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Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead
Brené Brown, Karen White
Blue Lily, Lily Blue
Maggie Stiefvater
Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography
Neil Patrick Harris
Last of the Curlews
Fred Bodsworth, T.M. Shortt
Recovering for Psychological Injuries 2nd Edition 0941916510
William A. Barton Arnett J. Holloway
Garner on Language & Writing
Bryan A. Garner

Romp in The Sack

Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare - Stephen Greenblatt

I never thought this would happen to me, but while I was reading this book, I actually had a sense of nostalgia for Harold Bloom.


A woman I work with forced this book on me with the guarantee that I would adore it. I later found out that she "hates music like the Velvet Underground." It's always people like that who are forcing book recommendations. Not that there are "people like that" who hate the Velvet Underground. I have a lot of faith that she is an isolated case.


This book pretty much hit on every single thing I ever hate about books. I know other people have said the writing was engaging, but I have to disagree. One sentence was just a list of the types of businesses that existed in London in the late 16th century. The businesses were grouped together in a way that let the author use some semi-colons, and it seemed pretty clear to me that the whole purpose of the sentence was so that he could show he knew how to use semi-colons. If that is not the case, and the editors had to put those semi-colons in, well . . . god help us all.


I think this book should be classified as historical fiction because every sentence is about how "maybe this happened" or "if . . . then Shakespeare could have thought." There is a whole chapter devoted to speculating about whether Shakespeare had a happy marriage based on the marriages in his plays. !!!! That makes me so mad!!


Here's what I would read: a book that compiles the documentary history related to Shakespeare and has a short explanation of what the document is. I would be fine with that. Speculation is so infuriating.


I was dating this guy recently, and he only used the word "film" for "movie," which drives me crazy.  And then one day, he asked me if I wanted to go have a "romp in the sack," so I decided we should not go out anymore.  This is the book version of the phrase "romp in the sack."


I am judging the soul of both this book and anyone who is passionate about it. As to people who feel pretty neutral about it, you are okay, I will just assume the History of Elizabethan England class you took in college was only a survey.

The Great Dissent: How Oliver Wendell Holmes Changed His Mind--and Changed the History of Free Speech in America - Thomas  Healy

The big boss passed this one on, and, you know, Holmes is cool.  I definitely was not feeling this author, though.  The documentary history was great, and I loved the stories about his wife and his mistress.  The language of the commentary made my skin crawl, though.  Just, the adjectives.  THE ADJECTIVES!!!  


Too much.


Then, I give this book to this guy I like, and, of all the books I give him to read, he reads this one and likes it.  Doh.

When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times - Pema Chödrön

This is no insult because I am only three starring this compared to all my other newfound buddhism, and Pema Chodron specifically.  Whew, what a lifesaver!!  

The Guermantes Way - Marcel) Scott-Montcrieff,  C.K. Trans Proust

If I don't finish Guermantes Way soon, I'm going to have to take a rock and kill myself.



"From Marcel Proust to Will Farrell, still funny."
The Guermantes Way - Marcel) Scott-Montcrieff,  C.K. Trans Proust

As ill luck would have it, Saint-Loup remaining outside for a minute to explain to the driver that he was to call for us again after dinner, I had to make my way in by myself. In the first place, once I had involved myself in the spinning door, to which I was not accustomed, I began to fear that I should never succeed in escaping from it. (Let me note here for the benefit of lovers of verbal accuracy that the contrivance in question, despite its peaceful appearance, is known as a "revolver", from the English "revolving door".) This evening the proprietor, not venturing either to brave the elements outside or to desert his customers, remained standing near the entrance so as to have the pleasure of listening to the joyful complaints of the new arrivals, all aglow with the satisfaction of people who have had difficulty in reaching a place and have been afraid of losing their way.  The smiling cordiality of his welcome was, however, dissipated by the sight of a stranger incapable of disengaging himself from the rotating sheets of glass. This flagrant sign of social ignorance made him knit his brows like an examiner who has a good mind not to utter the formula: Dignus est intrare. As a crowning error I went to look for a seat in the room set apart for the nobility, from which he at once expelled me, indicating to me, with a rudeness to which all the waiters at once conformed, a place in the other room.


Marcel Proust, C.K. Scott Moncrieff, Trans., The Guermantes Way, p. 556.

"The Guermantes Way"
The Guermantes Way - Marcel) Scott-Montcrieff,  C.K. Trans Proust

And then, the last carriage having rolled by, when one feels with a throb of pain  that she will not come now, one goes to dine on the island; above the shivering poplars which suggest endless mysteries of evening though without response, a pink cloud paints a last touch of life in the tranquil sky. A few drops of rain fall without noise on the water, ancient but still in its divine infancy coloured always by the weather and continually forgetting the reflexions of clouds and flowers. And after the geraniums have vainly striven, by intensifying the brilliance of their scarlet, to resist the gathering darkness, a mist rises to envelop the now slumbering island; one walks in the moist dimness along the water's edge, where at the most silent passage of a swan startles one like, in a bed, at night, the eyes, for a moment wide open, and the swift smile of a child whom one did not suppose to be awake. Then one would like to have with one a loving companion, all the more as one feels oneself to be alone and can imagine oneself to be far away from the world.


Marcel Proust, C.K. Scott Moncrieff, Trans., The Guermantes Way, p. 533-34.

"The Guermantes Way"
The Guermantes Way - Marcel) Scott-Montcrieff,  C.K. Trans Proust

It is the terrible deception of love that it begins by engaging us in play not with a woman of the external world but with a puppet fashioned and kept in our brain, the only form of her moreover that we have always at our disposal, the only one that we shall ever possess, one which the arbitrary power of memory, almost as absolute as that of imagination, may have made as different from the real woman as had been from the real Balbec the Balbec of my dreams; an artificial creation to which by degrees, and to our own hurt, we shall force the real woman into resemblance.


Marcel Proust, C.K. Scott Moncrieff, Trans.,  The Guermantes Way, p. 512.

The Glance: Songs of Soul-Meeting - Rumi, Coleman Barks, Nevit O. Ergin

A boy got me this for Christmas.  That seems really romantic, right?

"It is in moments of illness that we are compelled to recognise that we live not alone but chained to a creature of a different kingdom, whole worlds apart, who has no knowledge of us and by whom it is impossible to make ourself understood: our body. Say that we met a brigand by the way; we might yet convince him by an appeal to his personal interest, if not our own plight. But to ask pity of our body is like discoursing before an octopus, for which our words can have no more meaning than the sound of the tides, and with which we should be appalled to find ourself condemned to live."
The Guermantes Way - Marcel) Scott-Montcrieff,  C.K. Trans Proust

Marcel Proust, C.K. Scott Moncrieff, Trans., The Guermantes Way, Modern Library, Page 408.

Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods - Suzanne  Collins Gregor and his family are black, huh?
Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane (The Underland Chronicles, Book 2) - Suzanne  Collins The most beautiful thing about this book, and the thing I can't stop thinking about, is how Gregor's dad sleeps on the pull out couch.
The Silver Star - Jeannette Walls It’s been a weird year, you guys. I bleached my hair blonde again, and if I haven’t mentioned it before, people say the most ridiculous stuff to blondes. It’s crazy. It’s like people are standing in line to make idiots out of themselves if you have blonde hair. Blondes, you guys have to dye your hair brown for a while. Just do it to see what life is like on the other side. It’s real different. You can go places and not have people be asses to you. Samples of some of the weird things people have said (and these are not even close to the worst):

1. I was walking down a hall and a security officer in his fifties or sixties was walking towards me. I realized that I needed something back at my desk, so I turned around. As I was walking away, the security officer said, “Are you ticklish?”

I turned around, and thinking I must have misheard him, said, incredulously, “What?!”

“Are you ticklish?” He repeated.

“Huh,” I said, and walked away. Then I spent the next week trying to figure out if there is another, totally normal meaning to that question. People have not been able to tell me one, so if you know of anything, pass it along.

2. I was judging oral arguments at the law school last spring. I was wearing a judge’s robe and sitting on the bench in the school’s classroom that is set up like a courtroom. There were two other judges in robes, and the professor of the class was there. To provide context, when I was in school, oral arguments were the most terrifying thing I did.

The topic of the oral arguments was an allegedly illegal seizure, and one of the issues was whether the discovery of a warrant against the defendant, in the words of the Supreme Court, “purged the taint of the illegality of the initial search.” So, we had questions written out for us as suggestions of what to ask the students. I had to ask this one question about the warrant issue, and I was trying to say it in my own words, but I was stumbling. The student interrupted me, said he knew what I was trying to ask, and answered the question.

Then, as he was leaving the room, after his argument was done, he said in a low voice, but still TO A JUDGE IN A ROBE AND IN FRONT OF HIS TERRIFYING PROFESSOR, either, “Gotta purge that taint, huh?” or “I’ll help you purge that taint.” And he didn’t do it in so much of a come-on way, as much as he did it in this way like that was why I had stumbled over the question and we were sharing an inside joke.

We were so not sharing that joke.

So, those are just a couple of the less-lawsuit-material, less-totally-dehumanizing experiences I’ve had with this blonde hair business. I bet, at this point, you are seriously wondering how I am going to wrap this idea around to relate to the book. Here’s how: I think having blonde hair makes people associate me as a child, so they feel more free to say inappropriate things and show terrible judgment. And Jeannette Walls is so amazing at telling stories of what assholes people are to kids. She is a genius at telling these gut-wrenching stories without being maudlin. And lord knows I can’t handle the maudlin. So, like the people in Byler, I am left thinking that if some skinny kids can stand up for themselves in this way, I can. It was, you know, inspirational, without being sickly heartwarming.

The Silver Star is the story of two sisters who just experience life kicking the shit out of them, like ya do, and respond by being these brilliant, scrappy heroes. This story is not accusatory, and it is unflinching, and it’s not exploitative of the victimization of children, but it touches on just about every hideous topic possible. I guess something I love about Walls is that she isn’t writing for middle-class comfort, and to me that makes her stories more true and less manipulative than most. And this book touched on almost every hot-button issue: civil rights, Vietnam, corporatization, child neglect, and sexual assault, so it was rife with opportunities for me to get mad about exploitation and privilege comfort. But, Walls knows how to tell that stuff.

It seems like, at least on some level, this book is a response to The Help. Maybe Walls had this crisis of conscience and thought, “Eeeesh, someone needs to show this unfortunate Stockett woman how to write with a little humility about experiencing the South in the Civil Rights Era.” And this is how you do it. You know your own perspective, and you recognize that not everyone admired you. Not that this book is even really about racism, other than in a peripheral way, but that is what seems appropriate to me. Walls isn’t black, so she can only give the perspective of a white girl and her black friends, to the extent they tell her their perspective. But, Bean’s friend Vanessa had more dignity, in her small appearances in this book, than the whole of the black maids in The Help. And, good lord, these kids made some excellent points about To Kill a Mockingbird.

This was a lovely novel, and I appreciated all of its purposefulness and structure. This was how you should tell a Social Topics story. I would say I did not enjoy this, in a page-turning way, as much as I enjoyed The Glass Castle, but I did enjoy it, and the end really paid off. I know Walls is not for everyone because, where I experience beauty the most as overcoming and conquering evil, some people experience beauty as finding peace or reinforcing principles, or you name it. But, to me, these were wonderful, human characters. I’ll also say that a lot of things in here were weirdly reminiscent of my college days – from the baby left on the top of the car to the word-playing, to the emus. Just weirdly striking associations that make me look behind me to see if Walls is watching. Hopefully, instead, she is just breaking a path for me because I want to be her when I grow up.
Lonesome Dove  - Larry McMurtry When Cowboys and Aliens came out, I was basically ecstatic – cowboys in space with Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig? Yes, please! I didn’t watch it at the time because I was in school, but a few weeks ago, my snake-in-the-grass intern lured me to watch it. So, I can never get those fifteen hours of my life back. It was not like Firefly and Cowboy Bebop. It was a Western, you guys! Just a plain old Western with some “aliens.” It was like if Starship Troopers were earnest. Ugh.

Anyway, the point is that Westerns are not for me. I don’t know what to do about it. I like The Matrix and Star Wars and probably the other stories that people will tell you are actually based in the “Western” plotline, but, c’mon, people. Let’s not generalize too much. So, I don’t like Westerns. I don’t like loveable hokeys and endearing arrogance and referring to penises as vegetables and stories where people just walk and walk and walk and wonder about their dads. They are just not for me.

So, I’m putting this one down because I just don’t really care about these guys getting a poke for their carrots or this girl going to San Francisco. I can’t find it in me to care. Sorry, characters.

I will say this, though: this edition of Lonesome Dove has the most hilarious introduction from Larry McMurtry. It’s about one page long, and he basically says, “You know, I wrote this book about the most despicable people possible, and they take what I like to think of as Dante’s trip through hell. Then, people start reading the book, and they fall in love with it. I’m like, what?? People get all inspired and think it’s romantic and the new Gone With the Wind, and now I can’t walk down the street without getting hit in the face with some stupid Lonesome Dove spinoff toy or another. It’s kind of ridiculous. So, have fun reading the book.” Obviously, I fell in love with that. So awesome. I think I read for a little longer than I would have otherwise (I got to page 180), just because of that intro. But, I have to agree with McMurtry. It’s got an Inferno feel in a hot, dusty town. And, that’s not my thing.

Strangely enough, I just watched the Ken Burns Civil War documentary, which I think could also be described as a hot, dusty, western Inferno, and I loved it. But, Ken Burns. Taste is weird.

On to something else.

I received this book from the publisher for free.

Laments for the Living

Laments for the Living - Dorothy Parker This was one of those generous gifts that I’ve felt really bad about not reading immediately upon opening. Elizabeth sent this to me a year or two ago, and I knew right away what a lovely present it was because it is one of those beautiful, old hardcovers with worn pages and soft binding, and it was a book by a woman author I had never read but always wanted to read. It definitely fulfilled all its promise.

The early stories in this collection are funnier and maybe more quippy, maybe just lighter, than the later stories, but all of them have something of a sad-clown melancholy to balance out the humor. The earlier stories are like episodes of Sex and the City turned cynical. The later stories are actually kind of sad and disturbing in a smart way.

This is a digression that is ultimately relevant to this book of stories, so bear with me. I was talking about Eudora Welty with a friend yesterday because of my feeling of ambivalence about the way she addresses race. It looks like last week, They (I forget who, but presumably The Powers that Be) released the original version of Welty’s story “Where is the Voice Coming From?”, the story she wrote after the shooting of Medgar Evers, in which she chose to write from the perspective of the shooter. This newly released version uses the actual names and places of the shooting, which were originally edited out so publishing the story wouldn’t interfere with prosecuting the shooter.

I think it is very difficult to write from the perspective of a monster very effectively, without merely providing a platform for the monster. Initially, the story just strikes me as racist in giving voice to the racist ideas of the man who shot Medgar Evers. I understand, though, that there are differing perspectives on that, and that all of the articles about it and interviews with Welty say that she wrote it because of her anger over the shooting.

So, then, I wonder if it is more that I think she was ineffective in vilifying the shooter than I am worried that it shows her perspective on race. While we were talking about the race issue, my friend asked me if I thought Nabokov is a pedophile because of Lolita. I don’t really have an opinion about that because I can’t get past the first sentence, I find it so vile. But, at the same time, Ceridwen wrote this lovely review about her appreciation of the voice of the monster in that book. And, then, I think Caris wrote the voice of a monster so perfectly, and so smartly, in [b:The Egg Said Nothing|7530665|The Egg Said Nothing|Caris O'Malley|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1288117686s/7530665.jpg|9773824]. Perfectly. And Dostoyevsky nails it, too, in [b:Notes from the Underground|17881|Notes from Underground & The Double|Fyodor Dostoyevsky|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1330074091s/17881.jpg|2551651].

I don’t know. What do you people think about giving voice to monsters? When a person writes, as I see it, she could write anything she chooses, and so then to choose, of all things in the world, to give voice to a monster is kind of confusing to me. But maybe I have my own monsters that I find more interesting and would write.

All of the characters in Laments for the Living were monsters in one way or another, I think, but they were hilariously written, and I did enjoy them and understand why someone would write about them. Parker is biting enough in her writing of them that I never felt she was endorsing the shallowness or cruelty, but she also seemed to lend value to the humanity in the characters. Like, they are human, too, but please don’t do this. Please, don’t be these people.

The second-to-last story in this collection is almost completely a monologue of this woman who is embarrassingly self-conscious of her own attempt to not be racist. It was very perfect in its cringe-worthiness. She can’t stop talking about people’s race and congratulating herself on her own ability to disregard race. It was pretty funny. I was thinking about the Welty story anyway, before I read Parker’s “Arrangement in Black and White,” so the comparison was ready for me, whether or not it is fair. Parker and Welty were contemporaries, though Parker was a little bit older. And if both were attempting to vilify racism through satirizing its proponents, I just find Parker more successful. I think Parker caught its awkwardness and stupidity, where Welty’s story did more to give voice to racism. Overt racism is shocking, but only to people who don’t support racism. So, nationally publishing the voice of a racist seems only satirical or critical to the extent that people already don’t agree with it. For an audience who agrees with it, it seems less effective as a critique. And racism is not so rare, in my view, that most people don’t already know what it looks like, not to mention that we might all be better off ignorant of what it looks like.

Satire is probably just difficult because it can so often be mistaken for earnestness and have the opposite of its intended effect. And, Parker’s stories can become a little tinny in the obviousness of the satire, so I understand why authors like Welty would want to protect the beauty of their writing for its own sake and thereby risk sounding earnest. Anyone who is sarcastic on a regular basis has probably had the experience of having her sarcasm mistaken for seriousness, and I have been on the giving and receiving end of that mistake. It is clear from the scholarly articles and less-scholarly blog posts on the topic that I am mistaken in how I read “Where is the Voice Coming From?”, but for the life of me I can’t read the satire into it. I can’t read the non-racist purpose in it.

With Parker, the stories are less poetical, but I know what she is trying to say, and I like it.
Double Feature - Vernon D. Burns,  Albert Clapp This was so vile. Like, SO VILE. This was gross. It was both gross like, EEEEeeeeeewwwwwwWWWWWWWW, and also like, CAN’T UNSEE! So, it kind of covered a spectrum of gross. My favorite part of Furry Piranha is the surprise, twist ending. My favorite part of The Curse of the Screwicorn is the long saga of the soccer field turned unicorn hideout. Shield your children from this book, folks. Cheerleaders were harmed in its making.

And animals. Animals were harmed.

And trees, and, like, parking lots, and things like that were harmed, too.

Also, it turns out Joel Cunningham is one fucked up mother fucker. But, possibly a genius.

I read a lot of this book at work on my lunch breaks, so that was a little weird. It wasn’t so much weird in the contrasts as in the similarities. Sometimes my job is a little bit like listening to an audio of a Guy and Campbell book. I love my job.

For those of you who insist on some kind of flap-copy summary in a review, Double Feature is a collaboration between renowned authors Vernon Burns and Albert Clapp. If you haven’t heard of those two, then you haven’t been paying attention. Pulp-literary movers and shakers. Furry Piranha takes place in South/Central/North America (in Brazil, where the Mexicans live). Or, does it? The Curse of the Screwicorn takes place in the frigid blizzards of San Francisco. Furry Piranha is the story of one man with a giant penis learning to see himself as he truly is. The Curse of the Screwicorn is the story of a woman taking vengeance against the men who ruined her life. It is kind of like the TV show Revenge, but with less kung fu and guns and more unicorns. Screwicorn is more of a boy book, you know, what with its more unicorns and less kung fu.

And, as always, if you’re looking for bestiality, Guy and Campbell is where to go.

Again, can’t unsee.
The Language Archive - Julia Cho It is a joke of a cliché to talk about the indefinable nature of love, but it is also obviously one of those things that is cliché for a reason. It is so mysterious how love can suddenly appear in our lives and then, just as suddenly, disappear. I am a big believer in accurately and honestly defining relationships according to what they are, not what we wish they would be, and so I might be even more baffled than the average person by the relationships around me. How do some people cultivate and maintain long-term love in their lives without even seeming to try? How do others live with people whom they hate and who hate them? How do people use the words of love to describe what looks like contempt or addiction to me? Language isn’t enough.

I have a friend playing the part of Emma in The Language Archive in Seattle, and she suggested a couple of us read it and talk about it, so I read it. And I really loved it. For me, it is about the indefinable nature of love, and, maybe obviously, about language – how language is too broad, and not broad enough, to describe what love is. Maybe it is more centrally about how love is always about communication. George communicates through the study of languages, but struggles to actually express any emotion. Mary communicates through bread. Alta and Resten save English for their fights and speak in their native language when talking of love. Emma struggles to communicate at all.

It is not a long play. Mary and George are married; Emma works with George at the Lanugage Archive. Alta and Resten are a couple that has been married for years, and they come in to the Language Archive to record their native language, which is dying. Mary leaves George, and Emma struggles to tell George she is in love with him.

The rest of what I’m going to talk about is a spoiler, but I’m not going to hide it because, even though it tells you some of how the play turns out, I don’t really think that ruins the play. I think the play stands alone, regardless of whether you know the ending.

So, Mary leaves George, which devastates him, but which the play makes pretty clear is a good choice. They have this conversation at one point where George says to Mary that her leaving means that their whole language is dead. He says that sometimes one of them could say, “Did you take the garbage out?” or something like that, and it could mean many different things from, “I’m really angry that you never do housework” to “I couldn’t live without you” and those types of varied meanings created their language. And he asks her if she knows what he means. She responds that she doesn’t and that she’s never known what he’s meant. She says, “Here, have this bread and you’ll understand,” and the bread is meaningless to him. I think it is a simple, but beautiful, way of showing that they’re wrong for each other, that they could never understand each other.

And then, Emma and George communicate perfectly, but Emma tells the audience in the end that George never falls in love with her. So, that is something I keep coming back to. What does it mean that George and Emma communicate perfectly and work together for years, but that he never loves her? How does she know that? Does he know that? Was he actually in love with Mary, as he says he is, when he couldn’t understand or communicate with her? How is that love? It would be simple if you could say, well, he wanted to have sex with Mary and not with Emma, ergo . . . but that obviously makes no sense for defining love either. So, I keep wondering, over and over, and thinking about the relationships of these couples and the non-fictional couples I know.

It seems to me that every relationship exists outside of the naming of it, even though naming it can cause the relationship to change. People can be committed to each other in some sort of eternal way without calling it marriage, and people can be married without any kind of love or commitment. People can love each other without ever naming it, and people can hate each other and call it love. Even though the naming of it interacts with the experience of the relationship, I don’t think it creates the relationship. But, I don’t know what creates or maintains a relationship, and the way the naming of it molds and bends the relationship itself is a mystery to me, too. I have known so many couples where the woman told the man they were in love, and he believed her, and so their love existed. That is a mystery to me.

Because Emma tells us that George never loves her, and she tells us believably, I do believe her, but I don’t understand. If he had said he loved her, would that have made it so? Because he said he loved Mary, did that make it so, even though he never really saw her? I can’t wrap my mind around those ideas.

There is that monologue Nick Cage delivers so beautifully in Moonstruck, here. The play put it into my head, and it is something I understand about the play and about love, and it is something I love about love. It is something about love that you can sink your teeth into. It goes like this:

“Loretta, I love you. Not like they told you love is, and I didn't know this either, but love don't make things nice - it ruins everything. It breaks your heart. It makes things a mess. We aren't here to make things perfect. The snowflakes are perfect. The stars are perfect. Not us. Not us! We are here to ruin ourselves and to break our hearts and love the wrong people and die. The storybooks are bullshit. Now I want you to come upstairs with me and get in my bed!”

Maybe George just needed to hear a speech like that, and he would have snapped out of it. Maybe not, though; I have no idea.