Thursday, June 24, 2010

realizations that you are, in fact, incredibly short

No. 1

When you have to open the car door and unbuckle your seat belt to reach the automated ticket machine at a parking lot. Not only that, but you may have to swing one leg out of the car and push against the toes of the other foot (firmly anchored on the brake pedal, please) before the ticket will finally, thankfully get devoured by the machine and you are free to go.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010



you've gone and stolen my
hidden it between the pages of a--cut--

you've got something of mine
slipped it from my
while I thought the day was fine
and I thought that you were kind
and I thought yourwas mine
and I missed out
on all the signs


don't go stealing things
you might not want
you might not need

don't go stealing
with ends you might not want to read

just keep stealing hearts.
just keep stealingoh.
just keep stealing hearts.

so I can give mine away.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

4' 33''

Sybil's Garage asks authors to suggest a "musical accompaniment" to go with their story. For a moment, I thought about choosing 4'33'' by John Cage. Four thirty-three is a three movement score that instructs the musicians to not play their instrument for the duration of the piece.

(The Wikipedia article is actually pretty great.)

I was thinking about it as a joke, one with some seriously pretentious flavors, but then I realized that telling someone that the best accompaniment to your story is the choice of doing nothing else doesn't just taste of pretension... It positively roars with it. Of course you want your story to flood their eyes, overwhelm their nose, saturate their skin, and batter its way down their ears and throats...You want it to momentarily obliterate everything except the world it contains. But to actually imply that it does... That's just more confidence than I've got.

(If you're curious, I chose the Chaconne from the Partita no. 2 in D minor for solo violin by Mr. Awesomeness Incarnate, J. S. Bach. It's one of my favorite pieces of music in all the world, going forwards and back.)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

may reading

White Cat
by: Holly Black

This is a young adult novel. It's fun and dark and a little disturbing. It's easily consumable, quickly downed, and manages that tricky bit of making me interested enough in the characters so that I don't care so much what happens, just as long as I know what happens to them.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
by: Rebbecca Skloot

One of the best books I've read in a year. It uses a scientific development (growing human cells in culture and establishing the HeLa cell line) to open up a period of history, the story of a family, and a whole mess of ethics that I had never even thought about before. This book made me say, "really?" and "I can't believe that actually happened" and "people are amazing" and "people are awful" and "I am so freaking lucky to be living in a world where this kind of thing is real, and where someone will tell the whole mucky, awesome story of it."

And how else would I have found my new favorite podcast, This Week in Virology?

The Great Divorce
by: C. S. Lewis

I am not religious. I have never been able to believe in God, or gods, with any sort of conviction. I don't think this is a failure of imagination, or a failure of any kind, really. Maybe it's a function of upbringing. In any case, I am not a believer.

C. S. Lewis was a believer. He had his faith and he told stories about it -- interesting, extremely well-written stories that positively burst with a restless, inquiring conviction. That sounds like a contradiction, but when I read Lewis, I feel like here is a mind that believes and still has to wrestle through the proofs. He doesn't convince me, but he makes me think and I enjoy arguing with him in my head.

The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents
by: Terry Pratchett

Read this one for my kids' book club. This is probably the third time I've read it, though the last two were some years ago. It's a great book, a clever, inside-out and upside-down version of the Pied Piper. It goes places that are nasty and unpleasant, but only because that's the way an honest story goes, and underneath there's this intelligence and humor and iron-clad belief that people can surprise you with their capacity for being ridiculously wonderful, despite everything.

The Cardturner
by: Louis Sachar

Wonderful book. It makes bridge exciting. Sachar even plays with the conceit of marking the "boring" bridge bits with whale symbols (think Moby Dick) so you can skip them, but every time I got to a whale symbol, all I thought was, oh no you don't, you're not making me skip a word. It's a story about figuring out that you love somebody, and it puts in all the expected bits -- the awkward, embarrassing, thrilling parts -- as well as all the bits that are unexpected but immediately recognizable as true.

edited by: Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio

This book makes me happy. First of all, my friend, the lovely Kat Howard, has her first published story in here. Then there's the fact that Neil Gaiman, who is also lovely, is one of the editors. Then there's the whole concept that the book is built on, which is that it is simply a collection of literature of the imagination by people who are very, very good at telling stories.

I never like all the stories in an anthology. I don't think you can. It's very tiring to jump from one world and one mind to another, and there's just no way that you can like all of them equally. But the sheer variety and energy of the entire table of contents made me want to cheer. There was so much obvious delight in the wide open field that appears when the constraints of ordinary reality are taken off. The only rule seems to be the belief that stories matter, and that is incredibly refreshing.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

do not mix

Beware of mixing the following items:

1. Lectures on how the herpes viruses go latent in neurons.

2. A story by Gene Wolfe about alien birds that invade human bodies.

I had dreams about infinitesimal chicken pox birds nesting in my nervous system. It was not nice.

On the other hand, if you want to read a totally awesome and amazing story that may still give you uncomfortable dreams, may I suggest Roddy Doyle's "Blood"?