It is 70 degrees today. Bizarre.
1. First book to leave a lasting impression?
Happy Monday lovelies!
This morning, I've been reading about traveling with dogs. Biscuit gets to go with the fam to the farm for Thanksgiving. I am way excited. I know she'll love it :) She seems to do great in a car, but she's never been in a car for five hours before. Any tips for doggy travel?
In other news, my sister called last week and asked me what cake I was going to bake for Thanksgiving. You'll remember my last post when I told you I don't particularly enjoy cooking. Weirdly, most women in my family seem to love it and are very good at it. I'm the black sheep of the kitchen. On Thanksgiving, I mostly function as background. I read magazines in the kitchen while my mom, sister, and niece cook yummy food. I like to be with them, but it's sort of a mutual agreement I don't go near anything flammable. A few years ago, I felt guilty about this and, in a moment of weakness, said, "I'll make a cake!" It wasn't awful. And it felt like I was doing something moderately helpful. So now it's semi-traditional. Each year, I remind my sister I need a very EASY recipe and that, even then, it will probably come out tasting like frosted concrete. She's always very supportive. This year she said, "Don't worry! Erin will be there to help you." Erin, my super cute 12-year old niece, is destined to have her own Food Network show someday. The girl is crazy talented, but helping me is a big challenge even for professionals like Erin.
My current idea is to buy a Pecan Pie from Cracker Barrel and try to pass it off as mine, but I'll probably change my mind. That's like culinary plagiarism or something.
I am really excited about Thanksgiving though. My family is pretty scattered at the moment and having them together in one place makes me so sappy I can barely function. That would be enough, just having them all together. But Christmas and Thanksgiving make me feel so warm: pretty colors, bright lights, candles, quirky little traditions. I'm so excited. :)
Feel like a Monday meme? It's another book meme. We talk about books so often on here that a few of these questions might be a little redundant. It's still a fun one though. (Typing "book meme" made me think of the song "Love Game" by Lady Gaga. Except in my mind, I'm substituting "Book Meme" for "Love Game." I have a feeling this will go on all day.)
The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by CS Lewis.
My mom read to me every night when I was little. TLTW&TW was the first book I ever heard (and later read) that became more of an experience than a book. With other books, there was always a disconnect: I pretended to be the characters, but they didn't feel quite as real. Narnia was different. It was magical and a little bit scary and I felt like I was there, sitting with the Beavers, running from the witch, kneeling in front of Aslan about to get a cool weapon. I thought about the story all day long. I watched the cartoon. I watched the cheap BBC version where the Beavers look like giant FurBeasts. But mostly, I wanted to hear the story in the book. I was positive Narnia was real. I used to pack a lunchbox full of books and fall sleep in my closet thinking I would wake up there.
Warning: We're veering into sappy territory here. Not like Travis Tritt sap, but close.
But more than that, Narnia made me feel brave. I have a bone disease that was a much bigger problem when I was a kid than it is now. I used to break my leg at random, for no reason, just because my bones were weak. I would literally be walking down the hall, hear my leg snap, and hit the ground. (I am crazy grateful that's not something I'm dealing with right now!) Whenever that happened, I had to go to the hospital and my leg had to be set (pulled until the bones realigned so they could heal). Those of you who've had broken bones will affirm how much that sucks. While the doctor was setting my leg, I would squeeze my eyes shut and imagine I was holding onto Aslan, fisting my hands in his soft fur.
I don't think good fantasy ends with escapism. I think great fantasy takes you out of your world for a breath or two and lets you live vicariously through someone else. But then, when you settle back into your own self, something kind of magical happens. You feel brave. You decide your story is worth living, worth experiencing, better than anything you'll ever read.
The impact CS Lewis had on my childhood was huge. I wish I could hug him, and thank him for Narnia. I still do Narnia checks every time I go in a furniture store. ;)
2. Which author would you most like to be?
Whichever one makes enough money to pay off her student loans. ;) Kidding.
Slight edit to my original answer: If I had to choose, I would like my writing to be as lyrical as Kate DiCamillo's writing. I like that she says so much, so richly, in such a succinct way. I like the way Adriana Trigiani writes characters, particularly women (tough but still vulnerable). I like it when any author can be funny and heartfelt in the same novel.
I'm fine with being myself, but I wish I could be the version of myself that was more confident, that didn't make stupid writing mistakes, that was settled into her career, that had better understanding of where I wanted my writing to go. Also, I would like to be the writer who is constantly invigorated and inspired and writes thousands of beautiful words a day. And has an assistant named Sven who brings me Cheetos and folds my laundry.
3. Name the book that made you most want to visit a place.
Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery. And I did visit Prince Edward Island! It was absolutely perfect. I need to blog about that sometime.
4. Which contemporary author will still be read in 100 years?
Madeleine L'Engle, Stephen King (I'm not a King fan because I'm a chicken. But I have a feeling his books will still be around someday), Brennan Manning, JK Rowling, Michael Chabon
5. Which book would you recommend to a teenager reluctant to try literature?
As far as contemporary, I would recommend Looking for Alaska by John Green. It is one of the most well-written books I've read. That said, this is definitely a book for older readers. Alaska gets challenged in lots of schools and libraries, I'm assuming because of the nookie factor. However, if you've ever turned on a television, or stepped outside your house, or if you've ever been inside a school for more than five seconds, I'm thinking you've heard way more spicy stuff than what you'll find in this novel. I actually think the scene in this novel is interesting because (in my opinion) it kind of discourages casual sex. The characters felt awkward. It wasn't romantic or earth-shattering or anything like that. Nothing horrible, awful, end of the world happens to them. They remained friends. But it isn't an over-romanticized situation either. That is a very brief aspect of the novel, but I felt like I should mention it since younger readers happen by here occasionally. If I'd picked up a book like this as a young teen, my mom would have let me read it. But she would have read it with me so we could talk about it. (She most definitely wouldn't have let me read it in Middle School.)
The part of the book that impresses me the most is the way grief, longing, and fate are explored. It's a book that makes you ask big questions. Sometimes I'll pick it up just to glance through it, and I'm already on chapter ten. It's a seamless read.
An added bonus is that John Green is hilarious. You've probably seen him on Vlogbrothers. His books are funny too. Not just snicker and smile and turn the page funny either. I sometimes put the book down so I can laugh. He's an incredible writer. He just released a new book with superstar editor/writer David Levithan called Will Grayson, Will Grayson. It's on my reading list for the holidays.
For classic lit, I don't know that I would pick a book as much as I would offer two bits of encouragement. 1.) Don't stop just because you trip over the language. It takes awhile for me to fall back into the rhythm of classic novels. I'll use Captain Will as an example. When I read Shakespeare in high school, I had a hard time understanding it, and felt like a dorkbird. When I took a Shakespeare class in college, I loved it. I think the difference is that I was immersed in the plays, reading them everyday for class, really thinking about the lines. It feels more natural the more you read. I think the same is true of classic novels (even more recent ones). The ideas and themes are totally relevant, but the language can be awkward and dated (sometimes; other times it's very pretty). Give it time.
2.) Don't stop because you read a book you dislike. I know loads of people who like Moby Dick. In fact, I know people who started reading more classic novels because they liked Moby Dick so much. Even though I liked the theme, I couldn't get into the story. When I finished it, I was kind of burned out on reading (which is very rare).
One of my favorite novels is Wuthering Heights, but some of my friends think it's flowery, boring drivel. You never know if a book is going to grab you until it does. The good news is there are millions of books out there. Keep reading until you find one you love. Have fun with it. Read it along with your friends so you can talk about it. Something gives those books staying power. Trying to figure out what that something is can be fun. (And these are recommendations I would give to teens or adults. Regardless of age, sometimes classic novels feel daunting.)
6. Name your best recent literary discovery.
This is not such a recent discovery, but I think Zora Neale Hurston is one of the most gifted writers ever to wield a pen. Very often when I'm in a bookstore, I pick up Their Eyes Were Watching God just so I can read the first paragraph:
"Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board. For some, they come in with the tide. For others, they sail forever on the horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is the life of men."
7. Which authors fictional world would you most want to live in?
Probably LM Montgomery's Avonlea ... but only if I could be Anne.
8. Name your favorite poet.
Pablo Neruda because of a poem called September 9th.
And Bob Dylan because of a song called Every Grain of Sand.
9. What's the best non-fiction title you've read this year?
Something's Rising by Silas House and Jason Howard
10. What author do you think is much better than his/her reputation?
I can't think of one specific author here, so I'll just revert back to my rant on book snobbery. I think there are loads of beautiful books out there, in all kinds of genres. And even if I don't like it, or it's not my thing, that means zip to the zilch. Art is subjective. Great authors abound. Authors aren't talented because they sell a billion copies, or get movie deals, or make enough to pay off their student loans (even though I envy those authors :). They're amazing because you say they are. Never be embarrassed about the books you love. Just keep reading.
If you're up for it, I would love to hear your answers. Hope your week is off to a sweet start!