emohen

in flux

Category: Worth Reading

Mo in CO: Month One

I’ve lived in Colorado for a month and a half now. I’ve read seven books, started two art projects, entered a writing contest, lost 8 pounds and started waking up before sunrise all on my own. I am so happy here it’s unbelievable.

Those books though… most of those seven books were not good. On my way out of Texas I went on Amazon and grabbed a bunch of free books just to have to pass the time. That right there is the murky dark side to the wonder that is e-reading. It’s hard to tell good from bad once the paid reviews and author’s friends get their two cents in. I won’t name the (mostly indy) titles here, but I sure won’t be so laissez faire with my selections in the future. Two of them were great, though, so it wasn’t a completely wasted effort. (Not that reading ever is!)

The first, The Blue Lagoon, was one i thought I’d read in high school. Apparently I got mixed up with either Island of the Blue Dolphin or The Cay, maybe both, but this book is not either by a long shot.  The Blue Lagoon was written back in the early 1900s and is titled as a romance. Were that not on the title, I’d never have guessed it. I could see how the author could have used ‘romance’ in an ironic sense, but then I think I’m reaching much too far. And for a book that tells the story of a shipwreck and island life, it moved awfully slow. The first half was the best, I think; the end is shit. I swear, I did like it! It was pleasant to pick up and read a few chapters at a time, but I wasn’t hungry for it. I’m happy to have read it, but won’t read it again.

The second was The Girl and the Bomb. I admit that I was surprised by this one. The story is set in Finland and follows the lives of a group of graffiti artists, and one girl in particular. This book, while not a ‘romance’, used the theme of love as fuel for creative revenge. I read this practically overnight, I liked it so much. I finished it a few days ago and still wan to give Metro a hug. Fun bonus: Both the author, and the translator, are total hunks. I got this book for nothing, but would have gladly paid. I will definitely keep an eye out for more of Jari Järvelä’s work.

Since moving, I have a ton of free time and am trying not to waste it – I truly hope that means more books, art and writing in my very immediate future. Seven books in a month and a half, shit. Thats a pretty good start. Let’s see if I can keep the momentum going.

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.

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!

It’s the little things that count

Blast from the past time: When I was 17 years old, I contributed several short articles to a website called Ickle. (tagline: it’s the little things that count). The site’s long gone, but through the magic of Wayback Machine, you can view most of it here.

All the articles are worth a view, but here’s the three I kicked out, back when I expected to be published and decorated twice over by now. Reading these ten years later, I’m still unabashedly proud. We all started somewhere! I am particularly pleased with Monaco. I remember at the time thinking I was pretty clever, getting everything to rhyme…

ASHES: Ashes. The end of what once was. The proof of what used to be. Whether tapped from the slender end of a cigarette or dashed mournfully across a wide, blue ocean, ashes are the remnant of a fire long gone. Ashes are often clung dearly to, placed in urns that rival shrines. Or dumped carelessly outside, along with butts and nicotine smears. Or used to cross foreheads and hands of the faithful world wide. They even have their own Wednesday. Do you have your own Wednesday?

MONACO: Located a sneeze from France, Monaco is a speck of a country that lives on music, money and romance. From any given Monacoian tree, you can see this ickle country in its entirety. Behold, the 0.76 sq mile land of culture and dignity.

US: If you think of things on a grand scale, we are the ickle of the ickle. In a human’s selfish views, we are masters of our planet. But who is the master of us? When you look to the sky at night, past the smog and the streetlights and the flashing neon signs, there are millions of planets with millions of moons. And somewhere, out in that great large space with it’s great many nooks, someone may be looking back down at you.

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.

Phrase of the Day: burbling froth
From: How to Eat a Popeye’s Biscuit

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.