Archive for the ‘this is where I talk about books’ Category
The new girl started. The old girl is gone. The oldest girl remains.
I miss the old girl.
Now instead of rolling my eyes at her or making sarcastic comments in the copy room, I am reduced to dashing off scathing emails about what the new girl is doing with her boss/husband. Or what the new girl isn’t doing. Or the way the new girl sighs loudly when she finishes a phone conversation. It’s like a backwards break-up.
And my venom is all very dull, and misdirected and immature. I know it is but I can’t help myself. I feel compelled to complain out of a sense of loyalty to the old girl who got a lousy deal. Did I say boss/husband? Oh that’s right. The old girl’s boss laid her off and hired his wife. The silver lining in this cloud is that he’s not my boss. But still.
“We can’t all, and some of us don’t. That’s all there is to it.”
“Can’t all what?” said Pooh, rubbing his nose.
“Gaiety. Song-and-dance. Here we go round the mulberry bush.”
It seems that people end up at my secret dear diary spot one of 2 ways: by googling Bear Grylls and by searching for decorated eggs, wax eggs, pysanky, Ukrainian eggs, Easter egg crafts, Ukrainian egg designs, Ukrainian decorated pysanky eggs, velikonoce.
So here’s an egg I made for Bear Grylls.
If he contacts me I will give him details on how to claim his prize. And then he’ll probably eat it.
But enough about eggs. What I really want to tell you diary, is that I just started reading The Ticking is the Bomb by Nick Flynn, who writes with a beautiful cadence and style. It’s what I like to call lean writing. Fresh, healthy and without all that fat the other brands have. He has no use for unnecessary fillers and dyes, unlike Jeannie Ralston (see below) whose sentences are full of trans fats. More on her later.
Flynn is the author of Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, which is perhaps my favorite book title ever. If I had empty space on my walls I would buy a copy just so that I could get the the cover framed. Actually I do still have empty wall space. Hint, hint.
So back to Jeannie Ralston and how much her writing annoys me. I’ve been carrying around a piece paper with some of her lousy sentences. I’m growing quite fond of them, in the way you might grow fond of the scratch on your car door. Which is to say not at all. Yet I feel compelled to share them with you diary.
” I saw his eyebrows shift, like levers on a pinball machine, from polite interest to concern.”
Have mercy –
“That night I felt like I was napping in an ogre’s armpit. “
In other words, something smelled, and it was probably that rotten sentence.
“It was an angry cumulonimbus column that slowly obliterated the setting sun.”
She shoots. And misses.
And with that I will end my tirade on greasy, fat-laden sentences. My diet will include only cage-free, organic writing from now on. I’m not reading anything that’s not good for me.
Now where’s my beer?
(I apologize in advance to Jeannie Ralston. A couple of times I’ve written snarky things about writers and they’ve found me through google alert or some other such mechanism, and I’ve felt pretty bad. I’m not a writer. What do I know? I only know I love what I love, and I hate what I hate and this is the place where I talk to myself.)
I’m in the mood to play bitch editor.
It struck this morning as I was reading Unlikely Lavender Queen (Jeannie Ralston). Ralston has also written for Life, Allure and the New York Times. She says so. Repeatedly. The scenario is she’s an awesome high profile magazine writer in New York. She marries an awesome National Geographic photographer from Texas. They move to Texas and she hates it. She becomes obsessed with having a baby. blah, blah.
She can’t get pregnant. They move out to the country in Texas and renovate an old stone barn. She hates it even more. There are scorpions and men who wear Stetson hats. She has to supervise the renovation because her husband travels. She gets pregnant. She realizes her shoes are no longer stylish. After she has the baby they hire a full time nanny who speaks Spanish, so that the child will be bilingual. blah, blah, blah.
She travels with her awesome husband to Provence, where he is on assignment. He becomes intoxicated with lavender and decides to try to grow it on their awesome not really a proper Texas ranch property. She dismisses all his ideas because she’s more awesome than he is and also she used to live in New York and eat in the Chelsea district. blah, blah. She gets pregnant again. He travels a lot and leaves her at home to fend off the scorpions herself. Her favorite restaurant that serves creme brulee closes.
She travels some more but it isn’t the same with a lively tot and squawling infant. She can’t sleep. She tries a some herbal remedies and some ambien. The whole world should stop and take notice because she has insomnia. She thinks she’s having a breakdown. Her Dr. thinks it’s post partum depression. (I think she should get her thyroid checked.) Her awesome husband continues with the lavender project.
I do think her husband sounds pretty awesome. Hot, even.
That’s how far I’ve gotten. I probably won’t get any farther because I just don’t like Ralston’s style of writing. It’s not her – it’s me.
Actually, maybe it is her. Aside from all her complaining there are loads of what I consider lousy similes. Here are a couple from just the first 2 pages of the prologue:
“Shapes were black and fuzzy, as if I were wearing someone else’s glasses.”
“I breathed in as I looked to the east, at a sliver of near-neon orange that was spreading out on the horizon like a just-split egg yolk.”
“The only noises besides my feet crunching on the driveway…were the doves cooing above the chirping crickets like the soft tones of an oboe laid over a chorus of violins.”
Ummm – what?
I know what an oboe sounds like because I’ve actually played one. I know what violins sound like because my daughter is a violinist. I know what crickets and doves sound like. Oboes sound nothing like doves, at least not the doves in any state I’ve ever lived in. Just because you put “like” in the middle doesn’t make it an effective simile.
Wait. Don’t leave yet. There’s more bad writing:
“Something deep and inexplicable had taken hold of me and wasn’t letting go.”
“I was now as afraid of the dark as a six year old who had been watching horror movies.”
Is it me or does that make you gag a little?
Then on page 135 the ultimate bad sentence. The sentence that left me with sweaty palms and stomach cramps (see I can write badly too): “My muscles ached deep within as if they’d extracted every drop of spare energy my sleep-deprived body could wring out.”
Oh the glory of it!
It’s so bad I’m going to repeat it “My muscles ached deep within as if they’d extracted every drop of spare energy my sleep-deprived body could wring out.”
It’s so bad it’s good. Where do I go from here? Actually to the library to dump this in the “no thank you I the last 135 pages of my life back” bin.
I’ve tucked a little post it note inside on page 135. It says “Dear future reader: This woman’s similes are like bitter coffee the morning after a drunken tryst with a second rate cruise ship singer. I didn’t have the strength to go on. Godspeed.”
Wanted: library tutor. Must understand the complexities of my literary tastes and moods. Must remember books I’ve read before or tried to read before. Must be patient, kind and intelligent.
Yesterday I checked out a promising looking book with cypress trees on the cover and Italy in the title. I read every memoir that’s written about Italy. I’ve read so many I don’t remember the titles anymore. A Valley in Italy, A Small Place in Italy, Four Seasons in Rome, Under the Tuscan Son, Pasquale’s Nose, A House in Sicily, If You Dream of Italy Read This Book, Another Book About Italy.
So after work I sat down with my book with cypress trees on the cover and Italy in the title and started reading. It sounded very familiar. Annoyingly familiar. I’d read this babble before. I’d started it and didn’t like it and didn’t finish it.
I opened my next promising book that had Amazon in the title and a photo of a capybara inside. As I’d paged through the book in the library I had a vague sense of deja vu. I studied the photos, but I didn’t think they looked familiar. I thought I’d remember a book with something as odd as a capybara photo. I turned to the introduction and saw that someone in the book was named Darcy. Since the title contained the words The True Story of Five Men and their Desperate Battle for Survival, I assumed Darcy was a man. Darcy. Mr. Darcy. Kismet. I love you.
I started reading the book and it sounded very familiar. Annoyingly familiar. I’d read this babble before. I’d started it and didn’t like it and didn’t finish it. Maybe it gets better once he gets lost in the Amazon but there was something about the way the dialogue was written that turned me off.
I am now 0 for 2 and getting a little peevish. How is it that I chose the same books in a building with thousands of books to choose from? Was it my attraction to cypress trees, capybaras and characters named Darcy? Was I flustered by the man who had asked me where the “index” was, mistaking my insouciance for the mannerisms of an informed library patron?
Very well, on to the third promising book, a book about the pirate adventures of Capt. Morgan. It has a lot of blurbs with exciting words. I often choose books with blurbs like “wickedly entertaining” and “reeking of authentic blood and thunder.” Some of the books don’t live up to their blurbs. I don’t think I’ve borrowed it or read it, but I can’t be sure.
I’m not certain. I’m not positive. I don’t remember. I couldn’t say. I love 3 word sentences that convey how little I know.
I don’t always know what I’ve read or tried to read or grown tired of reading. I don’t always remember where I’ve heard or seen something. I cultivate an air of ambiguity to disguise the gaps in my memory. Where’s the index? I need an “index” for my head.
Apple guys would you get on this please? An app for me that: 1)organizes things I’ve read and stores useful information I’ve heard or read but haven’t retained 2) does the things my brain is supposed to do but is feeling too rusty to bother with 3) prioritizes what to remember and what to forget 4) requires no purchase, installation or updates.
A brain-map-app to help me find things. I’ve already written the slogan for it – Tap into my brain.
The Dear Hunter, the band I’ve been listening to for weeks. Act I-The Lake South, The River North. Act II: The Meaning of and All Things Regarding Ms. Leading. Act III – Life and Death. If a fascist dictator took over and banned the Dear Hunter’s music I would probably risk imprisonment, that’s how much I love them.
Where the Wild Things Are. I’m so looking forward to this movie. Aowww – that’s supposed to be a howl. Are they his friends or are they going to eat him? If you ask me, this question is at the core of all relationships. Dave Eggers’ novelization, The Wild Things, was lip-smacking good. I think I’ll read it again tonight, and this time I’ll make comments to myself in the margins.
I love children’s books. They’re rich and colorful and as complex or simple as you want to make them. Maurice Sendak just became my new hero. When asked what he’d say to parents who think the movie is scary he said. “I would tell them to go to hell. That’s a question I will not tolerate.”
Good for him. Parenting involves making decisions, lots of them, right or wrong. You had a child – now stop being a coward and make a decision. Take a stand – movies, fast food, bedtime, pets, whatever – and leave the rest of us out of it.
I have a gimp thumb. It hurts and it’s ruining my chances of becoming a world class hitchhiker. I can’t straighten it. Who would take a hitchhiker with a permanently bent thumb seriously? Oh look it’s the half-assed, half-hearted hitchhiker. Now kids, I’m just joking…I don’t condone hitch hiking. I need a teeny, little outpatient procedure to make my thumb stand tall and pain-free again. Why don’t they make viagra for trigger thumbs? Oh right, because it has nothing to do with sex. Where’s my universal health care?
Derek Jeter, A-Rod, Mark Teixeira
A couple of months ago I read The Secret Life of Cowboys by Tom Groneberg and I fell in love with his writing. His wife Jennifer’s a lovely writer too and she once commented on my blog, which made me happy.
I have quotes from his book written down and sometimes when I’m hungry I read them – “As August ripens, things sour.” ” Night is gathering. I can smell the burning stars.” Delicious. And fat free.
I’ve gone and memorialized Tom Groneberg’s words on an egg.
“This place I’m dreaming of is tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. And if it doesn’t exist, I do not want to know about it.”
I’m fairly trembling with energy.
My tiny chihuahua-sized cold isn’t stopping me.
The weekend before I got my chihuahua sized cold, I had no energy. I languished by the TV watching the Food Network all weekend. “Such amazing people. They cook. Why does my face feel like it’s melting off?”
This week I am my own HGTV/Food Network star.
Lots of scrubbing, sometimes with my newly acquired Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. I like bald men.
Lots of pile making. Weeding. Whittling. Stacking. Straightening. Storing.
New piles in new locations.
Making omelets and chicken and biscuits. Baking cakes with rosewater flavoring. Copying recipes. Grinding coffee beans.
Would this [ugly] $10 metal shelf be tolerable if I painted it pink and hung it in the bathroom? No, it would actually be cute. Note how tight the screws are. This shelf is sturdy. You can put things on it.
Planning projects…and I could do this and this and this. I just need more tools.
Putting dvds in alphabetical order. Rearranging Dave Matthews Band cds so they are in order of release date. (I realize this borders on abnormal but I’m just going with it.)
Closing files at work. They’re not even my files , but just look at all the room I’ve made. Praise please.
Pulling weeds. Sharpening pencils. No task too small.
I like being like this. This making chaos out of order and order out of chaos.
Finishing books and closing them shut with a satisfying snap.
(My heavy head is full of debris -As Tall As Lions)
Like my sick kitty, the wisdom teeth, the car mirror, locking the keys in the car, getting my hand stuck in the shredding bin, and people who don’t help their kids.
(I know we’re all souls just trying to connect with someone – As Tall As Lions)
Dan Nigro played in bare feet and said his father owns a paper company like Dunder Mifflin, and my sick kitty is brave and full of purrs even when she’s unwell, and it’s National Poetry Month, and she made me an ATAL shirt and he gave me a Liguus fasciatus shell.
(You’re lost in your mind -As Tall As Lions)
Is anything going to happen in Agnes Grey or is she just going to go on and on about being a governess and will I ever figure out what’s going on in Little Dorit or will I just continue to watch because of Matthew MacFayden, will she get better or will she just keep losing weight, is she in pain, how much better looking can Jack get and when will Des be on again, do people really get what’s coming to them (is it wrong of me to hope they do) and what’s the plural of amaryllis?
(I stay awake thinking this life is lonely – As Tall As Lions)
Maybe that’s why I just want to sit and work on eggs, bent over the table, listening to music, getting a stiff neck. Lost.
Tom Friedman, the Pulitzer prize winning New York Times columnist, spoke at a charitable foundation luncheon I attended this week.
I like nonprofit events involving valet parking, nicely dressed people, fancy carpeting, a chandelier bedecked banquet room and colorful food. It’s incongruous, which is a fun word to use and spell.
In a lovely display of synchronicity the lights went out for a few moments, just as Friedman started talking about energy supply and demand. Everyone chuckled appreciatively while I thought about how different it would be to attend a picnic style fundraiser/lecture in a state park. Everyone could bring their own lunch and recycle their own trash and the audience could enjoy being cradled by the very Mother Nature they’re clamoring to save.
I filed my Great Thought away under G for Great, while Friedman continued with his “the earth is Hot, Flat and Crowded presentation,” which is also the title of his most recent book. The earth is hot because of climate change and it’s flat because smaller, poorer countries are getting the same technologies as the U.S. so the playing field is being leveled and it’s crowded because it’s crowded.
Friedman says there is a huge opportunity for the US to lead the way in establishing innovative energy technologies and we can gain respect and make money doing it. Viva the e-volution!
But wait. Friedman pointed out people get hurt in revolutions. So it’s not going to be easy or painless. As in a bunch of people might need to trade in their big SUV’s, jet skis and ATV’s for a pony and convince China to do the same. It’s do or die time. And we need to stop using the word green because green needs to be the norm not the exception. Blah, blah. Change your leaders not your lightbulbs. Blah, blah, blah. And we have enough time starting now, which is a quote he borrowed from some upbeat, optimistic but dead university professor.
Another engaging, sobering, repetitive, not entirely helpful argument by someone who lives in a house the size of a small town and has probably never carried a recycling bin to the curb or composted his coffee grounds.
Love the message – just not convinced that the messenger isn’t just trying to be one of the relevant, cool kids.