Booking Through Thursday: Endings

If you could change the ending of any book you’ve read, which would it be and how would you change it?

As a reader, the only ones coming to mind are Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and Tess of the D’Urbervilles, and in short, I would’ve liked them to have happier endings–fewer deaths for Deathly Hallows and a happy ending for Tess because damn it, Tess deserved it! I haven’t wanted a couple to resolve their issues and end up together in a book so bad in years, and–spoiler alert–instead, Tess gets arrested for killing the man who raped her and manipulated her further later in life.

That said, as a writer, I wouldn’t really change a thing. Deathly Hallows needs to be full of death because there’s a damn war. Not everyone can make it out alive–in fact, some readers took issue with the end of the Twilight saga because it ended in a very anticlimactic confrontation in which nothing was really at stake–and story-wise, killing Lupin and Tonks paved the way for Harry to take on a Sirius-like role for Teddy. As for Tess, life is messy and people generally don’t just get away with murder.

I have a feeling I’ll hate the ending to the 50 Shades trilogy because I hear tell they get married in the end and Christian emerges a changed man. Which is fine–the problem is it’s unrealistic. The man’s presented as unreasonable and jealous to the point of being controlling and abusive, then suddenly he falls in love and he becomes less shitty? I don’t think so. That said, the ending to the first book was great because that piece of shit got his ass dumped.

Now, there is one ending I take issue with all around, and that’s The Time Traveler’s Wife.

Honestly, looking back, that is a pretty cool book. I plan to reread it, and I’m actually rooting for it in that maybe I’ll feel differently the second time around. But I have two gripes with the ending–the first is that (spoiler alert) the man loses his foot to frostbite, which is the bit I’m hoping sits better with me on a reread because I really have a hard time explaining why this is the part that loses me. I suspect it’s just weakly written because in terms of how that impacts the story as a whole–especially because we’re dealing with time travel–it’s a very logical thing to happen that’s bad but not huge but leads to other huge things.

But the real issue is the very, very end. Spoiler alert again! From what I remember–and it’s a little hazy–the man can’t control where he travels to (and also ends up being naked, hence frostbite) and he often ends up involuntary revisiting this meadow where he met/spent time with that wife of his, which actually leads to a pretty well-done circular time-travel story where he travels there because they’re important to him and to her, but his traveling there is how they meet in the first place. On one such visit (at both the beginning and end of the book because hey, TIME TRAVEL), he’s accidentally shot. But my problem is that he travels back there in the middle of party, and naturally he travels back to that party after getting shot. Now, first of all, your party guests are set for major WTF moments and emotional scarring, but there’s no way they just kind of let him die like that, and I could swear there’s a mention of emergency response to the situation. So my issue that the book almost completely glosses over any potential ramifications of this to the point that my suspension of disbelief tanks. How do you explain how he got shot? How do you get them to believe you? Doesn’t make sense to me.

The one big downside to working Saturdays–aside from having to answer the phone and caption any commercials that come in–is that it significantly cuts into time with Paul. Instead of a regular full weekend, we end up only getting Saturday night and all day Sunday, and with other friends, family, and commitments, it gets tough to squeeze everything in. I’ve been wanting to go to the movies for a couple weeks now, but we just haven’t had time for it. The good news is it might actually happen next weekend.

As for this past weekend–which is still in full swing for me since Monday is my day off now–Paul met me at work Saturday afternoon and we went into the city to meet my family for Brandon birthday dinner. The timing was perfect–we left work a little after 4, made it into the city with no traffic and plenty of time, detoured out to drop off my recycling, and were on track to make it right on time to our reservations when we hit bad traffic that kept us sitting for 20 minutes when we only needed to go another quarter mile to get off our exit from the parkway, in part because of construction. And then we get fucked up by our street being partially blocked because they were putting up Christmas decorations, so we were about 20 minutes late to dinner.

There’s been a good bit of construction in the city lately, which is why I’ve been trying to avoid it. The tunnel that I use to get in and out of the city was closed outbound, so we had to find a way around it. And I’m going back Friday to see Craig Ferguson, which also happens to be light-up night. I’ll be going into the city during rush hour on a Friday AND light-up night. Please kill me.

Anyway, dinner was good. We ate at Meat & Potatoes, which has a great reputation around here, and I surprisingly did find a meatless pasta dish on the menu. The only problem was I like simpler meals, and the pasta came piled with tons of other stuff that I don’t like. The good news is Paul is basically a human garbage disposal and ate everything I didn’t, and I got to eat his French fries in the meantime. I was a big fan of the wild mushroom risotto we got as an appetizer, though, and Brandon, Kelly, and Paul all enjoyed the wings Brandon got. Our pumpkin mousse for dessert was really good, too. I just don’t think it’s really the place for Paul and I–or even my mom–unless we’re just gonna do appetizers and desserts…which isn’t really a bad idea.

And yesterday was mostly a lazy Sunday–at least in the morning. In the afternoon, I ventured out for the first time to a writers’ group some coworkers put together. Every other time they’ve met, I’ve had some other previous engagement, and this was the first time I was free.

I’ll be honest, I was pretty nervous and wanted to just bail, but I know this is what I need for my writing. And I do want it, too. The scared, insecure part of my brain just took over for the few days leading up to it and the last part of my drive, but I was actually pretty excited to do it, too. It’s been awhile since I’ve been in a proper workshop, and one of the things about writ in memoir that mostly only my boyfriend helps edit and workshop is that he knows all these stories AND he tends to dislike the genre, so he’s helpful in writing style and craft, but not so much if I need to know if there are holes in the narrative and he can just mentally fill them in.

Speaking of memoir–and maybe this is worth exploring in a longer post–but two days in a row now, I’ve seen people criticize memoirs as being narcissistic. The first was Lena Dunham’s and the second was Amanda Palmer’s. Now, I’ve read neither, but I do find it interesting that in both cases, it was women being called narcissistic. In Dunham’s case, it was due to her age, as though no one in their 20s has anything worthwhile to say, yet plenty of writers have written memoirs about their childhoods or teenage years no problem. Are 20-somethings particularly experienced or wise? Not really. But does that mean writing about what we have experienced makes us narcissistic or that we have nothing worthwhile to say because we’re too young? No. In Palmer’s case, I’m not exactly sure what the argument is because I didn’t read the article, but it sounds like it has to do with the fact that she wrote about her experiences at all. And finally, while memoir can absolutely be narcissistic–we were often advised against what’s called navel-gazing–it isn’t inherently so, especially when you consider that it still is storytelling. It’s just that instead of making up a story, memoirists tell their own personal stories, like a more carefully crafted written version of what most people do, say, at parties. I’d be curious to know how many times, if at all, Augusten Burroughs or David Sedaris have been called narcissistic.

Anyway.

The group/workshop went really well. I wasn’t super prepared because I didn’t really take many notes and didn’t have too much constructive to offer, but I also attribute that to the talent of my peers/coworkers. They were all really good. For me and the only other girl, Rachel, it was our first time going, and it seems like our presence brings some genre diversity to the table–the boys are all doing fiction, although one is also a poet who just hasn’t shared any poetry yet, I’m doing memoir/creative nonfiction, and she’s doing poetry.

And my end of the workshop went really well. What was really nice input that I didn’t even consider was sort of the opposite of what I wanted to get out of the group–as much as I needed outsiders’ perspectives to know what the problems were and what wasn’t working, that perspective meant that they also could and did pinpoint things they really liked and thought worked really well. They had a few suggestions on word choice and the opening, but they had a lot of nice things to say about other word choices, how well the piece worked, my subtle sense of humor throughout a more serious piece, the ending, and finally, the best compliment a writer could probably get, the strength of my voice in it. Fuck. Yes.

So basically, I left with some good suggestions of how to tweak it further and a huge confidence boost as a writer, and I look forward to our next meeting. Looks like it’s gonna be every two to three weeks, which is pretty great. We met at a library in the most central location we could find, and I’m totally in favor of sticking with that place.

Besides, I could get a library card and inundate/ruin my life with even more books…even though I made a pit stop at Half-Price Books on my way home. Left with a stack, as usual.

Friday Five: Superpowers

  1. If you temporarily* had the power of invisibility, what’s the first thing you’d do with it? I’d be really tempted to creep on people and to hear what, if anything, they say about me when I’m not around, but that’s an answer coming 100% from my insecurities and is a sign that I need to check in with my therapist–it has been awhile, and I like to stop in to prepare for the holidays. Anyway, that said, it might’ve been advantageous when the Craigs were at their peak in talking about me behind my back, but it would’ve emotionally wrecked me more than the events that did transpire and what was said that I did know about. So in conclusion, I’d probably sneak into concerts and stuff.
  2. If you temporarily had the power of telekinesis, what’s the first thing you’d do with it? Clean most of my apartment from my bed. I say “most” because some of this shit needs legit sorted through and requires a little more effort than telekinetically putting it away. And then I’d go on to be the adult Matilda, just with better people in my life.
  3. If you temporarily had the power of teleportation, what’s the first thing you’d do with it? Travel fucking everywhere. Seriously. Call in sick and just hang out in different countries for a week, then use up my vacation days hanging out in different countries until I ran out of days. Other good uses for this include seeing Paul more than once a week and commuting to work, which would allow me to sleep in and make me not late.
  4. If you temporarily had the power of super-stretchy limbs, what’s the first thing you’d do with it? Maybe do yoga, but that might defeat the point. Maybe just use it to reach tall things I normally can’t. And freak people out.
  5. If you temporarily had the power of super strength, what’s the first thing you’d do with it? Go buy a bottle of Summit Mist wine and pop the stopped out myself. It’s a sparkling wine, so it’s got this plastic cork-like thing in it that’s impossible for me to get out on my own. I need a man to do it.

* say, for exactly twenty-four hours

The Art of Asking

So, Amanda Palmer has a book coming out tomorrow, and as is the trend these days, she has a little trailer to go with it. Now, as a fan of hers, I didn’t really bother to watch the trailer for a book I preordered a signed copy of months ago. And then it popped up on, like, my Tumblr dashboard or something the other day and all I had to do was click the play button, so I figured I might as well.

I should’ve known this would be no simple, straightforward book trailer.

But then I saw something familiar.

Months ago, Amanda Palmer was blogging about the book and was asking for input for things, and she asked what people wished they’d asked for. And that was my response–I saw a woman sitting on these stairs outside the post office when I was going to mail something, and she was crying. And I thought about stopping and asking her if she was okay, but I didn’t. And I obviously regretted it. And then forget all about it until now.

Pretty neat, though, and I’m glad that it’s at least made an impression on a lot of people. May we all have the courage to reach out to people who are hurting, even just to ask if they’re okay.

I’ve had a busy week.

From Friday through Wednesday, I was making about an hour-long drive every day, first from my place to Paul’s, then from there to my parents’ on Saturday, back to Paul’s Sunday, then back home Monday.

I never updated my address when I moved out of my parents’ house and my mom pretty much told me not to bother until I move into a permanent home–because I can assure this apartment sure as hell isn’t permanent–which means I have to drive back over to vote in elections. I almost sat this one out and even though only one of my candidates won, I’m glad I didn’t. People in the state are obviously pretty displeased with Corbett–that’s why he got beat by Wolf and became the first governor in decades to lost reelection–and I didn’t think he stood a chance of getting reelected, but I didn’t want to count on that and skip voting. Which seems like a decent number of people don’t bother doing in this country, which is sad. I understand being cynical about the candidates and the process, but you’ve got the ability to at least try to make something happen. Use it.

At the same time, I was thinking about it, and my parents set a good example. I always remember them making it a point to vote on election day whenever they had the time, and I remember them talking about it pretty openly, though I don’t remember much discussion of the candidates. And I have to give my dad credit because as much as he’s a total, stereotypical Fox News-loving bigoted Republican goon, he’s told my brother and I since we were 18 that he didn’t care who we voted for, but we would vote.

So I did, and I’m optimistic for the future of Pennsylvania with Wolf at the helm. Maybe our priorities will be in the right place and the people will all benefit.

I went back into the area yet again Wednesday for Paul’s youngest brother’s confirmation n the Catholic church, and I only went because Paul asked me to. I guess a confirmation is technically a big deal because it’s when you sort of officially join the church and affirm your beliefs, but when I was a kid, they did ours at the same time as our First Communion. And the whole point is that you’re supposed to be old enough to understand what you’re getting into and make the decision for yourself, but we all know these kids are raised Catholic and generally don’t have much of a choice–it’s expected of them, and breaking out from under your Catholic parents when you don’t believe in the church anymore even as an adult can be rough.

The bishop was there, and I have to give him credit for starting off sounding like he really knew how to talk to the kids on their level without being condescending or too childish. And then he ruined it with what was easily a half-hour-long homily. I should’ve timed it. The service itself ran close to an hour and a half, if I recall correctly, and it wasn’t even a full mass. A full mass would normally run about an hour. So the bishop managed to take a shorter mass with fewer parts and make it longer than a full mass. On top of that, he played the “Catholics are persecuted” card, albeit more lightly for the younger audience, but that’s a really popular topic in local churches these days. They seem to think people disagreeing with them is oppression, and it’s irritating and misleading. Especially to kids like, say, Paul’s brother (and the rest of the siblings, though not so much now that they’re getting older), who have a very opinionated but ignorant mother who’s gonna reinforce that message. I’m just lucky I haven’t yet had to explain to her that I stopped going to church in college and lost interest long before that. Pope Francis, though, is changing things. I don’t know that he’s gonna get me back in church, but I have to give him credit for trying to set a good example and recognizing that the church needs to make some changes.

Finally, Thursday I got to sit my ass home, and it’s been my usual, uninteresting routine plus work for the rest of the week. I’m working Saturdays all month, so Paul’s currently over and on my couch with a headache, and we plan to see a movie tomorrow.

Friday Five: Non Sequitur

  1. What’s your sneeze like? Just like a typical sneeze, really–”achoo!” But my brother’s is much more dramatic. It’s more like a “WAH-PBHT!” so I make fun of it a lot, which makes his girlfriend laugh in agreement and makes him get annoyed and insist he doesn’t sneeze like that. But he does.
  2. How’ve you been sleeping lately? I’ve been getting to bed late, but once I’m there, I pretty much sleep like the dead. In fact, a transformer blew up barely a block away early this morning, and I slept through not just that but the police and fire department arriving. I found out about it on the radio. But that’s how I usually sleep, at least at home. I normally don’t wake up much and sleep sound and heavy. When I travel, though, and even at Paul’s because he snores and we squeeze into a single bed there, I wake up a lot and wake up easily.
  3. What was your last stroll like? An hour-long walk down a trail in Greensburg with Paul. It was nice. Good exercise. Chilly and pretty foliage but not unbearably cold.
  4. What was the last thing you watched on YouTube (feel free to share the link!)? I’m pretty sure it was Jason Schwartzman telling ghost stories on The Tonight Show. http://youtu.be/Ed0awcvgJzg?list=PLykzf464sU98iBX48N5iuHzslodP7Hzci
  5. When did you last get something in right at the deadline? Probably recently at work. I normally get assigned shows that are due same day, sometimes by like noon, and I usually finish them up mid- to late-morning. Yesterday, I had half of a movie that I got in just under an hour before its deadline.

As always, from The Friday Five.

I love Halloween.

I went to Paul’s Friday evening–after a quick trip home to gather supplies–and we had dinner then tried to take a nap before the midnight performance of Rocky Horror just outside of town. I’ve been seeing Stage Right do the show for something like 10 years now, aside from a year or two where I wasn’t able to go, and it’s so nice and convenient that Paul lives 10-ish minutes away now. It makes the trip so easy.

Paul napped no problem. I never fully fell asleep, which I blame in part on his snoring. But I did a pretty good job of not being totally worn out, so I’m happy.

I wanted to get there around 11:30 since the seating wasn’t assigned. We got there slightly later at about 11:40, and the place was already packed. Virgins were swarming everywhere getting spanked onstage, and Paul ran into a guy he plays Magic: The Gathering with in town, who they call “Too Tall” because of how tall he is. He’s taller than Paul, and Paul is 6’4″, so he is indeed too tall. We decided to sit near him.

Now, after we saw the movie with Leah last weekend, we’d gone out and had food and beers with Fr. Bob, who had dressed like a Muslim. While we were getting situated and girls next to us commissioned me as their photographer, I did happen to notice a man onstage dressed as a Muslim but didn’t think much of it. And then as I saw him make his way to the front of the stage, bend over, and get spanked by the show’s narrator with a riding crop, I realized that the man was Fr. Bob. We chatted with him briefly at intermission and after the show. He told me Allah did not approve of my “slutty” attire, which is fair–I was wearing a bra with a vest overtop and shorts that were practically just underwear. But he did say he had fun and enjoyed the show. Apparently, Leah helped talk him into going, and the mayor of Latrobe and a limousine were involved.

The show was excellent, as always, and was actually probably one of the best I’ve seen them do. The crowd was rowdy as hell from the start–a total shit show. Everyone was clever and funny and energetic, and the cast was talented as always. I assume they spend rehearsals getting callback lines yelled at them, because I don’t know how else they’d be able to spend the show in character without laughing. The narrator, of course, was an exception, as people got him to laugh multiple times.

I went to my parents’ house Saturday to help with trick or treat, like I usually do if it doesn’t conflict with Rocky Horror. I used the hours before that started to head up to the winery with my mom and Duke to pick up some wine Paul and I wanted, and like a classy lady, I tore into one of my bottles while I ate leftover Halloween candy. And we had quite a bit left over. We probably only handed out about half of our 50 treat bags, and we suspect this might be because a lot of the neighborhood kids are approaching their teen years now. And a lot used to obviously bring friends and family, who are all getting too old to trick or treat, too.

As a result, I came back to Paul’s yesterday with tons of treat bags, and I’m hanging out there now enjoying a three-day weekend. I’m working Saturdays this month, so I get Mondays off. Here’s to hoping it’s a productive day for me while he’s at work.