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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Tying Up Loose Ends: Another Year Survived

So 2013's reading resolution was a failure. 20,000 pages was the goal and I only managed 8,078. Turns out I spent most of the year 20,000 leagues under my comforter! In a bathrobe!! Listening to Ladytron!!!


See also.

Anyway. I'd like to tie up my unfinished reading business and share some snippets from things that weren't completed or don't warrant their own post. Here goes.

From an interview with Michael Holroyd, biographer, in Paris Review, Issue 205.


I've always believed that there's no such thing as a definitive biography and, particularly if you write about writers, that you are offering your subject the opportunity to write one more book, posthumously, of course, and in collaboration with you. Even if you and I were writing about the same subject, and even if our research were identical, we would produce different books. The dates and so on would be the same, but some themes would seem important to you and insignificant to me.

 From Living History: Hillary Rodham Clinton

My mother and my grandmothers could never have lived my life; my father and my grandfathers could never have imagined it. But they bestowed on me the promise of America, which made my life and my choices possible.


From Taipei, by Tao Lin


It would take her thousands of steps to get anywhere, but she would get there easily, and when she arrived in the present, it would seem like it had been a single movement that brought her there. Did existence ever seem worked for? One seemed simply to be here, less an accumulation of moments than a single arrangement continuously gifted from some inaccessible future.


While idly eating the salad-y remains of his burrito with a fork, around twenty minutes later, Paul became aware of himself analyzing when he should've left. He vaguely traced back the night and concluded he should've left when, on his way to the venue, he had been "completely lose." He allowed himself to consider earlier opportunities, mostly for something to do, and discerned after a brief sensation of helplessness--like if he'd divided 900 by itself and wanted the calculator to answer 494/494 or 63/63--that, in terms of leaving this social situation, he shouldn't have been born.


Paul woke on his back, with uncomfortably warm feet, in a bright room, not immediately aware who or where he was, or how he had arrived. Most mornings, with decreasing frequency, probably only because the process was becoming unconscious, he wouldn't exactly know anything until three to twenty seconds of passive remembering, as if by unzipping a file--newroom.zip--into a PDF, showing his recent history and narrative context, which he'd delete after viewing, thinking that before he slept again he would have memorized this period of his life, but would keep newroom.zip, apparently not trusting himself.


 I really wanted to love Taipei. But just didn't. I never did finish it. Another year older, I wonder if my tastes have changed. Either way, I hope Tao Lin releases more poetry and short stories in the future.

Happy new year, my lovelies.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy

I have a handful of literary guilty pleasures (handfuls the size of Hulk hands), and the Bridget Jones series is one of them. I read the first two books straight through during a 19 hour flight to Japan a few years back. I also kept a travel journal for that particular trip, and needless to say Bridget's diary-keeping style seeped into it, making it pretty useless for reading now. It's full of weird, shallow observations and abbreviations of very as "v." It is funny though.

So non-spoiler alert, if you've read the books or are familiar with the movies, Mark Darcy has kicked the bucket. Bridget's a 50-year-old widow with two kids. And if it seems like Mark leaving this plane of existence is a cop out to get Bridget back in the same dating scene she was in the first two books, you'd be correct. It's almost criminal just how much the plot follows that of the first book. And of course Pride and Prejudice. There's a Mr. Darcy here as well, completely obvious and ridiculous from first greeting. "Welp, no need to read the rest. This grumpy man just saved her from a tree. They'll be married by the end." And so.

Highlight: if they do make Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy: The Movie, Daniel Craig will most certainly play the part of Mark Darcy 2.0.

Another highlight: Bridget has joined Twitter: which given her writing style, is her natural habitat.

Regardless of recycled plot, it's still funny, if a bit repetitive in its jokes. The best parts were the poignant moments, when Bridget and the kids talk about the dear departed Mr. Darcy. Those were truly touching and well-written and may or may not have made me shed tears.

But those won't be the quotes I'll share with you. Let's get straight down to pure Bridget.

I WILL NOT

  • Get annoyed by dishwasher, tumble dryer and microwave beeping in attention-seeking manner to tell you they have finished, wasting time crossly imitating dishwasher by dancing round saying, 'Oh, oh, look at me, I'm a dishwasher, I've washed the dishes.'
  • Eat grated cheese straight out of the fridge, dropping it all over the floor.
  • Lie in bed in the morning thinking morbid or erotic thoughts, but get straight up at six o'clock and do self up for school run in manner of Stella McCartney, Claudia Schiffer or similar.

Why are bodies so difficult to manage? Why? 'Oh, oh, look at me, I'm a body, I'm going to splurge fat unless you, like STARVE yourself and go to undignified TORTURE CENTRES and don't eat anything nice or get drunk.' Hate diet. Is all fault of SOCIETY. Am just going to be old and fat and eat whatever I like and NEVER HAVE SEX AGAIN and WHEEL MY FAT AROUND ON A TROLLEY.

There are at least twenty more examples of Bridget doing the 'Oh, oh, look at me' dance.

Sunday 28 October 2012
DO NOT TEXT AT ODD TIMES OF DAY OR NIGHT IN MANNER OF STALKER

5:30 a.m. Maybe will text Leatherjacketman!
< How are you? >

One soul reaching out to another, I thought, amid the smouldering remains of the silly old mess we'd accidentally created, like silly billies in the midst of a deep unbreakable connection; Leonardo da Vinci's Adam reaching out, in that painting, for God's fingertips.

Friday 2 November 2012
Possibilities of anything ever happening with male of species again 0.


Happy Christmas, all.

400 pages
8,078 / 20,000 page goal

Monday, December 16, 2013

Hyperbole and a Half

The subtitle for Allie Brosh's book Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened, could double as a subtitle for this blog. Anyway. Bad Things happen, but also good things. Like this book.

Oh, Simple Dog.
Allie Brosh has been running the extremely popular blog Hyperbole and a Half since 2009, narrating the ups and downs of her life through prose and comics. I first got into reading webcomics around that time, and I fell in love with her drawing style and humor. And Simple Dog.

It's incredible just how accurately Brosh can convey specific feelings and attitudes through simple line drawings. It's a style that looks easy but I know must take hours of work to get exactly right.

Probably one of Brosh's most relatable entries to her blog is her latest dealing with the issue of depression, which you can read in full here: Depression Part Two. It's heartbreaking and hilarious, and I've yet to see anything else that portrays the hardship of explaining depression to your peers and loved ones as this does.

Here are some snippets from the book.



"If you were sitting quietly on your couch, waiting for your girlfriend to come back inside so you could finish watching your movie, and while you were waiting, someone called you up and said "I'll give you a million dollars if you can guess what's going to happen next," you absolutely would not guess "I am going to be brutally and unexpectedly attacked by a goose in my own home." Even if you had a hundred guesses you would not guess that."


So, buy the book, check out her blog, and watch this delightful clip of Brosh reading the first chapter and a Q&A session with fans.

369 pages
7,678 / 20,000 page goal

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Lathe of Heaven

The premise of Ursula K. Le Guin's The Lathe of Heaven is a simple one: what if someone could change the world with their dreams? But the resulting speculative novel is anything but simple.

George Orr is an average guy. Almost spectacular in his averageness. Except that when he has particularly vivid dreams, whatever happens inside them manifests itself into reality when he wakes. Frightened of his power, he seeks help from a psychologist, who in turns wants to harness this incredible opportunity to change the world. But power, even used with noble intentions, can have devastating consequences.

The entire story leaves you on edge, questioning what's real, the reliability of the protagonist, and ultimately the reliability of the world outside the story. Reading it I felt like Bastian making his way through the Neverending Story, seeing himself mentioned, and just being like





My first thought after reading was, how has this not been turned into a movie yet? Especially after the success of Inception in 2010? Then I did my research and found out it has. Twice. Neither being a blockbuster by any means. But the first attempt, a 1980 public television flick with a shoestring budget, actually turned out to be pretty decent. Oh, the special effects are somewhat hilarious, but it follows very closely to the book. And I bow down to anyone trying to make a film that involves volcanoes, space wars, aliens, nuclear disaster and beautiful ponies with $250k. You can watch the entire thing on Youtube.

Here are some passages that will hopefully convince you to become a Le Guin-head like me.


"But in fact, isn't that man's very purpose on earth--to do things, change things, run things, make a better world?"
"No!"
"What is his purpose, then?"
"I don't know. Things don't have purposes, as if the universe were a machine, where every part has a useful function. What's the function of a galaxy? I don't know if our life has purpose and I don't see that it matters. What does matter is that we're a part. Like a thread in a cloth or a grass-blade in a field. It is and we are. What we do is like wind blowing on the grass."


That Haber could have thus got out of communication with himself was rather hard for Orr to conceive; his own mind was so resistant to such divisions that he was slow to recognize them in others. But he had learned that they existed. He had grown up in a country run by politicians who sent the pilots to man the bombers to kill the babies to make the world safe for children to grow up in.


There is a bird in a poem by T. S. Eliot who says that mankind cannot bear very much reality; but the bird is mistaken. A man can endure the entire weight of the universe for eighty years. It is unreality that he cannot bear.



192 pages
7,309 / 20,000 page goal

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Dewey's Read-a-Thon



Between my playing video games 25 hours straight on October 25th, and reading 24 hours straight this coming Saturday, October is going to be a very sleep deprived month.

I desperately need to add more to my page count before my 20,000 page goal reaches its deadline Dec. 31. So here goes! On Oct. 12th I'm going to read for 24 hours as part of Dewey's Read-a-Thon, which you can find more about here.

I'll probably be live tumbling/vining (can't link my vine, but just search for scifibrarian) that day if anyone's interested in the ramblings of someone with attention problems trying to focus on one activity for an entire day. Prepare for plenty of whining and Red Bull worship.

UPDATE:

Wow, so did you guys know that 24 hours is a long time!? Like, if you start reading at 8am, you're supposed to continue until 8am...the next morning!?

Yeah, needless to say I'm calling it a night. I didn't get started until 1pm due to Things™, and I'm stopping now at 1am due to having a headache so intense it feels like Athena's going to burst from my forehead. Also I have a potluck and volleyball practice to go to tomorrow. Under the influence of no sleep I'd most likely start spiking pumpkin pies and gnawing on my knee pads.

But 12 hours ain't bad...right? And turns out "live-blogging" reading is kind of impossible. But I did make one vine:



Fun coincidence though, the one novel I did manage to make it all the way through today was Ursula K. Le Guin's The Lathe of Heaven, which features a guy desperately trying not to sleep. I identified! I'll write up a post about it once I get some Zzzz's into my system. I also made it through a chunk of The Complete Poems of Anne Sexton which is going to take a lot more than a day to make it through.
Good job all you dedicated read-a-thoner's out there! I bow to your resilience. 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Tumblr I guess!

There's a ton I don't like about tumblr. I hear chainsaws in my head when I'm trying to make it work. And finding the source of a reblogged post can be a long and arduous process. But I have an account so I may as well use it.

So I've announced my tumblr on here before I think, but now I'm going to be double posting what I write on here. So if you prefer that format, have at it. virtualmargin.tumblr.com

But beware, plan for extra doses of reblogged comics, social justice spiels, sailor moon geekery and Michael Fassbender gifs. You've been warned.



Thursday, September 26, 2013

Extra Life: 25 hour Gaming Marathon and Book Giveaway

I'm so excited about this. I'm like Jessie Spano hyped up on caffeine pills.

Here's the deal. On November 2nd October 25th, I will be playing games--computer, video, or otherwise--for 25 hours straight as part of Extra Life: a charity event featuring gamers supporting Children's Miracle Network hospitals. It's awesome. And yes it's also kinda lazy. It's a way for non-5k runners to take a stand (or a sit). But who really cares when it's helping to fund an important and deserving cause?

I will be playing to support the Children's Hospital at Carilion Clinic in Roanoke, Virginia. Carilion Clinic Children’s Hospital (CCCH) is the only children’s hospital in southwest Virginia, and the third largest in the Commonwealth.

CCCH is devoted exclusively to the health care needs of children and improving their quality of life. No child is ever turned away. They are the safety net for southwest Virginia's poorest children, sickest children, and children with the most specialized health care needs. More than two dozen hospitals transport their critically ill and injured children to CCCH for access to the most advanced life-saving technology and medical services available.

You want it. You NEED it.
So I'm asking for some help. It would be tremendous if you blog-reading lovelies were to donate ANY amount to mine, or anyone else's fundraising page.

Donations are tax-deductible and ALL PROCEEDS go to help kids.

And here's the fun part: if you donate $15 or more to my page, I will mail you a free copy of Ernest Cline's awesome video game-celebrating novel, Ready Player One (check out my review here).

When you donate, just let me know in the notes/comments section of your donation that you want the novel by writing "Ready Player One," and be sure to include your email address so I can get your mailing address later. I WILL ship internationally, and buy you any non-English edition if that's what you prefer.


I'll probably be doing some form of live tweeting/blogging/vining (?) November 2nd--I'll let you know when we're closer to the date in case anyone's interested. Or you can say hi to me on Xbox live: my username is Astraea162.

So I have one more thing to ask of you....have any game suggestions? I have a pile of Xbox games to dig into, but I was thinking it'd be nice to play a somewhat socially-conscious game for the occasion. Killing zombies is fun, but doesn't exactly match the warm fuzzies of our fundraising goal. Any ideas?

Thank you guys. You're incredible and awesome and wonderful, whether you're able to donate anything or not. You READ THINGS which is more than enough for me.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Internet Lovelies and other things too

I've got three quotes from the same person in this Internet Lovelies draft. That's a good indication it's ready to be purged!

But before that. I need to purge some nerdy things off my chest.

First off: I went to my first (well, first real) comic book convention this past weekend! Small Press Expo
(SPX) in Maryland. It was amazing. I got to meet so many artists and writers I admire. I also put myself into some serious debt buying up everything shiny. And oh, I could have bought so much more given the funding. Kickstarter for me to buy and review indie comics? Donate a dollar and I'll high five you in the street.

So once I finish reading and rolling around in my pile of goodies I'll make a post.

Secondly, it seems appropriate with the recent release of Grand Theft Auto 5 to remind the literary blogosphere that, no, not all vidja games are misogynistic pieces of violence-glorifying, mindless, vicarious wank-fests. A lot are, yes, but not all. Some are fucking fantastic.Some games readers would absolutely fall in love with, given the chance. And some of you now realize I've been overplaying a particular game recently and am now getting ready to promote it incessantly to an uninterested audience.

Introducing the MASS EFFECT TRILOGY! *trumpets blare*

If you're not a gamer, chances are if you've heard of Mass Effect it's due to its fans being cranky over the ending. And just to guarantee I see a few thousand hits on this post, here goes: MASS EFFECT 3 ENDING. And although it's a bit sad that the game's biggest claim to fame is its disappointing ending, it's a huge testament to exactly how much the series meant to those who played it.

It's an RPG. It's a shooter. It's an RPG shooter! But besides combining the two most popular video game genres into one package, creators BioWare made another smart move: they made the actions of the person playing the game actually mean something. The term "mass effect" doesn't just refer to the fields of energy permitting space travel in the series, but also the massive e/affect your decisions as a player will have on the narrative. And not just in one game, but in all three. Your saves are carried across between all the games, so kill someone off in the first one, and they won't be making an appearance in 2 or 3.

What else makes it great? It's a science-fiction masterpiece. It asks the tough questions, and better yet, makes you answer them. Almost like Sophie's Choice: The Videogame. Its writing isn't exactly Shakespearean, but you wouldn't know it by how much you'll fall in love with the characters. It isn't news that I'm pretty emotional--I've admitted to crying over dog food commercials. But Mass Effect 3 was the very first video game I've actually laid down on the floor bawling while playing.

 The music. It's not your standard 8-bit soundtrack. There are some really gorgeous pieces. Jack Wall and Sam Hulick did most of the composing across the trilogy, but in the third they got to collaborate with Clint Mansell. Clint Mansell, a.k.a. my favorite composer; the man behind the soundtracks to The Fountain, Moon, Black Swan, Requiem for a Dream, etc. The result:




The voice acting. Martin Sheen, Keith David, Seth Green, Carrie-Ann Moss...BUZZ ALDRIN. Enough said.

So if you're a science fiction fan but afraid all modern videogames involve running over hookers and zombies, or 13 year olds calling you a noob over a headset, give this a try. You'll love it. Just don't come crying to me when you reach the ending (it wasn't that bad).

Here's a trailer:



Another note: the trailer mentions a "very specific man," but you can make Commander Shephard any gender or race you like. Unfortunately marketing gurus don't like venturing outside the straight-white-male formula. Namaste.

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.


most reviews seem like a combination of vague/abstract/sweeping statements, lies, inaccurate chains of thought, irrelevant information, personal prejudices, blind allegiance to traditions, personal belief in one's ability to judge for others, passive insults, reluctant/qualified acceptance of talent, asskissing, exagerrated statements, reference to older authors and his/her work as template for how one can be better, unresolved psychological issues, jealously, desire for acceptance/shittalking how 'cool' the author and his/her group is, and other insecurities/pettiness.
 Sam Pink, Link

That. All of that. It's why I don't do review-reviews. If anything I write """'''""reviews."""'''""

Next week on the Thrones season finale: Ned Stark returns as a white walker, Tyrion Lannister has a wet dream and impregnates his leather jerkin, Joffrey starts ignoring his bethrothed and focuses on playing Black Ops II full time, Melisandre gives birth to a spectral Mary Tyler Moore, Theon Greyjoy is tortured for a solid twenty minutes, Cersei goes on a tragic late night QVC ordering binge, Sansa Stark gets implants and Samwell Tarly finally shows off the depth of his wizardry by proving he is the only man in the seven kingdoms able to make it through A Dance with Dragons without falling asleep more than once.

"Dick Cheney", Link 

Admiration is often irresponsible. You love those you shouldn’t, and mistreat those who love you. Until the universe at large carpets itself wall-to-wall as a therapist’s room, we’ll just have to get by being a little sick.
Jimmy Chen, Link

Buying fancy stuff with food stamps isn't fraud -- it's just something that seems unfair to people who think a government safety net should afford poor people modest food only. More broadly, the idea is that the poor should feel poor at all times until they're not poor anymore.
Arthur Delaney, Link


Great piece on the ugliness of food stamp resentment. Another thing that's great about that last segment is how easily it can be translated into other areas of social shaming. Example "the idea is that fat people should feel fat at all times until they're not fat anymore."

this idea that we must show tolerance of those who would deny basic human rights to someone due solely to sexual preference is the most backwards and blind weapon of homophobes. We do tolerate you, Orson Scott Card. We let you live and breathe and marry and divorce and rant and write and visit your loved ones in the hospital and receive benefits when your partner dies. That is tolerance. Tolerance doesn't mean agreeing with your hateful, narrow, ancient views. It means allowing you to live your life as the little worm you are without denying any of the rights that any other citizen receives. 
Meredith Borders, Link


A terrific response to Orson Scott Card's latest plea for audiences to be "tolerant" of his intolerance, in regard to the online movement pushing fans to skip seeing the Ender's Game movie. I'm all for the movement, but at the same time, don't want to put the issue into enough of a spotlight to attract conservative bloodhounds. The kind that rallied a cry to swamp Chik-fil-a with chicken-devouring Christians.

By the way. If you're looking for a nice Chik-fil-a replacement, try Zaxby's. If you're lucky enough to live near one.

Every heartbeat is a slow death rave with only one person dancing. I turn up the sound machine, whose thick murmur I mistake for robotic sentience, a sympathetic non-language coaxing me to sleep, telling me stories about a quaint distance defined by my very absence; for utter silence is when the monologue begins, the mind’s horror film without the fake blood, only the real self. I wonder how many pills it would take to wake up next to her, the nightmare ended, morning here at last.
Jimmy Chen, Link

When I expressed to my co-workers, also having salads, that one’s shredded cheddar and jack were thick paranoid grooves in a Van Gogh sky, or that a sole cherry tomato was a flaming sun, or that one’s ranch dressing was a Pollockian explosive orgasm, they looked at me with precise nausea. We stabbed our paintings with bio-degradable forks, barely getting enough protein, convinced that if we starved ourselves, our abs would eventually show, along with our ribs. This was not anorexia, but fear of love handles; or simply, fear of love. Fear that someone might not see past the costume of fat into the real us. But here, the collective first person faints, and disappears. It is only I standing, on some invented path, overlooking quiet hysteria.
Jimmy Chen, Link 

When does this all end, though? When do we stop having to remind the world about the realities of rape culture? When do we stop having to lighten up and grit our teeth as we sit through music and movies and television shows that soften everyone’s attitudes to women, their bodies, and consent?  When do women’s bodies stop being a problem? When do we stop scrutinizing how women dress and act and flirt and fuck? When do we get a justice system that adequately punishes rapists but also treats them humanely, protects them from sexual violence, and makes a genuine attempt at rehabilitation? When will I free myself from this cage I’ve trapped myself in? When will I stop feeling like the answer to these questions is never? 
Roxane Gay, Link

And not an internet lovely, but a magazine lovely:
...I wanted the thing that prevents her from publishing her grand theory not to be misogyny but her own perfectionism. I feel like that's a much more realistic character flaw. It's also something that holds women back from presenting their ideas in the world, often because they wait until it's perfect. It doesn't stop men from bring forth all kinds of half-assed and ill-formed notions, but it seems to stop women.
Elizabeth Gilbert, Sept/Oct 2013 issue of Mother Jones

I like Elizabeth Gilbert. Fuck you.

And one last thing. An honest trailer for World War Z, which was the straw that broke the camel's back in regard to me closing down my film adaptation blog:


Monday, September 16, 2013

The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, Part 1

I've been working on this mammoth for awhile. And rather than creating one epic, 20,000 word blog post, I thought it wiser to split it into sections as I read along. I'm only 443 poems into this almost unbelievable collection of 1,775. It covers all her poetry from approximately 1850 to her death in 1886.

I feel a sort of kinship with Dickinson. She seemed to be as obsessed with mortality, flowers, and em dashes as I am. Not to mention her poetry being consumed by self-doubt and an almost schizophrenic attitude towards faith--bouncing back and forth between loving devotion and outright contempt.

Her work really seems to find its footing around 1859-1862, when she would've been approaching age thirty. It also marks the beginning of the Civil War, which interestingly enough, doesn't make it's way into her writing. At least not blatantly. It'll be interesting to see if anything changes as my reading makes its way to the climax of the war in 1863, and the end of slavery/assassination of Lincoln in '65.

So I'm going to share my favorites now, keeping in mind that there is just soooooo much content to go through. I picked my favorites, which may or may not be the most well-regarded or famous. All emphasis is mine.

Prepare for morbidity and em dashes in 3...2...1....

#148

All overgrown by cunning moss,
All interspersed with weed,
The little cage of "Currer Bell"
In quiet "Haworth" laid.

Gathered from many wanderings--
Gethsemone can tell
Thro' what transporting anguish
She reached the Asphodel!

Soft fall the sounds of Eden
Upon her puzzled ear--
Oh what an afternoon for Heaven
When "Bronte" entered there!

A favorite, obviously, because "Bronte." It's a little surreal to see one of your favorite writers exalted by another favorite writer, when they were separated by an entire ocean and opposing levels of notoriety. Charlotte was, by her death, incredibly famous as an author, while Emily's name wouldn't become notorious until well after her own death.


from #271

A hallowed thing--to drop a life
Into the purple well--
Too plummetless--that it return--
Eternity--until--

I pondered how the bliss would look--
And would it feel as big--
When I could take it in my hand--
As hovering--seen--through fog--

And then--the size of this "small" life--
The Sages--call it small--
Swelled--like Horizons--in my vest--
And I sneered--softly--"small"!


from #295

Feet, small as mine--have marched in Revolution
Firm to the Drum--
Hands--not so stout--hoisted them--in witness--
When Speech went numb--

#300

"Morning" means "milking"--to the Farmer--
Dawn--to the Teneriffe--
Dice--to the Maid--
Morning means just Risk--to the Lover--
Just revelation--to the Beloved--

Epicures--date a Breakfast--by it--
Brides--an Apocalypse--
Worlds--a Flood--

Faint-going Lives--Their Lapse from Sighing--
Faith--The Experiment of Our Lord--

Number 300 is a favorite because it perplexes me so. Every time I read it I feel something different. I mean, "Brides--an Apocalypse--"?  Does she mean a revelation, or the ultimate destruction of something? If revelation, is it of the "the Lover" fooling around with "the Beloved"? Why are the maids playing dice? What the hell is a Teneriffe!? Who am I? Who are you!? Are you a nobody too? Hello?

from #351

I felt my life with both my hands
To see if it was there--

#376

Of course--I prayed--
And did God Care?
He cared as much as on the Air
A Bird--had stamped her foot--
And cried "Give Me"--
My Reason--Life--
I had not had--but for Yourself--
'Twere better Charity
To leave me in the Atom's Tomb--
Merry, and Nought, and gay, and numb--
Than this smart Misery.

Remember that "outright contempt" I mentioned earlier? Yeah.

Also, for some reason I was really taken aback at the mention of the "Atom's Tomb." Mostly because I couldn't imagine anyone other than a scientist using the term "atom" 150 years ago. But according to the OED it's been in use in the English language since the 16th century. Who knew? (smart people I guess)

#398

I had not minded--Walls--
Were Universe--one Rock--
And far I heard his silver Call
The other side the Block--

I'd tunnel--till my Groove
Pushed sudden thro' to his--
Then my face take her Recompense--
The looking in his Eyes--

But 'tis a single Hair--
A filament--a law--
A Cobweb--wove in Adamant--
A Battlement--of Straw--

A limit like the Veil
Unto the Lady's face--
But every Mesh--a Citadel--
And Dragons--in the Crease--

Love love love this poem. Everything about it. It can be interpreted in different ways, but it's major theme focuses on the insurmountable yet ethereal boundaries that separate us from satisfaction or understanding. Or from each other...which was my first interpretation of it. Of course my mind goes straight to the scandalous.

from #413

I never felt at Home--Below--
And in the Handsome Skies
I shall not feel at Home--I know--
I don't like Paradise--

Seems Dickinson was not just a Currer Bell fan, but an Ellis fan as well. Those lines could've been taken straight from Wuthering Heights. Cathy said something similar: "Heaven did not seem to be my home; and I broke my heart with weeping to come back to earth; and the angels were so angry that they flung me out into the middle of the heath on the top of Wuthering Heights; where I woke sobbing for joy."

from #426

It don't sound so terrible--quite--as it did--
I run it over--"Dead", Brain, "Dead."
Put it in Latin--left of my school--
Seems it don't shriek so--under rule.

Turn it, a little--full in the face
A Trouble looks bitterest--
Shift it--just--Say "When Tomorrow comes this way--
I shall have waded down one Day."

#435

Much Madness is divinest Sense--
To a discerning Eye--
Much Sense--the starkest Madness--
'Tis the Majority
In this, as All, prevail--
Assent--and you are sane--
Demur--you're straightaway dangerous--
And handled with a Chain--

from #441

This is my letter to the World
That never wrote to Me--

This is my blog to the World
That never blogged to Me.


213 pages
7,117 pages / 20,000 page goal

Monday, August 26, 2013

Hider Roser


I'm at the beach! And reading goes hand-in-hand with warm winds and crashing waves, at least in my experience.  I've read the excellent book of poems Hider Roser by Ben Mirov, which managed to make me laugh even with its dedication: "for I have no idea."

Being melanin-challenged, I have to do my most of vacationing slathered in SPF 50 or sitting underneath the stars. And the star gazing leads to a lot of questions about who/what/where/when and why we exist in the universe. This collection urged on this train of thought, with poems like "Cluster", as well as the title poem:

From "Hider Roser"

The water is beautiful and she allows you
to put your arm around her.
Smell her ear, part of a star
that exploded when you were negative
10,000 years old.
In a few hours she is gone.
In four years, even goner
and Dean is telling you something about nothing
the sparrows in his tattoo
forever flying out of a rose
until Dean is dead.
At one point I was getting a bit freaked out, thinking how every plant, animal, hair follicle, and cheeto is made up of star stuff--the basic elemental ingredients of the universe--and life on Earth is the only thing sentient enough (as far as we know) to experience how these ingredients combine and interact. We're just a big assortment of atoms made up from stuff available on the planet. What was the spark...what caused the change, the evolution, that took that star stuff and made it into the first cell?

Now this assortment of atoms is going to stop waxing philosophical and share some lines from Hider Roser. Of course via the one thing on Earth that doesn't consist of atoms: the internet.

Here are some favorite lines:

First line from "Containment Unit for Mysterious Green Vapor"

I shouldn't talk about myself that way.

From "You May Not Know This but in His Youth James Tate was Some Sort of Champion Swimmer!"

was something Christopher wrote
in an email and I pictured Jim
swimming through a cloud supported

by the power of my mind,
barely enough to keep a candle lit
yet somehow able to think of a hundred

sharks.

From "One Hundred Poems from the Chinese"

Is there anything One Hundred Poems from the Chinese
can do for the broken toilet?
Probably, but neither you nor it can figure out what.
And yet, One Hundred Poems from the Chinese is there for you
like a moonbeam lighting
a little piece of the house.

From "Dove Life"

              When you feel it
smother your face at night,
descend the staircase

to your basement, your workout bench
your shoebox full of photographs.
Or travel so far into yourself

when you arrive at the center
the ripcord is a wick
and you must use your teeth

to remove the plastic packaging
that surrounds your heart.

95 pages
6, 094 / 20,00 page goal

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A Dance with Dragons

This book. This effing book.

That's kind of all I want to write, but I'll try to expand my commentary.

This was the 5th and latest installment in George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, and as the series has progressed, it seems like the plot keeps getting slower and slower, and more convoluted with every page. It's so weird to compare the later books with the first, where basically an entire war starts, dragons are born, people are orphaned, and manage to travel the length of Westeros in a manner of pages. I actually thought while reading that maybe the war would be finished by the end of the first book. HAR! HAR HAR.

The Ice and Fire series is like one of those functions in calculus, where the limit doesn't exist. Someone please help me with the terminology, because I've had math erased in my brain and replaced with 30 page family trees of fictional characters with names like "Yezzan zo Qaggaz" (Scrabble winner right there). Basically Martin just keeps expanding the story forward and backwards, but at an ever decreasing speed. The books will eventually become self-aware and write themselves, creating a story with no end or beginning.

The limit does not exist. Winter will never come.

The only thing that redeemed this monster of a novel was

DAENEYRS TARGARYEN
THE BOSS 

She is so kickass. I don't want to spoil what happens, but it's amazing, and your life forever change after you read what she does. It's tragic that we'll have to wait 5 odd years before her epic scene makes it to HBO. 

DAENERYS JUSTICE




1040 pages
6,809 / 20,000 page goal

Monday, July 1, 2013

Non-adventures in medicated reading

It's July 1st! Which besides being Canada Day also marks the midway point through the year. So how am I doing with my 20,000 page reading goal? Only 5,769 pages turned, you say? Let the excuses begin!

Since about mid-January I've been taking an SSRI and anti-anxiety medication. I started them for a lot of reasons that I don't want to get into, but let's just say they've helped. But not without some side effects. One being nigh uncontrollable dizzy spells. The second being an overwhelming blanket of boredom and apathy, and the inability to concentrate on anything for more than a few minutes. Pretty much the only enjoyable activities I've been able to get into lately, other than lying in bed face-down, is watching Oliver Age 24 videos on youtube and playing Candy Crush: the most addictive and soul-crushing ADHD game on the planet. I can't even find the spark of interest to play Xbox anymore, which I'm sure puts me at the bottom of the totem pole of pure sloth.

I've tried getting through A Dance with Dragons, because surely magic and gratuitous sex scenes can get me back into reading, right? But no luck. I've checked the ebook out from the library a record six times without completing it. My doctor warned me SSRIs can cause a lack of interest in sex. Perhaps my version of this is a lack of interest in fictional wizard-y people having sex.

Regardless, I'm still super glad I started taking the medications. And I don't mean to discourage anyone from taking them. But the side effects have been a (non)wild ride. Try functioning as a human being when you simultaneously have somnolence and insomnia.

So, my goal for July - December? Still the remaining 14,231 pages. I'll give it a ... hey, I just got another life in Candy Crush! Excuse me...

I Forgot To Be Famous

Finished Almie Rose's ebook of essays, I Forgot To Be Famous: On Dating, Relationships, and Getting Screwed and Screwed Over in Beautiful Los Angeles from a Writer Who is Trying Her Best, which was just released today. Almie runs the fantastic blog Apocalypstick that I've been following ever since I started this one. I'm 100% jealous of her wit and ability to pull off a sexy lion costume.

Here are some snippets from the book.

From "How to Get a Musician Boyfriend"

Be bold. Don't be too drunk. Drink Pepsi-Cola. Be a proud American. Quote your favorite childhood films. Ask, "Did Dunston ever check out?" Think about what would happened if we still used salt as currency. Try and imagine a new color. Maybe pretend to be British. It's your life.


From "Ex"

I don't care if this goes against all of my feminist teachings: I want to feel like a prized thing, like the Arc of the Covenant or the Silver Monkey that those panicked children had to assemble in The Shrine of the Silver Monkey on the show Legends of the Hidden Temple. I never had anyone that gorgeous who wanted me. Who actually picked me. I have dignity, it's just that it's attached with Velcro.

From "The Zombie Apocalyps(tick)"

So I'm asking right now, should a zombie apocalypse come, can someone adopt me into their group? Though I have no real skills, I do have a vast knowledge of zombies in pop culture and some great cutting remarks. Kill Zombie Nicolas Cage and I'll assure you, "That's okay. His career was dead long before he was." And in the end, that might be enough.

Her ebook is published by ThoughtCatalog, and available for just $2.99 at Amazon.


52 pages
5,769 out of 20,000 page goal

Friday, June 14, 2013

Internet Lovelies / Microsoft and the War Against First Sale


via reddit
As a true tsundoku-ka, let me share some non-book internet lovelies with you.

Sometimes I’ll cry and wish I saw my real, true friends more. Sometimes I’ll cry a lot and wish I was still 19 when a friend was so easy to find and you were surrounded by these huge groups of people. It didn’t matter that you loved them or even liked them. They were there and that was comforting. But now I’m 25 and everyone is moving away and moving on. I am too. I know this. So sometimes I’ll just say fuck it and do what I want because I need to not be there, wallowing, wondering, getting trapped by the pull of the internet. Online, everyone is having a better time than you. I am not strong enough to deal with that. At the end of the night, at least I can say: I was not here.  
Brittany Julious, Link

The...the Khalcheesy...

Yes. That's right. I called you a dick. Because you created this situation. You put me in this spot where my only option is to acquiesce to your demands or be the bad guy. That, my friend, is the very definition of a dick move.
Josh Olson, from "I Will Not Read Your Fucking Script", Link

In the current abortion debate, there is no talk of children. Those who are anti-abortion never mention them. They seem to be the same people who want to cut food stamps and get rid of social programs that might help children and mothers. They never talk about nineteen-year-old fetuses. They don’t talk of war or hunger or about how much it costs to buy shoes and socks and how hard it must be to have children without a washer and dryer. They never seem to take into account who the father is, or who the boyfriends might be. I never wanted to have a baby if I wasn’t positive I could give it a wonderful life and my undivided attention. I didn’t get that from my own mother. When I was little, I didn’t understand that there is no such thing as undivided attention. My feeling was I needed to become a good mother to myself before I invented a child that needed one.
Nora Dunn, Link 

via @TheLincoln

I feel so bad for anyone who watched the recent "red wedding" episode of Game of Thrones without having read the books. How are you guys holding up? Do you need a hug?

Gendered book marketing has particular impact upon boys. Girls, as Brooklyn-based author Gayle Forman explained at Reading Matters, will read across gender. But boys are often self-conscious about reading books that might be considered to be “girly”. “Why is it acceptable for a girl to enter a boy world, but not the opposite?” Forman asked.

The reason is, of course, that books exist in a society where femininity is still considered to be a second-class characteristic, and masculinity defined most strongly as an absence of the feminine. The debate about “fake geek girls” in fan culture, the current meltdown at the SFWA about sexism in science fiction and fantasy, even the furore over Faber’s chicklit reprint of Sylvia Plath’s novel The Bell Jar, demonstrate that misogyny and sexism are alive and well.
 Alison Croggon, Link

There's a really interesting Kickstarter going on now for funding an indie press called Boss Fight Books. They'll be releasing a line of books by some really incredible writers focusing on classic video games. If you donate at least $5 you'll get a digital copy of one of the books once it's released. So basically if you're interested in any of the titles, just donate to pre-order a copy.

I'm eying Super Mario Bros. 2, a.k.a. what I spent the majority of my childhood playing.



Speaking of video games, if you have an internet connection you've probably heard all about the uproar over Microsoft's reveal of the next generation of console gaming: the XBox One. Promptly rebranded by nerds as the XBone. And at first glance this may seem to have nothing to do with books, but I promise you it does.

Why was there an uproar over the XBone? Several reasons: terrible bulky design, internet connection requirement (including the need for it to be connected at least once every 24 hours otherwise it becomes a brick), Kinect sensor built-in and required to operate, the focus of the system lying much less on games and more on it as some weird TV controller, etc. But the biggest problem, the feature that could change gaming and all digital (and possibly even analog) purchases of anything in the future, is its policy regarding used games.

Here's the deal. All games played on the XBox One have to be downloaded to the cloud or the console's hard drive. If you buy a physical disc with a copy of the game on it, it will be downloaded immediately, and the disc will henceforth be dead. So if you're one of those people (me) who doesn't have a million dollars, and buys a game for $59.99, plays it for six weeks, then sells it back for $30...you're screwed. It's a complete overhaul of the used media system that's been in place for decades.

Here are the rules:


Why this matters: it's a direct attack against the right of first-sale. Which if you need a reminder, "enables the distribution chain of copyrighted products, library lending, gifting, video rentals and secondary markets for copyrighted works (for example, enabling individuals to sell their legally purchased books or CDs to others)." Publishers have looooooong been attempting to weasel their way out of this limitation of their copyright. And the digital revolution has left a perfect opening.

There's never been a question that when you buy a physical thing, legally, you henceforth own it, and can do whatever you want with it. You can trade it. Sell it. Wear it as a hat. Whatever. As long as its creator/publisher got paid at least once, during the first sale. But what happens when you buy a digital thing? Do you own a bunch of 1s and 0s? Are you renting it? Can you wear it as a hat? Good question. That's a battle still being fought between consumers and Amazon, Overdrive, iTunes, etc. It's honestly still up in the air. There's nothing like working in interlibrary loan to teach you that nobody really has copyright figured out anymore. It's more and more difficult to enforce and interpret every day.

And maybe you don't feel like this is a big deal, being unable to trade and sell used video games. After all, you can't do it with digital music (though there are ways around it), PC games/software, or most ebooks either. The difference being that console games tend to cost $60 or more. That's a lot of simoleons. Now if the games would cost about half that much, as purely untradeable/unsellable digital copies, that wouldn't be so bad. I've downloaded plenty of DLC which acts exactly like that. But there's no sign that this will be the case. Not to mention by cutting out independent game shops there will be no competition in game pricing. Weird how the biggest capitalists in the world are the ones most afraid of actual capitalism.

But if this move by Microsoft and game publishers is successful, it could revolutionize the way we interpret digital ownership, and the right of first-sale in general. It will put into question how ebooks and libraries should function. Not to mention businesses like Red Box, Blockbuster, GameFly, Replay Games, eBay, and half.com. But more importantly, LIBRARIES.

So do yourself and everyone else a favor, and please don't buy an XBox One. At least not until they change their policies. Pretty pretty please, with Super Mario Bros. 2 cherries on top?



Friday, May 31, 2013

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

art via pekepeke0 on deviantART
I was going to combine this post with a review of Dan Brown's Inferno and call it something like "Terrible books with positive and progressive messages, but are still pretty terrible." But I won't read Inferno until I can get my hands on a free copy.

Steig Larsson was a "better" writer than Dan Brown. At least from what I can tell from the translations. As in the actual words that make up the writing, not necessarily the plot structure. Because Brown has that nailed down. Whereas all three books in Larsson's Millennium trilogy have extremely odd plot structures. The first, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, had its climax somewhere near the middle, with a long, waning second half. It was difficult to translate to the more rigid structure of film, which is why nearly a quarter of the book is cut from both Oplev and Fincher's film versions. And in The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, it doesn't feel like there's ever really a climax. Unless you count Lisbeth's trial as one, when she reveals everything we already knew about her since book two. And that's all this ended up being: a complete rehash of everything we already knew. No new adventures or baddies. The only time my attention was piqued was when Lisbeth helped Erika Berger with her stalker. But that was over in a handful of pages. As compared to the hundred-or-so pages explaining the history of the Swedish secret police in excruciating detail. However it's not just the structure of the plot that makes me call it "terrible" writing. It's the fact that the plot in all three books is just so OUT there. Shit gets ridiculous. Kickboxing lesbians, the prime minister involving himself in a criminal trial, secret agents, and just waaaaay too much coincidence.

BUT! But. There's something to be said for a monumentally bestselling series of books that focus on the worldwide plague of violence against women. Starring (or co-starring) a seriously talented, interesting, and unique woman. Is Lisbeth Salander a superhero? The definition of a superhero is vague and subjective at best, so there can never be a real answer. If it requires a super human power, then technically Batman isn't one. Whereas Lisbeth has a photographic memory. If it requires an animal-inspired costume, then she's out of luck.

There usually aren't any quotables from books like this, but I do have one that makes a point I agree with:

"What you don't understand is that our stockholders bought stock in the paper because they want to make money. That's called capitalism. If you arrange for them to lose money, they they won't want to be stockholders any longer."

I'm not suggesting they should lose money, though it might come to that. Ownership implies responsibility. As you yourself pointed out, capitalism is what matters here. SMP's owners want to make a profit. But it's the market that decides whether you make a profit or take a loss. By your reasoning, you want the rules of capitalism to apply solely to the employees of SMP, while you and the stockholders will be exempt."

Yesssssssssssssss. Take heed, Wall Street.

832 pages
5,717 / 20,000 page goal

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Trees The Trees

I read Heather Christle's The Tree The Trees while waiting in line at the DMV. When you go to the DMV it always takes an hour and a half. I don't know why so many people go there unprepared, completely flabbergasted that they have to sit in a room with strangers for an hour and a half. I'm good at waiting. I'm a master of it. If I had the money I would ride a train back and forth from home to Philadelphia, just so I could wait for my destination, no other options or responsibilities hovering in view.

Reading poetry in a very loud place, with screaming children, pop music ringtones and the ever present bingo-esque call for persons in line ahead of you, is surprisingly easy. It's a pleasant bureaucratic white noise. But I find it completely impossible to read verse on a screen. I have no idea what the difference is, but backlighting makes all efforts futile. But I hope you do not share my affliction, so you can enjoy the passages I share.

From "JE M'APPELLE IVAN"

I am alone     I am a real bear     with a head full of
hazard and light     I live in nature     live with no
friends     and no equity     who needs it     I have
my face     I have my hands     which are as I speak
mauling the air     one time I took a trip     I lay
horizontal on a marvelous raft     I did look up
regard the blank stars     and accept them as holes in
the frame

This past weekend I went hiking, since nature decided to finally stop snowing out of season. Making my way through a nice carpet of bluebells I stopped at a steel gate. I'm not sure what made me stop and stare at it for so long. But eventually I glanced down and at its foot was an almost invisible turtle. He was camouflaged beak to feet with dried dirt. He stayed still for a very long time, and I resigned he was dead. I took a step closer and saw his tail twitch. He was alive, but not by much. Dried up and nearly a hundred yards from water, I guessed he was a victim of the flood that had been through the area a few weeks earlier. I found a wash basin half-buried in dirt, another product of the flood, and placed the limp 25lb snapping turtle inside. I carried him the hundred yards to a river and began washing him off. On closer inspection I realized his shell had been severely cracked. Rotting flesh was beginning to poke through the crevices. He opened his powerful snapping jaws wide, either in pain, fear or aggression. Or all at once. I put him in my car and drove home, ignoring the smell of putrification and river fish. I washed him off again with clean water once home, but it only reveaed more of the damage. It's a Saturday evening, and veterinarian offices won't be open until Monday. With little money in my bank account I'm not sure what help they would be anyway. A call to the local wildlife rescue reveals that their facilities are full. Google tells me that severely damaged turtle shells are irreparable and usually fatal. The only option left. Return him to his home. Perhaps that's where he wanted to be all along. I put him back beside the river and leave him to the wild.

From "WHEN THE SUN WENT DOWN THEY KEPT GROWING"

now I understand     you are the owner of a small
piece of time     like anyone else     tonight
everyone's sending me flowers     and I am upset
thinking maybe where I am the earth will collapse
I mean     they are light enough     but gather this
many together     and some are peonies     I can't
understand how they even stand up     babies can't
do what they do     I don't want to be over     any
time in the next hundred years

I'm at the DMV because I bought a new car. New as in new to me. New as in 2008. The paperwork involved seems more painful than what the monthly payments will be. Everyone I talk to seems surprised I'm 27. Maybe it's the barrette in my hair. Or the Hello Kitty perfume. I want a "Virginia Wildflowers" license plate because that seems nice. Although getting the "Pro-choice" one and gauging reactions is tempting. I want a personalized plate as well, to match the flower theme. But so many of them are already taken. MTN-LRL? No. RED-BUD. Nuh-uh. PEONY!? Keep dreaming. I've never hated like-minded strangers so much. PHLOX is available and the DMV website congratulates me on finding it, but I think I know why it's never been taken. LILAC is there as well, but inappropriate for a red car, I feel.

"1998"

one time this real moon was trying to arrest me     I
was like     I don't even know what I did wrong
has the whole world gone away     why didn't
anyone tell me     never much good at escape     I
thought I'd try complete surrender     dropped every
weapon I had     then the moon was like     listen
you slice of the future      you can cry but you can't
make me change

There's a theme of time and perpetuality in Christle's collection. The perpetuality relates to nature. And time to us. We are mortal. But nature is enduring.


From "HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME"

I know where I'm going to die     right here     in my
own honest body     I avoid my body by sleeping
for instance I've just woken up     now here come
my galloping arms     my head the malletless gong
so many days I do not understand     one plows
forward     one gathers     it rains     each month
maintains its own atomic number     a year does not
have a skeleton     it has an uncracked egg     I have
to eat it     I have to get married     my friend the
golden onslaught married stuff in bloom

From "THE ACTUAL FUTURE"

           now I'm going to talk about the future
of my peer group     the actual future     when I turn
into a human     and have to take vacations to
weep into myself

A sincere and fervent desire to write "to weep into myself" in the "Comments" section of an absence report form.

From "THIS IS NOT THE BODY I ASKED FOR"

the thing is     you can't send it back     so     today
I'll accomplish a lot     I will compare my head      to
an eight by twelve glossy photo     of a man on a
fabulous jet-ski     what I see right away is the noise
we both have that in common     I'd like to jet-ski
straight out of this life

My number, F-204, is finally selected for bingo. I go the desk, lay out my folder containing the car's title, a completed VSA-17A, SUT-1, VSA-5, VSA-14, and check for $342.75, precalculated based on the 3% tax on the car, $10 titling fee, and cost of registration for one year. We only need the title and check, she says. Okay, I say. What do you do for a living, she asks. I work in a library. Oh, she says. I figured it was something like that. I admire your presentation and organization skills. Thanks, I tell her.

I finish the transaction and walk out with plain tags. I was thinking about the turtle and forgot to ask for the wildflower ones.

Heather Christle's The Tree The Trees is available at Octopus Books.

60 pages
4,885 pages / 20,000 page goal

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Crapalachia

Didn't see it coming that a book titled Crapalachia would end up making me bawl like a toddler (see also, my forthcoming review of Kevin Sampsell's A Common Pornography). But Scott McClanahan's Crapalachia: a Biography of a Place filled me with enough nostalgia and death anxiety to make my SSRI pretty much defunct. God, but it is wonderful.

McClanahan's writing is superb; minimalistic but beautiful and poignant when it needs to be. He doesn't tell us what we need to feel while reading. Or manipulates readers with "emotion porn." What happens just happens. There's humor mixed with tragedy, because that's life, regardless of where or how we live.

It's been said that the poor living in the hills of the Appalachian mountains, better known as "hillbillies," are the last group it's still seen as socially acceptable to ridicule. I'm not so sure about that, since the same could be said about those who are overweight (damn, that's two strikes against me). But I do know that that the kind of people I grew up with, went to school with, my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and myself, have been exploited, humiliated, manipulated, and ignored by the rest of the country for what seems like forever. Because, POVERTY! Hilarious, right!?

In the appendix to his book, McClanahan mentions that his work shouldn't be roped into the genre of  "Appalachian Minstrel Show." In other words exploiting its people and culture, reducing it to cariacture, to entertain and make money. If you don't know what I'm talking about, just watch the lineup on TLC or the History Channel for more than 5 seconds. But then he calls out certain authors in particular, like Lee Smith, which seems a bit pompous. I've been to one of her readings and she's anything but a minstrel. She grew up in the area she most often includes in her novels, and has every right to write about them in her own way. Appalachia belongs to all Appalachians. Or at least to those who pronounce it correctly.

But I still can't recommend Crapalachia enough. It's a creative semi-non-fiction biography of a very real place, and the people and memories it holds. Here are some passages:

I saw the graves filling up all around her and saw how Grandma would be here beneath it one day and then Nathan and then one day Stanley, and then one day...me. So I saw her whisper, "Oh lordie," and claim she was dying like she always did.
     I wished we were already back at home so I could eat some more peanut butter fudge. Nothing lasts.
     I snapped the picture and it was like she was already gone.
     It was like I saw that she was dying right then--real slow--and she knew the secret sound. It's a sound that all of us hear. It's a sound that sounds like this. Tick. Tick. Tick.

AND NOW A MOMENT TO ONCE AGAIN
REMEMBER THE THEME OF THIS BOOK.

      The theme of this book is a sound. It goes like this: Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick. It's the sound you're hearing now, and it's one of the saddest sounds in the world.

I love the author's interjection there. "REMINDER! This book is about mortality! Just like everything is!"

I knew he believed in something that none of us ever do anymore. He believed in the nastiest word in the world. He believed in KINDNESS. Please tell me you remember kindness. Please tell me you remember kindness and joy, you cool motherfuckers.

      I looked at Ruby now and I saw all of the things she knew. She knew how to do all kinds of things no one else knew how to do.
     She knew how to render lard and make soap.
     She knew how to make biscuits from scratch and slaughter a hawg if she had to. And she knew how to do things that are all forgotten now--things that people from Ohio buy because it says homemade on the tag. I looked at the quilt she was working on. The quilt wasn't a fucking symbol of anything. It was something she made to keep her children warm. Remember that. Fuck symbols.

 Fuck symbols.

192 pages
4,825 / 20,000 page goal

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

A Feast of Crows

A Feast of Crows. More like A Fast of Interesting Characters. Not that there's a lack of named persons in this book, but we only hear from like, four of them. From a cast of hundreds. And not the ones we're really interested in (except you Brienne, you BAMF).



~ BEWARE, spoilerish info below ~

Behold, FoC! Be thrilled by tales of Cersei, sitting in a castle! Or Sansa, sitting in a different castle! And Samwell, sitting in a boat! Are you a Daenerys Targaryen fan? Like Tyrion's whoring and japes? Well fuck you, they're not in it!

GRRM put a blurb at the end of this massive door stopper explaining (apologizing?) that he realized the book he wanted to write would be too long, so he decided to split it up, into this and its followup, A Dance With Dragons. But instead of splitting it chronologically he split it up by character chapters. Meaning we're only hearing from half the characters we're supposed to be hearing from. A Dance With Dragons will apparently tell the side of the other kajillion characters.

But after this one, I don't know if I can handle another open-ended, snail-paced disappointment. Given its title, I pray to the Seven that Daenerys finally gets her ass, and those of her dragons, over to Westeros. Or that white walkers make it past that blasted wall. Or Jaime and Brienne just make babies already. But I feel like GRRM keeps setting up all these grand threads for epic things that could happen -- frozen zombie apocalypse, dragon takeover, nights becoming dark and/or full of terror, winter FINALLY coming -- but doesn't know exactly how to write these things. They're all just sitting there as possibilities. And I honestly don't see how they could all go together anyway. It would be a clash of every fantasy fiction trope imaginable.

What I really want is for the peasants to revolt and set up a democracy. Just draft a magna carta and throw it in front of King Tommen. That kid'll sign anything.

1104 pages
4,633 of 20,000 page goal

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Internet Lovelies

With the lone exception of George Clooney, no one in America ever comes out and says that not everyone wants to get married. The social compact, as expressed in political platforms, revolves around marriage and family life. The acceptance speeches at both of last summer's presidential-nominating conventions were addressed to only two demographic groups: "working families" and "families who work." That's fine, working families need the lion's share of social programs--the housing, the schools, the health care, the roads to get from the housing to the schools and the health care. But what about a shout-out to those of us single professionals who shell out gazillions of dollars in taxes to educate and care for all the working families' progeny?
Sarah Vowell, Link

Being a single, working tax payer is one of the most socialist things you can be. Add to that having a job providing free books to the public and my faded Communist Party tee (featuring Karl Marx with a lamp shade on his head and martini in hand) is looking more and more appropriate. 

I was able to meet Sarah Vowell last week, which was a pretty big highlight in what has been an overwhelmingly lightless winter. February and March can go straight to hell. Sarah is one of my favorite writers. I've read all six of her books, a read-count only surpassed by JK Rowling in terms of author loyalty (though that's more to do with addictive tales of child wizardry). She made an appearance at my alma mater, where she read from her most recent book, Unfamiliar Fishes. I was hoping she'd mention something about her next project, but she told the audience she wasn't ready to discuss it publicly. However she did read from something new, discussing the diaries of a grumpy cartographer who helped map the newly expanded western United States. It was absolutely hilarious, and I'm hoping it's a hint at what her next work will be. Books about cartography and map obsession are pretty big right now, with last year's publication of Ken Jennings' Maphead and Simon Garfield's On the Map. I'm not mapped-out yet, so bring it on.

Question: when you meet an artist, writer, musician, etc., you admire, what are you supposed to say to them? Other than blurting out something along the lines of I LIKE HOW YOU PUT WORDS TOGETHER. Or THE NOTES YOU PLAY SOUND GOOD. Because I'm lost when it comes to proper creator-fandom etiquette. They're just human beings, after all. Human beings who've heard from a thousand other nerds that they enjoy the things they've created. If you have legitimate questions, maybe that's different.

I remember several years ago when I went to a Rob Zombie concert (this librarian used to be pretty metal, albeit not with the best taste), my friend and I payed major dough so we could be the first ones let into the pit, to secure the coveted first "row," center stage. We did, along with about 50 others, and were so early that the band was still on stage doing sound check. There they were, and there we were, 10 feet away, in broad daylight and silence, and all 50 of us had no idea what we were supposed to do. There was a lot of feet-shuffling and checking of watches. Then two hours later when they took the stage, we all screamed our heads off because they were actually performing. Meeting artists when they're human, outside of the music, books, paintings or films in which they usually reside, just seems so awkward and surreal. Like you've suddenly been confronted with the fact that you're actually a stalker. A creepy stalker who's been paying for years to gain access to their inner-thoughts and emotions through the fourth wall of artistic creation.

Or maybe I'm over-analyzing this, and should just stand in line to get my book signed like everybody else.



Here are some more internet lovelies.

I don’t know about you, but any given week, I associate with, hang out with, deal with, talk with, laugh with, put up with, experience life with people who are gay, straight, bi-, brown, white, black, male, female, trans-, old, young, comfortably well off or strugglingly poor, and every mix and match possible. We are real people and we have real issues. Our lives are just as complicated as anyone else’s and just as ripe for storytelling as anyone’s.

The books I read growing up, the role model my uncle became, my own experiences and those of the people I loved, all of these conspired to make me hungry for stories, and I don’t want to be meeting the watered down worlds that don’t include facets of people that I know exist.
 Karina Cooper, Link 

Last year, when I was 33, people kept mentioning that it was my "Jesus year," the age Jesus was when he died. As in, I guess, if I hadn't saved mankind by the time I was 34, I could pretty much be counted as a failure. I'm much more concerned about my "Byron year" of 36. As in, if I haven't committed incestuous acts, gone to war, scandalized an entire nation, driven past lovers insane with jealousy, and written a few half-good manuscripts, then what the hell am I even doing with my life?
Jessa Crispin, Link

We played things on vinyl, because we were 22 and thought we were the first people to appreciate a variety of things, including wooden floors and theories of translation and our old telephone. Our landlord from upstairs would ring the phone at unsociable hours because all hours were unsociable and speak Quebecois French that I brain-translated into my-French then brain-translated into English and I have no idea what it meant but I think it meant, “Are you cold?” We called into work or university sick or university or work called into us sick — let’s just not move, either way. We made a lot of fried eggs and took it in turns to moonwalk out to the d├ępanneur two blocks away for cigarettes. I wore my yellow knitted socks and my pink silk dress and my grey woollen jumper and had my first encounter with the brain-dentistry of clinical depression. Once we didn’t leave the apartment for three days. The experience snowily, sleepily dusted all surfaces of human interactions — at breakfast: “We haven’t left the apartment for a week!” This was conversational exaggeration and at the same time possibly true.
Heather McRobie, Link 

That whole essay is wonderful. Check it out.

The division V.P. offered me a job after my two-week gig, which I cordially declined. I imagined myself waking up before dawn, raking bristles across my teeth, and taking the train eastward towards a spoiled sun which believes it is the center of our universe. We tell it stories of other stars, and it spits flames. Every downtown is a Jenga game about to end. Part of me wonders, regrets, what I would have become had I repeated yes like Molly Bloom. I will admit this world makes me, sometimes, want to put a rat inside someone’s asshole and record the contortions of their face simply out of aesthetic curiosity. Fortunately there is the internet, where I spend my time refreshing. The office was on the 36th floor, its spotless floor-to-ceiling windows pretending not to exist. I saw myself calmly walking to the edge and jumping off, my shadow morphing into the exact shape of my body the moment before the moment. “Sorry, waking up would be too much,” I say, unaware of the ontological metaphor. I exit his office in silent Cole Haan loafers.
Jimmy Chen, Link
 
Taken out of context the rat statement may not make sense in the passage above, but it's a reference to American Psycho. Click the link to read the entire essay. Or just go ahead and read everything Jimmy Chen's ever written, actually. I like the way you put words together, Jimmy Chen.