Back into my semester, I tried to get more writing done, but have slowed down a bit, as you can see with a measly 10,000 word count added to my total. The reading has only appeared to be smaller than usual because I’m devouring every single Walking Dead comic I can find. I dream and breathe it, and find it refreshingly different from the TV show. But I did start Don Quixote.
First up, I read Pnin, by Nabakov. I read Lolita ages ago in university, finding him well versed, but a bit dry for my taste. About three years ago, I read his nominal classic Pale Fire, and loved it. As for this small book that I was inspired to read because of Reading Lolita in Tehran, it falls somewhere in between. Sometimes funny, sometimes slow and dry, overall it was an okay read but not phenomenal.
I moved on from there to a read I’ve wanted to do for a while: Lorrie Moore’s A Gate at the Stairs. She was the creative writing head at my university and I’ve only ever read her short story about how to be a writer. I figure I’d give this a shot as it is one of her few full length novels out there. Sadly, I was underwhelmed. It is exactly what you expect from an amateur writer, delving into wistful word play and peculiar daydreams. Beyond that, it held up the usual scrutiny to high-detail that a lot of modern work does, sacrificing, meanwhile, the plot. It only gets good right near the end, and even then it feels heavy handed. Yuck!
The whole time I read other books, I listened to I Can’t Make This Up, by Kevin Hart. I’ve always loved his small bits with Conan on his show, and his attitude is infectious. The book, although dull and not very engrossing to start with, really kicks into gear when he starts describing his rise from everyday Kevin to the superstar he is now. It was enlightening to see that fame doesn’t come as expected, but sudden and without warning.
A quick buy and read was Russo’s The Destiny Thief, a collection of essays. I recently read The Straight Man for a book club, and liked it enough, so I ventured into this one. Though repetition occurs slightly, for the most part his essays read much like his fiction—a little bit of humor, a lot bit of heart. I enjoyed how he described the ups and downs of being a writer and how he suffered and became one back in the 60’s and 70’s. Much like the Kevin Hart one above, it shows tenacity is a needed trait for success.
With Kevin Hart done, I dove quickly into Suck It, Wonder Woman, by Olivia Munn. I thought this would be light and easy to listen to on the way to work, which it was, but over all I was left with not such a great image of Munn herself. Although many of the stories she tells are eye-opening, compelling, and interesting, her personality as a whole—which shines through in her voice and cadence—is a bit lacking. Though I know she means well, at certain points she came of sounding, well, dumb, like a valley girl, despite coming from Oklahoma and having lived part of her life in Japan. You’d think the worldliness of her experiences would show through in her a bit more. Still, fun.
Then I dove into Cannery Row. I’ve always heard about this but stayed away after the trauma of Mice and Men, and the depressing Tortilla Flat I read years ago. Steinbeck has a horrible problem with having his protagonists changing whatsoever. Every book the characters are the same at the beginning, and the same at the end—except usually, sadder. This one at least isn’t so dreary. I enjoy the personification done for each character, but the famous quote from it regarding how the traits of success are usually immoral, but revered, doesn’t really fit into the story in my mind. I don’t know what the hell he was trying to say with that. Otherwise, it was fun compared to his other downers.
For the return of my book club, we elected Little Fires Everywhere. Celeste Ng is supposedly the author of the moment. She won a short story prize and a lot of attention for her first book, and even more for this one. Personally, I don’t see why. The story, overall, is hackneyed, dealing with the ills of suburbia. Art is the redeemer. Mia is a saint, while the other soccer moms are close-minded sheep. That being said, the read was easy and well done. Furthermore, she does capture the small-thinking of these little burgs extremely well, but the plotting is less than spectacular. You can enjoy this one, but it will quickly be forgotten years from now.
Recently I’ve heard a lot about a little book, Speak. So I got it through the library—finally. It took a day to finish and…not bad. I can see where the detractors might attack it. Yes—the end is too neat. Yes—her redemption is not likely. Her scars would last much longer from the rape that occurred to her, but in a way, dealing with the same topic as 13 Reasons Why, it was much more realistic and powerful with the portrayal. You really feel for Melinda by the end and find peace with what happens—even if in real life that rarely happens, me too or not.
All the while, I read Dharma Bums. Again I read Kerouac’s On the Road ages ago, loved it, so thought I’d like this as many have praised it. I was wrong. Like one commentator said: not enough Dharma, too much bum. The whole book is pretty much Jack gushing about the friend that got him into Buddhism and all of them acting like their enlightened. Hippies in America thinking the rest of the world has it wrong—not exactly being woke to true Buddhism, but that’s all they had back then, and unfortunately, what many university / high school students still buy into.
Progress on 2018 goals
1) Finish Brief Lives / Query / Synopsis: Done / 2 letters / halfway: Done
2) Chewy Noh (graphic novel): Done (with outline)
3) Student workbook: Done
4) Spring Reading:
Quixote: 350 pages
5) Read 125 books: 109
6) American Snowflakes: 60,000 words done
Next Month’s Agenda
I hope to write much more—aiming to finish at least 90,000 to 100,000 words by winter break. I want to crush this book out faster. I know what I want to do. Now I just have to sit down and write it.