Creativization


to what i was saying yesterday about being unable to pick up my guitar, i’ve decided to start trolling for gigs. i’m hoping that as long as i:

  • a) am not trying to write anything
  • b) avoid those songs that make me want to sob until my eyeballs wash away
  • c) do not invite disaster (or certain people) to the venue

i might be motivated by a show for which i must prepare. it worked reasonably well last time. maybe it will work again.

plus this time, i’ll have CD’s to schill!! awesome.

i guess when i think about what qualities define me, i’d be reluctant to admit that “creative” ranks up there pretty high, but it seems to be true. i say this because i know when i’m not playing music, pasting things as my own weenie attempts at art, taking (poor) photographs, or something in that vein i get pretty antsy.

and things have been kinda tough in that respect lately.

My acoustic lifemate

i’ve been singing for longer than i’ve been talking, but never one for formal training, i hadn’t bothered to learn an instrument. about two years ago someone thought it worth my while enough to press an acoustic into my hands and suggest i take a shot at some chords. once again thank you caseyface!as such, since then, its been my primary creative outlet. and i’m proud of what i’ve been able to create.

and usually i do my best work when i’m sad. my musical catalogue is pretty heavy on the boo-fuckin-hoo end of the emotional continuum. but, for some reason, in the last little while i’ve been too sad to even play the guitar, let alone try and write anything. i even have a really good songlet chasing itself around in my head. but every time i’ve tried to start work on it, i begin to cry so hard i get Livingston all wet. he doesn’t really thrive in the high moisture and salt environment of a crying jag, so i put him away, if only for his own good.

i have been blogging like mad, reading like they’re getting ready to go Fahrenheit 451 on the library, working out with more regularity than i’ve ever mustered before, and trying to absorb myself in things that tend to focus my considerable attentive powers completely enough to keep me from going completely bonkers. but none of this feel particularly generative and it’s starting to get to me.

so, i’ve decided to take a stab at writing something longer than a blog post. i used to fancy myself quite a writer. i came in second in a poetry contest in 5th grade: a truly atrocious offering about how freedom came with responsibility or some such tripe. the prize was a trip to the opera, my music teacher made me do it. in the wake of which  they sent me to the “Oregon Writers Conference” and told me i was a prodigy. and i was vain enough to believe them. i don’t have any such pretentions anymore, i can write a mean wedding toast, but i’ve read enough miserable novels to know just how easy it is to think you can write something decent, and how much easier it is to be wrong. but i do want to give something fictionish a try.

i have to do something and so, its either this, or sedatives…

Last week I asked what was the most popular book in your library- this week I’m going to ask about the most unpopular books you own. Do you have any unique books in your library- books only you have on LT? How many? Did you find cataloging information on your unique books, or did you hand-enter them? Do they fall into a particular category or categories, or are they a mix of different things? Have you ever looked at the “You and none other” feature on your statistics page, which shows books owned by only you and one other user? Ever made an LT friend by seeing what you share with only one other user?

I have 2 books that no one else has on LT. One is a bodice ripper i read as a teenager called The Captain’s Doxy” which i haven’t even been able to find a cover image for. i remember it mostly because it had pirates. and i, being lazy-eyed, must frequently wear an eyepatch for my vision therapy and am thus moderately obsessed with all things pirate. YAR!

the other book i am the only person with is actually a humorous and well-written non-fiction book about Oregon’s social history written by a former professor of mine. i wrote a review a while back which you can read here if you’re curious.

it never occurred to me to contact anyone else who shared my obscure taste in books, mostly because my tastes aren’t generally that obscure. i think it’d be worth doing though…

by Marisha Pessl

I can bestow on this book the highest compliment I have: I want to own it so I can write all over it. I borrowed it from friend Lyza after reading her review and inhaled it. At 500 pages, it was well under 24 hours in my hands.

Written from the perspective of a precocious book-wise teenager, I found her voice resonant and familiar (though in possession of an infinitely better education). Her narrative is self-aware and liberally dosed with quotations and references from books, magazine articles, and movies. And any child this scholarly and still relatively sane and down to earth has my admiration, if not, perhaps, my unmitigated credulity.

Our narrator Blue VanMeer clearly and unabashedly orbits her brilliant and eccentric father both intellectually and emotionally. Gareth VanMeer, who seems to have no compunction about carting his young daughter all over the landscape, still never fails to see to her instruction during countless hours of auto rides and semi-ritualized moments in places scattered from coast to coast. Having decided to finally settle in North Carolina so Blue can complete her senior year at the exclusive St Gallway, the VanMeers begin to feel the gravity of other bodies in the wider universe. Blue is drawn into a clique of privileged students who seat themselves as acolytes to one Hannah Schneider, the film studies teacher at the school. Though they seem initially resistant to her inclusion in the select group, eventually these people begin to influence Blue in ways both subtle and overt: her frame of reference widens in tandem with her wardrobe.

But the appearance of normalcy in this group is fleeting indeed. Ultimately a custom of secrecy and deception begins to reveal itself from beneath the veneer of benign mentorship in Blue’s relationship with Hannah and the others. Inexplicable and bizarre stories swirl between the students about their teacher, as well as tales told by Hannah about her disciples. And disciples are just how these adolescents are portrayed: dazzled by Hannah’s allure and deeply possessive of the intimacy she has afforded them despite the misgivings they frequently recount to one other in her absence. The conflicting stories, coincidences, bizarre behavior, spying and conflict that brews within the group creates a sense of mounting tension and a deepening mystery as the novel progresses. And to Blue’s increasing confusion and dismay there seem to be strange concordances even from within her own unorthodox life that make some elements of these mysteries seem to mean something more to her than to the other teens in the circle.

Eventually a schismatic event completely dismantles any relationship between Blue and her compatriots. When she discovers Hannah’s lifeless corpse, the momentum built in the novel to that point is unleashed in pursuit of answers that become increasingly personal for Blue as the truth begins to out.

Though there were some mechanisms in the story I found a little too pat for complete conviction, overall I found this a compelling and enjoyable read. I found the rhythm of the narrative woven with the citation of sources from classic literature to pop culture rich and satisfying, even if many of said references flew right over my wee little head.

Recommended.
Penguin (Non-Classics) (2007), Paperback, 528 pages

By David Rakoff.

This collection of essays are the offering of a compatriot of the laudable “this American life” crew. After hearing him read on the show a few weeks ago I felt it likely worth my while to grab his book if he was anywhere near as thoughtful and entertaining as his fellows David Sedaris & Sarah Vowell; lucky me, he is.

Unabashedly intellectual and fiercely opinionated, this author has a facility of language somewhat rare in the ranks of the modern humorist. Not since Twain and Wilde has such a fierce wit been paired with such keen nuance of the written communique. Highly educated and ruthlessly self deprecating Rakoff leads us into a series of fascinating excursions to places no less far flung than Tokyo, Reykjavik, & New Jersey,

narrating with his distinctly wicked but undeniably compelling perspective. While not more than occasionally laugh out loud funny, this book felt somehow less trivial than most of the humor reading I do. Peppered with words and phrases I had to look up (she admits to her chagrin) I walked away from this one feeling edified; not just because I felt safer armed with my dictionary, but because of the amusing yet nonetheless consistently thought provoking observations of this transparently erudite author. Well worth it, recommended.

By Mark Twain

generally a fan of Twain, i didn’t really enjoy this one as much as i expected to. i had read selected excerpts of this book as a child in a book of short stories and remembered enjoying them, but as an adult i have a vantage that makes the hyjinx of this child less than amusing.

i attribute it somewhat to the cultural divide between myself and the post-civil war south. the behavior seen as customary or appropriate for a pre-adolescent boy at that time and place seems appallingly bad to my mind. what’s more, the tolerant attitude displayed toward Tom by his aunt serves to reinforce the behavior she rails against. self-assured and cocky, i fail to sympathize with this child on almost any level. the callous way he regards (or fails to regard) the feelings of others is not charming in the least. and when i cannot identify with my hero, i’m left fairly cold.

i also felt certain elements of the plot were not only fantastic, but repetitive. a child can only disappear so many times and muster the panic of the town, yet it seems Tom can go missing again and again and warrant the despair of all around him every time anew. as far as it goes, i enjoyed the casual language and the cadence of the story shows the deftness of Twain in his element, but i simply failed to find anything endearing about his portrayal of a child he meant to paint as a scamp but whom i can only see as a wretched brat.


Penguin Classics (2006), Paperback, 272 pages
tags: middle reader, literature, southern culture

by Jeff Lindsay

Well,

I must say I was really looking forward to this one. I was intrigued by the premise; serial killer who kills only other serial killers. Hm, tasty!

The opening sequence of the book did not fail to deliver. In language both haunting and lyrical, we are introduced to Dexter and his “dark passenger” as they stalk their prey. Dexter presents a face alternately appealing and appalling.

Dexter works as a blood spatter technician for the Miami-Dade police department. This gives him a particularly useful vantage from which to seek his candidates. It also allows him to be especially helpful to his foster-sister Deborah a police officer, the only person to whom he feels any human attachment.

However, to my mind Deborah fails to warrant the glimmer of feeling Dexter harbors for her. Ambitious, she is not especially intelligent, instead relying utterly upon Dexter for answers and direction. She seems to have no instincts or methodology of her own and seems ill suited to the detective role she covets.

In fact it is in the interactions between characters I feel this story begin to break down. On the trail of a killer who’s murders Dexter finds particularly compelling, the way in which he processes information internally seems believable enough, but in all his interpersonal encounters there is a fundamental lack of authenticity that I cannot attribute to a literary mechanism, but rather to a failure of skill on the part of the author.

Without giving too much away, I found the climax of this book to be utterly absurd. Every hero needs a nemesis, but the way we are provided with one is such a tremendous cliché I was gobsmacked the author had the cajones to employ it.
Much promise and an underlying feeling for language exist in this book, but the outcome was pretty disappointing. Cannot recommend it without strong a strong caveat; you must have a high tolerance for soap-opera style plot twists to really enjoy this one.

Vintage (2006), Paperback, 304 pages
tags: murder, mystery

lyza and i have a book disease. i am shocked and sort of shamed to admit; she has it worse than i do. i have never known anyone else in my entire life who read more than me. it’s nice to have a hero…

she’s got me reeled into a website called librarything where you can catalog your books, rate them, write reviews, and basically wallow in all things booky til you are smeary with literature all over the place. it’s pretty much totally awesome.

as a result i’ve started writing reviews, posting them here on my blog, and joined an “Early Reviewers” group in the hope of being sent books to read and review… well, early. a group of these folks have started a group which poses a book review/blog question every Tuesday. and so,

this week’s offering:

What’s the most popular book in your library? Have you read it? What did you think? How many users have it? What’s the most popular book you don’t have? How does a book’s popularity figure into your decisions about what to read?

Sorcerers Stone, natch. i was a relative latecomer to the harry potter franchise. i actually read Chamber of Secrets first and then backtracked. i was in an airport, desperate times…  i did enjoy the book, all things considered. i am a great fan of the middle reader genre, and this particular offering left me impressed with Rowling’s imaginative gifts and ability to create a compelling alternate reality while managing a fairly complex superstructure of characters and events. 32,500 people have it in their library.

the most popular book i don’t ‘have is The DaVinci Code. it’s not so much the sort of virulent popularity the book has enjoyed (although i do find that aversive: part of the reason i avoided HP was the ridiculous line-around-the-block mania) but also the pseudo-scholarly demi-theolgical bent the novel takes. as a person who is actually pretty profoundly interested in religious history i find the whole premise of the story vile.

and this is not to say that i never read popular books; i do. i just find a particular brand of Banes-and-Noble-i-feel-intellectually-superior-for-having-read-four-books-all-year-all-of-which-Oprah-told-me-to mentality offensive and off-putting.

as an aside, there a whole lot of dashes in this post. far more than is customary.

i knew i’d think of more…

From True Romance: “Fuckin’ condecending me. I’ll fuckin kill you” & “Okey Dokey Doggy Daddy”

i loved this movie. cast littered with awesomness. to name just a few; gary oldman as a half blind drug dealer sporting the nastiest dreads and grill i have EVER seen,  brad pitt as the degenerate pothead and a super scary james gandolfini getting beaten to death with the back of a toilet. not to mention val kilmer as elvis. genius. this movie was almost like a new awesome phrase generator! there were a ton of snappy lines and comebacks peppered throughout the film. these are the two i find myself saying most regularly…

from Animaniacs “Okay, I love you, buh-bye!”

hideously obnoxious blonde toddler child used to chrip this compulsively. whenever someone is especially annoying i like to say this with as much sarcasm as i can muster, which as it turns out, it a lot.

from Say Anything “Bitches, man.”

maybe it was being raised by a misogynist, but this just sums it up sometimes. and sometimes, i am talking about myself.

that’s all for now…

(Modern Library Paperbacks) by Edmund Morris

this book was truly an effort. usually i can snork up an 800 page book in a matter of days, but this one took me a full three weeks to consume. i found myself enjoying it, but needing to take breaks so as to not feel overwhelmed by the scope of the material. which is perhaps fitting for the subject in question. “Teedie” was an overwhelming kind of guy. well educated, worldly, overbearing, enthusiastic, headlong in all his pursuits, i sort of imagine reading this book to be a little like meeting him: interesting in the extreme but leaving one with the feeling of needing a breather. personal details contrast nicely with the political and social machinations of this legendary man. approachable language and a wealth of research come together in this text to make for one of the finest biographies i have ever read. recommended.
Modern Library (2001), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 920 pages
tags: biography, America, Europe, history, politics

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