Tuesday, July 31, 2007
My characters woke me up in the middle of the night. Yay! Now maybe that stupid word counter on the sidebar will go UP instead of staying at 651/50,000 words. Sheesh!
Monday, July 30, 2007
Most exciting part of the day: the typing test! I actually took my first typing test, and I officially type 72 words per minute. I thought I was in that range, but it's nice to have confirmation. Why do I give a damn? Gotta be good at something!
How's my head you ask? Still full of snot and more than a little achey at the moment. My bed is calling.
The lovely and rockin' Chris from Book-a-Rama recently tagged me with a meme that involves giving blog tips, and after rattling my puny little brain, I honestly can't think of anything constructive to add. My friend, TheOtherFeminist, has asked me numerous times what it takes to become a blog cult leader (her term, not mine...don't drink the Kool-Aid!), and I simply reply: read blogs and comment, then write something mildly snarky a couple of times a week. It works for me, but it's already been said in slightly more tactful, insightful ways than I can offer.
Coming up tomorrow: some questions from Johnny Yen, discussion of the final stage of my damn thesis (technical term) and maybe some bitchings about Harold Bloom. We'll see what moves me.
On ye olde TV: "Shanghai" episode of Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations
Song in my head: "Dance Commander"...Electric Six
I read a grand total of four books last week. So far this month I've read nine. That's the best reading month I've had since before I started my Master's degree in August 2005. Incidentally, I'll probably finish another book today (Philip Roth's The Dying Animal) .
Even though I'm poor, I did order books this morning. Heather F. sent me an Amazon gift card for graduation and I bought Norwegian Wood, by Haruka Murakami, and I pre-ordered Eclipse, by Stephenie Meyer (3rd in the Twilight series).
I have my Senior Library Assistant interview today. I'm not nervous at all because I've never had a library assistant interview and I haven't the foggiest idea what kinds of questions they'll ask. As a result, I have absolutely no "right" answers to obsess over and formulate!
I'll be back with some hefty thoughts later. For now, I need to do some house things and, well, I wanna read.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Now, who thinks I have time to sneak out to McDonald's for a breakfast biscuit before cable man shows up? Hmmm. I think I'll try it!
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Monday, July 23, 2007
After a marathon 500-page reading excursion, I finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows today. And, while I am exceedingly fond of this book and mournfully sorry to see this series end, my post today is less about Harry Potter in particular, and more about what the series has meant to me, an adult, reading a children's series all these many years. Above all, it is about what the series has evoked for me...fond memories, exhilarating reflections on the act of reading, and a deeper understanding of myself as a reader and a lover of words.
I resisted the Harry Potter series when it first emerged, and it wasn't until Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire had been out for a while (late 2001) that I really got on board with the series and decided to give it a go. I resisted reading the series because of the hype, mainly. I was bound and determined not to join the throng of followers. However, as I gazed repeatedly on the delightful covers, and finally read the blurb on the back of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, I finally realized that it sounded like fun. Why not try it out?
A while ago, in a Shelfari book group, someone asked the question, "Why do you read?" A deceivingly simple question that it's taken me several weeks to formulate an answer for. Many people said "to escape!" And, while I can't deny the joy in escape, I think I read for a different reason, one of which has been repeatedly revealed to me throughout my reading and re-reading of the Harry Potter series. I read because I'm fascinated by words and the reactions they evoke from deep down inside me. Words are just markings on a page, symbols attached to arbitrary objects. There is no essence of "table" that makes it so. We assign a word to an object and suddenly it is.
I first felt the emotional power of words when I was in the third grade, and I wrote what might be my most affecting piece of fiction to date (don't tell anyone), a hypothetical letter from a soldier to her family detailing the harrowing experience of war. While it was an assignment I now look back on as propagandistic and kind of icky, my teacher, mom and grandmother thought it brilliant. It made them cry.
As I was growing up, I became further influenced by the written word and more deeply involved in the escapist facet of reading, and I felt the first inklings of the emotional and intellectual journey that I love so much now. I could sit on my very own end of my grandparents' couch under my very own reading lamp for hours, lost in the words on a page, gulping down book after book, content to live the lives of the characters. The best books always made me cry. The best books, and the best authors, could involve me so completely in their characters' world, with just some scratches on the page, these arbitrary bits we call words so as to render me completely rapt in the fictional universe. And sometimes they made me care so much, so hard, and so completely as to bring about tears.
Years later, to an even greater extent, it is this emotional pull that draws me to fiction and the resulting reflection on exactly how they do that. It's what keeps me glued to and excited about the Harry Potter series in particular. For J.K. Rowling can pull me into her fictional wizard's world and allow me to care deeply for an orphan with the weight of the world on his shoulders. Beyond the world of Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling can once again transport me back to my grandparents' couch under my very own reading lamp to those carefree days of childhood when books could make me cry. With a copy of a book in my hands I am at once spirited away and simultaneously--paradoxically--made keenly aware of the now.
Friday, July 20, 2007
Yep, you know what I'll be doing this weekend!
B. said we might go get me a copy at midnight. If not, I'll have it early in the morning and I'll be reading like a maniac. Gotta go finish up Half-Blood Prince right quick.
In other news, I got another interview! I'll be interviewing for a Senior Library Assistant position on the 30th. Full-time, full benefits, etc. I have no idea how much it pays, so I'm sure the decision will come down largely to money.
Gotta run, but I hope you all have a great weekend. I'll be back on Monday full of Potter and with some significantly meatier blog posts in tow.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
I've always been sort of jealous of those people who could whip random ingredients laying around their kitchen into a wonderfully tasty impromptu meal. Well, tonight I became one of those people! All of a sudden I had a wicked hankering for my grandmother's chicken and rice which I've never known how to make. But, on the spur of the moment, I managed to pluck two chicken steaks (REALLYBIG breasts) out of my freezer, throw them into the oven with brown rice, mushroom soup, celery soup, garlic salt, minced onion, sea salt, black pepper and paprika, and VOILA. I had something very closely akin to what my grandmother used to make. I'll eat the leftovers without complaint. Given, it ain't duck pate or anthing, but I was pretty tickled with myself for pulling it together.
I wrote the ending of my novel yesterday. This is an important step because the ending is all I've actually put to paper at this point. Now I just have to decide how to start it and what goes in the middle. You'll notice a new word counter on the sidebar to help track my progress. Thanks to Nik for that!
I've been invited to attend a local book club! One of the first things I began to inquire about when I moved, was a new book club. I hadn't been able to attend the one in TX for some time due to scheduling conflicts with my classes and teaching duties, so I'm rarin' to get back in the face-to-face book discussion loop. It's generally anywhere from 8-20 attendees that meet in an individual's home. There are several local college instructors and professors who attend and a woman who does photography and used to work with an art gallery. How exciting! I'm tickled at the opportunity to meet new people in this area, and the woman who invited me to the group is very nice. August 20th. Mark your calendars!
I made a special stop at Target today to get a paperback copy of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince to re-read before the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on Saturday. I'm a nut. I realize this. Admitting the problem is the first step. Anyone who tries to pry Deathly Hallows from my fingers this weekend is liable to lose an arm.
We still have a mouse. He's a smart one.
I have a ginormous half-watermelon in the bottom of my refrigerator. B.'s dad brought it over earlier and I've already started hollowing it out one juicy bite at a time.
That is all.
Listening on ye olde iPod: That Timbaland/Nelly Furtado/Justin Timberlake song about "Da Club."
Monday, July 16, 2007
AMAZING!!!! I have to say, I did not have high hopes for the film version of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix because it was my least favorite book. However, my least favorite book is now my favorite movie of the series thus far.
Run, don't walk, to see it right now!
Tomorrow I'll be purchasing a paperback copy of Half-Blood Prince to re-read before the release of the final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on the 21st.
Elise recommended The English Patient several times, and I've had it on my near-toppling stack of "to read" books for years (literally, years). I'm really glad I finally picked it up because it was much more than I ever expected. In fact, it was one of those very rare books that made me desperately want to immediately re-read in an effort to soak it up entirely and catch all the little nuances I might've missed the first time around. It's definitely a book that deserves re-reading.
To summarize, it's the story of Hana, a WWII nurse in Italy who stays behind in a bombed out villa to take care of a severely burned Englishman known only as the "English patient" until late in the story. Hana and the English patient are joined by Caravaggio, a long-time friend of Hana's and a thief mutilated during the course of his job as a spy. And, finally, an Indian sapper (expert at dismantling bombs) named Kip.
I think what I loved most about this story was the intricate interweaving of the four characters' stories, experiences and points of view. Ondaatje crafts a vivid identity for each character, but it's slow in coming. The reader is given small snatches of each's background throughout the novel, but the slowest to unfold is the English patient himself. Through a mixture of straightforward recollections, bits of writing and morphine-clouded ramblings, the reader understands the English patient's harrowing past, tragic love story and how he came to exist among the villa's odd family.
The draw for any book lover is certainly the abundance of literary references and the dependence and importance that books and words play in several of the characters' experiences.
A few quotes for you:
"She had always wanted words, she loved them, grew up on them. Words gave her clarity, brought reason, shape. Whereas I thought words bent emotions like sticks in water" (238).
"Now, months later in the Villa San Girolamo, in the hill town north of Florence, in the arbour room that is his bedroom, he reposes like the sculpture of the dead knight in Ravenna. He speaks in fragments about oasis towns, the later Medicis, the prose style of Kipling, the woman who bit into his flesh. And in his commonplace book, his 1890 edition of Herotodus' Histories, are other fragments--maps, diary entries, writings in many languages, paragraphs cut out of other books. All that is missing is his own name. There is still no clue to who he actually is, nameless, without rank or battalion or squadron. The references in his book are all pre-war, the deserts of Egypt and Libya in the 1930s, interspersed with references to cave art or gallery art or journal notes in his own small handwriting" (96).
"Read him slowly, dear girl, you must read Kipling slowly. Watch carefully where the commas fall so you can discover the natural pauses. He is a writer who used pen and ink. He looked up from the page a lot. I believe, stared through his window and listened to birds, as most writers who are alone do. Some do not know the names of birds, though he did. Your eye is too quick and North American. Think about the speed of his pen. What an appalling, barnacled old first paragraph it is otherwise" (94).
This book was a fantastic way to start off the challenge, and it's made picking my next book extremely difficult. However, finally, I think I've settled on The Last Communist Virgin, by Wang Ping. It's a book of short stories and just different enough in tone and writing style to help me avoid the slump that could come from reading a great book like The English Patient.
*******Book Talk Over, Commence with the Rest of Life*******
Unfortunately, the other class that the community college offered, the one that was supposed to be a done deal, did not come through. Instead (stop laughing grad school colleagues), they've offered me several hours a day in their writing center to mark my place in the English department until the Spring semester when I'll be teaching more composition and maybe some literature. While I'm not a fan of writing center work, at least I'll be working alone and hopefully it won't be terribly busy (more time to read!). I'm crossing my fingers that the teaching schedule will be better in the Spring, but I'm just tickled at the thought of having a paycheck. Woot!
The weekend was relatively uneventful, which is good. We looked at some cars, grilled, visited family, and I read plenty. My car isn't terribly old (2003 Accord), but it's quickly approaching 100,000 miles. Hondas tend to hold their trade-in value, so I could still get more than enough out of mine to make my payments on something else *reallylow*. Right now I'm considering a 2008 Camry or the 2008 Dodge Avenger. I would really prefer the Avenger because it's a great mixture of sedan and sports car. On the other hand, the Camry hybrid gets AMAZING gas mileage for a mid-size sedan (40 in town, 38 on the highway). I think we're gonna go out test driving soon. I love car shopping! However, I don't love a car payment. Eek! We'll see.
I hope you all had fabulous weekends! I'm going to catch up on my blog reading as we speak.
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
I distinctly remember, when I started graduate school and this blog was still a smart-assy snarkfest of cynicism and blackhearted schlock, I commented about always feeling the need to reach for something. That is to say, I've always been happier when I'm neck deep in the pursuit of some lofty goal--a degree, for instance.
When I graduated with my B.A. in 2003, even though I had a boatload of things to feel good about, I didn't feel good at all. I felt like I'd lost my job. In a very real way, I felt very lost myself. My grandparents passed away only months before I graduated, I moved a very long way from my hometown and my family, and I started teaching. And, above all, I didn't have a very good attitude about anything. I fell into a very deep depression for a very long time, and instead of trying to fix it, I think I wallowed in it, and it wounded my life and my relationships.
I realized I couldn't blame my funk on anyone but myself when I moved back to Texas from North Carolina in late 2004 and I was still depressed. Beginning my M.A. in the fall of 2005 was a welcome distraction, and it made me feel good about myself. It made me feel smart and driven and motivated, and I met a slew of like-minded people whom I love dearly and will always count among my greatest friends and allies.
Now, almost exactly four years after I graduated from college the first time and moved to North Carolina for the first time, I'm in the same position, but things are dramatically different. I am, maybe for the first time in my life, quite content. Even though I've graduated from college once again, and I have no impending degree on the horizon, I'm fine with it. I've come to a place in my life where I realize that I can't measure my success or my worth by how many degrees I collect or books on my shelf or pennies in my bank account. I measure my worth by how I feel about myself and about my life.
I enjoy being out of my mother's house but still talking to her on the phone every day. I enjoy living with B. and being in love. I enjoy spending time with his family. I enjoy writing and reading and editing Estella's Revenge. I enjoy cooking and cleaning and being at home. And, of course, I look forward to teaching again in the fall. In short, there's nothing I would change.
For once, I'm not desperately reaching for anything to make me feel complete and "finished."
Edit: And since it's such a happy day, I'd like to report the latest good news. The community college called this afternoon, and they've offered me another course for the fall. Now I'll be teaching two Developmental Reading classes along with a Freshman Composition course. Should be fun!
Monday, July 09, 2007
I started my first book for the Armchair Traveling Challenge, and so far I'm in lurv. I'm about 33 pages into The English Patient, and so far, so good. However, I have to say, this is one of those books I can't read with noise swirling around me. If B. is watching TV or something, I'm cooked. So I'll probably start a light, fluffy book along with this one for reading with noise--like tomorrow when I'm at the Honda dealership at 8am getting a circuit board fixed.
Anywho, Michael Ondaatje's writing is beautiful, and I had to share a favorite passage about BOOKS!
She sat in the window alcove of the English patient's room, the painted walls on one side of her, the valley on the other. She opened the book. The pages were joined together in a stiff wave. She felt like Crusoe finding a drowned book that had washed up and dried itself on the shore. A Narrative of 1757. Illustrated by N.C. Wyeth. As in all of the best books, there was the important page with the list of illustrations, a line of text for each of them.
She entered the story knowing she would emerge from it feeling she had been immersed in the lives of others, in plots that stretched back twenty years, her body full of sentences and moments, as if awakening from sleep with a heaviness caused by unremembered dreams.
Ahhh, to be in a burned out Italian villa with a thief and a burned-to-a-crisp guy. It never sounded so romantic and lush!
In other news, there's not a thing goin' on around here. That is, there is quite a bit going on, but nothing terribly out of the ordinary or interesting. I got an e-mail from D-rock (prof) last night, asking that I write a conclusion for a review that will be in print shortly (yay!), and I have every intention of editing articles for my freelance gig as they pop up today. I will also be cleaning (blarrrrg) as my stuff from moving in is still scattered about, and I shed like an ape (if apes shed), so I need to sweep the bathroom floor.
Exciting life, yes? I love it. Who cares if it's exciting. I'm quite the content munchkin bookworm.
Friday, July 06, 2007
There's a new blog award winging its way around the blogosphere, and I've been deemed a "Rockin' Girl Blogger" by both Tanabata and Melissa. Both of these ladies would've been choices of mine for Rockin' Girl Blogger, so I'm left with the daunting task of picking some more!!! Quite honestly I would consider each and every female blogger I read a rockin' girl blogger, otherwise I wouldn't be readin' 'em!
But, in the spirit of bloggy love, I'm gonna pick a few.
Amanda A. from The Blog Jar is most certainly a rockin' girl blogger. From her kickass musical tastes to her impeccable choices of books and her teaching and writing and being a rockin' mama. She's got it all covered.
Lulu was a high school teacher in Chicago until recently, and now she's readying herself to move to Bangladesh to teach there. As she says on her blog, "I am about to embark on a two year adventure in a land with no martinis and no bacon. This should be fun. " I can't wait to hear about her adventures!
Purl from Knitted and Purled is a rockin' girl blogger, not only because she knits like a whirlwind and reads like a maniac, but she's currently readying herself to take the bar exam. That's three days of torture! Go wish her luck! Rock on!
And last, but certainly not least, is April Boland--writer, spiritual seeker, and all-around kickass blogger. She's recently had some pieces published in the Austin American-Statesman, so go check her out! You won't be disappointed!
Thursday, July 05, 2007
Monday, July 02, 2007
Second, I just caved. Caved caved caved. I haven't bought a brand new sparkly book in ages. You'll generally find me, as of late, in places that don't require money. In other words, online mooching from BookMooch. I used to be a big believer in Half-Price Books, but sadly there are none here in NC, and even half-price books come at a price (it's built into the title, see).
However, today I remembered a wonderful, wonderful thing. I had some money left on an Amazon gift card, and I've been fiddling about wondering what to spend it on for ages. Welp, today I finally decided!
The Secret Lives of People in Love, by Simon Van Booy (former Estella's Revenge review and an upcoming interview) and Special Topics in Calamity Physics, by Maria Pessl (all the rage in the bookish circles). I've been lusting over these two for some time now, and I actually had The Secret Lives of People in Love in my Amazon cart for over a week. Thank goodness I remembered the gift credit or it might still be sitting there wishing I'd order it!
I think the beast is calm for now. But I still need to hit up Bath and Body Works' $5.00 signature series sale. I can get my Japanese Cherry Blossom fix!!!
The weekend was busily uneventful. Nothing out of the ordinary. I wrote, I unpacked, we looked at houses.
Wait. Huh? Houses? Yes, houses. Some very pretty ones, too. No specific plans in the works, just lookin'. I love lookin' at houses. Even if there was no chance in hell of ever buying one, I would still want to look at houses.
July 4th plans are sketchy. I'm sure there will be food and cooking out and fireworks. Let's all hope I don't blow something up.
The damn mouse continues to elude us. B. got really irked near the end of last week when he went to grab a granola bar and the mouse had already infiltrated all three of them. Ha! Now he won't poo-poo my bitchings about our rodent friend.
The rest of the day shall be supremely uneventful as I write articles for the freelance gig. I should clean the house and work out, but I don't wanna. I had a hot dog for lunch and now I'm feeling sluggish. It was a yummy hot dog, though. These North Carolinians brilliantly top their dogs with cole slaw, and that's a culinary habit I can get on board with. I have a feeling I'll be reading Shopgirl from the haven of my very comfy chair in just a few minutes.