Funny Girl by Nick Hornby

Nick Hornby is one of my authors.  When I see something new coming out, I am going to get my hands on it ASAP.  Why?  He’s witty and he’s warm.  Actually, I never would have thought to describe him as warm until I read it in one of the blurbs and a little light bulb went on over my head and I thought, “That’s exactly it!”

Still, I didn’t know what to make of this book at first.  I was nervous.  Hornby is a master of pop culture, in my opinion, but a book about 60’s television?  About British 60’s television?  It took me a little bit to get into it and then the characters carried it along.

Barbara is on the edge of becoming Miss Blackpool but when she finds out that she’ll have to spend another whole year in her hometown instead of seizing her dream and going to London, she passes the title off the the runner up and makes a hasty escape to the south.  In London she gets a job at a department store, just like she had in Blackpool, and a roommate but the thing she misses the most is watching Lucy on Sunday nights.  She decides to try and find a gentleman friend and when that goes hilariously wrong she bumps into Brian, the man who becomes her agent.  He changes her name to Sophie.  He wants her to model, she wants to act.  He sends her on a number of horrible auditions and then she walks into a room that holds Bill, Clive, Dennis, and Tony.

Bill, Clive, and Tony are trying to make the switch from radio to television.  Dennis is a BBC man, through and through.  In one magical afternoon, Sophie manages to click with the group and take the premise of the half hour comedy to new heights.  Before long, her career is launched and Barbara (and Jim) becomes the new big thing.  Sophie is still a bit naive about a lot of things and we get to see her date and fail and then become engaged and fail.  Bill and Tony met after being picked up for homosexual activity on the same night but not with each other.  Bill is hiding his secret while Tony is trying to build a life for himself, with a wife and a baby.  Dennis is head over heels for Sophie.

The joy of following these characters as they fumble through was wonderful.  I was hooked on them and enjoying the references that I understood while breezing through the ones I didn’t.  I chuckled so much at this book that I was asked a number of times if it was that funny.  The answer?  It was fun.

Tally Monday- February 23, 2015

Checked Out

  1. Teen Spirit by Francesca Lia Block

Bought

  1. The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin

Read

  1. Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin

TBR: 36

I have spent a full week reading Hornby’s Funny Girl and I have spent most of that week thinking that I would probably have it done by the end of the day.  It’s good, you guys.  I am enjoying it.  I don’t want to put it down.  It goes great with household chores.  But I’m just not quite done yet.  Soon.

Ugh, I honestly don’t know what to say this week, you guys.  My brain is all over the place and just not into it.  I am in a fine mood for reading, for escaping my current brain hurricane and relaxing in a paradise of someone else’s life.  As as rule, I don’t think that I am an escapist when it comes to reading.  I just want to swallow down all of the thoughts and feelings that I can.  I am just feeling the need to live another life right now and I am happy that I have books to take care of that for me.

As you may have noticed, I have managed to reign myself in a little better this week.  My TBR count actually went down!  I looked at my stack the other day and realized that there was a book that I had been avoiding for about two whole years.  I read some blogs about people hating it, even if they loved the author, and I flipped to a couple of pages before realizing that it wasn’t for me and it was probably really holding things up.

Here in Michigan we are facing an arctic blast.  It’s almost too cold to do anything but read!  I cannot wait to get home tonight and eat my white bean soup and be warm with a book and some kitties.

Poetry- On Writing

I used to write a lot of poetry.  I honestly think that most people did.  Or, at least, that most teenage girls of a literary bend did.  I loved to write it but it was dramatic and not completely honest.  I wrote about the people I loved and the people who thought they loved me and knowing the difference.  I wrote about being a virgin and then about not being a virgin.  I wrote about starving myself and hurting myself.  I know that I was not “normal” but the older I get the more normal it all feels.  When I got to college I wrote about the boy I was convincing myself to love and how messed up society was and how hard everything was.  Then I just stopped.

I just stopped.

I can really point it back to my undergrad and two classes:  Intro to creative writing and Creative Writing: The Short Story.  When I started the intro class, I was put into a group with two other students.  For the rest of the semester we would read our work to each other, critique it, edit it, and reread it before submitting.  I was put in a group with literally the dumbest woman I had ever met at that point.  She was going for the primary education degree, English and social sciences.  She had a hard time with writing.  She brought her baby to class and actually breast fed during our sessions, which disturbed the 20 year old me to no end.  She didn’t understand capitalization or punctuation.  When it came time to do the poetry unit she pretty much rewrote “The Road Less Traveled” with a farm scene at the beginning.  Her note, in red pen, on my poem was, “This doesn’t rhyme!”  It was a poem I was very proud of, about women and society.  That was the moment that I thought, “Why would I bother if people like this are going to talk about how my poems don’t always rhyme??”  I am a big fan of rhyming but I understand that poems don’t Have To.

The following semester I took the short story class because I was too scared to take the poetry class.  I was beginning to think that my poems were a bit adolescent.  I enjoyed the class.  I did some of my best work in the class.  The professor took my writing to new levels and the people in the class questioned all of the right things.  One of the short stories I wrote was a blatant “piss off” to the professor, who I had developed a slight crush on because he helped me so much.  He forbid us from killing of characters so I did and I won all of the praises.  It was such a good story that a local theater guy I knew from school asked me to make it into a script.  It will be filmed probably next autumn.  When I wrote that story and another absolutely great one, I decided that poetry wasn’t my thing.  I needed narrative.  I needed paragraphs and dialogue and chapters.  It was the first time I realized that I maybe could actually write something good.

And so poetry fell to the wayside.  I still wrote in once in a while, in the margins of my notes and amongst doodles in my French class (that I barely passed, it should be noted). A few years ago, I decided to write it again and I launched a blog with the idea that I would write poems there.  I wrote one. which I still think is terribly good, and never touched it again.  I still loved poetry.  I loved to read it aloud to myself and the cats.  I loved to read it every day.  Every September I took out Spoon River Anthology, my absolute favorite.  I admired it but never wrote it.

I decided to revisit poetry when Hubby bought me a typewriter.  It was the first year we were together, when he was still known as Gooey.  I told him that I wanted a typewriter for my birthday in passing as a test.  That man ran all over hell searching for one.  He went so far as to go back to garage sales we had been to without me just to plug them in and see if they worked.  My typewriter came in a box with a bunch of funny stuff about how much better for the environment it was than wrapping paper written on it and it came with two new ribbons and a ream of paper.  I swore that I would write nothing but poetry on the paper and took it back up.

But I was rusty and I was determined to beat the old poetry into the ground.  Most of what I have written has been… lackluster.  There are a few good ones.  I would think that my best are what I like to refer to as the “death series.”  When my father died, I knew that it was something I could only express in fragments.  The feelings were just too much to put into prose.  In poetry you can say all of the weird things.  You can say, “I wanted to take you into me/ Make you stay one more day.”  You can say, about another funeral, a particularly shocking one in the community I work in, that the cars looked like ants, carrying their crumb to the graveyard.

But now that I am back into it, ever so slightly, I can tell that I am not smart enough to be a poet.  Nobody wants to read about a poet putting the top down and getting an iced tea, even if it leads to the biggest regret of her life: that she didn’t make the turn to visit her father two days before his death.  Maybe if I were smarter I could pull it off…  But, as the blog says, I is who I is.  I wish that I could put every moment of that last drive, the last drive of my childhood really, into a poem that meant something.

Isn’t that the essence of a poem, though?  Isn’t it about getting down to the bone and marrow of it?  Isn’t it about the fields you took a picture of the fields and the turn you forgot to take and the falling down farmhouse where cows walk in and out and the reason that you didn’t go back when you could have?  (I was tired and wanted a nap and I was on a staycation and, anyway, I would see him tomorrow.)  Isn’t there a poem in there?  Why does it have to be, oh, I don’t know, verbose?  Can’t it just be me being me and seeing those last days like sand in an hourglass?  Isn’t this whole effing paragraph a poem waiting to happen?

What is poetry and what makes it great and what makes it worth our time?  That’s the question.  It seems simple but the answers are too complicated for me.  I am, after all, just a girl taking pictures of a field in September.

On Benjamin Franklin

As promised, here are some criticisms of Ben Franklin.

I fell in love with Benjamin Franklin when I was in high school.  We read about his little project concerning virtues and within five years I was writing my own little project up.  Of course, Franklin was concerned with things like eating not to dullness and drinking not to elation when I was concerned with things like “Always wear makeup in public.”  I was quite the girl back then.  You’ll have to forgive me.

Throughout the years I picked up quotes and tidbits here and there and jokingly told people that Franklin was a certified colonial hottie.  Again, forgive me.

I was excited to read the autobiography because I always meant to and I was positive that it would be full of wit and wisdom as soul striking as the virtues.  Then I read it and I realized that Franklin was, at the end of the day, an old white dude who liked to talk himself up.

I know, I know.  Just hear me out.

It felt like each and every bit of this book was about how he was wronged but overcame the wrong, how his hard work and good sense made him a role model to people twice his age, how his hard work and good sense made his life profitable, how he had such a good idea about such and such but because of a difficulty concerning so and so it was decided that it couldn’t be done.  I really got sick of it.  I really just wanted to give up.

I am not calling this a book review because it isn’t.  This is the end of a crush and it’s just a little heartbreaking.

Looking Back: Body Issues

Just a warning, this is one of those dreadful personal posts I write once in a while.  Turn back now, if you wish, and come back later for some trashing of Ben Franklin.  I promise that will be happening soon!

My mother went to see a hypnotherapist recently in an attempt to lose some weight.  In her second to last session, the therapist asked her whose body she most wanted.  My mother chose a woman from a sitcom who was round and womanly and not too skinny.  The therapist said that nobody ever chooses someone with a body like that, a real body.

The whole time that my mother was telling me this, I sat, dumbfounded.  Whose body did I want?  My mind was blank.  After lunch, in the car, I thought about it some more and I realized that the body I wanted was my own but six years ago.  Six years ago I was in a bad place and I was terribly unhappy and I was in the best shape of my life.

Basically, poverty was a big part of it.  Ha!  Poverty!  I was living in a beautiful 2300 square foot house on 10 acres, driving a Mustang GT, and going to college!  How can I call that poverty?  But it felt like it.  I didn’t have a lot of money and whenever I took on extra hours at work I had to throw that money back into the house.  See, I had this agreement with my ex.  He paid the mortgage, I cleaned and bought stuff for the house and tossed him a could hundred dollars every month and took care of groceries.  That was really pinching things for me, though, and so I had to pretend that it wasn’t when he was home on the weekends and then I had to live my weekdays like a college student: $1 microwaveable meals and small bowls of soup.  The really surprising thing, though, was how good my body felt.  One weekend I shoveled gravel in our driveway and it didn’t phase me at all.  I felt strong and I felt pretty.

So, it seems to me that when I wake up on a day like today and my pants are tight and I feel like shit and I’m pretty sure that I look like shit that I would know what needs to be done and I would just do it.  I would work out a little harder and eat a little less and get toned up and be strong and healthy again.  But I just don’t think I have the energy anymore.  At least I don’t have the energy today when I woke up an hour early and I’m hungry and my sinuses are exploding and I just want to go to bed.

I guess I just need to think about these things.  I just need to figure them out.  I just need to feel like I’ve gotten myself together.

The Island of Excess Love by Francesca Lia Block

This is going to be a hard one for me to write.  You see, I love FLB.  I have loved her since I was 16 and a girl who would become my best friend suggested that I read her while we were working together.  I loved her.  I read the whole back catalog.  I kept up with the books as they came out the best that I could but eventually it felt like it wasn’t clicking anymore.  I didn’t know if it was the writing or if I had just grown out of it.

When I picked up The Island of Excess Love, I went back and read my review of the prequel, Love in the Time of Global Warming.  I read it in 2013 and I really liked it.  I gave it four stars and a nice review that started out a lot like this one.  I was hopeful.

Now the confession:  I didn’t like it.

First, the story.  Pen and her friends have made a home and a world for themselves in Pen’s pink house by the sea.  They grow gardens and meditate, do yoga and train, they paint and sing and read.  One day a ship appears on the horizon and it becomes apparent that they must leave their home and see what else is out there.  The only problem is that they don’t want to leave and stepping on the ship makes them go mad.  Eventually it is Merk, Pen’s birth father, who forces them on the boat and on an adventure.

The group of friends lands on an island that is ruled by The King, a boy with antlers who is sure that Pen is his destined Queen.  The island is rich in food and clothing, art and fairies and magic.  How much of it is real and how much of it is an illusion?  When Pen betrays Hex, the friends find out and must find their way back to each other and to their home.

Let’s talk about the things I liked.  I liked the continuing theme of basing the series off of epics.  I liked that I could tie the story into this mythology and look things up and talk about them with my husband who was the least bit interested in the actual book but knew the Aeneid well enough.  I love that sometimes Block will create a world and a setting that is completely believable and lifelike.  I believed in the islands.  I believed in their magic.

Now, what I didn’t like.  There were a number of times when I wanted to punch a number of characters in the face.  Actually, this is probably a good thing because they still excited feelings in me.  It grated on me that everyone had a shortened name nickname.  Pen, Ez, Ash, Hex, Ven, Merk.  Really the worst part was that the writing felt heavy handed, not in the sense that it was overly moral but that it was constantly drawing attention to itself.  Every couple of pages it felt like there was a summary of everything that had happened so far.  Sometimes it was only a page or two later that I was reminded of what had just happened.  That was even more annoying to me than the number of times it was pointed out that the story was based on the Aeneid, which was also at least every couple of pages.  Sometimes you have to just let the story happen and trust that you can pull it off.

Was this my favorite?  No.  What it horrible? Not at all.  I just found it a bit annoying.  That doesn’t mean that I won’t keep reading them.

Tally Monday- February 16, 2015

Checked Out

  1. Mostly Harmless by Douglas Adams
  2. Funny Girl by Nick Hornby
  3. A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray (Audio)
  4. The Last Lunar Baedeker by Mina Loy
  5. Westward the Tide by Louis Lamour

Bought

  1. Cujo by Stephen King
  2. Needful Things by Stephen King
  3. Thinner by Stephen King
  4. Hearts in Atlantis by Stephen King
  5. Diary of Ellen Rimbauer: My Life at Rose Red edited by Joyce Reardon
  6. Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich

Read

  1. So Long and Thanks for All the Fish! by Douglas Adams
  2. “Letter from Greenwich Village” by Vivian Gornick
  3. The Island of Excess Love by Francesca Lia Block

TBR: 37

*whistles nonchalantly*  What?  Me?  I did not do anything wrong this week.  Not a thing.  Stop staring at me!  No judging!

Okay, so, in case you didn’t notice, I may have gone a little bit overboard this week.  First, I checked out a few books after only returning two.  I actually maxed out (*cough*went over*cough*) my library limit this week.  In all fairness, I did need to get the next Hitchhiker’s book and I don’t think that I can be faulted for needing to check out the new Hornby right away since he’s one of my favorites and I was too broke to buy it.  What about the Louis Lamour, though?  I really can’t tell you.  All I know if that after a bottle of wine I get into trouble with books.

Speaking of which, I have a really hard time keeping up with when my favorite authors have new books out.  This Hornby book could have slipped right past me.  When I was reading the Francesca Lia Block I realized that I had missed, like, three books.  There has to be a better way…

As far as my purchases go, I can see how you would be confused.  It’s true.  My money got out of hand and I’m pretty broke until Friday.  Things were too tight for me to seek out the new Hornby and buy it.  All those book I bought were used, you guys!  I mean, I still spent way too much on them, more than I usually spend on used books, and I totally could have bought the Hornby book by the time I was through.  Still, I am pretty excited that I am only 6ish books away from completing my King collection!  Woot!

At one point this week I may have said that books are like drugs in that I need more and when I get them I hate myself but it makes me feel better to get even more and the cycle repeats.

What an eclectic reading world this week.  I had my satirical scifi comedy, the tales of an old lady and intimacy, and a YA end of the world story based loosely on the Aeneid, which I still owe you a review on.  I trashed an essay this weekend too because I couldn’t cut through the language.  There was so much slang that two pages killed me.  Now I’m onto a contemporary fiction about 1960’s London.  It’s all just proof that reading is a ticket to anywhere.

Keep it rolling, guys!