Friday, March 15, 2013

Travel Reading

I haven't written here in months, because I've been focusing on traveling and writing and life and things. But I couldn't stay away for that long, you sexy thing. So, here I am. Hey.

I took about a month and a half off of everything and went on a road trip across the US with a friend - to Colorado, New Orleans, LA, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle. Everywhere. But there was a lot of road time, so I still listened to and read a lot of things. I brought On the Road by Jack Kerouac with me and made it through about half of it on the trip, a lot of the time in the same places as Kerouac (reading about Denver as soon as we were getting into Colorado.) I loved the way he always met people on the road and heard their stories, because that's kind of how it was for us. Meeting deep sea fishermen in NOLA and strangers on porches and being invited to a Mad Men party by someone at an Austin concert. It's one of the things I love most about traveling, the unexpected people you meet and places you end up.

We also listened to Into the Wild on audiobook before we stopped in at Slab City, which was actually one of my favorite places to see on the trip. In the book (and movie) it's this desolate place, and yeah it kind of is. But it's also really, really artistic if you go to the right area. There were sculptures made out of garbage and notes written on phone booths. And an entire mountain some guy decided to make because he wanted to. Sure, they were probably on a lot of drugs, but they could make some good art.

I also read Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn on the trip, which we picked up from a friend's house we'd stayed at. It was entirely demented and incredibly well-written. I'd never read anything by her before, and the synopsis sounded like something I would never ever in my life pick up. (A journalist goes to a town where there's a murder, blahblah heard it before.) But it's so different from anything I'd ever read, with such a twisted gruesome outlook on things, that I loved it.

Anyway, that's what I read on my trip. I've read a lot since then, too, which I'll probably be writing about on here soon because I have a lot of reading feels about them. Until then, wishing you lots of coffee and good books.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

A Visit from the Goon Squad was one of the best books I've read in the past few months. I'd just spent way too much time inside A Game of Thrones and wanted something contemporary to read. I loved that book, but after so many pages of impeding snow and swords x12415, I wanted a story set in my world. I'd also just read Insurgent, so I'd had a really heavy dosing of politics and I was left wanting to meet some characters whose lives were entangled in something less dramatic than blood.

A Visit from the Goon Squad had a lot of entanglement. I wasn't really sure what it was about when I picked it up - it was a book I'd bought on a recommendation, something I'd picked up because it had a cool title and I'm shallow. So I didn't know much going in.

This book.

It reminded me of Skins (UK obvs) but for an older generation. Every chapter was from a different perspective, but their lives were woven together in the slightest ways. If you wonder about a character only slightly mentioned in chapter three, you'll find out his entire life story in chapter eleven, told ten years in the past. It skips through a timeline of people, from a music producer who puts gold flakes in his coffee to the girl who was in love with him a decade ago, to her friend's ex-boyfriend's kids a decade later. I'm someone who always wonders about secondhand characters, so this book was essentially literary heaven for me.

How Jennifer Egan managed to pin down an entire character in one chapter is insane to me, much less do it several times over. She gave them life and quirks inside the tiniest details and moments of their lives, the smallest pieces forming into something that allows the reader to fully understand their character. It was like a bunch of short stories that could each be their own book, brilliantly put together in a scattered line of history.

Definitely one of the most unique, intriguing books I've read in a while, and I'm excited to check out her other works.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Okay. I just started and deleted about eighteen sentences in a row trying to figure out what exactly my thoughts on this book are. I very obviously loved it, but not in a conventional way.

This is a essentially a book about people and fear and life, three things I'm decently familiar with but never in words that were as hilariously clever and cutting as John Green's. Using a Neil Gaimanism, no one can write a John Green book like John Green. A mixture of grief that makes you want to stay in bed all day holding a soggy page of a venn diagram paired with written wit that induces laughter that fuels Monsters Inc factories worldwide.

Something I've heard often, and which I agree with to an extent, is that it's a little pretentious on the surface - that the teenagers don't act like teenagers. If I honestly met anyone like Green's main characters Hazel and Augustus, whose every sentence seemed to be filled with brilliance of either wisdom or wit, I would be a little ashamed about my "your face" jokes. These are two characters that are some of the most well-written, thought-out, full-fledged characters I've come across since Charlie from Perks. But if there are people who speak as easily as Augustus and Hazel, John Green's keyboard should come without a backspace button. Because if it were honestly authentic nothing would be deleted or rewritten, which makes it lack a portion of authenticity solely because the tongues of teenagers very obviously don't have backspace buttons. But that can be said about any book at all, or any movie or play or tv show. Their dialogue is carefully thought over and written and deleted and cut and rewritten. Should John Green have deleted all of his intelligent thoughts that his characters represent, just because of that fact? Books and plays and movies are supposed to show the significant parts of people's lives, not the boring parts, so the significant thoughts and ideas and moments are recorded. If anyone were to sit down and only write their best thoughts out, would that be unauthentic because it isn't representative of all of their thoughts? I mean, I rewrote a lot of these thoughts and if I were to speak my original ideas, it would be more like this: omg this book was so good!!!!!!!! Does that make the more articulate thoughts less than authentic, because I took time with them? I don't know, but this complaint somehow got under my skin even though I was able to agree with it on some parts.

But basically, as John Green himself said, he likes to write smart characters - and I like to read smart characters, so I can't really complain about authenticity. Even though that's what I just did. It's not really a complaint, though, because you can't complain about something you like, and I liked their dialogue as much as Gilmore Girls. (Yeah, I just compared Green to Gilmore Girls, at least it has alliteration.)  I think part of the reason the book is so amazing is because they're amazing people, and if it were any less people would be complaining for the exact opposite reason. But I wanted to address it because I want to hear your thoughts and also to say to hell with it because critiquing people on being too smart seems more pretentious than what I initially brought up, so it's time for a transition.

Transitioning a paragraph that just ended in transition is actually pretty hard, so speaking of Peter Van Houghton, there was a parallel between Hazel and her thoughts on her favorite book, An Imperial Affliction, and the reader and The Fault in Our Stars. Maybe not The Fault in Our Stars in particular, but definitely to books in general. Hazel's thoughts speak of the importance of books, of what makes them more than just ink on paper; if they have eternal ideas and purpose, or if art itself is just as mortal as people. Because art is essentially nothing without people to take something from it, and the thought about that and mortality is pretty consistent in The Fault in Our Stars. It makes you question what you take out of the book, out of every book you read, and the importance it has. It's not something I'd really stopped to think about before, or something that had been addressed much, so it really hit me.

Basically, it's a book that makes you think and laugh, which is why I loved it so much. It makes you feel pretty much everything on the emotional spectrum. And that, in my opinion? It's pretty okay.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Einstein Had A Dirty Desk

They say that the messier your room/workspace is, the smarter you are. If that's true, I am sincerely a genius. I don't know if it's a writer thing or not, but my desk is always piled with books and papers and concert tickets and coffee mugs and flash cards and colored pencils and things I will perpetually "get to later."

I have figurines of owls and a year-old bottle of Tru Blood, a stuffed cow I got when I bought Harvest Moon for wii, the BBC version of Hamlet, pictures, boxes of tea, a Beatles documentary, set lists, expired metrocards, ear buds that don't work anymore, a spoon from Italy, and a box of blank tapes. CD covers without CDs in them, pieces of paper with scrawled phrases that have no meaning anymore, discs of Supernatural in no order whatsoever. Labyrinth mangas that I haven't read, pieces of sea glass from a broken necklace, and empty wooden boxes.

It's chaos on this wooden desk, which my laptop lays in the middle of.

But, for me, it's much easier to work in the middle of inspiration, tickets from places I've been or books I haven't opened that have unknown adventures in them. Maybe my bottle of Advil isn't so inspiring, but it's better for me to write enclosed in paper and ink and perfume bottles than a clean wooden desk.

What about you guys? What's on your desk?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Touch Morbid Trailers

I was in a trailer for the book A Touch Morbid by Leah Clifford, which is the sequel to A Touch Mortal. It was definitely an interesting experience because it basically consisted of Leah calling me up and saying, "Hey, let's go to NYC tomorrow and film." And so we all got in a car and drove the eight+ hours. We spent the weekend filming in a huge gorgeous cemetery and under the rockefeller tree in the freezing cold. It was amazing - especially the cemetery. I don't think I've been so awed and humbled by something in a long time. There were gorgeous mausoleums and crypts with stained glass windows, and I was in a Victorian dress in January, trailing my hand over graves. It was particularly creepy when, out of nowhere, a giant branch of a tree fell off and hit the ground with a huge thud. If I didn't already have them from the cold, I probably would have gotten goosebumps from it.

Anyway, we did a second filming back in Ohio at this gorgeous Victorian house. We lit hundreds of candles and shot tons of scenes, so it was decided there would be two trailers - one for the character I played - Kristen, the shizophrenic graverobbing character of ATM who spouts poetry and insults like they're always on the tip of her tongue. The second trailer is starring friends Emili and Clay (who also filmed/directed them and did the music,) who played Eden and Az, the couple of ATM who seriously can't catch a freaking break. They go through a hell of a lot, those two characters, and the trailer did that justice.

So here are the final results. Let me know what you think!

 For info on the books go here for A Touch Mortal (book #1) and here for A Touch Morbid (book #2)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman has a way of writing that makes you feel like you have spiders crawling under your skin. With Coraline, it didn't feel like arachne. It felt like nails against the back of your neck, like the hot breath of a nightmare served over the mental-maggot takeout from Lost Boys.

Coraline steps through a door she is curious about, mostly because it's locked. And you can't tell a child or a woman you can't open a door, because they will. It happened with Pandora and it happened with Coraline, but if both the box and the door weren't opened, the world would have continued to be boring. So, good thing for women and children and curious cats. This particular door is filled with a world lurking in the dark; a world that, for several reasons, will definitely feed your dreamcatcher at night.

One of those reasons is a simple one: buttons. There's something entirely creepy about people without eyes, because they somehow seem to see you better. Like they're mentally feeling you up - not like a rockstar would, but like a demon doll would, while it's sitting in its little high chair and plotting how to kill you with porcelain eyes. So when people have buttons instead of eyeballs, I get a little wigged out.

Coraline handled it much better than if I were her. There's something very admirable about being a little girl and not screaming and crying like a little girl. I mean, Coraline was a force in this book. And she was scared, obviously, because who wouldn't be with a button-eyed wench on your trail and the imagination of a child in a dark place. But she kept walking and whistling, because: "She thought it might make it harder for things to jump out at her if she was whistling." I totally use this tactic too - especially when I learned to drive and thought maybe my car would be immune to curbs if I whistled happy things. It didn't work, but I doubt if I were in a dark hall filled with monsters, I'd be able to whistle. So, Coraline, props.

There's also something unnameable about the otherworldly quality of this book. It's not like it takes place in a dream, but more like it takes place in the cracks on the sidewalk and the reflection in your mirror, places that are there but you can't completely see into. It's a world that is a false version of Coraline's real world, which makes it even more terrifying - because as much as the imagination can create terror, versions of reality can create it better. 

Like in one of the most spine-tingling quotes of the book: "'Now Coraline,' said Miss Spink, 'what's your name?'" The idea of a question that already has an answer is only creepy when it's asked by someone with a false skin. And this entire book is bathed in creepy.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Wrinkle in Time - Mrs Who

A Wrinkle in Time is a book that's transcended time. It's fifty years old but is still widely read and referenced. In fact, many dystopian books that you read today are inspired by Madeleine L'Engle's planets and worlds. There's a town in A Wrinkle in Time where everyone is perfectly synchronized to a schedule: everything is done at the same time every day, always perfectly. A planet that is made out of paper. Worlds that are beautiful and scary and weird - this book flips through them like a public mirror in its reflection of faces.

And what's so great about A Wrinkle in Time is that the characters who see these worlds are completely memorable. One of my favorites, who I'm going to be focusing on today, is Mrs. Who.

I like the mystery about her. More than her sisters, Mrs. Whatsit and Mrs.Which, she is unreadable and curious. She uses other's words, in quotations and cliches, rather than her own. She speaks through other's sayings. In French, German, Latin, Greek, she moves throughout languages like a verbal dancer. You don't ever really know who she is, because she quotes Shakespeare instead of answering a question, which is an answer but only in cryptic terms. In that way, you can get a glimpse of who she is by the quotes and phrases she uses, but not fully. She's a mystery, and I love a character you have to keep guessing about.

I think that's partially the reason her name is what it is, because you want to know who she is, and because she's apparently an ironic tease, she names herself after that fact.

Mrs. Who wears these spectacles, which are talked about several times in the book. This is also part of her character, because she essentially sees through other eyes both in her words and in her vision.

"Suddenly two eyes seemed to spring at them out of the darkness; it was the moonlight striking on Mrs Who's glasses." Like an owl, that one. If the three W sisters were menacing, Mrs. Who would be the scariest, because her character is so unpredictably creepy. Her weapon of choice would be knitting needles.

But the W's are more helpful, mysterious narrators than monsters. They help the characters through the journey, and are even the start and end of that journey, so they keep the plot running while you and the main characters experience it.

Mrs. Who is probably the most elusive character in this book, but that's why she's so intriguing. Even though she uses other's words instead of her own, she has a lot to say.


The 50th Anniversary edition of A Wrinkle in Time is in stores now, and it includes a lot of extras if you want to revisit the story. It has photos, L'Engle's acceptance speech, letters from authors, and more. This post is part of the 50 Years, 50 Days, 50 Blogs Tour, and you can check out the other stops on the tour here, through the A Wrinkle in Time facebook page.