.”

Or perhaps, she perused the store.  She picked up greeting cards for relatives up North hoping it would thaw their hearts from the cold, and the clearing of driveways, and the sounds of snow plows in the night.  She looked through a Dubus collection, or Quindlen because they were both judging the National Book Award and Claire knew that she wanted to win that in ten years.  Joan Didion would win in 2005 for nonfiction and all of America would grieve their husbands.  I know that this is the version of what she did because she also bought a “blank notebook” for ten dollars with tax of 70 cents.

I secretly knew other things the whole time as well. Claire went in with a list of things she’d like to get, a list of things she’d like to do before the evening.  She had a plan.  The book had been mentioned in our newspaper, The News & Observer and she had written her list directly over the article on Gilead, Marilynne Robinson’s newer book that a lot more of you may be familiar with.  She wrote the list on February 6.  She’s so busy it took her until my nephew’s birthday to go to the store and collect her findings.  On the 6th, a Saturday in 2005, she wanted to do the following.

Claire's list

  1. reading + breakfast
  2. quarters + laundry
  3. deposit payroll + pay rent
  4. fog @ Flying Saucer 2:30 pm
  5. Regulator – Gilead + Housekeeping > by Marilynne Robinson
(International list? Nice Price books? Pennies for Change?)
+ New Journal
        6. groceries? black beans, cheese, oatmeal, fruit
Fast forward.

Claire is somewhere at a desk this evening smudging the knuckle of her pinky finger with ink, dragging her right hand across the page, margin to margin.  She is tapping her left foot because she is anxious to write the scene where the girl gets stuck under the bleachers during a football game, and it is raining.  She has socks on, a barrette pulling back her bangs.  She uses ink, the lines of her palm are damp with sweat, there are sounds coming from outside the window in front of her desk.  The sounds are of small birds, or a trash can moving slightly on its wheels.  Claire will write this scene and then go downstairs to kiss her husband goodnight and peel a clementine using the nail of her thumb.  She will eat each part whole without chewing them in pieces, watching the orange insides bleed a bit onto her fingers.  She will go to bed with her hands sticky, her fingers coated in black residue.  She will begin again on that scene in the morning, she will over-revise.

You finish the story, aren’t we all Claire ourselves?

Marilynne Robinson in News & Observer

Smudges | Housekeeping

My copy (and someone else's dear copy), Housekeeping

Odd back stain.

I’m that girl scribbling in the margin of your Pulitzer winning poetry book.  Bubble-lettering “ME!” in the top left corner of page three.  Cracking the spine.  Nuzzling the cover.  Taking picture of my eyes and half my nose peeking over that accordion of top pages that you get when you open a book right down the middle.  I look through the books in the local used bookstore for ones that someone else has loved like I will.  Where are the coffee stains?  Where are the fingerprint maps on the edge where you held the page just after baking?  I want that book with the oil smudge of a Southern farmer after a long day, the faded yellow of the back cover from the sun on a porch, and someone else’s name inside, in cursive, which was lost after second grade for me.

So now that you know all of that, I can explain this blog.  Last week I went to my second favorite used bookstore (the biggest one in my area) and picked up four books I had been recommended.  Edward McKay uses milk crates as shelves and I had to dig to the back row of books (behind other books) to find one copy of Housekeeping (supposedly the best women’s fiction of the 20th century even though I don’t believe fiction has a “gender genre.”)  I picked it up without flipping through like I normally would because it was the only copy and recommend to me by a professor.  (If you’re working on setting and beautiful language in description in your own writing, read this book).

While the book is really character, description driven and not very much plot at all, in fact I think it gets a plot on page 170ish (out of 219), I think it was beautifully written and I’ll share some quotes at the bottom.  However, this blog isn’t really about the book, but what I found hidden inside the folds of its pages.

I looked through as I started to read, first searching for the triangle bent pages that show where someone stopped, bookmarked, or just wanted to remember a quote to write down later (that’s me).  But I found other exciting things.  The first wonderful thing about this book is the stain on the back cover.  Unlike some people who would automatically think someone dropped this book in a pile of poop, I thought something different.  I’m always drinking coffee in spill-able mugs while I drive.  The coffee often drips over the edge when it’s stuck in the awkward cup-holder and forced in tilted because of its handle.  I’m too cheap to buy one of those eco-safe ones from Target for 20 bucks.  All this is just to say that it leaves a sticky mark in the cup-holder or underneath the e-break where I sometimes place them.  My dad does the same thing with Pepsi so it must run in the family.  I’m sure at some point I could spill coffee on my seat, as I often do on the cute shirt I’m wearing to work. (These are all signs of addiction).  And like all other book lovers I keep piles of books in my car (literally it’s a small library, you should see people’s faces when they step in the car) which may or may not get spilled on or placed in a coffee puddle.  So, the stain on the back – most likely from a coffee/book lover like myself who sips and drives.  (It’s probably time for an intervention).

My favorite thing about the book is that Claire signed the inside cover as if to say, “this will memorialize me.  This is mine.”  I can’t believe being the book hoarder that I am that I haven’t gone through with an ink pen to every inside cover of every book that I own.  Part of me wants to say that the cover is sacred and unless it’s a book from fifth grade (The BFG) I probably won’t be writing in the cover.  The BFG is special because it has a whole garden crayon drawn in the inside cover.  I was a reading artist it seems.

If anyone can figure out that last name I would love to facebook stalk her and maybe tell her about my find and do a blog solely on the reason why she gave up this book that she so clearly loved.

Quailridge receipt.

It didn’t end there though.  In my area, we have an amazing independent bookstore called Quailridge Books and it seems in 2005,  Claire bought the book there.

I can just imagine Claire swinging the glass door open, hearing the chime of her own entrance, her coat billowing behind her in the winter wind (she’d be the kind of girl to leave it unbuttoned).  The receipt says February 12th which is my nephews birthday (another odd coincidence that I will say was lined up by the stars).

Maybe she was in a hurry and it was on the recommended by staff rack that spins so you can see all the books in one sweep.  Maybe Robinson was going to read at some point in the coming months and so they had placed it on the first shelf as you walk in.  Robinson isn’t local.  Or maybe, she wasn’t in a hurry, and she was recommended this book by a professor and so she went straight to the R’s, reading just before Richard Russo and just after Tom Robbins.  There the white spine, with bold, all capital red lettering read “Housekeeping.”

Or perhaps, she perused the store.  She picked up greeting cards for relatives up North hoping it would thaw their hearts from the cold, and the clearing of driveways, and the sounds of snow plows in the night.  She looked through a Dubus collection, or Quindlen because they were both judging the National Book Award and Claire knew that she wanted to win that in ten years.  Joan Didion would win in 2005 for nonfiction and all of America would grieve their husbands.  I know that this is the version of what she did because she also bought a “blank notebook” for ten dollars with tax of 70 cents.

I secretly knew other things the whole time as well. Claire went in with a list of things she’d like to get, a list of things she’d like to do before the evening.  She had a plan.  The book had been mentioned in our newspaper, The News & Observer and she had written her list directly over the article on Gilead, Marilynne Robinson’s newer book that a lot more of you may be familiar with.  She wrote the list on February 6.  She’s so busy it took her until my nephew’s birthday to go to the store and collect her findings.  On the 6th, a Saturday in 2005, she wanted to do the following.

Claire's list

  1. reading + breakfast
  2. quarters + laundry
  3. deposit payroll + pay rent
  4. fog @ Flying Saucer 2:30 pm
  5. Regulator – Gilead + Housekeeping > by Marilynne Robinson
(International list? Nice Price books? Pennies for Change?)
+ New Journal
        6. groceries? black beans, cheese, oatmeal, fruit
Fast forward.

Claire is somewhere at a desk this evening smudging the knuckle of her pinky finger with ink, dragging her right hand across the page, margin to margin.  She is tapping her left foot because she is anxious to write the scene where the girl gets stuck under the bleachers during a football game, and it is raining.  She has socks on, a barrette pulling back her bangs.  She uses ink, the lines of her palm are damp with sweat, there are sounds coming from outside the window in front of her desk.  The sounds are of small birds, or a trash can moving slightly on its wheels.  Claire will write this scene and then go downstairs to kiss her husband goodnight and peel a clementine using the nail of her thumb.  She will eat each part whole without chewing them in pieces, watching the orange insides bleed a bit onto her fingers.  She will go to bed with her hands sticky, her fingers coated in black residue.  She will begin again on that scene in the morning, she will over-revise.

You finish the story, aren’t we all Claire ourselves?

Marilynne Robinson in News & Observer

Interrupting the Flow | Beasts of No Nation

Beasts of No Nation

I’m not at all sure why I want to review this novel.  It’s both horrifying and fascinating as other readers have said, and yet it still feels really incomplete.  In fact, I think the ending was a complete cop-out of the ending that Iweala should have taken.  However, I am the “normal” state school college graduate and he is the Harvard alum who has spent lives in both Nigeria and America.  (He has also worked at refugee camps).  Does this mean though that his story should be told?

Let’s dive in.

Beasts of No Nation is the story of a child soldier named Agu who is at one point top of his class and living in his four-people family unit, then quickly thrust into the arms of a dictator Commandant who abuses him in all sorts of ways, some of them beyond even the Commandment’s control.  This is horrifying, yes?  A child is sexually abused by the head of an army, his only friend another child who doesn’t speak at all.  They are forced to carry a gun, march through broken bones and fed the trash of villages already thrashed through.  He experiences his first sexual awakening (although we have no age for Agu, we can assume that he is well before sexual enlightening years).  He experiences torn thoughts on killing others; on the one side believing he is still a good boy and on the other believing he is the devil.  I can’t disagree that the unfolding isn’t chilling.

Project for Peace

However, I don’t think Iweala captures it completely.  The only time I was completely disgusted was during a rape between Agu and his superior…as anyone would be disgusted just by the content.  He hasn’t sold me on the voice of Agu and his use of repetition, and no real grammar.  I think the child voice is spot on, but the accent needs work, and the author admits this in the gray pages of the end.  However, I’ve never heard West African English and so I can’t judge that this isn’t just my Southern, girl interpretation, or if it’s actually really a linguistic feature of the villages.

I think what disappointed me the most was my lack of feeling for Agu.  Here is this boy who has gone through nine lives of war in his one short boyhood and I am not connected with him every second.  I do not feel the need to comfort him.  I don’t immediately want to google child soldiers after I finish the book to learn more.  Honestly, I don’t think this book even brings child soldier’s justice, even though it is dedicated to those who have suffered.  The most fascinating part of the book was the bio of Uzodinma Iweala at the end, which I’m sure Harper Perennial insisted on.  The real reason this book is great is because of the message it tells people like me, who live everyday thinking a stop light is a disaster.

I feel like a horrible human being for not totally buying into this book.  I feel like this might be my inward struggle with the realness.  Maybe I’m not ready to face the fact that this happens to people.  Maybe I should remember that I’m a girl too afraid to watch Blood Diamond because of my future thoughts on engagement rings.

I think the two things that bother me most were my want and need that the main character of this book should be the child who did not speak: Strika.  How badly I want to know what that boy is thinking, how badly I want to know his own horrors to understand his silence.  While the dialogue for Agu always made sense, this was a book of his thoughts.  He is not silent, but what is better than having the thoughts of a silent victim on the page (Strika, Agu’s best friend).

My other problem with this book is that Agu leaves his fellow soldiers after the death of his friend, and walks off into the sunlight, (spoiler) only to be saved in the next chapter.  The very last chapter is a glimpse of the refugee camp with what seems to be a white counselor trying to talk Agu through his survival and his conscience.  I may be the only one who feels this way, but Agu should have died.  In order to understand the brutality of the situation, Agu should have died and been saved through his own death.  He should not live on because of the reader’s hopes of a happy ending, or the need for the author to make hope out of a war that isn’t over.  Agu has killed, and yes his psyche is all off, and his emotions and humanhood are all screwed-up, he is completely brain washed into these killings, but then I want his death to be his redemption.  The true end to this story was redemption through death and Iweala fails to find it.  This refugee camp is a cop out.  And now I’m all angry.

Falling Whistle

Really, you would think I’d be happy Agu was saved, but I’m not.  I’m that sort of person that an ending of a book is more important to me than the happiness of readers at the end.  We didn’t need this sewed up and tied with a bow.  We did not need the yams and the rice to fill his stomach after starvation.  We DEFINITELY didn’t need some white therapist stepping in to work through his child soldier memories.  That last part probably disturbs me the most because it ends on this note that white people are saving West Africa, or that white people are the saviors that everyone needs, or that the white mentality is stronger and better than the mentalities of other races.

What it basically says is that white (american) people understand, and will help.  (Let me speak for the group really quickly…I know this is not everyone’s feelings)…WHAT DO WE UNDERSTAND?  I don’t understand a damn thing about child trafficking, violence, or child soldiers in war.  Here in the US we let young men fight at the age of eighteen and when they die we tell ourselves that they lived a full life, filled with proms and football games.  We don’t understand the brutality of children fighting in war, children sewing together Nike’s in factories, the cost of one large diamond for our ring finger.  Oh, you mean people died from this?  I’m just a bit disgusted with the “white savior” at the end of this book.  Do we have to be constantly bombarded with this idea?

I’m not even sure I’ll post this blog at this point.  I feel like people are going to be offended.  (Side note: I asked my mother and three bloggers I really trust to look over this blog before posting it to make sure I didn’t hurt anyone.  It would pain me incredibly if anyone was offended by this blog and thus why I asked for others opinions).

I’ve learned throughout my life that you can’t say “I don’t see color,” because then you’re taking the uniqueness away from every person in a room.  You’re removing people’s history, people’s culture, people’s identities even.

So, while I recommend this book because some people need their eyes open to the cruelties of the world (me), I don’t think it’s the best book on the subject, and I think Iweala could have handled it better.   I actually do believe he will as he continues writing his heart.

In trying to help somehow with the cause of child soldiers, here are some links that I believe in.

Here are other reviews by bloggers: