Monday, October 31, 2011

It's happening

So's you know, whenever I hear the words, "It's happening," I picture this:

But this time, what is happening is this:

Which, incidentally, is quite similar to this:

Somtimes I fail

I like to keep my personal complaining to minimum on this blog, so here's another MAD LIBS for you all to enjoy!

Beware, this one is extra twisty.  You might want to grab something bigger than a Post-It and write down your answers.

_____________ (title), I can't __________ (state of mind) that you were ___________ (adjective) unprepared to ___________ (verb) on __________ (date).  I know it's totally ________ (adjective) with your _________-____________-___________-__________ (adverb-past tense verb-preposition-noun) personality, but still.  Please stop ____________ (progressive tense verb) people in _________ (location) what an __________ (legal term) "________" (pejorative) __________ (title) is.  If you're not __________ (adjective), we're going to ______ (verb) ___________ (noun) of the ______ (noun) you left and let your __________ (adjective) ____________ (gerund verb) secret ____________ (colloquialism - entire phrase OK).  While we're at it, pick up a ___________ (swear, any tense) __________ (noun) and stop _____________ (progressive tense verb) as your _______ (number) __________ (adjective) _________ (plural noun) do all the heavy lifting.

______ (feeling) you ________ (plural noun).  Please ______ (verb) some _________ (noun).

PS, thanks for the most ____________ (adjective) ___________ (adjective) moment of the day: When ____________ (title) caught you ____________ (progressive tense verb), which ________ (adverb) was the __________ (adjective) opportunity _________ (adverb) for someone to yell, "_______-_________-___________-_____-_________!" (adjective-adjective-preposition-pronoun-adjective).


I missed the final day of the Killer Characters Blogfest last week, but for the record, I was going to pick Colonel Kurtz from Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness.  Because yes, I was that nerd in high school who actually liked it.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


I don't know what it is about the words "warm fuzzies," but I feel like they're more appropriately written in ALL CAPS.

So Juliana Brandt has posed the question -- if you have writerly ambitions, do you tell people? If so, how do they react?

Well, for me the answer to the first question is generally "no." For some reason I feel like telling people you want to be a published author is kind of like telling people you want to be a movie star or play for the San Francisco '49ers. Why don't you throw "fairy princess" in there while you're at it?

I've told some friends, and told all you folks out in InternetLand (which is a slightly different crumb cake altogether, wouldn't you agree?), but I tend to keep to myself. Proclaiming a love of reading and/or naps is fine. Proclaiming a love of writing puts you on par with those goth kids from junior high, scribbling away in their spiral notebooks about their secret pain.

But on the rare occasion I have told people, I've received mixed reactions:

Parents, Circa 2005:

Pops: Of course! You know, I can't really see you as a lawyer for the rest of your life.

Mom: But you're still going to law school, right?

Friends, Circa 2006 -- upon reading my second book:

Pauly & Lulu, Anna and Ricky: This is really good! It should be really easy to get published.

(We were so young.)

Siblings, Circa 2007:

Echo: I think you should write more serious stuff.  You're not even the funny one in the family.

Charlie: It makes sense. Books are your best friends.

And ... that kind of sums up the revelation tour.

So tell me, folks--what is it about an adult revealing a lofty ambition (screen writing, novelist, poet, actor, model) that makes other adults (even ones who harbor similar ambitions) mentally roll their eyes?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I can only assume Edward's shoes are as sculpted and angelic as he is

A minor rant:

Bella (Kristen Stewart) looks down constantly in the Twilight movies.

Every. Single. Scene.

If the girl isn't busy mumbling, she's looking at her shoes. Or Edward's belt. Or a fascinating cluster of pebbles on the ground.

For the record, I don't have a particular problem with Kristen Stewart or the movies.  I actually think there's a hilarious campiness quality to the final Twilight book.  (Blackout sex! Vampire babies! Incisor c-sections! Man-on-newborn love! Magic powers! A climax where an American revolutionary-era vampire lectures an evil European vampire about individual liberty! Total fake out on the final battle! More blackout sex!)  In essence, you need to read it as if Leslie Nielsen is playing Edward and Anna Faris is playing Bella.

In fact, you kind of just have to re-imagine the entire cast.

I'm pregnant with a WHAT?!

Esme: Yup, you've caught a case of the vampire babies.
I'll do whatever it takes to protect you, Bella!   

Rosalie: My last chance to be a mommy! GIMME BABY NOW!  Alice: Things are getting awkward. Come to think of it, I need to go to Brazil for the rest of this novel...
Rosalie, Emmett, Jasper, Carlisle: GROSSEST! DELIVERY! EVER!

If a teenage boy in love with a newborn is wrong, I don't wanna be right.
And so forth.

The issue is really just that I have certain OCD-esque qualities, and once I notice something that bugs me I can't stop noticing.

Entertainment Weekly posted a video of Bella and Edward's honeymoon scene. Edward is looking lustily (or constipatedly) at Bella.  Where is Bella looking?  THE DAMN SHEETS.

I would suggest a drinking game for the imbibers where you take a sip every time Bella's gaze drops below the horizon level, but I'm fairly sure you'd get alcohol poisoning before the final credits rolled.

Whatchu lookin' at, Bella?

No, seriously. What the eff are you looking at?

Killer Character: Best Protagonist award goes to ...

Guy Montag of Fahrenheit 451.

Montag is a "fireman" in a futuristic dystopian society where his job is destroy books in order to promote societal harmony. While the government ultimately enforces this total censorship of the written word, it was in fact the citizens in this society who initiated literature's downfall. 

As people became more entranced with television programming (Mildred Montag, Guy's wife, watches TV nonstop), they began to be irritated by books, which were simultaneously taxing to understand and controversial. They asked the government to get rid of them, and the government happily complied.

Montag had always accepted this as a status quo and enjoyed his work until little things began to eat away at him -- his neighbor Clarisse, a free-thinking teenager, disappeared, allegedly killed by a hit-and-run.  A woman refused to leave her burning house and abandon her books.  His drug-addicted wife overdoses, and he watches how indifferently go about reviving her, as if she is a car to be fixed, not a person of value. 

Then one day, Montag accidentally picked up a book to be burned and read one line out of it.  And that's when Montag decides to start collecting books.

(If you haven't read Fahrenheit 451, go do it. I'll wait. If you're not a science fiction fan, don't worry, you'll still like it. And whatever you do ... don't watch the movie(s). They're the worst.)

"There must be something in books, things we can't imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house; there must be something there. You don't stay for nothing."

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Am I the only one Zen around here?

Hypothetically, if Diego, Hannah, my brother Charlie, and all our friends were to dress up as characters from The Walking Dead on Halloween when kiddies come the Casa to collect their treats, do you think anyone would get it? Or would we look like a bunch of sweaty Southerners who happen to be friends with a sheriff?

Keep in mind, I'm fairly sure we could scrounge together two cop outfits, a fabulous white trash hunter ensemble for Daryl, an old man hat, and buckets of fake blood.

As a sidenote, any other Walking Dead/Breaking Bad fans notice that Merle Dixon has blue crystal meth in his pack?  It's good to know that Walter White's business venture spread from New Mexico to Georgia before the inevitable zombie apocalypse.


Speaking of Halloween, go visit my little sis's blog HERE and commiserate about she might not be able to use the best costume ever next Monday. Poor sis, I wish I could have given you more advice on how to dodge civic duty.

Monday, October 24, 2011

And the Oscar for best supporting character goes to ...

Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose from To Kill a Mockingbird!

If the name alone weren't killer enough, Mrs. Dubose provides the final life lesson that Jem and Scout Finch need before they watch their father Atticus defend Tom Robinson for murder.  Mrs. Dubose is a cantankerous, mean old woman who is constantly berating the Finch children as they pass by her house.  When Jem snaps and responds by destroying Mrs. Dubose's camellia bushes, Atticus makes the children go to Mrs. Dubose's house to read to her every afternoon.

When Mrs. Dubose passes away, she leaves Jem a camellia blossom and they learn that she was battling morphine addiction.  In order to aid her efforts to die with a clear mind, Atticus sent the children over to read to her to keep her mind off her pain.

Mrs. Dubose is a killer character not just for the lesson she taught Scout and Jem, but as a foil to Tom Robinson and Boo Radly--the mockingbirds of the novel.  Mrs. Dubose isn't an innocent who needs to be protected from the world, but she is someone who deserves more than the cursory judgment of those who would just assume she was a bitter old woman, someone to be scorned for drooling constantly.  As Atticus says,

“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do. Mrs. Dubose won, all ninety-eight pounds of her. According to her views, she died beholden to nothing and nobody. She was the bravest person I ever knew.”

My apologies to the lovely ladies at the Killer Characters Blogfest for getting this up late -- I had a sad little puppy and a massive project at work that delayed me.  Click here (Deanna) and here (Emily) to learn more about the blogfest and sign up before it's over.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Di's question: Worst Date Ever

So I promised I would answer any and all questions thrown my way, and Di wants to hear about my worst date.

Now, I've had a lot of bad dates, so at first I thought it would be hard to pick.  But as I sifted through the old memory banks, a clear winner stood out.

It was Spring 2004 and I was on my way to Tri Delt formal. 

Here's a little bit of back story: I used to have a lot of anxiety about dating -- full blown panic attacks when presented with the idea of having to spend an evening with a boy on a date. It wasn't that I was scared of boys -- I had a lot of guy friends and a handful of crushes.  It was the actual act of going on a date that caused cold sweats and hyperventilating. 

I have my suspicions about the cause of this ailment, but that's a story for another day.  Suffice it to say, I hated dating in high school, and vaguely despised it my freshman and sophomore years of college, which is when the panic attacks seemed to ebb.

Which brings us back to formal, the dance party a sorority throws for its members every semester.  Having forced myself to find a date in the past, I decided to just go stag to this one.  The best part of a sorority formal is dressing up and dancing with all your sorority sisters anyway, and there were more than a few girls who hadn't bothered to get dates either.

I was riding to formal with my cousin Abby when I got a call from Sadie, a fellow Tri Delt.  She and Candice were bringing their boyfriends of the moment, two Sigma Chis, and apparently these fellas had a super cool friend, did I want him to come along?

I should have known better.  When a boy wants an invite so bad he'll go with a stranger, that's a boy you don't want to have to spend an evening with.  But I'm bad at saying no, and Sadie sounded oddly enthusiastic (which I later discovered was mostly about her boyfriend giving her the evil eye), so I said, "Sure, whatever."

I'll be honest -- did a teeny part of me hope this random guy was actually super fun and cute? Sure did.

Abby and I arrived at formal and, Sadie, Candice, and boy entourage nowhere to be found, settled into a table with empty seats for dinner. 

About an hour passed, and between the fabulous dinner conversation and the worst DJ in the world spinning tunes (I will never think of the "Pina Colada" song in the same way), I kind of forgot I was supposed to have a date coming.

The next thing I knew, I looked up, and there was a tearful Sadie standing in the doorway of the dance hall, arguing with Candice.

Sadie wasn't much of a crier, so I hurried over to find out what was wrong -- and oh by the way, why are you guys 90 minutes late?

Why, because our dates stopped to deal some drugs on the way, my dears.

Hence the argument.  Sadie was of the opinion that they should have ditched the boys once their Avon Barksdale-style ambitions were revealed; Candice was of the opinion that what's done is done, and being an accessory to drug dealing shouldn't stand in the way of a good time.  Since Candice was driving, so she won that argument.

Before I could react to that information, the two Sigma Chis and their friend stepped out of the restroom (the place they would go one to spend the majority of the evening), looking high as kites.

And that is the story of how I ended up at the Provo Country Club, on a date with a drug dealer.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Spencer pie

Whenever I let Spence drive with me first without stuffing him inside a cage, eventually he climbs onto my lap.  (I know, danger, blah blah.)  I usually allow this because it's preferable to me strong arming him into the passenger seat while driving with one hand.

I used to think that Spence did this because he loves me and stuff. And then Diego and I took a trip to Home Depot, and within five minutes, Spence was climbing all over Diego.

As it turns out, Spence is just attracted to power.  Vroom vroom!

Home Depot update? Working dryer, still-not-working shower head.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

I'm overwhelmed again

Hey blog friends.

I want to get to know you better.  If you haven't commented HERE, would you mind doing so?  I feel like I gain some followers, I lose some followers, see some comments, intend to reply to some comments, then get called into a "lawyer" meeting (pshaw), and I never really remember to catch up with anyone.  It's like an existential crisis, only I'm angsty over your existence.

While we're at it, feel free to ask me any questions you all would like in the comments section.  I reserve the right to lie outrageously, but they will all get answered.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Something I do not believe

God will never give us more than we can handle.

First of all, for the religious folks out there, this sentiment isn't found in any religious text I've ever read. It's far more likely to show up on bumper stickers. In general, I am wary of things people throw around like scripture that I've never actually read in scripture.  ("I never said it would be easy, I only said it would be worth it" ring a bell for anyone?)

In fact, this sentiment is actually just a misstatement of a scripture found in Corinthians (God will not allow you to be tempted beyond your ability, and let's not get into some big theological discussion about how those are two distinct ideas.)

Second, it's just clearly B.S.

Now, I don't mean to be a mean little raincloud of negativity -- if this is your personal mantra, more power to you.

But it is not true for everyone.  It's not even close to true for most people.

Logically, you know it isn't true.  People are broken by their life experiences all the time.  Is the human mind resilient enough to bounce back from most things?  I honestly don't know.  I'd like to think so, but then again, I've never had anything truly bad (on the Grand Scale of Awful) ever happen to me.  I don't want to be a total downer, but when you think of all the bad things that can and do happen to people (starvation, exploitation, degenerative disease, torture, unjust imprisonment, etc.) before you even get to death, bumper sticker theology just can't cut it. 

Some people start out life with no chance. This is not a matter of "fairness," it's a matter of logic. It rains on the just and unjust alike. So while half of me believes in a loving God who knows me personally and cares about my struggles, the other half believes in that old clockmaker God who put his chips down on the table and let it ride. (Ah yes, the patented Ru mixed metaphor.)

Personally, I don't find those two visions of God particularly at odds with each other -- I just think of God as the anti-helicopter parent.  He cares, but there will be no swooping to my rescue.

So is there a happier note coming already? Why yes, actually, there is.

In 1861, a woman named Julia Ward Howe woke up in the middle of the night and wrote down the lyrics to a song. One of those lines read, "As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free."

The song was inspired by John Brown, an anti-slavery activist. In 1859, Brown had attempted to capture weapons from a federal armory and lead a slave rebellion in the South. He was caught, tried for treason against the state of Virginia, and executed for his crimes. Julia Ward Howe and her husband were abolitionists who had supported Brown's work.

Since the song was originally published, the words to "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" have been changed to, "As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free."

With all due respect to Julia Ward Howe, I like the second version better. That's something I can believe.

Friday, October 14, 2011

It's so awesome being awesome

Am I right, or am I right?

I feel like there's a haiku of vanity in there somewhere.

Anywho, my house has been defrosted after the furnace incident and we are gearing up hardcore for the Halloween season.  Note the decorative candle?  Oooh, it's so creepy and so cozy all at once.

What are you going to be for Halloween?  I'm kinda torn.  I've got Spencer's outfit picked out (I've decided that dressing pets is only degrading to the pet on non-Halloween days) but struggling to decide on mine. 

Don't worry, I won't steal your ideas.  I'm honestly honest like that.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Our long Amish nightmare is at an end

So in case you were wondering why there was a gap in my bloggage (and of course you were, because this biotch cannot shut up when it comes to the Internet), it turns out I was preoccupied with some housey-house stuff this weekend.

Namely, the fact that my house was 50 degrees all weekend.

Here's how the saga begins.  On Thursday night, it becomes obvious during a reality TV marathon (classy reality TV, for the record -- Heavy, not Keeping Up With The Kardashians) that the furnace is blowing cold air.  Our conclusion that the pilot light was out was correct; however, it was far from the only thing wrong with the furnace.

As it turned out, the gas company never turned on the gas at my house, and I didn't know since I was on autopay at my old apartment and I have no sense of fiscal responsibility because I rarely, if ever, check my online balances (please don't steal my identity, Internet.)  A snarky customer service representative berated me for my lack of foresight (though, to be fair to me, I did ask to have the gas turned on waaaaaaay back in June, and that seems like a boatload of foresight) and told me they could turn the gas on sometime Monday.

Thank goodness I grew up with all those stories of pioneers who froze their footsies off, because otherwise, I think I would have gotten quite hyperbolic over my ordeal of huddling under a comforter with Spence, pointing three space heaters in my direction, and turning on Scream 4 ... only to blow a fuse and be without heat or power.  Curse me for forgetting to buy that Duraflame at the grocery store!

The good thing is, the heat is on (sorta ... that's a longer story altogether) and three days without warmth gave me a lot of personal fortitude. I'm now totes ready that an apocalypse that is non-zombie based (e.g., Cormac McCarthy apocalypse).  I ordered my Dutch oven on Overstock yesterday.*

* Lie.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Confession time

Who pooped the bed?

Usually when I walk Spence--90% of the time, really--I come prepared with a plastic bag in hand and clean up any little messes he leaves along the way.  But roughly 10% of the time, Spence pulls what I like to call a "mystery poop."  Maybe he poops once on the walk, I clean it up, and then I find myself without another bag when he decides to go for number 2 Number 2. 

Once he pooped amidst all the goose poop at the park -- and that time we just slyly walked away, as if a goose could make a poop of that size. 

And this morning, when he begged to be let out at 5 am for what I presumed to be some tinkling time, he dropped a deuce on the corner of a neighbors lawn.  And hell no, I did not run back inside for a bag that time.  No, I went back to bed like a normal person.

I know this makes me an inconsiderate person, but since I figure other neighbor dogs poop on my lawn, it's kind of just the circle of life.

I ate a Three Musketeers bar for lunch and this bra is held together by tape. 

I got eyelash extensions a month ago.  Since then, I have done my makeup exactly TWICE because I figure, "Hey, my eyelashes look crazy awesome! Why would I do anything more?"  So even though eyelash extensions are really expensive (and let's be honest -- probably not the best idea ever) I totally got them redone last night.  In a cost-benefit analysis, $40 a month for the privilege of never doing my makeup is a solid investment.

What did Oprah do now?

Back when I was lawyerin it up in Fake Austin, a female attorney advised me to stop saying, "I feel" so much.  Perhaps you've already noticed this (I had not) -- women and girls tend to make statements of fact by prefacing them with, "I think" or "I feel."  I think that Alaska is bigger than Texas.  I feel like the rule against perpetuities does not apply here.  I think the first southern victory in the Civil War was South Carolina.  I feel like this song is Depeche Mode.

All of these things are actually facts and I know them, but whether it's social conditioning or what, women and girls throw in a "maybe it's just me" clarifier far more often than men and boys.  Odd fact -- we read a study in law school that discussed how the wills of females are more often thrown out in court than the wills of males, simply because women use softer and therefore more ambiguous terms (I would like it if my son received my car) and men just express their wishes (My son shall receive my car.)

So ladies, stop saying "I feel" and "I think" if in fact "you know."

And I give you this advice, knowing full well that when I catch myself in an "I feel" statement, rather than backtracking, I manage to say, "I feel" about ten thousand more times.  It's like saying like.  I just can't stop.  I FEEL LIKE THE STAFF MEETING AT 10 HAS BEEN CANCELED, Y'ALL.

Bonus points to anyone who tells me where those quotes in bold are from.  (I feel like that last sentence was grammatically incorrect.)

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Well, at least I always pay my debts

I generally enjoy being a lawyer, but at times, it can be tricky.

Today on our walk, Spence and I were stopped by a neighbor who asked, "Ru, aren't you a lawyer?"

(As an FYI, these interactions never end well.  No one ever says, "Are you a lawyer?  Have a pony!")

My neighbor (who I like) asked me if I could recommend some property attorneys so she could sue our other neighbors (who I also like).  I stood there awkwardly, trying to sound appropriately sympathetic-but-still-indifferent as she explained how some recent construction had negatively impacted water runoff onto her property, and wondering if I could respond to a tale of a flooding basement with, "You know, I'm new in this neighborhood, and I'd really like to avoid making waves."

The only fun part of this interaction was when she looked at me solemnly and said, "Winter is coming."

(So ... am I a Lannister in this scenario?)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

I know I've said this before, but

I do not like




In case you are wondering, this is what people write to indicate they are doing, except not really.  Much like "LOL" really means "silently smiled to myself," *grins* theoretically means I am grinning right now, but what it really means is "I am happy and/or pleased with myself, and the twitterfication of the English language has led me to abbreviate that sentiment with *grins.*"

But the bigger reason that I dislike *dies* and *grins* is that they are too dramatic. 

Not to pull a Daria here, but really, isn't *shrugs* *mehs* *rolls eyes* *stares blankly and turns back to email* a lot more accurate than *dies*?

To end with the ultimate internet send off: Just sayin.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Two dogs are different than one

Hannah moved in last week and it's been a grand time.  First, she's super funny.  Second, she can cook, so Diego and I are no longer living off Cafe Fresh Steamers.  And third, she has brought with her Spencie's best friend -- Charlie.

These are things I have learned in a post-Casa De Diego, Hannah, Ru, Spence and Charlie World.

A teeny dog like Spence cannot open a bedroom door.

But a giant dog like Charlie can!

In fact, a giant dog like Charlie can barrel right into Diego's room on a Saturday morning, doorknobs be damned.  Lucky for Diego, he is the world's deepest sleeper, and napped his way though Charlie and Spence play fighting until Hannah and I dragged them out.

A beensy dog like Spence cannot drink out of a toilet.

But Charlie can.  And boy, does he like it!

And a picky, bratty dog like Spence takes his sweet time eating his food.  But now that Charlie is here too, all bets are off, little pup.

Most of the differences now that Charlie is here are positive or at least amusing, but there is one change that is a potentially mixed bag.

Hannah got Charlie from a rescue (yay Hannah!), not a breeder (boo, Ru, you're the the worst!) and Charlie has severe anxiety.  He doesn't hurt other animals, has never snapped at a person, and he doesn't destroy anything -- he just cries when he's left alone.  And when I say "cries," I mean he sounds like he's being murdered.

That has been ok, since really, he's not alone all that often.  He spends a lot of time with Hannah's family or with a doggie daycare, and when Hannah has to go to work, usually Diego or I are at home.

But this morning, Hannah left for a 6:30 am shift.

And Charlie started crying. 

Now, Spence sleeps in his crate, but once in awhile I let him nap on my bed.  This morning I let Spence out at 5am for a potty break, so he got to sleep on the bed with me for a couple hours before I got up to get ready for work.

As soon as Charlie started crying, Spencer started pacing on my bed.  Back and forth, back and forth.  Nothing I could say reassured him that, no, the little girl from The Ring was not downstairs, crawling out of Hannah's TV to get Charlie.  (Spence and I watch a lot of horror movies together.)

Finally I gave up and got out of bed, but even with the lights on, Spence was still anxious.  (I guess the dark is not a big deal when your real problem is potential caninicide.)  So I took him out for a walk.

Where he sat outside on the sidewalk, refusing to budge.

So I took him back inside and gave him a treat. 

Where he proceeded to yelp as if it hurt him to eat his delicious, delicious treat.

By now, Diego (the infamous sleep-inner) was also up and getting ready for a day at court, so asked him if he thought Spence was being weird.  Diego's response?  "You know, I've never really noticed that Spence has eyebrows until now.  Because those things are clearly furrowed."

This led to a great Diego and Ru debate -- is Spencer sick?  Is he just upset about crying Charlie?  Is he experiencing sympathy pain?  (But if Charlie isn't really in pain, how could it be sympathy pain?)  And WHEN IS CHARLIE GOING TO STOP CRYING?

The end result is, I have no idea if Spence is sick or just sad, and if I can't decide by either my lunchtime visit or when I come home tonight, off to the overly expensive vet we go!

So Charlie's anxiety led to Spencer's anxiety, which led to Ru's anxiety (and of course I called Hannah to get her in on this action, so now she's having a rough morning as well).    If I can get Diego really upset by tonight, the circle will be complete. 

The old lady who swallowed the fly indeed.

I know it looks like Spence is getting his face bitten off, but that's just how he and Charlie express affection.  HUG TIME!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

No, if anyone orders Merlot, I'm leaving.

Remember high school debate?

A teacher would write a statement on the board.  You would have to come up with arguments for and against that statement.

Let's get nostalgic in the hizzy today, shall we?

"Young adult literature, for the most part, is about the story and the characters. Adult fiction is often about making some theoretical point about life/death/middle age, and all the philosophizing/navel gazing can get in the way."

I did not come up with that statement, my lovely friend ... (um, let's go with Rebecca today, shall we?) did in an IM conversation that got me thinking.  (Sorry for stealing your idea for the olde blog, Rebecca.)

I tend to agree with the statement -- the thesis for today, if you will.

Young adult literature tends to be very story-driven.  This is likely a result of marketing as much as anything else, since most publishers are aware that a largely teenaged audience will not put up with elegiac reflections on the whorls in a character's thumbprints.

Young adult literature is also (right now) a lot more daring creatively than adult literature because young adult literature is selling, and publishers are more likely to take a chance on something high concept if there is the potential for big payoff.

Young adult literature also has to pay scrupulous attention to character detail, since most young adults invest emotionally in their characters, and will not put up with a book where the characters suddenly begin acting in ways contrary to their established personalities without a good reason.

Finally, young adult literature is inevitably dynamic, in that the main character is maturing throughout the novel or series. I'm sure there are examples to the contrary, but for the most part, young adult characters go through character development as a necessary element of the genre itself.

Contrast this to contemporary adult fiction, where often characters are interestingly flawed from beginning to end. (Chabon, Waldman, Niffenegger, Franzen, anyone?) That does not make them more or less interesting than young adult characters, but it does mean that they can be more static characters. (Again - not as a rule, and for that matter, not especially a good or bad thing, depending on how it is done.)

(Can you tell from all the italics that I am aware this final paragraph is a controversial point that will be easily misinterpreted as me saying "Michael Chabon sucks"? Excellent! As long as we're all on the same page: Michael Chabon does not suck.)

On the flip side.

Young adult literature can dumb down important themes.  It can also present bad behavior in a box, removed from realistic and natural consequences.  (I'm thinking less here about characters that -- gasp! -- drink and have sex, and more about characters who stalk their love interests. Stalking, in the real world, is generally a bad thing.) 

And then to examine adult fiction.

I think we've all read a book that our brains knew was good (maybe even great), but found a paragraph (or two, or three, or four) that took us out of the story.  Maybe this was a good thing (Oooh, I'm re-examing priorities!)  But I have generally found it to be a bad thing.*

I am not saying literature shouldn't say BIG THINGS about life, but those big things should be an organic part of the story. The story should not be a platform for the big things. In general, adult literature blurs this line more than young adult does. (With the notable exception of our good friend Jack Weyland.)

So now we're back to the original thesis.

Can I get some yays or nays, fellow debaters? 

As a final thought: I am not saying young adult literature is better or worse than adult literature.  I am saying that the experience of reading it is often more enjoyable -- and no, not because it's simple or simple-minded.

(Here's where I wish I drank wine so the following analogy wasn't just pure bullshit.)

Young adult literature is like Saurtenes or Reisling.  It's light bodied, but when done right, its simplicity is what makes it delicious and flavorful. Adult literature is more like a cabernet sauvignon -- full bodied, complex, but when done wrong, with a slight tendency to stain your teeth, smell like cat pee, and taste like the back of an L.A. schoolbus.

(Did that sound like bullshit? I mean, I've seen Sideways like twice, which I think is pretty legit.)

 * Here's a potentially unhelpful example.  Have you ever seen V for Vendetta?  In V for Vendetta, Natalie Portman is acting.  In Black Swan, she's ACTING. Maybe ACTING is your cup of tea, but I think ACTING gets old after a little while.

So when I read The Time Traveler's Wife (for example), I get annoyed on page 120 when Claire sits down to drink some Earl Gray with lemon and read Moliere in the original French after making some more damn paper out of lavender and organic flax seed and angel snot and just think, "BACK TO THE TIME TRAVEL, DAMN YOU! You already tried my patience with that eye-rolling, rape-culture-promoting sexual assault scene!"

(for example).

Monday, October 3, 2011

A poll

So karma hooked me up real nice this weekend with a sweet $20 to Amazon.  All that avarice I displayed on the blog last week did me right.

I'm considering the following Kindle purchases.  Let me know your thoughts, if any.  (Particularly if your thoughts are, "Eh, that was good ... but more of a library read, doncha know.")

Lola and the Boy Next Door, Stephanie Perkins
Grounding Quinn, Stephanie Campbell
Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Laini Taylor
Shut Out, Kody Keplinger
Thirteen Reasons Why, Jay Asher
A Visit From the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan
The Lonely Polygamist, Brady Udall
If I Stay, Gayle Forman

Any others I should be considering?