open for interpretation: from Laurence to Lawrence

I've been doing more "fun" reading this week -- like taking a night off to re-read Margaret Laurence's The Diviners, and standing in line at Starbucks today reading The Guardian.

(I brought few novels with me to London, but I had to bring one Laurence. I love The Diviners because, frankly, I find something new in it every time I pick it up. This time, because in my classes we talk so much about how the very nature of sharing information transforms it, I was particularly struck by this line of Morag's musing: "Will Morag tell Pique all she knows of Lazarus, or of Christie, for that matter? How will the tales change in the telling?" Or, much later in the novel, ".... was she interpreting him, as usual, only through her own eyes? How else could you interpret anyone?")

So, I have a few items to share:
  1. There are lots of stories to read today about when Lady Chatterley's Lover went to trial as a banned book, and got un-banned. But I would suggest this tale, of a North England mining town's interaction with the novel, is a must-must-must-read. If only for the author's horrified response to his own mother....
  2. Also from The Guardian, this story by Lorrie Moore. "Foes" is included in a 665-page short-story collection I bought earlier this fall, which I also turn to every once in awhile when I need a little more fiction in my life. What strikes me about this particular story, however, is Moore's unyielding push. She pushes the reader to draw his or her own conclusions, then rips away whatever helped them come to that conclusion. Does that make sense? What I mean to say is she ensures you, the reader, can not take the moral high ground, no matter how firm you think that ground is.
  3. This is actually a shared link from TSS. Having, at times, the maturity level of a Cosmo-reading 19-year-old, I find this title particularly funny.....


autumn poetry

With school readings, I haven't tons and tons of time to read novels at the moment. I've been experimenting with the New Yorker's fiction podcast.... But, to be honest, when I put it on I tend to fall asleep. I'm not a great listener of stories.

Says the reporter.

Anyway, today I meant to find some welcome-autumn poetry to share here. It was so gorgeous in London -- all blue skies and sunshine and falling leaves.

Instead, my flip through my treasured Oxford anthology of English poetry found this poem, by Anne Sexton. It is nothing if not arresting and thought-provoking. Not quite what I aimed for initially, but something to share nonetheless:

End, Middle, Beginning

There was an unwanted child,
Aborted by three modern methods
she hung on to the womb,
hooked onto it
building her house into it
and it was to no avail,
to black her out.

At her birth
she did not cry,
spanked indeed,
but did not yell --
instead snow fell out of her mouth.

As she grew, year by year,
her hair turned like a rose in a vase,
and bled down her face.
Rocks were placed on her to keep
the growing silent,
and though they bruised,
they did not kill,
though kill was tangled into her beginning.

They locked her in a football
but she merely curled up
and pretended it was a warm doll's house.

They pushed insects in to bite her off
and she let them crawl into her eyes
pretending they were a puppet show.

Later, later,
grown fully, as they say,
they gave her a ring,
and she wore it like a root
and said to herself,
"To be not loved is the human condition,"
and lay like a statue in her bed.

Then once,
by terrible chance,
love took her in his big boat
and she shoveled the ocean
in a scalding joy.

love seeped away,
the boat turned into paper
and she knew her fate,
at last.
Turn where you belong,
into a deaf mute
that metal house,
let him drill you into no one.


Goodnight Tweetheart

What's the cheapest way to tell a story?

I might argue it's by telling the story in letters or e-mails. Back-and-forth, flip-and-flop, he-said-she-said.

Sorry, I might have argued that yesterday. Today I'd have to guess the weakest way to tell a story is likely via "Tweets" and "direct messages" on Twitter.

In fairness, I've not yet read Goodnight Tweetheart. Nor have I ever personally written a book -- something I am sure takes so much personal sacrifice and self-motivation.

Still, I'm pretty comfortable with rushing to judgment on this one....


meet Emma and Dexter

Well, I broke my own school-year rule -- no fun, fictional books when there are readings to be done -- and took One Day home on Friday afternoon.

Then, I literally spent two nights in a row reading until about 4 a.m. And I was not reading about the Christian-moral roots of our notions of communication. I was reading about Dexter and Emma, two people who share a (sort of) one-night stand in 1988, and the 20 years that follow this night.

I'm still sort of reeling from the book, to be honest. It's funny, it's disturbing.... It's epic -- yes, epic -- and I don't really know where to start without ruining anything for you. I should say, this is not When Harry Met Sally. This is.... two people you feel you know. Maybe two people you feel you've been.

Dexter, through much of the book, is literally like the douchiest person you've ever met. Take a moment, and think of that person -- someone you dated, shared a meal with, hated from across the classroom or office. Now, try to imagine that person does actually have the same misgivings and moments of self-doubt you do. Maybe he or she wants the same things you do, too, but manages to fall short because of some uncontrollable urge to be a douchebag. In a nutshell, this shrugging self-awareness is what allows you to love Dexter throughout the book.

Emma, meanwhile, is painfully funny and gracious and lovely. She's vulnerable and makes mistakes, and you just want to shake her at times, as though that would help her gain the confidence Dexter wants for her too. (A piece of writing from a note to Emma from Dexter: "You're gorgeous, you old hag, and if I could give you just one gift ever for the rest of your life it would be this. Confidence. It would be the gift of confidence. Either that or a scented candle.") Other times, you want to hug her, straight-up.

I can't really say enough wonderful things about David Nicholls, and his beautiful suck-you-in-and-spit-you-out writing. It's a funny, funny book -- something of a love story, but really more the story of two lives, of perceptions that change and friendships that drift but stay the same as well. It's enough to make me want to read his other work, which includes Starter for Ten. But I won't today. Because I have to do school work today, and for many days ahead.