Category Archives: Books

The Persistence of Me

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I confess I don’t know much about Tom Wolfe (RIP), but have only begun learning about his brilliance this past week from his obits and write-ups in the news. Of course I’ve used the phrase “The Me Decade” to describe the 1970s, never even knowing that he coined it. How embarrassing! I’m adding The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and Bonfire of the Vanities to my reading list.

I think a strong argument can be made that the Me Decade hasn’t ended and shows no signs of abating anytime soon. All the selfies and oversharing, plus the endless quiz-taking, are encouraged by industries whose purpose is to make us feel insecure about ourselves, and are part of an infinite loop of superficial self-examination, wasting our time and energy as we search for enlightenment in our belly button lint, rather than expanding our horizons outward for fulfillment. I’m no stranger to these behaviors myself.

But something interesting has happened, a small thing, but interesting nevertheless: since I quit Facebook and Instagram two months ago, I haven’t taken any photos of food. My life is no worse for this; I don’t miss these pics at all. In fact, that was simply another superficial way to “connect” with people online when we really had nothing in common. In my opinion, this obsession with selfies, including food pics (unless you’re a restaurant critic or recipe blogger), is part of the narcissistic sickness of society. Notice me! Like me! Follow me! We see our favorite celebrity posting 857 photos of their face and we think we should too. It’s headshot day! Gah.

I suggest that the me-ness of the Me Decade never disappeared but instead spilled into online life, splashing over all we did, turning the entire social media experience from information-based, when it began, to communication-based, for a time, and finally now into a monstrous narcissistic ouroboros that not only controls how we behave online but offline too. We are even more self-centered now than we were in the 1970s despite allegedly “connecting” with all sorts of people different from us all over the world. We don’t actually do this in any kind of meaningful way. I doubt most of us even begin to relate to people in our own neighborhoods and what issues they might have in this primary election, if they are different from our own. All I see is people ready to bully, disparage, and dismiss anyone who thinks differently from them, more now than ever.

If you don’t conform to my reflection of myself, I push you out of the picture. Turn the camera back to selfie mode. Ah, much better. Smile. Click.

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I know some of you probably thought I would jabber on about the narcissists I’ve dated and link to my new poetry book All She Wrote, which explores quite a bit on that theme, when you saw the prompt “narcissism”… well, surprise! I actually do have otter things to say sometimes besides look at my stupid mistakes. 😀

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The Daily Prompt: Narcissism

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Notable Friday

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What’s special about today? Well, it’s the last Friday in April, the last Friday I’ll be this age, and it’s a square cube (4/27) with lucky 18 at the end. Happily all dates this year have lucky 18 at the end ~ what an amazing coinkydink! Anyway, I like squares and cubes, and I especially like square cubes. I like all squares too, and I even have a line in a pome referencing this in my latest book All She Wrotewhich is selling well and getting fab reviews, much to my surprise, thanks to all you lovely peeps.

Back to numbers. One is also a good number. I have one cat and he’s adorable! I like Day One of the month when Prime members choose their free Kindle book. I’m trying to get caught up on my backlog of unread books, but there are so many and I’m always finding new wanna-reads. And now I have That Girl to finish watching, plus there are some good movies coming out (not to mention the good ones I’ve missed on my list too), plus of course the books I’m writing and don’t forget my stitchery projects! Oops, I may have forgotten my stitchery projects, yikes. (I know I could do stitchery while watching That Girl, but I’ve actually been editing old stories during TG because, not to disparage TG in any way whatsoever, the shows don’t consume my entire attention.)

So, yes, I think today is a Notable Friday, and I’m noting it. For the record. Let it be noted!

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The Daily Prompt: Notable

All She Wrote

It’s been a month since I created space to write in my free time again by deleting the bulk of my social media. This was tough to do and I lost a bunch of friends and fun chitchats in the process, which I knew would happen and so I procrastinated for a long time, but I’m a writer and I have to do Real Writing or else I get frustrated, angry, and depressed.

These very apt bitmojis magically appeared in my app today and made me smile:

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I’m also smiling because I finished that poetry book I’ve been nattering on about for a kazillion years and it’s up on Amazon for sale right meow! Some of my awesome friends who have hung in there with me already bought a copy and reviewed it ~ one of them had this to say:

“YOUR NEW BOOK IS OUT!!!! IT’S A FREAKING TREASURE!”

How lovely is that? And I didn’t even have to pay her. ❤

I feel so great to have finished this book and it means a lot to me to have the support of my peeps. Some of the poems were painful to write (and probably to read, haha), but each one is important to me in its own way and represents something authentic about where I’ve been emotionally the last several years and how I regained my strength. I’m ready to dive back into some of my unfinished fiction writing and get those stories done now too. I feel so productive and fantabulous! Should have done all this ages ago, but I think I needed everything to simply percolate. This was the right time for many reasons, both to cut back on social media and to publish All She Wrote.

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The Daily Prompt: Authentic

A Glimmer Is Not Enough

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I’ve been doing more deleting, my peeps. Facebook, Messenger, and Instagram were the big ones, but that was just the beginning of my webhousecleaning.

Actually, that’s not true. I began this back when I dumped all the dating sites for good in 2017. And I’ll tell you something: I do not miss them one bit, nor do I miss dating. It’s the most stressful thing in the world, not fun at all, and I’m sleeping so much better since I quit. Turns out, I do not have insomnia! I had dating-related anxiety. I sleep through the night just fine almost every night now just like back in the old days before I began any of it. Anyway, last month was FB & Co.’s turn to get the heave-ho. But what about the other sites?

I had a Meetup account since 2011 and over the years joined various groups ~ Scrabble, writing, walking, board games, etc.  But my favorite writing group never meets at a time that’s convenient for me now. New groups that sound interesting are always too far away or some other annoying thing. The rest of the groups are too sportsy or too young or too costly or too dating-related or whatever. Every week or so I look in with the glimmer of hope there will be something fun and nopety nope nope. Waste of time. Isn’t my new motto to quit wasting time on things that aren’t productive, healthy, or fun? Yes, I believe it is. A glimmer is not enough to justify time wastery. Meetup account DELETED.

Deleted some Yahoo groups for the same reason and quit getting email notifs from a few otter ones. Why spend time reading things that are of no value? That’s time wastery. For some of that stuff, there isn’t even a glimmer of a chance anything interesting is going to come of it. It’s barely one step above actual SPAM. People I don’t know jabbering about things I don’t care about. WTF am I reading this? Habit, a bad one.

And then I figured that it’s just Not Good to have random idle accounts sitting around “out there” due to nasty hackers, evil Russians, alien pods, and whatnot. So I went on a spree, whacking accounts like DISQUS, Quora, Ello, and various otter sillinesses that I don’t even use or waste time on but don’t need to have my name associated with either. Paranoia, it’s what’s for dinner. You guys forgot about Ello, dincha? 🙂

I’m debating Goodreads. On the one hand, it hardly takes up any time, so it doesn’t count as a waste of same. On the otter hand, I find it vaguely irritating. First it doesn’t let me delete my own books. I have unpublished a few (couple short stories I decided I don’t want as stand-alones, wish to edit them, and then have them as part of my book of longer, connected short stories I hope to have out by the end of this year). So, if you click on the links, they don’t exist. Of course this drives me bonkers. Why can’t I delete them from my bio there? That’s one thing. Second, GR makes me feel compelled to finish a book even when it’s bad so I can have that book added to my book count. Okay, that’s not Goodreads’ fault; that’s my OCD again. Regardless, that’s how it is and being on the site creates this issue. But perhaps this isn’t a bad thing? At least once recently I ended up enjoying a book I wouldn’t have finished otterwise. So, hmm.

Guess I’ll leave GR for meow, but they’re on the watchlist. I’m sure they’re terrified.

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The Daily Prompt: Glimmer

My First Dick

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Philip K., that is. Just read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? this week and enjoyed it. At first, I was surprised at the clunky writing style because after all I’ve heard about PKD, I expected him to be a superb writer, but there was so much “as you know Bob” type of dialog right from the start. But I got past that and was able to appreciate the incredible imagination exhibited throughout. I saw the Blade Runner films first, and enjoyed them, but the book surpassed them. It had so many more levels. The empathy testing was more interesting in the book. The religion aspect was unexpected. All the inner conflicts. The marital relationship. And of course the animals! I had no idea they played such a huge role. Loved the many clever twists toward the end.

I found a few things too amusing not to mention. The book was rather sexist, don’t you think? Rick’s wife was pretty Stepford all the way. The other women were tropes, even the “strong” ones. Also, smeary onion skin copies, bwahahaha! After all PKD comes up with as far as fab futuristic stuffs, he thinks we’d still be typing with copies in 2021. Jesus, I can’t remember the last time I made a literal “carbon copy.” Omg, remember those? So messy. Hate hate hate. And one mistake? You had to start all over.

I have several books waiting in my queue, but I want to read a few more PKD’s that’ve been recommended by friends. Glad I finally grabbed this one after all these years!

Captive Audience

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I began a new book last week: Crimes Against a Book Club by Kathy Cooperman. It had been hanging around my Kindle pile for a while. I guess it had appealed to me when I downloaded it and then not so much after that. But I finally opened it and jumped in. It didn’t grab me much at first… too many characters, too many POVS, a big mishmash. Yuck.

And it had a snotty, snarky narrative voice. Very cliched. Hi honey it’s me your best girlfriend and ooh we are gonna dish on everything and everyone and be bitches to the maxipad, oh yes we are babes, we are about to Joan Rivers this place UP!

Bleargh. I debated cutting my losses after a few chapters. After all, didn’t we just discuss how life is too short for annoying books and shitty movies? I believe we did.

But idk, there was something… different about CAABC that kept me going. I had no idea what would happen. None, zero, zip. I like that lately. And I don’t mean because it was surreal and crazy (ick); I mean because the characters were interesting and complex. Finally they sorted themselves out into two main protags with separate motivations. The satellite characters were less interesting, but had humorous moments. The narration became less Joan Riversy and straightforward with legit funny moments. Someone I wasn’t expecting suddenly played a major part toward the end and that became super hilarious and dare I say… a little bit profound!

I enjoyed the La Jolla/San Diego setting and the takedown of the ultra wealthy, though it was done relatively gently. There were some stellar mommy moments too ~ of various ages of mommyhood, which doesn’t end when kids are legal adults. Often a novel hooks me at the start and overpromises and underdelivers; CAABC did the opposite. It served up a tedious appetizer, a mediocre salad, but produced a tasty main dish, yummy sides, and finished off with a splendid dessert.

I highly recommend Crimes Against a Book Club.

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The Daily Prompt: Captivating

Restart

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I was chatting with a friend the otter day and lost track whether it had been 5 or 6 years since my divorce was final. (It’ll actually be 7, this July.) The years roll on by. This month marks 5 years since my dad passed away, and April 13th will be the 10th anniversary of my mother’s death. At the end of August, I’ll have been at my current job for 17 years.

Nothing dramatic, but I feel that 2018 is finally starting for me now on March 1. I didn’t feel well for a bit and, except for my daughter’s wedding, 2017 wasn’t that great of a year overall… the end of it slid into the blackness without a splash. It’s taken a few months for this year to get going in my mind. Emotionally, I needed to process the fact that time passes so ridiculously quickly now and quit wasting so much of it. I saw some piece of trivia that we really only read around 4000 books in our life ~ so let’s not be gobbling up so many crappy ones ~ also let’s not allow a month to pass without reading any (note to self).

I read two books in February. One was supposedly “great,” a NYT bestseller by the demigod Ethan Canin Titled A Doubter’s Almanac, which took me a long damn time because I tried to grok the math, and lol the joke was on me [spoiler alert]… it was fake. Yes, in the era of fake news, we also have fake math. I enjoyed the beginning of the book so much, but then when the narration took a weird turn I started wondering about the math theorem and looked it up ~ fake! I thought, okay cool, he made it up for his fiction. I can respect that; I make shit up all the time. Fuck, I’ve made up whole cities. But dammit, I felt betrayed. I had invested so much time in the book’s philosophy up until that point. In fact, it reminded me of my own philosophy, my central thesis, my touchstone…

MATH IS GOD

But eh fuck it. I read the rest of the book much faster, skipping most of the “math” and just trying to keep it together structurally until the end because I had a hunch about what might happen regarding son/father and… viola… I was correct. Sheesh, what a long book. Unnecessarily so. All those beautiful women falling for dorky mathmen with no social skills because of course they do. I love male fantasies. They’re almost as stupid as female ones.

Then in two days I read a nice, neat, normal murder mystery by Robert Dugoni titled My Sister’s Grave. Well, it wasn’t “nice” exactly ~ made me cry a little. Good book. Significant flashback sections, but after the fake math stuffs? Totes fine.

Point being, with unlimited time I would read every book, see every movie, give each tune a listen that friends slap up on FB. But time is running out. Well, not time precisely. It’s not doing anything. But I’m finite. I don’t want to waste another 3 weeks immersed in a boring father/son angst marathon only to discover there’s no such thing as the Malosz conjecture. Break my heart! Never trust a writer.

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The Daily Prompt: Restart

Creature Features & Jigsaw Puzzles

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I have a clear memory of watching Creature Features with my mom in the basement of our townhouse in Illinois, which she had turned into a rec room with a ping-pong table, TV, stereo, etc. It was Illinois, if you missed that in the preceding sentence, 40 miles north of Lake Michigan, where it got so cold that if you dropped a record on the floor it would shatter like a dinner plate. (This actually happened.)

I’ve always said I remember putting giant jigsaw puzzles together with my mom while we watched scary movies, and generally, but I was trying to call up a specific memory of this and it’s not working. It actually doesn’t even make sense. The only table we had in the basement large enough for a 1000-2000 piece puzzle was on the side of the room that didn’t have the TV. The stairs were in the middle. Right in front of the stairs was a little storage type room my dad used as a darkroom for photography. On the right side was a TV, sofa, coffee table, etc. On the left side was an old dining room table, another sofa, and the stereo system. We would have had to use the old dining table for the puzzles. So how would we have been watching Creature Features at the same time? Memory fail.

Even though I enjoyed these campy horror movies at the time (because mommy was there), I’ve disliked horror since. Pretty much the entire horror film genre falls into the dislike pile, but I do reserve some exceptions for books, Stephen King in particular. It’s not because the movies themselves are all terrible; it’s because I don’t enjoy having my emotions manipulated to that extent. Now you’ll say I don’t mind the same thing when it happens in the romcoms. And I’ll just shrug. Because people are inconsistent, and I’m a people too. Shockeroo!

The two Creature Features that stayed with me all these years I dub “Coconut Sea Monster” and “Alpine Beheader.” The first was about guys on a military submarine who kept getting murdered brutally cuz one of them had morphed into a monster due to radiation exposure. We didn’t see the murderer until the end and he looked like he was covered in coconut. It was really freaky! The otter one was about peeps trapped in a ski resort during a blizzard and some snow vampire kept grabbing one at a time and ripping off their head. Icky!

You know, this could very well be why I dislike both sailing and skiing. A-ha!

Still love coconut though. Nothing comes between me and a coconut donut.

As far as jigsaw puzzles, still love doing those, but don’t have room for them in my current place, can’t isolate one from the kitty anyway, and they seem sort of time-wastey when I have so many otter projects I want to finish as far as writing and needlework and staring at the walls. Someday though… when I retire maybe, bring on the jigsaw puzzles again! Hey, I wonder if they have Creature Feature puzzles? That could be a thing.

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The Daily Prompt: Creature

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Dukes…

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Jennifer Weiner has an interesting op-ed in the NYT celebrating sex ed via the romance novel. I’m ashamed to say that I’ve never read any of Ms. Weiner’s novels and I want to change that soon. I’ve put her memoir Hungry Heart on my wish list and will be grabbing some of her older novels as well. But in the meantime I enjoyed her article in the NYT, even though I didn’t agree with all of it.

We’re on the same page with the idea that “what goes where” sex ed is necessary but not sufficient for young peeps and of course they will be curious for more information. They will search for it relentlessly. I definitely agree with Ms. Weiner that romance novels give a woman’s sexual satisfaction equal priority to a man’s. No fantasy duke or pirate or spy or CEO ever forgets to please his heroine in the bedroom (or wherever), multiple times. Ms. Weiner makes a good point that, unlike pr0n, romance novels describe complete scenes, including birth control (in contemporaries), various other awkward moments, and follow-up conversations.

Talking is important!

But romance novels, like so many forms of entertainment, focus mostly on fabulous looking characters with beautiful faces and perfect bodies. These are the kinds of people deserving of soul mates, true love, fantastic sex, and happily ever afters… this is the message insidiously drilled into our minds as soon as we’re able to read a book or watch a movie. Ms. Weiner quotes Jennifer Crusie in her article, and Ms. Crusie has given us plus-size heroines in several of her novels, but still they are gorgeous overweight women with great legs, lips, and hair, not the ordinary fat chicks you find shlumping around the supermarket. This is not to criticize ~ I lurve Ms. Crusie’s novels and they’re among my favorite romances. I am… JUST SAYING.

[I know some of you go into a peevey fit when peeps just say. Sorry about that.]

Point is, there’s a downside to young people (aka women let’s be honest cuz young men aren’t going to be reading Crusie et al) consuming the emotional content of their sex ed via romance novels. I should know. I was one.

On the bright side, people are still reading books.

Study Notes

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I was a smart kid, but I attribute my great grades not to flashes of genius but to boringly steady work habits. I trudged home from school, literally a mile+ in the snow, and did my homework. Every day. I spent a lot of time studying and overstudying for tests. Though I had some fun times, I didn’t really goof off that much, not in high school and certainly not in college.

In college, I had a Psych class and got 100% on a test. The professor congratulated me when he handed back the results, which was a little embarrassing. After class, a few students came up to me to ask how I did it. I said I read the assigned chapters, twice, and studied the lecture notes several times. That’s not what they wanted to hear, I could tell. They thought I had a special trick. I did not. I just spent a lot of time doing the boring, boring studying.

It is true when I was very young I had a bit of eidetic memory, but that faded fast and didn’t help me much by the time high school rolled around. I was better than most at remembering phone numbers, which has become an unnecessary skill these days. Who even needs to know their friends’ numbers any longer?

More recently I took the Notary Public exam and did well. I was a bit worried about it, even though I’ve taken it several times before (in California you have to retake it every four years). It’s easy to forget many of the details between tests if you only notarize once in a while as I do. But I overstudied like a maniac. Turns out I do have some good habits!

In my opinion, doing well in school is mostly about good habits, not brilliance. Could this be true about most things in life?

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The Daily Prompt: Study