Sunday, April 24, 2016's just about rabbits, right?

Book 7/50 Watership Down by Richard Adams

(Re: 7/50 isn't it weird that you can feel so many ways about a single number? Like, yay, I'm reading significantly more than last year! Boo, I'm not reading nearly as much as I thought I was going to. Who cares about numbers--they are just a silly measure of reading! I care! It's a whirlwind over here)

Anyway, Watership had been on my "Why have so many people I know read this?" list for a long time so I thought I would finally tackle it. I guess some high schools read it and I have to say, I really don't understand why.

The book is entirely too long. I love a beautiful description of the English countryside as much as the next guy, and I was genuinely interested in the politics and culture of rabbits (a feat I realize!). But was this guy being paid by the word? This would have made fantastic novella--tight 120 pages and that thing would be pure gold. Instead it drags for nearly 450 pages.

If you're not familiar, it's the story of a clan of male rabbits who strike out on their own after one of them who has the "sight" predicts a dire tragedy in their warren. They adventure, they face danger and challenge, all good stuff but SO MUCH description of landscape and I'm just like yes, the grass was a golden haze in the sunlight but oh my god are we ever leaving this riverbank or what?

I cannot understand why you would need to read this in high school. Maybe to read a selection that would show you how to write a beautiful setting? If the point is an animal parable that mirrors human government or military, you are way better off reading Animal Farm.

If you are a particular fan of parables or of beautiful English countrysides, this might be in your wheelhouse but while I'm glad I now understand the cultural reference, I can't exactly recommend it.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Thanks for nothing, April.

So, I don't know how April is coming to an end already, but with it disappeared my dreams of catching up on my reading. Since I'll be between shows most of May, I'm determined to make up for it then.

I went full force on the transformation theme for March with my first ever self-help book -- You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero.

I'm a fairly optimistic person, but I have terrible anxiety and that gets in the way of living life more often than I would like. I'm also determined to have a successful, fulfilling career in the arts, so any extra encouragement is welcome.

The first draft of this review was very apologetic, but as I reflected on my reading, I realized that that was stupid and the whole point of the book was transformation and a lot of what she said genuinely resonated with me so I’m dropping the baggage here.

Sincero’s approach was very human and light on the cheese. She focused on becoming more optimistic and appreciative of the wonderful life you're living and she has a point. 

“Love yourself.” is the last note in almost every chapter and I don't care who you are, that's good advice. 
Food for thought passages:

“Growth ain’t for weenies…”

“It never cease to amaze me the precious time we spend chasing the squirrels around our brains, playing out our dramas, worrying about unwanted facial hair, seeking adoration, justifying our actions, complaining about slow internet connections, dissecting the lives of idiots, when we are sitting in the middle of a full-blown miracle that is happening right here, right now.
We’re on a planet that somehow knows how to rotate on its axis and follow a defined path while it hurtles through space! Our hearts beat! We can see! We have love, laughter, language, living rooms, computers, compassion, cars, fire, fingernails, flowers, music, medicine, mountains, muffins!”

“When we get so wrapped up in our heads, we miss out on what’s available to us right now in the moment. Stop and notice how you feel right now. Feel your breath moving in and out of your body. Feel the air on your skin. Feel your heart beating. Your eyes seeing. Your ears hearing. Notice the energy inside and outside of you buzzing. Shut off your thoughts and feel your connection to Source. B-r-e-a-t-h-e. Even if you’ve got bone-chilling credit card debts or you haven’t spoken to your mother in six years, right now, in this moment, you can find peace and joy in that which simply is.”

Just Take My Heart
Mary Higgins Clark

I started reading MHC's suspense novels when I was 13 and home sick with pneumonia. I have almost every book she's written in her decades long career--I fell behind a little bit in the last few years. If you're a fan of a book where you at some point think every character is guilty--usually with an Irish Catholic, female protagonist, check her out!  
It had the classic I-know-who-the-killer-is-wait-what-no-he's-the-killer-I-wasn't-expecting-that twist which I think is good for the soul every now and then. It felt a bit too expositional here and there and the ending wasn't my favorite, but the murder investigation element makes me want to be a detective in my next life. 

Friday, April 15, 2016


That thud was me, falling off the wagon pretty hard.

After a solid run of books, and really loving making reading a priority again, I picked up Elena Ferrante's Troubling Love.  It seemed like a double duty slam dunk, with "love" in the title, and a slim little volume to introduce me to this Elena Ferrante dame I've been hearing so much about.

But you guys. I couldn't do it.  I read the first 10 pages about seven times, and then only made it to about 50.  It wasn't clicking with me, in spite of its clear psychological richness and the rich complexity of the characters' relationships. My defeat caused a spiral, and I went about 3 weeks without so much as touching a book.

(Also, I've been reading approximately one metric fuck ton of scripts a week for work, which I'm not counting here, so that might also have contributed to the lack of enthusiasm.)

A birthday gift from my husband, Daily Rituals, helped to reverse the spiral.  It's just a whole bunch of micro-peeks into the daily routines of various writers, composers, artists, etc. I made my own daily ritual of reading a handful of the profiles with my morning tea, which made for a rather satisfying start to the day.  The books is absolutely a "I wrote a blog and got a book deal" set-up, and it totally feels that way.  Also, I grew weary of the endless stream of self-destructive chain smoking white dudes, and would have loved a more diverse cross-section of artists. But it made for good morning popcorn reading, and for that I am grateful.

Next came Jacqueline Woodson's Brown Girl Dreaming which was SPECTACULAR and I cannot recommend highly enough. It's a memoir, written entirely through short poems, for upper elementary aged readers. I am now convinced that poetry is the only way that memoirs should be written - the flashes of image, smells, sounds is so perfectly captured in a way that evokes the way that memory actually works. I rejoiced for all the sixth graders who will read this book and feel their lives transforming in a quiet way inside their bones.

Then, Philip Pullman's Clockwork, which I initially checked out from the library thinking it might be a good fit to adapt for a Filament show. It quickly revealed itself to be not-right-for-that, but I tore through it regardless. A dark, twisting yarn-within-a-yarn that includes murderous robots, clockwork hearts, and possibly the devil himself. Although very different from the His Dark Materials trilogy, it has all the Philip Pullman master storyteller hallmarks.  It's a perfect wintery not-quite ghost story for little ones who like to be spooked, or for big ones who like spooky things but don't actually want to be scared.

So it seems that right now I'm only interested in reading literature intended for twelve year olds, so I'm just gonna ride that wave til my reading mojo restores itself.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Wild Girls

After recognizing last month my seriously dark attraction to stories about girls and women being victimized by the awful, awful world, I decided to actively seek antidotes.

My Brilliant Friend, Elena Ferrante
A dear friend stealthily Amazon-gifted this book to me -- it came in the mail unannounced after we had dinner together. It's the first book of a four part series by Italian novelist Elena Ferrante, and it's that rare bird of a story that follows a female protagonist and focuses the narrative on her friendship with another female character. How many books can you name that do that? Anne of Green Gables? So this was a refreshing experience, story-wise. The writing itself is direct to the point of bluntness, almost completely unadorned. I'm sure in its native Italian there is more delight in the words, but in translation, I found the pragmatism of the language plodding. Even so, I tore through the book in a weekend, so the world and the characters were compelling enough to drive the novel. I'm not hungry to consume the next three books in the series, but my friend loves them so much I might commit to them.

Wild, Cheryl Strayed
I am a big fan of Cheryl Strayed, a subscriber to her advice podcast Dear Sugar, a follower on social media. I saw the movie first, and I loved it. So it was with an open heart that I finally read this memoir. There is a time not so long ago that I would have been made so uncomfortable by how dopey she was with her embarrassing backpack, irresponsible finances, fully on-display horniness, that I would have thrown this book. But I'm so down with Cheryl's wounded-healer agenda, and am attuned to the courage in her willingness to share her story in all its spectra of humiliation and triumph, humor and heartbreak. And damn can this lady write. She brings everything so brilliantly to the page, wrapping us fully in her interior life and projecting around us 360 degrees of sensory experience. It's intimate, and it's generous, and it fully lived up to my expectations.