Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The joys of a poor memory

I am the kind of person who forgets
what I just read, so I can read it
and love it again sooner.

(Sorry for being out of sight [site] for a bit.  My online course didn't get set up with enough time for me to prepare, and I am not-quite-treating water yet.)

I hope to be caught up soon.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Join the Library Wars

I just finished reading the second book in a series that appeals to me on many levels.  It's a bit hard to describe the book, since it's a mashup of many genres.  Part romantic comedy, part social commentary, part combat movie, part political drama, part compelling and harrowing near-future science fiction, Library Wars is really all over the place but in a good way.  It's actually hard to describe what makes it so delightful because if someone tells you the premise and the world it takes place in and the nature of the conflict, you are likely to think they are crazy. 

I mean, what kind of near future involves actual physical combat over library books?  What kind of funny odd-couple comedy is set in a world where national and local governments and a ton of other shadowy political bodies manipulate the press and jockey for position using freedom of  expression as their hot-button issue?  Is it more important to protect people from the bad expressions than to allow the freedom to have differences (and smut and pornography and dangerous ideas)? When was the last time you saw Library and War used in the same sentence?  This isn't Fahrenheit 451, but it might be distantly related (and much more fun since the focus isn't really on the heavy drama, though there is a small sense of dread about that drama always lurking in the background).

It's true that I really like clever premises that work and make me think (enough that sometimes I don't even care if everything else is a mess), but from the number of times I found myself laughing at interactions between the two clueless romantic leads and thinking really hard about how far I would go to defend freedom of expression, I'd like to think this is actually a well-executed story overall.  I just really enjoy it all the way through.  It's a delightful experience to read and enter this bizarre but not-so-different world.  At least I think so.

What do you think?  How far would you go to censor the bad for the public good or defend free access to it all?  (It's really not a trite and easy issue, especially not as it's presented in Library Wars.)  If you love books, you might want to give this series a read to see how much you really love them and how much you would be willing to sacrifice in their defense . . .

Thursday, August 19, 2010

More words of wisdom on revision

These particular words are brought to you by Patrick Rothfuss, a man who wrote a book that's like reading a song.  He's a real craftsman, so if you've ever wondered what a writer's personal revision process is like, check his out.  He takes good notes.  I particularly like the way he talks about making every word work for its place in the book.  I also like the way he revised the fan's letter that spawned the post as an example.  Kind of priceless.

His next book (The Wise Man's Fear)is allegedly coming out in March (for real this time), and I hope it's worth every hour of revision he's put into it.

(Once again, I am baffled at the lack of awards for this book.  There are over 740 reviews for it on Amazon.  Seriously.  Was it even nominated for anything?  Ah, well, I'm no critic.  I guess I should be glad it won that short-lived people's choice Quill Award and was a bestseller.)   

Monday, August 16, 2010

Thursday, August 12, 2010

An opinion on "literature" my sister could get behind

I came across this comment about literary fiction, and it made me laugh, so I thought I'd share it with you.

'What's really interesting is that I have a intense, visceral reaction to some of the literary novels that have been published in the last 10-20 years. Reading them is like getting a bucket of negativity upended over my head. The writing is so very very beautiful but the events in the book just make me want to stick my face in the waffle iron and end it all. What the hell is this crap! How on earth can you Choose Life after reading one of these books? The world is filled with suffering and adultery, alas; no point in dying; we might as well live and suffer some more. Then I have to clear out my brain by watching "Dude, Where's My Car?"'

Monday, August 9, 2010

Pilgrims? Bad neighbors?

So a radio station in our area is really pushing a pilgrimage to the Holy Land right now, and my immediate reaction was something along the lines of, "The economy is in the tank, lots of our brothers and sisters are struggling, and you want to take an expensive vacation because it's somehow good for your faith to be a tourist and waste money you could be giving to help those who need it?"

Possibly a little harsh.  Maybe not.  I don't know.  There's evidence in the value of pilgrimage.  Lots of stories come from that tradition.  What are your thoughts about pilgrimage?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The great migration

The great manga migration is finally (almost) over.  I have moved (nearly) all of my manga (Japanese graphic novels) and anime (Japanese cartoons) to an off-site location.  I'm kind of in mourning, but I'm also breathing better because there is less book dust around my bed each night.  Darn that allergist for being right!  It was a tough decision, but now that I have a job that pays a living wage, I no longer had any excuses not to get 6 bookcases out of my sleeping area (aka, my 385 square foot apartment) due to allergies.

How did I make the painful decision to part with the manga in a spacial way?  It all comes down to the fact that I only have four and 3/4 bookcases full of other books.  I considered breaking things up and keeping my most favorite, most frequently randomly re-read manga series here and sending some of my reference books to my new library, but, in the end, I felt like they should all be together and able to spread out in correct alphabetical order because as much as I am a manga nerd, I am a book nerd first and foremost, and alphabetizing things is soothing, darn it. 

There are nine bookcases crammed into a tiny, climate-controlled storage unit a few miles from my apartment.  I have 14 inches of clearance wherever I go in this tiny space, so as long as I don't gain any weight, I still have free-ish access to my lovely collection, which is slowly emerging from its boxes and settling in.  No more sun damage from the light through the window.  No unpredictable and uncontrollable temperatures.  Less space-crunching.  Silence and solitude.  I hope they like it there.  And I will visit regularly, so they know I do care.  I'd like to believe it's a better place for them.  Pardon me while I get a tissue.

I should also mention that it's actually good to get that temptation away from me.  It was really too easy to see something I loved and grab it off the shelf and read it before I got any work done.  It's not the manga's fault I have no self-control; it's mine, but by moving it, I've stopped enabling myself in a negative way.  Kind of.  I still have a couple shelves worth of stuff I'm going to read before I take it to its new home.  I just have a lot less, and this is ongoing series stuff, so I don't know how it ends.  I have to give it more thought and attention than the quick re-read stuff I know I'll love.

Some people might say that I still have almost 5 bookcases worth of books around, so how can I possibly act like I've removed the temptation.  To them, I would say that since I got hurt at work and started losing sleep and concentration and such, my reading rate and comprehension tanked.  Even a YA or middle-grade book takes hours now (used to be I could read over 100 pages an hour), so I tend not to start them if I know I won't be able to finish them right away.  Most manga is fairly short.  Some volumes take less than 30 minutes to read.  That's temptation to me.  It's like fast food in some ways only right in my room all the time . . .

Now that I not only have a 40+ hour a week job but a new part time teaching job coming up, I can't afford to make it that easy for me to let my priorities slip.  This way, if I want to reward myself, I have to plan and be efficient and get things done.  Then I can allow myself to read for fun.  And I must read for fun; therefore, I will be efficient!  Let's see how that works out for me, shall we?

Have you ever had too many books and not enough space?  What was your solution?  How did you prioritize?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Why writing memoir is hard

I really admire people who can pull off a successful memoir (success = skillful execution) because I don't know how they do it.  I am long-winded by nature (I think in multi-volume, epic plots and can't do much with short stories to save my life).  It is extremely difficult for me to figure out how to take, say, a 450 page spiritual autobiography and turn it into a svelte 200 page memoir. 

How do you know when to start?  How do you know what to cut? And most importantly, how do you know when to end it?

". . . You're searching, Joe,
For things that don't exist; I mean beginnings.
Ends and beginnings--there are no such things.
There are only middles."
-"In the Home Stretch" 
by Robert Frost
I read that and blessed dear departed Mr. Frost again.  He was amazing.  He puts things in words I've been wanting to say but can't until I stumble across a new (to me) poem.  Did he ever write a memoir?

Anyway, that quote explains the reason why it's so hard for me to write a good, succinct, complete memoir.  I don't feel like things ever end/stop in my life, and I'm not at the place yet where I can see enough of the bigger picture to see how to craft a stopping point that I am comfortable with (comfortable = no "if I leave that out, it feels dishonest" moments).  
I'm not sure where things begin, either, but that's a lesser concern because I feel like it's the ending I need to stick first.  All my other questions can be answered and addressed if only I know where the end is.  
Maybe this is some subtle form of procrastination, but I don't think so because anything that generates hundreds of pages is obviously not afraid to get work produced.  
Maybe this is why it's easier to write an autobiography when you are old (or have it written for you after you are dead).  Death is an ending it's hard to argue with.  However, I don't think it would solve the problem of knowing when to begin if you wanted a short work.  :)  Sigh.

Content to be in the middles,