Category Archives: Books

Lost in a good book

They (the ubiquitous and amorphous they) say that reading makes you a better writer. I agree. Reading has allowed me to see the world in ways I hadn’t before, to find the beauty and significance in the everyday, to discover new ways of expressing what I see. All inspiration for my own writing.

However, I sometimes get so absorbed in someone else’s story that I forget to work on my own. For instance, lately my head has been full of the theme from Swan Lake (most likely spurred by the “Black Swan” references still cropping up because of the ballerina moment that happened at New York Fashion Week) and the book I’m currently reading, Play it as it Lays by Joan Didion. On the surface, the two have nothing in common. One is a ballet about an enchanted swan and her thwarted attempt at love (and eventual suicide); the other about Hollywood in the 60s and the horrors accompanying everyday life in that time. Both are beautiful – the music and dance, the significance and emotion felt in everyday moments. Both are terrifying. So I’ve become absorbed in the sublime – the combination of beauty and terror – and how the sublime is found in the everyday.

Not exactly a normal preoccupation.

Hopefully once I finish Play it as it Lays, I’ll be able to focus on other things. But I admit I’m relishing (just a bit!) this preoccupation of mine. Getting lost in another world, another time, another anything is what makes a story so satisfying. I can say with certainty that my next house (ok, tiny flat somewhere) will be filled with bookshelves. There will be large windows to sit by, and a cozy chair to curl up in with a book and a cup of coffee inside, and a chaise on a balcony or porch, if I am lucky enough to have one, to read on outside. The kitchen table will be home to a pile or two of books. There will be ample space to sit and get lost. Otherwise, I haven’t decided what the place will look like.

Though my current preoccupation has stalled my writing, I have a feeling that it will eventually inspire me to create something new. Maybe by getting lost in another’s story, I am learning how to get the reader to lose him or herself in my stories. Maybe not. But either way, getting lost could lead me somewhere wonderful. Or at least to several scratched out and reworked sentences in my notebook. Have to start somewhere – time to hit the books.

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Corny poems and writer’s block

My abject apologies for a lack of posts lately – for the past few days, I have been incapable of thinking of anything to say. I need to rev up my brain. So in the meantime, here is something to inspire everyone’s poetic and comedic sides: Gene Weingarten of the Washington Post has rewritten some old, corny jokes in the style of famous poems. This one’s my favorite.

“The Pig,” in the style of Shelley’s “Ozymandias”

I met a traveler from a rural clime

Who said: “Three legs I spied upon a pig;

no final leg remained.

Nearby, in tattered overalls the farmer stood,

And saw my puzzled look, and thence explained:

“Two fortnights now it’s been,

Since that day of dense and leaden skies

When this very sow espies

My pregnant helpmeet Becca,

She and unborn child in quicksand, at peril for their lives!

Quick to the house the noble beast repaired

To summon me. Thus Becca yet survives,

As well the babe, to dandle on her knee.

“But what about, asked I, the legs that number only three?

The bumpkin looked at me as though I were a dunce.

‘A pig like that,’ he said, ‘you don’t eat all at once.’ ”

 

 

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A story

When I’m not job hunting, reading novels or dissecting fashion magazines, I sometimes write. Most recently, I revised a short (short-short?) story I wrote in college. It is, I hope, about the power of a good story and the thin line between fantasy and reality. If you like Jane Eyre, or even if you’ve never read it, you will hopefully like this.

Click through to read. Continue reading

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Shakespeare for trekkies

The Washington Shakespeare Company, based in Arlington, Va., is offering selections from “Hamlet” and “Much Ado About Nothing” in both English and Klingon. That’s right, Klingon. The translation will, of course, be in iambic pentameter.

Though Shakespeare’s collected works are among the most translated in the world, this is the first time Klingon has been attempted. The reason? Marc Okrand, the chairman of the Washington Shakespeare Company, also invented the Klingon language for the Star Trek films.

Though I appreciate the creativity, I can’t help but wonder exactly how big an audience the Company is expecting. Alternating English and Klingon should help convey any meaning potentially lost in translation, but if the Company interprets the selections in the way an actual Klingon would interpret them, some of the context of the original might be lost.

However, if this evening gets more people excited about Shakespeare, then I’m all for it. I might not understand the appeal of learning Klingon, but Shakespeare wrote for the masses. That includes trekkies. So, live long and prosper.

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Books (and authors) I couldn’t possibly live without

I admit I have a problem when it comes to books. Though my pasty skin can be mainly blamed on genetics, I’m sure my habit of reading for hours on end (inside or in the shade) contributes to my ghostly look. I also spend a lot on books, but I justify it to myself because I read most of them multiple times. I also like to decorate with books. But anyway.

I’ve been asked to give a short list of must-reads, so here are some books I’d drag with me to that desert island after the shipwreck (they would, of course, get priority on the plank of wood keeping me afloat. I can swim).

1. Everything Jane Austen wrote, but especially Pride and Prejudice, Northhanger Abbey, and her juvenalia (Lesley Castle, Lady Susan, Love and Freindship). And yes, it’s spelled that way on purpose.

2. The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy

3. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

4. Multiple works by Joyce Carol Oates – two of my favorites are Firefox and High Lonesome, a collection of short stories.

5. The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling

6. The Portable Dorothy Parker by, well, Dorothy Parker

7. Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers

8. Everything by Jasper Fforde

9. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

10. Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

What books could you never live without?

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Classics + monsters

We are in the grips of vampire/werewolf/monster fever. And I’m not talking about Twilight (though if you want a soap opera of ridiculous proportions, read it). Instead, there is a rash of books out now that incorporate monster story lines into classic texts. A great idea. To a point.

I was thrilled when I was able to get my hands on a copy of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Austen’s witty, acerbic banter peppered with scenes of Regency-era characters kicking zombie butt? Brilliant. Elizabeth Bennett is Austen’s feistiest, most independent heroine. It is not too much of a stretch to imagine her an expert at physical as well as verbal sparring. At first the backstory about the Bennett sisters’ training in Japan seemed a bit far-fetched, but it was easy to believe that Jane was prized for her zombie-killing skills as well as her beauty. The integrity of Austen’s work remained intact, and the results were hilarious.

But I have to admit, I’m skeptical about the two followups: Dawn of the Dreadfuls (the prequel to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. Elizabeth Bennett can handle monsters. But Elinor and Marianne Dashwood? If Marianne ran into a sea monster, she would scream and faint dead away. (Preferably into the arms of a strapping young officer – much more romantic that way). Elinor would manage to keep herself rational, but it is much more feasible to see her leading her family to safety rather than plunging into battle. Continue reading

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