Archives for category: Imperfect Reads

Miranda July

I first learnt about Miranda online through Miss Snark‘s (now expired) blog where she’d put a link to Miranda’s ingenius website marketing her new book. And now that I’ve read it, I am more in awe of the lady, for Miranda is a true genius as her stories are beautifully original, quirky and a learning experience in what new writing should be all about as a wannabe writer myself.

I’ve been stuck in a rut trying to write something the past few months, and the more I read, the less I seem to want to write because I feel dwarfed by the talent here in America. And yet, writers like Miranda inspire me to abandon all my inhibitions and insecurities and look within myself to want and go to a place where I can just throw away the shackles of adulthood and motherhood and perhaps even readerhood to unlock my inner muse.

No One Belongs Here More Than You is a compilation of 16 stories that are really insights into seeming ordinary lives that have been turned inside out with Miranda’s imagination and use of clever prose that makes you pause after each story and go, “Hmm…what happened there?”.

I am not a deep person but I do love a good philosophical, metaphysical “why” and “what if” pondering from time to time, and that is what each Miranda story is like. That some of the stories are disturbing in content (a man is given ecstacy and coerced to having sex with his male friend even when he’s not gay; a teacher having sex with her autistic student; a movie being made about an older man being in love with a child) is a factor that becomes less important as she delves into the imagined how of these scenarios, how easily these things happen, how commonly they take place, how loneliness does not discriminate, how even the most ordinary, traditional, ‘normal’ personas can make drastic turns in life with even the smallest decisions – taking a drug, sending an email, a mere phone call. That most of what happens in life needs no grand gestures, no build-ups, no elaborate staging. That some things just happen because they happen in our minds, and the rest of the world is left to wonder, “Why didn’t we see that coming?” because really, who do you know has the time or inclination to really look?

My simplest reasons for liking Miranda is she’s funny and imaginative. Sometimes it seems that she may be a little crazy but I think those are the best kind of writers, those who seem to have a controlled madness about them they can use to come up with truly original stuff you don’t get to see very often.

I await eagerly for more of Miranda’s books and her films.

More of my amateur book reviews can be read at my Library Thing.

I woke up this morning feeling only a fraction of myself. Scrapped and read until 2am last night. For some reason (and it’s not coffee – I drink only a cup a day these days – used to be three or more – mostly more), insomnia has kept me up this last week. I woke up with a headache that lasted two days in a row, and I finally took two Tylenol PMs at the end of which just about dropped me for 12 hours straight. Was so tempted to take more the next day to help me sleep. Instead, I scrapped.

Don’t worry, I hate taking pills more than fitful sleep.

The girls stayed in their beds as agreed last night, and I’m so proud that they remembered. It’s really quite a miracle. And yet, I felt so alone waking up all by myself in our great big bed.

I miss Lokes. Painfully. Three more days. I don’t even remember how he smells like.

I can’t decide what to read. I’ve started Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale for my book club, but can’t stop reading Miranda July’s No One Belongs Here More Than You (short stories collection – very good, she’s so funny). I was about ten pages into Marisha Pessl’s Special Topics in Calamity Physics because it was new on paperback and I was raring to get started on it, but then I went to Costco and got Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, and started that as well. The story is surreal (McCarthy’s succinct style takes a while to get used to, and can I ask, is no-punctuation dialogue a new trend? I first encountered it in Ken Haruf’s Plainsong. It’s decadent).

And then I went and got myself trapped at Half Price at their Clearance bins outside.

Look what I got for $10:


(minus Water for Elephants – I got that at Costco for $9)

And I have Born into Brothels waiting for me on my Netflix. I am afraid to watch it.

Wow, I’m on a blogging spree tonight.

To make up for the silence the whole of last week. I was super bee-say.

Anyway, a few of my preschool friends asked me how Raeven is reading so well today (she can actually read my blog so I have to put a stop to my incessant swearing. Or ban her from reading my blog).

I promise you, I did not force her. She loves Dr Seuss and those Scholastic picture books which are just marvellous. I’ve also been reading to her since she was a baby, mostly board books with pictures, where I make up the stories because well, those books aren’t cheap so I make up different stories even when I am using the same book and the same words and pictures, the cheapskate that I am.

I think it also helps when she sees me spending so much time with my nose buried in a book or the computer, reading something or other.

“Mommy, let’s read your blog!” she will ask because she knows she’s in here. I refrain of course, what with the things I put in here.

Anyway, the girls have a few favourites that Lokes and I have to read each night and in Skyler’s case, during her nap time.

Right on top is Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar. We borrowed the board version from the library a long time ago and she loved it. Then I saw one at a garage sale. It was brand new and cost only 50 cents, so now, she even sleeps with it. My gut feeling is that it has all kinds of junk food in there, like an ice cream cone and a cup cake and salami. Oh, she loves the damn thing.

Her other top favourites are Dr Seuss’ ABC and One Fish Two Fish. She must be read one of these or she will not be able to go to sleep.

Rae’s book du jour is Martin Wadell’s Once There Were Giants. It’s a beautiful tale about growing up and I love reading it myself. Rae also loves to ‘read’ a new children’s atlas we bought her, which I explained to her is a ‘book of maps’. Now that Lokes is travelling, she has fun looking at all the places he’s visiting. She also loves a book her preschool teacher recommended, called The Squeaky Door by Margaret Read MacDonald and Mary Newell DePalma.

But my favourite book of all is Joyce Dunbar’s Tell me Something Happy Before I go to Sleep. It’s a sweet tale about a brother telling his sister all the happy reasons why she should go to sleep, and why I like it is because by the time I finish, the girls are both yawning and ready to call it a night!

So what are your favourite books to read to your kids? Share!

I just finished Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper.

The last five pages had me sobbing naked in the can (I was going to take a shower but ended up sitting on the toilet half an hour trying to finish the book without soaking it in tears).

To those who’ve read it: I thought the ending was a little dramatic. I mean, c’mon. That is just way too much tragedy for one family, even in Fiction World. If they were Buddhists, they must have had murdered an entire village to have racked up that much bad karma.

That said, this is the first time I’ve cried reading a book. Someone once said that to write something that makes people laugh is hard, but to write something that makes people cry is near impossible (or maybe I said that, ‘coz I can’t remember who the hell said that).

Anyway, whoever said that must not have met me. I will laugh AND cry at anything. I am that flaky.

But man, that is a good book.

Go get it. Don’t walk. CLICK.

I finally finished Yann Martel’s Life of Pi yesterday.

My amateur review at my Librarything:

This is my first Man Booker book and I can see it won the hearts and minds of the judges for at least one reason: originality.

Reading it, I can’t help but admire Martel’s zoology knowledge and research. I now know much more about the habits and practices of wild animals in captivity!

Of course, one must not ignore the underlying messages of survival, the resilience of the human spirit, and of faith that are so uniquely presented in Martel’s elegant prose.

Life of Pi is a surprisingly easy book to read. I was expecting difficult language and flowery, high-brow stuff as was my impression of award-winning literature. I think the subject matters written about were more challenging to tackle, as there are moments of savagery that may shock or at the very least disagree with the delicate reading palate of the reading public. And yet, Martel is able to relate these scenes in an even and gentle voice, almost as though he was talking, instead, of the migrating habits of birds rather than the slow and painful death of a zebra being eaten alive by a hyena.

An interesting, enriching read.

Funniest thing I’ve read in a month.

Trust me. You NEED to read this.

ps. Have you ever heard of Dan Liebert? You’re gonna want to bookmark this. He makes ‘verbal cartoons’:

My Living Will: I no longer wish to go on living if I should lose control of my body functions or if my mind is in a vegetative state or if I have that “old-man smell.”

I finished Ken Haruf’s Plainsong for my book club.

What an uplifting read.

Wrote a short review at my Library Thing:

I’ve not read many American books, most of which were thrillers/murder mysteries, so Kent Haruf’s Plainsong allowed me a peek Americana that had me turning pages deep into the night.

It may not be an easy book for a non-American to digest. Those with little to no experience of cowherds or Americana or are not fans of Westerns, may find the setting a little dry or the parts about the old cowboys working with heifers uninteresting, but Haruf is a very gentle storyteller, who writes as though words are little precious stones, picking only the right ones, and not too many, to say what he needs to say.

The dialogue in Plainsong isn’t punctuated. Not sure why but it was, at first, a little hard to follow. And yet, the voices soar and lift up the story (or stories), giving depth to each of the characters. I feel as though I now know how a horse autopsy is done 50 years ago, or the confusion faced by a pregnant teenager. It is remarkable how Haruf is able to breathe life into such a diverse set of characters.

An excellent read, of just the right length.

While watching Superman Returns, the part where Superman goes back to rip out the chunk of kryptonite from the earth:

Raeven: Why is he going back, Daddy?
Daddy: To save the world.
Raeven: Because Superman RETURNS?

So it’s been one natural disaster after another in the last two months. First the floods, which turned our pastures into lakes. Then the snow, which was nice actually, but not so much for those whose cars were stuck by the roadsides. Last Thursday, one of the worst windstorms in the history of windstorms hit the Puget Sound area, knocking down trees and plunging millions of homes and businesses into pitch blackness. Ours went out around 9pm the night itself, and we’ve been living in darkness ever since. It will be one week tomorrow.

The first night, under the light of several aromatherapy and Halloween votive candles, we turned on our gas fireplace furtively, while desperately surfing on Lokes’ phone to the Puget Sound Energy website to check if our gas was piped in. Having a fireplace is a completely foreign concept to us, so we didn’t want to suddenly run out of gas because there’s a tank somewhere underneath the house that we had to go fill. Imagine our relief to know that this source of heat, at least, would go on for as long as, well, we paid our bill. And with this knowledge secured, we kept the fire burning, and camped out in front of it, building a tent for the girls using a bedsheet and our couch, stuffing pillows and blankets to make a warm bed for them in front of the fire. At night, we played shadow puppets to keep them entertained, read stories under torch light but they of course, preferred to play trampoline with the tent bed.

Since Thursday, I have finished three four books: Michael Crichton’s Next (horrible – fragmented, the plot was not cohesive at all – one of his worst, IMHO), Milan Kundera’s Laughable Loves (darkly funny), YiYun Li’s A Thousand Years of Good Prayers (sometimes surprising, sometimes alarming), Ha Jin’s Under the Red Flag (made me cry) and am now in the middle of Waiting, which is beginning to get real interesting.

So this is what people did in the old days when they had no electricity!

Alas, I am a power addict. Thanks to Lokes’ office, we had our hot showers and every evening, he would bring home a fully charged notebook so we could watch some movies, next to a hot cup of hot and sour soup from Grand Peking. I love you, baby. So far, we’ve gone over Superman Returns (I’ve definitely outgrown my favourite superhero, darn it), United 93 (absolutely horrid because it’s so damn real, couldn’t stop crying throughout), Funny Face (Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire do NOT look good together) and while doing laundry at Karli’s, we watched Pride and Prejudice (Kiera Knightley and Matthew Macfayden look perfect together).

Word has it that we will have to endure a few more powerless days. We cleaned out the freezer yesterday and had to throw out vast quantities of meat, yogurt and other must-keep-frozen things. The house is in a fine mess but you know what? We are a-okay. Thanks to Lokes’ work, and some really good friends who have offered us so much help, we’re just fine.

But enough about me. How’s things with you?