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Archive for September, 2011

Needle, Meet Groove

September 22, 2011 Leave a comment

For those of you too young to remember record players, you won’t get the reference. The music lovers and those of us who learned to read using the read-along record and book combination, I’m betting the first thing you hear in your head is the magical, mysterious chime that meant it was time to turn the page.

I grew up with these things, and I think my love of reading grew from them. They allowed me to be independent. I didn’t have to wait for a grown up to read to me, and my Fisher Price record player was all mine, and I could operate it just fine without help. I was able to lose myself in a story, and the patient narrator taught me the words on the page.

 

 

 

 

My favorites were, of course, the Star Wars series with pictures from the movies, and even the “spin off” stories like “Droid World” captivated me, especially the nascent terror I felt when I thought R2-D2 and C3PO were going to be melted down! (Gasp!)

I guess what’s bringing all this to mind recently is The Grand Adventure I mentioned last week (though it certainly seems like it was a month or go when I last posted). Work has slowed some, but it’s about that time to ramp into the fall and then Christmas. Vacation, while it seems so terribly far away, is closer than it appears. Now throw into the mix homework, papers and midterms (oh my). I haven’t got it down yet, but it’s starting to fall into a groove and the week is starting to take on a kind of rhythm. I have an idea of where the volume is going to be, and where I need to really buckle down and get my list accomplished to ensure that the following month doesn’t suffer for a lack of motivation. I’m hoping that this means the posting will be somewhat regular, and that I maaaaaaybe will squeeze in a little writing and editing time in there as well.

 

But then again, that may just be me wanting it ALL, right NOW, damnit.

One step at a time. Let’s get the melody down, then we’ll work in the harmony.

For now, back to the (text)books!

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The Grand Adventure

September 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Now, as you may be aware, I have always had oodles of free time on my hands. Don’t mind me stepping aside for a moment. I hear that intermittent lightning strikes out of a clear blue September sky are a common thing, and something I have a mild phobia of when I speak of all the free time I have that I’d be willing to donate to anyone who may find better use for it.

Right.

So, after reviewing my crazy work schedule, I decided that finally finishing up my degree would be a “Good Idea.” It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I left campus at the end of my sophomore year, but up until now the planets have not aligned in any kind of auspicious arrangement to bring money, time and opportunity together. The fact that it’s remained incomplete for so many years has been something that bothered me tremendously ever since. Until last year. Last year, I did the paperwork to get registered to complete my BA in Liberal Arts in an entirely online format. And then things got crazy and I had to defer it, but this summer, I committed and September first was my first day of school.

It is a great adventure and a huge challenge. I decided to take a “no-brainer” class that would help me get adjusted to the online format and learning to incorporate the workload into my life (a literature class on the horror story that made my black little heart skip a beat), and I selected an introductory psychology class. Here I am in week three. Week two was pretty much hell during which I had a little mini freak-out over the 70 pages of psychology textbook reading on the anatomy and function of the brain (in addition to completing payroll, reviews and trying to stay on top of my feedback schedule with agents). In addition to the required posting, weekly class chat, lecture notes, and work and the OTHER class, it was a challenging week, but I got through it and relatively unscarred.

Unfortunately, it does mean that I may not be as prolific on the site as I have been previously, but it’s all for a good cause. I’m going to try to get a post in a week and schedule it right after my chats for one of the classes. I am still here, but whatever scraps of time I can spend writing, I am and the fiction is taking precedence over the blog. Sad, but true. Gotta have more stuff to feed the sharks, after all. (Though I will admit that “free” time right now means sleeping. I’m not proud of it, but it will take time to adjust.) If I drop off the planet too long, don’t worry. I’ll be back. One class ends in November, so I’ll have a little more time to breathe about then and I’m sure I’ll have PLENTY to say. đŸ˜‰

Look for an upcoming post about Lovecraft’s “Supernatural Horror in Literature” essay. It tickled, delighted, entertained and intrigued me and I definitely have things to say….

I’ll be baaahck….

Something Like a Review: Bedbugs by Ben H. Winters

September 6, 2011 Leave a comment

It’s a good idea to keep your words soft and sweet because you never know when you’ll have to eat them.

This is pretty good advice that many of us forget along the way, especially those who are particularly passionate in our beliefs. I am thankful that since I’ve been reading and writing for this blog and have made a concerted effort to think before I post (most) things, my words are sweet enough to swallow, because that’s what I find myself doing today.

My first exposure to the fiction of Ben H. Winters was through his novel Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. Suffice to say that I’m not the right audience for that particular story and I found much more to be enjoyed by Android Karenina. When I was offered a chance to get an advance look at Bedbugs, I was excited. After the initial gross-out and the obligatory itchiness the premise of the story conjures up, “bedbug problem from hell,” it sounded intriguing and I couldn’t wait to dive in.

When I got the book and read through the press release, I was skeptical and worried that it was over-stated. The press release mentioned “loving references to Rosemary’s Baby,” and since I’d just read the story a few months ago, I was leery. Could it really deliver on a promise like that without being corny?

Much to my surprise and delight, the book does live up to the claims in its press release. Not only did I see the urban paranoia of Rosemary’s Baby, but also the deterioration of sanity akin to “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and even a nod to The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (but I won’t spoil the surprise of that one).

Winters does a great job utilizing the city-dweller’s inherent suspicion of their neighbors to create an environment of paranoia and capitalizes on the social stigma and related aversion of having a bedbug infestation that only increases as Susan Wendt becomes alienated from those around her, including her husband and child. The story continues to surprise from beginning to end. I had moments where I was certain that I knew what was coming, only to riffle back to see how in the world I had missed the clues that led up to a scene that had me staring at the page in disbelief. Even better, as the book concludes the eerie events aren’t quite comfortably explained and I found myself checking out nocturnal mosquito bites just to make sure there weren’t “breakfast, lunch, and dinner” bites.

With the good, there’s always a counter point, but this one is more a matter of personal taste and may not faze other readers. When I was first starting to delve into writing, I was taught that contemporizing a story by inserting popular brands in the text only served to “date” the story when it’s read by later writers. As a reader, I’ve found this lesson reinforced by the lack of “branding” in stories I’ve considered timeless, and when the “branding” does exist, it breaks my concentration and sends me seeking out what the writer was talking about because I don’t have a modern reference for the name. That being said, the first couple of pages of Bedbugs starts off with an initially irksome list of name-dropping that effectively dates the story in  the early 21st century. While I understand what is implied when the character is using a MacBook to search Craigslist while drinking Brooklyn Lager, I’m not convinced that this could have been conveyed in a more graceful, less dated way. In ten years, give or take, the “contemporary reader” may have an entirely different perception of what that means than today’s audience. The name-dropping frequency diminishes as the story continues, but is significant enough to rub my personal pet peeve raw and may remain unnoticed by most readers.

Overall, Bedbugs left me creeped out and applying lotion to soothe the phantom itching I experienced all the way through it and for days after. I thoroughly enjoyed the ride, but I am re-considering my desire to stop off in NYC the next time I head that way. ~shudder~

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