Saturday, March 21, 2009

Woohoo!

I got into the program I wanted to get into. I am soon transferring out of this shithole of a school!

Alas. Just when I was beginning to love the city too.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Misleading title, btw.

Today, one of my friends commented to me that I was becoming "a real slacker, huh?" Guilty as charged. I have one more week of school before spring break and I head off to Central America, and in that week I have:

- 1 workshop submission to write
- 1 short screenplay to write
- 12 papers to grade
- 3 stories to critique
- 2 books to read
- 1 midterm to study for

Not to mention all the errands I must get under my belt before jetting off.


So what am I going to do? Of course, I'm going to take this very precious work/studying time to catch up on my book blog posts! Yay!

First up:

I finished reading Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood for my adolescent lit class.

You know, the thing about this book is that it held so much promise. When I started reading it, I geared myself up to settle into a book that I thought I would love. The language was lyrical, staccato, affected. It's told from the POV of a 17 year old Chicano boy, in love with a girl named Juliana. It was raw and had this great beat to it that I was excited for.

Then [SPOILER] Juliana dies. No shit. 40 pages in. And I was like, alrite, maybe the rest of this book will flesh out their relationship and his relationship to her loss in flashback. No dice. Despite the title, she's never a major factor in the book.

I have other qualms, like it's too melodramatic for my taste -- too many people dying or having tragedies happen to them. I mean, I get that maybe this is a reality for some people, but for the sake of fiction it was too overwrought. Even the ending. It's like, nothing could go right for anybody, and I dunno, I think sometimes fiction needs to have a purpose, make something work, not have chaos for the sake of chaos. Even if it's to show that real life can be like this, it has to be done in a controlled way, otherwise it loses its meaning, and I feel like that's what happened here. And the characters just kinda came in when it was convenient for Sammy and for Saenz himself. They were never important until they were. It was never truly a cohesive book to me, which was a shame, since clearly Saenz is talented.

My favorite part of the book was the language. And the first sixty pages. Don't get me wrong, the book is still worth reading, but from a critical standpoint, from a writer's perspective (and possibly even from a reader's perspective) there were a bunch of craft problems with the text.

I wonder if an adolescent reader would feel differently about the book though. I suggested it to my sister, who's a very discerning reader for a 15 year old, because I'm curious what she'd think.

Mm. I had a couple of passages I'd wanted to note, but I forgot to mark them down and now I can't remember. Ah well. I guess that's that.

Good, but not great. A fast read, though long for a YA book.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

What being sick does

What I ate this past weekend, before getting sick:
Friday
Congee with pickles
Scallion pancake
An apple
Three street tacos
1 stewed taco
Guac and salsa and chips
Rice and beans
Diet coke
Sierra Nevada

Saturday
Dried mango slices
Eggs benedict with crab
4 glasses of marmosa (cran orange champagne cocktail)
Fruit salad
Strawberry crepe with brulee creme
Strawberry cupcake with cream cheese frosting
Vietnamese fried catfish
Spring rolls
Omu rice
Banana flambee
Blow pop
Two cocktails and a shot

Sunday
Iced coffee
Turkey leg
Chili lime corn on the cob
Dole whip
A bite of corn dog
Rice krispie treat
Caramel apple
Churro
Clam chowder in bread bowl
Steak gumbo in bread bowl
Fritters with fruit sauce
Hot coffee
Water

What I ate this week after I got sick:
Monday
Congee with preserved egg, pickles, mian jing and rou song
Hot tea
Sliced dried mangos
Water

Tuesday
Congee with preserved egg, pickles, mian jing and rou song
Hot tea
A shrimp taco from rubios (which made me sick)
Bowl of cheerios with skim
Water

Wednesday
Bowl of cheerios with skim
Peach yogurt
Cup of chicken soup
Water
Small antipasto salad
More cheerios with skim
Dried berries

Thursday (so far)
Bowl of cheerios with skim
Raisin bread pb & j & honey sandwich


I'm not sure which is more unhealthy. Though I do need to lose some weight before going on vacation next week. =P

Friday, March 13, 2009

Now all that's left to do is watch Kate Winslet.

I finished The Reader in one night a couple of nights ago. It was a fast read - only took about two to three hours - and I'd wanted to get through it so I could watch the movie soon.

I liked the book, though again, here is an example of a book that I really wanted to touch me, but fell a little short. But, it might also have been that I read it at like 3 in the morning.

What I did enjoy though was sort of the way it played with your sympathies, and this idea of choice in an impossible situation. While you can never condone what Hanna does, through the eyes of this boy, you see a woman confused, lonely, and not nearly bright enough (but proud enough) to walk away from duties she's given. There's a lack of critical thought that's portrayed, a deficit she tries to make up for, and a real sense that her lack of education is something she wants to change.

As a Holocaust book, I'm not sure where it stands. It brings up some real questions about the nature of the Holocaust from the perspective of all the willing participants. It brings up the questions of how an entire country could have mindlessly followed Hitler's path of destruction and supported it, either actively or passively. Even now, you look back (or you don't even have to look back as it happens every day) and you wonder how decent people can be swayed such as to believe that such acts of brutality are not only normal, but necessary. That there is no alternative. And one wonders if like with any other trauma, there's a numbness and a need to "buy in" that goes with it. One does what one needs to in order to survive.

It interested me too, that the narrator himself was so numb and apathetic following Hanna's disappearance, and that he is able to watch most of the proceedings in a detached manner. It portrayed the compartmentalization that occurs, a process that is both necessary at times and yet incredibly damaging to a person.

In any case, I thought it was a good read. Nothing spectacular, but definitely made you think.

Guess I wasn't too good of a reader in 8th grade...

Okay I read Catcher in the Rye for my other class recently. It's the second time I've read this - the first time I was in 8th grade, and aside from the part about the carousel and the Museum of Natural History, I don't remember much of it, and those were the parts I remembered liking. I remember wondering what the big fuss about the book was because I was just eh about it.

Well, shows what kind of reader I was back in 8th grade. My little sister who is in 9th grade right now told me Catcher was "awesome" and that Salinger was a "genius". She read that book in 8th grade too, so clearly, she's the more precocious reader.

Anyway, there's no point in really doing a "review" on this book, really. But I just wanted to record that in my second, much more mature read, I actually really really enjoyed it. I thought it Holden was such a sympathetic, wonderful character. So full of longing and confusion and the need to belong. And I'm a real sucker for awkward adolescent boy characters (see my love of Oscar Wao). There's something so endearing and tragic about poor Holden. So yes, this time around, I absolutely adored it.

Also, the carousel and Natural History sections are still just as good as I remember them being. :)

That's all I wanted to say!

Become extraordinary by vanishing..

Ugh books, okay, where do I start?

I read Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping for class the other day. It was good, but not fabulous. I appreciated some of her ideas and some of her language, but it never moved me the way I think it was meant to. I don't think this is through any fault of Robinson's though - objectively I can see that it's well written. I just don't think think that her style of writing resonates with me particularly. It's not that it doesn't resonate with me either. It just didn't fully, if that makes any sense.

The book is very internally focused, which I kind of liked, but again, I never felt as much for the characters as I would have liked, and I'm not sure why. I almost did, but there was a certain amount of detachment. Nonetheless, the book did give me some ideas for my own novel, in the relationship between the sisters and in the general sense of detachment from the protagonist.

The book is quiet and moves slowly, but it's full of heavy and interesting ideas. Definitely a book you want to absorb slowly.

The end becomes much more philisophical in some ways, and interested me greatly. Possibly because my own novel examines memory and belonging, and this book dealt heavily with both. The idea is interesting to me, that memory is made sharper by loss, that in losing something, something becomes fuller.

The book is so full of loss and longing and waiting and disconnection. It really is a beautiful book, and yet perhaps the reason I never felt as emotionally involved as I'd like to have is because it's such a detached book. Detached the way the protag is detached. Who knows.

A few passages I did like, mostly towards the end of the book:

For need can blossom into all the compensations it requires. To crave and to have are as like as a thing and its shadow. For when does a berry break upon the tongue as sweetly as when one longs to taste it, and when is the taste refracted into so many hues and savors of ripeness and earth, and when do our sense know any thing so utterly as when we lack it? And here again is a foreshadowing - the world will be made whole. For to wish for a hand on one's hair is all but to feel it. So whatever we may lose, very craving gives it back to us again. Though we dream and hardly know it, longing like an angel, fosters us, smooths our hair, and brings us wild strawberries.
-- [Housekeeping, pg. 153]

I was angry that she had left me for so long, and that she did not ask pardon or explain, and that by abandoning me she had assumed the power to bestow such a richness of grace. For in fact I wore her coat like beatitude, and her arms around me were as heartening as mercy, and I would say nothing that might make her loosen her grasp or take one step away.
--[Housekeeping, pg. 161]

Memory is the sense of loss, and loss pulls us after it.
--[Housekeeping, pg. 194]

But every memory is turned over and over again, every word, however chance, written in the heart in the hope that memory will fulfill itself, and become flesh, and that the wanderers will find a way home, and the perished, whose lack we always feel, will step through the door finally and stroke our hair with dreaming, habitual fondness, not having meant to keep us waiting long.
--[Housekeeping, pg. 195]

But if she lost me, I would become extraordinary by vanishing.
--[Housekeeping, pg. 195]

When did I become so unlike other people? Either it was when I followed Sylvie across the bridge, and the lake claimed us, or it was when my mother left me waiting for her, and established in me the habit of waiting and expectation which makes any present moment most significant for what it does not contain.
--[Housekeeping, pg. 214]

Of my conception I know only what you know of yours. It occured in darkness and I was unconsenting. I (and that slenderest word is too gross for the rare thing I was then) walked forever through reachless oblivion, in the mood of one smelling night-blooming flowers, and suddenly - My ravishers left their traces in me, male and female, and over the months I rounded, grew heavy, until the scandal could no longer be concealed and oblivion expelled me. But this I have in common with all my kind. By some bleak alchemy what had been mere unbeing becomes death when life is mingled with it. So they seal the door against our returning.
--[Housekeeping, pgs. 214-215]

Then there is the matter of my mother's abandonment of me. Again, this is the common experience. They walk ahead of us, and walk too fast, and forget us, they are so lost in thoughts of their own, and soon or late they disappear. The only mystery is that we expect it to be otherwise.
--[Housekeeping, pg. 215]


In any case, it's worth reading, thought I wouldn't rave rave rave about it. But it is slow and beautiful, and if you're in the mood for something introspective and quiet, this is a book to read.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

word cloud does not really include books?

This, from wordle.net, is my cool new toy that I will be procrastinating with from now on. I did a word cloud for this site, and I really had to search to find the word "books". What does that say?

The problem with the idea of cultivating an internet presence...

I think about "coming out" or so they say every once in awhile. I think about how writers are supposed to have online presences and so far mine is very restrained, very impersonal, and the kind of blog that will never garner a following because I'm so careful with what I post and am incredibly anonymous.

Then I remember (and anyone who knew me in college will also remember) how verbal vomit I used to be on my old blogs. Posting everything and anything for the whole entire world to see. Anyone who wanted to stalk me, could. And I have a hard time finding that middle ground where I give enough information about myself to make me interesting and show my personality without giving too much.

It's why I now keep an additional personal blog where I can hemorrhage all I want. For those friends of mine I love and trust. A place where I can control who comes in and out.

But it has crossed my mind that the best way to cultivate a grassroots following is online, before anything's even begun.

Well. I tell myself that when I'm done with the novel, that's when I'll think about creating an author blog. One that dissociates myself from this one so no one would ever have to know. Though that would potentially mean sacrificing the web friendies I have already who don't know me.

Internet is such a funny thing. I have the predisposition to overshare, so while I can't stop myself from blogging, I keep a very extreme line in how I blog, now that I've realized my tendencies. It's not that I'm an exhibitionist - not in the sense that I crave attention and air my laundry for the purpose of having everyone love me and read my shit and comment on it or whatever. It's just that... I used to not care. I felt I was being honest, with myself and with the world. I thought it was a way to vent and record and pretend that people were listening.

I know better now.

I fear that whenever I do create an author blog, it'll be a terribly boring one. Only because I secretly fear that I won't be able to accurately judge where the line should be drawn. And because part of me is a little scared of internet voyeurism and the judgment of people I barely know.

Hmm. This is what I think about at 5am, when I should be studying for a midterm. Or sleeping. Yes, sleep is probably the best option.

Character driving

I just spent hours and pages... character sketching.

Yes. I'm a third of the way through my novel and I decided I needed to devote a bunch of hours to writing character sketches.

I have this problem. I am a secret psychologist (it was my undergrad major), and so I have a primal need to understand my characters down to the most minute of details. I can't write a story without feeling like I have a really good grasp of my characters' fears, motivations, desires... but to an obsessive point. I sit around and document how they feel towards everything, everyone, what their issues are with everyone, and why they feel that way. My character sketches read like a psych reading on somebody. I track their whole history, and I need to make sure that everything matches.

And I CAN'T write without having this guide to their personalities, because otherwise I have NO IDEA how they'll act.

I'm a character driven person, not a plot driven person. I usually have little idea what they're going to say or do from one moment to the next, and so I rely very highly on having my characters dictate to me what they're going to do.

This works half the time, but right now it's a bit of a problem, because I have some key plot points that, for the life of me, I can't figure out. I seriously just don't know. And it's making me very very very stuck. Everything I write just isn't right.

In the meantime, fleshing out my character studies has made me realize how much stuff I've left out up til now that at some point I'm going to have to go back and add. But right now, all I want to do is GET THROUGH the damn thing so I know how it ends. Then I can go back and tweak and change everybody's personalities.

Argh. I just have no freaking clue. I think I need to do some research. Le sigh.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Bad about book blogging...

I've been lax about updating this site. Mostly because nearly all the books I've been reading lately are for class. I do have a couple of things to say, but just haven't gotten around to saying them... and to be honest, a personal blog (which I keep under lock and key!) is more fun to update. Haha.

But on things:

- I'm awaiting hearing back from the one MFA program I reapplied to so I know for sure where I'll be heading next year (but def away from this godforsaken program)
- I really need to get myself on a schedule of writing to force myself through my writer's block. Le Novel is driving me nuts
- God I'm tired
- I have a midterm tomorrow. I haven't studied. But I will! Because even though grades don't matter, I'm an Asian overachiever. DUH.
- Apple Cinnamon bear naked granola is delish.
- I'm going to Belize in TWO WEEKS baby. I really need to stop eating so I can fit into a bathing suit
- I bought 5 boxes of girl scout cookies yesterday in a moment of weakness. I am a total cookie junkie.

Okay I'll be back later to write up thoughts/reviews on books I've read recently.

Damn, I knew I should have applied to Columbia's MFA...

Only because I didn't find out til now that James Franco attends there! DAMMIT!

http://gawker.com/374070/james-franco-to-sexify-morningside-heights

And he's publishing stories already? Haha.

http://gawker.com/5164853/celebrity+only-book-industry-comes-dangerously-close-to-publishing-writer