Saturday, November 29, 2008

The sort of weekend one wants to wallow in

I just applied to college. Well, that's weird.

I've finished reading Bastard Out of Carolina. I'm really not sure how I feel about it. I guess I don't really dislike it, and the writing is often excellent. But it's not something I would ever read again. It's too uncomfortable (not shocking--I'm not easily shocked) a book for that. It's worth reading but that's not why I read, really. I read to make myself think, and I can't even really think about this book so it kind of defeats the purpose. But it's a very good book, so I'm glad I read it. I guess that's the difference--I'm glad I have read it, I'm glad it's over.

And it's only Saturday! I have a whole day tomorrow left of my weekend! And three whole days before I have a new Senior Lit book I have to read. I don't know what the next one is, but in the meantime I'm going to read all the fun stuff I can. I'm still working slowly on Five Children and It (which should go fast, it's only 170 pages), and I started reading The King of Elfland's Daughter, by Lord Dunsany, which is lovely although I'm not sure it's what I really want to read right now. I'm sure I have all sorts of other things to read, too.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!

I'm going to spend it reading and doing homework. Mostly reading. I'm looking forward to it immensely, and also to the pumpkin cheesecake.

On the very tail end of my childhood, I started reading a series of books beginning with Pure Dead Magic, by Debi Gliori. It's pretty much the only ongoing kid's series I still follow, and since I had such a day yesterday I stopped by the library to find a good kid's book, and found the latest one of them. Or at least, the latest that I haven't yet read, since there were two new ones. After Pure Dead Magic comes Pure Dead Wicked, Pure Dead Brilliant, and Pure Dead Trouble, and the one I'm reading now is Pure Dead Batty. It's about a family consisting of parents, 13-year-old son, 10-year-old daughter, and two-year-old daughter (named Damp). Plus their griffin, crocodile, dragon, yeti, some spiders, some rats, and a bat or two, the cook (who can't cook), the butler, and their nanny, Mrs. McLachlan. They all live in a big crumbly sort of castle in Scotland, which sits next to Lochnagargoyle, and magic and oddity abounds. It's all a great deal of fun. I would definitely recommend them to anyone looking for kid's books (for Christmas or such like), but also just to read, because they're a lot of fun and a good short read sort of thing. All the blurbs on the back of the book describe it as a cross between Mary Poppins and the Addams family, with Roald Dahl and Lemony Snicket thrown in, which is pretty accurate.

Anyway, enjoy your turkey.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


This has been such a long day. Making turkey jokes in math class this morning seems like it was weeks ago.

It was lovely, the sky and the trees next to the sky and the fact that I couldn't see where I was going through the sun reflecting off the brick sidewalk outside SCCC. It was colder than its been so far this year, and I was early and the bus was late. Which kind of sums up the day.

The Seattle public school district is relocating several schools and closing their buildings, and mine is one of them. We're being moved into a middle school building and cohabitating with another program. The structure of a middle school (long, thin, windy hallways, the possibility of actually getting lost) is so contrary to the entire fundamental existence of Nova, and the whole idea that we will not be in our building next year, which has our murals on the walls and our love in all its (many, many) cracks, is so strange. The building is an extremely important part of Nova. But we have to move. We do, however, have some control over where we move, at least so far as we can talk to the school district and negotiate and see what we can come up with. So that's what we were doing all day--figuring out what we want and how we want to convey that to the district.

I have to say that I have never seen that many boys get teary all over one thing all at once. Nova is an enormously, impossibly powerful entity. People's love for Nova comes from a very, very deep place.

Mark, the principal, kicked us all out at 3 because its the day before a holiday so we all had to leave early, and at 2:55 I was still running around rather frantically trying to get the last of the paperwork for my UW application (which is due Monday) all sorted out. Beverly and I decided to be spontaneous and go to Pike Place Market. We had $1.87 between us, and we asked the guys at the donut place how many plain donuts they'd give us for that much. We attribute the fact that we wound up with seven donuts to the fact that we are female, and the donut guys were male, given that it's $1.85 plus tax (and tip) for six plain donuts. So we ate donuts and watched the sun set over Elliot Bay an incredible orange (it matched Beverly's Malvolio garter, which I was wearing), and good grief on toast, I can't comprehend the fact that I will probably not be in this city next year.

And then I got on the bus on the way home and realized my mp3 player is broken. Which is nothing in comparison with everything else, but which really sucks and which was a really great topper to the day [note sarcasm].

I'm lucky I take things so philosophically. But an empty room in Nova is still going to make me want to cry for months to come.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Hello, procrastination.

I am very much rejoicing in the fact that I have no plans this weekend. Nowhere to go. All sorts of things to do, of course, but no parties, plays, balls, or tests, as I have had the last several weekends. It's very pleasant just to stay home.

I have to admit that NaNoWriMo has fallen entirely by the wayside. I got to 22,000 words a week ago and then stopped entirely. I have too many other things to do this year that are much more important, and the novel was just not holding my attention. I didn't plan it well enough, and so fell back on the default sort of thing I write if I don't think about it. I lacked a theme, and therefore have stopped. There's too much homework to do, and applying to college is far more pressing. Hopefully next year I'll manage to finish. I would do another July novel next summer, but I think I really ought to stop writing them and sit down and edit one. Probably last July's, which is my favourite.

Next semester I'm planning on taking a class on Jane Austen, which I'm looking forward to immensely. I'm supposed to read all her books before the class starts, so I'll be reading the last of those over winter break. The only ones I haven't read are Mansfield Park and Emma, which are the ones that have always appealed to me the least. I've started Mansfield Park, though, and I'm sure I'll enjoy it.

Now I'm rambling, and should go do my homework.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


It's been an incredibly long week, but also a very satisfying one. I have no idea when, but I've been doing rather a lot of thinking. Also, a lot of getting things done. I've had a lot of homework, and I have a college application due in a week, so with one thing and another I haven't had much time to stop.

After I finished Storming Heaven last weekend I needed a book to read until I got the new Senior Lit book, so I picked up Old Books, Rare Friends, by Leona Rostenberg and Madeleine B. Stern. I haven't finished it yet, but I find it extremely and unfailingly pleasant, interesting, and thought-provoking. The authors are friends and partners in the rare book business, and this is their combined memoirs, both of their lives and of their adventures in books. I've decided I have to read more biographies of people in the early to mid 20th century, because it's a fascinating era to me, and it becomes even more fascinating when I have a particular person to view it through. Plus, I adore any books about books, and this definitely qualifies. Also interesting is the fact that these are the women who originally discovered Louisa May Alcott's pseudonymous penny dreadful stories. Over all it has points that make me think (in somewhere about the middle of my torso) of 84, Charing Cross road. I suppose it helps that they went to 84, Charing Cross Road on their first book-buying trip to London, but apart from that it's a bit of recognition--two more people who also love books.

I have to say it's a good book to read alongside Bastard Out of Carolina. Not that they have the least bit of common ground, but that Old Books, Rare Friends is so pleasant and Bastard Out of Carolina is so unpleasant. I have to admit I don't like Bastard Out of Carolina very much. It's not to do with the subject matter, really, or even the fact that it's not a very comfortable book to read. It's also not to do with Dorothy Allison's writing, which is really very good. It just doesn't have the same resonance for me that other books have--though it has certain elements of autobiography about it, which intrigued me in The Kite Runner and in The Things They Carried, it doesn't pull me in like those books did for that reason. It doesn't have the sense of being epic that, for example, Storming Heaven had, and which is one of my favourite qualities in books (the epic parts are the only parts of books that ever make me cry, and I can't really explain what I mean in this case by epic). Neither did it have a good sense of being completely ordinary (because it's not). Over all, though it is interesting, it has not managed to convince me that what it's saying is something I want to be reading. Anyway, I am kind of underwhelmed, while simultaneously being a little overwhelmed by what it is saying. If that makes any sense.

I'm going to start work on my Senior Lit essay, which has suddenly become very difficult because I have two different ideas I want to write about. Am I a ridiculous overachiever for really wanting to write both?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A little bit of history.

I finished reading Storming Heaven yesterday, and I really rather loved it. It's one of those books that I would never have considered reading on my own, like To Kill a Mockingbird and Beloved, but which I wind up loving.

Four different people tell the story--Rondal Lloyd, a coal miner and union organizer in West Virginia; C.J. Marcum, who I think is Rondal's uncle, or at least related to him somehow, the mayor of a town nearby; Rosa Angelelli, an Italian immigrant; and Carrie Bishop, a Nurse from Kentucky who gets rather tangled in it all. Each of them has a very distinct voice (it's written in first person), both in personality and in manner of speaking. All of them speak in dialect to a greater or lesser degree, Rosa most notably since her English is quite weak. I liked reading Carrie's sections best, because I liked the way she describes things--she's the most poetic, but one very definitely feels all her descriptions to be utterly true.

It's a very character driven novel, yet still it tells the story of a real event and it definitely has a strong plot. The whole book leads up to the Battle of Blair Mountain, in 1921, which was basically the explosion of the tension over attempting to unionize West Virginia coal mines. It fascinates me that these characters are fictional, yet so powerful and real even against the backdrop of true and rather terrible events, which almost seem like they should overwhelm the book. But they don't overwhelm the book, and that makes them more powerful.

I picked up a book of three E. Nesbit novels off a table of free books at school the other day, so I'm reading Five Children and It as I have time. I'm very fond of E. Nesbit--I'm sorry I didn't read more of her when I was younger, but even so her books kind of have the same feeling for me as do Arthur Ransome's or Edward Eager's.

The next Senior Lit book is Bastard Out of Carolina.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

All for one...

And one for all... Last Sunday I saw The Three Musketeers at Seattle Repertory Theatre. I enjoyed it immensely. For some reason I often find myself when seeing productions by the bigger theatres (the Rep, the Opera, etc.) really disliking at least one facet of the show. Whether it be the costumes, the lighting, the set, or something else (though usually, I admit, not the acting), one thing bugs me. This does not often happen, however, with the smaller shows. This time around, though, I liked pretty much everything. I loved the costumes (one of my common complaints about costumes is that they have no real theme that makes sense for the play, but that was not the case this time), the lighting, the sound, and the set (which made me kind of jealous, I must admit), and the acting all except for the random little sister Sabine to D'Artagnan, who was kind of pointless and chirpy. All in all it was a rollicking sort of play, and it was able to hold my attention entirely for the entire two hours, which is unusual as I tend to get antsy in theatres.

I love that I've now seen enough plays to begin seeing actors more than once and recognizing them. Shawn Law, who I saw as Hamlet last summer, was Rochefort, Cardinal Richelieu's rather bumbling sidekick, and a woman whose name I don't remember, who I saw a year ago in Twelfth Night (also by Seattle Rep), was Milady, the rather evil minion of Richelieu.

I have never read The Three Musketeers. I've read The Count of Monte Cristo, and it's one of my favourite books, but for some reason The Three Musketeers never quite appealed as much. I suppose I'll get around to reading it eventually. Maybe some day I'll read it in French.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Different kinds of wars.

It's been quite some time since I posted. There's lots to do. November has begun, which means its National Novel Writing Month, and I'm in the throes of a novel.

I'm still only really reading things for school, so I'm in the middle of Storming Heaven, by Denise Giardina, which is mostly about coal miners in West Virginia and Kentucky in the early twentieth century. Its very good, though interestingly in first person (by four different people) and written in very often very heavy dialect. I'm definitely enjoying it, anyway. I wish I had more time to read it.

I'm also reading the Iliad, but I've had even less time to read that since its second on the priority list of reading and very low on the big priority list. I love epic poetry, though, so I really want to finish it.

I have to write an essay for Senior Lit (which is what I'm reading these for), and I have to pick a topic for it soon since the rough draft is due the beginning of December. The theme this semester with all these books seems to be war, so I'm thinking I might contrast the grand widespread wars in the books with the small, domestic sorts of wars. Which ones are more important to the novels? Which ones say more about the characters? That's what I'm thinking, anyway.

I am home from school for Veteran's Day, which is terribly exciting because it means sleep and time to write and do homework. I love my house on quiet rainy days.

Now I really ought to toddle off and write another three thousand words on my novel, and then I'll actually be up to speed with it.


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