Wednesday, December 19, 2007
I liked this book. The concept was fresh - think about it. Not just a story about a hermaphrodite, but a GREEK hermaphrodite! A whole family saga in fact. That alone made for an interesting premise that made you want to get through the whole thing, even if at times, I had to work through certain passages.
Things of note:
Eugenides writes like he's seeing a movie. His scenes pan, zoom in, pull out, create montage sequences, slow down, speed up. You get this feeling that he'd almost like to be a movie director instead of a writer, the way some of his scenes play out. The specific passages that especially drove this home are escaping me right now, but he's definitely a very visual writer, in pacing and in description.
It's interesting the POV choices he makes. He chooses a first person, but the first person narrator chooses to take a very omniscient POV when writing his memoirs of his family. I remember thinking at one point in the beginning, wow, this omniscient narrator is really well-done, and I haven't seen an omniscient employed in such a way in recent years. Only to remember that it wasn't true omniscience. Interesting. It's one of those things where I think part of me gets a little naggy about it, and the sensible side of me wants to be like, "Well, how could he KNOW those things, that doesn't make sense" but uh, he won the Pulitzer, so obviously I know very little. Goes to show you that there is such thing as creative liberty. So why in the hell not.
Sometimes I felt a disjointedness between the adult male narrator and the teenage girl that he was. I found myself disbelieving that someone who grew up all their life trying desperately to be a girl would so easily capitulate and become a boy. That was my one bone of contention. I didn't completely believe the outcome.
But it was well-written, entertaining, and really portrayed this family, from immigration to the whole American experience, very well. It never dragged for me, although there were a few moments where it was in trouble of possibly doing so, it sort of avoided it in the nick of time. I really enjoyed it, if I didn't necessarily love it. Worth the read. Clever title, too.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Anyway, I ended up not bringing any of the books that I was almost done with on my trip, because my baggage was oversize and I was thinking, if I finish these, I'll have to lug them around for the rest of the time. So I brought new books with me instead. I'm halfway through Middlesex right now, so I'll do a post when I'm done.
Moonie, I'm having trouble accessing your blog from here. Maybe it's blocked in China.
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Will blog from Asia. Ciao!
Friday, December 14, 2007
I really have a problem. I bought four books last night, but I almost picked up an additional 6. I curbed myself, but it's just so difficult. I want everything. EVERYTHING! There's so much I want to read and so little time to do it! And also so little money with which to do it. I don't even want to know how much money I've spent on books this year...
So........ if you guys want to buy me a Christmas present, I'd buy me a Barnes and Noble gift card. Or a book. I really love books. I want more. I don't know what's wrong with me since I can't possibly get through any books right now, but I wantwantwant moremoremore.
Let's see, what to say?
This is a tough book to read. Very tough. Not because of the writing, which is very easy to read, but because the atrocities are simply terrible. The reality of it, knowing that this is a memoir and not fiction, that this happened, is awful. You cringe, you don't want to keep going, but you do. It's tough. And I can't believe this guy is basically my age. In 1994, when he's fleeing and/or shooting ppl down, I was still weaning myself off my Barbie dolls, going to Bar Mitzvahs, wondering if a boy will ever like me back. It puts it all in perspective.
His writing -- though never fabulous, is honest and affecting. The biggest reason is the certain sense of detachment in which he describes everything. You get a clear sense from the book that he has learned to withhold his emotions - for fear of the tenaciousness of happiness -- and it comes through in his writing. His writing is never emotional, even when he describes emotions. And yet, there's a power in the almost journalistic way he describes certain events. The writing is nostalgic at times, but that's about as close to emotional that he gets. [Writing note to self: there's a certain power in understating horror. Must learn to use this technique.]
Another thing that struck me is the way he describes the Unicef workers who come to save them. I thought to myself about the tremendous point of view he has given us. Most stories feature some well-doer going in and observing the sad/confused state of the people they're trying to help, and we get that good samaritan viewpoint a lot. But the way Beah describes these people from abroad, so out of their element, with their happy, shiny faces, it really hit me how naive and idealistic these people are. Even though I know this is a memoir, so it is true to what he must have experienced and felt about these people, I thought it was pitch perfect, to expose us to his observation of these workers. [I confess, I'd be a silly happy shiny person too.] People who really just have no idea. [Writing note to self: pick the differing viewpoint. Take away your own preconcieved notions and judgments.]
It is really sad to me, the things that happen in the world. That little boys are being dragged into something they don't understand. That they're going through PTSD. That they're being given drugs. That they're learning to channel their fear, frustrations, hunger, into killing. I am so sad for these kids. There were just so many scenes here that just broke my heart, made me grit my death. How people can be so cruel to each other is beyond me. And why prey upon the young, impressionable minds of youth just seems so calculated and evil.
That's all I have to say for now.
Oh, also, I had a minor book buying accident.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
I leave for a three week hiatus to Asia in a couple of days. I can't wait. Will spend this time working on mapping out more of my novel, as well as catching up on some reading.
[The only downside to this whole deal is that I'm going to miss the last few games of Cowboys' regular season. And given the 13 hour time difference, getting up to listen to the games on internet radio isn't much of an option, except for the 8:00 evening games. Call me supersititious, but any time I haven't tuned into the game, they've done poorly. Both the Bills and Lions games, I tuned in to late, only to see them failing. Now, I'm not calling myself anyone's lucky charm or anything... but, you know, superstition. Hopefully the Cowboys do themselves well enough to get home field advantage, but... oh wait, this isn't the blog where I talk about football. I will shutup now.]
So things to do before the year is over:
Finish my outstanding books - Umberto Eco and Denis Johnson
Send out a bunch more submissions
Do a major plot outline for my flashback thread in my novel
Send thank-yous to my recommenders (any ideas on what to send?)
Get seriously going on that research for my friend
God, work is kicking my butt right now. I want to quit and become a famous novelist. And after that, an awesome book publicist/schmoozer.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Yes. I must have.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
And if one writer's words can do this to me... well, why in the fuck can't I do it to somebody else?
My friend thinks that yes, it will. I am, as a book lover, highly against this. I think part of the joy people derive from books is the tactile experience, of opening up a new books, a grainy/glossy cover, creamy paper stock, new binding. Etc etc. There's nothing better to me than to open a new book. Which is why I buy all my books and have them on shelves. You lose something when it's electronic. I would never buy an ereader. But then again, I also once said I would never buy a digital camera...
My own opinion aside though, I do concede that for the general public, they might not care about this kinda stuff. They might just want that next John Grisham thriller in their hands for their commute, however it goes. So maybe they make up the vast majority, and they'd buy it.
I still am not convinced though. I think booksellers might lose something - people like to go into bookstores and browse, and that informs their decision on whether or not they buy something. I also think for children, this is especially the case. You'll never get rid of print picture books. Kids aren't going to buy into electronic versions of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. Not the way they sit with the book spread open in front of them on the floor. I also think there are actually enough people in this world who want a collection of books on a shelf that print will never be obsolete.
I don't know. I want to hear some opinions.
Monday, December 10, 2007
The thing that caught me off guard is this:
So I have these two short stories that I am using in my portfolio, pieces I've been working on since forever. They've gone through many many many drafts, seen many many many eyes.
One of my writing teachers, who I trust greatly and credit for becoming a much better writer than I was a year ago, he made general and specific criticisms of my writing style in that I tend to be overly verbose. I like to explain outcomes and throw on internals like there's no tomorrow. After carefully listening to him, I started to edit out two lines out of every three or four that I wrote. Having done that enough times, it's starting to feel natural for me to know where to just let dialogue or action do the heavylifting and not rely on expository internal as much.
So when I went back to these two stories for a re-edit, I did just that. I cut back every thing, pared it down so things were tight, clean, instead of diving deep into their minds like I have the tendency to do. I felt good about the outcome. I lost some of the backstory that I know is in my mind, and I'm uncertain about how a new reader reads the pieces, but I thought/hoped it was tight.
I recently sent these two pieces to another writer, someone who has enjoyed a pretty reasonable amount of success and acclaim. He read the two pieces and told me the stories felt "underdone" and "too pared back". Which gives me pause. Because if anything, they were so full before, they were both once over 20 pages long, and I had to work very very hard to cut each back to less than 15 (now 13 and 14 respectively). So I wonder if maybe I've overdone it.
Well, I'm not going to revise these again for now. Moonie has read and edited both, and she says she likes them how it is. So I'll trust her and keep it as is. But of course, there's that kernel of doubt in my mind that says, will new readers of the pieces think it falls flat? Am I being subtle and using the "less is more" thing skillfully, or do they really feel underdone? Most importantly, when admissions people read this portfolio, are they going to feel like my writing teacher? Or are they going to feel like this writer? I am worried and second-guessing a little bit. But I do think I'm at the point where I am abandoning these pieces. I've worked on them for so long, and the way they are now, is final.
All I'm saying is, that's the one thing that sucks about this whole creative writing business. Everyone has an opinion. And you can respect two people an equal amount, and they can have two completely different opinions on how to make your work stronger. I just don't know, at this point, who I agree with more, moving forward.
Friday, December 7, 2007
I'm sort of jealous. I would have done awesome, and then I could get a trip to New Zealand too.
But kinda cool, eh? Especially when I think about the teeth I had to pull to get my sister to even LOOK at a book when she was a kid. Yay for sis!
Thursday, December 6, 2007
I was a psych major in college. Why? Because English was the obvious choice. But when it comes down to it, I am incredibly intrigued by people. Humanity. This is the kind of shit I like to read about it.
So this particular article, though completely not book or even writing related, made me think of the kind of things I write about. Empathy. Humanity. Morality. What it means to be us, and why we choose to do the things we do.
I'm a nerd. But I really really like these kind of articles about psych and people and stuff like that. Phineas Gage. I know. Nerdy. But I'd love to write a novel about someone who is just a tiny teeny bit off. Struggling with morality and humanity. What it means to be human.
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
Anyway, what I found hilarious on the CSU application was, when you go to write your first name? There's a little field to type it in right? Well, underneath, there's a checkbox that says "Check here if you do not have a first name."
WHAT? REALLY? PEOPLE DON'T HAVE FIRST NAMES??????
My brain hurts.
I have a little sister who is about to turn 14. [She's a big reader too, and is currently into the Stephenie Meyer vampire series. I'm trying to convince her to write reviews of it so I can post it on my site. You know. Youth journalist or whatever.]
Anyway, she wrote me asking me to buy her a bathing suit. I asked her what size she was. She told me to buy it according to her height and weight. She was like, "I'm five foot four and a half" and that happens to be EXACTLY how tall I am.
Just some background. My sister lives in a different country than me with my parents. I see her maybe twice a year, once at Xmas time and once during the summer when she comes to the States. So every time I see her, she's grown some.
Anyway, the following email exchange ensued:
YOU ARE 5 FOOT 4 AND A HALF?? u are as tall as me! that means by next xmas you will be much much taller! :)
haha yeah... im 5 foot 4 and a half....sorrry :(
haha no thats good. im glad you're going to be taller than me. i always wanted to be 5'6" . but maybe after that you should stop growing. too tall isnt good for girls either.
But you're not short! It's not necessarily bad to be 5 ft 4 and a half.
I don't know why I find that adorable, but I do. It's like she thinks I need a self-esteem boost. How cute is she?
Monday, December 3, 2007
Psuedo-intellectual/High-brow: You know these types. They are the ones who agree with Harold Bloom that Harry Potter is a piece of shit, they only talk about "classics" or "acclaimed novels" (ie: Pulitzer or Nobel winning) and think they're smarter than everyone else because they also happen to only read the New York Times book reviews and have vocabs that come straight from GRE exercises. They believe all genre fiction is bad fiction, and live in some weird alternate reality where really "being a writer" also means fancy exclusive library readings followed by whiskey in cigar rooms and then jetting off to the Sorbonne. They talk about intellectual things ("in theory") all the time. Also, they believe the only real writers that have made it, have made writing into a white collar job. Everyone else is a poser.
Indie/Tortured Artist: These are the stereotypical "artists". You know, bohemia a la Rent. They're starving and poor and hopped up on drugs and resent the idea that you can be a true writer if you aren't any and all of those. So how do you fit in? Hate the establishment. Be angry at everyone else doing somewhat better economically (socially, physically, hygenically) and scoff at the idea that you'd ever want their lives. Throw in a couple of tie-dye shirts, and you're golden. Also, don't forget that when you read (in some adequately smokey, run-down dive bar filled with people with nappy hair), you have to wave your arms around a lot and punctuate your sentences with your fingers pursed and use some weird monotonous sing-song-ish rhythm that doesn't really enhance the poem/excerpt in any way, but makes it sound really cool and, well, tortured.
I HATE these kind of writers. Why? Because they're both extremes of pretention. Why can't these people just admit that they are NORMAL people who HAPPEN TO LIKE TO WRITE? Just be yourself for goodness sake, no one is going to think you're "not a real writer" if you happen to, you know, have a mortgage, a couple of kids, maybe a dog, a lawn, a minivan, and flowers on Valentine's Day. Or, if you so choose, a messy apartment, a couple of loose mice, a weakness for sushi and tacos, a warddrobe from the Gap, a fondness for bad pop music and an unlimited MetroCard.
Closing Sohrab's door, I wondered if that was how forgiveness budded, not with the fanfare of epiphany, but with pain gathering its things, packing up, and slipping away unannounced in the middle of the night.
--[pg. 359, The Kite Runner]
So this weekend, I had a list of things to do. This is what it looks like:
1) Write statement of purpose for UC Irvine
2) Write autobiographical sketch for UC Irvine
3) Tweak #2 to use as general personal statement for all other schools
4) Do a final edit of portfolio piece #1
5) Do a final edit of portfolio piece #2
6) Update resume
7) Write next 10 pages of novel for class
8) Read/critique 4 excerpts for class
9) Do a substantial amt of research work for writer friend
10) Start paper application forms to go with each app
So I went to the library with Moonrat on Saturday and spent about 10 hours there. I returned the next day and worked for collectively, probably another 6 hours. In that time, I managed to accomplish the following:
2) Autobiographical sketch (which means #3 should hopefully go fast)
4) Edit of portfolio piece #1
7) 10 pages of novel
8) 4 excerpts for class
I know. Only 4 knocked off my list. It's insanity. I know. But it took me THAT long!!!
Will chug through it this week, and coming up is a good long weekend to do more. Honestly, I haven't gone xmas shopping at all. I don't know if I will have time before getting on a plane in two weeks' time.
By the way. A big hug and kiss to my favorite editor, Moonrat, for all her help this weekend. And also for lending me her bed and making me delicious eggs this morning. Sammy is a wonderful poet too.
Saturday, December 1, 2007
I have to admit, while it was going on, I was like, okay, this is pretty good, but I wasn't completely sold. But the more time elapses, the more I think about it and let it settle in, the more I liked it.
The things it did well: It was subtle, understated. No music, nothing. Captured the violence without taking away from the gore, but nothing overblown. Quiet. I guess that's the big thing. There was a lot of quiet, which I really enjoyed. Coen brothers did a good job of taking the quietness of McCarthy's book and transposing it onto film.
Another thing it did for me was really bring into clarity the theme of lawlessness. These shots of violence juxtaposed with law enforcement forever arriving on the scene too late, or just plain having coffee somewhere in a diner. Always a step behind.
The thing I missed was at the very end - when Moss's wife is talking to Chigurh. I missed the dialogue there. I mean, okay, they couldn't have put out the whole dialogue because it's so long and philosophical and belongs better in literature, but I do feel it gives clarity to the whole thing. Because when I read that passage, that's when I was like, "Ohhhhhhhh... this is who he is."
I went to see the movie with a film school friend of mine, who has never read the book, or any McCarthy. We were discussing the film afterwards, and he was saying how he liked how we were never shown if she called it or not. So then I came home and called him and read him the full passage, and we spent all this time discussing that section and Chigurh's philosophy. After I read him a few passages, he ended up liking the movie better.
The other thing he said was that for the first 2/3 of the movie, he thought it was an action flick. Then Moss died, and he was like WTF? So now what? Then he started catching on that it was sort of philosophical, and it was only then that he started paying attention to the clues on theme. He said he wanted to watch it again so he could pay closer attention this time. I have to say, I felt the same when I was reading the book, in the sense that in the beginning, I was just focused on the plot, but then Moss gets killed off and there's still so much book left, and I was like, hmm, now what. It was only then that I started to look into what he was saying, but I think by then, I might have missed out on the clues in the beginning so I didn't appreciate it as much. Watching the movie makes me want to re-read the book again, to pick up on this stuff this time around and figure out what McCarthy's trying to say.
I really think that this movie complements the book really well. I think you lose some understanding of all the themes without reading McCarthy's kickass words, but in someways, the portrayal by the Coen brothers enhances McCarthy's prose.
This was VERY well done. The more I think about it, the more impressed I am, only because I think it's a very good example of taking McCarthy's original content and using the medium of film to enhance it and zero in on the same things that made the book great, in a different way. Keeping the heart of the story, I suppose.
And well casted too.
Friday, November 30, 2007
The 20th Annual Independent and Small Press Book Fair
New York Center for Independent Publishing
20 W. 44th St., New York, NY 10036 nr. Sixth Ave
12/1 thru 12/2
The New York Center for Independent Publishing’s 20th-Annual Independent and Small-Press Book Fair, in the old–New York confines of the General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen’s landmark building, is a little-press junkie’s dream come true. Akashic Books, Overlook Press, and Soft Skull, among 150 other imprints, will be on hand hawking wares, of course, but the two-day event will also feature a Q&A with Fugazi singer Ian MacKaye (addressing “independent culture,” what else?), readings by Katha Pollitt and Amiri Baraka, and—look out!—a lit-trivia competition between the editors of the journal A Public Space and The New York Review of Books. — Tayt Harlin
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
But I went.
And I am really glad I did.
She opened with a short reading from her memoir Brother I'm Dying. The way she reads is exactly how you hear it when you read the words on the page. Smooth, lyrical, quiet yet resonating. It really is an enchanting thing to hear her read. Really beautiful.
A few of the things she said that really resonated with me:
Fiction is about portraying humanity, giving a humane spin on characters or ideas, shedding some light, and in that way, showing the truth. -- This is the crux of what I'm trying to write about in my personal statement, in terms of how everything I've done in life is linked back to that. I truly believe the beauty of words comes back to this - humanity. This is why I want to write.
Empathy is the beginning of action. -- Yes. Why I believe this world could profit from more empathy. I have this weird desire to want to slowly transform people into more empathetic humans. I think literature does a good job of this. Words in general, with a pure intent.
She used a sparse style in this very affecting memoir, especially in the parts where perhaps, she truly is most outraged. Why? Because she's letting the words speak for themselves. -- I'm trying very hard to let my words speak for themselves, the whole showing, not telling bit. I tend to overexplain in my prose, when sometimes there's enough in the actions and dialogue itself that I don't need to overwrite. Good advice.
I asked her a question about her book The Farming of Bones, which is my favorite novel of hers. I'm a loser, and I got very nervous as I was about to ask her. But she was gracious and I loved her story of how she had talked to a painter friend of hers, and that's how it began. Because he had some paintings of the massacre he had created, and she was intrigued, and researched into the whole thing. I don't know, but something about how she was explaining it, really touched me.
I was actually something like 5th in line to get a signing. But. Then I realized I'd left my book at home. Well, they were selling books, but I'd already gotten Brother I'm Dying and Krik? Krak! signed, and the one I wanted to get signed was Farming of Bones, which they weren't selling. So I left the line. Unfortunately. :(
Next time, because I feel like I'm going to stalk her into eternity. Muahaha. Okay, that sounded creepy.
I really love her though.
Bunny stories always seem to be endearing and sad. Take the Velveteen Rabbit for instance.
Wellll... this has nothing to do with books really, except that the video is in storybook format, but I lovelovelove this song. The video is so sad. And the lyrics are sad.
This is my new "on repeat" song for the day...
It's like Peter Rabbit lost Benjamin Bunny!!
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
First of all, I'm going to say that now I have way too many books left unfinished, which drives me completely nuts. I'm going to finish the Umberto Eco book soon if it kills me.
But onto Johnson.
This is the thing. I really like the book sometimes, and other times, not as much. He has so many different characters going on, that you can't help but like some of them more than others. For instance, to me, the opening is beautiful. The whole shooting the monkey thing - so heartwrenching. The Houston brothers are my favorites. I could follow them forever. The scene with James getting all fucked up and drunk at home, with his girlfriend crying - wonderfully rendered. I dig that. I just find the Houston brothers amazingly compelling.
Then there's the Colonel. He's all sorts of weird, which I love. I love the scene where he's giving this long ass speech about Notre Dame vs. Michigan State, going on and on and how this relates to war and everything. It's hilarious yet true and intelligent. Maybe because I'm so into football these days, but I found the comparison so compelling. This idea of not opting for victory and instead, taking the draw. It works so well with the bigger backdrop of what Vietnam was all about.
And Vietnam man. I don't know if I've said this before, but Vietnam is my country. I mean, no, I'm not Vietnamese, but I have a love obsession with the country. It's beautiful and sad and the people there are so friendly it breaks your heart. I LOVE the country. And I love it aside from the lens of the war, although I guess, really, everything I love about it also has been a byproduct of the war in a way. But I'm digressing. So I love the sections with the Vietnamese guys, and seeing their perspective on things. The Buddhists burning themselves. That sort of thing.
The part I had trouble with? Skip. Oh god, the beginning of his section was boring boring. I know this novel (according to the flap copy) is mostly about him, but god, man, his section in the beginning is just NOT interesting, not compared to the other wonderful characters. He's starting to grow on me right now, but I wish we could follow the Houston brothers all the way through.
I have sections I like, but I'm at work, and I won't post right now.
Okay, but the big things I want to say. I love the messiness of this novel so far. I like the departure from all the other familiar Vietnam war books we see. Or war books in general. I like the way he renders the aimlessness of the characters, all of them trying to find something, who knows what. A lostness. Now, I didn't live through the war, so I don't know. But I think this lostness feels akin to what I suppose this war sort of was. This not understanding. This searching. I like that.
I do have to say though, that it takes some work for me to get through parts of this novel so far. And I definitely also feel like it's a "guy" book - in language, in characters. I mean yes, it's a novel about the war, and soldiers and stuff like that. So it's maybe a little bit harder for me to relate than a dude.
But the parts that are good in this book, to me, so far have more than made up for the slower portions.
One more thing -- I do tend to cringe the teeniest tiny bit whenever Vietnamese whores appear on scene. I mean, maybe (very likely) it's exactly like that, the way they talk, etc etc. But the walking cliche of it makes me cringe. Especially because my love of Vietnam comes from a place where I love the people, and I love the children. And knowing that a lot of the kids in Vietnam that were born during that time were a byproduct of the prostitution makes me dislike the one-dimensionality of Vietnamese prostitutes in pop-culture. It may very well be accurate, but I just can't stop thinking about what happens when these women go home to their families, when they become mothers. How they're not like that, don't talk like that, etc etc. It's a minor bone to pick, and I'm not even saying that Johnson shouldn't have rendered it that way. I mean, since it's a book about the soldiers, and not about the whores. I guess I'm making a general blanket statement for all Vietnam war stories.
Must keep trucking. Will keep you all updated.
As for updates on me...
1) I spent the holiday in Cincy, trying to work on my apps. None too successful. But the Cowboys won. Btw, I am incredibly upset at the Eagles' questionable play call in their second to last drive - they would have beat the Pats, I'm sure!! So mad.
2) Started Tree of Smoke. Someone is a little sad I didn't love it as much as he did. I do like it a lot, but some parts lost me. And I still like Junot Diaz's book better. I have more to say a little later about it. I'm 250 pages in.
3) I'm a teensy weensy bit tipsy, so I'm just going to reaffirm - I want to be a writer. I really do. I will do whatever the fuck it takes to make it. I swear. You need me to network? I'm good at that shit. You need me to read? I'll do it. Tell me what to do in order to make it... I want to be a writer because it's the only thing that ever felt real and wonderful to me. I had this terrible meeting at work today, and it just reaffirmed it for me. I want to be a writer. I really do. I won't sell my soul for it, but that's because I believe it takes soul. What do I have to do?
I'm a little bit sad that I'm not going to make my 50 book mark this year. Le sigh.
I missed all of you.
Okay. Good night.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Happy Turkey Day.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Moonrat and I just had a convo about why we write, or at least, why she percieves I write. It's very hard for me to understand the logic of why people write to be published, but she tells me that's why most people write - for approval, to be published, etc. The reason I don't understand this is because it logically doesn't make sense.
I mean, I want to be published as bad as anyone, because this is what I want to do with my life, is write, because I can't not. But the being published thing is like... it's like having your baby out there I guess.
But I don't get the idea of being published for the sake of being published.
Because okay, wealth/fame - not compelling reasons to go through the agony of writing. Being recognized as literary and smart and all that... you would go through the trouble of getting something published for that? It just seems like a lot of work. So then beyond that, why does a person want to be published? What's so gratifying about your name on a spine in itself? I guess what I don't understand is, I've always assumed most people wrote for the same reasons as I did, but Moonie tells me that's not the case. But I don't understand how it's not for the reasons as I do... because your name on a spine in itself, that can't be enough of a driving factor right? It's the end goal of approval, maybe, but that's a byproduct, not a reason...
Do I make any sense here? I kind of want to know why other people write. I know why I write, but I'm curious as to other people's reasons. Maybe I'm a completely deluded sad person. Strange.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Back to our regularly scheduled programming.
Interesting: I took a class where we discussed McCarthy's The Road at length. [My favorite book currently.] Everyone in the class for the most part really enjoyed it, but what was interesting was learning what people's interpretations of the book were, why they liked it.
I am a really optimistic person for the most part - hopeful of humanity, forgiving to a fault, and believing of the good in people. I read McCarthy's book and took away from it, a very beautiful, hopeful message, in spite of the bad.
My friend in the class is a more pessimistic, cynical person. We saw the same scenes in two completely different lights - where I saw beauty, love, selflessness, she saw selfishness, hopelessness, despair. For her, the book was depressing and bleak. For me, it was the ability for the world to transcend the bleakness.
I digress a little bit, because that's more how you read a book than simply what you read.
But sometimes I pick up a book recommended by a friend who raves about it, and if I don't like it that much, I wonder what it says about my friend and what it says about me. Besides just aesthetics, I feel like books touch a certain chord, and I wonder what kind of truths and lenses with which we see the world make these people feel an affinity towards these books.
I have a friend whose taste in literature I trust intrinsically. I don't think we are necessarily similar people - we don't even necessarily see the world in the same way. But I think it has something to do with what we appreciate in the world, and a certain belief in certain things. Hmm.
I think you can tell a lot about a person from their favorite book(s). I wonder what my taste in books says about me...
- Another dude? Um, what about women, O??
- I thought Ken Follett was a genre writer. Which is cool, I mean I have no idea what this book is about, and it's nice to see something different be picked. I guess it's just surprising. But cool.
- But really, can we pick some lesser known female authors please?
Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett, guys. The new inductee to the exclusive library of the powerful God of all middle-aged women.
Fiction: Tree of Smoke - Denis Johnson (I know someone who is going to be VERY happy about this outcome)
Non-fiction: Legacy of Ashes - Tim Weiner (Sadness, Danticat, but you're still my girl)
Poetry: Time and Materials - Robert Hass
Children: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian - Sherman Alexie
Yeah, book shopping this weekend.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
I'm freaking out.
I assume the first will be much more straightforward and businesslike/academic. The second, however, is what I'm stuck on.
This is the official question:
"As it would be helpful to the Admissions Committee to know something about you, please attach an autobiographical sketch of 2-4 pages, concentrating especially on your background in writing and literature. We ask that this autobiographical sketch be separate from the Statement of Purpose, which is part of the application. The aim of the MFA Programs in Writing is to assist accomplished writers in the final stages of their achievement of professionalism in the field of poetry or fiction-writing. Although many writers and poets who have graduated from the Programs also teach, the concern of the Program is not to prepare students for teaching careers. The Admissions Committee is interested primarily in your writing. In your sketch you may wish to indicate what you regard as special in your background experience, writers or writing teachers you have studied with, reading which has influenced you as a writer, and the current direction of your writing. In short, we would like to find out as much as possible about your background as a writer in a few pages."
Freaking out, yes. Because I'm not entirely sure about what approach I should be taking. I could take a completely creative approach I suppose, as opposed to a straightup personal essay. I don't know. What do we think??
Btw, even though I STILL haven't picked up Tree of Smoke yet, you know I'm rooting for Denis Johnson. And, of course, for my girl Danticat to win in the non-fiction category.
Is there a method to the madness of the National Book Awards, the Oscars of book publishing? This year there's a clear fiction front-runner (hint: His name is Denis Johnson), but the winners often seem to come not only out of left field, but right field and center field, too. One year Cold Mountain beats Don DeLillo’s Underworld, the next year Alice McDermott trumps Robert Stone. And in some years the choices (made not out of one giant consensus, like the Oscars, but via five rotating committee members) are bafflingly obscure. (Who was Larry Heineman, and was his book really better than Beloved?) But some patterns persist — and we've boiled them down into four rules for winning a fiction award! (This year's top author will be announced at Wednesday's gala.)
Don't Be a Young Debut Novelist
Up until the mid-eighties, there was a separate niche for first novels. Since then, on the few occasions when debuts have won — Ha Jin for Waiting in 1999, Julia Glass for Three Junes, in a 2002 upset — they've either already been published or are well into their middle years, with other careers or colorful histories behind them. That means that the chances this year for Joshua Ferris (And Then We Came to the End) and Mischa Berlinski (Fieldwork) aren't very good.
Do Aim for World-Historical Significance
It seems to have helped obscure or difficult books in recent years, like Lily Tuck's aptly titled The News From Paraguay, in 2004, or William Vollmann's Europe Central a year later. That means Berlinski's complicated book about Thailand has a slightly better shot than Ferris's hip Brooklynite first-person-plural tale of office-life drudgery. Still, obscure picks usually do best in an obscure field, and that's not the
case this year.
Don't Write Short Stories
The last winner was Andrea Barrett's Ship Fever and Other Stories, in 1996; before that, you'd have to go back to 1984. That's roughly one a decade — maybe we're due for one? Even so, this means the short-story collections — The Varieties of Disturbance, by Lydia Davis, and Like You'd Understand, Anyway, by Jim Shepard — are a long shot. Plus, Davis's formally experimental stories (some of them just a couple of words long) make a win for her even less likely.
Do Be a Literary Insider
Davis and Shepard do have one thing in their favor: They're two different brands of literary insiders. Davis, also a translator and once married to Paul Auster, is a known quantity in the lit universe. Shepard's a college professor with a poppy but edgy voice, a cult following among writers (probably including one or two of the judges), and a load of very solid work behind him — but likely not enough cachet to win over everyone on the committee.
Expand Your Demo
Denis Johnson already has the literary-insider and world-historical-significance angles covered: He’s a sometime poet and a big name writer, and his sprawling Vietnam novel is a sweeping indictment of American military ambitions with obvious topical parallels. And he's got the inside track on another requirement: widening your audience. He already had the poetry fans; with Jesus' Son, he won over the younger lit hipsters, and now Tree of Smoke hits the baby-boomers and history buffs where they live. So his appeal probably runs straight through all five members of the committee — like that of past winners Cormac McCarthy and William Styron. He's not as easily crowned as front-runners past, but then, the competition isn't what it used to be. (In 1980, Styron’s co-nominees were Philip Roth, Norman Mailer, James Baldwin, and Scott Spencer.) Chances are, you'll see Johnson's wife at the podium Wednesday. Johnson himself is in Iraq writing. That's a story in itself — and one the judges will probably like.
Monday, November 12, 2007
Sorry, I'm sparse with words these days. I think everything's getting to me, including the weather, and I might be the teeniest tiniest bit depressed.
Thursday, November 8, 2007
This also means, I'm caving and buying Tree of Smoke. Yes. That's what I want, and I want it now. I've never been any good at delayed gratification.
I mean, take a look at this. My immediate list for Santa includes:
- Tree of Smoke
- A Tony Romo jersey
- An iPod Touch
- A new cell phone, preferably from Sony Ericsson in Asia
- Acceptance letters
- Tickets to the Cowboys/Giants game this weekend (early present?)
Of those three items, I've already caved and bought the jersey (which Al then berated me for, and finally confessed he'd meant to buy it for me for Xmas, so could I please return it, or else he'd have to think of another genius idea to get me for Xmas), and I'm about to cave and buy the book.
Two out of five is kinda high, eh?
Sigh. Well, whatever. I'm getting a deal. And who can resist a deal??
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
1) my own chapters over and over again (obsessively)
2) my short stories that i'm considering submitting for portfolio
3) my first attempt at a personal statement
4) my classmates' submissions
5) pitch letters and press releases and more pitch letters and maybe some press material copy
I miss books. not much devouring happening lately. I guess I'm on a book diet. But I feel a little like I'm starving.
- It's interesting. Now that I've started a novel, I feel strangely at home. I always knew I wasn't a short story writer at heart, but I taught myself to, because I felt it was necessary. Also because I feared that lacked the stamina to write a novel. But now that I'm about 9,000 words in, I get it. This is where I belong. If I'd be anything, I'd be a novelist. I love creating these characters and knowing them so intimately that I could wax on them for pages and pages. I love that I hold the ultimate keys to everything about them and I can dole out bits and pieces of them at my own discretion. I love how far I can fall into who they are and how they react to things, and the memories they have and watch them change gradually over time. Yes. I'm a novelist.
- This novel is based upon the first writing exercise I did in my first writing class, over a year ago. A character study. Two characters emerged from this exercise (that turned into 6 pages long), and since then I've been playing with them. Trying to figure out who they are. The things that drive them, and of course, the plot that surrounds them. It's been a long long long time in my head, fleshing it out, took me this whole year to do it. The strange thing is that the female character (who is not the main protagonist) while based loosely upon me in only the most superficial ways, was never meant to reflect me or my life or even my outlook on the world. But suddenly, I'm reading pages I've written with her in it, and I suddenly see her in me. That sounds strange, right? But it's not as if she's based on me, but more like, I suddenly understand what she's going through, why she says and needs the things she does, because I suddenly need those things too. I created this character far away from me, and now she's sort of affecting me. Weird. Very weird.
Okay, that's vague, but I can't say much more without giving anything away. So that's all for now. Back to the grind.
National Book Awards Finalists
Tishman Auditorium, 12th St. and 6th Ave.
November 13, 7 pm
$10 (get advanced tickets)
Dammit. I'm trying REALLY GOOD and hold out until paperback for Tree of Smoke. But it's really hard! Paperbacks take like YEARS to come out!
Monday, November 5, 2007
Barnes and Noble
21st and 6th
Saturday, November 3, 2007
So I did the worst I've ever done on a verbal section and actually did 40 pts better on my math. It's not a fantastic score (combination 1230 I think -- this can be a math problem on the GREs if you want to take the time to figure out the split) and I've done much better on my practice tests, but considering how little it's weighted, it'll do. Besides, I just CAN'T sit through that again. I hate computerized exams, it totally scares me. I like the option to go back later and change my answers...
But I'm done, so tonight, I'm going to dinner at Aquavit with a friend from out of town, then to another friend's bday party and tomorrow I'm going to spend all day watching football (go Colts!). And then come Monday, I'll be a good girl and start working on those apps...
Now I need to take a nap.
Thursday, November 1, 2007
Mass Mailing Help Needed!
The Workshop is in need of 4 individuals for a mass mailing. $50 stipend paid upon completion of job.
Tuesday, November 6th, from 5pm to 9pm (or until finished)@ The Workshop 16 West 32nd Street, 10th Floor (btwn Broadway & 5th Avenue) New York City
If interested in applying, email Anjali at firstname.lastname@example.org with:
- Your full contact information (inc phone and email)
- Briefly describe your past mass mailing experience
The last line cracks me up. "I am very skilled at the bcc function." Dude, I should apply for that job, that's all I did today. And I'm not sure I got $50 for it.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
I blame this on the fact that my GREs are coming up next Saturday, and then for the next month, I'll have to spend every free moment either working on my applications, reading other people's excerpts for class, working on the first 50 pages of my own novel for class submission, or doing some freelance research an author friend of mine has enlisted me to do by the end of this year. So I don't think I'll be picking up a book to read for pleasure until late mid-December. I also don't have time to peruse my usual industry feeds to find tibits of information I want to post. So I suppose posting on this blog will be very limited for the next two months.
But, good news is, current word count of the novel is around 8,000 right now. I haven't spent as much time on it as I would like, but okay...
Scheduling as follows:
This week: Study for GREs
Next week: Chapters 3-5 of novel
Weeks after: Portfolio and essays
The logic behind this is that once I get my novel pages out of the way, when it comes time for me to submit, I only have to do cursory editing, instead of breaking up what should be my real focus around the latter portion of the month: my essays.
By the way, I just took a practice test. I did better on the verbal but did abysmally on the math. WTF.
Monday, October 22, 2007
Ugh. So mad.
Anyway, because I've been cleaning my shelves recently, a friend of mine forwarded me all these book swap sites, if anyone was interested:
There's also this site, similar to the Where's George site for dollar bills, where you can track where your book goes....
Okay, off to lick my wounds. Today is NOT a good day.
With whom did you last get angry?
Myself... for dropping Giants' defense.
What is your weapon of choice?
Words and feeble knuckles.
Would you hit a member of the opposite sex? How about the same sex?
Opposite sex - sure! Anyone who has seen me really drunk knows... haha. Opposite sex? No, not unless she pissed me off something bad and I thought she was a total raving lunatic bitch.
Who was the last person who got really angry at you?
Hmm. Probably my mom or dad or brother. Wait, I'm a total angel. No one gets made at me!
What is your pet peeve?
Do you keep grudges or can you let them go easily?
I let them go easily if you're someone I'm friends with - I'm forgiving to a fault. If I don't know you at all though, I will probably not forgive you enough to ever want to be friends with you.
What is the one thing you're supposed to do daily that you haven't?
Floss. My dentist hates me.
What is the latest you have woken up?
Uhhh back in the days when I was unemployed and staying up all night doing god knows what, I'd wake up at like 5 pm the next day... YEAH, I know.
Name a person you've been meaning to contact but haven't.
My grandmother. I know, I'm terrible.
What is the last lame excuse that you made?
I don't remember. No, really, I don't. It was probably something like, "I'm tired."
Have you ever watched an informmercial all the way through?
Yeah. It's fascinating how hypnotic they are. They make you believe in miracle products. Luckily for me I'm too lazy to pick up a phone to order one of those products, but I've definitely thought to myself how cool they looked....
How many times did you hit the snooze button on your alarm this morning?
This morning, only once!!! It's a record for me...
What is your overpriced yuppie beverage of choice?
Are you a meat eater?
Yeah. I tried being a vegetarian for half a year, and in the end I believed I was doing my body way too much harm.
What is the greatest amount of alcohol you've had in one sitting?
HAHAHA. Honestly? Something like 8 shots and 6 mixed drinks... back before I quit drinking for a few months.
Are you comfortable with your drinking and eating habits?
No, I don't think I get enough nutrients, and probably I eat too much.
Do you enjoy candy and sweets?
Too much. Alas. There's a history of diabetes in my family so I should be careful.
Which do you prefer: sweets, salty foods or spicy?
Sweets, mostly (cupcakes and other tasty desserts!) but I will take just about anything.
Have you ever looked at a small house pet or child and thought "lunch"?
UH no. Gross.
How many credit cards do you own?
1 that I use, 2 that I don't. I have great credit.
If you had a million dollars, what would you do with it?
Finance myself through grad school, donate a few thousand to charities, save the rest to give myself the chance to actually write.
Would you rather be rich or famous?
Famous if fame means famous writer. Rich if famous means anything else.
Would you accept a boring job if it meant you would make mega bucks?
No. Well, wait. How much we talking here, and what does "boring" mean exactly? If it's 9-5 boring, but it's not with a hell-boss and good benefits and it's paying me like $300 an hour, then maybe. As long as I don't have to take work home and my QOL is otherwise decent.
What is one thing that you have done that you are most proud of?
I don't know, really. Maybe having learned to deal with things alone and maturely.
What's one thing you have done that your parents are most proud of?
I'm not sure. Graduating from a good undergraduate school with a high GPA and honors?
What thing would you like to accomplish late in your life?
Well, if I don't publish a book early in my life...
Do you get annoyed by coming in second place?
A little bit.
Have you ever entered a contest of skill knowing you were of much higher skill than all the other competitors?
Nope. Contest of skill sounds a little bit scary.
Have you ever cheated to get a better score?
Um, yeah. Not often, and not by much, but I definitely have.
What did you do today that you're proud of?
Wrote an outline for my next chapter...
How many people have you seen naked (not counting movies, family, strippers, locker rooms?)
How many people have seen you naked (not counting physicians, doctors, family, locker rooms or when you were a young child)?
Have you ever caught yourself staring at the chest/crotch of a person of your chosen sex during a normal conversation?
I once had this econ teacher in HS who wore really tight tight tight pants. It was like impossible to avert your eyes while he was walking around the classroom. He also happened to be extremely tall.
What is your favorite body part of a person of your gender choice?
The fatty part of the earlobe. Also the space in the neck right below the jaw (the place where you would normally put two fingers to take a pulse).
Have you ever had sexual encounters (including kissing/making out) with multiple persons?
Like at a time? No. Though I did kiss two guys in the same night once.
Have you ever been propositioned by a prostitute?
What item of your friends would you most want to have for your own?
A really nice apartment in the city.
Who would you want to go on Trading Spaces with?
Lily because she paints walls. Well, I don't know.
If you could be anyone who existed in the world, who would you be?
Me. Well, maybe me + a little bit more talent.
Have you ever been cheated on?
Not that I know of and at this point I don't want to know.
Have you ever wished you had a physical feature different from your own?
When I was younger I wanted to be blonde and blue-eyed. Now I just wish I had a smaller belly and a faster metabolism.
What inborn trait do you see in others that you wish you had for yourself?
Many things. Courage. Financial acumen. Grace. Generosity. Selflessness. Well, I might be being a little tough on myself, but anyway...
WHAT DEADLY SIN
do you do the most often?
do you do the least often?
Lust. No literally. Hahaha.
is your favorite to act on?
Gluttony. If I go to hell, it would really be because I ate my way down there.
- I caught Fievel this morning on a sticky trap. I felt very terrible when it squealed at me.
- I hate fantasy football. Like really really hate. But good job to my beloved Cowboys. And to the Giants on their amazing blowout.
- Umberto Eco: I'm still ambivalent about him.
- I reworked some of my first 2 chapters. Also talked extensively with my film friend who helped me flesh out the plot even more. I'm totally psyched to write this (um when I have time).
- I am getting a promotion today (I think.)
- I have the GREs in less than 2 weeks. I have not studied.
- I am heading upstate to go "hiking" with my mom tomorrow. Except. It's supposed to rain all week!
Saturday, October 20, 2007
Anyway, Alice Sebold was 15 minutes late, but when she came in, it was funny because she was exactly what I'd pictured her to be like. She started the reading off with a poem by Wislawa Szymborska, which was really nice (I've read only one of her poems before, a really great poem actually). Then she read a little from the beginning of her novel. I like the way she reads, its smooth and slow, captures perfectly the tone of her book. You can hear the way she meant for it to sound.
Afterwards, she took some questions. There were questions ranging from "Do you have a family? Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?" to "Why didn't you KILL Mr. Harvey in Lovely Bones in a more torturous way!!" to "What does your own mom think about Almost Moon?" (since the book is about a woman murdering her mother). She answered all the questions politely, even sort of funnily. I liked her. She wasn't super charismatic or anything, but she seemed patient and kind and appreciative of her audience.
What I found interesting was when she was asked how she picked her topics for her books. And she said she picked obsessions that had stayed with her for awhile, and then she just had to create characters strong enough to deal with these obsessions. Someone asked her if the first line of the book was the first line she had written and she said, no, how she had spent a long time trying to figure out what the story was, and whose point of view it had to be told from, so that by the time she finally got around to writing the beginning that it is now, she already knew a lot of what had happened.
I went to get my copy of the book signed, along with my copy of Lucky (my mom currently has Lovely Bones with her so I couldn't bring that). The BN lady was like, "What edition of the book is this?" and I was all confused for a second, because I hadn't realized it wasn't the same edition as the one that is currently being sold. Then I realized I had bought the book when I was in HK, so I told her so. Alice was like, "Oh yeah, this is different," and the BN lady was like, "Doesn't have the rabbit's foot." So on my way out I checked the cover of the US edition, and sure enough, the cover has a rabbit's foot, while mine has a pink hair ribbon. I hadn't even known, but my guess is because people in HK would have had no idea what the hell a rabbit's foot symbolizes.
On a side note, as I was sitting waiting (reading submission pieces for my workshop), the guys behind me were having an animated convo about other readings, including one guy who talked about the number of times he went to see Tao Lin. He recounted how Tao Lin read a poem, this one actually, and how he was able to read the thing in its entirety without once changing his expression or tone of voice. Hilarious.
Friday, October 19, 2007
I think it's because I'm being consumed by this novel (and partly because of fantasy football). Someone once told me he doesn't like to blog, because it meant sort of wasting words (and energy too, I'm sure) on blogs when it could be channeled to the piece that was being worked on. I didn't understand that at the time, but now I do.
Also, because of that, I haven't been reading anything, besides the pieces that need to be workshopped for my classes.
I went to the Alice Sebold reading last night. I have things to say about it, but I'm really tired right now. Will try to do that later tonight.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Awesome, all I'm going to do is write this weekend. Oh, and get a cavity filled.
[Oh, right. I also have apps to do and GREs to study for. Um. Coming up on Nov. 3.]
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Read her entry. I like.
I mean the thing is, ultimately, you should write to write. Write because you have something to say. Because honestly, if you're looking for riches, this is not the way to do it. And if you're looking for fame, it may not come in your lifetime. But if you write because you want to, because you have to, because you can't not write, then what's stopping you? You are not a writer because someone else tells you you are; you are a writer because you are writing.
I am a writer. Whether or not anyone else in this world, in this lifetime, ever recognizes that does not change that fact. Write because you must, because this is how you process the world, and this is the art you want to leave behind. Fickle audiences be damned.
But okay, might as well put some thoughts down now.
In workshop, they always talk about the importance of a driving plot/obstacle/challenge that is sustaining enough to move you through an entire novel. But then there was recently that thread we had over at Moonrat's blog on plot vs. style too.
My thing about Mysterious Flame is that I don't think that the book is very driving. Much of the book is about this guy looking through his old papers and books and comics to sort of find out about himself because he's lost his memory. The back copy of the book promises that he's looking for the memory of his first love, but this doesn't even come up until about 3/5 of the way through the book. While the history of all the documents is mildly interesting, it's not interesting enough to me to sustain my attention. I find myself growing weary, because every chapter is nearly the same - he finds some new boxes, pieces together a little bit more of his past, etc etc. At moments when I finally think plot is taking off, it settles again after only a few pages. The whole thing is sort of a plateau, and I think I'm not versed enough in Italian history and politics to care enough about how all the period pieces fit in. Don't get me wrong - it's not completely disinteresting, but I find that I keep turning pages hoping that there's going to be something that hooks me. I also think it doesn't help that Eco's style tends towards the verbose side. While he's a good writer, the way the plot is being doled out isn't sustaining me.
I'm about 100 pages out from the end, so I'll let you know how it ends up wrapping up for me. But so far, I'm wondering if I should have chosen Name of the Rose as my first Eco instead.
Monday, October 15, 2007
Barnes and Noble, Astor Place (Bway)
October 17, 3:30 PM
She'll be reading from her YA novel Bullyville
Symphony Space, Bway (95th St.)
October 17, 7:30 PM, $25
Discussing The Emperor's Children (also with Valerie Martin and Hope Davis)
Barnes and Noble, Bway and 65th
October 17, 7:30 pm
New novel, The Abstinence Teacher
Barnes and Noble, Bway and 82nd St.
October 18, 7:00 pm
On his new anthology I'll Fly Away, stories from women in York Prison
Barnes and Noble, 17th and Bway
October 18, 7:00 pm
On her new book The Almost Moon
Cool? I may try to hit the Alice Sebold one myself.
1. Hardcover or paperback, and why? Paperback because it's lighter to carry around and I don't worry about tearing the jacket cover.
2. If I were to own a book shop I would call it... um I have absolutely no idea so I'm going to copout and say Books Taste Good only because it's easy right now.
3. My favorite quote from a book (mention the title) is... ah. This is so difficult. I love this:
"Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta." from, obviously, Nabokov's Lolita.
Also the romantic in me likes:
"Once upon a time there was a boy who loved a girl, and her laughter was a question he wanted to spend his whole life answering." from History of Love by Krauss.
But I think my most favorite of favorites is the Danticat quote from "Children of the Sea":
"From here I cannot even see the sea. Behind these mountains are more mountains and more black butterflies still and a sea that is endless like my love for you."
4. The author (alive or deceased) I would love to have lunch with would be... Well, it would have to be Edwidge Danticat, wouldn't it?
5. If I was going to a deserted island and could only bring one book, except from the SAS survival guide, it would be… the Bible. I'm kidding. I'm not actually religious so I don't think that would do me any good. Um... on a deserted island... only one book? I honestly don't know. Maybe a large thick edition of the history of the world.
6. I would love someone to invent a bookish gadget that… Oooh ooh! I've thought of this. A bookmark with flags in it. Because I hate marking up/dog-earring my books, so I'd rather flag quotes/sections I like. But there never seem to be flags on hand.
7. The smell of an old book reminds me of... basements?
8. If I could be the lead character in a book (mention the title), it would be... Omg, just so frigging cool how he runs to the Catskills and successfully LIVES there for a year.
9. The most overestimated book of all time is… Hmm. I honestly can't really say. Let me read some more and get back to you on this.
10. I hate it when a book... Is perfectly good as a standalone is frigging awesome... and then they go and write a sequel for the sake of milking it.
Bleh. I couldn't think of good answers for most of these. How boring.
Friday, October 12, 2007
Well, no more bschool in my future (at least not for now), though SF is still a viable option for me as I'm applying to SFSU. I wondered secretly to myself about how the lit culture there could possibly compare to that in NY (a consideration I have for all of my Cali schools, despite how BADLY I want to live in Cali for a few years), but I must say, if I were in SF this weekend, I would most definitely be attending LitQuake and doing the LitCrawl. Seems so fun.
On a completely separate note, does anyone else find it really ironic that Al Gore, loser of the presidency to a president seemingly obsessed with war, just won a NOBEL PEACE PRIZE? I don't know about you, but I think the Nobel Prize is a better achievement than being commander-in-chief...
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Some other pretty notable authors on there too, though I haven't read anything else (my sister owns Hugo Cabret which my mom heard about on some morning show and bought for her. She has not touched it, in fact it is sitting on my ground.)
Oh hell, here it is, in case you live in a cave:
Mischa Berlinski, Fieldwork
Lydia Davis, Varieties of Disturbance
Joshua Ferris, Then We Came to the End
Denis Johnson, Tree of Smoke
Jim Shepard, Like You'd Understand, Anyway
Edwidge Danticat, Brother, I'm Dying
Christopher Hitchens, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything
Woody Holton, Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution
Arnold Rampersad, Ralph Ellison: A Biography
Tim Weiner, Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA
Linda Gregerson, Magnetic North
Robert Hass, Time and Materials
David Kirby, The House on Boulevard St.
Stanley Plumly, Old Heart
Ellen Bryant Voigt, Messenger: New and Selected Poems 1976-2006
Young People's Literature
Sherman Alexie, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Kathleen Duey, Skin Hunger: A Resurrection of Magic, Book One
M. Sindy Felin, Touching Snow
Brian Selznick, The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Sara Zarr, Story of a Girl
Dammit. I had something else book-related to say today and now I've completely forgotten...
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
.... I just have to say how proud of my boys I am tonight for digging Romo out of his hole, especially ice cold Nick Folk. Thank god for him. Tonight was not Romo's proudest moment, but I still love him, and we are still 5-0.
Team loyalties trump fantasy. :)
Yeah, no relation to books whatsoever. I don't care. I'm just getting my breath back after holding it for last two minutes of regulation game play.
Okay, now I'll switch back to my usual bookish nerdy self.
Sunday, October 7, 2007
A funny tangent question might be, "Could you be with someone if you didn't respect their taste in books?" Or would it be easier to be with someone who doesn't read, or with someone who reads garbage?
That's a tough one. Depends what the garbage is. I tend to be pretty openminded about books, so as long as he TRULY enjoys reading SOMETHING, that might be better than nothing. Though I might have serious issues if he likes reading only Candace Bushnell or something (taste being only one concern). For instance, in GENERAL I'm not a big sci-fi/fantasy fan, though I've read (and enjoyed) my fairshare of Piers Anthony and Orson Scott Card (LOVE the Ender's series). So while it may not be within my taste, I'd be okay with it... I suppose I'd have a really big problem if I picked up the books he was reading one day that he claims he LOVES LOVES and found out it is the most poorly written thing ever though. Hmm. I might question his intelligence at that point.
I don't know. What do you think?
Saturday, October 6, 2007
And if you are a writer -- what is your opinion about spending your life with another writer? Is it:
a) Good (perhaps preferred, even necessary) because you want someone who understands that thing that you love the very most, and the process that goes with it
b) Bad -- because what if he/she is a better writer than you (is more successful, wins more awards, blah blah blah) or what if YOU become better than him/her (a la Carrie and Berger in Sex in the City)? Competition never bodes well.
These are questions that arose from a conversation I had tonight.
I have things to say about Mysterious Flame but I am currently coughing up a lung and I think I should sleep.
Mm. I dreamt last night I found an abundance of white hairs on my head, and I kept plucking and plucking. I wonder what that means.
There's always the temptation to be a little more personal on this blog. But I will resist my penchant for oversharing.
Friday, October 5, 2007
But I wanted to say that, not surprisingly, Oprah's new pick is Love in the Time of Cholera, which is like on 80% of people's "favorite books" section in their Facebook pages for some reason... But yes. We are all excited for the movie due out in November!!!! Good choice, Oprah, if unimaginative. Give new authors/books a chance, will you?
Thursday, October 4, 2007
I am reading Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana right now, and I love his ridiculous amount of knowledge vomit, which of course, comes with the condition that his poor character has (which I also love, because I was a psych major in college, and I've always wanted to write novels about people with abnormal psychological conditions). I'm only 20 pages in, but it's quirky and strange and maybe overly verbose, but funny and it works.
Randomness: Before it got warm and staying indoors was unbearable, I spent a good amount of time on weekends in a Starbucks right next door to a Barnes. This was my routine - walk into Barnes and spend 20 minutes browsing before schlepping next door and sitting down to write for a good four to five hours (or more). The reason I went into Barnes first, always, was because it not only inspired me, but also gave me hope. Looking at all the books surrounding me, I thought, there are so many books here. So many people have already made it. Why can't I be one of them too?
When everyone tells me how difficult it is to make it, I choose to go into Barnes and surround myself by the hundreds and thousands of books that tell me at least this many people have already made it.
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
Anyway this is a reminder of the Michael Ondaatje reading coming up at the AAWW. It's okay. You don't need to be Asian. Asian people don't bite (nor will they kungfu your ass or anything like it, despite favored media portrayals). So feel free. I'd go but I'm taking a roadtrip up north with my mom that day to watch the leaves change color (no really).
Copied from the email I recieved in my inbox today:
An Evening with Michael Ondaatje
Thursday, October 25, 2007
6-7:30 pm Private VIP cocktail party ($100)
7:30 pm General public reading, Q&A and booksigning ($15)
Tickets at 212.494.0061
@ Moti Hasson Gallery
535 West 25th Street (btwn 10th and 11th Avenues)
Chelsea art gallery district, Manhattan
The Asian American Writers' Workshop presents an exclusive event featuring Michael Ondaatje, award-winning author of The English Patient (Knopf, 1992), Anil's Ghost (Knopf, 2000), poetry collection Handwriting (Knopf, 2000) and other major, internationally-renowned works. Michael has selected and will read from his favorite passages, including his latest novel, Divisadero (Knopf, 2007), and will discuss the impact of film, mixed media and moving images on his writing. Audience Q&A to follow.
VIP and general tickets may be purchased only over the telephone with a credit card through the Workshop. Please call 212-494-0061. Tickets will be held at the door under your name. A limited number of student tickets are available for purchase in-person, in advance with current ID for $7 at the Workshop (Tuesday - Friday, 12 noon - 7pm). There will be no tickets available at the door as we will sell out. All proceeds from the event support the Workshop, a 501(c)(3) non-profit literary arts organization.This event is offered in partnership with The Consulate General of Canada - New York, The Rema Hort Mann Foundation and Moti Hasson Gallery.For more information or to purchase tickets, please call the Workshop at 212.494.0061 or click http://www.aaww.org/aaww_events.html#ondaatje.
My favorite part of this whole email is where they say "there will be no tickets available at the door because we'll sell out". Confident! Hahahaha.
Monday, October 1, 2007
Be back whenever I recover.
Friday, September 28, 2007
There are moments when I'm a little sympathetic towards Lee's plight - but quite honestly, when, towards the end, Cross tells her that if she stopped thinking she was so weird, then she'd realize she wasn't as weird as she thought, or that she kinda made her lot, I totally agree. I mean this guy sleeps with her and she feels all used and all that, I get it, but Lee totally did make it what it was, and he seems like a really decent guy. I mean she's fucking psycho. I kept waiting in this book for her to become more sympathetic, but in the end, I think she's too self-indulgent in her wallowing, and even though this is written as if looking back from many years, it seems like she's trying to explain and maybe justify everything that has happened. The thing is, it's not that normal people don't have the feelings she has, because I can recognize myself sometimes in some of the things she thinks. But it's not portrayed or explained sympathetically - I can't help but think that all the bad things that happen to her, she chooses for herself, instead of actively trying to change.
So that's my plot/character criticism. My craft criticism has to do with the fact that Curtis Sittenfeld chooses to make this backwards looking from adulthood. It makes the whole thing a little more detached. Even then, I'd expect it to be told then, humorously, because I mean come on, who doesn't look back at when they were maladjusted teenagers and kinda laugh at themselves? The introspection is too much; it needed to be counterbalanced with some humor or something. My other criticism is that she just talks WAY TOO MUCH and thinks WAY TOO MUCH for a teenager. Even if it's backwards looking, I don't really need to be explained what everything means in the grand scheme of things, when ultimately, I've been in hs before too and I know what it's like. Too much! Show the growing pains and leave it at that! And it makes me wonder if this character has grown up to be an unlikable adult. I also disliked how in the context of narrating something happening at the moment, the narrator would suddenly mention things that happened much later or give things away like, "Later on when I was older, I would realize..." or "Later when it was all over and I was trying to figure it out..." It takes me out of the moment, and I frankly could care less about who she becomes later.
There's 5 pages for this book to be wrapped up so that I feel like I'm getting something out of it. A lesson or SOMETHING to be learned. It would be amazing if she pulls it off, but I don't think she will.
The sad thing is, I actually do think the story itself can be interesting - who doesn't like to hear about crazy high school kids and romances behind the doors? Everything else was interesting, but it was like trying to see around the annoying narrator to what I was into. It's a shame, really, but I feel she could have made the character a lot more sympathetic. In the end, I never felt truly sorry for her situation. She was to me, always unlikable (and perhaps I would have been that girl in school who would have shunned her for that reason), because she never seemed to learn anything within the course of the story (only in retrospect), because she never seemed to get over her shame of who she was or where she came from, etc etc. I mean maybe that's how it is in real-life - we don't always grow up until we go to college or much later even - but this is fiction, and in fiction dammit, we're supposed to get something out of it. She just became that chick that no one liked, and, I thought, with good reason. Quite honestly, I never understood why the decent people in life like her anyway.
Argh. I think I liked this book much more in the beginning when I thought it was going somewhere. Now I feel slightly cheated because nothing ever really changes.
Um, I'll post a final final when I finish the last few pages (maybe) but for all intents and purposes, this can be my final judgment. A resounding: eh.
P.S. NY Times bestseller, one of NYTimes Book Review best books of the year? REALLY?!?!??!?!?!! What were they reading that year???
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Now, I don't know if it's just because I've had a rough couple of days with my manager (who is really pissing the flying shit out of me) but I'm finding the narrator of the book incredibly annoying. I'm kind of like, buck-up! Stop second guessing yourself! Can you please stop being so incredibly needy and pathetic? I feel like she might be a tad more sympathetic if there were just a little more snark in her, but the way it's written, she's just so... SAD. Her writing style reminds me, at points, of Plath without the skill with descriptions, but I don't find her character particularly sympathetic. I mean, at some point, I really want her to just get over herself and grow up.
But maybe I'm just cranky.
I have other things to say, but right now I'm too tired.
By the way, despite the annoyingness of the character, I still kinda want to know what happens. It's not a complete wash.