Thursday, November 18, 2010

Favorite Books of 2011

Jane Austen
Collection of 7 Jane Austen novels: Last year for Christmas, my mom got me this beautifully bound copy of all 7 of Austen's novels. One very little-known little novel by her is Lady Susan, which my mom and I read on a long car trip once. It was hilarious! I recommend it. So far I've only read 3 other ones (Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Sense and Sensibility) and I love them all.

Les Miserables: Everyone picked up this book and weighed it in their hands like a brick. "It's huge!" It is really long, and sometimes boring (Victor Hugo, did you really have to give such a long discourse on the history and layout of the sewers? Really?), but it's absolutely so worth it. If you've never read it, read it. Even if you need to skim/skip some parts (which I confess to doing occasionally when I was running out of motivation). The journey is an amazing one and once you finish it, you feel like the characters and what they went through are a part of you. There's really something to be said for reading an extremely long novel, especially one so powerful and moving.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Gonzo Part II

Here's the rest of my "Gonzo" imitation piece:

“How did I know you were done,” Jerri joked. Behind her, a skinny man with thinning brown hair and a crooked smile walked in. “Emily, this is Mike.”

I shook Mike's hand. “Nice to meet you.”

“You too. If you'll follow me, I'll just have you watch a short video while I score your test.”

The video turned out to be about L. Ron Hubbard, the guy who wrote all the books. Apparently, he lived a pretty full life. I had a hard time paying attention. The irony was when my eyes drifted to the books on the bookshelves, saw the name L. Ron Hubbard, and thought, “I wonder what that guy was like,” and then I realized that if I were just watching the video then I would find out. But I still didn't pay too much attention. That's the trouble with people – sometimes we get so caught up in hearing ourselves think that we don't see the answers when they're right in front of us.

After the video was over, Mike returned and brought me back to the office where Jerri had introduced me to scientology. “Here, I'll go over your scores with you.” In his hand was the same kind of chart that had been hanging on the wall in front of me when I had been taking the test. There were even a couple of little clouds around two of the points.

Mike showed me how the chart worked before moving on to my individual answers. “It looks like you think you're pretty stable. Would you agree with that?”

“That sounds about right,” I conceded.

After discussing my answers, we chatted. Apparently, you could be part of just about any religion and also be a scientologist, because it wasn't really a traditional kind of religion.

“It sounds like a self-help book put into practice,” I said.

He chuckled. “Well, it is sort of like that.”

I was really enjoying myself. I realized that I never get to do this. I never get to just sit down and talk with somebody who is completely objective, who doesn't know anything about me except for what I tell him, who won't judge me because he has no reason to.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Hearing Aids

Who knew that life could be so sharp and bright?
Tiny pins burst the bubble of quiet
as thick as cake icing. Now the searchlight
holds in its beam the truth that I edit:
the sounds, the beating drums, the fireworks.
This is life, apparently, so they tell
me, that's reality! The eel that jerks
away my cushion of peace, my soft shell
of comfort. But do I want to go back?
Will I watch while the world can hear
the silent prayer, the whisper and the crack
of jewelry sliding down the stairs? Revere
all that is lost, I will, I will. But I
might stay in all the peace I got here by.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Gonzo imitation

A little while back I wrote a piece for my creative writing class that was supposed to be written in the same vein as Hunter S. Thompson, or "Gonzo." Now, I'm not suggesting that you go look up Thompson's stuff (he mostly wrote about drugs/drinking/women), but his writing style is very interesting. It's very cynical and even a little bit philosophical, but very much in the moment, bringing the reader along for the ride. Sometimes it's really spastic and random. My piece isn't quite as absurd as Gonzo's, but that's why it's not written in exactly the same way that I would normally write.

It's pretty long, so I'll just share the first part of it.

To Know

I gripped the steering wheel with white knuckles as I navigated the crowded downtown streets. I could never get used to this part of town. The irony of this particular street was that it was lined with churches – Methodist, Baptist, Lutheran, all kinds of American protestant religions and just about nothing else – and yet cars honked incessantly, the dirty sidewalks were littered with garbage and cigarettes, just like every other street I had driven down that afternoon. The pedestrians wore the familiar faces of middle-aged men with long greasy hair and beer bellies and deep wrinkles running like rivers down their faces; the expressions of delinquent teenage boys with cigarettes hanging out of their mouths and giddy anorexic girls gasping with hollow laughter at every turn in the conversation. Staring at the sidewalk and keeping close to the walls were ragged women with their creaky shopping carts, those sighing mothers who had nowhere to put their children to hide them from the drugs. What Christian goodness abounded in these streets, full of people without teeth who would rasp out a long story about how their life came to be this way, how they ended up like this. That is, if anyone asked, but nobody did. A few businessmen in suits took long, hurried strides toward their destined buildings, their eyes glued to their blackberries while their feet automatically stepped around any who might obstruct their paths.

I had no desire to join this world, and I did pretty well in escaping it, parking my car underneath the building marked “Hubbard Foundation of Dianetics.” My head swirled with fantastic ideas about what lay inside the glass doors and up the elevator, ideas that I had been entertaining all morning in anticipation of my trip to the Church of Scientology: Cult leaders dressed in deep red robes and pagan masks descending stairs to prostrated worshippers surrounded by candles in a high-ceilinged, musty room decorated with strange orbs and scepters and cracked paintings of ancient scenes, an unintelligible chanting ascending to the arched ceiling.