Books I Read This Month - August 2011 (Plus Peace Stuff)

In my Peace Blogfest post I said that you should sign up before 31 August 2011, which is today. However, I think the deadline is kind of lame. I'm letting people continue to sign up until the blogfest starts. Hopefully more people will join! Please join if you can, and spread the word anyway if you can't! Thanks so much to all the supporters!

I am going to post a list of everyone who signed up, plus the link to their blog, on Monday 12 September 2011. I will add to the list if more people sign up after the 12th. You can follow the participants or just use the list as a reference to read the Peace Blogfest posts when the time comes.

Here are the books I read this month. (Bold means I loved it!)

S. - John Updike
In interesting book written in the form of letters to and from the main character, a 40-something woman who leaves her husband and moves into a ashram. I thought it was good, and I felt smart reading it and knowing all the terms since I do yoga. :)

The End - Salvatore Scibona
Beautifully written! The characters are well drawn out, but the plot of the story was a little confusing to me and sort of slow. Very literary.

Oblivion - David Foster Wallace
A few short stories and novellas by the one and only David Foster Wallace. My favorite was the one entitled "The Soul is Not a Smithy," in which a teacher goes crazy at the front of the classroom.

V for Vendetta - Alan Moore (art by David Lloyd)
I'd already seen the movie a while back, but I had to read the comic because the movie was so good... I started reading it at 11 pm one night and couldn't put it down. I didn't get much sleep that night, but it was totally worth it. If you haven't heard of this, read it. If you've seen the movie but haven't read the comic, read it. If you've read the comic but haven't seen the movie, watch the movie. Yeah.

Already Dead - Denis Johnson
I really enjoyed this book. It's dark humor, with lots of drugs and sex and murder and ghosts and stuff. It may be morbid, but I really love books like that. It's not mindless, of course; the drugs and sex and violence all have a purpose in the story. It's the kind of thing I would like to write, but whenever I try to write that kind of stuff, I get all embarrassed.

Hamlet - Shakespeare
I'm really not sure why I decided to read this at this time. But Shakespeare, why not? I don't have anything to say about it that hasn't already been said before, though, so I won't say anything else. My favorite line? "Get thee to a nunnery!" Made me laugh out loud, even though in context it isn't funny. "Conscious does make cowards of us all" is another amazing line. Also, here is a clip of the brilliant David Tennant as Hamlet because I love him.

All the Pretty Horses - Cormac McCarthy
This was the book club book for the month! Here is my post about it.

The Lacuna - Barbara Kingsolver
A Mexican-American communist writer during the Red Scare? I think yes! Plus Diego Rivera and Leon Trotsky as characters. Beautiful language too and a great message about art and freedom.

Legacies - F. Paul Wilson
Next book in the Repairman Jack series. Donated Christmas presents stolen from AIDS orphans? How mean! Jack's got to save the day again. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time I was reading this book, and not just because it's a fast-paced thriller. The hero of the series, Jack, had to take on oil company terrorists. Sounds like a prejudice, stereotyping meanie thing on the surface (and Wilson calls one guy 'The Arab' which bothered me quite a bit; people should not be defined by their race) but it's not. There was definitely potential for it to go sour, but thankfully the author did not commit any terrible acts of racism, for which I was relieved.

Great Apes - Will Self
One of the weirdest books I've read in a while. This painter wakes up one morning and everyone are apes and thinks he's crazy for believing he is a human. Very odd and very Will Self-ish (more drugs, sex, and rock and roll; I know, right, with apes?) but funny.

Blog Book Club: All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy

Cormac McCarthy is well-known for his writing style. He does not use quotation marks or commas very often, and most of his sentences are short and to the point. However, the writing is brilliant, especially description. The very first sentence of this novel — "The candleflame and the image of the candleflame caught in the pierglass twisted and righted when he entered the hall and again when he shut the door." — draws a specific picture that creates a distinct atmosphere. The next few sentences of the first paragraph describe the main character's attire and stance in a way that is appealing, not just listing his clothing or what he looks like. McCarthy has a unique way of setting the scene, and he continues this crafty language all throughout the novel.

When it comes to the characters in this novel, John Grady Cole, Rawlins, and Blevins are all teenagers, yet they travel alone in Mexico with weapons and such. The setting, time and place, allow for this without confusion or surprise, and McCarthy really pulls it off. I think, though, that this story is more about the situation than the characters. John Grady, the main character, is the best wrought, but the novel to me did not seem to be very character driven.

I have to be honest and say I couldn't really get into this book. Westerns really aren't my thing, so don't blame me if I'm not so keen on the plot of this novel. It is the first in a trilogy, and I will definitely be reading the other two books, but they aren't really at the top of my list.

Theme-wise, I didn't get much from this book, but I think I was focused on other things. If I re-read this book, I might like it a bit more and might be more interested in the characters and such, so I may have to do that eventually.

I wish my first Book Club blog post were better and more thorough, but I sort of wrote this a bit last minute. I hope you who have read this book enjoyed it, and I hope my blog readers participate in the next Blog Book Club here, which will take place in September. Stay tuned!

For those of you who have read All the Pretty Horses, what did you think of it? I would love to hear your opinions!

Peace, Aimee

Third Writers' Platform-Building Campaign

I know I'm supposed to be on a blogging vacation, but I just had to post today to announce that I will be participating in the Third Writers' Platform-Building Campaign! Here is the link explaining what it is. You should join in too!

Peace, Aimee

An Experiment

I've been thinking a lot lately about blogging. Having a schedule here, posting Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, has done a lot of good for me, since I don't a have a job and my college schedule is super sporadic. A schedule is something I need in my life; that's just the way my personality is. Without one I'd go crazy not having someone tell me what to do. Big open spaces are daunting to me.

But as you can tell by the content of my blog (blogger burnout in June, forgetting to post on Wednesday this week [sorry about that :)]) constant output is something that is very difficult for me, at least at this point in my life. If I were getting paid to blog, though, that would be a different story. But I'm not, so...

This is why I put up contests and started that Book Club thing. To have something to keep me here. It's not the words I write and the ideas I write about that keep me writing, it's the people that read the words and ideas and respond to them.

I know I've taken a lot of mini vacations from blogging recently. But I need to do a little experiment here. I will be taking another mini vacation from blogging in the next week. I will be back on Monday 29 August 2011 with the Book Club post about All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy. And I promise that I won't be taking any time off in September. After that, though, I can't promise anything. We'll have to see when we get there. I must say this, though: I will not be shutting down my blog. There just may be some changes later on in October.

See you in a week!

Peace, Aimee

No Borders

I'm one of those annoying people who hates change. I order the same meals whenever I go out to eat. I've had the same haircut for about four years. I can walk into my house and immediately spot if something is different. I'm so stubborn and OCD, I'd probably drive you mad.

I've really been trying lately not to live by a schedule, to just go with the flow, but I'm epically failing at it. But there have been so many changes in my life in the past few weeks, and there will be more in the weeks to come.

To embrace or not to embrace. That is the question.

I'm at that transition age in which I am supposed to get a job, move out of the house, all that good stuff, but in addition to the sociological stress that this period of my life places upon me, I have to deal with other people changing as well, and other things around me moving and shifting and appearing and disappearing.

My favorite store, Borders, is closing. First of all, for me, this means that there is only one book store in my town, and it has an awful selection. I can always buy books online, but I'm impatient when it comes to shipping. And secondly, I am terrified of what these means for the future of books.

The argument over paper books versus ebooks, it seems, has begun to come to a close. I am struggling with this immensely. I've always felt that holding a book in my hands is one of the biggest parts of appreciating the art of writing. Reading from a screen takes some of the artistic value of language out of it for me.

Plus it gives me headaches.

A technological society is something we must think about now (not like we haven't been thinking about it for at least the past century). We are on the eve of a new era. After watching all this Doctor Who lately, I am wary of what may happen to us, as individuals, as a culture, and as human beings.

To embrace or not to embrace. The force of this change has convinced me to embrace (though I won't be buying a Kindle any time soon). However, we must be cautious as we embrace the future. Do not lose sight of what humanity is all about. Do not let technology dehumanize people. In all those science fiction books and movies (and TV shows) dehumanization and corruption of power (as well as environmental issues, oh there are so many moving parts!) are evident. Let's not let our excitement get out of hand...

Without Borders, there are no borders! Anything can happen in the future, let's just make sure they are good things. :)

Peace, Aimee

Blog Book Club August 2011

I got an idea the other day, and I think it might be a good idea.

A blog book club!

I will try it out this month and see how it goes, and if it works out, maybe it'll become a monthly thing.

This month, the book is All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy. I haven't read it yet, and I'm looking forward to it. On Monday 29 August 2011, the book club discussion will take place. On that day, post about this book! It will be sort of like a blogfest. Your post can be in the form of a review, your impressions of the book, analysis of the theme, discussion of the characters or something that stuck out to you, or anything of the sort!

I hope you join in with me in reading All the Pretty Horses this month and discussing it on Monday 29 August 2011!

Peace, Aimee

P.S. Note the tabs I added at the top of the page! I hope it makes navigation easier, not like there's much to navigate through...

My Beginning Story: When Harry Lost His Mind

Here is the story I wrote based on my own beginning paragraph writing prompt...

When Harry Lost His Mind

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.

He came to the conclusion that he had gone insane on a gloomy Sunday afternoon. He had just hung up from speaking to his daughter on the telephone. She had gotten on the honor roll and her mother had bought her a pet rabbit, but she had not made it on the eighth grade basketball team. Harry did not speak to his son. He was not home but at his friend's house, practicing in his garage band.

After Harry hung up the phone, he grabbed a beer, turned on the television, and sat down in his lazy-boy chair. This had become his ritual on a Sunday afternoon. But this time was different. This time he spontaneously went insane.

He was watching a football game. A player threw the ball, but instead of another player catching it, Harry caught it. The ball flew out of the screen and landed right in Harry's lap. He was shocked. He was appalled. He was utterly confused.

He sat there frozen for what seemed like hours but for what was actually only about fifteen seconds. He stared out into space, looking at nothing, seeing nothing. When he snapped out of it, realizing that there was a football in his hands for which there was no plausible reason how it got there, his eyes flicked back to the TV screen. Instead of a football game, the television displayed an unusual image of a purple creature dancing around, though there was no music playing.

Harry narrowed his eyes, trying to make sense of the thing he was seeing. He'd never seen this creature before in his life. That was the first thought that come to his mind. The second, which took a few moments before it arrived, was a thought of terror. He had not touched the remote, yet the TV had changed. And this was definitely not a commercial.

After another dozen or so seconds, his focus finally returned to the football in his hands. He moved his gaze to it, but as he removed his eyes from the TV screen, the world around him became distorted. Everything was swirls of color. It reminded him of the LSD trip he had taken in the seventies.

He stood up, but he thought he was going to vomit, so he sat back down. He looked into the kitchen at the telephone. If he could walk over to it, he would phone emergency. He needed a doctor as soon as possible. But his legs felt like rubber. He couldn't stand. The colors twisted and twirled around him. He lost feeling in his hands; he could no longer feel the football he held. The purple creature continued to dance.

Then the phone rang.

It all stopped.

The creature disappeared and the football game returned to the screen, the ball included. Everything returned to normal. It was as if nothing happened.

The telephone rang again. Harry jerked up out of his lazy-boy and scrambled to the kitchen. He answered it. It was his estranged wife. She said that his son was home now and wanted to speak to him. He told her to put him on. She did, and he could tell by the sound of his son's voice that his mother had left the room. He was quiet and calm and relaxed.

"Hello Dad."

"Hello son."

"Um, I have a question."


"Do you believe in God?"

"Wow, this is out of nowhere."

"I know, but I was thinking, Mom said that you don't believe in God. She said that's part of why you guys split up."

Harry tried to think for a moment, but no thoughts came to his mind. Then he tried to think of a reason why he couldn't think, but still there was nothing.

"I don't know why she would say that," he said. "I do believe in God."

"Oh, okay. That's all I wanted to know. Bye, Dad."

"Bye son."

Harry hung up the phone and returned to his lazy-boy. He flicked off the television, closed his eyes, and enjoyed the silence. There was nothing there in his brain, but the funny thing was that he liked it. He had finally lost his mind.

And the Winner of the Beginning Contest Is...

Jaye Viner!

Congratulations Jaye! You can email me your 1000 word excerpt for a critique to whenever you'd like.

Here is Jaye's story.

Inspiration is a Wasp

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.

In the final moment of clarity he would see concerning the marriage, he said to the television, “The kids should have been in charge. They were so sensible compared to what he taught them about their intended modus operandi, filled with lessons on pop culture, the prosperity gospel, and the innate class of the practiced spendthrift. His son had a penchant for second hand stores and frequent libraries. He said it was better for the environment. Harry had wanted to say, “Your generation is why my last book didn’t get its second run.”

He has lunch with both children in the Old Towne and jokes about his nasty new status as single man with a growing beer gut friendly only with the screen on the living room wall. Neither of them find it funny. “Why are you worried?” asks his daughter. “You can’t force art,” says his son. Somewhere in the middle of the meal the topic had shifted to writing. Harry hadn’t noticed. He wanted to fight back at them, tempted to assert his fatherly authority by listing various modern works of art written by formulae and standard outline. “Inspiration is as fleeting as a wasp.”

This draws a chuckle from his son but she looks eager to understand the mysterious analogy. “What does it mean?” She’s trying to trap me in my own words, thinks Harry. He had watched ten days straight of General Hospital and his world had been transformed by the reality that words made every good looking man guilty of something. No doubt her teachers told her to think for herself and not believe her parents. Imminent divorce shoots a hole the size of a prize club medallion in a father’s credibility.

As a sane man, Harry would be able to attach meaning to even the most unlikely pithy saying, as the one above. But today he was incapable of making the last step into logical conclusion. Even his thoughts were rebelling. It should have been, a hole the size of a cannon shot, but prize club medallion sounded better, just as wasp sounded better than whatever else might have gone there.

After lunch Harry continues over the words he has that continuously organizes themselves into less than adequate sayings of a learned author. Inspiration always has meaning—no. Absolutes do not exist. Inspiration exists as a sentient being, always present. For all practical purposes, it was this being that turned Harry from a sane, once married writer into an insane, imminently-divorced, failed writer. Driving home he starts seeing signs like a dyslexic. Letters are confused rather than words misplaced.



What was that store? He turns to look back and bumps into the curb scaring the lice off a scurvy Mormon drinking Mountain Dew. They stare at each other as men in this country do, as men since the beginning of time have done—size each other up, decide if the offense is worth the fight, take up arms, or go quietly on his way. The odds were not good. “Lone Mormon battles Toyota Camry in ancient blood feud.” Harry tries on the words not trusting himself. He tries them on with a Middle English accent and sees the broad sword lying next to him in the passenger seat. It’s not wearing a seat belt. No, thinks Harry, it should be modern, relevant to these dark ages.

The wasp stings. It had cut itself on the sword and its dying act avenges its life on Harry’s neck with the first of many moments of clarity for his writing. “The Lone Mormon, A Crisis of Faith.” He drives home and writes for the rest of the day well into the night with the dead wasp unnoticed stuck to his neck.