Wednesday, January 26, 2011


My third child is zen.  Most of the time.  Every once in a while, she'll hit me when she's mad.  She's also very tall.  Much taller than her twin.  She's a tiny zen giant who throws herself onto my lap with great zeal outside of her zen-ness.  I tell her to wrestle with her big brother who is closer to her size than her twin.  She's hilarious.  I love my tiny, funny, zen, curly-headed giant one-year-old.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Now Reading

I'm now reading Red Earth and Pouring Rain by Vikram Chandra.  This could take a while.  Until then:

"i am parasher"

The Man of My Dreams

 While looking up other works by Curtis Sittenfeld to see how much of a dent I'd made in reading her literary contributions to the world, I came upon the title, This is Not Chick Lit to which Sittenfeld contributed the story Volunteers are Shining Stars, which I have not read yet.  However, that was one of the points I was planning to make about The Man of My Dreams:  This is not Chick Lit.  At least not really.  This is the third work of fiction I have read by Sittenfeld (I have also read Prep and American Wife), and it pretty much struck me as all the others had.  This is a good thing, actually.

To me, Chick Lit (besides reminding me of the tiny, square, plasticy gum as the term bounces around my brain) is the lovely Carribbean vacation of the mind in which one indulges in order to take a break from life; a cute story about fashionable girls, or soon-to-be fashionable girls, or quaint country girls who are smart and sassy and about whom we can smile and indulge ourselves with the notion, "Hey, that's me," while noticing how cute and fashionable we girls kinda really are.

My experiences with Curtis Sittenfeld are not like this.  She is an extremely talented writer, and I love the way she can turn a phrase.  She is also crude, explicit, and embarrassing (and not in a cute way), and I simply can't put her down.  Sittenfeld's protagonists are weak in the way you are weak but won't admit even to yourself.  On the flip side, they are also strong in ways that you -- if you do admit your true weaknesses -- may find you are as well.  If these women find happily ever after, it's in knowing that life is going to go on despite what they've been through -- usually what they've put themselves through.  Because when it comes right down to it, aren't most of the things that happen to us the things that we've done to ourselves? 

There is one way in which this could be considered Chick Lit if the connotation can be suspended momentarily.  I really have no idea how much a man could relate to some of the finer points of the characters' reasoning, not to say that a man couldn't.  Maybe if you read it one of her books and you happen to be one (a man, not a book), you could let me know how it went.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Ten of My Favorite Authors (In No Particular Order)

1.  Elizabeth Kostova
2.  Charlotte Bronte
3.  Agatha Christie
4.  Curtis Sittenfeld
5.  Roald Dahl
6.  Edgar Allen Poe
7.  Ian Falconer
8.  Madeleine L'Engle
9.  Kate Chopin
10.  Susanna Clarke

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Great Language

Back in Philadelphia, Hannah's mother's wedding dress is stored in the attic in a long padded box, like a coffin.

-- Curtis Sittenfeld, The Man of My Dreams

When I Say I'm a Christian

I have been a lover of the work of Maya Angelou since junior high school when I first discovered her wonderful words.  Who among us was not moved sometime around the seventh grade by I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings?  As I've grown up, I purposefully echo in my mind the words of Phenomenal Woman and find strength in Still I Rise whether I deserve to or not.  When I Say I'm a Christian, however, was new to me until today, and it put into words sentiment I'm far to inadequate as a writer to think of myself.  Don't stop me even if you've heard this one.  

When I Say I'm a Christian

When I say, "I am a Christian," I'm not shouting "I'm clean livin'."
I'm whispering "I was lost, now I'm found and forgiven."
When I say, "I am a Christian," I don't speak of this with pride.
I'm confessing that I stumble and need Christ to be my guide.
When I say, "I am a Christian," I'm not trying to be strong.
I'm professing that I'm weak and need His strength to carry on.
When I say, "I am a Christian," I'm not bragging of success.
I'm admitting I have failed and need God to clean my mess.
When I say, "I am a Christian," I'm not claiming to be perfect.
My flaws are far too visible, but God believes I am worth it.
When I say, "I am a Christian," I still feel the sting of pain.
I have my share of heartaches, so I call upon His name.
When I say, "I am a Christian," I'm not holier than thou.
I'm just a simple sinner who received God's good grace, somehow.

Maya Angelou

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Composed almost completely of correspondence through letters and telegrams, this book takes you back to very post-war England (I mean, nearly right after D-Day) when the country is in the midst of beginning to recover, dig through the rubble, and decide what to do with the various nightmares and scars it has suffered throughout the years.  Herein one captivating writer who had heretofore managed to lighten the hearts of her public during World War II is now at a loss for a subject.  Then she happens across the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society.

This is beautiful book.  Until now, I was not aware that such charm and horror could coexist.  The book's two authors, Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, skillfully intertwine the life of Juliet Ashton, the quirky writer, with the lives of her friends both old and new.  When my book club chose this book, to me it seemed like a pleasant little read, but do not let the cover mislead you.

Among the letters describing the characters' enchanting daily lives along with their love for literature are descriptions of what was suffered by these same characters during the German Occupation of the Channel Islands as well as circumstances in concentration camps and the like.  Throughout the book, I came to be encouraged and inspired by the strength of many of these people to be able to retain their dignity and even kindness.  If it seems like my analysis is too sweet, it is only that I came away with a love for the characters, which by my account makes for a good book.

(I fear I may not make for a very interesting critic.  I hope, in time, to be able to read some truly terrible books during my literary explorations if only to provide a truly scathing and biting criticism that will be sure to make me seem much more intellectual.)

Until then, if you want to laugh and to be inspired and if you would like to realize that your problems are not terrible enough to make you the cynic you probably are -- in other words, a little perspective -- pick up The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, and then let me know what you think.