Friday Five: Sarcasm

  1. What are you sarcastically thankful for today? Family drama, the fact that both mine and Paul’s moms were on antibiotics for Thanksgiving, and the fact that my new holiday tradition seems to be checking in with my therapist sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas because the holidays get more stressful the older I get, mostly because now they mean not only dealing with my own difficult relatives, but dealing with Paul’s difficult relatives, too.
  2. What are you sarcastically looking forward to this weekend? The fact that my monthly Saturday rotation ending today means I’m back on a normal work week Monday, which means my weekend is only tonight and tomorrow.
  3. What’s something that’s sarcastically given you a sense of accomplishment lately? The total state of chaos my apartment is in and the very large pile of dirty dishes that’s extending from the kitchen sink onto the counter.
  4. What will you sarcastically do to better yourself in the next few days? Most likely the same shit I do every day, but with lofty plans to do a lot then doing very little.
  5. Do you agree with Jon Cryer who said, “Sarcasm is lost in print” and Megan Fox who said, “Sarcasm doesn’t translate in print at all?” Not entirely, but I do think they had good points. I think we’ve all seen sarcasm cause problems enough times on the internet or in text messages to know that it definitely doesn’t always come across well. I think there are exceptions, though, and it helps when the reader is well-versed in sarcasm or appreciates it more in general.

Booking Through Thursday: Quantity

How much do you actually read? Few of us get as much time as we’d really LIKE for reading, but do as much as we can, so … how many books do you read? How many hours a day?

I’ve talked before about my multi-book habits, and I was just discussing this with a coworker–I get into a habit of reading multiple books at one time. Even when I manage to scale down to maybe two or three, I somehow end up adding to the stack. My grand total right now is 11, with one being an in-case-of-emergency travel book that stays in my purse (The House of Mirth) and two on loan–Phantastes by George MacDonald from Paul and The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks from Terra. The others are Fifty Shades Darker by E.L. James,  The Portable James Joyce, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame by Victor Hugo, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, Looking for Alaska by John Green, Animal Farm by George Orwell, Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler, and Dreamcatcher by Stephen King.

I don’t really set an amount of time to read or pay much attention to how long I read–I go more by sectioning off the books. I have a little routine I go through to juggle hobbies with responsibilities like IYS and other writing stuff, and basically, if I have time for it between when I get home from work and when I go to bed (or somewhere else in a weekend or day off), I’ll read. It normally ends up being in the evening which occasionally turns into past my bedtime, since I try to devote a little reading time to each book when I do sit down to read. Basically, I aim to do a chapter. In some cases where the book doesn’t have defined chapters but has maybe short stories or even breaks in the text, I stop there. Looking for Alaska is a good example of this, since it’s separated into days.

Friday Five: Books

  1. What’s the most unusual book you’ve read? I’m not sure, actually, because I like weird things and so I tend to not find some things too unusual. I mean, I’ve read a lot of Anne Rice, Stephen King, and otherwise sci-fi/supernatural/fantasy things where strange things are happening. But maybe The Diamond Age just for how intricate and complex its futuristic sci-fi world is, including factions where, like, people have nano bytes and shit int heir bloodstreams that get shared through bodily fluids. Come to think of it, the Drummers in that book probably do rank high on the list of unusual shit I’ve encountered in books.
  2. What’s the most challenging book you’ve read? Recently, either Charles Dickens’ Barnaby Rudge or The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, just because they’re both pretty dense with lots of flowery prose and Hunchback especially dwells on a lot of minute details that bog things down. It’s not necessarily that the writing style makes for a challenging read, it’s more like it’s challenging to stay focus and engaged.
  3. What writer have you read the most books by? Most likely Anne Rice, considering I’ve read all her Vampire Chronicles books, the “Christ the Lord” books, and her “Called Out of Darkness” memoir about going from Catholicism to atheism back to Catholicism. A close second would be J.K. Rowling with all the Harry Potter books.
  4. What book had a cover that was just right for it? Without consulting my bookshelf, I always thought the Harry Potter covers were good, even if you didn’t quite know what they were depicting until well into the book, if not the end. I can’t really think of any other covers that stand out.
  5. What’s a book that has illustrations you love? I can’t really think of illustrations that I love, either. Best I can come up with is the little ones in the Harry Potter chapter headings.

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.