Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Six Down

I had set myself the goal of reading 18 books for the staff summer reading challenge at the library where I work. It ends on August 31st, and I still have twelve to go. It’s doable. I have been putting up my thought provoking, profound reviews (where’s my tongue-in-cheek font when I need it?) on this blog. I sort of dropped off on doing that, and will get caught up soon. So many people follow my blog, and so look forward to these reviews, I hate to disappoint them.

When I was a kid, I had my nose in a book 24/7. My mom would periodically come in my room to check on me, to make sure I was still alive. I voraciously read everything I could get my hands on. I don’t know why, but in the last ten years or so, I stopped reading for the most part. Now that that fire has been rekindled, I’m finding I have less and less time to devote on the internet. And worse than that, I’m not really missing it. Sites that I used to be addicted to (funny or Die, facebook, etc…), I’m finding it harder and harder to work up the enthusiasm for getting on them. This bothers me, because I really like the people I’ve met on these sites: keibar, who’s had a fascinating life and has such great stories; Westside, who’s a true comedic genius (and I’m not just saying that because he’s one of the three people who actually follow this blog!); lucylieu, one of the coolest, hippest ladies I’ve never actually seen! And too many more to list.

And when you add to this, that what I really want to do more than anything is write something of merit, well, you get the picture. I’d like to get published before I’m too old to enjoy the accolades. Actually, the only accolade I really put any importance behind is writing something so original, fresh and witty, that I get invited to do an interview on Fresh Air, and meet Terry Gross. You haven’t really arrived until you get invited to be on Fresh Air: my definition of success.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Violent Bear It Away

Modern vs. past, urban vs. rural, intellectual vs. spiritual, words vs. deeds, and above all, secular vs. religious. There came a point where I saw this struggle as an epic prizefight between Tarwater and Rayber, and wondered who would be left standing.

Years ago, I experienced the battle of belief vs. non-belief within myself, and belief lost. So, naturally, I was on Rayber's side. And not knowing anything about O'Connor or her work, I had assumed she was as well. Obviously, I was letting my own experience and way of seeing cloud my judgment.

Even though the ending left me feeling somewhat betrayed, still the work stands on its own as a great work of literature. I could go on and on about all of the symbolism, but won't. Suffice it to say that I find it a bit ironic that all of the acts of violence (arson, murder, rape) were vehicles on the side of religion, to carry it to victory. So I'm left feeling a bit justified that intellect took the higher ground; for whatever that is worth.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

pounce and slither

“No, no, no, leave him there, he’s alright!” This is what I said to my father-in-law who was about to brush off a praying mantis that had jumped onto my back. I had a wannabe-Jeffer moment, and I definitely got my wish. That little bugger crawled all over me. Damn, they are fast! The best part was when he got onto my head. It was pretty cool to look out of the corner of my eye, to see him doing his little bobbing and weaving dance. I got this idea in my head of a symbiotic relationship with the mantis. I would never have to worry about a fly landing on me, or getting stung by a mosquito, as long as he was around. He could be my little bodyguard.

Everybody got a good laugh at watching him scurry over my bald head. Except my mother-in-law, who mumbled something about me needing professional help.

Little did I know, but this was only the beginning of run-ins with nature that was to happen that day. This was on the fourth, and we were at our place in the country, and all of the family was there. After most had left, only my cousin, his wife and daughter were left. They didn’t leave until almost nine. As they are walking through the back yard, to get to their car, one of them lets out a shriek. It think it was my cousin. Apparently they saw a snake. I went out there to investigate, expecting a little grass snake. It was kind of hard to see, but finally I saw a little triangular-shaped head poke up. “Uh-oh,” I said to myself, “that’s not good. “

I didn’t have a hoe nearby, so I went into the wash-house, to fetch a crowbar I had hanging inside. I pinned him down with it, and as he starts squirming around, I finally get a good look at him. It’s a copperhead.

Not full grown yet, just an adolescent. But with these nasty little buggers, size doesn’t matter. He starts striking the hell out of the crowbar. I yell to my cousin to get me something else to kill it with. In the meantime his daughter is standing on one of the patio chairs, practically hysterical. I told her to calm down, she was safe.

My cousin finally comes back with another crowbar he found, quickly hands it to me and runs off. I couldn’t get at his head with it, and no matter how much I was poking him with the crowbar, it wasn’t doing any good. So my cousin finally finds a pair of lopers, quickly hands them to me, and scampers off again.

“Dude!” I say to him, “How many hands do you think I have?” So I finally am able to talk him into operating the lopers while I try and get his head up. His head comes up, and my cousin, who is hopping around like a bunny rabbit, manages to take the head off, before he runs away shrieking.

We left back for the city the next day. On the way out, I needed to get the water meter reading. With the event of last night still fresh in my memory, I was a little more cautious than usual when lifting up the cover and putting my hand in. Good thing. There was another snake coiled up inside. I didn’t hang around to see what kind it was. I just closed it back up, and walked back to the car.

When my wife noticed I hadn’t written anything down on the paper, she asked me “Didn’t you get the reading?”
“Nope,” I told her, giving her a funny little look. She knew right away why.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Portnoy's Complaint

The second book in my summer reading challenge. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I will definitely have to read the rest of his books.

I finished it Saturday, July 4th. Not exactly a patriotic read, but then did illuminate a whole segment of America I've been pretty ignorant about. I know very little about Jewish Americans. Not surprising, I guess, growing up in Texas. Now that I think about it, I believe I've only had one Jewish friend: Mark. We were briefly friends in college. He was an interesting guy. He spoke so softly, that most of the time, I'd have to practically put my ear to his mouth, to what he was saying. And I will always remember him, due to the fact that his parents had estranged themselves from him. They had moved away, and never told him where they were going. I was so intrigued with that, since my parents were the polar opposite. To the point of suffocation. But I couldn't imagine why they did that, because Mark seemed to be a really nice, intelligent guy. Who knows?

Review follows:

I can only imagine that when this book was published in 1969, it probably caused quite a stir, due to the language and subject matter. And there are certain images I will always remember: the bread knife, his father's constant constipation, “The Monkey,” getting it in the eye, etc... He painted such a vivid picture, I leave the book almost feeling as if I had been the one experiencing much of it. And having grown up in a Catholic family, I always thought my parents were the experts at engendering repression and meting out guilt. They were rank amateurs compared with Portnoy's parents.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Of Mice and Men

The library where I work is having a staff summer reading challenge. I decided I would read all the short classic American novels that I haven’t read before. This was the first one.

I’m not quite sure how, but somehow I managed to make it to 45 years old without ever having read this book. My only knowledge of the characters came from the various cartoon treatments. Now that I’ve read it, all of those Loony Tunes spoofs really give me the creeps. I had always thought Lennie to be just a big harmless oaf. I had no knowledge of the evil undercurrent in him. And no matter what George may say, Lennie is a monster. And what makes it all that more unsettling is that Lennie doesn’t know it.

I finished it last night. I started it the previous evening, and almost read it through in one sitting. I just couldn’t put it down.

And I had a nightmare that first night. I haven’t had a nightmare since I don’t know when. Coincidence? Probably. It’s not like the book is horrific. But I did go to sleep with a feeling of unease. Like something bad was about to happen. And the book has left me with an uneasy feeling. How can such a short novel leave such a long impression?