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17 January 2007 @ 02:56 am
December 2006  
The first entry of the New Year! Hoorah! Onward!

Books Bought:

The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby
Housekeeping vs. The Dirt by Nick Hornby
America (The Book) Teacher’s Edition by Jon Stewart
No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty
Eragon by Christopher Paolini
Write. by Karen E. Peterson, PhD
The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
Shopgirl by Steve Martin

Books Read:

Both Nick Hornby books
No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty
Shopgirl by Steve Martin
Eragon (not yet finished, but very close)
An incompleted literary self help book.

Seasons Greetings, Happy New Year, etc. Today is New Year’s Day, and yes I reveled in the celebrations, albeit a bit too much, upon recollection. And so, begins a new year and a new endeavor: to recollect all of the books I have bought and read throughout the month, an ingenious idea formed by Nick Hornby and the people at the Believer magazine. I figured it would be nice to try and do. Plus it’s fun and a total distraction from my regular writing of fiction. Granted, I’m probably not as funny as Hornby, but this is mainly for my amusement anyway.

So, I think to start off I’ll begin in order of my list of books that I’ve managed to read this month. The holidays were quite stressful which actually forced me into a state of recluse, and therefore I read more than normal, but that’s not to say there’ll be fewer books next month. Oh no.

Nick Hornby. I’ve only read the first several chapters of his book About A Boy, and I’ve seen the movie (in fact; I love the movie), and reading his essays from the Believer magazine (from 2003 to about June/July 2006 spread between two books) makes me want to pick the book up again, and add his other books to my Must Buy list. His recommendations and reviews I have actually taken into account and added some of the books to my “Must Buy” list. He seems to like biographies and compilations of letters from obscure poets and authors, and crime drama type stories, and those don’t really appeal to me but he normally does make some good recommendations. However, his wit and sarcasm and view on life and books and the Arsenal football team keep me reading. But his review for How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff really had me interested and I’ve ordered it from Amazon.

I know that when I say he’s witty and funny, I’m beating a dead horse. Everyone says that about him. The blurbs on the back of both collections of essays say that; I just thought I should reinforce it. If you don’t read it for the reviews or the recommendations, read it for Hornby’s sense of humor.

He also has a fresh look on children, and sometimes I get the feeling he resents having had children, but I think he enjoys it. He also has such a refreshing view on children with disabilities, most likely due to his son who has autism. I worked at a summer camp here in New York for mentally and physically disabled children, several of which had autism, so I can sort of relate. It’s not the same as having a child with the disability, but it’s nice to hear that someone is sticking it out where it can be tough and stressing.

I have a list of authors I would like to meet and he is one of them on that list. Also on that list is Rowling, Cunningham, Coelho, and if she were alive, Woolf.

Recently, in November, I participated in this crazy thing called National Novel Writing Month…some of you may have heard of it, maybe even participated in it. My mother thought I was crazy and I know she detested the fact that all I did for the entire month of November was sit and write a 50,000 word novel that is still incomplete at this point in time (January 1, 2007). The whole concept to National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo as participants call it to get their tongues around the words) is to sit your butt down on the first day in November and write. And write. And write. Until you hit 50,000 words. However, there is a catch: the 50K needs to be done in thirty days, which includes maneuvering around Thanksgiving, and college finals, and family affairs. I actually spent this past Thanksgiving parked in front of my computer and pumped out almost eight thousand words because I had racked up an almost ten thousand word deficit somehow.

Anyway, now that I’ve explained National Novel Writing Month, its founder Chris Baty wrote a book specifically for NaNoWriMo or for anyone who wants to have his/her own month long novel writing spree, called No Plot? No Problem! Baty has several things he stresses throughout his book: first being that everyone has a novel inside of them waiting to be written. Second, the only way to do that is to set some crazy deadline that forces you to write it and get it done. Third, it doesn’t matter how bad the prose is; it’s quantity over quality. There is always time for editing later. Which for me works, but after NaNoWriMo was over, I totally lost momentum in my story and it’s laid around at fifty-five thousand words. Once in a while I’ll resurrect it and write another thousand words, but I need another deadline. And finally, you earn bragging rights at the end of the month should you actually complete the task. The funny thing is Baty’s method actually works. The sit down and write it kind of thing. He also recommends insanely high amounts of caffeine and abandoning household chores, and sleep deprivation if you can stand it.

The first chapters go over how National Novel Writing Month came into fruition and over the whole concept and why it’s such a good idea to do something so crazy. He goes over a strategy for actually accomplishing the seemingly impossible task, and in the final four chapters details each week and the novelling roller-coaster every participant seems to ride on.

In Baty’s caffeine rushed prose and writing style, the whole book actually makes sense when you put it all together and test his suggestions. It makes me wish I had bought the book at the beginning of November rather than in the beginning of December when I was still coming down from the NaNo high.

This book, compared to the unnamed literary self-help book that I wasn’t able to complete, is more suited to someone like me; I work better under stress and a looming deadline and I get a creative rush of adrenaline and a sense of control when my fingers fly over the keyboard at lightning fast speeds. The unnamed self-help book confused me. Maybe it was because it had more to do with science and the brain than with actual writing, I don’t know, but I was unable to finish it. It did have some good points that I starred with my pencil, but other than that I was unable to take it seriously enough for it to actually help in the writing process. The concept that the author invoked and used was interesting, but Baty’s really got me with his all-or-nothing approach. The other author’s methods were too…complicated and I got bored. There were a lot of steps involved and it got too brainy for me. You had to decide how one side of your brain was feeling and how your other side of your brain was feeling, blah, blah, blah. Like I said: too brainy. I just like to write, I don’t like to have to think about it. Am I a dunce for thinking/feeling that? I’m a simpleton, okay?

I was actually hoping to have finished Eragon by the time I got around to writing this, but I didn’t, so I will say that first: I promise to include it in next month’s column, and second…read the book. Then see the movie. Or just avoid the movie altogether. Oh the movie is very good; very entertaining and a large conglomeration of Harry Potter, Star Wars and Lord of the Rings all rolled into one heaping, colorful exciting movie. However, as is almost the issue with all novel-turned-movie cases, the book is far more exciting and interesting than the movie, and for the sake of movie length and people’s attention spans, the screenwriters chopped up the book into movie form. And I generally find that disrespectful to the author and his or her fans. Although, the action in the movie takes off right from the start. In the book it takes a while. But, a full review for Eragon will come in next month’s column, including a comment on the trans-species sexual tension between two characters. In the meantime, kudos to Paolini. I can’t write fantasy. Tried it, and I sucked; it was total shit and I still have it on my hard drive to remind me that I should never, ever write fantasy again.

I actually saved the best for last this time around. I was in a bookstore a while back and had heard about Steve Martin’s book Shopgirl from all the movie hype and went hunting for it. I didn’t have enough money to buy it so I was content with reading the first two pages right there in the bookstore, but that left me wanting more. So I garnered a gift certificate to Barnes and Noble for Christmas and went out and spent an ungodly amount of money on books, and bought Shopgirl.

Now, Steve Martin is an actor. A comedian, actually, and the very first thing I think I ever saw him in was his King Tut skit on Saturday Night Live that my sixth grade Social Studies teacher showed us for our Ancient Egypt unit. We laughed our 12 year old selves silly and begged her to rewind it and show it again. I had never given it a thought that this man, this white haired funny older man was a writer. And a good writer at that. He has such a knack for the uncomfortably funny and amusing things that happen in life, and he uses dirty, vulgar language, which shocked me at first, honestly. I wasn’t expecting words like “fuck,” “cunt,” and several more “fucks,” and more than a few sex scenes (although not graphic, but to the point) to be written by an outstanding comedic and actor of that calibre. This kind of language didn’t ruin the book by any means; as a matter of fact I think it enhanced it somehow. It was a welcome surprise, though, and sort of refreshing that an actor/comedian has an intellectual side that leads to this kind of book. I bet this book is by far much better than another Hollywood elite’s attempt at writing.

After reading the book, I went out and rented the movie and I made the silly mistake of watching it when I was overtired and by myself because I cried. It was that silent, shoulder shaking, sad cry. The movie is so good though, and captures the book's quirks and oddities and author's flavors perfectly. I don't know if Steve Martin made a good Ray Porter or not, but it was still very, very good. I have to rewatch it. But this isn't a movie review column!

I became rather infatuated with Mirabelle and Ray’s relationship, and cursed Ray more than once for hurting her in the ways that he did. But, how was he to know that she was that fragile? And Martin has a knack for creating such real characters, and for some reason I related to each and every central character in his book: Ray, Jeremy, Mirabelle, and even the steamy vixen Lisa. I think if one looks hard and deep enough into them, they would find that they could relate to any or all of those characters on some level. I’ve never been in a deep depression like Mirabelle experienced, but I relate to her loneliness and sadness, even frustration at a going-nowhere job, and the lack of men being interested in her.

Ray fascinates me, for some reason. Maybe it’s because of his money and buying gifts for Mirabelle…maybe it was his infatuation with a square inch of skin above Mirabelle’s breast that was either skin or a flesh colored undergarment. I don’t know. He’s so complex to me. I mean, he might be easy for someone else to figure out, but he truly fascinated me. He may not seem very complex upon meeting him for the first time, but as the book goes on things get a little deeper and you start to wonder why a man like Ray won’t let himself love a girl like Mirabelle.

So just do yourself a favor and go out and buy the book and read it.

But be careful when you get to the animated penis part.

I’m not saying anything, except: Don’t say I didn’t tell you so.
Current Mood: crankycranky
Current Music: London Metropolitan Orchestra - Lonely Mirabelle