A Way Out


Broken Window, originally uploaded by smooveb.
        I’m in an emotional fog right now, and it is easy to assume this is because of The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides.
        It is an odd book. It is about a community – a block really – the families, the gossip, The Lisbon Girls and the boys who watched them. It was an odd book in structure alone. Two weeks of reading, and I look down thinking What? Only page 144? and by 5 pm today, I was done. It wasn’t slow by any means, just… strolling, if reading may do so.
You get to know the Lisbon girls curiously, intimately, as the boys do: through things seen between curtains, memories pieced together by the crowd, knick-knacks noticed while passing bedrooms, invading bathroom cupboards. You feel for them, but know not what they’re feeling. You are a fly on the wall at dances, parties, acts witnessed in the dark. You can’t forget the Lisbon girls once they’re dead: you fall in love with them, their chains, and their mystery just as much as the boys did – do. You choose to acknowledge and proceed to ignore the same conclusion your peers have come to: “They were bound for college, husbands, child-rearing, unhappiness only dimly perceived – bound, in other words, for life.” You feel bound too, and admire Cecilia, Lux, Bonnie, Mary and Therese for having the courage to escape.
        In only 250 pages you age a hundred years. Dear reader, you grow to know these girls better than you know your own family. The boys piece it all together for you. So let the girls leave, one by one, and don’t feel sad. You knew they were too good, too pure, too knowing for us when they got here.

 

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Published in: on February 24, 2008 at 7:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

Beyond My Reach


Montreal Flickr Meet. Jan. 21, 2006 — My Vision
Originally uploaded by Sol Lang

I finished Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger, and when I left you, dear reader, I had read only read four of the nine, and was still split on whether I liked J.D. Salinger as a writer, or whether I just enjoyed some of his stories.

“Down at the Dinghy” – a cute story. Plenty of sentimental value, very little action. I could take it or leave it, personally.

“For Esme – with Love and Squalor” – I adored this! It was lengthy, true, but it alludes to childhood and adulthood, and that odd transition phase in between. It deals with the dirty side of war, how it feels to have your memory of someone being the only thing keeping you sane (and never telling that person). It is about a gentleman in the army, a young girl who is impeccibly wise, and the things that stay with you when the person leaves. I admire Salinger for making the Army gent a real person by not giving him a name. After all, what is in a name? I shall fondly carry memories of Seargent X and Esme with me, with this now being my favorite short story.

 “Pretty Mouth and Green My Eyes” – I didn’t much care for this story. It is a phone conversation between two lawyers, and I found it neither quotable or admirable.

“De Daumier-Smith’s Blue Period” – I am very, very torn on this one. It was terribly, noticibly lengthy for starters. Simply put, an art teacher (and possible alcoholic, hired under false pretenses) expresses his unease with his higher up and his frustration with his talentless students and their mediocre work. He does evetually fall in love with a watercolor done by a faceless nun, and he wonders if he has fallen in love with her as well. You could cut this story right in half and only gain value.

 Oy vey…. I just did a tally, and I’m still split right down the middle on this! It is up to Teddy…

“Teddy” – a ten-year-old genius discusses his philosophy on life, the universe and everything with a fellow stranger, a grad student. The story ends harshly, abruptly, memorably. Its the kind of story you finish and can quote exactly how you felt when you read that last word, even twenty years later. This is the kind of story I love.

 

it is official, dear readers: with a majority rule, I have come to the conclusion that I enjoy J.D. Salinger as a writer and not just some of his work. I feel much better now, which is quite unnerving: it means I got myself all worked up over such a decision. I suppose I can sleep soundly tonight, dear readers.

Published in: on February 23, 2008 at 11:33 am  Leave a Comment  

Almost too nice…


Glitter
Originally uploaded by Sunira

It has been too long since I’ve been able to write! Expect a few posts today…

 

First up: Freak the Mighty.

It was originally introduced to me as a movie, and my father loved it, so I took it upon myself to pick up the book. It is a short read in typical middle school fashion; big phont, short chapters, simple dialogue. The hero, “Freak” is a young boy with a degenerative disease who is stuck in fantasy lands of the past and future, finding comfort in the lands of knights or robots (depending on which serves his purpose at the time). The narrator, Max, is a gentle giant, stuck in the shadow of his father – a murderer. The two misfits team up to create the unstoppable team of Freak the Mighty, mixing brains with brawn. The duo turn streets into collapsing bridges, ponds into deadly moats, old ladies into Damsels in Distress. They find adventure in everything, learn timeless lessons through the bonds of friendship, and turn out a pretty good Lifetime Movie.

 It is a cute book, recommended for children between the ages of 8 and 13.

Published in: on February 23, 2008 at 11:18 am  Comments (1)  

Wow.

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I’ll keep this short. Again, I have managed to put my entire book list on hold for another highly valued recommendation.I have picked up The third book by Daniel Quinn, My Ishmael and it is. . . astounding. Which is why I’m keeping this short until I finish it, which makes absolutely no sense unless you’ve read it.

I have plenty of Students2.0 posts to write now, and plenty of thoughts to think. Please excuse my previous absense, dearest readers. Wish me luck.

Published in: on February 15, 2008 at 12:59 pm  Comments (4)  

Something is Missing


broken statue 1
Originally uploaded by tabascoshot

I’m torn. I have read both Franny and Zooey and The Catcher in the Rye and I am still unable to decide whether or not I adore J.D. Salinger, or just his books. Because of this, I have again broken my “To-Read Shelf Only” rule and picked up Nine Stories. I fell in love with Zooey, wanted to murder Holden, and I’m still in the same predicament with each of the nine stories!

This whole decision process was brought on by the frequent references to Nine Stories in an old read,  Hard Love. Here’s what it breaks down to: I wasn’t impressed with “A Perfect Day for Bananafish”, a dark part of me that I’d rather ignore was touched by “Uncle Wiggly in Connecticut”, I adored “Just Before the War with the Eskimos” and “The Laughing Man”, and that is as far as I’ve gotten… based on the 4 I’ve read, I’m still split right down the middle…

Oh Drat. Maybe my problem is that I just don’t “get” Salinger like other people. . . no, according to Wikipedia, I get it well enough.

I’ll let you know what the final tally is, if you really care.

Published in: on February 9, 2008 at 11:32 am  Comments (1)  

Second Look


2007 hollister motorcycle rally 5
Originally uploaded by 1115

I’d like to think that after all this time, my list of “Things I Should Know By Now” would be much shorter, but it isn’t. Worst of all, I know I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, so to speak, but I do. I admit it. My earliest memory of making judgements was when Dear Old Dad (a furry, well-inked Harley owner) took me to meet some of his friends (also furry, well-inked Harley owners). These were scary-looking men! Being a child, I was shy until the biggest and scariest of them all pulled two suckers out of the pocket of his leather vest. One for him, one for me. I sat on daddy’s bike* with my new sucker and listened to them all talk. Somehow, there weren’t scary anymore. Despite the facial hair and leather galore, I can still say these people were some of the most decent souls I’ve ever come across. The point is that I should have known better; even teddy bears have to act tough sometimes.

 My most recent lesson in thinking twice was based upon a recommendation from a close friend. I was told to read Firefly by Piers Anthony. I read a ways into it and was appalled by what I read, but I have to get my own words out before I read the reviews of others. This probably won’t end up being laid out as well as I wish it to be, so please be patient, dear reader.

When I began reading Firefly, it didn’t take long for me to pick up on the fact that it is best labeled as a rather explicit sci-fi novel. As I read on, it became more and more vulgar, leading me to question why this was on a High School Library’s shelves, but To Kill a Mockingbird was once banned. I was disgusted with the content, the plot and the author. All I could tell myself was this is trash! I feel that you don’t get the volume of this, so I’ll be perfectly blunt. Firefly depicts detailed scenes of rape, sodomy, and the molestation of a five-year-old. Re-read that sentence. Let it sink in.  Now… WHY would anyone write about this? I was thinking the same thing for a long time, and it took me a long time to find an answer. Here is why, ladies and gentlemen: because it happens.

 I’m not trying to defend Piers Anthony on any level, but I do have a better understanding of the book and the world. This is the most effective way to speak out against sexual crimes, and this is why it remains on shelves. People read about Little Nymph and Maddock and want to scream, vomit, burn the book, burn the author . . . which is exactly the kind of reaction I’d want, were I wishing to get a message out. I’m sure Anthony gets hundreds of letters every day saying “this is terrible!” and I’m sure he sends responses of “Yes, it is terrible, isn’t it? Wouldn’t you like to stop  such things from happening?” I haven’t decided if Anthony has my respect for that, yet.

 I’ve done my fair share of research on it since, and word on the ‘Net is that Firefly is not only hard to find, but hard to stomach. Comments have ranged from “Never have I ever seen such blatant abuse of the exclamation point in all my years of reading. . . did not enjoy this book and since I believe in finishing what I start, upon completion of this travesty, I promptly tossed it in the garbage. . . I found that the tone was much too sympathetic towards pedophiles. ” to “Those people who gave this book a bad review missed the entire point of the novel. He is bringing into light a topic that often gets swept under the rug even today. I am glad that we live in a country where we can write about whatever we choose to write about.’

 Books aren’t evil. I should have known this! It isn’t a bad book, it is just misinterpreted and inappropriate for some readers. Yes, I am thankful that it is on the shelves because Anthony’s book has taken away my reason for ignoring parts of life that aren’t pretty.

Let me say this again: This is NOT a book for children or those with a closed mind. It is like no book I’ve ever read, and I don’t think I ever want to again. I haven’t finished this book and I don’t think I will.

 

*NOTE: I did not have a normal childhood.

Published in: on February 9, 2008 at 9:34 am  Comments (1)  

Looking Back


Reflections in a Mirror
Originally uploaded by rainy city

I find myself thinking about the last four months and everything it has brought me. I went into this whole thing – the blog, the tech fair – expecting to come out of it a little more tech-savvy, much more well-read, with a whole new appreciation for. . . something. I had no preference, just something. Really, I didn’t know what to expect. Like so many things this year, I went into it blindly. Even now, I can see how much I’ve grown. This experience has been absolutely amazing!

I see things differently. I have changed as a person, evolved even. To sit and explain my goal to passersby at the 2008 Tech Fair gave me a chance to explain all this to myself. To have people come up to me and tell me they’ve been following the blog for some time, and to hear that I’ve done a great job is flattering. I still believe that I’ve done nothing out of the ordinary. I say what is on my mind, and I try to do it with honesty and integrity.

Maybe that is why they listen; I don’t speak to get praise, I speak for myself. I speak to put ideas into the world. I speak so knowledge isn’t lost. That is why I still do this, folks. It wasn’t until I sat and talked with my father about this chapter in my life that it occured to me  that people listen to what I have to say. The odd part is that I can’t focus on that idea for too long, otherwise I lose my voice. I get virtual stage fright.

My dearest father and my beloved Fairy Godmothers have all but printed posters listing my accomplishments (which I have achieved despite my tendancy to procrastinate), and they don’t understand why I don’t shout it from mountaintops as well. I don’t do that because I’ve said it all before. This isn’t about me. I don’t want this to be about me. I want this to be about community, ideas, knowledge, history, and (most of all) books.

I have a vision of something bigger, and I’m just trying to get from point A to point B. Every new reader is a new helping hand, so thank you, everyone.

Published in: on February 7, 2008 at 1:14 pm  Comments (4)  

Until Something Better Comes Along


Broken Sign
Originally uploaded by Hungarian Snow


We all know I think too much, but after procrastinating this post all day (through writing, reading, quilting, shopping, etc), I don’t know what to think anymore.

I just finished Hard Love by Ellen Wittlinger. I don’t know what it is about the ebb and flow of the universe right now, but my recent choices in books have left me emotionally drained, with plenty to think about. Hard Love greatly resembled A Bad Boy Can Be Good For a Girl, but it was the guy’s story, and he gets hurt. It is full of teen angst, emotional masks, family issues, prom, love, resentment, poetry, underground magazines and – most of all – wanting something you can’t have. It is very typical Young Adult Novel, but it has a personal touch that you don’t see too often anymore. No matter who the character was, I was able to see myself in them. (I credit this to the fact that I’ve changed my definition of “me” so many times.)

“I like people who aren’t afraid of themselves”, says Marisol, the lesbian love interest. This is a huge idea, even in the adult world. So many are unsure of who they are, and compensate by showing people who they think everyone else wants to see. It ends up being one big mess of assumptions and liars. Those who got hurt in the process now have to act as if nothing matters. “Its a lie, you know, to pretend that nothing is important to you. It’s hiding. Believe me, I know, because I hid for a long time. ” Why is it so hard for people to be honest with eachother? Are we so afraid of being without something to hide that we hoard everything possible – including our true feelings? Those who don’t play emotional hide-and-seek eventually become outcasts. Life has a way of disappointing those with high expectations, I suppose.

My favorite part of this book is the fact that the title of the book itself is meaningless until you get to the end, when you learn that it was taken from an old song, that you may listen to HERE. It is a beautiful song. It’s a I adore it right now, because it speaks to me on a level in which few things can get to me (especially at this hour, in this melancholy mood).

Ellen Wittlinger has managed to put into words something I have never been able to, and she has done it beautifully, and so I leave you with that:

“I’ve always tried to find my own magic words ever since I was young. That’s really what writing is, isn’t it? Searching for the magic words. So I guess I’d have to say, this is what keeps me going, figuring out what I have to say and putting it down on paper, word by word.”

Published in: on February 3, 2008 at 11:24 pm  Comments (3)  

The Storm Has Passed!


Sailors’ Memoreis [HDR]
Originally uploaded by Hussain Shah (Kuwaiti Muwali)


It is much too soon to pause and reflect upon today, and what lies ahead for NovelDame. I will tell you this: I will continue. After all, there is so much left unsaid! So many books unread!

But in light of the technology fair, I would like to thank Seagate for my new 5.0 gig flash drive (expect more art! more videos! more additions!) as well as my dear readers (I have aquired readers!) for introducing themselves and singing songs of support and the new readers that discovered me today. The greatest gift I received was to see my work admired. A special thank you to those who approached me with requests for meetings, conferences and other such matters, I can’t wait to get started. As always, a big thank you to my wonderful fairy godmothers for willingly playing the roles of cheerleaders, mentors, messengers, mothers, collaborators and saviors when necessary.

This is another stepping stone in the road that I am traveling as NovelDame.  What an amazing experience! I’m off to go brainstorm what to do next! Any suggestions? Maybe I’ll ponder doing some podcasts…

Published in: on February 2, 2008 at 3:25 pm  Comments (3)  

All Fired Up

Mercy! Books Burning.
Originally uploaded by Catherine Jamieson

Today’s quotes are quite relevant, I’m sorry to say. I’m working on a new piece of artwork, and I burned a book.

*gasp*

Yes. I, NovelDame, set fire to the pages of a paperback. I never read it (glances told me it was a crime novel), but I’m sure there are plenty more copies out there, in any case.

Why are people so against book burning? Many relate this act to censorship, which is understandable. There are countless acts in history when book burning was a method of control: Oxford University did it in 1683, The Nazis perfected it, and most recently it became a scandal in Iraq. I agree, that destroying reading material because someone has objections to it is barbaric. I do believe that the burning of the Library of Alexandria was the greatest loss we – as a culture – have ever faced. So much knowledge was lost…

But, I don’t believe that all burning is morally wrong. Books that are damaged beyond repair, unreadable, outdated, etc should be properly disposed of. Honestly though, do raggedy books belong in a landfill? Thats hardly respectful, don’t you agree? Everyone has seen a wounded book. It isn’t pretty. Wouldn’t you like to put it out of its misery? Go to any used book store, and look around. In some cases, there are dozens of copies of the same novel. Surely no one out there would buy all eight paperback copies of their favorite vampire novel.

Here is the question I pose to you, dear readers: Would the issue of burning of books be less black and white (pardon the pun) if it were done in the name of “population” control, and nothing else?

For more opinions on book burning, please watch my first video post, with quotes from students and teachers.

Published in: on February 2, 2008 at 12:38 am  Comments (2)  

That Falling Feeling


Breakup Ceremony
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Purvis

My wonderful fairy godmothers have diagnosed a new condition in which the brain “dribbles out of the ears”. If it is contagious, then I am infected. Symptoms were most likely triggered by my most recent adventure, becoming a contributor to Students2.0! The last few weeks have been wonderful. Insane. Complicated.

You might have noticed that the title changed. I’m happier with it than I was, but it still isn’t right. Expect it to change again.

Now, I have finished my third book of the year. It is neither The Story of B nor is it High Fidelity. It was not found on the infamous top shelf. Less than 30 days into 2008 and I have already broken my resolution. That’s the way books go, I guess. In any case, book 3 was an interesting read, like nothing I’ve ever come across.

A Bad Boy can be Good for a Girl is not a book that I recommend for anyone over the age of 16. It isn’t meant to be deep or philosophical, but it has a wonderful message. At a little over 200 pages, it tells the story of three girls who fall for the same guy (predictable, I know) though free-form poetry. I found all the characters to be very stereotypical.

In its defense, I found it to be honest, heart-felt, etc. I related to it quite well, which I hate to admit on some level. Yes, three very different girls do fall for “the jerk”, and it is this quality of the book that I wholeheartedly attach myself to. It isn’t “chick lit”, and it is no He’s Just Not That Into You, but misery loves company, and it brought me back to days I’d still rather forget about.

Sometimes it’s nice to open old wounds, you know. Perhaps bad boys can be good for a girl, but not in ways we expect. You get to sit and think about how those terrible events made you who you are, and if it was really worth it in the end. I may not ever read it again, and I may never find someone who would appreciate this book on the level I did, but I do have a sense of adoration for this short little novel. I’ve dated jerks, and I’ve gotten burned. Tanya Lee Stone presented me with a voice that made me pause and realize exactly how far I’ve come since then, and what an amazing person I’ve become because of everything I’ve had to go through.

 Dearest readers, this is what books are all about! Inspiring someone! evoking emotion! There are many definitions of success in terms of writing, but one of the most universal is the sense of accomplishment one gets when a book speaks. Whether to a culture, a person, or an idea, success is knowing someone found a message in something you said. Like the girls in the novel, I walked away from the experience thinking I’m going to be okay.  I hope you read this and pick up the book so you can find something admirable in it as well.

Published in: on January 29, 2008 at 12:57 pm  Comments (5)  

Why Can’t You Win ’em All?

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This past week my updates had to be put on the back burner, and I admit that I have missed this. It has become a sort of therapy. No matter what is going wrong, I always have the option of receeding into silence, basking in the comfort of NovelDame and breathing in the strong scent of books, ideas and history. I’m back, dear readers. It is less than two weeks before the Tech Fair, and I’m excited to say that things will be changing even more!

But with that little “break” I had, I also had to put the books away, so I have gotten no further down my reading list… but I did take a trip to the library, and part of me likes to believe that having books that aren’t my own staring back at me will give me motivation to do something about it. Out of the three I picked up today, The Historian is the book I’m most intrigued by. The back gives nothing away, and I refuse to read up on it (like I usually do) before I crack the cover. Wish me luck, and happy reading.

Published in: on January 22, 2008 at 12:14 pm  Comments (3)  

“Honest to blog?”

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This has definitely been a writer’s block type of week, so I’m going to be perfectly honest with you, dear readers; I have been avoiding this blog by reading other people’s blogs, and I’m going to blog about what I’ve found. That is as simple as it gets.

I began with the blogs of the students that contribute to Students20h.org and was delighted with what I found.

  • Lindsea K is all about Love and Logic, and posts art, videos, poetry and pictures whenever she gets the whim. Her blogs are fun to read because she holds nothing back and has a quiet honestly to them (I say quiet because she doesn’t seem like the kind of person to shout her truths from the rooftops) and I admit, I immediately subscribed.
  •  Two Penguins and a Typewriter also caught my attention. Anthony Chivetta is very realistic about whatever he writes and has the amazing gift of pointing out the obvious without talking down to anything at all. Most of all, he writes about what he knows. The archives show that he’s obviously a computer geek (I would be, too, if I had enough patience), but he’s a geek who can explain anything to anyone.
  • Partytime is another new favorite from Nicole in Korea. I instantly fell in love with her blog because she’s already vocalized so many of the worries that I’ve been having. She has the kind of blog that starts conversations. If I ever met her, I think she’d be my new best friend. Maybe its a silly thing, but I love the feeling of finding someone who shares the same feelings I do! She has such a passion (oh, the irony… read her latest blog.) for art and people. This girl has hopes of finding something more out in the world, and I hope the world doesn’t let her down.
  • Sean, The Bass Player, struck me as the kind of guy who would order hot chocolate from starbucks and just sit and chat. He has an opinion about everything, but he’s not closed-minded. He’s going to be a fun one to follow.
  • The Cloudy Dreamer has to be mentioned as well because she is so hilarious! My favorite post is, without question, her 2008 Resolutions. I laughed until I cried, then I finished the other half of the list. Reading her tagcloud alone says volumes.

These are some of the people that control our future, and this is rather comforting. I also had a few recommendations from one of my Fairy Godmothers, and Wandering Ink is at the top of that list. There is no easy way to explain the blog, so read it yourself. You could spend hours there. 2 Cents Worth, by David Warlick, is one of those blogs that will come in handy. I’ve only read a dozen posts so far, but I’ve already had three or four lightbulbs turn on.

In other news, this week’s goal is to get at least one video posted, get an archives page for all the quotes I use, as well as a page for my art, and another that “Documents my world” (I’m still trying to figure out what that means). I praise the Glorious Chaos.

Oh, and any suggestions for a new title? “…and Curiosity” just isnt working anymore. Any questions you’d like to see in the new interview videos I’m working on? 

1. Blog Title from Juno.
2. Photo by photbutt83 on Photobucket

Published in: on January 21, 2008 at 7:49 pm  Comments (1)  

Back on Track

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I woke up this morning after a fitful sleep filled with dreams about books. I credit bookcrossing.com for this. . .

Following my recent pattern of introducing new websites, I feel the need to strike up the band for a new favorite: Students2.0

It is a bit tricky to find without google since it is a .org site, but it is one my the most brilliant discoveries of the year. The first thing that caught my eye was the “About Us” Statement that sparked something inside me.

About Us: We are students: the ones who come to school every day, raise our hands with safe questions, and keep our heads down. Except, now we have a voice—a strong voice—to share our ideas through a global network.”

Is that not brilliant? I didn’t know this was what I had been looking for until I found it. What I respect is that not just anyone can contribute, which raises the standards to a level not often attempted with blogs. Another point is that this site isn’t about complaints. Instead, it shows genuine concern for the lack of advancement in the education system and gives suggestions from the students themselves. Even though it is my Senior year, it is nice to read all of the posts and believe that it is never too late to make some changes.

I once read that every great idea can be countered with the question of “Yes, but how?” Many students have excellent suggestions pertaining to their education and what they’d like to see, but somewhere along the way we began to believe what everyone has been telling us; we are just teenagers. This site is definitely contributing to changing the way people see things. There’s a big shift taking place, and with luck, it will start a revolution of sorts. Listen up, students! This is how.

1. picture by _r-andre-robi on Photobucket

Published in: on January 21, 2008 at 6:03 pm  Comments (3)  

A Mile a Minute on Pause

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Do you ever just forget? I do. Sometimes I get so involved in absolutely nothing that I forget everything else. Somehow, I have made a habit of registering for odd sites and never returning. It isn’t until i check my Spam Email that it occurs to me while looking at all the addresses that Hey, thats where all your time goes!

In fact, I ran across one of the most brilliant websites that is not so very well-known.

bookcrossing.com

I adore this site for many reasons: it promotes the sharing of well-loved books between complete strangers. You never know if the book you left on the bus stop bench will touch someone’s life, but its nice to think that it will. I love the idea of doing good and never seeing the results. Not to mention that it is a productive method of cleaning out book shelves! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve went through and thought to myself, I love this book too much to trash it, but I’ll never read it again!  This is a wonderful solution. My only problem is Where to release them?? answer: everywhere!

And after playing around on the website for a bit, I learned that BookCrossing is now open to schools! This is exciting because I can’t stop imagining all the possibilities! This promotes literacy in a fun way. It encourages reading, journaling and participation. There are so many ways to promote this program in the classroom that I’m surprised it hasn’t been picked up yet! It is applicable to Geography classes, Computer Tech and (obviously) English classes, it could launch a new program for libraries, or promote communication between schools, oh . . . I’ll get off my soapbox now.

I’m amazed at how easily inspired I am. Either way, I’m releasing (many) books tomorrow. Happy reading!

Published in: on January 12, 2008 at 1:17 pm  Comments (3)  

Book 3 of 2008

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High Fidelity is amazing. But not in my normal use of the word. I feel wonderfulyl guilty for reading this book because Nick Hornby gave women an unedited look into the mind of man. By no means is this a safe place to wander. The back blurbs of praise even warn that men should “Keep this book away from your girlfriend – it contains too many of your secrets to let it fall into the wrong hands”. -Details. This book is more of a one-sided conversation than a novel. I picked up my terrible habit of highlighting and note-writing in books I own. Lord have mercy if I ever loan these out or turn them in to a used-book store (even I am shocked to see the connections Ive made while reading).

To be honest, I adore Rob, the protagonist. He’s a huge movie buff, has read important novels and loves music with a passion. H At the same time, were I ever to run into him, I would throw a chocolate milkshake in his face – vanilla would be a waste. This book explains men and it’s all Rob’s fault. I now understand why guys say “nothing” when I ask what they were thinking. Because they really were thinking about nothing. They overthink the most meaningless ideas and they do it so often that its better to just admit that it was nothing than explain why they were thinking about feeding firecrackers to a hamster while going sweater shopping with you.

Published in: on January 5, 2008 at 5:26 pm  Comments (1)  

Playing Catch (up)

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     I went book shopping. This was dangerous. It was wonderful. I managed to aquire an interesting array of books:

                             Palmistry – Peter Hazel
         The Virgin Suicides – Jeffrey Eugendes
Crime and Punishment* – Fyodor Dostoevsky
                                Peter Pan – J.M. Barrie
               Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
   50 Mathematical Ideas – Tony Crilly 
                       High Fidelity – Nick Hornby

* This one has an interesting story. Once upon atime, I went through a phase where I went about finding various uses for books. After plenty of thinking, I decided to turn a book into a purse. I went to a used book store and spent a good hour scourig the shelves for the perfect book to rip apart. I was looking for one of those classic, gorgeous hardcovers with the swirly designs on them. I finally found it.
      The book was smallish and red, with gold accents. I vowed not to read it before I cut it up because then I’d get attached (I was a very sentimental reader). And we all know we couldnt have that happen!
      I never read it. It took me three weeks before I found the nerve to remove the pages with cautionary precision. When I finished, I left terrible. I felt like a murderer! Who was I to think that I had the right to remove a book from this world? it didn’t take me long to appreciate the priny that sat upon the scattered pages before me; I had just butchered Crime and Punishment

      I felt so terrible that I saved the pages for two years before I managed to pay tribute to the Book Gods for my crime. I used most of said pages between two art pieces. What made me buy this book (again) is that while cutting and pasting, I would pick up words, and settings and quotes. After three or four days I was picking up whole paragraphs and regretting not keeping the pages in order. Even in bits and pieces, this story was good. And so, the circle is complete.

Published in: on January 5, 2008 at 4:53 pm  Leave a Comment  

Rollerskates and Piggybanks

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     Today was wonderful. I managed to both start and finish my first book off my “To Read” Shelf!  The Pigman by Paul Zindel, was originally published in 1968 and my personal copy was published not long after that. It is narrated by two of the main characters, Lorraine and John, whom alternate chapters. It was a little unsettling at first, but after the fifth or sixth chapter, I began to get into a bit of a flow. It was easy getting comfortable with easing in and out of the character’s heads because Lorraine seemed, to me, to be levelheaded, quiet, much more emotional than John, and a bit of a wallflower. John was the tall, dark, handsome and arrogant type, the instigator, The Yang to Lorraine’s Yin. They were very much alike, but took on different roles as directed by society. Written in the time period that it was (fifties, early sixties I presume), there were many aspects that were more of a history lesson than little ignorable details. Rotary phones were mentioned, and the nagging mother constantly “reminding” Lorraine that good girls don’t get in cars with boys. But really though, I’m surprised that The Pigmanisn’t more well-known or talked about. I can’t even describe the feeling this evoked when I finished. Read it yourself and come up with a word.

     In the back of the book was an interesting section by the author, in which he included letters from teens, and an early version of FAQ’s. It was lovely to read because it showed that he didn’t just write the book to get it out, he wrote it because he genuinely cares about teens and is curious as to how and what and why they think the things they do. Thats why this book got under my skin; he understood me. I didn’t relate to any of the characters, but he still managed to convey the message that he understands, and its going to be okay.

Published in: on January 5, 2008 at 4:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

Happy New Year!

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So far, 2008 is off to a start. Whether a bad one or a good one, it is not yet known. My biggest New Year’s Resolution is to actually read all the books on my “To Read” shelf (previously known as the stack on my nightstand) from cover to cover. There isn’t any particular order I hope to go in, I just wish to get it done.

I’m having a lot of trouble mustering enough ambition to finish The DaVinci Code. It is well written, and incorporates a lot of interesting concepts and points in history, but I was more impressed with one of his other books, The Eternity Code (despite the sappy parts). Perhaps thats because I’ve been turned on to the more interesting properties of math recently, and the ways in which he explained various codes and their histories is more appealing to me now than a refresher course on DaVinci’s secret life.
Apparently he has another book in the works, and I’m curious as to what path he’s going to take with that one: mathematical or historical. Either way, the guy knows his stuff. I wouldn’t mind sitting in on a lecture sometime. One of the biggest complaints I’ve read concerning  The DaVinci Code is that he ignores certain historical points in order to make the theories accurate. I don’t think this is a big deal, to be honest. Dan Brown wrote a fictional book. It’s a good story, and that’s all.

I’m glad to see that comments are picking up: You know I love hearing from all of you. In any case, I’m always up for a few good recommendations, and the goal is to be through that shelf before I graduate. Wish me luck, and Happy New Year, book fiends!

* EDIT – 9:18 pm

I finished it, and I was unimpressed. Cute ending, I admit, but I dont want to be using “cute” in the future to describe another mystery/suspense novel. Dan Brown had great intention but there were far too many “iffy” parts to validate a flawless delivery. Would I recommend this book? Only to select people, and not because of the religious aspect. The DaVinci Code isn’t for everyone. Maybe the problem is that this particular book doesnt appeal to my generation. It was good, but not great. May I remind you that I already warned readers of my bias…

Published in: on January 1, 2008 at 8:37 pm  Comments (4)  

Everyone Needs a Pleasant Reminder

childhood

I realize it is quite late, and I should be in bed like all good children are. Tonight’s excuse is as follows; I feel that if I don’t get my thoughts out now, then when I try to do so tomorrow morning, they will be incomplete. I’d hate to have that, knowing it was preventable. I came across tonight’s inspiration purely by accident (as are most of Novel Dame’s muses), and it brought back fond memories.

By hitting the wrong link, I was presented with a list of the Bestselling Children’s Books of All-Time (Hardcover). I sat here for a good twenty minutes just reading this list, and reflecting on each book. For the longest time, I had believed that the world had turned away from Little Golden Books, thus neglecting the classics that my parents and myself grew up with, like The Pokey Little Puppy (1), and The Little Engine that Could(30). My own copies are no bigger than a cell phone nowadays! Certainly everyone expected Dr. Seuss to be littered throughout, but Nancy Drew, of all books, made the top 50! I didn’t think kids read her anymore. Honestly. One of my earliest memories was having the whole series sitting on my shelf – next to my rubber piggy bank. They were my first “chapter books” and I was wholeheartedly devoted to the clean cut, classic crime solver for many years. Shh, I’ll admit part of me still is. I remember having to memorize an entire Eric Carle book (20) in first grade, and going to the school library for read-aloud time to hear The Rainbow Fish (25) for the sixth time and still loving it. To see Waldo books(41, 45), Richard Scary(66, 73), and If You Give a Mouse a Cookie(69) listed… its like going back there. Back to my tiny Elementary school, back to the playground, back to the wonderful teachers. I remember the primary-color rug in my kindergarten class, the Halloween parties and parading through the hallways in costume. Delightfully, I remember when the D.E.A.R. program was introduced, translating to Drop Everything And Read (which I never questioned). In my life, books have never been the plot line, just filler, but I will say that they have always been there. I’m thankful that I’ve grown to appreciate that.
I’m glad I stayed up to share this trip with whomever decides to read. I hope someone else goes looking for the books they remember as a kid. There’s so much more that I could tell about, but I want to hear someone else’s story, should this be a catalyst. I know my answers, but when did you really discover that you loved books? What are your earliest memories with one?

Published in: on December 30, 2007 at 2:31 am  Comments (3)  

What I’ve Learned:

A Tribute to Esquire magazine

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It has been a rather slow day at work, so I sorted through this week’s pile of new magazines and came across the December Esquire. Johnny Depp is featured on the cover. This month is a review of the year in terms of fashion, politics and entertainment. Most of the magazine is a list of ten things that various famous names (previously interviewed in 2007) learned this year. It was a welcome change from The DaVinci Code, so I’ll share my own list in hopes of. . . well, I don’t know.

> The best quotes come from the oddest places: phone conversations that last until 3 am, that old song on the radio that suddenly sounds new, an article in a men’s magazine, a personal truth you didn’t know you held until it was challenged. There is something to be said for patience and observation.

> There is no simple a pleasure that will defy age gaps as opening a brand new box of Crayola crayons.

> Any reader, writer or english teacher will tell you: It’s not what you say it’s how you say it. They’re right.

> The hardest thing I’ve had to learn to do this year is stop in the middle of complete chaos, take a deep breath and tell myself Thank god I have something to do, because those moments become critical when I’m in between books and throwing pencils at the ceiling tiles.

> Michael J. Fox is almost 50. I’m not ok with this. Neither are you.

> As far as rating things goes, I prefer the 1-10 scale rather than the 1-5 scale because there’s more room to be indecisive.

> I don’t have a favorite book, I have a top 10 list that needs to be in alphabetical order, otherwise certain books get jealous. I like to think that I’m not the only one with this problem.

> Its perfectly fine to be supremely contradictory! That is how the world works. It needs balance.

> My inner-child runs the place, but has to share a room with my inner-gypsy. I am becoming more and more aware of my tendency to ferret away odd jewelry or trinkets that are shiny, jingly, or visually borderline-obnoxious.

> Sometimes, the only way to escape into a world of sanity and reason is to turn off all electronics, light a candle, and read until the sun comes up.

Published in: on December 29, 2007 at 4:17 pm  Comments (1)  

Happy Dance Time!

Leap

This is big news! I am very proud to say that Denver is the FOURTH Most Literate city in America!

The ranking was based upon numerous things, such as “newspaper circulation, number of bookstores, library resources, periodical publishing resources, educational attainment and Internet resources.” says the article.

I actually came across this article by accident, and I was pleasantly surprised to find Denver in the top 5. I would have settled for top 10, to be quite honest. But such a rank could be attributed to the fact that Colorado is home to NORAD, after all, and the locals do like to stay informed about the goings-on of politics and world news (such as the assasination of Bhutto). Its really quite astounding to think that I live near one of the most literate cities. I’d hate to think how sparse good books are elsewhere…

 Be well, and fair reading, friends.
                                                            Novel Dame

Published in: on December 27, 2007 at 8:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

Let It Snow…

Cabin in the snowy woods

Once in a while something is so odd that you stop whatever you are doing and ponder that one thing until it makes some sort of sense to you – then you promptly forget it. This week has been one of those situations. After spending Christmas eve with friends of the family and aiding in decorating their tree (as is their tradition), I spent Christmas day with the larger part of my own family. It was by request that the whole family – Aunts, uncles, Cousins, Grand-kids, etc. – be present so dearest Grandma and Papa could get family pictures taken this year. The tree was overflowing, extra tables and chairs had to be pulled out for Christmas dinner, and all were merry.
While waiting for the family chefs to get dinner set up, I was to be found nestled in the corner of the couch with a blanket and a book. This is not unusual. yet only 30 pages into the new book, I looked up and was met with a strange picture. There, in the living room with me, were two of my cousins, each with book in hand. This still makes me smile, friends, because it was that moment when I figured out why no one was hassling me for bringing another book to a family dinner this year. This runs in the family*!

As for the book I was reading during the Family Christmas intermission, it was Digital Fortress by Dan Brown. It’s really an odd book. I neither love it nor loathe it, but its the kind of book that you talk at when another twist comes along. I praise Dan Brown for his writing style, because he has a way of making complicated ideas sound very simple, and there are quite a few ideas in this novel that were hard to wrap my head around. yet At the same time, I noticed is that the chapters aren’t that short in the beginning, but get progressively shorter as things go on and found the page-long chapters to be a wee bit annoying. I also found some of Brown’s action scenes to be more appropriate for an Indiana Jones movie than a book. Those scenes are enthralling as text. My family found it delightful to watch me read this book because my face was, apparently, quite expressive. I was talking to characters more than I was the people in the room. Overall, I liked it, but there’s no chance that I’ll re-read it.
I will continue my Dan Brown saga, because I just picked up The Da Vinci Code (YES I did read Angels and Demons). I’ve seen the specials on MSNBC, The Discovery Channel, The History Channel, and FOX news. I know what I’m getting into, yet part of me still thinks I owe it to “the public” to actually pick up the book before I shoot it down. I’m not one of those people who normally starts a novel while there is still so much hype about it, but its a convenient read (I’m all BUT snowed-in right now). We’ll see how well this goes; I’m not getting my hopes up.

In other news, I finished Tithe about three days ago, and its nothing to shout about. Cute fantasy novel, if you’re into that fairy thing. I don’t think I’ll pick up the second one, sadly. Usually I love fantasy novels, but this one didn’t quite ignite that spark in me.

*The fact that, through an odd family system, I am of no blood relation to these two cousins is of no consequence.

Published in: on December 27, 2007 at 7:10 pm  Comments (1)  

Oh, baby!

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With teens being subject to peer pressure more than ever in this era of technology, its becoming increasingly hard for authority figures to keep up with the times. How can the media expect parents to censor the messages kids receive when its the media that makes young adults the target audience in the first place? This is tough for even me to understand.

     The lines between “right” and “wrong” have always been subject to interpretation, and any lawyer will most likely answer any legal question with “it depends,” because, when you think about it, it really does. We as a culture ask a lot of our educators and parents. They must follow the guidelines of “to each his own” but have to be all-inclusive. To be quite honest, being a teen is even crazier! Between the 2008 election campaigns being aimed at the young voter population, latest Teen ‘Zine on the stands and the tabloids chasing after the hottest gossip, teens are being told what to think instead of how. Do we not have enough faith in the future to let them try? Do we not think we “raised them right”?

     I was saddened this afternoon to read that Jamie Lynn Spears is pregnant. She’s younger than I am, folks. She clearly didn’t plan on it, seeing as how she’s the star of Nickelodeon’s Zoe 101. I feel for this kid, I really do, and I don’t use “kid” in a condescending way. She really is just a kid, no matter how mature. Will she have to give up her career? If not, what kind of message does this send to all the young girls who watch her every day? I babysit three sisters once a week, ages 3-9, and I don’t want to have to be the one to tell them that dear Zoe is going to be a mommy. Does this make Spears a bad person? absolutely not. Heaven knows the poor girl has had it hard enough, and only her older sister Britney to look up to.

     For a lot of people, this news will bring up the age old argument of Roe vs. Wade, or abortion. If you’re an avid reader, then you already know that it becomes quite easy for writers to drop their own personal opinions into their novels without even realizing it. If you’re an avid reader, then you already know that pregnancy and abortion is a reoccurring theme in young adult novels. If not, here’s the long and the short of it; Crank presents the story of a crack addict who discovers she’s pregnant near the end of the book, after having been raped by a dealer. She keeps the baby and stays clean until its born. After that… your guess is as good as mine.
Meanwhile, The Perks of Being a Wallflower only features a snippet of the ordeal. Charlie writes about a confession made to him stating his sister is pregnant and got dumped when she told the boy. She decides to have an abortion, and Charlie has to drive her there. It takes an emotional toll on them both.
Hanging onto Maxput a twist on the should-I-or-shouldn’t-I, since the child is kept and raised by the father, who continues to attend school. My Darling My Hamburger isn’t well known, but is recommended. Abortion as dealt with through the eyes of a friend and doesn’t serve as the main plot. Growing Up in a Hurryoffers much more positive feedback on pregnancy, seeing as how an antisocial gal is brought closer to her family by the trials they are all put through.

      Kids read what they can relate to. You can tell a lot about a person by the last ten books they picked up. This is why Banned Book lists are growing, and the reigns are being tightened on teaching materials. Ok Grown-ups, here’s our secret: we young’ns turn to books when no one else teaches us how to think.* Books hold nothing back because they have nothing to prove. They have no one to answer to for their opinions, and can argue amongst themselves without resentment (sit in a quiet library sometime and tell me books don’t argue). Have faith in the next generation, and thank J.K. Rowling for being a catalyst for literacy in the 21st century.

* Here’s the funny part, for Christmas I received a cute little gift from My Fairy Godmothers that simply stated “I’ve learned everything I need to know about life by reading banned books.”

Published in: on December 19, 2007 at 2:53 pm  Comments (2)  

Hurry Up and Wait!

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This is again inspired by Sara Nelson’s So Many Books, So Little Time. I know I’ve mentioned it quite a lot lately, but its written like one side of a conversation at a book club, and thats what I love.

     So here’s my half. She frequently makes references to the stack of books by her bed. I, too, have a book “stack”, but mine has grown so much that it has its own shelf. Top shelf, of course. Nelson actually references many of the books on there, which both excites and depresses me for the same reason. She has read a book that I have not, and I own it.
     That seems to be part of the problem: I own it, therefore it is always availible. I don’t have a due date, or a late fee, or an anxious friend attached to the cover. I look up there and think “I’ll get to it when I get some free time” but when I actually do get some free time, I browse the school library. Or I end up here, but thats a different story.
     A small, childlike part of me feels guilty for neglecting these books (both new and used; I love used book stores. Everything is previously-loved.) but the rest of me sticks to the notion that i’ll get snowed in someday and these will be my saving grace. I feel that each deserves to be recognized even though I havent read them yet:

The Human Comedy:  I got this from the estate sale of a beloved family friend. Its old, tattered, and I have never cracked the cover. I don’t know what its about, and I don’t think I’ll ever read it. For now, just having it is enough. 

The Pigman, The Scarlet Pimpernel, The Handmaid’s Tale, Enchanted Castle, The Goose Girl, The Prophet, Heidi, Illuminatus! Trilogy: odd books that I’ve collected by various means. I don’t know what theyre about, and I think I will read them someday, when I am unable to find anything else.

The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint: Nelson mentioned this book and said it was wonderful. I think I really will read it. I’m going to make it the first book I read in 2008. I think that’ll be a lovely start, don’t you?

The Phantom of the Opera:  My sister used to be hopelessly devoted to this book, fell in love with the Broadway production and enjoyed the movie. Buying this at a used book store was my way of paying tribute to her. I tried reading it, but its written in a dull manner, to be honest. More of a technical manual than fiction.

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius:  Sara Nelson also mentioned this book, which I have gotten 4 chapters into but never gotten attached to. I’ll try again nxt year. She enjoyed it, and we’ve agreed on other books so far.

The Screwtape Letters:  I loved this book, although I didn’t get far into it. I tried reading it at the wrong time in my life, which I think greatly affects the opinion of a book like this. I can honestly say I’m at a very different point now, though not necessarily the polar opposite of where I was. I’m going to re-read three very important books before I tackle this one again.

The Great Gatsby, The Scarlet Letter, The Red Badge of Courage The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hamlet, Plato, Catch 22, Oliver Twist: Classics, I know. I own them, I just don’t know why. Are they any good? someone else thinks so. Do I? . . . the covers are pretty. these are the “maybe, someday” books.

Slut!: This is a nonfiction novel that addresses the American Sexual Double-Standard. Its a very easy book to get into but it covers the same points so many times that its hard to tell if you’ve gained anything as far as pagecount. But anyone who has ever been gossiped about can relate to some of the stories. As usual, I’ve never finished this book. Such is life.

     Here’s to you, all you fellow bedside-pilers or top-shelfers. Cheers to all the books we don’t know we love. Take care.

Published in: on December 15, 2007 at 12:10 pm  Leave a Comment