Friday, December 21, 2007

In Which I Was a Sandal But Have Moved Onto Something Sexier

Okay. So there is really nothing to say unless you want to hear all about my baking adventures as I bake cookies for our holidays.

A while ago I had found this rather expensive sandal which is called: Satia

Today I found something far better. A pair of satiny sexy pajamas called Satia.

I would love to own these. I truly would but for now I can settle for knowing that there is something sexy out there with my name on it.

Aries Horoscope for week of December 20, 2007

"Ambition is a bad excuse for not having enough good sense to be lazy," my ex-girlfriend Arlene used to say. She claimed to be a Zen master whose duty it was to deprogram me out of my absurd striving to make something of myself. She believed the key to enlightenment was to do nothing as much as possible. "You're egotistically attached to your identity as a poet," she'd yell into my room as I toiled over my writing. "Come out here and show me you have the spiritual guts to sit in front of the TV and lose your grandiose self in a meaningless game show." While I did eventually emerge from our relationship with an appreciation for the value of emptiness, it was not ultimately my destiny to downplay ambition. On the contrary! Which is why I'm
here to exhort you, Aries, to treat your desires as sacred rocket fuel -- in 2008, more than ever. In the coming months, in accordance with your astrological omens, I will intensify my efforts to supercharge your ambition.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

In Which I Finish a Book of Poetry

I read Judith Harris' The Bad Secret in part because the author was one of the speakers at the conference and I was hoping to attend. However, I was not strong/healthy enough to attend. Still, I'm glad I read this slender volume of poems. The cover image is evocative of the mood the poems within convey--bare, stark, reflective. Each poem's image seems to either build from a previous one or leap away from any of the other poems and yet the overall emotion remains. These poems are haunting and conflicted. Childhood memories at times delightful and vicious, like a Grimm's fairy tale, are shared side by side with later revelations. If in her book Signifying Pain Harris has taken the time to show how others have used writing to help define and heal their own pyschic pain, in these poems a reader can see how Harris herself has done this by looking first at the cause and then forgiving the effect. What could have been a collection full of anger and self-righteousness becomes, instead, an honest exploration of how forgiveness and grace can grow out of these reflections.

Middle Age

Just thinking of you,
can coax my flesh alive again,
as if that leaf could shiver air . . .

I have no body,
What has earth to do with this?
I tense with pleasure,
like the black feelers kicking
inside the meadow lily’s pinkest inner dome . . .

The downed sun kisses bark;
and the buds keep coursing through bloodstreams
of the upper boughs,
too early and too late for spring.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

In Which I Actually Finish and Enjoy (!!!) a New York Times Bestseller
Frankly, Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert had several strikes against it. For one, it is a #1 New York Times Bestseller. My experience with best-sellers is not the best and I could offer a list of incredibly disappointing books which have left me wondering why trees are dying for literature. Then there was the Oprah Winfrey endorsement. Although I can’t say that I have disliked her choices I can say that many of her choices have been emotionally draining and not the most uplifting. Or maybe I haven’t quite caught onto the whole Oprah phenomenon and, after a year of being home nearly every day when her show is on without managing to watch an entire episode, this may speak more about me than her or her choice in books. Finally, why on earth would I want to read a book about a woman who gets to live in Italy (where I would love to visit let alone live!), then moved to an ashram in India to study meditation (do I really need to explain the allure of this one?), and finally ended up in Indonesia trying to merge the two extremes of the passion and indulgences of Italy with the spiritual discipline and austerity of India. But then Saila recommended it. I didn’t jump immediately to start reading it. Then Ann recommended it, strongly. Now my ears were perked because I know how these things go and when I am supposed to read a book, I am really left no choice. Still, it took a third recommendation from someone I barely know to make me bite the bullet and buy the book. The book itself is divided into three sections. Eat, pray, love. Italy, India, Indonesia. Pleasure, devotion, balance. After a divorce Gilbert’s life is falling apart and she is inspired to undertake this year long pilgrimage to discover herself, her purpose, and she writes about her experiences (with amusing parenthetical asides) with easy yet powerful candor. Eat/Italy/Pleasure Is it any wonder that I enjoyed this part? Food. Architecture. Food. Beautiful men and women. Food. Language. More Food. Living in Rome Gilbert visits other cities and explores various restaurants. And she gains weight. Of course! But then she explains that she had lost so much weight before leaving for Italy, due to the emotional upheaval of going through her divorce, that she probably needed to gain some weight and . . . How she manages to not make the reader hate her is remarkable! Pray/India/Devotion A quick visit home to America for the holidays and she is off to India just in time for the new year. She goes to the ashram of her guru, a nameless spiritual leader with whom Gilbert had already been studying before she arrived. (Gilbert intentionally never gives the name of her guru to avoid possibly inspiring readers to follow an inappropriate spiritual path or giving her guru an unwelcome celebrity status.) Although I loved reading about Italy, this section resonated more deeply for me than did the former. Love/Indonesia/Balance I was fully prepared to love this section most, feeling the progression of my pleasure moving forward but this part of the book was ultimately the most tedious for me. I didn’t really care about the people Gilbert met and I wasn’t sure that what she experienced was either inspiring or necessarily inspired. (Part of the problem probably lies in the fact that I mistakenly read a blurb in the back of the book about her next book in which you learn something that is a spoiler of sorts. In other words, you know how this part of the book is going to end. In further words, don’t read the blurbs in the back of the book!!!) She says herself that the way her book is ending is almost too neat. Had I read it in a novel, I would have accused the author of being lazy, of not knowing how to end things so she decided to tie it all up in a bow. However, this is a memoir and sometimes life does this to you—sort of lets things all fall into a pace and rhythm where, surprise!, it all feels so nice and neat. And this book, although it seems in some ways a little contrived and convenient, still manages to be interesting, informative, and amusing. A delightful year-in-the-life memoir. (BTW, I’ve since read reviews that claim that this book was/is inspirational and life changing and . . . well, I may have missed all that. It was a fun book to read but I don’t feel changed or significantly inspired by it.)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

In Which The Reading Group (and I) Finished Another Book
The reading group to which I belong chose Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg and I was excited and a little anxious because once again I was visiting a book I enjoyed. I didn’t want to be disappointed and the thought that I might not appreciate the book the second time around was very much on my mind. I’ve been down this path before, written about rereading books and being horribly disenchanted. Surprise! I still love this book! I love everything about it. Every page. Every detail. Every character. Okay. Maybe not every character because not every character is meant to be loved. But still . . . what a charming and delightful book. (As I type this it hits me—I want to give this book to . . . someone. So I get up and move the book from my pile near my bed to where I have books piled for giving away. Different piles for different people.) Anyway, I reread this book with great pleasure and then I did something I had not done before; I looked up a psalm which was mentioned in the book, a favorite of one of the characters. I had expected it to be a psalm about God’s love and compassion. Instead, it was a psalm about judgment, about being weighed and measured, about being sinful and needing to be cleansed. The novel made me sigh in the peace of how loving people can be and then this psalm brought tears of grief to my eyes. So I was delighted, pleased, happy to have read the book again. I should not have gone any more deeply because I tapped into disappointment. I immediately backed away but the damage was somehow done. And so, I share below a psalm I like. (There are others but this could get tedious.)

Psalm 61 1 Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. 2 From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. 3 For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. 4 I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings. Selah 5 For you have heard my vows, O God; you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name. 6 Increase the days of the king's life, his years for many generations. 7 May he be enthroned in God's presence forever; appoint your love and faithfulness to protect him. 8 Then will I ever sing praise to your name and fulfill my vows day after day.

I think Psalm 133 would have been a more obvious choice than Psalm 90. It does almost make me wish I were still a college student who had the time and resources to sit with a book and really pick it apart to see what and why and how it ticked.
If you have seen the movie and want to read the book you will not be disappointed. If you have seen the movie and liked it but don't necessarily feel drawn to read the book, although you are missing out on some delightful nuances and details, you probably can spend your time doing something else. Personally, I'm glad I read the book more than once.

Monday, December 17, 2007

In Which We Now Have The Internet Again And I Finish A Young Adult Novel
It was gone.
Now it's back.
I borrowed Beast by Donna Jo Napoli from the public library because I not only enjoy reading young adult novels but because this is a version of one of my favorite fairy tales—Beauty and the Beast. I had seen Cocteau’s lavish and surreal movie as a child. I had shuddered when I learned that Disney was making an animated movie of the fairy tale only to be delighted by the results. And I have read other versions, including Francesca Lia Block’s The Rose and The Beast. In other words, I wanted to love this book and could have loved this book easily. And yet, I did not. I had to think about it and I realized that this book was missing the one essential ingredient for any good fairy tale—magic. Napoli does a nice job of giving the Prince cum Beast a history. Prince Orasmyn lives in Persia and is Islamic by faith. These details flavor the first part of the novel but still left me feeling unsatisfied. When the Prince is cursed and turned into a lion the gradual decline from human to beast is explored but not with any depth. This would have been a perfect opportunity for the writer to poetically show the change, using language to spotlight for the reader what is happening within this young man. And for someone who supposedly adores roses, his descriptions of the varieties is banal, plebian, and lacks any real passionate observation. If as a beast he cannot see the many hues he can still differentiate the aromas, number the petals, the textures between the various blooms. The opportunity to bring beauty into the prose was not evident. If this were not a story based on a fairy tale, I would have not begrudged this novel the absence of verbal magic, poetic transcendence, the elevation through prose into mystical experience. These are the elements I assume I will find in a fairy tale and a book or movie based on a fairy tale. A for effort but I will not recommend this book to anyone but the die hard Beauty and the Beast fans who merely have to be able to say that they have indeed read anything and everything they could. Otherwise, I would say pass, even if you are someone who love this particular fairy tale. In fact, perhaps especially if you love it and do not care to read anything and everything! Or those who do not care about the inspirational fairy tale.
However, I might have used parts of this book if I were in a class where I were teaching The Aeneid only because the Roman version of the the Trojan War figures slightly in part of the tale.
(I am reminded of a scene in Harold and Maude where Maude is showing Harold a field of daisies, praising the uniqueness of each flower. Here is the quote taken from
Maude: I should like to change into a sunflower most of all. They're so tall and simple. What flower would you like to be? Harold: I don't know. One of these, maybe. Maude: Why do you say that? Harold: Because they're all alike. Maude: Oooh, but they're *not*. Look. See, some are smaller, some are fatter, some grow to the left, some to the right, some even have lost some petals. All *kinds* of observable differences. You see, Harold, I feel that much of the world's sorrow comes from people who are *this*, [she points to a daisy] Maude: yet allow themselves be treated as *that*. [she gestures to a field of daisies]
I still feel Napoli's Beast who so loves roses should have known how to recognize each one as beautiful and would know how to treat each rose as this rather than that and it is unfortunate that Napoli didn't have the passion to write his passion to its fullest potential.)