Tuesday, October 18, 2011

7X7 Link Award!

I have been a very bad blogger lately.

The absent, not very engaged kind. I'm sorry about that.

Life just went wildly busy as the school year began. I am starting to realize I can't work full-time, commute 12 hours a week, raise 3 children, manage a farm and household (with help from Dan), belong to 2 writing groups, write/revise my 2 1/2 novels AND blog about it all too.

I'm afraid "Lesser Apricots" has proven easier to ditch than the herd of sheep. At least I didn't have to chase IT all over the yard today and back into the pasture. (grrr!)

But look!

Lisa over at the fabulous Kicked, Cornered and Bitten has sent an award my way. In this award, bloggers hold their own old posts up to the light-- maybe giving new readers a chance to check out the old gems in certain preordained categories.

So here goes:

Most Beautiful post: Perhaps "Beautiful" is not the right descriptor, but I really felt I said something kinda cool and important with "Work and the Work". It's about how my work with challenging teens relates to my work as a writer. Not exactly beautiful or even profound, but I think I said exactly what I meant to with that one.

Most Popular Post: A surprising one. "Unknowable" a post about a monkey who adopted a kitten (really) but really, there's more to it than that.

Monkey adopts Kitten: A long tailed macaque monkey adopted a kitten in Bali, Indonesia

Most Controversial Post: A One Hit Wonder post is the most controversial so far (What that says about me, the blog or my readers I just don't know...). I mistakenly labeled the group "Madness" as a one-hit wonder. ooops. I'm afraid I rely on faulty-- or Americo-centric-- sources.

Most Helpful Post: This is a two parter-- a summary of what I learned at The Muse and The Marketplace last spring (Part One/Part Two)

Coolest Post? Okay, I made this category up. But what about all those one hit wonders? Though they are neither helpful, beautiful or profound, I couldn't leave them off my list! So here they are post after post of flash-in-the-pan cool.

Most Surprisingly Successful: My review of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo". Hate to say it, but this was probably due to random Google searches.

Post that Didn't Get the Attention it Deserved: Going All Picasso about how great artists can break the rules. Perhaps even "telling" rather than "showing" when the story calls of it. No one had much to say about this. Perhaps you all just 100% agree?

And the Post that I am Most Proud of: Hmmm. Posts? Proud? It's all a blur. But I do like this one, about the mystery of the creative process, birth and "birth." I'm also pretty proud of my John Henry post (This one could be called the 'most controversial' too as the folk hero's story can be interpreted in all sorts of ways.)

I'm sending this award on to a few cool, newly discovered bloggers out there:

To Ashley at Ashely Elston

C Lee McKenzie at The Write Game

and Lea McFalls at Wanton Redhead Writing
Thanks again, Lisa. You gave me the bloggy push I needed.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Your Weekly One Hit Wonder!

Well, sort of weekly....

Anyway, its a good one today. "It's Raining Men" by the Weather Girls.

Not only is this 1984 hit one of those timeless tunes everybody (EVERYBODY!) knows, but this the best bad video ever! I especially love the trench coats.


On a whole other (less humorous) note: I love how this video reverses the traditional "average-looking male singer surrounded by beautiful, scantily clad women" dynamic. 1984 never looked so cutting edge-- well, not cutting edge exactly, but... interesting.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Random Book Review: "My Life as a Fake" by Peter Carey

Okay, I'll just say this straight off: I loved this book. It's a sort of creepy, semi-supernatural, literary mystery with roots in a historic Australian literary hoax. In short, a hard book to sum up, but one that is easy to appreciate.

Here's what Amazon says about it:

"In Melbourne in the 1950s, an arrogant young Australian poet named Christopher Chubb decides to teach his country a lesson about pretension and authenticity. Choosing as his target the trendiest of the literary magazines, he submits for publication the entire oeuvre of one Bob McCorkle, a working class poet of raw power and sexual frankness, conveniently dead at twenty-four and entirely the product of Chubb’s imagination. Not only does the magazine fall for the hoax, but the local authorities also sue its editor for publishing obscenity. At the trial someone uncannily resembling the faked photograph of the invented McCorkle leaps to his feet. At this moment a horrified Chubb is confronted by the malevolent being he has himself manufactured."

But this description is all backstory.

The "present" of the novel concerns Sarah Wode-Douglass, lover of poetry and editor of the "Modern Review" who, on a sort of whim, accompanies a lecherous old friend of her long-dead parents to Malaysia. There she finds a desperate Australian bicycle repairman reading obscure literature. The man shows her a scrap of poetry of such genius she is desperate to publish it. But in order to read the rest, she must bear witness to the bicycle repairman's strange story.

As you might have guessed by these two quite disparate descriptions, the plot of this novel is rather complicated and unconventional. The drama is almost entirely in the backstory with subplots (also involving backstory) and many interesting and not quite so interesting twists. Because of its complexity, the novel doesn't quite deliver that perfect ending I'd hoped for. It feels rushed, and much goes unexplained.

"My Life as a Fake" is ambitious beyond reason and yet, for the most part, it works. This is mostly due to Carey's beautiful prose. Although I know little about this part of the world, I felt the humid rain forest morning, the smells and narrow streets, the sense of alienation the characters seemed to cultivate.

In a way, this novel was similar to "His illegal Self" (which I reviewed a while back). But this novel touches on bigger themes: the meaning of art, identity, guilt and redemption among many other things. And, for me, it was a real page-turner.


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Your Much Delayed One-Hit Wonder

We in Western Mass are still working through the aftermath of Hurricane Irene. For such a "non event," Irene sure made a mess of the Hilltowns.

We were fine here on our slopey bit of land. But this is what Shelburne Falls looked like on Sunday:

Back in 1982, I thought Dexy's Midnight Runners' hit was "Come on Irene." Perfect, right?

Turns out, it's about some "Eileen" person. But it WAS a One-Hit-Wonder ...and a good one.

(To clarify, Dexys Midnight Runners did have several other hits in the UK. But in the US, this was it.)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Spike Driver's Blues

I'm back from the extended break of August. Thanks, everyone, for sticking with me through all that empty space. I do appreciate it, as what started out as a family vacation blogging break grew into a plain old blogging (and writing) break. A long one.

Partly, I just needed a little downtime with the kids. Partly, I needed to attend to work-work in preparation for the new school year. And partly, well, I've been a little detached from my novels lately.

You may recall my post about John Henry, the folk hero. Henry was born to drive steel and went down swinging when the team drill made him obsolete.

Mid-revisions, I felt quite a bit like Mr. Henry. I was in love with the practice of writing and with my work. I found value in it regardless of what the larger world might ultimately think of it-- whether it it was published or not.

And I do still feel that way.


But then, there are the "Spike Driver's Blues" kinds of days (or months!). Spike Driver's Blues, by Mississippi John Hurt, is sort of "the flipside" of John Henry, about a more sensible man who decides to turn in his hammer before it kills him and go back home.

This is the hammer that killed John Henry
But it won't kill me
No, it won't kill me
No, it won't kill me

Take this hammer and carry it to the captain
and tell him I'm gone
Won't you tell him I'm gone
Won't you tell him I'm gone

John Henry, he left his hammer
Laying inside the road
Laying inside the road
all covered in blood

John Henry, he left his hammer
All painted in red
All painted in red
All painted in red

It's a long way to East Colorado
Honey, that's my home
Honey, that's my home
Honey, that's my home

Take this hammer and carry it to the captain
and tell him I'm gone
Won't you tell him I'm gone
Won't you tell him I'm gone

Here's Mississippi John Hurt:

Writing--any art-- is a cyclical sort of enterprise. One day you're John Henry, the next, a lowly spike driver heading home.

What are your experiences with the your work?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Slight Blogging Break

As you might have noticed, I've been away. Vacation. Maine. Family Birthday. Lots of fun.

I thought I'd have to pry myself way from my keyboard, but it turns out, I am really enjoying the short break. I'll be back in a bit. Promise.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Your Weekly One Hit Wonder!

"Montego Bay" by Bobby Bloom

It's summertime, and this, friends, is a sunny little hit from 1970.


Random Book Review: "Still Alice" by Lisa Genova

Still Alice is the story of Alice Howland, a brilliant Harvard Psychology professor who is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease as she enters middle age.

I read this book a few weeks ago, and to tell you the truth, it's taken me a while to frame my opinion of it.

On one hand, the snark in me railed against the flat dialogue and lackluster writing. At one point, I actually hollered "Please, just, please, don't go and describe the new snowfall as 'A true winter wonderland'!" I actually turned off the audiobook at "the baby's pudgy, blotchy, pink cheek," had my little temper tantrum and turned it back on. (Maybe this is not so much snark as snob. I'll admit it. As a developing writer, I work so hard to give each sentence its due. This kind of thing just.... grrr.)

Beyond this, the novel had a Lifetime Special sort of feel that also ticked me off. It bothered me that Alice was a brilliant, happily married person before the Alzheimer's. This seemed too pat, too expected. Why not write about a more complicated, interestingly shaded person? I griped.

But, here's the thing; Still Alice does what it does brilliantly.

As the novel progressed, and Alice's internal language begins to disintegrate, looping and repeating and leaching precision, Still Alice gave me the sort of intimate experience that makes this book totally worthwhile. I swear, my own internal thought process began to echo Alice's (!) I didn't just read about the terror at being lost in one's own house, I felt it.

I can't deny the simple power of my experience in reading-- and living-- this book. And so, despite its flaws, I sort of recommend it. Check it out... if you dare.