Wednesday, October 1, 2008

After You'd Gone: Maggie O'Farrell

The story starts with a bang when our main character, Alice, steps out in front of moving traffic. We know she is a bit confused and maybe unhappy with something that has happened. We don't know why.
The book works both backwards and forwards from this point on granting us access to Alice's history and her present.
All in all, it's a love story. And a good, long, sad one at that. I would say it's a classic tale of love and loss but O'Farrell does a great job of throwing more at you in the story...honestly...
I am STILL grieving for Alice. And maybe even myself just a little bit. What is it about loss, grief, suicide, death, pain...that's so interesting?

I love this book because it's passionate portrayal of love is so accurate. I love this book because it's numbing portrayal of grief following loss is even more accurate.

The book switches perspectives quickly. All in one chapter, you may hear from Alice herself, a 3rd person perspective of Alice, Alice's doctor, her mother, her lover...
What I loved about this:
372 pages moved so very quickly. In most novels that change perspective, the change occurs at the start of the next chapter whereas in this novel, we change from paragraph to paragraph.
It's at once confusing and then again, sort of exciting when you realize who you've moved on to. It also gives you very little reason to put it down at 3:37 am.

I will also say that for some strange reason, this book evokes the same feeling as a really long, hard break-up.
So...know that going in.

And another thing: I am obsessed with English-style writing. That may not be the accurate way to say that...
I am enamored with the wording they use. Somehow calling the bathroom, "the loo," makes it sound somewhat elusive, foreign and nice as opposed to odorous and...hairy.

When I wrote that there is a LONG portrayal of grief. I mean it. I admire it in Maggie O'Farrell's writing style. It's so bizarre. She drags on a depression in the precise way that a true depression drags.

To finish this choppy review of random thoughts...
I love this book. usual, it's sad and unrequited...
But...there is hope. At least this one ended with hope.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Attention Skinny Bitches...

I am reading 3 books right now which is entirely ridiculous. Last night after I dined on salmon rolls and spicy shrimp rolls accompanied by white wine with my co-worker, I dropped by Barnes and Noble because I have found that I seem to happier at bookstores than just about anywhere else.
I have found that in bookstores, I lose all of my self-professed inadequacies and actually just enjoy myself. It’s almost like I even become prettier once I step inside the doors. I wade through the titles in the art section and pretend that I know what I am looking for. I don’t. But I have found that surrealism is my favorite art. (A huge accomplishment for me! It’s taken me 28 years to discover this!) I even have a favorite artist! Her name is Dorothea Tanning. Look her up. Look up the work “The Truth About Comets and Little Girls.” It’s gorgeous and eerie and sadistic and beautiful and faintly hopeful in a way.

Next, I will maneuver about to the poetry section where I might read some Edna St Vincent Millay for a bit or Pablo Neruda. (If you haven’t ever read Pablo Neruda and enjoy poetry with hints of romance and eroticism, read him.)
Last night, I even wandered around the sports section for a bit, staring at the glossy covers of books on “Everything You Need to Know About Running.” Then, I thought better of that and escaped the aisle seemingly unscathed.
If you aren’t able to tell by my writing, I tend to get obsessed with things easily. I will compulsively pick up knitting, buy books, needles, thread…It will dominate my life for days before I quit entirely. I will develop an addiction to peanut butter bars and bake 4 recipes a week for 4 months before I stop, 5 pounds heavier and broke.

I have done this with running. I started jogging in Houston. I was running 4 miles a day…nothing crazy. I then met a running partner who pushed me into running races and soon after (what do ya know?) I was addicted. I was running 6 days a week, 5 miles a day with 1 long run scheduled on Monday evenings.
I ran a marathon.
I quit running.
My compulsiveness, not to mention my impulsiveness, exhaust me. Long story short, I can run and contemplate going back into training and enjoy it. But if I start buying books, it’s all over and I am hooked and then I am committed to a marathon which I am not yet ready to be.
So…I walked away.
But! This presented a different problem. I walked past a stand of books which you may or may not have seen, entitled 'Skinny Bitch,' by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin. What’s slightly comical about all of this is that I don’t read books like this. I never even pick them up. I am a “Live to Eater,” and not an “Eat to Live-er.”
But I picked it up anyway and the first few pages made me laugh in that their language is a lot like mine and before I knew it, I was purchasing this book along with a couple of other novels. “Hey,” I thought to myself, “It absolutely never hurts to be healthier.”
I sat down on the couch last night in my Alpharetta, GA apartment and read.
And then I read some more.
And now I have read nearly all of it.
I forced myself to stop reading it due to the sheer graphic horrors presented on slaughterhouse abuse to farm animals.
I was hysterical.
It’s a great book which promotes a vegan lifestyle which I did not realize going in.
Sometimes it’s nice to live in your pretty, pink little shell…safe from the knowledge that exists outside of you. Let’s face it. It’s easier NOT to know. Why else do we buy US Weekly and People instead of Newsweek and TIME? Because we WANT to know if John Mayer regrets breaking up with Jennifer Aniston and NOT the death count in the war. That’s why. It makes us sad. And we don’t like being sad.

Anyway. It’s horrendous, tragic, sickening and SAD.
And I threw up my sushi.
I’m not going to go into what I read because I don’t want to force it on you if you don’t wish to read it. But, if you want to learn more about slaughterhouse abuse and what you can do to help, pick up this book wherever books are sold and give it a go. To read specifically the horrors that I am speaking of (writing of), read pages 69-72 which are excerpts from the book 'Slaughterhouse,' by Gail Eisnitz, chief investigator for the Humane Farming Association who interviewed dozens of slaughterhouse workers across the country.

This book prompted me to delve right back into 'Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds About Animals and Food' by Gene Baur who is my personal hero. Again, “Readers Discretion” is advised. The content is graphic. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

So…when all is said and done, it appears that I have once again become compulsive/impulsive. I have already visited for a free vegetarian starter kit.

But this one, this compulsion…I fear…may be long-lasting. My poor husband and dogs don’t know what they’re in for.

Monday, September 29, 2008

I wouldn't buy you a drink either...

It was a good weekend. It was beautiful weather, just a touch too warm for football season. But it was good. Really.

We had sushi on Friday and listened to music on the patio. Kings of Leon came out with a new album last Tuesday and so I was doing my best to soak that in. Saturday was a huge day in college football upsets but my Sooners managed to survive despite the odds and we are now #1 in the nation. And I can breathe again until next weekend. Whew.

Here is something interesting…

My husband and I went to a bar on Saturday following the close of the OU game. I was tired, but in good spirits and wanted to get out of the house. One of our friend’s friends was having a birthday celebratory pub crawl and so we made our way to midtown where they were gathered. After the initial pleasantries had passed, I went up to the bar to retrieve a beer and as is customary on a Saturday night at a bar in a college town, the line was 3 deep and I hung back to seize an opportunity to squeeze in to the front. Here’s where it gets interesting.
A couple of guys…probably of college age but perhaps a bit older, were hanging back a little ahead of where I was. They were pleasant.
One of them motioned for me to move ahead of them as they had already ordered and received their drinks.
“Here,” one of them said. “Come up here. Sit next to that guy in the red shirt. Make him buy you a drink. Hey,” he motioned to the guy in the red shirt at the bar, “Buy her a drink.” I smiled because I am nice. Let me be clear here. I am ALWAYS nice. I would find it extremely odd to EVER be considered anything BUT nice.
I said to the guy in red, “Oh, it’s okay. I have money.”
He smirked and replied, “Oh honey, don’t you worry. I would NEVER buy YOU a drink.”

Now…typically I’m pretty quick-witted. I have the uncanny ability of snapping back smart comments that not only blend the perfect amount of sarcasm with nastiness but also manage to seem semi-intelligent at the same time. But, when someone is this blatant in their “a$$-holishness,” I must admit…I become rather baffled.
I patted him on the arm as if to say, “Good for you,” and then sat on the bar stool, simmering until I retrieved my beers.
I did go to his friends following our little exchange and told them that their “friend” was “really cool,” while giving a mock thumbs up. They apologized and muttered some expletives which, although making me feel better, didn’t curb my latent desire to have someone show this dude just how disgusting he was.
Here’s another thing: he was entirely unattractive. His eyes were so small they were all but missing from his pale, greasy face. Honestly, this dude is lucky they even let him in a bar at all. They may as well tell him at the door, “Dude, if you’re not already married, I feel obliged to tell you that because of the unfortunate circumstance of your face, you are certain to get NO play tonight. May as well throw in the towel already and go home.”
Maybe they did. Maybe they hurt his feelings and consequently, he felt the need to insult me.
(See how quick my nastiness comes out when someone is nasty to me first?! I’m telling you, it’s a vicious cycle)
Whatever the cause…I don’t care. I just know that I didn’t deserve it. What happened to all of the gentlemen out there? The ladies? Did someone really RAISE that guy?

What about the guy that you accidentally bump into at a bookstore and after sincerely exclaiming, “Oh, I’m so sorry,” he merely looks at you like you are the largest idiot of all idiots and says nothing.

Or the girl working the counter at Seattle’s Best coffee who asks “Can I help you?” with such a snarl that you order water instead of coffee because you forgot what you were there for.

Or the word “please.” Listen to how people use it now. Humans managed to turn a pretty word…a term of endearment that was intended to convey only niceties, into a word that comes off as a command. Really, listen! You’ll be appalled!

There are so many more examples I could use…

My sister always used to say, “Wouldn’t the world be a better place if no one broke the law?”
Hey man, I’ll make it easier than that! I don’t even care if you speed or drink when you’re 20…
Be nice. Just do your best to be nice. No matter what. See what happens.

In the words of the great Ani DiFranco:

“Maybe you don’t like your job. Maybe you didn’t get enough sleep. Nobody likes their job. Nobody got enough sleep. Maybe you just had the worst day of your life. Well you know there’s no escape and there’s no excuse. So just suck up, suck up and be nice.”

Wouldn’t it be great?

Here’s to the guy at the Shell Station in Buckhead the other day in the midst of a gas outage in the greater Atlanta area. He was directing traffic for angry drivers who didn’t understand why they were waiting in line. You should have seen Roswell Road. It was a circus for nastiness. And this guy was just smiling and directing and helping and…

Things are gonna get better…I can feel it.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Sad but with toys

Okay...this is probably completely uninteresting to most. But, I found the line that I was discussing in a previous blog in my review of "Songs Without Words."

Liz, who is the mother of the teen who attempts the ultimate act of desperation, is reflecting on a friendship that she had with a mother of three children, one of which was a newborn. The new mother is sensitive to the hardships of older children when younger siblings are introduced into the home. She remembers the woman asking friends to please not send gifts to her older children, because the oldest, when the second child was born had received various offerings which were really "just an unsuccessful distraction, making this sad little girl sad but with toys."

Liz rambles on for a few more paragraphs in her distraught state of misery following her daughter's suicide attempt. She contemplates the actions to take with her daughter who is now home from the hospital and she maneuvers through random thoughts about her day and what she does and similarly does not feel like doing. To put it simply, she is moving methodically through her day with no real goal in mind. She has reached a numb sort of misery at this point.

Soon after this, she recalls that "Right after New Year's she'd ordered some luxurious new sheets from a catalog having a white sale: pale yellow Egyptian cotton, 420 thread count. She was sad but with bed linens."

This may seem to be hokey or even rather simple to some. But to me, sometimes it's the smallest things that reach down and pull you up. I loved these paragraphs. I know that there are people out there who have invented airplanes and all and that in comparison, well, this is pretty small. But's my idea of beautiful. Even in a "just okay" novel.

My creative streak is dwindling today. I think that perhaps during my flight yesterday evening, I must have scattered all of my wit from the plane, where it is now blowing through the trees somewhere around some farmland in northern Georgia. In this same farm field, an introverted cow is wondering why today, of all days, he seems to be the life of the party.


Happy With Dogs

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Conversation with my sister...

Have you ever closed your eyes and for a split second, you see something that doesn't make sense? Just a second ago, I closed my eyes to rub them ( which is horrible for wrinkles I hear, but it's something I do when I'm sleepy) and I saw the back of a girl's head. She had purple hair but not the usual purple. Instead, it was lavender. Odd. I wonder who she is. Am I supposed to know her? Is she a fairy?

I phoned my sister today as I am in the habit of doing when I'm traveling. (Have I mentioned that I travel every week for work? I do.) I wanted to ask her to come visit in October because I had a craving to see her and had only just realized that November 1st (which is when we will meet in Norman for a football game) is such a very long time away.
It was settled rather quickly. "I can't. "S" (her son) has games every Friday and I could miss one but I would be a bad Mom..."
And we moved past it with rapidity. It was a crazy long talk. It took me from Roswell to Buckhead to a DSW (because I forgot my heels in Memphis and have been working in flip flops although I decided once I was there that I couldn't fathom buying a $60 pair of heels when I have perfectly good shoes at home) and then out of DSW and to the property where I applied my make-up and threw my hair up in a neater version of my messy bun.
My point is:
It was supposed to be a 5 minute conversation and instead we covered everything. We covered my trip to LA and how she would love the "8oz Burger Bar" with the spare rib grilled cheese and fried olives. We discussed how I had a conversation with one of my best friends C regarding the fact that I may mention my ex boyfriend too often in conversations with my husband, and that even if it means nothing to me, it may mean something to him. (This can be another blog but for the record, my sister agreed with do I, I suppose. I am rude and disrespectful and never even fathomed it because my husband is so amazingly awesome and just sits back and lets me talk.) We covered whether one can justify purchasing $150 sheets if, in fact, the sensation it provides is one comparable to napping on a bed of very short angel fur. (We decided that one cannot justify this even if one wishes to justify it.)
We discussed teenage drinking and what actually constitutes a drug dealer. We also pondered when to consider a 15 year old kid "bad news" and "not-worthy to hang out with your child" for his actions at Homecoming after-parties.
We covered the fact that she "does NOT" like California and how "I totally DO" and that there is "very little not to like."
We had conversations about Mom and Chinese Chicken Salads at Granite City Cafe.
We finished off the conversation with my assurances that my toenails were pretty and polished enough to enter a Buckhead property in flip-flops. (They were. Crimson nails to match my Oklahoma Sooner football team.)
It was a conversation that we have had many times a week, in that we typically talk for 40 minutes or more, and a conversation that we have never had in that the content changes with every passing day.
What remains the same is that I love my sister. I love it that I have someone to talk to who somehow is my biggest fan, even when I'm wrong. It's cliche, I know. But sometimes, when Johnny Raincloud settles in and I wonder where I am, who I am and if anyone has ever, EVER felt so's so nice to know that I'm not. And the best part of it is, there is very little that I could do to convince her to stop loving me back.

Sappy sappy...
Here's to sisters and best friends.

I am reading...

After You'd Maggie O'Farrell. It's an older book. By older, I mean, "not current." As in, the copyright is 2000.
It's sad and I love it. A love story that I am enamored with even though it doesn't fit my usual standards for a love story.

I am halfway through. I'll keep ya updated.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I am also growing my hair out...

Stay tuned. I will have my husband take a picture of me when I wear it down again so we can monitor this mane together.
Oh yeah, I'm dyeing it brown in two weeks as well.

Yeah! Change!