Thursday, December 30, 2010

Another Year

Another year is almost out. Do I have any summarizing words for 2010? Yes: Meh. That's about how I feel about this past year. A lot of time was spent bothering with things that weren't worth bothering; a lot of time was spent doing things that weren't worth remembering. There were some good times, of course, and some great ones: there always are, if you know where to look.

I'm sorry if this isn't the kind of year-ending ra-ra-ra you were looking for. I'm feeling rather Ecclesiastical tonight.

One thing that seems to be eternal is books. It looks like I'll be short last year's count by about 35, but I think I've read more longer tomes this year than last year, and not being on a 100-book challenge I have not bothered to read everything to completion, and I only put books I read completely, or almost completely, on the list. A decent list, though, if I do say so: soon after the 1st I shall republish it with added commentary.

“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, along with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.”

Thursday, December 16, 2010


Editing NaNo is usually a terrible thing; one is always much less brilliant than one thinks, even when one KNOWS one is writing crap. However, occasionally there is a moment that is worth it, a paragraph that makes one almost understand why one subjected oneself to this month of Hell. I don't know that it's brilliant, but I rather liked this paragraph.

There followed several more meetings: Owen’s reunion with his younger sister Julia, who could see the truth in the things people said, and his reunion with his twin sister Minerva, and with his brother Patreus, and Eleanor’s introduction to all of these people. They sat down to supper then, and in the evening Artemis’ sister Tatiana and her husband James joined them, and they commenced an evening of storytelling, which was an old tradition in the Avalon household. James was a professional fiction writer, but it was the story Patreus told—a story of a time in the far future when all the world had lost its color, had become black and white, in which two lovers saw in each other all the colors of the rainbow—that was unanimously voted the best.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Thinking Aloud, In Metaphor (AKA: Poetry)

In the Window

Two-headed man, in the window
Smiling-frowning on my rambunction
As you stare down the barrels
Of my silver-handled shotgun,
You frighten me.
It is not the way your eyes move,
Blazing straining blaring blinking staring,
Struggling to track my rambunction
As you stand straight, stare straight,
In the window.
It is not the way your hands reach,
Gripping convulsively and fighting
Each other off,
Scoring themselves and scarring themselves
Training themselves for a day
When unity would be most important
And when,
At a crucial moment,
They would come up empty.
It is not the way your heads loll,
Rolling like moon-calves and rambling on
About nuclear physics and Pindar's odes
And the beauty of Nefertiti and Locke's
Psychology of the Self.
It is none of these things.
It is, two-headed man, the way
You think you own me.
The way you feel that because
Of your lolling heads, your moon-calf eyes,
Your lascivious officious gendarme sighs,
Because your brains form a negative
Image of mine, because you have read
All of the ancients who also thought they knew
The perfect code of morals that man should follow,
You think you know all things.
Two-headed man, you are wrong.
And so as you stand in the window,
Staring down the barrel of my
Silver-handled shotgun,
I pull the triggers. I destroy you.
I close the blinds.
I have no regret.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

It's Kind of a Funny Story

So tonight my family and I saw this film. It's about a teenage boy who checks himself into a mental hospital. And, for anyone who has ever felt like doing this (read: probably everyone who has been in high school or college in the past ten years), I think it might be very cathartic. It's the kind of film that makes one laugh as much with joy as with humor; and the kind of film where bits of it run through one's mind for hours, maybe days afterwards. This is the kind of film that has the potential to change one's life. It's the kind of film that makes life seem far more liveable, and survivable. The kind of film that makes living and surviving seem worth it. If you get the chance, see it.


This year I wasn't even sure I should do National Novel Writing Month. And, what with being a senior, having four organizations to run or help run, a show to rehearse, grad schools to apply for, and umpteen other activities and commitments, I was not at all sure I would be able to finish my 50,000 words.

However, stubbornness will always triumph over common sense. Last night I passed the finish line plus twenty-five words. Usually in the past my November novels have ended at a little over 50k, which was helpful, or at a little under, which was not and required me to B.S. a prologue and/or an epilogue. However, this year's novel is looking to be about 75,000 words long, at least. It has three parts, and I have written part 1 and most of part 2. I shall attempt to at least finish the second part in the couple days of November remaining. I intend to finish the third part, as soon as possible, still writing NaNo-style (that is, as fast as possible and not worrying overmuch if at all about quality). I need to get this story out of my head. It will bother me until I do.

What with the various school projects coming due, followed closely by finals, and all the responsibilities I've been putting off until December (the bulk of those pesky grad school apps, for example), I'm not sure when I'll be able to finish that third part. Hopefully over Christmas break, if nothing else.

At least a couple people have already made me promise to send them the novel. Those of you who want to see it should let me know, one way or another, and also tell me if you want to immediately see the 2/3rds that are written, or wait until the whole thing is done and get it all at once. (That last is a very respectable choice; however, be advised that there's a very distinct possibility that waiting for me to finish the book MAY mean waiting LITERALLY FOREVER.)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

On Snow

It snowed last night. A group of friends and I went out and had a snowball fight. This morning I woke and it was still snowing. Rarely for me, I woke before 1 PM on a Saturday, because I had to return three DVDs to the library before the library opened in order to avoid fines. (They were due on Friday, but if one returns things before the library opens, those things are checked in as if it were the day before.) The saving of $3 was enough to make the Scotsman in me wake up; the rest of me was then grateful to that old stingy Calvinist because, to his defeat, I found myself walking through the most beautiful metaphor for baptism I can think of.

What better way of picturing baptism than to go to bed while the world is drab and dreary, dark and depressing, only to wake up to a world washed in purest white? I don't think I will ever be able to use new snow as a symbol for anything negative. Today I saw some possible consequences of so much snow so suddenly: a squirrel struggling to survive, the bowing down of trees, cars sliding around or stuck, the breaking of branches and their blockade of walkways and the obstacles they offered to the walker. Still, snow makes me think only of hope, and purity, and love; of benediction and renewal and grace. A sudden snow is an invasion of beauty from beyond the fields we know. Looking up at the arch of trees as they bow before the onslaught of white dust, seeing the flakes trickle from the sky, shimmering and glistening and soft, I can think only of heaven, of beauties beyond our ability to comprehend.

I will never understand the beauty of black and white images so well as when I look up into the snow-tossed air and see, against a sky of grey and a fluttering snow carpet of pure white, the stark black forms of a horde of crows flying out against the sky, crying in protest against this sudden change in their world.

I walked down to the river, which was not yet frozen, and I stared out across the heaving water and the snow coming down, stared in each direction as far as I could see. It was not far; the river seemed to have no beginning, no ending. And no matter how far we can see, I thought, still the world has no beginning and no ending, none that we can know. Could we know everything from the moment of creation to the end of the world, still all we would be able to see is a segment of river, disjointed and almost nonsensical, and all that would be left for us to do would be to trust the One who made it.

Walking back, I discovered that there are few feelings more integral than coming upon people in distress and helping them. I helped push and dig at least two or three cars out of predicaments, stuck at intersections or in driveways.

The Mumford and Sons song "After the Storm" was stuck in my head already, but today it seemed very appropriate:

I will die alone and be left there.
Well I guess I'll just go home,
Oh God knows where.
Because death is just so full and mine so small.
Well I'm scared of what's behind and what's before.

And there will come a time, you'll see, with no more tears.
And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears.
Get over your hill and see what you find there,
With grace in your heart and flowers in your hair.

I was reminded, further, of the TSO song "The Wisdom of Snow," which is an instrumental piece but whose title carries with it all the meaning of a full song. And, in the narration associated with the song:

So on this night of Christmas eve
As once again the spirits weave
Its snowswept dreams and colored lights
With bits of magic into each life

And as the snow comes gently down
Its sole intent to reach the ground
To cover scars the world still feels
Perhaps to give them time to heal

For as men invest in money
And professors in what they know
God invests in mercy
Like winter invests in snow

I thought, finally, of a verse from another TSO song, "What Child is This?", a verse I always think of at least once during Christmas, and at least once during Easter:

Tell me how many times can this story be told
After all of these years it should all sound so old
Yet it somehow rings true in the back of my mind
As I search for a dream that words can no longer define

Thursday, November 04, 2010


Every time I am with a group of people for a while, even--especially--if it's a group of people I like, there comes a point when everybody is gone and I realize that I'm alone and just HOW alone we all are. The fact that I can't shake existential crap like this is probably why I'm an introvert. While I object to Eastern religions and Transcendentalism for their views of ultimate reality, and while I reject Thoreau because he was an idiot, all of those folks do have a worthwhile point when they talk about self-knowledge. We are the only mortals we can be certain will be around for our entire lives, so it were possibly best to get comfortable with ourselves as much and as soon as possible.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sufjan Stevens on the Eucharist

Music website "The Quietus" recently posted an interview with Sufjan Stevens, in conjunction with the release of Stevens' first album in a few years, "The Age of Adz." Once the subject of religion comes up, or rather, is sort of forced uncomfortably into the room by the interviewer, said interviewer proves himself to be--how shall I put this nicely?--sort of an idiot. He appears to be trying to get Stevens to say something headline- and controversy-making. Stevens sidesteps the potential traps rather beautifully, and manages to say some very gracious and graceful things into the bargain.

One of the most interesting comments, for my money, was something whose controversial and revolution-stirring potential the interviewer was probably too ignorant to realize. The interviewer makes a disparaging comment about the idea of the church as a building, and Sufjan responds:

SS: I mean it’s weird. What’s the basis of Christianity? It’s really a meal, it’s communion right? It’s the Eucharist. That’s it, it’s the sharing a meal with your neighbours and what is that meal? It’s the body and blood of Christ. Basically God offering himself up to you as nutrition. Haha, that’s pretty weird. It’s pretty weird if you think about that, that’s the basis of your faith. You know, God is supplying a kind of refreshment and food for a meal. Everything else is just accessories and it’s vital of course, baptism and marriage, and there’s always the sacraments and praying and the Holy Spirit and all this stuff but really fundamentally it’s just about a meal.

His further comments strike me as VERY SUSPICIOUS from the perspective of most of the prevalent Christian views. Mwaha. Haha. Ha.

Rest of interview here.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Cheering Up

My roommate asked me the other day to read from a book that was cheerful. I looked at my bookshelf, and the first several titles I saw were: "Winter's Tale," "One Hundred Years of Solitude," "Post-Scarcity Anarchism," "Tales of the Dying Earth," "The Last Tycoon," and "The Great Gatsby."

Really, he should have known better.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

History Fest

So as previously noted, the main reason I did not end up doing the reading marathon is that I went to History Fest (link to their website in previous post; it gives a pretty good idea of what the thing was like). The farm on which it takes place is owned by a very charming older fellow of Irish descent, who does sleight-of-hand tricks and speaks with the closest thing to an Irish brogue one can get while still actually being American.

After five of us directed parking for a couple of hours, we were released to wander about at will because traffic was arriving at a rate of maybe one car every ten minutes, something that would maybe take one of us to direct but would not take five.

So I found the guy playing Abraham Lincoln, and we discussed states' rights and whether he had strengthened or weakened the federal government and state governments during his presidency; then I noticed his campaign button (which he was rather impressed with--it comes from having an antique dealer for a mother) and was told all about it, which because I have an antique dealer for a mother I was rather interested in.

After that, wandered through the Wild West part of things, past a rather skilled cowboy yodeler, walked on stilts for a bit, tried on medieval plate armor, and wandered into the encampment labeled "Scotland, 17th Century." Now, because the Risings did not occur until the 18th Century, and because there were lots of Scottish mercenaries in the Thirty Years War, I had already guessed that TYW was what these Scotsmen would be. I was totally right.

Talked to the head of the mercenary encampment for quite a while, at first about Thirty Years War stuff and things that were actually on-topic, but then digressing into things that were not quite so on-topic (but were equally rare for two people in the same place to both know about--for example, see Will Kemp). I concluded by telling the guy about the time Zeke and I did such convincing Scottish accents that we made a British lady think we were Scottish.

THEN went over to the fighting ring, to see the medieval reenactors (from the Society for Creative Anachronism) fight each other, medieval-style. They made their weapons to have the weight and heft and as much of the look of actual medieval weapons as possible, while trying to limit the actual death that occurred during their re-enactment. After the battle I talked to the guy who I believe is the head of the local chapter. I was invited to join them for medieval combat, which they apparently engage in once a week in town here.

Then we met up with the others of our group, who had not had the chance to wander around, and Tarja and I wandered and, among other things, goaded each other into walking on stilts and crawling through the troll tunnel, the latter of which was a more claustrophobic experience than I usually engage in but wasn't bad. Then it was time to go, and I felt properly nerdy for a day's work.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Right II

So the this that I signed up for is not happening, as I am volunteering at History Fest for the first part of the day tomorrow, and may go to a state park for the second. History Fest, as far as I can tell, is predicated on taking all of the COOLEST STUFF from history, and putting it all together. It does look pretty cool.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

On My Grandfather

I have been thinking a lot about my Grandpa Mobley--my mother's father--lately. I'm not sure why. Part of it might be that, for various reasons, I have been noticing a lot of the things that both Zeke and I get from our grandfather. Little things, mostly, like quirks of phrasing, expressions, attitudes, dispositions toward certain topics, things like that. But those trivial things are just the outward evidence of what is actually a much deeper influence.

In fact, it has occurred to me that in order to fully understand me, and Zeke too, one would probably have to meet our grandfather. I'm fairly certain that a psychologist who was able to fully understand my grandfather would find it rather simple to pick apart my brother and me. However, that's assuming any psychologist could survive analyzing my grandfather without tearing out his or her hair. I find this an unlikely prospect, since I believe that what Freud said about the Irish is perfectly applicable to my grandfather: they are impossible to psychoanalyze.

Perhaps it is for this reason that, while I know I am in many ways very like my grandfather, and while I know that he is one of the people I look up to, respect, admire and wish to emulate the most in this entire world, I find it hard to pin down exactly what significant things I get from him. Perhaps it's like I say about certain authors who have come to influence my writing greatly: perhaps he has simply entered my heart and therefore my bloodstream and my very being at a microscopic level, so that he is simply a part of what I am, a part of the fabric of my very being. If there is any human goodness in me, it comes from my other grandfather, one of my grandmothers, my mom, my dad, or from him, from Grandpa Mobley.

The other day in Acting class, we were told as part of an exercise to walk like one of our grandparents--not like they actually walk, but as their personality would walk. I looked at my brother and knew he had also chosen to try to walk like Grandpa Mobley, whose personality is probably the hardest of any of our grandparents' to convey. For how do you express or embody someone who is a combination of George S. Patton, John Wayne, and the most dignified of Cherokee chiefs, someone who has utter confidence in himself, having done everything he ever set out to do, being completely satisfied with the life he has led, knowing how to be confident, comfortable, and at peace in almost any situation?

My grandfather flew airplanes in Europe during WWII; he spotted for artillery, doing a job that these days is done by satellites. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge. He flew General Patton repeatedly, was present for at least one incident that often makes it into the history books; he flew others, the likes of Churchill and possibly De Gaulle, and his dog used to play with Patton's dog. He met Ronald Reagan; he was an extra in the movies; he danced with Ingrid Bergman. He looks like John Wayne, too, and the feeling I get being in his presence is only replicated when I watch a John Wayne movie. But, did I have the chance to meet John Wayne, and General Patton, and Churchill and De Gaulle and dance with Ingrid Bergman, I'd trade it all for one evening with my grandfather.

Monday, October 04, 2010


So I signed up for this. I don't know if I'll have time, or if I'll want to come Saturday, since Saturday is the only day I can usually manage to have mostly free, BUT with the amount of people I've generally felt like seeing lately (that being MOSTLY NONE) it actually sounds rather inviting at this point.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

On Two Types Of People

It has struck me lately, from several quarters, that there are in at least one way two types of people in the world. In my head they have come to be called "be-ers" and "becomers," "fixers" and "sympathizers," and "idealists" and "realists."

My Anthropology class is taught by one of my favorite professors, a WELS Lutheran Pastor who grew up on an Apache Indian reservation. One day in class he said that Apaches were into "being," as opposed to modern mainstream Americans, who are into "becoming." That is, a typical American is always becoming the next thing in his life: a student becoming a teacher or an expert or whatever, a single person becoming married, etc. Apaches, on the other hand, are content with what life offers them at the present moment, and are less worried about tomorrow. Thus it becomes hard, for example, to approach an Apache about becoming a pastor, since that takes planning (one must account for college and four years of seminary), and planning of a type that Apaches are not familiar with.

In the book Soulmates, Thomas Moore writes a very philosophical, literary sort of advice pamphlet on the subject of love in the modern world. In the introduction Moore claims that he will not offer any answers, setting his book apart from pretty much every other book on the subject currently in print, and providing a refreshing change even from the better of Christian books on the subject, like Wild at Heart. Moore claims instead that he will offer alternative ways of looking at matters of the heart, ways which will hopefully shed new and helpful light on the subject. I have only managed to read two chapters, because I am busy and it is heady stuff which requires digestion, but my mind already feels like it has been twisted in knots--or turned loose from some.

In Moore's book, he talks about the legend of Daphne and Apollo. To grossly oversimplify and somewhat bastardize what Moore says: the legend goes that Daphne fled from Apollo into the forest, and Apollo pursued her. Finally, he caught her, but Artemis, the goddess of whom Daphne was an aspect, took pity on Daphne, and Daphne was turned into a tree by the side of a river, and Apollo could never reach her. Moore says that Daphne represents the "spirit," the part of us that wants to dream, to fly free, to be a world traveler, to be independent. Apollo represents the "soul," the part of us that longs for connection, that longs for companionship. The soul, according to Moore, is the valleys to the spirit's mountains; the soul is about the nitty-gritty, the stuff of real life.

Everyone apparently has some of both Daphne and Apollo in them. There is a part of all of us which wants to be free, which balks (for example) at the idea of being tied to another person. And there is another part in all of us whose greatest desire is that other person, is to be together with someone else, forever.

As will come as no surprise to those who know me, I tend to fall heavily in with the Daphne. While I love my friends, and miss them when I'm apart from them, it does not take a whole lot--very little, by some peoples' standards--for me to have a surfeit of them, and to need or at least to want to get away, to be by myself. I have too much Daphne in me to want a relationship, for its own sake; it takes a special person to make me even consider wanting to date, to court, or whatever. ('Special' doesn't always mean 'good,' but that's another topic.) Maybe I have too much of the Daphne side to be able to have a successful relationship, at least at the moment. Whatever. Not really the current point.

All this is basically prelude. The thing that has occurred to me recently to throw this into focus is a distinction that echoes or harmonizes with the above, or possibly it does both. The topic is friends, which topic tends to be at the forefront of every college student's mind (schoolwork generally running a distant second). What has occurred to me is this: there are friends who are content with you as you are, and there are friends who want to change you. (Note: I don't like the rhetorical second person accusatory, but it feels most natural here; if one didn't like it, one could change the you's to one's, and make it third person.)

I am not offering judgment here, saying that one type is better than another. I'm just observing. There are certain friends who will take you, bad habits, foot odor, nerdy references and all; and there are certain friends who, if they are good friends, will love you and be good friends but will try to get you to stop smoking and wash your feet better and not discuss the Aeneid with 8-year-olds.

Another way of stating it, one that I dislike because of the judgment implied but one which shows the distinction clearly, is this: Some people love you for who you are; some people love you for who you could be. A third category, now that I think about it, is that some people love you for who they THINK you are. This last is the genesis of many a misguided crush; in the fog of infatuation, the real shape of a person can become obscured, sometimes on purpose, and can be imagined to be whatever one wants it to be. Actually, it strikes me that this third is just a subset of the second category. But again I digress.

One of the two sides is not necessarily better than the other; mostly it's a matter of personal preference. I come down strongly on the side of be-ers, on the side of accepting people as they are, faults and flaws intact, and being accepted similarly. And while idealism is not necessarily a bad thing, and self-improvement certainly something to be sought, ultimately a good friend is going to have to do some amount of being, of accepting that we are all flawed and that some of that is not going to get better, no matter how much it should, no matter how much we might want it to. Moore says this:

We may think that "it's only right and proper" that a person change her ways and that her soul be something other than what it is, but this kind of thinking moves us away from the person's own nature. Sometimes it appears that there is more moralism in the field of psychology than there is in religion.

I find that people who have experienced depravity in one way or another--seen what great depths of sin either they or someone they love dearly can fall into--have an easier time accepting people as they are; it often takes a less experienced person to maintain high expectations of others. (This is, again, not a dig at idealists: an idealist who has been through such fire and come out still idealistic is often quite a remarkable person.)

In the end, of course, we each have our own trials. Idealists must struggle to accept sinners, and not to judge; the rest of us must struggle not to lose our values in knowing we cannot live up to them.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

How Theatrical Productions Go (At Least For Me)

It varies, depending on the type of show, sometimes on the size of my role, and on the length of rehearsal, but this still tends to be pretty universal.

Pre-rehearsal. I got into the show! Yes! This is gonna rock!

Early rehearsals. This is gonna be so cool. We're, like, doing stuff, and it's cool stuff, and it'll be so great.

Middle Rehearsals. Okay. Maybe it won't be as cool as I thought. But it'll still be fun.

Week before Tech Week. Can this just be done with already?


Opening night, before show. I'M GOING TO MESS UP AND DIE.

Opening night, after show. THAT WAS SO COOL. I love this show and I love everybody at all associated with it and I love all the people who think it was cool and and and...

Closing night. This show is so great and I could perform it forever and... wait, it's over? Crap!

Week after. Emotional let-down; depression; often, getting sick.

After that. Awesome memory. Any bad parts edited out.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010


[Our assignment for Acting today was to write a story based on two words we were given. My words were "road" and "bruise." I don't particularly like this story, but for the Gentle Reader it may entertainingly waste a few minutes.]

When the girl lay down on the road, all she could see were the stars. She could not see the burned, charred, black road around her, the piles of bodies, the skeletons of cars and trucks, the hulks of tanks. She could not see the road winding on and on, bleakly across a bleak world, starting nowhere and ending nowhere. Looking at the stars she could imagine she was dead, that she had finally come to peace, that she lay in a box in the earth and that the stars were her only friends. We are all made of stardust, she had been told, and she had laughed.

She had been brilliant, once. The smartest ten-year-old on the face of the earth; possibly the smartest ten-year-old who ever lived. They sent her up in the rocket ship, the one that would reach Mars, the one that would guarantee humanity’s survival when the destruction unleashed by the last war was complete. Her words, beamed from the spaceship to the ears of all humanity, just as the ship broke earth’s orbit, had become famous. People loved them and quoted them. She always thought that they did this because they made her sound like a little girl, because they made her sound human, rather than like the divine being most people imagined her to be.

“It looks… like a bruise. We’ve made the world look like a giant bruise. This was never what man was supposed to be.”

And in the six years it took them to establish the Martian colony, in the years it took her to turn from a warm, brilliant, adorable little girl to a cold, manipulative, power-hungry woman, her words had apparently touched off a war, one even worse than the previous war, one in which humanity unleashed its most horrible weapons and, finally, destroyed itself.

The Martian crew managed to find the survivors, the last several hundred humans locked deep underground. They were taken onboard the spaceship; they told the story of earth’s final six years. They blamed the girl, and rightly so. It did not take long to make the decision; and the decision was unanimous. They exiled her. They set her on the ring, the highway that man had built to encircle the earth, the scene of the worst and most brutal battles of man’s final war. They ordered her to walk it until the end of her days, to walk it until she, the last remaining human, was gone. The captain delivered the sentence; the captain knew she would never have the strength to take her own life.

Staring up at the stars, the girl heard a noise behind her. She jerked upright. The noises couldn’t be coincidence; they had been following her all day. Either someone was out there, stalking her, or she was going insane. Either way, perhaps her death would come soon.

A figure moved in the darkness. Her instincts, unwanted, flared up; she leapt and grabbed the figure and brought it down, smashing its face into the road, her hands flying and pummeling by instinct and nothing else. When the figure stopped moving, she rolled it over, perched above on the edge of the road. The sea below heaved incontinently. Her stalker was a boy, of about her own age. The boy was breathing raggedly.

“Who are you?” the girl hissed.

“You’ve… you’ve killed me…”

“Who are you?”

“I… fought against… your exile. When you left… I followed you. I lost you for a while… but now I’ve found you again.”

“Why? Why do you care? I’ve destroyed all of humanity. Everyone knows it.”

“And yet… I love you…”

“Love me? You don’t know me.”

“I grew up with you. I… always saw your face on TV.” The boy was growing more animated, starting to recover himself. He was bleeding from several places, but he ignored this. “No one ever loved you. They admired you, they feared you. But I loved…” he stopped, and began to cough. The fit prolonged itself, and he turned his head aside and spat blood. He groaned and lay his head back down with a clunk on the road.

The girl thought she had cried all of her tears away, but now she began to weep. She bent down and kissed the boy firmly on the mouth. He kissed her back. His arms closed around her and with the last of his strength he used his body to toss her, backward, over the edge of the road. He rolled over and watched her plunge toward the sea. Then he lunged after her.

For a moment the two bodies hung in midair, becoming smaller and smaller until they were specks indistinguishable from the whitecaps of the roiling sea below. Then they were swallowed up. The sea roared on, like a great bruise blotting the face of the earth.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Current Thoughts

There are certain songs, and even certain verses of certain songs, that have entered my being at a microscopic level. That is, I don't necessarily quote them or even think of them often any more--though usually I did both, once--but they are in there, in my mind and heart, as a concrete symbol of what and who I am, or at least what and who I want to be. One such verse is from "Jericho," by Wolfstone:

Don't run from the bad and the beautiful
Or all the hurting they provide
Don't hide from the sad and the cynical
Look for the diamonds inside

I've tried, Wolfstone. I've tried.

Monday, August 16, 2010

YA Authors and their Wisdom

I have been reading a slew of YA books recently, because I felt like it. And while I may have said disparaging things about YA authors in previous posts, I sometimes find them extremely wise. I think there is a certain wisdom gained by authors in any genre, who are privileged to spend a large part of their adult lives as authors; this may be particularly true of YA authors, at least of good ones, for they are writing at a level of childhood, a level where first and often lasting and affecting impressions are formed--they are writing to the people who will influence the people of tomorrow, who will become those people. Witness Susan Cooper, reflecting on her privilege in the afterword to her book Victory:

Sam Robbins's encounters with Admiral Nelson are not historical; they came out of my imagination, and I loved writing them. Perhaps I wrote this whole book only for a chance of meeting one of my greatest heroes, just as I was lucky enough to meet Shakespeare in a book called King of Shadows and Merlin, long ago, in a sequence called The Dark is Rising. Writers are fortunate people.

Another thing I notice in Cooper here is her humility. The Dark is Rising is perhaps one of the most famous of YA book series to come out in the last forty or so years, and Cooper would be justified in assuming that the type of people reading her Author's Note would be familiar with it. However, it is not famous enough to warrant the assumption of universal familiarity and her reference to "a sequence called The Dark is Rising" therefore does not come across as condescending.

Also, while I have read and loved The Dark is Rising, that note made me rather want to read King of Shadows.

Another author in whom I have noticed the latter-day presence of both wisdom and humility is Avi. This fellow has written a veritable slew of "YA" and "Teen" books over the past three or so decades. Some I have found worth my time; others I have thrown, justly or unjustly, by the wayside. But always he seems to be writing what he wants to write, and not what others want him to write, and for this I respect him.

Recently I read his The End of the Beginning and A Beginning, a Muddle and an End (2004 and 2008, respectively), which are both about a snail and an ant who have philosophical and epistemological discussions, often to arrive at counterintuitive conclusions. The books are somewhat in the tradition of Winnie the Pooh, and I found them great fun. A note at the beginning of the second book goes like this:

Some time ago one of my young readers wrote to me about writing. Among the many wise things he said was that a good story consists of "a beginning, a muddle, and an end." It was the smartest description of a story I've ever read. I wish I knew his name. Perhaps he'll read this book. If so, I thank him for giving me a title.

Besides the fact that Avi is right, this is quite a remarkable little note in a few ways. Notice the experienced writer deferring to the child who wrote to him; notice him calling the child "wise." I can think of no other living writer who would be likely to do this. Neil Gaiman, maybe. Maybe. Of fully "adult" fiction writers that I know anything about, I can picture none saying something like this. Could it be that our childrens' writers know something the rest of us are missing?

Finally we come to Kate DiCamillo. I read her books The Tale of Desperaux and The Remarkable Journey of Edward Tulane a while ago, both of which became favorites in their own way. It was not until recently that I got to reading her first couple books, Because of Winn-Dixie and The Tiger Rising. I don't know that either will become out-and-out favorites the way Desperaux and Edward did; but both are masterfully crafted, grace-filled stories.

In The Tiger Rising, a withdrawn young boy meets an angry young girl, and against all apparent odds the two become friends. There is a lot of grace in the book, especially in their burgeoning relationship. One of my favorite passages was this:

"Oh," said Sistine. And Rob realized then why he liked Sistine so much. He liked her because when she saw something beautiful, the sound of her voice changed. All the words she uttered had an oof sound to them, as if she was getting punched in the stomach... Her words sounded... as if the world, the real world, had been punched through, so that he could see something wonderful and dazzling on the other side of it.

Honestly, I don't know if this is wisdom, or folly, or simple conceit. But I love this passage. I love it because this is how I feel when I encounter overwhelming beauty. I feel as if I've been punched in the stomach; when I'm talking about it, sometimes I feel exactly as if my words have that oof sound. I don't know if this is noticeable to anybody else.

The whole of Winn-Dixie, which somewhat incredibly is the author's first novel, is littered with wisdom. It is harder to pin down than the works quoted above. One bit of wisdom is made concrete here:

"Come here, child," Gloria Dump said. She reached for me and pulled me close to her and whispered in my ear, "There ain't no way you can hold on to something that wants to go, you understand? You can only love what you got while you got it."

Recently on facebook I saw a friend of a friend of a friend (I saw this because I find facebook-stalking a good way to kill boredom) comment on someone's status. The status was of the genre of status in which the poster wishes to 'be a kid again' in one way or another; the response was something along the lines of "Childhood should be remembered well, but maturity and growing up valued more highly." This sounded like a certain genre of post comment I have encountered, that of the Thinking Christian, and the implication of every comment in this genre is that every Thinking Christian should agree. And I sort of did at the time, though something rankled me about it. And then I realized that at least one of the reasons for this rankling lay in Matthew 18; and while this as a response to the post I am referring to may be out-of-context and therefore not be fair, this all works as an illustration summing up what (if anything) I had to say in this post:

At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

An Open Letter to Barnes and Noble

Dear Sirs:

You have disgraced yourselves. I am sorry to have to be the one to inform you of this; I, who have spent many happy hours perusing the shelves of your bookstore, who was weaned, as it were, on the smell of the new books emanating from your bookshelves.

Are you catching my drift yet, noble sirs? Why would I put book in my opening paragraph so many times?

I will cease the semantics, sever the cleverness.

I am talking about this abomination you call the Nook.

Perhaps there is a place for e-readers: perhaps. I am thoroughly unconvinced on the subject, but we will grant it for the sake of argument. But if there is a place for them, and if they must be sold, this is not the way to go about it.

Placing a large, rather sleekly garish desk directly in front of the entrances to all of your stores, with sleekly cool-looking men or sexlessly attractive women with grins on their faces and a general attitude as if they are Jehovah's Witnesses here to convert all of the sheeple to their new faith is both blatant and blatantly wrongheaded. We are the descendants of people who formed a new country because the old one was forcing unwanted tea upon us: what else can you, using the abovementioned tactics, expect from these people but outright rebellion? And while rebellion is a heady topic for literature, it is not conducive to the selling of electronics.

Which brings up another point: the fact that this product is, essentially, a more useless iPod. Why are you selling such a thing in your store? The obtusely illustrative stack of books with prices comparing their print versions to their e-versions is potent advertising, it is true. But the fact remains that this product costs $149, plus the cost of whatever books one wants. The latter cost, while more affordable than new hard copies, is not much (if at all) less than one could pay for an actual book at almost any used bookstore.

This is where you are particularly wrong, I daresay even disgraceful, my good sirs. For books are, have long been, and ought always to be something for the masses. They ought to be something that not only the well-dressed businessman or working parent with more disposable income than ideas of how to spend it can afford. Their very appeal lies in the fact that they are affordable to the poor college student, the vagrant off the street, the child with his or her allowance money or hard-earned yard-raking or lawn-mowing or grifting money. There is much appeal to the fact that one can come in with a ten-dollar bill and leave with a brain-stimulating classic or a soul-satisfying romance. There is, furthermore, the fact that one can leave a seven-dollar paperback behind on a bus, or have it rained upon, and treat the matter with a shrug and conceivably buy a new copy the next day. Now, if a $149 e-reader gets left behind on a bus, or rained upon and ruined, even the increasingly small percentage of your clientèle who can afford said bauble will probably treat its demise with more agitation than that.

Speaking of agitation, I have one (or possibly two) more complaints before I post* this. What is greatly agitating is the amount of advertising for the e-reader that occurs in your store. I am often looking, in an access of perfect happiness, at a literature or a science fiction section full of good old (well, new) books, only to have thrust into my sight a sign advertising SAVE MONEY WITH THE NOOK, or similar Advertising Department drivel. The amount of signage and other advertisement begins to make your store take on the aspect of a desperate high school nerd begging a girl who is, as they say, way out of his league, to go to prom with him: PLEASE LOVE ME, the Nook ads seem to say; OR PLEASE NOTICE ME, AT LEAST! AT LEAST CONSIDER NOTICING ME! PLEASE?

Finally, there are the rumors that go around concerning the Nook. I am sure you are aware of them, and I myself am certainly aware of how outlandish are the claims they make. Still, the sheer amount and the terrier-like persistence of said rumors does make one wonder. You know the ones: The Nook eats babies, The Nook is a tool of the Devil, The Nook eats the soul of its owners. Things like that. Clearly unfounded speculation.

Sirs, I have stated my opinion. It was probably a useless thing to do, but at least it made me feel better. It is my hope that you take these things into consideration, and do not end up like the nerdy kid, sitting at home on prom night, weeping because the girl he loves went to the dance with the big dumb football player who reads actual books. But you won't let that be you. Right?

Yours Truly,
Captain Stormfield

P.S. I have a solution: Take all the money you are pouring into Nook advertisements, and invest it in installing special B&N bars next to your cafes. Think about the sheer amount of writers who have been alcoholics; probably a greater number than ever frequented coffee houses. Think of the mural! Twain and Hemingway, over their respective Scotch and Absinthe, laughing over a fallen Scott Fitzgerald, his jug of moonshine clutched to him the way he once held Zelda... Plus, if your store had a bar it would scare away those people who come to your store only to flirt because your store doesn't have a bar. All I ask is that you think about it.

*Note that "post" here can refer to the posting of mail, i.e., the traditional way to send a letter, even an open one.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Uh Fought

Good friends are like bad drugs. While they're around, in your system, it's wonderful, but when they go away the withdrawal can be a terrible thing; and the only relief for the symptoms of withdrawal is more of the drug. The only relief for the loneliness caused by the absence of friends often seems to be more friends. Often, when particular friends are missed, the only relief seems to be a return to those particular friends whether literally or somehow by proxy.

Because of friendship and the pain it causes sometimes I wish my heart was truly cold, was closed away in some sort of room where love and its contingent heartbreak was a distant reality, something that happened to other people but never came near. But always when I have these thoughts I find myself returning to the words of CS Lewis, in The Four Loves:

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Adequate Sleep

Good grades, adequate sleep, a social life: pick two. Welcome to college.
-Overused but true adage

I have noticed a few times in the past several weeks that I have awakened in the morning to the sound of my alarm clock and have hit the snooze button not because all of my limbs felt bone-tired and my body seemed to be craving extra sleep, but because sleep simply felt nice and I wanted a bit more of it. On getting up, I then noticed that it did not feel like a war to simply stay standing up and get myself ready for the day. Midway through the day I did not feel the need to have a shot of caffeine in order to get through the rest of the day. Every time I sat down I noticed a distinct lack of attempt on my body's part to crash and go to sleep.

This "getting enough sleep" thing is certainly a new and novel experience. I can't decide if I like it or not.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

On B&N

I am informed, by my mother, that Barnes and Noble is a "meat market." Apparently people go there to flirt if they don't like bars. Now, I enjoy flirting as much as the next guy--depending on who the next guy is, I very well might enjoy flirting somewhat more than he does--but if someone tries to flirt with me at the bookstore it will be a problem. See, as much as I like flirting, I like books a manifold amount more. It's not even a contest. It's like if I was a die-hard Star Trek fan, and flirting was watching Star Trek while books were meeting Leonard Nimoy, Patrick Stewart, and Gene Rodenberry all at the same time. It's not even that I wouldn't necessarily flirt back in a bookstore, though it's eminently possible that even a very cute girl flirting with me while I was looking at books would be very annoying. What is most occurring to me is that if someone tried to flirt with me while I was looking at books, I might not even notice. I'm really curious whether this has happened, actually.

Maybe I'll be more aware next time I go to a bookstore. But probably not. One new Gene Wolfe novel, and I'm lost to the world.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Pirates and Stuff

Lately I have found myself somewhat surrounded by pirates. This is not necessarily by design, though it may be a result of predeliction.

Bought The Gigantic Book of Pirate Stories, which I named (accurately, I think) Possibly the Coolest Book in the Entire Universe. It has stories, histories, ballads, poems, and other random stuff like ships' charters and a section on the last words of famous pirates. Plus I traded a bunch of stuff in to the used bookstore where I got it, so I didn't spend any money and got rid of a bunch of no-longer-wanted books in exchange for it.

Then I was reading Red Seas Under Red Skies, the second book of the Gentleman Bastards sequence, which is cool simply for combining the epic fantasy and con artist genres--really effectively--and halfway through that book turns into a sort of pirate story.

Yesterday I read the beginnings of a few different YA novels, and was reflecting on how dismal the Young Adult genre can be. Then I picked up Victory, by Susan Cooper, which Yes! is largely about sailing ships (though being much about Admiral Nelson the ships are of a less illegal variety). I read the first couple pages and sighed in relief; Cooper's writing was like diving into a swimming pool after a long time toiling in the hot sun. There's something about a good writer who has been writing for years, a writer whose sentences and paragraphs and rhythm are so self-assured that there can be no question she knows what she is doing, that is completely different from any other reading experience in the world. The sense of this crosses genres; one can get it as easily from a book intended for small children, young adults, or anyone else.

All these nautical encounters will, sooner or later, lead to a re-watching of Pirates of the Caribbean--either all three or the first one multiple times. Maybe both. I can feel it. I was thinking earlier that one of the best parts in the first one is the bit just before the Black Pearl and Barbossa's ship have at each other--when the two ships are pulling alongside each other, all stops pulled, battle about to be joined, and the crews yelling and screaming wordless hostility. It creates a moment of almost unendurable tension before that tension explodes along with the charges in the cannons.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Product of Boredom

A rose bloomed in my window
Outlined in the falling snow.
The world turned white under an old,
Cold, worn blanket that covered
The land and bent it to its own will.
A petal fell from pane to sill
And stained my white world crimson;
Crimson drops seeped across
The white wood of my floor.
I lay down in them and would weep
But the depths of sleep took me instead.
I slept and I dreamt that I saw
That the world was a great white maw
Into which the Creator wept
Tears of crimson from a great red rose
(That was Himself) and as I close
I awake, somehow, with a great thirst slaked.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Complete Works

A while ago in a class about British literature of the Romantic and Victorian eras, my prof (a nationally-known Dickens scholar and one of my favorite teachers of all time) was talking about authors whose complete works he had read. He had done all 14 1/2 of Dickens' novels, all 7 of Austen's, most of Thomas Hardy's, among others. Currently he was (probably still is) working on Anthony Trollope, of whom there are only 47 novels to get through. This digression had the effect of making me think of which authors' complete works I wanted to read through.

Of course, saying one has read an author's "complete works" can be a bit of a tricky thing. Does this mean all novels? Novels and short stories? What if the author also wrote essays, plays, songs, screenplays? What if the author's writing in one of these genres, well, sucked? What about things that went unpublished during an author's lifetime, or manuscripts that have been completely lost?

Being a nerd, I have spent some time pondering these questions. My basic conclusion is that it's plenty impressive to have read an author's published work (meaning published in their lifetime, or generally included in the canon of critically considered work by an author), or sometimes to have read an author's major works (Thomas Hardy, for example, has several novels that are almost universally considered lesser works, and nine or so that are considered his major ones). The caveat to this is that there is the possibility of cheating: one can say "I have read all of William Golding's major works" when what one actually means is "I have read Lord of the Flies."

At any rate, the only author whose every work I intend to read (or as close as possible) is, of course, Mark Twain. I have read all of his at-all-major works except two of his later travel books; I also have a couple volumes of his more obscure newspaper columns and letters. When I have read those two travel books I can say with a clean conscience that I have read every at-all-major work by Mark Twain; after those two more obscure volumes I will have to begin digging to make sure there's nothing even more obscure I have missed.

I have also read the complete works of Laurence Sterne, which is less impressive when you realize they consist of two books: The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, and A Sentimental Journey Through France and Spain. However, the first of these is one that English professors slog through in grad school, if they finish it at all, and that I read and loved as a senior in high school.

One of my goals this year is to get through all of F. Scott Fitzgerald's major works; this consists of 4 1/2 novels and about an equal amount of short stories, 4 or 5 volumes' worth. Once I finish Tender is the Night I will only have his half-finished final novel and all his short stories left.

I have apparently read through most of Stephen Crane (author of The Red Badge of Courage), but that was mostly by accident and occurred in late middle and early high school.

According to Wikipedia, I have read about half of Ernest Hemingway, but that seems like quite enough. I have covered most or all of his major novels, some of the minor ones, and enough short stories to last me... forever. The only work of his I still consciously intend to read is A Moveable Feast, simply because of its profound influence on so many authors.

By the same reliable source, I have read 10 of 19 of Joseph Conrad's novels, and (debateably) 9 of his 12 or so at-all-major ones. Conrad is someone else I intend to read all or most of. He is another one people in college and grad school slog through; most--pretty much all--of what I have read so far I did in high school.

Other authors I want to read in some sort of full measure, just off the top of my head:

Oscar Wilde (about 1/2 read)
Jane Austen (2/7 read)
P.G. Wodehouse (just for kicks--he has 150 or so novels and story collections)
G.K. Chesterton (have read deplorably little of him so far--maybe 3 volumes)
Lord Dunsany (must research his bibliography a bit more)
Edgar Allen Poe (and I have a convenient 1-volume complete works)
Neil Gaiman (have read all of his prose, except a couple YA type books)
E.R. Eddison (1 volume out of 3 1/2)
Gene Wolfe
James Joyce (2 out of 7 or so--and the real monsters yet to be conquered)

...and this list will continue to increase. Of course, there are some notable absences: Tolkien, CS Lewis, Madeleine L'Engle, Ursula Le Guin, Connie Willis, Ray Bradbury, and Terry Pratchett are examples of authors I adore but whose utterly complete works I for various reasons do not intend to go about reading.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

I bought some powdered water, but I don't know what to add to it.

Since it's been literally two years or so, I decided to do an "Update on life in general and random thoughts, you can read and care if you want to" type of post. In my head I also call this an "Anan-style" blog post, though instead of a song lyric I started with a Steven Wright joke.

Can't say I'm sorry school is over. That is, I already miss some people, and will miss some more as the summer progresses, but currently I'm enjoying not having any deadlines hanging over my head, and having only one young person who is likely to burst into my room at any given moment and try to drag me off on some inane-but-fun adventure. Also the food is better here.

Now, what would make my mostly-contentment just about perfect would be if I could find a regular job. My dad has a 9-4 job weekdays for an indefinite period of time, which limits my options to getting a job in town or getting evenings, weekends, and/or overnights. I think I'd rather like an overnight job--10 PM to 6 AM seem to be my most natural hours to be awake anyway. Otherwise a job in town would be nice, something I could walk to. I've applied at most of the at-all-likely places in town already this past week, and will hit a few more on Monday. I also plan to make up a poster advertising my willingness to do... pretty much anything that will make me money, in the style of an old broadsheet: "Children cared for WITH THE UTMOST TENDERNESS! Yard work done... WITH ALMOST MAGICAL RESULTS! Subjects tutored by one of the most learned minds OF THE ENTIRE MIDWEST!" Something like this.

Over the past few days I watched the entire long version (only 312 minutes) of Ingmar Bergman's Fanny and Alexander. Bergman is someone that people like my mom suffer through in film school, and people like me grin and enjoy every minute of. (Usually in film school one watches his The Seventh Seal or Wild Strawberries, neither of which I have seen.) At any rate, this was a momentously incredible movie, of the kind that is not really describable but which leaves one with the general summary impression of: "Wow. Woooooow." One thing I appreciated was that it was about a family of theatre people (granted, set in 1907 Sweden, but theatre people apparently don't change that much). Another thing I appreciated was how bloody bizarre it got. Also, over the course of 312 minutes, the only time I ever got close to being impatient or bored with a scene was right at the end of the whole thing, which is pretty remarkable. (Granted I did not watch the whole thing in one sitting, but it wasn't necessarily meant to be watched that way.)

Thanks to Mr. Gee, I've started listening to Tom Waits, who you really just have to experience to understand.

My reading lately has consisted of Son of the Mob; a book of all the recorded words and dications of Joan of Arc; a book arguing seriously that Atlantis existed (which was greatly entertaining); The Thackery T. Lambshead Book of Eccentric and Discredited Diseases (in which a bunch of fantasy writers play around with disease, also hugely entertaining); and the latest book by R. Scott Bakker, one of the most bizarre modern writers of epic fantasy.

The short summary of my last three paragraphs is that my cultural diet lately has consisted largely of the arcane, outlandish, fantastic, weird, and bizarre. Needless to say, it makes me happy.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Fiction as Remembrance

Often when I go back and read through my stories, it's like reading old journal entries. It's not as though I write autobiographical or even semi-autobiographical fiction, usually (though often mine is partially autobiographical); it's more that whatever I am thinking of or going through at a given time makes it into my stories at a sideways sort of angle, so that reading back through them is like a keyword outline of the thoughts behind it. Like a code only I can understand, and only I know exists.

As a more direct example than usually occurs, in the story "In Which Several Odd Things Happen" from the Ritual cycle, there is a character who contains my grandfather as I remember him from the few years before he died. He was in a nursing home in Mt. Horeb, and we would periodically go see him. He had lost his legs to diabetes, and had a stroke, both when I was fairly young; most of my memories of him are from after this time. In all of my memories he is a gruff, rough-hewn sort of man, and in all of my memories these things provide a thin veneer of causticity over the love and affection he contained for his family, especially his grandchildren. This is him:

Vic opened the door. The room smelled less of chemicals than the hallways did. Several plants lined the windowsill. An old man lay in bed, an old man who stopped just above the knees.

“So, you son of a bitch!” he said jovially. “Actually showed up for once?”

“Shut up,” Vic said. “Where's your damn wheelchair?”

“In the damn closet in a damn mess, like you left it last time,” said the old man.

“Ah,” Vic scoffed as he pulled the wheelchair from the closet. “This is a lot neater than I left it. You've been out since, you guilt-tripping old coot.”

The man shrugged. “Just get me out of this damn room. Who's your friend?”

“Joseph, meet Mr. Wilson. Wilson, this is Joseph.”

The man insisted on shaking Joseph's hand while Vic helped him into the wheelchair.

“You associate with this bastard?” Wilson said.

“Yep,” said Joseph, barely hiding his grin.

“Well, then, you deserve to.”

Or, rather, this is NOT my grandfather. Grandpa didn't swear that much, at least around me, and he was almost never this abrasive. But in the minimal description, in the preparations to go for a walk/ride, in the very speech patterns Wilson uses--in all of these things I find echoes of my grandfather, and I can use them like a rope to find my way back to the real man.

They wheeled him outside and the air was still both refreshing and damp. They took him down the nursing home's walk past some old-timers sitting on the benches lying about their youths and onto the neighborhood sidewalks where Vic had to steer around icy patches and wet patches and where the naked trees bowed over their paths and middle-aged men and women looked out of windows to see them and reflected, uncomfortably, on their own mortality. Wilson grinned. He looked at the trees and grinned to see them bow and he looked at the air and he grinned to see it wet and he looked at the boys and he grinned to see them young and he looked at the blue of the sky and he grinned to see it old far older than he was.

This IS my grandfather. Even in a wheelchair he had a sense of energy and a projection of personality that made anyone who looked at him realize he was alive, was animated, and I think that sense made them reflect on their own mortality, the fact that they would age and die, and perhaps wonder if they would be that alive when they were that old. And when we took him on walks, Grandpa would grin, seemingly at the whole world and everything in it. There was a sense of the foolishness of life, the pervasiveness of vanity, in that grin.

“Fog's comin' in," Wilson said. "You boys make sure you go out and enjoy it, hear?”

“What now?” said Vic.

“I said go out and enjoy the damn fog! Listen, ain't you ever...? Well, listen. Once I was out in fog that was so thick you couldn't see a damn half inch in front of your damn face. Listen. I saw a girl, prettier'n all hell. She had dark chestnut hair all curled an' bobbed, and red lips like a cupid's bow, and white teeth and a gorgeous smile. She wore a red dress and she cut through that fog better'n a spotlight. And she set me all... Well, I followed her, but she looked back and she laughed and she lost me in the fog. Wasn't hard to do, like I said. Well, they said she was Iris Jensen's visiting cousin but there was no way someone ugly as Iris had a cousin that pretty. I knew. I knew she was a Faerie, and she come out because fog's damn magical.”

This, again, is NOT my grandpa; and I have a fear that it is not Wilson either, but that's a topic for another day. It does have my grandpa's speech patterns again, the trailing off, the digressing, though again it is slightly more profane than he was wont to be. It is my grandfather if he had read Lord Dunsany, perhaps. But somehow it is this monologue as much as any other part of the story that connects me to him. I can hear him saying this, can almost feel his presence when I read it, especially aloud. But that is metaphysics. I understand almost as little of what I do when writing this stuff as anyone else; but somewhere in here there is magic, and somehow I do not think it is mine.

Friday, March 05, 2010

3 Poems

Apathy: A Sonnet

As floodlights flare through foggy dew
Glim'ring yellow and then vanishing,
So do I e'er feel for you,
No matter that you're fair and ravishing.
And when you, darling, descend the stair,
Fair of countenance, lithe of frame,
All I can say is "I don't care,"
Thou all your friends will call me lame.
And at the end of time I'll be,
Perhaps, a sad lonely little man;
But better that than to end up with thee--
At least my own company I can stand.
As long as good fish can dive into the sea,
I'll rest, comfortable, in my apathy.

Maturity: A Love Sonnet

O you are so darling and so dear,
Beautiful in form, academically wise;
Men exotic and men near
Find Faerie flick'ring in your eyes.
And one like me, in lowly place,
Can but stand back and admire
Your clear complexion and your grace,
Your brightly flaring Creator's fire.
And should this grace with which you're gifted
Make you graceful in your turn?
No. You wish your curse was lifted;
And so you all of beauty burn.
I hope for you sake that you do
Grow up and get over you-know-who.

Antipathy: A Sonnet of Romance

Once I had ideals of romance:
Knights and ladies, forms and old conceit.
My ideals never stood a chance
Before your wanton cherubim deceit.
Warmth in your smile lighting up your eyes,
In sympathy you light up lucky lives.
Easy 't were to call it lighted lies,
But real steel lights up real knives.
Out of my benighted scars,
And out of my naive romantic dreams,
You conquered love like the god of Mars
Polluted blue skies and poisoned fragrant streams.
But, love, despite your blackest arts,
You're not an end but merely a new start.

This has been another edition of "Ethan is Amused to an Unwarranted Degree by his Own Work." Tune in next week for our new episode, "Ethan Laughs At His Own Jokes About the Coming Robot Revolution."

Friday, February 05, 2010

Thoughts in the Snow

The other night there was a heat wave and the temperature got up around freezing, prompting me to take a walk. The snow was falling and as the streetlights shone through it the flakes seemed to regiment themselves into glittering, sparkling armies or armadas of alien ships coming to earth. When I looked at the ground it glimmered too and it looked for all the world like an early computer-generated special effect, as from a bad '80s movie.

As I went I thought of a walk I took early in the fall, in the company of one with whom I was foolishly infatuated. We found a park off the main drag that I was sure had never existed before and that I am sure has never existed since. Certainly I have never found it again. In the foolish daylight hours I attribute this merely to my lack of navigational skills.

We lay down on a flat star-shaped slab, a dried-up fountain, and we looked at the stars and the encroaching clouds and found symbolism in the environment all around us. There were stars in our eyes, glimmering and false. After a while we got cold and went home.

Overall, we acted foolishly and later we would suffer the consequences.

And as I walked the other night I thought that if the Faerie Park reappeared I would go back to that star, that dry fountain, alone, and think about all I had lost. But I can never seem to sustain such cynicism these days. What did I actually lose? I thought. A foolish, flaring feeling, as much akin to sickness as to joy; a thing comparable to real love only as the wailing of the wind is comparable to human song.

Recently a dear friend told me that during that time she felt as though I were being taken away from her. I don't know how much hyperbole was in this statement (she is given, a bit, to hyperbole), but no matter how hyperbolic it was it still left me feeling tearful, a bit, and wanting to tell her that there was no way, ever, I would be taken away; at least not like that. But I couldn't. For how am I to know the future? How can I say what will end up happening? All I could honestly have said was that I never want that to happen; and that seemed like cold comfort.

But in a way, I suppose, I could have said that it would never happen. For the heart is not rational, and it is not a moralistic thing; neither is it physical or limited by distance. If it were any of those, beauty could never exist and love could never occur. Perhaps if I marry my heart will all be kept in one place; but for now it is fragmented. It is with my family, it is with those friends who have become like family. And oh, how it hurts sometimes; and oh, how I would have it no other way.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Reading Goals

Because yes, on top of being a college student I need to set other goals for myself for things like casual reading, something for which everyone knows college students NEVER EVER HAVE TIME.

I'm not doing the 100-book challenge again, because as I have alluded to before while it was great fun it did push me toward reading shorter books. But Mr. Gee gave me a different almost-challenge which I have decided to accept: to read no books this year under 500 pages long. Except there are a few exceptions to my acceptance.

1. School books, of course. Many of my classes this semester have disappointingly small textbooks.

2. I do intend to read through Scott Fitzgerald's major works this year. That seems like a fine goal in and of itself.

3. I reserve the right to read short works when I feel like it. One needs a short book after a certain number of large tomes.

4. Also, there are a few series that I want to read/finish, not all of which contain 500-page volumes. However, they all have a combined length of 500 pages, so I will read them together and count them as one.

The end.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Computer Science and College

Computer Science

A Certain College

I saw the second article first, and thought that MSU's decision to cut computer science was extremely ridiculous before even reading the first article. Could there be a correlation here? Ie, are more colleges cutting computer science programs? Or is MSU just coincidentally stupid?

Monday, January 04, 2010

A Year of Books

This is the part of the blog where Ethan comes out and makes comments about all of the books he read last year. If you are feeling very nerdy, bored, or masochistic you may want to read all of his comments. If you want to skip that crap and get to the point you may go to the end where Ethan will list his "must-reads" and "must-avoids."

1. The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde
2. Salome, by Oscar Wilde
3. The Importance of Being Earnest, by Oscar Wilde
4. De Profundis, by Oscar Wilde

Being a Wilde-lover, I can hardly be expected to make objective unbiased comments on his works. However, it is my opinion that every literary person should read these four. Picture, of course, is a classic; and a better and more tragic rendering of original sin I have never encountered.
De Profundis was written while Wilde was in prison, and we see a much humbler and in many ways much more profound Wilde than previously. He says some of the most beautiful, profound things about Christ I have seen in a while.
Importance is, of course, the classic of stage wit; Salome contains some wonderful prose poetry (also a play, I don't know how speakable it is, but it's a great read).

5. Poems, Poems in Prose, and a Fairy Tale, by Oscar Wilde
6. Anecdotes and Sayings of Oscar Wilde, by Oscar Wilde et al.
7. The Critic as Artist, by Oscar Wilde
Also brilliant stuff, of course, though less essential. Critic is esoteric almost, though not quite, to the point of unintelligebility. I loved it.

8. The Satanic Verses, by Salman Rushdie
Massive, surreal, brilliant novel from one of the world's best living authors.

9. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, by E. Lockhart
The type of book I read for a somewhat guilty pleasure, about rich kids at a private school. Suprprisingly intelligent for its genre.

10. This Side of Paradise, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The second out of a projected many times I read this. The novel that proved to me that college students haven't changed in 90 years.

11. The Roots of African-American Drama
For American lit class. It covered the early period, back before African-American writing was filled with self-important pretentious whining.

12. The Adventures of Hucklberry Finn, by Mark Twain
Also for class. Approximately the seventy-nine millionth reading for me. Still wonderful.

13. Reading Like a Writer, by Francine Prose [Reading for Class]
Was only assigned the first few chapters; I've been meaning to go back and read the rest. Very interesting book which shows one how to do exactly what the title implies.

14. The Writer's Book of Days, by Judy Reeves
15. Creating The Accomplished Image [Partly read, for class]
16. The People's Bible Commentary: Romans
17. Wheelock's Latin
18. God's No and God's Yes, by CFW Walther [half-read, for
More books for various classes. All hold some merit in their specific field; nothing incredibly remarkable.

19. The Urth of the New Sun, by Gene Wolfe
The one-volume sequel to the four-volume Book of the New Sun, it's utterly brilliant, though you have to read the first four books first.

20. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, by Joan Aiken
I heard this described somewhere as "whimsical without being sentimental." Somewhat along the lines of "A Series of Unfortunate Events," but better.

21. The Abolition of Man, by C.S. Lewis
One of those books where Lewis takes 100 pages and changes your entire life.

22. Manalive, by G.K. Chesterton
See 21, with Chesterton's name instead of Lewis's. Brilliant little novel.

23. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess
Lost some of its punch for having seen most of this done in novels like 1984. Some brilliant passages, and Burgess is a very good and interesting writer.

24. Magic For Beginners, by Kelly Link
One of my favorite collections of short stories ever. Magic realism with a vengeance. The title story alone is worth the price of admission.

25. The Charwoman's Shadow, by Lord Dunsany
Replaced "The King of Elfland's Daughter" as my favorite Dunsany. If you like lyrical prose and faerie-tale-esque fantasy, read this book. (If you can find it.)

26. One More For The Road, by Ray Bradbury
A not particularly impressive collection of Bradbury shorts, though it has a few gems of brilliance.

27. Sailing to Byzantium, by Robert Silverberg
Another old favorite. Silverberg is at his best writing novellas, and these five are some of his best novellas.

28. The Halfling and Other Stories, by Leigh Brackett
An interesting, often superbly done, collection of short stories by the writer of "The Empire Strikes Back."

29. Our Town, by Thornton Wilder
I rather liked this play, against all expectation.

30. Figures of Earth, by James Branch Cabell
Wonderful satire of Arthurian type heroism, by another master of prose.

31. The Man Who Came to Dinner, by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman
32. The Death of a Salesman, by Arthur Miller
Of these two plays, the first one is rather funny and I was proud of myself for catching most of the 30s cultural references, and the second one, while powerful, was rather a failure.

33. The Lies of Locke Lamora, by Scott Lynch
Somewhat like a cross between "Ocean's 11" and a standard urban adventure fantasy, but freshly written and with good characters and story. A literary Big Mac with fries.

34. Coffee at Luke's, edited by Jennifer Cruisie
People writing intellectually about the series "Gilmore Girls," which, yes, I watch. The writing on that show is brilliant. Shut up.

35. Nine Stories, by J.D. Salinger
I hated it for the first half, then fell more and more in love through the second. When I reread it I expect to love the whole thing.

36. The Crucible, by Arthur Miller
Better than Salesman.

37. The Fabulous Tom Mix, by Olive Stokes Mix [half-read, research purposes]
An excellent book for information on the very beginning of the silent film era, and one of the first ever movie stars.

38. Nightside the Long Sun, by Gene Wolfe
50. Lake of the Long Sun, by Gene Wolfe
51. Calde of the Long Sun, by Gene Wolfe
52. Exodus From the Long Sun, by Gene Wolfe
The Book of the Long Sun is not quite as satisfying as New Sun books, but being Gene Wolfe is still fairly brilliant.

39. Who is Mark Twain? by Mark Twain
A new collection of unfinished and unpublished Twain. There's some pretty funny stuff here.

40. The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman
Fairly typical Gaiman, but there are a lot of cool and subtle things to it that one might miss if one was not careful. It grows on one after one has read it, too.

41. Raise High The Roof Beams, Carpenters and Seymour, An Introduction, by J.D. Salinger
Brilliant. Became my favorite Salinger until I read "Franny and Zooey."

42. Dutchman, Amiri Baraka
That whiny pretentious boring African-American drama I was talking about? A pretty good example of such.

43. Blue Like Jazz, by Donald Miller
A wonderful collection of essays on Christianity in the postmodern world. Miller isn't Lutheran, but he has some excellent thoughts.

44. Smoke, by Ivan Turgenev
45. Fathers and Sons, by Ivan Turgenev
46. First Love, by Ivan Turgenev
If anything, I liked "Smoke" much more than "Fathers and Sons," though the latter is a much more famous novel. Didn't really like Turgenev in general, though.

47. The Name Above the Title, by Frank Capra
Capra, who made (often wrote or co-wrote and directed) films like "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," "Lost Horizon," and "It's a Wonderful Life," writes a brilliant biography. It's worth reading for anyone interested in movies or writing, or just looking for a big, entertaining book.

48. The Story of Film, by Mark Cousins
For nerds only, but for nerds it's heaven. All of the film history you'll need in one place.

49. A Sentimental Journey, by Laurence Sterne
Not as utterly brilliant as Tristram Shandy, but worth reading--and at 150 pages, about 1/8th of the length of TS.

53. Heroes of the Valley, by Jonathan Stroud
54. The Last Siege, by Jonathan Stroud
The first book is invented-world fantasy, the second a real-world story about British school kids with no particular fantasy element (though set in an old castle). Both were well-written and solid stories; I was impressed with Stroud by the time I was done.

55. To Say Nothing of the Dog, by Connie Willis
Wonderfully funny time-travel novel. The action takes place largely in the Victorian era. If those two categories sound at all attractive, it is recommended.

56. Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book, by Walker Percy
A book about why, when we know so much about things like atoms and what stars are made of and everything else there is to know, humans know so very little about ourselves.

57. Grace Upon Grace: Spirituality for Today, by John Kleinig [Partly read; book klub]
A decently readable book of Lutheran theology for the layman.

58. Storeys from the Old Hotel, by Gene Wolfe
59. The Wolfe Archipelago, by Gene Wolfe
I don't think Wolfe is as comfortable in the short form as he is writing multi-volume novels, but there is good stuff here, especially in the Archipelago.

60. Calculating God, by Robert J. Sawyer
What happens when an atheist sci-fi writer attempts to posit God. Besides a couple of utterly ridiculously drawn Southern Baptist wacko characters, Sawyer makes an even-handed attempt, but he ultimately fails at writing either good theoretical theology or an entertaining novel.

61. Rude Mechanicals, by Kage Baker
62. Black Projects, White Knights, by Kage Baker
63. Gods and Pawns, by Kage Baker
64. Dark Mondays, by Kage Baker
Of these three story collections, the first two are worth reading if you've read the rest of Bakers Company novels; the final one is non-Company, and has some pretty good stuff.

65. Questions of Truth, by John Polkinghorne and Nicholas Beale
Two Anglican scientists argue that the theory of evolution is in no way incompatible with religion. After reading, I am inclined to agree on this broad point, even if I disagree on a lot of their sub-points.

66. Lake Wobegon Summer 1956, by Garrison Keillor
Good, fun book, if dirty in places.

67. Carry On Jeeves, by PG Wodehouse
It's Jeeves. What more can I say?

68. Either You're In Or You're In The Way, by Noah and Logan Miller
Utterly cool non-fiction book about two brothers who started with literally no money and no experience, and made an award-winning movie.

69. A City in Winter, by Mark Helprin
70. The Veil of Snows, by Mark Helprin
71. Swan Lake, by Mark Helprin
This trilogy of dreamlike fantasy has unexpected teeth. Its elegance provides a welcome break from the hectic nature of real life.

72. Believer Beware, edited by Jeff Sharlet et. al.
A collection of essays "from the edge of religion." Worth reading for anyone interested in the postmodern religious scene.

73. The Merchant of Venice, by Shakespeare
75. Richard III, by Shakespeare
76. Othello, by Shakespeare
80. The Tempest, by Shakespeare
82. King Lear, by Shakespeare
84. Sonnets, by William Shakespeare
90. The Taming of the Shrew, by Shakespeare
95. Much Ado About Nothing, by Shakespeare
The stuff we read for Shakespeare class. For wonderful examples of how to run a play and how to write in English and insights into human nature, I recommend any of them. For good entertainment, I reccomend Merchant, RIII, Tempest, Lear, Sonnets, Taming, and the scenes in Much Ado with Benedick and Beatrice.

74. Pilgrim's Progress, by John Bunyan
Being forced to read the whole thing for class, I discovered that after the first 50 pages (as far as I'd gotten on previous attempts) it gets much better.

77. Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe

78. The Laramie Project, by Moises Kaufman et al
79. Oedipus Rex, by Sophocles
81. Proof, by David Auburn
83. Waiting for Godot, by Samuel Beckett
The four plays we read for Playwriting class, except Oedipus was for Lit Crit. Godot was amazing, if you like surrealism. Laramie Project, about the brutal murder of a gay man in Wyoming, I found interesting stylistically and very moving emotionally.

85. The Broadview Anthology of British Literature, the Restoration through 1800

86. Winter's Tales, by Isak Dinesen
Dinesen, the author of the short story "Babbette's Feast," is wonderful. That's all I will be able to say without going on for pages.

87. Franny and Zooey, by JD Salinger
This became my favorite Salinger. Everything else he wrote is now officially better than "Catcher in the Rye."

88. The Controversy Between the Puritans and the Stage, by Elbert Thompson
Very interesting book, read for research-paper purposes.

89. Lost Worlds, by Clark Ashton Smith
A 30s pulp writer along the lines of RE Howard (Conan), Smith's quality wildly varies. He's worth reading just for the bizzare stuff he comes up with.

91. The Norton Anthology of Literary Criticism, various authors
Oh my head hurts.

92. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
A fictional correspondence between a London author and inhabitants of the only English territory occupied during World War II, taking place just after the war, the characters are so honest, charming, and witty that it made me want to be there or at least be English.

93. Peace, by Gene Wolfe
Again, it's Wolfe, and again his utter brilliance shines through. Many people think this is his best novel.

94. Great Joy, by Kate DiCamillo
Okay, so it's a picture book. But the illustrations are beautiful and because it's DiCamillo writing the text said text is touching and beautiful in its own right.

96. Waverely, by Sir Walter Scott
Ugh. Scott stretches two hundred pages' worth of story, prose skill, and cleverness over about six hundred pages.

97. Reading the OED, by Ammon Shea
Awesome book about a guy who read the entire Oxford English Dictionary over the course of a year. He pulls out the best forgotten words. "Onmotomania" is my favorite.

98. Leviathan, by Scott Westerfeld
Fun YA alternate history steampunk.

99. To Your Scattered Bodies Go, by Philip Jose Farmer
100. The Fabulous Riverboat, by Philip Jose Farmer
The first half of the SF classic Riverworld series. Good fun, especially if you like history.

101. How I Live Now, by Meg Rosoff
Sort of post-apocalyptic YA novel. I liked it.

102. Nova Swing, by M. John Harrison
The follow-up to Harrison's "Light," which I read last year, could have been shorter but its surreal glory is not lessened for that.

103. Anecdotes of Destiny, by Isak Dinesen
This collection contains "Babette's Feast," and while none of the other stories match it, they are all very good as well.

104. The Screwtape Letters, by CS Lewis
See "Abolition of Man."

105. The Owl Service, by Alan Garner
Interesting forgotten YA fantasy. The writing style is nearly perfect, very subtle, and the Celtic roots are used brilliantly.

106. Wizardry and Wild Romance, by Michael Moorcock
Probably the hundred and sixth or so time I've read this one. Moorcock still continues to anger and intrigue me in equal amounts.

So. Now for categories.

Books Everyone Should Read to be Human:
The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde
Salome, by Oscar Wilde
The Importance of Being Earnest, by Oscar Wilde
De Profundis, by Oscar Wilde
The Urth of the New Sun, by Gene Wolfe (After reading the first 4 New Sun books)
The Abolition of Man, by C.S. Lewis
Manalive, by G.K. Chesterton
The Charwoman's Shadow, by Lord Dunsany
Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book, by Walker Percy
Anecdotes of Destiny, by Isak Dinesen (even if it's only "Babette's Feast.")
The Screwtape Letters, by CS Lewis

Books Everyone should Read Who Wants to be Literate:
The Critic as Artist, by Oscar Wilde
The Satanic Verses, by Salman Rushdie
This Side of Paradise, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Adventures of Hucklberry Finn, by Mark Twain
Magic For Beginners, by Kelly Link
Nine Stories, by J.D. Salinger
Raise High The Roof Beams, Carpenters and Seymour, An Introduction, by J.D. Salinger
Pilgrim's Progress, by John Bunyan
All the Shakespeare, of course
Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe
Waiting for Godot, by Samuel Beckett
Oedipus Rex, by Sophocles
Franny and Zooey, by JD Salinger
Peace, by Gene Wolfe
Wizardry and Wild Romance, by Michael Moorcock

Books Not Part of the Previous Two Categories but Still Worth Reading:
Sailing to Byzantium, by Robert Silverberg
The Halfling and Other Stories, by Leigh Brackett
Our Town, by Thornton Wilder
Figures of Earth, by James Branch Cabell
The Man Who Came to Dinner, by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman
Nightside the Long Sun, by Gene Wolfe
Lake of the Long Sun, by Gene Wolfe
Calde of the Long Sun, by Gene Wolfe
Exodus From the Long Sun, by Gene Wolfe
The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman
The Name Above the Title, by Frank Capra
A Sentimental Journey, by Laurence Sterne
To Say Nothing of the Dog, by Connie Willis
A City in Winter, by Mark Helprin
The Veil of Snows, by Mark Helprin
Swan Lake, by Mark Helprin
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
To Your Scattered Bodies Go, by Philip Jose Farmer
The Fabulous Riverboat, by Philip Jose Farmer
The Owl Service, by Alan Garner

Books to Avoid:
Dutchman, Amiri Baraka
Calculating God, by Robert J. Sawyer

And yet... I feel like I've barely put a dent in my "To Be Read" list.

Book list 2010

I read 101 full books last year, thereby fulfilling the challenge upon which I embarked. I won't be trying it again this year, because while it was fun, I found it nudged me toward a proclivity to reading short books, in order to make sure I could have higher numbers. So this year I'm just going to keep track of the books I read without a specific goal in mind. This is especially helpful because most of the books that are getting to the top of my miles-long "to be read" list are long-ish.

Books Read, 2010
1. Public Enemies, by Bryan Burrough [Half-read on break, will hopefully finish later]
2. I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov
3. Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, by Mark Twain
4. A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens
5. Gorgias, by Plato
6. Phaedrus, by Plato
7. Oedipus Rex, by Sophocles
8. Bartimaeus: The Amulet of Samarkand, by Jonathan Stroud
9. The Beautiful and Damned, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
10. Bhagavad-Gita, translated by Prabhavananda and Isherwood
11. MacBeth, by Shakespeare
12. Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte
13. The Good Woman of Setzuan, by Bertolt Brecht
14. Fences, by August Wilson
15. The Atlantis Enigma, by Herbie Brennan
16. Joan of Arc: In her Own Words, edited by Willard Trask
17. Son of the Mob, by Gordon Korman
18. The Judging Eye, by R. Scott Bakker
19. The Knight, by Gene Wolfe
20. Alan Mendelssohn, the Boy From Mars, by Daniel Pinkwater
21. Slaves of Spiegel, by Daniel Pinkwater
22. Tender is the Night, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
23. Red Seas Under Red Skies, by Scott Lynch
24. How to be Alone: Essays, by Jonathan Franzen
25. Titus Groan, by Mervyn Peake
26. Gormenghast, by Mervyn Peake
27. Titus Alone, by Mervyn Peake
28. First Encounters: A Book of Memorable Meetings, by Edward Sorel and Nancy Caldwell Sorel
29. Love That Dog, by Sharon Creech
30. Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat, by Lynne Jonell
31. Victory, by Susan Cooper
32. The End of the Beginning, by Avi
33. A Beginning, a Muddle and an End, by Avi
34. The Tiger Rising, by Kate DiCamillo
35. Because of Winn-Dixie, by Kate DiCamillo
36. Me and Orson Welles, by Robert Kaplow
37. Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes, by Neil Gaiman
38. Sandman: The Doll's House, by Neil Gaiman
39. Sandman: Dream Country, by Neil Gaiman
40. Sandman: Season of Mists, by Neil Gaiman
41. Sandman: A Game of You, by Neil Gaiman
42. Sandman: Fables and Reflections, by Neil Gaiman
43. Sandman: Brief Lives, by Neil Gaiman
44. Sandman: World's End, by Neil Gaiman
45. Sandman: The Kindly Ones, by Neil Gaiman
46. Sandman: The Wake, by Neil Gaiman
47. Sandman: The Dream Hunters, by Neil Gaiman
48. Sandman: Endless Nights, by Neil Gaiman
49. The Girl Who Loved Animals and Other Stories, by Bruce McAllister
50. Theater/Theory/Theater, ed. Robert Gerould
51. Ironheart, by Victoria Tecken
52. Miss Julie, by August Strindberg
53. Two Rooms, by Lee Blessing
54. Noir: A Collection of Crime Comics, Various Authors
55. The Magician's Elephant, by Kate DiCamillo
56. The Mysterious Benedict Society, by Trenton Lee Stewart
57. Broadway Bound, by Neil Simon
58. Dramatic Theory and Criticism, ed. Bernard F. Dukore
59. Holding Onto Reality: The Nature of Information at the Turn of the Millenium, by Albert Borgman
60. How to Conduct Organizational Surveys, by Jack Edwards et al.
61. Selections from "Against Verres," by Cicero
62. Following the Equator, Vol. 1, by Mark Twain
63. Showdown, by Ted Dekker
64. Panzer Commander, by Hans von Luck
65. Campaigns of Curiosity, by Elizabeth L. Banks
66. Post-Scarcity Anarchism, by Murray Bookchin
67. The Mabinogion, by Anonymous Welsh Poet(s), translated by Gwyn Jones and Thomas Jones
68. Ink on Their Fingers, by Victoria Kasten and Benjamin Tecken