What’s really up with Zits? Time travel Sherman Alexie style in Flight.

Hehehehehehe. Okay, if you have no appreciation of dark humor stop reading right now and stay far away from Flight–far far away. Got it? I’m warning you. This is no sweet flight of fancy tome.  Our hero is an angry fifteen year old male of Irish and Indian origin with some serious grief and father issues–among other things. Now sit back and sip your hot tea, latte or bloody mary and think about a young man who refers to himself as Zits. If you can’t relate then it’s probably in your best interests–and mine (yes, I do fear homicidal repercussions from unhappy readers)–to go nowhere near this particular Sherman Alexie book.  That said, last night I stayed up very late reading Flight via flashlight outside on the front porch–much to the dismay of anyone who had their doors or windows open to receive my hooting laughter when I turned to page 146.  Some folks do not find boiled birdies funny–and I do understand that such minds exist. On the other hand, there are minds, such as mine and apparently Alexie’s, which find self boiled birdies absolutely hilarious–especially in the context of a potentially violent encounter between a homeless Indian man and the usual well-heeled white dude. If by some means, like using your local public library, you garner a copy of Flight you too will be in serious need of comic relief by the time you turn to page 146. Though, hopefully, you’ll have found other darkly comic things to chuckle loudly about before page 146. But you’ll also have encountered several incidents of mayhem, murder and molestation along the way.  The lives of foster children are not all filled with sugar mommies and daddies. Nor do many events in American history since 1492 recount pleasant Thanksgiving din dins between Europeans and Indigenous folks.

Ever wonder how to diffuse the building anger of teenager? Well, Sherman Alexie offers one way–history lessons of the “not me” and the “me?!” variety. Yep, direct confrontations of some dark sad truths of reality provide the fodder for the adolescent mind to chew heartily on and time travel, complete with out-of-body experiences, is the medium.  From the Battle of the Little Bighorn to the grief ridden friendly skies of a private flight instructor Alexie takes us on a journey through history. Along the way he’ll shred your heart, sew it back together without anesthesia, and then shove it back into your chest.  You’re going to need every last piece of humor to endure the operation.  If you’re not laughing when Harry Potter takes a swan dive–then you might be dead and gone. Or you’ve abandoned Alexie’s exploration of time travelling adventures as an instruction manuel. Each episode serves as a short story with ethical issues galore. FBI agent Hank Storm may not get your heartstrings trembling–but Gus, Bow Boy and Small Saint could very well lay you flat on the floor demolishing an extra-large box of kleenex–or soaking an extra-large cotton hanky.

Zits experiences violence in many forms via his out-of-body time travelling–and this makes him seriously consider his pains of loss, abandonment and identity. Children NEED fathers–preferably decent men who care about their welfare. That lacking, one must find family where one can. Sometimes the concept of ‘family’ has not a damned thing to do with genetics and biology. It’s got to do with who gives a damn.

I’ve been a fan of Alexie’s work ever since reading his collection of poems and short stories The Business of Fancydancing. Yes, there’s a film by that title too– and it’s a great film. But–it was the text that had me wanting to scream and laugh from one page to the next. Ever felt bushwhacked by a writer? Well that’s how I felt while reading The Business of Fancydancing. It was great. Disturbing at times, but great nonetheless. I will never forget the story of the man, Eve and the post office. Hell, I’ve never entered a post office since and not thought of the story. The same holds true for Flight. It will not numb or bore you to tears. Not sure you can relate yet? Okay, who has had bad acne? Raise your hands now.

The Official Website of Sherman Alexie–be forewarned–it’s a tad off kilter:  http://www.fallsapart.com/

In the Garden of Iden with Kage Baker’s Company — Damn, will the Spanish Inquisition Never End?

Ah for years and years my old bud Mervius insisted my reading buffet would never be complete until I consumed Kage Baker’s In the Garden of Iden. On several occasions I tasted a page or two before detouring off to sample other fare.  I suspect the Spanish Inquisition just failed to fan the flares of my reading pheromones. It’s not good to venture into dark historical times when dark storm clouds are already cramping one’s interior mental landscape. So, time travel and Dr. Zeus notwithstanding, again and again I only wandered so far into Baker’s Garden–until now. Still plenty of dark shadows lurking in my attic, but this time Mendoza’s voice resonated with my own tuning fork and I ventured beyond the first chapter and into the second to meet Mendoza the child full of piss and vinegar galore. This child of the Inquisition is no snivelling little shy kitty but one determined plucky yard cat with an attitude that might make the rack think twice about its own viability.  When ‘baby’ Mendoza meets Joseph of Dr. Z and The Company affiliation the drawing and quartering  horses are off and running–straight to an English garden in Kent–of all places!

There have been many time travelling immortal cyborgs in fiction and film–but how many have been botanists sent on a mission to save a medically significant plant from certain extinction? Hmm? And how many of those cyborgs have had to endure life in the time of Bloody Mary? If I didn’t know better I’d think the English slang cuss word “bloody” had its dubious origins with Henry’s first-born child.  Furthermore, what other cyborg is a teenager experiencing first love with a very physically appealing religious heretic? Hmm? Ah yes, the catnip crazed kitty has nearly clawed its way out of the bag now.  What happens when a young cyborg on her first field trip into history falls in love with a human in times of pure political and religious lunacy?  Oh cyborg, cyborg, what does your garden grow? Hmm…yes, you will have to go smell Kage Baker’s garden offerings to learn what was going on in not so merry England prior to the Golden Age of the Virgin Queen. Hmmm, now there’s a reference to a personal garden that cunningly never grew nor bore fruit.

Hmm, I suspect I’ve been having way too much fun gleefully flipping images and mixing metaphors in my own little garden plot here. But–what the hell!

A few reasons why you should entertain notions of reading the late Kage Baker’s first novel:

You’re a fan of historical fiction that mixes it up with science fiction.

You’ve got some ethical issues about time travel you’d like resolved.

You’re a sucker for love stories.

You’ve got a thing for smartass dialogue.

You’re in the reading market for a completed series of tomes featuring a strong woman with ‘real history’ and a mission for eternity.

You enjoy damned good writing.

You’re bored out of your mind with the offerings on the current bestseller list and are willing to mine for reading gold in veins you’ve not yet explored.

Oh, yes, about the question in the title of this blog post–hmm, sits twiddling her thumbs for a moment–um, yes, well considering current events in the states, eg, NDAA,  one HAS to wonder if the Inquisition ever really ended.

    [Mendoza] “For God’s sake, it’s crazy! These people are giving up their civil rights! It’s a step back into the Middle Ages!”

“Funny thing about those Middle Ages, ” said Joseph. “They just keep coming back. Mortals keep thinking they’re in Modern Times, you know, they get all this neat technology  and pass all these humanitarian laws, and then something happens: there’s an economic crisis, or science makes some discovery people can’t deal with. And boom, people go right back to burning Jews and selling pieces of the True Cross. Don’t you ever make the mistake of thinking that mortals  want to live in a golden age. They hate thinking.”

“But this doesn’t have anything to do with intellect!” I [Mendoza] protested. “It’s a question of survival! Don’t they realize they’ve just voted absolute power to their enemies? My God, where’s their common sense?”

Well, Mendoza, I do believe that when we are brutally honest with ourselves, we mortals in general are keenly aware of our entire lack of any sense at all–common or otherwise. Resumes twiddling thumbs now.

Website for the ‘late’ Kage Baker’s wonderful literary work. Yes, I wrote “literary” in regard to a science fiction text. I dare anyone to read In the Garden of Iden and argue the point.    http://www.kagebaker.com/

Shadows On the Gulf by Rowan Jacobsen — The biggest, baddest monster in the world swamp is–US. Hell, we all knew that, right?

  “Today, we tell Congress that we ‘sacrificed’ ourselves for the national good,” Oliver Houck wrote in the Tulane Environmental Law Journal. “Never has there been such a willing, complicit sacrifice. We made a bundle of money, wasted most of it, and blackballed anyone who questioned what it was doing to the Louisiana coast. About 70 years ago, Louisiana made a deal with the oil and gas industry. The industry would get what it wanted; the state would get a piece of the take.”

Ah yes, you all know the drill–find a writer whose voice, intelligence, and style you enjoy in one book then go out and see if they’re consistent enough writers to work their word magic on your imagination AGAIN.  Having enjoyed the horror story that is Fruitless Fall, o yes it is a modern version of a very very scary story, I was game for more of Rowan Jacobsen’s work.  I decided to venture to the great ghostly delta of the mighty Mississippi via Shadows On the Gulf, A Journey Through Our Last Great Wetland.  If you’re fans of Jacobsen’s A Geography of Oysters don’t fret–the agony and ecstasy of gulf oysters is part of Shadows. It couldn’t be otherwise.  Now if you’re looking for an intense screenplay like  blow-by-blow of events in slow motion about the Deepwater Horizon go search elsewhere. Jacobsen provides a sequence of such events but, unlike several other slick tomes, this is not the foundation of this book. If you’re looking for where to lay blame for oily events in the Gulf look no further than your mirror.  Yes, you read correctly–the nearest mirror.  Jacobsen does not flinch at laying blame for the ongoing insanity of the oil industry smack dab on those who fuel the DEMAND for oil every single day.  This is a basic principle of supply and demand economics–really.  We create the demand for more oil by our lifestyles, especially in the United States, and the oil industry profits, literally, by providing the supply. Face it, in general we are a bunch of hardcore oil addicts with no 12 step program on the boards.

Now don’t get me wrong, Jacobsen raises this very important ethical issue but that’s not all he does as he provides some fundamental history about the Gulf area. We get a history of a prominent oyster supplier, the workings of the huge Mississippi River as the garbage dump of the midwest of America, the levees, the oil industry, the wetlands and the people.  Now the element of ‘people’ is the real wild card in play here. Perhaps the major issue here, as in Fruitless Fall, is that people indoctrinated with western European (yes, that is the origin of our mode of thinking in the states) mentality just can’t leave well enough ALONE. People have this nutty idea that humans are capable of improving on the complex perfection of Nature. We do this with every dam we build, every river we divert, every wetland we destroy. Ah the poor Army Corps of Engineers–sorry folks, at least beavers know what the hell they’re really doing when they build dams–and more importantly ‘why’.   Guess what we get in return? The destruction of the very system upon which we are dependent for survival of our species.  If we just let Nature be itself and operate correctly and lived in accord with how the system works –well, we might not be facing the operating system crisis heading our way like a tsunami of incredible magnitude.

If you don’t have any idea about the BIG picture regarding the Gulf of Mexico–and how the rest of America ties in– then Jacobsen’s book provides a very decent foundation for getting an idea of the interconnectedness of many things–including all the crap chemicals used to scrub toilets every day. The destruction of your environment is not out of sight and out of your mind. It’s just out of mind because we don’t pay any attention to the things in plain sight–such as every petroleum product–and the products that ‘clean’ all that oily stuff down the drain.

The other thing in plain sight is “us” in all our incarnations. You’ll meet a few folks via Jacobsen’s explorations of the gulf area–locals, scientists, fisherman, etc. And it’s a very mixed big of individuals for sure. I don’t know how the likes of Virgil Dardar and Gene Cossey would mix on the same boat. But I do know what a vast swamp of thinking exists that allows for the existence of such men and women — and the mentality of oil executives and politicians all on the lookout for the almighty DOLLAR.

Near the end of the book, “The Most Important River You’ve Never Heard Of,”  Jacobsen takes us to a wonderful still functioning wetland area-the Atchafalaya swamp-and leaves us with not the “if” but the “when” it will be destroyed by us in our infinite ignorance, boundless greed and shortsighted view that humans dominate Nature.  We will not have the last laugh in this global drama in which we deny our own role in the web of life on Earth. So read and think about what sort of lifestyle can you imagine that might benefit all living things. Come on, stretch your cranial membranes–if you dare.  Imagine Life without Oil.

More about Rowan Jacobsen’s books:  http://www.rowanjacobsen.com/books/shadows-on-the-gulf

Higher Education Quebec Style = 400,000 Defy Bill 78 to Denounce Tuition Hike. Oh and about Education…

       Now one hundred days of protest is some serious field trip out of classroom mental work– and this exercise in the freedom to speak one’s mind with one’s feet apparently will not end with the conclusion of the course term. in Quebec.  Apparently Canadian students enjoy their affordable education so much they’re willing to fight for it with zeal and determination.  Bill 78 is an effort to shut down the student strike protests against the 75 % hikes in tuition. Bill 78 in effect demands that people submit to the dictates of the state and refrain from protesting en mass or face serious fines (1,000 to 25,000 dollars) and arrest. Wearing a mask could get you 10 years in prison.  OOOOO what do the elected official fear from the mask wearers?  Damn that film V for Vendetta for its mask wearing protestors for popularizing those masks which scares the hell out of totalitarians. Every effort to ban and il-legalize the masks serves as a red flag marker as to who is who on the battlefield for mind control. Some Canadians I’ve chatted with recently declare Bill 78 is the death knoll for Premier Jean Charest and his ‘liberal’ party.  Take note–these days the world ‘liberal’ has vastly different meanings depending on where, who, when–it’s all about context.

If you’re wondering what’s with the red square — little red felt squares are worn by the students and their supporters in Quebec.  Yes, I am in solidarity with anyone who believes quality education should be available to everyone. I would like ALL education to be ‘free of charge’ because the mind is the most vital frontier and no one should be denied the opportunity to learn–ever.  Can you imagine a world in which our monetary and other ‘resources’ are focused on education that enables humans to actualize their imaginative creative intellectual potential –instead of focused on making war, engaging in genocide and destruction of anyone some folks consider a threat to their bastions of power and control? I suspect if we’d been enabling the flourishing of the mind we might not have sown the seeds of our destruction via the pollution of our own habitat.  Or at least I hope we would not have done so.  One never knows what course intellectual freedom might embark upon. Hell, some of the great scientific minds created the atom bomb–and enabled it to be ‘used.’  So, yes, I admit there are such dilemmas.  Yet, if there’d not been a military industrial complex running rampant then the course of human history would be —-???? We don’t quite know do we? Plenty of Science Fiction authors have explored alternative realities. I suspect this is one reason the genre threatens mainstream fiction writers — because it explores more than the status quo of possibilities and pushes the imagination into uncharted waters.

A few fundamental basics regarding quality education to consider. Oh yes, all of this comes from experiencing what ‘works’ in a teaching environment. This is NOT speculation:

Optimum student class size–14 students.  This is not a secret number. It’s been shown that a student teacher ratio of 14 to 1 produces major benefits.

No standardized tests. They’re just money makers for the corporate testing business and serve no other purpose than to generate profits. They’re useless for gauging real mastery of material. Ability to properly employ and discuss material in useful and creative ways reveals having learned a subject.

No corporate produced textbooks. The textbook industry is another huge money-maker that enables mass indoctrination and manipulation of information. Guess why Americans don’t know much about HISTORY beyond what someone decided they ought to know to stay malleable.

No useless grades. Grades do little more than serve as carrots on sticks. Children have been paid to get good grades in research studies.  The little student research rats behave just as one might expect–they produce only as long as they’re PAID. No more funding and they cease putting forth effort for grades.  That reveals nothing good about carrots or the educational system that fails to incline children to be invested in their own learning.

As for uniforms–who gives a damn what you’re wearing if you’re not engaged in the act of discovery. Uniforms might ease some social issues in some contexts but they cannot improve a child’s learning experience. Some parents like uniforms because of how easy they make “clothing issues”. Well, if clothing issues are the main concern something is seriously skewed at the core.  Uniforms are just another money-maker for those businesses that produce them.

Discovered a common thread here regarding the involvement of ‘Business’ in education? Business has NO place in education.  It does not foster engagement in the act of discovery. Businesses exist for profit margins and selling products–NOT for fostering the critical thinking skills of human beings.

As for “teachers” in education. It’s a tough job these days to be a teacher anywhere. The pedagogy for classrooms has clearly failed under the current system of operations in the public sector.  Education is not a ‘service’ industry where just punching a time clock is enough.  People’s minds are not like car parts on conveyor belts waiting for assembly. Lecturing to the ‘drones’ does nothing but leave all children behind–far far behind. To teach is to lay aside ego and engage people — not all of whom one ‘likes’– in order to educate their imaginations so that they are active participants in the world rather than factory robots.  This is not easy nor for the faint of heart. “Houston, we’ve got a problem.” No shit.

Information regarding Bill 78  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_78

Visit Democracy Now!  http://www.democracynow.org/  for coverage of the student protests. They had a good feature piece today (Friday May 25, 2012). http://www.democracynow.org/2012/5/25/maple_spring_nearly_1_000_arrested

The Educated Imagination website dedicated to Northrop Frye http://fryeblog.blog.lib.mcmaster.ca/  O my, Frye was a Canadian?? Hehehe, see this post is ‘connected’ …..

And  Northrop Frye, The Educated Imagination   http://northropfrye-theeducatedimagination.blogspot.com/

Nothing is perfect–but there are much better ways to educate than are currently employed en mass in the United States.  I think some Americans have figured out enough to know that closing 60 schools in Philadelphia is not a great idea.  http://www.democracynow.org/2012/5/25/whos_killing_philly_public_schools_daniel

How is your imagination today? Please do share your thoughts if you’re so inclined.  No rulers for knuckle bashing nor ink pens held at the ready for grammar put downs in this blogcasa comment section. Anyone have a positive educational experience to share? Hmm? Horror stories also are ‘welcome’. Is your school under siege? Are you a teacher wondering what the hell has gone so horribly wrong? Are you a lucky teacher  in a great supportive environment with eager students?

 

Big Big Sky by Kristyn Dunnion –a Big Wowza! of a novel from Red Deer Press

  Click the boot to see the video trailer and more at Red Deer Press.  If you find this an unsettling view  of teenage girls then I suggest you consider all that’s been written about their physical and psychological cruelty. Science fiction has nothing on the daily reality strutting through school hallways everywhere.

Rustle: I think of all the clicking, whirling cams, the screens and monitors, the hidden mics tracking our movements when we least suspect it–the never knowing when they’re watching. And I surrender to my own inevitable defeat. A tear rolls down my sorry check as I flashback to the Treason Times. I rememory all those twisted cores, those poor broken specimens struggling, impaled on their death sticks, waiting for the pain to end. Our ancestors, the human mothers who bore us, ridiculed ’til the very last milli and Beyond. That’ll be me soon. Sniff.

O thank you, Red Deer Press for your “…respect for the intelligence of the reader at every level…”–WOW–when’s the last time you read that in any American Publisher’s mission statement? Like NEVER!  I mean what American media outlet of any sort has any respect for the intelligence of its audience??? Red Deer Press is a Canadian operation–smirk, smirk.  Come on, be honest. I’m willing to entertain any suspects dishing up tomes to feed the intelligence hunger of Americans  anyone is willing to offer up.  Is it fair to argue that the fact that books in any form are still being produced by American publishers for the market is a good sign that we’ve not been entirely written off as complete morons–yet?  Big Big Sky is definitely not mental junk food for a dumbed down Young Adult audience. The very talented Kristyn Dunnion makes the most of every page to infiltrate and stretch the imagination of whoever picks up this totally engaging novel which raises a multitude of issues about blind obedience, genetic manipulation, love, leadership. loyalty and survival of the fittest–“Decline, Deform, Disobey.”  This is one hell of a science fiction/fantasy adventure into uncharted waters and beyond for the all female crew of a StarPod of young assassins: Rustle, Loo, Solomon, Shona and Roku.  Dunnion creates a tightly controlled world of young people trained by ScanMans to exterminate other humans. Then Dunnion turns the tables on the core group and soon they’re deep in a swim for their own lives to the lands beyond the mountain of total mind control. There’s good language craft fun with all the lingo Dunnion devises for this unruly passel of rampaging lasses as the plot unfolds from the shifting perspectives of each.  You don’t have to be a teenager or a female to jump into this novel and enjoy it immensely.  Keeping an open mind about love relationships and science fiction could be a tad useful at the onset–until the characters themselves yanky yank you into their world of troubles and tribulations and transformations.  Ever dream of becoming a big bird? How about an amphibian? What’s your control freak conformity factor?  All is fair in love and war, right?

I’m eagerly awaiting more of Kristyn Dunnion’s wicked writing wonders. I promise to share with the other girls nice nice.

See what else is on the reading plates at Red Deer Press http://www.reddeerpress.com/

The Iguana Tree by Michel Stone — OMG! There is hope for contemporary American Fiction!

image

 

“Tonight Hector  would call Lilia and tell of the funny gringo’s joke, of the alligator who lived beside the beautiful river beyond the trees, and of the senora’s skills in driving the tree-digging machine. He’d describe the colorful sunset and the way the pale full moon rose above the field just as it rose in their village. He’d tell her of the optimism brimming inside him, his confidence in their future, in the reality of his dreams for them.”

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      O hell, I’ve been on a review whirl-a-gig ride just long enough now to wonder what if I can pull off a decent enough conversation to actually encourage anyone out there in cyberspace to read something really worth reading.  Yes, I want to encourage folks looking for contemporary American fiction with substance and bite to consider The Iguana Tree by Michel Stone via Hub City Press, an independent publisher flourishing in South Carolina.  This title came my via one of Roxie’s posts and the title intrigued me enough to put in a library request which plopped Stone’s tome in my greedy reading palms within a day. I like The Iguana Tree very much because it’s a dam good piece of writing.  Now I doubt that statement will get anyone else scrambling to lay hands on a copy. So let’s try this: I would like to force read this book to that Huppenthal dictator of Public Education in the state of Arizona where some folks don’t want others getting any ideas about their own self-worth. Or this:  If you have no clue why the English Language Only movement is insulting and doomed to failure in the U.S. of A–then The  Iguana Tree might be a first step in comprehending the issues of migration–legal and illegal–and why people from Mexico risk their lives to come to this not so sweet land of opportunity. Or this:  Many folks fear hordes of illegal immigrants so much that they think building walls will steam the flow northward. Well those folks need to think again about that wall building. Guess what, it’s not going to keep anyone anywhere. If you read The Iguana Tree you’ll understand better why such walls are useless to prevent desperate people from migrating to where they perceive there are greener grasses agrowing. O and by the way, even if your family has been on American soil for 500 years–they’re still all from immigrants who came here for many of the same reasons espoused by modern-day immigrants–and an argument can be made that unless you’re a full-blooded member of one of the 500 plus Indigenous Nations that you’re an invasive non-native species that emigrated from another homeland nowhere near Plymouth Rock.  How am I doing on that patriotically offensive scale rating so far? Give me more words and I may crank it up a few more notches.  Hey, my people didn’t settle stateside until around 1914 when they decided they’d had enough of living in the middle of one of Europe’s favorite battlegrounds. Yet I’m aware that even knowledge of one’s own family history of migration does not breed compassion nor understanding in the minds and hearts of many modern Americans who are threatened by anyone not like themselves. Or this:  So I ask do, you know who picks those strawberries, avocados and tomatoes we all enjoy finding at the American grocery store all year round? Hint, not the sort of folks who used to work in Detroit building automobiles–and I doubt those folks would work for the wages or under the conditions of migrant workers.  Furthermore, if the folks who put their lives, hopes and dreams in the hands of the human variety of coyotes (who give the real critter by the same name an EVIL reputation) could make decent livings in their places of origin I doubt they’d be motivated to experience the adventures of Hector and Lilia in The Iguana Tree. I sure as hell would not.  I don’t think I’d be willing to place bets on finding employment with the likes of Lucas and Elizabeth in South Carolina. These are people who seriously need Hector’s willingness to work hard as much as he needs the employment opportunity their tree farm offers.   

     The Iguana Tree does not offer up any nice neat little packaged political economic solutions. What it does offer is some insight into the hearts and minds of real people all trying very hard to do more than just survive in a harsh world full of obstacles and hazardous conditions.  If you don’t care about someone in this book then there’s something wrong with your internal tic tocker for sure. It’s your heart Michel Stone is trying to touch with this story of bitter hopes.  Stone writes deftly and candidly about the horrors of border crossings, lives lived in fear of deportation, families separated, sudden injury, death, identity issues, language and cultural barriers. Being an illegal immigrant in the United States is no picnic in the park.  The Iguana Tree presents the high cost of “coming to America” as such that this qualifies as a modern shop of horrors–exploitation, greed, corruption, rape, child theft. What truly is painful is that this well crafted work of fiction reflects an all too real grim reality.  Stone softens The Iguana Tree with elements of friendship, love, and relationships built on mutual benefit.  There is the suggestion that the only way to humanely deal with the issue of illegal immigration is with humanity and treating people as valuable in their own rights.  

     So I hope you soon meet Hector, Lilia, Miguel, Pablo, Lucas, Elizabeth, Carlos and Rosa.  If you’re an American wondering what the hell is going on at the border between Mexico and the United States maybe you’ll get a few ideas. I’m not saying you’ll like what you learn. But you might gain a sense of the human complexity of what motivates illegal migration. I seriously doubt The Iguana Tree will bore anyone.  It might make you want to visit Puerto Isadore or South Carolina–legally, of course.

     By the way, The Iguana Tree is a story about love.

        Hub City Press link http://www.hubcity.org/press/

       Roxie’s blog post regarding The Iguana Tree  http://roxieh.wordpress.com/2012/05/14/top-twos-day-physical-photos-and-layers/

 

protein versus pollen

 

 

jaws sawing pork chop

little sweat bee carnivore

no vegan honey

 

DREAMLAND

Would you sponsor a carbon sponge? Brainstorms, funds, working legs and hands welcome to Clegyr Boia.

Lydia Millet’s Ghost Lights —

I picked up Lydia Millet’s Ghost Lights at a time when my brainpan needed serious distraction from stewing in its own juices.  “Pulitzer finalist” on the book jacket caught my eye and I wondered what sort of contemporary work of fiction would fit that bill.  Hence I decided to give the tome a chance even though the first pages concerning a three-legged dog did nothing to capture my interest.  Now perhaps I’m missing something here as this is touted as the second book of a trilogy. Hmm. Okay well I am going to continue missing that  special something that comes from the second book in a trilogy of which I have not read the first installment. I’m going to continue the ‘missing’ because I’ve no intentions of reading the first part of the trilogy,  How the Dead Dream, in order to get up to speed on whatever I’m missing. Nor do I have any plans to read part three. Why not? It’s not because MIllet can’t write–she can. The prose flows easily across the pages requiring no effort from the reader at all.  I’m not going to read any further backward or forward because there are more interesting books to read and for the following reasons directly related to Ghost Lights:

I do not care about middle-aged men who work for the Internal Revenue Service.

I do not care about middle-aged men who are upset to learn that their wives are being sexually active with males other than themselves.

I do not care about a wife having sex with a younger man than her husband.

I do not care about a middle-aged man who learns his crippled daughter is making a living doing phone sex.

I do not care that a crippled woman has found that phone sex is the most lucrative way to support herself.

I do not care about a middle-aged Tax Man who goes off to find a man he doesn’t even like just to get away from his issues.

I do not care about Tax Man going agog over a beautiful German woman and her husband and two boys.

I do not care about Tax Man having his dream of ‘sex on the beach’ with beautiful German woman come true.

I do not care about Tax Man having no clue what mess he’s walked into by his weak efforts to find the missing T-man.

I do not care about ignorant man befuddled by German woman’s ignorance of the issues of the Indigenous Guatemalan population.

I do not care about any of these characters because Millet provides absolutely no reason why I should care about them. Beautiful breasts of German women do not engage my interest. The three-legged dog seems to have been some sort of red herring. The crippled daughter operates as a sort of sympathy plea. The adulterous wife is so much shallow contemporary American woman that the character construction isn’t worth the effort to sneer at her.  The Tax Man — is–well he’s the Tax Man nursing a Tin Man’s heart of sorts.  Did I miss something of vital importance between the hardback covers of Ghost Lights? Did I? If so and you know what it is please drop a line and tell me. I’d really like to know. –Oh and NO the concluding pages of the book will not suffice. I’m NOT buying that at all. Btw, if any of this book was supposed to be funny–I didn’t laugh. There are many types of humor–but I don’t recall stumbling over any form here. Perhaps I need to update my humor catalog?

Ghost Lights– link to excerpt  http://www.lydiamillet.net/ghost_lights.html

Grab Neil Gaiman’s Fragile Things and Anansi Boys for some shady summer text fun and love games.

Okay neither of these delightful Gaiman tomes is loitering on the new release shelf in you local free book lending operation called the public library or independent bookstore–if you’re lucky enough to have an incarnation of the latter in your swamp. So what. Good reads are good reads and if you’ve not wandered through either and you enjoy the landscape of Gaiman’s imagination perhaps it’s time to hide under some shade tree and indulge yourself.

In Anansi Boys, Gaiman spins the Spider myth anew complete with Fat Charlie and his long-lost brother, Spider, dealing with the legacy of their family inheritance via dearly departed dad, Mr. Nancy.  Gaiman concocts a tasty rum punch involving theft, murder, mayhem, mythology, and love. Fat Charlie soon learns there’s more ways to travel than by plane–sometimes one’s ticket to ride involves four elderly women, black candles and a little voodoo–no seatbelts required. You might want to be careful what you say to the next spider with the nerve to plop down beside you–it might summon your brother who might fancy your girlfriend as much as you do. Yes, Spider, does complicate Fat Charlie’s life but it’s all for the best–who needs a Rose when there’s a Daisy for the picking–though said Spider really hasn’t any intentions at all beyond entertaining himself.  While one can zoom through Anansi Boys simply enjoying the unfolding of a story–one can do some deep thought diving too via the role of myth in the human psyche and the desire for stories and the telling of them. There’s magic in words–spoken and written.  Maybe in karaoke too? What really constitutes ‘magic’ and why do some folks engage it as part of life while others have no clue of its existence? How doe the imagination create magic via storytelling? I’m not quite certain–But–I know one thing for sure, Spider’s bedroom has me wanting my own version–complete with waterfall.

While I enjoyed the tangling and untangling of web romping of Anansi Boys quite a bit, it was in Fragile Things, Short Fictions and Wonders where I loitered and took my time exploring and delighting in Gaiman’s literary small plates buffet. Don’t skip the introduction wherein Gaiman offers commentary regarding each ‘wonder’ in the collection. I was in a very very dark mood when I turned to this tome for some serious distraction. “A Study in Emerald” involving those Baker Street fellows hooked me straight off.  This might have had some benefit from my anticipation of the second season of the ‘new’ modern Sherlock rendered by Masterpiece. I was primed and ready for some mystery and fun Holmes style and swallowed this hook completely. While there is much temptation to gush at length over many of the short stories here I will refrain from such indulgence.  There’s a lot to like if you’re already a Gaiman fan–and more to discover if you’re not yet.  I’m seeing my coffee, ghosts and zombies in a different light since reading “Bitter Grounds.” I’ve been wondering what sort of “x-file” episode could have evolved out of “How to Talk to Girls at Parties.” Neither harlequins nor valentines will be the same for me after consuming “Harlequin Valentine.” For The Matrix fans there is “Goliath”–enough said.  Get a copy and read for yourself!

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