Category Archives: Thoughts

I Don’t Pray, I Move My Feet

I wrote this entry for…not this journal…but I liked it so much, I’m cross-posting it here. I think it explains me. Why I start things, then abandon them (like this journal), or why I am how I am and who I am.

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I wish I could relax. I wish I knew how. People who have known me for years would call me laid back, cool-headed, accepting…but my mom is not wrong when she calls me tightly wound and high strung. I’m always going. Always looking for what is next, never satisfied with what I have now. I have a need, and emptiness that needs to be filled. A longing for something. But for what, I don’t know. I don’t know.

So I search and search. I try on different metaphoric hats–different places, different jobs, new people, no people, experiments in adulthood, things I can easily back down from, back out of if it becomes too frightening, or too restricting. I have claustrophobia of the spirit. I’m terrified of things that could trap me, stick me to one place or one person, make it impossible to run away or escape if need be.

I always wonder what my life would have been like had my family not moved around so much. Had we stayed in Ann Arbor. Had we stayed in Libertyville. Had I not moved after 5th grade, had I not moved after my sophomore year in high school. If I kept the same friends, or had at least known the same people in elementary school, and junior high, and high school, and maybe had some friends, or known some of the same people going into college. Would I know where I belong? Would I have a place I could call my home? Would I know how to keep the friends I make, instead of running away for no reason if they get too close, if they know me too well, if I’m too vulnerable around them? If I show them that tender spot I hid behind my ribs?

I have lived in 20 different houses or apartments, in 11 different cities over the past 29 years. I can renew drivers licenses in 4 states. Even my job is in constant motion. On Friday, I was in 5 different states. I wish I knew what it felt like to be somewhere. To stay somewhere. To know that elusive place called home.

But whenever something doesn’t feel right, whenever I question what I’m doing, or who I am, or what my purpose might be, my first thought is where do I move next? Where on my list of places I might want to be will finally feel like where I’m supposed to be? How will I even know when I find it?

Maybe I’ve already been there, but haven’t recognized it. Seattle. Or maybe it’s the place whose memories I hold the closest to my heart. Ann Arbor. Or maybe it’s the place I wish I was now. Helsinki. Or maybe it’s somewhere I’ve never been. Maine. Or somewhere I go for work. Conneticut. Or the place I was the happiest. Santa Cruz. Or someplace I’ve always wanted to move. Boston.

I don’t know. But the only way I can think to find whatever it is I seek to find, is to keep moving my feet.

Pop-Literature vs Classic Novels, How Does One Become the Other?

Christy of A Good Stopping Point wrote an incredibly thought-provoking entry about pop culture’s ability or inability to transcend to future generations of readers. The entry caused me to have some deep moments of reflection on the topic, but when I went to post a comment to her entry, I felt I would be spamming her blog with my inane chatter. And so I’ve written this entry, inspired completely by her’s.

I think I have some of the same struggles as Christy when assessing modern books with pop-culture references. For me it’s hard to look beyond my impression of the modern-day novel as a modern-day reader. I can’t tell if my disgust for some of these reference-laden books stems from the over-saturation of our media in general–what with easy WiFi-Facebooked accesss to everything, including and not limited to the last time my brother had a bowel movement (thanks, btw)–or because the book is actually a poor example of literature.

As I was reading Christy’s entry, 2 fairly recent books sprang to mind: The Time Traveler’s Wife and Twilight. Both novels were pretty explicit, and irritating, in their pop culture references, but the books are extraordinarily different in their value as literature. Whereas Twilight merely served to coddle my 14-year-old self, The Time Traveler’s Wife had far more merit and worth, and focused on some very thoughtful themes.

I think that might be the difference, at least from my perspective. It’s the universality of a novel that speaks to us. Perhaps if I were to read Cranston as the 1850’s version of myself, I might find the references to be irritating. But because the book has some truly universal motifs and was carefully written, I probably wouldn’t’ve hated the book. Cranston has able to transcend the ages. Likewise, if I were to make a guess, I would argue that The Time Traveler’s Wife stands a better chance of attaining status as a classic than Twilight. The vampire-craze will fade, but loneliness and waiting and yearning will always be there for everyone. And yes, teenagers will always be angsty and self-conscious and feel misunderstood, but I doubt that 50 years from now Twilight will be the topic of an AP English test essay.

I guess basically what I’m saying is that first impressions probably are correct. If You Say Tomato had merit to Christy (this is me putting words into her mouth, by the way) beyond bubbly pop-culture brain-candy, she would still be annoyed by the references, but would have felt the novel on a deeper level. In the end it’s the experiences and feelings that are important and universal. And it’s these experiences and feelings that help a book like Cranston retain its appeal, and not Dane Cook’s career and not Rosie vs Donald, because those things just don’t matter in the grander scheme of life.

As I was writing this, I started thinking about what makes other things classic and transcendent. Something About Mary and Wedding Crashers, or even Seinfeld, are hilarious for awhile, but when I’ve gone back to these shows recently, they aren’t as strong or as funny as they used to be. They have faded. But shows like I Love Lucy and Dick van Dyke or even Frasier still make me laugh out loud, even when alone. A joke is funny, but it is the overall human experience that is hilarious and transcendent. There will always be that well-meaning person who’s pride and self-consciousness gets the better of them, but a joke about George Stephanopoulos can only be funny a set number of times before it become irrelevant or becomes another one of those “Oh, yea, I heard that one before, here’s the punch-line”.

Borrowing Books, Lending Books, and Common Courtesy

So I’ve talked about this friend in my book blog a few times, Carol. She has lent me several of the books I’ve written about in this blog and about a third of the books I’ve read in the past two years have been recommend by or borrowed from Carol. She would lend me a stack of books, I would read them and return them, and she’d eventually bring another few books.

I was so excited to get all of these recommendations from her that I really wanted to return the favor, and I lent her one of the best books I’ve read: The Post Birthday World By Lionel Shriver (incidentally this book was recommended by Christy of A Good Stopping Point). She expressed an interest in the book and I was so excited to lend it to her and hear her thoughts, especially since we have very similar book interests. I felt I could return to her the same enrichment she provided me.

MIA since September 2008

Cuz I mean, that’s half the joy of reading right? That’s why we have all these book blogs! To share our experiences of these books, share our thoughts, hear what others have to say. The experience of a book is more than just reading the story. So I lent her the book.

That two years ago. She still has my book. She hasn’t read it yet. I’ve asked her for the book back four or five times. Each time she’s forgotten. Yet she’s remembered to bring me more of her books…all with her name written in them. I had a feeling the first time she lent me a book and it had her name pencilled in the cover that she was a book stealer, ie one of those people who “borrows” a book and never ever ever ever gives it back. Needless to say I’m pissed.

Just recently I discovered that I was an accidental book stealer and I feel like a complete douche bag about it…which partially prompted this entry (Bethy forgive me!!). But if someone asks you, to your face, four or five times to return a book, YOU RETURN THE FREAKING BOOK! It’s just common courtesy. And if you have no intention of reading the book, don’t express interest in borrowing said book, that’s just rude. And, when asked to return the book, return it promptly, don’t continue to say “Yea, okay” or “Yea, I was going to get around to reading it”.

Aside from this book blog, I don’t have a very good track record of recommending books to other people. My dad has recommended, lent, and given me several books to read. I’ve loved most of them because he and I share genre interests. I’ve recommended to him several books, purchased Travels with Charley and the first two Wheel of Time novels–which I stopped enjoyind halfway through book 3–for him to read. I also gave him my copy of Deerskin immediately after I finished reading it at age 12. At age 14 I finally took it off his book shelf and brought it back home with me after visiting him one weekend. Each of these books went unread. I must admit that I find it devestating when all these people who have influenced my reading habits don’t even take a passing interest when I try to reciprocate.

Anyone else have traumatic experiences recommending, lending, or gifting books to another person?