Iambic pedantic

I hate poetry. This is not an amazing revelation: as far back as I remember, I have always hated poetry. I’ve read a lot of it, written some of my own (my 1999 classic Cereal deserves its own matting and frame) but never, ever took a liking to it. I have a very smart friend, Drew, my only writer friend. He introduced me to Abuelito rum, Ernest Hemingway’s short stories, and a cute little bar in Denton, TX with a bathroom made up as a library. I love him, but not his poetry. I will admit to liking parts of poems – I love thee with the breath, smiles, tears of all my life! – but only the parts, not the sum.

Poetry is heavy on suggestion, but light on content. You don’t get a whole story, only bits of feelings and things, with the rest up for interpretation. I hate it.

I like books.

There is one exception, however. The Hollow Men, written in 1925 by T.S. Eliot. It was meant to be primarily a comment on the War, Guy Fawkes and other political matters, but I don’t read it that way. My reading of it is the disillusion in mundane life and the constant seeking that is our nature, never satisfied, together yet alone. First impressions are hard to shake. (Fun fact: On The Beach by Nevil Shute, the single most powerful novel I’ve ever read, borrows from that poem for its title.) Every time I read it, I get chills.

I wish I knew why, and what it is about it that moves me so much, so that I can find more like it and fall in love with poetry. I’ve been looking and waiting, but so far there’s just the one. I hope I get lucky again, and find more of it that speaks to me. I like feelings and things, generally.

Alas.

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Tipping point

My criteria for buying books is as follows:

  1. Did the title catch my eye? If so…
  2. Is it longer than 200 pages? And finally…
  3. Does it cost less than $4 (preferably less than $3!) with tax?

I spent many a weekday evening combing the discount sections of my neighborhood used bookstore, so massive we called it The  Warehouse. It was practically my entire social life. On our very first date, my husband and I spent an awkward hour in that very bookstore – he exclusively reads politically themed non-fiction, I’ll read basically anything but politically themed non-fiction – and he found for me a book I’d been looking for for three years straight.

(Ladies, that’s how you know he’s a keeper.)

After moving away from the wonderful Warehouse, I expected to have a harder time finding books. These days I buy words on a screen, not tangible text. My Kindle and I are inseparable. I admit, I sometimes miss the smell of old paper, the strange company that prowled the rows with me at 9:30 on a Friday night, the odd bookmark or photo forgotten between pages. Still, I have no regrets. I can shop in my underwear! Surely that counts for something?

My criteria for purchase is basically the same, with one caveat: What do the reviewers think? Having pages of reviews available on any given book still gives me the tingles. I only read a couple reviews per book and only if the first three requirements have already been met. Most times, the reviews posted persuade me to give this book or that one a chance. Other times, I purchase in spite of them. For example:

I enjoyed the overall story very much, but I did not enjoy the explicit sexual discriptions. I also did not like the homosexual references.

SOLD!

Exposed and naked

Cora had believed that living built a cumulative bank of memories, thickening and deepening as time went on, shoring you against emptiness.

The present was always paramount, in a way that thrust you forward: empty, but also free. Whatever stories you told over to yourself and others, you were in truth exposed and naked in the present, a prow cleaving new waters; your past was insubstantial behind it, it fell away, it grew into desuetude, its forms grew obsolete.

The problem was, you were always still alive, until the end. You had to do something.

I’m 93% finished with London Train, a little gem I picked up on my Kindle last month and am just now getting around to reading. It’s so wonderful, sweet and sad – and full of lovely imagery, like that.

People are shitty sometimes

I was scrabbling for a way out of my own head, and Fate handed me a $.99 ebook and a pat on the ass.

The pat on the ass may have been wishful thinking.

Things have not been great at home. Come to think of it, things haven’t been all that great outside of home, either. What’s important is, it’s getting better wherever you look. Attitude, I’ve discovered all over again, has a larger impact on life than everyone else in it combined. Easy to see that now, as I relax on the couch with the day off work and a drink in my hand. It’s all so simple, after the fact.

This book reminded me of my family, in the most unexpected ways. The collective sense of humor, the teasing, the pain and guilt over being yourself. I saw everyone I knew in this great little novel, alive and existing in yet another world that I cannot control. Cheating, swearing, hurting and laughing together, in a big nasty mess. A big nasty mess – that’s how it feels sometimes. You can get so worked up in the sticky details of living with someone, being someone’s child, sister and colleague that everything else goes grey as you deal with whatever Major Crisis is occurring today. Oh, please.

Anyway, Jessica Anya Blau: Please write more novels, because you are fantastic. Drinking Closer To Home was exactly what I needed to help wake me up from the telanovela (needs more Bumblebee Man) that has been my life lately.

The misrepresentation of Forrest Gump

I found Forrest Gump on TV tonight and tuned in right around the time Jenny plays guitar naked and threatens to jump off a bridge. Just now, Lieutenant Dan asked Forrest and Bubba if they’re twins. I love this movie. I’ve seen it so many times, I have large parts of it memorized.

(“‘I’m not a smart man, but I know what love is.” Swoon)

When I came across an old copy of the Winston Groom novel in a bookstore, I bought it on principle. Turns out it’s a really fantastic book that puts the movie to shame in so many ways. I know all book-to-movie adaptations lose a lot of details that fans will miss, but the story Hollywood tells isn’t even the most entertaining part of his life! I suppose saving Mao from drowning in a lake isn’t as cool as boxes of chocolates? I guess a career in professional wrestling isn’t as believable as running across the county while unsuspectingly developing a cult following? I’ve got five words for you: drugs space monkeys cannibal sex. All of that is in the book. Plus, it repeatedly mentions how huge his dick is. There, I said it!

The author, adorably, envisioned John Goodman for the role. Forrest was originally 6’6″ and 240lbs, after all.

“I gotta pee.”

All in

I’ve been reading a memoir called Half-Assed between appointments over the last few days. It was written by a weight loss blogger I’ve never heard of but she seems very nice. The story itself is light and quick, so it isn’t one you’ll need a quiet room and a fireplace for, but I’m liking it so far.

I got mine for free on Kindle but it doesn’t look like they’re doing that anymore.

I love memoirs. There are so many people I will never meet who live interesting lives and have insightful things to say about themselves. I’m not so crazy about biographies, however  – if I want to read what someone else thinks of another person, I’ll read a tabloid. Other people’s opinions tend to be shaded with unfair bias. Yes, people will see themselves a different way than they truly are (a point the book brings up again and again) but that attitude colors how they interact with others and how they live their lives, and becomes part of the larger story.

Which brings me to my point: I fell in love with this book on page 130, when I read and re-read the following passage…

I convinced myself to tie up my running shoes after I repeated an old saying: You wouldn’t care about what other people think of you if you knew how infrequently they do. In other words, “Everyone else is a self-centered bastard too.”

I never wanted to exercise as a kid because my childhood asthma didn’t let me move the way I wanted to, and being out of breath made me feel self conscious. Rather than run, I read. Rather than join a team, I played alone. Not much has changed over the years, and as I face down 30 I know this sedentary habit needs breaking. My husband, Zeus love ‘im, is so supportive about getting me to work out with him, but he always frames it as, “No one is looking at you, no one cares what you’re wearing/doing/look like”. I know he means well, but that statement is just not true.

I have ears. I hear what gets whispered and giggled over out in public, whether its at the zoo or in a waterpark. I have always been very aware of myself when I am with other people, even those I love and trust. This quality most likely is a result of all the people-watching I’ve done in my life. On the plus side, I never (okay, almost never?) get very drunk in public, but I can also never really relax. Getting sweaty in a huge room full of other sweaty people, in my ugly ass running shoes and ratty ass yoga pants, all of us jiggling away on various machines, is not appealing. I don’t care if hitting the gym five days a week will make me look like a movie star and help me live to 163 years old, I don’t want to. I don’t want to because it makes me uncomfortable, and I don’t like being judged.

People will look, and they do judge, but there’s not much I can do about it. I have within my reach the power to make myself healthier and fitter, and I’ve let what some person might possibly think at some point hold me back for five fucking years! The worst part is, I’ve never thought of it that way until I read that line. It makes so much sense.

“Everyone else is a self-centered bastard too” is my new mantra, and after reading it I picked up my cell phone and told my husband I wanted to join his gym.

We’re going tonight to sign me up. I’ve heard it’s a pretty nice place, and they even have yoga!

Shel Silverstein: Everything On It


[via]

I cannot see your face,
But in some far off place,
I hear you laughing, and I smile.

Years from Now

The estate of Shel Silverstein, my beloved companion throughout grade school and the first writer I ever fell in love with (followed shortly by Dr. Seuss), has released a new book of poetry called Everything On It.