Saturday, March 06, 2010

Out of My Mind: The Discovery of Saunders-Vixen by Richard Bach

Out of My Mind:  The Discovery of Saunders-Vixen by Richard Bach is more a novella than a full novel.  Coming in at barely 100 pages with loosely placed text that is interspersed with images of planes in flight, it almost feels more like a short story. 

The novella itself is about love of flight, in particular love of flying planes.  The narrator, Richard Bach, shares a story of trying to resolve an issue he was having with his one airplane and how inspiration came to him in his sleep.  The rest of this very brief story goes on to suggest that the inspiration comes from a parallel universe where it is just slightly after World War I except where this reality exists the war never happened. 

I don’t think enough happens in this novel to make it memorable.  I barely recall any of the character’s names even though I read it just yesterday.  The idea is there but the characters are barely introduced before the story is over.  No psychological or even emotional development occurs.  The story itself seems to more an idea about ideas but without any story arch—whether dramatic or emotional—there is nothing more there but a tale that has no point beyond an idea about how we get ideas.  More like an idea for a novel (or even a novella) than a novel itself.  And for a novel about traveling dimensions, how is it that this novella, from the characters to the plot, seem so flat and lacking in any depth or dimension whatsoever? 

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Friday, March 05, 2010

No Friday Randomness

I've been not my best this week due to the weather and such so I haven't gathered the usual Friday Randomness.

Instead, I invite you to note the edit of this post.  This is the first time I've been asked to remove a poem and there are plenty of examples throughout the blog of other publishers who understand that one poem does not constitute a violation of copyright fair use law.

I didn't like the collection so I can't help wondering if that isn't a part of what is going on.  Or maybe those collections I have loved and where I've shared one poem haven't caught up with me yet.  So sit back, grab a cup of tea or a glass of wine, and let's see how many other poets and publishers demand I remove their words from being online.

On another note, google wave finally has email notifications.  In order to set your email notifications up, you simply have to log into your account, click on the inbox drop down menu and look for the notifications link.  It is automatically set to "never" for notifications but from there you can choose to be notified instantly, hourly, or daily.

I think it is a little too little too late.  But who knows . . . maybe someone out there will prove me wrong and the next time I check my email I'll have a google wave notification.

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Thursday, March 04, 2010

Stand Up For Your Life by Cheryl Richardson

Stand Up For Your Life:  Develop the Courage, Confidence, and Character to Fulfill Your Greatest Potential by Cheryl Richardson is a self-help book by one of those celebrity life coaches that I would typically dismiss but she came recommended to me by someone I respect and admire so I picked this book up and was pleasantly surprised.

Each chapter offers stories, recommended resources, and many opportunities to journal.  Richardson wants the reader to interact fully and encourages a written documentation as you progress through the text.  Many of the exercises include making lists and then narrowing down those lists before then fleshing out the few remaining items into a clearer vision.  The exercises definitely build one upon the one another and later ones actually refer back to earlier ones so there is no use reading this book and coming back to the exercises later.  The full value of the book will not be realized in that way.  Each chapter concludes with recommended resources from books to websites to audio programs, all of which are meant to further reinforce the lessons taught in the preceding chapter.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is feeling a general discontent about their lives.  Or perhaps to someone who has experienced some significant changes or is facing some forthcoming ones.  Change, welcome or unexpected, often requires a certain amount of courage and confidence to work through and where there is discontent there is usually some misalignment between ones values and lifestyle.  The book certainly has its strengths.  However, for anyone who has been journaling for a long time or who is already comfortable with their life’s path, there may not be much content here to make a profound change in the reader.  A quick skim of the content with perhaps a little digging into the recommended resources may suffice.  So it depends on where you are in your own life, how you feel about yourself and where you are heading in your life as well as how confident and/or courageous you may already feel.  If you need a little help, this book couldn’t hurt.  And if you are well on your way but need a nudge, this book may not blow you away but it may help you fill in a few gaps that you might have overlooked.

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Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Jazz by Toni Morrison

Jazz by Toni Morrison is the story of a marriage, an affair, a murder, insanity, race and personal redemption which is told with a style that is resonant, a syncopated prose that does honor to the title while being a page turning homage to the form.

What can one possibly say about Morrison that hasn’t been said already?  Even said better, no doubt?  I honestly can’t add anything to what has already been said in praise of this novel.  The various voices, the subtle changes in perspective, are never jarring or surprising but flow naturally, like great jazz music.  One layer of the story (melody) is revealed only to have another take its place but somehow return to the original thread (refrain) until the whole theme is laid out perfectly and brilliantly.

It was (is) tempting to find online discussions and analyses of the novel, to have someone else show me the symbolism and metaphors that I may have overlooked in reading through the novel.  It is not necessary for me to appreciate the novel without these insights and although I probably would appreciate it all the more and more deeply, I am content.  Morrison never takes the easy way out nor does she ever insult her reader by pontificating or explaining.  The contract she creates with the reader from the very first word is fulfilled by the end of the novel.  And for all the mess she throws out onto the page, it is all so neatly done as to seem effortless. 

In the past, I have found Morrison’s novels cathartic in the purest sense of the word—I wanted to throw one book across a room and inevitably I have felt emotionally exhausted after closing her books.  This time, however, I did not have that electric shock of experience that I typically have.  I suppose it is because this book is one of her earlier novels and she had not yet hit her power.  But it is there.  It is most definitely there on each and every page and well-chosen word.  Such precision is bound to leave any reader, especially those  who appreciate jazz music itself, fully satiated.   

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Sunday, February 28, 2010

February in Summary

February was thankfully easier than January. Rob’s health, which had taken a sharp turn for the worse in January settled back into the good for February.  In fact, it improved to such an extent that he felt strong enough to work a couple of days.  Huge sigh of relief for everyone.  In the meantime, Marc and I have both been applying for jobs.  Rei announced a new comic book she’s created which should be on sale soon.  And Joe and Erin announced that they will be getting married on March 17th.  And lest I forget, February is the month for Girl Scout cookies.  Woohoo!!!

Books Read

Blood Dazzler by Patricia Smith
The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
Shifting Line by Chelsea Rathburn
Les Liaisons Deangereuses by Chodelos de Laclos
The Red Leather Diary by Lily Koppel
Open Letter to Quiet Light by Francesca Lia Block
A Poet’s Work by Sam Hamill
To Dance:  A Ballerina’s Graphic Novel by Siena Cherson Siegel with artwork by Mark Siege
The Waters and the Wild by Francesca Lia Block
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Aspire by Keven Hall
Dexter in the Dark by Jeff Lindsay
Happy:  A Memoir by Alex Lemon
Love Haiku by Patricia Donegan

It is hard to pick a favorite because I truly adored two books this month so I am going to say that Blood Dazzler by Patricia Smith and Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson are both books I would recommend to anyone and everyone. 

Movies Watched for the First Time

I had never seen this movie before and Rob said he had enjoyed it when he was younger.  I started to watch and was drawn in.  Although the plot is very predictable and sometimes O’Toole can come off as a stage actor who hasn’t learned to tone down his gesticulations for the screen, I enjoyed the movie and when I saw Virginia Madsen I had an epiphany.  I typically find actresses who remind me of someone I know to be the most interesting even if they do not do a lot of work and/or don’t do particularly challenging work. 

Now there’s a subtle difference here between an actress I find interesting and ones I admire for their talent.  I admire Meryl Streep and Angelina Jolie.  I find Virginia Madsen and Iyari Lymon interesting.  Why?  Because they remind me of someone I know and love.  I could add to this list—Jasmine Guy, Whoopi Goldberg, and so many more.  I won’t bore you and it wouldn’t matter because even if I were to say “This actress reminds me of this friend” you wouldn’t know the friend and might not be able to make the same connection. 

It’s just one of my personal quirks, among so many others, that made me realize something peculiar about myself.

So what else have I been up to?

  1. Reading the memoir of a friend.  I sent her something to look over and am waiting to see what she has to say.  Usually when I send people things, I never hear from them again.  I think my writing may be scary.  There is one exception (you know who you are) but over all my writing seems to be the kiss of death when it come to these things.
  2. Writing has been mostly revision.  Much harder for me for a variety of vertiginous reasons.  That’s why commenting on someone else’s writing is a huge commitment for me because for every 30 mins I spend doing it, I have to spend at least that much time resting—often twice as much time.  And of course, the newsletter. 
  3. Exercising to lose weight. I am still struggling with the weight I gained as a result of living in my bed for practically an entire year.  It is disheartening to still be struggling with it and I am not comfortable being the type of person who is not content and comfortable in her own skin. 
  4. Cross-stitching a belated birthday gift for my mother.  I’ll share a picture of what I did before I send it off to her but I have to say that this project is hard, harder than I had thought it would be.  Gorgeous but damn . . . it’s hard. 
 Goals for March

1)      Finish the cross-stitch (see above)
2)      Fulfill my 31 Day Personal Challenge (more about this in upcoming posts)
3)      Revise my cover letter
4)      Go to poetry workshop (rescheduled from Feb 13 to Mar 13)
5)      Email each of my friends and family one time in March

The other things like reading and writing and supporting my loved ones in their various endeavors don’t need to be listed because I do them naturally and easily.  It’s the things I don’t necessarily want to do or keep meaning to do but procrastinate on that need me to consciously commit to making them happen. 

But just in case I forget to write you before the end of the month, please don’t take it personally.  I swear it isn’t intentional.  I’m just flakey like that.

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Love Haiku by Patricia Donegan and Yoshie Ishabashi

Love Haiku:  Japanese Poems of Yearning, Passion, and Remembrance edited by Patricia Donegan with Yoshi Isabashi is, as the title clearly suggestions, a collection of translated haiku with a focus on love.  Conservative haiku tradition suggests that haiku about love are atypical and yet the editor pulls together both classic and contemporary pieces under three sections:  yearning, passion, and remembrance.

In Donegan’s Haiku Mind, a collection which I loved, the editor shared meditative reflections for the reader to draw deeper meaning from the haiku. In this book, she drops this altogether offering the haiku on their own, with romaji translations beneath.  (For some reason that is beyond my comprehension, Donegan calls these “romanji” which is an unfortunate choice in my opinion.  And for those who do not know what romaji is, it is a form of using roman letters to write Japanese kana and/or kanji.)

Although I miss the meditations from the previous book, I love that this book offers the romaji.  Anyone who is studying Japanese will appreciate the opportunity to look at the literal translation and then see how the Japanese has been changed into English.  Another feature I love is that, in translation, the editor chose not to follow the haiku syllabic tradition of 5-7-5 preferring to translate the haiku from the Japanese into three lines of English which do not always have the same syllabic mandate.

Interspersed through the pages are illustrations be Sekka Kamisaka give the reader moments of pause, the images reflecting in many ways the idea of haiku, a reminder to stop and meditate and even appreciate before moving onto the next page.

In the end, I love this book as much as I do Donegan’s other collection but for very different reasons.  I am happy I thought to give this book as a gift to Rob and I am sharing some of the romaji with my son so he can translate the text into English and compare his choices with those of the text.  I only hope that, in future printings, the mis-transliteration “romanji” will be corrected.  Or maybe the editors were counting on the ignorance of the reader, an unfortunate and somewhat insulting assumption which all the more suggests that the correction should be made.

From the collection:

dusky autumn--
for someone yet to come
a single chair

yagate kuru mono ni banshu no isu

Akito Arima

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