Uncategorized

The Hatred of Poetry by Ben Lerner

For me, this book was an eighty-six page epiphany.  Ben Lerner argues, “Many more people agree they hate poetry than can agree what poetry is.”  I would never be capable of explicitly defining poetry.  Before the book I would have said I liked poetry.  Now I feel that I don’t really know what poetry is and the little exposure I have to it has been unchallenging.

When I read a book I use my little note card system.  I just take a 3×5 and jot down things to look up, items that interest me and sometimes quotes I love.  Then I use it as a bookmark.  This slim little book’s notecard is covered in things I had never heard of, people to research and mind blowing new ideas.  I was delighted to find someone else’s little list tucked into the back of this library book.

IMG_1356

 

Of all the things written on the front and back of the notecard there were two items that will stick with me forever.  One is Emily Dickinson’s envelope writings.  I had, obviously, heard of Dickinson.  I was completely unfamiliar with her envelopes.  Now, I am obsessed.  I love the way each one is its own little unique piece.

Emily-Dickinson-envelope-poem-1

The second is the idea that Plato felt poetry was so detrimental to society that it should be suppressed.  The author quotes Olinde Rodrigues, “‘the power of the arts is…the most immediate and fastest way’ to achieve sociopolitical reform.'”  Visual arts and music are consumed more by the mainstream.  Perhaps this is why, as the author highlights, every few years they is a cry that poetry is dead.

I do not want poetry to die.  I want to be part of the struggle.  I will still always love Shel Silverstein, Robert Frost and Walt Whitman.  But I am looking forward to challenging myself until perhaps I too will decry “I hate poetry!” Not because I don’t understand it but because I have seen the possibilities and felt the limitations and embraced the frustration.

fiction

Fangirl and Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

I like the way Rainbow Rowell describes her work on her website.  “…She always writes about people who talk a lot.  And people who feel like they are screwing up.  And people falling in love.”  This is such an apt and lovely description of her work that I feel I could not do any better.  She writes for a variety of audiences but she mostly definitely is targeting those of us who feel we just might not quite fit in.  Which, realistically, could be any human being who isn’t a raging narcissist.

Fangirl had me in a total friend crush with the main character.  Cather, or Cath, is in her first year of college.  While trying to balance all the things that are new to a college freshman she is also dealing with her twin sister’s desire to be separate units and worrying about her Dad who is all alone.  And a boy.  Of course there is a boy.

Cath has been obsessed with the novels of Simon Snow (think Harry Potter) since she was a little girl.  Her twin sister Wren has outgrown Simon and is attempting to outgrow Cath.  But Cath continues to return to the magical world by writing very popular fan fiction.  When I wasn’t busy identifying with Cath and cheering on her attempts to find her way, I became totally intrigued by the world of Simon Snow.  I was even sad to find that the Snow books were invented by Rowell and I couldn’t read them.

 

I should not have worried!  Rowell took her imaginary series and wrote a whole book about Simon Snow and his room mate Baz and their wizarding world.  Hello Carry On and thank you Rainbow Rowell!  Carry On is everything I imagined that Cath would write in a full length wonderful story that highlights the tense frenemies situation of Simon and his roommate Baz and their hidden longstanding romantic love for each other.  And, (slow clap here) at the genius that is Rowell.

Carry On comes out in paperback on May 9th.  That should give everything time to read Fangirl and fall in love with Cath before picking up a copy and watching to see if Simon and Baz fall in love.

Author Profile

Author Obsession: Sophie Kinsella

I have long felt that Sophie Kinsella understands the many beautiful shades of gray that women can occupy.  Women are not all the same, our experiences are not identical and certainly, our reactions to life will not be carbon copies of each other.  Regardless of whether I personally identify with a character, Kinsella writes female protagonists I feel like I know. In turn, these women experience stories that ring true all with a heavy dose of humor and, often, a lovely added romantic element.

I started, as many people do, with The Confessions of a Shopaholic.  Kinsella has experienced great success with this series.  As of now there are ten books in the Shopaholic section of Kinsella’s published shelf.  I enjoyed these books.  I liked Becky even though it was hard to watch her make the same mistake over and over again.  And I do know people like Becky.  Sometimes, I am like Becky!  I call it “retail therapy” and I think everyone does it.  Unfortunately, the success of these books has created a little pigeonhole.  Some people who read the Shopaholic and did not enjoy it went no further with this author.

That is a shame.  Before she was the commercial success she is now she published seven books under her real name, Madeliene Wickham.  Now, these were enjoyable books but my real author obsession stems from the eight non-Shopaholic books she has published as Sophie Kinsella.

When I say that I adore a book I mean:

(1) I own a hardcopy (if the copy wears out I will buy another copy).  I need full-time access.

(2) I have read it more than once all the way through.

Of the above Kinsella books I adored Twenties Girl and The Undomesticated Goddess most of all.

When I say that I love a book I mean:

(1) I have a copy, probably on my Kindle

(2) I read excerpts from it just to revisit moments in the story.

I loved Can You Keep a Secret and I’ve Got Your Number.

I have not yet read Finding Audrey.  It is Kinsella’s first Young Adult publication, which is probably how I missed it.  I will rectify that immediately!

Now, there was nothing wrong with either Remember Me or Wedding Night.  I read them both and enjoyed them tremendously.  I recommend them!  However, when I run into a Sophie Kinsella book I must admit that I do not give these two hugs.

Her latest book My (not so) Perfect Life goes straight into the adore category.  I was lucky enough to grab this one off the new books display of my local library and it is going straight on my to-be-owned list.

mynotsoperfectlifeThis book is the story of Katie Brenner at the beginning of adulthood and all the mistakes we make when we use social media as a litmus test for life.  The jacket describes this book as “Part love story, part workplace drama…” but I disagree.  Yes, there is a romantic angle but I don’t know if it took up even twenty percent of the total story.  Instead, I felt that this book was truly a butterfly story – we got to see Katie look back on herself, reaccess herself and take steps into her future self.

Katie, like many people today, spends a great deal of time cultivating a social media image that portrays her life as the glamorous Londoner she longs to become.  At no point did I think she did this with any acrimony.  In fact, even when she is posting pictures of other people’s hot chocolates while eating another round of butternut stew it never occurs to her that other people’s Instagram feed might not be the whole story.

One of my favorite quotes from the book is when she meets a man in the elevator and proceeds to speak to him like she would anyone else.  Only later does she learn he is her superior and, upon Googling him for hours, finds out that he is a big deal.  Her take?  “This is the trouble with meeting people in real life: They don’t come with profiles attached.”

I love this!  When social media comes into the picture so many of us stop acting like normal people.  We think we know someone from their Instagram feed or their Facebook page.  Then, we change how we think and behave based on those preconceived notions.  It is like we are all minor celebrities trying to live up to or explain our online image.

One thing that Katie talked about extensively is her West Country accent and upbringing.  I must admit that I almost always read these books with a standard English accent.  So, I felt like I was missing out a bit on the real Katie.  I did a bit of digging (6-7 minutes on youtube) and found Anna from English like a Native who is a self-proclaimed British / English pro.  She has some great videos on the different British accents and I quite enjoyed her video on the West Country accent.  I felt quite sorry for my family though because Anna makes me feel like I could finally conquer that Cockney accent.

 

 

 

 

fiction

Echo by Pam Muniz Ryan

I was very fortunate to be raised in a home rich with music.  So, I have always believed that music (and books, obviously) are a means of escape and adventure.  Music can transport you, encourage you and instantly change your mood.  So, when I saw the blurb for Echo I knew I wanted to read it.  After all, “..a prophesy, a promise and a harmonica…” is just too cryptic and wonderful to not read more.Echo

Echo tells the story of three children struggling through some of the most difficult moments in modern history.  The rise of Hitler’s Germany, the Great Depression and segregation in America are all experienced through the eyes of these young and brave kids.  It is the harmonica – an immensely popular instrument in its own time – that provides a means of escape for the each of them.

There is no real way to describe the book without spoiling the story.  I almost think it is better to read Pam Munoz Ryan’s version of how she stumbled upon the story idea.  I do, however, feel confident in recommending it.  Echo is beautifully written and when I see a copy I always feel the overwhelming need to hug it.