A Summer of Reading — The End

I made a Goodreads goal to read 25 books this year, which I thought would be hard, and then I had a three-month period of unemployment and just happened to be at the coast of California in the middle of it. It’s easy to go through a book or two a week when you spend a few hours at the beach every day. A few of these books were life-changers: Both Autobiography of Red and the sequel, Red> Doc by Anne Carson, Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain, Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay and Americanah Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche all left their marks on me. Here’s my last list from the summer:

41k5j66k4pL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Longbourn by Jo Baker — I’m a not-so-secret geek for anything Jane Austen whose canonical Pride and Prejudice I  read at least once a year every year since I first read it as a teenager. One of the best presents I’ve ever received was a DVD copy of the BBC version of P&P, a gift I’d eventually have to replace from overuse. All this to say fanfiction of Austen usually does nothing for me, because no one can even touch Austen in her understanding of the times she wrote in. Or so I thought. I picked up Longbourn because it was sitting on an endcap at the library. I started reading it because it was the last in my pile, but it turned out to be the best of the lot. Baker has serious guts. She makes few decisions that made my eyebrows climb up to join my hairline. Does she pull it off? I think she does, largely because she doesn’t focus on the players we know, but the ones we don’t know. And I think she knows that most fans have theories about all kinds of plot points, which she explaores. Genius. P.S. A movie is due out next year. I’ll be there with bells on. Continue reading

Risk

To be sure, I was speeding. There’s no grey area on this point.  Imagine I left a chemtrail in the wake of my Dodge Caliber, bright white in the early morning, but there was no one else on the road to see it. The speed limit was 50 mph, which I took for a suggestion on that particular stretch of highway so flat and straight that accidents had to be caused by sheer boredom. It was almost 5 am, just thirty minutes into what would be an 18 hour day of driving. Maybe, it was the knowledge of how much further I had to go, maybe it was the residual emotions of the day before when I’d left my boyfriend of two years in Phoenix, or maybe I just didn’t care that I was speeding, exactly five miles over the speed limit. It was a calculated risk.

So when the blue, white and red lights started behind me, it took  a moment to process. It was 5 am. It was dark. Continue reading

Idle Hands — Indeed

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Remember this guy?

Do you remember Devon Sawa? Of Final Destination and Idle Hands fame? Or even younger, as the boy ghost, Casper? I was thinking about him last night. Not that way. Maybe a little. But mostly I was remembering how much he used to mean to me. I thought he’d slipped completely into obscurity like Josh Harnett (another teen crush of mine), but no! According to IMDB, both of them are still acting, but I hadn’t heard of any of the shows or movies listed. It got me thinking about what makes a lasting teen star or any star? Who are we still watching years after we put their pictures on our bedroom walls? Who is still making our hearts race with spreading crows feet in the corners of their eyes? A good example is Leonardo DiCaprio, though I’m one of those people who has never seen What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? — yeah, yeah, calm down. But Leo is obviously talented, despite the Oscar snubs. I mean I love love love him in Inception and hate him in equal measure in Django Unchained. Not many people can pull that off. So talent is a factor, but what else?

My Boyfriend is My Roommate is My Boyfriend

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  • I’m a slob who was raised in the household of a clean freak.  I learned to keep my mess to my room, a trend that would follow me through college — when I had only a side of a room — to my first apartment where only the rooms that guests would see were consistently clean.
  • My boyfriend is my roommate in the most explicit terms. We share a room, a bed, and sometimes, a blanket.
  • Since he’s the one working right now, I’ve commandeered our home as my domain.
  • I have an unofficial cleaning schedule that harks back to teenage years in my mother’s home: Saturday morning, the bathroom gets a good cleaning, and the laundry is done. Sunday is for grocery shopping. Vacuum as needed, and not needed. Chase the dog around the living room. Do not skip vacuuming the stairs.

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Letting the Dream Die

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There were maybe five full minutes in my MFA studies, when I imagined myself as a full-time writer. We, all of us writers and poets, spend some time with that day dream. But for some of us the possibility of that lifestyle (because it is a lifestyle) is quickly interrupted by real life: the bills, the debt, the lack of time, the lack of discipline, and the desire for real-life relationships. Whatever the reasons are, many of us will never be those people (icons, martyrs, saints) with coffee mugs and oak desks watching the sun rise as they craft sentences. And of those folks, even fewer will be able to earn a living. The odds are ever not in our favor. My graduate mentor, Chris Howell, offered a solution to this problem of writing versus living called the Muffin Man. Basically, you found a job that only required you to work really early or really late, a job that paid the bills (barely) but didn’t require much mental strain or consume your every waking minute, so you could dedicate that free time to your writing. He never offered any advice on how to maintain relationships with your partners or family or how to be sociable, probably because he wasn’t one to speak about something he wasn’t an expert at himself.

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