Short Stories & Stephen King

As anyone that has read Dave and my blog with any regularity knows, I’m a Stephen King fan. He is kind enough to release a book (most years) right around my birthday. This year it was The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, a collection of short stories. He releases one of these every few years. It was a really great collection of short stories, in my opinion. The stories ranged from Twilight Zone twisty (Premium Harmony) to the downright give you chills along your spine (Bad Little Kid) to one connected to his Tower series (Ur). So, really, any of his writing that is your favorite, you will find something in here to make you happy.

But, while reading The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, which I had interrupted my reading of 100 Years of the Best American Short Stories edited by Lorrie Moore for, I started thinking about short stories. And I decided I wanted to write a blog post on short stories for today.

I love short stories. I’ve always loved short stories and on here I have reviewed a few different ones over the last 3 years, including Flannery O’Connor, Ernest Hemingway, Jeremy Morong‘s collection of stories that just came out recently (look Jeremy! Your name is listed with O’Connor’s and Hemingway’s!), and one on Stephen King’s Top Ten, called The Golden Argosy (out of print, so if you find a copy for cheap, grab it, I’ll pay you back!).

People keep saying “Oh no! The short story is dead! Don’t write a short story!”, but while it might not be the premier form of entertainment anymore (at the turn of the century, when Best American Short Stories debuted, many Americans saw short stories as a perfect entertainment), it most certainly has not died. In mainstream publishing, you will see few collections, but I have run across a few over the years that aren’t from authors that are big name like Joyce Carol Oates and Stephen King, and are in fact, first book authors. Now, from small press publishers, your ability to get short stories is much higher. In fact, your chances are quite excellent. If you have Dave on your Facebook, do not hesitate to drop him a line for some great small presses to check out or authors he recommends. If you don’t have his Facebook, feel free to leave a comment. One of us will respond with a list 🙂

Authors will say that short stories are often harder to write than a novel. In a short story, you don’t have the ability to digress. You have to keep everything streamlined, you have to be able to get it across in a limited amount of time, and you don’t have a lot of room for character development.

As a reader, I find short stories incredibly satisfying. I especially enjoy anthologies of short stories. Anthologies have a lot of different authors in them, so there are a lot of different genres, tones, styles of writing. And you get to sample all of them. If you don’t like one that you’ve started, you can skip it and you haven’t ruined the reading experience (if you try to skip, say Hugo’s section on argot in Les Miserables, you miss a few details you should probably have). But, it’s also fun reading a single author’s collection of short stories, like Jeremy’s that I mentioned above. You can get a feel for the author, and it’s interesting to see the different ways they use the stories to play with structure, with characters and with tone.

I recently ordered Harper’s when my daughter was selling magazines. My main reason? Each issue they publish has a short story in it.

Now, another thing people that have read this blog know, is that Dave has published two novels previously. In March, he has a third book coming out. This isn’t just a statement out of nowhere. It actually fits into the theme of the rest of this post. The book is titled Not Quite So Stories and as the title suggests is actually a collection of short stories. I’m excited for Dave, as he has actually published quite a few short stories in different literary publications over the years, so to see him able to have an actual entire book of them out makes me almost squee happy. (Note I said almost, not quite). You can pre-order his book on Amazon.

100 Years of The Best American Short Stories is a great collection as well. Every year for the last 100 years, an anthology called “The Best American Short Stories” has been published, in which the editors read hundreds of stories from dozens of sources and pick the ones they feel are best. The 100 Years collection is a story from each year. It’s got a lot of authors you’ve heard of, like Hemingway and O’Connor, but a few of them are ones you haven’t really heard of or haven’t heard of at all, like Tillie Olsen (well, some of you might have heard of her, I had not). A lot of different styles and types of stories are represented in this volume. It gives you a chance to try out an author that you’ve maybe heard about before but never picked up a novel of theirs to see if you might want to read more by them, like Phillip Roth.

The next time you’re looking for something new to read, please give a collection of short stories a try. Start with Jeremy’s, especially if you’re an Omaha native, then move on to others. And in March, get Dave’s.

I currently have I’m a Little Teapot stuck in my head. My daughter is in cleaning her room and in between coming out five million times and asking how much longer she needs to be in there keeps singing it. While not quite as annoying as it was to have “Do you want to build a snowman” stuck in my head last year, it’s pretty irritating. Like sand in your bathing suit.

Have a great Thanksgiving!

 

 

Advertisements

The Garden of Good and Evil Pancakes Interview with David S. Atkinson—Yes, the very same David S. Atkinson who shares the blog with me.

Today, Dave and I have decided to go outside of our normal paradigm of reviewing a book from the Top Ten. Dave recently had his second book come out, The Garden of Good and Evil Pancakes, you can find it here. His first book is titled Bones Buried in Dirt and you can read what I thought of it here.

So, in honor of it being published, and to give everyone something just a little different than our normal blog entry, I asked Dave 16 questions about Village Inns, his books, his reading habits, and his past. Enjoy!

 

1. For the benefit of our readers who don’t live in an area with them, can you explain what a Village Inn is?

Certainly. It was only when I started shopping the novel around that I realized Village Inns aren’t as ubiquitous as they’d seemed to me. A New York publisher had no idea what it was, which makes sense since it turned out that there were no Village Inns in the entire state. They’re all over everywhere I’ve lived, and much of the US (though not as many as there used to be), but they’re not everywhere. Basically, it’s one of the various types of pancake houses (IHOP, Denny’s, Perkins, Waffle House, and so on). It used to be just that, but they branched out into more lunch and dinner stuff at some point…though for me it’s still about the pancakes. Not all are open 24 hours, but some are. Many people stop there after a late night of drinking and such.

2. Why _did_ you pick a Village Inn? Why not Denny’s?

Some of it is the fact that I go to Village Inns more than any other pancake house. My favorites have changed over time, and which ones are better than others for various reasons change over time, but I go to Village Inn at least once a week these days. Part of that is proximity to my house, but part of it is the garden veggie omelet combo they have. I can get it with multigrain pancakes, sugar free syrup, and still have an egg and pancake breakfast for about 550 calories. Also, I worked in one for three weeks back in 1994. I’ve just always had a certain kinship with Village Inn.

3. One of your characters shares that she dreams of doing a road trip across the United States and writing dirty limericks on bathroom walls. What limerick would you write?
Probably the one that Kate uses. It isn’t the only one I ever remember, but it’s one I’ve never forgotten despite it being pretty lame.

4. What was your favorite part of the story to write? Why?

My favorite parts were always Cassandra’s stories. Not that she isn’t always telling stories in one way or another, but the stories where she says she’s telling stories. I love those in particular because she’s at the same time being both more and less honest. Plus, they were more free, more fun.

5. The main character, Cassandra, makes up a lot of stories about people, creating elaborate back stories about them, about her dog Daedalus being a live totem created by a race called wind elves, about their waitress unable to actually physically touch someone, about a manager with an irrational fear of Village Inn. Do you think you share this trait with Cassandra? Do you think that it’s something a lot of writers live within their brain?

I don’t get quite as fanciful as Cassandra tends to get, at least I don’t think I do, but I think we all do this from time to time. I think most of us don’t carry it through with this kind of energy or drive. Most of the time I’ll think up a few odd thoughts about somebody, but then I’ll wander off mentally. Cassandra doesn’t let go until she’s done, regardless of what she’s actually talking about.

6. You mentioned to me before that you wrote the first draft of this in a ridiculously short time. What was the germ of the idea that started it all? Do you always go past a VI? Were you in a VI at that time?

This all started with Joseph Michael Owens (author of Shenanigans!) recommending Donald Antrim’s The Verificationist to me. I tend to read anything Joe recommends, so I’d only glanced at the description for the book. I’d gotten a really weird and wrong idea what it was going to be about. As I was reading The Verificationist, I told Joe how much I was loving it but also about this book I thought it was going to be. He paused and replied: “You should write that.” It just clicked right then and the first draft was done in two weeks. Revision from there took much longer.

7. How much time did you spend in your teens and early 20s in all night or late night breakfast places? Who was the strangest person that you ever saw in one?

I spent quite a bit of time in places like that. Not that I still don’t, of course. I’ve been going to places like that as long as I can remember, though obviously usually earlier in the day when I was younger. As for strangest, it’s hard to say. I had a waitress at a Denny’s one time who seemed to be on something pretty major. Her pupils were really, really dilated and she talked extremely slow. I’m thinking some kind of downers. I ordered eggs benedict and she brought fried eggs. For some reason, she just could not get why this was a problem. I said I ordered eggs benedict. She said yes. I said this was fried eggs. She said yes. I said that fried eggs were not eggs benedict. She said yes. I can’t even remember how this got resolved. Maybe I just ate the fried eggs.

8. One of the things I thought while reading the book is that the characters were stuck in VI due to unresolved issues they had between them. Is that something you meant to come across? Or, was that something that I, as a reader brought to the reading experience and the reader’s conversation with the author?

That’s not an easily answerable question. Are they even stuck? Is whether or not they are stuck even a purely binary issue? If they are stuck, is the unresolved issues what is keeping them there or is it their responses to the unresolved issues? This becomes complex pretty quick. Bottom line: Ain’t tellin’. 🙂

9. You also told me that you write your stories on legal pads, handwritten, as first drafts. Why do you do it this way? Have you ever tried doing it on a computer for first draft?

Most things I write longhand first, most of the time on legal pads. There are some things I type on computer first, but that’s more rare. I’m not sure where this came from completely, other than that I didn’t have a computer (or a reliable computer or computer I could rely on to be permanent as any of my old files on Amiga floppies can attest) when I started writing. Computers always seemed like typewriters to me, a second step kind of device. I like to feel the paper as I’m writing and I don’t get that with a computer. Plus, longhand gives me an initial chance to revise when typing it up. Less distractions during as well.

10. The people that follow you on Goodreads know that you read extremely fast and often read over 250 books a year. What are 3 that you’ve read in the last 3 months that you’d recommend to people?

There’s a ton in the last three months that I’ve read and think other people should read. Since I’m limited to three I’ll just pick three of those at random:
An Untamed State by Roxane Gay
The Meaning of Names by Karen Shoemaker
Atmospheres by Jon Konrath

11. If someone read The Garden of Good and Evil Pancakes and loved it (which I did), what other independent press books would you recommend?

Like the above, there’s a ton of good stuff out there on the indie scene. I’ll just list a few I’ve loved at random (find a few good ones and they’ll always lead you to more):
Orphans by Ben Tanzer
The Desert Places by Amber Sparks, Robert Kloss, and Matt Kish
The Sea-God’s Herb by John Domini
Black Cloud by Juliet Escoria
Don’t Start Me Talkin’ by Tom Williams

12. What’s your favorite thing on the Village Inn menu?

Most often I get the veggie omelet, but I can’t deny my fondness for the Ultimate Skillet. The Ultimate Breakfast is good too, as are the Eggs Benedict and many other breakfasts.

13. Do you think that Cassandra uses her made up stories to process things from her own life? I wondered this due to her saying a couple of times, “Let’s not get into what I was really talking about”.

This is another question where a binary answer may not be possible. Does she? Are there different levels if so? Is she actually processing or just examining? Again…not tellin’. 🙂

14. The two other people Cassandra’s stuck with in VI are Thomas and Kate. Out of all the characters, which one would you want to be stuck with in a Village Inn? Why?

The waitress. She has the ability to bring food. If you mean out of these three, I’d probably pick Cassandra. I think hanging out with her would be the most interesting time.

15. Given the amount you read, what would you do if you were stuck in a Village Inn with no books?

Write. Perhaps eat, there’s always eating. Coffee too.

16. Your previous book dealt with a boy growing from 5 to 12, with different short stories about him all linked together. This book is quite different both with its characters and also with narrative style. What do you think, other than you wrote both of them, is something the two books share?

As much as I try to not to do the same thing over again, I go with the writing impulses that come to me. As such, I think things change quite a bit from one project to the next…all fitted to the particular project. Still, I think there are language patterns and techniques that I frequently use and don’t even necessarily know I’m using. That sort of thing is probably in both. Also, I do tend to stick to a certain flow. As different as the forms are, the flow seems similar to me. Both are at least coherent in flow on at least the surface, not exactly experimental. Well, to me they are. We’ll see what other people think.

 

The End! We hope you’ve enjoyed this momentary glimpse into the brain of David S. Atkinson!

Les Miserables is Long Long Long. Today I will talk about Bones Buried in Dirt.

So.  Like Dave told you last week, I was working my way through Les Miserables.  He kindly went two weeks in a row so that I could finish.  And I’ve been trying.  Really.  And I might have been able to do it, but after 200-250 pages a day, you really can’t read more.  So.  I am getting close to the end and should be exploring it with you guys TOMORROW, February 8th, 2013.  So tune back in tomorrow for my talk about Les Miserables (where I will discuss its length but also discuss the beauty of it, trust me, it will be a scintillating discussion.).

Today, I decided to talk about something else.  While Dave has mentioned this on his own personal blog , he has yet to discuss it on here.  Dave had his first book published!  He’s been rocking short story publications for awhile now.  He had quite a few of those short stories that went together, all told by the same narrator.  Together they form a novel.   It’s titled Bones Buried in Dirt, and if you press that link it’ll take you to the amazon page for it.  It has a 5 star rating.

Dave gave me the opportunity of reading it directly prior to publication.  I loved it!  If you remember, in a prior entry about A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Dave talks about children narrators.  At some point in the course of our blog, one of us will be rereading To Kill a Mockingbird, probably one of the most famous examples of child narrators.  My point, before I digressed, is that Dave’s book has a child narrator.  His name is Peter and the stories that make up the book start around age 4 and follow him to age 12.  The time frame for the story is mid 80s to 90s (from what I can tell from Dave’s cultural references in it).  The setting is Omaha, NE.

The following is a list of why I think Dave’s book deserves accolades and its 5 star rating on Amazon:

1)  I sometimes forgot that the _author_ of the book was an adult, he wrote the child narration so well.  (And this is even with knowing the author!)

2)  Dave captured, through Peter, a lot of events that echoed in my own life, and probably in yours as well.   Dave covers the literalism of a preschooler, and the hurt that can sometimes happen due to that literalism.  He covers the time frame of sexual experimentation during elementary school years (and it’s not the fuzzy kiss the pillow stuff you normally read in literature about childhood).  He explores how it feels to lie to an authority and a friend after a betrayal.  First love.  Living with a parent with some obvious mental illness issues, who as an adult, you can see is trying his best, and to Peter is normal.  The burgeoning relationship with a father.

3)  He does all of this in an unflinching, raw, sometimes painful to look at way.   People glamorize and romanticize childhood way more than we should.  Childhood is painful.  It’s raw and it hurts.  A reviewer on Amazon said this about Bones Buried in Dirt “It rips away the fuzzy, pink insulation that is normally wrapped around memories
of childhood, leaving behind jagged edges that cut and wound” .  And his book does.  That’s what sets it apart from the other books out there.

4)  He details Peter’s growth as an individual from preschooler to preteen amazingly well.  We see Peter’s mindsets, thought processes and compassion levels change and develop throughout.

5)  He uses the locale of Peter’s neighborhood in such a way that it almost becomes another full character in the book.

 

There are a lot of other reasons, but those are my main ones.  I do definitely believe I will reread Dave’s book at some point, just because some of it was so raw that it was hard to process a first time.  Raw, emotionally, not writing wise.

Go the following places if you’re interested in knowing more:

Dave’s blog–where he talks about the publication and ongoing information on the book.

Amazon, where you can both purchase the book and read reviews on it.

Tattered Cover, an amazing independent bookstore in Denver Colorado.  If you are ever in the Denver area, run, run, drive like it’s the Indy 500 to Tattered Cover.  I only went there once, in the mid 90s and I still think of it in the way a dieter thinks of hot caramel sundaes or an ex smoker thinks of a cigarette.  You can either go physically to the store to buy a copy of Dave’s book, or you can order it online.  For those of you that would like to support an independent bookseller versus a giant like Amazon, this is the option for you.

Goodreads, where you can’t purchase it but can read the reviews on it to make your final purchasing decision, or if you have a Goodreads account, could add it to your to be read pile as a reminder to pick it up once you’re ready to purchase.  (By the way, Bones Buried in Dirt has a 4.92 rating on Goodreads as well).

And finally, Facebook, where you can like the page for Bones Buried in Dirt and maybe beg Dave to sign your copy somehow 😀

 

I urge all of you to read it.  It’s an amazing book, and phenomenally well done.

Happy New Year! And Lord of The Rings

For this week, I read Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.

I had dreaded attempting this one again, as I had already tried to read this several times and never made it past the first chapter.  It just seemed so…boring.  It actually made me a little sad, as I adore all three movies (though I’ve only seen them all like 3 times as watching them involves a major time commitment LOL).  This time though, since I was reading it to report back on it, I persevered.  And found past the first chapter, a treasure.

For all of you following along with what authors like what books when Dave and I write about them, Lord of the Rings was listed in the top ten for Chitra Divakaruni and Richard Powers.

As most people are familiar with the movies by now, I won’t go into too much plot recounting.

Basically, in The Hobbit (which I have yet to see the first one released in theaters), Bilbo Baggins lays hold of a ring.  He carries it back to the Shire, where all the Hobbits live (well most of them, LOTR goes into detail about where hobbits live, and let’s say that all the “normal” and “socially acceptable” ones live in the Shire).  Life is peaceful for oh, around 60 years or so.  Then it all begins to go dark.  Bilbo leaves the Shire and leaves the ring to his nephew Frodo.  And still things go on quietly for awhile longer.  Then all hell breaks loose.  It comes about that the ring is the one thing that can make Sauron victorious completely over the world again.  Frodo and others (The Fellowship) set off to attempt destruction of the ring.  Through it all, wars, battles, elves, Gollum, humans wanting the ring etc etc, Frodo carries on towards Mordor to destroy the ring.

The Lord of the Rings has so many things in it.  I think that explains it’s constant appeal throughout the decades.  There are heroes.  There are clear cut villains.  There are people who are neither good or bad.  There are people that are mostly good but do bad things and mostly bad but do good things.  It’s a tale not only about good triumphing evil, but about redemption.  There are battles, which Tolkien manages to suffuse with adrenaline, so that people don’t feel they are just reading a history account of some long ago battle.  There are elves, oh the elves, with their endless fascination not only for men in the series but for all of us that aren’t in the series.

I’m really not going into this very much, because Jackson’s movies have made the stories of LOTR so universal and so many others have commented countless times on the stories in the last decade that I don’t find much left to say.

HOWEVER!

I find it endlessly fascinating that the stories sprung out of Tolkien’s just wanting to make up a language, and writing stories about this world he just created.  It took him years and years to finish the book, and while people repeatedly attempted to find parallels between it and World War II which had just recently ended, Tolkien repeatedly denied that any one character represented any figure from the War (i.e. Saruman or Sauron representing Hitler).  Parts of it were written before the war, parts were written during the war.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Dave & I started this blog in May.  In May, we both each read one book, making 2.  In June, we both read 2 books each, so 4.  In July, Dave read 2 books and I read one, so 3.  In August, I read 3, and Dave 2, so 5.  In September, I read 1, Dave 3.  In October, I read 3 and Dave 1, so 4.  In November, Dave read 3 and I read Genesis, the beginning of the Bible, so um..we’ll say 3 🙂  In December, Dave read 2 and I finished Genesis and wrote about non book stuff, so 2.  We’ve read 27 books so far (which I might have gotten the math wrong so Dave can correct haha).  I remain very happy to have begun this project and can’t wait to see which books I discover that I really should have read before in my life in 2013.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer! Happy Almost Friday!

Haha.  I realized for the first time in awhile, I didn’t have a “happy!” to share, so figured it’s almost Friday.  For some people that is reason enough for celebration.  For me, it’s also reason for celebration as Dave & his lovely amazing wife Shannon are coming to town.  If you’ve missed it the couple of times we’ve said it, Dave lives 8 hours away.  So, most of our communication about this blog happens over facebook and text messages.

I read Tom Sawyer this time.  The only author that listed Tom Sawyer in her top ten was Annie Proulx.

I think I would have liked Tom Sawyer better if I had read it first, but Huckleberry Finn is so much better!

Tom Sawyer is in third person narration, Huck is in first.  I always have preferred first, one of my favorite Stephen King books is a first narration one.  I also find I get more absorbed in a story if there is first person narration.

Tom Sawyer is too scattered.  He’s here! He’s there! He’s everywhere!  There isn’t much cohesion with Tom Sawyer.  There are a couple of plots that run the whole way through, like he always likes/loves Becky Thatcher.  He and Huck are always friends.  And he and Huck can count on one another to be there to help each other with the stupid things they do.

And, Huck, I think most people _like_ him.  With Tom Sawyer, it’s a bit harder to pin down whether you like him or not.  On the one hand, he _is_ funny (see my entry on Huck Finn for an example of this).  On the other hand, he can be quite obnoxious. but then he also can be quite contrite (see what I did there?) and loving.

I did like The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.  A lot.  However, I wish I hadn’t read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn first, because I would have enjoyed it more.

(Short entry, I know.  Have extenuating circumstances.  One of which is my dog sitting a foot away from me, licking her chops and whimpering, then repeating and never taking her eyes off of me.  Which is not the most pleasant thing to try to write while having happen).

Fahrenheit 451’s predictions…influence on literature today…Part 3

So.  We started out talking about Ray Bradbury.  Then yesterday I took you through the plot of 451 and my opinion of it.  I forgot one thing during that time.  Until the last part of the novel, I LOVED Bradbury’s way of setting a pace in the story.  He could and did speed up the narrative using shorter sentences or even fragments, sometimes there was a staccato beat to the words almost.  Loved it.  Then we got to the long expositories at the end and that changed.  The tempo went just all sorts of out of whack and never got back the same feel.  Dave told me earlier today that Bradbury typed it on a pay by the hour typewriter, so possibly he was running out of money to finish it.

But separate from that was the eerieness of some of Bradbury’s qualities of his dystopian universe.  The statements I am about to share, seem more apt for society today than they did even ten years ago.  I’m going to share the ones that really hit me, discuss and then will briefly touch on the influence 451 has had on some other books I’ve read.  (I assume they did, and if not it was just a weird parallel lol).

Ok, so looking at my notes, the first thing isn’t a straight quotation from the book.  But, Montag’s wife, Mildred is addicted to wearing ear buds.  Montag describes them as having wave sounds, or sometimes people sounds.  It just made me think so much of Ipods.  Mildred wears them to block out the real world, the outside world.  So many people I see today do the same thing.  Earlier today, I was cleaning my kitchen listening to my Ipod with my ear buds in.  That’s why I keep saying, even more eerie than ten years ago as ten years ago Ipods were just coming out.

Clarisse tells Montag this about her peers; “I’m afraid of children my own age, they kill each other.  Six of my friends have been shot in the last year alone.  Ten of them died in car wrecks”.  Earlier today, I read an article that a friend reposted to facebook about another young teen, who tormented at school about being a homosexual, killed himself.  And while his death isn’t a direct murder from another peer, in a sense they contributed to his death.  Also, last week, I watched a documentary on Pruitt-Igoe, a St Louis projects area from the 60s…go here to read more.   There’s of course, the shootings, the car accidents etc, just like Clarisse says.  But I think the suicides from bullying could be added into it.

Montag’s boss, Beatty, tells him “School is shortened, discipline relaxed, philosphies, histories, languages dropped, English and spelling gradually neglected, finally almost completely ignored.  Life is immediate, the job counts, pleasure lies all about after work.  Why learn anything save pressing buttons, pulling switches, fitting nuts and bolts?”  I don’t remember the exact educational models that were running around being implemented in the fifties.  But a lot of these things _have_ happened in the last 30 years as we attempt to mold our children into more self confident, well rounded individuals (and fail miserably most of the time haha), through the “everyone’s a winner” movement, also, philosphies that say children will naturally gravitate towards learning all of that.  Some items I am a strong believer on children being able to teach themselves.  (For example:  I don’t ever tell my daughter, no it’s said like this…I just mirror the statement back at her with the correct pronunciation.  She’s smart enough to get it eventually).  I don’t know, the statement just seemed fitting for schools today.  We pretend that we are teaching them more than how to push a button etc, but in reality, in today’s world?  They can’t just get by anymore with a liberal arts college degree, now everything has to be specialized.  They’re in essence, learning how to push buttons.

This next one from Beatty (I feel like it might be Beattie, not Beatty but I wrote in my notes Beatty, so Beatty it is) is really relevant with it being election year! “…If the government is inefficient, top heavy and tax-mad, better it be all those than that people worry about it”.  Really, in today’s world, people “worry” but for the most part their “worry” is whatever a 5 minute sound bite on their news channel of choice has told them what to worry about.  Very few people actually go and read about their candidates and their government.  There’s another section where Mildred and her friends are discussing the last presidential race and how the President won, and they were glad as he was so much better looking than the other candidate.  And isn’t that true of today?  Last election, there were two strong females…Clinton and Palin.  People were RABID about Clinton’s style, her looks etc.  Some seemed to hate her based solely on her pants suits.  Palin though, now some people LIKED her merely because of her pant suits.

Those were the things that really stuck with me.

Another character from the book, Faber, a retired professor, had the following things to say about books and why Bradbury’s dystopian society grew to hate them.  I just loved the statements so much I had to share them.

“The magic is only in what books say, how they stitched the patches of the universe together into one garment for us”

“So now do you see why books are hated and feared?  They show the pores in the face of life.”

“the books are to remind us what asses and fools we are”.

Just liked those!

So, unless you’ve lived under a rock or maybe in a third world country, you’ve probably heard of The Hunger Games, our latest dystopian wonder of a trilogy (and it is amazingly good, trust me).  I’m not going to talk about The Hunger Games, as I don’t see as much of a connection between it and a different Young Adult series I picked up last year and began.  Ally Condie (oddly, another person in Salt Lake City, Utah…maybe I should move there and then write a YA series…something in the water.  I am of course referring to this famous author) began a trilogy in 2010.  The first one, called Matched, begins a trilogy about a society where at 17, the government matches you with another person, very rarely from the same community, for marriage.  Everything like this is decided for you.  Now, the thing that struck me as the same, the thing that was completely influenced by Bradbury…in this society only 100 songs, 100 poems etc were chosen as okay for people to read…they were ones that kept dissension down.  The main character finds two poems that her grandfather passes to her.  She shares them with a boy.  One is a Dylan poem.  There’s a scene, where her father, who archives prior caches of this type of stuff is at a site, and she goes and they’re burning books.  Then, later, they come across people living outside of the society, and she is absolutely amazed at all the books.  Books and literary information is on black market trade in this trilogy.  It’s what I kept thinking about reading 451.

I’ve always been a huge reader.  And maybe Dave can address this in a future post, but for me personally, books have always provided a touchstone to my life.  They’re a stability and sometimes a way for me to process an emotion or an event in my life.  Reading books provides me with a depth of understanding on the human condition.  I have never been able to understand people that don’t read at all.  I feel like your view on the world has to be a bit limited if you’re not willing to pick up a book.  TV and movies and the internet can take you so far…but books can take you all the way.  Books give you a peace inside that other media has never done for me.  And that’s I think one of the major things Fahrenheit 451 says to me, that if we lose that…then our society crumbles.

Happy Reading!

Ray Bradbury. Fahrenheit 451.

I originally had picked Middlemarch by George Eliot to use for this entry.  I was about 1/5 of the way through it on June 6th, when I happened to see that Ray Bradbury, at the age of 91 had passed away.

Instead of calling, texting, or emailing Dave, I did what any self respecting 2012 friend does.  I posted on my fb wall (timeline? what are we supposed to call it now?) about it, and that I’d be reading 451 for this entry instead.  Dave and I, being good 2012 friends, proceeded to have the entire conversation in regards to the entry right there on the wall/timeline.  Writing about this now, I find it oddly fitting that we did do that for Fahrenheit 451.

451 was listed by Alice Hoffman as her #2 book in The Top Ten.  On a weird note, I actually began listening to one of Hoffman’s books tonight while doing the dishes.

Once again, 451 (I am shortening it to this from here on, as I can sometimes get a little lazy about words like Fahrenheit), was a book I had never read.  Again, when people brought it up as a book they had read or that it was one of the greats etc, I would paste that “Oh of course I’m literate, I always have a book in my hand” look on my face while inside I would berate myself for not reading it yet.  As Dave has already read 451, I would have gotten to it, probably fairly soon to push off reading books that I don’t feel quite like I do about My Antonia (see here for a full explanation of the Willa Cather Impasse from Dave’s point of view) but don’t particularly feel like reading.

By the way, I apologize for giving all this backstory, but I find for me, the experience behind the reading interesting, so I include it all for you to enjoy (suffer) through.  Also, unlike Dave, I don’t have a personal blog at this moment so maybe I’m secretly trying to pretend I do.  Okay, back to our program.

I am going to be breaking Bradbury and Fahrenheit up into 3 blog posts, as I have become quite wordy on the whole thing, and I feel that to do Bradbury justice I _need_ to be lengthy for a memorial and also because of the comparisons between Bradbury’s “predictions” in 451 and the reality of today, to do them justice, I need three blog posts.  (sorry Dave for not discussing this with you previously).  Today’s post will be about Bradbury himself.  Tomorrow’s post will be about the plot line and my thoughts on said plot line.  Saturday’s post will be about the influence I can see of 451 on current literature today (especially in YA literature) and items Bradbury talked about in 451 that have probably an even stronger eerie resonance than they did even ten years ago.  I also will put in quotations where these things are described.

For information on Bradbury, I went straight to raybradbury.com, as that seemed the most likely place to receive information.  Bradbury, as mentioned above, was 91.  The staggering thing for me, isn’t necessarily his age, as I come from a family of long lifers and married a man from a family of long lifers, but that he was writing FOR SEVENTY YEARS.  It’s weird to see publication dates for him from the forties.  I’m not entirely sure why that bent my mind out of shape, other than maybe because it shows someone that figured out early on what made them tick, started doing it and NEVER STOPPED.  Quoting straight from raybradbury.com;

“In 2005, Bradbury published a book of essays titled Bradbury Speaks, in which he wrote: In my later years I have looked in the mirror each day and found a happy person staring back. Occasionally I wonder why I can be so happy. The answer is that every day of my life I’ve worked only for myself and for the joy that comes from writing and creating. The image in my mirror is not optimistic, but the result of optimal behavior. ”

I just think that holds so true for anyone that finds the one thing that does it for them and figures out a way to live that way.  Bradbury has won numerous awards, published over fifty books, and multitudes of short stories, but for me, the thing that makes me….proud?  happy? that a man like him lived on this earth is what he said above.

It’s sad when someone who has worked their way into our heads, into our culture and through that into our hearts dies.  I find this death more impacting to me than Michael Jackson.  Call me odd.

Coming up tomorrow! Discussion of 451’s plot and my opinions on it.