Lessons in Story

When I was in 11th grade, I had Mrs. S. for English.  She was one of my favorite teachers of all time.  She was the reason that I was in the class to begin with as it was a 12th grade class on advanced reading and research writing.  I liked her because she didn’t take shit from me.  She had high expectations for me.  She knew that I could handle harder books, write better papers, and broaden my horizons.  She also had my brother in her class 10 years earlier and loved him, even though he chose Jim Morrison for his poetry project and played a cassette with the “c” word in it in front of the whole class.

One day, Mrs. S. whirled into the class a little late.  She was carrying a pile of papers.  The class collectively groaned.  Mrs. S. had a habit of copying large sections of “boring” books and making us read them and analyze them.  Now it seems like a silly reason to groan.  those class periods of close reading were great fun for me but it was easy to get caught up in the wave of my classmates.

She walked around our circle of desks and handed us each a stapled stack.  One of the guys in the class scoffed.  “I have chapter four.  Is that right?”

“Yes,” Mrs. S. said.  She handed out the rest of the papers and then went on to tell the class our assignment.  We each had a chapter of Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind by Suzanne Fisher Staples.  We were each to go home that night and read our chapter, having a summary ready to share the next day.  We all rolled our eyes.

The next day, our desks were still arranged in a circle.  We all sat down.  One student was missing and the boy with chapter four said we obviously couldn’t go on if we were missing a while chapter.  Mrs. S. was prepared, though.  She proud out a stack of index cards, figured out which chapter the missing student had been assigned, and sat down with her own summary.

That 45 minute class was magical.  We went around the circle and each of us told the story of our chapter.  Before long the whole class was invested in the story.  We were excited to share our chapters and piece together the puzzle of the story with what we each knew.

I don’t remember what happened in my chapter but I do remember the climax of the book still.  Heck, maybe that was my chapter.  It has been 16 years since we sat in that circle.  I’ve forgotten most of the people who were there.

This is part of what I know about story.  I know that there is story in everything, that telling each other stories is just as important as reading stories, that watching stories and playing stories have their place too.  I know that we are creatures of story, that it is a vital part of life and living.

Listy #7- 10 Things About My Birthday

#1 Song: “Time after Time” by Cyndi Lauper

#1 Movie- Ghostbusters

#1 Book- Talisman by Stephen King  (This explains so much…)

Gallon of Gas- $1.20

Zodiac Sign- Gemini

Chinese Zodiac- wood rat

AND four people who celebrate on the same day as me:

  1. Ben Kweller (musician)
  2. Tupac (Seriously!)
  3. The Ultimate Warrior (wrestler)
  4. Joyce Carol Oates

I used this website to find this information, in case you’d like to see as well!

Dead as a Doornail by Charlaine Harris

In the last Sookie Stackhouse book, I listened to a twenty minute giggle inducing sex scene. In this book, there was no sex but a lot of, well, snogging. Sookie is like a bug light for supernatural beings. She’s now attracted the attentions of two vampires, a werewolf, a werepanther, a shapeshifter, and a weretiger. I didn’t think there could be so many werecreatures out there but I like it. Again I am in awe of Harris’s subplot work. If I had to pinpoint a weakness in my own writing it would definitely be this. Somehow she manages to make the subplots so well entwined with the rest of the story that I don’t even realize when she’s leading me off and sometimes I forget the main plot altogether until I have one disk left to and I realize something hasn’t been tied off quite yet. In this book the subplots dangle a little bit after the main plot is solved and that was just fine too.

The main plot of Dead as a Doornail revolves around the mysterious shootings of supernatural creatures. The first is a girl who we haven’t heard of before and who Sookie didn’t know was a shape shifter but it isn’t long before the shooter is aiming at people near and dear to Miss Stackhouse. (Honestly, though, for Bon Temps being such a small town and Sookie being all up in the supernatural world, how is it that she doesn’t know everyone who is a supe?) If my memory suites me right, Calvin Norris, head werepanther, is the first to get shot and some of his pack thinks that Jason, now a werepanther himself, is behind the shooting. Next is Sam, shapeshifter and Sookie’s boss, who then sends Sookie to ask Eric to lend him a bartender.

This book is packed with action and story. At book five in the series we are familiar enough with Sookie’s world and the characters and the history that Harris can throw a million little things at us and we just need to keep up. There’s a battle for pack leader in Alcide’s pack. The Fellowship of the Sun comes up. Private detectives are searching for Debbie Pelt. I found that if I was missing something it came back to me if I kept listening or it didn’t really matter that much.

Sookie, if you hadn’t noticed, is not the luckiest woman in the world. In this book she is the victim of arson, a shooting, and an attack. She’s not great at choosing safe friends. Even her human friends get into trouble. I have to give her props, though. She’s no *ahem* Twilight character. She has no interest is becoming a vampire. She is a strong, independent woman who manages to mostly take care of herself, except when things get a little too rough and tumble in the supernatural world. The only time that she’s even seemed remotely interested in getting married is when she’s been dating Bill for a while and even then it’s just in passing. Sometimes she is surprisingly quick on her feet.

This was an interesting one to listen to. Sookie has just too many suitors. Really. I’ve been voting this whole time for Eric (drool) and Alcide (who just seemed like a good kind of guy for Sookie). Alcide lost a lot of his charm in this book and while it’s easy to blame it on the werewolf in him it definitely made him fall in my esteem. And now there’s this new guy, Quinn. I may be a little biased on that one. I mean, he’s a tiger and the name. I don’t know. We’ll see what happens. I’m already almost an hour into the next book.

Tally Monday- April 25, 2016

Checked Out

  1. Inexcusable by Chris Lynch
  2. Alive by Chandler Baker
  3. Ubik by Philip K. Dick

Bought

  1. The Paradise by Emile Zola
  2. The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan

Read

  1. The Giver by Lois Lowry
  2. Femme Fatale by Guy de Maupassant

TBR: 16

About a month ago, I asked Hubby if we could do the Dewey 24 Hour Readathon.  The Readathon was Saturday and I signed up for it about a week and a half before hand when I thought that the chances were looking good.  I was excited.  I had a plan.  I was going to chip away at this big old novel by Annie Proulx and I was going to stack my whole big ass TBR pile right next to the bed even though I knew that I wouldn’t get that far into it.  I planned a glorious day of laying in bed, lounging on the couch, ordering a giant pizza to nibble on all day, listening to audiobooks while Hubby and I played games or while I colored for a break and even while I napped and slept.  Glory, glory.

So, I bet you know by now that it didn’t happen.  Nope.  I don’t think I read my novel at all on Saturday.

Nope.  Saturday I spent about four hours in the desert hell that is Menards trying desperately to get all of the ordering done for our massive home improvement project.  The first two and a half to three hours were fine but then I was so fucking over it that when Hubby snapped and said we weren’t getting a deck, I was ready to agree.  What is it with Menards?  Why is it that looking at toilets makes people immediately stick their heads up their own asses?  It was only when we took our list of materials needed to the counter to order them and set up a delivery that we realized we had made a huge mistake.  The old guy putting in our order didn’t seem to grasp the concepts of things like “computers” or “ordering” or “building materials”.  At Home Depot, we would have handed over our list and had a friendly sales clerk with construction experience say, “Great!  We offer this grout in five shades.  These are the shades.  Which would you like?”  Our Menards guy was like, “Well.  I can’t look any of this up.  It would be faster if you pushed that big ass cart that doesn’t steer for shit but was the only one available around the whole store for another hour and just wrote down the numbers for me.  Then I can go through this whole painful process of working a computer again for you.”

We only got about half of the things we needed.  We limped away from the store, my feet visibly swollen so that my toes resembled sausages, and had to ply ourselves with a number of very important things: beer, pasta, cheese, books purchasing, and kittens.  We almost got two kittens this weekend and I think that we should have and I feel kind of terrible and torn about it still.  But we didn’t.   And we came home to a kittenless house at about 10, 12 hours after we left it, and limped into the basement for more beer.

It’s not all bad though.  I am making steady progress on Barkskins and have started taking a strange delight in guessing when characters will die.  I’ll be reading along thinking, “This is it!  This is where he dies!  That’s it!”  Then the character lives!  Earlier I had 12 minutes left in a chapter when a character died and I was not expecting it because what the hell can this last 12 minutes be about?  Excellent stuff, that’s what!

I took a break from Barkskins at the beginning of the week and read The Giver again for my book club.  This was my sixth reading and I still love that book even if the ending makes me shake with fury.  I finished reading it and decided that I needed to get back on track.  I haven’t been reading my Little Black Classics between books because I have read so many quick books at work and I keep getting distracted and caught up.  So, I read my next LBC, Femme Fatale, which I adored.  Now that I am on the downward slope of Barkskins, I expect to pick up steam and get back on track.

And so I shall leave you with my TBR, which is not actually in this order:

  1. Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink
  2. The Sandman: Overture by Neil Gaiman
  3. Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay
  4. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
  5. Confessions by Kate Brian
  6. This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  7. Need by Joelle Charbonneau
  8. The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King
  9. The Godfather by Mario Puzo
  10. The Complete Chi’s Sweet Home vol 1 by Konata Konami
  11. What It Is by Lynda Barry
  12. Inexcusable by Chris Lynch
  13. Rage by “Richard Bachman”
  14. The Cider House Rules by John Irving
  15. And Sometimes Why by Rebecca Johnson
  16. Alive by Chandler Baker

And now I have the itch to read, read, read!

Listy #6- Firsts

A List of 10 Firsts:

  1. First memory: I have a very vivid memory of my mother handing me over to my grandmother on her front porch with the iron columns.  Mom was telling Grandma that I could have a little hard cereal now.
  2. First pet: When I was little my brother had a black lab named Princess but the first real pet that was mine was a cat named Spike.  He was a full grown cat when we got him and we only kept him a few months because I’m allergic to cats.  We would get another one in about a year and a half.  I just have very itchy eyes all of the time. Lol.
  3. First Grade Teacher: Sharp.  She was very sharp tongued and eventually got tongue cancer, which I thought was pretty poetic.  She used to make me cry a lot and a boy in my class peed his pants because she wouldn’t let him use the bathroom, which was attached to the classroom BTW.
  4. First best friend: A girl named Sherry who lived down the street from me.  We had to quit hanging out because her older sisters were supposed to walk my home but never did so I walked home alone at 6 AND because she pooped in her front yard and I told my mom.
  5. First Nickname: Rachola when eventually was shortened to Chola and then became Choles.  I have one friend who still calls me this once in a while even though we made it up in sixth grade.
  6. First Car: Venus. 1989 Firebird, blue.  Had a habit of stealing my Zeppelin cassette when I let her get to dirty and stalling out at one particular corner.  I loved that car and ended up selling her to a girl I worked with who drove it half way across the country a couple of months later.  She told me that she kept it until she got pregnant and then her husband made her get rid of “the death trap.”
  7. First Book that Made Me a Reader: I’ve probably talked about this before, again and again, but it was totally Stephen King’s Carrie.  I read it when I was a freshman and I have vivid memories of sitting with my back against my bed and my feet on my wall for hours while I read it pretty much in one sitting.  It was the first time that I felt like I saw myself in a book which was kind of funny because Carrie White and I are vastly different.  We were just picked on.  It was kind of empowering, though, and it led me into all kinds of great horror movies and a lifelong love of King.  Within a year I was reading classics and YA series books like they were going out of style.
  8. First Kiss: This kid I dated for a couple of weeks when I was 19. I’m sure JR wasn’t his real name but that’s what we called him.  It was not my finest hour but a friend hooked us up because nobody at my school would date me.  JR was a big, heavy, sweaty kid who was not the brightest star in the sky.  My friend knew him from Young Marines but he was on probation for some infraction that I never asked about.  I don’t remember my first kiss but I remember the moment afterward when I thought, “Well.    That was my first kiss.”  And I remember my second kiss.  He was terrible at it and if we had kept dating I would have had the kind of chapped lips that imply you play the tuba.  It didn’t take long for me to realize that I could do better but he was so slow on the uptake that it took me three times to break up with him.
  9. First Love:  When I was 15 I started dating one of my cousin’s friends and it just really felt like he got me, you know.  I was awfully angsty and it was great feeling like it was me and him against the world.  Only, he had real life problems and I had crazy Rachael problems that in hind sight were not nearly as bad even though they were still kind of bad.  Anyway, he wrote me poetry and we made out a lot and he was really good at it.  We dated for about three months then he moved in with his dad and started dating a girl at his new school.  It was terrible drawn out shitty thing where we were still dating but he was dating someone else and I was sure that I could steal him back.  The whole thing culminated with me driving 35 minutes to his place on his birthday with a present after he told me that he would be there only to find him off with his girlfriend.  Enough was enough.
  10. First Job: Library page, 2000-2004.  I started working at the library the day after I got my license.  I worked at that same library until November 2015.  For the first four years I was a page which means I put books away and made sure that the shelves were in order.  I met a couple of my best friends when I was a page and one of them even went on to introduce me to my hubby.  I obviously enjoyed it.  I mean, I stayed there forever.

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Son of a bitch.  You know, you would think that since this was like my sixth time reading this book that the ending wouldn’t frustrate me so much but it totally does.  I just want to shake Lois Lowry.  I hear that reading the quartet ties up Jonas’s story but I’m so distrustful at this point that I refuse.  I refuse!

Also, I think this is my first time reading this as an adult adult, as opposed to a college student adult.  Much creepier now.  I wish Hubby would read it so that I could say creepy things to him like, “It’s time for our Telling of Feelings now.”

Honestly, this is a classic for a reason and if you haven’t read it already, you should.

Jonas lives in a futuristic world where there is nothing unexpected and everything is safe.  In the community, people are assigned their careers, apply for spouses and children, receive their meals from Food Delivery People.  Orders and reminders are broadcast over a speaker.  In the mornings, families share their dreams.  In the evenings, they tell their feelings.  There is no color, no weather, and no emotion.  When somebody commits a serious offense against the rules, they are “released.”  Every home only has three books: a dictionary, a rule book, and a directory.

Jonas is about to turn 12, which every child born in his year does at the same time at a ceremony.  At 12, children are assigned their work and begin to train for their careers.  Jonas is nervous.  There is nothing that he is particularly interested in or good at, though he does well at most things and is open to possibilities.  But when it is his turn to receive his assignment, the Chief Elder passes over him completely.  Jonas’s stomach automatically drops.  What did he do wrong?

But Jonas was chosen.

The most honorable position in all of their community is that of Receiver.  The Receiver holds all of the memories of the imperfect past so that the other members of the community don’t have to.  The Receiver has wisdom from the memories and is sometimes asked to give an opinion on a change in the rules based on this wisdom.  When Jonas begins to receive the memories, he begins to question the world around him and whether it is better than the way the world used to be.  Is it different Elsewhere?  How can he find out?

I’m surprised by a lot of the comments and reviews that I see about this book.  It is a quick, easy, and engrossing read.  Claiming that it is “oversimplified” is kind of silly.  It is aimed at children.  I believe that I was 10 when I first read it and would have been in a classroom of mostly 11 year olds.  It manages to get into weighty, great to discuss subject matter without being bogged down with a lot of difficult to grasp subject matter.

Tally Monday- April 18, 2016

Checked Out

  1. Definitely Dead by Charlaine Harris

Bought

None

Read

None

TBR: 14

A strange thing happens to me on Sunday afternoons.  Usually it comes right around the time I decide to take a nap.  Yesterday I had a family friend out to look at some projects around the house for me.  In one month, I will be the proud owner of a remodeled bathroom!  Yay!  BUT, Hubby and I woke up decently early, about 9, and were just getting ready to go to breakfast when the FF showed up.  He was there for over three hours, looking at the projects and pricing and talking us through the finer points of building a deck so it doesn’t mess up the sliding door (or door-wall for all of you weridos who use that term) he’s going to put in our “dining room”.  After he left we went to what had become lunch and then when we got home it was already 2 and I was already feeling a nap coming on.  When I laid down I couldn’t help but feel that horrible “I’m wasting my life” feeling well up inside of me.  It hung around through an evening of sharing wine and playing games, through dinner and my pre-bed tea, into the night and morning.  It’s still here.

This morning I looked around and had this desire to FINISH SOMETHING.  Anything.  The Proulx is taking so long but I wouldn’t say that it’s dragging.  I enjoy reading it when I get myself to do so.  I’ve gotten better about leaving my cell phone across the room but I still feel kind of distracted.

My favorite reading place is on my side of the couch.  I sit sideways, with my feet on the middle cushion and my back snuggled into my throw pillows.  Really, it’s my favorite place to be.  It’s comfortable and it is surrounded with my PROJECTS.  There’s a lap desk stored beside it.  My current book is usually on the coffee table or the ledge behind the couch.  There there are the half finished puzzle books, the coloring books, the cross stitch that I’ve been working on for so long that it’s no longer even something I want.  (When I was 24 I had the idea that I would have an Asian inspired bathroom with lots of bamboo plants and some cross stitched kimono pictures.  Eh.  Not so much at 31.)  A few weeks ago, maybe even a month ago, I started gutting my room, spring cleaning and filling boxes with donations.  The box is still half full and sits UNDER my dirty clothes basket.  I am half-way through my dresser and have been for a couple of weeks.

It gets even harder now that Spring has sprung in Michigan finally.  I want to be outside.  I don’t want to be outside.  I want to do stuff.  I don’t want to do stuff.  I spend more time in indecisive turmoil than anything else.

But this week I plan on finishing something.  Anything.  I’ve started reading The Giver for my Sci-Fi/Fantasy book club because the discussion starts of Sunday.  I plan on reading just as much as I can this week, hopefully finishing that up and getting on a ways in the Proulx.  Now I face the decision of what to do with my Tuesday.  I can either go and jam at my bestie’s house, which has proven to improve my mood, or I can go home and be quiet by myself for a bit.  It’s hard because both sound good and I sometimes worry that I am living a flat, empty life.

On the other hand, it was an amazing weekend.  The sun was out and I got to hang out with a friend, my brother-in-law, and my mother.  People everywhere were ridiculously nice, strangers striking up conversations and more than a few commenting on how beautiful the weather is for a convertible.  Spring is nice.  Now if I can settle the unsettled in me and get down to it, I’m sure that I’ll feel better.

May you, dear lovies, get down to whatever you need to get down to, too.