Books I Read This Month - July 2011

LAST DAY TO SUBMIT FOR THE BEGINNING CONTEST! Details here...

I had a bit of time this month to read, and I made sure to read a lot to catch up on my 100 books in a year goal. I'm going to have lots of reading time in August too! I'm glad...

Notes from Underground Anthology - The Literary Lab
The Notes from Underground Anthology is a compilation of short stories, poems, and pictures by twenty-five wonderful writer winners of a contest hosted by The Literary Lab last year. There is amazing variety in this collection, and all of it is well-written, inspiring, and fun.

Misery - Stephen King
Ah, Stephen King. Whenever I read his books, I just feel like writing, especially when I read a book of his involving a writer character. This was a great book about a writer who is kidnapped and held captive by his number one fan, who forces him to write a book especially for her. Quite disturbing, but very fun.

Anthem - Ayn Rand
This is a sort of science fiction story about a man living in a communist society. I wrote a bit about Ayn Rand recently, here.

Post Office - Charles Bukowski
Semi-autobiographical and witty, I liked this book. It was a quick read. It's about the life of a post office worker... I can see how it would not be for everyone, but the author is well known and a great writer, so maybe you'd like it...

The Storm - Frederick Buechner
This is an odd book, based loosely on The Tempest. It is about a man, whose young lover died while giving birth to their child. I wasn't quite in the reading mindset when I read this, so I may have to go to the library and check it out again... Eventually...

Yellow Dog - Martin Amis
Another Martin Amis, one of my favorite authors, and this book did not disappoint. A man gets hit on the head and becomes violent and stuff (I'm so eloquent), and there is a scandal involving a British princess involved. It was interesting and entertaining. But also a bit disturbing, of course, considering that is a Martin Amis novel.

The Plague - Albert Camus
A fictional account of bubonic plague in the 1940s in Algeria, taking place of the course of many months. Exsistentialist/absurdist, this novel was intriguing, with great character development as the doctor and the community suffer through the plague and its effects. Pretty cool, well written, Albert Camus. Yeah.

God Bless You Mr. Rosewater - Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
A lawyer tries to prove insane the drunken firefighter philanthropist, Eliot Rosewater, so his relative can gain control of his company. Kurt Vonnegut has this gift of making things that sound boring turn into exciting adventures. In other books of his, he can make wired things that don't make any sense exciting adventures. I'm not sure exactly what this book, or any of his others really besides Slaughterhouse-Five, is actually about, but it was witty, so, go ahead and read it if you want.

The Touch - F. Paul Wilson
I suppose this series is growing on me. As I said before when I read the first and second books in this series, I was wary to begin because I don't really trust my mother's taste in books, but my dad liked it too, so I decided to give it a try. It is a series of more than fifteen books, and I've officially decided now to read all of them, but obviously not consecutively. This book, The Touch, is about a doctor who discovers one day that he can heal people by touching them, like a faith healer. The writing, as it is in Wilson's other books, is simple but suspenseful. I don't love it, but I'll admit that I like it.

The Island at the End of the World - Sam Taylor
A sort of post-apocalyptic novel about a father and his three children trapped on an island after the great flood. Kind of pretentious, but it was still good.

How the Dead Live - Will Self
Sex, drugs, rock and roll, and dying of cancer. My kind of book! This is a good book by a good author, sort of a story about death, but mostly a story about life. I recommend you read it if you are looking for a laugh, but prepare yourself for some disconcerting scenes as well.

The Almost Moon - Alice Sebold
I seem to have read mostly emotional, disturbing novels this month... This book is about a woman who kills her mother. It takes place over the course of one day. I read The Lovely Bones, by the same author, last year, and I thought it was amazing. This was just as good.

The Object of Objectivism

I just finished reading Anthem by Ayn Rand. I've read her before: The Fountainhead, and her book on the craft of writing. She has an intriguing philosophy that people have discussed and argued and studied to death. Well guess what? I'm going to discuss it more.

There are some things I agree with and some I do not in Objectivism, Ayn Rand's philosophy. Here are her basic major points:

1. Reality - The world is as it is. We cannot change physics; we can only perceive.
2. Reason - Man is a rational being. There is no 'God' or fate.
3. Self-interest - The 'meaning of life' so to speak is to be the best you can be for yourself.
4. Capitalism - We as individuals must work for our keep.

As I read her books, I noticed that her characters were ambitious and, to an extent, emotionless. With these two characteristics (obviously they had more than just these two) they fit right into Rand's philosophy. They worked hard day and night to make money and do science and stuff (how elegantly worded, Aimee), fending for themselves and rising to the top. They were happy with their success, and happiness is great. People should be happy.

However, the lack of empathy left the characters' lives (especially their love lives) a little dry and kind of sad, though they were rolling in dough and had high esteem from their colleagues and friends. The characters were driven by logic and reason, but they completely ignored their (and others') emotions. Their 'happiness' was more of a contentedness with their success in life and less of a love for their situation and result of their actions. You know, the way that normal, emotionally adjusted people are happy.

I agree with Ayn Rand about a few things: physics is unchangeable by human hands, man's decisions (rational or not) control the direction of his life, and the individual being is powerful, unique, and significant.

I do not, however, agree with her opinions regarding economy and society.

Yes, individuals should work for their own keep instead of being lazy and having everything done for them. But Ayn Rand's philosophy, in my opinion, supports and promotes selfishness. Our actions do affect the outcome of our life, but they affect other people as well. While we all only have this one life to live and should live it to its fullest, we should not disregard people less fortunate then ourselves. Capitalism is nice and all, because people can get super rich if they work hard enough, but there are people who physically or mentally cannot work, or they have different opinions of society, and they suffer for it.

Rand praises the individual and demotes altruism, leaving behind a world of self-absorbed nihilists. I agree that each and every unique person is worthy, but I disagree people should take advantage of others in order to obtain wealth and esteem. No one is better than anyone else, but we are all wonderful. We shouldn't let those who are selfish and ambitious rise above and hurt others emotionally on their way to the top. We should channel our determination and self-interest not toward a world where the strong and emotionally hard stomp all over the weak and vulnerable, but toward a world where everyone has a chance to be happy and receive what they deserve.

Let's help others instead of solely helping ourselves!

Peace, Aimee

Here Lies My Childhood, A Free Era

Last Thursday/Friday at midnight, I went to the premier of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2.

Duh.

For me, it was a strange experience. I started reading the books when I was about five years old. I was never an obsessed fan. You've seen those people. They get intense. I only read each book once, and I some of the movies I waited to see until they came out on DVD. I was two years under eleven when the first movie came out, but I am two years over seventeen now that the last movie has come out. Watching it, I felt as though my childhood officially came to close.

The end of the Harry Potter phenomenon marked the end of an era. In the past fourteen years, since the first book was published, children everywhere have held that one secret desire to be chosen, to be special, like Harry and the other wizards and witches of that magical world. On their eleventh birthdays, they crossed their fingers, wishing for their letter. They didn't receive it, but still, the battle between good and evil roared on. In 2001, the same year the first movie was released, the 9/11 attacks and the resulting war sparked the desire for peace in their minds, like Harry's struggle against Voldemort's violence. As they went through school, perhaps they were picked on, like Malfoy torturing Harry at Hogwarts. Their teachers and parents wanted to help them, but deep in their minds, their caregivers were afraid that the world outside would never be the perfect world for the children. As friends became sidekicks, pets became ever-listening muses, and adults became wise rule-enforcers who were either for the kids or against them, the children of the Harry Potter era lived life as though Voldemort could end them at any moment and only the magical gift of love could stop that evil in its tracks.

I don't want to give any spoilers for those of you who have not read the books yet, but I will say this. As I watched the film, the theme of the series was pouring through me. But I had that nagging feeling of deja vu, as if I'd known the truth about this battle between good and evil all along: good always overcomes evil, as long as you have faith that it can.

I had a loose idea of reading the entire series again, back to back to back, but I have officially decided not to do so, leaving that part of my life where it belongs.

Peace, Aimee

How To Learn To Type

Step One. Get a roommate.

Step Two. Become nocturnal.

Step Three. Write at night, in the dark so as to not wake your roommate and so that you are unable to see your keyboard. Use trial and error, writing every night until you memorize the keys.

You should now be able to type super fast without ever having to hesitate to look down at the keys to make sure you are hitting the correct letters. The down side of this is that you can no longer use your inability to type as an excuse for not yet completing your novel.

This is how I accomplished it, though not on purpose.

And no, I haven't finished my novel yet...

Peace, Aimee

The Beginning Contest!

A while back, I hosted the Character Contest, which was not very successful... Since I am not doing a contest in September like I was planning to (because I'm doing the Peace Blogfest instead!) I am going to do another contest now!

Last time, I gave you two characters to write 1000 words or less about. This time, I am going to give you the first paragraph of a story, and you get to finish it!

I got this idea from the book If on a winter's night a traveler by Italo Calvino (which I talked about the other day), in which the author decides to copy down the first paragraph of Crime and Punishment to see if he can reach into the same void that Dostoyevsky did in writing the book, but Calvino is unable to write anything but what Dostoyevsky had already written. I will be making up the first paragraph of the story, though, so we won't have that problem. :)

You can write anything: a short story, flash fiction, a poem... as long as it is 1000 words or less. That seems like a lot, I know, and maybe that intimidated people last time, but remember, you do not have to write 1000 words. It can be as little as 100 if you want!

Since this contest involves writing, a picture can't be worth 1000 words like it was last time (though no one submitted pictures they drew anyway), but in a future contest (eventually) I would love to see drawings as well as writing. Just not this one...

The contest begins today and ends Friday 22 July 2011. I will post the winner(s)'s submission on Monday 25 July 2011, and I will post my own piece on Wednesday 27 July 2011.

Email me your submission at cheesepuff5292@yahoo.com. One submission per person...

The winner gets a 1000 word critique from me (it can be from your novel or anything else you choose). Plus the winning submission is posted on my blog, so make sure to include a link to your blog along with your submission so I can link to you if you win! Last time, I offered critiques for each submission, but I don't think I'm going to do that this time, sorry...

Ok! This is the first paragraph (or stanza if it's a poem):

Harry had nothing better to do than to sit and watch television. His wife had left him three months ago, and she took with her their sixteen year old son and twelve year old daughter. Harry hadn't published anything in the past two years and his royalty checks would soon be coming to an end. And last but certainly not least, he was beginning to think that he was losing his mind.

There you go! I hope you have fun with this! Good luck, and I can't wait to read the submissions!

Peace, Aimee

If on a winter's night a traveler

A few weeks ago, I read If on a winter's night a traveler, by Italo Calvino. It's a novel told in the second person, the writer speaking to the reader. As the story progresses, we learn a great deal about the writer and the way in which he views the world, both the literary one and the, um, real one.

Most people (non-writers) who read this book, I'm sure, empathize with the reader. I, though, and I'm sure other writers as well, empathize with the writer.

When I first began reading this book, I was intrigued and excited. As I got further, I got more and more confused. Then I entered chapter eight, in which Silas Flannery, the author character, shares excerpts from his writing diary. I was really amazed at this section of the book, and I now classify it as a writer's tool, much like any of those books on the craft, even though it is a work of fiction.

In chapter eight, the author presents a scenario in which two authors, the productive writer and the tormented writer (I am definitely like the tormented writer, by the way), watch a reader through binoculars, see how enthralled she is in her book, and both believe she is reading the other writer's book.

There is some amazing writing advice in this chapter, and in this book as a whole. I'm not sure I would enjoy this book as much as I did if I were not a writer. Here are a few quotes from the book:

"Perhaps the woman I observe with the spyglass knows what I should write; or rather, she does not know it, because she is in fact waiting for me to write what she does not know; but what she knows for certain is her waiting, the void that my words should fill." pg. 171

"At times I think of the subject matter of the book to be written as something that already exists: thoughts already thought, dialogue already spoken, stories already happened, places and settings seen; the book should be simply the equivalent of the unwritten world translated into writing. At other times, on the contrary, I seem to understand that between the book to be written and things that already exist there can only be a kind of complementary relationship: the book should be the written counterpart of the unwritten world; it's subject should be what does not exist and cannot exist except when written, but whose absence is obscurely felt by that which exists, in its own completeness." pg. 171-172

"Will I ever be able to say 'today it writes' just like 'today it rains,' 'today it is windy?' Only when it will come natural to me to use the verb 'write' in the impersonal form will I be able to hope that through me is expressed something less limited than the personality of an individual... If we assume that writing manages to go beyond the limitations of the author, it will continue to have meaning only when it is read by a single person and passes through his mental circuits. Only the ability to be read by a given individual proves that what is written shares in the power of writing, a power based on something that goes beyond the individual. The universe will express itself as long as somebody will be able to say 'I read, therefore it writes.' This is the special bliss that I see appear in the reader's face..." pg. 176

Hey writers. Read this book.

Peace, Aimee

Peace Blogfest September 2011

In 1999, Jeremy Gilley founded the film project Peace One Day to document his efforts in creating an annual day of ceasefire and nonviolence with a fixed calendar date. In 2001, Peace One Day achieved its objective when the United Nations unanimously adopted the International Day of Peace 21 September.

I organized this blogfest (quickly and haphazardly but definitely not halfheartedly) to help spread the word about Peace Day.

Anyone with a blog can sign up, no matter your age, occupation, or location. Peace is possible, even if everyone follows a different political or religious view, so don't let that stop you from joining either!

Participants should, but are not required to, put the Peace Blogfest button on their blog. Those who are not participating can still grab the button to help spread the word!

Simple, eh?

You can start signing up for the Peace Blogfest today. The festivities begin on Monday 19 September and last through Peace Day Wednesday 21 September.

And now... the Peace Blogfest schedule...

Monday 19 September 2011 - Peace Through Art
Post something you have created that represents what peace means to you. This can be a video, something you drew, something you wrote (poetry, short story, etc.), a song you wrote and recorded, a picture of something you made, anything! Be creative!

Tuesday 20 September 2011 - Peace Through Tolerance and Non-Violence

Despite religious, racial, socioeconomic, or personal differences, everyone deserves respect. I know this can be a touchy subject for some people, so there are many blogging options for this day. You can do one or more of the following: discuss ways we can overcome discrimination and stop violence, describe an organization that you support that helps other people, tell about a time that you helped someone and what you learned, describe a time when someone helped you through a rough time and how it changed you, or tell of an experience in which you or someone you know was discriminated against and how that shaped your view on peace. Share your experiences!

Wednesday 21 September 2011 (Peace Day) - Peace Through Connection

Bringing people together in celebration should be the goal for this day! How do you connect with other people? How do you interact with people around you in a peaceful way? What unites people? Think about this one, and be truthful. And remember, peaceful actions don't stop when Peace Day is over! What can YOU DO to be peaceful and to continue spread the word about peace? What inspires you to be peaceful?

Peace, Aimee