Saturday, February 06, 2010

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger is a love story that actually lives up to its description.  This is not merely a romance with a simplistic happily-ever-after conclusion but rather a story about a relationship that is complicated and sometimes messy and often challenging.  Henry, a time traveler, meets his future wife, Clare, when she is still a child and as their relationship evolves during different times, the inevitable love the two share is revealed in gentle layers.

Initially, I found myself anxious for Clare because I disliked Henry immediately.  My opinion about Henry merely grew worse the more I knew him through the pages of the novel. I wanted desperately for Clare to find a way to escape from the presumed fate that the two of them share but then, by the end of part one, my sympathy for Clare had grown to apathy and even antipathy by the end of the novel.

Typically, when a reader dislikes the protagonist, or protagonists as is the case with this book, I still felt compelled to read from cover-to-cover because Niffenegger’s ability manipulate the linear story, telling the story in a fragmented chronology, layering the story so that deeper significance is given to events or moments as the pages are turned, is remarkable.  As a literary experiment, this novel succeeds.  Also, Niffenegger’s ability to create a sense of time and place is remarkable.  That she manages to retain a sense of flow while leaping her characters in and out of different times, different ages, is incredible.  I was/am absolutely in awe of the technical merits of this novel.  So, despite my dislike of the primary characters I still wanted to read their story, to see how the novelist would bring the story to its inevitable conclusion.  Which is another commendable quality upon which I must remark because, although the reader knows much more than the characters often do themselves, she still manages to build a surprising amount of suspense.

Do I recommend the novel?  Yes, but qualified.  I am guessing most people will enjoy the story on a less than academic level, that it will stir some emotional response.  Of course, it helps if you at least like, if not flat out love, the protagonists. For me, this book was most interesting to me in the “how” and not so much in the “what” of the story.  And this is perhaps why some will loathe it because when a story isn't told in a linear fashion some readers simply cannot enjoy the intricacies of such a telling.  Oh well.  I enjoyed the book although I can't say that I adored it--adoration would have come if I also loved the characters.

PS:  I hope that Niffenegger and/or her editor figure out the correct usage of blond/blonde because half the time the novel got it right and the other half it was wrong leaving me confused, leaving me to assume that one or the other or both assume the words are interchangeable. 

PPS:  I further hope that Niffenegger will learn to not stereotype her minor/minority characters because some of her characterization bordered on the offensive and if they were not on the page would probably create quite the uproar.  More of these characters and odds are this novel would be vilified rather than celebrated.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Blood Dazzler by Patricia Smith

Blood Dazzler by Patricia Smith is the fourth collection of her works—enough to merit her one day having a complete works of . . . and hopefully with a cd of her reading her own works.  After all, she is a spoken word artist, a national slam champion, and the pleasure of hearing her read her own words is the only way to truly present a complete collection.

Do you already guess that I love Smith’s poetry?  The truth is, I went into this collection with a boat load of anticipation and very high expectations, a combination that can, and often does, damn a book before it is read; all the more so because I had heard her read one of the pieces from this collection at a poetry reading. 

Nevertheless, this is an ambitious collection that addresses the events leading up to, through, and after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans.  Not completely chronological, thematically the pieces are so tightly woven that the horror of the experience is realized on the page in ways that are both surprising and inevitable.  Where Smith excels is in her use of personification—whether anthropomorphic or immersion of herself in the personae of another.  Many of the poems are preceded with an epigram that contextualizes the piece in a specific moment as in the example below:

11 A.M., Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Satellite imagery . . . Doppler radar data from the Bahamas and Miami . . . indicate [tropical depression twelve] has become much better organized . . . has strengthened into tropical storm Katrina.”—National Hurricane Center

The difference in a given name.  What the calling,
the hard K, does to the steel of me, 
how suddenly and surely it grants me
pulse, petulance.  Now I can do

my own choking.  I can thread my fingers
with grimace and spit

zephyr, a gentle marking
of the very first time I felt

that crisp, bladed noun
in my own mouth.
This is a wonderful website where you can access a variety of texts, sacred and near sacred.  This is an ecumenical site.  Pick a spiritual path and explore what is offered on the site.  Or you can choose a topic and see what different faiths have to share.

This research on Reiki, done with patients who have fibromyalgia, is very interesting.  I didn't know what they meant by "Box Reiki" so I looked it up.  In a nutshell, the practitioner places the Reiki request(s) into a box to which the Reiki is the sent.  The request itself can be given Reiki individually or collectively.  This is not unlike creating a prayer list and using that to focus one's prayers accordingly. 

This article discusses how a health journal can help lawyers with disability cases.  (Interestingly, I’m reading a book that encourages the reader to keep a journal to document the physical sensations associated with vertigo.) 

This blogger addresses her weight loss by offering weekly challenges to her reader.  I think her observation about journaling about weight loss and its emotional impact on the individual is very interesting.  Not your typical “weight loss journaling” suggestion but one that should not be overlooked.
This is an interesting article that discusses the practices of both yoga and Reiki.  Yoga is actually how I eventually came to be a Reiki II practitioner and I often find myself flowing with Reiki while doing my yoga practice.  Obviously for me they are compatible. 

This just interested me because I am always fascinated by research that points out the obvious in alarmist tones.  I am perverse in that I find it amusing when the media sensationalize something and the headline on this article is: Sitting Too Much Could Be Deadly.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

The Kitchen is "Finished"

The tiles are all in place.

The dishwasher has been replaced.

The cleanup people came and cleaned up.

Now all we have to do is completely reorganize the cabinets and wash every dish, pot, pan, storage container, fork, spoon, knife, etc.

In other words, the work is done but there is still work to be done.  But at least, starting tomorrow, we can actually cook some meals in our own kitchen again.  I'm so excited.  Home cooking!  Yay!

The dogs, however, cannot walk through the kitchen until later tomorrow or even possibly Thursday.  I'm eager for them to have the same freedom as the rest of us because we have to live our lives in such a way as to accommodate them. We may be free to walk around the kitchen but until the dogs have free reign, we are all still under the dictates of circumstances.

Maybe tomorrow.  By Thursday at the absolute latest.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Tehanu by Ursula K Leguin

Tehanu by Ursula K Leguin is the fourth in the Earthsea cycle, picking up several decades after the second book with a few new characters including a child who has been abused and is damaged beyond the physical.  And once again, Leguin manages to compose a story that is eloquent and elegant, gentle as it moves from moment to moment.  With a surprisingly intense denouement, the story is primarily told in a tone that is nearly poetic in its loveliness.

I found myself reading more slowly, savoring this book even more than I had the first three.  I don’t know what it was about this one that I enjoyed more fully.  Perhaps it was as simple as the ease with which I identified with some of the experiences and thoughts of the main character, a remarkable statement when considering that this is a fantasy novel where heroes are common but identifying with them is a rarity.  This, in and of itself, is a high praise for Leguin’s talent. 

Again the tone of this novel is not typical of contemporary fantasy novels, which means some readers may not enjoy the novels nearly as much as I do.  On the other hand, it is the very tone of these novels that makes them so wonderful to me.  I wouldn’t encourage someone who didn’t like the first book in the Earthsea cycle to read the rest.  However, I would strongly urge anyone who stopped with the first three to pick up the fourth book because it is quite possibly my favorite.