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:


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:

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.


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

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:

Newsday Tuesday

I know we’re all focused on the music this week with the Grammy’s and the “coming out” of Roman.  If you really want to see what I thought of that please watch Jenna Marbles interpretation of Nicki Minaj.  But, it’s time to get back to the good stuff: books.  Ah, the dusty smells of closets, cedar, and men’s cigar seeped pockets.

That being said: HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY! 

Chocolate Never Things I'm Crazy (or you...)

Last week I mentioned The Million’s guide to Literary Tumblrs.  And this week I want to share all the cool stuff I’ve found.

  • I came across awesome people reading and did a quick picture of some of my favorites.  (Come on, hairy Sean Connery, swoon).

Doris Day, Jimi Hendrix, Anais Nin & Sean Connery Reading.

Is it weird that Sean Connery looks really similar to my dad when he was young?  Maybe. Nah, my dad was a looker, and a playboy.

  • The Books They Gave Me is also a literary tumblr filled with books given by old boyfriends.  It’s kind of my new favorite website. Hint: Anything dealing with reminiscing on old love makes me both depressed and warm.  This entry about Sylvia Plath is my favorite:

    Sylvia Plath’s journal page for September 16, 1959 describing the Yaddo furnishings on Smith memorandum stationary.

    • “The day I left for college you slipped it into the backseat of my car. I’d wanted it for months. And now the well-thumbed book sits on the part of my shelf I save for the books I love most, with your inscription—red pen; your beautiful, slim handwriting; your assurances that I am meant to write, that I should use the book not as means of negative comparison but as means of reminding me that this, this, is what I am supposed to do. I am almost out of college; I didn’t want to, could never unwrap me from you.”
  • I found a place where you can hear five National Book Award Finalists read excerpts.  Thank you, NPR.  This has absolutely nothing to do with literary tumblrs, I was just really excited.  It’s always marvel to hear writers read their own work.
  • The Atlantic has had a police sketch done of a few of our favorite, and a few less desirable characters in our life.  My favorite is probably Emma Bovary.  See them all here.
  • Ever wanted to be that girl that both glitters and inspires reading, well get literary nail art.  You have to know my favorite is Alice nails.
  • Favorite First Australian Lines on Whispering Gums.  You all should know by now that this blog started in Australia and about my living there.  Now, I just have a special place in my heart for arid land and marsupials.  Plus, I’m doing an Australian Women Reading Challenge and so I need more Australian book recommendations.
  • Penguin has created a Twitter book club.  I think they stole my idea, but I’m not going to say anything.  They’re a big six and I’m a little one.  I’ve wanted to do this with my summer camp ladies forever.  Can we get on this? Any bloggers interested in reading the same book once a month?
  • Book Love for Valentine's

    Guardian articles the Best Love Poems, writers pick.  Who doesn’t want a love poem on Valentine’s Day?  This reminds me, everyone write a special note to poet, Ted Kooser who for over twenty years has written love poems to women all over the country.  These women are grocery store cashiers, electricians and bureaucrats and all of them get a little love from Kooser every heart day.  Here is the story from 2008.  Here is my favorite poem:

If this comes creased and creased again and soiled
as if I’d opened it a thousand times
to see if what I’d written here was right,
it’s all because I looked too long for you
to put in your pocket. Midnight says
the little gifts of loneliness come wrapped
by nervous fingers. What I wanted this
to say was that I want to be so close
that when you find it, it is warm from me.

I sent this out to a few of my Valentine’s in 2009 after discovering Kooser’s love notes.  My mom still has the first one hanging from her fridge.  I haven’t done anything as creative this year, sorry friends.  Just wait till March for the letter challenge.  Hope everyone has a lovely little V-Day.  If you can’t celebrate St. Valentine, celebrate your vagina, or plan a vacation, buy vampire teeth, or vacuum the downstairs carpet, or become a vagabond, or a valet.  Just be valiant.  It’s about the V, after all.

Project 365 | Week 6

This was the week of light sabers and Star Wars.  I’m not at all sure why.  I think that it’s because my best friend Sars lost her puppy to a freak illness this week (RIP Asher Naboo).  Inevitably, Sars love of Star Wars found its way into my week.  I needed a little hint that my friends were hurting.  It’s funny how the world reminds you when to love.

Day 36 | Superbowl Travesty

I spent the Superbowl with my teens.  This is a moment of pandemonium…I’m sure you can tell by the hurt on Tom Brady’s Face. Two words: Poor Giselle.

Day 37 | Finally Finished a Tube

It’s funny now that I take pictures I think of the significance of stupid little everyday things.  I wonder how long it took me to use-up this entire tube of Crest Complete.  Probably a lot in my life has happened since this Crest Complete has been using its whitening powers to remove plaque from my stubbly teeth.  I’m now using Toms of Maine toothpaste which doesn’t taste very good but it’s not tested on any animals and uses all natural ingredients.  Hence: I have become a hippie.  (Yes, I brush my teeth in the shower).

Day 38 | Embarrassing myself in the movie theater

They wouldn’t let me bring my Starbucks into the movie so I had to force them to bring a chair behind this poster so that I could fit into the hole.  It seems Luke is a very tall man.  (Here is where I apologize to all the Star Wars fans and my best friend who may be the biggest one and say, this is Obi-Wan Kenobi, not Luke.  Dang).

Here are the deleted scenes:

Deleted Scene

I so badly want to be tall.

Day 39 | What's more lonely than a roof?

I spent all day at the RR by myself on Thursday.  I tried to think of a way to capture that lonliness without actually having to take a picture of myself all pimpled from stress.  Here’s what came out of it.  The only times I’ve ever sat on a roof were when I was a. trying to run away from home, b. trying to climb out of my window and sneak off to kiss boys or c. just sitting out there smelling the breeze.  It’s a lonely place, unless you’re a young adult who can jump off her roof onto a trash can and not fall through into the clumps of her family’s meals.  I’d say those were some very Ninja Turtle moves.

Day 40 | Bookishness

My brother has this amazing back porch and it’s the perfect place to grab a cup of afternoon coffee and a good book.

Day 40.333 | First Light Saber

This is his first light saber.  Every young man should have one.  As you can see he had too many legos (you should see his ultimate lego table in his room and then you’d really believe me) so we had to move on to bigger and better things.

40.666 | Proving I have the cutest nephew in the world

My precious cargo.

Day 41 | Business Cards

I think I eat enough Mexican that I deserve to have my old business card in one of their slots.  No, the RR is not religious, nor is it particularly foreign (occasionally), but none the less, I felt I was owed this business card placement.  I’ve eaten my weight in queso and had enough salsa that I could float a small boat through my insides – I thought it was time I promote myself for my ability to cheat on a diet.

Day 42 | Cleaning Out My Closet

Yesterday, I cleaned out my closet and got rid of two garbage bags full of clothes (thank you, Sterling Birdie).  And no, I didn’t write a cool rap about it like Eminem, but I did find my Prayer Book from maybe first grade in one of the drawers.  It seems I liked cats even then (see stamps on left).  I thought the prayer on the right was perfect for helping me create a sense of calm in my room while I decided what to keep and what to give away.  (This was post jamming out to Jessie J “Domino” which I’m obsessed with).  Plus, I just really love St. Francis, both the church I’ve gone to since I was six, and the man himself.

Participating Blogroll:

Backlogged | Lorrie Moore Obsession

Dude, where’s my life?

I’ve been so busy that I haven’t had anytime to review the wonderful books I’ve read throughout half of February.  I’m going to have to let a few slip by, but two of them I can’t really just let go of that easily.  One is an oldie but a goodie, and the other is brand spankin’ new.  So, today, oldie but goodie.  Next week, brand spankin’ new.

Lorrie Moore Creeper

First lesson in reading or writing literary fiction: if you haven’t read Lorrie Moore, put your pencil down, stop patting yourself on the back for that witty new character you’ve created and go to the literature, particularly the M’s for Moore.  As a side note, if you haven’t read Lorrie Moore, I can not be your friend until you do that.  I know, I have harsh standards for friendship, but that’s definitely one of my top five, after loyalty and before good note passing skills (in my later years we call those penpalships, or letters on stationary).

I’m not even sure I can dare speak about Lorrie Moore.  I’m not even sure, like Alice, I can reach the door knob of Lorrie Moore’s castle.  But, as always, I’m going to try.

Self-Help, at its heart is a collection of stories on how to be a helper of mankind.  I know that sounds really sentimental, but she does it in a way that you don’t even see coming.  One second you’re in this imagined lovers-turned-roommates relationship and the next second (boom) you’re in the clutches of your own life, unable to breathe and heaving for air.  To be honest, I’m pretty sure I’m the girl in both “How” and “How to Become a Writer.”  And this is definitely not a case of me reading too into things.  But that’s the glory of Lorrie Moore, you actually think you’re a character, even beyond that anonymous “you.”   You find yourself saying, “wait, I would totally meet a boyfriend at a ‘rummage sale'” or “‘escape into [a] book.  When he asks what you’re reading, hold it up without comment.'”  I’m really passive aggressive, a perfect girl to hold a book and continue in the silence.

Plus, I’m not going to lie, but every time I read this book (probably at eight times right about now, counting all the anthologized stories I read throughout undergrad ficiton writing classes) I still feel like one of these women.  I still feel caught up in my life, or like I could stab my (invisible) husband in a bakery if I caught him cheating.  This is probably saying more about me than it is about this book.

Drawing of Moore's story "To Fill" by artist Sam Jacoff

I don’t even know really how to describe Lorrie Moore’s writing because it’s just fascinating to look at.  She uses metaphors like everything can be related to everything.  It’s almost a six degree separation with her.  One of the quotes below has a man making love to a woman but using robotic movements like someone opening a cupboard.  Who would think that way?  It’s like her brain is a series of pockets that correlate with one another and of course sex-cupboard, why haven’t we made this connection before?  I wish it was that easy for all writers, but then we wouldn’t have like Lorrie Moore to both teach and humble us.

She’s also both witty and sentimental which is hard to do.  At times you think witty and cynical go together and other times you want to cry because she’s leaving you broken from all angles.  I think the star of this collection is the use of second person to make the reader be literally in the story.  A lot of people are turned off by the “you” but I think in every instance she uses it, although it’s a lot, it works.  (So, get turned on).  I’m not sure that if the writing was less impeccable and less finely detailed than Moore’s, that I would have accepted so many stories in second person.

Signature of Lorrie Morre on Self-Help

In the story, “Amahl and the Night Visitors” Moore chronicles a break-up from moment of initial demise all the way through packing bags (initial demise is of course a cat, aren’t they always)?  However in “How to Talk to Your Mother” she does almost the opposite by chronicling a girls life backwards by year.  From years without your mother, to the womb.  This is probably the moment where I learned ten pages make a life.  In fact, one page, one sentence, probably makes a life.  Thus, why we have six word memoirs.  In fact, I dare you all (readers and whoever else happens to stumble here by googling bad things) to write a chronicle of your life backyards using a person or a situation as the nail it all hangs on.  Moore uses the mother to define the daughter, now you use something in your own life to chronicle yourself backwards, and of course use the second person, “you.”  See where it gets you, email what you come up with.  This is a dare, a triple dog dare.  I’ll do it too, I need to write anyway.

The best gift, from the best writers, is the need to tell your own story; made-up or true. That’s what I believe.

I’ll end this by saying: Lorrie Morrie is all of the things that I want to be when I grow up.

Here are my favorite quotes:

  • “Beware of a man who says he loves you but who is incapable of a passionate confession, of melting into a sob.” (43, Moore, “What is Seized”). First of all how does she manipulate grammar that way.  Secondly, isn’t this a story of a whole generation of men and boys in just one sentence.
  • “When your parents divide, you, too bifurcate.  You cleave and bubble and break in two, live two lives, half of you crying every morning on the dock at sunrise, black hair fading to dusky gray, part of you traveling off to some other town where you teach school and tell jokes in an Italian accent in a bar and make people laugh.  And when your mother starts to lose her mind, so do you.  You begin to be afraid of people on the street.  You see shapes — old men and spiders — in the wallpaper again like when you were little and sick.  The moon’s reflection on the lake starts to look to you like a dead fish floating golden belly up.  Ask anyone.  Ask anyone whose mother is losing her mind.” (42, Moore, “What is Seized”) I think she wanted to use bifurcate in a sentence, and tell you what divorce is like.  I think she writes magic into places on peoples bodies where it has died, or has become lonely.  
  • “I think of my father, imagine him long ago at night casually parting my mother’s legs with the mechanical indifference of someone opening a cupboard.  And I say to myself: I will leave every cold man, every man for whom music is some private physics and love some unsteppable dance.  I will try to make them regret.  To make them sad.  I am driving toward my tiny kitchen table and I will write this: forgiveness lives alone and far off down the road, but bitterness and art are close, gossipy neighbors, sharing the same clothesline, hanging out their things, getting their laundry confused. (46, Moore, What is Seized). 

I have more favorite quotes that go beyond that one story, but I think those quotes kind of tell a story on their own.


  1. Here is a wonderful interview with Lorrie Moore from Paris Review.  I think her answers aren’t sprinted through, but well-thought out.
  2. Here is another one from The Believer where she answers different questions.
  3. The Short Review…review of Self-Help.
  4. The American Literary Review (blogspot). I’m kind of obsessed with the title of this blog.