Monday, April 8, 2013

Insurgent, by Veronica Roth

At some point I read the first book in this YA dystopian trilogy, Divergent. It was okay, as I recall. Then recently I read the second book, Insurgent. I liked it a lot. Now I wait for #3 to be released in October.There's going to be a movie at some point, too. Three movies, probably--with the first one coming out in September or thereabouts.

If I would've had my act together and written about this book back when I read it (maybe a month ago), I'd probably have more to say. Sorry. Been doing much more reading than writing about reading, latey.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Scintella Project Day 2

So, I'm doing (attempting?) The Scintella Project again this year. It's only day 2 and I'm already a day behind, but here it is:

The prompt I chose:
Tell a story about something interesting (anything!) that happened to you, but tell it in the form of an instruction manual (Step 1, Step 2, etc.).

1. Get an MFA if you want, but don't expect to ever make any money off of it. It might help you get a more prestigious job down the road, but ultimately they're just looking at your publications. So get the MFA for its own sake--for paid time to write. In my opinion, that word "paid" is key. I only applied to fully funded programs--I have enough loans from undergrad--if I pay for another degree, it'll be one that earns me money. This MFA won't.

2. I applied only to fully funded three-year-programs. MFA programs tend to be either two or three years. There are also a fair number of low-residency programs. Three years made the most sense for me for a bunch of reasons. The main one was that if I had to move again, probably to somewhere I wouldn't want to stay after I graduated, then I wanted to move for long enough to make it worth moving. In my late 20's, I felt like I'd already moved for the hell of it enough times: I left Minneapolis, where I'd grown up, and went to Bard, in upstate New York. I took a semester off of undergrad and went to Seattle, then back to Bard to finish my degree. After undergrad, moved to Portland, which I loved, except I was nannying, working as a barista, and writing grants for a non-profit. And I didn't have healthcare, much less time to write. I started looking for full-time work, which didn't exist in Portland at that time, for someone just out of college, with my (limited) skill set. So I started applying for jobs back in NYC, where many of my friends from college were, and suddenly I had five job interviews lined up. So I went for it. I was in NYC for nearly two years before I went for the MFA.

3. I ended up at Syracuse University. I was miserable in a lot of ways:
  • I was dealing with some huge medical shit, having just been diagnosed with a brain tumor my neurosurgeon said had probably been there since I was in utero. I had no symptoms and he decided to leave it alone. I had surgery the following summer since as he pointed out, I was in graduate school and had the time. I went through radiation that summer and played a lot of Scrabble with my Brooklyn roommate Laurice.
  • I was also miserable because I knew I didn't really want to get an MFA, but I didn't know what the hell else to do.
So I spent three years in Syracuse, NY, and when I got out of school, I realized I wanted to be a middle school/high school English teacher. Teaching in local schools in Syracuse, pushing in to the regular classes and working in after school and summer programs, was one of the best things I got to do in grad school. I taught with some awesome people in my MFA program who I wouldn't have gotten to know so well otherwise (poets, no less!), who are probably the closest friends  I took out of that experience (Micha and Gerry, I'm talking about you!).

4. After I got my MFA, I moved back to Brooklyn and became a teacher. After three years of teaching in NYC, I was able to get a teaching job in Portland, and I moved back here and have been happy here every since.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Janelle Monee is so cool

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Leaving Church, by Barbara Brown Taylor

My friend Micha wrote about this book on her fabulous blog (I couldn't find the link to the exact entry--but here's a general link). I got it out of the library, curious, but not sure I'd read it--I thought maybe I'd page through it, then take it back, unread. So not my kind of thing. Instead I sat down and read and read and read. And now I'm looking forward to reading Barbara Brown Taylor's other books.

About her experience becoming a priest in the Episcopalian Church, working in a large urban ministry in Atlanta, then finding a tiny parish in rural Georgia, where she was the only woman priest in any denomination. Then leaving that parish--leaving the ministry completely, to figure out her own spirituality outside the church.

I was raised Catholic, and for the past couple of years I've been meditating at a Zen temple near my home. So I know something about Christianity, and considerably less about Buddhism, but I've been learning. Never took a religion class in college or grad school, haven't read much on the subject, but it does fascinate me.

I liked this book a lot. Lots to think about. Religion definitely fascinates me--though in a distant, removed way.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama by Alison Bechdel

I read Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel, several years ago, and really liked it. I've also read many of the "Dykes to Watch Out For" comics over the years.

So, Fun Home was her memoir about her father--his death, apparently a suicide, though apparently catalogued by the police as an accident. But she and her family seem clearly to view it as a suicide.

Anyway, I liked Fun Home a lot. This book, essentially a memoir about her mother, I didn't like as much. There's not the same cohesive story there, and though it's been several years since I read Fun Home, this book just didn't feel nearly as compelling.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Tenth of December, by George Saunders

I just finished George Saunders' new book of stories, Tenth of December--released on January 8, 2013.

According to an awesome profile in the New York Times Magazine ( ), George Saunders has written the best book you'll read this year.

I did love it. My favorite book of his since 2000's Pastoralia. I'm already looking forward to reading it again.

I don't know what more to say about it. Thoughtful, bizarre stories that show Saunders' sense of humor, thoughtful worldview, and are fabulously weird and not weird, both.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Monsters of Templeton & Delicate Edible Birds by Lauren Groff

After finishing Arcadia, I had to read Lauren Groff's other books: her first novel, The Monsters of Templeton, and a collection of stories, Delicate Edible Birds. Arcadia was the best, feels the most fleshed out and thorough--The Monsters of Templeton was great, but felt very first novel-y in places, and some of the stories were really strong (Groff spans such a wide range of time in both Templeton and the stories--it's a lot of fun), but again, there were a lot of spots in the stories that felt very young too. Especially after Arcadia, I'm excited to watch Groff mature and grow as a writer.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Arcadia, by Lauren Groff

This is another book I put on hold at the library because it was on lots of end-of-year lists, talked up by writers I like. As has been my M.O. lately with the end-of-year lists book, I figured I'd get it from the library, look it over, and maybe read it.

I was totally engrossed from the moment I saw the cover, okay? I started reading and couldn't stop, finished it relatively quickly (though it turned out to be surprisingly dense going!), then put Groff's other two books on hold. Reading The Monsters of Templeton now, her first novel, and I'm not nearly as engrossed--but it does feel very first novel, maybe that's a lot of it. The other book, Delicate Edible Birds, is apparently a collection of stories connected to The Monsters of Templeton. We shall see. But she's a good writer, and I love her storytelling.

Arcadia is about a little boy who grows up in a commune in western New York, and the first part is his story told when he's five. Then it's his story when he's a young teenager, then it's his story after the commune falls apart, when he's older and living in NYC--it goes on from there. Bit, the boy, is a compelling main character, and his life is fascinating.

I've been feeling good about all the contemporary adult literature I've been reading. Good stuff.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Adoption (film)

I love the library for so many reasons, not least of which is the random movies I bring home off the shelf. Then, of course, I watch these random movies and have to return the ones I put on hold unwatched, because they have holds on them.

Tonight I watched Adoption, a Hungarian movie from 1975. Directed by Marta Meszaros, apparently an important and very prolific woman director, this was a great little movie, the story of a forty-three-year-old woman, Kata, who really wants a child, so decides she wants to bear her married lover's child.

There is another woman who is also central to the film--a girl (maybe 15 or 16) living in a local orphanage (state home?) who becomes close friends with Kata, moving in with her for a time.

I could tell the whole plot, or I could not. Anyway, that's a lot of it. I liked this movie so much. I'd suggest seeking it out.

The Suicide Index, by Joan Wickersham

I read another one of Wickersham's books recently--a great collection of stories, The News from Spain, that was on a bunch of the "best of the year" lists from 2012. I loved The News from Spain, and wanted to read more by her, but I didn't know if I could handle The Suicide Index: Putting My Father's Death in Order, though it sounded fascinating. But I put it on hold at the library, and figured I'd see how I felt about it when I picked it up.

This is Wickersham's memoir about losing her dad to suicide, I think when she's in her late 20s (though I don't think she ever actually says). It's written broken up into segments as an index, with headings such as "Suicide: factors that may have had direct or indirect bearing on: expensive good time" and "Suicide: day after: concern that he will be viewed differently now."

I did read it all. I couldn't stop. & those of you who know me, know that my own father killed himself when I was 19.

A lot of what she said rang so true. A lot of it didn't. Our fathers were different people, and we had different relationships with them, of course... like one idea she keeps returning to, is that "Suicide destroys memory . . . When you kill yourself, you're killing every memory everyone has of you. You're taking yourself away permanently and removing all traces that you were ever here in the first place, wiping away every fingerprint you ever left on anything." I don't agree with this, it's not how I feel about my dad. It's interesting to me--one thing (out of many) that I've been annoyed about over the years is that I never got to have an adult relationship with my dad. Okay, no conclusion to draw there. Just stating it.

I read this book quickly, urgently, finding things I vehemently agreed with and vehemently disagreed with. With sympathy for Wickersham, sympathy for myself, for both our losses and the ways we're still feeling them.

I'm glad she wrote it. Glad I read it. It's not the book I'd write, but I'm glad she did.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Illusion, by Pierre Corneile, Freely Adapted by Tony Kushner

I checked this out of the library a long time ago. I don't remember why--if someone recommended it, or it might've just been because I'm a long time Tony Kushner fan. So maybe I just heard about it somewhere and that was enough. I used to read a lot of plays, and lately I've gone through phases, especially of Anne Carson's translations. This is absolutely the kind of play I would've read in high school or college--maybe I even did read it at some point, though not this translation, which, according to the acknowledgements, "contains many scenes and many speeches which do not appear in the French original." Which confuses me--how is it the same play, then?

But I read it yesterday, and loved it. Nice to read a play again. And it's a great story--it would be fun to see a production of this.

Monstress, by Lysley Tenorio

I put too many books on hold that were on end-of-year lists. But I'm loving them. I don't read enough contemporary adult fiction--lots of YA, and a fair number of older books of adult fiction, but yeah. This collection of stories was great. Highly recommended. Tenorio is a Filipino-American writer, and these stories ranged from early 20th century, set in the Philippines, to very contemporary, set in the U.S., and everything between, often wandering. Really varying stories--lots of queers in them, lots of families, lots of relationships of all kinds: lovers, siblings, parent/child. I loved this book. You should all read it.