Thursday, January 31, 2008

don't people know that...

...they really shouldn't call you dear (and definitely don't do it twice if they value their life and limb) unless they are of a certain age (like they lived through the Great Depression) or they know you REALLY well and even then it's questionable.

My horoscope for the day tells me that:

Your mood is a little darker than usual, though it might be hard for most people to tell. There's no need to hide it unless circumstances demand sunshine and kittens and it should pass soon anyway.

don't know why i continue to subscribe to these things as i really think most astrology a bunch of bullocks anyway) but this is just a bit smack on actually. Could it be that it might be hard for most people to tell because my mood is always a little dark? Too bad the circumstances of my job seem to demand sunshine and kittens but my rampagey nature makes the mood a little hard to hide like when one (of the two) annoying and seemingly dim witted customer service substitutes asks me the passwords to our system and i begin to tell it to her and she tells me she will never remember it i ever so patiently (or perhaps just a little patronizingly) tell her "Well perhaps you should write it down..." Or when a woman comes up to the desk and asks me for a certain form and as i turn away to get it for her she walks away from the desk and when i hand the form to the woman who is now standing at the desk she is abashed that i have not noticed she is not the same woman who asked for the form and i have not intuited what she approached the desk for (and why do people come up to a desk, ask for something then walk away to begin with?) Or when another woman asks for something by a certain author, i tell her we don't have anything by him in our library, she asks if she can order it (what it, by the by, we discussed an author, we have not yet discussed titles!) i tell her yes, there is this title and this title and this title in the system would she like to have one brought in..."oh, is it checked in at this library?" ...well no. And, yes, i'm sorry, you just might have to figure out what your five year old daughter would like best out of this list of recommended titles i've handed you because i assume you know her while i don't and i don't care how much or how loudly you sigh or stomp your feet as you walk away (and you better tell her to stop tossing the books all over the floor.)

And when people ask me where the tax forms are (tis the season after all) i point (and no, it is not rude to point~i don't know whoever or whatever gave you that idea~maybe if you are pointing AT Someone and making a derogatory comment~but how else are you to indicate direction???), "right over there where it says tax forms..." Sometimes i do this with a lilt in my voice, sometimes i try to be somewhat light-hearted, sometimes i try to do this helpfully, sometimes i am just dismissive, and, yes, sometimes i am a wee bit sarcastic. Every once in a great while people get it.

Do i sound a little grumpy?

Do i sound like i'm cut out for the customer service industry (really makes you wonder why i've been in it for over twenty years~i remember commercials from years ago for some technical college showing people in job interviews when questioned about their qualifications they would answer {all of them~over and over again) "I'm a people person" and i would think "i am so NOT a people person... so here i am...)?

Perhaps it is because i am finally working out again (which actually is not that bad and feels pretty good, in and of itself) and my trainer is not only making me face the ugly truth about myself but also keep track of everything i eat and stay within certain limits (which is also, surprisingly, not so bad because it makes deciding what to eat less difficult~plus i'm not that big on food to begin with~and if i just eat before i get hungry i get neither cravings nor hunger) so perhaps it's just the idea of regiment i don't like?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

"Scrawls of desire."

I don't know who jenny downham is or what she's done (apparently trained as an actor and worked in alternative theatre, kindred spirit, hmmm...) but she can put words together in the most beautiful manner imaginable. I am so very jealous~or actually just so very glad to be able to read her writing.

Before I Die is sixteen-year-old Tessa's story~her thoughts, feelings, wishes, as she experiences them in the months, days, hours before her death. Depressing? Perhaps a bit~i wasn’t really in tears until towards the end, and even then it wasn’t a really sobfest~but it was of course sad. Tessa isn’t the long-suffering altruistic teen we’ve all come to know from those movies-of-the-week and all to prevalent child is dying novels who serve as an inspiration to all around her (though she definitely has her moments~as i hope all of us might). She feels anger, depression, selfishness~lashes out at those around her~goes through most of the horrible teen moments (those times that make you want to send them all away to their own special island as a friend and i had planned when we were barely out of our teens ourselves).

Tessa wants to experiment with sex, with drugs, with life, to fall in love~she wants to experience what is out there to experience (not so uncommon i suppose). Tessa’s father and the mother who has been absent for much of her life find it difficult to place limits on the child who will not live long enough to set her own limits~or to see the consequences poor choices may bring down the line.

This book is a beautiful and startling piece of fiction. One that is written in a true and lyrical voice (easy enough to read in a day, as well. It is one that i want to own and put on my shelves to pick up and read again~or just pick up every now again to read a passage here and there for its poetry.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

do we really need to put a sign up

telling people there is only one person allowed in the bathroom at a time?

(since there is only one toilet in there, after all)

I was sitting at the reference desk (surprise, surprise) when someone came up and told me he thought there were guys having sex in our bathroom (this was right after i had made a desperate search for a man's pen who called and said he had left in the library the day before~blue pen with a clip~surprisingly enough i didn't find it).

When the man first approached me he seemed somewhat embarrassed and was talking very softly and i, of course, assumed he was trying to tell me that someone was looking at porn on our computers so when i finally managed to understand what he was saying i was a bit taken aback and unsure of what to do (this would be a time when my manager was out of town).

I decided to confer with a few other staff members before finally knocking on the door and being told by (one of) the occupant (s) just a minute. I had to knock one more time before the gentleman and his gentlewoman friend exited (he zipping up his pants, and dropping things from his pockets), went their separate ways (she down the hall toward no exit), under the watchful eyes of most of our inquiring staff.

I also had our mentally and socially challenged adult in and behaving so badly that he had to be asked to leave (yet again) and stay away until further notice...

such is the life...

how long would this one take to tap out?

for me?
I'm not sure i even want to contemplate...
It takes me forever to type text messages and appointments into my cell phone~even with t9 capabilities (maybe it's just a matter of age~much as i hate to admit it):

The New York Times, January 20, 2008
Thumbs Race as Japan’s Best Sellers Go Cellular


TOKYO — Until recently, cellphone novels — composed on phone keypads by young women wielding dexterous thumbs and read by fans on their tiny screens — had been dismissed in Japan as a subgenre unworthy of the country that gave the world its first novel, “The Tale of Genji,” a millennium ago. Then last month, the year-end best-seller tally showed that cellphone novels, republished in book form, have not only infiltrated the mainstream but have come to dominate it.
Of last year’s 10 best-selling novels, five were originally cellphone novels, mostly love stories written in the short sentences characteristic of text messaging but containing little of the plotting or character development found in traditional novels.
What is more, the top three spots were occupied by first-time cellphone novelists, touching off debates in the news media and blogosphere.
“Will cellphone novels kill ‘the author’?” a famous literary journal, Bungaku-kai, asked on the cover of its January issue. Fans praised the novels as a new literary genre created and consumed by a generation whose reading habits had consisted mostly of manga, or comic books. Critics said the dominance of cellphone novels, with their poor literary quality, would hasten the decline of Japanese literature.
Whatever their literary talents, cellphone novelists are racking up the kind of sales that most more experienced, traditional novelists can only dream of.
One such star, a 21-year-old woman named Rin, wrote “If You” over a six-month stretch during her senior year in high school. While commuting to her part-time job or whenever she found a free moment, she tapped out passages on her cellphone and uploaded them on a popular Web site for would-be authors.
After cellphone readers voted her novel No. 1 in one ranking, her story of the tragic love between two childhood friends was turned into a 142-page hardcover book last year. It sold 400,000 copies and became the No. 5 best-selling novel of 2007, according to a closely watched list by Tohan, a major book distributor.
“My mother didn’t even know that I was writing a novel,” said Rin, who, like many cellphone novelists, goes by only one name. “So at first when I told her, well, I’m coming out with a novel, she was like, what?
She didn’t believe it until it came out and appeared in bookstores.” The cellphone novel was born in 2000 after a home-page-making Web site, Maho no i-rando, realized that many users were writing novels on their blogs; it tinkered with its software to allow users to upload works in progress and readers to comment, creating the serialized cellphone novel. But the number of users uploading novels began booming only two to three years ago, and the number of novels listed on the site reached one million last month, according to Maho no i-rando.

* * * * *

The affordability of cellphones coincided with the coming of age of a generation of Japanese for whom cellphones, more than personal computers, had been an integral part of their lives since junior high school. So they read the novels on their cellphones, even though the same Web sites were also accessible by computer. They punched out text messages with their thumbs with blinding speed, and used expressions and emoticons, like smilies and musical notes, whose nuances were lost on anyone over the age of 25.
“It’s not that they had a desire to write and that the cellphone happened to be there,” said Chiaki Ishihara, an expert in Japanese literature at Waseda University who has studied cellphone novels. “Instead, in the course of exchanging e-mail, this tool called the cellphone instilled in them a desire to write.”
Indeed, many cellphone novelists had never written fiction before, and many of their readers had never read novels before, according to publishers.

* * * * *

Written in the first person, many cellphone novels read like diaries. Almost all the authors are young women delving into affairs of the heart, spiritual descendants, perhaps, of Shikibu Murasaki, the 11th-century royal lady-in-waiting who wrote “The Tale of Genji.” “Love Sky,” a debut novel by a young woman named Mika, was read by 20 million people on cellphones or on computers, according to Maho no i-rando, where it was first uploaded. A tear-jerker featuring adolescent sex, rape, pregnancy and a fatal disease — the genre’s sine qua non — the novel nevertheless captured the young generation’s attitude, its verbal tics and the cellphone’s omnipresence. Republished in book form, it became the No. 1 selling novel last year and was made into a movie.
Given the cellphone novels’ domination of the mainstream, critics no longer dismiss them, though some say they should be classified with comic books or popular music. Rin said ordinary novels left members of her generation cold.
“They don’t read works by professional writers because their sentences are too difficult to understand, their expressions are intentionally wordy, and the stories are not familiar to them,” she said. “On other hand, I understand how older Japanese don’t want to recognize these as novels. The paragraphs and the sentences are too simple, the stories are too predictable. But I’d like cellphone novels to be recognized as a genre.”
As the genre’s popularity leads more people to write cellphone novels, though, an existential question has arisen: can a work be called a cellphone novel if it is not composed on a cellphone, but on a computer or, inconceivably, in longhand?
“When a work is written on a computer, the nuance of the number of lines is different, and the rhythm is different from writing on a cellphone,” said Keiko Kanematsu, an editor at Goma Books, a
publisher of cellphone novels. “Some hard-core fans wouldn’t consider that a cellphone novel.”
Still, others say the genre is not defined by the writing tool.
Ms. Naito, the novelist, says she writes on a computer and sends the text to her phone, with which she rearranges her work. Unlike the first-time cellphone novelists in their teens or early 20s, she says she is more comfortable writing on a computer.
But at least one member of the cellphone generation has made the switch to computers. A year ago, one of Starts Publishing’s young stars, Chaco, gave up her phone even though she could compose much faster with it by tapping with her thumb. “Because of writing on the cellphone, her nail had cut into the flesh and became bloodied,” said Mr. Matsushima of Starts. “Since she’s switched to a computer,” he added, “her vocabulary’s gotten richer and her sentences have also grown longer.”

Now, i have always harboured dreams of being a novelist (though the dreams grow dimmer with each passing year)~but if it ever happens it certainly won't be happening thisaway (i don't know that i can imagine a bigger nightmare.)

Though i do recall seeing some kind of news piece about the younger set adapting/evolving a different set of thumb dexterity to us oldsters to deal with things like cell phones, video games, and the like (and apparently there is something to that, as it says Chaco could compose much faster with her cellphone "by tapping with her thumb"~can't imagine that, myself~though evolution doesn't generally function in that manner OR that quickly, but what do i know~not a hell of a lot, really...)

campfire tales

i remember lying in that tent

on the hard ground
night silent
night dark
awake like always

Five other people


and the body next to mine

Static Electricity


slowly i moved

my smallest finger



so the very tip

was touching

very tip

(that tip burning like the earlier campfire as the man stepped through it) then

so outside edge

of finger

touched outside edge of finger

time moved

so that seconds

ticked like minutes (longer even)

and minutes moved even slower and further apart

i could feel every tick

within my body

as each twitch


as i wondered

does he sleep?

am i alone in this full waking?


the hands

just barely

just the outside
edge of pinkie
stretching along each millimetre of skin of the edge of the hand

(is there another word for hand~for that bundle of nerves that feels every, each touch?)

every feeling cell of my body
was concentrated on that one small piece of my skin

(i could feel the enormity of that largest organ)

all consciousness, my brain, my whole being, only alive within my hand

my heart beating only there

As the time stretched endlessly by

(eternities passed, and were felt, electrically)

the skin stretched to arms

then, ever possible, if possible

skin stretched slowly along the side of torsos

sliding down

slipping to thighs

knocking to knees

feet brushing together

when did it change

to consciousness?

to lips on lips?

to body on body?

full on touch

full skin on skin

skin to skin (all skin, each skin)

those nerve endings awake


on fire

like never before

When did it change to wordless knowledge?

Silent, sweet intimacy with a stranger


a tent with four other people sleeping soundly


That i will never forget

Will you?

probably already have. Probably did long ago (soon afterwards). Too much wine, too much cocaine. What an odd night. With the crazy drunken man. And the gunshots. And what came after, in the tent.

Is it okay to relish moments like these? To revel in their memory? Excusable to excesses of youth?

Monday, January 21, 2008

"All writers struggle, very few manage to get published, and almost none are any good. It's the 'believing' part that's the trick."

I almost put down Chuck Thompson's smile when you're lying: confessions of a rogue travel writer before i was 50 pages into it with the intention of never finishing it (which is something i rarely do~sometimes i will put down a book with every intention of finishing it and not ever doing so but for some reason i often plow through many as i ended up doing with this one~and there were a few interesting parts~more than a few in actuality...) It was Thompson's caustic personality that put me off more than anything (not that i know him or anything, but since this a non-fiction piece that he narrates i did get some sense of the guy and i don't think i liked him much~and he doesn't seem to like much of anything~tho maybe i'm getting him all wrong~he admits that many of the people he now counts as friends"apparently had to overcome some initial repugnance toward my supposedly radioactive personality." And i have come to really like a few people i absolutely hated upon first, second and third impression...)
But, shall we get back to the book? I can't remember why i picked it up (are you getting sick of hearing that from me?) I think perhaps because i like reading travel narratives (and no, Chuck, not the rhapsodizing, sunny type that the travel editors demand~as you argue in this book~and i do believe you, there~but the book type that describe the good and the bad) and this one purported to describe the "real story" from someone who had been to many, many places. Alas 'twas not to be.
This included less description of travel and more bitching about life and politics than much of what i've read of late. He describes experiences teaching English in Japan, traveling in Southeast Asia, some in former Soviet bloc countries and that seems to be about it (well there is a bit more but mostly it is just opinion spouting~he hates the Caribbean and really likes Latin America.) I must give Thompson credit for a sense of humour and there are a few bits worth reading as well as a few bits that were a little enlightening (and i suppose it's good every now and then to read things that just plain piss you off~more than just occasionally in fact.) There are a few travel tips most of which are common sense, some of which are silly and stupid, some of which are very helpful (rubbing batteries on your leg for a few extra hours of static electric charge~never knew...). The book takes a truly ugly and surprising turn at the end talking about the possible end of oil-dependent energy, which while true, seemed out of place.
Thompson does describe some of his youth in Juneau, Alaska (been there, done that~NOT to be confused with Anchorage as some reviewers have done~Thompson would be appalled) Alaska he describes as the whitest state in the nation (Utah being the second) having lived in both i would have to agree somewhat (that is IF you are excluding Native Americans and Hispanics which i suppose he is...) this is a very personal account about much more than travel (and very little travel at that. Mostly rant, rant, rant about anything and everything. I didn't absolutely hate it though. From what i can gather Thompson is about the same age (and i didn't disagree with everything he said~and i haven't been to many of the places he describes so i can't have an opinion on much of that...) as me so you would think we would have more in common (and perhaps we do~i often wonder exactly how unlikeable i am, and for that matter~exactly how parenthetical i can become...)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

of frogsicles and zombie orb-weaving spiders

I think my original interest in this book came about with my hypothesis that some people (perhaps me in particular) might have stronger immune systems than others simply in the fact that they have weaker immune systems than everyone else. Ultralong oxymoron? Let me try and explain: I seem to have a continual cold (especially in winter) or a cold that comes, gets better for a day or two, and then returns. My mother shows constant concern for this and is always urging me to a doctor (said doctors can never do much~neither can airbourne or Theraflu) but of course i am constantly exposed to the public and every virus that comes their way (basically every virus that comes into our community~especially since those lovely people who are too sick to go into work must come into the library to pick up their movies to keep them entertained at home.) Anyway, i'm known to have a weak immune system, but i sometimes wonder if my immune isn't very strong for fighting off all those viruses it gets and not getting any major complications~perhaps when the major superbug hits i will have already developed and immunity to it because i will have already had one of its original permutations. It's a theory anyway...
Survival of the Sickest: a medical maverick discovers why we need disease isn't quite so much a defense of my theory as it is a rather fascinating study of evolutionary epidemiology (among other things~and perhaps if i had read the subtitle before placing the hold i might have picked up on that~but maybe i read a review and had an entirely different reason for wanting to read the book in the first place~one never knows these things). The medical maverick of the subtitle is Dr. Sharon Maolem (Jonathan Prince is co-credited~a not-so-much ghost writer?) The reading is pretty easygoing, if you are new to the subject area it is incredibly interesting~if you are not new to the subject area there might not be that much new information here but the presentation is such that might still come across a few "a-has" or "I hadn't thought of that one".
His basic premise is that evolution and the climatic conditions of our ancestry contributed to our genetic heritage (perhaps not such a huge intellectual leap) but that the genetic predisposition to certain diseases such as diabetes was an advantage in colder climates such as Northern Europe or Scandinavia where increased sugar levels might be a protection against the cold.
I'm not sure how much of a "maverick" Dr. Moalem is (a Ph. D. in human physiology and in the "emerging fields of neurogenetics and evolutionary medicine"), much of this has been at least postulated before; but he does an excellent job of synthesizing it for the general reader (i enjoyed it anyway.)

Sunday, January 13, 2008

nothing is ever quite the same

Once upon a time, a long time ago, in a kingdom far, far away, when i was but a young girl...

My mother was working for her Educational Psycology PhD advisor (for the dissertation that was forever in progress but never materialized because of the independent child she was raising all by herself~among other things) in a private consultation business. I would go to their testing center while she worked and play for hours among the educational toys/testing equpment or read the library books/assesment materials (it was all good entertainment in my eyes). There was one book i read over and over again (actually i'm sure there were many books i read over and over again.)

A while ago, on one of my library discussion lists someone had a patron query about a book concerning a dog who lied around all day and then became a star of a commercial. This struck a cord with me as one of those books i loved as a child. Many answers were given~none of them sounded right to me. I could picture all the illustrations (could even visualize the dog~but couldn't name the type~Bassett Hound). Finally someone came up with the right book: Something Queer is Going On (a Mystery) by Elizabeth Levy (sadly out of print now, i believe); and i rejoiced to have rediscovered my old friend. I looked it up in our system and we did indeed have a copy~it was apparently part of a series (of which we only had a few titles left) but i did pull in the book in question and Something Queer at the Library (a Mystery) (but of course).

Now that i have read these two titles i have reached a conclusion i have reached before and that is new to almost no adult: you really can't re-experience your childhood with the same wonder, and sometimes, even trying can taint some of your memories of that childhood.

Although i still recommend this series (and i'm still in love with Fletcher the Bassett Hound~and the fact that Jill, his owner, has a large mass of red curls atop her head...) Something Queer is Going On just isn't the same book i remember (and maybe it is the small paperback format~i remember reading a large hardcover in at least semi-color but who knows how accurate my memory is...) The paperbacks still contain the same, very charming, illustrations (including some very helpful annotation which is part of what i always enjoyed). I think that Something Queer is Going On, perhaps as the first of the series, is the better of the two i read (and doesn't seem to start somewhere in the middle.) Basically this is the story of a dog who goes missing (a dog "who never needs finding, because he never goes anywhere..."), his owner, Jill, and her friend, Gwen, who set off to find him.

Something Queer at the Library concerns some vandalized library books, and Gwen and Jill's attempt to uncover the culpret and motive (actually not a bad subject to cover~though i wonder how many young readers would recognize the library of the late seventies~no matter.) Jill wants to enter Fletcher in All-State Dog Show and since he has never competed before she goes to the library to do some research (now there's a novel idea.) The two girls find certain pictures cut out and set out to discover which pictures are missing and why.

Both the books make cute stories and i would love to find a copy of the hard cover (if i hadn't sworn off book collecting for lack of space... like that's a resolution i can keep...)

"Look how many boring novels get published every year in the name of literature."

which is not a comment on Autumn Cornwell’s young adult novel Carpe Diem, rather a quote from that novel which i just couldn’t resist.

Vassar (her mother always wanted to go to Vassar, and has now transferred that goal onto her daughter~figuring with the proper planning and that name, how could they possibly reject her???) Spore, sixteen, has her life plan set up through graduate school (as well as few life goals beyond that: (marrying a 6’5” blond surgeon {she’d settle for a judge} by age 25 {for love}; having three children by age 35 {two girls one boy}; publish the definitive book {subject as yet undecided} by age 37; and winning the Pulitzer prize). Her mother is not sure that is quite ambitious enough.

She has her life and schedule planned down to the minute, a trait she gets from her rather over-organized parents~her father the efficiency expert, and her mother the life planner (who gave up planning other people’s lives when Vassar came along to plan her daughter’s.

Vassar’s summer plans (to take AP English as well as a Sub-Molecular Theory course, and attend Advanced Latin Camp) are thrown into complete disarray when her Bohemian artist Grandma Gerd offers to take her on a summer trip through Southeast Asia. The thought is a completely outrageous and would throw her 5.3 GPA down the drain as well as kill any hope of her getting valedictorian (as opposed to the oh-so-evil Wendy Stupacker). To Vassar’s surprise, after some whispered conversation between her parents and the grandmother she has never met, they insist that she goes. It makes her “feel out of context.”

Of course the trip manages to awaken a few new dimensions in Vassar (else where would the story be found?) (And the only memories this novel brought up for me was when i was sixteen and stuck on the wrong Mexican side of the Tijuana border with nothing but the tee shirt on my back and the shorts on my ass~thongs on my feet~the paint from an earlier paint fight {we'd been painting a Tijuana orphanage} drying in the 100 plus degree heat~my brain so fried i couldn't remember my name when the border guards asked and fearing i'd never be let across~an experience which eerily almost repeated itself in Toronto when i was somewhat trying to flee Canada on a canceled plane ticket when the company i was working for decided i needed to stay longer than i thought i needed to and the border guards there wanted a passport i hadn't needed to enter the country... Oddly enough the Tijuanan trip was the same one where i lost a contact and had to keep switching the remaining one back and forth between my eyes from day to day to see~so there's another parallel...

Some plot elements i found a little predictable (i figured out the “Big Secret” quite early on) but what do you expect (did i find everything quite as predictable when i was actually a “young adult”~or do they make these “Big Secrets” not so “secret” to make us all feel so-very-clever and smug?)

The sentence and phrase “Poor Dad. Not only was he adopted, . . .” had me more than a little annoyed with Ms. Cornwell when i encountered it at the beginning of the novel (as if to say: not only was he adopted…as if that wasn’t bad enough…) but i tried to attribute it to the general smugness of the narrator, and the fact that Cornwell had was otherwise quite a witty and comedic storyteller (besides which she almost redeemed herself by the end of the novel.) Good for a check out.

Let each of us examine his thoughts; he will find them wholly concerned with the past or the future. We almost never think of the present, and if we do think of it, it is only to see what light it throws on our plans for the future. The present is never without end. The past and the present are our means, the future alone our end. Thus we never actually live, but hope to live, and since we are always planning how to be happy, it is inevitable that we should never be so.

~Pascal’s Pensées

Live In The Moment! (as they say)

"Is it possible that every aspect of my life is in disarray?"

Here's an interesting idea (or horrifying, depending on who you are~like me, just as a for instance):

Let's just say you're a woman (with me so far?), haven't had sex for a few years, and suddenly find yourself pregnant. Impossible, you say. Not so, says Melissa Clark, or rather her novel Swimming Upstream, Slowly does. It’s a premise for much thought, to say the very least. The book itself is also quite entertaining, if light fare (and every now and then~even a bit more now than then, we need some light fare in our lives~but I can only speak for myself, of course.)

So, Sasha Salter, is the woman in question, the star and producer of a highly successful children’s educational television show (the upshot of her Master’s thesis in educational psychology no less) with a platonic male best friend (who isn’t gay {?!?}) and no boyfriend in sight. A routine ob/gyn visit reveals her with child state and the search for the would-be father ensues (apparently it’s not just the most recent culprit but her entire sexual history which is luckily not phone book length.)

Believe it or not, there are a few predictable plot points (but then again how many stories are there in the naked city REALLY~i REFUSE to believe it’s one million~okay so i may be feeling a little punchy here) but i did really like this book. Although i must take issue with the fact that Sasha saw Jeff Daniels in Los Angeles picking up his dry cleaning when anyone who is really in the know would know that he is running around the streets of Ann Arbor (as he lives in nearby Chelsea~even if he was in LA filming a movie, say, he would have “people” to pick up his dry-cleaning, right?) running into people on sidewalks (to the point of almost knocking them over) without even apologizing. I was a huge fan (almost to the point of infatuation~forget Almost~he was THE MAN for much of my early- to mid-twenties~Something Wild, anyone?) until I was nearly flat on my back, sans said apology and thinking "Hey, Jeff Daniels just ran into me!" (like, damn that Jeff Daniels he's always doing things like that...) Then i thought, "HEY, Jeff Daniels just ran into me! (like, damn, that Jeff Daniels...)


Didn’t really detract from the novel, though…

"They acted in only two small events--

--three, if love counts."
I have been in love with the writing of Annie Dillard since i first picked up a boyfriend's An American Childhood and couldn't put it down. That being said, it is probably not all that surprising that i adored The Maytrees, though i often found myself having to reread passages (sometimes for their lyrical qualities, sometimes to make sure i understood them, sometimes because i was pretty sure i didn't understand them in the least... i'm just dense that way...) Reading this book was often like wading through poetry (perhaps appropriate because one of the main characters is a poet), and, like poetry, i found it quite worth the effort.
The first few paragraphs of the prologue are like a very brief summary of the first one hundred pages of a James Michener (a favorite of my youth) novel (if that's not some kind of oxymoron); in fact the prologue itself is almost like an encapsulated novel (though not this novel encapsulated).
Toby Maytree falls in love with his future wife, Lou Bigelow, at first sight (in fact he almost mistakes her for Ingrid Bergman.) Lou takes a little longer to be smitten with him (though not by much, and not any less so, it would seem.) This spare novel encompasses their marriage and life (though their life is not always a life led together) and it is a rather solitary tale, one that is as related to the sea as the Maytrees' lives seem to be (and doesn't a life interconnected to the saline world of the sea and shore almost seem to be one more connected to the being of ourselves?)
The fact that Dillard is a naturalist shines through in this work. This is a novel almost reminiscent of another time, another place~but one well worth revisiting. This is a novel not to be missed. There doesn't seem to be a word wasted or out of place. I have not lost my love for Annie (she is still on my mind.)
I had a few quibbles with things that seemed like they might be missed editing errors (or perhaps Dillard forgetting things like what age Lou and Toby and Deary were supposed to be at certain times) but i'm also willing to concede that the fault might lie with me (it's been known to happen...)

Friday, January 11, 2008

remember to wear orange today

even if you are a redhead;
and the only thing you own is a t-shirt with orange writing on it; and wearing t-shirts is against the dress code at the library...some things really are more important...
(besides, i always have been a bit of a rebellious child...)
(at least it has the county's name on it~that's something anyway)

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

"That is not how our babies are born. Only white people have sex."

(wow, i guess you really do learn something new every day...)

Though young Rumi Vasi might be a Gifted mathematical genius in every other way she is a normal pre-teen (later teenage) girl, in this first novel by Nikita Lalwani~or at least she longs to be (i've often found this to be true of highly gifted people~either they are longing for normalcy or they are lacking in emotional maturity for lack of it~note i did NOT say ALL gifted people.) Rumi is the first-born child of Indian immigrants in Cardiff, Wales. When she is five she is identified by her teacher as "gifted", needing to be nurtured by the system (including joining Mensa). The "gifted" label comes as no surprise to her father, Mahesh, a mathematician himself, while at the same time he feels insulted that anyone would expect anything less. He feels he can nurture her genius himself and institutes an extremely strict regime so that she may pass her O levels early and her A levels by fourteen (whatever that means~i really must brush up on the British school system) which allows her no other life.

Rumi's mother Shreene feels ever more distanced from her daughter as Rumi is forced to study (the prison-like regime reminding Shreene of a similar one enforced when the newly married couple first immigrated) and the only way she can relate to her daughter is by repeating the trite Indian sayings that peppered her own upbringing and for which she finds poor English translations. Shreene longs for her native country and feels betrayed and misled by her husband who was vague about their possible return.

Rumi finds some relief in two visits made to India where she feels kinship with her extended family and finds some commonality with the people there. She also enjoys play with her younger brother Nibu. She becomes a cumin-seed addict (i must admit, i've never known one of those...) and prone to sneaking off to perform all sorts of nefarious activities. I quite enjoyed this novel and found all the characters quite believable as well as likable "in their own way" (so to speak). I must say the ending hit me a tad unexpectedly.