I’ve been terrible about updating for the past month or so. My apologies, to anyone who actually makes a habit of following this thing. I’ve just been outrageously busy; I’m prepping to go back to college in January, after a two year hiatus— I just found out on Friday that I can get financial aid (by which I mean loans) to help me pay for it, which was really the only thing standing in my way.
But I won’t bore you with the details. I might post tonight on my writing blog, as well (My Scarlet Letters) because NaNoWriMo is finally underway, and I’m making slow (but steady!) progress. :)
In general, it finally feels like my life is beginning to piece together into what it should look like, and I’m much happier for it. ♥
This is one of my favorite books that I have ever read about writing; her wisdom and insight is extraordinary, and also very, very amusing.
Originally posted to my writing blog, My Scarlet Letters; I love this excerpt.
“This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.” – Dorothy Parker
Not all books are glorious works of thought and idea, this is just fact. And while it’s true that everyone’s tastes are different, I think it’s sometimes just as telling to measure a person by which books they’ve hated, in addition to the ones that they have loved. Hopefully, that former list is vastly shorter than the latter, but I don’t think that anyone can claim that they haven’t come across a book at least once in their life that they have wanted to throw across the room; these are mine. (Let me say that for every book on my list, I did make a genuine attempt to read and enjoy it before coming to the opposite conclusion.)
The Top 5 Books that I Can’t Stand
5. Gulliver’s Travels, by Jonathan Swift
I know that Swift is one of the greats of eighteenth-century British literature, and I respect him for that fact, however I could not find any enjoyment in this book. While I understand the satirical farce that drives the story, and while in theory it has a decent premise, in my opinion Swift does not manage to carry it off successfully. In short: I respect the writer, but not the work.
4. The Shining, by Stephen King
Before I start, let me say that in this case, I take issue with both the book and the writer. Prior to reading, I thought that this book sounded amazing, what’s not to love about a classic tale of horror and madness? Fifty pages into it, however, and I wanted to set it on fire (and I’m of the opinion that book burning should be a cardinal sin–); it was just lackluster in every way imaginable, despite the promising premise. For me, Stephen King is just another extraordinarily overrated “bestselling” writer– and the popularity of his work makes me despair of the general public when it comes to how they choose and evaluate their reading material; life is too short to read trash.
3. The Other Boleyn Girl, by Phillipa Gregory
I don’t understand why everyone raves about Philippa Gregory; even the fact that 98% of the general reading public has no taste for decent literature still doesn’t excuse the fact that this book was a bestseller. After the first two pages of this nauseating piece of “historical” garbage, I had a headache. Her writing is akin to a three-year-old mercilessly hitting a keyboard, and quite frankly, I think that most three-year-olds could write better fiction.
2. Twilight, by Stephanie Meyer
I could rage for hours about this book. And what’s funny is that I read the first three-quarters of it; I wanted to like it, I really and truly did. It might have been the vapidness of the characters, or the equally hollow, repetitive plot that was such a turn-off to me, but really, I think it was the sparkling. Even for all that I wanted to like it initially, this book disgusts me on levels that I didn’t even know existed. And, if possible, its rabid fans are infinitely worse. I can’t say anymore without wasting breath, and this book just isn’t worth it.
1. Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë
I get so much grief for hating this book from so many people. Widely praised as being one of the most compelling love stories of the Victorian era, it’s true that many have been beguiled by its conniving smoke-and-mirror approach. This novel is one that profoundly bothers me; I once wrote a manifesto expounding on the exact science of my hatred, disguised as a term paper. And I quote myself:“Though it likes to pretend it doesn’t, Jane Eyre consistently subscribes to the observance of Victorian Era culture and custom, both through Jane’s meek subservience to Rochester and her ultimate portrayal of the perfect Victorian wife. This is an element of the novel rarely discussed by critics, most of whom still hail the novel as revolutionary and idyllically romantic when in fact, it is anything but. In the beginning of the novel, Jane begins the long trek towards total independence and autonomy within the constraints of Victorian society, not an easy task for a woman of her age and stature; by the end, however, Jane is arguably just as blind as Rochester after having relinquished her own assertion of self in favor of the pursuit of love. Along the way of this dubious pursuit of romance, Jane forsakes everything she has worked so hard to achieve: through her love for Rochester she weakens herself to the position of an idle plaything to be adorned, adored, and in constant submission to Rochester’s every whim. This is the role embodied by women in the majority of Victorian novels, and Jane Eyre is no different; though it may be praised for its supposedly subversive look at women and culture within the context of Victorian society, under its façade of rebellion it is just another slavish depiction of how a woman under patriarchal rule should behave.” In the novel, Jane herself remarks: “I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself.” I guess in the end, she decided that self-respect just wasn’t something she was interested in; indeed, by the end of the novel, my respect for her had dropped to zero, also.
What It Is
by Lynda Barry
Graphic Novel, 208 pages
First, let’s start with what Lynda Barry’s graphic novel is not: drab, ordinary, boring. As an intellectual rhapsody of the power of image, form, and function within writing, What It Is is unlike any book I’ve ever experienced: undeniably an oddity– although wonderfully so. Barry’s stylized use of color, text, imagery, and wording is gorgeous, and the thoughts/questions that she poses are intuitively reflective. Her “essay” questions (which bear the post script “we do not know the answers”) cover topics such as the nature of imagery, the effect of words, and the concept of a story in relation to one’s own past, present, and future.
Reading this graphic novel, and indeed pondering some of the questions it asks, brings to light my (lately dormant) creative side, and also the desire in me to do something about it. It isn’t so much the subject matter itself, but more the abstract and free-formed way in which Barry presents her thoughts that makes this book so compelling; I’m in awe of her style. She professes the idea that writing doesn’t always need structure: writing, art, creativity can be as unrestrained as we want it to be.
"But I lie. I embellish. My words are not deep enough, not savage enough. The disguise, they conceal. I will not rest until I have told of my descent into a sensuality which was as dark, as magnificent, as wild, as my moments of mystic creation which have been dazzling, ecstatic, exalted."
I checked out the successive diaries of Anaïs Nin today from the library; throughout reading about creative journaling and memoir writing, her name came up a lot in the books I’ve been reading, but even while I know of her writing peripherally, I’ve never read her work myself. For the past three years, I’ve been in love with all things memoir, I think ever since I read Dorothy Allison’s Two or Three Things I Know For Sure. Anaïs Nin’s diaries are so renowned, and even the small bit that I’ve started reading, I can tell already that I’m going to be completely captivated from start to end.
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
by Anne Lamott
Starting today, I’m going to be adding several weekly features to my blog:
#listenup — Every Monday; music related posting (songs, videos, reviews, articles/news, etc.)
#tuesdaytreats — Every Tuesday; food related posting (recipes, articles, photos, etc.)
#femmefatalefriday — Every Friday; pin-ups (photos, art, interviews, links, etc.)
#literaryadventures — Every Saturday; book/lit. related (currently reading, recommendations, reviews, book art, author interviews, etc.)
#hautecouture — Every Sunday; fashion/style/apparel related (note: this will be personal style, not necessarily— and in most cases probably not— “popular” style. Just saying.)
Currently sitting on one of the rigid chairs in the Library; tucked away in one of the many nooks at the end of the shelves, staring vaguely into the distance through the window at the rain outside at it batters the sidewalk so far below me. Head cradled in one hand, thumb absently swirling over a softly pulsing vein. Thunder rumbles through, barely distinct over the acoustic of my headphones. Wondering what it would be like to write freely, leaving out the compulsive, paranoid checking of the thesaurus after each adjective; without being ever so mindful of perfection. Wondering what it would be like to dissociate from the pen or keyboard, to let my brain pick its own words— style and form and perfection be damned. Rain drops are racing each other down the glass pane, but inside these walls everything is slowed: voices, time, the perpetual flickering of eyes across pages. I can’t see anyone from my vantage at the window, only the cars that meander along the pavement; even their pace seems leisurely. Closing the dictionary, and muting the nasty whispers inside my head that curve and twine rumors of my ineptitude for this craft.
Hrrmmmm. I’m attempting to brainstorm idea for a new writing project—something other than just blogging and journaling (especially since for me, there’s really no difference between the two)—but I can’t think of any. Weirdly, lately I’ve been dying to be taking classes again so that I would have assigned essays to write (I know; I’m a masochist)—but really, some of my best writing has been the product of a class assignment. Hell, even taking notes again during a lecture would be such a welcome break from this creative monotony I seem to be in the midst of. Ugh. Christ, I miss college.
I’ve been writing periodic book reviews/critiques over the past eight months or so, but even that’s beginning to lose its charm. As much as I love sharing good books with people, I’m craving a more personal project, something that has relevance on a somewhat deeper level. I’ve been vaguely considering giving memoir-style essays a chance again; it’s been at least a year since I’ve written anything of that sort, but then I have all these worries like, a) what would I write about, b) it’s been a hell of a long time since anything of interest happened in my life, what makes me think that I would even find anything worth writing about? I mean, the last important crisis of my life was over two years ago; I feel that the window has sort of passed on that one. And really, if I’m being honest, am I kidding that I can write about being a formerly fucked-up adolescent forever? I mean, god, who wasn’t, at some point? Granted, most girls probably weren’t nineteen and pregnant, with over a hundred scars to their name, but still. There are only so many ways I can tell that story before it begins to feel stale, and I think I’ve already found them all. Also, I can’t help but feel that writing about my current situation (unemployed, broke, and struggling to scrape by month to month) would feel entirely too much like whining about how much life sucks, and that’s not the angle I want to be coming from (or to have my writing perceived as). But, at the same time, it’s not like I can write stories about rainbows and butterflies—unless I want to call it fiction. Conundrum, indeed.
I can’t deny though, that there is a part of me that wants to revisit some of the more horrific aspects of my past, simply for the fact that self-mutilation and abortion are both subjects that are usually considered too taboo to be shared with polite society. Also, I know that when I was going through it, I searched in vain for stories from other girls who had faced what I was about to; there’s a part of me that wants to write out my experiences simply in the hope that someone else could perhaps find solace in them.
Well. I’ve been sitting here saying that I’m brainstorming, but I guess it seems as if I had already made up my mind before I began. I have a bit of apprehension, in attempting to write about something that happened so long ago, even vivid as the details may be (truthfully, that’s what scares me: that I’ll go to start writing, and find that my memories from that time aren’t as clear as I thought they would be)—but I also feel like it could be a worthy pursuit.
I’m reading Anne Lamott’s Bird By Bird, and came across the following poem by Phillip Lopate, which she uses to illustrate the concept of turning one’s own self-doubt and paranoia into an artistic expression— it amused me. :)
We who are
your closest friends
feel the time
has come to tell you
that every Thursday
we have been meeting,
as a group,
to devise ways
to keep you
in perpetual uncertainty
by neither loving you
as much as you want
nor cutting you adrift.
Your analyst is
in on it,
plus your boyfriend
and your ex-husband;
and we have pledged
to disappoint you
as long as you need us.
In announcing our
we realize we have
placed in your hands
a possible antidote
indeed against ourselves.
But since our Thursday nights
have brought us
to a community
rare in itself
with you as
the natural center,
we feel hopeful you
will continue to make unreasonable
demands for affection
if not as a consequence
of your disastrous personality
then for the good of the collective.