Literary Journal Monday – Mapping My Mind

March 10, 2014 at 10:14 pm (In So Many Words, Reviews, The Whim) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I am not ADD, but my mind is often many places at once. It goes and goes… it races… it is unstoppable.

hungerI’ve been reading Hunger by Michael Grant.  It’s one of my niece’s books – the second in a series she introduced me to.  No, that’s not how I want to start this post – is it?

I was craving a little bit of dystopian society literature after reading Herodotus.  My brain spinning in a circular momentum about democracies, oligarchies, and dictatorships.  Darius and then Xerxes tyrading around ancient lands building the Persian Empire.  A thousand utopian and dystopian variations of all societies throughout history – a million possible outcomes for our modern world – twisting about in my mind.  Conveniently, it was at this moment that a trailer for the movie Divergent came on and I thought, “It’s about time I read Veronica Roth.”

Cue discussion of autism I’ve been having on and off with people since reading Not Even Wrong written by Paul Collins. Collins is an amazing author and obscure historian. Still suffering from story hangovers from Divergent and the movie Tonight You’re Mine (all about instantaneous human connections) – I found myself thinking about my niece’s Gone series.

Set in a town in California, all the kids fifteen and under have been left in a supernatural bubble – all adults over puberty have vanished, leaving kids and babies to fend for themselves and create a new government. Not unlike Lord of the Flies, different factions have formed. One is under the leadership of Sam Temple, another under his half brother Caine (the biblical implications of Caine and Abel not to be lost on readers, of course). Sam and his new girlfriend, Astrid, are two of the oldest left behind. They have formed a parental union for the younger kids, caring for all the helpless, including Astrid’s autistic brother.

Like bumper pool – or pinball, if you missed out on the bumper pool phenomena – the synapses in my brain spark and twitch and leap bringing me back to Paul Collins/Not Even Wrong/ McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern. Then, I find myself thinking, “Goodness, it’s Literary Journal Monday.

tonight you're mineTonight You’re Mine still echoing in my gut (I’m pretty sure I love that movie far more than what is considered healthy or normal), I veer toward the London Magazine when selecting my Literary Journal Monday feature. (Tonight You’re Mine is set in Scotland – not England, but for an American like me, it is the closest I can get in Literary Journals once I mentally cross the pond.)

London Magazine February/March 1981 Vol. 20 Nos. 11 &12

The Private Letters of Tennessee Williams and a piece on Gore Vidal catch my eye. I flip through the first few ads, the table of contents, then stop dead on a heading: FINAL REMINDER.

“If we are to survive the next issue we need 1,000 new subscribers or their equivalent, and we need them immediately […]”

P1010303My reading screeches to a halt and I turn to the shelf. Were there more? Did they have to cancel the magazine? Did they get their 1,000 readers? Ah, sigh, they survived. At least until 1989 where the collection at the bookstore stops. So clearly, they got their 1,000. I wonder who these 1,000 were and if this final reminder is what provoked them to officially subscribe. Or were they friends and family of existing subscribers, terrified their favorite magazine would cease to exist if they didn’t recruit others to love what they loved?

My thoughts have veered so far off track that I forget what I was reading altogether. I flip through the journal in my hand trying to grasp the reason I had sat down to look at this in the first place.

It’s March. St. Patty’s Day is coming up. Irish authors keep popping in and out of my mind. Ireland… Scotland… Tonight You’re Mine… music… poetry… Derek Mahon, an Irish poet’s name blinks at me from the page of the literary journal in my hand. Literary Journal Monday, of course. I read the poem “The Elephants” first. I love elephants. Then my eyes skip over to “April in Moscow” and I read “Spring burst into our houses…” It does, doesn’t it? Just bursts right in and none too soon. At the end of the poems there is an ad for the Poetry Society Bookshop at 21 Earls Court Square in London. I wonder if it is still there.

If they do still exist, I bet they have a copy of Lang Leav’s Love & Misadventure. I’m dying for a copy. Leav has been speaking to my soul lately. Misadventures stuck in the cogs of the mind of a woman turned 30.

A line from Grant’s book swings into full view of my mind’s eye:

“He buried his face in her hair. She could feel his breath on her neck, tickling her ear. She enjoyed the feel of his body against hers. Enjoyed the fact that he needed to hold her. But there was nothing romantic about this embrace.” – pg. 21

There rarely is when a hug is really needed. It’s that moment Leav writes about…

When words run dry,
he does not try,
nor do I.

We are on par.

He just is,
I just am
and we just are.

– Lang Leav

The lack of selfishness between the characters at this point is refreshing in fiction and real life.

In a 2014 American Society of infantile adults who never learned to fend for themselves and work hard without constant praise, we are fascinated by literature and movies where children and teens are forced to grow up overnight and be adults.

It’s sad when the idea of fifteen-year-olds co-leading a community and making wise, unselfish decisions for themselves and each other sounds absurd and fictional. My associative mind leaps back to all the ancient history I’ve been studying, back to the likes of King Tut – pharaoh at age nine – dead by nineteen, married somewhere in between.

We believe in responsible marriages like the Romans, but we chase telepathic connections like the Greeks. What a very convoluted and contradictory way to live – the reality of a dystopian society is that every society is a dystopia – even a society of one. Our minds are everywhere and nowhere. Of course we are in conflict.

I suppose you Literary Journal Monday followers got a little more than you wanted. I bit off more than I could chew today. I attempted to map my own mind and identify all the associations and patterns, leaving myself somewhat exhausted from chasing whimsies.

At least I got to spend a few stolen moments in this room…

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It All Started With an Upskirt Photo

March 7, 2014 at 4:41 pm (The Whim) (, , , , , , )

Maybe I read too much dystopian fiction. Maybe I was a little too brainwashed by my very paranoid grandfather as a child. Maybe it’s a reasonable theory… maybe it’s not. Either way, as soon as I read the news about the man who got off the hook after taking an upskirt photo, a story idea presented itself:

It all started with an upskirt photo. A man on a subway sneaked a picture of a girl’s panties under her skirt and got away with it. The media went wild, the girl was indignant, the government smiled.

You see, it perpetuated a ball that had been rolling for decades. The government already had their talons in the news room, swaying stories in their favor here and there. But now – in the name of privacy and public safety – the right to take pictures on subways would be eliminated. In the name of protecting innocent bystanders from having their ‘public privacy’ violated – of course – the government gained more control.

From no camera subways came no camera buses. Then planes. No photographs could be taken by a non-government official or civil servant anywhere where fifty or more gathered.

Suddenly government didn’t just control how a story was told and which stories were the most important, they could eliminate the ability to tell a story at all. Bloggers and documentarians could no longer cover protests that major media groups were not covering. No visual documentation could be made against the wrongs of any government official. It evolved from having no fight against police brutality or civil servants on power to trips to far worse things. The police and military could be sent somewhere at any time to detain or massacre anyone at any time without fear it would be captured on film and shared via social media. In a time of technology and the globalized internet, the government brought the sharing of information and relevant news back to the 1700s.

The worst part was, the people asked for it.

In the name of safety – and privacy – of course.

Maybe that’s a far fetched story premise. Maybe I should branch out and write some dystopian fiction.  Maybe not. Maybe we should watch very carefully how this legal situation is handled.

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A Little Bit of Fad Reading

March 5, 2014 at 5:12 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

divergentTitle: Divergent

Author: Veronica Roth

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (An Imprint of HarperCollins)

Length: 487 pages

So I finally took that leap onto the [fad] train.

When I worked full time in the bookstore, chatting with customers, recommending books in person, I would have read this as soon as it was a thing for the sole purpose of finding something on the shelves that was similar when we were out of stock.  It was published in 2011, the year I left.  That last year was also one spent handling more inventory and displays as the store’s SIM than handling people and their whims and desires in the book world.   So though I was vaguely familiar with the title I totally missed the need to devour this title in a day and come back with a list of titles to hold over disappointed customers until we could get this one in their hands.

Somewhere along the road in my stay-at-home-mom life I discovered Hunger Games, and fell in love.  Though part of a huge fad, Hunger Games was no Twilight Saga or Vampire Diaries series.  Hunger Games was epic and beautiful and insanely well written.

So when I saw the preview for the movie Divergent, I thought, ‘What the heck? Let’s see if it will surprise me too.’

Color me surprised – again!  I really liked this one.  I read it in one day – nearly one sitting.  It tends to be easy to do that with contemporary young adult novels, no matter how long they are.

I found Hunger Games more moving, but I was able to relate more to the main character of Divergent more.  I’m nervous to see how they portray her in the movie, the book version is a person I feel very in tune to.  Katniss Everdean is someone I admire and look up to as a literary character, but whom I share very few similarities.  Tris’s story feels as though Roth dropped my mind into her version of dystopia.  Tris feels how I feel and tends to react in ways I am known to react.  (So far anyway.) Many of her fears were my fears at 16, actually I can’t think of one that is different.

For that it was incredibly enjoyable and easy to get into, and despite this being completely entertaining fluff fiction, I consider the hours spent reading it time well spent.

I’m interested to see how the  rest of the books go (it’s a series), as well as the movie adaptation in theaters this month.  Although I’m a little nervous that it might be too easy to amp up the cheese factor for the big screen – but I guess I’ll have to take a flying leap onto that fad train as well or I’ll never find out.

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A Homeschool Mom Meets Seed Savers

November 14, 2013 at 4:02 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

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The thing about homeschooling – the awesome thing – is that plans are made, expectations logged, and as a parent you do a lot of letting go of both of those things as your child sort of takes over.

I personally planned on going full force into the alphabet and phonics, drill numbers and be sure my three year old was the smartest on the block.  At age two she already knew all the states on the U.S. map south of the Mason Dixon line.

Kiddo, God, and the universe, had other plans.  And I like them.

With the help of S. Smith’s Seed Savers series, some extreme budgeting issues (I’ve been the poorest person I know for the last twelve months), and Merriweather’s fabulous foraging site (see the links on the right), we’ve pretty much spent our ‘school days’ in the woods.

It all started many, many moons ago (as I like to say to my kiddo when telling stories)… somehow I was lucky enough to receive a copy of Seed Savers: Treasure from S. Smith by mail.  I remember reading some of it out loud, but then giving up and devouring it all alone.  I gave up because I wanted to read it faster, I wanted it all to myself, not because Kiddo was anything but cooperative.

P1000450What resulted is a long standing admiration for S. Smith, requests for her to participate in Earth Day 2013 (which she graciously accepted from 3000 miles away) and taking Kiddo to said Earth Day celebration.  Before Seed Savers, I was already on a mission to be more self-sufficient and have my own garden, but Seed Savers really solidified that need in my heart.  Instead of *wanting* to do it, I got my butt in gear and did it.  This shift in my mentality eased over into the preferences of my daughter.

She loved the Earth Day celebration.  She got to plant seeds with volunteers from the Mercer Arboretum.  She got to watch me raffle off S. Smith’s first two books (Treasure & Lily), and it was all over – these Fall plans I had noted during my pregnancy were half out the window.  Without hearing the entire Seed Savers story, Kiddo fell in love with seeds.  S. Smith’s words are so powerful they radiate into every aspect of our house just by sitting on the shelf.

We have seen and read The Lorax more times than I can count.  On her third birthday her great-grandmother gave her spending money and she spent it at Good Books in the Woods on two Cat in the Hat Learning Library books.  One is on Rainforests and the other on Seed Planting.

P1000435We spend our days looking for birds on the trails, foraging for produce, growing our own bell peppers and okra, and now reading Heirloom as we tromp through the woods.

However, you don’t have to be a mom, a conservative, a homeschooler, a toddler, or a hippie to enjoy the Seed Savers Series.  Seed Savers, including the latest – Heirloom – is full of courageous characters, a rich adventure, and exciting philosophical food for thought.

What started out as a really unique young adult dystopian society concept on Smith’s part, has evolved into something more than we initially bargained for.  The story is more complex than I anticipated. The effect on our lives has more reach.  Smith has matured as a writer along with the growth of her characters.  I’m a little disappointed that the stories will, at some point, come to an end…

If you don’t believe me, find out for yourself.

Purchase the Seed Savers Series from Amazon

Visit the Author’s Website: http://authorssmith.com

Go Like Her on Facebook: http://facebook.com/AuthorSSmith

Follow S. Smith on Twitter: http://twitter.com/AuthorSSmith

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