Showing posts from July, 2010

What I almost read...

Where did this summer go??? The truth is, this summer went to parties and lots of time healing from an injury, to worrying but also to relaxing and grilling, and of course to movies and books. Books. Thing is, as I gear up for vacation, I recognize how close we are to summer's end. I'm just not gonna finish all the books. Enormous frown. So here are several that look interesting, and for which the bits I've read have been tantatlizing: The Maiden King: The Reunion of Masculine and Feminine by Robert Bly and Marion Woodman This book opens with the long and winding Russian legend of The Maiden King, which reminds me to some degree of East of the Sun, West of the Moon, except weirder. It opens with stepmother incest, when a stepmother falls in love with and begins manipulating her beautiful stepson. He's young, he's weak, and he falls for all of it. Fortunately, he runs into the titular Maiden King, who rescues him in a series of highly symbolic and image

a few more quotes from Goldberg

On meeting more of yourself , which entails doing anything for more than the short time of the first love-affair with the new. Natalie describes her returning students: "The love affair with writing was over. They were taking it more seriously. All their resistances had come up. That afternoon I explained to them: 'Last year, when you came it was all new. Writing practice was a joy. You discovered you could write, you recovered old memories. This year, you want writing more, you have expectations, you suffer. It's okay, just keep doing it. You're meeting more of yourself.'" (p. 147) A lovely metaphor for how we are interconnected, interdependent: "Whether we know it or not, we transmit the presence of everyone we have ever known, as though by being in each other's presence we exchange our cells, pass on some of our life force, and then we go on carrying that other person in our body, not unlike springtime when certain plants in fields we walk

Long Quiet Highway by Natalie Goldberg

"'Meetings end in departures....' No matter how long the meeting or what the relationship, we depart from each other." (p. 179) Goldberg is most famous for writing about writing in Writing Down the Bones , and her words are so poetic that, no doubt, this post will be full of quotes. Long Quiet Highway is the story of her life, a kind of Zen memoir, where you have to keep reading to see the sense in what she's writing, and even then not everything connects as it does in more conventional writing. Last time I picked this up, I read only to a section about a rainy Sunday feeling on a train, which floored me. What I saw then was the concept of surrendering to whatever is the case, whether it's noise or silence, bustle or isolation. Now I see more of what she was saying: "I was excited. I had physically experienced what the Tibetans talked about, the transformation from neurosis to wisdom. I sat in the train and watched my letting go, my opening into a

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

I was told. I was told to read this by folks in the last iteration of the fantasy class. It came up on multiple bibliographies. Ben said it too. Finally, I read it, and I sit here (having to go to a reception in 15 mins) in quiet awe. This is a great book, and though I can't add it to the reading list for this fall, I've just added it to the list for next year's iteration of Fantasy Literature and Media for Youth. What can I say. A near-future version of San Francisco is hit by a terrorist attack, and Marcus and his 3 closest friends are in the wrong place at the wrong time. They are taken and held for questioning by the Department of National Security (DNS), and Marcus's friend Daryll disappears. It's a dizzying start, but it's only the beginning. Marcus gets out after being threatened that he's being watched. Everything, meaning everything, he does is being tracked. He hacks a free X-box machine, a promotional give-away, to run ParanoidLinux, a

Zahrah the Windseeker

Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu is the author of this fantasy novel about Zahrah, a girl who is born dada. Meaning she has plants growing in her dreadlocks, or at least that's what it appears to mean, at first. But strange things start happening to the shy Zahrah, among them that she begins to be able to fly by controlling the air around her, and it becomes clear that the real meaning of being dada has been lost. Okorafor-Mbachu creates an engaging fantasy world, where humans have shunned the Jungle in favor of their "culture," a culture that involves bending many kinds of plants to their own technological purposes. Zahrah only really comes out of her shell when her best friend Dari is bitten by a snake. Then she realizes that she has to go into the jungle, alone, and face down its most ferocious beast in order to save her friend's life. It's a good read, and one that would work well alongside Farmer's The Ear, The Eye, and The Arm . The world it portrays is inter


Ever since Speak , Laurie Halse Anderson has garnered a well-deserved reputation for tackling traumatic emotional topics. Wintergirls follows in that vein of her writing (as opposed to her historical fiction). It starts as Lia learns that her former-best-friend of over nine years has died, alone, in a motel room. It's unclear exactly what has happened, and since Cassie dumped Lia nine months before, Lia is at first unsure what she wants to know. Lia has problems of her own, as an anorexic who is embattled with her own body, and it slowly becomes clear that part of what drew the girls together were their eating disorders. Cassie died of her bullemia, and Lia seems to be dying of her anorexia and the hallucinations that are either part of another mental illness or a result of her loss of brain tissue. When Lia realizes that Cassie called her 33 times the night that she died, the hauntings become much worse. Uplifting stuff! Okay, not. The ending is hopeful, in that Lia begin

Alice in Wonderland

but not the book. The movie. The Tim Burton production, to be exact. This is not a movie of the book at all, but an imagined extension of the book, if Alice had come back to Wonderland at 20 instead of only once at 7. As such, its main similarities are in the use of characters that resemble those in the original Tenniel illustrations. Johnny Depp features prominently, if almost unrecognizably in digitally-altered form, as the Mad Hatter. Aside from a rather long middle section where the Hatter gives a bit too much backstory on why the Red Queen is bad, the movie is an enjoyable romp-turned-quest. Though the words from Jabberwocky also feature prominently, gone is all of Carroll's logic games, puzzles, trickery. Alice instead takes on the hero's role; her quest foretold in a scroll and carried out when she dons armor and picks up the vorple sword. All in all, it's a fun DVD to watch. But that's not really what I wanted to blog about. What strikes me is that, ov

teen and middle school realism

Best Foot Forward by Joan Bauer Bauer's serious-yet-bouncy writing has a style that suits summer. Most of the time. But this sequel to the acclaimed Rules of the Road is just a sequel. Bauer sadly rewarms the plot from the last half of the earlier book, pitting Mrs. Gladstone and her honorable shoe sales team against the corporate mega-giant takeover, engineered by, again, her son. So the crime, criminal, and motive are all familiar. New aspects such as criminal-turned-salesman Tanner and Jenna's budding romance are underplayed, and Bauer's stalwart belief that anyone can be reformed is unconvincing. Sadly, though I've adored Bauer's work and hope to again, I'd say pass on this one. Just re-read Rules of the Road and you'll be happier. The Kind of Friends We Used to Be by Frances O'Roark This, however, is stunning. Gleaned from the BCCB Blue Ribbons list, O'Roark's novel deftly handles the aftermath of two seventh-grade former best frie